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Todd's Blog

  • Todd's Blog has 680 entries (4 private) and has been viewed 2,798,648 times.
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April 22, 2013, 3:53 pmeBay letter points out dangers of proposed internet tax law

The Democrats in the US Senate are scheduled to introduce Internet tax legislation that will be extremely harmful.

Can you image trying to sell something on eBay, and then getting audited by some lawyer on the other side of the country because you didn't collect and pay sales tax?  Get ready:  if this thing passes, that's what you'll get.  Everything sold on the internet will be taxed, and, like always, it's individuals and small businesses that will be broken by it.

Here's the letter I received today from eBay:

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  • 

Congress is considering online sales tax legislation that is wrongheaded and unfair, and I am writing to ask for your help in telling Congress "No!" to new sales taxes and burdens for small businesses.

Whether you're a consumer who loves the incredible selection and value that small businesses provide online, or a small-business seller who relies on the Internet for your livelihood, this legislation potentially affects you. For consumers, it means more money out of your pocket when you shop online from your favorite seller or small business shop owner. For small business sellers, it means you would be required to collect sales taxes nationwide from the more than 9,600 tax jurisdictions across the U.S. You also would face the prospect of being audited by out-of-state tax collectors. That's just wrong, and an unnecessary burden on you.

Big national retailers are aggressively lobbying Congress to pass online sales tax legislation to "level the playing field" with Amazon. And, as they compete with big retail, Amazon is advocating for this legislation too, while at the same time they are seeking local tax exemptions across the country to build warehouses. This is a "big retail battle" in which small businesses and consumers have a lot to lose. But eBay is fighting, as we have for more than 15 years, to protect small online businesses and sellers and ensure healthy competition, value, and selection that benefit consumers online.

The solution is simple: if Congress passes online sales tax legislation, we believe small businesses with less than 50 employees or less than $10 million in annual out-of-state sales should be exempt from the burden of collecting sales taxes nationwide. To put that in perspective, Amazon does more than $10 million in sales every 90 minutes. So we believe this is a reasonable exemption to protect small online businesses. That's what we're fighting for, and what big companies such as Amazon are fighting against.

I hope you agree that imposing unnecessary tax burdens on small online businesses is a bad idea. Join us in letting your Members of Congress know they should protect small online businesses, not potentially put them out of business. Click here to make your voice heard. Together, I believe our voices can make a difference.

Sincerely,

John Donahoe
President and CEO
eBay Inc.

Entry #665
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April 22, 2013, 12:31 pmVideo describes how Internet works

This is a pretty cool description of how a web page is delivered on the Internet.

It's cool because it makes the process fairly easy to picture, but in reality it is much more complex for a sophisticated site like Lottery Post, because a web page doesn't just come from one server, and there are dozens or maybe even hundreds of "round trips" like the one described in the video to dozens of servers for every web page you see.  For example, the web page you are viewing right now has elements that come from perhaps a dozen different servers from several companies.

A large part of my job is knowing how all these "pathways" for data and images from different servers will be requested for each page, and structuring the pages and requests so as many can happen as possible at the same time, in order to reduce the amount of time it takes for a page to assemble and load.  Also, I try to structure pages so that the minimum number of requests can happen before a page can be shown to you and you can start to use it, even when there are parts of the page that have not finished loading.  That's why you may see the browser's "loading" icon (a spinning icon) continue to spin even after you see the page for the first time.

Entry #664
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April 20, 2013, 1:08 pmUncle of bomber is a stand-up guy

I'm very impressed by everything this guy has to say.  Too bad his nephews turned out to be monsters.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Entry #663
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February 26, 2013, 10:03 amIE10 finally released for Windows 7

Four months after delivering Windows 8 that includes IE10 (Internet Explorer 10), Microsoft has finally released IE10 for Windows 7.

I really, really like IE10.  It's very fast and has just about all the latest web standards and bells & whistles.

If you are running Windows 7, I strongly recommend that you upgrade to IE10 right away.

If you previously installed the preview version of IE10, the process will smoothly upgrade you to the final release -- no need to uninstall the preview.  (I tested that out myself.)

Here is the link to get started with the free upgrade:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/download-ie

Entry #662
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January 14, 2013, 12:10 pmLP Flash content approved by Microsoft for Windows 8

In Windows 8, you have two choices for your web browser:  regular desktop mode (the same as you use in Windows 7, Windows XP, etc.) or full-screen "Modern UI" mode.  The full-screen mode is what most computers will use when you buy a new computer with Windows 8 installed.

Full-screen mode is actually much safer to use, because Microsoft purposely disables the ability to add browser plug-ins to it.  (Browser plug-ins, like Flash or Java, are the biggest cause of viruses and other malware on PCs.)  If you want to use plug-ins like Flash to your heart's content, then you need to use the desktop browser.

When Microsoft was developing Windows 8, there was a bit of concern among Web site owners, because many sites rely on Flash to display all or some of their content, and if the Web browser did not support Flash (because plug-ins are no longer allowed), then many sites would not work.

So Microsoft made a compromise:  They added Flash as a built-in component of the full-screen IE Web browser, but it would only work for certain pre-screened Web sites that Microsoft has deemed "safe".

I am happy to announce that Microsoft has included Lottery Post on that list, so all the Flash content that is on the site is available in both the regular desktop browser, as well as the full-screen "Modern UI" browser.

An example of Flash content on Lottery Post is the clickable map that appears on the main Lottery Results page.  If you do not have Flash, a list of links will appear, but if you have Flash, an animated map appears.

Another example is the graphs on the site, such as the graph showing the past year of Powerball jackpots on the right side of the Powerball Jackpots page.  If you don't have Flash available, then you don't see the graph at all.

Inclusion on Microsoft's Flash list is especially important for tablets, since most Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet users will rarely use a desktop browser.  It's also a neat feature for Flash to be included on tablets running Windows because, by comparison, the iPad does not have Flash at all, so Flash content is never visible on an iPad.

I have tested Lottery Post's Flash content on both regular Windows 8 as well as on a Windows RT tablet (Microsoft's Surface tablet), and it works perfectly in both.  A nice thing to know if you are contemplating an upgrade to Windows 8.  (Something I definitely recommend!)

Last Edited: January 14, 2013, 12:11 pm

Entry #661
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December 29, 2012, 1:52 pmThe Sopranos ending explained

I just saw an article that came out a couple of weeks ago called "The Sopranos ending explained".  It is from an interview with the series' creator, David Chase.

I remember watching the final episode barely able to breathe as the final minutes were counting down, and I was waiting to see what would happen to Tony.  When the screen went blank with no sound for several seconds my first thought was, "Oh my God, I just sat on the remote control and changed the channel right as it was ending!!!"

Then the titles came on.

What?  That's the ending?!!!

It was like a cruel joke, but I was sure the show's makers were trying to make some kind of point — I just couldn't figure out what it was.

Now, years later, comes this interview with David Chase, and with two sentences plucked from his interview it all makes sense.  And it's really clever:

"All I wanted to do was present the idea of how short life is and how precious it is. The only way I felt I could do that was to rip it away."

Some people might read that and still think "cruel joke", but for me, that's like the light bulb moment that suddenly makes the whole series much, much better.

If you watched The Sopranos and enjoyed the show, hit the link below and check out the entire interview.  It's not very long, but very interesting and thought-provoking.

The Sopranos ending explained

Entry #660
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November 13, 2012, 12:47 pmIE10 now available for Windows 7

It's a preview version of Internet Explorer 10 (IE10), but to my eyes it's a complete web browser that is fine for anyone to install.

Unlike previous releases of IE10 for Windows 7, this is a complete interface, and it looks and works just like IE9.

My expectation is that Microsoft will only make subtle tweaks to this before releasing the final version soon.  By "subtle", I mean there will probably only be little performance improvements, but nothing that most people would notice.

Because IE10 adds very good support for modern web standards, I can easily recommend it to any Windows 7 user.

Also, a VERY nice feature is that IE10 will automatically install updates to itself, like Google Chrome has done for a long time now.

Here's the download link.  Click the Download button under "IE 10 on Windows 7 Preview".

Entry #659
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October 29, 2012, 11:44 amReinstate gadgets on Windows 8!

I have always liked the concept of gadgets in Windows, delivering whatever real-time information you like right on your Windows desktop.  In fact, I like gadgets so much that a few years ago I developed the Lottery Results Gadget, which has been installed by people around the world hundreds of thousands of times, and is still running strong today.

Now Windows 8 is upon us, and Microsoft has ditched gadgets in favor of "live tiles" in the start screen.  The problem for me is that I spend most of my time on the Windows desktop, and not in the start screen, so live tiles are not as useful for me.

Fortunately, there is a quick and easy solution available.

Some nice guy has released some free software called the "8GadgetPack", which reinstall all the original Microsoft gadget files that were part of Windows 7.  Not only is the software free, but there is no "crapware", advertisements, or anything else installed — just the original files and a few extra popular gadgets.

I did the installation, and it worked perfectly.  The software initially puts a few gadgets on your desktop, which I immediately removed.  One of them is the Sidebar gadget, which mimics the original Windows Vista Sidebar, so that was the first thing I removed.  Putting the gadgets right on the desktop is so much better than the Sidebar.

After getting rid of the initial slate of gadgets installed on your desktop, it is time to put the ones you want on there.  Just do the normal right-click on the desktop and select "Gadgets" to see the familiar gadget box containing all the gadgets you can drag to the desktop.  Everything works as it always did in Windows 7 and Vista.

Here's a link to the 8GadgetPack:  http://8gadgetpack.bplaced.net/

Last Edited: October 29, 2012, 11:45 am

Entry #658
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October 28, 2012, 10:02 pmTook the Windows 8 plunge

I've been running Windows 8 on some test computers for severals months, so I'm comfortable with the new version of Windows and what to expect from it, but it is very different testing a brand new operating system than it is to convert your primary computer to it.

And so this weekend was the time I chose to convert my primary computer to Windows 8, and finally go do-or-die with it.

You know what?  Not only is everything working great on my PC, but there are surprisingly few hiccups, and I'm really digging the new OS.

There are so many cool new things about Windows 8 it would be impossible to list them all, but I guess the most important thing for anyone considering the upgrade is that despite the new "metro" Start screen that replaces the Start Menu, you can operate your PC very much like you're used to with Windows 7 (or Windows Vista, or whatever you're using now).

In fact, if you just think of the metro Start screen as merely a replacement for the Start Menu, you'll be 90% along in understanding the changes to Windows.  If you want, you can exist in the traditional Windows desktop mode most of the time, and just use the Start screen as a launcher of programs.  In that respect, not much has changed.

But then once you get the hang of the Start screen, and you realize all the additional benefits that the metro interface gives you, there is a whole new world to explore, with a "Windows App Store" that works just like the Apple App Store, in which you can quickly find and download new programs ("apps") instead of having to search around the Internet for them.  There are lots of free apps, in addition to cheap paid apps.

Another very cool thing about Windows 8 is if you have multiple PCs and/or devices.  Because a Microsoft account is now linked directly into Windows, when you sign into your different Windows devices, it instantly synchronizes all of your settings to each device.

For example, I purchased a new Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows RT (the low-cost tablet version of Windows 8), and when I sign in on the tablet, changes I made on my PC are also instantly visible on the tablet.  For example, when I changed the desktop background graphics on my PC, the same background graphic appeared on the Surface tablet.  It's kind of freaky-cool the first time you see it happen.

Again, there is so much to like about Windows 8 there is hardly room to list it all, but suffice to say that it's really great.  I was really nervous about switching over my primary PC, but I'm really happy I did so now.

Entry #657
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October 24, 2012, 10:53 amiPhone 5 support on the way

I finally got my new iPhone 5 this week so that I could start testing Lottery Post on the larger screen.  It became immediately clear that people who pin the site to their start screen (to see the "web app" view of the site) don't see the site filling the whole screen.

(People who simply view Lottery Post in their iPhone 5 web browser rather than pinning the site to the start screen will see it fill the whole screen just fine.)

So I have made some updates to support the iPhone 5's bigger screen, and I'm going through testing this week.  It looks pretty good, and if everything continues going well it should be released perhaps by this weekend.

Apart for the web site, just evaluating the iPhone 5 itself, I must say it is an engineering marvel.  After carrying around an iPhone 4 for two years, the new iPhone 5 feels light as a feather and incredibly thin.  Almost impossibly thin and light.

Despite the fact that the new iPhone is taller than the old one and the same exact width, it somehow feels smaller because of it is so light and thin.  It's hard to describe.

As with all Apple mobile device upgrades, it was simple but just a bit time-consuming to go through the process of changing phones.  It would be nice if Apple had switched to a USB 3 connection, instead of the slower USB 2, which would have made loading up the new phone much quicker.

Speaking of connections, many are aware that Apple is changing over to a new type of connector called the "lightning" connector, instead of using the wide 30-pin connector that they've been using for so long.  The new connector is fantastic, but is also probably the biggest pain in the neck about the new phone right now.

The worst thing about the new connector is just that there are almost no accessories available for it right now.  You can buy two different type of adapters to connect the phone to old accessories, but everyone hates using adapters because they really don't solve the problem.  For example, I always keep my phone in a dock, but now I can't because strangely, Apple has not created a dock for the new iPhone yet.  And because the lightning connector is a proprietary Apple invention that will require other companies to license the technology from Apple, nobody else has produced a dock yet either.

It's a problem that will be solved over time, but for people who own an iPhone 5 right now, it's a source of frustration.

However, even with the lightning connection frustrations, the new iPhone is well worth upgrading to if your cell phone plan is ready to upgrade.  It remains the best phone on the market for someone who wants high-end technology without having to tinker with the phone.

Entry #656
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October 22, 2012, 5:02 pmAny guesses what Donald Trump's Obama bombshell will be on Wednesday?

Donald Trump said on Fox and Friends this morning that he has a huge announcement that may change the election for Barack Obama.

Any guesses what it will be?

Will it really be big, or will it be a dud?

Entry #655
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October 19, 2012, 12:47 pmSmall Business Petition

There is a new special outreach to small businesses called "Unleash Small Business," which advocates reversing the harmful policies of the past four years and supporting a much more business-friendly approach.

Central to this effort is the "Petition to Unleash Small Business," which is attempting to get thousands of signatures from owners, management, and employees of small businesses.

Click here to sign the petition

I have already signed the petition.

If you are an owner, manager, or employee of a small business, I hope you will too.

Entry #654
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October 10, 2012, 3:48 pmStacey Dash!

Entry #653
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October 2, 2012, 2:18 pmExcellent write-up of how Windows 8 works, plus strengths & weaknesses

Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft (who has not worked for Microsoft for many years) published an excellent article detailing his experience with Windows 8 on both a desktop computer and a tablet.

If you are thinking about upgrading to Windows 8 or buying a new computer, I'd highly recommend checking it out.

Link:  http://www.paulallen.com/TemplateGeneric.aspx?contentId=21

Entry #652
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September 21, 2012, 10:18 pmiOS 6 fixes annoying bugs on iPad

After using the new iOS 6 on my iPad for the past couple of days, it appears that many of the annoying bugs that could be seen at Lottery Post have been worked out by Apple.

For one thing, the text editor seems to work much better.

The cursor still gets "frozen" when you try to go back and fix something you typed, but it's now possible to "unfreeze" it by opening a pop up window -- for example the About window via the question mark toolbar button -- and then returning to the text editor.  (I am typing this entry on my iPad BTW.)

The other major fix is that we don't see the annoying page blanking issue after each page loads.  Previously under iOS 5, a second or two after the page loaded a large section of the page would turn white and then return to visible a second or two later.  Now it doesn't happen. 

Using the iPad with Lottery Post is still not perfect, but if you use an iPad, you really should upgrade to iOS 6 in order to make your experience at Lottery Post (and other web sites) much better.

Entry #651
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