Monday, 01 October 2007

Update: Engadget has the details of the formal release today.

Looks like this Tuesday in Redmond will be Zune 2 day. I've been curious what they'll come up with for the next-generation device. I don't own one yet. Several friends of mine do. It's a nice device which (for me) has a couple imposed limitations that make it not as useful for me.

Rumors floating around about Zune 2 include a flash-based memory design (instead of hard drives), thinner case and WiFi integration (but we'll see if it's the classic Zune hobbled WiFi or something more useful). Also, word is there will be a new community site for Zune users announced.

For my part, I hope there's some revolution in the announcement, not just evolutionary changes. That might catch my wallet's interest.

via BetaNews



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Tech
Monday, 01 October 2007 10:36:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 27 September 2007

iTunes (and my friend John) reports that v1.1.1 of the iPhone software is available. Since I have third party apps installed, I am hesitant to install it just yet. My phone has not been unlocked carrier-wise, but app-tap is on there.

I think I will wait a little while and see what people have to say. No point being the guinea pig on this one. :)

UPDATE: I was able to update my app-tap-modified iPhone to v1.1.1 without a restore required, no problems. Of course, I no longer have any third-party apps on the device, so I will be looking for updates there in the next few days.

Where to look in early moments to see what works and doesn't? Well, Engadget is such a great place...

mcg @ Sep 27th 2007 2:14PM
What the hell, I'm trying it now. I haven't unlocked my SIM but I have AppTapp installed and a number of applications, including SummerBoard. I'll let you know how it goes. 

Ben Kreeger @ Sep 27th 2007 2:16PM
Yes, please let me know what happens; I've got AppTapp installed.

mcg @ Sep 27th 2007 2:19PM
Oops, it's probably best that I reply to my original post. I got the dreaded "unknown error" when attempting to install the software right off the bat. Maybe undoing jailbreak would have averted that problem, but what's done is done. Now I am having to use the iTunes Restore Phone feature. Looks like I'll be losing my apps and my data. No big deal to me, really, but beware. I'll post again when I'm up and running with 1.1.1.

mcg @ Sep 27th 2007 2:25PM
Now I'm back in action. Lost apps and data. Had to reenter my voicemail password.

Interestingly, I have a new icon next to the standard BlueTooth blue icon---it's in the shape of my bluetooth headset. Looks to be a batter meter. Nice.

mcg @ Sep 27th 2007 2:27PM
Now I'm syncing my photos, music, calendar, etc. It's going to take awhile, so I'll wrap it up here. Bottom line, if you've done a jailbreak, be prepared to start from scratch. It would be nice if someone could un-jailbreak the phone and see if that prevents us from having to reinstall everything.



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Mobile | Tech
Thursday, 27 September 2007 10:09:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Arjan Zuidhof, a .NET software engineer in the Netherlands comments briefly on his linkblog regarding our recent podcast show and interview about being a DBA:

"When was the last time *you* listened to a podcast? Honestly? One of the things I know I should do more, but, ahh, the lack of time is standing in the way. Still, learning how to be a better DBA is definitely a healthy career path if you don't know where to go..."

That got me thinking. Arjan's point seems to be consistent with those of many others, and truthfully I have to include myself in that list of people who have found podcast consumption to be too hard from time to time. I have found myself wondering aloud and to myself how in the world anyone can possibly  get the technology to work seamlessly, find and organize podcasts, have them in a place where they can be consumed, and still find the time to actually listen to them.

And then there's the whole (somewhat true) problem I refer to as the "most-podcasts-suck" phenomenon. It can be painful and a bit of work to find a good show, let alone stick with it.

But some of the best learning I have done over the past year or two has been from podcasts, so I can tell you there is a tangible benefit. I listen to a total of maybe 6 or 7 podcasts, and I listen whenever I find I have the time. I don't listen to every episode in its entirety, either - it has to keep my interest. I also don't plan it all out or have a podcast listening schedule. And I have found that's important for me if I am going to be part of the podcast "listernership."

The first thing I had to do was to have a set of tools that make it possible to listen without having to think about it. Here are the tools that I have found actually make it possible, in my real world:

  1. iTunes - Love it or hate it, the fact of the matter is, iTunes makes subscribing to and consuming podcasts freakin' easy. And on top of that, you get show ratings, the podcast directory on the iTunes store, and a lot more. Plus, when you consider that the producers of a podcast have to work to get their show into iTunes, it's raises the bar slightly and as a result the signal to noise ratio is a little lower.
  2. The Mac Mini on my kitchen counter - With some compact speakers and the iTunes client running on it, I just load the Added recently playlist and listen. Obviously, this could be a Windows machine or whatever. The point is, in the space where you spend your time, it's good to have the ability to let stuff play in the background, and your primary iTunes subscription point show be there.
  3. iPod (or iPhone in my case) - The thing that matters the most here is that you need to have it with you all the time. Truth be told, my iPod saw so little use day-to-day that I seriously consider that particular purchase to be a waste of money. I have a friend who has actually used it much more than me. But the iPhone, on the other hand, goes everywhere with me. As a result, the iPod content on the phone actually gets listened to. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this point: Listening needs to be something you just do. The planning part should be limited to the discovery of and subscription to content. After that, the whole idea is to focus energy on the shows, not the delivery mechanism. Else you'll find yourself frustrates and giving up. And that's, well, pointless.

I'm a Windows and Wintel guy primarily, so you might be surprised to see the glaring consistency in manufacturer above. Get over it, I did. And it works. That's what matters. 

My point here is this: The time it takes to actually listen to podcasts is often confused and munged with the time it takes to be able to listen to podcasts. I'm not saying that Arjan's situation is specifically that, but rather his comments caused me to think through some common frustrations based on my own experience and the experiences of others.

I've heard many people say they just can't find the time for it. I know I certainly get frustrated with shows that ramble on and on and present nothing useful. That's why - for example - Scott Hanselman's excellent Hanselminutes podcast is intentionally compact and focused on a specific audience, and it's why we work hard to keep RunAs Radio around 30 minutes per show and focused on topics for IT professionals.

What I've found is that if you can work out the technology part of things, and then be willing to spend a little bit of time here and there glancing at recommendations made by others and which fill your own interests, you can learn and consume a lot of good stuff in the "between" time (and still have time left over for other stuff).

For those who roll their eyes and doubt, here's my "preachy" thought for the moment - for what it's worth: If your schedule won't allow you to listen to a podcast every week or two (and this statement is coming from a true workaholic, people) you might want/need to take a hard look at your schedule and figure out what's wrong with it. Missing out on good information, whether it be written or recorded or what have you, is an unfortunate and damning side effect of too-much-ness. We all got to where we are today by learning, and stopping now really isn't an option - unless our goals are to slide backward and relegate ourselves to being second-best. There should be time for family and friends, time for yourself, and then time for work.

Anyhow, a special thanks to Arjan for making me think. :)

Do you listen to podcasts? Or do you find you can't? Why or why not? What is the one thing podcast producers could do today that would make a real difference to you, the kind of difference that would make it really worthwhile for you to spend some time with them?

Ready? Discuss!



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AudioBlogging | Random Stuff | Tech
Thursday, 27 September 2007 07:04:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 25 September 2007

We had an opportunity recently to speak with Trey Johnson, Chief Business Intelligence Architect at Cizer, about the current state of BI in the industry and some of the new technologies available on the Microsoft side of things. We also touched on what business intelligence means these days and some of the things IT professionals need to be thinking about when contemplating a BI project.

RunAs Radio Show #25 - 9/26/2007 (31 minutes)
Trey Johnson Helps Us Get Business Intelligence

Richard and Greg talk to Trey Johnson from Cizer about Microsoft's Business Intelligence offerings. The product line up from Microsoft is expanding beyond SQL Server, Analysis Services and Excel to include Microsoft Office Sharepoint Services, the new PerformancePoint Server and ProClarity Analysis Tools.

One thing's for sure: If you don't have your ducks truly in a row before you start, a poorly-planned BI project can be a money pit of enormous size. But it's not all that complicated to do it well. It just takes a careful approach, the proper people and a set of well-defined and complete requirements. Trey helps us get a handle on the current state of affairs.



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RunAs Radio | Tech
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 21:25:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Over time I've had the opportunity to write a pretty significant number of blog entries. Some of those are technical in nature and try to describe how to do something specific on your computer. But truth be told, there have been many times when I wanted to do a weblog post but didn't because quite frankly it would have been too much work (for both of us) to explain how to do whatever it was in text form.

I've often considered doing screencasts in those cases, and I've even jumped in and done a couple here and there, but until recently it has not been something I have really tackled in most cases. I've used them at work (with substantial success), but not on the blog.

allc_bigbox Just last week I wrote a post about the Windows Internet Time servers that Microsoft uses for its defaults being inoperable. I considered making a video screencast showing how to change your Internet time settings, but since I was not set up with the proper software and I have not been very happy with much of the software I have used for that purpose in the past, I just typed it up. Shortly after that post, I saw and entered a little online contest to win a copy of some screen capturing software called ALLCapture. Turns out I was one of the winners of the contest. So, this morning I downloaded the software and decided to put it to a real-world test.

I've updated the original post about the Windows time server settings to include the Flash version of the screencast, which I think turned out technically pretty well. My narration and organization left a bit to be desired, but hey what the heck. I left in the uhhh, verbal umm... bumps and didn't edit the video, and I also didn't use the full drawing and annotating capabilities of the software for this one. So, it's truly a quick and basic example of how you can capture and narrate a screencast. Note that you can edit after recording as well. That includes adding and removing audio, adding labels and pointers to help highlight items on the screen, etc. The included help file is useful in understanding how to do some of the more advanced work.

You can check out the simple video I made here. Also, here is a link to a basic Windows Media version for comparison. The Windows Media file is quite a bit smaller than the Flash version. Both use out of the box, default settings. I recorded the audio with my USB studio mic.

I also tried creating a screencast to accompany my post today about DreamScene and it turned out nicely, but the file size was pretty huge so I haven't posted it. The reason for the huge size is obvious if you've seen Windows DreamScene in action - it's a full screen capture of fully animated desktops, so everything is constantly changing in the scene. Needless to say, I need to figure out how to trim things down for screencasts like that one, so you can reasonably download them.

All in all, it's cool software and I think it will be quite useful.

Full disclosure: I won my copy of the ALLCapture software in a friendly online contest. I've tried it and found it to be pretty darn useful - enough so to write about it here - but be aware that I didn't purchase the software with my own cash. That said, it's good stuff and I think it's worth checking out.



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Tuesday, 25 September 2007 18:37:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I woke up a little early this morning to the smell of coffee (good way to wake up, eh?) and looked outside and decided to grab a camera and snap a couple hand-held shots from the front porch.

After shooting the pictures, and knowing the image would probably need to be cropped and that the long exposure (I had to do controlled breathing and steady the camera big time) would result in some shift in color and contrast, I figured this might be an interesting scene to look at in terms of in-camera composition, exposure and cropping. I used to do photography professionally and have been thinking a lot about getting back into it (non-professionally). This is a way of pushing myself in that direction.

I've included a few questions at the end, and I hope you'll use the comments to answer them with your thoughts. From time to time I'll do the same thing with other images.

(Note: You can click each image to view the larger size)

For illustrative purposes, here's the view the way the digital camera saw it and the way it wanted to expose the frame in "Program" mode (I've resized the image but it's otherwise unaltered). Note this is a great example of where automatic camera modes can result in substandard images. Program mode is not just easy, it's lazy. My opinion, anyhow...

    DSC_0054-crop0

Here's the same scene using a manual exposure, where the exposure is made primarily for the highlights. I bracketed a bit and this one had the best level of detail in the wide range of tonal values present in the scene. It's far from perfect, and the image was made in JPEG mode, not RAW, so it should be noted that right away we start the lossy process:

    DSC_0072-edit0

Here's how I remember the scene looking to my eye, or at least this is close (the image is an altered version of the above frame):

    DSC_0072-edit1a

I then made this crop to clean things up a bit and focus on what my mind was framing. Of the crops on this page it probably comes closest to obeying the "rule of thirds" as far as subject placement goes:

    DSC_0072-edit3

And this one is cropped even closer to show what my eye was truly drawn to. It still comes close to obeying the rule of thirds, but it not as strictly compliant:

    DSC_0072-edit5

So, what do you think works best and why? Do you have a preference? Why or why not? Would you crop it differently? How?



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Photography | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 17:25:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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