Thursday, 01 April 2004

I used to be a cop. I don’t have a problem with laws that make sense. I do, however, have a serious problem with stupid laws that go too far.

On Wednesday evening, I became a victim of Oregon's new PET RESTRAINT LAW.

This law requires that you restrain your pet (dog, cat, ferret, whatever) in special seat belts while traveling in a moving vehicle. Yes, that’s right, Dog Seat Belts. The cost of these special animal restraints runs anywhere from 20 to 30 dollars, if you can find one. Holding an animal in your lap is NOT acceptable. Animals are apparently also required to be restrained in the back of an open pick-up bed in an attached animal carrier. This law actually went into effect January 1, 2004 but only warning tickets were given out until March 1, and since then they've been writing citations for real. And I got screwed.

So now I owe a fine of $150 for my first offense and my dog was confiscated to the local animal shelter, and I have to go there to get him back, but I can’t do that until I show proof that I have a pet restraint in the car. Plus, I’m told that if I get caught a second time, they’ll take my pet from me permanently and charge me with animal neglect.

The stupidest part is that it wasn’t even a cop that saw my dog walking around in the back seat – It was someone working on a construction crew on a highway near my house. Any Oregon State police officer, city cop, OR roadside worker can act as a witness in court according to the statute. If the road crew sees you and calls the police, they can either find you and pull you over (like me), or they can send you a citation in the mail.

This sucks. How the heck do these laws get passed???

Update: See Hook, Line, Sinker ...



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Humor | Personal Stories | Things that Suck
Thursday, 01 April 2004 00:01:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 31 March 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, 31 March 2004 19:59:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 30 March 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, 30 March 2004 16:39:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 26 March 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, 26 March 2004 08:38:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 19 March 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, 19 March 2004 20:09:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 18 March 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, 18 March 2004 21:41:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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