This site showcases the (mostly) digital work of Andrew DiFiore from both Virtual Arts Studios and answerYES Interactive as well as random thoughts and experimental projects too volatile to be contained anywhere else.

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    Cool Tool of the Month: MX Toolbox

    MX ToolboxMX Toolbox is an Austin, Texas company that provides free and reliable network diagnostic and lookup “super tools” used by a global tech community to troubleshoot infrastructure issues. For years I’ve used MX Toolbox whenever I’m having trouble with a client’s mail or DNS servers. It is one of those tools I take for granted which is why it has taken me a while to post it as one of the Cool Tools.

    MX Lookup - This test will list MX records for a domain in priority order. The MX lookup is done directly against the domain’s authoritative name server, so changes to MX Records should show up instantly.

    Blacklist - This test will check a mail server IP address against over 100 DNS based email blacklists (commonly called Realtime blacklist, DNSBL, or RBL).  If your mail server has been blacklisted, some email you send may not be delivered.  Email blacklists are a common way of reducing spam.

    SMTP Diagnostics – his test will connect to a mail server via SMTP, perform a simple Open Relay Test and verify the server has a reverse DNS (PTR) record.  It will also measure the response times for the mail server.

    MX Subnet Calculator – The subnet calculator lets you enter a subnet range (CIDR) and see IP address information about that range. It also lists each IP address in the range and automatically does a Reverse IP Lookup.

    Email Header Analyzer - This tool will make email headers human readable by parsing them according to RFC 822.  Email headers are present on every email you receive via the Internet and can provide valuable diagnostic information like hop delays, anti-spam results and more.

    DNS Lookup - This test will list DNS records for a domain in priority order. The DNS lookup is done directly against the domain’s authoritative name server, so changes to DNS Records should show up instantly.

    These are just some of the tools available. You can access the complete suite of tools here, including ping and traceroute. Of course, MX Toolbox offers a host of professional services such as MXWatch Monitoring and MailFlow Monitoring.

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    This month’s Cool Tool of the Month is a simple site called created for web designers with one simple purpose: to create pixel perfect placeholder graphics used in site wireframes and layouts.

    To generate a placeholder graphic, simply enter the width and height of the placeholder after the site’s URL in the address bar. For example:×480

    By default the placeholder is gray, but you can change this by specifying the hex value of a color (without the hashtag). As in:×480/000033

    You can also change the text and specific that graphic format (e.g. gif, png, or jpeg).

    If your site is online for client review, you can actually use the URL in your code. Such as:

    <img src=”×480/000033″>

    That’s it. So simple it might fit the meme single serving site (close but not quite). You’re the man now dog!

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    Cool Tool of the Month: Piecon


    Today’s Cool Tool of the Month is Piecon a tiny JavaScript library for dynamically generating progress pie charts within your favicons. Piecon is by programmer Lukas Lipka that runs along the same lines of other libraries that affect the browser’s favicon real-time such as Tinycon and Notificon.

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    Cool Tool of the Month: Google Drive

    It goes without saying that Google offers up a lot of “cool tools” so it should not be surprising that any number of Google products qualify to be featured here. Some tools are better than others but Google as a company encourages its developers and engineers to experiment… and we “early adopters” benefit as informal beta testers. This has been a trend for many years. Innovate first, profit later, because you may not know just what you have until the crowdsource shows you the way.

    This month’s Cool Tool is Google Drive. With Google Drive you get up to 5 GB of disk space on Google’s cloud that can store any type of file. For $2.50 a month you can upgrade to 25 GB.

    Google Docs is now part of Google Drive so you can access your files anywhere, anytime, and share them and edit them with others in real time. That seems pretty cool.

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    Cool Tool of the Month: LastPass

    Tired of remembering all those passwords you need just to download an App or retrieve your email or post your latest party photo to Facebook? Then you’re going to love LastPass, the online Password Manager. It is free and a lot more secure than using password123 for all your accounts.