Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Nine states in nine days. I've been traveling for the past week and a half, and had some great experiences along the way. Two Saturdays ago, I flew down to California for my dad's 65th birthday party, which was a lot of fun. Then on Sunday, and every day since, I traveled with coworkers across the country - via Colorado to Omaha, Nebraska; Toledo, Ohio and Reston, Virginia (just outside of Washington DC). Then I took a couple days for myself and visited friends and family. During that portion of my trip I hit Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, DC and New York state. It's been an interesting week.

I discovered a few things - First of all, Omaha and Toledo are quite nice cities, each with their own unique character. I especially liked the huge old houses in Omaha, and the steaks were awfully darn good, to be certain. Their old downtown area is terrific. In Toledo, the waterfront down on the river is great, and there's some old and interesting architecture to be seen. The people in both places were very nice.

TheLincolnMemorial1aReston is a suburb of Washington DC, and what struck me about this area are the huge old trees and the attention paid to aesthetics of the architecture - it just looks nice. The people there were terrific, too.

But the most awesome part of the trip from a personal experience perspective had to be Washington DC itself. I went with three coworkers into the city one night to see the memorials at night. It's been several years since I was last there, and the only chance I ever had to spent any meaningful time in the city was when I was a small child (we used to live on the Maryland side in a town called Greenbelt). I have vague recollections of being a small child looking up at the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln in the memorial, as well as the Washington Monument. I guess I didn't fully realize the sheer enormity and power of the Lincoln Memorial and the others. I'd assumed that since I was a very small child the last time I did more than just drive by it, my memory was skewed by my then-limited height and overactive imagination. Boy, was I ever wrong.

TheLincolnMemorial2aWalking into the Lincoln Memorial -  which would be a huge, amazing building even without the statue inside - one is filled with a sense of awe. The stone steps leading up to the entrance are worn, with indentations visible up the center where millions of people have walked to see what is, I think, the most life-like statue I've ever seen.

The Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the side wall to the left of the statue. Those famous and inspirational words are all the more amazing to read in the presence of the oversized likeness of Lincoln, which looks like it could step right off its pedestal and start speaking any moment.

From the Lincoln Memorial, it's a short walk to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - the famous sheer, reflective wall that bears the names of 58,249 American soldiers who died in that war.

TheWall4aWhen people say the experience at the Wall is overwhelming and overpowering, they're not exaggerating. It was dusky dark when I walked there, and in the dark light the endless sea of names stood out in the dim light cast by the lights in the walkway. It felt big until I reached about the middle of the memorial - and then it suddenly felt huge. Standing near the center, looking ahead at the ocean of names still remaining to be walked by, then back at the thousands upon thousands of names already passed, the feeling was powerful.

The names on the wall appear in the order the people commemorated died in battle. I don't personally know who Harold TheWall5aGraves, John Neto Rodrigues or John E. Cantlon Jr. were, but I do know they died on or about the same day, sometime in the middle of the Vietnam conflict, fighting a war on behalf of their country. And I know and see that their names are three among so many more, each one representative of a person who went to Vietnam but did not come back. As I stood closer and looked at the names, I thought about sons and their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, hopes and dreams and aspirations.

To say the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is powerful is an understatement.

You can't help but reach out and touch the wall, almost as if to see for yourself that it's actually there, that what you're looking at could possibly be real. The reflection people experience when they visit this memorial is more than just their own faces in TheWall2athe glossy surface. One can't help but reflect on the people whose names cover the vast wall, and the families and loved ones of each and every one.

If you ever have a chance to visit Washington DC, don't skip it. It's worth every mile, every penny, every second of time - and then some.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2005 15:21:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Google has released their new Google Talk beta (everything from Google is persistently beta it seems), yet another instant messaging app with voice capabilities. You'll need to have a gmail account to sign on. It downloads and installs simply, and sets up in about half a second.

It's very simple, even borderline lame in design. But Google has this way about making things happen. No doubt it will be a learning and growing product dev process for them. We will see.

FWIW, my Google Talk address is greg.pdx[at]gmail.com (replace the [at] with @)

I'll run it for a bit and see how it goes, but MSN Messenger is going to be harder to beat, I think. Just like I have skype installed and use it sometimes, but MSN Messenger if where I do most of my chatting. I mean, it;s got INK, come on! ;)

My MSN IM address is still greg[at]greghughes.net, of course.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 17:21:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 21 August 2005

If I had a dime for every time I had to explain what SIP is... Well, let's just say I'd be okay hanging out at Starbucks for a week or two anyhow... It's one of the least-understood and most-misused acronyms around technology shops these days. I certainly don't mind explaining it to people, but it can get a little complicated. Having a good fundamental understanding of Session Initiation Protocol is critical in the growing world of connected, collaborative applications. It's the protocol where the telephony people finally meet the application and data network people.

Over the past couple of years, SIP has become an underlying part of a number of different networked applications, and many people (most?) don't realize that. You'll find it in IP phones, voice terminal adapters, integrated into instant messaging systems, and all kinds of other places. I think it would be somewhat safe to say (loosely) that SIP is to IP voice communication as TCP is to IP networking. If that's not a good analogy, someone tell me a better one.

Anyhow, I decided it might be best to find a useful link to point people to. RMFB, if you will.

So here it is... Over on the VOIP Now blog there's a great explanation of what SIP is and what it means to computing, users, and technology pros:

SIP 101 - Session Initiation Protocol Explained

Session Initiation Protocol or SIP refers specifically to a language that various computers can communicate to one another in so that they can complete voice calls. It has become vitally important in recent years as it plays a central role in VoIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol. VoIP Is the rapidly growing technology which has millions of Americans throwing out their local and long-distance telephone bills and replacing them with free calls made over the Internet.

While Session Initiation Protocol sounds like technobabble, it helps if you can imagine SIP as the common language that new generation operators use to complete calls over the Internet. With SIP, however, the operators are no longer hundreds of people in a room...

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Sunday, 21 August 2005 05:43:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 19 August 2005

There's a bit of chat about regarding handwriting recognition on the Tablet PC, and the new feature/functionality in the Vista beta version of the OS.

I used to write in block letters or carefully crafted print on my Tablet PC. Then I decided (thinking naively that it would be a miserable failure) to write in cursive script. Much to my surprise, I found it worked much better.

With the Vista Beta One TIP (Tablet Input Panel), the ability to enter text and make changes is greatly improved. I've found it's even more accurate. In fact the whole TIP behaves much better all the way around - not so much in the way, more flexible, and all-around better recognition. I'd post pictures but I'm afraid I'd be breaking an agreement (although screenies of the Vista desktop and stuff seem to be very common on the Internet these days).

It also seems to recognize non-standard characters that are written by hand. Stuff like smilies and whatnot. That's cool. There's similar thoughts over on the Tablet PC Blog. It will also be interesting to see what Beta Two holds.

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Tablet PC | Tech
Friday, 19 August 2005 21:26:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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SmileyHow hard is it really to tell a real smile from a fake one?

On the BBK web site, you can take a quiz to check your skills of perception when it comes to checking facial expression honesty.

You might be surprised how many you'll miss. How can you tell if a smile is real or fake? What do you look for?

  • This experiment is designed to test whether you can spot the difference between a fake smile and a real one
  • It has 20 questions and should take you 10 minutes
  • It is based on research by Professor Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California
  • Each video clip will take approximately 15 seconds to load on a 56k modem and you can only play each smile once

My score: 16 out of 20.


Take the "Spot the Fake Smile" quiz here.

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Friday, 19 August 2005 03:04:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 18 August 2005

Cutting through all the hype and hyperbole, Dominic White summarizes Microsoft vulnerability patch MS05-039 and the Zotob virus. Anyone who has to protect from this group of viral variants or who cares about security should take the time to read this summary article:


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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 18 August 2005 20:35:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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