Sunday, 26 February 2006

Battlestar GalacticaI've had just a bit of down time lately, and knowing it was coming, I figured this would be a good opportunity to watch all the episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica series (as opposed to the 1980's version) on my iPod that I have not yet seen. I downloaded all the episodes from iTunes and started watching the series a month or more ago whenever I was on air travel, and have become hooked. Before I had my surgery a week or so ago, I'd finished watching the original miniseries, which is made up of four shows, and about the first half of the first season. So, the remainder of that season and all of season number two were waiting on my iPod for me to sit down and watch.

Now, holding the iPod in your hands and watching video on the built-in screen with headphones is great on an airplane, but not so much when you're stuck in bed or on the couch at home. So I looked into how to connect my video iPod device to the TV at home. I could do the crazy Apple a la carte thing and buy the proper Apple dock, plus the special AV cables, plus an Apple remote, etc., or I could pick up a third party package. And the latter is the route I took.

HomeDockI picked up the DLO HomeDock for iPod at a Target store after seeing it advertised in their Sunday circular recently. At about $80 in the store, it cost me less than the comparable individual Apple parts and is better integrated. It will hook to a computer via USB (powered) and provides composite or S-video outputs to the TV as well as left and right audio via RCA jacks. It also includes a AC power supply for use without the computer, which is how I have it set up in my living room. And it comes with a small remote to control playback of video, pictures and audio files stored the iPod right from the couch.

I really like this thing. Shortly after buying it, I found out the company, DLO, is about to ship their new HomeDock Deluxe, which will include on-screen menus and more-fully-featured remote. For my purposes, the regular HomeDock is doing the job nicely. I'm about half way through the second season of Battlestar Galactica now, and I've become a huge fan of both the show and DLO's dock.

By the way - If you haven't had a chance to see the new Battlestar Galactica on the SciFi Channel and you're a sci-fi fan (or maybe you liked the classic Battlestar Galactica series from the 80's, although the new one is much better), you should check it out. Heck, even if you're not a sci-fi fan you might like it, as it's a great story and adventure.

And if you're looking for a good dock/charger/AV connection and remote for a video iPod, you can check out the HomeDock.



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Tech
Sunday, 26 February 2006 22:18:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The Office 12 system release has been formally named "Office 2007" by Microsoft. I'm running Beta 1 software and it's quite interesting and looks like some great changes. The new Outlook is terrific in design. I can't say anything (per NDA) on the server side of things, but prepare to be wow'ed.

Anyhow, here is a list (from Microsoft) of the MS blogs that cover the Office 12 components. If you know of any others, please post them in the comments.

Microsoft® Office Access

What's New in Access 2007 (Eric Rucker)

 

Microsoft® Office Excel®

What's New in Excel 2007 (David Gainer)

 

Microsoft® Office FrontPage

What's New in FrontPage 2007 (Rob Mauceri)

 

Microsoft® Office OneNote®

A User-oriented View of OneNote 2007 (Chris Pratley)

OneNote General (Owen Braun)

 

Microsoft® Office Outlook®

Outlook General (Will Kennedy, GM)

Outlook Tasks and Time Management (Melissa MacBeth)

RSS/Search/Sharing (Michael Affronti)

Outlook Programmability (Ryan Gregg)

 

Microsoft® Office Project

What's New in Project 2007 (Dieter Zirkler)

 

Microsoft® Office Publisher

Publisher 2007, XPS and more (Jeff Bell)

What's New in Publisher 2007

 

Microsoft® Office Visio

Visio 2007 (Eric Rockey)

 

 

Microsoft® Office Word

What's New in Word 2007 (Joe Friend)

 

Microsoft® Windows SharePoint Services

Windows SharePoint Services (PJ Hough)

Document Management, Workflow, & Records Management (Rob Lefferts)

 

Office 2007 New User Interface

Office 2007 New User Interface (Jensen Harris)

 

Office 2007 New XML File Format

Office 2007 New XML File Format (Brian Jones)

 

Publishing XPS Documents

Publishing XPS Documents (Andy Simonds)

Publisher 2007, XPS and more (Jeff Bell)

 

PDF Support in Office 2007

PDF Support in Office 2007 (Cyndy Wessling)

 

TechTalk with Steven Sinofsky

TechTalk with Steven Sinofsky

 



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Office 2003 | Tech
Sunday, 26 February 2006 20:18:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 25 February 2006

OrigamiScoble posted a few days ago about the Microsoft-registered Origami Project web site. It's all the buzz around the net, people guessing and sometimes seeming to know a bit about what it is.

JK posts some info that is interesting and worth checking out... A video on Digital Kitchen's web site titled "Microsoft Origami."

Click on http://www.d-kitchen.com/launch_center.htm

  • enter the site,
  • click WORK,
  • and then click BRAND THEATRE,
  • you'll find the first entry says "Microsoft Origami"

Nice find by Kevin Tofel, who noticed it on the Engadget site in some post comments.



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Mobile | Random Stuff | Tech
Saturday, 25 February 2006 14:42:53 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 24 February 2006

Recently a couple coworkers at Corillian turned me on to TextPayMe, which is a cool service you can use to send money to others (and even to a few online merchants). Click the banner below to check it out and sign up for free - They'll even deposit five bucks in your TextPayMe account when you sign up. For real. You don't even have to provide a credit card or bank account info unless you want to transfer funds into the TextPayMe account, so there's no risk. It costs you nothing.

And, if 35 people sign up via this link, I'll get a XBOX 360. You can do the same thing. nice eh?

    

TextPayMe services are used to send payments to (and receive payments from) people you know, using text messaging on your mobile phones or wireless PDAs (I'm using it on my Blackberry phone). Let's say you go to a restaurant with three friends. Instead of asking the waiter to split the bill, or even worse trying to find the right amount of cash to put in the pool and pay your part, one person pays the bill, and the other three send their part to the person who paid using TextPayMe. They send it to your cell phone number, nice and easy. And for the people sending the money, the security system (which is a two-factor secure system - nice) calls their cell as soon as they text the payment. They answer the phone and are prompted by the peppy IVR voice on the other end to enter a PIN (which you provide at the time you sign up). Only then is money sent.

So - a cool service to try, nothing to lose, and five bucks to gain! Click here to go to the TextPayMe site and sign up to give it a try!



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IT Security | Mobile | Tech
Friday, 24 February 2006 14:33:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Magellan Road Mate 760Last week, while heading home from Seattle, we stopped briefly on the way out of town to pick up something at a mall. While there we saw a Brookstone store (I'm such a sucker for those places) and were pulled in by the magnetic gadgetness. Only Sharper Image compares in terms of pure gadget tractor beam power.

Anyhow, a minute or so after I entered the store, over walked an employee, nice guy. First words out of his mouth? Anything in the store you can touch on the floor - all floor models - 50% off (except massage chairs and tempurpedic mattresses, those were discounted 30%). Woah! So, I started looking around. It was almost too good to be true. And I just got my tax refund. Heh.

There were all sorts of cool things, and my mom and friend Mary Beth - they were there with me - picked up a few some stuff they liked. Me? Time to look for some electronics, baby. I was shocked to walk around a floor stand and find a Magellan Roadmate 760 GPS display - one of those displays where the device is security-sealed in a hard clear plastic frame, but it's a real, working model, you know? I call the sales guy over. Sure enough, half price, he says. He looks in the back to see if the box, papers and parts were anywhere to be found - and again, sure enough, he found everything. Score!

So, I bought it - essentially brand new for $450. Talk about luck. This is a GPS system that typically retails for around $750 to $900 in stores, sometimes more. It definitely pays to shop around. Froogle searching for new units shows you can get it for as low as around $700 if you look hard enough. Costco members can buy it online as of the time of this posting for $750 (after a $150-off coupon). I've been traveling a lot lately, and my job will have me traveling more and more in the future, so with all the unfamiliar cities and rental cars, having a GPS unit that does everything will be very useful.

Note: The RoadMate 760 has been around for something like a year now, and it's a terrific unit. The RoadMate 800 is pretty much the same device, only with a battery built into it, different color case, some button changes and whatnot - so you can use it without external power. And it costs a bit more.

It talks to you and gives turn by turn directions with street names (via a text-to-speech feature), has a bright touch screen display, and tons of cool features like auto dimming of the display at nights, auto color changing of the display at night, automatically increasing volume as you drive faster to account for road noise, and more. the pre-installed maps cover all of the US and Canada, and maps for Europe are pre-installed (you buy an unlock code to license those).

Having used mine a couple times, and with plenty of time to play with it (I'm a passenger when it comes to cars right now), I can say that the money was well-spent. The first time I plugged it in, it fired right up and found the GPS satellites. I created a route by entering the name "Olive Garden" into the locator as we were driving down the highway, and then instructing it to display destination results to me with the closest match shown first in the list. I selected the restaurant I wanted, and it displayed the address and phone number of the business (phone numbers - nice feature!), then I just clicked to create the driving route.

Almost immediately (this thing calculates routes very quickly), it started speaking the driving instructions and showed the route on the screen. As you drive, the map scrolls and updates, with your location in the center of the screen. I set the unit to display heading-up orientation, so that the top of the map is the direction of travel (you can also set it so that the top of the map is always north, but I didn't find that to be very intuitive). It warns you when you're two miles from a turn, then again at a half-mile, and one more time as you approach the turn. When you reach a waypoint in your route, it plays a sound (you can choose the sound, like a chime or beep, etc.) to let you know you've made it each step along the way. If you go off route it will immediately recalculate a new route and tell you where to turn, or if needed it will tell you to "make a legal U-turn" to get you back on track.

I'm a lucky guy to have found it at the price I did, but I can honestly say that after having used it for a day or two I would buy one anyhow at the available market prices. It makes driving and finding things remarkably easy and the routes it found were spot on. It will meet a real need with all my business and personal travel.

Features:

  • Map Software: Ready to use detailed, seamless North American map (48 contiguous United States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and all of Canada) loaded on internal 20GB HDD. Pre-loaded European maps may be unlocked for an additional fee - for more information see: http://www.magellangps.com/en/users/keysIntl760/
  • User Interface: Touch Screen or dynamic keypad input
  • Display: High Resolution TFT LCD full color touch-screen display automatically adjusts to lighting changes
  • Display Size (H/W) 2.25" x 3.0"
  • Route Calculator: Choose from four different route methods: Shortest Time, Shortest Distance, Least Use of Freeways, Most use of Freeways
  • Turn-by-Turn Navigation: TrueView 3D screen shows upcoming turn while voice prompt politely gives turn-by-turn guidance in any of 11 languages (French, UK and US English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish)
  • Route Recalculation: Automatically and quickly calculates new route when car deviates from the established route
  • Multi-Destination Routing: Create and save multi-destination trips. Use route optimization to determine the quickest way between stops or choose your own order.
  • Track Progress on Map: Dynamically tracks progress on the onscreen map - the map scrolls as you drive
  • Choose heading-up or north-is-up map orientation
  • QuickSpell Technology: Simplifies data entry by pre-determining letters from the available database when spelling street and city names
  • Address Book: Holds 200 addresses per user — up to 600 total
  • Points-of-Interest: Almost 7 million points of interest
  • Portable: True plug-n-play in any region - just a 12-volt lighter plug
  • Mapping Data: Provided by NAVTEQ
  • Dimensions: 3.25" H x 6.5" W x 2" D
  • Weight: 13 oz.
  • Mounting hardware: Supplied with suction cup and fully-articulable snake arm, quick release mount
  • Device antenna folds up, can be removed to attach external antenna if desired


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Tech
Friday, 24 February 2006 10:24:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Verisign's iDefense Labs has a program running that will pay you up to $10,000 if you submit a security vulnerability to them during this quarter that ends up being ranked as critical by Microsoft:

For the current quarter, iDefense Labs will pay $10,000 for each vulnerability submission that results in the publication of a Microsoft Security Bulletin with a severity rating of critical. In order to qualify, the submission must be sent during the current quarter and be received by midnight EST on March 31, 2006.

Well, there you go - if you gots the skillz, go gets some cash.

And by the way - the iDefense Labs site is a great resource for IT and security types to keep any eye on. They provide content on the site as well as webcasts with well-done content.



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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 21 February 2006 09:03:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Everyone knows about - and almost everyone uses - Google's great search engine. And while it's great at searching for most content, it can't do everything.

The massive, battleship-class search engines have left certain gaps in their wake, gaps that are just waiting to be filled by niche applications. One great example of such a gap is a search engine specifically for developers. I mean, have you ever tried to use Google to search for actual programming source code?

What would life/work be like with a search tool that would enable developers to search for code or for developer-centric content? It would be easy and fast, and would search all the logical places - like SourceForge and other open source repositories, developer web sites, blogs, standards bodies, documentation repositories, etc. Even better, what if it allowed you to tag and write notes about specific code, and if you could save information related to specific code for others to use, or if you could just send them a link to your annotations?

That would be wicked cool, huh?

Enter Krugle - the search engine for developers. Your wish is their command. Well, starting sometime in March it will be, anyhow. That's when they'll likely launch.

So what's this all about? The Krugle web site explains it like this:

Krugle’s role

While the development world has changed, the tools that developers use haven’t kept up. Developers spend from 20-25 percent of their time looking for code and code related information – a frustrating situation for programmers, and an expensive problem for companies.

Current search engines are okay for finding web pages, but they don't crawl or find source code, whether in open repositories or within source code control systems (SCCS). They also don't leverage the inherent structure of code to support the types of searches programmers need.

Krugle vision

Krugle answers the need for a single place to find relevant code and critical technical information. By making it easy for anyone to find, elevate and communicate, Krugle fills a critical gap in todays technology rich environment.

Krugle's summary headlines effectively tell the high-level story: Krugle enables you to 1) quickly find and review source code 2) find code related technical information and 3) save, annotate and share your search results with others... all from within a single, easy-to-use, web application.

From Wired News:

The new service joins other source-code search engines like Koders and Codefetch, but Krugle intends to differentiate itself by allowing developers to annotate code and documentation, create bookmarks and save collections of search results in a tabbed workspace. Saved workspaces have unique URLs, so developers can send an entire collection of annotated code to a co-worker just by e-mailing a link.

In the future, the company plans to offer an enterprise edition of the software for use inside companies, to enable large teams of developers to better share code. That should be very interesting - something I'd love to get my hands on, for sure.

Check out all the details and some screenshots here, and sign up to find out when it's available by providing your email address here.

(via tech.memeorandum)



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Geek Out | Tech
Tuesday, 21 February 2006 01:25:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 20 February 2006

Microsoft has posted information regarding which apps will be included in each of the Office 2007 product suites, as well as pricing for the packages and individual apps/servers.

In Word .doc format:



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Office 2003 | SharePoint | Tech
Monday, 20 February 2006 08:42:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 19 February 2006

If you have not yet checked out BlogCode.com, I'd suggest you give it a try. It allows you to submit your blog, answer a few category ranking questions, and then see which other blogs are most like yours.

Alternatively, you can browse their listing for other blogs that have been "coded," look for your favorite blogs, and see other blogs that are similar.

The idea is that the blogs listed might be ones you'd like to read. Certainly there are other uses, as well.

I coded my blog the other day, and below are the closest-matched weblogs (as of the date this post is published) relative to the greghughes.net weblog. Per the folks at BlogCode.com, an 80% or better match is considered a very high score. Many of these blogs I already read or have read before, and some are new and unknown to me. I'll definitely have something to look around at for a while now.

Blog Name/URL
(click each for blogcode results)
BlogCode
Match
Scobleizer (http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/)
79.22 %
TechCrunch (http://www.techcrunch.com)
78.21 %
Agylen (http://agylen.com/)
77.96 %
Kevin Harder (http://kevinharder.com/blogs/kevin)
76.72 %
Ben Metcalfe Blog (http://benmetcalfe.com/blog/)
76.71 %
EvilSpudBoy (http://www.evilspudboy.net/)
76.43 %
Licence to Roam (http://blog.bibrik.com)
76.25 %
Newest Industry, The (http://newestindustry.org)
76.18 %
NeoThermic.com -- The well of information
(http://www.neothermic.com)
75.95 %
FreeCashSpace
(http://blog.freecashspace.com/index.html)
75.93 %
A Venture Forth (http://aventureforth.com)
75.89 %
Solution Watch (http://www.solutionwatch.com)
75.81 %
blogging.wurk.net (http://blogging.wurk.net)
75.64 %
Life On The Wicked Stage: Act 2
(http://wickedstageact2.typepad.com/)
75.43 %
PHOSITA ::: an IP law blog!
(http://www.okpatents.com/phosita)
75.36 %
07Designs (http://www.07designs.com/)
75.12 %
Sunday Bytes (http://sundaybytes.com)
74.68 %
The Daily ACK (http://www.babilim.co.uk/blog/)
74.34 %
inluminent.com (http://inluminent.com)
74.29 %
adverblog (http://www.adverblog.com)
74.28 %
mathewingram.com/work
(http://www.mathewingram.com/work)
74.26 %
integrating developer process
(http://idp.shmarya.net)
74.24 %
View from the Isle
(http://blog.larixconsulting.com/)
74.09 %
disambiguity (http://www.disambiguity.com)
73.72 %
Brandopia (http://brandopia.blogspot.com)
73.71 %
Creative Tech Writer, The
(http://www.creativetechwriter.com)
73.65 %
Church Tech Matters (http://churchtechmatters.com)
73.62 %
Larry Borsato (http://www.larryborsato.com)
73.56 %
Linickx.com (http://www.linickx.com/blog)
73.49 %
brilliantdays.com (http://brilliantdays.com)
73.49 %
LaughingMeme (http://laughingmeme.org)
73.40 %
Superaff: The Affiliate Marketing Blog
(http://superaff.com)
73.34 %
rexblog (http://www.rexblog.com)
73.30 %
Keith`s Inklings (http://talideon.com/weblog/)
73.29 %
Seven Degrees (http://sevendegrees.blogspot.com/)
73.27 %
StartupBoy.com - Journal
(http://www.startupboy.com)
73.04 %
Vinny Carpenter`s blog
(http://www.j2eegeek.com/blog)
73.00 %
A View Inside My Head
(http://jasonf-blog.blogspot.com)
72.96 %
michael parekh on IT (http://mp.blogs.com)
72.79 %
Ninefish Tales (http://www.ninefish.com/blog)
72.54 %



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Blogging | Tech
Sunday, 19 February 2006 15:03:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Windows Defender LogoOn Friday Microsoft released a the latest version of their anti-malware product, which is now called Windows® Defender (Beta 2). This software replaces the product formally known as Microsoft Antispyware. There's both 32- and 64-bit versions available to download.

I've installed it and it runs just fine, but I get an error when it tries to update itself with the latest detection signatures. I'll try a reboot and see what happens a little later on. Hopefully that will help.

The new UI is nicely done, and I like the fact that you don't have to be an administrator to run Defender.

Defender information 
on Microsoft.com:

Windows Defender home

Product information
•  Beta overview
•  FAQ
•  System requirements
•  Release notes
Support and training
•  Getting started
•  Beyond basics
Resources for software vendors
Microsoft's focus on spyware

From the Windows Defender download site:

Windows Defender (Beta 2) is a free program that helps you stay productive by protecting your computer against pop-ups, slow performance and security threats caused by spyware and other potentially unwanted software.

This release includes enhanced features that reflect ongoing input from customers, as well as Microsoft’s growing understanding of the spyware landscape.

Specific features of Windows Defender Beta 2 include:

  • A redesigned and simplified user interface – Incorporating feedback from our customers, the Windows Defender UI has been redesigned to make common tasks easier to accomplish with a warning system that adapts alert levels according to the severity of a threat so that it is less intrusive overall, but still ensures the user does not miss the most urgent alerts.
  • Improved detection and removal – Based on a new engine, Windows Defender is able to detect and remove more threats posed by spyware and other potentially unwanted software. Real Time Protection has also been enhanced to better monitor key points in the operating system for changes.
  • Protection for all users – Windows Defender can be run by all users on a computer with or without administrative privileges. This ensures that all users on a computer are protected by Windows Defender.
  • Support for 64-bit platforms, accessibility and localization - Windows Defender Beta 2 also adds support for accessibility and 64-bit platforms. Microsoft also plans to release German and Japanese localized versions of Windows Defender Beta 2 soon after the availability of the English versions. Use WindowsDefenderX64.msi for 64-bit platforms.


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IT Security | Safe Computing | Tech
Sunday, 19 February 2006 13:46:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 17 February 2006

(This is not a techie post, but since there are many people out there asking how I am doing after surgery, I'll write about it here. It will also help me remember how things went and what happened when)

It's two days after my surgery, and I'm heading home this evening from the hospital, which I am looking forward to. This hospital is great (truly), but somehow the idea of having a fire in the fireplace and being in familiar surroundings is more appealing.

My body hurts, pretty bad. Like I got hit by a truck. but it's not the old pain, which is great. I can walk a short while (well, it's a lot like walking, but it's labored at best), and the physical therapist had me walk up and down a flight of training stairs. Who would have known it could be so much work? This is a lot like learning to walk all over again.

I was able to take a quick shower today (they do some fancy stuff with the incision when they close you up, and showering is actually a good thing to do once you're up to standing for that long). Thank goodness! The hot water helped relax some of my tense muscles.

Yesterday was hell. Starting with X-rays (which came out just fine), standing up was very painful - I had terrible muscle spasms in my lower back and legs, along with pain and nausea. Nothing like feeling nauseas and (forgive the graphical discussion) having to puke, which of course hurts like hell since your abdominal muscles contract hard each time. I'm glad that phase seems to be over with.

Kineflex-1More than a few people have asked me what exactly they did to my back during this surgery. I've decided its not a big secret or anything, and that in fact it's really very interesting. First they removed the inter-vertebral disc in the lowest part of my lower back, at the L5/S1 space. Discs in your back are the softer tissues between the bony vertebrae that act as shock absorbers and allow your back to move in all directions. think of them as like a little pillow filled with squishy stuff (well, sort of). Mine was herniated (torn and pooching out into the space where the nerves run) and degenerated (loss of water and height, thinner than it used to be). In other words, pretty much all ragged and shot. The medical term for the thinning and drying out of the disc is "Degenerative Disc Disease." You body won't correct it on it's own - the physical damage is done and it usually just gets worse over time.

Once they removed the bad disc, they put in an artificial disc replacement implant - a spinal prosthesis, you could say. It's called a Kineflex lumbar artificial disc, and you can see a quick video of what it looks like and how it works here. The Kineflex device is a newer design, and I received it through a study program that is comparing the Kineflex disc to the Charite disc as part of a FDA clinical trial in the United States (email or call me if you want some details - contact info is in the right-side menu bar). I did a lot of research - on fusion options, artificial disc options, do-nothing options, individual surgeons, etc - before I decided to go this route. Artificial discs are - in the right patients - an alternative to fusion of the two bones. The ADR devices don't act like a shock absorber (neither does fusion, for that matter), but they do retain close to natural motion in the joint. As you might imagine, it's a fairly expensive procedure, and at least for now insurance companies in the United States are rarely paying for the procedure because it's too new for them (the first model to get FDA approval was the Charite and that was in the fall of 2004), and they instead prefer the fusion route. That's the way health care works.

And for those people looking here for technical posts - well, sorry. They'll be back soon enough.



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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories
Friday, 17 February 2006 13:59:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 13 February 2006

I've been heard on occasion to suggest that it might be a good (or at least interesting) idea to turn off email in the workplace and to resort to more personal means of communication, like say in-person. Or on the phone. Anything that's not written.

Why? Because, it can be so hard to really understand what someone is saying, and especially difficult (if not impossible) to tell what they mean. When you're talking about business relationships, it's hard to believe one can make good, solid decisions based on conversations as limited as email.

Now there's some research that supports my hair-brained suggestions:

According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I've only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they've correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time.

"That's how flame wars get started," says psychologist Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago, who conducted the research with Justin Kruger of New York University. "People in our study were convinced they've accurately understood the tone of an e-mail message when in fact their odds are no better than chance," says Epley.

One thing's for sure: Simply knowing what the results of this research tell us could make a difference in daily email communication practice.

Does your place of work ever discuss email communication, its pitfalls, and etiquette? Now that's a topic that's worth some face time.

(via wired.com)



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Tech | Things that Suck
Monday, 13 February 2006 07:19:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 12 February 2006

If the knife doesn't kill me, the stress just might... On Wednesday at around 7am I'll be up in the Seattle area on a table in a surgical suite, and with any luck about an hour and a half (or so) later I'll be hallucinating and stuff in the recovery room as the proud and successful recipient of a artificial disc replacement at the L5/S1 joint in my lower back. I get to lay around in a hospital bed for a couple/few days, then can head home to lie around a whole lot more.

It's not quite Steve Austin style stuff, but the plan is to replace a collapsed, herniated and generally failed lumbar disc with a mechanical replacement. I'll be like a scaled-down version the bionic man. Not quite six million dollars worth of work (more like in the tens of thousands), but I am told they can rebuild me, they have the technology.

MRI picture from a while backTruth be told, I'm just a bit scared. I've never been through surgery anywhere near this extensive before, and the decision to do this has been a long and tedious process involving a lot of risk and personal decisions. In the past I've had epidural injections of cortisone, lots of physical therapy, a minimally-invasive microdiscectomy surgical procedure, more physical therapy, medication, rest, exercise, you name it. But when a body part's shot, it's just shot.

Since then I decided - after meeting with a few highly regarded and experienced surgeons who told me I'm just delaying the inevitable fusion or artificial disc surgery - to stick it out for a while and see if I could just deal with the pain. The problem is, in order to do that I've had to keep myself from doing a lot of the things one needs to do in a normal life from day to day, as well as a lot of the things that help make life enjoyable, and that's no good.

So, here I am. Surgery could mean a great improvement in my quality of life. Of course it's not without risks (you really want someone operating on your spine?), and the past year has been mostly about deciding whether the risks of the procedure are worth the potential benefits and avoiding surgery. The pain has not improved much if at all, it always limits me, and at many times it's quite unbearable. Life's no good like this. So, it's time. My doctor is very experienced and I have lots of confidence in him. The facility is great. No more excuses.

As always seems to happen (Ask Murphy why, I sure there's a law about it), workplace and life situations, stresses and pressures are coming to a head right about the time I have to do this surgery, but I've decided that I really only get one life, and one body for that life. Jobs are something that can flex and be molded and true friends will wait, so while I'm wanting to get back to work and life as soon as it's realistic, I have to take care of this other stuff first, slow and steady as they say.

But I'm not just worried and scared. I'm also excited. The prospect of healing and being able to do many of the things I used to take for granted is truly something to look forward to - things like loading the trash cans into the truck to take to the dump, or walking the dog more than a quarter mile, or riding a bike or my motorcycle, or sitting in a chair for more than 15 minutes at a time, or even just being able to pick things up off the floor. 

That and not falling flat on my face in the hallway because I twist or step the wrong way, or because I drag my leg and pain shoots out my foot - That's just one of many things I am looking forward to no longer experiencing.

Anyhow, It'll be lighter than usual posting here probably for a little while 'til this is behind me. Maybe a little bit more to write over the next couple days, but come Wednesday I think I'll be rather out of it. Cross your fingers for me.



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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Sunday, 12 February 2006 13:30:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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This world's really not a very fair place.

Robert Scoble called "foul" on the whole Google GMail for domains story yesterday, which has since engendered a whole set of responses to his post, in both his comments and on a number of other weblogs. For what it's worth, like Robert and others, when I saw the Gmail for domains news spread I also wondered where the heck everyone was when MSN did the Windows Live Custom Domains thing (heck, they day it was announced back in November I set up a domain on it and wrote about it here on this weblog). So yeah, Microsoft already did it, and did it quite well for the record. And I guess maybe you could say it went mostly unnoticed, if you want. Not sure I'd agree, but that's debatable. You could also say that hey, it's not about the domains, it's about the GMail (which, face it, people love).

The fact is, Google is in the spotlight right now, and all the people sitting out here in the audience are paying close attention. Google plays it smart - they tend to hold new ideas somewhat close and secret, and then kick them out the door and into the pool one day to see if they'll sink or swim. This they call a "beta." Microsoft has done a little of the same, but not in quite the same way. Google is a company that has - quite effectively - captured the eyes, ears and imaginations of a huge and hungry audience, so it's no real surprise when the company does something new and people talk a lot about it. Apple's another example of a company that's capturing audience attention cycles. Microsoft, while having made great strides in terms of being viewed by the greater audience as a creative, agile and "imagineering" company, still has a bit of an uphill battle to fight with some in the audience. But things are much better than, say, a year ago. That's progress.

It's also important to understand that the audience wants a Google character - the colorful, mysterious yet well-known underdog that you're are not quite sure about, who gets the attention of everyone in the room every time he (or she) walks through the door. It's a good gig for an actor like Google to land at this point in its career, and the audition's been a tough one. Microsoft, on the other hand, is more like the established, experienced character actor. The audience knows what to expect and many even like the character, who's gained in popularity recently due to some decent films and scripts. But the character actor mold is a hard one to break out of and the scripts have changed. It takes a great vehicle to get the audience's attention, and even then the proof is in the performance. Only then can you win over a whole new audience. It can happen, but it sure can be difficult.

Anyhow, bad analogies aside, where the debate starts to break down and turn sideways is when suggestions of AdSense ethical hipocracy and bought motivations are tossed around. According to that theory, I'm beholden to Google because I run AdSense ads? Or is that only if I write about Google's new services and run AdSense ads? What if I use Google as my main search engine? What if I have a Gmail account? Seriously, people... Let's think for a few minutes about AdSense and blogging and influence and being beholden to anyone.

I have AdSense ads on my weblog. It's pretty obvious. And my ads earn more than the couple of bucks a day that some others have mentioned (substantially more, by following a few basic design and placement rules - worth checking out). But just because my AdSense ads made a notable dent in my tax return refund this year, that doesn't mean I am in any way influenced by or beholden to Google. I think Google's a cool company that's doing some very interesting things, but anyone who knows me is perfectly aware that Microsoft is a company I have many ties to, and that their products are ones I have leveraged extensively. The fact that I have AdSense ads on my site is indicative of only one thing: that they are there. If I wanted, I could choose some other ad vendor, and there are plenty of others out there.

In fact, from what I hear, Microsoft's coming out with something similar to AdSense... So, if I switch over to that program and drop AdSense from my weblog, does that mean if I then write about Microsoft products and skip over Google's stuff that I would be bowing down to the Microsoft money? Should Google employee bloggers complain out loud if that happens? Would they? Questions worth pondering.

Heck, if I switched to a Microsoft-provided ad program, I'd likely be accused of being too one sided, not enough fair-and-balanced in my overall approach. But then again, that whole equal-time thing was thrown out years ago.

Look, people have opinions, and not everyone has mine. I actually kind of like it that way.

I write about things that capture my attention and things I believe in. I don't really give a damn who's ads are running where, or whether it's Microsoft, Google or any other company that's serving them up. And Google doesn't seem to care what I write about, and I don't even think about it when it comes time to author a weblog post. In almost every case, I believe others operate in pretty much the same way. I was one of those people who wrote about the Windows Live Custom Domains when that service was released, but I didn't have to. I haven't had a chance yet to see what Google has to offer in it's new service, but when I do get to see it I'll probably comment about that here, as well. We'll see if it captures my attention.

On average, people are generally smarter and more ethical than we want to give them credit for when our feelings are hurt. The group-think mentality that occurs in the blogosphere is an interesting phenomenon, and can even be problematic. And it goes both ways. Group think leads to closed lines of thought partners, and if one thinks there's undue influence from AdSense, one might want to look instead at the influence that comes from the same closed groups of bloggers feeding each other like ideas and thoughts all the time.

And then if you think that's bad, get a group of opinionated bloggers together in a room, raise a controversial point, and in my experience the problem can get even bigger. Much bigger. But it sure is a lot of fun to stand back and watch. Heh.

Speaking more generally and stepping back from this particular debate, realize blogs are complicated things under the hood - in the content. They're really only conversational in that there's a way to respond (in comments or on your own blog). But in terms of mimicking a face-to-face conversation, I've noticed more and more recently that there's no opportunity to stop somebody in their tracks and to challenge their point before their foot gets lodged in their teeth. It's more often a speech platform with a method for the reader to write a quick letter to the editor. Not that it's a bad model - I love it. But it does lend itself to rants (hence my weblog URL) and diatribes when authors use them for that purpose. Sometimes that means grandstanding, not conversation. At least we have comments, on most blogs.

And let me say this: Robert's not entirely wrong about this whole mess. I don't always agree with him, but I like him and he's a smart guy - and he has a valid point to make. The positioning of the new Google service as being ground-breaking or even substantially original was not well researched and was simply incomplete in reporting and writing. Is the world giving Google credit for something Microsoft did? Well, maybe, but not really. They're definitely talking about what Google's been up to. Did they miss part of the story? Yeah, they sure did, but more important than drummed up hypotheses about whether or not bloggers are influenced by small-potatoes advertising is the fundamental question: Why isn't Microsoft getting more attention when it does great things? I know people who work on the teams that didn't et the credit in this situation, and I agree - someone needs to cry foul. But not with weak advertising ethics accusations. That just muddies the waters and takes the conversation to the point of nastiness.

I like the way Reeves confronted the same issue on the MailCall blog maintained by HotMail team members:

"Working for Microsoft in Silicon Valley can be a surreal experience.  Just the other day I ordered cheeseburger and the person serving me my lunch asked me if I knew that Google had invented the idea of cheesy meat between two slices of bread three years ago… and it's been in beta ever since. :-)  Yeah, yeah, perhaps I’m being dramatic but sometimes I feel like Google is going to overshadow Al Gore and get credit for inventing the Internet.

"Joke as I may, it does get to me every once in a while...especially when we've been working like crazy on something, already have it in market, have gotten great customer response, but everybody thinks someone else did it first."

My opinion? Microsoft has a lot of people who worked hard and delivered a product that Google later released a remarkably similar version of (with less features), and the Microsoft people didn't get notice. And they should be. But none of this was likely brought on by financial influence - real or assumed, big or small - from Google-provided advertising.

One problem in this particular situation might be that Microsoft's product is called "Windows Live Custom Domains." Now, I know what the WLCD service is and how cool it is, but only because I went and looked. Not from the name. The fact that I have to acronymize it is one clue that the name could be better. It doesn't say "email and instant messaging services" to me. And yes I know there's a bit more to it than mail and IM. Google calls theirs "GMail for your domain." That's a name I can quickly get my brain around. In the "Don't Make Me Think" department, Google creates and names most things quite aptly.

Now we can just wait to see if Google will start telling us how they're "innovating" with all these "borrowed" ideas of theirs. Heh... Now wouldn't that be perfect?

At any rate, in my opinion it's really not a question of ethics this time around. It is a question of audience, actors, script and venue. It's a question of who's paying attention to whom, and why. And sometimes that hurts.

Get my attention, and I'll tell others. Heck, I already do. And you don't even have to pay me.



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Blogging | Tech
Sunday, 12 February 2006 13:08:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 10 February 2006

My co-worker Alex sent this across in email today...

Programmer or Serial Killer?

Take the quiz - can you tell the programmers fro the serial killers?

My score - 7/10.



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Friday, 10 February 2006 17:56:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 09 February 2006

People everywhere are commenting on the press release sent out Thursday by Research in Motion (RIM) earlier today regarding their software workaround that they have ready in the wings, should they lose an injunction hearing in a US court later this month.

Interestingly, the comments lean toward overwhelmingly positive. While I'm certainly glad RIM's doing something in the contingency planning department, and while I truly appreciate RIM's service and excellent devices, I just don't see things as all happy and cheerful and rosy. Call me a stick in the mud, or call me pragmatic. Whatever. I'n not a Blackberry or RIM hater, just someone who's caught in the middle of a problem that many other IT pro's can relate to.

RIM's has this workaround going for some time, and their announcement today comes just a couple weeks before the ruling. Previous reports indicate the judge in the case, if he issues the injunction, might provide a four week buffer before the injection would become active (that's what the complainant, NTP, has asked for, anyhow). That means in about six weeks, every Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) and every Blackberry handheld in the United States (maybe everywhere) might have to be updated with a software patch that RIM has yet to describe or provide. Not only that, but there's no indication made as to what versions of the BES software will be upgradeable and when that software might be delivered.

Or - who knows - maybe it will only apply to new devices when they're sold, and not ones already out there. But the servers - well no way to avoid changes there if the injunction is issued.

For what it's worth, I think this whole thing is an unfortunate pain in the backside, one which could and should have been avoided by both sides of the dispute long ago. But now we're stuck here, all of us, and it's no good. Invalidated patents being used to claim intellectual property rights are at issue, and millions of people are potentially impacted.

So I don't know about you, but no matter what happens in the court, this situation represents an expensive, time consuming and complicated set of upgrade circumstances. If RIM wants to do this the right way, seems to me maybe it's time to issue the workaround software now, get it out there in the hands of the people that need to deploy it, and then leverage it if and when it's needed. From RIM's statements, it looks like that should be a viable option:

"BlackBerry Multi-Mode Edition is a software update that enables underlying changes to the message delivery system. BlackBerry Multi-Mode Edition provides two modes of operation: Standard mode and US mode. When users are outside the US, and receiving service from a non-US service provider, the BlackBerry device operates in Standard mode and there are no changes to the current message delivery system or BlackBerry functionality."

Or at least state what versions of the server software can be upgraded should the need arise, and when. In a world where enterprise change management and production system testing requirements reign, especially on a platform as fundamentally sensitive as the BES system (secure messaging is a critical piece of infrastructure), four to six weeks is so little time as to be impossible for some.

I've carried Blackberry devices now for years, and I've worked with and managed the BES software for just as long. It's not the simplest stuff, and it's something companies rely on for their day to day operations. It's not just a nice-to-have, it's an integral piece of operational infrastructure.

Regardless of who's right or wrong in the legal case, it might just be time for RIM to stop the dancing, get off the floor, and pay the valet to bring the coach. It's getting late, and someone's ride is starting to look a bit like a pumpkin.



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Mobile | Tech
Thursday, 09 February 2006 22:59:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The DualCor cPC running Windows XP Tablet PC EditionRecently, I was approached by DualCor, a company that is working now on the release their cPC product, about serving on their newly-formed board of expert technical advisors. I had a conversation with the company's CEO, Steve Hanley, and was impressed with what they're doing. Their product line is of great interest to me, so I accepted. I'm honored to be on the advisory board and to have an opportunity to provide input as they launch and continue to develop a very interesting product.

I'll probably write on this weblog about the DualCor products - in fact I can't imagine not doing so. I've already written one brief entry about the cPC device (but that was actually before DualCor approached me about their advisory board). Since I'm now on their board and have a formal relationship with the company, I think it's important to say so here - full disclosure and all.

All that aside - I'm truly excited to use the new cPC device. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and Windows Mobile OS on one device. Phone, too. Dual processors, a gig of RAM, and fast, fast, fast...

Learn more at http://www.DualCor.com and see my past post here. And there's a c|net video from CES about the cPC here.



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Random Stuff | Geek Out | Tech
Thursday, 09 February 2006 20:23:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 08 February 2006

If you do searches on Google and you ever get "spammy" search results, you can report the offending results to the Google people that deal with just that problem. They have an online form you can use. Since it's hard to find (the form, that is), here you go:

http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html

Stop search spam, report a spammer. I wonder if this works for Google Blog Search? Hmmm...

(via Jeremy Zawodny's linkblog)



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Tech
Wednesday, 08 February 2006 14:43:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 06 February 2006

Products_hero_serverThe virtualization marketplace is huge, and very competitive. Microsoft has their Virtual Server product and the Virtual PC counterpart, and VMWare's got their VMWare ESX Server and Workstation products, among others.

VMWare has formally announced that they're shipping a free server product, which they are coining "VMWare Virtual Server." It replaces the GSX Server line, and the target audience is developers, testers and IT pros that need flexible environments. It's not positioned as an enterprise-class platform for production server use, however.

You can see a comparison chart that depicts the differences between VMWare's virtualization server products here.

The company also recently released the free VMWare Player, which allows people to run pre-build virtual machines (or if you are technically creative you can also build virtual machines with it, but that's another story).

For any of these VMWare virtualization platforms, there are some pre-built virtual machines also available for download in the Virtual Machine Center.



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Tech
Monday, 06 February 2006 13:37:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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My co-worker Mike pointed out an article that's got to make some people more than a little nervous. Imagine if an RFID chip could be embedded in a piece of paper, virtually undetectable.

Well, it can. You can imagine the security and privacy concerns (while marveling at the technical advances). From EETimes.com:

"Hitachi was due to present details of the 0.15-millimeter by 0.15-millimeter, 7.5-micron-thick chip on Sunday (Feb. 5) at the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco.

"Paper is typically 80 microns to 100 microns thick, and the chip substrate has been made small and thinned to 7.5 micron to ease application in paper, where it could be used as an intelligent watermark."



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IT Security
Monday, 06 February 2006 13:03:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The Super Bowl commercials are on the web at Google Video.

You can play them all back to back by clicking here. My favorites? Here they are:

 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 

  Bud Light
  Hidden Bud Light

 

And because you have to have the one that makes you turn your head and and say, "Whaaa???"

  Emerald Nuts

 



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Monday, 06 February 2006 00:52:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 05 February 2006

The talented QA guy on our product team, Brent Strange, did a boatload of automation of tests used to ensure the quality and security of our Intelligent Authentication security software product, and he's started to write on his blog about his experiences and how he used several technologies available out there in combination to ease his Web UI testing pain. Ever try to automate Web UI testing? Wouldn't it be great if you could, and if it was fast and reliable?

Well, if you're a tester/QA type, or if you know someone who is, be sure to visit and subscribe to Brent's blog, QA Insight.

Here's his first automated Web UI testing post:



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Tech
Sunday, 05 February 2006 22:44:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Co-comment-logoAll the virtual world's a-buzz with commentary and conversation (ironically, since a lot of the commentary is out of the reach of the service for now) about coComment, a coolio and not-yet-fully-released "Web-2.0" online service that let's you track comments make on blogs everywhere. Or at least it will at some point - only a few blogging platforms are supported right now (and the software this weblog runs on, dasBlog, is unfortunately not one of them), so it's very much hit and miss as to whether or not you can use it, but the promise of an interesting future is certainly there.

I'm using coComment now, and it's pretty cool. You can sign up at the site (look for the "Get Notified" section on the home page), and they're trying to get new invitations sent out as soon as they can.The coComment web site is well designed and the core feature/functionality is a sharp idea. I will say that it's a bit clunky in terms of how the actual user commenting experience works. You have to think about it too much, which is not so good... It puts an extra graphical "button" with your name onto the page that you have to click first, before you click the actual comment submission button. The new button falls to the right of the submit button, so it's a lot like being forced to read right to left and it just doesn't look very clickable - It's just counterintuitive.

You have to click the little blue icon with your name on it first

Brian Benzinger wrote a little GreaseMonkey script that automates the sign-in for FireFox users - It's very nice and you can get it on this page. Otherwise you have to use a "bookmarklet link" to activate the service on any given comment page - another layer of abstraction that would be nice to avoid somehow.

But hey, it is pre-v1.0, so... Anyhow, it would be especially nice if the authors and some creative blog software creators made it even more usable.

It does solve a few problems, mainly being able to find your conversations in the blogosph -- uh, on blogs. Two other things it does is, 1) it allows you to embed a little bit of code in your blog template to display comments that you've made on other blogs, and 2) it allows you to subscribe to a RSS or ATOM feed with all your tracked comments in one place. Adoption will depend on how many blog software authors get into the mix and how many blogs the coComment people decide to try to tackle themselves, I suppose.

Note that, while it's a great start, the real test will be whether everyone will sign up - since that appears to be a requirement in order to actually track everything that might matter. Is there not a better way to do this? Does the RSS comment capability/spec not go far enough?

From their site:

Coming soon..

For advanced bloggers who would like to more fully integrate coComment features in their own blog, coComment will offer:

The ability to add elements of the coComment service to blogs based on non-standard blogging platforms in order to ease the usage of coComment for commenters (automated capture).

The ability to customize the appearance (eg colors, fonts, etc.) of coComment elements, in order to better suit your tastes and needs.



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Blogging | RSS Stuff | Tech
Sunday, 05 February 2006 13:21:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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UPDATE 2/7/2006: Looks like bmw.de is back in the index - details here...

Google's been saying for some time that it would be paying more attention to search engine spam on web sites, including internationally, and apparently they really mean it. They just virtually executed German automobile manufacturer BMW when they killed the BMW.de domain from their search database and sent their page rank to - you guessed it - zero.

Ouch. That'll teach 'em not to use spammy doorway pages, I guess.

Matt Cutts of Google explains on his weblog. Good to see that if Google's wielding the sword (and I think they can and should), at least it appears that everyone's held to the same high standards. Now if they'd just step it up a notch and do more of the same for all those splogs at blogger.com... But that's a whole different can of worms.



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Sunday, 05 February 2006 11:41:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 04 February 2006

Rich points to a take-off video. I think you can guess what the storyline is. Heh. Amazing what kinds of funy stuff people can create on their computers these days. Try doing this ten years ago.

Brokeback to the Future

Click the title to watch.



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Humor
Saturday, 04 February 2006 21:51:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I use TurboTax Online - the web-based version of the software you can also buy in a box from Intuit - to do my taxes every year. For someone like me, it does a great job of helping me make sure I cover all the bases and think about everything.

The one thing that's frustrated me to no end in years past was that the State of Oregon never seemed to get it's act together soon enough, and when I'd finish my taxes and then try to file electronically, I'd find out that while the feds were ready for me, Oregon wasn't accepting electronic returns yet. I'd typically be doing my taxes right about now (first few days of February), and Oregon would start accepting electronic submissions in mid-February.

But this year, for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to submit my federal and state returns together, right away and without having to save and come back later. That's the way it should be.

So, as much as I hate to say it, someone in Salem did something right this year. Or at least someone down there didn't do something wrong. Either way, I'm happy about it.



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Random Stuff
Saturday, 04 February 2006 19:09:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Crusader_evangelist1Rory Blyth makes me laugh so hard, so often. Dude, Rory - you gotta stop... Heh...

In his post the other day, "DO NOT RESIST THE EVANGELIST," Rory warned that unless viewership of his Windows Mobile development screencasts (called TinyThings - and they're great - go here to see them) grew by ten fold, he threatened to eat a full bag of... Oh, here let him say it:

"If traffic to TinyThings does not increase by ten-fold during the next revolution of the planet Earth around its axis, I WILL EAT ONE ENTIRE BAG OF GOURMET LOW-FAT CHEEZEE-POOF SNACKS. IF THE LACK OF TRAFFIC CONTINUES, I WILL EAT ANOTHER BAG EVERY TIME THE EARTH COMPLETES A REVOLUTION"

But it gets worse - if the lack of ten-foldedness (?) continues, Rory will resort to letting a viscous microbe loose on a lone fluffy Ewok, unless... Oh here, just read:

"AND IT SHALL DO SO IF, BY THE TIME THIS PLANET HAS THRICE REVOLVED FULLY UPON ITS AXIS, TinyThings HAS NOT BEEN VISITED BY TEN MILLION NEW MOBILE SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS. AND YOU BETTER MAKE ‘EM ENTHUSIASTIC ‘CAUSE WE DON’T LIKE THOSE MOPEY ONES AROUND HERE."

Yeah, so ummmm - the first day results - well, go see the video:

I sure hope there's ten milllion visitors by day three....



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Saturday, 04 February 2006 08:54:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The power went out at my house last night, due to a rather impressive wind storm. I haven't heard howling wind like that - well - I guess since I live in Missouri. And that was usually due to a tornado.

Anyhow, the power's been out at my place for like 8 hours, and driving down the road into town was a lot like driving through an ocean of tree branches - quite literally. So now I'm in town at Starbucks. 

It was pitch-black dark when I was trying to get ready to leave (had a early doc appointment), and I found that - in classic geek fashion - I have not yet bought a generator (procrastination and cost aversion), and my flashlights (all three) were dead. But of course they were...

So much for the classic, common sense emergency plans. What to do? Well, I have made all these investments in geeky stuff over the past few years, and there's a couple devices I carry around for work. So, what are the Real Geek Tools that can save you in a blackout?

Well, actually, there's just one: The Blackberry 8700.

In the pitch black, a little blinking red light told me not only that I had mail, but also where the device was located. I grabbed it, rolled the thumb-wheel, and voila! Instant night-light! Seriously, the 8700 spills enough light to illuminate the area around you quite well. Up stairs, down hallways, you name it. It's bright when it needs to be.

And it's a phone. And a loud alarm clock. And an email client. And a chat client for everyone else you know who's bumping their heads into walls who has a Blackberry. Go ahead, call your local public utility, check in with them and ask when the hell the power's gonna be back on. You can't watch your TV or use the computer to surf the net or anything, so email is nice. Oh wait - but you can surf the web! Ahhh, Blackberry you rock my wind-swept world. Or something. Yeah. Anyhow, everything works.

If you don't have a Blackberry 8700 and you live in an area where the power goes out with any frequency, you just don't know what you're missing. It's your one-stop-blackout-shop.

Update: The power came back on at 4:10 p.m. Power lines were down all over the place, and it's amazing actually that they got the power back up so fast, considering the damage that was done. Nice job, Columbia River PUD.



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Geek Out | Random Stuff | Tech
Saturday, 04 February 2006 08:31:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 03 February 2006

UPDATE! SuitSat1 is not dead - it's just transmitting at a low power. From Bil Munsil comes the following info:

"SuitSat1 is still alive and ham operators and other folks all around the world are receiving the audio, telemetry and SSTV picture.

"Go to http://www.aj3bu/blog/ to listen in."

So, they tossed an empty spacesuit out of the International Space Station earlier today, and it's out there orbiting the planet, but the radio transmitter they stuck in there that many were hoping they'd be able to listen to on their police scanners apparently went dead.

From SpaceWeather.com:

Space is cold - apparently too cold for SuitSat's batteries. The Earth-orbiting spacesuit stopped transmitting shortly after it was thrown overboard from the International Space Station on Feb. 3rd. Probable cause: lack of power.

This doesn't mean that SuitSat was a failure. The experimental satellite was "launched" to answer questions such as "Can a spacesuit-satellite function without internal temperature controls?" The answer, apparently, is "no." Next-generation SuitSats will take this into account.

SuitSat will continue to orbit Earth for weeks, spiraling slowly into the atmosphere. Stay tuned for information about seeing SuitSat in the night sky.

Visit http://spaceweather.com for updates.



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Friday, 03 February 2006 22:09:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Portland Nerd Dinner - be there and be square!

Chris Tavares is - as of this evening - a former employee of mine. He deserves some serious congratulations, as he has accepted a terrific dream-job position with a little software company you might have heard of that's based in Redmond, Washington. He'll be working in the patterns and practices arena. Congrats to Chris!

So, on Thursday a bunch of nerds are getting together for a special "see ya later Chris" dinner - plus it'll be the regular nerd dinner fare, for sure.

Details are on Rich's blog.



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Friday, 03 February 2006 19:03:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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TelegramWithout fanfare or even much notice, Western Union quietly shut down it's telegram service last week. No more ability to send a message for delivery. I kind of liked them, though I rarely used the service. That's too bad. The Internet has grown, evolved, consumed the space and taken completely over.

Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative.

(via Adam Gaffin)



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Random Stuff
Friday, 03 February 2006 07:18:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The Onion has some insight as to how Blackberry users will be forced to cope if the unfortunate shutdown actually ever occurs. As is fairly typical at the Onion, there's some truth behind the satire...

Infographic-BlackBerry



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Humor | Mobile | Tech
Friday, 03 February 2006 06:56:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 02 February 2006

Bubble gumball for auctionJosh Bancroft, who publishes the TinyScreenFuls.com blog and podcast, posted a link to an auction on eBay for his Nephew's giant ball of chewed gum.

Well, now - that's different.

Josh's nephew, Marcus, apparently has a patient and tolerant mother, as she allowed Marcus to store the gumball in her refrigerator for the past six years while her son grew it over time.

"For you gum manufacturers, this could be quite the centerpiece on your boardroom meeting table or displaying in your reception lobby."

There's bound to be someone out there who wants this thing. Just doing my part for a good cause. Auction ends today! 



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Random Stuff
Thursday, 02 February 2006 07:13:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 01 February 2006

Just in case you're, like, dead or something and missed the news on every other blog out there, Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 was released as a public beta yesterday (while I was flying across the country).

So - go get it if you're a beta lover. Or a browser lover. Oh, and you'll have to be running a valid copy of Windows to install the software. The installer provides the opportunity to download and install the MS Malicious Software Removal Tool during the browser installation. Smart move, Microsoft.



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Tech
Wednesday, 01 February 2006 22:57:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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