An Alien in America

An alien's perspective on life and everything else

Archive for December, 2007

Happy Holidays

Posted by nickxyz on December 30, 2007

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!


Posted in Culture, Daily Insanity | 1 Comment »

Migrated to FireFox

Posted by nickxyz on December 2, 2007

I had been toying with the idea to upgrade the overall security of my home network for quite a while now. I have a wireline and a wireless network at home (to keep the tinkering interesting). After having achieved a somewhat decent security level over the wireless connections into the basement and having played with various software firewalls in addition to the hardware firewall in my router, I had to change topics for a little bit. So I tried to see what can be done in terms of ongoing surfing.

Over the last several years I had been using IE in its various versions, tried to keep up with the ongoing patch levels… tried Netscape Mosaic for a while, experimented with some other no one browsers as well. Due to personal complacency and simple laziness, I ended up using IE on 99% of my systems.

But…. a few weeks ago I ended up installing Firefox just for kicks. Plain and simple standard version. Started to read about it on various sites and blogs to see what it could do and offer for me as standard run of the mill user πŸ™‚ Not until this weekend, did it actually occur to me to put the pieces together and try to dig a little deeper in the touted plug ins and options that are floating around there. I also have to admit that I was somewhat lured into Firefox by the testimonials and recommendations of family while being in Germany last week. Being back and getting up early because of the two spoiled rotten dogs needing to go outside, I actually started tinkering with the idle icon on the desktop.

Firefox does have some very neat features I had not heard about before!! Other than the tons of handy add-ons, such as the web developer plug in, integrated previews of links and images, I really love the integration with Free Download Manager (FDM). Granted it has to be accomplished via FlashGot, but once installed, it works like a charm! I didn’t even have to configure it for FDM use (I cannot give up my use of FDM!!). The thing that amazed me the most, was the easy integration for downloads in general via the pop up window that just simply lets me install stuff via a single easy click. After I had installed the first plug in and having been surfing on various other tabs and separate windows, the install informed me that I had to close all Firefox windows to complete the installation. Well, dog gone it. Should I bookmark all the sites I still wanted to look at and hadn’t? Would I find the same sites again when I brought up Firefox after the successful installation, … stuck in a dilemma. I clicked on the button to close all open windows and decided to just deal with it later… *still thinking in IE dimensions and short comings*

The installation completes and barely 5 seconds later, Firefox reopens a new window. I was still deep in thought as to what I had actually typed into my Google search window to get to the results list I had before. Before I could even realize it, the screen showed 4 open Firefox windows. Huh?? Clicking on the first one, it was the window (including tabs!!!) that I had open before… somewhat incredulous I look at the other 3 windows and guess what, those were the exact sites I had open before I so bravely allowed the installation to complete. I was in shock!

Being the skeptic I am, I thought that could only be a coincidence. Kinda like the well known existing feature that auto recovers on an application failure…. So I tried it again. And again.

After 3 times of performing this highly investigative little project, I am hooked. Firefox forever! Oh, and I also downloaded Thunderbird just now. And I ordered a T-Shirt! πŸ™‚

Posted in Daily Insanity, Techno Geek | 1 Comment »

Trip to Germany

Posted by nickxyz on December 2, 2007

Been to Germany last week, almost a last minute type of deal.Β  Had to use up some vacation (strange enough in a 10 day / year country) before the end of the year, happened to be surfing the Internet across tiss (my favorite Internet flight search site) and found a fare that could not be beat. So I went πŸ™‚

Spent a week with the family, ran some errands of things I can’t get in the US, most notably Milka Schmunzelmaenner und Nutella, baked some Christmas Bredla and generally had a nice laid back week’s worth of vacation. Works wonders for the workaholic mind πŸ™‚

For only the second time in the last 10+ years, I was able to snag a red eye flight to Europe. Leaving via Chicago at 10.30 pm CST, arriving in Frankfurt a little bit after 1 pm CST the next day, using Lufthansa. Wow, I need to write that one down and keep it handy for the next few flights. It really does make a difference in the level of jet lag once in Germany. Having slept a few hours on the plane, the remainder of the afternoon was really an easy thing to take and stay awake until the general local population usually goes to bed. I did however, wake up at 2 am local time with an urgent need to check out the refrigerator for anything edible.

Spent some time with each family member the following days, ranging from losing big playing darts in the basement (I cannot stand ‘cricket’ mode) to lollygagging in town strolling through seasonally decorated pedestrian zones, picking up some early Xmas gifts. Even did some cultural excursions into nearby cities. The Christmas season in Germany is just something entirely special that cannot be replicated abroad, no matter how many Christmas markets are popping up. πŸ™‚

The week went by entirely too fast, as usual and by Friday, I was back on the transatlantic flight headed for D.C. I am not quite sure yet what to think of D.C. as the POE on trips coming back to the US. As the nation’s capital airport I would assume that their ability to accommodate large amounts of immigration / customs traffic would be better than any other major hub; most notably with all the political VIPs arriving there (they might actually have “more direct” immigration procedures than us regular folk) on a constant basis. Compared to the previous international airports in the US, such as Chicago or Philadelphia, their average throughput and speed of processing in D.C. is fairly dismal. With us, several other large flights arrived and the hallways leading up to the main processing stations were cram packed! We were advancing an inch every 5 min. And I only had 2 hours layover to catch the connecting flight. Finally in the main hallway, there were only a handful of open stations… Given that it was early afternoon and the tendency of European flights to arrive at that time on the East coast, my professional mind kicked back in (system wide process improvements, streamlining entire work flows)… Anyway….

I actually did make my connection πŸ™‚

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