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Be sure to come out to Highland High School Thursday evening as the Highland High School orchestra and Highland Middle School orchestras, led by my wife Rachel, will be performing their winter concert. This program has grown a lot in the last five years since Rachel resurrected it and I am proud to watch her take the stage and conduct her talented students.
Black Friday took on a whole different meaning for the Glassmen family this year. The day after Thanksgiving, the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps, a non-profit organization with 50+ years of history, including 17 Drum Corps International World Finalist appearances, announced they were filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This came after almost a year of uncertainty for the future of the corps and, while the announcement was unexpected, it was desired by nobody affiliated with the corps, past or present. With this announcement, the Glassmen organization begins the process of liquidating all of its remaining assets in order to pay off creditors, including DCI itself, and will finish with the dissolving of the Glassmen. While it is possible that a new group of dedicated individuals could come forward to resurrect the corps in some way, shape, or form, there will be no new additions to the Glassmen family in the foreseeable future.
While this is a sad time for myself and my fellow Glassmen, we are fortunate to still have one another. The bonds we have formed with those we marched with and even those which came before and after us are strong, sometimes as strong as the bonds of blood. Jon Bay, a soprano player I marched with, once said that he would jump in his car and bail any one of his fellow Glassmen out of jail, no questions asked and no matter how much time passed since we shared the field together, because of how special we are to one another. Jon is not alone in that sentiment and, judging from the outpouring of memories on Facebook, he is also not alone in understanding just how much of a family we all are to one another.
I recently had the opportunity to share one of my favorite Glassmen memories on the Marching Roundtable podcast. When it was recorded, the Glassmen Board of Directors had not announced their decision to file for Chapter 7. Now that they have and the organization is in its final days of existence, I am very glad I had the opportunity to share that memory for posterity. I hope that we all take the time to raise a glass and tell a story or two from our “experience of a lifetime” as a way of keeping the Glassmen name and memory alive. I also hope that those of us who can will get together at the various DCI, DCA, BOA, TOB, US Bands, WGI, and other marching arts events throughout the years. After all, family reunions are a blast, especially with this family.
Announcement of Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing:
Description of Chapter 7 bankruptcy from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapter_7,_Title_11,_United_States_Code#For_businesses):
When a troubled business is badly in debt and unable to service that debt or pay its creditors, it may file (or be forced by its creditors to file) for bankruptcy in a federal court under Chapter 7. A Chapter 7 filing means that the business ceases operations unless continued by the Chapter 7 Trustee. A Chapter 7 Trustee is appointed almost immediately, with broad powers to examine the business’s financial affairs. The Trustee generally sells all the assets and distributes the proceeds to the creditors. This may or may not mean that all employees will lose their jobs. When a very large company enters Chapter 7 bankruptcy, entire divisions of the company may be sold intact to other companies during the liquidation.
Fully secured creditors, such as collateralized bondholders or mortgage lenders, have a legally enforceable right to the collateral securing their loans or to the equivalent value, a right which cannot be defeated by bankruptcy. A creditor is fully secured if the value of the collateral for its loan to the debtor equals or exceeds the amount of the debt. For this reason, however, fully secured creditors are not entitled to participate in any distribution of liquidated assets that the bankruptcy trustee might make.
In a Chapter 7 case, a corporation or partnership does not receive a bankruptcy discharge—instead, the entity is dissolved. Only an individual can receive a Chapter 7 discharge (see 11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(1)). Once all assets of the corporate or partnership debtor have been fully administered, the case is closed. The debts of the corporation or partnership theoretically continue to exist until applicable statutory periods of limitations expire.
I’ve lost track of how often my clients have told me their computer is “running slow” and ask me to do something about it. Fortunately, you can get your PC running faster without spending money and with just some time to set things up.
1. Antivirus: This is the most important application you will install on your computer as it is your main line of defense from malicious programs running on your PC. I recommend Avast antivirus, which you can download at http://www.avast.com/. Be sure to remove any currently installed antivirus software before installing Avast as multiple antivirus programs can conflict with one another and cause more issues than you’re trying to solve.
2. Antimalware: I won’t go into the differences between viruses and malware applications. Suffice it to say that malware is just as bad for your computer as a virus. Should you get infected, Malwarebytes is the best application to get the infection off. You can download it at http://www.malwarebytes.org/. You have to manually run the malware scanner with the free version but it’s still a very useful program.
3. Program Removal: Some programs, while neither a virus or malware infection, still need to be removed if they are programs you don’t use and/or significantly slow down your PC while running in the background. While Windows has a built in program remover, I recommend using Revo Uninstaller, which you can find at http://www.revouninstaller.com/. The benefit of Revo Uninstaller is that it will scan your PC for any leftover files and registry entries which the built-in program uninstaller missed.
4. File/Registry Cleanup: Your PC builds up files from surfing the Internet and running applications and services. Many of these files are temporary files which aren’t needed shortly after they’re created and can be removed safely. The easiest way to do this is with CCleaner from http://www.piriform.com/. CCleaner will scan your PC for any temporary Internet and system files and delete them from your computer. CCleaner will also remove any orphaned registry entries from old applications you no longer have installed on your PC. Both will speed up your PC’s performance and give you more space on your hard drive. Run CCleaner every two weeks for the best results.
5. Web Browser: A lot of people use Internet Explorer for web browsing because it comes with Windows. The problem with IE, though, is that it is not as secure as it should be as it is a part of Windows and can give outside attackers access to your computer. Internet Explorer doesn’t always follow Internet standards, causing some websites to load strangely when you go to them. The best way to fix both problems is to get an alternative web browser. My recommendation is Google’s Chrome browser (http://www.google.com/chrome/). Chrome is lightweight, fast, and secure. You can also add functionality and security to Chrome with many free applications and extensions available from Google and other third party developers.
These five programs will go a long way towards making your PC secure, speedy, and svelte.
My phone comes in very handy when I’m driving. Here are two apps which help.
Waze – I love Google Maps on Android. One thing it is not good at, however, is adjust to traffic on the fly. Never was this more apparent than yesterday morning when I was sitting in almost standstill traffic and I hadn’t even reached the highway. This is where Waze comes in very handy. Waze is a free navigation app with a twist: crowdsourcing. Waze users can report traffic issues they experience. This both alerts other Waze users and allows the service to make adjustments to routes which may be delayed by these traffic problems. The app also monitors the speed which users are going to get a more accurate estimate of how long a trip will take and will even reroute a user if it sees a better route during the trip. Google bought Waze earlier this year so it’s a matter of time until the functionality of Waze moves into Google Maps. Until then, Waze is my GPS app of choice.
GasBuddy – One function Waze has that could use improvement is finding gas stations. Specifically, the pricing of said gas stations. I’ve found the price information in Waze, submitted my users, is either too old and incorrect or just plain missing. As a result, I use the GasBuddy app when I need to fill up the gas tank and want to keep my budget intact. Like Waze, the gas prices in GasBuddy are user reported. Unlike Waze, there are many more users reporting prices, meaning the prices are more accurate. Once I choose the gas station to go to, I can send the address to Waze and get directions. The app is simple to use and free, both excellent selling points.
Today is when I pay the bills and balance the check book. Here are two apps which help me do that.
Chase Bank – Really, I recommend any bank’s mobile app if yours has one and you have a smart phone and/or tablet. I have Chase and use their mobile app on both my phone and tablet. In both cases, I can check my current balances for my checking, savings, and credit card accounts. I can also play bills and transfer money between accounts. With my phone’s camera, I can deposit checks just by snapping pictures of both sides of the check. If I need to hit a Chase ATM or branch office, the app locates the ones closest to my current location. I can then use my phone’s GPS to navigate there. It’s like having my own personal banker in my pocket.
Mint – While the Chase app does a lot for me in terms of maintaining my finances, the Mint app helps me track my finances so I do a better job with them. The Mint service will access all of my financial accounts, including investments, and categorize my spending and income so I can see exactly where my money is going. The app will also alert me when spending in a category is higher than normal and point out ways I can save money. I can even put together a budget plan which Mint can also track and help me stick to
Friday night is out night. What better way to celebrate than to share it with friends? With these apps, you can share with those friends who aren’t with you and maybe even entice them to join you.
Foursquare – I like using Foursquare for many reasons. I like people to know about the places I go to because I’d like them to go, too, and help support these businesses, especially those which are local in nature. This is easy as check ins are posted to Facebook and Twitter. I also like Foursquare because some of these businesses offer specials for checking in. Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, offers 10% off your bill if you show your check in to your waiter/waitress, while Sheetz gives you a free donut. You can also leave tips for other users, such as great meals to order or recommendations about the best time to visit a location. Badges are earned for visiting certain types of locations, adding to the game aspect.
Untappd – This app is like the Foursquare for beer lovers. You can use this app to check in with your beer of choice. Check ins can include a picture, a rating, a review/comment, and even where you’re drinking. Like Foursquare, you can also earn badges based on the types of brews you imbibe. I’m using this app to track my progress on the Winking Lizard World Tour of Beers. Also like Foursquare, check ins are posted to Facebook and Twitter. Unlike Foursquare, you cab check into your location on Foursquare via this app.
Today brings another pair of apps which have nothing to do with one another but which I use and need every day
Jump Desktop – Yesterday, I posted a remote access app for when I needed to work on my own PC. Today, I needed to connect to a client’s server. All I had was my phone and my Verizon data plan. I also had Jump Desktop, what may be the best remote access app for Android. Once I entered in the server address, username, and password, I was able to connect with just one tap. I had full mouse and keyboard control of the server with just this little screen. I even had sound although, with a business server, that’s not very useful. I was able to get in, look at the problem, and fix it as if I was in person at the client’s office, very useful for an IT consultant always on the road
Chrome – My phone, the Galaxy Nexus, comes with a web browser. Unfortunately, that browser sucks. Enter Google’s own Chrome web browser, based on the same browser made for PCs. With Chrome, I have access to ask of my bookmarks and web history linked to my Google account. I can open pages already open on my other devices running Chrome. I also have multiple tabs so I can access multiple pages at the same time. It just makes sense to have Chrome running on a Google device.
Today’s apps are not Indians related. This is a good thing as they are sucking big time right now. Instead, I figured on two apps which are unrelated but both useful in their own ways.
Genius Scan – You have a document which needs to be signed, sealed, and delivered TODAY. Mailing isn’t an option and a picture isn’t good enough. Chances are you don’t carry a fax machine with you, either. Genius Scan has your back. Take a picture of your document with this app, crop out anything that’s not the document, and convert it into a PDF of a scanned document which you can email or upload wherever you need. You can even take the picture at an angle and Genius Scan will adjust the final result as if you shot the picture head on. You can even combine single documents into multiple pages of a single PDF file, perfect for when you have to send back more than just the signed page.
TeamViewer – I sometimes need to access a file or application on my home or work PC. Since I am on the road so much, the best way to do this is via remote access over the Internet. TeamViewer is a service that allows me this access. I install the application on the PCs I want to access remotely, log into each with my free TeamViewer account, log into the account on my TeamViewer app, and I have full access to each PC on my phone. I can control the mouse by sliding my finger on the screen and can even hear the PC’s audio on my phone. Of course, the phone is significantly smaller than my PC screen, but I can zoom in with a pinch of the screen. This app also comes in handy when friends and family need tech support.
I didn’t get my post written yesterday as I went to the Indians game (which they lost). What I DID do was download a couple apps which would come in handy at the game.
Of course, the fact that I barely pulled my phone out of my pocket during the game had no bearing on the usefulness of these apps…
Camera ZOOM FX – Say the words “camera phone” and the response “iPhone” usually comes back at you. While Android phones have come a long way in terms of camera and picture quality, the stock phone app still leaves something to be desired. Camera ZOOM FX is a free app which replaces the stock camera app as your phone’s default and brings a lot to the table for the price. Features like photo editing, image filters, and image stabilization are all very useful especially for somebody like me who can’t hold a phone steady to save my life. I can also program hardware buttons to perform tasks, such as snapping a picture with the volume up button. Photos can be saved to the phone and also shared via your favorite social media services.
Twicca – Speaking of social media services, here is my first app recommendation in that department. If you are a Twitter user, this free app has more functionality than the official Twitter app, including small things like not starting at the top of your feed when you refresh it. Sharing items like web pages through Twicca is also better as the official app just puts a link in the post. Twicca fills in the title and site name as well. It’s the little things, after all. 😀