Sunday, 08 August 2004

Omar Shahine has a nice entry detailing how to configure the Motorola voice modem you get from Vonage to work in conjunction with your home network router. By placing the Vonage voice device first in the chain on your network (directly connected to the Internet) and the router behind it, you can take full advantage of the QOS (Quality Of Service) capabilities of the voice device, which helps ensure other network traffic from your LAN doesn't suck up all the bandwidth and kill your voice call quality.

I did a similar thing on my home network a little while back (different equipment, same basic procedure), and found that it substantially improved my voice call quality when computers are hooked to the LAN, especially since my computers often do automated/scheduled things that will - if left unchecked - hog the pipe from time to time.


I just noticed - if you want to sign up for Vonage service, they have a referral program where I can send you an invitation and you'll get the first month free, and I'll get an equal service credit - which is good for everyone! Just email me here: Send mail to the author(s) and I will send you the invite - be sure to send your name and the email address you want the invite to go to.

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Sunday, 08 August 2004 14:44:06 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 07 August 2004

A friend asked me tonight if I knew where to find the oom paa paa song from the Matrix spoof, Computer Boy. I had never heard the song, or seen the short film, but started looking anyhow.

I found the MP3 and dropped it into the IM window to transfer the file to my friend. I also found the MOV file and grabbed that for myself, out of curiosity. On a side note, it's pretty fun(ny) to watch.

"How did you find it?" my friend asked. "Google," I said. "Where one finds everything."

He LOL'ed (gotta love all this IM-speak) and then asked me to send him my search string so he could learn. Now that's the right question to ask. Ahhhh, grasshoppa... you are learning...

It's a very simple search, barely more than a basic search - and really it's all about being specific, but for some reason, there are many people who don't know how to do that. Everyone should learn to search and to do it well. Being able to find things on the Internet used to be a nice skill to have, but how it's becoming more and more of a necessity. It's always surprising to me how few people really know how to search using Google or other search tools to find relevant information, especially when you consider you can learn the basics (and then some) in about 5 minutes. Spend an hour learning some more advanced skills and you'll practically be a pro.

Google even has a help page where you can learn about the basics and some more advanced search tricks. And there are any number of third-party articles out there that will help you learn power searching, like this one (See parts one, two and three). Unfortunately, most of the tutorials out there are on poorly formatted web pages with lots of other junk piled on the page, but content is content.

Do you have good places to learn about becoming a search engine power-user? Leave a link in the comments.

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Saturday, 07 August 2004 22:00:51 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 06 August 2004

If you use SQL 2000 or MSDE on Windows XP, you'll want to do some research before you apply WinXP SP2.

Microsoft has provided a FAQ list that covers the bases pretty well. Excerpted from that page:

Q.  Why is Windows XP SP2 important to SQL Server customers?
A.  Windows XP SP2 will turn on the Windows Firewall by default. By turning on the Windows Firewall, computers are more resilient to attacks from worms similar to Blaster and Slammer.

Q.  How does Windows XP SP2 affect SQL Server?
A.  SQL Server will have access to the local subnet by means of file and print sharing, which will enable access to named pipes, also known as multi-protocol, that use Port 445. TCP/IP and UDP will be turned off by default. Applications that connect to a SQL Server database by means of a network will not be able to accept or make connections. This setting change helps protect the customer system by making it resilient to malicious worms that send port requests to a computer in an attempt to create a denial of service attack.

In addition, KB article 841249, "How to configure Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) for use with SQL Server," includes information about manual configuration of the SP2 firewall for use with SQL server, how to script configuration administratively, and troubleshooting tips and steps. Note that users of Windows Group Policy can also configure the firewall via that method using the new ADM files (which are included in the service pack).

I've been working with SP2 configuration via Windows domain Group Policy for a while now, with the beta versions. If you have the GPO option available to you, do yourself a huge favor and take advantage of it. Same goes for Office System settings - You can quickly, easily and effectively configure and maintain all your computers in one place.

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IT Security | Tech
Friday, 06 August 2004 22:00:55 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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I am watching Kill Bill Vol. 1 at home with a friend. I saw the second movie when it was in the theaters earlier this year, and of course I also saw this one when it came out originally.

This is one movie that just keeps getting better. It was good the first time, and especially after the second movie, it's just good to watch again and again.

And Volume 2 will be released on DVD on August 10th. Yes!

QT rules.

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Movies | Random Stuff
Friday, 06 August 2004 21:29:46 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Testers have it (running it now) and it will be available on the web soon. Windows XP SP2 is Gold.

Tablet PC and Media Center Edition users get all kinds of new features included, too - can't beat that.

If you're a home user, turn on auto-updates and when there is bandwidth to serve you, you'll get the full meal deal.

If you're a business user in a managed computing environment, don't take the chance - talk to your IT department before doing anything, as there are a number of possible Bad Things that could result in applying the service pack before they're ready, especially in the area of application compatibility with all those wonky custom business applications.

If you're a web designer or developer and your site doesn't work with SP2 - you're too late and well beyond the point of having reasonable excuses, so fix it fast and skip the whine.

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IT Security | Tech
Friday, 06 August 2004 15:35:07 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Rumor was that SP2 was supposed to RTM on Thursday, but that didn't happen. Microsoft Watch reports it's still right around the corner. Others say this month. I hear the same thing. Apparently, there are a few last-minute things that need to be worked out, which is about what you'd expect with a service pack that makes the kinds of changes this one does.

The RC2 version of the service pack was removed from the web on August 2nd, in preparation for release of the final version this month, according to the TechNet web site pages dedicated to XP SP2 information:

Aug 2, 2004: Windows XP SP 2 Release Candidate 2 (RC2) Removed from the Web

This signifies the end of the pre-release distribution program in anticipation of the final release of SP2. Windows XP SP2 remains on schedule for release this month.

The process of implementing SP2 in the real world is more complicated and sensitive than previous Windows service packs, due to the security changes in areas like firewall, DCOM, Java Virtual Machine, Active-X and other aspects of the new code. Testing in individual environments is critical except in the most plain-vanilla situations.

End users in managed environments will need to check with their IT departments before they download the service pack, and IT pros will certainly need to evaluate the service packs in their environments closely for application and network issues, so they can be remediated prior to roll-out. Group Policy attributes new with SP2 can assist administrators of Active Directory networks in deploying, configuring and enforcing consistency in the service pack roll-out, as well.

Developers who rely on SP2 platform security and certain other areas of functionality will need to be thinking ahead, as well. Even Microsoft's recently-released CRM v1.2 functionality breaks when XP SP2 is applied, so they'll need to supply a patch for that product. We can expect this to be a common - but ultimately necessary - occurrence.

Web site designers will certainly need to make sure their implementation of applets using the JavaVM, Active-X controls or embedded content, and pop-ups are reviewed and changes made where necessary.

Microsoft has made a number of documents available recently regarding the service pack and how different people need to plan for its arrival and use.

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IT Security | Tech
Friday, 06 August 2004 00:33:28 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Ever want to use MSN Messenger from a computer where it's not installed? MSN has released to the public the beta version of it's Web Messenger, which allows you to have a fairly complete Messenger client in a web browser window. It works pretty well - Not as fancy as the installable client, but still a worthy IM interface. Check it out and use it here.

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Friday, 06 August 2004 00:14:38 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 02 August 2004
From Jonathan Hardwick's weblog, news of the pre-release version of a new OS deployment feature pack for SMS 2003, and the availability of more online training for MOM 2005:

The OS deployment feature pack for SMS 2003 SP1 does just what you'd hope - allow you to create and deploy Windows OS images to lots of client machines, with unattended imaging, backup and restore of user state, and all the replication and targeting features of regular SMS 2003. Grab a copy of the beta from the SMS 2003 OSD site.

The SMS team have also published a white paper on how to use SMS 2003 in a corporate environment with lots of roaming client computers and intermittent network connectivity. This is not for the weak: Configuration and Operation of Advanced Client Roaming.

Finally, the MOM 2005 online training courses were too popular - so they're adding more servers and running more courses. If you couldn't sign up last time, give it another try.

Take advantage soon while you still can. Eight 50-minute training sessions for MOM 2005 - for free. You can't beat that.

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Monday, 02 August 2004 22:33:05 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 01 August 2004

I just got my lucky hands on a Sony TR3AP2 super-tiny notebook to try out, and wow, let me tell ya - this in one nice little (very little) notebook computer. In the past I was not overly impressed with Sony's little computers - they were just not up to par with my reliability and performance requirements - but I think they've changed my mind with this one.

Where to start? To say it's small is simply not enough. It's more like very compact, but quite usable. It has a full gig of RAM and a CD burner/DVD player built in, which is pretty amazing for something this size.

The display is nothing short of amazing - very high contrast, color that really pops, and very sharp image. It's a 10.6-inch wide-screen, with a resolution of 1280x768.

It also has a built-in video camera that's a lot more usable than I thought it would be, and has terrific battery life: In real-life it's getting about 3.5-4 hours on the standard battery and 7-8 hours on the extra, extended battery. The hard drive is 40GB/4200RPM (slower, but requires less battery to drive it) and if you want more, USB2 and FireWire are there to help.

For travellers, this thing is great - it's very light and compact - smaller than a tablet of paper in terms of footprint. It has 802.11g WiFi built in, supports an external monitor as a second video device, and even does Dolby surround from the headphone jack if you have the headphones to support it.

If you need to run Visual Studio or 3D games, this won't be your machine. For almost anything else, it's sweet. It's also a bit pricey, but hey - I'm sold.

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Sunday, 01 August 2004 13:16:19 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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I often lose track of things I want to write about in my blog. You know how you'll browse to some web site, see something you want to maybe keep track of or find again later, but when "later" actually comes, you're out of luck and don't have a record of it? Or maybe you save all those random links as "favorites" or "bookmarks" in your browser, but all that does is make for a long, useless list of items that you don't use because it's too random.

A short time ago, I found a web-based service called Furl that solves this problem. I use it to categorize, catalog and keep track of various things, either for my real life or items that I might want to blog about later on. It helps me keep track of all those bits on information on the web that - before Furl - I would forget about or just lose.

Furl lets you save anything you see in your browser. The easiest way to do that is to have a "Furl It" button right on the link toolbar of your browser, or you can install the Furl toolbar if you like. When you find something you want to save, you just click the "Furl It" button.

That opens up a new window with the title and URL of the page you are looking at already filled in. You can then add comments to, rate, and categorize the page (or not). When you're done, click "Save."

That's all. Next time you view your online Furl archive you will see the new entry. View by category, filter, whatever. It's cool. You can also set up a public view of your Furl list for others to see if you want to.

So, if you're looking for an online service to keep track of links to information, give it a try. More information is available here. Oh, and for now it's free. In the future, they may do the in-line-ad-supported thing, or maybe charge a fee, but I'm honestly not worried about it - my lists help me now, which is a good thing.

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Sunday, 01 August 2004 12:33:01 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 31 July 2004

MSDN now has RSS feeds for Microsoft webcasts, listing any upcoming online sessions for you to consume and attend. MSDN webcasts are a great way to learn valuable information for free.Also listed in the feeds are TechNet, Security, Office System, and MBS webcasts.

So, whether you're a developer, IT engineer, systems person, or help desk guru, there's always something for you here - In fact, there's almost certainly several somethings at any given point in time.

From the listing site:

We've made our webcasts available as a RSS feed on this blog site. Every month we'll post the upcoming month's webcasts here for MSDN, MSDN Architecture Webcasts including patterns & practices live! webcasts, TechNet, Security, Office Systems, and Microsoft Business Solutions webcasts. Here they are below.

(found thanks to Scoble)

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RSS Stuff | Tech
Saturday, 31 July 2004 17:59:44 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 29 July 2004

Amit Singh has written an article touching on many key aspects of what is needed to get a good understanding of the world of computer security. It's not a forensics manual or an exhaustive book on the subject, but it does a very good job of hitting all the bases and educating at a level deeper than you'll get from the new sources that write quick one-off stories, and in this day and age, that's a worthwhile thing.

His paper, which is entitled "A Taste of Computer Security," is divided into these chapters:

  • Popular Notions About Security \
  • Defining Computer Security
  • Traditional Unix Security
  • Security Uprooting Vehicles
  • The Net Growth In Insecurity
  • Digital Life: Viruses
  • Digital Life: Worms
  • Viruses on Unix
  • Platform-Independent Malware
  • Defeating Memory
  • Securing Memory
  • Access Control
  • Detecting Intrusion
  • Sandboxing
  • An Example: Solaris Security
  • Miscellaneous
  • Unix vs. Windows
  • Epilogue

I found it worth the read, and recommend it to people who may not be security professionals full-time, but need a certain level of understanding to really know what they need to know in their daily jobs.

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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 29 July 2004 18:34:46 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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I'm showing my friend Brent how I can email from my blackberry and it posts to my blog. Cool stuff.
Greg Hughes
Corporate IT Director

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Thursday, 29 July 2004 09:53:48 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 28 July 2004

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."

Rory Blyth, whom I have met briefly once and read many many times, writes a hillarious, informative, and (in its own special way) very thoughtful blog. He's also deserving of his audience's congratulations, because he's just taken a job at Microsoft doing what he does best.

And I bet he gets to attend MVP events now without becoming the victim of petty whining. It'll be nice to have someone official to blame now. :)

<AirHandShake> Congrats Rory! Well deserved. </AirHandShake>

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Random Stuff
Wednesday, 28 July 2004 20:39:01 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Yesterday Microsoft kicked OneNote SP1 out the door, and today we already have the first two new PowerToys for OneNote 2003 SP1. Note that the SP1 release provides a sort of plugin-in interface to OneNote that allows people to build interfaces that let OneNote interoperate with other programs - and you'll need to install the service pack before you can use these new apps.

And, apparently there will be more to come!

From Chris Pratley's weblog:

You can check out the PowerToys page (may not be up just yet if you're reading this post July 27-28):

Or go directly to these download pages to get the first two PowerToys:

IE to OneNote. This PowerToy adds a button to IE that lets you send any page or a selection on a page to OneNote. You get the same results as a copy/paste would give you, but you can do it all in one click. It also nicely puts the clippings in a single section so you can browse and clip, browse and clip. Then review your research later, complete with links back to the source pages. Link:

Outlook to OneNote. This PowerToy adds a button to Outlook so that you can send any email message (or group of email messages if you multi-select) to OneNote to keep them together with notes and other docs. Very handy if you like to have a “project folder” section in OneNote that keeps all your stuff together in an easy to flip through and modify/reuse format.

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Office 2003 | OneNote | Tech
Wednesday, 28 July 2004 07:26:05 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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