My adventures in a phone upgrade part 2 the root and apps

I wrote about my phone adventure recently here  so I won’t go into WHY I needed a device that I could ‘completely control’ and have full access to. Suffice it to say I must be able to have complete access to the system I own without artificial limitations from the manufacturer or service provider. I want to use my hardware and software to its fullest potential. Humor to illustrate:)

 

I chose the Sprint Epic 4G Touch as my device. I loved the technical specs and knew from research that it would be easy to root and customize.

With Android devices there are so many different options to customize, tweak and really make the device your own, that it can be overwhelming. There are dozens of ROMs available and even subcategories of the main ones!

But there are some basic and simple tools to at least give you root access enough to be able to install ‘non-approved’ or custom applications and get a taste of freedom from the hardware manufacturer and service provider (ATT, sprint, Verizon etc.)

One of the most important things for me was the ability to be able to totally and completely back up the device – operating system, applications and settings; the WHOLE thing. I need to know that my system is backed up nightly (to the SD card AND the ‘Cloud’) and can be restored in a matter of minutes. I do not want to have to take a trip to a ‘corporate store’ or have to send my device away to be ‘reloaded or reset’. If an update – pushed from my carrier or other application, locks up or otherwise makes my device unusable. I have only one phone so I cannot be without it for any extended period of time.

So my quest led me to first just ‘root’ the stock ROM. Essentially giving me full root access but keeping the rest of the original Stock Sprint ROM. This way the only really operating system customization I was messing with was the actual ability to install and use non-approved applications or ones that require more system access than the carriers want to give you; like the ones for full system backups!

I must give credit here to the folks at these sites; XDA Developers, PPC Geeks and ACS, have a plethora of options, files and techniques for customizing your phone. Full access to these sites and their links and files is free with simple email sign up. I would recommend spending a few weekends just ‘looking’ through their sites; read the FAQs and poke through the different topics, tutorials and guides. You will learn a lot. I have spent years going through XDA and PPC Geeks learning so much about phones and systems.

I used the method and files found here: Stock root or Epic 4G

[Take note that you may need a new GOOD USB cable. I have had SO MANY USB devices report as ‘failed’ or ‘not fully connected’ when it turns out that all that was needed was a better cable! I have spent hours with clients trying to connect printers, phones, cameras etc., installing driver after driver, tool after tool etc.. When all that was needed was a good cable. DO NOT TAKE THIS TIP LIGHTLY! GET A FEW GOOD CABLES!]

OK so after flashing/rooting your device all will still look the same except you should now have a new application called ‘Superuser’ installed; this shows that you now have root access. You can download it here if it does not show up. It will only install if you do indeed have full access to your system.

After insuring that I had root access to my phone, the first application I installed was Titanium Backup AND I bought the Pro Key ($6.00 well spent!). This allows for full backups to the SD card(s) AND to Dropbox ‘the cloud'[I only use Dropbox for this purpose]. I have it set to back up my system nightly to the SD card and Drop Box. Now if I want to experiment with another ROM I can load it (via one of many methods from those great sites; probably ODIN) and if it doesn’t work out then I can reload the Stock ROM as above and reload my full back up and I’m good to go!

I then loaded and installed AppBrain Android market app here. Account is free and easy to set up.

Since I am an IT guy the most important app for me was my LogMeIn application. It was also my most expensive but well worth it. It is an amazing tool! After that the next best application I paid for was iSync. It allows me to sync iTunes playlists and libraries to my phone! AND it works better than I have ever seen iTunes work with any iDevice either.

So below is a list of all the applications I have currently on my phone. Many came pre-installed (Sprint) and some I got on the Android Market ‘daily deals’ for only $.10. I included the links to the applications (as they are on AppBrain; most can also be found in the official Android Market too). Check them out  – or don’t but have some fun!

Device: Samsung Epic Touch 4G

Apps: 73 total, 60 free (82%), 13 paid (17%)

Total Size of installed applications :183MB

Total value (at current prices – note that many apps were purchased on specials for only 10 cents U.S.):

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A HIIT Interval Timer
Free 276kb

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ADWLauncher EX
$3.28 1895kb

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Adobe AIR
Free 8575kb

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Adobe Flash Player 11
Free 4583kb

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Adobe Reader
Free 2761kb

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Advanced Task Manager
Free 412kb

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AirDroid
Free 2764kb

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Android Lost
Free 121kb

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AppBrain App Market
Free 724kb

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Auto Mount Your SD Card
Free 68kb

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Barcode Scanner
Free 589kb

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Camera ZOOM FX
$4.85 961kb [$.10]

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Dolphin Browser™ HD
Free 3500kb

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Dropbox
Free 3076kb

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Drudge Report
Free 193kb

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ESPN ScoreCenter
Free 1483kb

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Endomondo Sports Tracker PRO
$4.21 3014kb [$.10]

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FOX News
Free 1447kb

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Facebook for Android
Free 3929kb

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Fast Web Installer
Free 418kb

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Firefox
Free 15019kb

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GPS Status & Toolbox
Free 454kb

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Galaxy Core 3D LiveWallpaper
Free 994kb

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Gmail
Free 2147kb

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Google Books
Free 2381kb

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Google Docs
Free 2557kb

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Google Maps
Free 6379kb

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Google Reader
Free 1673kb

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Google Search
Free 608kb

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Google Shopper
Free 3131kb

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Google Sky Map
Free 2212kb

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Google Voice
Free 4304kb

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Gwang-Ju Subway
Free 81kb

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Jota Text Editor
Free 547kb

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KeePassDroid
Free 996kb

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Keyboard from Android 2.3
Free 1744kb

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Kindle
Free 9362kb

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LogMeIn Ignition
$29.99 2578kb

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Lovely Beach Live Wallpaper

$.10 13277kb

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Lovely Sky Live Wallpaper
$.10 7914kb

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MoboPlayer
Free 3426kb

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MyAppsList
Free 37kb

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OI File Manager
Free 172kb

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Opera Mobile web browser
Free 12881kb

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PdaNet 3.02
Free 117kb

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ROM Manager
Free 2375kb

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ROM Manager (Premium)
$5.99 42kb

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Remote Control Add-on
Free 560kb

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Remote Web Desktop
Free 2460kb

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Root Explorer (File Manager)
$4.06 272kb

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Root er
Free 662kb

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SMS Backup +
Free 1135kb

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SkyDrive Browser
Free 301kb

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Skype – free video calling
Free 11828kb

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Speedtest.net
Free 3063kb

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Sprint Mobile Wallet
Free 328kb

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Street View on Google Maps
Free 281kb

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SwiftKey X Keyboard
$4.06 [$.10] 4903kb

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Swype Keyboard
Free 1994kb

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Tabata Sport Interval Timer
Free 204kb

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TeamViewer for Remote Control
Free 1786kb

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Terminal Emulator
Free 28kb

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Tiny Flashlight + LED
Free 1668kb

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Titanium Backup PRO Key ★ root
$6.16 31kb

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Titanium Backup ★ root
Free 3234kb

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Tuner – gStrings
$2.85 136kb

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Voice Search
Free 2267kb

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YouTube
Free 2182kb

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Zemna AppList Backup
Free 244kb

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iSyncr WiFi Add-On
$0.99 925kb

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iSyncr for PC
$2.99 1983kb

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iris. (alpha)
Free 518kb

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ooVoo Video Call
Free 6327kb

Peace out.

Mac Maintenance and HDD updates/upgrade

[Updated 06-26-2011]

I just spent a few days doing lots of maintenance on a few Mac’s.
Cleaning up, optimizing and replacing one HDD for a new larger one.
So I thought I’d share what I do with my Mac’s to keep them running happy and having my data safe should there be problems to those of you ‘Mac-ites’ out there.
1st. Let’s clean up.
I install and use Onyx on all my Macs and those I maintain. It makes maintenance a BREEZE.
With Onyx you can do just about everything you need to do on a regular basis to keep clutter down and errors away.
Get it here.

Check out the AppCleaner application to completely remove applications – often installs put files into many other directories than just the applications folder! A great tool for removing leftover ‘gunk’.

I was going to go into some of the other steps I do such as removing unnecessary start-up items and removing unused apps but it looks like the folks at LifeHacker.com have put together a very good article on just that.
So to save the time of me just re-stating what Gina Trapani, founder of LifeHacker, has already said just go here.
The folks at Tested.com also have a good in depth article on how to manually do nearly everything you can do in Onyx. But I find Onyx to be fantastic.
As always make sure you have a good backup before you start messing with system settings!

2nd. Let’s clone/copy.

For backups most know I believe in Images(Clones), alone with periodic ‘file backups’. That way I’m protected against full drive failures/loses AND stupidity – accidentally erasing or overwriting files. 🙂
Imaging or cloning is the procedure by which you create a backup that is identical to a bootable system either to another internal or external drive. This is the ultimate backup! Should your drive fail you can just ‘pop in’ your cloned drive or ‘restore’ that clone to a new drive and your are up and running.
Good description here

Now to backing up and/or updating of a hard drive. By cloning the drive to a new (or back up one) you are creating an exact bootable copy of the original.

This is actually a very simple process that can be done without any 3rd party software on OSX!
I’ll explain how to do that in a moment, but there are some 3rd party tools that make it a little easier for the novice

Whether you are installing a brand new larger hard rive like I just did or making a clone to and external drive the directions are the same. [except of course if it is just a back up clone you won’t be ‘changing the start up disk’]

For the two Easiest ways to Clone (and also backup – remember images rule!):
Use SuperDuper Mac Drive Cloner. Get it here,
The application is freeware/shareware. Meaning to use the clone function it’s free but to use the advance scheduling features you will have to purchase a license. The call is yours.
I have always found it very worthwhile to own and support great utility software.

Or use Carbon Copy Cloner. Get that here. Read about it here. The latest version is fantastic. It’s now my go to OS X disk tool.

Now the no 3rd party software route.
You can do as I have done many times use OS X’s own clone/restore utility!

You insert the MacOS X 10.x install disk, boot from it, select Disk Utility from the Start menu, and choose the volume of the new Mac.
Then use the Restore tab, drag and drop the old drive as the source, and the new one as the target, and press the button.
Et voila!
After copying, just make sure that your new hdd (the clone) is set to be the start up disk.

You can then boot the new Mac with an exact clone of the old one.

Here’s how to use Disk Utility to clone and backup your hard drive in a little more detail using an install disk:
* Fire the Mac OS X disk that came along with your Mac.
To do this, insert the CD or DVD into your Mac, and hold down the C key while your Mac restarts.

[if that doesn’t work try these options:
# Restart your computer and immediately press the Option key. Icons for all available startup volumes will appear. Click the one you want to boot from, and then click the right arrow button to complete the startup process.
# Restart your computer and immediately press Cmd-Option-Shift-Delete. You must press all the keys at once. The computer will start to boot from the CD or DVD drive. If there isn’t a bootable disc inside the drive when you begin the reboot, the computer will attempt to boot from another partition or drive. ]

* Go ahead select your language. Don’t worry: You’re not installing Mac OS X again – this is just what you have to do to get to Disk Utility. When the menu bar appears, select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu.
* When Disk Utility opens, you’ll want to select your source. This is the hard drive you want to clone and/or backup. After you have a source, select the Destination. This is the hard drive you want to save the backup image to. * Click Restore and you’ll end up with a perfect copy of your hard drive.


Restart your computer and you’re good to go!

That’s it……

For backups there is also the included Time Machine application that ships with the latest versions of OS X. It is much improved from previous versions. It allows the user to restore the whole system, multiple files, or a single file. It works within iWork, iLife, and several other compatible programs, making it possible to restore individual objects (e.g.: photos, contacts, calendar events) without leaving the application. Time Machine is a backup utility, not an archival utility, it is not intended as offline storage. Time Machine captures the most recent state of your data on your disk. As snapshots age, they are prioritized progressively lower compared to your more recent ones.

Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper and Time Machine are complimentary. Think of SuperDuper or CCC as your backup against catastrophe (drive-failure or theft) while your TM volume is a hedge against stupidity (deleting/overwriting important files, contacts, etc.).

One last utility that I’d like to mention is AppleJack.

AppleJack is a user friendly troubleshooting assistant for Mac OS X. With AppleJack you can troubleshoot a computer even if you can’t load the GUI, or don’t have a startup CD handy. AppleJack runs in Single User Mode and is menu-based for ease of use. Their main page is here.

The AppleJack download is here.

Peace and happy computing…..

Backup your Facebook Profile Information

I am going to show you two (2) methods of obtaining your Facebook contact information; Names and email account information. One via a browser extension/add-on and another via using an ‘intermediary’ email account – in this case Yahoo.

As I have written many times I love me my Firefox browser. With the add-ons/extensions and tweaks I use, I am able to make use of my Browser as my most important productivity tool. With Firefox extension/add-ons and Greasmonkey extensions I have been able to do just about everything I’ve ever needed to with a browser.

I do also use Internet Explorer for some of my Microsoft sites where it is needed and Google Chrome – though primarily a portable version and/or on my Linux builds. It is also good to check any site building/scripting in all these browsers for differences in behavior.

One reason I don’t use Chrome that often is that although I love many things Google (Gmail and Google Apps in particular), I don not like the fact that just about EVERYTHING you type into Chrome address bar gets sent back to Google! AND the ‘google updater’ is constantly running in the background.

For this reason I use Chrome portable. You can pick up the latest version here. [For a Standalone Installation – To install a portable app by itself, or manually, just browse to the location of the [AppName]_Portable_x.x.paf.exe file you downloaded. Double-click the file to start the installation. Follow the on-screen prompts and select the location you’d like to install to. Within the directory you select, an [AppName]Portable directory will be created containing the portable app.]

Method 1 – Chrome Extension:


Now for the fun! I just found a Chrome extension that is totally awesome but so far is not available or does not have a like kind for Firefox 4. Get a copy of Chrome and install this extension – It is called the
"Facebook Friend Exporter", get it here. 

This extension allows for exactly what it says. You can install this plugin, log into Facebook, go to your ‘Friends’ page and then export all of your friends profile information that is contained in YOUR Facebook profile page(s).
This extension will allow you to get your friends information that they shared to you:
– Name
– Emails
– Phone numbers
– Screen names
– Websites
– Address
– Birthdays

Two methods of exports
– CSV file (if you have many friends, greater than 500, it will be very slow)
– Gmail Contacts (It will place them into a folder called "Imported from Facebook")

Notes:
– An "Export" button will appear on Facebooks toolbar on the top.
– Click on it and it will open a screen to start processing.
– Depending how many friends you have, this may take a very very long time to complete.
– For example: Exporting 100 friends will take at least 30 minutes!!

Additionally I may upload a copy of my portable Chrome build with all the extension already packed in; but that will have to come later.

Method 2 – Via Yahoo:

Another simple method to get Facebook contact information is to use a Yahoo email account.

· Import Facebook Contacts into Yahoo Mail

  • Step 1

Create a free email account at Yahoo Mail if you don’t have one or a use a new one to keep your contacts separate. Make sure you can send a test email out – to ‘verify’ your account. Log out of the Yahoo Mail account, once created. Close all open browsers.

  • Step 2

Open a new instance of a web browser and enter the URL for Yahoo. Log into your ‘general’ yahoo account. [make sure if you have the ‘redirect remover’ Firefox add-on installed in your browser to disable it temporarily]

  • Step 3

Click the "Facebook" button usually down on the lower left hand side. A login prompt will appear requiring a valid Facebook user ID and password.

  • Step 4

Log into the Facebook account where the contacts reside you wish to get. Open a new ‘Tab’ in your browser and type in Yahoo.com (you should still be signed in there too.) As soon as you logged in through the Yahoo Address page, the Facebook contacts will be available in Yahoo Contacts. Open the Yahoo ‘Contacts’ and choose to ‘get/import’ your contacts. A Facebook icon will be displayed and you will be asked if you are sure you wish to import them. Say yes of course and in a few moments all your Facebook contacts (names and email addresses contained in Facebook address book) will now be in your Yahoo Contacts! That simple!!

Contacts that are in Yahoo can then be exported for use in many other email applications. You can choose to export in a few different ‘.csv’ file formats, a single Outlook file format or a zip file containing all the individual files in an ‘address book card’ files format (.vcf). .VCF files can be imported into many applications – Gmail being one, not just Outlook.

· Export Facebook/Yahoo Contacts as a CSV File

  • Step 1

Click on the "Address Book" tab in Yahoo Mail.

  • Step 2

Select "Address Options."

  • Step 3

Click "Import/Export." The Export dialog box will open.

  • Step 4

Click the button labeled "Export Now" next to the email client the export will be imported into. For example, if the exported CSV file will be imported into Outlook, select "Outlook."

  • Step 5

Type a file name for the CSV file into the input box, when prompted and click the "Save As" button. Save the CSV file. The file is now ready to be imported into the specified email client or utilized as data. Super simple!

SMS from GMail

I’ve written many times about how awesome a tool Google Apps Gmail is. Check out these links.

One

Two

Three

Four and I’m sure there are more just look.

And I’ve also written about how to send and SMS text to a phone via email.
Here
But that does require you know the service provider of your recipient.

BUT you can also send SMS messages directly to any telephone number from Gmail/Google Chat. A super useful tool if you are in front of a computer and the party you need to contact is not.
To do so from Gmail:

  1. Enter your contact’s name in the ‘Search or invite friends’ box in Chat, and select Send SMS from the box of options that appears to the right of your contact’s name. Or, if you already have a Chat window open for this contact, just click Options, and select Send SMS.
  2. In the dialog box, enter a phone number in the ‘Send SMS messages to this number’ field. For now, this feature works only on United States phone numbers. If you’re outside the US, you can still use it, but you won’t see the SMS option in Chat until you enable it manually in the Chat settings page. 
  3. Click Save.
  4. A Chat window appears. Just type your message as you would normally. When you hit Enter, the message will be sent to the phone number you entered.

If your contact replies, the text message response will appear as a reply in Chat. These conversations are stored in your Chat history just like regular chats (but keep in mind that you can’t go off the record while communicating via SMS).

Note regarding mobile phone subscribers in North America: depending on which mobile plans your contacts in North America have, they may be charged by their mobile providers for receiving text messages.
Read about more about it here:

Note that as you ‘use’ SMS quota you can increase the number you are allowed to send very easily.
A quota is an allocation of SMS (text messages) that you’re able to send to a mobile phone:

  • Initially, you’re granted a quota of fifty messages.
  • Every time you send a message, your quota decreases by one.
  • Every time you receive an SMS message in Chat (for example when a phone user replies to one of your messages) your quota increases by five, up to a maximum of 50.

If your quota goes down to zero at any point, it will increase back up to one 24 hours later. So, you won’t ever be locked out of the system

SMS in Chat Commands:
Here are some commands that might come in handy for you down the road when using SMS with Chat:

  • HELP: Text this command to any Gmail SMS number and you’ll get a response reminding you of some of the basics of SMS and a refresher of some of the other useful commands
  • STOP: This command will block all SMS messages from Gmail
  • START: Re-enables you to receive SMS messages from Gmail if you’re currently blocking them
  • BLOCK: Send to the code number for a particular contact to block messages from that specific person
  • UNBLOCK: Allows a blocked contact to send you SMS messages in the future

Improving productivity and fun with browser add-ons and scripts

I spend all day working online and managing information systems.
I was asked again how come I don’t have the same ‘bad experiences’ others do when browsing the internet. Why I don’t get things like getting ‘drive by Trojans’, bogus Anti-virus pop-ups, and obtrusive music or videos that play no matter what.
I mentioned that besides the obvious of keeping all of my systems AND applications(browsers, Acrobat etc.)up to date with the latest security patches, always making sure I have the latest Anti-Virus/anti-spyware updates and not going places I know I shouldn’t or clicking on suspicious links, the most likely reason beyond that is the web browser and add-ons I use that make my browsing more productive and fun. I also spend a great deal of time furthering my education, catching up with friends and family and just plane wasting what little free time I may have being entertained online.
I have put together many tools and configuration additions that make all of the things I do with my systems way simpler and easier.
I hope these may help some of you be more productive and provide for a more pleasurable internet experience.
I work with lot’s of different people with varied technical skill sets from absolute newbie’s all the way to the guys with lot’s of CC’s and MS’s after their names, and when they see how much I can ‘just do’ from the browser they are often just amazed.
I am a believer in ‘Kaizen’. Why not try to do everything better if you can. Work, play, rest, worship and just plain life in general. So I hope some will take the time and try and use some of these tools and tips and have some more fun and a more pleasant and rewarding internet experience.
First off I must start off with the ‘machine’ with which I connect to the internet with 90+% of the time.
That is Mozilla’s Firefox browser.
I use Firefox not because it is not any more secure than IE (compared to IE8 it is definitely not, but that is news for another post.), Safari, Chrome or Opera, but I use it because the ‘browser is the machine or portal’ that gets you to all of the ‘stuff out there’ and Firefox has ALL these custom tools and add-ons available to make just about everything I do easier, faster, funner and more efficient.
I use IE only when absolutely needed; usually with custom built applications that require some of IE’s more integrated Windows ‘hooks’. I actually like the way Internet Explorer renders pages better than Firefox. But the lack of add-ons stop me from using it.
Google’s Chrome is a fast simple browser but all of the extensions for Firefox have not been ported yet. AND I really dislike how the ‘Google updater’ is continuously running and connected to Google. As much as I like lots of things Google, especially Gmail and Google Docs, I try to restrict some of the information they are gathering on me.
[While I do love my Gmail, Google is getting more like big digital brother than imagined.]
I used to recommend the Google Toolbar for Firefox and IE but I have now removed it from ALL of my machines. I now recommend that everyone do the same. Seems Google is being even more sneaky and still tracking you even when you disable ‘sending of usage statistics’! I realize it is for ‘marketing’ – to provide you with targeted adds. People forget Google is in the ADVERTISING business; and they are very profitable at it. But I just don’t need that much data collected on me. Here is one article describing the issue. And here is another.]

I was recently asked about these tools and items so I just updated the links and information and added a few items. I hope you all enjoy.
Here are the Firefox Extensions I use:

After the Deadline
After the Deadline checks spelling, misused words, style, and grammar using artificial intelligence and natural language processing.
Now you can use it in your browser. Write better blog comments, tweet with correct grammar, and compose professional messages.

Better Gmail 2:
Developed by the founder of Lifehacker.com Better Gmail 2 compiles the best Greasemonkey user scripts for Gmail into a single package. Adds useful extra features to Gmail, like hierarchical labels, an unread message icon on your browser tab, file attachment icons, and more.

BetterPrivacy
Super-Cookie Safeguard (protects from LSO Flash Objects, DOM Storage Objects).

DownloadHelper:
I use this A LOT. Just surf the Web as you are used to, when DownloadHelper detects it can do something for you, the icon gets animated and a menu allows you to download files by simply clicking an item. It is also possible to capture all the images from a gallery in a single operation.

Adblock Plus:
Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them.

FaviconizeTab:
Alows you to right click on a tab and ‘Faviconize’ it.

FireFTP:
FireFTP is a free, secure, cross-platform FTP client for Mozilla Firefox which provides easy and intuitive access to FTP servers.

gui:conif:
Adds a graphical interface for Firefox about:config tweaking. Useful for the non-geek crowd.

Ghostery:
Ghostery allows you to detect trackers on the sites you visit, learn more about the companies behind them, and control their visibility into your online behavior.

Firesheep:
A Firefox extension that demonstrates HTTP session hijacking attacks. Nice to know if someone is ‘sniffing’ your wireless browsing!

IE Tab  2
Allows you to use IE to display web pages in a tab within FireFox. This updated version includes support for FireFox 3.6 and will continue to be updated with new features and enhancements.

MultirowBookmarksToolbar:
Multi Row Bookmarks Toolbar.

PDF Download:
Use PDF Download to do whatever you like with PDF files on the Web. Regain control and eliminate browser problems, view PDFs directly in Firefox as HTML, and use the all-new Web-to-PDF toolbar to save and share Web pages as high-quality PDF files.

Perspectives:
Perspectives is a new approach to help clients securely identify Internet servers in order to avoid "man-in-the-middle" attacks.

RightToClick:
Defeats a wide varity of javascript annoyances like disabled right click (contextmenu) , disabled text selection, disabled drag&drop and many more.
Enables right-click, text selection, context-menu, drag&drop and much more where it is disabled by Javascript.
Puts little ‘Arrow’ in bottom corner allowing you to enable, then highlight and right-click and/or copy text!

StopAutoplay:
Disable the autoplay of the embedded music and movies. User action (clicking on the play arrow) is then required to hear or see ‘active content’. Some people don’t like this because the want to click on a YouTube link and have it play right away. I DON’T. Being the control freak I am I want things to play ONLY when I choose them to. I would rather go to the page and use DownloadHelper add-on mentioned above, to download the file and view it with out all the buffering and such. Most web videos are ‘Flash’ video format, and can be played back via a freeware flash player like the one from Martijn de Visser his site is here and the actual player download is here.
I love this one! Stops that lousy music or videos from playing automatically playing on certain sites.

TinEye Reverse Image Search:
TinEye is a reverse image search engine. It finds out where an image came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or if there is a higher resolution version.

User Agent Switcher:
The User Agent Switcher extension adds a menu and a toolbar button to switch the user agent of a browser. The extension is available for Firefox and will run on any platform that this browser supports including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Helpful for sites that require specific browsers and versions.

Download Context Menu:
Shows the Explorer context (right click) menu of downloaded files in the Downloads list.

Open Bookmarks in New Tab
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/13784

Vacuum Places:
Defragments your Firefox "Places" database (history/bookmarks). This greatly reduces the lag while typing in the address bar and the start-up time.

BetterPrivacy:
Better Privacy serves to protect against not delete-able long-term cookies, a new generation of ‘Super-Cookie’, which silently conquered the internet.

VTzilla:
VTzilla is a Mozilla Firefox browser plugin that simplifies the process of scanning Internet resources with VirusTotal. It allows you to download files directly with VirusTotal’s web application prior to storing them in your PC. Moreover, it will not only scan files, but also URLs.

WiseStamp:
WiseStamp Email Apps enable users to bring social functionality in every email they send.

Greasemonkey:
Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows you to customize the way webpages look and functions by adding additional scripts.
Hundreds of scripts are already available for free. And if you’re the tinkerer sort, you can also write your own.

[ultimate greasemonkey repository – if there is a script it is here:http://userscripts.org/ ]

Greasmonkey scripts I use. You can visit the authors pages to see more details:
Userscripts Updater:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/26062
YouTube HD Ultimate:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/31864
Gmail Favicon Alerts 3:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/24430
YouTube Enhancer:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/33042
Google Maps Zoom:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/7840
expertsExchange:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/37941
and
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/37941
and
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/59258

Remove Facebook Ads:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/46560

Greasemonkey scripts I don’t use but have heard good things about:
I don’t go on Facebook much but if I were a real ‘facebooker’ I would use this one too:
UnFuck Facebook:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/11992

Another one I don’t use but for people who would like to have ‘folders’ in Gmail:
Folders4Gmail:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/8810

Now to keep all tidy consistant in all places.
I use MS SyncToy to synchronize my Mozilla Firefox profiles from machine to machine too:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID;=c26efa36-98e0-4ee9-a7c5-98d0592d8c52

Pretty good Tutorial:
http://www.pchell.com/support/synctoy.shtml

Location of your Firefox profiles for synching:
Windows/Mac/Linux:
http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Profiles#How_to_find_your_profile

Lastly even more geeky.
I have a portable version of Firefox on most of my usb flash drives so I can work on machines that might have had their browsers ‘compromised’ by maleware and virii.
To get more information on ‘Portable Firefox’go here:
http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable
Here the more technically savvy will find out how to install, configure and update your portable edition.

A little Firefox fix

Something strange has been happening for me lately

I have been having some issues with my Gmail in Firefox, and in Firefox only, after the last security update. And as most of you know I am a HUGE fan of Gmail with Firefox.

What was happening is that my Gmail response was slow, Chat would disappear, and ‘respond’ and sometimes even ‘compose’ wouldn’t work making my productivity slow and frustration speed up.

This was only in Gmail not in iGoogle. And only in Firefox, all worked in IE and Opera.

So after doing loads of searching I found the fix:

It appears to have something to do with the additional security settings from the last Firefox update. And also may be related to the ‘Better Privacy’ add-on I use too.

To resolve the problem you can do the following

Open up a Firefox browser window and type in:

about:config

In the address bar.

Then click that you’ll be careful.

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clip_image004

Then type in:

dom.storage.enabled

into the Filter search window

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Double-click on the value to toggle from ‘false’ to true. [You can also right-click and choose ‘Toggle’]

Once the value is set to ‘true’ close any Firefox browser windows.

Restart Firefox and your problems should be gone!

Yay! Just thought I’d pass this gem along.

Simple Performance Tips

I am asked a few times a week at minimum “how can I speed up my system?” by friends, family and colleagues alike. Here are some very simple performance tips I perform on nearly all Windows systems I work with.

Before starting any system modifications please make sure you have a recent backup. Follow my previous posts here and here on backups and images. Run Windows update and update your Antivirus/Antispyware apps and other applications like Adobe Reader [launch the app, go to Help on the menu bar and go down to ‘Check For Updates’ and run and install.] Also update Adobe flash by opening your browser and going to Adobe’s site and getting the latest version. PDF and Flash are the most common vector for malicious code.

BE CAREFUL WHEN INSTALLING ADOBE PRODUCTS!!! They like to include ‘SHITWARE’, third party applications YOU DON’T NEED OR WANT’, like McAfee scanner or other ‘toolbars. Make sure to ‘uncheck’ any options to download AND install these when updating Adobe (or any others for that matter) applications. Be careful they are tricky and put other toolbar installers in the application updates – so before ‘just clicking’ ok/next make sure NOT to install any toolbars or other applications.

The run an Anti-virus and Anti-spyware scans to make sure your system is clean.

OK now for the meat:

First go to Mike Lin’s home page and get his great little ‘startup’ application.

http://mlin.net/StartupCPL.shtml

Download the standalone application here.
It’s in a zip file.

Extract and save somewhere like ‘My Documents’ or your desktop.
Then just double click to launch it. If you are on Windows Vista or Windows 7 right-click and run as administrator.

4_run_as_administrator

You will then be shown all the different start up parameters for your system and the applications which are scheduled to start at various events – login, machine startup, user login etc. Simply click on an item to highlight it, right click and choose and option.

StartupCPL

Using

The dialog contains six to seven tabs, depending on your system configuration. Each tab represents one place where a program can be registered to run at system startup. These include:

    * Startup (user) – the current user’s Startup folder in the Start Menu.
    * Startup (common) – the common (all users) Startup folder in the Start Menu.
    * HKLM / Run – the Run registry key located in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. These apply for all users.
    * HKCU / Run – the Run registry key located in HKEY_CURRENT_USER. These apply for the current user only.
    * Services – system services that are started before the user logs in. This appears only in Win9x; on NT/2000/XP, use the Services control panel, or the Services item in Computer Management.
    * Run Once – started once and once only at the next system startup.
    * Deleted – programs go to the Deleted tab when you remove them from another location. They will not run at system startup, but will merely be stored should you ever want to use them again. If you delete an item from the Deleted tab, it is removed permanently.

Each page contains a list of the programs registered at that location. Use the checkbox to enable or disable individual items. Additional operations are available by right-clicking an item. You can select multiple items using the Shift and Control keys. Options include:

    * New… – create a new entry. You can also drag & drop files from My Computer or Explorer.
    * Edit… – edit an existing entry.
    * Delete – delete the currently selected entry.
    * Disable / Enable – disable or enable the selected entry. A disabled program will appear in the list with a special icon, and will not run at system startup. You can also use the checkbox next to an item to enable or disable it.
    * Run Now – executes the program now.
    * Send To – moves the entry from the current location to another.

Press F5 to refresh the list at any time.

Be careful to NOT remove items critical to Windows and your Antivirus/Antispyware applications. Things that should stay are things like ‘ctfmon.exe (an office application), and your sound and /or track pad drivers.
Please note:
Before you disable or delete any listed startup items ‘Google’ the exact ‘exe’ file located in the path and FIND OUT WHAT IT IS AND DOES FIRST!

Here is and example of what I mean.

I usually find dozens of items that do NOT need to be starting at startup and/or login. Things like Adobe Acrobat ‘speed loader’, Adobe Updater, Google Updated, QuickTime, Messenger, Yahoo Toolbar, HP Image Center apps etc.

Another source of system hogging apps at startup are printers. HP (and nearly all software nowadays) is notorious for loading as many as a dozen ‘helper’ applications that you don’t need to run at start up. Things for updates, scanner updates, help desks, online help files and the like. All these items put a strain on system resources.

I find I can often dramatically increase the performance of most peoples machines by stopping all this ‘crapware’ from loading in the first place.

Once you have unchecked or deleted all the crapware from loading at startup restart your machine to make sure all works. If something is amok you can start in SafeMode (hold F8 before Windows starts) and run the app again and recheck or undelete any items as needed. If all is working time for next step.

Next item is clearing out temporary files. I use CCleaner. In fact I run this application EVERYTIME I close any browser, before I log off or shut down!

Here is the line for the application. Download, install, run and choose  ‘Run Cleaner’.

The first time this is run many people are stunned by the size and amount of files it cleans out.

Then it’s time to do a ‘super defrag’ on your system.

I like Defraggler a lot.

Get it here. Since this is an intense defragmenter – it makes files ‘contiguous’ on the disk, it can take a long while the first time it is run. Sometimes all night! But definitely run this.

Please read my other posts on resolving Windows problems too.

I you have a Mac check out this article here.

Well that is all for now have a save fun computing experience.

Desktop and Browser Pizzazz

I don’t use much ‘eye candy’ or bells and whistles for my computing experience. I tend to be very minimalistic in my approach to my working computing environment for three reasons.

First is security – I do not wish to install toolbars, sidebars or other desktop widgets that could introduce one more vector for an intrusion to my system.
Second is that most of the just mentioned things also drain system resources and tend to slow down systems and applications, sometimes dramatically!
And thirdly excessive ‘eye candy’ tends to strain they eyes and make it more difficult to find application shortcuts/aliases and links to items and files.

But there are a few places you jazz up and personalize without much impact to performance and usability usually without any security risk; the desktop background image and your browser theme (sometimes called skin).

The first and obvious place is your desktop. If you choose to personalize your desktop I recommend a picture or theme that allows you to easily find your shortcuts. [I have had to work on systems where it was nearly impossible for me to locate the icons from the image on the desktop!]

To change the desktop wallpaper:
For OS X:
1. Launch System Preferences by clicking its icon in the Dock, or by selecting ‘System Preferences’ from the Apple menu.
2. In the System Preferences window that opens, click the ‘Desktop & Screen Saver’ icon.
3. Click the ‘Desktop’ tab.
4. In the left-hand pane you’ll see a list of folders that OS X has pre-assigned for use as desktop wallpaper. You should see Apple Images, Nature, Plants, Black & White, Abstracts, and Solid Colors. You may see additional folders, depending on version of OS X you’re using. You can of course add your own pictures.

For Windows XP:
1. Right-Click on the desktop or open the Control Panel
2. select "Display Properties
3. Click on the Desktop tab and choose from the available background images. Or, use the "Browse" button to locate photos on your computer. Use the "Position" menu to set the background image as tilted, centered or stretched. Use the "Color" menu to set the background color. Click "Apply" to lock in your choices.

For Windows 7:

    1. Open Desktop Background by clicking the Start button and clicking Control Panel. [Alternatively you can Right-click on the desktop and choose ‘Personalize’] In the search box, type desktop background, and then click Change desktop background.

    2. Click the picture or color that you want to use for your desktop background.

    If the picture you want to use isn’t in the list of desktop background pictures, click an item in the Picture location list to see other categories, or click Browse to search for the picture on your computer. When you find the picture that you want, double-click it. It will become your desktop background.

Picture of the Picture location menu

Look for pictures in other locations on your computer.

3. Under Picture position, click the arrow and choose whether to crop the picture to fill the screen, fit the picture to the screen, stretch the picture to fit the screen, tile the picture, or center the picture on the screen, and then click Save changes.

After the desktop the next place is you internet Browser.

I use Firefox as my primary browser for a number of reasons I have previously listed so I won’t go into those here. And I will concentrate on Firefox Themes.

First open your Firefox Browser

To locate themes just visit Mozilla’s theme library here:

Choose a category or search:

image

If you find something you like click on the image ‘details’

image 

image

And choose ‘Wear this Persona’. You will then be prompted at the top of the browser to ‘Allow’, choose allow and the theme will be installed.

You can try a multitude of different themes by just doing the same thing over and over.

To manage or switch back to themes you previously installed follow this:

In the Firefox Browser go to the toolbar at the top and click on ‘Tools’ then ‘Add-ons’ Select the ‘Themes’ tab:

image

From here you can manage/switch your themes. Simple as that.

Currently Internet Explorer and Safari require third party tools/apps to change the Browser theme and I don’t use them.

If you use Opera there is a pretty good tutorial here.

Have fun!

 

Google Voice Tips Tricks and Tutorials

I am a huge fan of Google voice. I use it for both my personal, and professional life. I am able to set up rules for contact groups that define many different scenarios. I like that I can give my Google voice number to my family and close friends and know that I can be reached no matter where I am – I can and do ring multiple phones. For business I can ring my office AND my cell ONLY during business hours and then after business hours only my office line is rung or people are sent right to voice mail. The list of really cool things that can be done is just limited to your imagination.

I am constantly asked for tips on how I do all this so I put together as many good and simple tips as I could find in this post. There are sure to be many many more if you just search for ‘Google Voice Tips’.

To get a Google voice number you will of course need a Gmail/Google account.
You can get that here

Then sign up for Google voice here

Find and choose a number locally (or actually in any area code you prefer). I recommend doing a search for something that has a mnemonic – like ‘coffee1’ (263-3331) or some other easy to remember number.

And before you ‘set up’ your Google voice  number check out these articles and walk through’s.

Great Google Voice information:

http://www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFVXAqFNgic&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4Q9MJdT5Ds&feature=player_embedded

http://lifehacker.com/5311254/how-to-ease-your-transition-to-google-voice

http://mycraniumdrain.blogspot.com/2009/08/more-on-google-voice.html

And here are some other excellent video demonstrations and how to’s. They are short, quick and easy to follow:

Call Screening:
Listen In

Block Calls

SMS

Place calls anywhere

Taking/Receiving calls

Phone Routing

Forwarding Phones

Voicemail Transcripts

Listen to voicemail

Notifications

Personalize Greeting

Share voicemail

Conference Calling

Call Record

Call switch

Mobile Site

GOOG-411

Manage Groups

Speed Up Windows 7 with ReadyBoost and Removable Drives

When your PC and especially a netbook goes low on memory (RAM), it is bound to slow down. It does try to get that extra memory from the hard disk, but that hardly enhances the overall performance.
Most netbooks ship with 1Gb of Ram, and many older netbooks shipped with even less.  Even if you want to add more ram, often they can only be upgraded to a max of 2GB.  With ReadyBoost in Windows 7, it’s easy to boost your system’s performance with flash memory.  If your netbook has an SD card slot, you can insert a memory card into it and just leave it there to always boost your netbook’s memory; otherwise, you can use a standard USB flash drive the same way. Also, you can use ReadyBoost on any desktop or laptop with Windows Vista or Windows 7; ones with limited memory will see the most performance increase from using it.

ReadyBoost is a feature in Windows which helps it make use of the flash memory of an external USB flash drive when it needs it. It can speed up PC when RAM goes over limit, and also works with multiple devices in Windows 7.  You may even notice better battery life when multitasking with ReadyBoost, as it lets you use your hard drive less.

So how much should you use? Microsoft recommends, “a 1:1 ratio of Flash to system memory at the low end and as high as 2.5:1 flash to system memory.” So if you have 4GB of RAM, you should pair it with at least a 4GB USB drive, but a 16GB USB stick would be overkill.

Here’s a step by step process to use this feature.

Insert an SD card into your card reader, or connect a USB flash drive to a USB port on your computer.  Windows should automatically ( via AutoPlay) see if your flash memory is ReadyBoost capable, and if so, you can directly choose to speed up your computer with ReadyBoost.

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If you don’t see that as an option, you may still be in luck.
Open Windows Explorer or My Computer and try configuring ReadyBoost by right-clicking the device in Windows Explorer, clicking Properties, and then clicking the ReadyBoost tab. The only configuration option is to configure the space reserved for the cache.

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Click Ok, and Windows will setup ReadyBoost and start using it to speed up your computer.  It will automatically use ReadyBoost whenever the card is connected to the computer.

You should choose at least 256MB. But according to Microsoft, for Windows 7 your flash drive should have at least 1 GB free space. For best results you should use flash drive with double the amount of RAM space available in your computer.

You can also click on the option “Dedicate this device to Readyboost”. This option will use maximum available space on the external media for Readyboost process.

If you need to remove your drive to use elsewhere, simply eject as normal. Windows will inform you that the drive is currently being used.  Make sure you have closed any programs or files you had open from the drive, and then press Continue to stop ReadyBoost and eject your drive.

If you remove the drive without ejecting it, the ReadyBoost file may still remain on the drive.  You can delete this to save space on the drive, and the cache will be recreated when you use ReadyBoost next time.

Worried about someone pulling out your USB stick and walking away with the files you’ve been working on for months? Don’t be. Information on ReadyBoost drives or disks is safe from casual hackers. All files on removable drives are encrypted with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128.  In any case, while ReadyBoost stores data and programs as files, and not as raw data, you can’t access these files as if the USB stick was a normal drive.

Here is a short video from MS

Something to consider;

Unfortunately, not all SD and CF cards, or even USB flash drives, work with ReadyBoost. While some storage media advertise that they’re “enhanced for Windows ReadyBoost,” they may not actually be ReadyBoost worthy.

Here is a good list from NewEgg. One of my favorite technology sources.

If you have a netbook or laptop this can do a lot for your performance. I hope this helps.