Saturday, 30 April 2005

NEC's IT Guy Games: 2005 is underway - so go check it out and play.

Hardware_hurlYou can play as often as you like, and keep working to earn better scores (some of them are freaky amazing high scores). And the end of each competition period, one winner takes home a 61-inch NEC plasma display. The games run April 1 through September 30, 2005 and will be played on the following schedule:

  • Hardware Hurl April 1 – May 13
  • Projector Protector May 16 – July 1
  • Office Obstacles July 5 – August 12
  • Cube Luge August 15 – September 30

The IT guy games test the following skills:

  • keypad dexterity
  • keypad speed
  • mouse dexterity
  • mouse speed
  • visual speed/patterns
  • hand/eye coordination

Go play now - play often and play hard - Geeks go wild...

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Geek Out | Random Stuff | Tech
Saturday, 30 April 2005 22:13:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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People think it rains all the time in western Oregon, but in reality that's not true. Just don't tell anyone, it's our little secret - We just tell people it always rains so they'll leave us alone. While it can rain quite a bit in the winter months at times, we tend to get long, sunny and relatively dry summers here.

Add to that the fact that a lot of the soil in the area is clay (mine is a reddish clay), and plants have a hard time getting water in the summertime. It's a soil that's got lots of nutrients, but the plants tend to have difficulty absorbing the nutrients and the clay tends to keep the water from effectively reaching the plants. A plant that is set directly in clay is likely to have a hard time without some help at planting time. I've found from my own experience that a little extra work when the hole is dug makes for a much healthier plant. 

So, proper soil prep is important, and when it's done well, you can't hardly keep plants from growing in the Pacific Northwest.

Amending clay soil:

  • Dig your hole, make it generous in size
  • Put a liberal amount of Doctor Earth organic starter fertilizer in the hole first (organic fertilizer is great because it can go next to the roots and it's almost impossible to burn a plant with a good organic starter fertilizer)
  • Mix the native clay soil 50-50 with a quality amendment bagged soil before putting it into the hole
  • Place the plant and back-fill with your local/amended soil

Just a few plants that can work very well in dry and clay soil (and there are hundreds of others):

  • Phormium
  • California Lilac (shiny, evergreen, nice and tight, blooms, 4-5')
  • Rugosa (wild) or Juniper Roses (low-lying)
  • Pampas Grass (grows big)

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Random Stuff
Saturday, 30 April 2005 19:25:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Hdpicklocking-im004015Hackaday points to a web site where the authors show step-by step how to build a super-fast lock picker from a used hard drive, a mouse, part of a network card, a power supply and a small screwdriver.

Just assemble a few parts scattered around the average geek's room, and locks are popping open for ya. Says the author: "The challenge was to build a lockpick device by using computer parts, and of course we did it, and it works pretty well and really fast." Sure does!

Pictures and a demo video showing it work are all on the page.

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Saturday, 30 April 2005 18:37:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I frequently get asked, "Do I have to install Visio just to view a Visio diagram someone sent me?" or "I don't want to install Office on this computer - where can I get the viewer program for PowerPoint files?"

And sometimes people are looking for file version/type converters because someone sends them a file created with a different version of an Office application.

  • Converters allow you to open files created by people using different versions of your Office programs.
  • Viewers provide a means for people who don't have Office programs to see your work. You can provide them with the appropriate viewer along with your Office files.

Both are useful and requests from all sort of people seem to come up every now and then.

So, here's a one-stop place at to download the latest versions of Microsoft's free Office viewer and converters. Or, just click below:

Access viewers

Excel converters and viewers

Outlook converters and viewers

PowerPoint converters and viewers

Microsoft Project converters

Visio converters and viewers

Word converters and viewers

Converters and viewers for Macintosh users

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Office 2003 | Tech
Saturday, 30 April 2005 11:12:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Microsoft on Friday released Live Communication Server 2005 Service Pack One (SP1), which is a free update that incorporates some important new and enhanced features as well as security changes:

Download links:

More information:

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IT Security | Office 2003 | Tech
Saturday, 30 April 2005 10:24:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 29 April 2005

In December I had a minimally-invasive surgical procedure done on my lower back to try to help correct a herniated disc down there in my spine at the L5/S1 joint (that's just below hip level). The end result was a limited success, and I am pretty much back where I was before the procedure nowadays, as far as the back/leg pain, numbness and reduced motor skills in my legs go.

The original procedure was no guarantee, but we had high hopes. I decided a minimally-invasive procedure - one that would not require any permanent changes, cutting or physical limitations - was a good first shot to take. It just didn't work out as well as I would have liked.

MRI picture to gross people outSo, I have seen three highly-recommended doctors recently to talk with them about what can be done to help. I am in some level of pain 24/7, I wake up several times every night from the pain, and I am basically restricting my own activity so much that I am becoming fairly miserable and generally unhappy in life. I can't stand for any period of time, I can't stay seated for very long, walking any real distance is painful, lying down requires me to shift around constantly (hence waking up from pain), and really the only position that I can get into that gives me some relief is whatever position I am not in at the time.

The doctor who did the procedure in December told me he thought there were a few remaining possibilities for me: Live with it (always an option), maybe do a microsdiscectomy (an iffy proposition), bone fusion of the joint, or artificial disc replacement.

And, as it turns out, each of these three doctors I consulted with came to pretty much the same conclusion: The only thing that will work for me at this point is removal of the bad disc, followed by either fusing the joint or replacing the disc with an artificial one. Both methods have been around for a while. Artificial discs received FDA approval in the U.S. last year.

It's been very interesting (and enlightening) to visit three neurological surgeons with no information other than my MRI films and a verbal history of my pain and medical care, to see what they would tell me. I did not tell any of them what the other docs said or thought or diagnosed, but all three came up with the same result. That's encouraging, at least in terms of knowing where I really stand. Of course, the idea that I need a fairly major surgery to be better is a little intimidating. But, one further point of encouragement is the fact that all three doctors were quite confident that surgery would make a huge difference in my quality of life. All three said that I am practically the perfect candidate to benefit in a huge way from the procedure.

Then I started thinking about whether it's the "right" thing to do - Is it right to cut into your body and remove parts or put in fake parts? These thoughts keep going through my mind and I'm actually a bit surprised. I guess I just never had the chance to think them before now.

So now comes the decision. Oh boy, this is definitely not the easiest part. Deciding which doctors (it takes two - a vascular surgeon as well as the neurological surgeon), when to have it done (if at all), and which procedure is the best option for me. Not to mention the health insurance company part - who knows what they'll have to say.

A fusion means six to nine months of take-it-easy time, and a longer period of relative inactivity (that includes work). An artificial disc does not have the healing time (there is no fusion process to worry about) and so return to work/normal life is much faster. Fusion has been around for a long, long time. Artificial discs are newer - especially in the U.S. - but have been around for about 15 or so years.

The actual surgical procedure followed to do either the disc replacement or the fusion is pretty much identical. The only real difference is what goes between the vertebrae once they get to where they're headed - some metal cages, some bone, or the artificial disc. Getting in there and closing up is virtually the same.

Anyhow, if anyone who reads this also happens to have received an artificial disc (or knows someone who has), please let me know - I'd like to communicate with you. Also, anyone who's had a fusion, same deal - please contact me by commenting on this post, or click the mail icon over in the navigation sidebar.

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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Friday, 29 April 2005 19:19:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 28 April 2005

I took this test, and here's my results. What's your English sound like?

Your Linguistic Profile:
85% General American English
5% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
5% Yankee
0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

(via John Dunshee)

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Random Stuff
Thursday, 28 April 2005 20:40:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Talisman_screenSveaSoft has published the new Talisman/Basic release of their replacement firmware for the Linksys WRT54G and WRT54GS wireless routers. It's available for v1.1 and newer revs of the router hardware (see the label on the bottom, if it's v1.1 or newer you'll see the numbers there).

Subscribers to Sveasoft's firmware service can download it now. It's only $20 a year, and if you're a hardware/software geek with a WRT54G, it's worth the $20 a year just for the fun of messing with it, not to mention the great functionality.

This firmware is excellent, and includes a large number of technical enhancements and improvements over both the default Linksys firmware and the previous SveaSoft firmware versions.

Just some of the extra features the SveaSoft firmware provides above and beyond what the default firmware gives you:

  • Increased output radio power (from 0 to 500mw - the router's default is 28mw)
  • Improved QOS capabilities
  • Advanced Routing Protocols - BGP, RIP2, OSPF, able to run simultaneously
  • Read-Write file system with standard SysV startup and shutdown scripts
  • in /usr/local/etc/init.d
  • Unlimited port forwarding, port range forwarding, and port redirection
  • Unlimited port triggering
  • Advanced QoS bandwidth management
  • PPTP server
  • Improved PPPoE handling
  • Enhanced Web Interface based on CSS
  • Repeater mode (WDS)
  • Bridge mode (client) - either routed or direct bridged
  • IPv6 support
  • Advanced IPv4 filtering
  • Ebtables L2 filtering
  • Safe parameter backup and restore with support for RW parition backup/restore
  • Enhanced DHCP server
  • Enhanced DNS server
  • Unlimited DHCP static leases with MAC ignore capability
  • Enhanced onboard time services
  • WPA security on WDS/repeater mode links
  • WPA security on bridge/client mode links
  • Enhanced status reporting

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Wednesday, 27 April 2005 22:48:16 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Classic funny moment - I've been victim of the Slashdot effect (lots of referral traffic) a couple of times in the past. A friend pointed this out to me just a minute or two ago. Looks like Slashdot's got a little hair of the dog that bit 'em problem? What comes around... Heh...


Thanks, Dave.

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Humor | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 27 April 2005 20:41:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 26 April 2005 - an great audio book/publication service that I have been using for about a year - has published a whole set of RSS feeds so you can subscribe to find out easily what new content is published, including both free and pay-for selections:

This Week's Best Sellers (Top 50)   RSS
This Week's New Audiobooks and Programs   RSS
New Free Audio Programs   RSS
Under $10 Audio Programs   RSS
New York Times Best Sellers   RSS
BusinessWeek Best Sellers   RSS
Publishers Weekly Best Sellers   RSS
Best Sellers in Arts & Entertainment   RSS
Best Sellers in AudibleOriginals   RSS
Best Sellers in Biographies and Memoirs   RSS
Best Sellers in Business   RSS
Best Sellers in Classics   RSS
Best Sellers in Comedy   RSS
Best Sellers in Drama and Poetry   RSS
Best Sellers in Fiction   RSS
Best Sellers in Foreign Language   RSS
Best Sellers in Great Talkers   RSS
Best Sellers in History   RSS
Best Sellers in Information Age   RSS
Best Sellers in Kids   RSS
Best Sellers in Mystery   RSS
Best Sellers in Non-fiction   RSS
Best Sellers in Science   RSS
Best Sellers in Science Fiction and Fantasy   RSS
Best Sellers in Self Development   RSS
Best Sellers in Speeches and Lectures   RSS
Best Sellers in Spirituality   RSS
Best Sellers in Sports   RSS
Best Sellers in Travel and Adventure   RSS

And perhaps the coolest thing on the page? I scrolled down and noticed the question "Where can I find more information about RSS?" and the first resource listed is the RSS Quickstart Guide from - nice.

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Random Stuff | RSS Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 26 April 2005 20:23:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Several Tablet PC hardware announcements/leaks/what-have-you in the past couple of days:

I'm still using an Acer C300-series. Still works, but I am holing out for the IBM to see what it looks like, since I am awfully impressed with their T-Series laptops.

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Tablet PC | Tech
Tuesday, 26 April 2005 06:56:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 24 April 2005

Longhorn_5048_installWinBeta has posted a review and some screenshots of Windows Longhorn Build 5048. Anyone who's interested in the future of Windows may want to check it out.

The next several months will be quite interesting as Longhorn continues to be built up and new information becomes public.

But release is still a ways off. The author of this article speculates it could still be two full years before Longhorn is released by Microsoft. Time will tell.

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Sunday, 24 April 2005 22:21:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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There's slashdot conversation taking place about using and enforcing cryptographically strong passwords (it's all about passphrases, people, passphrases - read my experiences here). In that thread, someone linked to an old and quite perfect social engineering example that I had not seen in a while. In my field I see and hear some of the funniest (or rather scariest) stories about situations like this.

From an IRC chatroom:

<Cthon98> hey, if you type in your pw, it will show as stars
<Cthon98> ********* see!
<AzureDiamond> hunter2
<AzureDiamond> doesnt look like stars to me
<Cthon98> <AzureDiamond> *******
<Cthon98> thats what I see
<AzureDiamond> oh, really?
<Cthon98> Absolutely
<AzureDiamond> you can go hunter2 my hunter2-ing hunter2
<AzureDiamond> haha, does that look funny to you?
<Cthon98> lol, yes. See, when YOU type hunter2, it shows to us as *******
<AzureDiamond> thats neat, I didnt know IRC did that
<Cthon98> yep, no matter how many times you type hunter2, it will show to us as *******
<AzureDiamond> awesome!
<AzureDiamond> wait, how do you know my pw?
<Cthon98> er, I just copy pasted YOUR ******'s and it appears to YOU as hunter2 cause its your pw
<AzureDiamond> oh, ok.

Pretty darn funny - unless it's you.

Of course, much of the /. conversation has evolved into the requisite noise and talk about how the original question is a moot point because passwords are dead, etc etc etc blah blah blah shashdotadnauseum...

And, since we need something useful to go with the something-funny/scary, here's some information worth reading about how to make it possible for users to remember and use cryptographically strong authentication without having to resort to post-it's and .txt files on the computer:

The Great Debate: Pass Phrases vs. Passwords

  • Part One - covers the fundamentals of passwords and pass phrases, how they are stored, and so on
  • Part Two - discusses the relative strength of each type of password, and use some mathematical approaches for illustration
  • Part Three - offers some conclusions and guidance on how to choose passwords and configure a password policy

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IT Security | Tech
Sunday, 24 April 2005 09:19:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 23 April 2005

QuickTime is needed to watch this clip.

Okay, whoever sends me a picture of themselves actually wearing one of these will get a copy of Real Ultimate Power from yours truly. Cuz if you wear one of these, you'll love that book, I am confident.

"Introducing the most technologically advanced piece of clothing since the Hypercolor t-shirt ... the LED scrolling belt buckle."

Umm, wow. Cool, hehe.

It's $28.99 plus $6.49 shipping and handling, and holds up to six unique messages at a time, with each message being 256 characters long. You can change the messages at any time as well as things like like the speed of the messages and how bright the display is.

Yes it works with regular belts, and no it won't play MP3s.

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Random Stuff | Tech
Saturday, 23 April 2005 14:17:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Cokecanpolishing1727This one's making the rounds, and I thought it was cool, so here it is:

Yes, you CAN make a fire from a can of coke and a chocolate bar!

So, if you're ever stuck in the wilderness and can't find your way home, yet you happen to have (and hey, don't we all?), a Coke can and a bit of chocolate with you, have no fear - Just round up some flammable material and you have everything you'll need to start a fire and keep warm.

Or, you could just use to to wow and amaze your friends.

(via Eric Rice and Phil Torrone)

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Geek Out | Random Stuff
Saturday, 23 April 2005 11:56:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Mac_miniPeople are regularly asking me if I got my free Mac Mini yet, so to answer those questions here's an update to the Free Mac Mini situation/test/experience.

It appears that 85 people have signed up after clicking on my banner ad on this site, and 8 of those people have completed the offer portion (it takes 10 completions before they send the computer). So if you're interested in any of the available offers, do a guy a favor and give it a shot. Just click here: - Get a FREE Mini Mac! Or click on the Mac Mini image over there to the left.

The offers that are available change over time. At one point Blockbuster Online was been removed as a possible offer to complete, but it looks like it is back available at times (which is very cool). Among the others available are a trial of Napster's online music service and, a service I already subscribe to that allows you to receive faxes in email, and which also allows you to send faxes straight from your computer. No need for a fax line or a dedicated fax machine, plus having your faxes stored as electronic files is a great way to keep track of things.


If you happen to find Blockbuster Online as an offer to complete, I highly recommend it. I dropped NetFlix's service and switched to Blockbuster's service for two reasons: Less money per month and free rental coupons for in-store rentals each month. You get to rent unlimited DVDs online for only $9.95 a month (3 movies at a time), plus coupons delivered in email for two free in-store game or movie rentals every month. I got my "offer" credit within hours of signing up. Make sure you temporarily allow pop-up windows when you click on an offer at, because that's where they show you the terms of the offer and how long it will take for you to get credit for signing up. You can always close the pop-up later once you've received confirmation.

Anyhow, two more people to sign up and I can get that computer and remove the banner!

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Random Stuff
Saturday, 23 April 2005 10:56:46 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 22 April 2005

So, tonight's a special Geek Dinner, there's also a monthly Portland Nerd Dinner, and next week at the PADNUG meeting (that's Portland Area .NET Users Group), my coworkers Scott and Patrick are teaming up to present on "Continuous Integration for .NET" to attendees:

"Continuous Integration is more than just a fad; it's darn near required to survive anymore. Join Patrick Cauldwell and Scott Hanselman as they talk about one of Corillian's product's build processes. They will explore NUnit, NAnt, custom NAnt Tasks, automatic reporting of errors, and unit test failures as well as Cruise Control.NET which can enable you to create an Enterprise Wide Build Dashboard for all the pointy-haired bosses to oogle at. It'll be fun, informative, and fast pace."

Portland Community College Auditorium
CAPITAL Center, Room 1508
18640 NW Walker Rd.
Beaverton, OR 97006

There's chat time and free pizza at 6:00 pm. The meeting and presentation begins at 6:30 pm.

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Random Stuff | Tech
Friday, 22 April 2005 06:53:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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My friend Chris Pirillo and his lovely fiance Ponzi will be in town this evening, and Alex has put together a Geek Dinner this evening here in Portland. Head for Northwest and join us/them for a geeky get together:

What: Geek Dinner in Portland
Date: Friday, April 22nd
Time: 6pm
Where: Blue Moon - 432 N.W. 21st, Portland
Who is Welcome: Everyone!

Bring your friends and digital cameras, let's hang out and be - well - geeks, I guess.

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Geek Out | Random Stuff
Friday, 22 April 2005 06:31:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 21 April 2005

Ever need access to a SMTP server so you can send email when you're out doing the mobile computing thing?

Use GMail: Set your email client to drop outbound mail to, and use your gmail login credentials. It even supports using an SSL connection, if you like.

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Thursday, 21 April 2005 22:10:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Mindjet1The Mindjet team, the people who create and publish the MindManager software that can be so useful for organizing thoughts, ideas and plans, recently started blogging:

"The Mindjet team is now blogging! Visit our new Mindjet blog at: to read and comment on regularly updated discussions about our journey through the world of visualizing information. Gain insight into Mindjet's goals and read featured commentary from the diverse and creative team pioneering Mindjet's efforts.

"Discussions could range from technology to philosophy and even unique uses for MindManager software. So please join us at the blog."

They've even posted a MindManager map that contains hyperlinks to some of their favorite blogs on information visualization, collaboration and related fields, as well as their RSS feeds. Interesting idea.

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Blogging | Tech
Thursday, 21 April 2005 07:43:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Last night, I did something unusual, at least for me.

Honestly, I am not one to go to book or poetry readings or art houses or anything like that. Now, I have nothing against those kinds of things and places, but all else being equal I'd just assume go to a movie theater and see what Hollywood has to throw at me, or maybe watch a great movie on DVD that no one else I know has seen. Or maybe just jump on a motorcycle or 4 wheeler and cruise around and feel the wind.

But I really do like books, and I especially enjoy books by John Irving.

About 14 months ago, a few local people started putting together a new writing/author/books/written word festival, which they called Wordstock. Last night was the opening night, and I went with a friend (who also would not normally be caught dead at a book reading) to Keller Auditorium to see and hear John Irving, a great American novelist. I wondered what he would have to say, and what he might read or do.

I first encountered John Irving's stories in a theater when I saw The World According to Garp on film. I thought it was great, and it was one of those first movies early in my adult life that led me to actually read the book it was derived from, knowing even before cracking the cover that the book was almost certainly even better than the film.

My favorite John Irving novel is called A Prayer for Owen Meany, and it's unique in that it's written in the first person. If you appreciate a great storyteller who can paint the world in your mind and help you stand right in the middle of it, you should read John Irving.

His presentation was terrific. He first read from two of his works - the first reading was a first draft while the second was a polished, finished piece from his next novel, one which will be published soon. The first-draft piece was a funny story, and had the crowd laughing out loud. It was a true story, and one that will never be published, Irving said. The second reading was a rewritten, polished and final except from the opening of his new book. Both were terrific and fascinating to hear, in large part because I had never read them before, and in one case because I won't ever get to read the funny story that he wrote for a purpose other than publication. It was a lot like hearing a secret, and knowing something that most of the rest of the world will never experience.

Irving then answered questions from the audience. I was glad to discover through his answers that he's a no-crap, doesn't-mess-around kind of guy. As a bonus, I finally experienced someone whose answers to posed questions are even longer than mine (I'm lucky to have close friends that put up with my long windedness). Several esoteric questions were asked by people in the audience that had both me and my friend rolling our eyes ("What are your favorite words?" - Huh??). He deftly and politely responded to these questions with the most meaningful, indirect, free-thought non-answers, which (despite the fact that he actually has no favorite words) take you deep into his mind and provide a glimpse at how he thinks and writes, and why.

John Irving has always been one of my behind-the scenes heros, someone I have never met, but a seemingly quality man who writes thoughtful, meaningful books that I read and believe - books that make me wonder how an author could possibly know and write so much about me and my thoughts. That's what makes him a great author; When Irving writes, we don't just read the words, we feel them and see the world they describe.

Anyhow, this is all pretty deep for me. Suffice it to say that one night, I went to a book reading, which is something I'd not normally do. I went because the man who was reading was someone who's made an indirect but strong impression on my life on several occasions. I went because I wanted to hear his words in his own voice, and to see if the way I've read his words in the past was in any way similar to how he would speak and read them.

Oh and one more thing about John Irving. When he works he writes 8 or 9 hours a day, he's taught writing and English, has written several great novels, and he's dyslexic. Even without knowing that, the sheer volume and quality of his writing is amazing. But when you add dyslexia to the equation, it's so much more than just amazing.

I got to see one of my real-life heros. And I wasn't disappointed.

Wordstock. I may have to go again next year.

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Random Stuff
Thursday, 21 April 2005 00:09:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 19 April 2005

This is great: How to Destroy the Earth. Sam Hughes (no relation) does an excellent job of outlining any of a variety of ways to bring this planet to it's end. And he clearly has a lot of time on his hands.


Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.


The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

This is not a guide for wusses whose aim is merely to wipe out humanity. I (Sam Hughes) can in no way guarantee the complete extinction of the human race via any of these methods, real or imaginary. Humanity is wily and resourceful, and many of the methods outlined below will take many years to even become available, let alone implement, by which time mankind may well have spread to other planets; indeed, other star systems. If total human genocide is your ultimate goal, you are reading the wrong document. There are far more efficient ways of doing this, many which are available and feasible RIGHT NOW. Nor is this a guide for those wanting to annihilate everything from single-celled life upwards, render Earth uninhabitable or simply conquer it. These are trivial goals in comparison.

This is a guide for those who do not want the Earth to be there anymore.

Read the whole thing here.

(via Jeremy's linkblog)

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Humor | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 19 April 2005 11:48:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 17 April 2005

VS-LogoNew to .NET? Thinking about trying the VS 2005 Express editions, but like me you're intimidated by people like Scott who make people like me look, well, cerebrally challenged?

To the rescue: The Absolute Beginner's Video Series to Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions

Thank goodness for online resources like this. The first three parts of the 16-part series are available now, and they look like a good way to learn for those of us with Adult Onset ADD and stuff... Videos for C# and VB.NET are available, along with the accompanying VS 2005 project files.

The videos make it clear that these are for people who have never programmed before, or who - like me - have not programmed in ages. From the web site:

This video series is designed specifically for individuals who are interested in learning the basics of how to create applications using Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition and Visual C# 2005 Express Edition. This includes over 10 hours of video-based instruction that walks from creating your first "Hello World" application to a fully functioning RSS Reader application. Learn how to write your first application today!!

Lesson Outline

  • Lessons 1-3: Workflow, Visual Studio Express Interface (Now Available!)
  • Lessons 4-7: Programming Language Basics (Coming Soon)
  • Lessons 8-11: Working with Data and SQL Server 2005 Express Edition (Coming Soon)
  • Lessons 12-16: Creating an RSS Reader (Coming Soon)

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Sunday, 17 April 2005 22:48:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Discover1I was making an online payment on my Discover Card account today when I noticed they are offering a computer program called Discover Deskshop that not only fills out web forms for you when you are making online purchases, it also has an option to use a unique one-time card number instead of your actual Discover Card account number. That means if you use their application, you never have to send your real card account information to online vendors. Instead you send a pretend card number assigned at the time of purchase by Discover, and that information can only be used for that one purchase.

I buy things online frequently. I'm a computer security guy by trade, so I am extra careful about how I do Internet purchases. I have one thing to say about Discover's Deskshop software:


There's also a web-based version that one can use from any web browser. It won't fill out purchase forms for you automatically, but does allow you to use one-time card numbers for purchases you make.

I installed it and used it for the first time today as I purchased a copy of HotRecorder (software that lets you record Skype conversations without the typical hassle). It worked great, but did not set the expiration date for me - I had to do that myself. Every other field it nailed right on.

Discover2I like this - it's a real step up in security, with the one-time card number and associated info. Discover's auto-complete software and one-time card number feature will mean I will be using that card more frequently for purchases, which mean it's good news for Discover and for the customer. Good deal.

I've scribbled out a few things in the image at right to protect myself, but you can get an idea of what the program looks like and how it works. It's all automagical. I have to log onto my Discover Online account in the program interface before I can use the program to make purchases (so moms and dads can rest assured Junior won't be able to make any sneaky purchases).

All I did was tell the program to fill out the form and it did the rest. I set the expiration date and executed the purchase.

Nice. No more taking the card out of my wallet and squinting my getting-older eyes to read the account info and type it in. No more fat-finger mistakes. And better security on top of it all.

Thanks, Discover - you just made me a much happier customer.


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IT Security | Tech
Sunday, 17 April 2005 16:26:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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If you're a SharePoint 2003 developer or system administrator, you know how lost one can get in the guts of the systems. For the longest time, SharePoint documentation was almost non-existent, but now you can get decent information from Microsoft, as well as from other parties. The SDK, however, can be a bit difficult to wade through. A visual representation of some of the underlying SharePoint core functionality would be a great thing to have.

WSSObjectModelEnter Mindsharp - they offer documentation, courseware and training for SharePoint professionals, and one of their offerings is three free posters, which they will ship to you. You'll have to sign up on the web site, and they'll ship to the address and info you provide. One set of posters is available at no cost to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Additional sets can be purchased for $20 (Mindsharp's cost to produce, package, process, and post). Electronic versions of the posters are also available for $45/each (the entire set must be purchased).

The three posters include:

  • Windows SharePoint Services Object Model
  • Windows SharePoint Services Administration Roadmap
  • SharePoint Portal Server Administration Roadmap

Mindsharp also sponsors a mailing list for SharePoint admins and developers. Send email to to join.

Other SharePoint information from MindSharp that you can get from their web site:

White Papers

  • Best Practices for Designing and Deploying a SharePoint Portal
  • How to Move Your Portal Farm from One Server to Another


  • Reader Course
  • My Site Course

Live Meetings

  • Moving a Server Farm

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SharePoint | Tech
Sunday, 17 April 2005 12:33:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Seth Godin points to a photoshop contest gallery with some pretty funny images by some talented photoshoppers. The contest challenged people to depict corporate logos everywhere:

Contest Directions
Everywhere you turn there is another Starbucks, McDonalds or GAP popping up whether it's the logo, store or actual ad you see. In this contest you're going to take corporate takeovers of society to the extreme. Put ads, logos and/or stores in the most unexpected areas you can think of (i.e. the Sphinx in Egypt wearing RayBan sunglasses, or a Taj Mahal McDonalds).

The rules of this game are thus: Depict the world completely overrun by logos, advertisements and stores in the most unexpected places. As always, quality is a must. We will remove poor entries no matter how much we like you. You'll have 48 hours to submit for this contest, so make your submissions count.

And the participants came up with some cool - and occasionally subtle - stuff:




View the whole gallery here.

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Humor | Random Stuff
Sunday, 17 April 2005 11:43:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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There's another new version of the Firefox web browser out. You know, it's a good browser, but the number one problem I have with Firefox is a lack of automated, verifiable security patching... Plus apparently you have to download a whole new version to update it, and the release notes known issues section says not to install it over an older version:

"Prior to installing Firefox 1.0.3, please ensure that the directory you've chosen to install into is clean and doesn't contain any previous Firefox installations."

Anyhow... The following security issues are fixed in v1.0.3, so if you are using Firefox, go get it now:

Severity key: critical, high, moderate, low

MFSA 2005-33 Javascript "lambda" replace exposes memory contents
MFSA 2005-34 javascript: PLUGINSPAGE code execution
MFSA 2005-35 Showing blocked javascript: popup uses wrong privilege context
MFSA 2005-36 Cross-site scripting through global scope pollution
MFSA 2005-37 Code execution through javascript: favicons
MFSA 2005-38 Search plugin cross-site scripting
MFSA 2005-39 Arbitrary code execution from Firefox sidebar panel II
MFSA 2005-40 Missing Install object instance checks
MFSA 2005-41 Privilege escalation via DOM property overrides

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IT Security | Tech
Sunday, 17 April 2005 09:16:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 16 April 2005

I had to do a bit of eye-balling, but eventually I found it. Supposedly this is imagery showing Area 51 near Rachel, Nevada on Google Maps. Other resources on the web seem to corroborate that (click for a lot of info from a guy who tried this well before I did).


Now, why in the world would they only have low-res imagery of this area??? Escapes me... At least they've blocked out the rooftops of the White House and other critical buildings.

By the way, some people have been wondering what the "lumps" in the ground are to the southwest of Area 51. As it turns out, I don't think that's part of Area 51 at all. My memory tells me that's Areas 1-30 at the Nevada Test Site, if I am not mistaken. And those aren't actually lumps either - they're craters from the underground detonations that have been done at the test site over the years:


Google Maps is just too much fun. Here's the USS John C. Stennis, which is an aircraft carrier that two friends serve on - and it's also the one I spent a week on last year, underway from from Hawaii to San Diego. 

I went chasing all this stuff down after FilmDivision uploaded a similar image to Flickr.

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Random Stuff
Saturday, 16 April 2005 19:41:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Perpendicular_bitsHitachi's got a bright idea to cram 10 times the amount of data on any given piece of magnetic storage media.

The superparamagnetic effect is what happens when bits of data get crammed too close to each other and randomly reverse their magnetic charge. You get corrupted data, and that limits how much you can cram onto one hard drive platter.

So, Hitachi's plan is to stand those bits up on-end, like stacking a box of dominos standing tall rather than end-to-end on the table.

And they have a rather unique way to explain it to us: A Flash "music video." Check it out here.

Thanks to Omar Shahine for the link.

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Saturday, 16 April 2005 19:09:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Airscooter1I've often dreamed of having a small, lightweight helicopter-like vehicle to fly to and from work, and it looks like that is actually becoming a possibility in the near future with the AirScooter ultralight recreational vehicle.

So cool - hey, if the AirScooter people want or need someone to learn to fly one of those and then write all about it on their blog for marketing purposes, I'll gladly participate!

From the product's web site:

Question: When is the AirScooter going to be available?

Answer: The AirScooter II is currently undergoing the final testing phase on the AeroTwin Engine. The AirScooter II is expected to be available sometime in 2005, but no firm date has been determined at this time.

Question: What is the price for an AirScooter II?

Answer: No pricing will be available on the AirScooter II until after final product testing is complete and manufacturing plans are finalized.

Cool stuff - Video here (QuickTime) and more pictures here.

(found via Engadget)

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Random Stuff
Saturday, 16 April 2005 18:07:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Get Messenger Plus!If you're a MSN Messenger user and you have not yet tried the free Messenger add-on called Messenger Plus!, you're missing out. Cruise on over to download a copy and see all the extras you can get.

I have been using Messenger Plus! for well over a year, and I find myself using many of its features all the time. The logging is great, and the floating messenger contacts capability is very cool. I can also use it to associate special sounds with individuals and their actions - so when Tim logs on, for example, timmy_scream.wav plays instead of the default Messenger sound. Heh... And the emoticon sounds thing is cool, too.

There's also a whole slew of plug-ins available. Click on the Plug-ins link that you'll find on the download page for a complete library. One of my favorites is the IRC-style plug-in that lets me type things like "/me slaps himself upside the head."

Click to download it:

About the sponsor program that comes with the software: When you install Messenger Plus!, you'll be given an opportunity to choose whether or not you want to install a "sponsor program" (this is how the author makes a few bucks for his work). I'm glad Patchou, the author, allows people to opt out of this when installing, since some people either cannot or don't want to install that kind of software. The sponsor is C2 Media, and it installs a toolbar in IE and adds some commercial advertising. You don't have to install the sponsor program if you don't want to.

Note: If you're not already on my contact list, my MSN Messenger address is the same as my email:

  • greg(at)greghughes(dot)net

Feel free to add me if you like...

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Saturday, 16 April 2005 12:54:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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ToyotasI'm having a little fun (while taking my coffee intravenously this morning) manually browsing Google Maps and satellite images from around Portland.

There's these incredibly huge cargo ships that have TOYOTA printed in enormous red letters down their sides. They show up in Portland regularly and fill up the parking lot in the picture at right (map link) with brand new cars. From there they are taken all over the states, I am told. And let me tell you, that lot holds a whole bunch of cars.

Toyota_shipWhen you see that big Toyota ship actually coming at you on the Columbia river, it's pretty impressive. Maybe the next satellite pass will catch it in port. I looked down the rest of the river to see if it might be in any images between port and the Pacific, but not to be found. Unfortunately, a large part of the Columbia between Portland and the ocean is only available as low-res images. My house is in a similar predicament, resolution-wise (and no, it doesn't bother me if people know where I live).

Wired News had an article about interesting things in satellite images. Makes me wonder what else is out there in sat-imagery land?

Other stuff UPDATE: Planes in flight

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Random Stuff
Saturday, 16 April 2005 10:27:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Adam Cogan IM'ed me this morning with some cool news: Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 was released to MSDN's Subscriber Downloads web site over the past couple of days:


Just as we're about to start a new round of software evals - perfect timing! It will be interesting to see what people in the community think about the new releases.

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Saturday, 16 April 2005 08:44:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 15 April 2005

I've recently gone on a run of trying all kinds of new devices in the PDA/MobilePhone/Email-Enabled-Device arena. I have used various Blackberry devices for a few years now (and have been using the Blackberry phone devices since they were first born). I have occasionally moved to other devices to try them out and see if they would suffice for use in my work. Recently I undertook that sort of project, evaluating various mobile carriers and their networks and devices, so it's been a real gadget-land around these parts since around the first of the year.

I won't be writing about the networks and service providers (maybe some other time), but I did want to catalog some of what I encountered, the geeky part of the project: All these nifty mobile devices.

It's worth noting right up front that as a general rule, I've pretty much always been disappointed with more-than-just-a-phone devices whenever I've tried them, for one reason or another. My experience has been the same with most of this latest run of devices I have tested. Also, I wrote this entry/review over the course of the past couple months, going back to it periodically to document bits of my experience over time.

To cut to the chase, let me jump to the end of my story briefly: As of yesterday I am back (by choice) with a Blackberry phone from Cingular - the very same model of phone I had before this whole testing process started. It's a RIM 7290 device. And that's a choice I made after using a whole slew of what people say are the coolest, newest phone/PDA/email/whatever devices.

You know what they say - Once you've had Blackberry, you can never go backberry. Or, uh, something like that... Sorry. Bad joke. But it's true.

My recent device trials (and tribulations) have included the Audiovox 5600 smartphone running Windows Mobile 2003 from AT&T/Cingular (which has been the rage among bloggers the past several months - it's unofficial nickname is the "Scoble Phone") and the Blackberry 7100t phone from T-Mobile. I've also used the Blackberry 7100g (Cingular) and the PalmOne Treo 650, both from Cingular. Rounding out the list was the Siemens SX66 device, which has a slide-out keyboard and WiFi built in, running the PocketPC Phone Edition of Windows Mobile 2003.

In each case, there were things I liked about these devices, and there were things I didn't like.

Audiovox 5600 SmartPhone (running Windows Mobile 2003 - ATTWS/Cingular)

Audiovox_5600I'll give Audiovox kudos for making a really cool phone in the gadgety sense, but I have to give it lower scores in terms of it's practical utility. Keep in mind, I use this kind of device as a tool, one that I use constantly for communicating and staying in touch for work. The "Scoble Phone" has been hyped up as the only device you'll need to carry around, and it has all kinds of nifty things on it, like mobile MSN Messenger, Windows Media Player, the ability to use Mini-SD cards for tons of extra storage, a built-in still/motion camera (of very mediocre quality), etc. But the software apps are a little glitchy, and I lost count of how many times this thing either reset itself or required me to pry the battery out of the back and replace it in order to get it started and working again. On top of that, while the geek/nifty factor is fairly high (I can see how Windows Mobile is a useful and appealing mobile OS), the practical/regular use score is low - it just doesn't work that well for me, beyond its simple use as a phone and SMS device. Text input is T9, which is cumbersome at best and impractical for work. Bluetooth for hands-free use worked somewhat reliably, but was problematic from time to time. Audio quality was good. It's small and compact and has a certain "neato" quality. But it doesn't allow me to quickly and efficiently communicate, except via voice calls. I handed it back. I liked the phone, but it didn't work for me, not even close. And by the way - as of the time of this writing, Cingular is not offering the phone on its web site.

Blackberry 7100t (T-Mobile) and 7100g (Cingular)

Pho_blackberry_7100g_smallThese two devices are essentially identical in terms of the guts and the software running on them, but the Cingular device has a better form factor and body/shell - It's a lot more solid, the keyboard is laid out better and is easier to use, and I get a strong feeling it would last longer than the T-Mobile model in a durability sense. Text input is a unique hybrid type - the keyboard has a standard qwerty style layout like all Blackberry devices, but instead of one letter per key like others by RIM, the 7100 series has two characters per key. It does the predictive text thing, a lot like T9 does on a mobile phone keypad, but it's considerably more accurate and a lot faster to type with. Making the move from a standard-keyboard Blackberry to this device takes a little getting used to, but after a few days I found myself fairly comfortable with the layout. Bluetooth hands-free functionality was flawless and reliable - better than the Audiovox phone. RIM figured out some good things with this device, but there are a few things missing that keep it from being a truly killer device: There's no MP3 support like you get in the other phones tested, and the ear-piece audio level at max volume is painfully quiet (a common complain with Blackberry phones that really needs to be addressed). There's no camera, and since this is a biz-class device, that makes sense. But RIM should really consider building a model with a camera option, an SD slot, MP3 capabilities, an MP3 voice recorder, MSN instant messaging (they included Yahoo! and AOL on this one, so why the heck not), and better audio capabilities (ring tones, music, etc). In fact, a Windows Mobile device that actually shipped with the vaporware (to date) Blackberry Connect software package would have me running for the store. But, progress is progress, and all in all the 7100 is a pretty good tool that makes some improvements on earlier models. But hey, put the standard RIM keyboard back, please - if it ain't broke, well - you know... I returned both these devices as they were loaners, but I'd recommend them to others, and a few people I know have bought these recently - and they're thrilled with them.

PalmOne Treo 650 (ATTWS/Cingular)

Pho_palmone_treo650_smallTopping out in the community's collective Bling! category is the PalmOne Treo 650, a nice looking and feeling PalmOS-based SmartPhone with lots of counterintuitive functionality and mediocre documentation. Now I remember why I left the PalmOS behind a few years ago. You'd think I'd have remembered, but sometimes we just need to be reminded. This is another phone with a so-so-quality camera built in (better in overall image quality than the Audiovox 5600, but with the same low 640x480 resolution). It has a full keyboard built on, which is arguably it's most redeeming factor, but in daily use the keyboard feels lumpy, klutzy and crowded compared to any RIM/Blackberry device I have used. The Treo uses a touch screen and a slide-out stylus for screen navigation, as well as a set of directional and select buttons. The screen is bright and contrasty, which is nice. Battery life is fairly limited when you're actually using it. Call audio is excellent, and is louder in earpiece volume when compared to the other devices mentioned here. The email setup and use of multiple email programs ranks a "so-so" score, and overall it was clunky to use. I can't count how many clicks, scrolls and stylus gestures/touches it took to do even the simplest activities. If I am sitting in a chair, have some time, and have both hands completely free and nothing else to distract me, I can use this device. But I don't want to. Returned to sender, can't recommend it.

Siemens SX66 PocketPC Phone (running Windows Mobile 2003 - ATTWS/Cingular)

Pho_sie_sx66_smallI was excited about getting my hands on this device, and hopeful that it would meet my needs and satisfy the usability/utility requirements. I also hoped it would have Blackberry Connect software on it, as was advertised some places and rumored at others. It didn't have it, but I tried it anyhow. The first things I noticed was that I was able to use it with my Exchange server (the Audiovox device crapped out if I tried to use a "space" character in my password. I had thought [assumed] the inability to use a space in a password was a limitation of the OS, but this device proved me wrong). The screen on this thing is very nice, and the backlight is bright and contrasty. Bluetooth worked better than any of the other devices in hands-free mode, and the keyboard makes it more accessible and usable than the Audiovox device by far. But the keyboard's pimple-style chicklet bubble layout was painful to use in the real wold - keys are tiny and way too close together unless you;re six years old (probably not the target market). Battery life was pretty awful, especially if you use the WiFi at all. Even without using WiFi, the battery was dying on me regularly between charges, and since there's no USB charging with this thing I could not charge it in the car or anywhere convenient (You have to charge in the cradle, which is plugged into the wall via a power adapter, or you use the same wall plug adapter with a socket adapter to go straight to the device. So be prepared to be tangling the wall adapter cord up a lot to carry it with you everywhere, or else plan on a dead phone periodically - dumb). To top it all off, this morning I grabbed the device and went to turn it on, but it did not respond. Yet, the little green service light was flashing so I knew it had power to it. I pulled the battery put it back (the Windows Mobile version of CTRL-ALT-DEL), but still no response. I started driving to work and tried it again while I was stopped for coffee at the local store. Voila! Up it comes, but totally reset, nuked, blown away, default ROM settings - everything I had set and stored before was gone. Good thing the important stuff was on my SD card... I've read and heard rumors of serious software problems with this phone, and when you combine that with the lame keyboard that looks cool but isn't at all usable, well... Returned, with prejudice.

Back In Black - or, Right Black Where I Started From

Pho_blackberry_7290_smallSo, as of this morning I am back running on a Blackberry 7290 phone with the latest, solid Blackberry software. This is the same model I gave up a few months ago to do the testing. Sure, it's not as fancy in many ways as the 7100-series, but it's got the best keyboard and it works, works, works. And probably the best test of all was this: Within one minute of picking this thing back up and setting a couple of device options to something other than BB's defaults, I suddenly found myself orders of magnitude faster and more productive than I was with any of the other devices I'd tried.

RIM got something right when they built the Blackberry. Then they added a phone to the device. Then they did this funky keyboard thing with the 7100 that works pretty well. It works, and it is usable.

DontmakemethinkThere's a great book I've held onto for a few years now called "Don't Make Me Think" by author Steve Krug. It's all about usability (as related to web design, but that doesn't matter, the same concepts apply here). The reasons the Blackberry devices are all so good is because they are truly intuitive - I don't have to spend my time clicking and clicking and tapping and clicking just to try to find some simple function, and the user interface is so intuitive it becomes almost reflexive to use. RIM wins because their devices have utility. It's because they're reliable. It's because they're usable. I have confidence that RIM/Blackberry will keep that as their core philosophy, and so I am very much interested to see what will come next from the company.

But damnit, I still want to see and use a good, reliable phone that runs Windows Mobile latest edition, with Blackberry Connect software on it! PLEASE! There's a lot of room for growth, and it's not all about smaller, smaller, smaller, or geekier, geekier geekier... It's all about usable, usable, usable. Size is just one part of usability. Geeky is fun, but not always practical. Who will end up winning this game? Can't wait to see.

But for now, Blackberry's in the lead in my book.

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Mobile | Tech
Friday, 15 April 2005 18:23:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 13 April 2005

It's amazing how far we have all come.

I can sit here in the PDX (that's Portland, Oregon) airport, and in all of 10 minutes resolve a minor work crisis, post a new web page to a business web site and get it reviewed and approved, order flowers to be delivered for my mom's birthday today (Happy Birthday Mom!), sync all my email into Outlook from the office, IM with my web hosting provider (who is in the UK) about trapping email viruses, answer a few work emails, and post this blog entry.

All that thanks to free 802.11G WiFi at the airport, with a full signal and none of those get-your-email-etc registration hassles. So nice.

I have a full hour before my flight leaves (traffic was, thankfully, quite lite). Who knows what all I'll be able to get done between now and then.

It used to be that waiting at the airport meant you were completely out of touch unless you wanted to use an airport pay phone (never my favorite thing, either financially or from a hygiene standpoint). Anymore you can't help but be connected and active. I may be flying off to Reston Virginia, but my ability to communicate and stay productive is hardly affected.

It's true that there are some negative effects of always being connected. Stress from overconnectedness (ohhhhh new word, cool...) is a real thing for some people. But managed carefully and moderated successfully, it can also be a great thing.

It's a whole different world we live in today.

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Geek Out | Tech
Wednesday, 13 April 2005 13:24:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I was wondering when this would happen. Microsoft can now alert you to new security bulletins via .NET instant messaging and mobile device alerts (as well as RSS). Great idea:

Microsoft Security Update instant message alerts notify you when time sensitive information about Microsoft products has been posted on the Security Web site. You can choose to receive these alerts through MSN Messenger or Windows Messenger, your e-mail, or a mobile device like your cell phone or PDA. Register at the Microsoft Security Alerts Web page.

Information on Microsoft Security Update Instant Message Alerts as well as RSS Feeds for Security Bulletins, the Microsoft Security Notification Service, and the Microsoft Security Notification Service Comprehensive Edition can be found at this location:

SIDEBAR: Oh, and it looks like they are using LiveMessage, which is what powers my .NET IM alerts for this weblog:

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IT Security | Tech
Wednesday, 13 April 2005 10:59:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Spyware_videoMicrosoft's posted a quick online quiz that checks everyday people's spyware knowledge:

"Do you know what spyware is, how to help protect yourself against it, and what you should do if it’s on your computer? Take this quiz to test your knowledge."

After you take the first quiz (which is, admittedly, pretty darn basic), you can move on to the "advanced" quiz. How did you do? I scored 100%, but this is what I do every day.

Other useful information and education about spyware from Microsoft:

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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 12 April 2005 23:06:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 12 April 2005

TechEdVideo4splashScott and Rory's pre-TechEd video series continues:

"In the fourth and final installment of our 'Those are some really weird TechEd Videos Collection (coming soon in DVD, not)' Rory and I learn the meaning of community as we sleep through the TechEd Keynote Address."


Ummmm.... Uhhh... Yeah... Not really sure what to make of this one, but Rory's right about baby carrots. Anyhow, view it here.

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Humor | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 12 April 2005 22:47:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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It's no real surprise that VOOM, a satellite service that provides boatload of HDTV programming to its customers, is about to shut down. Cablevision, the company that owns the subsidiary, is cutting its losses before it's too late.

But it's really too bad that a company that was making its name on hi-def television is going south. With HDTV being such a big thing, a service provider like VOOM, which already has a satellite in operation, seems like such a good thing.

It's unclear what will come of the channels and the satellite space currently used by VOOM when they shut down on April 30th. Hopefully something good will come of all this - HDTV is so late in coming.

Why did VOOM fail? Bad marketing? Before it's time? Cable-company ownership mark of death? Bad company name?

Sorry to see it go...


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Random Stuff | Things that Suck
Tuesday, 12 April 2005 22:35:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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If you're in the market for a home or a place to rent, you should check out this site, which uses craigslist and Google Maps to help you search for a home. This is what web services and open APIs are all about! Thanks to Paul Rademacher for this cool, useful tool:

To start your search, begin with your choice of city (craigslist cities are what's represented, of course) and then you choose whether you are looking to buy or rent:


Next you can choose homes to view on the map, with the key information available in a list to the right. Yellow pointer icons mean the listing has pictures included. You can select your price ranges and you can sort based on price, description, location or date of listing:

(click for full-sized image)

Once you have found a place you are interested in finding out more about, click the home's pointer or the link in the list, and you'll see details, along with a link to the original complete listing.

(click for full-sized image)

Nice stuff. We can expect to see more and more of this sort of thing as time goes on and as services make their APIs more and more open and available to the public.

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Geek Out | Random Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 12 April 2005 08:04:40 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 11 April 2005

One of my favorite movies of 2004 was just released on DVD. I received mine on Friday, despite the fact that Amazon says it has not been released yet... The release date is supposed to be April 19th. If you know anything about the plot of this movie, this time shift on the DVD release is a complete mind mess.

Anyhow, I bought two copies of Primer from Because I want to support movies like this and the people that make them. It's awesome.

This movie was made on a $7,000 budget by a first-time movie maker, and it beats the pants off most films made these days. It was even recently selected for Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival.

And one of the best things about Primer is that it takes your brain for a twister of a ride, gives it a real workout. It's fun, it's smart, it's complicated, it's unique. It's a movie people will appreciate when they see it. If they see it. And you should see it.

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Movies | Random Stuff
Monday, 11 April 2005 22:24:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 06 April 2005

Paul Bausch asks:

Has anyone put rel="nofollow" on the back of a t-shirt yet?

Well, yeah. Sure. And now it's even spelled correctly. Click if ya want one.

(corrected the lingo, changed the shirt, oops!)

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Blogging | Humor | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 06 April 2005 21:34:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Flash_managerOver on Microsoft Downloads today there's a new setup file for Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager:

"Use this application to backup and restore presentations, pictures, songs and applications from and to USB Flash Drive devices and take them with you. Use USB Flash Drives to store personal data, to keep your network configuration and to share information with your friends. Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager is available for Windows XP only."

Copy and backup files, restore backup images from your hard disk (great for standard copying of the same image onto multiple flash drives, too), edit the properties of the drive, put the Flash Drive Manager binaries on the drive and make it autorun when inserted, save your wireless network settings to the flash drive for deployment to other computers, etc.

It's pretty cool. I have a need to be able to deploy multiple copies of the same USB Flash Drive image and to update them periodically. It looks like this utility will allow me to keep a standard library of flash drive images to let me restore a single image to a whole slew of drives very quickly and easily.

Download here

(via Chris Lanier)

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Tuesday, 05 April 2005 23:06:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 05 April 2005

Forgive the topic (just skip this entry if you don't care to read semi-graphic bathroom prose), but Doc Searls writes today on his weblog about the bad habits guys have in the men's room - namely not using the urinal for "number one," and making a mess while standing and "using" a stall instead. So, I have to respond. I can't help it, it's like a disease this blogging thing.

Doc bluntly covers the not-lifting-the-seat problem, as well as the hygiene issues:

"But: why piss all over the place? Why not lift the seat? Don't these guys ever sit on the damn toilet? Do they like sitting on somebody else's pee? 

"These questions come to mind for two reasons: 1) because I just witnessed exactly that scene, in a mens' room here at a nice hotel here in San Francisco; and 2) nobody ever talks about the problem.

"So I'm thinking... a substantial percentage of men A) only piss in stalls; and B) don't lift toilet seats. If you're one of those guys, and you blog, can you please explain your position, so to speak, on this issue?"

Well, I can tell you that it still surprises me, even after all these many trips to restrooms over the years, how often I find a bathroom that's a disgusting mess because of people who have no sense of personal responsibility. And that includes places where only adults use the restroom.

But Doc's words make me thing of more.

For example, take the following from Greg's Quiz on Common Sense Men's Room Hygiene, based on experiences of observation over the past couple of weeks:

A guy walks into the men's room, approaches the urinal, and relieves himself. Once he's done he "zips-up" and then...

a) walks straight out the door.
b) walks straight to the sink, washes hands, dries hand on paper towel, and walks out the door.
c) walks straight to the paper towel dispenser, uses paper towel, and walks out the door.

Which action is the most disgusting? Please explain you answer.

Use the comments to relieve yourself of your thoughts and record your answers to the quiz, should you be so inclined.

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Random Stuff | Things that Suck
Tuesday, 05 April 2005 21:58:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Land Walker - click to enlarge

Why do I have these images from RoboCop movies going through my mind?

In case anyone's deciding what to get me for my mid-life crisis phase, one of these Land Walkers would do just fine.

This thing's cool. Who the heck has the time to sit around and think this stuff up??? Check out a demo video here.

Crazy, but pretty darn cool. Stick a super-soaker on that and it's party time.

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Geek Out | Random Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 05 April 2005 11:56:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Once You Know, You Newegg

I was just Google-Mapping a route and location in Vancouver, BC from Seattle when I noticed something that was not on the web service pages yesterday:


Google just added satellite imagery to their entire Google Maps web app! Go try it - it's pretty amazing! Below are the standard Google map, same resolution satellite imagery, and a surprisingly excellent full zoom image (with my own handwritten notations, thanks to the new Tablet PC Experience Pack).

That Keyhole acquisition is paying off.




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Tuesday, 05 April 2005 00:34:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Thank goodness for blogging and for people like Mike Fitzmaurice of Microsoft (Developer Evangelist for SharePoint technologies), who posts some official information regarding the pending release of .NET v2 and Whidbey, which is expected this year.

It's a bit confusing right now for SharePoint developers, as they look at the coolness of the next version of the .NET framework and Visual Studio and try to decipher what they can/should develop, on which platforms, and when.

SharePoint v3 won't ship until well after Whidbey (Visual Studio 2005) and .NET v2.0 hit the street. So, Mike's blog entry is a welcome and useful explanation of what platforms and versions of software will interoperate and produce workable results in SharePoint land.

If you're a SharePoint developer, this is for you:

and this article is also a great resource for understanding what's coming and how things relate:

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SharePoint | Tech
Monday, 04 April 2005 23:41:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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If you're looking to learn about SharePoint Portal Server 2003 for the first time, or if you'd like to get some hands-on experience with a system that you can break and not have to worry about as you ramp up on the technology, check out the TechNet Virtual Labs offer for SPS 2003.

It's a good resource for people who want to learn in detail from the comfort of their own desk chair.

TechNet Virtual Lab: Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003

Get first-hand deployment experience through the Virtual Lab series. The Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 hands-on labs will teach you how to set up the portal, organize content on the portal, manage user permissions, create Web Parts for custom tasks, and much more.

It's simple — no complex setup or installation is required to try SharePoint Portal Server running in the full-featured TechNet Virtual Lab. You get a downloadable manual and a 90-minute block of time for each module. You can sign up for additional 90-minute blocks anytime.

As part of the TechNet Virtual Lab, you will have full access to SharePoint Portal Server's features and tools through ten modules:

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Office 2003 | SharePoint | Tech
Monday, 04 April 2005 23:25:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 04 April 2005

The Visual Studio 2005 Team System webcast series started today - and they continue all month long of particular interest to me right now is Visual Studio 2005 Team System: Enterprise-Class Version Control, which will be presented mid-month.

Probably well worth tuning in...






Monday  04/04/2005
09:00 AM PDT

Introduction to Visual Studio Team System



Microsoft Visual Studio Team System solves problems facing enterprise-level teams, increasing the predictability of success. Team System extends Visual Studio from a tool for writing and debugging code into a set of deeply integrated tools that support the complete software development lifecycle across the team member roles of manager, architect, developer and tester. This webcast details an end-to-end software development lifecycle scenario that demonstrates major components of Team System and illustrates the value to the team of having a customizable integrated process in breaking down silos of information and providing friction-free flow of data between team roles.

Anand Iyer

Tuesday  04/05/2005
09:00 AM PDT

Drill Down into Visual Studio Team System: Team Architect



Microsoft Visual Studio Team System solves problems facing enterprise-level teams, increasing the predictability of success. Team System extends Visual Studio from a tool for writing and debugging code into a set of deeply integrated tools that support the complete software development lifecycle across the team member roles of manager, architect, developer and tester. This webcast covers the tools and technologies available to support the Team Architect in their role. We examine the Distributed Systems Designer, Logical Datacenter Designer and the System Definition Model in detail. We also look at how the Architect can begin the code generation process by using the Class Designer tools.

Geoff Snowman

Tuesday  04/05/2005
10:00 AM PDT

How and Why Process Guidance Matters in Visual Studio 2005 Team System




Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) allows teams to select a process template to shape how the team works together. This session will help you understand key considerations in selecting the template best suited to your team and the project you are working on. Learn how process templates affect the way VSTS works and why it is important for your team to select the appropriate process for your projects.

Bindia Hallauer

Thursday  04/07/2005
09:00 AM PDT

Drill Down into Visual Studio Team System: Team Test



Microsoft Visual Studio Team System solves problems facing enterprise-level teams, increasing the predictability of success. Team System extends Visual Studio from a tool for writing and debugging code into a set of deeply integrated tools that support the complete software development lifecycle across the team member roles of manager, architect, developer and tester. This webcast will detail the tools and technologies available to support the Team Tester in their role. We look at best test case scenarios and unit tests, and show how to check for code completeness with the code coverage tools. We also examine the various types of reporting that are available in Team Test.

Anand Iyer

Thursday  04/14/2005
10:00 AM PDT

Visual Studio 2005 Team System: Enterprise-Class Version Control




Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) provides a completely new, highly scalable and robust version control system. This webcast details the many new features of VSTS version control including shelving, check-in policy and support for distributed development work.

Doug Neumann

Friday  04/15/2005
01:00 PM PDT

Implementing and Customizing MSF 4.0 Process Guidance within Visual Studio 2005 Team System



Visual Studio Team System provides a rich environment and integrated support for software development processes. While this new development platform ships with two predefined software development processes, some organizations will choose to incorporate their own "secret sauce" to add competitive advantage. This presentation and demonstration will show you how to make modifications to the existing processes, Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) for Agile Software Development and MSF for Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Process Improvement, as well to incorporate your software development process into Microsoft Visual Studio Team System.

Randy Miller

Tuesday  04/19/2005
10:00 AM PDT

Enterprise Project Management and Reporting in Visual Studio 2005 Team System




Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) provides all the suite tools to pour data into a central data warehouse. This webcast shows how to use Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services to generate real-time and historical reports on the many facets of your project. We also show many of the ready to run reports built into VSTS.

Allen Clark

Wednesday  04/20/2005
09:00 AM PDT

Drill Down into Visual Studio Team System: Team Developer



Microsoft Visual Studio Team System solves problems facing enterprise-level teams, increasing the predictability of success. Team System extends Visual Studio from a tool for writing and debugging code into a set of deeply integrated tools that support the complete software development lifecycle across the team member roles of manager, architect, developer and tester. This webcast will detail the tools and technologies available to support the Team Developer in their role. Beginning with an examination of the test-driven development process, this session shows how to build unit tests and then test the application for errors as well as code completeness.

Anand Iyer
Eric Lee

Tuesday  04/26/2005
03:00 PM PDT

Managing Work with Visual Studio 2005 Team System



How does the Microsoft Visual Studio team track and manage their work? This session and explores how various teams at Microsoft use Visual Studio Team System to customize work item types, create queries and set up notifications to facilitate teamwork and visibility. Learn how to use state model transitions to automate workflow throughout the team, and use rich history logging to collaboratively solve problems and communicate progress. See how Team System allows you to analyze and trend historical information to view project progress and track status.

Kevin Kelly

Thursday  04/28/2005
11:00 AM PDT

Test-Driven Development Using Visual Studio Team System



Why test-driven development? Although developers have been unit testing their code for years, tests are typically performed after the code is designed and written. As a great number of developers can attest, writing tests after the fact is difficult to do and often omitted when time runs out. Test-driven development attempts to resolve this problem and produce higher quality, well-tested code by putting the cart before the horse and writing the tests before we write the code. This webcast demonstrates how you can use Microsoft Visual Studio Team System to implement test-driven development in your organization. Jim Newkirk, author of "Test Driven Development with .NET", will be discussing how you can use Visual Studio Team System to implement test driven development in your organization.

Jim Newkirk

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Monday, 04 April 2005 21:14:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Oh, how I wish this SharePoint podcast series was available in English! But, it's only in German. I know some German (took three years classes in school), and I have been listening to it and trying really hard to pick up the content of the podcast, with little success. I'm just too out-of-date to be able to catch it all. - with Michael Greth

The only thing I can tell for sure is that there's plenty of info in there that I'd like to be able to understand better, so I am relying on the links on the weblog to help me understand more. I'm also looking at this as a way to help refresh my German (maybe, it's tech lingo so that can be difficult) before my trip to Germany this fall.

Anyone know of any SharePoint podcasts in English? Hmmmm, maybe I should think about podcasting after all... Anyone out there want to co-host a SharePoint podcast?

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AudioBlogging | Office 2003 | SharePoint | Tech
Monday, 04 April 2005 21:01:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Experience installer - click for full sizeMicrosoft has published their Experience Pack for Tablet PC, a package of add-on's for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

Some of these items have been available in single-item downloads before - The snipping tool, for example, has been available as a beta for some time, and is greatly improved in this final release. 

But some are new - namely the Media Transfer option, which requires you to run Windows Media Connect on your home PC, and then lets you stream or transfer media files (photos, videos, music, etc) to your tablet PC to be viewed/listened to there.

And it's free. Your can download it here.

From Microsoft's web site:


If you have a Tablet PC, the Experience Pack is a must. Download the Experience Pack and get six new programs that will help you be more productive and creative.

Ink Desktop
Take notes directly on your desktop for quick and easy access later. Jot down a phone number, directions, or top priorities for the day.

Snipping Tool
Use your tablet pen to select a portion of a web site, document, or other content on your screen. You can add handwritten comments and then paste it into an e-mail message or other program.

Ink Art
Paint with your tablet pen using Ink Art, which simulates an artist’s toolset. Choose from different textured canvases, paint brushes, chalks, crayons, and more.

Media Transfer
Copy or stream media files from your home computer to your Tablet PC, so that you can enjoy your favorite music, home videos, or digital photo albums wherever you go. [ed: You'll need Windows Media Connect on your home computer, instructions are here]

Ink Crossword
Solve crosswords on your Tablet PC with your tablet pen. Twelve puzzles come with the game. You can also download a free daily puzzle and purchase more puzzle packs online.

Energy Blue Theme Pack
Brighten the look of your Tablet PC desktop, Start menu, windows, and toolbars. Also get a new Windows Media Player skin that’s customized for the Tablet PC.

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Monday, 04 April 2005 07:38:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 03 April 2005

Microsoft's Office Online has a useful one-page conglomeration of deployment resources for SharePoint Portal Server. It's a great resource for those who need the info and appreciate the one-stop-authoritative-shop approach to organizing information. Of course, you'd think if people were looking to deploy SPS, they'd be exactly the types to appreciate that approach.

The only thing it seems they could so better would be to run it on, oh say... SharePoint Portal Server? ;)

Other good SharePoint Portal Server resources at Office Online:

Lots more links branch off of that last item, too. It's nice to see the Microsoft-provided content continuing to grow, as documentation in this area has historically been scattered and incomplete.

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SharePoint | Tech
Sunday, 03 April 2005 14:42:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I decided today to check out WB Editor 2, a blog-posting and editing app that's available for Windows. It's darn-right cool.

Unfortunately, some of the XML-RPC functions don't want to work with dasBlog, even though that's the specific software I designated when I set up the blog account in the program interface. So, I can upload the screenshot here with the tool - I'll have to add those manually.

I have to say, I really like the user interface - it's quite well-polished and allows easy access to all sort of functionality. So, I'll be contacting the author to find out what's up with the dasBlog glitches and we'll see what can be done to help there.

At any rate, if you are a Windows user and you would like a better/different way to post to your weblog than the simple web text entry UI, you might want to check out WB Editor 2 and see what you think.

(Thumbnails added with another tool I like called BlogJet - click to view full-size images)




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Blogging | Tech
Sunday, 03 April 2005 07:35:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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When Microsoft sets its sights on a market segment, look out. It'll happen, sooner or later.

I've been using a whole bunch of the latest mobile phones recently to test them and see how well they'll work for business use. The fact of the matter is, most of them pale in comparison to the Blackberry devices. Blackberries are great tools. All the others are great gadgets. At work, I need a great tool more than a great gadget.

But what I really want is the best of both worlds. Push email, real-time sync on email, calendar, and all that. Lookups live over the air from my company's active directory. MP3 player, phone, voice recorder, MP3 and poly ring-tones... and the RIM form factor works great - he typical PDA-phone running Windows Mobile is a little too goofy and unusable - especially in the keyboard area. Blackberry keyboards work great - the palmOne and PocketPC keyboards I have used - well, they just suck.

From Engadget, with reference to an article at Internet Week, word about the upcoming Windows Mobile 2005 and how Microsoft likely intends to compete with RIM's Blackberry devices - and server.

This will raise eyebrows and - if the Windows Mobile devices can be improved to be a better tool and less gadgety - it's entirely possible they could take away a lot of the market currently sufficiently served only by RIM...

Windows Mobile 2005 Magneto

If their recent deals to license their ActiveSync technology to Nokia, Symbian, and palmOne are any indication, Microsoft is working hard to steadily encircle the Blackberry with the next version of Windows Mobile, aka Windows Mobile 2005 aka Magneto. The plan? CRN reports that Microsoft is finally going to unveil Windows Mobile 2005 at the Mobile and Embedded Developers Conference in Las Vegas next month, and that they’re going to be taking a serious swipe at RIM by adding Blackberry-like support for push email and live content updating to Windows Mobile-powered Pocket PCs and Smartphones. The CrackBerry’s pretty damn entrenched, but Microsoft knows a thing or two about dislodging a market-dominating competitor, and so will be reviving a familiar tactic: to compete with RIM’s server product they’re going to be giving away their Exchange 2003 Server Pack 2 update, which adds support for push, for free.

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Mobile | Tech
Saturday, 02 April 2005 23:44:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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