Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tech Tidbits

Today's column is a collection of technology tidbits -- some bite-sized nuggets of technology yummies that I hope you find deliciously helpful and interesting.

Printers: Love Them or Hate Them. No. We Hate Them

If your computer learns bad words from you when you curse at your printer, then you'll enjoy this cartoon, "The Printer Hate Machine" at Why anyone needs to print anything anymore is beyond me. (You're flying only on airlines that let you "print" electronic boarding passes on your smartphone, right?) Sharing documents, pictures, and other information has never been easier using online collaboration and file-sharing services such as Google Docs,, Evernote,,,, and Zoho, What used to be printed you can read on an eBook reader, your desktop computer, netbook, laptop, or smartphone. If ease of use isn't enough to stop you from using your tree-destroying, trash-producing printer (not that I'm trying to pile on any guilt here about printing), consider the cost of printer ink for color printers: The stuff in your black printer cartridge, the cartridge you probably have to replace most often, costs $2,700 per gallon. That's even more expensive than human blood, and makes the cost of gasoline seem almost trivial. Here's a handy chart that compares the costs of various liquids:

What Does Your Email Address Say About You?

There was a post on my favorite blog, Lifehacker, recently, which asked the question: What does your email address say about you? Does an or domain make you sound like you're less Internet savvy? Does having a Hotmail account make people think you're a kid? Does an email address like super4squid@somedomanin simply look dumb? You can read more here: Does somebody's email address make a first impression, either good or bad?

Internet Troubleshooting

Last week I was having Internet connectivity problems. Grrr. And the problem with Internet problems is figuring out if there's a problem with your router or cable modem, or if the problem rests with your Internet service provider. Pingtest,, to the rescue. Run Pingest and take a look at the packet loss and overall grade of your internet connection. You should have zero packet loss and an A Internet connection. Packets are how data is sent back and forth along the Internet, and losing them is not a good thing. If you don't get an A grade when you run Pintest (and the greater the packet loss, the lower the overall grade), the more likely it is that your ISP is at fault. Call customer service and ask them to look for packet loss. If they see any packet loss, there's either a server problem or a problem with your modem.

The SarcMark

Does the world need a new punctuation mark? A Michigan company has invented the SarcMark, a punctuation mark that indicates sarcasm. It's supposed to be used like a question mark or exclamation point at the end of a sentence. Hmm. On the one hand, it's hard to use a punctuation mark for which there's no key on the keyboard (which is why I never use a cents or Euro mark), but on the other hand, sarcasm almost never comes across in email, so maybe it's not a bad idea to be able to deploy a sarcastic mark. You can read more about the SarcMark at

The Internet's Wires

If you've ever been curious about where the world's undersea Internet cables are (and even if you've never been curious until now), there's a map:

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