Monday, March 10, 2008

Several months ago I described a number of things I wanted to do during my work sabbatical, which will be coming to an end sometime soon. I've spent that time in a variety of activities, including doing some contract consulting work. But a significant portion of the time has been spent just remembering to enjoy life a little, and getting some much-needed rest. For anyone who knows they need some R&R and happens to have an opportunity to take advantage of, I recommend it highly.

So, what's my report card look like for the past several months?

I made a list back in September of things I wanted or needed to do, and here's a little detail about how each of those has worked out:

Stuff I need (or want) to get done

  • Get some real rest (succeeded)
  • Finish the bonus room floor and trim at home (thanks to a great friend, the trim and floor are done)
  • Finish the shed at home (umm, no progress here yet - still on the list)
  • Add a deck to the side of the house (did some designs, but have not pulled the trigger)
  • Travel somewhere in a 18-wheeler with my friend Broc (I did that, and it was fun - to California and back)
  • Dust off the cameras and get back into the photography swing (have done some of this but not quite as much as I thought)
  • Sell my street motorcycle (2004 CBR600RR - still for sale as of this post - email me  if interested!)
  • Finish reading this darned Koontz novel that I started 9 months ago, heh (done - it was "Intensity" and it was a fun read)
  • Read another book or two - one for enjoyment, one for furthering myself (done - read quite a few, actually)

Things I need (or want) to learn

  • Learn a programming language, at least at a starter level - I an thinking C# - any ideas? (Ummm, no real progress here)
  • I need to study up for a couple certification exams that the whole we-got-bought-busyness process pushed off my schedule, and then reschedule the exams (I've done the studying part...)

Things/places I need (or want) to do/go

  • Visit family in Colorado (done!)
  • Visit family in California (done!)
  • Visit New Mexico (where I used to live) (still pending)
  • Visit a few friends and colleagues in Seattle (done!)

I've also done a whole slew of other things since September. I've traveled to Spain and London, went to see the Patriots beat the Chargers during a weekend trip to Boston, went skiing a bunch of times, recorded a bunch of podcast shows, and a lot more. All in all, it's been a good experience.

Now it's almost time to get back at it, work-wise. I'm in the process of weighing options and deciding what's next. I'm actively involved in a couple ventures that are challenging me and those might be what I decide to do full-time, but have not made decisions yet. Time will tell.

At any rate, I can say with hindsight that I am glad I allocated some meaningful time for myself. I was quite fortunate to be able to do that. Here's to shifting gears!



Add/Read: Comments [3]
Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Monday, March 10, 2008 3:29:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  

google-calendar-sync Ahhh, a big thank-you to Google. I can now sync both directions between Outlook 2007 and my Google Calendar account thanks to Google Calendar Sync. Simply install one little program that occupies (another) space in the taskbar, and set it to sync as often as you wish. Simple as that. I like simple.

I just installed the app, specified my Google Apps account (yep, it work with the Apps calendars, too) and everything was perfect. Can't ask for more than that.

You can set the direction of information flow (from Google Calendar to Outlook, from Outlook to Google Calendar, or both directions), as well.

Quick, useful, easy and it "just works." This whole mobility concept is starting to become more and more usable and seamless. Nice.

UPDATE: In the comments and in email, a couple smart people have asked some important questions regarding whether the app syncs everything it needs to. My thoughts: "So, there's certainly room for improvement, and it looks like some relatively simple enhancements with corresponding configuration options would make this an even better app for a broader range of users."



Add/Read: Comments [4]
Mobile | Tech
Monday, March 10, 2008 1:39:02 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Thursday, March 06, 2008

Microsoft and Apple have announced that they are working together to  make Exchange Server and the iPhone mobile phone work well together. Apple will license Exchange ActiveSync for use on the iPhone, which will in Turn help assure the Exchange Server dominance in the marketplace stays they way it is. It's really as simple as that.

The fact is that Exchange is a pretty terrific server product for email, calendaring and a lot more. The iPhone is a pretty terrific mobile device. They don't integrate too terribly well today: You can sync your calendar and contacts via the USB connection to your computer, and you can get IMAP email from a properly-configured Exchange server (which works, but is not exactly optimal). But it's far from simple, far from seamless, and far from supportable in the enterprise.

One has to wonder what this means, either directly or indirectly, for the Windows Mobile world. I know the arguments: Different markets, different platforms, different purposes, etc. etc. etc... but with the iPhone SDK availability, that gap will be much narrower. And the fact of the matter is, Apple has the usability nailed with the iPhone. Sure, there's a few enhancements needed. But those are ones that can (and I'm certain will) be done.

ActiveSync will provide the ability (assuming Apple leverages all the features) to do push email, calendar and contact sync over the air, and task list sync.

Perhaps one of the more important potential benefits from ActiveSync integration with the iPhone is the ability to get enterprise-class security on the device, which to date is lacking and doesn't meet the needs or standards of most commercial IT departments. Exchange 2007 clients can be set up for enforced enterprise IT "policies" or controls, which would go a long way toward satisfying the security needs. In my mind, that's the biggest potential win. Without that, pushing email and syncing calendars and contacts is to risky an activity.

From Apple's press release come details of what they intend to provide - and it looks liek Cisco VPNs are in the package, as well:

Apple has licensed Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft and is building it right into the iPhone, so that iPhone will connect out-of-the-box to Microsoft Exchange Servers 2003 and 2007 for secure over-the-air push email, contacts, calendars and global address lists. Built-in Exchange ActiveSync support also enables security features such as remote wipe, password policies and auto-discovery. The iPhone 2.0 software supports Cisco IPsec VPN to ensure the highest level of IP-based encryption available for transmission of sensitive corporate data, as well as the ability to authenticate using digital certificates or password-based, multi-factor authentication. The addition of WPA2 Enterprise with 802.1x authentication enables enterprise customers to deploy iPhone and iPod touch with the latest standards for protection of Wi-Fi networks.

The iPhone 2.0 software provides a configuration utility that allows IT administrators to easily and quickly set up many iPhones, including password policies, VPN setting, installing certificates, email server settings and more. Once the configuration is defined it can be easily and securely delivered via web link or email to the user. To install, all the user has to do is authenticate with a user ID or password, download the configuration and tap install. Once installed, the user will have access to all their corporate IT services.

Good move Apple. Good move Microsoft. Looking forward to this one!



Add/Read: Comments [0]
IT Security | Mobile | Tech
Thursday, March 06, 2008 5:00:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, March 04, 2008

After seven years with Dish Network, I made the change Monday to DirecTV and their HD programming. Granted, Dish Network's HD package has improved lately, and their new HD-only package was interesting, but a few things swayed me away and over to the other satellite programming vendor.

DirecTV has great HD capacity today and is quickly adding more. Another satellite will be launched in the next couple weeks, in fact. Their HD quality is pretty darned good. I like their equipment. And, although it's not here yet, I am thinking ahead to the forthcoming HDPC-20 - a DirecTV tuner device that will integrate with Vista Media Center. I'll be an early adopter of that technology, you can be sure.

The installer was great (despite the pouring rain he had to deal with), and before I knew it I was enjoying 90+ channels of HD programming. I can see some compression in some of the HD content, but you have to expect some of that. All I know is it looks much better than cable TV HD service I've seen before. I suppose I could complain about the fact that I now have a bigger antenna on my roof, but that seriously doesn't matter. I'm getting a lot of choice in return.

Bonus features include the ability to add my own external 750GB eSATA drive to the HD DVR (nice!), web-based DVR remote scheduling, Internet connectivity for on-demand content and information (which is new and in beta), and nice menus and software on the receivers in general. Seriously, it just feels better when you use it.

I'll be participating in the "cutting edge" program, loading software releases for the HD receiver and HD DVR devices at odd hours now and then to test new features and fixes before they're released nationwide. So, this move helps me fulfill the needs of my inner geek, too.

It's really a world of difference with the new service. Quality- and content-wise, it's a big step up.



Add/Read: Comments [5]
Geek Out | Tech
Tuesday, March 04, 2008 9:46:53 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Sunday, March 02, 2008

... and one of the best scenes. Silly, really. But every time I watch this film I laugh out loud, even still today.

"First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it."

 
Sorry for the random post. I have no idea why I'm writing this, really. For some reason it was just on my mind.
 
If you've never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then each of the following three things applies directly to you:
  1. Your life is incomplete
  2. You're missing out
  3. Shame on you

So go rent or buy a copy now, then watch it and relax, knowing your life is much more whole than it had been before you read this post.



Add/Read: Comments [9]
Humor | Movies | Random Stuff
Sunday, March 02, 2008 11:22:59 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, February 26, 2008

imageMine iPhone's jail-broken to let me use a couple truly-useful apps written by third parties, so I'll just wait a few hours before I apply this update from Apple, but early reports are that this new version of the iPhone/Touch firmware can be jail-broken using ZIPHONE (for the adventurous only of course), but note that the author (Zibri) says not to upgrade yet, and to wait for him to create a quick update. No problem. I like having my NetFlix queue available, so jail-breaking is in the cards for me.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog has all the goods and is updating with more info as they discover the details of this firmware release. So far bug fixes seems to be the official word.

Nice that Apple's supplying regular fixes. I'm not exactly counting on being pleasantly surprised and finding things like 802.1x and a whole slew of other needed enhancements, though. Hopefully some day.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 11:51:36 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#