Sunday, 18 February 2007

Nothing like having an automated buddy on the other end of the instant messaging conversation to keep ya busy eh? Well, sometimes they can be practical.

If you use Windows Live Messenger (MSN Messenger), and if you're a film freak (or even if you just like movies), go to your IM client program and add to your contact list. Then open a conversation window and type "hi" or something similar. You can set your ZIP code and start searching.


Once you've found a movie you want to look at, enter the number next to the title to get showtimes and a link to more information about the film:


It's pretty cool. A lot like using Fandango in your browser, I suppose. But on a mobile device this is cool stuff.

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Movies | Random Stuff | Tech
Sunday, 18 February 2007 01:16:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 15 February 2007

On February 15th, 2006 I was wheeled into a surgical suite to have the intervertebral disc between the L5 and S1 vertebrae removed and replaced with a three-piece mechanical replacement joint. The Kineflex artificial disc was in FDA trials at the time, so I was a test subject for an all-metal design that was working its way to market. As of the time of this writing, it's still working though the approval process. If my own personal experience is Kineflex - High contrast side viewany indication of what ought to happen, then the Kineflex disc should be approved and shipped to the market as soon as possible. Granted, it's important that the device be used only where appropriate, but for people who today stand in the same shoes I wore up until a year ago, the artificial disc replacement (ADR) is a miracle, and can be a true life gift.

I have 15 degrees range of motion in the L5/S1 joint, which is excellent. My doctor told me at my one-year visit the other day that people with seven degrees or more range of motion are doing very well. So, that's good news. He's also very happy with the level of activity I have been able to take on since the surgery.

It's taken some time for me to get to where I feel pretty much "normal" (whatever that is). Shortly after my surgery I started to feel much much better. As time went on, I realized just how much pain I'd been in. And over the intervening months I have just gotten better and better. A couple weeks ago I went skiing with my friend up at Timberline on Mt. Hood, and was taking some of the smaller jumps without pain and without really even thinking (or at least without being concerned) about the fact that I have this metal contraption in my spine (and that, my friends, is the telling attribute of my experience).

The fact that there are days where I don't even think about my back is amazing. Who would have thought that I could go from being unable to sleep more than an hour or so at a time, and living with constant debilitating pain, to an active and almost pain-free person who can once again do almost anything I want. People who work with me and my friends can tell you how pathetic and practically crippled I was before surgery. Today they say I am a new person. When my doctor told me to go out and live my life, with no real restrictions (but to be sure to take good care of my back), I took him at his word. Nowadays I lift things the "right" way and I'm careful to respect what remains of my natural spine. But mostly I simply don't have to think about it too much.

The surgical procedure for ADR is a serious one, and not one to be taken lightly. Really, everything else should be tried before resorting to surgery of any kind. In my case they did injections, physical therapy, exercises, shrinking the disc in size... you name it. Even just medication. None of the other options helped. So, my choices were fusion of the two vertebrae or a prosthetic artificial disc replacement that was fairly new-fangled (at least in the United States, where many medical technologies actually get to market very late in the game).

I recently received an email from one of the creators of the Kineflex artificial lumbar disc, Malan de Villiers. That was cool, hearing from someone who actually designed the device that has changed my life so dramatically for the good.

I have my life back. That's something to be grateful for.

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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories
Thursday, 15 February 2007 21:06:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 12 February 2007

I did something today that's quite a bit out of character for me: I went to the WWE Raw live performance this evening at the Rose Garden here in Portland. As in professional wrestling.

And I had a blast.

You see, recently a friend of mine kind of got me watching a bit of the Monday Night Raw TV show now and then. I've always kind of laughed at the whole pro-wrestling thing for a variety of reasons, but tonight I can honestly say that the performance and the whole show was a lot of fun.

 Donald Trump himself even showed up in the arena to challenge the WWE boss to a match at the Wrestlemania thing on April 1st (which the boss rejected, so they came up with a decent alternative - they'll each choose someone to wrestle on their behalf and loser gets his head shaved right there at Wrestlemania).

Fireworks were everywhere in the arena and the whole experience was pretty darned well put together. And it was live on national TV to boot.

Probably the highlight of the evening, I am almost ashamed to say, was the final bout - An eight-man tag-team event that had some pretty huge dudes fighting it out. The cool guy of the bunch is John Cena, and as hilarious as it is to hear myself say it, it was a lot of fun to see him and the others perform. Afterward I asked my friends Rogan and Cory what they thought the best part of the whole night was, and they both had the same thought as me: It was at the end when John Cena stood on the ropes and looked right at us. Rogan and Cory were holding a big sign that had his name on it. It was actually kind of cool.

So there you have it. I confess. I went to Monday Night Raw live and in person, and had a great time.

Wow. That's kind of scary eh? Heh.

Tonight's show will be on TV this week on Thursday evening (for some reason it's a shifted schedule this week and they taped rather than going live).

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Monday, 12 February 2007 23:50:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 11 February 2007

Just the other day someone asked me why Internet Explorer had lost its menu bar after they ran a Windows Update. Of course, the "problem" was IE7 and the fact that the whole UI changed. Remember, IE7 is considered a critical update (and the first time an IE version has been promoted as such). The classic menu bar of the previous browser versions (and practically every other Windows application) is no longer visible by default. There are a couple ways to turn it back on, but when you do the result is not exactly optimal for some people. Maybe they're just whiners or getting old and set in their ways, but whomever you may be there is a solution for you. (Oh, and before people start saying "yeah, use firefox instead" please just stop and understand we got the point a long, long time ago. Firefox rocks, but this post is about menu bars in IE. tyvm.)

One thing many people don't realize is that the menu bar is actually still there in IE7, and one way you can access it just by hitting your ALT button. One tap and there it is, ready to use.

Or maybe you want it on all the time. To accomplish that in IE7, click on the the Tools menu (it has a little gear icon) and select "Menu Bar" from the options there. Now you have the menu bar back full-time and you can do your File, Edit, View, etc stuff all you want.

But, when you enable the menu bar, it actually appears below the address bar, which is a little weird for some people. And worse, you can't unlock and then drag and drop the menu bar to rearrange things because the address bar is not in the draggable/droppable list of UI stuff. everything appears below it. Bummer.


Have no fear. Chris Hanscom has posted a nice little registry hack that lets you put things back to the way you want them. The little animation above shows the three phases of menu bar goodness: Turned off completely (the IE7 default, which get a little more web page content on the screen and above the fold), Turned on and below the address bar (IE7's default location), and post-registry-hack style, with the menu bar back where you've expected it to be since dirt was first made.

So, no matter what your preference is, you have an option to meet your needs. Enjoy. And thanks to LifeHacker via Omar for the find. Check out both those blogs if you haven't already. Good stuff.

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Sunday, 11 February 2007 11:14:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 07 February 2007

I spent a good day and a half (off and on) trying like heck to get rid of some drivers that ended up being problematic in Vista on my new Z61t ThinkPad (which is a nice laptop by the way). The integrated Verizon WAN card was not happy (it needed updated drivers) and one of the virtual device drivers for the DVD-RAM drive was causing Vista to complain a lot. Despite al my attempts, the system would not allow me to remove or change them. There was not much helpful information about why my attempts were failing, though. After a while it was obvious there was a pretty serious access control problem.

It became clear that the issue I was likely up against was the new permissions and user account access limits established by Vista and its new security model. In order to get Vista to allow me, for example, to uninstall the software in question I had to go into the user managment applet in the control panel and disable User Account Control (UAC), despite the fact that my account was configured as an admin. Now all has been rectified and is well.

Interestingly, I have seen one application that, when run, included a button to elevate the privileges of the user running the app temporarily and just for that app so configuration data could be saved. Cool stuff and well-designed.

So, Vista's User Account Control certainly works - maybe even almost too well (if that's really possible). While I had to disable it to remediate some issues realted to drivers that were installed under XP originally, that's not necessary for items installed under Vista post-upgrade. And UAC is turned back on now, just as it should be.

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Wednesday, 07 February 2007 21:48:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 04 February 2007

If you happen to be at the RSA security conference in San Francisco this week, get in touch and hopefully we can meet up sometime. I'm here through Thursday doing a bunch of media briefings and whatnot (for work) and (whenever I can) attending sessions. My cell number is in the right sidebar, or email me (greg-greghughes-dot-net).

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IT Security | Random Stuff
Sunday, 04 February 2007 22:36:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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