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Freeware and Freebies

CNET News - Desktop threat, still a threat (De...

(Photo credit: marsmet546)

Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this. Not since February 18, 2011, to be exact!

Today I want to share my latest discovery. It’s a free program that transfers media files (including video) from PC to iPad and other iOS devices—without having to jailbreak.

Amazing. I really don’t want to spend 35 dollars (before tax) to do this with Apple’s camera connection kit. I think it’s outrageous that Apple is so controlling when it comes to the iPad. Moving files around should be no big deal. And I don’t want to go through iTunes because, I figure, this involves bandwidth usage. Which could mean more money.

So I searched around and found Syncios:

After reinstalling iTunes (uninstalled some months ago) on my old, test monkey computer, I got it to work… beautifully!

But don’t take my word for it. Read about it at CNET.

Exclamation mark

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, one word of caution. Read all the comments at CNET. Basically, if you’re not careful the installer will put a lot of potentially unwanted software on your computer. Some companies are cannier than others at trying to get you to install extra software. And some companies can be a bit confusing, possibly because of a language barrier. But if you know how to avoid all that, this program is a clean install.

I was only going to list one new program. But another comes to mind: RevoUninstaller. When this page was last updated, I was just testing Revo. Well, the test is over. This program is AWESOME. I used to hesitate testing new software because junk files usually stay on a PC after the usual Windows uninstal.

RevoUninstaller goes deep. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It also comes in a portable version if you really want to keep a lean machine.

Well, that’s about it for now. Happy computing! :-)

And remember, Earthpages.org is not affiliated with any these companies, organizations or projects.

I logged into hello GNOME under Arch Linux and...

A screenshot of the latest version of GIMP, editing the GIMP splash screen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Update: I just remembered one more recent tryout. Krita. See Image Editing/Digital Painting below for details, and since writing the above, Making Music/Audio Production, Music Listening and Get News with RSS have all been updated.

Media Players

  • VideoLAN – VLC media player Ever wanted to capture a still image from a video? Most free media players won’t do it. After searching the web and reading all sorts of complicated do’s and don’ts, I stumbled upon this free program, which does it effortlessly. VLC also formats DVD playback in a variety of screen ratios, which can be nice. And, it plays FLAC audio files.

Video Editing

  • Bink Video (RAD Video Tools) Converts digital video files into different formats. Especially useful if your digital camera writes Quicktime .MOV files. Bink/RAD will convert them into .AVI files, which Windows Movie Maker can import!

Video Search

  • Blinkx Not really freeware because there’s nothing to download. But it’s free and a good alternative to YouTube and Google video searches.

Image Editing/Digital Painting

  • Krita – Someone just recently tipped me off about this. I don’t see any text function. But it might be in there somewhere. Digital artists should give this a try. I can’t draw my way out of a wet paper bag. So this one isn’t too useful for me.
  • Pixlr – This has three versions, each different. I like it way better than Instagram.
  • PhotoFiltre One of my favorite free photo editors with plug-ins, highlighting and “fade last effect” feature, much like Photoshop version 4. PF doesn’t handle multiple layers like the GIMP but it’s light and tasteful. Don’t confuse this with PhotoFiltre Studio, which is not freeware.
  • PhotoScape This is a fantastic program with some great filters, fun photo stuff and useful text effects. I use this to rotate/level photos as I find it’s faster, easier and does a better job than anything else I’ve tried.
  • The GIMP GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.” The GIMP just keeps getting better and better; features include text, drop shadow, bevels, layers, color replacement and lots of fine filters.
  • Gimphelp.org Some cool filters for the Gimp. While Photoshop 8bf filters may still be the industry standard, I find that using freeware opens me up to different graphics and artistic approaches that I’d otherwise never try. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to install these filters. Just read the instructions and enjoy!
  • Virtual Photographer This is a great program for enhancing photos, compatible with the GIMP and other commercial software.
  • Picasa IMHO the strongest thing about this photo editor is the excellent color, lightness and contrast fixing. And it’s very user friendly. Photo rotation is a bit blurry. I use PhotoScape for that.
  • Photo Pos Pro Visually nice to look at, has some good effects and handles layers.
  • Photobie I don’t use this one too much but it has some good filters and is under steady development. Like anything else, software preference is a pretty personal thing. Definitely worth a try.
  • LightBox Solid performer. Free version touches up pics nicely with minimum of effort.
  • UnFREEz Creates animated gifs almost effortlessly, preserves transparency, and does a much better job (in terms of image quality) than MS gif animator.
  • Easy Thumbnails This easily creates good, sharp thumbnails.
  • Vector Magic Not free but you can evaluate for free with saving disabled.
  • Inkscape Good for making banners, working with fonts and converting bitmap to vector graphics.

AntiVirus, Junk and Spyware Removal

  • AntiVir A nice antivirus program from Germany with frequent free updates.
  • AdAware A ‘too good to be true’ program for detecting and cleaning invasive ads and malware that can slow down your computer. With free updates and lots of options.
  • Advanced SystemCare This was recommended by a visitor and it seems very powerful. But some may find it too aggressive and Gizmo’s Freeware says some have reported errors after using. I’ve tested this out and so far have had no probs with WinXP. It gets stuff CCleaner doesn’t, and vice versa.
  • CCleaner Fantastic program for cleaning junk files from your hard drive with frequent updates. Also useful for fixing registry integrity and blocking unwanted Windows startup programs. Use with extreme caution and don’t even think about going past the default settings unless you know what you’re doing!
  • Glary Utilities Recommended by a visitor; still testing…
  • Malwarebytes This is handy if by chance the other stuff listed here can’t help you.
  • Panda Cloud Antivirus Antivirus is available in cloud format, so say goodbye to those irritating virus definition updates.
  • Revo Uninstaller Great! See opening comments.

FTP

  • FileZilla FTP freeware. This is another “too good to be true” program with frequent updates. It just seems to be getting better and better.

Making Web Pages

  • Free Gifs and Animations Lots of good stuff.
  • KomPozer Apparently some techies didn’t like the fact that the buggy but very promising Nvu went into stasis. So they continued where Nvu left off. Great job! From my preliminary test it seems this might be the best totally free WYSIWYG editor around.
  • Amaya A free WYSIWYG html editor. It’s a good, straightforward product that would probably fit the needs of basic to intermediate users. Also has some cool special characters.
  • Evrsoft First Page is a free WYSIWYG editor (with a 5 sec. nag screen). It has advanced features but, as others have said, the last version I tested was a touch slow and, on my computer, a bit buggy. Still, I’ve used it with great results. (And it might have been updated since I wrote this particular entry in May 2008).

Making Music / Audio Production

  • Kristal Audio Engine This is a great program for sound recording in a multi-track format. It’s like a software version of the old Fostex and Tascam cassette recorders. Handles up to 16 audio tracks with effects, copy/cut and paste, bouncing and room for expansion. Although Kristal has been criticized for tracks not being in sync, spending a bit of time at the friendly user forum solved the issue for me.
  • Audacity – This is THE program for freeware sound recording. Check it out.
  • Reaper Reaper isn’t free but is a 60 day demo. After that, a nagscreen reminds you that it’s not free. But it continues uncrippled because the developers believe that crippling their demo is not the best way to go. This is a great program for music producers if you are willing to look elsewhere for VST plugins (like KVR, Vst4Free or the very helpful Bedroom Producer’s Blog). It handles midi and conventional recording. Automation lanes. And a whole lot more.
  • FL Studio Somewhat like Reaper, FL Studio isn’t free but some features continue to work in the demo version. The cool guitar plugin Slayer, for instance, seems to work without limitation in the free demo version. Other plugins cut in and out. Last I heard, Avicii uses FLS. So it’s gotta have something going for it!
  • LMMS This seems really promising. It used to only work on Linux (which is beyond me). But it’s now Windows-friendly. LMMS is mostly about midi, but you can import recorded audio files as samples. So vocalists might want to try Audacity first, or something like that. This program is fairly basic but has its own charm. I did a really quick, silly thing (posted here) while learning it. I never got much further than that!
  • Asio4All So you’re new to audio production and your tracks are out of sync, or there’s way too much delay between hitting your MIDI keyboard and hearing a sound (called “latency”). Enter Asio4All. The genuine Asio driver is made, I believe, by Steinberg and is copyright material. But many people seem to use Asio4All, which I guess is some kind of approximation of the real thing. Perhaps it’s like generic drugs vs. name brands. It comes bundled with the FL Studio demo and is at CNET, so it’s got to be okay.
  • Synthmaster Player I mention this by itself because it really stands out. It’s free, uncrippled, and great. You may not like my freaky music or limited ability. But I used this synth for the bubbly “Berlin Bass” in the tune On a Star.
  • VST Resources There are a lot of really good sites out there telling about great free VST plugins. If you really want to find them all, try Google.  But the three sites I use most are KVR, Vst4Free, and Bedroom Producer’s Blog. BPB narrows down many plugins to his favorites. And I usually agree with his point of view. He’s also open to new suggestions. So it’s a “must visit” site.

Music Listening

  • Songza There are lots of services out there. This one is my favorite. I like it so much, I made several playlists for all to enjoy! (shameless plug) ;-)
  • iTunes You don’t have to purchase media with this software. iTunes comes with fantastic, free streaming radio and a 10-band equalizer and preamp with great presets. Travel the world through talk and music!
  • Winamp Music and video player with a 10-band equalizer and preamp to make music come alive. I don’t know what’s going on with Winamp these days. But I used to like it.
  • Live 365.com No download streaming radio portal. Impressive selection of genres.
  • RadioTime Provides links to many streaming radio stations.
  • AudioGrabber Handles WAV and MP3 formats. Audiophiles will probably know that WAV files sound better but are huge. MP3’s are “sonically acceptable” and take up less space for iPods, etc. There are several free grabbers out there but I find this one sounds bigger and fatter than the others I’ve tested. Some audiophiles may like that, others may not.
  • Xrecode This is great for converting to FLAC (a “lossless” format that sounds just as good as WAV with about 45% smaller file size) and many other formats, including Mp3.

Create RSS Feeds

  • FeedSpring Web publishers can use this to generate their own RSS feeds.

Get News with RSS

  • RSS Reader Get news stories from all over the web. This is a super program. But a while back I tested a beta version requiring net framework 2.0 and wasn’t impressed. About a third of my RSS feeds didn’t work. So I reverted to version 1.0.88.0 with net framework 1.1 and everything works great.
  • Feedreader Google Reader is no more. I never liked it much anyhow. Doing RSS online is too slow for me. But here’s a program that I use sometimes. It has a good “lookup” feature for specialized articles.

Bandwidth Monitoring

  • FreeMeter Since I’m a regular web cam user, I wanted to know which web cam software is most efficient. Enter FreeMeter.

Scanning, File Conversion, PDF

  • Bullzip This easily converts Windows documents to pdf. Lots of options. Fantastic.
  • Scan2PDF – scan documents to PDF format Scan anything and convert to .pdf (for Acrobat Reader). Also open image files from your hard drive and convert to .pdf. I found that it works best if in “options” you enable the scanner interface to be seen. That way you can adjust the resolution and get really good results.
  • Open Office I tested out the word processor on this suite in 2008 and found it satisfactory, although the English thesaurus was weak, and downloading/installing more dictionaries was a hassle. It was also a bit slow to load and felt heavier on my machine than commercial products. Open Office easily converts to pdf, however, and supports a wide number of languages. And I believe there’s a more recent version.
  • Primo PDF Primo converts Windows documents to pdf.

Multitasking

  • Always on Top I use this with WinXP to keep an application window visible while working with other applications. Examples could be keeping MS Word or maybe a Google chat contact visible while surfing or blogging. This program is very light and works great.

iOS Related

  • Syncios Transfers media files (including video) directly from PC to iPad and other iOS devices—without having to jailbreak.

The software and online content mentioned in this post may be incompatible with your hardware and/or software. By clicking on any of the links mentioned in this post, you agree that Earthpages.org | Earthpages.ca is not liable for any damages that may be incurred from visiting these links or downloading the software.

—MC


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Just received a Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

very-inspiring-awardJust received a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, thanks to The Hunt FOR Truth.

This is a wonderful thing. Sometimes I get discouraged with the site. Recognition like this makes me realize that it’s not all in vain… » Read full story in EP NEWS!


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Ethics in the Digital Age

Ethics class

Ethics class (Photo credit: aditza121)

Copyright © Adam Wood, 2013

Whenever a new technology arrives, laws are created to prevent abuses and to ensure fair play among users. The effect of new inventions on society is sort of like the old Wild West. Freewheeling technology users do just about anything they can, and change comes fast. Consumers spend much time and energy mastering their new toys, while companies are mostly concerned with innovation and growth. Ethical issues might be raised but the laws to enforce them come later. This is because new technologies raise novel, complicated questions that require careful consideration.

Think of the automobile. Licensing wasn’t always mandatory in the US and, in the beginning, drivers made their own license plates out of ceramics. These days, practically every country demands certain skills and, of course, paying a government fee to obtain a driver’s license and vehicle plate.

Vonage V-Portal retreiving IP Address

Vonage V-Portal retreiving IP Address (Photo credit: K. Todd Storch)

Other examples can be found with computers and the internet. New laws are being written right now to protect intellectual property, from trending pop tunes to the latest software coding. And recently, the idea of willing your email or social media accounts to another person before your natural death is gaining popularity. Google’s Digital Will allows grieving relatives to remove a loved one’s internet account after they’ve passed, provided the accounts have been willed to them. In the past, some have sued internet-based companies to ensure that a deceased person’s account goes offline.

Human relationships can pose additional ethical dilemmas in the digital age. Imagine two lovers who plan to spend their lives together. But the man deceives and suddenly leaves the woman. He seems happy to be free while the woman is devastated. She asks him to stop emailing her and leave her alone so she can move on. He finds a new partner while she remains single. Despite this, he continues to visit her blog and she sees his IP address through her blog stats. The man knows she can see his IP address, so could his behavior could be taken as a type of attention seeking and possibly emotional abuse?

This might seem to be pushing it. But let’s consider the problem another way. Let’s say the man doesn’t visit the woman’s blog. Instead, he drives to her home every few days and, each time, leaves a signed note in her mailbox saying “I was here.”

Image via Tumblr

How would this be viewed by the law? Would the man be guilty of stalking? If so, the woman could pursue a restraining order to keep him at a psychologically safe distance.

The previous example of the IP address showing up after the man visits her blog isn’t too different. It has a similar psychological effect. But what legal recourse would the woman have to prevent the man from digitally ‘dropping by’ and reactivating the harmful emotions triggered by his lying and abandoning her?

Until laws are drawn up for these subtler forms of emotional abuse, unethical internet users will probably continue to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others who have no legal recourse to stop them.


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The new digital divide

Image via Tumblr

The Rich See a Different Internet Than the Poor – Ninety-nine percent of us live on the wrong side of a one-way mirror (scientificamerican.com)

Most developed cities have internet or WiFi in their public libraries, but there are limits to what you can do with a library connection.

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Going Against the Grain: The Case for Online Education

Online courses allow learning to take place sy...

Online courses allow learning to take place synchronously or asynchronously (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special to Earthpages.org

Our economy depends on education. Doesn’t matter if the education comes from an online school or a magnet program, the country needs educated youth to continue innovating and making progress. We’re used to thinking of this as a fact of life, an undeniable truth. And in the face of overwhelming challenges, we’ve responded by demanding even more from our schools. Society is asking for more equipped graduates and lots of them, all the while schools are seeing their budgets be slashed. President Obama is currently calling for 1 million additional STEM graduates while governors all over the country lament their need to gut higher education. Naturally, a lot of traditional colleges and universities are struggling under the pressure.

Fortunately, our education system is transforming too. Online college programs represent a chance for schools to catch up with the economy today’s graduates will need to face.

Already, online students make up nearly one-third of all college enrollment in the United States, according to an online education survey by Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board. That’s an even more dramatic figure when you consider how quickly it happened: the number of students taking at least one online course has nearly quadrupled since 2002, reaching 6.1 million in 2010. Nearly two-thirds of the chief academic officers interviewed in the survey described online education as “critical” to their institutions’ long-term strategy.

The reasons aren’t hard to guess. When the Internet transforms an industry, it’s usually by offering a combination of specialization and convenience. Online retailers can sell you products that don’t appear on store shelves anywhere in town, and deliver them right to your doorstep. Social networking became an industry in large part thanks to the way the Internet lets people find each other and stay in touch. Online college classes can give part-time students more freedom to manage their schedules or give opportunities to someone who cannot reach the campus.

Unlike most other industries, finding ways to make education more accessible isn’t just a matter of convenience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that your level of education is linked to both your likelihood of having a job and the income you can expect to earn should you land one. The flexibility that online programs can offer fits nicely with a labor force whose workers are likely to change jobs an average of seven times throughout their careers.

Online programs aren’t just working their way into traditional institutions. The word “webinar” is barely twenty years old, but it’s become a simple way for businesses to acquaint their employees with expert instruction. Websites like Skillshare democratize the education process even further by giving anyone a platform to lead a course in whatever subject the market needs. These hyper-specialized options can’t offer graduates the same status as accredited online college classes, but they are a clear sign that the Internet is still finding new innovations to bring to the field.

And the field could use some innovation. The OECD’s education database shows that the number of Americans enrolled in higher education grew by close to seven million over the last decade. Over the same period, households’ expenses on education almost doubled, as state cutbacks led colleges to raise tuition and the outsourcing of low-skilled jobs put more emphasis on specialized training. Americans today have $1 trillion in student loan debt, which is more than credit card debt, and the price of education is still rising.

Taking an online class will not necessarily guarantee a lower tuition rate, but educators in the Babson survey overwhelmingly believed that online courses offered students more flexibility and a better chance to work at their own pace. Those tools can help them hold down a job while earning their degree.

Flexibility can help the universities, too. Those seven million new college students in the OECD report represent a nearly 10% jump in enrollment. For universities to admit more students, they need more housing, classrooms and facilities to accommodate them. However, since about 4.5 million of those new students are enrolled in classes online, universities can save on construction while still providing an education.

Online education has been around nearly as long as the Internet itself. But only recently has ‘online college’ ceased to be synonymous with ‘bad education’. The University of Phoenix, a network of for-profit colleges, began offering online courses in 1989 and is now being held more accountable for what happens to its graduates, this is driving up quality.

What’s really changed in the last decade, and why online classes have begun to blossom, is that the traditional institutions took notice. Prestigious schools, like UC Berkeley, are now offering online resources, many for free. It is a way to ensure people can still learn, even if they cannot make it into a classroom. This should be the future of education, something that utilizes technology to revolutionize society. Online classes have the ability to ensure anyone with Internet access can have a college level education, and an open education system is truly a revolutionary idea.


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Boundaries, the web and global culture

Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web - Opportunity, Challenge, Responsibility - Photo credit: Anna Lena Schiller via Flickr

By Michael Clark

I got the idea for Earthpages back in 1999. Since then I’ve had some very meaningful online interactions. Most of my experience with other people on the web has been good but, every now and then things deteriorated.

After losing a few contacts (sometimes through my choice, sometimes theirs), I decided to write up some some tips for a better online interactive experience. Although originally posted about a decade ago, I’ve updated what still applies today and deleted the rest.

First, a word about boundaries. Psychologically speaking, boundaries are those lines we draw between appropriate and inappropriate relating. They can apply to direct personal encounters or to the more abstract relationships that many of us have through online communities.

The norm for appropriate boundaries usually differs among individuals, just as it does among cultures. So the following guidelines should be viewed in light of your personal preferences and global experience.

Give the benefit of the doubt

Don’t jump to conclusions. If a message seems questionable or pushes your buttons, read it again a few days later and let the big picture come into focus.

Should we assume that people always have good reasons for doing things? I don’t think so. But it still pays off to give the benefit of the doubt. So don’t act on hasty, ill-informed opinions.

Wait your turn

If someone doesn’t reply to your message there’s probably a reason. To hound them with repeated messages is rude and could develop into a kind of unsavory stalking.

A pretty obvious rule of thumb is to wait your turn. If you’ve sent a message, wait until your correspondent replies before messaging them again. This gives them time to process your information.

There are exceptions to this. For instance, we might have forgotten, corrected or updated something and want to add a quick ‘p.s.’ That’s okay, providing the follow-up is brief and necessary.

Alternately, something urgent might demand another person’s attention, in which case you might be right in pestering them.

Don’t make a career out of pushing buttons or playing mind games

Misunderstandings are inevitable. But if we set out to test, irk or outdo another, we’re just being facetious and not making anything better. By the same token, this doesn’t mean we should squelch good natured playfulness. But, like everything else, play with sensitivity and care. And if your well intentioned humor doesn’t work, then think again.

Remember… the internet isn’t necessarily secure

Today this is well-known. But there was a time when people looked at me as if I’d just landed from Mars when suggesting that some stranger could be reading their private messages.

Every now and then I’ve received e-mails where people get carried away and forget they’re potentially talking to the whole world after clicking ‘send.’ Also remember that your e-pal might forward your juicy material to others without your knowing it.

Not good.

The Entrance to the World Wide Web (HDR)

The Entrance to the World Wide Web (HDR) by jmtosses via Flickr

Say what you mean and mean what you say

This sounds like a line from a James Bond or Austin Powers flick. But it’s a good motto. It’s about being honest and actively speaking your mind.

This can be tricky because we usually want to meet others halfway, and opinions are, by definition, limited. So sometimes we might hold back for a while to see if we can find common ground.

But even anonymous internet users should try to clearly say what they think, not play head games or, perhaps, vent anger that they don’t have the courage to openly and effectively express. And it goes without saying that real name users should try to do the same.

Find a common language

Nobody likes a fake or phony. Not even fakes and phonies! But if your new correspondent is using the Queen’s English, you might want to think twice before falling into your usual slang. Then again, you might think it’s more appropriate to stick to your usual dialect. I suppose it depends on how much one identifies with one’s personal style. But I, myself, always try to find a middle ground.

Learn from mistakes

If you happen to cross some line and offend another person by mistake, reflect long and hard as to why it happened. Provided it was just a mistake, don’t shoulder all the blame. It usually takes two to tango and playing the role of scapegoat or martyr doesn’t help anybody. But don’t run away from your share of personal responsibility either. Only young children, immature adults, adults in denial, sociopaths and fanatics don’t acknowledge their fair share of responsibility.

Instead of playing the blame game, avoid or possibly redirect the situation that brought about the misunderstanding in the first place. And if another person repeatedly crosses your line and doesn’t show any signs of remorse nor change for the better, then you might think about politely withdrawing.

Hint don’t insinuate

I know I said “say what you mean and mean what you say.” But sometimes it really is better to hint instead of saying things outright. Everybody does this consciously or subconsciously. Instead of insinuating, however, it’s better to hint.

To hint is to allude to sensitive issues with an indirect or roundabout kind of well-intentioned honesty. Insinuation, on the other hand, is a dark art where nasty ideas are thrown out like poison darts.

If we try to be positive while hinting at things, others usually catch the good vibe and reply in kind. And if they don’t, well, at least we tried.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Rough day? Stressed out? Don’t use that as an excuse to treat others in ways that you, yourself, wouldn’t like to be treated.

Christian believer or not, this New Testament guideline really sums it all up. In fact, many world religions advocate a similar philosophy, called The Golden Rule.

Most people don’t like being insulted, lied to, cheated or manipulated—unless, of course, they’re negative attention seekers. Negative attention seeking is when someone, for whatever neurotic reasons, is just itching to get into a spat.  It’s an unhealthy approach to life and should be avoided or, if possible, redirected to a more congenial approach.

Recognize when to let go

Everybody needs space from time to time. Some of my most stimulating contacts rotate on an informal, undetermined schedule. Months, even years, might pass before a contact and I reconnect. If someone we like starts to tone things down, instead of neurotically clinging to them, it’s time to back off and possibly let it go (at least for a while).

Like the sun behind clouds, your e-pal will come out again when the time is right. And if not, chalk it up to experience. There’s over 2 billion internet users out there, so don’t get stuck on one person. Move on and remember… a web is always better than a single thread.

Earthpages does not render medical, legal, financial, counseling or other professional services. Those in need of expert assistance are advised to consult an appropriate licensed professional. See Terms of Use.

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