Thursday, October 30, 2008

I had the opportunity today to spend some time chatting with Ben Jackson, who's the owner and technical director of Brainjuice, LLC. His company created Blogo, the app I use on my Mac to write posts like this one.

But today we weren't talking about Blogo, we were discussing a new iPhone game Brainjuice is in the final phases of completing called Arcade Hockey. It's just about done and will appear in the iTunes App Store in early to mid November. It's a table hockey game and it's a lot of fun, well-executed and designed.

Here are a few screenshots of the game screens, so you can see what's coming. You can click on each image to see the full-sized version.

The splash screen, which you see when the game first starts:


You have the option of playing a one- or two-plater game. In the one-player version you play against the computer's artificial intelligence opponent. More on that later in the article.


You can choose a few options, like the size of the paddles and pucks, as well as the version of the game (standard arcade deck, or "boomerang" style.


Game play consists of a classic table hockey game, and you use the tip of your finger on the touch screen to move the paddle and hit the puck. The physics of the game are pretty good, and the puck reacts pretty how you'd expect and want it to.

The classic and boomerang tables:



When you've played your "best-of" set, the game makes sure each player knows who won and who lost.


As a former air hockey addict, I can say this game is quite a bit of fun, and there's something to be said for pulling the game out of your pocket and playing a surprisingly accurate and realistic game on the bus, before the movie, while out on a hot date you want to impress with your skillz, or at lunch.

Since I had his attention, I asked Ben a few questions about the new game and it's development, as well as future product dev plans.

This is Brainjuice's first iPhone app. Until now you've focused on Blogo, your Mac-based blog authoring app. Why did you decide to create this game?

We wanted to start with something light rather than jumping right into Blogo for the iPhone. Table hockey is fun, the competitor is selling and we thought we could do much, much better. Also, there's something about sliding your finger around on the phone which is a natural fit for air hockey.

When will it be available, and how much will it cost?

It will be available as soon as Apple accepts it, likely in November. It will sell for $4.99, but we plan to offer it for free for an initial period of time.

What's left to be done before you ship it?

We are really only working on the (computer opponent) AI at this point. Besides that it's pretty much done.

What did you learn in the process of creating the game?

We learned that getting though the whole certificates and code signing process is a huge hurdle. And a lot of physics.

How many people worked on the game, and how much time did it take to build?

Brainjuice and INCOMUM (the design and creative team) have 8 team members between them. On this project one developer and one designer did all the work. Total dev time... About two months total. Our team is based in Brazil and Philadelphia, but we spend most of our time here (in Brazil), as the weather is nice.

What other apps can we expect to see from Brainjuice for the iPhone in the future?

We're planning to devote a fair share of out attention to creating Blogo for the iPhone after Arcade Hockey is out the door. We're itching to see what we can do with it.

FInally, here's some (unfortunately somewhat fuzzy) video of Arcade Hockey in action on my test iPhone today. I had a hard time looking around the camera to see the screen while I was trying to play, but you get the idea. Look for this cool game coming soon to the iTunes App Store. Or if you happen to see me around, you can feel free to ask me to show it to you.



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Apple | Random Stuff
Thursday, October 30, 2008 10:34:26 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I ordered some new business contact cards since I ran out of the old ones some time ago. They arrived today. Rather than going the standard route or reordering the ones with my mug on the front, I decided to shop over in the UK via the Internet.

I ordered one of Hugh MacLeod's designs from over at gapingvoid. He's made a bunch of his designs available for online ordering at Street Cards. The quality of the cards is great (I ordered the coated cards), and I received them just in time for my trip next week to TechEd EMEA in Barcelona and the Dev Connections conference the following week in Las Vegas.


If there's one thing I've learned working in IT and security management over the past several years, it's what these cards convey. It's been a bot of a motto of mine over the years, so it's appropriate for my business cards, I think (click the link to see the full-sized image).

Thanks to Hugh for making it possible to use his artwork. He makes them available for download and use from his site, and they're great stuff.



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Random Stuff
Thursday, October 30, 2008 8:07:12 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's been an interesting and exciting few days in iPhone land.

In the just past couple days, Google Earth and a voice recording application from Griffin have both been released for the iPhone. Add to that the news that iPhone owners now have access to AT&T WiFi hotspots for free - nice! Google Earth is - of course - free, and Griffin iTalk is free for a limited time, along with it's Mac client (for syncing).

Google earth on the iPhone (iTunes app store link) is pretty cool. It takes advantage of the GPS and accelerometer, and other than that it's, well... Google Earth, just on a smaller screen. You can use touch/twist to rotate gestures on the screen, as you'd expect. I should mention that it's crashed a lot on me, and that when I first installed it I had to hard-reset my phone to get anything to work. But for the most part its been as stable as any other complex app on the device (meaning mediocre to so-so). It's worth the install for sure, if for no other reason then just because of most of the cool things you can do with Google Earth on your Mac or PC.

The other great app that everyone with an iPhone or second-gen iPod Touch should run and get right now (while it's free) is Griffin's iTalk and the complementary iTalk Sync client, which allows you to sync your audio recordings made with the iPhone app to your Mac (PC version coming soon) over the air via WiFi. It works like a charm, is well-documented, looks great and the audio quality is user configurable. The best quality setting sounds pretty great. It could realistically be used for man-on-the-street style interviews.

Provide a file name, select the recording quality, and start recording by clicking the Big Red Button:


The green button means you're actively recording. The VU meter shows your audio levels live. Click the green button to stop recording.


You'll end up with a file (or more than one if you record multiple times) showing in the recording list.


When you load up the Mac sync client app (a small and quick install) and start the iPhone app on the same wireless network, you'll be prompted to allows the sync client to access your iPhone's recordings.


While copying the file via the sync program, the iPhone shows you the status and progress:


And finally you have the files on your Mac (or soon on a PC), in .AIFF format, ready to use. Nice and easy!


I plan to play with the app in Barcelona next week and test the audio quality to see if it's really good enough for on-the-spot interviews for the podcast. It's worth a shot, although it won't touch the quality of my Zoom H4 recorder, of course.



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 8:06:48 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I got a call this morning, a variation of the same call I get around two or three times a month. Someone saw my phone number over in the sidebar and called me to find out about posting items for sale or rent on "Greg's List."

Each time the call comes in, I explain that the site they're looking for is actually Craig's List, which is on the web at http://www.craigslist.org. So, if you happen to be looking for Greg's List, it's actually called Craig's List, and there's the web address for ya. And don't worry, you're not the only one.

Of course, you can still feel free to call me up and say hi anyhow, if you like. :)



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Random Stuff
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 6:04:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, October 24, 2008

Update: Microsoft's Mac business unit just set the land-speed record for turning around a fix. The story is available over at TUAW.

I've been wrestling with a problem for a few days after applying the latest Office 2008 for Mac update (v12.1.3). Everything works well except for sending and responding to meeting notices.

After the update, when Entourage tries to send a meeting notice or response, it throws the following: "[Error] Unexpected data was encountered. [Explanation] Mail could not be sent. Account name: 'Exchange - Greg' Error: -17997."


Needless to say, this is a frustrating problem. I managed to send some original meeting notices by opening them up after they failed to send (you can find them in the Outbox) and clicking the 'Send' button a second time. That worked for some reason. However, the same workaround doesn't seem to work for meeting responses, so I am having to send emails created by hand in order to confirm meeting requests with people who send them to me. Thankfully, when I accept a meeting request it does make it onto my calendar properly - it's just the outbound email that gets hung up.

I've had problems in the past with Entourage not parsing updates created by Outlook, but this is a much bigger and more painful problem. This is another case of "if it just worked the way it's supposed to, it would be the best option by far." A lot like my iPhone in that regard. Glitches kill the experience and create big frustration.

UPDATE: I just found a Microsoft newsgroup thread discussing the problem, and apparently it's a known issue bug in the latest release. Hopefully they'll be able to release a fix quickly. Workarounds include:

  • Uninstall Office and reinstall, then update to the version prior to the latest release
  • Move invitations you create from the Outbox to the Drafts folder and resend (won't work for acceptance notifications, though)
  • Grin and bear it. :)

I may try removing my Entourage account profile from this computer completely and then setting it back up with the Exchange server fresh just to see what happens. I'd lose a few things that are store local-only in the process, but that won't really hurt me should I decide to go that route.

Anyone else having this issue? Any other great workaround ideas?



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Apple | Tech
Friday, October 24, 2008 8:31:01 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The fall conference season is upon us, and I'll be off to Barcelona on the first of November for a week at the Microsoft TechEd Europe/Middle East/Asia conference. I'll be joining my friend and colleague, Richard Campbell, there for the week. If by chance you'll also be there, be sure to let me know ahead of time!

Then, the following week Richard and I will both be traveling to Las Vegas for the Connections conference, where we'll be doing a live RunAs Radio recording session. Should be fun, and we have a great guest slated. More on that later.

If you'll be at either conference, please let me know via a comment or an email!



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RunAs Radio | Tech
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 11:36:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, October 16, 2008

My friend Richard Campbell and I spent the morning recording a couple episodes of RunAs Radio for publication in the near future. One of our guests (whom we shall reveal when the show is published) provided some amazingly great information about using Performance Monitor, or "perfmon" for short. He's a perfmon Ninja, really. I'm excited about that show because I think when it comes up I think people will be able to learn something quite useful, as it includes some desktop video (perfmon is, after all, a very visual tool) and other resources. I think you'll like it.

Needless to say, both of us have been playing with perfmon for the past hour. Richard just IM'ed me with a funny situation, though:

Not really sure how that works. :)

So, be sure to check out RunAs Radio for the Performance Monitor show, which will be published sometime in the next couple weeks. We've also had a number of other great guests sit down with us over the past while, talking about some very useful topics suited for IT professionals. So check it out!



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Humor | RunAs Radio | Tech
Thursday, October 16, 2008 12:18:14 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Want to watch tonight's final presidential debate live on the 'net? Everyone should watch, and please don't skip your opportunity to vote in the election. It's just too important.

Hulu.com is again streaming this debate, and you can watch it right here. Who needs a TV, anyhow?




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Random Stuff
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 1:27:34 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, October 13, 2008

Dumping the warm-fuzzy naming convention and avoiding the year-based names of the past, Microsoft announced today that the next version of Windows, which will replace Vista, will be called simply "Windows 7."

Good idea.

It's the seventh version of Windows. It makes sense. Returning to a solid, basic, fundamental naming convention helps, I think, in helping to focus purpose on ensuring the fundamental requirements are met, that a solid, simple (from a usability standpoint at least) product is released. Etherial names like "Vista" sound cool, but subconsciously they also evoke an image and set an expectation of something magical, something not quite real.

That's not what's needed, especially this next time around. So keeping the name simple is the first sign of staying focused on the core product. I like that.

As Mike Nash explains, this is the first time a code name for an early product in development has been retained for the final product. Well, given the substantial departure from the conventional Microsoft code names, I'd say it's okay this time. :)

More information is available on the Windows Vista team blog, where the announcement was made.



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Tech | Windows
Monday, October 13, 2008 6:49:46 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Space Aliens for McCain or Obama? Could be... Someone's trying to get the vote word out, that's for sure.

Updates: The corn field in the video is at Baggenstos Farms, and you can go walk through it. Also, I'm geeking out a bit on the fact that I filed the video as a CNN iReport that was featured all day today on the homepage of CNN.com and was viewed by 220,000 people in one day (wow). A portion of it was also aired on TV tonight on Anderson Cooper 360. That was fun.

I had a flying lesson Monday morning and on the way back to our home airport, my instructor and I saw an unusual crop formation in a corn field from about 1000 feet above the ground. You'd never see it otherwise. You think someone out there is trying to send us a message? I captured it for you to see with my new Kodak Zi6 pocket HD video camera. You can get the higher-quality version of the video here.

Oh, and by the way: Don't forget to vote!





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Random Stuff
Monday, October 13, 2008 2:21:38 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Analyst and research company Gartner revised its IT industry projection figures and - as reported this morning by ZDNet and released by Gartner themselves - presented them during a symposium keynote at the company's big annual IT conference, which opened this morning. In a nutshell, Gartner analyst Peter Sondergard says they still expect growth, and that even in the very worst case, IT spending next year will fall about 2.5 percent. From ZDNET:

  • Gartner had expected budgets to grow 3.3 percent in 2009.
  • Now the most likely case is IT budget growth of 2.3 percent to 0 percent.
  • The worst case is that IT budgets will be down 2.5 percent.

Forrester Research also recently cut it's projections for 2009 IT spending, but still ended up with figures in positive growth territory. So, if the analysts are to be believed, the business sector feeding products and services to IT should still see some growth.

The question is, where will that growth happen? My guess would be that one good place to be doing business is anywhere products or services are commoditized and can be outsourced, as well as in key technology areas like security and high availability.

Having successfully managed an IT organization at a "dot-com" company through a few years of painful economic times early in this decade, I can say from experience that at the time we had to cut overall IT spending dramatically to allow the company to survive. We went quickly from buying lots of new computers and software and building out data centers to buying practically nothing new for two full years. We renegotiated stacks of contracts with vendors and major software suppliers, consolidated services, convinced vendors to charge us less, and in the end prioritized every single project and said "no" a lot.

As a result, we cut our multi-million dollar budget almost in half and - in combination with other business changes - put ourselves in a position where we were just able to weather the storm financially. It was painful and a bit scary at times, and we had to deal with the side effects of substantial change. We had to get very creative in leveraging what we already had and nothing more, but in the end we all learned a difficult yet necessary lesson: You don't have to spend, spend spend to survive, or even to thrive in some cases.

In fact, what we needed to do was just the opposite of the "spend" approach. We would still spend where it made the most sense - but our decision-making process changed dramatically. You have to shift where the money goes to maximize your dollar's impact in the specific environment, adapt to the rapid changes in the marketplace, and work with your business partners and vendors to make it through to the other side. Smart vendors and good partners know that doing whatever it takes to survive a storm together means a better relationship when we all come out of the clouds.

Gartner has a list of ten things they say IT organizations need to consider when faced with tough economic times. They are not easy or happy things. But I think they're spot-on. I've had to do all of these things when times were toughest.

  • Reduce headcount or freeze hiring
  • Renegotiate with technology and service providers
  • Curtail data center expansion, virtualize assets and lease them back
  • Consolidate systems
  • Outsource commodity
  • Offshore outsource
  • Investment shutdown
  • Prioritize projects
  • Mothball businesses and projects
  • Change leadership and restructure IT teams

What's your IT plan? Are your budgets shrinking, or staying about the same? How would you prepare for tight times ahead?



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Tech
Monday, October 13, 2008 7:30:20 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, October 10, 2008

Over and over it's obvious that the vast majority of people I speak with have no real idea what the current financial situation is all about, how it happened and how it works.

It's not often I'll ask people to take the time to listen to an audio show, no matter what. But in this case, I think it's important enough. With all the media discussion about the gloom and doom of the current economic mess, there's been little or no meaningful education about what caused it and where we are now. Panic reporting doesn't prepare anyone. History and analysis does.

So: Listen to two audio episodes of a show called This American Life, which are linked below, and you'll be a much more aware citizen. You'll find yourself much better prepared to think about where we're at and where we're going. Understanding how we got here is critical to understanding where we're going, and why.

I hope this is helpful to at least one person. I know I found the reporting and explanations cogent, thoughtful, understandable, non-partisan and non-political, and - as a result - quite valuable.

Let me know what you think.



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Random Stuff
Friday, October 10, 2008 12:11:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Chumby is a cool little Internet-enabled device that sits pretty much wherever you want and does all sorts of cool things. You can check it out here. Today it became even better that before, in a way that I especially appreciate, so I jumped on eBay to see if any were available there (you can buy them online new, too).

So what's this new cool thing that makes it even better in my eyes? Pandora - the Internet "radio station" app that I already use on my computer as well as my iPhone, is now available for Chumby.

I'm looking forward to waking up to my Pandora stations, viewing the latest weather for flying, playing new podcasts when they become available, displaying some of my favorite pictures. I'm sure there are a ton of cool things I'll be able to use it for that I can't possibly think of yet. I'll have to take a look at the Chumby Widgets guide while I wait for it to arrive.

A bit about the Chumby:

Chumby was designed from the beginning to take all your favorite parts of the internet, whether they’re video clips, or internet radio stations, or anime cartoons, or sports scores or the weather, or anything else, and, using your existing wi-fi connection, simply deliver them to you at a glance. Automatically, one after the next. You just leave it on — don’t worry, your carbon footprint isn’t getting much deeper, chumby draws far less power than a light bulb. No need to go to your study and boot up your computer and launch a browser, no need to fish your smartphone out of your purse and launch the browser application (…and wait) to get your favorite bits of online goodness.

Do you have one? What do (or would) you use it for?



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Geek Out | Tech
Tuesday, October 07, 2008 6:53:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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DirecTV had an unusual technical glitch sometime in the past 48 hours, and as a result customers with either standard or HD DVRs might experience issues with a "frozen remote" or similar behavior. DirecTV Has emailed customers to let them know (see below).

This is important because if your DVR is in the hung state they describe, you need to reset it, or your scheduled recordings will likely not be recorded.

I had the issue exactly as described the night before last on my HD-DVR, and did a red button reset (RBR) at that time in order to restore it to normal functionality, which is pretty much what the email from DirecTV says to do:

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT YOUR HD DVR OR DVR RECEIVER

In our effort to improve and expand our service, we experienced a temporary technical glitch. If your HD DVR or DVR receiver is not responding to your remote control or front panel commands, you can resolve this issue by pressing the red "Reset" button located inside the small door on the front right corner of your receiver. Please allow about 15 minutes for your receiver to complete the resetting process. Once completed, your picture will return automatically. Unfortunately, any show you may have scheduled to record yesterday will not be available on your DVR.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. Our promise is to provide you with the best television experience, and to resolve any issues that might arise as quickly as possible. If you have any further concerns, please do not hesitate in contacting us at 1-800-347-3288.



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Random Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, October 07, 2008 4:43:36 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Larry Dignan posted some interesting charts, graphs and figures today over at ZDNet looking at advertising revenue for the first half of 2008, compared to previous periods. He also asks what will happen to advertising revenue in the faltering economy. Good question.

What I know best is my experience, which is undoubtedly unique since this site is not exactly huge (about 750K pageviews/month). However, over the past few years I have watched my revenue trends from contextual advertising rise and fall. In these most recent "tough" times for the overall economy, my advertising numbers (meaning impressions, click-through rates, eCPM, daily revenue, etc.) have increased somewhat dramatically.

If you think about it, this could actually make some sense. Less discretionary, from-the-hip spending by various types of consumers means the market needs to find effective ways to reach out to buyers. In many cases, where consumers are looking to save a few bucks on a purchase, they will naturally turn to the Internet for better deals. So, maybe the Internet advertising world has a real opportunity.

My weblog and the few other site I have don't rely on financial services or automotive industry related advertising, granted. I could be way off base here. Yet I can't help but wonder what the second half will look like. I have at least some confidence it will weather this storm. Time will tell.

Thoughts?



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AudioBlogging | Random Stuff
Tuesday, October 07, 2008 11:37:05 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I've lately come to enjoy the relatively new video site, hulu.com, for catching up on television shows I've missed. Decent quality and easy access offered by the site are great. The other day they posted the Saturday Night Live spoof sketch poking fun at Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, and quite literally everyone I know must have gone there to view that specific clip in the past few days.

Tonight, Hulu takes it to the next level with the real candidates by introducing live streaming to their mix. The U.S. presidential debate is their initial undertaking (view here), and they will also live-stream the third debate next week. Tonight's debate airs on NBC and the last one on FOX, both of which are owners or hulu.com.

It will be interesting to see what else they decide to stream live in the future. One would think they might have to limit live streaming to non-advertising-supported content (like these debates) in order to avoid diluting their local advertisers. But I certainly wouldn't mind being able to watch certain shows live from the road, and ads focused based on geolocation or something similar would be just fine with me. Oh, and as a sidenote: We can always continue to hope against hope for a hulu iPhone app.



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Random Stuff
Tuesday, October 07, 2008 8:53:51 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, October 04, 2008

It's been a fun and challenging week learning to fly. I found a couple good podcasts, and have posted a couple new detailed entries to my new flying blog, Coordinated Flight.

The podcasts I found are The Student Pilot Podcast, by Bill Williams in Arizona, and Uncontrolled Airspace, which Bill recommended. Good stuff.

I have four flight days scheduled next week. I hope the weather cooperates!



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Random Stuff
Saturday, October 04, 2008 4:49:48 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, October 02, 2008

Well, true to my own distracted form I realized about a month too late that this weblog turned five years old last month. I didn't get a chance to wish it "happy blogday," so I'll do so belatedly. Five years is quite a bit of time, yet it also seems as if it was all that long ago that I started this thing.

The site has gradually changed in terms of how I "use" it over time. Recently I've written less frequently than at times in the past, but when I do write I tend to write more in one sitting. I'm also writing (and speaking) elsewhere occasionally and splitting my time among a variety of other life activities these days.

Some of my favorite posts are from a few years ago (although some recent posts are on that list, too). My first post was decidedly non-technical (and reading it now I'm not even sure I'd write it today (but I'd probably say something on Twitter)). Well, okay - maybe I would write it. :)

I've gone through the server stress of being "slashdotted" and all sorts of other mega traffic deluges, and have been running dasBlog the entire time, thanks to the influence of my good friend Scott. I've written about some very personal topics as well as random technology tidbits that interest me. In five years I've authored 1,762 posts and people have commented on those posts more than 2,800 times. Somehow I've attracted a fairly large readership and Internet audience over the years (frequently over 600,000 page views a month), and for that I'm grateful and a bit humbled.

At any rate, it'll be interesting to see what's happening here (and on other weblogs, for that matter) in five more years.



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AudioBlogging
Thursday, October 02, 2008 7:39:16 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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