Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Google just can’t seem to stop pushing the coolness quotient to new levels.

New on the scene: Google Personalized (beta). Now this is great stuff – set up a profile of what your primary areas of interest are, then start searching on Google. By default, Google will return its standard results, but at the top of each results page you’ll see a slider mechanism. Move the slider to the right, and the results are narrowed down more and more to match your profile.

That’s cool.



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Tech
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 7:59:57 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Microsoft has released their Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley. While I know that's probably not the most important or exciting thing you've heard all month, it mets a need I have, and I was pleasantly surprised at what it has to offer for those who have a similar need.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has to do with reporting of finance process and controls information by publicly-traded companies. They call it “corporate governance” and in a nutshell, we have Enron and Tyco to blame for this, although I must say it seems to me to be no-brainer stuff for any corporation that takes ethics seriously. So, you won't hear me complaining.

The solution accelerator that Microsoft released late Friday allows people with a Windows SharePoint Services (aka WSS, aka SharePoint 2003) server to quickly and very easily add on new functionality, and to almost instantly get up and running with a nifty new system that significantly helps organize a compliance project or effort.

I won't go into the specific (because for most people it just gets more and more boring the more you learn), but anyone who is responsible for a compliance project or for preparing an infrastructure or framework on which to run such an effort owes it to themselves to download and try the accelerator. SQL 2000 with SP3 and WSS on Windows 2003 Server are required.

The installation is so simple it's almost scary (compared to other solution accelerators it was a complete breeze). Configuration is simple and the flexibility built into your design phase is great - if you want to design your compliance project based on balance sheet structure, you can do that. By account? Fine. By process type? Your choice.

Microsoft has promised a number of solution accelerators over the course of the year. The ones they have provided so far are pretty good - it will be interesting to see what else they come up with.



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SharePoint | Tech
Tuesday, March 30, 2004 4:39:17 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, March 26, 2004

I have a real dilemma - the need for something now that doesn't quite exist. Nothing is more frustrating than being almost able to do what you need.

My company did an early adoption of OneNote and that vast majority of the Office System 2003 to include SharePoint, about which I have written here before. OneNote is a terrific, free-form note-taking program. Groundbreaking in terms of its combined application simplicity and ability to map to the complexity of an individual mind and organizational style. On top of that, it's designed in a way that lets people share their own individual notes and thoughts with others, and while everyone takes notes differently, it allows you to use the information others provide to you pretty easily and quickly.

Sidebar: I now take most all my notes electronically. I used to take 90% of my notes on paper, now its the other way around.

The headline mentions OneNote, SharePoint and Wikis. People who know all three pieces of software might be confused as to why I am thinking about them together. There's a reason for that. I have a request on my list (and have been looking into it for a few weeks now) to try to find a way to support what Wikis do so well on the SharePoint platform. I think we can get 90% of the way there, but that last 10% of missing functionality is a killer.

We run a software development company, and wikis are a great way to do free-form note-taking and documentation of necessary information: Where is the server farm on the network? Where is the build server? Who do I contact about the virtual machines? What are the latest notes from each of the ten developers on any given aspect of the current version? Wiki software solves this need, simply and gracefully. It allows you to collect information in a free-form mode like you might in OneNote, and to do so in a truly collaborative and shared way like you might do certain things on SharePoint. The only real “issue” (I hate that word) that I have with the Wiki is that its a separate tool, a completely separate system, and not integrated into the other technologies we're using at work today. That's not a completely bad thing, by the way, and use of our Wiki system is not something that we can or would even think about stopping, but when we have competing or overlapping technologies, I need to figure a way to try to make things work together, or to change what we have in order to provide  and maintain all the necessary functionality.

I can't quite do what we need today, but here are the basic options:

  1. Use OneNote as the information collection and storage mechanism and require everyone to run OneNote in order to have access to the information. Share OneNote notebook (.one) files on a SharePoint server and turn the file-locking time down to one minute and hope that works for people who need to enter information at the same time. Not a viable option right now. I need something browser-based that can be accessed from any computer on the network, and which is truly multi-concurrent-user.
  2. Use SharePoint lists to try to replicate what the Wiki software does. I could probably make this happen, but the usability aspect of things would become a problem. I can't ask people to take a leap back in terms of the ease of sharing information in free-form, cross-linked, and all the other stuff the Wiki provides. Tried it, and in some cases it's acceptable, but in most cases it's (again) about 90% there.
  3. Change nothing, and have disparate information system with redundant information, which makes it hard for people to use them effectively. Most people will choose to use one or the other, but not both, for any given purpose. All users will not choose the same way, and sharing of information breaks down again becasue Group-A users Tool-Number-One and Group-B uses Tool-Number-Two to perform the same tasks and record the same types of information. Information becomes less cohesive, more fragmented, less usable.

Not really the options I am looking for there, but that's about what the situation looks like today. Now, nothing is really broken right now - we have systems and software that does what we want it to do. But integrating some of the functionality and making things a little more tightly built would not hurt anyone's feelings.

So, what do I want? Well, in a dream world:

  1. Change OneNote to output/read/use/consume/generate a standards-based file format so that it that can be used as a front end to any one of a number of systems. Let me do my thinking, writing and organizing in OneNote (which it's great at), and then let me publish it to anywhere I like, as a standards-based file set (it's not so good at this yet). In other words, don't break what you have now, but give me the additional abilities to “talk” in a standard XML format to web services, in clean HTML markup to some other system. Expose the API, and let me publish from OneNote directly to my Blog, to a SharePoint site/list/library, to the Wiki, etc.
  2. Build true Wiki functionality on top of/into SharePoint 2003 (Note: this version, not the next one). Yes, I know we could probably do this on our own if we put enough time and effort into it, and if it comes down to it, I may take a look at that possibility, but given my staffing situation I'd rather see someone else do it and then have them provide me the ability to adapt it the way I see fit. I certainly didn't write OneNote, SharePoint or our Wiki software (although our developer would have loved to change things at times), and I am not looking to build something from the ground up - I just want to be able to customize whatever solution comes up in order to meet our needs.

Anyhow, that's my wish list for at least a couple pieces of software that we already use today - Software that already meets needs, but which could be even better if the integration points were tighter. Office System 2003 did a great job of pulling a whole slew of different applications and servers together into one cohesive working unit, and I think my ideas are just an extension of that same model of design. I also believe they are in no way original ideas - Only our application of them would/might be original.



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OneNote | SharePoint | Tech
Friday, March 26, 2004 8:38:48 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, March 19, 2004

You've certainly heard by now of Longhorn, the code-name for the next major release of Windows. A critical and major component of Longhorn will be the new Windows storage/file system, or WinFS. None of this stuff is all that easy to understand, but getting your brain around this new technology and how it works will be critical to succeeding with Longhorn, for both developers and IT pros.

Tom Rizzo launches his new column with an overview of why the new "Longhorn" storage subsystem (code-named "WinFS") is needed, what WinFS promises to do to help solve our data-overload problems, and what his column promises to deliver in the coming months.

Tom addresses the basics of why change is needed, what WinFS is, and some entry-level information about what's under the hood (Core WinFS, Data Model, Schemas, Services, and APIs).

This is cool stuff, and a good groundwork for building a clear and comprehensive understanding of what amount s to a paradigm shift as far as data storage in Windows goes. Worth the read, and I'll be keeping an eye on Tom's future columns for sure.



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Tech
Friday, March 19, 2004 8:09:48 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Thursday, March 18, 2004

I've never met Rory and he just moved from Portland, but he's funnier than heck to read, and when he said to TP (like as in Tee-Pee) Chris Sells' blog - since Chris is out of town - well, I obliged (as have many others). Unfortunately, in my creative translation I managed to make the page scroll to the right about the same distance as it scrolls up and down... OOPS. :-)



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Blogging
Thursday, March 18, 2004 9:41:34 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  

Now I remember, pretty clearly, why I am not a cat person. Probably also why I (subconsciously) had not committed on my own to this animal.

No real sleep last night, claw marks in my hands (I was nice, they're just small and very sharp), cat pee in my carpet, meowing every five seconds since God knows when last night.

Argh.

At least I have the Internet to figure out how to make this cat happy (if that can even be done - I'm probably naive here, which is just another sign that I am not a cat person).

And before anyone from the we-know-who's-really-in-control camp throws snide remarks, I realize that the problem may actually be that I am not a cat's person. I'm fine with that.

I dunno. Nice little cat, and a very nice gesture, but I just dunno ... We'll see.



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Personal Stories
Thursday, March 18, 2004 6:36:17 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Wednesday, March 17, 2004

In this day and age, it's not unusual for people who live next door to each other to not have the first clue about who their neighbors are, what they're names are, or anything at all about those people over there that apparently get in their cars and go someplace each morning (probably to work).

It's not that way for me. My next-door neighbors are great people, friends of mine, and pretty fun (sometimes down-right amusing) to spend time with. They have great kids and good hearts. We hand out and do things together now and then. So, I consider myself very lucky, indeed.

Case in point: My birthday is coming up in a few weeks. They wanted to do something nice for me (which is really very cool). So, what did they decide to do?

Well - long story short - I now have a cat. To go with my dog.

Now, before you freak out and cry foul, please relaize a couple things: First of all, I was asked about the whole adopt-a-cat thing a couple days ago. I just hadn't actually committed to doing anything about it. But that's cool. Also, I have been talking about getting a cat for a while now. So this is not completely out of the blue. And the standing offer is that if it doesn't work out, the neighbors will take the cat into their family (and then they'd have more pets than kids, heheheh), so I do have an “out” there.

Hey, but it's an awfully nice cat. Sharp claws, yes - but nice. And she's fixed (apparently yesterday), so no worries about more of the same down the road. And perhaps most importantly, she's alive. Had she not been picked up from the pound by my neighbor yesterday, she'd have been put down by now. So, all in all, it's a good thing.

Truth be told, I've always been more of a dog person, but cats are okay. Besides, I live in the woods, so there's plenty of practical reasons to have a cat or two around the house (Note: one is enough for now ;-))

In reality, it's a very nice - and thoughtful - birthday gift. Pretty darn cool.



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Personal Stories
Wednesday, March 17, 2004 8:13:18 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, March 16, 2004

An Open Letter to Commercial Software Companies
(or, Food for Thought for one yet to be named)

I don’t expect perfection from you. If your software has some issues that make it difficult to implement at a business level, I simply expect you to support the implementation and help me get it done. You best have a damn-good support department – a support staff and managers that respond to emails and phone calls. Not just responding when it’s convenient – I mean responding in a timely manner and following through on any commitments they make. If I have to spend six weeks trying again and again to get your people to help me, you should see the problem without me telling you there's an issue, and without me having to write this letter.

I’m on the edge of firing a software company, one with which I have an established relationship, and only after working very hard to try to be a “reference-able” customer. Sure, the software application has all the promise in the world, but enough glitches to require working through the bumps in the road in order to meet every-day production use requirements. I have been working under the assumption we could get past these hurdles, but what good is that is your people won’t even return email or phone call requests for assistance? I should not have to do any of the work it takes to be a customer that you can use as a reference – That’s your job.

And know this: All the good past experience in the world means nothing when you suddenly drop the ball over and over and repeatedly fail to pick it up, despite the fact that I am standing here pointing at the damn ball. I don’t care how much potential there is in the vendor-customer relationship. If you don’t do your job, you can expect I will not be your customer.

But perhaps most importantly: If you screw up the relationship and don’t make good on it, you’ll have to deal with all the consequences, including the fact that I’ll probably tell people far and wide what a bad experience I had with your company, and how it hurt my business and reputation. Many people from a wide variety of businesses look to me for advice on software and systems, and I tell the truth when asked. So, if it means some bad exposure for your company and product, remember the most important lesson of all – You’ve earned it.



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Tech | Things that Suck
Tuesday, March 16, 2004 6:45:27 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Monday, March 15, 2004

Not that I would know personally, since I don't work there, but many friends and colleagues of mine who are Microsoft employees definitely enjoy it there. All I know is, they get together and play ice hockey. In my book, that really says something. ;-)



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Random Stuff
Monday, March 15, 2004 9:44:53 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  

Jim Edelen points to Maxim Karopov's site where Maxim provides a very good description of what SharePoint is and how it's all broken down. At the end of the article there's also a good list of Sharepoint bloggers that have sites with interesting and decent content.

I have not blogged much about this technology in the past few months (in fact the last time I wrote about it was on my old blog), but we are in the end game of a SharePoint deployment and ramp-up at my company. I was involved in speaking at a few of the launch events last year, and we were an early adopter of much of the Office System in this latest version. It's been quite a ride. I'll try to remember to post some experiences here as we continue, but for the developer side of things, I will have to leave that up to Travis and others.

That reminds me - I am looking to hire a developer that knows ASP.net and specifically has some Sharepoint 2003 abilities. If anyone knows someone who happens to be in the Portland, Oregon area (or plans to be) who fits the bill, drop me a line at ghughes-AT-corillian.com (just reformat the email address of course :-)).



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SharePoint | Tech
Monday, March 15, 2004 7:34:08 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Sunday, March 14, 2004

This is kinda cool: “Search Google for sites added today, yesterday, within the last seven days, or last 30 days.”

http://www.freshgoo.com/

Sidebar cool thing: If you refresh that page, you'll see a bunch of funny modified Google logos. Kept me busy for a little while!



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Tech
Sunday, March 14, 2004 10:45:06 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  

KC Lemson, who works on the Exchange team at Microsoft, asks if there are any IT bloggers out there who are actually blogging about IT. She's soliciting links from anyone who does, or from people who know of good ones, to see if it would be worthwhile to put together a list.

I think that's a great idea. There are tons of blogs by developers and about specific products, etc., but not that many that are about IT operations and management. I hope this takes off, and it's already made me think a bit about some things that I could be blogging that I have thus far ignored.



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Blogging | Tech
Sunday, March 14, 2004 10:31:05 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, March 12, 2004

From the logs of the original computer geeks, the actual description of the first computer bug. So, that's where the terms “bug” and “debug” come from.

Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, 9 September 1945. The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: "First actual case of bug being found". They put out the word that they had "debugged" the machine, thus introducing the term "debugging a computer program".

In 1988, the log, with the moth still taped by the entry, was in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Computer Museum at Dahlgren, Virginia.



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Tech
Friday, March 12, 2004 6:13:01 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  

“You can start a very long and pointless discussion by wondering about this topic on the net.”

Yeah, no kidding. Nothing says lame quite like “THAT'S NOT HOW YOU PRONOUNCE THAT!”

Gimmee a break...

Read here: http://www.eeng.brad.ac.uk/help/.faq/.unix/.pronun.html



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Humor | Tech
Friday, March 12, 2004 6:05:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Thursday, March 11, 2004

I was going to be on an airplane about now, landing in sounthern California, but plans changed and so I won't be flying there for a few more weeks. But that's okay, it means I have a four-day weekend that I can spend getting things done around home. I am rather looking forward to that. Not quite as much fun as visiting a friend in California, but that's okay - It will just be more fun when I do get to head that way.

So this, I think, will be lawn and garden weekend at my place. Last weekend, the neighbors and I went to the home-improvement box store across the river over there in Warshington and got materials to build a whole slew of raised garden beds. So, I have a lot of cedar planks, stakes and other stuff just waiting for me to get my act together and start building. I'll go into town and arrange for a truckload of good garden soil to be brought in (the soil here in the hills is rocky and kind of clayish, so ammending is important). Then I can throw my back out moving soil into the raised bed frames. Woo hoo!

The other thing I need to get done is preparing a temporary pad for my new spa/hot tub to sit on. Not sure when it's going to be delivered, but I made the purchase recently and am looking forward to it - and so is my back, let me tell you. I say “temporary pad” because I am hoping in the future to add a deck to the house and move the spa up onto that. Big dreams, but hey - gotta start somewhere, right?

With the weather as nice as it's supposed to be, I am also thinking a trip to Brown's Camp with the 4-wheeler might be in order. Maybe - if not, plenty more weekends ahead.

Mostly I am just looking forward to doing a lot of whatever I want and not worrying about anything else. The blackberry is set to not receive emails, my desk phone is set to go straight to voice mail rather than ringing my cell phone llike it usually does, and I'm ready to disconnect for a few days. I need it.

 



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Thursday, March 11, 2004 10:56:32 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Wow.

http://www.kartoo.com/

That's cool stuff. Enter a search term/phrase and see the relationships and relative validity of each result. Uses flash, which (for once) is cool (yes, I think flash is entirely over-used).

Bookmarked. Should be fun to watch this grow.



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Tech
Tuesday, March 09, 2004 7:02:40 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Monday, March 08, 2004

I'm not all that into public political discussion, unless there's an opportunity to have a meaningful (and preferably civil) two-way conversation, but I am a fan of humor. Well, the political comedy is heating up, and the Internet comedians are posting the latest versions of presidential candidate parodies.

You have to admit, both these sites (here and here) are pretty funny, and the fact of the matter is that people are going to try to find something funny to say this (early) election season, else we'll all go crazy listening to pundits taking themselves entirely too seriously on the same darn topics, over and over again, all day long.

It's going to be an interesting year politically. I find it interesting that on both sides of the fence, no one believes anything the other party's guy has to say. That should tell us something. The only question is, what?

I'll especially be interested to see if Bush takes the gloves off, and when. Kerry has already thrown some bare-knuckle punches, and so far Bush has not stooped to that level. But there will come a point where if he does not take a few swings of his own, he'll be too bloodied to stay in the ring.

Anyone have more humorous sites?

 



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Monday, March 08, 2004 7:11:37 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Sunday, March 07, 2004

Gonna be a busy week. I'll be in San Diego visiting a family friend starting on Thursday, and won't be coming back til Monday night. Looking forward to it - he joined the US Navy a while back, and he's stationed on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier (the USS John C. Stennis), so I will get to see what a floating city looks like on the inside. That will be fun. 5,000 crew on one ship - amazing!

I also have lots of planning to get done at work on a pretty big project we are trying to get wrapped up. Need to get that one done before the next ones start. Luckily, the next few won't be quite as monstrous, but one thing is for sure: There's more than enough on the horizon to keep all of us very busy for the foreseeable future. It will be nice to (hopefully) turn some of it down a notch, though. I'm ready for a bit of a break.

On top of that I am working on plans to extend a deck off my porch at home and to get a garden planted. My neighbors and I are going to work on the gardens together, it looks like, which will be fun. Gardens are certainly a lot of work, but that's the kind of work I don't mind doing - the kind that yields results you can actually (literally) get your hands around. the biggest risk is the deer that roam around here, so I am thinking some sort of fence is in order. I thought I might even try the human hair trick, although I have heard mixed reviews about whether it really works, and now I am doubtful. There's always technology to do the trick if need be. Apparently that one also works on Moose. Well, in that case I guess I need me one of those eh? Nothing like electricity to solve a problem. Or you can just spray.

Anyhow, I am looking forward to the trip to California, both because it will be good to see a friend and because I can certainly use the break in my hectic routine, which these days pretty much consists of work and church stuff and then more work. So - it will be nice.

Hmm. That was pretty random.



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Sunday, March 07, 2004 8:33:25 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, March 05, 2004

Ten years ago, SPAM as we know it was born. Not sure it’s reason to celebrate, but this story is an interesting historic view. Spam ruined Usenet back in the day, and now it’s doing a lot of the same to email.

Happy birthday, you lame, no-good, dirty, rotten scoundrels. And thanks to my friend Mike for pointing this out to me.



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Things that Suck
Friday, March 05, 2004 11:35:57 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Ok, so this is stupid and lame. I can accept that. But it's interesting.

Well, I suppose it should be comforting to know that my site (an thus me in turn?) is more good than evil. The results of this highly-scientific study are:

This site is certified 31% EVIL by the Gematriculator   This site is certified 64% GOOD by the Gematriculator



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Tuesday, March 02, 2004 6:45:07 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#