Friday, 30 April 2004

Forgive the randomness... Can't resist posting:

http://subservientchicken.com/

Burger King is - well - weird. :-)



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Humor | Random Stuff
Friday, 30 April 2004 19:23:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Thanks to the kind hearts of a large number of coworkers, friends and family, I was able to turn $2065 over to the Muscular Dystrophy Association Thursday as “bail” money to get me out of “jail.”

The money that was donated will be used locally to fight muscular dystrophy, and to make opportunities available to local kids who otherwise would not have a chance to do many of the things their friends are able to do. My personal story (in the email included below) is just one example among many thousands of how small donations can add up to provide big opportunities for these kids. 

Four local children and youth will get to attend a special summer camp this year thanks to the donations. I can tell you, the MDA workers and volunteers down at the “jail” Thursday morning were ecstatic to have such a large amount donated by so many people, in such a short period of time. I was the first person today to successfully meet my “bail” goal and get out of jail. While there, I also received an invitation to attend the summer camp this year, and I think I may just have to take them up on the offer.

Again, thanks very much to all who contributed. If anyone was hoping to contribute but was unable to prior to my “arrest,” they can definitely still do so. Simply contact me by email, phone or in person, and I will be glad to make the arrangements. 

Thanks again for making a difference,

 - Greg

From: Greg Hughes
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2004 8:22 AM
Subject: Please help bail me out

Thursday, April 29, 2004
8:00 AM

In about one hour, I will be stolen from my place of work and carted off to jail. I have not been able to raise the full bail amount necessary to buy my freedom. Although many of my friends, family and coworkers have contributed to raise more than half the set bail, and every penny is appreciated greatly, it just doesn’t total up to the $1800 figure.

Perhaps there is something you can do to persuade more people that a small gift to MDA is a good and important thing to do. As an example, each $550 raised will send one child with Muscular Dystrophy to summer camp for a week, where they will have an opportunity to experience the kinds of things that other kids get to do. 

A personal story: When I was in college (and before I lost my hair), I worked at such a camp. I remember one boy from inner-city St. Louis who was unable to walk on his own and had some pretty severe muscular control problems. More than anything he wanted to go to camp and do what he had heard his friends rave about time and time again: To go into a deep, dark cave and spend an hour or two crawling through mud, seeing bats and cave formations, wading through cold ground water, and having an experience he could tell his friends about. I strapped him on my back (literally) and we went caving, with helmet and flashlights, just like all the other kids. You should have seen the look on his face. That’s the kind of experience these kids can have at these camps, and the meaning behind them (for the kids) is really something that can’t be fully measured.

At any rate, we’re not quite there yet, and I am truly hoping to be able to return to the real world today! Anything that anyone can do is appreciated. An email pledge for a specific dollar amount (sent to me and received on my blackberry while I am in jail starting at about 9am) would be great. And any amount helps make a kid’s life a little more special, and helps find a cure for MD. 

Yours in Prison,

 - Greg



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Personal Stories
Friday, 30 April 2004 09:49:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Tuesday, 27 April 2004

I know there are some people in the world that never get spam email, but unfortunately I am not one of you. Between my email being publicly available on the Internet for the past few years and the fact that I have to sign up for all sorts of random things with a real email address, it’s just added up, and I get inundated. It’s funny to talk to others about spam email. Either they understand because they, too, have fallen victim to the scourge of the Internet, or they look at you like your advanced-stage leprosy has caused you right ear to fall off and your left leg to rot.

So, in the interest of protecting the reputations of those of us who unwillingly receive tons of junk mail a day, let’s take a look at how and why spam reaches our inboxes. Hopefully some who read this will learn something new, others will realize the errors of their ways and stop calling their spam-laden friends perverts, and still others will pick up a few hints about how to avoid becoming a victim (in the cases where it can be avoided, that is).

Remember one thing walking into this: Spam is almost completely about money. If there wasn’t a potentially big payoff in sending spam, no one would do it. If people did not reply to spam email messages and offers, no one would do it. It’s a business, albeit one that most of us hate with a passion.

Before I get too far down this road, let me say that every day I receive in excess of 200 junk mails in just one of my email accounts. I have other email accounts that get none. So, since I am one person with multiple accounts, something tells me the issue here is not me personally, but instead about how the world of email and spam works, and how the spammers started using my email address in the first place.

The fact of the matter is, much of what many people believe about spam and how one starts getting it is patently false. Certain assumptions are correct, although often the facts are twisted around, and people often wear blinders, assuming there is one root cause or one simple solution. It’s not that easy, friends. So, here are a few (admittedly random) things I think everyone should know about spam:

Myth Number One: If You Get Spam, You Must Be One Of Those Porn Surfers

Just like in junior high school, where your friends laughed at you and pointed in the hallway when they found out you did THAT (never mind that it wasn’t true, of course), people tend to assume that if someone gets spam email, it’s because they went to an “adult” web site and registered with their credit card and email address. As a result, you were added to an email list, and so now you get tons of junk email about V1agra and S3X – but hey, if you get that kind of email, it’s entirely your fault and you got what you deserved.

Not true. As someone who has *never* registered for online porn or anything even resembling such, especially with my work email address (I mean, come on, how stupid can a person get?), I can tell you that you don’t need to be a perverted Internet sex addict to become a spam victim.

I can also tell you that people really do think along the lines of this particular myth. Not many, but at least some do: A couple of years ago, I was standing in front of the entire company, showing off the new secure, web-based email interface. I switched from the PowerPoint slide to the browser where I had my email account open, and sure enough, right there on the screen was a spam email with the words “XXXPORN SUPERSTORE” in bold red letters. Luckily it was just text in the email, and while surprising to many, there was nothing vulgar displayed. Needless to say, many laughed and I still get (lighthearted and friendly) comments about it to this day. A few people followed the pattern of the myth and assumed I *must* have signed up for porn using my work email account (uh, yeah, sure), while others stopped by to see me later and tell me privately that they, too, had a problem with nasty, offensive spam and that they had no idea why or where it came from. It wasn’t long before we started working on ways to combat the spam at work. More on that later.

Myth Number Two: It’s Completely Your Fault

Another assumption people make is that if you get spam, it’s because you signed up for *something* somewhere on the Internet and voluntarily made your email address available when you filled in a registration form. If you had not done that, they say, you would not get the spam email.

Similarly, some say that if you get spam, it’s because you must have posted your email address somewhere on the internet, like on a web page, and so you advertised it for spammers to eventually find (this is one form of a technique called email address “harvesting”). And so – again – it’s all your fault.

Ok, so it is true that if you register with your email address on a web site that does not respect privacy, or if you put your email address on a web site somewhere, you could end up becoming a spam victim. It’s reasonable to say that these are two ways email addresses might get on a spammer’s list. However, it’s important to understand that you don’t *have* to do these things in order to get on a junk email list. There are many other ways, and some take no action on your part. More on that below.

Myth Number Three: People Who Get Spam Are Irresponsible, Don’t Think Ahead, and Cannot Be Trusted

This sounds almost comical, I know, but I actually stood on the edge of a conversation where one person said to another (seriously), “I would never hire anyone who gets spam email. It’s just an indicator they don’t know what they’re doing and that they’re basically stupid.” Wow. If there was ever a false, way-over-the-top generalization made about junk email, this has to be the one. The guy who made the statement was serious as a heart attack, and went on to explain that because people can completely avoid spam if they would just be more careful and use common sense in the first place, spam was an example of how you can tell whether or not someone will be a good employee. He even includes the question, “Have you ever received spam email, and if so what do you think about it?” in his interviews. I’m just glad this guy doesn’t work at my company. If he wasn’t actually serious, I’d laugh, but the fact of the matter is there are people out there who make off-the-cuff, uninformed decisions about lots of things based on completely irrelevant data. Amazing.

Myth Number Four: Spam is Totally Preventable – You Just Didn’t Do Enough

People just don’t seem to get it. Spam is *not* totally preventable. While there are ways you can protect your email address from getting on spam lists, there is no sure-fire set of things you can do that will guarantee your account will stay junk-mail-free.

By way of example, I set up a catch-all account on a domain I own recently. Any email sent to any email address on the domain was all funneled into this one email account. I did not set up a web site, did not set up or submit any email addresses anywhere. I just set up the brand new domain with it’s single show-me-everything email box and waited.

Within a few days I started receiving spam at random addresses on the domain. Some of them you might expect: admin@domain.com and support@domain.com for example. But others were more creative and sneaky. Random first initials and last names, first names followed by last initials, common first and last names combined, etc.

So, there’s the proof – you don’t have to sign up for anything, post your email address anywhere, or take any action at all to start getting spam. Now, granted – if you are not prudent about how you handle your email address or if someone else mishandles it (intentionally or otherwise), you are more likely to fall victim. But sometimes you just have to do nothing.

Myth Number Five: Out-of-Office Auto-Replies Are Totally Cool and Make My Life Easier

Ah yes, the ol’ OOF autoreplier – You know, it’s that thing that shows up in your mailbox when you send a friend or colleague an email and they happen to be, say, on vacation, or maybe at the mall shopping instead of working.

What, you ask, is so bad about that? And what does it have to do with whether or not I receive spam email?

Glad you asked.

Let’s say someone sends a spam email that happens to be directed at your email account. Here’s what happens.

1.       Email sent by sorry, good-for-nothing spammer

2.       Arrives at your email box

3.       Your server sends your out-of-office autoreply back to the reply address specified in the spam email

4.       That reply address is monitored

5.       Spammer checks the account your server replied to, sees your autoreply, and thus has confirmation your mailbox is legitimate, working, active and – therefore – valuable to him/her.

6.       Spammer adds your address to the list of email addresses confirmed to be good – the gold list, so to speak

7.       Spammer sells gold list of known-working email addresses to other spammers for a premium

8.       You get more (and more and more and more) spam

Fun eh?

Moral of the story: Don’t use Out of Office autoreplies, or configure them so they only work for internal emails. And yes, I know there are legitimate business reasons for wanting to use them – it’s a trade-off decision that has to be made. You just need to understand the potential effects.

Myth Number Six: Antivirus Software Has Nothing to Do With Spam

Wrong again. AV software certainly can protect your computer and its data from damage, theft and a lot of other nasty things, but what you may not have known is that it can also protect you from becoming a spam victim. The only problem is, everyone has to use AV software (and use it correctly) for it to really work.

For the uninitiated: A “Worm” is a virus-like application that replicates via email. Generally speaking, once they get on your computer they scan your system in a few common places (address books, cached web pages from sites you have browsed, text files, documents, etc.) for email addresses. *Any* email addresses. They then use those email addresses to send emails (which generally include an attached copy of the same worm) to the email addresses found on your computer. So, you see how it works – the worm sends itself all over the place, to thousands of people, and each step of the way it collects email addresses so it can send itself again to more victims.

But wait a minute – that’s not always the extent of what they can do. In addition to installing other software that might, for example, allow a hacker to gain access to the files on your computer or to use it to launch attacks against other computers, some worms take those email addresses and (as long as they are being gathered) send the addresses off into cyberspace where spammers and others can get them.

So, in other words, if you don’t use anti-virus software on your computer and you get infected with one of these harvesting worms, you’re not only making yourself a victim – you’re dragging along all the innocent people listed in your address book and the other files where the worm does its harvesting, as well.

Using current AV software is part of being a good Net citizen. By doing so you protect more than just yourself.

Myth Number Seven: Well, That’s All Fine and Good, But There’s Nothing You Can Do About It Once It Starts

Again, not true. There are a number of companies out there that sell software that is quite effective at blocking spam from reaching you or your end users.

Why would you want to use it?

If you’re an individual, then you want to rid yourself of the mess. Maybe it offends you (depending on what kind of spam you get). At least you’d like to segregate email that is determined to be likely spam so you can filter through that separately from your legitimate email.

If you’re a person with responsibility for a company’s information systems, the reasons are bigger and more important. You have a responsibility as an employer (or the agent of an employer) to make sure the working environment is positive (or at least not offensive or hostile). Depending on the type of spam email your end users are receiving, you may have a responsibility to them to make sure you are doing what you can to combat the problem. Remember, ignorance is not bliss. And as easy as it is to put measures into place to help curb spam these days, not doing something when there is a problem is – truly – ignorant.

Where I work we use Mailfrontier’s anti-spam gateway. There are a number of other products from a variety of vendors that also do a good job. But for our part, we like what we’re using just fine; Mailfrontier is highly customer-oriented as a company, and continually combats the latest techniques spammers are using to get their junk through to you.

Myth Number Eight: If I click the link to remove myself from the spammer's list, I will stop getting spam from that sender

Please hear me on this one. I know people would like to believe that spammers are good, honest, ethical people just trying to make ends meet, and that they follow industry-accepted standards for conducting business. We all want everyone to be good and wholesome people, concerned primarilly with doing the right thing, always telling the truth and helping old ladies across the road.

But in the real world - not true.

Spammers want to know if you receive their email, because if you do, they can sell your email address to others and make more and more money. The best spammer email address list is the one that contains the highest percentage of known-good email addresses.

So, when you click to “unsubscribe,“ more often than not you are not actually unsubscribing. Yes, I realize you may be shocked at the dishonesty of it all, but there's a good chance the spammers are simply tricking you into clicking a link that simeply lets them know you received their spam email. You never get taken off the list.

On a related note, people who are using Outlook 2003 (and when Windows XP SP2 comes out, Outlook Express will also include this behavior) have probably noticed that Outlook blocks images from being loaded from Internet servers unless you specifically allow them to be loaded. Why? Because the address used to contact the server and load the image can contain a code that uniquely identifies you, thus (again) validating your email address.

UPDATED: My friend Travis emailed me with some valid comments about Myth Eight:

I think the validity of the unsubscribe link is directly proportional to the legitimacy of the spammer's business.  If you get porn spam, or "V1AGRA" ads, you're probably better off not clicking the link, sure, but ads from job posting sites and such generally do actually unsubscribe you if you click.

That's a good point. Travis continues with his own opinions about spam:

Spammers should be punished by death.  A brutal, painful, horrible death.  Something that's probably specifically in the "cruel and unusual punishment" class.

Spam sucks. There’s no one root cause. You can’t always prevent it. But there is something you can do about it.

Anyhow, when it comes to spam, that’s about all I have to say about that.



Add/Read: Comments [1]
Tech | Things that Suck
Tuesday, 27 April 2004 12:05:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Monday, 26 April 2004

Rory Blyth, who is one of the funniest and (he said seriously) most thought-provoking people I have ever read, is one year old today. Or, rather, his blog is one year old.

And to celebrate, he chronicles his favorite posts from the first year.

(I can't believe the assFeed machine still works. Cooool. :-))

If you have not had the pleasure of reading Rory's unique perspective on the world, you're missing out.

But if you get hooked like I did, don't blame me.

Blame Rory. ;-)



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Blogging | Humor
Monday, 26 April 2004 20:43:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

The other day I was trying to get a OneNote blog post to work, and had some problematic results. True to OneNote team style, Peter Baer with Microsoft emailed me directly and asked me to send him the .one file that was causing problems. So, I did and he wrote back (quoted with permission):

“I can repro the bug as well, using your file.  I’ll look into it – great bug, I don’t think we've seen this before.”

“Great bug.” Now, there's something you don't hear too often. But if you think about it, a bug is either a lump of coal or a nugget of gold, and it's all in the approach. I like the gold approach, myself. :-)

I also inquired about whether there was an ability to control whether or not OneNote does text-to-graphic conversion - sort of a way to tell OneNote not to convert no matter what. I pointed out to Peter that I had seen different results publishing from OneNote to email vs. doing a copy-paste from OneNote. Peter's reply was interesting, and sheds some light on the way OneNote deals with HTML content:

“As to your question: no, you can’t control it directly, but we do produce different HTML when copying to the clipboard vs. publishing to an MHTML file or email.  The in the 'publish' case, we attempt to preserve the original 2D layout as much as possible – hence the possible conversion of text to graphics, absolute positioning of divs, etc.  In the 'clipboard' case, because our main target destination apps are traditional word processors, we produce serialized content – mostly out of simplicity, since we don’t know just how the user will want to repurpose the data (and if the user really wants WYSIWYG fidelity, she can insert it as a picture).  So in that case, all text (including recognized ink) really will appear as text.”

That makes good sense, and the fact that Peter took the time to interact was really very cool. OneNote has quickly become a powerful and useful application that seems to care about its users just as much as its users care about it.

All this brings me to my real point: I have recently come to realize that the OneNote application itself is my second-favorite thing about OneNote.

The OneNote team at Microsoft is my first. I've learned more from meeting smart people at conferences, reading truly interesting blogs and using their application than from any other Microsoft program.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Office 2003 | OneNote | Tech
Monday, 26 April 2004 19:55:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Sunday, 25 April 2004

One of the other new things in OneNote SP1 Preview is added funcionality that allows programmers to build connectors that will import content into OneNote from other applications. Andrew May has a couple of entries on his blog that provide an early look at using the new Type Library:

“The new OneNote 1.1 Type Library includes functionality which enables you to programmatically import images, ink, and HTML into OneNote.”

Andrew also posted the OneNote Simple Import XML Schema.

Chris Pratley outlines a few ideas about what kids of power-toys for OneNote might be interesting to see some day, and offers to collect real, practical ideas from users and developers about what we think the OneNote dev team should build into the product:

“We're also interested in hearing details of any kind of extensibility you would actually use if we were to add it. The details are important - we plan to add extensibility only to support real scenarios, not just allow anything to be extended.”

SideNote: It's great to see this kind of two-way communication in the blogosphere. Thanks to Chris and the OneNote team for watching the user community and soliciting input!



Add/Read: Comments [0]
OneNote | Tech
Sunday, 25 April 2004 22:26:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Motorola MPxLooks like maybe the future is starting to look up for PocketPC-based phones.

I used a Motorola SmartPhone (MPX200) for a while, but gave up on it because of poor performance in the Exchange sync department (on the part of the phone, which bogged down under the pressure).

As far as T9 text input has come, it drove me crazy trying to type email on a phone keyboard, so I switched back to the Blackberry Phone, which does a great job for me and others where I work. It just doesn't run the Windows Mobile OS.

MPx keyboard viewBut, looks like Motorola has some new models up its sleeve. While the new SmartPhone (MPx100) looks interesting, the new MPx PDA-Phone looks very cool. With a full keboard built-in, a true HTML browser, WiFi built in, etc., I'll be all over this (if it ever makes it to the US, that is). Availability is set for 2nd half of 2004 according to Motorola's press releases.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Mobile | Tech
Sunday, 25 April 2004 21:39:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Saturday, 24 April 2004

First Glance at the OneNote SP1 Preview

Saturday, April 24, 2004

11:40 AM

 

 

So, I figured I'd just jump in and take a first look at the new OneNote SP1 Preview and see what stands out. So far, a lot. Too much to play with this morning, and some of it I'll need to try at work with the team.

 

The above image was clipped directly into OneNote using the new "Capture Screen Clipping" tool, which lets you activate the function, and then use the pen or mouse to drag a rectangle around what you want captured. The clip is saved to the memory clipboard and/or to a SideNote (your choice).

 

Sharing with Others:

 

This is a big improvement area, and I think it will be a popular item in the future where I work. The previous OneNote email capabilities appear to be improved, as are the SharePoint capabilities, and newly added in this preview release are Shared Sessions - live note-taking sessions on the network between multiple participants. Password protect the sessions if  necessary, and share the OneNote sections relevant to your need. Chris Pratley described it well in a web log entry he made describing the new preview release: See  http://weblogs.asp.net/chris_pratley/archive/2004/04/20/117053.aspx

 

Audio and Video recording:

 

Support for webcams is added (uses WinMedia 8 and 9 codecs configured for typical PocketPC optimization, but you can tweak that, too). Found some weird behavior in the video player interface, but hey, it's complicated and this is a preview release. But at least people who care can see my cat (see below for the video file). :-)

 

Video recording started: 11:49 AM Saturday, April 24, 2004

 

Integration with Other Devices/Apps:

 

Ability to create appointments, contacts and tasks are in the Tool menu, and PocketPC integration is there, as well - You can copy your notes manually or automatically from your  PocketPC device.

 

Wish-List:

 

Odd behavior and bugs don't get listed here (since I am reporting those anyhow elsewhere), but rather the few things I can think of that I don't see in the program just yet. In fact, for now I can only think of one glaring thing. Hyperlinks.

 

It appears there is still not an option to insert a hyperlink on one or more words of text (which you can do in other office apps, so was hoping to see that here in the service pack). This image is from Microsoft Word:

 

 

Screen clipping taken [from Microsoft Word]: 4/24/2004, 10:38 AM

 

You know - highlight a block of text, right click, choose "Hyperlink" from the menu and from their either add or edit the hyperlink associated with the text block. Link to a web page, or whatever. Maybe there is something about OneNote that makes this difficult to do, or maybe it's there and I just can't find it. But I have definitely tried!

 

Verdict:

 

Very cool. OneNote is already a great example of smart product building by a clearly talented team. It's a power-productivity tool, is able to be used by a wide variety of end users for an equally wide variety of purposes. The SP1 preview has addressed not only the top problems in the initial 1.0 release, it's added the low-hanging-fruit functionality that a) people are asking for and b) the product team could realistically deliver in the context of the service pack.

 

It's pretty nice. Will be interesting to see what the blog entry looks like.

 

More later.

 

Created with Microsoft Office OneNote 2003 (SP1 Preview)
One place for all your notes

Download: First Glance at the OneNote SP1 12.one
Download: Side Notes - First Glance at the OneNote SP1 Preview.WMV



Add/Read: Comments [3]
Office 2003 | OneNote | SharePoint | Tech
Saturday, 24 April 2004 11:26:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

EDIT/UPDATE: After originally posting this, I was able to work around and resolve the problem. By reducing the formatting being done both in OneNote and Word/Outlook during HTML conversion, I was able to get a relatively normal blog entry to work the way I expected. It is posted here.

Before I get too far into this, let me say that the OneNote Service Pack 1 Preview is, for al intents and purposes, awesome. Keep in mind I am trying to do something with OneNote (specifically blogging) that it was not really built to do. Plus, it’s a preview release, so no one can expect perfection.

Anyhow - OneNote SP1 Preview didn’t quite format my test blog entry in a way I was hoping, so I need to play with it and see what’s up. I’ve tried two posts, and the first one was definitely the worst of the two, but the second one was only somewhat better. Unfortunately, for some reason OneNote decides on its own to convert text into graphics. Not so good:

Second try resulted in a smaller mess, but still not workable At least most (but not all) of the typed text was formatted as text in the second try. In the first one, 95% of the text was converted to a graphical format:

So, time to figure out how to change the behavior!



Add/Read: Comments [2]
Blogging | OneNote
Saturday, 24 April 2004 11:15:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I'm late in publishing this one, but Microsoft released the OneNote SP1 Preview earlier this week. LOTS of new fixes and enhancements, too much to go into in this post, but will say more shortly. Chris Pratley (OneNote Group Program Manager at Microsoft) made a post on the release date that explains a lot, though. Better Sharepoint integration, big improvements in shared notebooks, and fixes for all of the top 25 issues from the 1.0 release are just some of the things that have changed - and there's more. Go read about it!

Can't wait to try a blog post from the new version... :-)



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Office 2003 | OneNote | Tech
Saturday, 24 April 2004 08:59:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Monday, 19 April 2004

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe and the biran fguiers it out aynawy.

Thanks to Scott for the interesting email. I've noted before (and have used it in teaching methodology) that kids have a tendency to be able to repeat the first and last things in a list that you read to them, or that they read for themselves. But, the in-between stuff tends to get jumbled up somewhere along the way. I wonder if this phenomenon is related - must be. Cool.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Random Stuff
Monday, 19 April 2004 14:37:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Sunday, 18 April 2004

Those who read regularly (all two of you) will remember that almost exactly one month ago, my neighbors gave me a cat as an early birthday present. Yeah, kind of a weird birthday present, given that it's a live animal and all, and it's kind of hard to re-gift a cat, but since it had less than 24 hours to live, I guess it was not a bad decision.

People have been asking me TONS of questions about the cat (many of them the same), so in the interest of full-disclosure and all that crap, here you go - Operation CAT Update:

  • I have not been converted into Cat Person - I have never disliked cats per se, it's just that given a natural choice, I'm more of a dog person. However, I am finding that cats are kind of cool, even if they are conceited and annoying.
  • I have not named the cat - Yeah, yeah, I know... Any number of people have already given me crap about not giving the cat a name. The only ones I've come up with so far are not ones that I would use in polite conversation, so to date no name. Besides, it's a freakin' cat; If I give it a name, it'll just look at me with disdain, swish its tail back and forth, and give me that “screw you and your damn names” look.
  • I can live with the allergy - I'm a little allergic, but I can live with it, so far.
  • I know she's a cat, but she thinks she's a dog - I have never seen a cat roll over on its back - over and over and over and over - like this one. Weirdo.
  • Random access computing has a new meaning - I have several random browser bookmarks with names like “nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhg” because this darn animal won't stop walking on my keyboard when I'm not looking.

Overall, it's not a bad deal, and she's a nice cat, so I guess she can stay. We'll probably have to transition to being a semi-outdoor animal this summer, but we'll see.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Personal Stories
Sunday, 18 April 2004 20:56:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Saturday, 17 April 2004

I was catching up on blog reading and noticed Jim Blizzard points to Infopath training now available on MSDN. Very cool. I need this. For those who don't know, Infopath is basically an Office 2003 app that allows you to create and use XML forms - it's a pretty powerful front end. Sharepoint 2003 supports it, too, as do a few workflow tools that are offered by third-party channel partners.

He also points to a day-log session on April 21 in Portland being put on by Microsoft called “BizTalk Server 2004: Developing the Integrated Enterprise.” Registered.

I've never attended a Portland Nerd Dinner before, but as much blog reading as I am doing by the participants, and since I am sure Scott will be going (he's tried to get me to go before), I might just stop in and see what its about.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Blogging | Office 2003 | SharePoint | Tech
Saturday, 17 April 2004 20:03:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Interesting interview over at news.com with John Levine, co-chair of the Internet Research Task Force's Anti-Spam Research Group.

“I tell people that dealing with spam is like curing cancer. For example, cancer isn't one disease; it's 100 diseases, and you will need to come up with a 100 cures for it. Another way spam is like cancer is that when you try to cure cancer, you need to come up with something that will kill the cancer without killing the patient. If you kill the patient, it is easy to get rid of the cancer.”

Not sure I agree with all his positions, particularly with the stated need for new laws (although I agree the ones on the books now are ineffective). He may be right, but technology changes are what's really needed in the absence of laws that will actually work. Besides, I'm not exactly a big fan of lots of laws. :-)

Good read though. And if you're a security-watcher, The Get Up To Speed on Enterprise Security feature at news.com (RSS feed here) is a good place to watch.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
IT Security | Tech
Saturday, 17 April 2004 18:47:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Thursday, 15 April 2004

Yes, I jumped out a perfectly good airplane.

Yes, it was a blast.

Yes, I will do it again.

Want to see? Click here. It was a bad hair day, but hey - what the heck. These day's they're all bad hair days. Not enough to go around anymore. :-)

If you ever happen to be in the Southern California area looking for a fun weekend, check out Jim Wallace's skydiving school in Perris. Jim, Gail Sims and crew are truly awesome. Jim has more than 17,000 jumps and more than 276 hours of free-fall time in his career - Number one in the entire world! He's the one in the yellow t-shirt in the video. And on top of that, he's a really great guy. Gail's also a world-record holder.

In fact, I had more fun this past weekend than I have had in a long time. Not only did I do the free-fall thing, I also had the opportunity to spend a few hours walking and climbing all over the USS John C. Stennis, a *huge* aircraft carrier, with my friend David, who is stationed on the ship. He's also the one I went skydiving with (we both had birthday's this weekend, and it seemed like both the best and craziest thing to do to mark the occasion). We spent four days pretty much just wandering around southern California with no real plan. Unplanned time - wow, what a concept, and quite a relief from the usual!

I also purchased a replacement for my digital camera that was stolen last year. I managed to find a Nikon D70 kit, which was quite a challenge because they have not shipped very many since its release a couple weeks ago, but we found one out in the middle of nowhere. It's a great camera, but more on that later. In fact, it was that camera-finding detour we took that routed us through the skydiving capital of the Western Hemisphere, or maybe even the whole world: Perris, California.

Our original plan had been to go to California Adventure up at Disney - that was going to be our fun for the weekend - you know, roller-coasters and stuff. While driving between the town where I bought the camera and Anaheim, David looked out the window and saw a bunch of parachutes. Now, understand that he works on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and pretty much anything that flies is cool to him. So, since we didn't actually have a real plan or any kind of schedule to follow, we decided to take the nearest exit and check it out. Within 30 minutes, we'd decided Disneyland/California Adventure was for wimps, and that we were going to jump out of an airplane instead.

So, that's what we did. Captured on video for all to see. It was great.

And then we went ahead and drove to California Adventure, anyhow. Heh. This new Disney park is pretty cool - the big roller-coaster there is damn fast and they have some good fast-action rides. They closed at 10, so we ran over to the Disneyland park and did the obligatory Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean rides (classics and still great).

I wished I could have spent another week in California, but my Mom's birthday was Tuesday and she turned 60 (happy birthday, Mom), so I flew there from Cali and got to spend a couple of days catching up with family.

It was a great weekend. Not sure I can match that one again, but I am sure I will try sometime. Pictures coming soon.



Add/Read: Comments [5]
Personal Stories
Thursday, 15 April 2004 16:23:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Ok, so on April 29th, I am going to be arrested as part of a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association - you know, Jerry's Kids.

I need your help, so I can get out of there and back to work, and so MDA can do its great work. What I need from you is one or both of two things:

  1. Make a donation. Comment here or email me (greg-AT-greghughes-DOT-net) and we'll figure it out. Cash, check, credit card, whatever - and it's tax deductible as allowed by law. I'm not going to ask for specific amounts, but I'll be donating probably $50 to my own cause to get things started. I need to raise at least $1800.00, and not much time to do it (that's what I get for going on vacation eh?). HELP!
  2. Post a link to here (that's http://www.greghughes.net/rant/PermaLink.aspx?guid=db77e9d1-f2fd-403d-9e57-9d4533d88310) from your blog. BLOGGERS FOR MDA! :-) Cool idea eh? Let's see how much we can raise for them that way! Alternatively, email people you know (no email spamming though, please).

Help me, help them, help help help! Sure would be cool to see the community turn out for this one!

 - greg



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Thursday, 15 April 2004 11:19:46 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Sunday, 11 April 2004

While heading for Disneyland, we changed our mind and stopped short. Found something that beats Disneyland hands-down. Got out at 12,000 feet, flew through the sky, pulled the cord at 5,000 feet, landed standing up. Fun way to spend your birthday when you're starting to feel your age, I highly recommend it! :-)



Add/Read: Comments [4]
Personal Stories
Sunday, 11 April 2004 15:18:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Saturday, 10 April 2004

Found an open network. Skipping Disneyland, gonna do something more exciting. Film at 11 - April 11th that is.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Personal Stories
Saturday, 10 April 2004 20:40:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

At the gas station in Tecumunga or some name like that. Filling up the tank, $2.45 a gallon. Wow.



Add/Read: Comments [1]
Personal Stories
Saturday, 10 April 2004 13:05:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Wednesday, 07 April 2004

I've decided to go have a little fun, so I'll be traveling on a birthday whirlwind trip for the next week. My birthday falls on this Sunday (also Easter), my friend who is in the Navy and happens to be in port in San Diego this weekend has a birthday on Monday, and my mom's birthday (60!!!) is on Tuesday. So, I'm off to California Thursday night to spend the weekend hanging out there, then over to New Mexico to spend my mom's birthday with her, take her out to dinner, get her something nice.

If I can bring myself to spring for it (dunno when I got so freakin' cheap on some things) I may pick up a new digital camera to replace the one that got stolen last year, and in that case maybe I will have some pictures to post from the trip. We'll see.

For those of you who work with me, you know how out of character this vacation thing is, so please - don't call me, I'll call you. :-) And thanks to Mike and Debbie for watching the animules for me.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Personal Stories
Wednesday, 07 April 2004 21:43:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

I'm going to be arrested on April 29th. A warrant is being issued, and I'm going to jail at Red Robin, and I need you to bail me out. Seriously, if I spend too much time there, I'll get fat and stuff, so help me here, friends!

Apparently they'll be coming to arrest me at work, and I'll be stuck in holding til people help me out and I can post bail. Of course, it's all a fundraiser to benefit MDA, so it's for a good cause.

Wanna help? Contact me. I don't think I particularly care to share a burger with some guy in a flower dress named Bruno. Save me - Please.

I'll post more when I have it.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Humor | Personal Stories
Wednesday, 07 April 2004 21:36:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Intel has served up a (very addicting) simulation game that will give you a taste of what it's like in my little corner of the universe. Think you've got what it takes? Heheheh, give it a try... May not be as easy as you think!

The IT manager - overworked and underappreciated. You know the story. Back in school, always the last to be picked for football, but the first one they ran to when they accidentally deleted a homework assignment. Not much has changed since then. But the fact is it takes a special skill set to manage an IT department. As IT manager you need to monitor industry trends and administer mission-critical resources for an entire company. At the same time, you have to manage increasingly tighter budgets - finding ways to do more with less - and possess the people skills to oversee staff and run interference with top decision makers.

The Intel® IT Manager Game tests your entire skill set - people management, resource allocation, strategic analysis and planning. It also tests your courage under fire - can you stand up to the scrutiny of top management along with that of your peers in the industry? Will the decisions you make result in breathtaking profits or devastating losses? Will you enjoy the sweet taste of victory or the bitter agony of defeat? Are you destined for management glory or will you be the kid sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the bell to ring? Find out by
playing the Intel® IT Manager Game now.

Thanks to Scott for sending me the link.



Add/Read: Comments [4]
Humor | Tech
Wednesday, 07 April 2004 12:02:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Monday, 05 April 2004

Check it out - something new has been released from the MSFT secrecy stronghold and has suddenly hit the 'net for all to see. And it's pretty darn cool.

http://channel9.msdn.com/

This is cool stuff - it's all about the conversation.

Anyhow, this is a new idea, and it looks to be promising. It shows how thoughts and ideas are just as important as techniques and skills.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Blogging | Tech
Monday, 05 April 2004 22:40:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Sunday, 04 April 2004

I rented a tractor yesterday. They dropped it off here in The Middle of Nowhere(TM) at about 9 a.m. yesterday, and picked it up this morning. It cost me $200. Sure, that's a lot of money, but I've decided it's more than worth it. Here's why:

  1. I can stand up straight and I slept last night - I have a bad back. The doc says I'm not a surgical candidate yet. Operative word there. No pun intended. Anyhow, I'm not ready to go under the knife, and I prefer to be able to stand, walk, lie down, etc. without the extreme pain I've endured from time to time because I pushed myself too hard. I'd rather give my money to the rental place, and avoid the wasted time, pain and insurance deductibles.
  2. Got more than a few day's worth of manual yard and garden/other work done in one day - And I even made a trip to the store in the middle of the day, so in reality, it's was just a partial day of tractoring. Among the things it helped get done include moving 11 cubic yards of soil to several above-ground planting beds, excavating a flat space in a hillside for a new raised bed (otherwise a couple days worth of work by hand), repairing the quarter-mile gravel driveway (which runs up and down a couple of steep hills and tends to get ruts and bumps galore).
  3. Helped the neighbors - Last year I rented a heavy-duty rear-tine tiller to break up the ground for a back-yard lawn. It didn't work - the ground here gets so hard (clay soil) that even an 11-horse tiller can't break the surface. Horsepower means nothing if you can't get through that top layer. I saw yesterday that my neighbor had rented the same tiller as I had last year (coulda sworn I had warned him when it didn't work for me), and was attempting the same task. Feeling his pain, I pulled the tractor up and offered to rip the ground to make it easier to till, and he gladly accepted. Box scraper implements with big nasty digging teeth are amazing, and the neighbor was able to move on to tilling other areas of his yard. 'Nuf said.
  4. Tractors are Fun - Ask any guy who's used a full-size commercial tractor and they'll tell you, these are real men's toys. God Bless John Deere. :-)

Back when I was a teenager I spent a couple summers helping out/working now and then on a horse farm that some friends owned. One of my favorite things about it was the tractor. It was cool then, and it's still cool today.

Yee Haw. ;-)



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Personal Stories
Sunday, 04 April 2004 13:36:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Thursday, 01 April 2004

I must say, I was just a little surprised at how many people actually thought I was being serious earlier today... I mean - DOG SEAT BELTS??? Come on! ;-)

My story was borrowed from a pre-planned radio show on 1190-KEX here in Portland. The radio personalities notified some listeners a day ahead of time, to have them help to make it that much more believable. It worked.

The first person I heard from among many today was my friend, co-worker and neighbor, Mike. He seemed shocked that my dog, Buddy, was in jail.

My reply: “Can you *believe* that crap????”

He wasn't the only one. :-o

Once the radio show started this afternoon, not only did the phone calls start rolling in to the KEX studio, but the local and state police offices started getting a lot of phone calls, too. The Portland Police Bureau was warned ahead of time, and it sounds like they were ready, but the Oregon State Patrol wasn't aware or prepared for a bunch of phone calls from angry and confused people wanting to know what the heck was going on with this “new law.”

Classic.

Anyhow, Happy April Something-or-Another. :-)



Add/Read: Comments [4]
Humor | Personal Stories | Things that Suck
Thursday, 01 April 2004 19:52:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

I used to be a cop. I don’t have a problem with laws that make sense. I do, however, have a serious problem with stupid laws that go too far.

On Wednesday evening, I became a victim of Oregon's new PET RESTRAINT LAW.

This law requires that you restrain your pet (dog, cat, ferret, whatever) in special seat belts while traveling in a moving vehicle. Yes, that’s right, Dog Seat Belts. The cost of these special animal restraints runs anywhere from 20 to 30 dollars, if you can find one. Holding an animal in your lap is NOT acceptable. Animals are apparently also required to be restrained in the back of an open pick-up bed in an attached animal carrier. This law actually went into effect January 1, 2004 but only warning tickets were given out until March 1, and since then they've been writing citations for real. And I got screwed.

So now I owe a fine of $150 for my first offense and my dog was confiscated to the local animal shelter, and I have to go there to get him back, but I can’t do that until I show proof that I have a pet restraint in the car. Plus, I’m told that if I get caught a second time, they’ll take my pet from me permanently and charge me with animal neglect.

The stupidest part is that it wasn’t even a cop that saw my dog walking around in the back seat – It was someone working on a construction crew on a highway near my house. Any Oregon State police officer, city cop, OR roadside worker can act as a witness in court according to the statute. If the road crew sees you and calls the police, they can either find you and pull you over (like me), or they can send you a citation in the mail.

This sucks. How the heck do these laws get passed???

Update: See Hook, Line, Sinker ...



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Humor | Personal Stories | Things that Suck
Thursday, 01 April 2004 00:01:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback