Tuesday, 07 December 2004

Two major problems with the software that ships with the Blackberry 7290 provided by AT&T Wireless (now Cingular)… The AWS web browser simply SUCKS (more on a solution for that soon in a separate article), and there’s no built-in instant messaging application. I use MSN Messenger all the time. Blackberry's real-time email and mobile PIM functionality is great, and they beat all the others hands down in that area, but IM is more and more becoming a critical application for business users and consumers alike. Moreover, the device is comfortable and usable, and is a potentially great platform to deliver a variety of great applications beyond the core RIM applications.

 In that vein, a co-worker of mine pointed out one of the best little apps I have seen to date for the Blackberry – It’s called VeriChat (see http://www.verichat.com/verichat_bby).

Every now and then, a small application creator gets it right. That’s the case with this software. It’s available for a variety of platforms, including PalmOS, Pocket PC and Java devices:

  • Palm OS Devices/Phones
  • Pocket PC Devices
  • RIM Blackberry 6xxx and 7xxx Series handhelds (Java based Blackberry). This includes the 7100, 7730, 7750, 7780, 7290, 7230, 7280, 7510, 6710, 6750, 6510, 6230 and the 6280.
  • Treo 650/600
  • Treo 300/270/180
  • Samsung I500
  • Samsung I330
  • Samsung I300
  • Palm Tungsten W

And it works great. In real-time you can log onto MSN, Yahoo!, AOL and ICQ and chat simultaneously with buddies on all four IM networks. On the Blackberry, you can exit the application to satisfy your other Crackberry addictions like email, calendaring and web browsing (if you have a real browser that is), and VeriChat stays running in the background. You’ll be notified via an on-screen alert when someone messages you.

I thought at first that it would be some cheap, poorly executed little program that would flake out a lot and frustrate me, but as it turns out I was pleasantly surprised, to the point where I’ll be buying a copy of this myself tomorrow. It’s that good.

Nice to see something useful (something besides games) starting to be developed to run on these devices.


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Mobile | Tech
12/07/2004 22:37:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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For those of us that buy IBM’s computers in large numbers, this is more than just a little interesting. From news.com:

IBM will sell its PC division to China-based Lenovo and take a minority stake in the former rival in a deal valued at $1.75 billion, the companies announced Tuesday.

The two companies announced a plan to form a complex joint venture that would make Lenovo the third-largest PC maker in the world, behind Dell and Hewlett-Packard, but still give IBM a hand in the PC business. The acquisition is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2005.


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Tech
12/07/2004 21:07:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Microsoft today released RC1 of Windows Server 2003 SP1. Also released at the same time was their Windows XP x64 Edition tech beta.

Among the changes to the server service pack, the Security Configuration Wizard has been reworked and significantly enhanced, with lots of new server roles and ability to more significantly lock down a Windows 2003 server.

Windows Server 2003 SP1 RC1 includes the host of new networking features included with Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and provides additional features and enhancements to support server services and operations. Also, support for network access quarantine control appears to have been added - a much anticipated feature that will allow an administrative examination of the client computer accessing the network remotely. If the client computer meets the required security standards, it is released from quarantine and granted access to the secured network. If not, it is denied access and is held in the quarantine zone network.

It's a beta - not yet intended for prime-time or production use, but worth a look, especially if you run secure Windows servers. The RC1 package is available for download at the site linked above.


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IT Security | Tech
12/07/2004 12:17:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 06 December 2004

Charlie (front)Via chuggnutt.com, I found this web site where Michael Paulus (an art designer in Portland, Oregon) has posted his drawings of what he figures the skeletal systems of a number of famous cartoon characters would look like.

I’m not sure if this is more interesting or weird. Maybe both. It certainly occupied a portion of my time this evening.

The detail is pretty impressive. Twenty-two of Paulus’ cartoon skeletons are on display at Stumptown Coffee/Belmont in Portland, Oregon for the month of December, 2004. I think I’ll go check it out.

12/06/2004 23:08:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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“Reality Podcasting”

Certainly more interesting than your average podcast (it seems in many podcasts the speaker talks about – get this – podcasting), Jared and Brandon stole Wi-Fi from the front seat of a car while making a half-hour recording of them talking about web sites they’re browsing (including mine, heheh), war driving, talking to computers, and generally spending an evening being – umm – productive.

Heh. These guys are smart (this I know), bore easily when their minds are not occupied, and apparently they need jobs, or something to do. Hire them. Please. I’ll gladly act as a reference, just email me.

I learned a lot. Apparently “WTF” is pronounced “double-you-tee-eff.” Hmmm…

  • Marginal material – Zero dollars.
  • The search for free Wi-Fi – Zero Dollars.
  • Sunday evening in the rain, in Georgia – Zero Dollars.
  • Getting real and taking the show on the road, geek style – Priceless.
12/06/2004 20:16:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 04 December 2004

I just realized (yeah, I can be a bit slow) that I have not used a VCR for more than a year.

Hmm. Well.

So, I guess that VCR sitting on top of my TV here in the living room can go now. I don’t think it’s even had its power turned on for over a year. I forgot it was there. It’s collecting dust and preventing my satellite receiver from cooling optimally.

I remember when I realized cassette tapes were no longer a part of my life. Same thing for 8–tracks. And LPs. Wow, now that’s showing my age.

It’s all PVRs and DVDs and electronic Internet delivery for me now. It’s about convergence of the media device and the PC. It’s about high definition. It’s about what I want to watch, how I want to watch it, when and where I want to watch it.

Bye-bye, VCR. It was fun, but you grew old too fast. I gotta keep on moving.

12/04/2004 23:58:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Most any blog that’s been Googled, Slashdotted, or Engadgeted – or for that matter pretty much anything that drives traffic to a site – has seen the effects of referral spam. It SUCKS. Porn and marketing sites create a fake link to your blog entry, which results in a link to their web site (usually and unpleasant and unwelcome one) showing up in your referral list for that entry. Your readers click a link and get porn tossed right in their faces. Ugh.

With dasBlog, the only way I had to effectively battle this (I am a victim of referral spam for sure) was to turn off referral displays on my blog. I don’t want that, but this is a family-friendly site for the most part, so keeping the nasty out was important.

But last night Scott Hanselman, a friend and co-worker, sent me a new little C# 2005 Express project ZIP file, told me to compile it, and to try it out. He just built it for himself, and passed it on for me to use.

No more referral spam!

UPDATE: While I was able to kill the nasty referrer links, I have again removed referral listings from the blog for a while, because I have one particular weblog entry that has so many hundreds of referrers, it will crash the browser when you try to load it with referrers showing… But that’s a whole different issue…

Since then, Scott has posted the project source file on his blog, too, so any dasBlog users that need it can take advantage. He plans to make it a little more elegant in the future, but this is a great start!

Scott Hanselman, YOU’RE MY HEEEROOOO. :-)

12/04/2004 11:42:40 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Tariq’s new SharePoint Tools Galore list is a great resource for people who work with WSS and SharePoint Portal Server. He lists a ton of third party and other tools for use with SharePoint. Check it out:

http://geekswithblogs.net/tariq/archive/2004/12/02/16655.aspx

Also – Joris Poelmans updates the list:

http://jopx.blogspot.com/2004/12/sharepoint-tools-galore.html

Not sure if or where this will actually “live,” but it’s a great start.

For my part – I can tell you that TeamPlate for .NET is very powerful and interesting when plugged into SharePoint and elsewhere, and they have a new version about to come out.

12/04/2004 11:05:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I have neglected posting SharePoint links and info recently. Bad me. Good thing there’s other people out there keeping us up to date. For example, Amanda Murphy recently linked to a few interesting nuggets of SharePoint gold, and I thought I would consolidate a couple of the ones that I find most interesting here, as well. Thanks, Amanda!

Nigel Bridport’s SharePoint User Manager v1.0
http://weblogs.asp.net/nigelbridport/archive/2004/11/30/272173.aspx

“Not sure about other people, but I find it quite time consuming when trying to manage users inside of Windows SharePoint Services sites, especially when the sites in the hierarchy have their security inheritance broken.  A number of customers end up breaking security inheritance at every opportunity and then hit this problem.

“So, I am in the process of writing a SharePoint User Manager Windows Application in order to help out in this area!”

Stramit’s Granular Backup Manager for WSS v1.0
http://blog.spsclerics.com/articles/434.aspx

“Granular Backup Manageris a tool which allows you to create back up file and/or .bat file to make this file for a global hierarchy of WSS site. Its internal is based on the sMigrate.exe of the SharePoint system. the back up file are just Web Package. Each sub site of a WSS collection can have its own web package directly with this tool

I made this tool to make easy the back up operation in the case in large WSS collection with document library. Using granular back up file allow you to restore just little site for recover a document instead of the all collection (less time, less space, just the site).”

Jan Tielens’ Smart Part for SharePoint v1.0.0.0
http://weblogs.asp.net/jan/archive/2004/11/23/268644.aspx

Finally I’ve managed to finish a new release for the SmartPart for SharePoint; version 1.0.0.0. This release has some really cool new features, but I'm really excited about the first one: connectable web parts with ASP.NET user controls!

  • Create connectable web parts
    In SharePoint you can connect web parts, so they can exchange data. For example you could create a web part that displays a list of invoices, and another web part that displays the details of the selected invoice (master/detail view). Normally you’d have to create your Invoice and InvoiceDetails web parts by hand, implementing the ICellProvider and ICellConsumer interfaces (see Patrick’s excellent article about this topic). With the new version of the SmartPart you can do the same, but instead of coding everything by hand, you can create ASP.NET user controls! Just implement the ICellProviderUserControl or ICellConsumerUserControl on your user control, and you’re done.
  • CAS Optimization
    Maxim Karpov did a great job on fine-tuning the Code Access Security for the SmartPart. For running the previous versions of the SmartPart, you’d had to increase the trust level in the web.config to WSS_Medium. In this version this is not required anymore. Of course if your user controls require a higher trust level, you can raise the trust level as usual.
  • Hiding the user control selection
    Once you’re finished building your user controls, maybe you’d want to ship the finished web parts/user controls to a customer for example. In that case you don’t want the user to select the user controls from the dropdown listbox of the SmartPart, or filling out the user control name by hand. With the new version of the SmartPart you can create a DWP file which contains all the settings for an instance of the SmartPart showing a specific user control. The nice part is that you can hide the dropdown listbox or textbox for selecting the user control by adding the following node in the DWP after you’ve exported an instance of the SmarPart:
    <ShowUserControlList xmlns="SmartPart">false</ShowUserControlList>.

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SharePoint | Tech
12/04/2004 10:54:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Got Windows XP and/or Media Center 2005? Then you’ll probably want to get the new Holiday Fun Pack for Windows XP.

There’s lots of cool stuff in there. Note that one thing Microsoft does not make very clear up front is any of the details about the Tweak Media Center 2005 power toy that’s included. Check out this article on Sean Alexander’s digital media blog for some more info in that regard.

If you’re visually motivated and into the winter thing, I don’t see why you would want to skip this download…


Download the Winter Fun Pack 2004 now! Spice up your music, photos and more with amazing holiday visualizations, skins, powertoys and other fun add-ons. There’s something for the whole family!

The Winter Fun Pack 2004 includes:

Stunning Holiday Vizualizations for Windows Media Player 10
Ring in the holiday cheer! Give your desktop the Holiday touch with three cool seasonal Player Visualizations. Enjoy the HOT new WhiteCap Holiday Viz with nearly 20 holiday images that explode in vivid color including a snowman, candy cane, shooting star and more. Cool down with the chilling Ice Storm Viz, then warm up next to the fire place with the Yule Log Viz.

Amazing Holiday-Themed Skins for Windows Media Player 10
Give your Media Player a wintry makeover with 5 skins for Windows Media Player 10 including Frostbite, Ice, and Ginger man and Ginger woman skins. Also, take Windows Media Player 10 to the next level with the hot new Halo 2 skin, which is sure to be one of the hottest selling games this Holiday season. [Ed: Halo 2 skin and Holidays? Uhhh… Ok…]

PowerToys for Windows Media Player 10
Let Windows Media Player 10 take the pain out of your holiday parties with Holiday Auto Playlists (including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas). Personalize your email or blog by showing the song that’s playing on your desktop. And for power users, easily export your media library information into Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access and others.

Photos, Media Center and More!
Get into the holiday spirit and transform your desktop into a winter wonderland with new captivating desktop wallpaper images from Corbis. Get more out of Media Center 2005 with the new TweakMCE 2005 powertoy. Download Kris the Holiday Dancing Elf, Photo Story 3 for Windows, and more!

(via Sean Alexander)

12/04/2004 09:05:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 03 December 2004

Eric Rice is thinking hard, pondering what it will take to make Blogcast 1.0 happen, and posts his thoughts over on his weblog.

What will Podcasting’s future hold? What about video? Other forms of multimedia communication? Delivery methods? How can it be made more usable and accessible to new and experienced users alike?

I’m in. Multimedia communication by individuals online is just barely getting started, and this is the place to be for those who are interested in what the future will hold.

And besides, Eric’s a cool guy and a conference he drives is sure to be a hit. Plus he already made up a cool logo. :-)


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Blogging | Geek Out | Tech
12/03/2004 21:17:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Don’t know that I can make the drive from Portland to the Seattle area for it (I may try), but if you’re a Windows MCE nut, there’s a Media Center Geek Dinner set to be held on Thursday the 9th in Bellevue, Washington.

See Michael Creasy’s blog for the details.

(via Eric Rice)

12/03/2004 20:56:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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According to my just-arrived daily Google News Alert, Robert and I were both quoted (semi-syndicated, actually) today in the Boston Herald, with regard to our comments on MSN Spaces.

Funny, I didn’t actually think the two of us were at opposite ends of the spectrum, opinion-wise. In fact, I actually tend to agree with Robert, in that I would not use MSN Spaces as my primary blogging tool.

(Not that what I think matters all that much, but hey, it’s an honor to be quoted. And I’m a bit embarrassed – for Robert, that is – that I was quoted in the same breath as Scoble. He deserves better company, really.)

Sidebar: I find it fairly interesting that I am essentially blogging about tools that are used for blogging, then the newspaper quotes me in a story talking about blogging tools, using my blog as a journalistic source, and I am now back on the same blog, posting about the fact that this blog was (in a small way) used as a news source. Blogs as sources. Brain freeze. Ouch.

But I do like MSN spaces, not so much for me as for someone like my mom or a friend who’s maybe not quite so… computerified. It’s great for someone not quite so geeky as me, and who has no real desire to get any nerdier. I run my weblog on dasBlog, a .NET application that I installed, customized and run on my web host. My mom can’t conceptualize that, let alone actually do it.

Uh, sorry Mom – You’re terrific. I just needed a good example. :-)

And it looks like that’s what MSN is thinking about with this product. From the Herald’s story:

"We think what we'll do is attract people who maybe have heard of blogging but never would have gone out and created their own blog," said Brooke Richardson, lead product manager for MSN Communications Services. "What we really focused on was making it easy to set up so newbies could get into the space."

So – for the average entry-level user, MSN Spaces is a pretty darn good thing.

For the record, so are other online hosted services like Blogger. And there’s the community-oriented Livejournal, which is actually where I started blogging back in the day. They’re a Portland-based company and a pretty darn cool group of people.


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Blogging | Tech
12/03/2004 20:39:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 02 December 2004

Click to go to the BES 4.0 info page (image from Research In Motion)

The other day, Research In Motion (RIM) announced the release of Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) v4.0 to their customers. The told us about it back in September, but it was not actually released until just recently. Exchange and Domino versions are available now.

What’s the big deal? LOTS.

Of primary interest to IT-types and end users alike is the fact that with the new version of the BES software, end user basically no longer need the Blackberry Desktop software at all anymore. All synchronization can be done wirelessly, or over the network with a small, easy to distribute application.

That means fast, easy setup of handheld devices. It also means that all handheld data can be backed up the the server, and that users can be given a passcode to type on any handheld along with their corporate email address to wirelessly provision and configure their Blackberry device.

There’s a bunch of improvements and enhancements, from security changes to better data access to more programmer tools... I’ll be doing an upgrade from v3.6 to v4.0 here very soon, so I’ll be sure to post my observations and thoughts when we are done with that little project.

One thing’s clear: RIM is getting things right. I’ve been working with BES for a number of versions (for four years now), and with each release the bar is raised significantly.

Now, in order to fulfill my gadget dream, all I need is a Windows Mobile device with a keyboard and the Blackberry Connect software installed. Hey Motorola, where’s that MPx???


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Mobile | Tech
12/02/2004 20:30:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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More about MSN Spaces... Robert Scoble pointed out a couple of videos they posted to the Channel 9 web site showing the MSN Spaces people and technology:

Robert (in his typical and valued own-worst-critic style) also points out that while Spaces does what it does pretty well, it's not really the tool for him. I think I agree, but I also believe, similar to Livejournal, that MSN Spaces is great for non-technical people looking to communicate online in this form.

A friend of mine, Chris Cook, who has his own computer support and technology business, just created his first blog on MSN Spaces. Looks like I need to add yet another feed to my RSS reader... Cool!


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Blogging | Tech
12/02/2004 13:48:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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