Sunday, 06 September 2009

I've been asked/directed to figure out a good, friendly, reliable and especially non-geek-usable way to do shared calendars where everything just works. If you have any bright ideas let me know. Here is what I have come up with and am thinking about so far:

  • Google Calendars on a new Google Apps domain - I have already acquired and set up a custom domain ( so we can have individual and shared calendars, docs, email, chat etc. in that environment. We want to share calendar details with each other, not the whole world.
  • My other calendars at - I have this hodge-podge of Hosted Exchange and Google Apps Calendars on this domain. I will need to find a good way to sync and share the info without sharing it to everyone.
  • Work calendar(s) - Typically on Exchange and accessed via Outlook, and I need to share only the free/busy data, and only for certain item categories to be appropriately security-conscious.
  • TripIt calendar(s) - for travel arrangements, keeps things automagical and simple. Want to incorporate those.
  • Access via Mac (iCal or Entourage), PC (Outlook), mobile phone (Android and iPhone) and via the web (Google Apps), with all the info always synced and up-to-date.
Tall order? Might be, but it seems to me this is they way it should be, so it's what I expect: Any device, anywhere, any calendar, always in sync, full authorization control over sharing and updating, no worries, no hassle, and easy for non-IT folks.

I've read over my friend Scott Hanselman's notes about how he has set up his system for similar needs, but that post is about a year old and he refers to some unnamed, secret-sounding plugins so I will need to touch base with him and see what he knows and thinks. In the podcast he and Carl Franklin recorded on the subject back in 2007, Scott noted "the fact that it's no trivial task and I struggled with it speaks to the state of Internet calendars in general." Surely things must have improved since then.

And then there's this blog post. Wow, uber-geekness.

I've used Google Calendar Sync before, but the laptop it ran on has since taken a long dive off a cliff and is no longer with us. I think I probably need to check out SyncMyCal, as it would allow me to be more granular than with Google's app. A comparison with Google Calendar Sync is here.

Someone really should write a tool that does all this or all of us, cross-platform, and make it all Automagical (tm). Anyone want to partner on a project?

What's worked for you? Anything? Let me know!

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Sunday, 06 September 2009 20:06:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 29 August 2009

I’m an Exchange 2007 user. It’s terrific, works great and is truly the standard by which others are judged when it comes to business email, calendaring, contacts and other key business productivity features.

Being both a Mac and a PC guy, I’ve been the tester, owner and user of a variety of different applications to interface to Exchange. Outlook 2007 on the PC is a pretty obvious choice, and again it’s a standard by which others are often judged. But on the Mac I have been using Entourage for some time, with mixed opinion and results. It’s a good attempt at filling the gap left by the fact that there is no Outlook for the Mac, but it lacks in both features and stability.

However, on this fin gray Saturday morning I find myself once again examining the world of Exchange and the Mac. As I type this my Mac is going through the upgrade process and transforming itself into a Snow Leopard (OSX v10.6) machine. I’ve also downloaded the Entourage Web Services Edition upgrade from Microsoft, which is waiting on the Mac hard drive to install after the OS upgrade is completed.

My plan here is to set up and run under the new native-Exchange 2007 support in OSX Snow Leopard while at the same time checking out the new Entourage Web Services Edition features.

I should also note that earlier this month, Microsoft announced it will be releasing (finally!) a new Outlook client for the Mac in 2010. The expected “too late” crowd has been chiming in with their opinions, but in The Real World, where people older than 13 years actually make decisions about buying software for business use, this may be a big deal. It’s at least somewhat inevitable that Macs will become more common in the workplace, and the need for a consistent collaboration and productivity platform will full-fidelity, complete feature sets across OS platforms is critical to making business work.

I’ll post more details and thoughts once I get some of the setup and comparisons done over the next couple days. Meanwhile, I need to get packing some more cardboard boxes here at home so I can load them up… For anyone who might have noticed I have been absent from writing here, I am in the process of selling my house and will be getting married in October, so my world is a bit busy these days. But I am not gone. :)

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Apple | Tech | Windows
Saturday, 29 August 2009 08:38:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 06 July 2009

Here’s a video of the fireworks show we operated for the people of Des Moines, Washington this past weekend. It was both Independence Day and the celebration of the city’s 50th anniversary. It took an afternoon plus the better part of a full day to set up, and we shot it off in about 17-18 minutes.

Thanks to everyone who helped out on the crew this year - It was a great team!

The camera angle is a bit of an unusual one. In this video you are looking straight up at the sky, and the camera is fastened to a bench on the pier where we fired the show. The three-inch mortars are just to the left of the camera, so you’ll see smoke and sparks sometimes, as well as glowing materials falling back toward the camera. Enjoy.

July 4th 2009 Fireworks - Des Moines, WA from Greg Hughes on Vimeo.

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Fireworks | Random Stuff
Monday, 06 July 2009 15:19:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 02 July 2009

I’m going to file this one here for my own use, and hopefully someone else will benefit in the process. I bought two new batteries for my late-90’s Yamaha WaveRunners because the old ones were dead. I got the batteries all prepped, charged them per the instructions, and went to install them in the watercraft.

I hooked them up and tried to get the Wave Runners to start, but both were dead as a doornail. I checked fuses and electrical connections and all was good. Hmmm. But something seemed familiar about this, like I’d dealt with this problem once before. It really struck me that was the case about the time I pulled one of the fuses out. Hadn’t I done something like that before and didn’t it require me to do some freaky WaveRunner mojo in order to get things started again?

As usual, the Internet was my friend. I did some searching and discovered the same thing my dealer had told me some times ago: When you disconnect power, the WaveRunner goes into an anti-theft mode and won’t run until you do a few things.

Here are the steps that I followed in order to get them to turn on:

  1. Install the battery
  2. Hold down the MODE button on the console until the display flashes the word CODE
  3. Enter A A A A
  4. Now you can start the watercraft

And that’s it. As I recall, you can set your own code, too – But I’m not doing that in my case. I’d just forget it anyhow!

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Random Stuff
Thursday, 02 July 2009 14:03:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Google Voice is awesome. It's the greatest service you can't get yet today. One number for all my phones, for life, replete with text messaging capabilities and a whole slew of cool features.

But, as much as I love Google Voice, I will stand on my soapbox here for a few moments to yell into the ether about a couple of glaring omissions in the current release that I think Google should address sooner rather than later: MMS message support, and support for sending a mobile message (whether SMS or MMS) to multiple recipients at the same time.

MMS messages are multimedia messages and are sent much like a text message. They're different than SMS message sin that they might include a video or a picture. Right now, if I want to receive a MMS message, I have to tell people to send them to my actual cell number, not my google voice number. Why? Because Google Voice quietly and calmly eats MMS messages, never to be seen again. This completely defeats the purpose behind the "one-number-for-them-all" story. So, it needs to change. When the iPhone on AT&T gets MMS service, which is likely to happen in July sometime, this need will become even more apparent and important.

MMS support could probably be delivered in two phases. Right now if you send a MMS message to the Google Voice number, it just disappears into the ether, and is never delivered anywhere. You don't even know someone tried and the sender assumes it was delivered. To rectify this, Google could do a first phase change where MMS messages would simply be forwarded in original form to the mobile phone(s) configured in the system, without worrying about displaying them in the Google Voice web interface. In a second phase they could then enable web-based viewing.

Second on my list is adding the ability to send an SMS (and MMS as a bonus) message to a group of recipients. We already have contact groups, and we can select more than one contact at a time in the web interface, but the option to send a SMS message disappears from the user interface as soon as you select more than one recipient. I regularly use SMS messages to notify members of a church youth group about meetings and other announcements as a group, so enabling a group-send as well as select-multiple to send SMS would be huge for me. As a bonus, provide me with a phone number that is virtually tied to that group so I can send one txt to my group number on my mobile phone.

What features would you like to see added to Google Voice?

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Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 21:42:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The latest news via Unstrung's Michelle Donegan is that AT&T's 3G Microcell, which has been in a limited and private beta in the United States for a few months now, will be available in a sort of public beta in the coming weeks, in select (and as-yet unnamed) cities. The 3G Microcell is a device that you plus into your broadband connection at home. It has a 3G transceiver built in, and allows you to create a small cell area of coverage (hence the name "microcell" of course). I've written about it before, here and here.

From the news article:

According to AT&T's executive director for radio access network delivery, Gordon Mansfield, who was speaking at the Femtocells World Summit in London today, about 200 users are testing the femto service in targeted customer trials.

In the coming weeks, he added, "we will expand that into a marketing trial of the AT&T-branded 3G Microcell, which will be open to customers through our AT&T stores… in a handful of cities.

"We're on track for a full national launch by the end of 2009."

The equipment comes from network infrastructure equipment giant Cisco.

I'm hoping that Portland is one of the metro areas they include in the text phase, since my home has pretty much zero coverage. But I do have broadband and would truly benefit from the product.

AT&T plans to add a whole bunch of 850 Mhz spectrum to it's 3G service infrastructure, which should improve it's network performance and capacity substantially. Many have experienced the dropped call and unavailable network performance issues on AT&T's network, so this is a welcome change. But for those of us who simply live just outside the workable coverage area, the 3G Microcell will open even more doors for its customers.

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Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 20:56:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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