Friday, 31 December 2004

When it rains, it... (uhhh... or when it snows, in this case)

It's snowing hard again. Wow. I kinda-like just realized I need a snow showel, snow plow and maybe some firewood. Time to start making some phone calls, heheh...

Severe Weather Alert from the National Weather Service





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Random Stuff
Friday, 31 December 2004 16:38:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Blogging is not just about personal journals and random rants. It’s become a viable commercial venture, as well – whether the purists like it or not. I get a lot of great information from commercial blogs and bloggish web sites. Now there’s an awards program to recognize business blog, and you can nominate your favorites now:

Welcome to the 2005 Business Blogging Awards, presented by InsideBlogging! As business blogging has taken off in 2004, and looks to explode in 2005, we figured it was time to inaugurate some fun awards to reward all those hard-working business bloggers. After all, we can’t have the online diarists have all the fun, can we?

Here’s how the awards will work:

  • We’re accepting nominations until January 24. Anyone can nominate any blogger in any category
  • Additionally, feel free to suggest new categories if there’s one you’d like to see
  • To nominate a blogger, simply place a comment in the nominations thread. Feel free to nominate as many blogs as you’d like (including your own) for as many categories as you’d like
  • A panel of judges will whittle the nominee list for each category down to a minimum of three and a maximum of six nominees
  • Voting will open at 12:00pm PST on January 26. You’ll be able to vote once per day per category
  • Voting will continue until 12:00pm PST on February 9
  • Winners will be announced on February 10. Winners will be contacted by email

(via ensight)

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Blogging | Tech
Friday, 31 December 2004 14:38:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Woke up this morning, fashionably late of course, jumped in the shower, got out, looked outside, and WOW – huge snowflakes filling the air! Size of half-dollars, I swear.


(Yes, I did get dressed before I went outside to take these pictures. Even out here in the middle of nowhere we have decency limits, ya know?)

So – now there’s Big-Ass-Honkin’ Snow to cover my Big-Ass-Honkin’ Truck, which I just realized I have not posted any pictures of, despite my promises to many. Here you go, all wide-angle-lens-style:


Of course, it’s pretty much melted now. But this might just be a sign of things to come. Maybe it will be like last year?? Oy…

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Random Stuff
Friday, 31 December 2004 14:17:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Are you maybe a little reluctant to give money to the tsunami relief effort because you’re afraid it won’t be used wisely, or because the place you give to might turn out to be illegitimate? We all know that when terrible things happen, there are leaches who will do anything try to get your money fraudulently in the name of a good cause, and for some it makes it very difficult to know if you’re contributing to help people in need, or filling the pockets of some scam artist.

Fear no more:

Read the list of charities already researched as legitimate (not at all inclusive list, but a very good one to work from) at, and you’ll find a large number of places you can give that have been vetted and proven to be legitimate by that organization.

One very trusted organization that happens to be headquartered where I live (Portland, Oregon) is Mercy Corps, and you can donate through them online. You can even specify that your money be used for Tsunami relief.

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Helping Others
Friday, 31 December 2004 12:13:16 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Nick Finck has just released a more finalized set of Visio Stencils for Information Architects. He says anyone can feel free to download use and tweak to their heart's content. He’ll be making updates to the files over time so check back every so often to see if there is a newer version out.

They work in Microsoft Office Visio 2003. Not older versions.

His IA stencils are in broken down into three types/files:

  • Wireframe Stencil
  • Sitemap Stencil
  • Process Flow Stencil

Nice stuff – will be useful to have for work. Thanks Nick.

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Office 2003 | Tech
Friday, 31 December 2004 02:14:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 30 December 2004

I used to go to practically every new movie that came out, when it was in the theaters, often on opening day. For some reason that just doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. At any rate, what this means is that there are lots of movies coming out on DVD right now that I have not seen.

So, this weekend, I have no less than six movies to distract me while I work on revising documents on the computer for work and generally trying to catch up. I have this cool home theater room that has also been neglected of late, and I need to put it back to good use, as long as I’m stuck at home healing.

  • Dawn of the Dead (“Unrated” version – heard it was “awesome.” Of course, it was a bunch of 20–year-olds who told me that, but they’re usually right, and I remember previewing the original version way back in the 80’s at a pre-release screening in Denver. That version was gory and cool, albeit without the final soundtrack and stuff. Such is the way of pre-release market screening. Saw the Rocky movie with the Russian guy that day, too pre-release. It pretty much sucked.)
  • Anchorman (heard it was pretty darn funny)
  • Day After Tomorrow (heard it was pretty darn stupid (premise-wise), but the special effects look like they might be really 1337)
  • Dodgeball (which I hear is freakin' hilarious)
  • Spiderman 2 (I saw this one in the theaters, but it’s worth re-watching. Plus, see the LegoFilms version here)
  • I-Robot (Wil Smith is cool, and this film isn’t, like, great – but it is pretty damn good and fun)

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Movies | Random Stuff
Thursday, 30 December 2004 22:02:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Don’t let questions over how much is the right amount to give stop you from donating what you can. For people who are uncomfortable knowing how much is the right amount to give and could use some help.

India Together has posted a web page that helps you decide how much to give based on your annual income (regardless of where you live or what currency you are paid in).

It’s really a good approach. Of course, if you can’t afford what they suggest, give $5 or $10 – even that is a great help.

See if you are trying to decide how much to give. If you need a fast and safe place to donate, look no further than – fast, secure, easy and a great place to help. Or read the list of charities already researched as legitimate (not at all inclusive list but a good one to work from) at

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Helping Others
Thursday, 30 December 2004 21:41:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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From Mitch Wagner, writing at Security Pipeline:

“For Sanjay Senanayake, a documentary producer in Sri Lanka, the tsunami this week was the start of a sometimes-exhilarating, sometimes-horrifying adventure. He chronicled his travels through the disaster areas using mobile-phone text-messaging and blogs.”

Read the security pipeline article here, and read Sanjay’s weblog SMS and mobile phone entries here at the ChiensSansFrontiers weblog. It’s another very real real look at what’s happening.

Remember: Do whatever you can to help. If you have not yet given to support relief efforts, please stop and ask yourself if there is a truly good reason keeping you from doing so. Then click to a site and make a donation, no matter how small. It’s easy to give in many ways. It takes just a couple of minutes, and regardless of how much you can give, it will make a very real difference.

Recently Apple, Microsoft, eBay and PayPal all put up links to pages that let you find ways to contribute. You can also give through, and Google has a web page up with links to places you can give.

Make something happen – that is your part in this. We all have a role, and let’s all make sure we all do the best we can.

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Blogging | Helping Others
Thursday, 30 December 2004 21:15:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Looks like Segway may have some very interesting models up its sleeve for 2005. I’ve personally assigned a certain “hey that’s cool” level of interest to Segway’s human mover thingie in the past, but honestly, there’s just no way I would even be able to think about using one.

That might be changing.

Over at Don Chalmer’s Toy Store (found via engadget of course), there are pictures of a couple new, cool looking models that are a little more up my alley – meaning they’re off-road-climber types. Click links or images below to take you to Don Chalmer’s web site:

The Centaur is a 4–wheeled Segway…

The Brand New Centaur. A four wheel Segway that climbs, turns, balances, and has its own Power Boost switch for those spots that need extra oomph. Check back often for the release dates of this amazing machine. Due out July 05. Price: $5995.00


And the AT-HT is pretty much the standard Segway HT, but built to run on something other than your standard urban pavement:

Coming in 2005 – the all Terrain HT. This baby is ready to climb all over. 400 watt/hour Saphion Lithium Phosphate batteries. Check back often or contact us for details on release dates. Due out in Feb 05. Contact us for more info. Price: $4995.00

.All-terrain1- ht


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Geek Out | Random Stuff
Thursday, 30 December 2004 13:34:16 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I ran across this weblog tonight while perusing other sites – was found via a link from another blog.

The F-Secure Antivirus Research Team’s Weblog is a great resource for computer security professionals to keep an eye on. There are obviously some smart people working for F-Secure and it shows in their team blog.

The weblog is here: …

  … and their RSS feed is here: RSS

Also, F-Secure’s 2004 Security Summary is available and well worth the read. Wow – good find!

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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 30 December 2004 00:20:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Thanko USB PC LockEngadget points to a mention of a USB computer locking mechanism that includes a key you insert into the USB slow on your computer and a strange little medallion that you wear. When you step far enough away from the computer, the computer is locked at the console, and when you return, it’s unlocked for you automatically.

Sounds great. Sounds like a security hole waiting to happen if it’s not well-executed, but if it’s solid, it’s pretty darn cool. For under $20 per piece, you have to wonder, though…

But – If this does work, it sounds very interesting. I’ve ordered a few to see what they’re like and if they are actually reliable and secure. I will post a review once I get a chance to put them to the test. I’ll likely be using Bryan Batchelder’s replacement software, after reading a few reviews of the software that comes in the box (for example, if you have multiple screens or know anything about windows security at all, it’s east to defeat – not so good). It’s quite cool that someone is doing that kind of alternative software work, since its clear the original software will not be even remotely close to adequate.

In fact, after reading Bryan’s weblog, I’ve subscribed: RSS 2.0 Feed

Smart guy, cool stuff!

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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 30 December 2004 00:04:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 29 December 2004

By way of Omar Shahine comes this excellent resource:

If your file associations in Windows XP ever get wonky, the .reg files provided by Doug Knox will allow you to quickly and easily put them back to their Windows default settings:

“The files listed here are all ZIP files, which contain a REG (Registry) file. Download the ZIP and open it.  Extract the REG file to your hard disk and double click it.  Answer yes to the import prompt.  REG files can be viewed in Notepad.  Each of the REG files contains the default settings for the file extension indicated.”

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Wednesday, 29 December 2004 23:35:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Eric Rice interviewed me Wednesday afternoon, to get just one simple blogger guy’s perspective on the blogosphere and the process of giving to the relief efforts needed so badly in South Asia after the tsunamis and earthquakes that have devastated so many people in that region. It was the AdSense donation idea that sparked the interview, but we talked about other aspects of the blogosphere and its collective reaction to the tragedy, as well.

Thanks to Eric for taking the time to do a podcast about something that’s very important: those things we can do now to help others in need.

Download the podcast (an MP3 audio file) from and see links there for a few places you can go to offer your help, as well.

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AudioBlogging | Blogging | Helping Others
Wednesday, 29 December 2004 22:30:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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My spirits were lifted this evening when I received this email from the Google AdSense Support team in response to the AdSense donation idea that Scott and I had – it’s just one step, but it’s a very positive one!

I know it’s not a trivial task for Google to put something like this in place, but I hope it happens, as do a number of others – It can make a very real difference!

<Fingers Crossed>

Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2004 18:40:10 -0800
From: "Google AdSense" <>
Subject: Re: [#18769680] AdSense donations for disaster relief - Google can make this easy - please read

Hello Greg,

Thank you for this excellent idea. A number of other AdSense publishers
have also brought your blog to our attention, and I have alerted the
AdSense team to your efforts.

As individuals, and as a company, we are committed to doing whatever we
can to assist with the tsunami relief effort. Google, as you know, has
recently set up to aid our users who
are looking for more information and for ways to help, and we are
currently examining a number of other ideas.

Please know that I have forwarded your suggestion on to the appropriate
persons at Google, and they are currently investigating the feasibility of
such an endeavor. I will follow up as soon as I have more information on
this matter.

On behalf of the AdSense team, I would like to thank you again for
proposing this selfless measure and for your generous commitment to donate
your AdSense revenue to those affected by the tsunami.


The Google AdSense Team

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Helping Others | Personal Stories
Wednesday, 29 December 2004 20:06:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Merill Fernando lives in Sri Lanka, a country that was very hard hit by the tsunamis, and he exchanged emails with me this evening after he took the time to send a few kind words in response to the little bit of help this weblog has provided. He has also posted on his weblog about what even a small contribution can do to help people in need. You should read it, especially if you think you can’t afford to give enough to help others. Even if all you have to give is a five bucks, will let you easily donate whatever you can afford. Merill’s site will show you how much just $1 will buy.

Again, we are calling on all bloggers who use AdSense to pledge to donate your AdSense revenues for December or whatever time you wish to the relief and aid effort. Merill pointed the idea out on his weblog and agrees that it is a great idea – so please contribute and contact Google to let them know you would like them to help make this happen by providing an AdSense administrative option to donate funds at the end of this month. Whether or not Google participates in this effort, I am donating my revenue check. Please consider doing the same.

Together we can make things happen – that’s part of the power of the blogosphere. Give now, post your thoughts and plans to your blog, and contact others that can make a difference and ask them to help.

If you’re looking for places to give, just go here. And thank your for doing your part.

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Personal Stories | Helping Others
Wednesday, 29 December 2004 01:57:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 27 December 2004

I have an idea, and a burning need to do something more to help those in need. I’ll email Google with this request, but I’m going to post it here, and encourage you to do the same thing on your site.

UPDATE: Google AdSense Support responded to this idea, and it’s at least possible!

I want all my AdSense revenue pending at the end of the year to go to help relief efforts in South Asia where the earthquakes and tsunamis have caused such devastation. If you use AdSense, I want you to pledge to do the same thing.

I think Google should make this an easy option for anyone with an AdSense account, and that they should do it in time for all of us to make our donations now, before the end of the year. It would be so easy for me to give that money to those in need, and Google can help many others do the same thing. Put a simple checkbox on the AdSense admin site that lets me choose to donate my AdSense funds. Do it for everyone.

Are you willing to donate your AdSense revenues? Comment here. Or post it on your blog or web site. Email Google and make it happen.

Scott Hanselman gave me this idea when he said he was thinking about donating his AdSense revenues. I had been thinking the same thing. Scott’s a good, kind person and I am willing to bet there are thousands more like him out there that would like to be able to do the same thing.

Hey Google people - call me if I can help make this happen. Seriously. My phone number is 503–419–6495. I have lots of time right now, as well as a little AdSense revenue to share. So, I hope you’ll help me help someone else. Anyone else who wants to help can call me, too. Make my phone ring.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." -- Matthew 25:35,36,40 (NIV)

Update – Several bloggers have already posted and signed on to pledge their earnings to recovery efforts. I'll donate mine whether Google makes it easy to do through them or not - but it would be awfully cool if they can make it possible. Making it easy for people will mean more people will participate.

Also – Turns out there’s no better way to mark one year of blogging at than doing something to help others. Just realized it was one year of blogging here on the 27th… People, please contact Google and ask them to make this happen, and then post a link on your blog, and if you use adsense, I encourage you to join us in donating!

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Helping Others | Personal Stories
Monday, 27 December 2004 22:10:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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PlaintextextFrom the land of good things and small packages:

If you’re like me, you find yourself regularly fighting goofy formatting problems with text copied from web browsers and pasted into email (Outlook, Thunderbird) and blog posting (BlogJet) clients. Well, if you’re a Firefox user, here’s a solution:

PlainText is a browser extension that adds a context menu to Firefox (or the Mozilla browser) that allows you to copy a selection as plain text, sans markup. So simple, yet so freakin’ valuable!

Hallelujah! Thanks to Marc Orchant for the link

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Monday, 27 December 2004 18:50:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 26 December 2004 is, without a doubt, one of the more interestingly funny and random sites I have seen in some time. It kept me clicking around for some time…

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Humor | Random Stuff
Sunday, 26 December 2004 14:05:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 24 December 2004

When Chris Pirillo started sending me images of rings and dogs and other things on IM the other day, I knew what was up – and his method of asking Ponzi The Question was pretty darn cool. I congratulated him privately then, but today I want to do so in front of the world, so here you go.

Chris and Ponzi, two fine people whom I am glad and proud to know, are engaged to be married – They formally made it known in public on their blogs today.

Congrats you two!

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Random Stuff
Friday, 24 December 2004 23:35:53 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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MSN has a special web site dedicated to educating people about online safety and security:

It’s a decent resource for the average user, and provides easy-to-understand facts and answers to common questions and issues people face on the Internet.

In particular, information about protecting kids online and how to recognize and avoid falling victim to phishing schemes are among the topics addressed.

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IT Security
Friday, 24 December 2004 23:25:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Around my place we say “Merry Christmas.” But whatever holiday you celebrate in your life, I hope it’s a good one for you and yours.

Today at home it’s a fire in the fireplace, with posole** cooking on top of the stove, and over the next couple of days it’ll be wrapping presents, going to church, spending time with friends, and remembering what the holiday is all about.

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

The guy who spoke those words was a good and decent man, and he was taught them buy another guy – who was also a good and decent man, and whose birthday we just happen to celebrate this weekend.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

** Here’s my Posole recipe, archived here for myself so I won’t lose it, and for anyone else who’s interested. This way I won’t have to call mom and ask (again) next time, heh:

  • One #10 can (108oz) Hominy (Mexican style preferred, white is also ok)
  • Two large yellow onions, sliced and cut
  • One tablespoon (or so) minced garlic
  • One teaspoon dry oregano (Mexican oregano if you can get it)
  • One quart (or less if you prefer) of frozen or canned green chiles, diced, preferably hot or medium strength (not jalapenos – use real green chiles)
  • Salt (plenty)
  • Pepper (plenty)
  • One pork tenderloin, about 5 pounds
  • Olive oil

In a large stock pot, combine the hominy, onions, garlic, oregano, and green chile. Fill with water to cover the ingredients, plus some more (don’t get to worried about the water – just make sure it’s pretty full). Salt and popper the heck out of it. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat back to simmer the stuff.

Cut the pork into small cubes or similar shape pieces (like you can cut pork into cubes, yeah…).In a frying pan, heat some olive oil and brown the pork slowly, add some salt and pepper.

After browning the pork, add it to the stock pot contents, and stir the meat in.

Now comes the hard part – leave it alone until the cows come home. That translates to anywhere between say six hours and overnight. Trust me – let it cook down. Add some water as needed.

And don’t be stingy with the salt and pepper – you’ll need it.

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Personal Stories
Friday, 24 December 2004 13:30:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I have four invitations for GMAIL accounts available. This time I am offering them only to military personnel. So, if you happen to be serving or know someone who is, send me an email from your .mil email account (or have the military person you know send it). Address the email to greg(at) and I’ll hook ‘em right up.

Note: Non-military requests will not be answered this time around – thanks.

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Random Stuff
Friday, 24 December 2004 11:17:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 23 December 2004

Omar Shahine has been working on dasBlog v1.7, and on his weblog he says he’s working to release the new version by the end of the year. Nice!

Lots of cool new features, some of which I am running here that were built up by Scott Hanselman. Check out Omar’s progress announcement, Scott’s changes, and the v1.7 wiki page for more info.

Can’t wait!

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Blogging | Tech
Thursday, 23 December 2004 23:45:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 22 December 2004

Well, it’s a done deal. I had my back surgery today, and now I am resting at home.

And – miraculously – most of the pain in my legs and lower back is gone!

You never really know how much pain you’re in, I think. until it goes away. Then you realize what you were missing out on. I am pinching myself every few minutes just to make sure this is all real and that I am not just dreaming… It’s truly amazing.

I’m not a proponent of surgery unless it’s absolutely needed. As testament to that fact, I have been dealing with back pain for several years, trying to deal with it in a variety of ways. As I said yesterday, it was time.

And so today I can stand on my own two feet without much pain at all, I can balance better, and I feel just great.

Really, it’s incredible. With any luck, as I heal things will stay this way.

The most amazing Christmas gift I could possibly get this year came early. My doctor (Dr. Olson) and my friend/neighbor (Mike, who spent the whole day driving me to Salem for the surgery, waited around for several hours and then drove me back home, all while making sure I was doing okay) really and truly provided me with something I needed today.

I have an attitude of gratitude, as they say – and am happy beyond belief.

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Personal Stories
Wednesday, 22 December 2004 21:29:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The Microsoft TechNet crew has posted their Best of 2004 list.

Best content, best resources, best webcasts, best tools… Nice selection of stuff.

“We asked the TechNet team and customers like you to name the best features, pages and sections published on TechNet during 2004. Here they are!

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Wednesday, 22 December 2004 08:51:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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From a technet email recieved this morning…

Microsoft Anti-Spyware Tool Coming Soon

As you might have heard, Microsoft recently acquired Giant Software, Inc., the maker of a well-regarded anti-spyware tool. Although we'd hoped to be able to provide you with a link to a beta release of a Microsoft-branded version of this tool, it isn't quite ready yet. We're told the beta software will be freely downloadable from the Download Center sometime in the next few weeks. Until then, here's the press release outlining the capabilities of this spyware blocking and removal tool, and another statement explaining some little-known facts surrounding a legal agreement between Sunbelt and Giant that preceded the Microsoft purchase of the Giant technology.

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IT Security | Tech
Wednesday, 22 December 2004 08:43:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Not the same way one New Hampshire UPS truck driver does. I bet his last name is Murphy – It almost has to be.

CLICK HERE for the story...

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Humor | Things that Suck
Wednesday, 22 December 2004 00:04:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 21 December 2004

John Dvorak posts a great little article for people new to the blogosphere: Understanding and Reading a Blog (for Newcomers).

(via BlogWrite for CEOs)

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Tuesday, 21 December 2004 22:37:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Mid-day Wednesday I’ll be getting drugged up and surgically repaired. The time’s come for a microdiscectomy for my back problems (which I have written about here at a high level in the past). After trying exercise (ouch), stretching, medications, therapy, hanging upside down, chiropractors, you name it… Well, it’s just time.

What many people don’t realize is how incredibly debilitating back pain can be. My condition is a herniated disc at the L5–S1 joint, which is in the lower part of the small of your back. The disc is that flexible shock-absorber that sits between your vertebrae. The herniated part is bulging out and pressing on the roots of two nerves that go all the way down my legs and into my feet. When I have back pain, it’s not just in my back – It’s shooting from my back, down my legs, and out the tips of my feet. At times it’s the kind of pain that keeps me from being able to get up off the floor, or even from being able to move without screaming. At other times the symptoms are clumsy legs and twinges of shooting pain. Other times my back just aches.

Anyhow – after nearly 10 years off-and-on of real pain and discomfort, I am looking forward to the decent possibility of lessening the pain and related problems.

People have been asking me if I am nervous. Truth be told, I’m really not. I trust my doctor and have confidence there. It’s not complicated surgery, and I will be home under my own power the same evening. I won’t be able to drive myself because of the medications they use for surgery, but hey, that’s why God made friends, to drive you back and forth when you’re in bad shape, right? :-)

So, with any luck, by this time tomorrow night I’ll be feeling less pain than I am now.

If that should come to pass, it will be the best Christmas present I could possibly wish for. I’ve been good this year, so I hope I get my wish.

 – gh

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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories
Tuesday, 21 December 2004 22:29:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Have you seen this? Pretty nifty. I can't imagine Google's really happy about the look/feel of the web site, but if you can get past that, it's interesting:

How to use Speegle:

  • Just type in your keywords in the normal way and press enter or click search.
  • Ten results are listed and read out to you in order some may be skipped as they have no content or they have been to slow to contact.
  • If you want to visit a page press the corresponding number on the keyboard and it will redirect to that site.
  • Press S to stop P to play and N for next ten results B to go back to the previous 10 results.
  • Press A to go to the advertised site.

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Geek Out | Tech
Tuesday, 21 December 2004 15:46:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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In the wonderful world of computer security, we’d just assume have all you users logged in under an account that doesn’t have administrator rights to the computer. It’s not that we don’t trust you, it’s just that we can’t. There are too many risks associated with running that way, and some people will tell you it’s bad form (or even just plain lazy) to do so while developing software.

Along those lines, this is pretty darn cool: If you have the new MSN Desktop Suite’s DeskBar running for desktop search, you can do much more than just search your computer (as mentioned a few days back). So, for those of use looking for easier ways to run as an unprivileged user but still launch an occasional app as admin, here is a nugget of gold that you can use in the DeskBar:

@su,=runas /user:administrator $w

Once you enter that little line of code into the DeskBar and hit enter, all you’ll have to do going forward is type something like this in your DeskBar field:

su notepad.exe

Do that, and a window will open up prompting you to enter the Administrator account password (note that your @entry configuration line could just as easily specify an account other than Administrator – even domain\username). If you do so successfully, Notepad will open, running in the context of (and with the permissions associated with) the administrator account. Obviously, notepad is not the most likely candidate for this – I can see other programs getting some real miles out of this setup, though.

(Thanks to Brandon Paddock and a link found via someone’s linkblog…)

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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 21 December 2004 07:27:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 20 December 2004

“Give me fuel, give me fire…”

Robert Scoble turned some heads and offended some technology “sensibilities” this weekend with a few posts on his weblog, including this one, which apparently ticked off more than just a few people because – among other things – Scoble used the terms “open source” and “Microsoft” and “leader” in the same breath.

I’ll admit, when I read the entry (and a couple others he wrote that day), the first thing that went through my mind was “Now that’s a real can of worms.” In fact, about the time I finished reading the article, I saw Robert pop up on my screen via IM toast. So, I clicked and mentioned what I was thinking:

Greg Hughes    cans o worms ;)
Robert Scoble  You think?
Robert Scoble  Might as well get them out in the open.
Greg Hughes    yeah but its a good thing

All day Sunday (and no doubt since then as well) people complained about what Scoble wrote. There are also a few lonely souls that have something positive to say. Robert, true to form, has linked to his detractors on his blog. As far as I’m concerned, everyone’s at least a little bit right. But, even more important than who’s right and who’s wrong is the fact that what Scoble did here should make people stand up and look around. Not just at what he’s saying, but also about how and where he’s saying it, and to whom it’s addressed.

And if something comes of it, well look out – Because nothing breeds adoption like success.

It’s important enough to pay attention to, so I am going to ramble on here stream-of-consciousness style about what Robert wrote. You’ll have to go to his web site to read the original entries…

Scoble: Dear Bill Gates: can we create an interesting music player?

This blog entry – “Another letter to Bill Gates” – suggested that Microsoft should open-source the development of a new Windows Media hardware device, to be designed and built by a community in order to go to market before back-to-school next year. It would compete with the iPod. It’s a damn interesting idea. It has merit, whether or not its realistic. I’d like to see what he’s suggesting become a real product, one way or another.

But you know, it doesn’t need to be realistic. Think about it – The fact that someone can work for that company, write an open letter to one of its leaders on a public web site, and apparently not fear repercussions (or maybe he does but writes what’s on his mind anyhow) is definitely worth noting. This isn’t same-old-same-old. It’s not what we’ve seen elsewhere. It’s – get this – innovative and new.

That blog entry irked many, in part because Robert suggested that Microsoft succeeds as a leader in the open source realm. I think he was referring to Channel 9, where he works – It’s a Microsoft web site community (and a very successful one at that). That community sort of embraces the open source marketing concept and does, in fact, succeed at what it sets out to do.

The thing that bothered me the most about Robert’s weblog entry wasn’t the product/community design/develop/market idea, or the fact that Robert associated Microsoft with the open source “movement,” a comparison that many people would (and did) freak out over in disagreement. No problems there – That’s healthy. It started a powerful conversation. That’s why it’s a good thing. It’s marketing, and its working. It’s not really about being right or wrong, nearly as much as it is about just being there.

Honestly, what bothered me the most about what Robert wrote was this one line:

“Start a weblog. NOW. Get the person who runs the team to start a blog. NOW. Or fire him/her. I'm serious.”

Ouch. I have no problem with starting a blog to fire up a project and make it as open as possible, if that’s the goal. But I was more than a little surprised to see Robert advocate even the idea of firing someone because they won’t write a weblog. That’s a thin line over which I am not so sure Microsoft should tread. Fire them? Weblogs are one tool among many to market and communicate products. I know we’re all big into the whole blog-as-marketing-tool thing, but firing someone because they won’t blog – I don’t think so. It would be better not to hire someone into the project position in the first place than to fire someone for not blogging. I hope the Kool-Aid’s not getting too strong, man. :-)

Were you really that serious, Robert?

Scoble Again: Linux user advocates switching from Windows

In another entry, Scoble essentially scolded a *nix sys admin who wrote another “open letter” – this one apparently addressed to the whole world – for his suggestion that people should move now from Windows to Linux. It’s not an innovative idea, this whole “switch” thing – I think it’s been done before.

This article and resultant responses of the community were a little harder to swallow - on all sides of the argument. It did make me stop and think though – quite a bit. I considered putting my thoughts over in Scoble’s weblog comments, but instead I’ll just put them here. You should go read the original entry on Scoble’s weblog first, or this response won’t make too much sense:

It's clear the author of the "open letter" spends his time using Linux. Five hours to clean a Windows system simply means he was not familiar – and he alludes to that in his letter. It takes Robert an hour or so to do the same thing because he's done it before. Apples and oranges here.

Hard to prevent spyware? Maybe, maybe not. Want to know where to spend your family security time and money? How about education? For example:

About Windows Apps - There *are* alternatives to MS Office, Photoshop, Illustrator, et al. Ink? Yeah, well honestly I use two Tablet PCs and Ink is the last thing I'd hold over Linux's head at this point. Or just run the MS apps (some of them anyhow) on Linux with WINE. I don't do that (I like Windows myself, and I use a number of programs that won’t cooperate with Wine), but others do.

About problems running as admin - While it's a perfectly valid point to say that not running as admin would solve many problems, it will *not* solve all of them. However, Microsoft would do well to introduce a paradigm-shift level of change in this regard, and force the user context as restricted as possible, with some usable, easy-to-understand tools that would allow the user to specify elevated privileges for certain tasks, like installing software for example. Not some add-on stuff - it needs to be built in and intuitive. I like power-toys as much as the next guy, but this is important - BUILD IT IN and make it work the way it should. And build these changes and tools not only into future versions of the OS, but also as installable patches to ALL the past versions (the 32-bit ones, anyhow). Seriously. It's worth the investment.

Linux is not a threat in the bad sense of the word - rather it's a healthy marketplace competitor. Competition makes for healthy companies/teams. The fact is, Linux would not be what it is today if Microsoft was not part of the landscape; neither would Microsoft be what it is today without Linux in the world. Same goes for Apple and a bunch of others. The loss of any of thee players would be bad for all the others, plain and simple.

Complaining for the purpose of getting people to change their personal behavior more often than not just doesn't work. But complaining to get companies to change their products - now that's another story. But be ready to support and defend your argument, and think through the gaps before you start.

The unfortunate thing about many people today is that rather than voicing reasonable complaints and making rational, well-formed suggestions to solve problems, they instead take the route of whining loudly and then looking around to see if anyone is talking about their whining. “Did you hear what so-and-so said???”

A blog doesn't *make* a person a Voice - it just *gives* them one. There are plenty of bloggers who have blown that opportunity. Truth be told, I'm getting pretty tired of the whiny people. Maybe RSS 2.1 needs a whiner filter field or something. Umm, no pun intended - Sorry, Dave.

And as far as relative costs of Linux vs. Windows, if my company had a dime for every time I had to listen to someone pitch a half-baked argument advocating switching from Windows, or to Linux, or whatever - Well let's just say they'd owe me a great big honkin' bonus check. It’s not all about the cost of the OS itself. There are many other factors to consider. I am pretty darn happy with the computer systems we have now. I can fix spyware problems and secure computers - but I can't make an operating system more friendly, usable by non-geeks, or centrally manageable.

I'm a huge fan on the secure-by-default methodology that Linux and OS-X leverage - but it should never replace a good, solid security config, check and review. Assume nothing, check everything. Of course, I can’t very well expect my mom to secure her own computer, and she’s seriously asked for a gift of one year worth of tech support for Christmas. I told her she has to cover the travel – she lives more than 1300 miles away.

And before anyone starts the "but Linux is so much better now than it used to be" thing, just save the speech til it's ready. I use Linux here and there, I stay familiar with it and how its progressed, and while I like it a lot it's not ready for what I need from a desktop operating system to use in business today. Servers yes, desktops no. And that's okay. I don't need better, I need done. I know some will argue it is done – I just don’t agree there, and the definition of “done” will vary from person to person, depending on their specifc needs.

For some, Linux is better. For others, it’s not. That won’t be changing anytime soon.

Ultimately, computer arguments have fallen victim to the same problem that plagues every other form of discussion in today's world: People assume it has to be all one way or all another. It's not a black-and-white world we live in, though. Believe it or not, Linux, Apple and Windows can all co-exist peacefully, and will continue to make each other better over time as a result.

Ahh the continued one-sided mantra rants of a clueless generation...

Meanwhile, I’m willing to push Microsoft to continue to improve their products – which is something they need to do. I’ll continue to use Linux in those places where it works best for me – typically in security applications and certain server environments. On the desktop and on most servers it’s Windows, centrally managed and patched automatically and reliably. Our users know what they’re using. And spyware? Well, it’s really not that hard a problem to solve for me. Once you know how, anyway.

But Microsoft truly needs to do something about it, and needs to do so now.

Clearly, something about this works. Look, I wrote all about what I think. Others have done the same. Something’s happening here.

Somebody look what’s goin’ down…

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Blogging | Tech
Monday, 20 December 2004 11:47:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 19 December 2004

I recently started carrying around a Blackberry 7290, which (aside from the fact that it’s an electronic leash) I like a lot. One of the complaints I have about it, though is a lack of anything beyond the stock, simple, same-old Blackberry ringtones. Well, as it turns out, you can add ringtones of your own. If you were to search the depths of the help file on the device, you’d find some information about this, but – I mean come on – who actually reads help files?

Now, granted, you’re limited to the relatively simple audio implementation supported by the Blackberry device, meaning MIDI files only – and you can’t play polyphonic sounds on these devices. But in Crackberryland, just having the ability to add my own personalized sounds is a welcome fix!

So, if you want to try it yourself – here you go. Keep in mind, I am working from the point of view of a being a RIM7290 user with service from AT&T Wireless – uh, I mean Cingular. So, that’s what you’ll see here. This should work with certain other models and service providers as well, but since I don’t have other devices to test with, you’ll just have to try for yourself. Feel free to comment here (see comment link at end) with your experiences.

Step One: Get your Blackberry’s web browser working – Hopefully you’re already good to go in this area. You’ll need to use the M-Mode browser and go to a page on the Internet that will provide you with the MIDI files.

Step Two: Find some good MIDI files – There are two common ways to do this, but ultimately this step involves simply downloading a MIDI file to your device from a location on the Internet:

Option A: Just find some random MIDI links and load them… One way to do this is to browse to a site that has links to MIDI files and just click the links. For example, point your Blackberry’s browser to (found it searching on Google) and if your browser cooperates, you’ll be able to click on a midi file link:


Option B: Use a site that has lots of MIDIs and makes it easy (note - web addresses updated 3/2008)… Namely, you really can’t beat the amazing number of selections available at the Free Ringtone Heaven, and you can easily use this site to update your Blackberry’s ringtones. Browse to in your computer’s web browser and find ringtones you want to try (there are more than 49,000 cataloged there). You can listen to the MIDI files on  your computer, but remember they will sound different (much simpler) on your Blackberry. Once you’ve found a few choice audio files, make note of their ID numbers and point your Blackberry’s M-Mode browser to (this link works on your Blackberry, but on your computer it may throw an error – this is normal). You’ll see a screen where you can enter the ID number of each MIDI file you want to load – one at a time:


Step Three: Listen to the files and save the ones you like to your Blackberry Device – It turns out when you launch a MIDI file, the Blackberry 7290 has a player for the format. As soon as it is downloaded, the MIDI file will start playing on the handheld.


You’ll see three round buttons in the Blackberry audio player – One starts the audio file, one stops it, and the other gives you an action menu – which includes the option to save the MIDI file to the handheld:


A couple of quick hints about MIDI files for the Blackberry:

  • Dealing with file names can get kinda goofy on the Blackberry. I downloaded The First Noel and ended up with a sing called “Get” on the handheld – which is the name send down via the PHP app on the Icarus web server. Annoying, but there is a way to deal with it, you can rename the MIDI files as you are saving them – just move the cursor to the “File:” field in the Save File dialog (pictured above) and give the file a more meaningful name before you save it.
  • Small MIDI files are usually simple MIDI files, and that’s a good thing for our purposes. Simpler – in terms of the number of instruments playing at once – will more often than not translate into better sound on the Blackberry, since it seems to play only one MIDI voice/channel at a time. Of course, so if you find a MIDI file you really like, you can always try it and delete it if it doesn’t sound good enough on the handheld.

You can delete audio files you don’t want any more by going to Profiles on the home screen, clicking the wheel once and choosing Show Tunes…


…and then highlighting the file name, clicking one more time, and choosing Delete from the menu. Bye-bye MIDI file.

You can choose where to use your new MIDI files just like you would any other Blackberry ring or alert tone.


That’s about it – enjoy!

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Mobile | Tech
Sunday, 19 December 2004 19:57:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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NORAD, in cooperation with a slew of computer geeks in Canada, will once again track Santa as he travels the world delivering presents this year. I remember when I was kid hearing the NORAD radio updates on Christmas eve each year. Technology has advanced, and today we have more options available to us.

On December 24th kids can call toll free at 1-877-Hi-NORAD anytime after 9AM Eastern Standard Time (7AM Mountain Standard Time) to find out the status of Santa from NORAD. Or, even better, check out the NORAD Track Santa web site (available in several languages):


So, take that future, up-and-coming young geek and keep an eye on Santa’s progress this year. There’s a fun Days til Christmas/Santa Tracking Fact page here, and lots of other good stuff on the web site.

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Random Stuff
Sunday, 19 December 2004 10:00:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 18 December 2004

Despite the fact that it’s right there in front of my face every time I walk out the door, I’ve started to forget that St Helens is still quite active and spewing steam. A fresh series of four earthquakes (magnitude 2.5 to 3) in the past couple of days and more steam vents prove it. In fact, the mountain is adding new material to the dome growing in the crater at a pretty amazing rate – the equivalent of one dump truck load of new material every second.

This picture was taken this morning from my front porch:


If you’re too young or just plain don’t remember, St. Helens used to be kind of pointy and tall (click the image below for historical photos from before and during the 1980 eruption event:


Scientists say that at this rate, in just 11 years the mountain could be back to the about the same size it was before it completely blew its top back in 1980. There’s no guarantee of that, and lots of variables are involved, of course. However, it’s pretty amazing to note that in just the last couple of months, the new lava dome in the crater has grown one third the size of the dome that took six years to form after the 1980 eruption. Here’s a picture of the growth of the new dome as of November 12, 2004, with a football field graphical overlay for scale purposes:

The mountain remains under what they call a Level Two volcano advisory, meaning the Johnston Ridge visitor center – the one closest to the crater - is still closed, but the Coldwater Creek visitor center is open. For those who cannot visit, the Volcano Cam offers a great view into the crater 24/7.

I have had a lot of inquiries from people who know me (and some who don’t) about how close I live to the mountain. I guess people think we’re all gonna die. We’re not. My house is something like 50 or so miles away as the crow flies, so no worries there.

The latest info can always be found at the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network web site and the USGS Cascade Range web site. KATU News in Portland did a good update, and you can read it on their web site and watch the streaming video of their news report.

By the way – St. Helens is not the only volcano in the area, it’s just the one that’s acting up right now. All the other volcanoes in the Cascade Range are all at normal levels of background seismicity. They include:

  • Mount Baker, in Washington
  • Glacier Peak, in Washington
  • Mount Rainier, in Washington
  • Mount Adams, in Washington
  • Mount Hood, in Oregon
  • Mount Jefferson, in Oregon
  • Three Sisters, in Oregon
  • Newberry, in Oregon
  • Crater Lake, in Oregon
  • Medicine Lake, in northern California
  • Mount Shasta, in northern California
  • Lassen Peak in northern California

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Mt. St. Helens
Saturday, 18 December 2004 12:31:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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For someone like me, who uses SharePoint Portal Server and is starting to appreciate the usefulness of the MSN Desktop Search, this was an awesome find:

Mark Bower: Searching SPS using MSN Desktop Search

Mark explains how to add a shortcut to the MSN Desktop Search “deskband.” In less than a minute, you’ll have quick search shortcuts set up that allow you to enter a shortcut keyword and your search term (for example, type “sps documentation” into desktop search and a window will be opened with the search results on the portal server).

UPDATE: A site all about shortcuts for the deskbar ( has popped up – very cool! (via Scobleizer)

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SharePoint | Tech
Saturday, 18 December 2004 00:28:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 17 December 2004

Scott Hanselman has been working on some very cool updates to a private build of the current version of dasBlog (the blog software this site runs on), and last night he and I stayed up late plugging his new build into my weblog site and his. We did some tuning and troubleshooting (he tuned, and I took direction and troubleshooted/shot/sha– eh, whatever…), and got to where things are looking pretty darn nice.

The net effect of the changes is significantly improved performance and some new functionality for site owners.

It’s faster. Big time. Between the dasBlog changes and cleaning a few things up in my blog template, the site is loading well over ten times faster than it was 24 hours ago. Wow. Scott’s blog is also running on the new bits, and its much faster, too.

Before anyone asks, it’s a private build, and it’s not mine to give away. Scott said that “if its righteous,” Omar will take a look at it for possible inclusion into dasBlog v1.7.

I won’t pretend to understand the guts of it (that’s Excellent Programmer Scott’s job), but here are a few of the new things he’s implemented (in my words, not his, so forgive me if it’s in not-too-programmerish terms):

  • Speed Improvements: Site content that used to be cached on the file system in blogdata.xml, categoryCache.xml, and entryCache.xml are now stored and manipulated in memory, which means no more of the thrash-and-wait disk IO associated with those files, and therefore a faster application requiring less overhead. Category pages are incredibly fast now. My RSS loads faster in the reader. Speed, speed speed…
  • New Config Setting: Blocks unwanted referrers by keyword, and logs the action taken along with the matching keyword. Does not count as a referral or visit in stats.
  • New Config Setting: Send an HTTP 404 response (page not found) to blocked referrerals.
  • New Config Setting: Enable Captcha for comments. Captcha is the tool that creates an image with numbers and letters that you have to type into a form field when submitting comments on the site. It’s purpose is to prevent comment spamming, and it is now integrated directly into dasBlog.
  • New Configuration File: Block access to the weblog application by IP address by adding them to blockedips.cfg.
  • HTTP Compression Changes: Makes larger pages transfer and load faster.
  • New activity logging features: Logging of dasBlog application activity is enhanced with things like source IP addresses for referrals (in case you want to block it or look it up), keywords used on referral filtering, refused referrals, and I am sure a bunch of others.

It’s all so super fast, slick and nifty, but then again that’s exactly what I’d expect from Scott. He’s wicked smart and more than just a little driven. ;-)

It’s such a bonus to have friends around that you can learn so much from and who can make such cool things work. Thanks as always to Scott, and woo-hoo for dasBlog!

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Tech | Blogging
Friday, 17 December 2004 19:13:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Santa’s having a rough year. Go go JibJab. Niiice. :-)

Be sure to click on the link to send toys to kids in Iraq. It’s time to give a little.

Update: By way of Sean Alexander, It’s a Wonderful Life, in 30 seconds, performed by bunnies. Uh, yeah. Enjoy.

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Friday, 17 December 2004 15:58:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 16 December 2004

Near and dear to my heart (professionally speaking), the latest increasing numbers related to the number of fraudulent phishing sites (sites that look like a bank or other business, but which are actually set up by bad people who are wanting to steal your personal and private information) are worth taking notice of:

“The number of phishing sites, or fake Web sites set up to fool victims into handing over personal information, reached 1,518 last month, the Anti-Phishing Working Group said in a report released on Wednesday. The total was up almost a third over October and three times the level in September.”

That’s an increase of 29% over the previous month. It’s also – in my opinion – an understatement of the real number, since it deals only with reported phishing sites. But it pays to be conservative with numbers, I suppose.

“A total of 51 brands were hijacked by cybercriminals during the month, the group found. Financial services was again the most targeted industry, averaging 75 percent of all hijacked brands. ISPs faced a fair share of scams, accounting for 16 percent, according to the report.”

The Anti-Phishing Working Group publishes the monthly stats. You can find them here.

Also close to me professionally is the fact that recently the company I work for banded together with and a few other organizations to form the Anti-Fraud Alliance - a team of companies with existing, powerful software and services that can be used together or individually to combat fraud online, including phishing.

Note: My employer, Corillian Corporation, is a member of the Anti-Fraud Alliance. I mention them here simply because I wanted to and because I believe its relevant. No compensation involved, and opinions expressed here are my own, not those of my employer.

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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 16 December 2004 14:42:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Apparently some are of the opinion this is not a security vulnerability, according to Microsoft’s comments to ZDNet reporters, but in the real world – it’s a hole. A Mack-Truck-sized security hole. The news story reads a bit like one team saying “Hey, we’re not in charge of that, so it’s not a problem” and the other one saying “We do things the way we do them, and that’s what we do.” Oof.

Anyhow… If you run Windows XP with SP2 you need to make sure you have this update.;en-us;886185

After you set up Microsoft Windows Firewall in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), you may discover that your computer can be accessed by anyone on the Internet when you use a dial-up connection to connect to the Internet.

This problem occurs because of the way that Windows Firewall interprets local subnets when the “My network (subnet) only” option is used. Windows Firewall is included with Windows XP SP2.

Because of the way that some dialing software configures routing tables, Windows Firewall in Windows XP SP2 can sometimes interpret the whole Internet to be a local subnet. This can let anyone on the Internet access the Windows Firewall exceptions. When the "My network (subnet) only" option is enabled, it is automatically selected for file and print sharing. Therefore, your shared drives can be unexpectedly revealed on the Internet when you use a dial-up connection.

To resolve this problem, you must download and install the Critical Update for Windows XP (KB886185).

Use Windows Update or click the above link. If you’re not already set up for automatic updates, make that change now.

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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 16 December 2004 13:44:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 15 December 2004

Are you a Microsoft OneNote user? I am – big time. If you’re getting started with OneNote and are interested in learning some of the basics about how to use OneNote to be productive and organized, you might want to check out this webcast, scheduled for December 21st:

Microsoft Office System Webcast: OneNote Tips and Tricks (Level 100)
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
9:00–10:00 A.M. Pacific Time, United States and Canada (UTC-8)
Join this webcast and learn how to flag notes, manage pages and sections, and use stationery and outlines in e-mail and other Office applications.

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Office 2003 | OneNote
Wednesday, 15 December 2004 22:30:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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If you’re someone who needs or wants to learn more about InfoPath (an addition to the Office suite in the 2003 version) and building some really cool XML forms, you’re in luck.

“Create dynamic interactive forms in an advanced XML forms editor that feature strong validation with built-in business rules and use them to collect, re-purpose, and present data throughout the organization. Use existing data schemas, Web services, and XML data to create solutions without complex data mapping. Use point-and-click integration with back-end systems and take advantage of "silent" deployments and version upgrades via simple centralized management.”

A series of recent webcasts, Understanding InfoPath, is available now for on-demand viewing. Titles include:

Best Practices for Designing InfoPath Forms
Level 200 - Tuesday, October 5, 2004 - 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Presented by Scott Roberts, Software Design Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

User Roles in InfoPath 2003
Level 200 - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Presented by Josh Bertsch, Software Test Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

Building Advanced Dynamic Solutions in InfoPath 2003
Level 200 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Jun Jin, Software Design Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

Business Logic in InfoPath 2003
Level 300 - Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Presented by Yuet (Emily) Ching and Prachi Bora, Software Test Engineers, Microsoft Corporation

Using Managed Code and Visual Studio to Build Solutions
Level 300 - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Presented by Willson Raj David, Software Design Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

InfoPath in End-to-End Enterprise Solutions: Integrating InfoPath with Siebel and SAP
Level 300 - Monday, November 2, 2004 - 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Presented by Hagen Green, Software Test Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

Digital Signatures in InfoPath 2003
Level 300 - Monday, November 15, 2004 - 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Presented by Mihaela Cristina Cris, Software Test Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

Creating Custom Controls for InfoPath SP1
Level 400 - Monday, November 29, 2004 - 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Presented by Andrew Ma, Software Test Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

Programming Workflow into InfoPath Solutions: Using InfoPath with BizTalk Server 2004 and Human Workflow Services
Level 400 - Monday, December 6, 2004 - 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Presented by Rick Severson, Software Test Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

Database Connectivity in InfoPath Through ADO.NET DataSet Support
Level 400 - Monday, December 14, 2004 - 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Presented by Mikhail Vassiliev, Software Design Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

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Office 2003 | Tech
Wednesday, 15 December 2004 22:15:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Lots of Microsoft downloads recently it seems… Catching up…

If you have a Tablet PC and use Office 2003, Microsoft has released an update that you need to download and install. The update improves recognition of “inked” handwriting in Office 2003 applications, including:

  • Microsoft Office 2003
  • Microsoft Office Excel 2003
  • Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003
  • Microsoft Office OneNote 2003
  • Microsoft Office Outlook 2003
  • Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003
  • Microsoft Office Word 2003

Get the update patch here.

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Office 2003 | OneNote | Tablet PC | Tech
Wednesday, 15 December 2004 21:32:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Over on it’s GotDotNet workspace, you can download the Collutions cBlog package, a custom site definition for SharePoint released under a Shared Source license. The cBlog package creates a blogging environment on the Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) platform. WSS ships as a free web server add-on/enhancement to Windows Server 2003.

This is interesting stuff. Jim Duncan’s sample blog is viewable online, and is a real, working blog that appears to be dedicated to the development and discussion of the cBlog custom site definition itself, at least so far.

Looks like Jim has already created an  RSS  2.0 Feed  for the WSS cBlog, too. Subscribed!

Going to have to look into this one further…

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Blogging | SharePoint | Tech
Wednesday, 15 December 2004 21:14:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Microsoft has published “Bill Gates Answers Most Frequently Asked Questions.”

It’s an interesting read. Here are the questions, but you’ll have to get the doc to see the answers.

  • What kind of role did fate or luck play in your success?
  • In the history of Microsoft, what was your happiest moment?
  • How do you spend your time?

  • What do you think is more important to your success, raw intelligence or hard work?

  • Please explain the secret of your success.

  • When do you think the first computer will become as intelligent as a human?

  • Do you regret not finishing college?

  • Who coined the name Microsoft?

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Geek Out | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 15 December 2004 20:45:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The Virtual Server Migration Toolkit (VSMT) lets IT Pros migrate servers from physical hardware to virtual machines. You can get it here.

Okay, well it’s not quite like the P2V (physical-to-virtual) software produced by VMWare, but for those looking to make a transition to Microsoft Virtual Server, this is a valuable resource. It works differently than VMWare’s counterpart – VSMT requires you run Automate Deployment Services as part of your migration setup. It’s worth noting the difference in price, as well (P2V costs $$$, and the Microsoft VSMT is a free download once you register online).

I’ve worked with both Microsoft’s Virtual Server 2005/Virtual PC 2004 and VMWare’s Workstation and ESX/GSX Server products. All are good products that do a fine job. In the end, the tools you choose should be the result of careful examination and testing against your needs and in your environment. But you should be using these tools, even if only for the purpose of getting to know them and keeping on the leading edge of the technology.

From the VSMT description:

“One of the key steps in a successful Virtual Server 2005 deployment strategy is simplifying the process of converting physical servers to virtual machines.

“You can use VSMT to create images of physical computers and deploy them in virtual machines running on Virtual Server 2005. With VSMT, you can migrate source computers running the following operating systems to virtual machines in Virtual Server 2005:

  • Windows NT 4.0 Server with Service Pack (SP) 6a, Standard and Enterprise Editions
  • Windows 2000 Server SP 4 or later
  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server SP 4 or later
  • Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition”

For those in the field, virtual servers (of one sort or another) are proving themselves to be cost-effective, flexible, reliable and generally valuable alternatives to setting up and maintaining separate hardware for each server. It’s the way of the future – worth checking out and becoming familiar with.

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Wednesday, 15 December 2004 20:30:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Monday, 13 December 2004

The bandwagon is rolling rolling rolling along: MSN kicked a new toolbar suite out the door that integrates desktop search – cool stuff. Check it out.

I like the display-results-as-you-type thing, similar to X1. Google needs this.

“MSN Toolbar Suite features three different toolbars to help you search the Web and your computer from Microsoft Internet Explorer or Windows Explorer, the Windows taskbar, and Microsoft Outlook.”

Update: Scott has a look under the hood and compares the MSN desktop search to the Google desktop search, as well.

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Monday, 13 December 2004 16:39:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Sunday, 12 December 2004

Google rocks my virtual world every day. If it doesn’t do the same for you, it should. I’ve written about this before in the context of knowing how to leverage Google’s advanced search capabilities, but many don’t know that there is much more to Google than searching.

There are so many cool things you can do at Google. Things that will capture your attention and hold it hostage for hours and days at a time. Some of those things are fun, some are serious. All are pretty darn cool. Things like this:

Google Search for Klingons (sorry I could not resist):


Dave has links to a few other “languages,” too.

And then there’s all the cool Google Labs stuff, the latest of which is Google Suggests.

What else can you do at Google? Well – here’s their own list:

Google Services: Use one of our many services to find what you're looking for.


Google Labs

(tons of cool new stuff here!)

Special Searches

(see more below)


Google Tools: We offer various tools to help you get more done.


Additionally, you can Add Google to your Browser by making Google your default search engine.

Google Special Searches: Often better than you’ll find at the web sites that are home to the technologies themselves…

Apple Macintosh

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Geek Out | Random Stuff | Tech
Sunday, 12 December 2004 23:58:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Nice to see the docs rolling out the door on the black-box stuff in SharePoint Portal Server. Here’s another, covering the syntax used in SharePoint Portal Server’s full-text search – Apparently it’s a preview of the what is to come in the next SDK release…

This download includes a preview of the reference documentation for Microsoft SharePointPSSearch, the SQL Syntax used for Microsoft SharePointPSSearch Full Text Search with Microsoft Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003. Look for updates to this documentation in the Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies 2003 Software Development Kit (SDK).

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SharePoint | Tech
Sunday, 12 December 2004 10:37:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

If you’ve worked on rebranding (to any significant extent) SharePoint Portal Server 2003, you know how difficult it can be to feel confident in what you’re actually doing, due mostly to the lack of documentation on the subject.

Well, Microsoft has released two papers on the Office Developer Center to help:

  • Branding a SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Site:
    • Part 1, Understanding the Use of a Corporate Brand
      Learn what it means to "brand" a SharePoint Portal Server site, and about the different types of branding you can apply to a portal site to reflect an organization's identity.
    • Part 2, How to Apply Your Own Corporate Brand
      Through step-by-step examples of the typical tasks involved in branding a Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server site, learn to change the standard banner, introduce a custom style sheet, and enhance the user experience of your portal site through interface, navigation, and page layout changes.

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Office 2003 | SharePoint | Tech
Sunday, 12 December 2004 10:31:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Saturday, 11 December 2004

Coming Soon - Oregon’s commemorative state quarter:


Reverse Image: "Crater Lake"
Description: Features a portion of Crater Lake, viewed from the south-southwest rim to include Wizard Island and Watchman and Hillman Peaks on the lake’s rim.

Engraver: Donna Weaver

Circulation plans, per the Statesman Journal:

General Circulation: June 2005
Five-State Proof Set: January 6
Silver Proofs: TBA

(Spotted via Jonathan Singer’s blog)

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Saturday, 11 December 2004 12:16:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Friday, 10 December 2004

“2004 would be remembered as they year that everything began.”

And the rest will be history…

You need to watch this. Seriously. Thought-provoking.

(thanks to Brandon for pointing this out)

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Geek Out | Random Stuff | Tech
Friday, 10 December 2004 14:40:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Just when you thought Google was perfect, they've up'ed themselves once again.

On Google Suggest, as you type your search term, Google suggests completions and lets you know how many results there are for each suggestion it presents:

I always wanted to know how to dismantle an atomic bomb, and apparently there are 167,000 ways to do just that. Cool.

UPDATES: Phillip shows off Google Suggest’s top suggestions (and his singing voice) in a video, and looks at top suggestions, too, and points out that Google often gets paid for stuff you click on. Makes me wonder how that fits into what’s suggested by the app. Google’s FAQ about Google Suggest is here.

Nice job, Google people.

[via Slashdot and my friend Mike]

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Friday, 10 December 2004 13:29:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Thursday, 09 December 2004

Seriously. My sensibility hurts.

At the invitation of a friend, I went to the movies tonight, and saw The Grudge.

Sheez. Now there’s something like two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

I’m not the kind of person to talk out loud in movies, but this one sucked so hard I couldn’t help myself. It’s was editorial comment after editorial comment. And you know what? I wasn’t the only one. And on top of that, NO ONE complained about the out-loud commentary that was going on. That should tell you something.

I’m not even going to explain why it sucked. That would simply do the film too much justice, and someone might spend enough time reading this to subconsciously convince themselves they should see it. DON’T!

And that’s all I have to say about that…

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Movies | Things that Suck
Thursday, 09 December 2004 23:57:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback has perhaps the most useful PDF file of the year available to download…

Do you ever get tired of those idiot people who suck up all the ambient quiet while talking on their cell phones about things that they – well – should probably just keep quiet?

Take action now:

“After reading a story in the NYT, Jim's wife Heidi decided that maybe there was a way to fight back against the obnoxious cell phone users that we all have to deal with in stores, restaurants, trains and pretty much everywhere else. Can design ride to the rescue? Jim and the incomparable Aaron Draplin think it can. So, as a public service, we introduce the reasonably polite SHHH, the Society for HandHeld Hushing.”

Download this PDF, get out your exacto knife or scissors, and start fighting back (NOTE: The PDF contains a few choice profanities, so if you’re easilly offended, don’t click).

(via Engadget)

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Humor | Things that Suck
Thursday, 09 December 2004 14:49:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Wednesday, 08 December 2004

For the past few months now I have had Google AdSense ads (four of them in a vertical stack format) way down deep on the page in the right-side nav section of this weblog. You’d be safe to say they were buried, way “below the fold.” In other words, the worst possible place to stick ads that you want people to click on.

I put the ads there after Chris Pirillo pontificated on the wonders of AdSense - on his site, to me in person, to me in email, to me in instant messaging conversations. He groks the stuff.

Yesterday I got a “hey here’s some new info about your AdSense account” email from the AdSense people, which reminded me of that fact that I even had the ads on my site at all (yeah, they were that far down on the page). I’m a little lazy about that kind of stuff. In fact, I had not checked on the stats for my AdSense account in some time, and so I was a bit surprised to find I had almost $80 worth of ad revenues in my account. Hmmm…

So, being the smart guy I am, I decided maybe there actually was something to this AdSense stuff. Late last night I changed my ad layout design from four ads to just two, made it a horizontal layout, and moved them to the top of the page - into a much higher-profile placement.

The results? Well, just today, I had nearly $10 in click-through revenues – and today was a (relatively) slow traffic day on the site. In other words, by simply moving the ads and making them fit in a little better, in just one day I brought in about an eighth of the total ad revenue from the past four months. That’s hard to beat, no matter how you look at it:

    • Click-through Rate:   3.4% today     0.2% per day average
    • Click-though Count:   36 today       1 per day average
    • Daily Earnings:       $9.42 today    $0.43 per day average

Of course, I emailed Chris and told him about my little experiment in ad placement and the results, and his reply was what exactly I expected:

“Told ya so.”

Heh. Yeah, he sure did.

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Wednesday, 08 December 2004 23:32:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Eric’s feeling pretty smug ‘cuz he posted about the Zoomquilt before I did. Okay, Eric – you win. I didn’t get around to it. :-)

Zoomquilt is pretty cool. Let it load, follow the simple instructions.

Be visually amazed. Marvel at the detail. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Seriously - it’s hella-cool. Enjoy.

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Random Stuff
Wednesday, 08 December 2004 22:56:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Well, for those who have followed (for some reason) my back ailments here, an update: Surgery will happen on December 22nd.

So, Percutaneous Discectomy it is – removal of some of the material inside the disc at the L5/S1 space to relieve pressure on the nerve root there. The doctor will remove some of the material from inside, the bulge moves back toward the void left by the removal, and the pressure is reduced. Hopefully.

Nice thing is, it’s outpatient day surgery – I’ll walk out and go straight home within a few hours of arriving there. I’ll also be wearing a back brace for a while and will have to do several weeks of physical therapy (whoopee), but in the end I am hopeful it will all be worth it.

I’ve done pretty much everything I can in order to try to make things work without surgery, so this is pretty much it. While I am not big on the idea of surgery, I am very much looking forward to the possibility of some relief and maybe even getting back to where I can physically do the things I used to do.

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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories
Wednesday, 08 December 2004 22:31:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Saturday, 04 December 2004

Most any blog that’s been Googled, Slashdotted, or Engadgeted – or for that matter pretty much anything that drives traffic to a site – has seen the effects of referral spam. It SUCKS. Porn and marketing sites create a fake link to your blog entry, which results in a link to their web site (usually and unpleasant and unwelcome one) showing up in your referral list for that entry. Your readers click a link and get porn tossed right in their faces. Ugh.

With dasBlog, the only way I had to effectively battle this (I am a victim of referral spam for sure) was to turn off referral displays on my blog. I don’t want that, but this is a family-friendly site for the most part, so keeping the nasty out was important.

But last night Scott Hanselman, a friend and co-worker, sent me a new little C# 2005 Express project ZIP file, told me to compile it, and to try it out. He just built it for himself, and passed it on for me to use.

No more referral spam!

UPDATE: While I was able to kill the nasty referrer links, I have again removed referral listings from the blog for a while, because I have one particular weblog entry that has so many hundreds of referrers, it will crash the browser when you try to load it with referrers showing… But that’s a whole different issue…

Since then, Scott has posted the project source file on his blog, too, so any dasBlog users that need it can take advantage. He plans to make it a little more elegant in the future, but this is a great start!

Scott Hanselman, YOU’RE MY HEEEROOOO. :-)

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Blogging | Tech | Things that Suck
Saturday, 04 December 2004 11:42:40 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Tariq’s new SharePoint Tools Galore list is a great resource for people who work with WSS and SharePoint Portal Server. He lists a ton of third party and other tools for use with SharePoint. Check it out:

Also – Joris Poelmans updates the list:

Not sure if or where this will actually “live,” but it’s a great start.

For my part – I can tell you that TeamPlate for .NET is very powerful and interesting when plugged into SharePoint and elsewhere, and they have a new version about to come out.

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Office 2003 | SharePoint | Tech
Saturday, 04 December 2004 11:05:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

I have neglected posting SharePoint links and info recently. Bad me. Good thing there’s other people out there keeping us up to date. For example, Amanda Murphy recently linked to a few interesting nuggets of SharePoint gold, and I thought I would consolidate a couple of the ones that I find most interesting here, as well. Thanks, Amanda!

Nigel Bridport’s SharePoint User Manager v1.0

“Not sure about other people, but I find it quite time consuming when trying to manage users inside of Windows SharePoint Services sites, especially when the sites in the hierarchy have their security inheritance broken.  A number of customers end up breaking security inheritance at every opportunity and then hit this problem.

“So, I am in the process of writing a SharePoint User Manager Windows Application in order to help out in this area!”

Stramit’s Granular Backup Manager for WSS v1.0

“Granular Backup Manageris a tool which allows you to create back up file and/or .bat file to make this file for a global hierarchy of WSS site. Its internal is based on the sMigrate.exe of the SharePoint system. the back up file are just Web Package. Each sub site of a WSS collection can have its own web package directly with this tool

I made this tool to make easy the back up operation in the case in large WSS collection with document library. Using granular back up file allow you to restore just little site for recover a document instead of the all collection (less time, less space, just the site).”

Jan Tielens’ Smart Part for SharePoint v1.0.0.0

Finally I’ve managed to finish a new release for the SmartPart for SharePoint; version This release has some really cool new features, but I'm really excited about the first one: connectable web parts with ASP.NET user controls!

  • Create connectable web parts
    In SharePoint you can connect web parts, so they can exchange data. For example you could create a web part that displays a list of invoices, and another web part that displays the details of the selected invoice (master/detail view). Normally you’d have to create your Invoice and InvoiceDetails web parts by hand, implementing the ICellProvider and ICellConsumer interfaces (see Patrick’s excellent article about this topic). With the new version of the SmartPart you can do the same, but instead of coding everything by hand, you can create ASP.NET user controls! Just implement the ICellProviderUserControl or ICellConsumerUserControl on your user control, and you’re done.
  • CAS Optimization
    Maxim Karpov did a great job on fine-tuning the Code Access Security for the SmartPart. For running the previous versions of the SmartPart, you’d had to increase the trust level in the web.config to WSS_Medium. In this version this is not required anymore. Of course if your user controls require a higher trust level, you can raise the trust level as usual.
  • Hiding the user control selection
    Once you’re finished building your user controls, maybe you’d want to ship the finished web parts/user controls to a customer for example. In that case you don’t want the user to select the user controls from the dropdown listbox of the SmartPart, or filling out the user control name by hand. With the new version of the SmartPart you can create a DWP file which contains all the settings for an instance of the SmartPart showing a specific user control. The nice part is that you can hide the dropdown listbox or textbox for selecting the user control by adding the following node in the DWP after you’ve exported an instance of the SmarPart:
    <ShowUserControlList xmlns="SmartPart">false</ShowUserControlList>.

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SharePoint | Tech
Saturday, 04 December 2004 10:54:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Got Windows XP and/or Media Center 2005? Then you’ll probably want to get the new Holiday Fun Pack for Windows XP.

There’s lots of cool stuff in there. Note that one thing Microsoft does not make very clear up front is any of the details about the Tweak Media Center 2005 power toy that’s included. Check out this article on Sean Alexander’s digital media blog for some more info in that regard.

If you’re visually motivated and into the winter thing, I don’t see why you would want to skip this download…

Download the Winter Fun Pack 2004 now! Spice up your music, photos and more with amazing holiday visualizations, skins, powertoys and other fun add-ons. There’s something for the whole family!

The Winter Fun Pack 2004 includes:

Stunning Holiday Vizualizations for Windows Media Player 10
Ring in the holiday cheer! Give your desktop the Holiday touch with three cool seasonal Player Visualizations. Enjoy the HOT new WhiteCap Holiday Viz with nearly 20 holiday images that explode in vivid color including a snowman, candy cane, shooting star and more. Cool down with the chilling Ice Storm Viz, then warm up next to the fire place with the Yule Log Viz.

Amazing Holiday-Themed Skins for Windows Media Player 10
Give your Media Player a wintry makeover with 5 skins for Windows Media Player 10 including Frostbite, Ice, and Ginger man and Ginger woman skins. Also, take Windows Media Player 10 to the next level with the hot new Halo 2 skin, which is sure to be one of the hottest selling games this Holiday season. [Ed: Halo 2 skin and Holidays? Uhhh… Ok…]

PowerToys for Windows Media Player 10
Let Windows Media Player 10 take the pain out of your holiday parties with Holiday Auto Playlists (including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas). Personalize your email or blog by showing the song that’s playing on your desktop. And for power users, easily export your media library information into Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access and others.

Photos, Media Center and More!
Get into the holiday spirit and transform your desktop into a winter wonderland with new captivating desktop wallpaper images from Corbis. Get more out of Media Center 2005 with the new TweakMCE 2005 powertoy. Download Kris the Holiday Dancing Elf, Photo Story 3 for Windows, and more!

(via Sean Alexander)

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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Saturday, 04 December 2004 09:05:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Friday, 03 December 2004

Eric Rice is thinking hard, pondering what it will take to make Blogcast 1.0 happen, and posts his thoughts over on his weblog.

What will Podcasting’s future hold? What about video? Other forms of multimedia communication? Delivery methods? How can it be made more usable and accessible to new and experienced users alike?

I’m in. Multimedia communication by individuals online is just barely getting started, and this is the place to be for those who are interested in what the future will hold.

And besides, Eric’s a cool guy and a conference he drives is sure to be a hit. Plus he already made up a cool logo. :-)

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Blogging | Geek Out | Tech
Friday, 03 December 2004 21:17:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Don’t know that I can make the drive from Portland to the Seattle area for it (I may try), but if you’re a Windows MCE nut, there’s a Media Center Geek Dinner set to be held on Thursday the 9th in Bellevue, Washington.

See Michael Creasy’s blog for the details.

(via Eric Rice)

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Geek Out | Windows Media Technology
Friday, 03 December 2004 20:56:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

According to my just-arrived daily Google News Alert, Robert and I were both quoted (semi-syndicated, actually) today in the Boston Herald, with regard to our comments on MSN Spaces.

Funny, I didn’t actually think the two of us were at opposite ends of the spectrum, opinion-wise. In fact, I actually tend to agree with Robert, in that I would not use MSN Spaces as my primary blogging tool.

(Not that what I think matters all that much, but hey, it’s an honor to be quoted. And I’m a bit embarrassed – for Robert, that is – that I was quoted in the same breath as Scoble. He deserves better company, really.)

Sidebar: I find it fairly interesting that I am essentially blogging about tools that are used for blogging, then the newspaper quotes me in a story talking about blogging tools, using my blog as a journalistic source, and I am now back on the same blog, posting about the fact that this blog was (in a small way) used as a news source. Blogs as sources. Brain freeze. Ouch.

But I do like MSN spaces, not so much for me as for someone like my mom or a friend who’s maybe not quite so… computerified. It’s great for someone not quite so geeky as me, and who has no real desire to get any nerdier. I run my weblog on dasBlog, a .NET application that I installed, customized and run on my web host. My mom can’t conceptualize that, let alone actually do it.

Uh, sorry Mom – You’re terrific. I just needed a good example. :-)

And it looks like that’s what MSN is thinking about with this product. From the Herald’s story:

"We think what we'll do is attract people who maybe have heard of blogging but never would have gone out and created their own blog," said Brooke Richardson, lead product manager for MSN Communications Services. "What we really focused on was making it easy to set up so newbies could get into the space."

So – for the average entry-level user, MSN Spaces is a pretty darn good thing.

For the record, so are other online hosted services like Blogger. And there’s the community-oriented Livejournal, which is actually where I started blogging back in the day. They’re a Portland-based company and a pretty darn cool group of people.

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Blogging | Tech
Friday, 03 December 2004 20:39:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Thursday, 02 December 2004

Click to go to the BES 4.0 info page (image from Research In Motion)

The other day, Research In Motion (RIM) announced the release of Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) v4.0 to their customers. The told us about it back in September, but it was not actually released until just recently. Exchange and Domino versions are available now.

What’s the big deal? LOTS.

Of primary interest to IT-types and end users alike is the fact that with the new version of the BES software, end user basically no longer need the Blackberry Desktop software at all anymore. All synchronization can be done wirelessly, or over the network with a small, easy to distribute application.

That means fast, easy setup of handheld devices. It also means that all handheld data can be backed up the the server, and that users can be given a passcode to type on any handheld along with their corporate email address to wirelessly provision and configure their Blackberry device.

There’s a bunch of improvements and enhancements, from security changes to better data access to more programmer tools... I’ll be doing an upgrade from v3.6 to v4.0 here very soon, so I’ll be sure to post my observations and thoughts when we are done with that little project.

One thing’s clear: RIM is getting things right. I’ve been working with BES for a number of versions (for four years now), and with each release the bar is raised significantly.

Now, in order to fulfill my gadget dream, all I need is a Windows Mobile device with a keyboard and the Blackberry Connect software installed. Hey Motorola, where’s that MPx???

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Mobile | Tech
Thursday, 02 December 2004 20:30:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

More about MSN Spaces... Robert Scoble pointed out a couple of videos they posted to the Channel 9 web site showing the MSN Spaces people and technology:

Robert (in his typical and valued own-worst-critic style) also points out that while Spaces does what it does pretty well, it's not really the tool for him. I think I agree, but I also believe, similar to Livejournal, that MSN Spaces is great for non-technical people looking to communicate online in this form.

A friend of mine, Chris Cook, who has his own computer support and technology business, just created his first blog on MSN Spaces. Looks like I need to add yet another feed to my RSS reader... Cool!

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Blogging | Tech
Thursday, 02 December 2004 13:48:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

I have been running a beta version of this app for several weeks now (and I really like it), but it looks like Microsoft/MSN has just published MSN Messenger v7 BETA to the general public.

So, if you’re a MSN Messenger user, you’ll probably drool over the new features. You can get it here.

(discovered from pretty much every other blog on the planet)

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Thursday, 02 December 2004 07:45:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Wednesday, 01 December 2004

MSN Spaces has just been launched. It’s pretty darn cool, and essentially it’s a fairly complete blogging tool from Microsoft/MSN. You’ll need a Passport account, but other than that, you just sign up and go for it.

In less than 10 minutes, I created and configured a weblog, posted to it, changed a bunch of setting and the layout, posted to it from my mobile device, and added a picture or two via the MSN photo upload control. RSS 2.0 syndication is included (but no standard RSS orange button, or use of the term “RSS” – interesting).

Not a bad start, will be interesting to see it evolve!

Within a fraction of a second after I submitted my request to create my Space, this email arrived in my grungy little Hotmail in-box:


You have created your own space on MSN Spaces.

Here is the web address for your space:

To go to your new space now, use the above address.

To help protect your privacy, do not include any personal information (for example, your address, phone numbers, Social Security number, or credit card information) on your space.

Go to MSN Spaces
Go to your personal space

The layouts are about what you'd expect (nothing earthshattering, but solid and works well), and a number of standard templates are available:

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Blogging | Tech
Wednesday, 01 December 2004 20:31:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Jeremy Wright, a talented and well-known blogger, is auctioning himself on eBay:

“What do I get with this auction?

“This auction allows you to utilize this blogger for 3 months. He will produce between 5-10 posts a week. In addition, the blogger will work with you to see what potential there is for blogging for you and your company - in effect acting as a blogging consultant for you for the period.

“If it is a fit, the blogger is happy to negotiate a deal to make the position a more permanent contract position for a reasonable fee.

“Note: I have explained my reasons for doing this more fully at my blog.”

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Blogging | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 01 December 2004 14:32:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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