Tuesday, 08 March 2005

Via HineSight: On Nightline this evening, the subject matter will be blogs and bloggers and blogging.

Is it just a fad? Is it simply a medium? Is it a revolution? Is it nothing, really? It all depends who you ask. It will be interesting to see what Nightline's take is...

Tonight's piece is a fascinating one. Turns out that as John and producer Elissa Rubin were conducting interviews with bloggers, they were being blogged. The bloggers had some interesting opinions, to say the least. And as this program airs (and this e-mail is read by viewers), there's no doubt that bloggers will blog about it...

Umm, yeah. Heh.

So what are blogs? Turns out that although 8 million have created blogs, 62 percent of Americans who use the Internet don't know what a blog is. That's according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And in an age where blogs are fundamentally changing the nature of news, we thought we'd tell you the story about the beast of blogging...

Check your local ABC affiliate's listings, but it's probably right after your late news.


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Tuesday, 08 March 2005 12:39:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 07 March 2005

I'm always up for a good laugh, and today a coworker showed me a fun web site called Atom Smasher's Error Message Generator, where you can generate visual renditions of your own twisted Windows error messages.

Get a little creative with this stuff and you'll quickly find yourself participating in email threads with friends, trying to best each other in the geek-humor department.

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Geek Out | Humor | Random Stuff
Monday, 07 March 2005 23:29:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Microsoft Knowledge Base Email AlertzIf you've ever used Microsoft's online support knowledge base, you know how much information is available there, and how hard it can be to find information you're looking for. On top of that, how are you to know when new articles are added about the technologies that you care about?

For a few years now, I have used a free online service called KBAlertz to keep track of KB articles that are released about the Microsoft servers and apps I deal with every day. I get email notifications whenever new KB information is published in areas like Office, Exchange, SharePoint, SQL, LCS, Windows Server, Windows XP - you name it. Whatever topics you choose, you can stay informed.

There are three primary ways to get the info you want and need from KBAlertz: Browsing/searching, email and RSS feeds.

Personally, I subscribe to the site's email alerts and get them on a regular basis whenever new items that match my criteria are discovered. The digest-formatted HTML emails contain all the new articles since the last check, and are nicely formatted and easy to use.

For a few key technologies I also subscribe to feeds in my RSS reader, FeedDemon, where I can easily catalog and search through them.

For example, let's say I am interested (as I am) in keeping on top of all the latest knowledge base info about IIS 6. This web page lists the latest articles, and this Subscribe to the RSS feed button, which you find at the top of each technology's page, let's me subscribe to the IIS 6 RSS feed for new updates.

Signing up for the email alertz is easy and it's free - just quickly create an account and start checking the boxes next to the topics you are interested in. You can choose from the whole gamut of Microsoft technologies.

The Microsoft Knowledge base is cool, and it's a great source of info. KBAlertz just makes it better.

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Monday, 07 March 2005 18:38:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 06 March 2005

Update on my back surgery stuff for the four or five of you who are following and care...

Well, since my back surgery procedure things in December, I have had some relief from the pain I was experiencing. I even had a couple of days where I felt better than I can ever remember feeling.

But overall, while things are certainly better in many ways, overall it's not been better enough, if you will, to call it resolved. I have been doing physical therapy for two full months and the pain has increased and decreased somewhat a number of times. But overall, it's still a problem - weakness in both legs, pain reaching from my back into my legs and feet, and enough pain to keep me up at night and severely limit my ability to do the regular day-to-day things I need (and want) to do in life.

The procedure that was done in December was a minimally-invasive procedure, in which the doc went inside the L5/S1 disc and removed some of the material there, which was to allow some of the bulging material that is impinging on my spine to be reduced, relieving pressure on the spinal nerves, and therefore relieving pain. Unfortunately, while it's better at times than it was, it's still a pretty serious problem.

So, the doc ordered a new MRI a couple weeks ago. We saw the films the other day. And it looks like its time to see another surgeon. At least this surgeon says so.

Unfortunately, the images are not all that good. The disc appears to have extruded more material at some point, so the problem and pain are in the same general location (same joint), and it feels and acts very much like what I was experiencing before the procedure, except that the pain moves from one leg to another somewhat regularly. I guess after 12 or so years of wear and tear, this is just not going to be a simple process.

So, off to a few more docs I go. The minimally invasive route was, I think, worth it for a first step, but now it's time to see what - if anything - can be done to better solve the problem. My current doc has his recommendations (microsurgical discectomy to cut out and remove the herniation), and we'll see what other docs think is the best thing to do.

I just finished a 6-day pack or methylprednisolone, which is a super-anti-inflammatory thing. For a couple of days, when the daily dose was high, I felt fairly okay. Now that it's all gone and all I am taking is the regular anti-inflammatory stuff, it's back to being pretty darned uncomfortable and at times pretty painful.

I don't expect to be made completely better - not at all. But it would be nice to be able to lean over the sink when I wash my hands and brush my teeth, or to be able to bend over to put on my socks and whatnot. Not to mention the fact that things like pulling weeds in the garden can't last for more than 5 or 10 minutes on a good day, and if I actually decide to pull the weeds, I'll pay for it for days.

Again, I am glad I went with the minimally invasive route first. It has helped me overall, and generally speaking I am in somewhat less pain, which is a good thing. I'll just have to move on from here and see what's the next best thing to do.

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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories
Sunday, 06 March 2005 15:49:46 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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People reading this weblog in HTML format can see the banner ad above for a Mac Mini, which is linked to my affiliate registration page on Gratis Network's web site. There they present an offer to sign up for a referral account, the end result of which is to get a free Mac Mini. In other words, spread the word and get some people to sign up and you get a free machine. Each participant has to complete a marketing offer of their choice.

I know this is such a shameful, terrible thing for me to do, placing an ad on my web site and hoping people will actually click on it, that some of those will sign up for the program and choose one marketing offer from the several presented, and that ten people will actually complete one of the offers (and then do the same thing if they choose, so they can get a free Mac mini, too).

But hey, it's as much an experiment as it is a desire to get the computer. And besides, a few of the offers interested me even without the carrot of a free computer.

And I am doing this passively - I blogged about it when I first set it up, and since then it's just been an ad up there on the web page. Anyhow, being a bit of a sceptic, I thought it would be interesting to watch, and I figured I'd catalog some of my experience thus far here.

First of all, my weblog is definitely not geared toward Macs or Apple. I just don't write much about them. Not that I have anything against the Apple products - quite the contrary, in fact. I have been considering a Powerbook or Mac purchase for some time now. I won't ever switch from the PC, but adding it to my lineup of computers would not be a bad thing. At any rate, the people who visit this site are not coming here looking for Mac info or computers, for the most part.

That said, a number of people have signed up for the offer, many have not completed the whole marketing thing, and six of you out there are logged as having signed up, completed an offer, and it's showing credit for doing so. I know of at least one person who has done all that and does not show up as receiving credit for his activity, which is too bad. It's been a few weeks, too. It should work better than that, but glitches do happen - and there is a way to let the service kbow if you don't get your credit.

So, with six people having completed the process in the past month or so, that means four more will need to complete one of the marketing offers before I will receive the computer.

I have some thoughts about the whole process, and the offers presented. Here they are in no particular order:

  • People tend to be leery of "free" offers and marketing madness (myself included), but since I actually know a couple people who received free iPods and flat-screen computer monitors by participating in Gratis' programs, I have some confidence. Plus, TechTV lends some credibility (wow that's oxymoronic, but you get the point) in this video segment.
  • The survey thing when you first sign up is a little annoying because they don't make it clear it's not part of the core offer (they ask you a bunch of questions marked "optional" and you can skip them if you want, or just wait for the email to show up that gives you a confirmation link that bypasses the survey stuff - it only takes a minute or so). I get the reasons for it (this is, after all 100% marketing), and it looks like they have made some improvements, but still... You can skip it and click your email link to continue.
  • There are some cool offers on there, but the ones that enticed me the most were available earlier on in the campaign. I signed up for Blockbuster Online, and I am really enjoying that, but I don't see it available there anymore. I think eFax is a great service for people who need to send and receive FAXes and don't have or don't want to deal with the paper machine - it's all electronic and portable. There's a 30-day free trial of Stamps.com on there now, and I am tempted to sign up for that one myself, it's a cool service that I could actually use.
  • I have not actually heard of anyone receiving a free Mac Mini yet - anyone gotten that far along yet?

So, if you're interested in doing the same thing, or if you're in the market for an eFax or Stamps.com account and want to use their trial offers, or if you're just curious, click the banner and help a guy out.

I'll post more if/when I actually get the computer.

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Random Stuff
Sunday, 06 March 2005 11:49:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Ok, let's face it - the native discussion list capabilities in SharePoint 2003 are - well - they're just "okay." They do work, but are just a little too frustrating in their implementation to use in the real world.

But Serge van den Oever has posted an announcement and a link to the SourceForge site where they have put together a release of the "Macaw Discussion Board," a list template that builds on top of the SharePoint native discussion lists and improves on the native functionality big-time.

It is great that SharePoint supports discussion lists, its a pity that their implementation is "suboptimal".

The two biggest problems that I have with the discussion lists are:

  • When you reply on a discussion item, you don’t see the text you are replying on
  • Discussion items are displayed in the wrong order: oldest items first!

Changing this behavior is not as easy as providing a new view. Some more work is required.

We worked around these limitations more than a year ago, but I never found the time to make these modifications available to the community. Until now…

They have also provided a discussion thread view in their list template.

So, before you run off to find a third party forum/discussion program to adapt to SharePoint because the default capabilities are too frustrating, you might want to see what you can do with Macaw's Discussion Board. You can check our Serge's announcement and documentation post and download the list template.

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SharePoint | Tech
Sunday, 06 March 2005 09:39:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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