Friday, 07 October 2005

My broadband phone service, which is purchased through Vonage, is better than ever after they recently sent me a new Linksys terminal adapter to replace the old Motorola one. Turns out that old device was wreaking havoc on call quality and reliability (big time). It even prevented my non-voice traffic from working reliably. But with the new hardware in place, all is well.

In fact, it's so good I actually completely forgot it was VoIP service for a while. I think that's saying something, really. When you can call and download and everything just works, you know someone's done something right.

So, for now you can chalk me up as one happy guy when it comes to my phone service. And that's better than it used to be, for sure.

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Friday, 07 October 2005 10:24:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 06 October 2005

RSS-UsersYahoo! and Ipsos Insight just published a study that shows there are more than six times as many unaware RSS users as there are people who know they're using it. These are some numbers that are worth thinking about.

In the report, "RSS - Crossing into the Mainstream," here's what we find out:

  • 12% of users are aware of RSS.
  • 4% of users have knowingly used RSS.
  • There's some interesting information hidden in the demographics of different RSS users (aware, unaware, podcast consumers, etc.).
  • One figure that stands WAY out: Of "unaware" RSS users, 72% get their RSS through My Yahoo! and 41% through My MSN.
  • "Aware" RSS users subscribe to an average of 6.6 feeds each. Ummmm, more proof that I'm an addict I guess???
  • and lots more...

It's clear that when you have an app that by its very nature makes it easy to consume RSS content, it no longer matters to the end user that RSS is the delivery vehicle. Many of the people benefiting from RSS don't even know what RSS is. All that matters to those kinds of people is the content. And believe it or not, we're not all uber-geeks.

So, it's a very good thing(TM) that IE7, Safari, Firefox and even the new versions of the operating systems we all use will support RSS natively (or already do). And with more browsers right around the corner, the line between app and content is getting blurrier all the time.

Read the full 12-page report here, or the one-page brief synopsis here (both links are PDF docs).

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RSS Stuff | Tech
Thursday, 06 October 2005 19:51:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 05 October 2005

And you thought GMail was a good deal...

1TerabyteMailDetailMailNation is offering ad-free email accounts, ONE TERABYTE in size. That's 1,000 GIGABYTES. GMail's accounts are like 1/400th the size of that. And you don't need an invitation. Uh, wow. I just signed up for mine.

Web mail, POP3, IMAP - you choose. Sign up here.

(click to enlarge)

Here's the feature list from the MailNation site:

  • FREE 1000GB Email (POP3/IMAP Access)
  • 10MB attachment limit!
  • Address Book/Notes/Tasks Spam Preventing Features For Your Protection
  • WAP Access - Mobile Device (
  • Auto Message Responders & Auto Forwarders
  • Multiple Web-Interface Styles & Multiple Languages Supported
  • Always Count On Our Highly Ranked Email System & Server Reliability
  • Sophisticated Search For Email Messages
  • Never Have To Delete Again (Large Email Box)
  • HelpDesk Ticket System For User Help, Comments, And Updates
  • All emails (outgoing/incoming) are protected by TrendMicro Server Protect and Avast! AntiVirus (Dual Protection)
  • Support Hotline

(via TechBlog)

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Random Stuff | Tech
Wednesday, 05 October 2005 19:44:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Arcs of Fire - Tablet PC GameGot a Tablet PC and wondering about games on the platform? Yeah, me too. Recently I've been thinking about the Tablet PC platform in general (I have had four different models in the past few years) and what could make a difference in terms of more real reasons to need one (as opposed to want one, but hey - I suppose 'want' counts for something, too).

Some games have incidental (as opposed to direct and intentional) support for the Tablet PC, but what games are out there that are designed specifically for the Tablet? I know it's hard to design and build expensive games for an audience that won't let you recover your dev costs, but someone has to start somewhere. Microsoft should really push this envelope harder.

I did some searching around, and discovered one that I missed before. It's called Arcs of Fire - and appears to be written in C#. It's made up of a game engine, the Tablet Game SDK, and the Tablet PC SDK. Tied together, the combined platform makes for a game environment that lets you leverage all kinds of features of the Tablet PC - like pen pointing, ink and drawing, and screen rotation. On the web site, there are whitepapers, video tutorials and overviews (see the documentation section), and a whole slew of other technical information about the game.

Heck, the Arcs of Fire web site is cool in and of itself - when I go to provide my info to download the game package (which weighs in at 50MB), I am presented with text input boxes that sense my Tablet pen input device. I write in ink, and the web site code leverages the Tablet bits (the TIP, I imagine?) to convert my ink to text by default - very cool.

The site's ink-enabled forums allow you to write handwritten forum posts. It's a bit hard (read: impossible) to index those in search engines (including the forum search), but the concept and execution are quite well done. The ASP.NET source for the ink forums is also available for download.

Granted, you have to use IE to do these fancy things, but hey - someone should be able to fix that problem...

The Game

Oh, that's right - there's a game on this site... The source code for the game is available on the download page for anyone who wants to tackle that. After downloading and running the MSI installer, which includes a distribution of the required DirectX 9, you're presented with a rather nifty game. It's simple, to be sure, and it takes some getting used to. But for a tank-vs-tank battle, it's an interesting gameplay experience.

It's not much more than what you're used to in shoot-the-other-tank games with third-person, cross-section view. The difference here is that you use the pen to fire your ammo at the other side. Pressure, speed and inking gestures all make a difference in how your rounds get fired at your enemy. Background music and sounds effects make it more fun.

I'd say this is a good start to something bigger and better, for sure. I was mostly (and pleasantly) surprised to find a site and game that are geared directly at the Tablet PC user. Makes me wonder what other games would lend themselves well to Tablet PC deployment. Maybe use the pen to draw your strategy plan for the Terrans to annihilate the Zergs? Or maybe draw your next play from the virtual huddle?

Check it out at

Choose your player screen
Choose your player name (click to enlarge)

Game screen
Game screen (click to enlarge)

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Tablet PC | Tech
Wednesday, 05 October 2005 16:00:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 03 October 2005

I subscribe to a VoIP telephone service, and I used to be a law enforcement officer, so this recent news was especially interesting to me when it was made official a little while back. The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a decision in which the commission rules that commercial VoIP providers are subject to the same wiretap laws under CALEA as other phone providers. In other words, is a VoIP system interconnects to the switched telephone network, law enforcement can request a wiretap order from a judge with probable cause.

But in reading the order, it looks like it only applies - at least for now - to those companies that provide a mechanism to connect their VoIP services to the public switched networks. We'll see how long that lasts - the commission has promised to issue further decisions on the order in the near future. The pertinent section states:

38. As a result, certain VoIP service providers are not subject to CALEA obligations imposed in today’s Order. Specifically, today’s Order does not apply to those entities not fully interconnected with the PSTN. Because interconnecting with the PSTN can impose substantial costs, we anticipate that many of the entities that elect not to interconnect with the PSTN, and which therefore are not subject to the rules adopted in today’s Order, are small entities. Small entities that provide VoIP services therefore also have some control over whether they will be have to be CALEA compliant. Small businesses may still offer VoIP service without being subject to the rules adopted in today’s Order by electing not to provide an interconnected VoIP service.

You can read the full ruling here: FCC 05-153 (PDF file)

Ya gotta love the acronyms these days...

  • CALEA = Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act
  • VoIP = Voice over Internet Protocol
  • FCC = Federal Communications Commission

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Monday, 03 October 2005 19:40:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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AjaxbookOkay, so granted, it's not the first DHTML/Javascript book, but "Foundations of Ajax" is the first (that I can find, anyhow) book extolling the virtues and details of building Ajax web applications. It's still listed as pre-order on Amazon, but on Apress you can purchase and download the eBook right now for only $20 (regular book price is $40). the PDF version is about 38 megabytes in size and 260 pages in length. The whole Ajax thing is cool in my mind, and I have been doing a lot of reading about it lately. Ever since Outlook Web Access on Exchange 2003 and then Google Maps came out, I've been pretty amazed at what you can do with this technology. Now there's lots of interesting apps that run in a web browser, a little more than thin client, but not really a fat client either.

So, go get this book and start to put that XMLHttpRequest object to work for you. Go build something usable and cool. Probably the one big thing that impressed me about this book was the fact that it pushes a test-driven/test-first approach to development (using JSUnit) and the fact that it has so many detailed, in-depth code samples and discussions. It doesn't just present code samples though. It takes you through the how's and the why's, which is cool.

What's this Ajax stuff, anyhow, you ask? From the book description:

"Google Maps, Google Suggest, Gmail, Tada List—these are all examples of highly dynamic web applications. In the past, we had an awkward choice: a thick client or a thin client. With a thick client, we got rich user experiences but had to deal with an error-prone and time-consuming deployment process. With a thin client we got ease of deployment but had to sacrifice the user experience.

"Today we have a third choice: highly dynamic web applications that are nearly as feature-rich as their thick client brethren. Using Ajax techniques, we can provide our customers the rich user experience they have come to expect while still enjoying the ease of deployment that we’ve come to expect.

"An Ajax application is very similar to the web applications we’re already familiar with. The difference is that it incorporates an “Ajax engine” that negates the start-stop nature of traditional web interaction and drives the whole process along. A quick look at an Ajax application like Google Maps will demonstrate the improvement to user experience very clearly. Gone are the constant page-refreshes and instead, you’re presented with a smooth, responsive interface that seamlessly reacts to your requests.

"Leading technology companies are adopting these techniques, and pressure is increasing for other companies to do the same in order to compete. The bar has been raised in the web application world, and what was once considered impossible is now being realized. With the help of these revolutionary Ajax techniques and this groundbreaking book as your companion, you can lead the way and get ahead of the game."

The eBook version is available to buy online now for $20.00, right here (at least at the time of this post).

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Monday, 03 October 2005 19:04:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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