Tuesday, October 26, 2010

imageToday marks the release of Office 2011 for the Mac, as described in the official release notice. And in a new feature twist, the software is also available for download to BizSpark (startup program) MSDN subscribers as of this morning. Typically Mac-based software has not been made available there, so this is a pretty cool change.

It’s available to people with membership at the following programs and levels:

  • VS Pro with MSDN Premium (Empower)
  • VS Premium with MSDN (MPN)
  • VS Pro with MSDN Premium (MPN)
  • BizSpark Admin
  • BizSpark
  • VS Ultimate with MSDN (VL)
  • VS Premium with MSDN (VL)
  • VS Premium with MSDN (Retail)
  • VS Ultimate with MSDN (Retail)
  • VS Ultimate with MSDN (MPN)

Of course, use is governed by your subscription license limitations and terms of use, so make sure you know what those are.

Why Office 2011 for the Mac?

There are a few reasons why you might be interested in Office 2011 on the Mac, but for me the number one reason is the brand new Outlook 2011. No more Entourage software, now we get the actual Outlook experience, which is enough for me to upgrade with no other changes in the suite. Add in all the other changes, and it’s a pretty slick new version.

Mac user? Are you going to get Office 2011?



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Apple | Microsoft Office | Tech
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 3:41:27 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I just got off the phone with Amazon, and they're sending an overnight box with a replacement Kindle 2 for the one I have. I hadn't used it for a few months, and when I recharged it and powered it up the other day, the screen had a whole section that was broken, displaying gray and garbled info.

So, with one quick call to customer support, a very brief set of troubleshooting questions they are sending a replacement. Great service, no wasted time and I'm one happy customer.

A friend's son is about to deploy with his company to Afghanistan, so my plan is to package up the new one when it arrives tomorrow and send it to them so he can take it with him when they go. I use the Kindle app on my iPad these days, so it will be cool to know that someone will be making good use of the one I'm not using.

Anyone else had Kindle display failures? Is this common at all?



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Tech
Wednesday, September 08, 2010 4:49:25 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, July 06, 2010

As many know, I shoot public fireworks displays now and then for Western Display Fireworks, a company located right here in Oregon. That means I’m typically off at some big show each July 4th in either Washington or Oregon, the two states where I am a card carrying pyrotechnics display operator. This year I was with my fine crew in Anacortes, Washington – a town located between Seattle and the Canadian border. We fired the show out over Hidalgo Bay, and it was a good time. The people of Anacortes are terrific, and the show went off without a hitch. For a while earlier in the day the winds were pretty bad, but Mother Nature cooperated and they died off before the show started.

Below is a video of the show as well as a couple setup videos. You can see more video of the setup process at http://qik.com/greghughespdx as well if you like, and once I can get the show video from the other camera downloaded (it was giving me fits last night when I tried) I will post that, as well.

Enjoy.

Anacortes July 4th Fireworks - 2010 from Greg Hughes on Vimeo.

Loading shells

Wiring up the show



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Fireworks | Random Stuff
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 3:12:47 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, June 21, 2010

I've recently run across a number of great resources while researching my Sprint EVO 4G phone, which runs the Android operating system and is quite tweakable.

One of the top resources I've found is called Good and EVO, a blog that answers in patient detail lots and lots of great questions. Anyone who has the device and doesn't know where to start but wants to learn about the phone and how to make it really work should read through all the articles on the site. It's very well-written and contains a wealth of information and links. Check it out at http://www.goodandevo.net/.

Another excellent - and more technical - resource is the xda-developers Android Development forum for the EVO 4G phone. Uber-geeks will rejoice in all the slang and tech jargon being slung around the walls of these rooms. Of particular interest for people getting started hacking on the EVO is "rooting" the device and installing customer ROMs (images of the operating system packages). Check out the EVO Helpful/Popular Threads topic for links to the basics, and check out the broader forum for lots and lots more. The forum can be found at http://forum.xda-developers.com/forumdisplay.php?f=653.

Other good resources to list?



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Android | Mobile | Tech
Monday, June 21, 2010 8:51:46 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, June 20, 2010

Facebook is huge. It serves hundred of billions (literally) of pages a month, and 1.2 million photos every second. Wow. It's generally considered the world's largest web site. I'm waiting for an episode of Build it Bigger to air talking about Facebook, but I doubt they'll do it. Software scaling is hard to show in TV (but data center pictures are exciting to some, I suppose).

Operating software, databases and infrastructure at Facebook scale is a massive and complicated undertaking, and they actually do a lot of it on open-source software.

Pingdom takes a look at how Facebook does it, and describes some of the open-source technology the company leverages, in an interesting article called The Software Behind Facebook. It's worth reading.



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Random Stuff | Tech
Sunday, June 20, 2010 8:14:29 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, June 19, 2010

The other day I decided I'd had enough pain in my relationship with AT&T and that I was going to make a move. I looked at my various options, and landed on Sprint and the EVO 4G Android-based smart phone. I've spent a few days with the new service and device, and I thought I would write up some early thoughts and opinions.

First of all, let's get this part out of the way: I already miss using the iPhone. Now, the Android phone is cool and there are a lot of good things to say about it. But the iPhone is what I'm used to, and from size to form to OS usability to - well - fit and finish, so to speak... The iPhone is great, and hard to leave.

Sprint's mobile service

As expected, Sprint's service is a little patchier in certain spots around the Portland area than AT&T, while in other areas Sprint provide substantially better coverage. Neither carrier truly blankets the entire area effectively. At my house, located in a fairly remote and rural area about an hour northwest of the city, service by both carriers is equally spotty.

But one thing about the Sprint service that stands out over AT&T's is the call delivery stability. Calls go through, the phone rings when someone is calling, and I have yet to experience a dropped call even once. Even in areas with one or two bars of signal strength showing on the phone I can reliably place and receive calls. Try that with an iPhone on AT&T (even in strong signal strength areas) and one is bound for overall abject failure disappointment.

The EVO 4G phone

The phone is pretty darned slick, and Android is a very cool operating system. It's a tough adjustment from the iPhone to this device in some ways. But overall, color me quite impressed. The display is nice, and even though it's a little larger than I might like it is good hardware with a quality fit and finish.

Battery life is somewhat frustrating, and Sprint even hands out a half sheet of paper when you buy the phone printed with recommendations on how to configure your phone to prevent battery drain. The usual suspects apply (turn off GPS and 4G when not in use, turn down screen brightness, etc.) but I think we all recognize that they wouldn't be handing out the sheet if battery consumption wasn't an issue for customers. That said, my experience so far is that battery life is fairly reasonable if you follow the recommendations. I just wish it wasn't necessary, and I'm hopeful someone builds something like a 3000 mAh battery that will fit in the same slot as the provided 1500 mAh battery. There's a little extra room inside that back compartment, so if it's practical to build a bigger battery to fit, hopefully someone will come through. I know I'd buy it.

There are some good apps out there, but not the same quality as I can find for the iPhone in the areas I care about the most. And I am having problems with some apps crashing and force-quitting that are more than just a little frustrating.

The ability to customize and run widgets, etc. on the phone's "desktop" screens is super cool, and the Google Voice app builds itself into the OS in such an elegant, Borg-like manner that it just makes sense for GV people. There are a couple glitches in the app, but hopefully those get improved upon over time.

In a nutshell...

I miss the iPhone a bit. The EVO is a great phone, don't get me wrong.

I don't miss AT&T at all, at least not yet. My calls on Sprint go through the first time and they don't drop. Data connectivity is reliable and performs well. I can't say that about AT&T.

Thinking out loud about the service issues on AT&T's network...

I'm no cell phone service expert. Far from it. But one thing I've wondered over the past few days is whether the issues on the AT&T network are solely carrier problems, or if some small part of the blame might be Apple's. Is it possible the methods of connecting to and communicating on the network being implemented by Apple aren't optimal? I wonder because for the past year I've carried my iPhone with me for personal use, while at the same time carrying a Blackberry - also on AT&T's network - for business purposes. Frequently the Blackberry performs better in any given location than the iPhone. But not always. There are times when both devices just fall off the back of the truck as far as network connectivity and reliability (for both voice and data) is concerned, Yet I can say based on that year's worth of experience that when I've needed to make a call and ensure the best chance of staying connected and not getting dropped, I've used the Blackberry with noticeably greater reliability.

The amateur radio geek in me in me can think of a few possible reasons for the difference between the performance differences between my iPhone and the Blackberry in the same locations at the same time:

  • They connect and communicate differently - Obviously the engineers at the different phone manufacturers don't get together in the same room and write radio code, so I suppose it's possible RIM's people are better at this than Apple's folks.
  • They're using different cell towers/radios/bands/frequencies - Since these are multi-band transceivers, one has to remember that they may not be operating on the exact same infrastructure equipment at any given point in time. In that case, performance would likely be different.
  • The Blackberry seems to hand-off to EDGE sooner than the iPhone, and it stays connected to the network at least a little more reliably.
At any rate, it's hard for me to know what I will think of the EVO and Sprint in another week. I have this 30-day period to decide if it's right for me, and if it doesn't work out I can decide to try something else, or even go back to AT&T if it turns out I was wrong in my decision. But that doesn't sound like something I want to do at this point.



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Android | Apple | Mobile | Tech
Saturday, June 19, 2010 6:26:25 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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