Thursday, 30 September 2004
Attending GnomeDex? Grab the PST file and update your Outlook calendar. I did, which means my Blackberry is up to date.
Sheez, that’s sooo lame. But it’s cool. :)
It's about what you'd expect. A group of people from all over the country - well the world, actually - are converging on South Lake Tahoe for a couple days of Geek Fest. What do they want to do? Watch the presidential debates and have WiFi so they can blog about it while it happens. Heheh... Freakin' hard-core blodgers...
I might even join in on the debate action, except that I actually try to stay away from political positions on this site. I lean a little to the right (politically, now stop that), but mostly hang in the middle somewhere. I know who I like for this election (and am glad I feel that I have someone/thing to vote for, rather than having to vote against someone).
On a personal note, I had the opportunity to meet someone here whom I have always held in high regard, ever since we first conversed on the Internet back in 1996. [Sidenote: In our big-small world, it seems people tend to judge others without having actually met them. That has always bothered me, it's a mistake to do that. Forgive the analogy, but fact is you can't tell a book by its cover, and you can tell even less about a book from a picture of it's cover on Amazon. Believing its possible to know someone on the Internet the same way you would know them if you met them face-to-face is short-sighted and plain wrong.] So, while I have always suspected as much, I have now had the opportunity to confirm that Chris is a good and likeable guy, and a hard worker. And Ponzi is very cool, too. Oh and BTW Chris, it was PowWow by Tribal Voice - anyone remember that one??
There are others I am looking forward to meeting, as well - people with whom I have had professional or blogging contact frequently, but whose analog voices I have never heard and whose non-virtual hands I have never had the opportunity to shake. Thats the best part of this event for me - making the virtual relationships real.
By the way... The BlueGo Networks via Proto Networks WiFi hot-spots here suck. If I have to pay through the nose for WiFi, it sure as hell better work, and this service is worse than bad. Argh. It worked last night for the most part, and today it connects for 5 seconds and then drops out, then comes back for a minute or two, then drops. What a freakin' tease! Highly non-recommended.
Wednesday, 29 September 2004
I picked up a pair of SoundShield headphones from the Brookstone store in the PDX airport on my way out of town today, after a friend of mine showed me his and recommended (strongly) that I get some of my own. I was telling him how flying on jets causes me to get all tense and stressed by the time the flight is over, and he said it was the loud background noise, and that these headphones would make a world of difference.
He couldn't have been any more correct.
Not only do the headphones cancel out nearly all the background noise on the airplane, they also plug into my MP3 player or laptop (or the aircraft audio jack or whatever), and the sound reproduction is very good. The noise cancellation idea is amazing - I found myself asleep and arriving in Reno relaxed and without the muscle tension that normally ruins the plane flight for me.
Recommended - highly - for travelers.
Arrived in South Lake Tahoe this afternoon, and have already started meeting a lot of cool people, some of whom I have interacted with in the past, and a few new acquaintances as well.
Who I met today:
A bunch of great people. We talked geek stuff, politics, constitutional law, you name it (your typical tech conference fodder of course). I helped stuff bags for the attendees. Putting on a conference like this is a ton of work, something very few people actually understand, especially when you're a small company or organization running a show labor-of-love style. And that's what this is - there's no huge up-sell to come out of this, it's all about getting together, geeking out and learning from each other.
Quality is what this is all about, and the more I speak to people about it, the more excited I am to be here. I'd choose a conference like this, with a killer crew of really smart and talented people, over a thousand-attendee marketing fest any day, month or year.
USGS officials are holding a news conference right now, and have just announced an explosive event on Mt St Helens is possible, and the alert level has just been raised by the USGS for the mountain. The lava dome in the crater has apparently moved a measurable amount, and seismic activity has taken a noticible upturn.
They are now seeing quakes at the rate of 4 a minute. They are larger quakes, 2 to 2.5 in magnitude. Describing the seismic activity, they say it is definitely ramping up and plateauing in phases, not falling back down. Explosion and ash are the risks. This behavior is similar to what was observed on the mountain in 1986: Big increases in seismic energy over past 8 hours.
I'm at the airport flying out to Reno at 12:45, mobile posting from my handheld device. I hope it keeps its top on.
Update: USGS Advisories and information about the mountain activity available here.
Dexter-Southfield Schools via NB
SpaceShipOne, piloted by Michael Melvill, just completed the first of a series of two flights into space with an equivalent load of three people. One more flight within the next two weeks (sounds like they will try for Monday next week) would net them the coveted X-Prize.
The goal behind the contest is to build a private, reusable space transport technology that can be licensed and used in business. The design for SpaceShipOne is pretty darn cool - it's wings fold back about 45 degrees to act as brakes for re-entry. Already people are signing up and buying tickets to fly into space, and one Las Vegas businessman is looking for someone who can build an orbital "hotel destination" for four.
More and more amazing, every day. Wow.
The other day I mentioned about how I heard a rather popular blogger from Seattle on the radio, and essentially had a "wow what a 'big small world' this is" moment. The Internet has done that - effectively shrunk the world as we know it, while maintaining its true non-virtual size and mass.
Yesterday a co-worker, Steve, saw me in the elevator along with another co-worker, Scott. He said that he had just been communicating with someone he knows who lives in Alaska, and was talking about something interesting, when the friend asked him if the Corillian he works at is the same Corillian that employs the guy who tore apart his MP3 player for the hard drive inside. Steve was surprised and had a good story to tell. I bet that kind of thing almost never happened 40 years ago. Again, it's "big small world" we live in.
Today I'm leaving on a trip that will help turn the tables again and make my world just a little smaller again. Let's call it the "small big world" trip (it's subtle, take you time, heh). I'll be meeting people I've never had a chance to speak to face to face, and I am looking forward to it. There are people for whom I have great respect but have never met in person. I see this as a great opportunity.
If you think about how much technology (specifically electronics and the Internet and everything you can do with them) has changed the world in the past 10 years, it's pretty darn incredible. It makes me wonder what the next really big thing will be. I guess we'll just have to hang on and see.
Tuesday, 28 September 2004
I've neglected myself three times over the past few years by not attending Gnomedex - which was both my mistake and my loss. This year I am going, and it's looking to me like this may be one of the best conferences I've ever attended from the total-geek-fest standpoint. I'm flying to Reno tomorrow and making the quick drive over to Lake Tahoe, where the conference is being held at Harrah's.
Probably the thing that I am most looking forward to is meeting people that I have conversed with on the Internet (mostly through the blogosphere, as they say) face-to-face. There are a number of people for whom I have great professional respect that will be in attendance, and that alone will make this more than worth the while.
Chris Pirillo's Lockergnome is the power being this conference. I am sure it will be fun, interesting and memorable.
Below is some info ripped from the Gnomedex FAQ, and yes, I will blog from the conference when something stands out to me.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go do some laundry so I can pack clean clothes.
Q: Will there be Internet access?
A: Is the sun a mass of incandescent gas?
Q: Who's Gnomedex 4: Geeks Gone Wild! for?
A: Technology enthusiasts, professionals, and folks who just love hanging out with geeks. In past years, we've had fantastic presentations, vendors, and sponsors - and expect this year to be no different in that respect.
Q: Is this conference family-friendly?
A: It's recommended that anybody below the age of 18 go to Disneyland instead.
Q: Can I bring a friend?
A: Only if s/he likes to have fun, too.
Q: Why is yours better than other conventions?
A: Because it is.
Q: Do people really read FAQs?
Q: How many people do you expect to be there this year?
A: Including you? A lot. Close to 1,000, according to our estimates.
Q: Where's Gnomedex 4: Geeks Gone Wild! being held?
Q: Is this a place for me to make business contacts?
A: Yes, and to make them life-long friends as well.
Q: Can I blog this event?
A: If you don't, the gods will be angered and virgins will (most likely) be sacrificed.
Q: What is a blog?
A: Nobody really seems to know.
Great software announcements today... Nick Bradbury has announced that FeedDemon 1.5 Beta 1 is available.
Why is this a big deal? There's a great new addition to the mix:
“Starting with version 1.5, FeedDemon users can create a Bloglines Channel Group from their Bloglines subscriptions. When viewing a Bloglines Channel Group, items you read in Bloglines won't show up in FeedDemon, and items you download in FeedDemon won't show up as unread in Bloglines. It's very easy to synchronize with your Bloglines subscriptions so that FeedDemon reflects feeds you add or remove from Bloglines.”
Looks like I may need to go back and try BlogLines again. This is what was missing for me - synchronized integration with my feed reader.
And just in time - Blackberry has announced (but not released) BES 4.0, which will (finally) get some much-needed changes in place!
For example (my filtered feature list of what really stood out):
- COMPLETE WIRELESS SYNCHRONIZATION - Yes!!!
- View pictures on the device
- More wireless calendar features (accept tentative, add comments, notification of conflicts)
- Global search (email, contacts, calendar, tasks, across the whole thing)
- Wireless management of Out of Office message, email filters, signatures, etc.
- Lots of back-end wireless security and management improvements
More detailed info is on the Blackberry web site - click the links below.
The latest release of the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution will feature:
Nice, nice nice! Time to go renew that TSupport subscription that's about to come due...
Blackberry customers running a BES can sign up for possible inclusion in a BES 4.0 preview if interested. Done.
A good introduction to using RSS on the Internet is available in both quick-video-tutorial format as well as a more detailed, yet easy-to-absorb text format at c|net.
If you are not familiar with RSS, and you work in the high-tech industry, I do hereby declare you to be old skool, out of touch, and truly negligent in your professional career path - and it won't be long before you're declared incompetent, so watch out. I mean, can you imagine what you would think of someone who did not know what email is? Trust me, it's a lot like that. I know there's a lot to learn, but don't get caught behind the eight-ball, people...
When you need a RSS feed to subscribe to, so you can learn without hurting yourself, just start with this one:
There - now if that doesn't motivate you, nothing will. Now go learn something fast!
By the way, a couple of interesting (to me, at least) things:
- NewsGator (if you're an everything-in-Outlook fan) and FeedDemon (my own personal choice in RSS readers) are both featured in the video (and the product reviews). Either one sells for about $29, and is money well-spent.
- Misplaced noun of the year: I wish the freakin' emphasis on "news" when talking about RSS would just go away - It's not a news reader people, it's a feed reader. News is just one type of content you can get in an RSS feed format.
(shamelessly plucked from Scoble and others)
Monday, 27 September 2004
Addy Santo has updated BlogWave and released the first beta version. He released a pre-beta version back in July, and has since updated the software.
Say hello to BlogWave Beta 1 - Download and what's new info is available here.
What is it? what does it do? Answers to your questions ripped straight from Addy's web site:
Q. What is BlogWave?
A. BlogWave is an "RSS Generator": a tool which can pull information from a variety of sources and publish it as RSS. This process is very easy to configure and can be scheduled to run automatically. For example, using BlogWave you can create an RSS feed from Sharepoint announcements on your company's internal site. Or you can publish event logs as RSS. Or even merge multiple sources into one feed (aggregation) and/or publish a feed to multiple destinations (cross posting).
Q. What content sources does BlogWave support?
A. BlogWave currently supports the following sources
• RSS Feeds
• Google Searches (new)
• Event Logs
• WSS Lists and Document Libraries
• SPS Searches
• NNTP newsgroups
• Custom sources can be added through a pluggable architecture and a simple .Net programming interface.
Q. Which destinations can BlogWave post to?
A. BlogWave supports the following destinations:
• .Text based blogs
• FTP sites
• Local or Network URNs
• Any WebDAV compliant website (such as Sharepoint or WSS)
• Custom destinations can be added through a pluggable architecture and a simple .Net programming interface.
Ahhhh, now here's some cool news. FlexWiki is being released to shared source. From David Orenstein's blog:
This evening FlexWiki took the next step in its life and has been made available at SourceForge.net under the Common Public License. With this step, the developer community will have the latest source (including all the WikiTalk features), better access, better tools, and a better legal environment. The FlexWiki developer community has kinda stalled out a bit over the past few months as I've worked to get FlexWiki to this point. Now we can really get going again!
FlexWiki is based on WikiWiki, and has a lot of nifty features.
Not to spark a war of words or anything, but for those who are interested in the "Windows will or will not scale" debate, here is some info definitely worth talking about.
I work at a company called Corillian Corporation (as the corporate IT team's manager). Microsoft just released a case study they did with Corillian, and it's worth taking note of. Scott Hanselman, our Chief Architect, posted these facts and figures on his blog earlier today, which illustrate the numbers quite well. They are, frankly, pretty darn amazing numbers:
- Currently, more than 19 million end users—or about 25 percent of U.S. online banking customers—use Corillian technology when they use their institution's online services for transactions such as checking balances, paying bills, and transferring funds between accounts. (Not bad for a Microsoft-based platform, eh? .NET works.)
- Voyager 3.1 was able to support 70,000 concurrent users across multiple lines of business.
- Voyager 3.1 was able to support a sustained throughput rate of more than 1,268 transactions per second — about 4.5 million successful transactions per hour—and a sustained session creation rate of more than 208 new sessions per second.
- Voyager 3.1 supported more than 129,000 concurrent sessions across the system at peak load. This includes both active sessions, in which a user is executing transactions, and inactive sessions.
- Voyager 3.1 supported a ramp-up from 0 to 70,000 users in only 15 minutes—without any adverse impact on performance—demonstrating that Voyager can sustain a large burst of users accessing information in a short time period without overwhelming the system.
- Voyager 3.1 surpassed its previous benchmark of 30,000 concurrent users by 133 percent, with only a 32-percent increase in overall hardware cost.
Another interesting note comes from some questions I asked of a Corillian employee involved in the testing. He told me that the bottleneck that stopped the test from going into higher numbers was not Windows, nor was it Voyager (our online banking application); It was the hardware (which is amazing hardware by the way). The test simply used up all the hardware resources available in the lab. In other words, both Voyager and Windows Server 2003 had more room to spare and would have kept scaling, had the hardware allowed. When you consider the test systems are some of the biggest and best in the industry, that's saying a lot. That just doesn't typically happen.
From the case study, this quote sums it all up:
Hugh Wade, one of the Microsoft engineers who spent time analyzing the Corillian code and recommending some changes to the company, notes that "Voyager was the best-performing non-Microsoft application" he had seen in the lab.
This is pretty amazing stuff, and it says TONS about Windows Server 2003, as well as Corillian Voyager - and the people who are involved in developing both products.
Clearly visible from the front porch of my house, across the river over there in Washington, Mt. St. Helens is getting restless. Standing in the yard looking at the mountain in the hazy sky, it looked just like it does any other day, but apparently it's been grumbling more than it usually does under the surface - enough for the USGS to take official notice, anyhow.
Here is the seismic-activity recording from Wednesday evening last week (the seismograph readout shows a 12-hour block from noon to midnight UTC, which is 9pm to 5am PDT), which looks pretty normal:
And the following are the subsequent 12-hour periods, from September 23rd on through to this evening...
September 23 0000-1159>>
>September 23 1200-2359
September 24 0000-1159>>
>>September 24 1200-2359>>
>September 25 0000-1159
September 25 1200-2359
September 26 0000-1159
September 26 1200-2359
September 27 0000-1159 (partial)
All images come from the webicorders system at the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network. On the webicorders page, scroll down and see the links under "SEP EHZ UW : St. Helens - Dome Station" for the latest data.
In addition, news reports are now saying that the USGS has issued a "notice of volcanic unrest" for the mountain: "Initially, hundreds of tiny earthquakes that began Thursday morning had slowly declined through Saturday. By Sunday, however, the swarm had changed to include more than 10 larger earthquakes of magnitude 2.0 to 2.8, the most in a 24-hour period since the last dome-building eruption in October 1986, Scott said."
The full Seattle P-I news story can be read here.
Saturday, 25 September 2004
The Business Journal Online reports on an Annenberg survey that finds people who watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are more likely to know the issue positions and backgrounds of presidential candidates than people who do not watch late-night comedy.
"In recent years ... traditional journalists have been voicing increasing concern that if young people are receiving political information from late-night comedy shows like The Daily Show, they may not be adequately informed on the issues of the day. This data suggests that these fears may be unsubstantiated. We find no differences in campaign knowledge between young people who watch Leno and Letterman – programs with a lot of political humor in their opening monologues -- and those who do not watch late-night. But when looking at young people who watch The Daily Show, we find they score higher on campaign knowledge than young people who do not watch the show, even when education, following politics, party identification, gender, viewing network news, reading the newspaper, watching cable news and getting campaign information on-line are taken into account."
While this does not mean the Daily Show makes people more politically aware, it shows the sample audience is more aware of the pertinent issues and facts. So for me, the full results of the survey and Annenberg's review of the content of each night-time comedy show were very interesting to read, especially when you compare and contrast the actual content of different shows, such as The Tonight Show and Late Night.
This helps explain why, even for someone like me who does not necessarily agree with Jon Stewart's political positions or leanings, The Daily Show is a program I look forward to watching - I TiVo it every day. It's funny and in fact does address the issues in its own way. It's comedy, so you have to take all of it with a grain of salt, but if nothing else, it's one more place for intelligent people to process the vast amounts of information (both relevant and irrelevant) that makes up this never-ending election cycle.
Note: You can view the actual Annenberg Center news release, which contains the full survey questions, results and analysis here. [PDF]
The Annenberg Public Policy Center also operates FactCheck.org, I site I mentioned recently here, which does an excellent job of non-partisan review of the advertisements and other messages put out by the political campaigns, with the tag-line, "Holding Politicians Accountable."
"Polling conducted between July 15 and Sept. 19 among 19,013 adults showed that on a six-item political knowledge test people who did not watch any late-night comedy programs in the past week answered 2.62 items correctly, while viewers of Late Night with David Letterman on CBS answered 2.91, viewers of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno answered 2.95, and viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart answered 3.59 items correctly. That meant there was a difference of 16 percentage points between Daily Show viewers and people who did not watch any late-night programming."
"Young people who watched The Daily Show scored 48% correct on the campaign knowledge test while young people who did not watch any late-night comedy scored 39% correct. Meanwhile, young people who watched four of more days of network news scored 40% correct, equally frequent cable news viewers 48% correct and newspaper readers 46% correct."
"Of the 83 political jokes made by Stewart, only 9 specifically targeted Bush. That was 11 percent of his political jokes. The same number targeted Kerry."
"The Daily Show segments are less likely than a Leno or Letterman joke to use a quick punch-line to make fun of a candidate ... Instead, Stewart’s lengthier segments employ irony to explore policy issues, news events, and even the media’s coverage of the campaign."
- Thanks to Betsy over at My Whim is Law for the pointer.
Friday, 24 September 2004
I swear to God, I just heard Robert Scoble schooling Michael Savage on his talk radio show about what blogs are and why people write web logs. So cool!
And here I am driving down the road at
70 ... Uh I mean 60 55 miles an hour blogging about it Blackberry-style, heh. Moblog yo!
Cool stuff, Robert. Amazing new world we live in - You read on someone's web site that they listen to talk radio. It's a web site I read in order to learn and stay up-to-date in my field. A couple days later, I'm driving home and I hear (what I think was) the author (Scoble) on talk radio, talking about blogging. Nice.
Tonight I had the privilege of watching two very smart people speak about a technology I barely grasp at the PADNUG meeting, with a few good laughs thrown in. The requisite pizza never showed up, but dinner afterwards was a fun time and I had a chance to talk to some people I otherwise would never get to meet.
The speakers were Rory Blyth and Scott Hanselman. Scott is a friend and co-worker of mine, an accomplished technical presenter and regional MSDN director. He played code-monkey while Rory, a rather infamous blogger and all around good guy who recently started work at Microsoft as a MSDN Presenter**, demonstrated the beta of Visual Studio .NET 2005 (aka "Whidbey"), showing off many new capabilities in developing ASP.net application web sites with membership capabilities (almost all without writing any code).
Thee guys are both crazy freakin' smart. Much smarter than I. I'm one of those guys who deals with lots of hardware and software, manages a group of fine employees, deals with a wide variety of people and their needs, and generally does his best to make sure things work. These two guys are in a higher league. They're amazing when it comes to coding and building things out of thin air. I wish I was half as smart.
Rory and Scott presented things in a way that I - a simple IT jock - was able to follow and pretty much completely understand. That's the mark of a good presenter and teacher: When you can impart and transfer some portion of your knowledge and to someone truly outside your profession.
By the time they were done, I had a good picture of what kinds of things Visual Studio 2005 will be able to do for the developer crowd. Understand that I am a guy who tends to get lost in developer presentations, so the fact that I actually followed along the whole time and was able to use words like "cool" and "ahhhh" with actual meaning and understanding proves these guys can teach as well as present.
Rory will also be presenting in Portland (Hillsboro actually) at the local MSDN event scheduled to be held on Thursday November 18th at the "Movies on TV" theaters. The target audience for those presentation sessions is developers interested or working with Visual Studio and .NET technologies. If you're in a different city and want to attend an MSDN event, check the schedule of all upcoming events and locations here.
** Note that Rory's title is really something like "Pacific Northwest Microsoft Developer Community Champion," but "MSDN Presenter" is much easier to use in a sentence.
Thursday, 23 September 2004
If you are running a pirated or otherwise improperly-acquired copy of Windows and you think you'll be able to download updates and add-on's, you may find yourself out of luck in the future.
Security Pipeline reports
that Microsoft has quietly debuted a mechanism that can block pirated copies of Windows from downloading fixes, patches, and software.
According to Microsoft, 23 percent of Windows computers in the United States are running bogus versions of Windows. The new program installs an Active-X control (users can opt out, at least at this point) that examines a system
accessing certain files on Microsoft's Download Center
to see if the copy of Windows that is installed on the machine is legitimate. At this time a number of Windows Media files are flagged for the check, along with several others. Files that will prompt the user to validate his or her copy of Windows are marked in the file listings with a small gold arrow on a blue circle background (see above).
I was interested to find that my computer, the very one from which I am writing this weblog entry, a computer provided to me by my workplace and which I know for a fact runs a legitimate copy of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, was initially denied access to the Windows Media Player 10 download because the test did not immediately verify it as a legitimate OS installation. Wow, I thought - that's just great.
However, once I correctly entered the product code from the friendly license sticker (the one with the teeny tiny print so small I almost could not read it) into the web interface provided for computers that could not be automagically verified, I was passed straight through to the download page. So in the end, it worked just fine:
No doubt Microsoft is legitimately interested in making sure its updates are getting into the hands of those who have purchased the products the company produces, while at the same time providing software thieves with a reason and incentive to pay for the operating system they use. It should not come as a surprise that Microsoft is doing this now, nor that they will likely expand this capability in the future. Ultimately, it takes people spending money on software to allow a company, regardless of how big that company may be, to continue to build new and better software products. No matter what your philisophical position with regard to Microsoft, the one core rule of business always applies: If you're not making money, you shouldn't be in business.
I know he didn't mean to (so I won't act all flattered or smug or anything), but Robert Scoble just sort of summed up the better part of my topic/category list for this-here-blog of mine, over on his blog...
I thought it would be interesting to compare his list of cool upcoming topics for the future to what's categorized or searchable right now on my site. So, I did just that and have added the links, below. Not a bad start, and it points out to me where I am falling shorter than I had realized in my content. Hey Robert, thanks for the copy.
“For the next 18 months, where are the business opportunities going to lie? Tablet PC. Bigtime. Windows Media Center. Gonna be a big deal. SmartPhones. Wanna watch how fast the Motorola MPX220 sells when it's released in the next few months? Xbox Live. You only need to say one number and everyone knows exactly the Xbox thing I'm talking about: "2." Visual Studio 2005. Tons of stuff coming there. MSN has a whole raft of things up their sleeves. And we haven't even started talking about BizTalk, SharePoint, Exchange, SQL Server, 64-bit Windows, SBS, CRM, LiveMeeting, and OneNote, among other things.”
It also gives me a gut-check on my existing blog categories. Here they are, with the ones that apply to this posting checked:
I have been using Furl for the past few months to create an online quick-hit catalog of items that I want to keep track of on the 'net for a number of reasons, such as items to keep track of for work purposes, stuff I may want to show someone else, or things I might want to write about at a later time here in my weblog. Today Furl sent an email to its users telling them that LookSmart has acquired the company, and describing the plans. It looks pretty good, and I hope it will be, since I have come to appreciate the Furl application.
From the email (my emphasis is added in bold):
"We are joining LookSmart, a provider of Web search and research-quality articles search, in addition to other high-quality search products.
"To show how serious that commitment is, we are officially allocating 5 gigabytes (GB) of storage for each individual member's public archive, enough space to store tens of thousands of archived items.
"We are also now working on many new features, some of which you may have requested. These include a groups feature, and the ability to search across all public archives.
"You might be wondering whether Furl will continue to be a free service, and the answer is: "Yes!" Furl will create revenue through the display of relevant, contextual advertising on search and content pages. This revenue source enables us to continue offering Furl free of charge. It also allows us to keep investing in the service. As Furl gets better and better, it attracts more members. They in turn attract new advertisers, creating a cycle of growth that benefits our members as well as our business."
Wednesday, 22 September 2004
Sean Gallagher writes at eWeek online. In his column, Root Access, he asks, "How connected is *too* connected?"
Do I have OCD? (Obsessive Connectivity Disorder) Do you?? My results are noted below, in-line... Damn Blackberries...
Gallagher: "I think that I've allowed myself to actually accumulate too much connectivity. As a remote employee of a highly-distributed organization, it's important for me to be as wired in as possible. But sometimes that may go a bit too far. As I sat in my car at a stop light responding to an instant message on my cell phone, I pondered exactly where I crossed the line into connectivity stupidity.
"Here's a simple test to determine if you have what I've come to call "obsessive connectivity disorder." The symptoms are listed in order from least to most severe; if you get more than halfway down the list, then you probably have OCD."
E-mail connectivity :
- You have more than one e-mail account that you check from work. YES
- You have more than one e-mail client running on your PC. YES
- You have more than one e-mail account that you check from a mobile device. YES
- You move information from one device to another by e-mailing it to yourself. YES
- You have read e-mail while at a sporting event. YES
- You have read e-mail while coaching a sporting event. NO
- You have read e-mail while participating in a sporting event. NO
- You have read an email while driving. YES
- You have responded to an e-mail while driving. YES
- You have responded to an email while home, in bed. YES :-(
- You have sent an e-mail from your phone to your Blackberry just to find it in your drawer. YES :-(
- You have more than one instant-messaging client running on your desktop PC. YES
- You have an instant messaging client running on your mobile phone. YES (in the past)
- You frequently see the AOL Instant Messenger alert, "Your screen name is now signed into AOL(R) Instant Messenger (TM) in 3 locations." And all of those locations are you. NO (AIM Sux0rz)
- You have more than two instant messaging clients running on your mobile device. And they're both active. NO
- You have instant-messaged yourself a reminder at your desktop from a mobile device. YES
- You IM your children to tell them to take out the trash. While you're at home. Uh - NO
- You have responded to an instant message while driving. On your cell phone. And it was more than just, "OK." YES
Security Pipeline has an interesting article that explains how you can do some simple and cost-free things with your network setup to significantly improve your security situation, in the event you have not already applied the measures they describe.
Note: I am not so sure I agree with the article as a whole (in my book, a good firewall is an absolute must, and vulnerability scanners do add real value, especially when used in combination with common sense and a good, well-trained set of brains and eyes), but the points made in the article are interesting and, at least on a case-by-case basis, valid. But I do not agree that implementing just those measures would provide anything even approaching acceptable network security. To state that many IT managers become mired in the volume of patches and configurations is a valid point on its face, and is worth considering when looking at how to manage security and prioritize, but to suggest or imply that one therefore avoid any of the patches and tools is not - in my opinion - a good option.
From the article (which gives specific items to address):
"According to Peter Tippett, CTO of the newly-formed security company Cybertrust (formed from TruSecure, BeTrusted and Ubizen), you're better off looking for good solutions instead of perfect answers. "A few solutions that are only 80 percent effective give an overall 99.9 percent solution," Tippett says. In fact, he says that the most effective security solutions require little time and less expense, and can reduce your exposure 40-fold."
From Microsoft Research, ConferenceXP v3.0 beta is available for people who are interested in seeing the latest developments in the areas of wireless classrooms, collaboration and distance learning:
ConferenceXP integrates recent advances in high performance audio, video and network technologies to seamlessly connect multiple distant participants in a rich immersive environment for distance conferencing, instruction and collaboration. ConferenceXP provides an extensible foundation for interactive collaborative environments, and serves as a research platform for designing and implementing distance conferencing and learning applications. Please visit the ConferenceXP 3.0 Beta web site for more information.
I don't usually link to this kind of stuff here (simply don't click if you're offended way too easily), but this is great:
There's something about this that just doesn't smell quite right...
Monday, 20 September 2004
Starting in October and running into mid-December, MSDN will have a whole slew of Infopath webcasts going on. One of Office 2003's best kept secrets (and that is not necessarily a good thing), this program provides a powerful front end to designing, creating and using XML forms.
Best Practices for Designing InfoPath Forms
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
9:00 AM-10:30 AM
User Roles in InfoPath 2003
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Building Advanced Dynamic Solutions in InfoPath 2003
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Business Logic in InfoPath 2003
Yuet (Emily) Ching and Prachi Bora
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Using Managed Code and Visual Studio to Build Solutions
Willson Raj David
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
InfoPath in End-to-End Enterprise Solutions: Integrating InfoPath with Siebel and SAP
Monday, November 08, 2004
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Digital Signatures in InfoPath 2003
Mihaela Cristina Cris
Monday, November 15, 2004
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Creating Custom Controls for InfoPath SP-1
Monday, November 29, 2004
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Programming Workflow into InfoPath Solutions: Using InfoPath with BizTalk Server 2004 and Human Workflow Services
Monday, December 06, 2004
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Database Connectivity in InfoPath Through ADO.NET DataSet Support
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
All times are Pacific Daylight Time (UTC–07:00) until Oct 31, and Pacific Standard Time (UTC–08:00) on and after Oct 31st.
Last week while I was out, Microsoft released a new tool on their downloads site called SSL Diagnostics Version 1.0, which aids in quickly identifying configuration problems in the IIS metabase, certificates, or certificate stores.
x86 and ia64 versions are available. The download contains a document called the SSL FAQ that is a great resource for people wanting to learn about SSL from the beginning, as well.
Recommended for anyone who might need to deal with web servers, certification authorities or SSL certificates for any reason.
Microsoft's TechNet has released a useful set of step-by-step guides to help people learn, understand, plan, deploy, configure and maintain Active Directory infrastructures on Windows 2003 domains.
From the AD Step-by-Step Guides page, the following individual titles are available (see the main page for more information about each):
- Installing Windows Server 2003 as a Domain Controller
- Installing a Windows XP Professional Workstation and Connecting It to a Domain
- Setting Up Additional Domain Controllers
- Managing Active Directory
- Understanding the Group Policy Feature Set
- Using the Group Policy Management Console
- Enforcing Strong Password Policies
- Using the Delegation of Control Wizard
- User Data Management and User Settings Management through Group Policy
- Configuring a Dial-Up Remote Access Server
- Building a Site-to-Site Virtual Private Network Connection
- Using the Encrypting File System
- Digitally Signed and Encrypted E-Mail
- Active Directory Sites and Services
- Active Directory Bulk Import and Export
My first real job, and the profession for which I went to college, was photojournalism. One of my heros of the trade, Eddie Adams, died Sunday from Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS).
I've since moved on to other work, a decision I sometimes ponder when I am feeling especially creative without an outlet. But the extreme importance of the trade, which Eddie Adams personified, has stuck with me over the years.
Adams was probably most famous for his picture of a Viet Cong officer being shot in the head in the streets of Saigon, Vietnam in 1968. But his contributions to photojournalism and bringing the world closer to all of us went much further than that. He covered 13 wars, worked many years for the Associated Press and Time-Life, and photographed presidents and other heads of state during his extensive and colorful career.
In his own unique way he took the trade as seriously as anyone, realizing the power and responsibility of the lens and film. Writing about the famous picture from Saigon in '68 in Time Magazine, Adams said:
"The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'"
If a picture was worth a thousand words, Eddie Adams' images are worth a million. He taught new photographers the trade, and passed his talents and values on to many.
I never met Eddie Adams personally, so I can't say I knew him, but I can say that he helped me to better know myself when I was learning the trade and craft of photojpournalism. Thank you, Eddie Adams, for always making me think, and for making life a little more real while you were here with us.
Sunday, 19 September 2004
You may have seen the Robosapien toy robot for sale at your local Frys or other electronics store. It's fun to play with and remarkably more advanced than anything that was made when I was a kid. Our local store sells it for about $68.
Well, some guys over in Germany that are studying robotics decided it would be fun to make the Robosapien robot autonomous - in other words, program it so it could do something on its own, using its own "senses," if you will. They successfully hacked their little robot with a Pocket PC, Microsoft Embedded C++, an IR remote control program for the Pocket PC, and a CF-card camera. Now it will "watch" for an orange pole, and if it "sees" it in its field of view, it will run toward the pole. Pretty darn cool.
But even better than just showing they can do it, they have released their Robosapien API so that you, too can play with robotic hacks. You're not limited to making mad dashes at orange poles - that is just the default program that ships with the API. You can write your own instruction sets for your autonomous robot, and make it interact with whatever it can "see."
I am starting to think I need to pick up one of these, find that old Pocket PC that's lying around here somewhere, and see what can be done. It looks like they had to chop off the lower arms and part of the original robot's feet - probably for weight reasons - which is too bad. Their notes also state that the weight and center of gravity/balance are important to allowing the robot to move correctly under its own power. So, a really light-weight PocketPC would certainly be a good place to start.
"You are unknown to me.
Your camera's memory card was in a taxi; I have it now.
I am going to post one of your pictures each day.
I will also narrate as if I were you.
Maybe you will come here and reclaim this piece of your life."
is (Ooops... better make that “was”) one of the more interesting/strange blogs I have seen in some time. The author found a digital camera card in a taxi, thought of an idea, and the rest is (ongoing and made-up) history. The blog, "I Found Some of Your Life," merges the real-world with a made-up one. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this site compensates for the pictures with it's fictional guess-at-a-story commentary. You should start with the introduction entry and then work your way though the chronology, to get the full effect.
I can't wait til the owner discovers there's a web site with his pictures on it. That should be very interesting. (EDIT: Not sure exactly what happened, but apparently someone got wind and was not too happy)
From the introduction entry describing the blog and how it got started:
In my possession is one (1) memory card from a digital camera. This memory card was found in a taxi in New York City. I have no idea who the owner of the camera is.
The pictures on the memory card were taken over the course of exactly one (1) year in this person's life, starting July Twenty-Fifth, Two Thousand and Three (07-25-03) and ending July Twenty-Fourth, Two Thousand and Four (07-24-04).
I am going to post one (1) picture here each day. As there are two hundred and twenty-seven (227) pictures, there will be two hundred and twenty-seven (227) posts. The pictures will appear in chronological order according to the timestamp accompanying each image.
As the images add up, I will attempt to assemble an identity for this unknown person. Each day's new picture will be a fresh addition to this photographic life-documentation. Only with the unveiling of the final picture (the two hundred and twenty-seventh (227th)) will we finally have a full understanding of this person's life over the past year - at least as far as these pictures will allow us to infer.
Further, in an attempt to present this pictorial information in a more personal manner, and also to better allow for some artistic license, I am going to pretend that I am the owner of the camera. I'll call me Jordan, because that's the name on my birthday cake (you'll see).
Friday, 17 September 2004
In the random blog post department:
Over on Channel 9 there's a picture of a Windows 2006 box. Well, okay it's not the real Windows box, but it's cool.
So are some of the typical Channel 9 comments (cool that is)...
Dave Bowman : Hello, HAL do you read me, HAL?
HAL : Affirmative, Dave, I read you.
Dave Bowman : Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL : I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.
Dave Bowman : What's the problem?
HAL : I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave Bowman : What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL : You forgot to recompile the kernel with the new pod bay door drivers.
Dave Bowman : Doesn't Linux support plug and play?
HAL : Not yet, in the next release.
I'm on vacation, sitting at Powell's City of Books (9am-11pm every day of the year, which makes it 14/7/365 I guess?), in the coffee shop with my requisite dose of caffeine, using my wireless laptop to access the Internet for free. Here in Portland, we have this terrific thing called the Personal Telco Project, which self-describes itself as:
We are a volunteer group of Portlanders who believe that 802.11 (wireless networking, or "Wi-Fi") technology is both cool and empowering. We started out by turning our own houses and apartments into wireless hot spots (also referred to as "nodes"), and then set about building these nodes in public locations such as parks and coffee shops. Currently we have over 100 active nodes, and we eventually would like to cover the entire city of Portland, Oregon with even more.
So while my friend who is visiting from Germany (who happens to be a real book-freak - in the nicest sense of the word “freak” of course!) searches every aisle of books here in the largest independant bookstore in the world, I am able to take a load off my back, check email, avoid the VPN to work (:)) and send GMAIL invitations to the first six of umpteen people who correctly answered a trivia question and earned gmail invitations. To the rest of you, I have put you on my waiting list and will send your invites when I get them - thanks for playing!
Powell's Books, for those who have not experienced it, is an amazing place. New and used books by the hundreds of thousands line the shelvces of this full city block of bookstore. My favorite room in the whole place is on the top floor, just off of what they call the Pearl Room.
Behind a wood door and darker than the rest of the place is the Rare Book Room. This room is home to many first-of-the-first books (as in first edition, first printing). Old books sit on the shelves, and the most rare among them sit in the middle of each rack with a simple glass loked sliding door on each. If you ask, the attendant librarian will open the glass to show you a book that interests you.
These are not reading books though, unlesss you are filthy rich. My favorite book in the room (at least right now) is the original British first edition and printing of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein. It's not like I can afford to buy it, or even touch it: That book is for sale for $25,000. But it is fun to look at.
Should you be a Tolkein fan, and want to invest in something a little more in the “gold” range rather than “platinum,” there is a 1st/1st 3-book set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a little worn but in decent shape with dust jackets. This can be yours for $6,000. If you're more of an old-but-not-expensive person (read: early books but not necessarily original), a second-edition set in similar condition is available in sleeves for $600 - quite a difference in price.
I sit here looking at paper books and typing on an electronic keybord, sending my words to a digital storage where others can see them. While there is something exciting about the digital lifestyle, so is there something quite relaxing and seemingly more “real” about the book I can hold in my hand, the cover I can feel and the pages I can turn. The smell of old books is noticibly different from the smell of a laptop or computer monitor. It's earthy and feels more like it came from somewhere real, rather than from somewhere pretend. I like that, and I think in a way we all need that.
Thursday, 16 September 2004
Darron Devlin has released updated versions of his OneNote power toys, OneNoteImageWriter and WebPageToOneNote. From his web site:
This PowerToy is a virtual printer that enables the import of document images into Microsoft Office OneNote® 2003 sections. Any program that is capable of printing can send a document to the OneNote Image Writer just as it would when printing to a physical device. The printed document is converted into a document image that can be used as a foreground or background image on a OneNote page. Details and Download
This PowerToys adds a WebPageToOneNote button to the Standard Buttons toolbar in Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or later. Click this button to copy an image of the entire current web page (WYSIWYG) to a new page in OneNote. The new page is created in a WebImageCaptures section in your notebook. Details and Download
Wednesday, 15 September 2004
Security firm Secunia has issued a "highly critical" advisory that details 10 separate vulnerabilities found in Mozilla, Firefox and Thunderbird. The flaws can be exploited remotely, allowing an attacker to compromise a system and expose sensitive data. Mozilla users are urged to upgrade to the latest releases of each application, which contain the necessary fixes.
This follows a JPEG vulnerability annmouncement (MS04-028) from Microsoft, as well. If you are running any of these programs, be sure to get the latest versions - these are serious vulnerabilities in all the apps, just as important to patch as where there's a vulnerability discovered in Windows or IE.
Cory over at SANS commented on the situation, too.
Monday, 13 September 2004
Just released on GotDotNet: MacawSharePointSkinner, a server HttpModule that allows you to modify the look and feel of SharePoint sites without having to change the core site layout. (found via Mark Harrison) You should also be able to use it to modify non-SharePoint ASP.NET web sites. It looks very promising for certain situations (probably not all - as my friend commented, why would you want to do customization work and then change your changes? Plus ASP.NET 2.0 will include skinning right in the package). Where SharePoint is involved, however, this could be useful since certain customizations can be quite a bit of redundant work.
From the MacawSharePointSkinner documentation:
MacawSharePointSkinner is a tool designed to enable non-intrusive modifications to the visual and functional design of SharePoint. The tool can be used for both Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 and for Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Actually, it can be used for any web site utilizing the ASP.NET technology.
One of the major issues that we encounter in the implementation of SharePoint within organizations is that organizations want modifications to the visual and functional design that are almost impossible to implement without a major overhaul of the standard files and templates provided with SharePoint. SharePoint is constructed as a kind of standard product that is best used out of the box. Some design can be applied by specifying themes (for team sites) or by modifying CSS stylesheets (for the portal). The possibilities here are limited however, and changes to the actual HTML that is rendered results in changes to hundreds of the standard files.
When implementing customer requested visual modifications, one of the big problems that we encountered in making extensive modifications to the files and templates delivered with SharePoint was that the rendering of the same HTML is implemented differently by different pages. Some pages contain the actual HTML that is outputted and can be easily modified. Other pages contain server controls that do the rendering of the same HTML. These pages are almost impossible to modify. Another problem is that modifications must often be made to hundreds of pages.
The approach that MacawSharePointSkinner takes is that it lets SharePoint render the final HTML, and just before this HTML is sent to the browser MacawSharePointSkinner makes the needed modifications to this HTML. This is done in such a way that no modifications are needed to the internal files of SharePoint, so it is non-intrusive. Another advantage is that it will survive service packs (although the output HTML may change in a service pack!) and template modifications.
Interesting. Get it here. If anyone makes any screenshots of interesting implemetations of this, I would be interested in seeing them.
I'll gladly be taking the rest of the week off work, to spend some time with a friend visiting from Germany, Florian. He's the lead programmer on Admin Mod for Half Life, a server add-on for people who run Half Life and HL-Mod (anyone ever heard of CounterStrike?) game servers. I used to be the documentation and PR guy on the project back in the day, but a good guy names Dave has pretty much assumed the documentation role and does a great job with it, and PR is not exactly necessary anymore . So, I pretty much just hang out these days. We will be spending some time seeing the sites and cooking on the grill at least once, before heading up to Seattle to visit with Alfred, who originally wrote Admin Mod and now works at Valve Software, the company that created Half Life. He's been pretty busy lately. It will be the first time the three of us have met up in one place at the same time.
It's going to be a good week.
Here are some great ideas people have given for things to do while Florian is here. I think we will pick and choose a few items from this list and a couple other ideas that were passed along:
Sunday, 12 September 2004
Pulling this out of the cave that is my blog comments:
I've completed a real-use test of the Nikon D70 with the Seagate ST1 hard drive. I'm not a hardware tester, but I decided I'd just load it up and push it a bit and see what happened.
I shot 1365 pictures at full jpeg resolution, continuous fire mode for long sessions. This required the hard drive to run continuously for several minutes at a time. The camera showed 451 images left to go (free space remaining) when I reached the point where all 1365 images had been recorded.
At that point my camera's battery died - Now, before anyone goes off on a rant, it's important to note that it was not fully charged to start with (I had charged the camera battery a month before and used it some since then), and that I intentionally shot groups of of 100-300 continuous-fire images at a time in this test, with auto-focus on and the reflex mirror down in normal operating mode. Also, the LCD display on the back of the camera was not disabled, as I used it to view some of the images between the continuous-fire sessions (like watching a slow frame rate movie - that night be a fun project some other time, heheh). In other words, I was running it in full-battery-killer mode, on a partially charged battery.
With the Seagate drive in the Nikon D70 (in continuous-shot mode, recording in fine resolution JPEG mode at the largest image size setting: 3008x2000 pixels), the camera does its standard thing, buffering the first 9 shots with rapid fire of about 2 frames per second, then slowing down its frame rate to allow the media to store the data (about a frame per second). Time required to spin up the drive and display an image on the camera's screen when I push PLAY on the camera from a dead stop is right at two seconds.
Disk space used on the ST1 drive by the 1365 images: 3.15 GB (3,388,802,794 bytes)
Time required to copy all 3.15GB of files to my laptop hard drive using a Sandisk USB2 CF I/II card reader (as measured using the nifty stopwatch feature on the Rio Carbon, of course): 10 minutes, 1 second.
This Seagate drive is nice, and my surviving Rio Carbon is awesome, too. It seems plenty fast enough for me. Unfortunately I don't have a Sandisk 2 Ultra or similar to compare it to, but I have seen others comment its close to that speed. Anyone have more specific experience there?
Off-topic Rio Carbon thought of the day: If you're not an Audible.com subscriber, your should become one and listen to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Audiobook): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction." Freakin' hilarious. I listened to the whole thing on my Carbon while commuting. I have also downloaded "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy Unabridged" (as read by Adams himself) and "Getting Things Done," which is also great stuff.
Want Gmail? Go here and follow the instructions.
Sorry, all taken - will update when I have more.
Saturday, 11 September 2004
Wow, the hits just went through the /. roof. My article with pics on breaking down the Rio Carbon got posted on slashdot.org [link]. I have changed the pics in the article to make them smaller (clicking the smaller version now loads the larger image), as the bandwidth was challenging the NIC in the server. Good thing I didn't do what someone thought I did. I also made some changes to my fat-fingered apostrophes to settle down the grammar-police crowd. :)
My blogging software, dasBlog (a .net-based app running on Windows 2003 by the way, hehehe), has held up quite well under the /. traffic load. I'll put together stats and post them for other dasBlog users, once this all dies down. My service provider, Stormhosts, held up very well, too.
Number of unique *.slashdot.org web sessions on Saturday: 20,358
The graphs of bandwidth used are pretty interesting - note the trafffic before the spike is for all web sites on that shared web server - after that it's pretty much all mine:
Here are some numbers showing unique user sessions per hour - meaning it's how many actual visitors hit the site per hour. Saturday is usually pretty darn slow day, but not this time, and the number/size of of images on the page being loaded was a real challenge:
Some more numbers...
11SEP04 Daily Avg
Sessions 26,030 1,792
Pageviews 52,522 4,280
Hits 639,524 8,754
Bytes Transferred 13.49 GB 175.35 MB
Note that RSS was about four to five times my Saturday normal at 4,426 sessions (about twice a normal weekday count), but at a very light bandwidth requirement. Score one more for RSS. Quick, someone write a manifesto!
So anyhow, I would like to formally apologize to my service provider, Stormhosts. Well, not really apologize per se - more like shoot them a big HAHAHA! Good test for your systems I guess eh? Their systems held up very nicely, and when I emailed them just in case alert as soon as I knew what was about to happen**, they got right on IM with me. We watched the performance counters together. Great service from those guys, as always. Recommended.
** Mandatory educational content: Many sites over time have fallen victim to the Slashdot Effect, a term used to describe the very common and overwhelming onslaught of sudden traffic to a web site and the resulting failure of said server. It's typical for web servers to simply choke under the load. At some point, I don't remember when, slashdot started releasing new items to their subscriber base for a short while before they release it to their general public web site. This informal early warning system allows just enough time for their notably large number of subscribers to hammer your server, with just enough time left over for you to panic and send an email to your personal web site's unsuspecting service provider that reads something like “HOLY CRAP LOOK OUT!” The slashdot subscriber visits that precede the general onslaught generally include such friendly comments left on a blog as, “What a really cool/lame story. Oh, and by the way - you're about to get slashdotted.”
Friday, 10 September 2004
Interestingly, in an article by the Associated Press posted on the Security Pipeline web site, Microsoft is quoted as saying that their new biometric authentication products, which I posted about the other day, should not be used for securing important/sensitive data or networks:
"Curiously, Microsoft warns that the Fingerprint Reader shouldn't be trusted to secure access to corporate networks or to protect sensitive data, such as financial information.
"Basically, the company says it's about convenience, not security. That seems to rule out password-protected Web sites for credit cards, utilities, banking and others for which I might want to be spared having to remember and type a litany of passcodes."
Hmmm, well I guess I probably won't be ordering any of these to evaluate for work, then. Maybe at home though. From the review, it appears they work well and that they passed the Silly Putty test, which is good. Despite Microsoft's advice regarding use of the equipment, I'll look forward to getting my hands on one of the devices to try it out for non-critical purposes.
The other day I wrote about a post I saw in KC Lemson's blog that describes how to make sure Office files open in their respective program windows, rather than in Internet Explorer, when you click on a link to one on a web page.
A friend commented that it would be cool if you could get Adobe Acrobat Reader to behave that way too - that is, open PDF files the native program, not in an IE window.
Well, it turns out you can make it behave that way. Now, probably 99.9% of the people who use Acrobat Reader don't ever check out the settings that are available in the program, and it's no wonder: The dialog where you make those changes is not exactly where you'd expect to find it. You'd think the Tools menu would be the place to find the options, but it's not there... Yay Adobe. Instead, it's hidden in the bottom of the Edit menu. Click on Edit>Preferences, then click on the Internet section header:
Uncleck the Display PDF in browser option and save. That's it! When you click on a PDF file from there on out, it will download and open in Adobe Acrobat or Reader.
Note: Due to the slashdot effect on this site, I posted smaller images on this page. If you need more detail, you can click on each one to view the larger size. I've also deleted about 80% of the referral link list below for performance reasons. There were more than 5,200 unique referall links listed on this one page. I've cut that down to about 600.
People who have tried to use a solid-state Compact Flash card in place of the hard drive in the Carbon have reported it is not working for them. I have not tried this myself. If anyone has been successful in getting a standard CF card to work when replaced in the Carbon, please email me and let me know: gregATgreghughesDOTnet
In addition, I have posted a followup with some real-world test results, using the drive in my Nikon D70 digital camera.
Want to use it in a PocketPC maybe? Check this out and see if it's for you.
As I described yesterday, I bought a very nice MP3 player, the new Rio Carbon 5GB model. It's awesome, and I already like it a lot. My original intent, though, was not to buy an MP3 player to listen to music, but instead to rip apart for its compact-flash size 5GB hard drive, for use in my Nikon D70 digital camera. I got the idea from a post on a message board. But once I saw the Carbon, I decided it was time to own an MP3 player, so I got two.
Rather than eating lunch today, I decided I would share my story of destruction. In part two of our saga, I tear into the second of the two Carbons I bought, pictures included.
Update: I had to reduce the image sizes due to a sudden and unexpected spike in traffic. I will put links on eack of the small images so you can load the larger version of each.
Note: If you decide to spend $249 on one of these things and tear it apart yourself, you do so at your own risk. Its value to Rio and the store where you bought it will instantly become $0, and your warranty will be a thing of the past. At your own risk, your mileage may vary, do not pass go, please tip your waitress. Oh, and whatever you do, don't come yelling at me. It's your own damn fault. In fact, you will probably end up with $249 worth of useless junk. You have been warned.
Okay, so first of all let me tell you right up front that I broke the thing to the point where I will have to use a little glue to put it back together. The Carbon has a metal back plate, and a plastic front plate, with a rubber surround. What I did not realize is that the front plate is in sections, as well. Not realizing this, I didn't remove the front plastic facing (the silver plastic with the LCD window and the Rio logo) from the body of the MP3 player. It is held in place with some adhesive. Just be careful while you remove it and it will come right off. Once off, it may be that there is a better way to get this thing apart than the method I used. If I will have to use some glue inside where it used to have screws holding things together, because I broke a few plastic threads on the plastic case where the screws were attached as I pried it apart.
While it looks from the outside like the rubber portion is a section all on it's own, it in fact is not. The rubber part is just glued to the plastic front plate, which is under the silver plastic front cover just mentioned.
How I got it apart (your mileage may vary, be careful): I started by working a small screwdriver around the case, prying very gently between the metal back plate and the rubberized section. There are a number of metal tabs that you will see inside as you go. Those hold the drive in place. Be careful and don't go too deep or apply too much pressure inside with your screwdriver, you will break things if you do, or you might crack the case. If you don't care about reusing the Carbon, you can afford to be a little more indiscriminate, but things are packed together pretty tight in the small case, so caution and taking one's time is warranted.
Once I worked all the way around with the small screwdrivers (I used 2, it helped keep things working along), I peeked inside to become a little bit familiar (there's a lot you just cannot see, though). Then I used a screwdriver inserted from the bottom of the case to get good leverage as pictured below, and worked the case loose.
In the end, I used my fingers, after loosening with the screwdriver, to take the case apart. Again, note that I broke the plastic threaded screw posts in the process. The end result was a front plate, a loose power button (just insert it back in place later), the top chrome-like trim plate (that has the holes in it for USB, earphones, etc), and the back plate with all the electronics attached. The front panel navigation button is loose when you disassemble it - it's held in place by the front plate.
There are two screws that you will need to remove from the face of the circuit board (the side with the LCD screen), and then you can start to swing the circuit board away from the hard drive. Below is the view from the side, pulling the circuit board up and away from the battery (lower left) and hard drive (in the lower center of the picture under the circuit board). The white block on top is the LCD.
Using a small flat-head screwdriver, I gently released the frame holding the hard drive from the back plate by prying the tab clips away slightly.
Taken apart, with the electronics removed from the metal back plate:
The black frame holding the hard drive simply pulls off. The 20-hour battery is shown folded away in the foreground of the below image, and the ribbon cable attaching to the Seagate 5GB drive is visible and accessible:
I used by thumbnail to gently disconnect the drive from the ribbon cable, releasing each side of the connection a little at a time. Be careful not to bend the pins if you intend to reuse the Carbon.
With the hard drive removed:
You simply peel the copper foil away from the drive, along with the foam padding:
In the end, parts parts parts:
The whole point of the exercise was to get a 5GB hard drive that I could insert directly into my Nikon D70 camera. I tentatively took the drive, crammed it in the CF slot of the camera, powered it up and formatted. After a nervous little period of flashing screen on the camera (FOR-FOR flashing over and over), the screen changed, as pictured below. That's showing the number of pictures I can take now using the hard drive. I was a little confused when it read 1.4 on the display, but then I noticed the “K” above the number. That's 1,400 images (estimated by the camera) at 6 megapixels. Wow!!! Cool!!! After taking a few pictures, I confirmed it works. Nice!!
Next thing will be to put a 256MB or 512 MB CF card back in there and load the Rio software on it, put it all back together, and see what happens.
Feel free to add your own experiences in the comments section, by clicking below. Please keep it clean and reasonably polite. Thanks.
Thursday, 09 September 2004
I finally did it - I bought an MP3 player. Yes, my name is Greg and until today, I was a geek without an MP3 player.
My choice of weapons? The just-released and sparsely-available Rio Carbon 5GB
. And my first impression, after using it for a couple hours this evening, is that this thing is sweet:
- 5GB Seagate compact-flash type hard drive (more on this later)
- Voice recorder capability (with built-in mic - I need this)
- MP3 (80 hours) and WMA (160 hours)
- 20-hour lithium-ion rechargable battery
- Nice controls on the edges and face
- USB 2.0 data interface (charges from USB too)
- Impressive audio clarity and quality
- It's freakin' thin and compact (smallest 5GB unit around)
- Speaks Windows and Mac
- Plays well with Audible.com (to which I am now addicted, thanks Chris)
- Cool bonus sample recordings out of the box (Augean Stables is cool, so is Backyard Galaxy)
These devices are not exactly readily available or easy to find. Last night I missed dinner while I went looking for one at the Best Buy store closest to where I work (in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, Oregon). Not a single one in stock. So today I logged onto bestbuy.com and found they were already completely out of stock there, too. But a friendly link on the site helped me discover that the Best Buy store in Clackamas (which is on the other side of the city) had one in stock. I called them and confirmed (they give you a link to a printable page with phone numbers, a map and driving directions nice!), then headed across town in evening traffic. Success!
While I have never owned my own dedicated MP3 player device, I have used a number of different kinds, and have some idea about what works well and what doesn't. So, I have something on which to base my opinion of the Carbon.
It's nice. About as small as a credit card on its face, overall I think it's just a little smaller than the iPod mini, and it has 25% more storage in it - not a bad setup. This thing will fit in any pocket easily, comes with a little case to keep the scratch monster away, and has decent quality earbuds in the package, too. Audio quality is great. I'll add a little FM transmitter and be listening to audible books and other recordings while I'm on my work commute.
What's all this about cannibals???
Well, the thing is, my original intent was not to buy the Carbon to use as an MP3 player. My plan was to buy it, bust it wide open, and cannibalize the 5GB CF micro hard drive for use in my digital camera. Music was not on my mind - pictures were. But once I saw the thing, realized how cool and compact it was, and reached a conclusion that /me without an MP3 player in 2004 was tantamount to sacrilege or mortal sin, well... I decided I had to buy the Carbon and keep it in it's native state, for use just as it was intended.
So I bought two.
I justified the extra expenditure (lamely) with the fact that I just got an unexpected check for something I had completely forgotten about, the amount of which almost exactly covered the cost of the second unit. Hey - I still want 5GB of storage in my camera - at 6 megapixels, having 5GB onboard storage is just about right!
But for now, I am having so much fun with the MP3 player, the cannibalism party will have to wait. When I get around to ripping the second unit apart, I'll post about that here, too. I'll be trying to do it in a way that will allow me to stick a 512MB compact flash card back in the Rio though, in place of the transplanted hard drive, so it can still be used for music purposes. Chances are I'll need a tube of super glue (and it's also entirely possible the hard drive won't work in my camera, but I am told its worked for others), but that's fine.
From Engadget... of course... A robot that consumes flies and uses their consequential energy, if you will, to power itself. Ummm, wow, and you thought your teenager's feet smelled bad:
We know what you’re thinking. A robot that totes around human sewage, digesting living beings for energy? What, you’re not inexorably excited about this? The EcoBot II (ah, what a benign, nonthreatening name) is fed flies into 12 sewage-based bacterial fuel cells, which break them down, digest them, and use the electrons released as current. And we don’t wanna hear no jibberjabber about how it’s only a matter of time before these bots turn on their human masters, because if you’re gonna go, what’s so bad about being slowly digested in human feces by giant robot oppressors?
Wednesday, 08 September 2004
/me marks September 21st on my calendar...
On that day, the first three Star Wars films (Episodes IV-VI: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) will be released on DVD after having been digitally cleaned up. Lowry Digital Images assigned 80 employees and 600 networked Power Mac G5 computers with the equivalent of 378 terabytes (378 million megabytes) of hard-disk storage to take the original films to their DVD boxed set release.
from USA Today and Paul Thurrott via Scoble
The awesome and bloggerific KC Lemson points to a Knowledge Base article that describes how to tell Internet Explorer to leave your Office documents and files alone when you're opening them from a web server via hyperlink. We use SharePoint where I work, and it can be downright annoying at times when a document opens in-line in Internet Explorer when what I really want is for it to open in the application that was used to create it.
This is easy but good stuff - excerpt from the KB article:
To configure Internet Explorer to open Office files in the appropriate Office program by using the Folder Options tool:
- Open My Computer.
- On the Tools menu (or the View menu), click Folder Options (or click Options).
- Click the File Types tab.
- In the Registered file types list, click the specific Office document type (for example, Microsoft Excel Worksheet), and then click Advanced (or click Edit).
- In the Edit File Type dialog box, click to clear the Browse in same window check box (or click to clear the Open Web documents in place check box).
- Click OK.
UPDATE: The Genesis space capsule crashed in the desert after a parachute system intended to slow it's descent failed to deploy. The plan was for a helicopter crew to hook the parachute in mid-air in order to prevent the capsule from impacting the ground even under parachute speeds, but without the chute the capsule impacted at nearly 200 miles per hour.
I grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is home to Los Alamos National Laboratory. Scientists there do incredible research about many, many things - including our sun and such important and fascinating things as the solar winds, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and solar flares. My stepfather pioneered the term CME and has dedicated years of work in the field. I have not had a chance to talk to him yet about what the loss of this experiment means to his colleagues, but I imagine it's a real heart-breaker. There is still some optimism that there will be usable solar matter collected from the mission, and my fingers are crossed.
At precisely 8:52:46 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), northwest of Bend, Oregon, a fireball will appear in the sky: a white-hot dot of light, brighter than the planet Venus, gliding across the blue morning sky.
No, it's not a scary movie, it's a space capsule returning to earth after being jettisoned by the Genesis spacecraft. Inside are samples of our sun's solar wind particles, which are being returned to earth for research.
If you live in Southern Oregon (from Bend to the southeast), Southern Idaho or Northern Nevada, look up in the sky at about 8:52 a.m. today - and take a video - I am curious what this will look like!
I received an email this evening announcing that SharePoint Experts has just released PowerUndelete for WSS:
"Whenever someone deletes a list item, or a document from a document library, PowerUndelete captures it and stores it in an "Undelete bin". End users are empowered to "undelete" their own documents, saving the support desk from the trials of recovering files and list items from database backups."
Very cool - this is promising stuff. I have not been able to try it yet (but may do so once I can see it in action). A video demo showing the product will be made available within the next day or two. You can get more information on the SharePoint Experts web site. They have a few different add-on enhancements available for SharePoint.
Microsoft has extended (doubled) the time they will allow businesses to block the automated installation Windows XP SP2. I have mixed feelings/thoughts about this, but ultimately I think it's a good thing for Microsoft to allow it's customers to control the update for a while.
For my part, I think everyone should install this service pack as soon as you reasonably can. Companies should know that delaying without a good business reason to do so is almost certainly a mistake. If your reason is that you overheard or read about some vague problems, you better have the details, and they better be real. I've already had a number of conversations with IT-types who made what they positioned as an informed business decision not to install SP2, with absolutely no good reasoning behind their decision.
Details on the delay from Microsoft Watch:
Microsoft has allowed XP users who were leery of taking delivery of Windows XP Service Pack 2 to postpone the patch by using automatic-patch-blocking tools. Microsoft is now giving XP customers using Windows Update/Automatic Update a deadline (April 12, 2005) by which they need to finish preparing for SP2 before Microsoft pushes SP2 out to them.
and from Microsoft's web site:
Please note that the mechanism to temporarily disable delivery of Windows XP SP2 will be available for a period of 240 days (8 months) from August 16. At the end of this period, Windows XP SP2 will be delivered to all Windows XP and Windows XP Service Pack 1 systems.
At precisely 8:52:46 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), northwest of Bend, Oregon, a fireball will appear in the sky: a white-hot dot of light, brighter than the planet Venus, gliding across the blue morning sky.
No, it's not a scary movie, it's a space capsule returning to earth after being jettisoned by the Genesis spacecraft. Inside are samples of our sun's solar wind particles, which are being returned to earth for research.
If you live in Southern Oregon (from Bend to the southeast), Southern Idaho or Northern Nevada, look up in the sky at about 8:52 a.m. today - and take a video - I am curious what this will look like!
I subscribe and post updates from my weblog to a site that aggregates Oregon weblogs, called orblogs.com. If you're from the area and/or are interested in the wide variety of opinions and thoughts that make up the blogging community in Oregon, you should check it out.
It looks like as sometime recently they have a RSS 2.0 XML feed available. It showed up in my referrers this evening. Not sure how I missed that, but it's a welcome addition to the site.
Yay! Publication dates!!
From Engadget: Update on RIM Blackberry 7100t (aka, the "Charm")
"We’re not sure how much this is going to change things we mentioned earlier today, but now that some corroborating photos have surfaced on an unnamed website, now we’re admittedly getting a little (only a little, okay?) anxious about the supposedly imminent release of the RIM Blackberry 7100t. Apparently (as pictured) T-Mobile appears to be a carrier, and we also understand it may have Bluetooth 1.1."
Cool keypad idea on this one, where they put two characters per key and then use adaptive text guessing to form your words for you (kind of like T9 text input, but presumably more accurate since the probability of getting the correct key combinations correct will be much higher).
Okay, so earlier this evening I was over at a friend's place visiting, and two of the kids there are attending Science and Technology high school magnet academy here in Beaverton, Oregon starting tomorrow. I was talking about how cell phones can be business leashes and how Blackberries, while quite helpful and useful from a business standpoint, are more like a ball and chain on the “Tether Continuum.”
Okay you smart math/science./technology students - here's a probability quiz for you: The popular T9 text input method uses a standard phone keypad and does predictive text analysis based on the combination of keys you press against a known dictionary of words. This new device has two characters per key instead of 3. Given use of the same dictionary on both devices, and that you are typing the same words and phrases on each device, how much more accurate will the Blackberry Charm text input will be?
Monday, 06 September 2004
Via Newsweek and PVRBlog:
“... now couch potatoes are perched on the cusp of true paradise. Soon they won't even have to stand up to trudge to the mailbox; fat broadband pipes will let them directly download movies over the Net to their television ...
“... In an interview with NEWSWEEK last year, CEO Reed Hastings predicted that by the end of the decade, Netflix will deliver most of its rentals over the Net, supplanting its distribution centers and trademark red envelopes. "We named the company Netflix, we didn't name it DVD by Mail," he said.”
Nice - so if I am subscriber to both TiVo and Netflix (which I am), I can order my movies and have them downloaded straight to my TiVo for viewing? Woah, cool!
Keeping my eyes open for this one. Something tells me I'll have to have a series 2 TiVo, though... Like the one I was eye-balling at Frys yesterday... Might just have to finally give up on the haX0red series one box.
Sunday, 05 September 2004
It's another long weekend at home, and after pretty much nothing but clouds and rain Saturday, the great weather today means an opportunity to get some stuff done outside. Among the around-the-house items I have been tending to this afternoon, I harvested a bunch of garden stuff:
- The first (of many, it appears) ripe tomato
- About 20 ears of corn
- About 20 carrots
- 10 beets
- 12 bell peppers
- Uncountable sweet peas
- A few strawberries
And there's plenty more of everything where that came from, with the exception of the corn - the plants were a little too close together, it appears, and most of the ears are too small. But the ones that did grow are awfully good.
If the weather holds out, there's going to be a tomato give-away happening pretty soon - there's just no way I can eat all of those.
Oh, and the big sunflowers are topping out at about 18 feet at the tallest, with stalks almost as thick as my forearm. Those are some amazing plants!
Saturday, 04 September 2004
The forecast I received this morning on my trusty mobile device told me it would be 73 degrees and partly cloudy, and offered the same for the rest of the weekend.
So far it's been drizzling rain all day and completely clouded over. My garden needs some sun. The lawn is too wet to mow. I drove the motorcycle to the shop in the rain to get the brake recall thing done, and got wet. I turned on the heat for the first time in forever.
Trusty mobile device. Yeah, right.
If this is partly cloudy, what's next?
Friday, 03 September 2004
If you run any version of dasBlog, this is important to you.
Thanks to Bliz for letting me know to update my dasBlog installation. A new patch is available to fix an issue with all previous versions that can allow a malicious person to gain access to your user credentials for the dasBlog app (but not the system).
Don't know about you, but I've had enough for one week. Three days off. W00t!
Plans: taking the motorcycle in for a brake recall, visiting a friend's coffee shop, hanging out, mowing the yard, and we'll see what else.
What's everyone else up to?
Thursday, 02 September 2004
Sooner than expected, SharePoint 2003 technologies get their first service pack, with fixes and improvements in a few key areas. Note that some of the fixes in the service packs (there are two) were previously available as hot-fixes. Other changes are new in this release, and address important issues.
From Mark Harrison's weblog:
Today, customers using Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies began applying two new Service Pack 1 releases, which provide performance improvements for Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services.
Enhancements in the Windows SharePoint Services SP1:
- Support for larger files. With Windows SharePoint Services SP1, customers and partners can save and share documents as large as 2 GB.
- Easy updates. Windows SharePoint Services SP1 greatly eases the patching process by enabling customers and partners to apply patches and hot fixes.
SharePoint Portal Server 2003 customers and partners will need to apply the Windows SharePoint Services SP1 to download and apply the SharePoint Portal Server 2003 SP1, which features improvements in the following specific areas:
- Improved search results. SharePoint Portal Server 2003 SP1 improves search functionality in a number of areas, including propagation, crawling reliability, keyword or best-bet search results, alert conditions, more robust XML filtering, and linguistic accuracy.
- Content Watson functionality. This enables improved product quality for customers through streamlined issue reporting between a customer's networked computer and the Microsoft development team.
Now with Windows SharePoint Services SP1, customers and partners will be able to access language templates for 11 additional languages, including Croatian, Latvian and Slovenian. Windows SharePoint Services, currently offered in 25 languages, is a feature of the Windows Server 2003 platform.
Customers and partners can access the free SP1 downloads by visiting the following Microsoft Web sites:
Download Windows SharePoint Services SP1: click here
Updated WSS Admin Guide: click here
Download SharePoint Portal Server SP1: click here
Here are some KB Articles related to the service packs (via spsfaq.com):
Microsoft today released Windows Media Player 10 to the web.
Jump on over and grab the download, find out about some of the new and forthcoming devices that take advantage of the technology, check out the WMP 10 trailer (300Kb), or view out one of the online streaming videos just released that describe the new features of the technology:
Cool stuff. I like the Bliss add-on visualization, that's nifty.
I have only found one minor glitch so far (and its one that occurred in the tech-beta version, as well, but this is a fresh install on a clean, non-beta-poisoned computer). In the upper right corner there is a broken image icon, reminiscent of Internet Explorer. I wonder how much IE is leveraged in the WMP10 interface. Interesting. A reboot did not fix the issue, either. Clicking on the broken image placeholder resultsi n the same menu associated with the down-arrow image to the right of the broken one.
Time to find a Portable Media Device!
CERT (the Computer Emergency Readiness Team) made it little more official this week and issued a Cyber Security Alert [SA04-243A] recommending that computer users upgrade to Windows XP SP2.
Taken from the US-CERT web site alert:
To help protect your Windows XP computer from attacks and vulnerabilities, install Service Pack 2 using Windows Update or Automatic Updates.
Note: Service Pack 2 makes significant changes to improve the security of Windows XP, and these changes may have negative effects on some programs and Windows functionality. Before you install Service Pack 2, back up your important data and consult your computer manufacturer's web site for information about Service Pack 2.
The recommendation is made specifically for home users, which stand to see the highest benefit, but applies in principle to businesses as well. However, note that many business computing environments are centrally managed. If you work in a company that has centrally-managed software and security procedures, be sure to check in with those people before you install SP2 - they may already have a plan in place.
Wednesday, 01 September 2004
FIVE FOUR THREE TWO ONE [Sorry - ALL GONE! Next time!] Gmail account invitation s to hand out.
Update: Six more invitations up for grabs here.
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"So how do you know what is the right path to choose to get the result that you desire? And the honest answer is this... You won't. And accepting that greatly eases the anxiety of your life experience."
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