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Happy New Year Everyone! To kick 2010 off, I’m going to make like David Letterman and publish a few top 10 lists that I think will be useful.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself having the same conversation with a few of my colleagues about some of the productivity programs I use every day that helps my day be more productive. I hope you can be more productive by sharing these with you.

Here is my list, in alphabetical order:

  1. Carbonite: (Backup, $55/year)
    Backing up your PC is one of those things you know you need to do, but people rarely seem to do it. Carbonite makes it dead simple. Install the app, and every time you change a file, it automatically uploads a copy of it to their server. As a bonus, if you’re traveling without your laptop, they now let you access files remotely. $55 a year is cheap insurance against losing all your data if the unthinkable happens. I’ve got subscriptions for my PC, my wife’s computer and my parents’ computer. Mozy is another option I have used in the past. It does a better job if you have multiple machines you want backed up into one account.
  2. Gmail / Google Calendar / Google Reader / Chrome: (Everything, Free to $50/user/year)
    You can say what you want about Google, but they make really good stuff. My day begins and eds with their products. Gmail has been my email program of choice for a number of years, so much so I’ve got a multitude of accounts. If I’ve emailed you, it’s come through Google, as they are the email provider for my domain. If you’re using their email, you may as well use their calendar, since it integrates so nicely. To keep multiple Gmail accounts open at the same time, I use Google’s browser, Chrome. Finally, to keep up on my reading all my daily, I use Google Reader. Occasionally, I’ve contemplated going back to Outlook (so I can get Xobni back), but I find Gmail just works better.
  3. IrfanView: (Image Viewer / Manipulator, Free)
    I’ve been using IrfanView for more than 10 years. It’s a lightweight, fast little program that opens every image file I’ve thrown at it (Including DXF files!), and lets you convert it into a better format, crop it or do a whole mess of other things to it. When you compare it to any other image program out there IrfanView does it faster, more elegantly, and better, and since it’s free software, does it for a lot less money.
  4. KeePass: (Password Manager, Free)
    With so much of my life stored online, having strong, secure passwords is key. The problem is, how do you generate them and keep track of them. KeePass is the solution. It’s a small little program that generates secure passwords for you, and keeps track of the login information and web addresses where you use them. The program is password protected, so prying eyes can’t get at your password file.  They now have an iPhone app so you can sync your database between your PC and phone. I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s on my list to get working this year.
  5. Launchy: (Application Launcher, Free)
    I work with lots of windows open on my PC all the time, and my desktop is completely covered. I also install a lot of software, much of it just to solve one problem, so I don’t use those programs very often. To find them quickly, I run Launchy. It’s a memory-resident program that pops to the front when I press <Alt>+<Spacebar>. It pops up a little text box, and I start typing the name of the program I want to launch, like “Excel” or “Calculator” or “IrfanView”. As soon as Launchy figures out what I’m looking for, it shows me the program’s icon, and I press <Enter>, and the program starts. Very handy.
  6. Notepad++: (Text Editor, Free)
    There are lots of times when you don’t need a word processor to write some text, but you need a few more features than the built-in Notepad. Enter Notepad++. It’s got Syntax highlighting, a spell checker, and tabs, so you can have a bunch of documents open at once.
  7. PDF Creator: (PDF Printer, Free)
    If you want to send out a document these days, a PDF is the way to do it. There are lots of ways to make a PDF, and most of them are expensive and slow. PDF Creator is an open-source program that installs as a printer driver, letting you turn anything you can print into a PDF.
  8. PDF XChange Viewer: (PDF Viewer / Editor, Free to $35)
    You get a PDF, and need to highlight it, put a comment in it, fill it out and return it to someone, or even just look at a document without a reboot required update. Adobe Reader won’t let you do that. So for this, I use Tracker Software’s PDF XChange viewer. I upgraded to the Pro version, which allows you to extract or insert pages into a PDF document, and a few other things that you can’t do other than buying a full Adobe Acrobat license for $300 plus.
  9. Salesforce.com: (Contact Manager, $5 to $250 /user/month)
    In sales, you need to keep track of what is happening with all your projects and all your clients. There are lots of tools out there, but I find Salesforce works the way I work, and puts the information I need at my fingertips. I use the Group Edition, which meets most of my needs, but will probably upgrade to the Professional Edition soon to get access to the excellent Conga Merge add-on for creating all sorts of custom documents.
  10. Texter: (Text Replacement, Free)
    Texter is one of those little single-use programs that saves you tremendous amounts of time every day after you install it. You define a shortcut that you type, and then the text that you want to have appear after you type it. It’s great for boilerplate emails or documents. I use it to store a number of different situational signatures for my email, and for long links to specific pages on a website. It can even automatically paste the contents of your clipboard into what it replaces, and put your cursor right in the middle of things when it is done. It’s another open-source program, so there’s no charge to use it.

A few other programs I use regularly, but didn’t make it to this list here are: Avast Anti-Virus ($40/year) which again is faster and lighter than the big boy’s stuff. (Just make sure to turn off the sounds for the update announcements). File Hippo Update Checker (Free) to make sure you’ve got the latest and greatest upgrades for all your software, especially the open source stuff. FreshBooks ($20+/month), an alternative to Quickbooks. Instapaper (Free) which lets you bookmark any website to read later. RingCentral ($14/month) who is the provider of my “virtual” toll free number. TeraCopy (Free) which is a faster and more accurate replacement for the default Windows file copy utility. and TripIt (Free) travel organizer: Email it your plans, and it automatically organizes them into an itinerary.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have affiliations with some of these sites which compensate me if you complete a transaction with them.

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From all of us at Pilko Tech!

We wish you and your family a healthy and joy-filled holiday season and a wonderful New Year! Thank you for your business in this difficult year and letting us be a part of your success. We look forward to working with you in the coming year!

Warmest regards,

Chris Pilko

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Terre Haute, IN, December 9, 2009.

Mercer Technologies and Midwest Vacuum Pumps recently reached an agreement with Pilko Technology Associates (Pilko Tech) to represent their products and services in the Northeastern US, from Maryland to Maine.

Pilko Tech is a manufacturers’ representative company specializing in heat treatment equipment and consumables for the advanced materials industry, representing fuel fired, electric resistance, induction and vacuum furnaces and a range of ceramic specialties. Chris Pilko, Pilko Tech’s founder and President has nearly 20 years of experience in industrial heat treatment working in sales, service and management roles for a number of heat treatment equipment suppliers. He has a B.S. in Ceramic Engineering from Alfred University in Alfred, NY, and is currently based near Philadelphia PA. To learn more about Pilko Tech’s products and services, visit their website

Mercer Technologies, founded by Mike Mercer Sr. in 1992, is a service organization, helping heat treaters with replacement hot zones furnace rebuilds, temperature surveys, and preventative maintenance from our knowledgeable team of engineers and technicians. Our sister company, Midwest Vacuum Pumps (MVP), is able to repair or rebuild nearly any kind of pump – from the smallest roughing pumps to the largest diffusion pumps. Our work is performed at your site or our 27,000 square foot facility in Terre Haute, IN. For more information visit the Mercer Technologies website or the Midwest Vacuum Pumps website.

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MST_couponIt’s official: PilkoTech will be exhibiting at MS&T next week in Pittsburgh. We are confirmed in Booth 329. Please stop by and say hello.

We’d like to thank our booth co-sponsors: Inter-Power Corporation supplying induction heating systems and DS Fibertech, producers of high-quality ceramic fiber heating modules. We will have literature for all of our lines.

We look forward to seeing you!

Pilko Tech is a manufacturers’ representative and consulting organization based out of Broomall, Pennsylvania. We represent DS Fibertech Heaters, ENrG Setters, Inter-Power Induction, Laeis Presses, Riedhammer Kilns, Temtek Solutions Insulation Products, MSSI Insulation Systems, and provide consulting services to manufacturers of advanced materials.

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Fixing leaks here can be good for your bottom line as well as the environment.

Fixing leaks here can be good for your bottom line as well as the environment.

The New York Times this morning reports on the EPA’s Natural Gas STAR program for reducing methane emissions, mainly at the wellhead, refineries and through transmission and distribution channels. Methane, the primary component of Natural Gas, is believed to be responsible for 1/3 of the effects of global warming.

While scientists believe that curbing methane will have immediate benefits for the environment, participating companies have found it to be good for their bottom line as well. With Natural Gas prices approaching $5 per MCF, participating companies are seeing returns equal to 3 times or more of their investment to curb leaks.

It’s easy to see how. At today’s prices, eliminating a small 1 cfm leak would save $ 2,600 in natural gas each year. That’s about the leakage rate for a 1/16″ hole on a pipe running at 40 psi.

When checking for leaks, don’t forget to look into vent lines. A leaking valve or regulator here could be sending thousands of dollars a year out your stack.

The EPA has some cool video of IR cameras being used to quickly pinpoint leaks in large piping systems. However, with gas sniffers available for as little as $50, fixing one leak would pay for equipping every supervisor, maintenance tech, and engineer in your plant with one.

[New York Times] registration required.

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MSSI Wall Panel

MSSI Wall Panel

PilkoTech is pleased to announce the addition of a new principal to our lineup.

MSSI Insulation based in McKees Rocks PA is a manufacturer of fabricated insulation components and assemblies that has been serving the industrial community for more than 30 years.

MSSI Offers:

  • Custom assemblies and shapes from nearly any castable available on the market today, including fiber- and needle-reinforced mixes.
  • Ceramic fiber assembies, from simple cut fiber blanket to engineered insulated panels.
  • Vacuum formed fiber shapes.
  • Steel structures in our fabrication shop, either new, or repairing a steel structure that you ship to us.
  • On-site repair services, including bricklaying and hot patching.

Whether you are an OEM or an end user looking for a supplier with the experience and skills to get a job done, MSSI can offer you a compelling value for your dollar.

See our MSSI Pages for more information.

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Let this be a thing of the past with the new Global Entry program. Photo by a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/theguths/68170598/ target=_blank The Guth Family on Flickr/a.

Let this be a thing of the past with the new Global Entry program. Photo by The Guth Family on Flickr

Nothing is worse than getting off a long international flight, and then spending an hour or more waiting in lines at a busy customs check in point. Now frequent travelers everywhere can rejoice: The US Customs and Border Protection agency has just announced an expansion of their Global Entry program. This program allows international travelers to bypass the customs line when they land at select US airports and enter the country via an electronic kiosk.

Applying for the program costs $100 for 5 years. The application can be found here. (I’ll be applying as soon as I get done writing this post.) You can qualify for the program if you:

  • Are over 14 years of age;
  • Are a citizen or permanent resident of the USA or “certain other countries”;
  • Have a machine-readable passport.
  • Have never been convicted of a criminal offense in any country, especially for customs, agriculture or terrorism-related offenses;
  • Pass the in-person interview conducted by a CBP agent at one of the participating airports.

Should you fail to qualify, your application fee is not returned.

Once you do qualify, you can go to one of the special kiosks where it scans your passport and fingerprints, then answer some questions on the touch-screen. When complete, the machine spits out a receipt that replaces your Customs Declaration Form which you can use to exit the airport and get on with life.

Airports currently served are: ATL, BOS, DFW, DTW, EWR, FLL, HNL, IAD, IAH, JFK, LAS, LAX, MCO, MIA, ORD, PHL, SEA, SFB, SFO, SJU.

Global Entry Program via Today in the Sky

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Converber makes it easy to convert from obscure units like furlongs/fortnight

Converber makes it easy to convert from obscure units like furlongs/fortnight

We all need to occasionally convert from one unit to another. If you’re like me and need to translate between English and Metric units on a daily basis, you’ve probably memorized most of the common conversion factors, however there are far too many units out there to memorize them all.

Through the years I’ve used a variety of tools to keep up with this: Thomas Glover’s Pocket Ref, Gieck’s Engineering Formulas, Google, and via Unitsicon on my iPhone, but I’ve never had a unit converter program installed on my PC.

Until today.

Today I discovered Converber. It’s a lightweight piece of Freeware that works the way I want it to: Lots of units, no mass of tabbed dialogs to work through, and a search box that lets me find what I’m looking for quickly. Very cool.

[Converber] via Lifehacker.com

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RHFL 17125 and RHFL17027: New small high-temperature furnaces from Riedhammer ready to work for you.

RHFL 17125 and RHFL17027: New small high-temperature furnaces from Riedhammer ready to work for you.

Riedhammer GmbH introduces today their RHFL and RHBL small furnace lines. These are fiber-lined, electrically heated, standardized furnace designs that can be delivered quickly and economically for the development and production of technical ceramics.

Both lines are available for use to maximum temperatures of 1700 or 1800°C (3090 or 3270°F) in sizes from 27 to 250 liters (1 to 9 cubic feet). The RHFL is an economical front-loading design, while the RHBL is a bottom-loader designed for optimal temperature uniformity and ergonomics. Each unit can be customized by selecting from an array of standard options.

“Today’s technical ceramics are about two things,” says Hartmut Weber, Riedhammer’s Marketing Director, “small and fast. The RHFL and RHBL are our products that answer these needs. All of the furnaces feature a unitized design, with integrated power and temperature controls in one compact frame. These units can be in production hours after delivery.”

The RHFL and RHBL compliment the larger, custom-made kilns and furnaces Riedhammer has been supplying to the ceramics industry since 1919. These include elevator, shuttle, roller-hearth, pusher-plate and tunnel kilns. Thousands of Riedhammer kilns are installed throughout the world making advanced ceramic products such as batteries, fuel cells, emission control devices, electronic ceramics, and ceramic membranes.

As part of “Team by Sacmi,” Riedhammer – with its partners Alpha Ceramics, Laeis, and SAMA, – offers manufacturers of ceramics and advanced materials end-to-end solutions for the development, optimization, and production of their products.

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new-websiteFor much of the USA, today is the first day back to school. My wife just packed up our 5-year old for his first day of kindergarten. For us adults, that means that summer is over, and its time to get back to work.

At Pilko Tech, we used this summer slow season to develop a brand new website. The original one we created was functional, but as we’ve added principals, we found that it didn’t scale well, and was difficult to search. So here it is, presented for your browsing pleasure.

Each of our principals has a page devoted to them, and each of their products. We’ve tried to organize the products into potential applications to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. I’m sure, as with all new designs, we’ll be making subtle changes to this in the coming months.

We’re demoing a few new features on this site: The live chat box down at the bottom right. If it says we’re online, please say hello. We’d really like to get some feedback on how this works. We’ve also added our booking tool in the sidebar at left.

So thanks for visiting. Take some time, look around and let us know what you think.

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