Monday, 17 November 2008

I wrote all about it on my flying blog, but Sunday was an exciting and cool day, because I flew an airplane solo, all by myself with no one else in the plane, for the first time. This whole flying thing might work out, after all!

The full story is documented on my "Coordinated Flight" blog, should you care to read all about it.




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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Monday, 17 November 2008 00:42:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 07 November 2008

While at the TechEd EMEA conference is Spain this week, I had the opportunity to visit with Thomas Dawkins from Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group. He's the guy responsible for the Microsoft Security Assessment Tool (or MSAT for short). The MSAT is a tool that's been around for a couple of years, but it was recently updated by Thomas with some great new enhancements, including a new user interface and a stronger, more complete set of back end information.

MSAT is a free tool that you can download from Microsoft. It's targeted to companies of 1,500 employees or smaller (as a general rule) and follows a questionnaire format to assess weaknesses in the IT security environment. Bt it's not a parching tool or a scanning tool. Instead, it leverages standards like ISO 27001 and NIST-800.x to baseline the security readiness of your organization.

It enables people to do what we security professionals hope for: analysis across each of the people, process and technology elements of a business' computing environment in order to ascertain how and where we need to spend our time and energy. The tool not only describes the state of readiness of the assessed environment, it also provides best-practice recommendations rooted in industry-accepted standards that can be used to improve the organization's security stance.

One of the most likely users of a tool like this is the IT manager, but one can also picture security consultants, business managers, and anyone else with responsibility for an organization's security operations leveraging the tool and the reports it generates.

You'll also likely be interested to know that Microsoft has released the fifth version of its Security Intelligence Report, which looks at the state of computer and information security over the past six months. You can find links to the full report and the key findings summary documents on Microsoft's web site.



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IT Security | Tech
Friday, 07 November 2008 07:01:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 03 November 2008

Well, we're getting going full swing for a week of TechEd conference in Barcelona, Spain. video, audio and stage presentations will be keeping us busy all week. If you're here, please let me know, or drop by and say hi at the "fishbowl" or TechEd stage.

The weather when I flew in yesterday was bumpy and wet, but today it's beautiful and sunny outside - more like the Barcelona I remember. Not that well be out in the air much, this week - but it's nice to look outside and see sun. The hotel and conference center are right on the sea, and as long as I can stay heathy this week, it will be great.



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Random Stuff
Monday, 03 November 2008 04:53:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 30 October 2008

I had the opportunity today to spend some time chatting with Ben Jackson, who's the owner and technical director of Brainjuice, LLC. His company created Blogo, the app I use on my Mac to write posts like this one.

But today we weren't talking about Blogo, we were discussing a new iPhone game Brainjuice is in the final phases of completing called Arcade Hockey. It's just about done and will appear in the iTunes App Store in early to mid November. It's a table hockey game and it's a lot of fun, well-executed and designed.

Here are a few screenshots of the game screens, so you can see what's coming. You can click on each image to see the full-sized version.

The splash screen, which you see when the game first starts:


You have the option of playing a one- or two-plater game. In the one-player version you play against the computer's artificial intelligence opponent. More on that later in the article.


You can choose a few options, like the size of the paddles and pucks, as well as the version of the game (standard arcade deck, or "boomerang" style.


Game play consists of a classic table hockey game, and you use the tip of your finger on the touch screen to move the paddle and hit the puck. The physics of the game are pretty good, and the puck reacts pretty how you'd expect and want it to.

The classic and boomerang tables:



When you've played your "best-of" set, the game makes sure each player knows who won and who lost.


As a former air hockey addict, I can say this game is quite a bit of fun, and there's something to be said for pulling the game out of your pocket and playing a surprisingly accurate and realistic game on the bus, before the movie, while out on a hot date you want to impress with your skillz, or at lunch.

Since I had his attention, I asked Ben a few questions about the new game and it's development, as well as future product dev plans.

This is Brainjuice's first iPhone app. Until now you've focused on Blogo, your Mac-based blog authoring app. Why did you decide to create this game?

We wanted to start with something light rather than jumping right into Blogo for the iPhone. Table hockey is fun, the competitor is selling and we thought we could do much, much better. Also, there's something about sliding your finger around on the phone which is a natural fit for air hockey.

When will it be available, and how much will it cost?

It will be available as soon as Apple accepts it, likely in November. It will sell for $4.99, but we plan to offer it for free for an initial period of time.

What's left to be done before you ship it?

We are really only working on the (computer opponent) AI at this point. Besides that it's pretty much done.

What did you learn in the process of creating the game?

We learned that getting though the whole certificates and code signing process is a huge hurdle. And a lot of physics.

How many people worked on the game, and how much time did it take to build?

Brainjuice and INCOMUM (the design and creative team) have 8 team members between them. On this project one developer and one designer did all the work. Total dev time... About two months total. Our team is based in Brazil and Philadelphia, but we spend most of our time here (in Brazil), as the weather is nice.

What other apps can we expect to see from Brainjuice for the iPhone in the future?

We're planning to devote a fair share of out attention to creating Blogo for the iPhone after Arcade Hockey is out the door. We're itching to see what we can do with it.

FInally, here's some (unfortunately somewhat fuzzy) video of Arcade Hockey in action on my test iPhone today. I had a hard time looking around the camera to see the screen while I was trying to play, but you get the idea. Look for this cool game coming soon to the iTunes App Store. Or if you happen to see me around, you can feel free to ask me to show it to you.



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Apple | Random Stuff
Thursday, 30 October 2008 22:34:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I ordered some new business contact cards since I ran out of the old ones some time ago. They arrived today. Rather than going the standard route or reordering the ones with my mug on the front, I decided to shop over in the UK via the Internet.

I ordered one of Hugh MacLeod's designs from over at gapingvoid. He's made a bunch of his designs available for online ordering at Street Cards. The quality of the cards is great (I ordered the coated cards), and I received them just in time for my trip next week to TechEd EMEA in Barcelona and the Dev Connections conference the following week in Las Vegas.


If there's one thing I've learned working in IT and security management over the past several years, it's what these cards convey. It's been a bot of a motto of mine over the years, so it's appropriate for my business cards, I think (click the link to see the full-sized image).

Thanks to Hugh for making it possible to use his artwork. He makes them available for download and use from his site, and they're great stuff.



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Random Stuff
Thursday, 30 October 2008 20:07:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 29 October 2008

It's been an interesting and exciting few days in iPhone land.

In the just past couple days, Google Earth and a voice recording application from Griffin have both been released for the iPhone. Add to that the news that iPhone owners now have access to AT&T WiFi hotspots for free - nice! Google Earth is - of course - free, and Griffin iTalk is free for a limited time, along with it's Mac client (for syncing).

Google earth on the iPhone (iTunes app store link) is pretty cool. It takes advantage of the GPS and accelerometer, and other than that it's, well... Google Earth, just on a smaller screen. You can use touch/twist to rotate gestures on the screen, as you'd expect. I should mention that it's crashed a lot on me, and that when I first installed it I had to hard-reset my phone to get anything to work. But for the most part its been as stable as any other complex app on the device (meaning mediocre to so-so). It's worth the install for sure, if for no other reason then just because of most of the cool things you can do with Google Earth on your Mac or PC.

The other great app that everyone with an iPhone or second-gen iPod Touch should run and get right now (while it's free) is Griffin's iTalk and the complementary iTalk Sync client, which allows you to sync your audio recordings made with the iPhone app to your Mac (PC version coming soon) over the air via WiFi. It works like a charm, is well-documented, looks great and the audio quality is user configurable. The best quality setting sounds pretty great. It could realistically be used for man-on-the-street style interviews.

Provide a file name, select the recording quality, and start recording by clicking the Big Red Button:


The green button means you're actively recording. The VU meter shows your audio levels live. Click the green button to stop recording.


You'll end up with a file (or more than one if you record multiple times) showing in the recording list.


When you load up the Mac sync client app (a small and quick install) and start the iPhone app on the same wireless network, you'll be prompted to allows the sync client to access your iPhone's recordings.


While copying the file via the sync program, the iPhone shows you the status and progress:


And finally you have the files on your Mac (or soon on a PC), in .AIFF format, ready to use. Nice and easy!


I plan to play with the app in Barcelona next week and test the audio quality to see if it's really good enough for on-the-spot interviews for the podcast. It's worth a shot, although it won't touch the quality of my Zoom H4 recorder, of course.



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 20:06:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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