Monday, 24 November 2008

It seems like just yesterday in many ways, but it's actually been nine years - An eternity and the blink of an eye, all rolled into one. So much has changed in that time, yet so much seems the same.

My son died suddenly on November 24th so many years ago, and while much has happened and changed in the intervening time, there's a slice of me that was sort of put on hold back then - almost as if one dimension of time simply stopped still while another kept on moving along. I miss Brian, but I am also thankful for the time we had together.

So, the Thanksgiving holiday is always a bit of a rough time for me, one with mixed feelings. Each year, however, I purposefully try my best to remember what the holiday is all about and to reflect on the things in life for which I am truly grateful, and there are many. One of the ways I do that is by writing and re-writing this, partly for me and in no small part for others who might be feeling much the same way. Over the past couple years I've published versions of the words things I'm repeating here, but that's what it's all about really - looking back, reflecting on progress, changing and growing as we move forward.

Not too long ago some friends of mine impressed upon me the importance of adopting an "attitude of gratitude" in life. What they meant - at least in part - was that the place where you focus your thoughts is pretty much where you'll end up, and that being grateful for what you have - rather than obsessed with what you don't have - is a good thing to do. For the most part I think they're right. This time of year I tend to think about a lot of things, some difficult and some pleasant. But every year I try to take some Thanksgiving time to remember that even though life is crazy and our time is often too short, there are so many things in life for which I am grateful and give thanks.

Life's not perfect, and from the depths of the desperate situations and experiences that substantially change us - often things that we would never wish to have happen again, to anyone - we are destined to learn and grow, and hopefully to become better people in the end. I know I have experienced that over the years, and my life is quite different as a result.

But, this is supposed to be about what I am thankful for. About gratitude.

I am thankful for my friends, my family, my work, my home, my goofy dog. I am grateful for doctors who fixed my damaged body and for people who cared enough to put their lives on hold when I needed it. I sometimes wish I was better to those who have been so good to me, and I strive to find ways to give back and pay forward. I truly appreciate them, and am thankful they are a part of my life.

There are many people in this world much better than me, and a few of those good people I've had the privilege to know personally. I am thankful for them, even if I don't or can't always show it when it counts. I only hope in the future I can be more much more worthy of their qualities.

Thanksgiving doesn't have to be just one day a year. We can - and should - remember these things every day. But in a busy world of getting from here to there, a strong reminder never hurt anyone.

I'm grateful for my life, the people in it, the goods and the bads, and for the possibilities of the future - whatever those may be. I've been very fortunate in many, many ways, and am truly thankful for that. As they say, "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

Yes, it is.

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Personal Stories
Monday, 24 November 2008 11:37:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Portland's Shizzow, a thankfully-simple service that you can use to "shout" to your people and let them know where you are, has announced they're expanding into the California market. The service got its start here in Portland, Oregon and the team has methodically built it out and run it in the home market up until now.

The basic idea of Shizzow is this: A quick and easy social networking service that lets you quickly and easily communicate to your friends about where you are so you can spend more time face-to-face. It's really as simple as that. You don't need to know addresses, you can just provide a name. Shizzow figures out the rest. You can also add custom locations (like Greg's place, for example). There's a simple interfaces for web, mobile and SMS.

Now Shizzow has sprouted wings and is offering the service to people in California, with a focus on the San Francisco Bay Area - That's quite an expansion! The service is available for people living in either area via an invitation, which you can request here. I also have ten invitations available for anyone who asks, until they're gone. Just email me or leave a comment (be sure to provide your email address in the comment form so I can send it to you).

Great job by the Shizzow crew, which (it should be noted) is a small group of people that have built and run this operation outside of the their day jobs. That's how they plan to expand - Bootstrap it along and continue along the lines of their current success. I hope we'll see an API sometime soon, since that would provide the ability to deliver mobile apps and what have you, and could open up the use (and in the end enhance usability) of the system substantially. Cool stuff!

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Tuesday, 18 November 2008 21:11:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 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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