Sunday, 29 August 2004

I've been a Dish Network customer for years, and before that I was a DirecTV customer. These days I have standard-definition Dish Network equipment with a TiVo DVR box, and in another room I have one of Dish Network's standard-def DVR receivers, as well.

I'll be honest: I don't like Dish's DVR receiver at all. I don't even use the DVR capability. It's annoying - it doesn't even download the programming guide on it's own - It makes me do it when I try to access the guide and it suddenly realizes there's nothing in memory to display. I have no idea who designed Dish Network's receiver software, but I can almost guarantee you it's been the same person(s) since day-one. All their equipment has this unusable "engineer" flavor. Instead I use my TiVo all the time, every day, with the TiVo remote and IR blaster controlling the satellite receiver.

But what I want is High Definition TV all-around. I have a nice high-def projector and I want to do more than playing Counter-Strike and Halo in HD.

Dish Network has a $1000 HD DVR available, but I can't bring myself to risk spending the money on it - every Dish Network receiver I have ever owned (and that's several) has been lacking in the usability department. Maybe they got it right on their new one, but there is no way for me to know. No one I know has one of these units. I can see the potential in it, but past experience scares me too much to pony up that much money. Now, if Dish Network wanted to send me one to try out, they could do that - I'd even review it (objectively) here. But no up-front money any more, not unless I can see it in action. Sorry, Charlie.

So, I have been looking at options to the Dish Network lineup. Probably the most obvious is DirecTV, my long-ago former satellite television service provider. They also have a HD receiver, and this one is a DirecTiVo model, which certainly catches my attention. TiVo's product is solid and ranks high in my one-man usability survey. If I try hard enough, I can probably find a place somewhere in this city to demo the DirecTV product. I will probably try to do that, since I doubt DirecTV will be willing to loan me one to evaluate, either. But if they want to, I'll gladly take them up on the offer.

But there's another company that's got my eye, as well. I have been watching a third company, VOOM, for the past several months. I like VOOM and their web site- they even show you on their site what you see on the screen, what the equipment is like, pretty much anything you want to know. Why don't all the companies do that? They also have something that just caught my eye, and which I might even be willing to wait around for - They're prepping a HD-DVR and their "Whole House Solution." This is looking very interesting. Accessing your PC - does this integrate with Windows XP Media Center Edition by chance? Maybe not, and that's a whole different post topic for another day - The only thing that's really missing from XP MCE -- in my not-so-humble opinion -- is high-def support. Anyone know? Hey VOOM - you need a market tester??? :-)

Ripped unabashedly and directly from the VOOMTM web site and their future-stuff page:

With the introduction of our HD-DVR, you'll be able to watch and record any channel, whenever you want, in both standard and high definition. Every recording is a perfect digital version of the original. The VOOM DVR has multiple tuners, enabling you to record two shows while you’re watching a third! And you can expand the DVR’s usefulness even further with our Whole House Solution.

Our upcoming Whole House Solution extends the power of our DVR throughout your home. With a single click, you can pause live TV and HDTV, then go to another room and pick up where you left off. It also connects your TV and PC entertainment like never before. You can access your PC and enjoy digital music and photos on any TV in the house. That's VOOMing!

Obviously, this looks like it has some potential. I've been considering moving to a PC/network-based digital media solution, and Satellite TV in HD is the only way I can take advantage of the video equipment that is presently leveraged only by my X-BOX and DVD home theater systems. I'll be buying something eventually, I just don't know what.

If anyone has any personal experience with any of this new technology. please share your thoughts - We'd like to know!

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Random Stuff
Saturday, 28 August 2004 23:22:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 28 August 2004

My friend Dian wrote to say she is thrilled to let everyone know that the new Urban Grind Coffee, in the Pearl, is finally open!  They're done with construction and training and are fully operational. Head on down and check them out. Be sure to take your laptop - they're a Personal Telco site, so free WiFi is available!

Urban Grind Coffee is located at 911 NW 14th Ave. in the Pearl, on the corner of 14th and Kearny (Portland).  The building is just one block north of the new REI store in a very cool part of town. Their business hours are:

  • Sunday 7am-7pm
  • Monday/Tuesday 6am-7pm
  • Wednesday-Friday 6am-9pm
  • Saturday 7am-9pm

Right now they're focusing on espresso drinks and pastries, but should be adding more breakfast and lunch items in the coming weeks.  Desserts and wine/beer are a month or two away.

If you're in the area, stop in and check them out!

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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Saturday, 28 August 2004 22:47:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Web forums used to be useful. Then h4xZ0r teenagers found them, and the world changed (for the worse). Over at for example, about two years ago things in the support forums went to hell in a hand-basket - about the time goldzip came along (or a little thereafter). Forum flaming became an art for a short time, but as it is with most art-forms, it was quickly commoditized and thus cheapened.

But I digress...

Someone apparently picked up on this little-known and less-understood behavior over at the Steam forums, and having realized that a FAQ or sticky post won't get read by the people that need to read it, did what all good communicators do: Took it to their own medium and style.

Introducing: Posting and You

Pretty much hits the proverbial nail right on the head.

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Random Stuff | Things that Suck
Saturday, 28 August 2004 19:01:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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This is not exactly breaking news, since it was officially announced a few weeks ago, but I neglected to point out at the time that Microsoft dropped the retail price of their OneNote 2003 software to $99 early in August, with similar reductions in other currencies worldwide.

See Chris Pratley's weblog announcement for more info. Chris is the Group Program Manager at Microsoft for Office Authoring Services, and as such is a member of the OneNote team. His blog is a terrific resource and insightful read, by the way.

Don't have OneNote yet? Want to buy a copy of OneNote for yourself, your new college student, or someone else? Hey, you just can't beat the price now. If you really want to make someone crazy who desperately deserves it (and have a little fun with a colleague of mine at the same time), call Scott Rommel at Softchoice, at 503-241-6554, and order a copy directly from him on the phone. Tell him Greg said to call and you're looking for the extra-special price, and he'll take care of you. :-)

Oh and no, I won't get anything in return for software orders placed through Scott. All I get out of it is a good laugh at the calls he'll get from you. That's all I really need. DOPS attack! (Denial Of Phone Service, that is).

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Office 2003 | OneNote | Tech
Saturday, 28 August 2004 13:20:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 27 August 2004

Darron Devlin recently published two useful new PowerToys for OneNote 2003 with SP1:

OneNote Image Writer
This PowerToy is a virtual printer that enables the import of document images into Microsoft Office OneNote® 2003 sections. Any program that is capable of printing can send a document to the OneNote Image Writer just as it would when printing to a physical device. The printed document is converted into a document image that can be used as a foreground or background image on a OneNote page.

This PowerToys adds a WebPageToOneNote button to the Standard Buttons toolbar in Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or later. Click this button to copy an image of the entire current web page (WYSIWYG) to a new page in OneNote. The new page is created in a WebImageCaptures section in your notebook.

Grab the new powertoys to install and use at Darron's web site. As mentioned in the past, you can also download a couple of useful add-on powertoys for OneNote from Microsoft.

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OneNote | Tech
Friday, 27 August 2004 20:42:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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MSDN will be hosting two weeks worth of webcasts October 18th-29th, organized into three skill levels and covering a variety of aspects of web development. This is a great way for people who want to learn new technology or to sharpen their skills with the latest and greatest. Learn about and other web development topics.

From the MSDN Webcasts announcements blog, here are some early details. Look for more information on the Webcasts main page and on the MSDN Webcasts Blog:

Web Development Webcast Weeks, October 18 - 29, 2004

  • Basic/Novice - (level 100) 12 webcasts – Good for hobbyists, beginners, students looking to learn about Microsoft’s web development environment and tools
  • Intermediate- (level 200/300) 18 webcasts – Ideal for experienced developers who have some experience with Visual Basic.NET, C#, ASP.NET, and XML web services.
  • Advanced - (level 400) 10 webcasts – All about the advanced features in ASP.NET 2.0. Must attend sneak preview on ASP.NET 2.0. I attended the internal airlift that Microsoft held for it’s partners and employees and there is some truly wicked features that you need to check out here.

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Friday, 27 August 2004 19:56:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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