Wednesday, August 31, 2005
In a previous career, I did news and sports photography for a "living." I've been bitten by the bug again recently, hence this post.
Lens Wanted: If you happen to read this and you also happen to have a Nikon 300mm f/2.8 autofocus lens lying around that you don't use, and if you;d be interested in selling it for pennies (okay maybe a few dimes) on the dollar, chat me up or email me (that would be greg(at)greghughes.net, yo).
I figure, let's try the reverse "blog as a classified ads tool" thing. This is the "wanted to buy" version.
For that matter, if you have a 20mm lens (Nikon lenses only - not third party) let me know about that, too.
I'll check eBay myself - looking for private sellers here.
Several people have asked me for a copy of the wallpaper I have on my X41 Tablet PC desktop right now. It's another picture from my trip to the Lincoln Memorial last week. Click below to download the image in the size you prefer.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Nine states in nine days. I've been traveling for the past week and a half, and had some great experiences along the way. Two Saturdays ago, I flew down to California for my dad's 65th birthday party, which was a lot of fun. Then on Sunday, and every day since, I traveled with coworkers across the country - via Colorado to Omaha, Nebraska; Toledo, Ohio and Reston, Virginia (just outside of Washington DC). Then I took a couple days for myself and visited friends and family. During that portion of my trip I hit Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, DC and New York state. It's been an interesting week.
I discovered a few things - First of all, Omaha and Toledo are quite nice cities, each with their own unique character. I especially liked the huge old houses in Omaha, and the steaks were awfully darn good, to be certain. Their old downtown area is terrific. In Toledo, the waterfront down on the river is great, and there's some old and interesting architecture to be seen. The people in both places were very nice.
Reston is a suburb of Washington DC, and what struck me about this area are the huge old trees and the attention paid to aesthetics of the architecture - it just looks nice. The people there were terrific, too.
But the most awesome part of the trip from a personal experience perspective had to be Washington DC itself. I went with three coworkers into the city one night to see the memorials at night. It's been several years since I was last there, and the only chance I ever had to spent any meaningful time in the city was when I was a small child (we used to live on the Maryland side in a town called Greenbelt). I have vague recollections of being a small child looking up at the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln in the memorial, as well as the Washington Monument. I guess I didn't fully realize the sheer enormity and power of the Lincoln Memorial and the others. I'd assumed that since I was a very small child the last time I did more than just drive by it, my memory was skewed by my then-limited height and overactive imagination. Boy, was I ever wrong.
Walking into the Lincoln Memorial - which would be a huge, amazing building even without the statue inside - one is filled with a sense of awe. The stone steps leading up to the entrance are worn, with indentations visible up the center where millions of people have walked to see what is, I think, the most life-like statue I've ever seen.
The Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the side wall to the left of the statue. Those famous and inspirational words are all the more amazing to read in the presence of the oversized likeness of Lincoln, which looks like it could step right off its pedestal and start speaking any moment.
From the Lincoln Memorial, it's a short walk to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - the famous sheer, reflective wall that bears the names of 58,249 American soldiers who died in that war.
When people say the experience at the Wall is overwhelming and overpowering, they're not exaggerating. It was dusky dark when I walked there, and in the dark light the endless sea of names stood out in the dim light cast by the lights in the walkway. It felt big until I reached about the middle of the memorial - and then it suddenly felt huge. Standing near the center, looking ahead at the ocean of names still remaining to be walked by, then back at the thousands upon thousands of names already passed, the feeling was powerful.
The names on the wall appear in the order the people commemorated died in battle. I don't personally know who Harold Graves, John Neto Rodrigues or John E. Cantlon Jr. were, but I do know they died on or about the same day, sometime in the middle of the Vietnam conflict, fighting a war on behalf of their country. And I know and see that their names are three among so many more, each one representative of a person who went to Vietnam but did not come back. As I stood closer and looked at the names, I thought about sons and their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, hopes and dreams and aspirations.
To say the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is powerful is an understatement.
You can't help but reach out and touch the wall, almost as if to see for yourself that it's actually there, that what you're looking at could possibly be real. The reflection people experience when they visit this memorial is more than just their own faces in the glossy surface. One can't help but reflect on the people whose names cover the vast wall, and the families and loved ones of each and every one.
If you ever have a chance to visit Washington DC, don't skip it. It's worth every mile, every penny, every second of time - and then some.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Google has released their new Google Talk beta (everything from Google is persistently beta it seems), yet another instant messaging app with voice capabilities. You'll need to have a gmail account to sign on. It downloads and installs simply, and sets up in about half a second.
It's very simple, even borderline lame in design. But Google has this way about making things happen. No doubt it will be a learning and growing product dev process for them. We will see.
FWIW, my Google Talk address is greg.pdx[at]gmail.com (replace the [at] with @)
I'll run it for a bit and see how it goes, but MSN Messenger is going to be harder to beat, I think. Just like I have skype installed and use it sometimes, but MSN Messenger if where I do most of my chatting. I mean, it;s got INK, come on! ;)
My MSN IM address is still greg[at]greghughes.net, of course.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
If I had a dime for every time I had to explain what SIP is... Well, let's just say I'd be okay hanging out at Starbucks for a week or two anyhow... It's one of the least-understood and most-misused acronyms around technology shops these days. I certainly don't mind explaining it to people, but it can get a little complicated. Having a good fundamental understanding of Session Initiation Protocol is critical in the growing world of connected, collaborative applications. It's the protocol where the telephony people finally meet the application and data network people.
Over the past couple of years, SIP has become an underlying part of a number of different networked applications, and many people (most?) don't realize that. You'll find it in IP phones, voice terminal adapters, integrated into instant messaging systems, and all kinds of other places. I think it would be somewhat safe to say (loosely) that SIP is to IP voice communication as TCP is to IP networking. If that's not a good analogy, someone tell me a better one.
Anyhow, I decided it might be best to find a useful link to point people to. RMFB, if you will.
So here it is... Over on the VOIP Now blog there's a great explanation of what SIP is and what it means to computing, users, and technology pros:
SIP 101 - Session Initiation Protocol Explained
Session Initiation Protocol or SIP refers specifically to a language that various computers can communicate to one another in so that they can complete voice calls. It has become vitally important in recent years as it plays a central role in VoIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol. VoIP Is the rapidly growing technology which has millions of Americans throwing out their local and long-distance telephone bills and replacing them with free calls made over the Internet.
While Session Initiation Protocol sounds like technobabble, it helps if you can imagine SIP as the common language that new generation operators use to complete calls over the Internet. With SIP, however, the operators are no longer hundreds of people in a room...
Friday, August 19, 2005
There's a bit of chat about regarding handwriting recognition on the Tablet PC, and the new feature/functionality in the Vista beta version of the OS.
I used to write in block letters or carefully crafted print on my Tablet PC. Then I decided (thinking naively that it would be a miserable failure) to write in cursive script. Much to my surprise, I found it worked much better.
With the Vista Beta One TIP (Tablet Input Panel), the ability to enter text and make changes is greatly improved. I've found it's even more accurate. In fact the whole TIP behaves much better all the way around - not so much in the way, more flexible, and all-around better recognition. I'd post pictures but I'm afraid I'd be breaking an agreement (although screenies of the Vista desktop and stuff seem to be very common on the Internet these days).
It also seems to recognize non-standard characters that are written by hand. Stuff like smilies and whatnot. That's cool. There's similar thoughts over on the Tablet PC Blog. It will also be interesting to see what Beta Two holds.
How hard is it really to tell a real smile from a fake one?
On the BBK web site, you can take a quiz to check your skills of perception when it comes to checking facial expression honesty.
You might be surprised how many you'll miss. How can you tell if a smile is real or fake? What do you look for?
- This experiment is designed to test whether you can spot the difference between a fake smile and a real one
- It has 20 questions and should take you 10 minutes
- It is based on research by Professor Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California
- Each video clip will take approximately 15 seconds to load on a 56k modem and you can only play each smile once
My score: 16 out of 20.
Take the "Spot the Fake Smile" quiz here.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
That pesky msnbot/1.0 is a pretty busy bot today. That's MSN Search's spidering robot. I've had more than 10,000 hits from it today, and a friend with another blog has had about 4,000. These numbers are way larger than normal.
Hmmm... Something coming soon from MSN Search maybe? We'll see!
UPDATE: Looking at my web server log details, it looks like the spidering that's going on is touching mainly a whole lot of RSS content. Main feeds and category feeds are being pulled frequently. Is MSN Search pushing the RSS envelope? With RSS going native to the OS, this might make some real sense?
ANOTHER UPDATE: A member of the MSNBot Team (who, by the way, responded post-haste to a question I sent through, uh, channels) asked me to volunteer some of my web server logs earlier today and the traffic's dropped off since. Maybe it was just a little behavior problem (that happens). Interesting!
I have a request for makers of Tablet PC hardware - one that I think would be totally feasible, and would greatly simplify my Tablet PC ownership.
The one thing about using a Tablet PC that regularly haunts me, as an adult male approaching midlife crisis age (and with all the associate baggage in areas like memory, concentration, etc), is the fact that the pen/stylus I love to use with the Tablet is really, really, reaaaaally easy to misplace. It's a problem.
Cuz ya know, there's nothing quite like having a fancy-dancy convertible notebook Tablet PC without a pen. Heh.
Just ask the IT guys at my company who loses the most styluses (styluses? stylii? hmmm). They'll just roll their eyes, laugh and point at me.
So, here is my idea, recorded here for posterity: Build in a proximity device that I can turn on that will make the pen chirp or something if it's more than, say, about 15 feet away from it's home (the Tablet PC, that is) for some extended period of time.
Heck, it might even be worth enabling the pen to speak out loud and say something like, "That dork Greg Hughes at 503-629-xxxx left me sitting here all alone. Please call him and tell him to come pick me up, and that he needs to go put a quarter in the jar."
Or something like that. I'd settle for just the chirping alarm.
Any other bright ideas?
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
If you're responsible for (or just into) computer security - at a fairly involved level - check out (IN)SECURE Magazine, a PDF distribution, at http://www.insecuremag.com/.
Issue 3 is out. It's 67 pages. Serious stuff. Lots of great, practical, useful stuff.
Check it out.
In the August issue:
- Security vulnerabilities, exploits and patches
- PDA attacks: palm sized devices - PC sized threats
- Adding service signatures to Nmap
- CSO and CISO - perception vs. reality in the security kingdom
- Unified threat management: IT security's silver bullet?
- The reality of SQL injection
- 12 months of progress for the Microsoft Security Response Centre
- Interview with Michal Zalewski, security researcher
- OpenSSH for Macintosh
- Method for forensic validation of backup tapes
Monday, August 15, 2005
His weblog may not be an official Microsoft site - it's his own site, a place to publish his own opinions - but the fact is, Robert Scoble's a Microsoft blogger, albeit "unofficial."
And one Microsoft site - Microsoft for Business and Organizations - has published an article called "Agent of Transformation," where Robert is interviewed about corporate blogging.
Good read. It's also linked from Microsoft's Executive Circle. Interesting, really - Robert's an insider, of course, but he speaks his mind from time to time - He's been known to express opinions critical of Microsoft's products and positions if that's where he stands. So, it's also interesting to see Microsoft publishing interviews with Robert to talk about how corporate blogging benefits business.
"So there are times when we are having an online conversation out in public, which is fascinating and scary. It's like living naked. Sometimes it's not all that pleasant. We both believe very strongly in transparency and believe that it makes you make better decisions overall."
He also talks about being a smart business blogger. It's worth a look for anyone interested in the blogging world, and for anyone who blogs about - or for - work. Read the interview here.
And... Coming up in September, Scoble's gonna be webcasting:
Robert Scoble on Blogging - September 21, 11:30 AM Pacific Time. Catch this webcast with Microsoft's most well-known blogger, Robert Scoble, and learn how to build your own blog presence, brand, and traffic.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
We interrupt this IT/tech blog for the following random cult video interlude....
Flashbacks of Deliverance run through your mind. Be afraid.
This, my friends, has to be the greatest video ever on the Intarweb. I am so glad someone sent this:
Whatever you do, DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK!
Ok, just kidding. Click it. No, really. Enjoy. Know a better one? Leave a comment.
Update: Apparently this video is a party promotion for a local (Portland, Oregon) media firm, Borders Perrin Norrander, Inc. Cool. Also, a lower bandwidth version is here: http://www.bpninc.com/evideo/video_mac_lo.mov
Bil Simser has taken the lead in creating a place for the community to create and share SharePoint templates. This is terrific - one of the more difficult things about getting people using SharePoint has always been the lack of templates and general resources available to get people started building the custom apps people dream of (but can't necessarily create themselves).
Link: The SharePoint Template Project on SourceForge
Now that we have the place to do this, all we need are participants. Microsoft recently released a set of 30 great site templates, and there are a few others out there as well, but this has the potential to be much bigger.
Bil's own words describe the SharePoint Template Project perfectly:
Not having custom solutions has been one of the larger gaps in SharePoint but demonstrates that you can accomplish a lot with just a little configuration and some creative thought. On numerous occasions I find myself in the newsgroups seeing people asking if they can build a Help Desk with SharePoint, or an Expense Tracking System, or a Call Board. The answer is of course yes. Always has been and always will. The problem however is that you don't get a lot of business solutions delivered without some work. Enter the SharePoint Template Project.
I created a new project site on SourceForge (yes, I'm not a big fan of GotDotNet and we haven't created my utopia of SharePointForge just yet) to accomodate this. The project provides an outlet for the SharePoint community to contribute and share list and site templates for the products under the Microsoft SharePoint technology banner (SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services).
These templates come in the form of binary .stp files or plain text xml schema files (along with any additional files like images, etc.). Users create the templates either using SharePoint itself (saving them in .stp format) or with whatever xml/text editor they prefer. The templates are uploaded to a SharePoint server and used as a boilerplate by SharePoint during site creation.
Templates in this project will be created by the community and packaged in a common installer format (MSI) so that end-users need only download the MSI and run it on their SharePoint server. A template MSI will be provided for contributors to the project which includes the template installer, full or custom selections for installation (users will be able to choose what templates they want to install), graphical preview for each template (if the developer includes them) and option to create sample sites based on the templates chosen.
Last year, I picked up a couple Wireless PC Lock devices, to see if they'd work in a business environment to control workstation security. What I found was that I'd purchased what seemed to be some cool hardware, packaged with really crappy software. In fact, the software was so bad, it made the hardware pretty much useless. Useless doesn't help in the security world, so I was disappointed overall.
Then about a week later, I discovered that Bryan Batchelder, another security type, had also picked one up, reverse engineered how it works, and written his own software for it. Bryan's software was a vast improvement - measurable in orders of magnitude - over the software that shipped with the hardware.
Then Scott Hanselman, a coworker and friend of mine, found the device and software and decided to contact Bryan and work with him to use take it to the next level, using the new .NET Framework v2.0, to control and take advantage of the hardware.
And today, a new article was published that Scott wrote for hobbiest programmers, as an installment in his excellent "Some Assembly Required" series on Microsoft's MSDN Coding4Fun site. The article is entitled, "Is that you? Writing Better Software for Cool USB Hardware." In this edition, Scott explains how the new software, built from Bryan's base, is made and how it can be extended by anyone who wants to (since it's an open source program published on SourceForge).
I've installed the new software myself (after downloading and installing the .NET v2.0 Beta 2 framework) and have it running, and I can tell you this: The new software really shows how cool the hardware is, as opposed to the original software, which made the hardware look sloppy and bad.
The hardware consists of a USB stick (it looks much like a USB storage device) and a small round button you can hang on your keychain (or wherever). With the new software, a tiny green icon appears in the Windows status notification area (the tray) and flashes to show you it's getting a heartbeat from the key fob button. If you turn the button transmitter off (it lasts for-freakin-ever on one battery, mine's almost a year old and it's still going strong), the software on the compute notices and does whatever it's configured to do. The image below gives you an idea of the things it can do out of the box, and it's plug-in-able, so if you want something else, you can go build it.
Hmmm, gotta go see if I can learn enough to be able to write a plugin now.
Eagerly anticipated and full of great new features and enhancements, dasBlog v1.8 has been officially released.
Scott covers the details and pontificates the important readme file information on his blog. Here's a list of many of the cool new features:
New Features of Note
- Anti-Spam Features
- Automatic Referral and Trackback blacklist update
- CAPTCHA for non-admin users (Font warping has also been increased in this version)
- Logging and display of Comment IP addresses and resolved Hostnames for Admins
- DasBlogUpgrader can strip spam from existing content folders
- Support for rel="nofollow"
- Ability to delete referrals and trackbacks directly from the Admin UI
- Security Features
- HttpOnly cookies
- Admin access auditing
- SMTP Authentication for outgoing mail
- Syndication Features
- Improved RSS Comments support for SharpReader and RSS Bandit
- Upgraded Atom support from 0.3 to Valid Atom 1.0. ATOM Syndication permalink changes but 301 is issued.
- RSS 2.0 and Atom 1.0 validates via FeedValidator.
- Ability to mark entries as "syndicated" or not. Entries can appear on the site but not in RSS/Atom.
- New between RC1 and Gold: Plugable, configurable pinging of Blog Search engines like pubsub and technorati.
- Performance Features
- Search Highlighting is optional now
- Referrals are logged but not stored in XML by default. Configurable.
(This has huge performance benefits for high traffic sites.)
- DasBlog Upgrader can optionally remove all referrals.
(Again with high traffic sites some folks had 5meg XML files full of referrals)
- Theme templates are now cached in memory.
- Installation Features
- New VBS for IIS permissions and VDir creation
- Support for running under ASP.NET 2.0
- Support for running on Win2k 2003 without changing permissions when impersonation is enabled
- Content Features
- Ability to pre- and post-date entries
- Permalinks based on Title and Date optional: 2005/06/06/title.aspx
- Latest build of Free Text Box including ability to upgrade FTB without upgrading DasBlog.
- Text Editor (FTB) supports IE7
- Text Editor (FTB) supports FireFox
- Blog Statistics macro
- Mail-To-Weblog continues to improves. Works with Thunderbird.
- Extensibility Features
- Custom Macro Plugin model without recompiling DasBlog (see the source for the example custom macro)
- Theme Features
- DasBlog now ships with 16 themes and a Theme Combo to change between them.
- New theme.manifest file makes themes and image assets more portable.
One thing I really need, and for which I have yet to find a truly good solution, is a clipboard manager tool that will do a great job (defined below) of managing a number of different clipped chunks of text, images or whatever. I often need to copy and paste multiple items over and over, but when the contents of the single-items clipboard change, its a pain in the butt to go a re-copy an items I used just a few minutes ago, just to paste it once or twice before I have to copy something else. I need a good clipboard library, with all the bells and whistles. I wish I didn't have to search for and install five or six apps to do what I want.
Improving the clipboard is a age-old problem in the Windows computer world (hey Microsoft - the clipboard idea is great, but in practice it sucks! Enhance it!), and I have tried a few different utilities that tried to solve this problem over time, but I've never seen one that really worked well.
There's been so many attempts at these sorts of programs, it's almost impossible to test them all without mucking up a computer (many of them programs don't install or clean up nicely). I'm sure there's one or more out there that people love. So - maybe you have one to recommend?
Here is what the ultimate clipboard tool would need to do (in my perfect little world):
- Hold and intelligently manage multiple items clipped from any application
- Clipped items of any media type (text, images, yada yada)
- A smart, easy to access, unobtrusive interface for managing content
- Let me save libraries of organized content
- Let me have a one-time pad of clippings for the session, and let me move things around, save items I want to keep, etc.
- For text items, ability to clip as rich text or plain text and convert from/to same (a la PureText)
- Built-in ability to capture non-clippable text from the screen (scrape like Kleptomania or Screen OCR)
- For image clips, let me select a rectangle by drawing it, a free-form area by drawing it, a window that needs to be scrolled, etc.
- Send-to-BlogJet (for that matter, send-to-anywhere) function
- Installs and uninstalls cleanly
- Small footprint, lightweight program that works reliably
- Free is great, but not necessary - I'll pay if it's quality software
Anyone have suggestions? Let me know - thanks!
P.S. - For what it's worth, I have a new-found level of utmost respect for anyone who has to complete RFPs (requests for proposal) for a living. I've spent a large chunk of time this past week, between a zillion other assignments, doing a fairly important RFP. I had to write most of it from scratch for the first time, so there was no boilerplate copy to start with. Now that I have a good set of boilerplate information built, I want to be able to take best advantage of it. Hence this post - I want to reduce the effort required to repurpose content like that the next time around, plus a great copy/clipboard/conversation program would be awesome for blogging.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Note: This weblog is my personal site, and does not represent my employer. What I write here is my own opinion, etc. I am posting a couple job openings here because I figure some quality people reading this might have an interest, based on the readership of this weblog. I am not compensated for posting this, and I don't get a bonus or anything if these positions are filled. I am the hiring manager for these positions, so if that doesn't scare you away...
My employer, Corillian Corporation, is hiring for a number of positions. We're an awfully-darn-cool software company that's fun to work for and where employees have opportunity to really challenge themselves professionally. Corillian is a leading-edge technology company - and some of the smartest people I have ever met work there. I work among technical giants. It can be a little intimidating for me at times (in a healthy, good way), but mostly it's just very, very inspiring.
Among the openings at Corillian, we're looking for three employees to work in our Security department, focused on development and support of our commercial security software products. These positions are at our Portland, Oregon area location. The people filling these positions will be getting in early in the process of developing and selling the next generation of a truly cool and innovative software application. Maybe, just maybe you're the person we're looking for? Here are the positions I'm talking about:
- Security Software Engineers - two positions - mature OO programmers (.NET's a plus) with solid n-tier app experience
- Security Sales Engineer - works in concert with sales execs to meet pre- and post-sales technical and support needs
While I can't go into the specific software applications here on the blog (if you interview, we'll talk more), let's just say if you think security is important and cool, you'll enjoy working on this stuff.
For the Software Engineer positions, you're an experienced OO programmer and you approach things from a whole-design, architecture direction. We're not looking for people who need a list of tasks handed to them. We're looking for people who can organize and make good decisions based on requirements, which they can transform into a terrific software product. You're probably experienced in .NET development and have worked in an iterative/extreme dev environment. you challenge yourself and others, but you're a great person to work with.
For people interested in our Sales Engineer position, you're an excellent presenter in all sorts of situations and audiences, and experienced supporting technical sales efforts related to commercial software products, maybe even related to security software. You're able to deal with matching the priorities and needs of a talented and demanding sales staff, and thrive on doing an excellent job and delivering real, measurable results. You're also able to travel when needed.
To find out all the details about these open jobs, visit Corillian's web site and browse through the openings. You'll find we're also looking for employees to work as QA professionals and support engineers, as well as an IT Help Desk crew member (at least as of the date of this post).
If you have any questions, email or call me. You'll find my contact info over on the right side-bar of this web site. Call or email me - I'll be glad to chat.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Like Scott, I am always curious where my readers are from. Here's my guest map - please add your location! Just click on the guestmap image below to open a new window to view and "sign" it (I had to change this, the heavy iFrame version was killing my site - and I fixed the issue that was preventing some people from being able to sign the map):
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Looks like Microsoft on Tuesday released Microsoft Messenger v5.0 for Mac OS X. And since I recently became a Mac owner and added the Apple brand to my computer family, stuff like this make me a happier guy.
"Messenger for Mac 5.0 makes it easy to take advantage of the full power of instant messaging. Messenger for Mac offers two types of communication services - a personal account and a corporate account. A personal account works with the MSN® Messenger service on the Microsoft Passport Network. Contacts that you add to your personal account will include friends and family members. A corporate account uses the Microsoft Office Live Communications Server service and can include contacts who use other instant messaging services, such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo Messenger, and iChat users who are signed in with AOL accounts."
More info here, and download here.
Monday, August 08, 2005
At http://wigle.rustyredwagon.com/ you can search for an address and see a whole list of WiFi connections mapped by war drivers from all over.
I noticed no one is war driving out in my ultra-remote neck of the woods, though.
And they say there's LOTS of WiFi in Portland - this pic proves it (click for full size - and check out the error, heh):
"...wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a native Windows version that resided totally on CD and could be used to recover your distressed PC..."
Yes, it would. And as JK points out, there is one available. It's called BartPE (Bart Preinstalled Environment), and it lets you construct an awesomely useful boot CD. There's lots of plugins available, too.
Okay for personal use, and for business use in your company, but not free to redistribute.
Astronaut Steve Robinson has done the first Podcast from space... Say what you want about Podcasting. You have to admit that when someone does it from the space shuttle, that's pretty big deal.
And to think a year ago nobody had ever heard of podcasting...
Listen here (MP3)
"At any rate I will close this very brief first podcast from space with a greeting to all Earthings and a thank you for your interest and support. Whether you support the space program or not, you're learning from it. You're learning from it the very moment you hear this and think about what we're doing. And I think that learning is what looking over the horizon is all about, and don't forget that learning can be exciting and fun, too, because that's certainly what this mission has been all about."
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Fact is, unless you're developing from scratch, there hasn't been a whole lot of help out there in terms of building apps on top of Windows SharePoint Services in order to enhance business.
Until now, that is.
Last week, Microsoft released 30 new application templates that enhance WSS and let you use the platform to solve more problems and meet more needs common to business. And these are out-of-the-box applications, not just starting points, although knowledgeable people could certainly use them as a beginning for something bigger if they like.
This is exactly what we need more of - help extending the platform without having to do it all ourselves. This is the kind of thing that makes SharePoint viable for smaller businesses that can't or don't want to take the time to customize from the ground up.
You can see them all in action, live and for real, at Bil Simser's public SharePoint site (found via Mark Harrison).
Also - for help installing them all, check out Raphael Londner's weblog post.
Here are the new apps, and they are no slouching solutions - these looks to be some solid business templates:
|Scenarios Available for Download|
Here's a shameless plug of my very own... I guest-co-hosted the Tablet PC Show
with James Kendrick today, filling in for the one and only (and much-better-at-this-than-me) Marc Orchant. It's been published, so check it out if you like:
The TABLET PC Show #19 (MP3 - 21MB - 60min)
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE
Marc Orchant was away but guest co-host Greg Hughes graciously stepped in and we have an action packed show. Greg fills us in on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet PC that he’s been lucky enough to use for the past month so anyone interested in this fine convertible (or those anxiously awaiting delivery) will get some good information to take away. After the break we shift focus to the hot topic of the week, WindowsVista Beta 1, and round up the information that is starting to emerge from those brave enough to install it on a Tablet PC. Enjoy the show and as always we appreciate your feedback! (We missed you Marc!)
The Tablet PC Show #19 (MP3 - 20.9MB - 61min)
00:00 Intro- Greg Hughes & James Kendrick
05:45 Greg has a Lenovo ThinkPad X41 Tablet PC
25:00 The Podcast Network
26:00 WindowsVista Beta 1 information roundup
eWeek- will your Tablet run Vista?
Random Elements- Colin Walker installs the beta
Greg punches a cat in the face
IE7 panning with a pen
Tablet PC team has a blog
Speech recognition- command and dictation fused
Ink Analysis in Vista
60:00 Wrap up
I am writing this post by speaking into my microphone on the Tablet PC. James told me that maybe I should try this again and get a more serious shot. I have to admit I'm actually a bit surprised that it's working as well as it is.
Let's see how it handles some common text.
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. When in the course of human events it becomes blah blah blah.
OK, I have to admit this is pretty cool. After adjusting the volume of the microphone it seems to be more accurate. The gain on the microphone was just too loud.
Very very cool.
JK says he uses this capability all the time for writing columns and articles. I've tried it before but never really considered it to be a "real" source of input. But after hearing him talk about it, and giving it a shot, I'm convinced there are some possibilities here. The Windows Vista enhancements should make it even more usable.
What would be interesting is trying technical writing with this speech recognition engine. Somehow I think the recognition of technical (computer/scientific/etc) terms might be a challenge.
But it's pretty darned cool.
"I admitted I was powerless over my hair loss, that my scalp had become unmanageable..."
Yep. I'm in the cult, too. I accept it. Not much I can do about it, really. So, for those of us in that situation, here's a unique product that can help simplify our lives:
"The Coverup That's Got Nothing To Hide"
A perfect gift for directors, producers, band managers, aging performers, or anyone in the entertainment industry. Oh, and how about Father's Day?
Ok, so that's funny. And yes, they're actually for sale.
And for those of you lucky enough to keep your hair:
Good for you. Big deal.
But just so people don't assume you're covering up a deformity, I'm Not Bald™ hats are also available.
(These hats were found via an AdSense ad that showed up on my web site... Coincidence, or has Google figured out something we don't know about? Hmmmm....)
Just couple quick links to some cool new stuff.
Microsoft's Tablet PC team has started blogging - very nice. Check it out:
The Tablet PC Avalon (a.k.a. "Windows Presentation Framework") team has also started blogging:
Two blogs that look to be worth watching, and I've subscribed to both.
I just finished spending an hour or so conversing about one of my favorite topics with James Kendrick (jkOnTheRun) as a "guest host" on The Tablet PC Show. As is often the case in the podcast world, we used Skype to communicate and JK recorded and produced the thing on this side of the connection. We talked about the X41 Tablet PC (of course) and then spent a bunch of time bouncing around different Windows Vista on the Tablet PC topics.
You can listen to the show by visiting this link.
I had a lot of fun doing this. Thanks to JK and Marc Orchant (the real co-host of the show, who was out of town this weekend) for the opportunity. James made it easy for me, and hopefully it turned out ok.
If you're visiting here from the show and wondering who the heck I am, check this link. Tablet PC stuff I have written about in the past is available here.
If you're a regular reader here and want to see what podcasting and The Tablet PC show are all about, check out the show's web site right here.
There are a couple things I *have* to do now that I've spoken about them out loud:
- Get this Windows Vista ISO image to freakin' work - I must have a bad DVD burner or something, as I am consistently making coasters (and then, of course, install it and the additional Tablet bits on a Tablet PC).
- Revisit the speech recognition capabilities of the Tablet PC - James says he uses it all the time, and I am thinking I may not be taking it seriously enough in terms of daily use, so I want to check it out again.
This whole podcasting/audio show/Internet conversation/etc thing is fun and cool. And, depending on how it's used, I think it can be a great medium for certain styles and forms of content delivery - especially interactive conversations.
Anyhow, the 19th edition of the Tablet PC Show has been posted, so check it out. I'll post a link to the show when it's up. Hopefully I won't sound like a complete dork (but I probably will, heh).
Saturday, August 06, 2005
There's been all sorts of rumor and story-making flying around the Intarweb the past few days about a supposed first virus to attack some new part of Windows Vista (which is the next generation of the Windows Operating System - Vista was released recently in a Beta 1 test version to a closed group of testers and MSDN subscribers).
Well, it turns out that's not quite true.
Now, there might be a proof-of-concept script-based "virus" that takes advantage of a new beta shell technology called Monad. But Monad is not part of the Windows Vista beta, it won't be part of the release when Vista is done, and as such the rumors are inaccurate and based in false assumptions, according to the Microsoft Security Response Center weblog (which, by the way, security and IT professionals should subscribe to).
"There’s been some commentary the past couple of days regarding a potential Windows Vista virus and we wanted to weigh in with some details. First of all, in examining the details of the reports, there is no Windows Vista virus described in them. Instead, the reports are regarding potential proof of concept viruses in the form of malicious scripts that are developed to affect a new interactive shell codenamed Monad, which is currently in early phase of beta testing.
"Now to be clear, these reports pose no risk for Microsoft customers. The viruses do not attempt to exploit a software vulnerability and do not encompass a new method of attack. Furthermore, Monad is not widely available for general use. It’s a beta, and we do not recommend or support the use of beta software in a production environment. Microsoft continues to analyze the feedback from testers as Monad continues to be developed.
"But most important, Monad is not included in the beta release of Windows Vista or in Windows Server 2003 R2.
"Monad will not be included in the final version of Windows Vista and there is no relation between Monad and Windows Vista Beta 1. Monad is being considered for the Windows Operating System platform for the next three to five years. So these potential viruses do not affect Windows Vista or any other version of Windows if Monad has not been installed on the system."
Note that Microsoft did not decide to pull Monad from Windows vista in response to this Monad virus scare/story, and they point out that Monad is an early beta technology, not intended to be used in a production environment. Well, yeah... Duh...
It's worth repeating that last point: Beta versions of commercial software are - by their very nature - not fully tested or officially QA'ed, and as such one has to consider beta code to be less secure in general. That should always be considered in deployment.
This is a great example of rumor run rampant, assumption trumping investigation, and the power of hate amongst those who drink of that darker cool-aid, and who wish for nothing less than harm to befall a great-big software company. If you want to believe something bad enough, if you're waiting in the trenches for something to jump on, if you do that often enough and get crazed enough in the process, you're going to lose your perspective. In my previous career, where I sometimes had to deal with those sorts, they call that a cult mentality.
Anyhow - Point is, it wasn't true. And that's something that should be said.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Skylook marries Skype - the uber-popular voice and text communication app - with Outlook, the ubiquitous mail and personal organizer app from Microsoft.
UPDATE: After using this program for a day or so and speaking with a couple others who have also used it, I have a few additional thoughts:
- I'd like to be able to increase/decrease the MP3 sampling bit-rate - right now it's fixed at a fixed setting of mediocre audio quality
- I'd like to be able to specify which chats and voice calls are recorded - right now it records them all, which is cumbersome
- Generally, I'd prefer being able to tweak all the little details across the board - give me control while keeping it simple
- There's a real need for a complete, solid, Skype/VoIP recorder that builds in and doesn't have to be rigged together with bubble gum and duct tape.
Another UPDATE: Jeremy Hague of the Skylook team sent along this information (Aug 8):
"I thought that you would be interested to know that we are planning on introducing some new features in response to the customer feedback (mostly from podcasters, which is really cool) we have received in the first week. We are planning on introducing some advanced configuration options to enhance the MP3 recording that Skylook produces. In a future version, the user will be able to control the bitrate of the MP3 file, information that Skylook can populate into the ID3 tags… along with support for other audio file formats."
Skylook builds right into Outlook - in the form of a toolbar - and enables you to record your Skype conversations as
high so-so quality MP3 files for playback later. This makes it a potentially useful tool for Podcasters, who often use Skype in combination with a spaghetti mess of piping and recording apps to conduct collaborative conversations and interviews over the Internet (NOTE: The audio quality may not be high enough for many podcasters, so allowing users to tweak these settings would be important). Obviously, the major benefit of recording this way is that it enables an easy way to speak with people that would otherwise often not happen. It removes the need to sit in the same room with the other participants while still providing reasonable-quality audio.
It allows you to make Skype calls and start Skype text chats directly from your Outlook contacts and emails. It shows you which of your contacts in on-line in the Outlook toolbar and provides options to review contact details and review previous communications with the contact. Skylook not only records all your voice calls, it also records your text chats to a special Outlook folder.
I did a quick voice chat this evening with Eric Rice to try it out. We were not using headsets, so we had the inevitable echo, but the Skylook app did a great job. It just did its thing in the background without any problem, and when we hung up, I "magically" saw a dialog on the screen:
I clicked the "Show me" button, and it took me straight to my filed recording:
And it files the text chats right there with the audio, filed all neat and clean just like an email would be. It's really very slick in that regard.
I'll have to give it a shot maybe this weekend, when apparently I will be guest-hosting on a podcast I really like a lot. More on that after it happens.
You can download Skylook here and try it for a couple weeks. After that some functions are disabled, do you can buy it here for $29.95.
© Copyright 2013 Greg Hughes
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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