Secunia releases new version to check your software for updates

Secunia

Image via Wikipedia

Software patches are a continual pain in the ass. Windows Update takes care of Windows and some Microsoft programs, but does nothing about all the other software on your system. One of the first posts I wrote when AuctioneerTech launched in September of 2008 was about a company called Secunia that helps you check the software on your computer for vulnerabilities. I’ve been a regular Secunia user ever since, using their Personal Software Inspector (PSI) to keep my personal machines up to date.

Yesterday, Secunia released version 2 of their PSI, which boasts a new, even easier-to-use interface. If you haven’t used Secunia before, now is a great time to start.

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Jolicloud is a fast, cloud-based OS for netbooks

Jolicloud operating system screenshot
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve had a Eee PC 901 netbook for the last couple years. I’ve had various version of Ubuntu Linux installed on it, including the netbook remix, and recently tried Peppermint and Lubuntu. By far the most enjoyable netbook OS I’ve tried – and am currently reinstalling because it’s better than everything else  – is Jolicloud.

Jolicloud was designed from the ground up to be a netbook OS. The environment is closer to the functionality of a smart phone – iOS or Android – than it is to a desktop OS like Windows or Ubuntu.

Jolicloud is truly a cloud OS. Like Google’s upcoming Chrome OS, Jolicloud synchronizes all your settings to your account, so when you login to a Jolicloud installation on multiple computers, your history and settings are retrieved and accessible. Unlike Google’s Chrome OS, however, Jolicloud offers the power of a traditional OS, allowing you to install standard Linux applications and alternative browsers as well as access local file storage and devices.

The cloud installation is so well-done that you can actually use your Jolicloud environment from any computer that runs Chrome. Simply go to jolicloud.com and login to see your netbook’s desktop and applications show in your browser.

The best part about using Jolicloud isn’t the simplicity, but the speed. Recent versions of Ubuntu – even the netbook remix – are slow on my old Eee 901. Scrolling seems sluggish, and there’s always a second or two that I have to wait for applications to load. Jolicloud is so light and fast that it hides the weaknesses of the hardware on which I’m running it.

Jolicloud recently launched the Jolibook, the first netbook that comes with Jolicloud pre-installed.  It’s available in the UK only at the moment, but for anyone looking for a netbook with a netbook OS – especially if you weren’t lucky enough to capture Google’s attention and get a Chrome OS C4 – it’s a fantastic option. It’s also a great option to turn that old, sluggish netbook into a fast, hip cloud appliance.

Jolicloud is a free download, and has an easy step-by-step tutorial for making a bootable USB stick if you don’t have a USB CD drive for your netbook.

Do you prefer a different OS on your netbook? Let me know with the comments.

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LotSmarter simplifies auction inventory management

LotSmarter

LotSmarter

As auctioneers slowly come around to the concept that consumers want items, not auctions, they invariably struggle with the intricacies involved with listing their items in their auctions. There are many places where the same inventory needs to be listed, ranging from advertising venues like Internet auction calendars to software packages for clerking and cashiering to web apps for Internet bidding, each with its own specification for importing inventory.

The tried-and-true gold standard for inventory entry is the spreadsheet. It’s almost synonymous with inventory management, with many auctioneers using the word Excel generically to mean “that program that we use to generate our auction catalogs.”

Spreadsheets may work fine for one destination, but the different specifications for each listing destination mean that each different upload requires reformatting the column order – and sometimes the contents of the columns. For example, one listing may support HTML in the description field, while another may choke on markup.

Spreadsheets have other problems. Traditional software applications like Microsoft Excel or LibreOffice Calc allow only one user to edit a spreadsheet at a time. While some newer web apps like Google Spreadsheets allow multiple users to make changes simultaneously to the same file, it’s still a hassle to configure a spreadsheet for data validation – only allowing a small selection of valid seller numbers in the seller column, for example.

Many auction software packages have an included inventory management system, but these systems are usually very specifically tailored to the features of the software package. Excellent data quality in the auction software doesn’t translate to feature-complete exports for the many different Internet bidding providers or auction calendars.

Lotting Solutions is the company that recently released version 1 of LotSmarter, software that aims to be an inventory management system that lets auctioneers list inventory faster than ever before and port that inventory to every possible destination.

LotSmarter is stand-alone software that installs on Windows XP or Windows 7. On installation, the user selects from a list of exports those that will be used. These selected exports actually dictate the fields that will be available on each item. For example, an auctioneer can select Maxanet for Internet bidding, Auction Flex for clerking and cashiering. LotSmarter adjusts the data capture fields to include those used by Maxanet and Auction Flex and leaves out those required by the other options that aren’t selected.

Naturally Speaking bundle with Bluetooth headset

Image by marypcb via Flickr

Data portability is paramount to LotSmarter, but it does more than make your data easy to backup, import and export. Integration with Dragon Naturally Speaking – optionally included in the pricing plan – provides the capability to forgo the keyboard in favor of voice dictation. While reports abound of lackluster attempts at dictating listings, Lotting Solutions boasts stories from auctioneers who have trained successfully trained Dragon and LotSmarter to realize substantial time savings.

For auctioneers with galleries, LotSmarter eases the process of associating the pictures from the camera – as they’re taken – to the items in inventory. Eye-Fi is a type of memory card that has a built-in wireless device which transfers the pictures from the camera to LotSmarter without the need to wait to connect the camera to a computer with a cable. The software imports the pictures directly to the lot in progress.

Eye-Fi Explore Wireless SD Card 2GB

Image by Remko van Dokkum via Flickr

Eye-Fi is an option, as is traditionally dragging pictures from the file system to the active lot. Once the picture is in the system, LotSmarter provides an integrated mechanism to rotate, crop and balance the pictures without using third-party software. The pictures are optionally watermarked and exported with the inventory for easy upload to any of the various outputs.

For auctioneers unsatisfied with the listing capabilities of spreadsheets or cramped by the limited exporting abilities of auction software packages, LotSmarter fills a significant niche by taking the pain out of data entry and solving the compatibility issues related to using multiple providers for advertising, bidding and clerking.

LotSmarter is available from www.lottingsolutions.com and offers a time-limited free trial.

Have you used LotSmarter? Why or why not? Tell your story in the comments.

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The Doug Aitken auctioneer opera

I’m not quite sure how this gets to be called an opera, but it’s quite some entertaining fun with numbers. Multimedia artist Doug Aitken wrangled several top auctioneers, several IAC champions, as talent for this production.

If you have more information about this performance, help us out in the comments.

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Document Foundation offers free alternative to OpenOffice.org with LibreOffice

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of OpenOffice.org. I covered it in one of the first posts on this blog, and have mentioned it on and off ever since.

I covered the difference between free and free in episode 11 of the Auction Podcast. In a nutshell, not all open source software is free and not all free software is open source. There is a difference between content that is free like beer and free like speech. In an effort to provide some disambiguation between the different kinds of free, many times the neologism libre is used to describe free like speech.

OpenOffice.org was a derivative of StarOffice, which was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999. Sun was a strong supporter of open source software development until it was acquired by Oracle in April of 2009. At that time, many in the open source community were quite scared of the way Oracle would deal with Sun’s assets that were community-based like MySQL and OpenOffice.org. Since that time, the community has been uneasy and discontent that Oracle wasn’t free enough.

In late September, the OpenOffice.org volunteer development community forked the project and created the Document Foundation. They publicly invited Oracle to be a member of the foundation and donate the OpenOffice.org name to the foundation for continued development. Until Oracle decides to donate the OpenOffice.org brand, the Document Foundation will push forward under the name Libre. Oracle has announced that it is committed to OpenOffice.org development, so it doesn’t seem like they’ll be playing ball any time soon.

Until they do, I’m switching to LibreOffice. The logic goes like this. If you don’t care about openness and you have a lot of money and like software that’s bloated and harder to use, go buy Microsoft Office. If you care about getting solid software at no cost but don’t care that it’s completely open, download OpenOffice.org. If you care about software that’s both free like beer and free like speech, download LibreOffice.

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