My Other Blog

August 22, 2009

Thoughts on Markets & Economy

Helping Wounded Veterans

May 23, 2009

May 23, 2009

By Malay Bansal

As we celebrate  braveness and service of  our armed forces personnel this Memorial Day, this previous post is worth repeating….

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In this holiday season & the new year, wounded warriors and their families, are one group that deserves our support. Their sacrifices and pain dwarf almost anything else.

My mailbox, as I am sure is true for most people, has been full of solicitations from numerous organizations.  To pick  organizations that are efficient and do their job well, I asked friends & colleagues for suggestions. I have listed the responses received below (in no particular order), and will be happy if it helps even one more person make a decision, or  think about helping our veterans.

  • Wounded Warrior Project (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org): Helps wounded service members assist each other, and has several programs. Recommended by several people.
  • Special Operations Warrior Foundation (http://www.specialops.org): Helps fund scholarships for the college education of the kids of  special ops soldiers who died in line of duty.
  • Soldier’s Angles (http://www.soldiersangels.com): Gives you an opportunity to “adopt” a soldier.
  • Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund (http://www.freedomalliance.org/scholarship.htm): Freedom Alliance promotes strong national defense, and this fund provides scholarships to children of killed or disables veterans.
  • Reserve Aid (http://www.reserveaid.org):  Provides financial support to the families of Reserve Service Members from all services, who have been called to active service duty and are experiencing financial difficulty.

Also, http://charitywatch.org/toprated.html#disabled (scroll down to Veterans) has a list of organizations and ratings.

I should mention that I am just sharing information that I received, and there are many many other organizations that are doing good work but are not mentioned here. I am not affiliated by any of these organizations in any way.

Save Time with Windows Explorer Alternative

March 1, 2009

Windows Explorer is perhaps the most basic program in Windows. Since it comes installed with Windows, almost everyone uses it to look for their files.  So commonly used, and yet such a slow & featureless program that has not evolved much in a long time. It shows one directory at a time, and takes a long time if you are looking for a particular file. Forget about things like comparing directories etc.

A search for a better tool led me to several programs on web – many free. I tried a few. The one I liked the most was a program called FreeCommander which, as the name implies, is free.

It lets you create multiple tabs and open a different directory in each. So, you do not have to keep switching between directories, or clutter the desktop with several different windows. Also, when you exit from the program, it remembers all  directories you had open in different tabs, and when you restart the program, it opens with all the tabs and directories open as if you had never closed the program. That alone saves a lot of time.

If you are looking for files that have, let’s say,  MF in their names in a  large directory with lots of files, all you need to do is type MF in the filter box at the bottom.

It has lots of other features that you can read about here, or  download from here and try.

Creating PDF’s for Free

February 16, 2009

If you do not have Adobe Acrobat on your home computer, it is still possible to create PDF files.

There are numerous free programs available on the web. I tried many – several of these had a quirk or a limitation that made them less than ideal. The one I found best in terms of features, quality, and file size etc is from a company called Bullzip. Just like many others, it installs as a Microsoft Windows printer and allows you to write PDF documents from virtually any Windows application – just print as you normally would and select Bullzip PDF as the printer.

It is free for personal and commercial use for up to 10 users, and does not contain any advertising, popups, nagging messages, or any marks on the pdf files created. It has lots of features including ability to append, password protect, superimpose other documents, etc., and can be downloaded from here.

If You Use Internet Explorer

February 1, 2009

I saw a statistic that 68% of PC owners still use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for accessing the internet! I guess many people stay with it since it comes pre-installed on all PCs. But faster browsing is so much better and available for free  – I can not imagine going back to Internet Explorer.

If you are in the 68% category, try Mozilla’s Firefox. Developed as an open software project, it is made available for free and can be downloaded from here. If you are not used to downloading and installing software, download and installation is very simple and takes seconds.

Opera & Chrome are two other popular browsers. I tried Opera, but some of the websites I use were not compatible with it (I have not had that problem with Firefox). Chrome is new and Google is still in the process of adding features.

Once you have Firefox, you can make your browsing even faster by using two add-ons: Adblock Plus & Flashblock. Adblock Plus blocks ads, and Flashblock replaces Flash objects with a button you can click if you want to view them. To install these, in Firefox, click on Tools at the top, select Add-Ons, click on Get Add-Ons, and type Adblock in the text box on the upper left corner. Then select Adblock Plus from the list and install. Repeat for Flashblock.

A Nice Multimedia Player Utility

January 18, 2009

A nice utility suggested by Janaka Withana

VideoLAN’s VLC is a highly portable multi-media player which plays almost all audio and video formats.

It is free (developed as an open source project) and  can be downloaded from here.

Quick & Free Info Using Cell Phone

January 11, 2009

When at home, it is easy to get  information like directions, phone numbers, sports scores, stock quotes, etc from the web. But when outside, googling on the small screen of cellphone is not as convenient, and GPS does not always work if you are walking between tall buildings in the city. Also, using the web and GPS on phone drains the battery pretty quickly. What I have found helpful are some services  that make it  easy to get information using the basic cell phone. Here are some that you may find worth trying:

  • 800-GOOG-411:  Get phone numbers for businesses. It will connect you to the number without charge, or you can say “text message” to get the information in a text message.
  • 800-FREE-411: Get Residential numbers.
  • 800-555-TELL: All kinds of information. You can search businesses by saying type or name (e.g. “taxi”, “coffee”, or “Starbucks”), get sports scores/schedule/news  (e.g. say  “nba”, or team name), or get   “weather”, “moovies”, “driving directions” and other information. See here for more details.
  • Directions by Text message: Call 347-328-4667 (DIRECTIONS). Speak the starting point and destination, and the service sends directions in text messages. See here for their website.
  • Cha-Cha: Call 800-224-2242 (800-2CHA-CHA) or text to 242242 (CHACHA). Ask any question to which an answer can be found on the web. Apparently a real person looks it up and answers by text message!. See here for details.
  • Google SMS: Get directions, weather, sports, moovies, and all kinds of information by sending text message with your query to 466453 (GOOGLE). See here for details.

All of these are free, but you may be charged for text messages by your cell phone service provider depending on your phone plan.

Helping Wounded Veterans

December 21, 2008

In this holiday season & the new year, wounded warriors and their families, are one group that deserves our support. Their sacrifices and pain dwarf almost anything else.

My mailbox, as I am sure is true for most people, has been full of solicitations from numerous organizations.  To pick  organizations that are efficient and do their job well, I asked friends & colleagues for suggestions. I have listed the responses received below (in no particular order), and will be happy if it helps even one more person make a decision, or  think about helping our veterans.

  • Wounded Warrior Project (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org): Helps wounded service members assist each other, and has several programs. Recommended by several people.
  • Special Operations Warrior Foundation (http://www.specialops.org): Helps fund scholarships for the college education of the kids of  special ops soldiers who died in line of duty.
  • Soldier’s Angles (http://www.soldiersangels.com): Gives you an opportunity to “adopt” a soldier.
  • Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund (http://www.freedomalliance.org/scholarship.htm): Freedom Alliance promotes strong national defense, and this fund provides scholarships to children of killed or disables veterans.
  • Reserve Aid (http://www.reserveaid.org):  Provides financial support to the families of Reserve Service Members from all services, who have been called to active service duty and are experiencing financial difficulty.

Also, http://charitywatch.org/toprated.html#disabled (scroll down to Veterans) has a list of organizations and ratings.

I should mention that I am just sharing information that I received, and there are many many other organizations that are doing good work but are not mentioned here.

Backing Up Computer Files

December 19, 2008

After looking at several utilities, I found a utility called SyncBack to be the most useful for my purposes.  They have advanced versions of the software, but the freeware version does everything I need to do. I use it periodically to backup my files† to an external  USB drive. The program is easy to use and copies only files that have changed since the last backup.

You can get it from: http://www.2brightsparks.com/downloads.html

On the page, search or  scroll down to: “SyncBack Freeware V3.2.19.0 includes help file” to see more details & download.

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† Note: I use SyncBack only for my data files. I have partitioned my disc drive into two drives. C: has all the programs, and D: has all the data. For the C: drive, I backup the entire disc image using a software provided by the computer manufacturer. I use SyncBack for D drive, where I keep all my data files.

About this Blog

December 19, 2008

This blog is to share some useful information and tips with friends and colleagues.

The idea is that what I find useful will likely also be useful to others I know. By sharing these, I can save them the time and effort that it took me to search, analyze, try, and reach a conclusion.

The blogs will be just my opinions – things that worked for me. Of course, there may be other or better solutions out there.

If anyone else has any tips that they would like to share, I will be happy to add them here, with credit to the sender.