First 48 Hours with the Motorla Droid

I was recently forced to switch to Verizon after 4 years of service from T-Mobile due to lack of coverage in Grand Forks, ND.  Let me tell you, I don’t think I could have been forced to do anything better.  My first 48 hours with the Droid have been a complete eye opener from its predecessor the G1, with a few hiccups along the way.

Two things initially impressed me after receiving this phone.  First, Verizon’s speed and ease of transferring my number, and second, that I didn’t have to copy any data off my old phone.   The first point has nothing to do with the phone, but the second is where I think Android and all handsets that use it are going to start dominating the market.  Since my last phone was the HTC G1, which also runs Android, all of my contacts and voicemail (thanks to Google Voice) were already stored with Google.  This allowed me to turn on the phone and have all of my previous numbers already on the phone, but this is also where I ran into my first hiccup.

When you log into the Facebook application on the phone it asks you if you want to sync all your contact data, which is an amazing feature of the phone.  This syncing allows you to not only see the profile pictures of your friends as their contact picture but it also allows you to view any information they have publicly available on Facebook, the two most important being e-mail and phone number.

This was my first problem. I am a chronic misspeller and nickname giver, so when Android/Facebook went through my contact list very few people’s information actually matched up.  The only way I found to solve this was to go through all of my contacts and rename them to match their Facebook names (hint: middle names don’t count).  It took me roughly an hour to copy and paste all of my contacts from Facebook to Google Contacts.  After this everything synced perfectly.

One other small problem with the Facebook syncing is that when you do a full sync, the phone will import information of people not currently in your address book. If you try to add information to those contacts later, it won’t let you. You can only add info by creating a new contact which is automatically paired with the Facebook one.  This seems a little backwards but I’m more then willing to put up with it for the rest of the functionality syncing offers.

Now that I have my only true complaints out of the way I will talk about the pros of the device.  First, this device comes with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which is the single greatest hardware improvement over the G1.  This allows applications such as Pandora and Stitcher to be used with standard audio devices and greatly improves the versatility of the device.  Originally I was planning on purchasing an iPod Touch on top of this phone, but after downloading a few applications I now have streaming podcasts, both standard and web radio, and music on demand.

Like the G1 and all other Android phones, another huge selling point is the seamless integration of just about every service Google offers, making the phone into a truly unique productivity platform.  Add to this the completely open Android Market offering 20,000+ applications (according to Google) and you can turn the Droid into anything you want.

These are my thoughts after my first 48 hours with the device.  I will come back later with a more in depth look at this device, but everything so far makes me believe this is the best phone I have ever owned.

Encrypt Your Important Data with TrueCrypt

With privacy becoming a bigger and bigger issue in the digital world, it is becoming more important to protect your personal data.  The easiest way to keep your personal information secure is to encrypt it.  This can be done seamlessly and for free through a cool program called TrueCrypt.

To start down the road of data encryption you will first have to download the newest version of TrueCrypt for your operating system.  It can be found at: http://www.truecrypt.org/downloads.

Begin the installation by double clicking the TrueCrypt executable (this guide is tailored for Windows XP but the process is very similar on all OSs).   Accept the license agreement and use the standard install option.  Once the install is complete you will be prompted with:

Click OK and then finish.  TrueCrypt is now done installing.  To configure the software begin by double clicking the new TrueCrypt icon on your desktop.  You will then be prompted with this screen:

This is the main TrueCrypt interface, but once we are done configuring you won’t have to access this screen again.  From here the first thing we want to do is create a new encrypted volume. To do this click Create Volume.  There are three different types of volumes that can be created, but for this guide we will set up an encrypted file container.

You can place your encrypted file anywhere you like, but I recommend placing it directly on your C: drive because to an intruder it will look like a random Windows file.  If you use this approach make sure to give the file an inconspicuous name.  You can either browse to the location where you want to store file or enter the path directly. For this guide I will use the path “C:\system33”.  Once you have selected your path click Next.

For advanced users the Encryption Options screen is where you can select your encryption algorithm.  For the average user the default algorithm will be more then enough protection, so again you can just click Next through this menu.

The volume size will be the first truly unique setting per user.   For most hard drives I would take the total amount of free space and use 75% of that amount.  This is assuming you will be storing all files in your encrypted container.  The 25% not included can then be used for additional applications or other software.

The next screen allows you to create a secure password for your encrypted data.  I would recommend creating a password that adheres to TrueCrypt’s recommendations, but remember that if you forget the password there is no way to recover it.

There is no point in encrypting your information if you are just going to leave you password on a sticky note next to your monitor or in your wallet.  You want no physical record of this password anywhere except for in your will or with your attorney.

Once your have created your password and clicked Next you will be prompted with the following screen:

Before clicking Format, move your mouse randomly across the window. The randomness of your mouse movements helps to increase the strength of the encryption key. Once you’re finished, simply click Format to create your encrypted container.  Once it is complete click “OK ” and then “Exit.”  Now that the volume has been created we want to auto-mount it when your computer turns on so you won’t have to remember to do it.  To do this go back to the main TrueCrypt window and mount your newly made encrypted container.  Click “Select File” and locate your volume or just input your path and click Mount, then enter your password you created before.

Next, we need to set the volume as a Favorite by going to File –> Save Currently Mounted Volumes as System Favorites.

Once saved we can now set TrueCrypt to auto-mount on start up.  To do this we navigate to Settings and then Preferences.  You will then be prompted with this screen.

In this screen you will want to check to two boxes under “Actions to perform upon log on to Windows”.  The first is “Start TrueCrypt Background Task” and the second is “Mount favorite volumes.”  Then click OK.

Now restart you computer and it should automatically prompt you for your volume’s password.  Once entered correctly your drive will be mounted and fully usable.  Once you’ve finished just save your files to your encrypted volume and they will be protected.

How To: Install WordPress Locally in Mac OS X

wordpressMac only:  This guide will show you how to install WordPress on your local computer, which will allow you to test tweaks or modify a theme for your current website without making live changes.

To get started, you’ll need to download the following files:

Step One – Installing XAMPP: Once both downloads have completed, you can install XAMPP by double clicking the .dmg file and dragging the application to your Applications folder.

After installation, double click the XAMPP Control icon, which is located in Applications/XAMPP.  Click the Start button for both ‘Apache’ and ‘MySQL’, after which you will be prompted to enter your administrator password.

mac_wordpress_xampp_settings

Step Two – Configuring WordPress: Now that Apache and MySQL are running, it’s time to configure the WordPress database.  In your browser, navigate to http://localhost/xampp/index and click phpMyAdmin on the left sidebar.

In the phpMyAdmin window, create a new database by entering its name in the Create new database field (“wordpress” will be fine) and set MySQL connection collation to “utf8_unicode_ci”.  When finished, click ‘Create’.

mac_wordpress_phpmyadmin

Step Three – Installing WordPress: Start by extracting the WordPress file you downloaded earlier, which can be done by double clicking the file and moving the ‘wordpress’ folder to /Applications/XAMPP/htdocs.

Once the files have been moved, you need to edit the wp-config-sample.php file located in the ‘wordpress’ folder.  Open the file with your favorite text editor and change the values as shown below (make adjustments if you have changed any naming schema).

mac_wordpress_sql_settings

Note: You will notice that the database password is blank, which is the default setting for XAMPP.  This is a security risk, so only leave it blank if you will be working on your local computer on a private network.  To change your database password, return to the phpMyAdmin panel and choose a secure MySQL password.

When you have made all changes to the file, you must rename it wp-config.php (removing the “sample”).  You can then navigate to your local WordPress site (http://localhost/wordpress/wp-admin/install.php) and start using WordPress as usual!