Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Yahoo OpenID (click for the site) Today came an announcement that represents a pretty big step in the identity space. Yahoo! announced they have rolled out beta support for OpenID v2.0 and that Yahoo! is now a provider of OpenIDs. In fact, anyone who has a Yahoo! account can quickly generate a Yahoo! or Flickr-branded OpenID to sign onto any web site that supports OpenID v2.0 for authentication. That's 248 million accounts at Yahoo! that can now potentially be leveraged across the Internet for sign-on.

OpenID is an important standard that came out of the open-source community, which will likely change the way we provide identifying information and gain access to secured web sites on the Internet. It allows its users to have a single identity that can be used across different sites on the Internet. It also allows users to have the proper level of control over how they identify themselves and who they want to trust with that process.

One significant key to success for OpenID as a standard is adoption by a set of trusted identity "providers" - or OpenID-issuing organizations that people are comfortable with when it comes to asserting their identity information. With Yahoo! a large number of regular, everyday people can use their existing accounts to perform OpenID logins on any site supporting the standard. In the future, the hope is that other consumer-trusted providers will see the value of brand recognition that goes along with being the OpenID provider for consumers. Yahoo has me as an OpenID client now, which means every time I log onto an OpenID-enabled site and use that ID, I am by default thinking on some level about Yahoo! -- Pretty smart. It's time for banks, other financial service providers, and similar industries to seriously start thinking this one through. It's coming, and now is the time to be on the bandwagon.

Where can you use your OpenID to log in? Lots of places. There's a list of web sites over at myopenid.com, a service provided by Portland company JanRain. The people at JanRain have created some great software and services around the OpenID standard that businesses can use to leverage OpenID, and that enable social networks around the standard. It's pretty cool stuff.

Here's some basic information about OpenID from the Yahoo! OpenID provider site:

What is OpenID?

In a nutshell, the OpenID technology makes life simpler by having only one username and password to remember.

Once you have enabled your Yahoo! account for OpenID access, you only need to remember your Yahoo! ID and password to use hundreds of websites... So bid farewell to password spreadsheets and stickies all over your desk!

When you are on a web site that supports OpenID login, simply look for a Yahoo! login button. Or if you see a text box with an OpenID icon, simply type in "yahoo.com". You will be sent to Yahoo! to verify your Yahoo! ID and password, and then you will be able to continue on.

You can find out even more at openid.net (the OpenID Foundation), and it's worth pointing out that you can also get an OpenID from a slew of other organizations - after all, it's all about making it your choice. The OpenID foundation keeps a list of providers on its wiki and at this link.



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IT Security | Safe Computing | Tech
Wednesday, 30 January 2008 19:46:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Via Jake at UtterlyBoring.com, the latest in the "Will it Blend?" series is here. Don't mess with Chuck Norris:

    

You'll find a bunch of humorous blender commercials at http://www.willitblend.com/. You can also buy the blenders there.



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Humor | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 30 January 2008 08:22:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Here's another "what's my brain doing to me?" piece of weirdness for you to try...

While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. Now, while doing this draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

Reads: “While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. Now, while doing this draw the number “6″ in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Hmmm. If you keep trying can you eventually overcome the natural tendency to change directions? I can't seem to do that.

(via Fitz and Digg)



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Random Stuff
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 13:56:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 23 January 2008

I'm going to go off on a bit of a (somewhat grumpy) lecture here in hopes that people will stop long enough to listen. A little Gestalt therapy, if you will. Ultimately I hope at least one person recognizes a need and acts on it.

If I had a dime for every time I have personally seen this one issue bite someone in the backside, I'd be a rich man. There are a zillion things that can go wrong on a mission-critical network, but of those things there are actually just a few that account for a substantial portion of the issues that typically bring critical services down.

So, if you run a network and have not addressed the one issue I will describe below, please take the time out of your day to start a plan to remediate the problem ASAP. Along the same lines, if you are not sure where you stand with regard to the issue, or if you have never checked but you feel confident because everything works today and always has so it can't possibly be an issue... Again, please just take the time to inspect your infrastructure and put a plan in place.

I should also say that if I had a dime for every time I've said exactly what you just read in the paragraph above, I'd be a rich man. I lost count long, long ago of the number of hours spent watching people try to avoid - in any way possible - checking the obvious and addressing it. Usually that's due to those egg-on-face concerns that go along with being they guy who missed something so simple and critical (albeit not too obvious) when it came time to learn the detailed intricacies of running a high-availability network.

Okay, enough with the harshness. Time for the issue at hand.

The number one network mistake I have seen people make on IP networks, over and over again, is using the default settings on their switches and servers that cause the network interfaces to auto-negotiate the speed and duplex settings.

Seriously, if your requirement is to provide high availability and your SLAs require your services be up, do not neglect the critical (but often skipped) process of manually configuring your NICs and switches to the proper setting. Just because the interface says it's running 100mbps and full-duplex doesn't mean it's working, and when your network takes a dive and you start losing packets you'll be sorry.

Along the same lines, never assume that one half of one percent of packet loss is no big deal. Seriously, if you are seeing retransmits on your network interfaces, something is likely wrong. Also, chances are that .5% loss is not being scattered evenly across your traffic. It may all be happening at once in bursts, and that hurts - a lot.

Again, if I had a dime for every time I (or someone working with me) recommended inspecting the interface settings, recommended changing them, and flagged interfaces where traffic analysis showed data transmission loss that was obviously causing network apps to fail... Well, let's just say it's amazing how hard it is to convince some people that their network is the cause of the issue.

Why am I being so blatantly blunt about this? Because I hope that the message will carry, that administrator egos will be set aside, and that people will understand that the real-world evidence based on years of actual experience, proven over and over again, bears out the fact that this will eventually happen to you if you have not already taken the steps to ensure it doesn't. Don't let that happen. Protect that ego now, rather than waiting for it to be damaged.

Finally, don't fall prey to the idea that just because you have high-grade HP, IBM and Dell Servers and Cisco switches that the money you (smartly) spent negates the need to set things up the right way, or that these vendors have everything figured out for you and set as defaults. Point of fact, this issue occurs just as often (if not even more so) with your expensive, data-center class hardware. In fact, Cisco switches have been somewhat famous for requiring intervention of the manual-configuration type. They even have a troubleshooting support article here that you can refer to for your configuration needs.

You have been advised. Now go do something about it. And forward this to every network administrator you know. The network (and ego) you save may be theirs. :)



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Tech
Wednesday, 23 January 2008 15:21:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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sharedview1 I recently set up a Windows Live Workspace beta site, and while doing that I saw a program that I had not realized was available before, called SharedView. It's a program that is currently in beta (the release number as of this writing is beta 2), and it's a simple and effective app that lets you share your desktop or applications with someone else and lets the participants grant control of their computer desktop to others in the session. It's integrated into the Office Live Workspaces for collaboration purposes, but it's usable for a variety of purposes.

I didn't download the program immediately, but was intrigued by what Microsoft had put together. Then, as fate would have it, the next day my mom sent me a IM via my mobile device (she sharedview3really is pretty tech-hip for a retiree, heh), telling me she had a little computer problem and needed some help. In the past we've tried to use remote desktop services and the help-request functions in the MSN/Live IM client, but firewalls always seem to get in the way and performance has tended to be lackluster. Anyhow, in the process of trying to solve the computer issue, it  often becomes too complicated to try to solve it via text messages, so in this case I hooked up my laptop, downloaded the SharedView client and set up a SharedView session with my LiveID account and pointed her to the download so she could join the session using my email address and a passcode.

Within a few short minutes she was online and in the SharedView session and I was able to see her desktop. I liked that I was able to point to things on her desktop and she could see what I was pointing at, without having to take control away (this feature is called Personal Mouse Pointers). Nice feature. When it became necessary, she easily (and intuitively, without specific instructions from me) granted me control and watched as I walked her through the fix, explaining it along the way. Several times I handed control back to her so she could do part of the tasks.

In the recent past I've paid for similar services from other companies that also work well. Some of them don't rely on an installed program like this one does, but the SharedView app download is small and simple and works well on sharedview4 either Windows XP SP2 or Vista. I'd like to see it offered as a click-once app to easy use (at least as an option, if this type of app can even be deployed that way).

One of the great tests of success in today's software utility market is usability. One way I gauge the usability of an app is via watching my mom use it. If she can pick it up without much prompting, it generally passes. If she can't figure it out, chances are others can't either, and so it fails. SharedView met the expectations of that litmus test. Another great example of meeting the usability requirements and needs of the average user is Windows Home Server, which I started using in my own home not too long ago and about which I have written a couple times. There's some true-quality stuff coming out of Redmond right now for the average user, and that's good to see.



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Tech
Wednesday, 23 January 2008 12:38:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 18 January 2008

bolts-pats Over the past year I have become more and more aware of the value of doing some of those things that I've always wanted to do, yet have never quite gotten myself to execute on. I certainly have my limits, but I've worked to push myself a bit and to welcome this likely-midlife-crisis with open arms -- just jump right in and live a little. What the heck, eh?

So, this weekend I'm flying with a friend to Boston and we're going to the playoff game between the Chargers and the Patriots for the AFC championship. A couple lucky tickets combined with frequent flier and hotel credits make for a cheap relatively affordable weekend of fun. We were darned lucky to be able to line it all up last minute with flights and rooms available purchased with mileage credit, etc. The idea didn't even cross my mind until right after the Chargers beat the Colts last weekend.

For those not intimately acquainted with American Football, the winner of the game we're going to will play the winner of the NFC championship imagegame in the Superbowl in a couple weeks. the Patriots are undefeated this year, and I certainly hope San Diego shows up and makes it a fun game to be at.

The temperatures in the Boston area Sunday are supposed to be in the teens or lower 20's (Fahrenheit), but hey it could be a lot worse. The NFC championship is being played in Green Bay, Wisconsin (Packers vs. the Giants) and the temperatures there are supposed to be considerably lower, with a wind-chill in the hell-frozen-over range. ESPN has a great article on cold-weather football with lots of good trivia for anyone interested.

And before you ask... No, I'm not going to spend the incredible amount of money it takes to go to the Superbowl these days. That's why they make HDTV. :)



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Friday, 18 January 2008 14:45:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 17 January 2008

widows_home_server_logoWow, I sure have been making use of my HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server since I acquired it late last year, and to be honest I have not really even scratched the surface. With 64-bit client support coming soon, I am excited about the future, too.

After working with a bunch of music, video and image files over the past few weeks, not to mention computer backups, the single 500GB drive that it came with is both a little small and represents a single point of failure that I realized I don't want to take a chance on. So, I logged onto newegg.com last weekend and ordered a 1TB Western Digital SATA2 hard drive at a great price. It arrived today,and I slapped it into one of the three open trays and slid it into the slot. Within half a minute the drive showed up in the Home Server console and I was able to add it to the storage with a couple clicks and a two minute waiting time:

OneTerabyteAdditionHomeServer

What a slick and fool-proof process they've come up for adding drives in Windows Home Server. Anyone can do it. It's great stuff, and the add-on community is thriving - There's a whole slew of community-created programs that you can install on your home server to add functionality. It's quite useful and a lot of geeky fun.

With the addition of community programs and the overhead of the additional HP software, the memory's a bit short. So I have a 2GB sick of RAM sitting on my desk, wait for me to decide if warranty risks of taking it apart to beef up the RAM are worth it. Do I dare?



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Tech
Thursday, 17 January 2008 19:10:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 15 January 2008

image Well, it's finally happened. Apple has released iTunes v7.6.0.29 along with the iPhone v1.3 software, adding support for syncing with 64-bit Windows Vista in this new version. So, I have updated the iPhone (and lost my custom apps at least for now as a result) and am a happy camper. Relying on the aging Mac Mini desktop to sync was not working well for me. Now I can sync to my notebook.

Apple plans to introduce formal support for third-party apps through their own developer program next month, so I will happily wait a little while and hope for my couple of apps that I liked (especially the iFlix NetFlix manager app, one of my recent favorites).

There are some great enhancements, especially in the Google Maps application. Check out some of the new capabilities here in a Apple video tour of the January '08 update.

I left my iPhone at home one day last week when I drove to Portland for a day of jury duty followed by time trying to meet up with other people I know. I didn't notice until I was halfway to the city that I had forgotten it, so it was too late to go back and get it. All afternoon I realized how much I rely on my phone for regular daily stuff and how much others rely on my having it with me, as well.

Now I just have to sync up my purchased stuff from the iTunes Store and get the Audible account moved over. After that, I'm golden!



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Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, 15 January 2008 19:16:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 04 January 2008

I wrote before about my new HP MediaSmart Home Server, as well as the fact that there is no 64-bit client support available yet. In the end, it seems the Microsoft Vista team had to make a change to the OS to fix an unrelated issue, and the cascading effect of that change was that certain native backup capabilities on 64-bit windows clients (upon which Home Server relied) got broken. All that happened while Home Server was in development.

Well anyhow, looks like the CES show will be the place where HP will announce a soon-available client for 64-bit Vista. I'm happy, because Windows Home Server and the HP MediaSmart hardware and software are pretty darned great stuff, if you ask me.

So - Thank you in advance, HP. The AV software from McAfee (note that Avast! also recently released a AV package for WHS), enhanced media streaming and other features will be nice to take a look at, as well. Good deal!

News and some detail can be found here:



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Home Servers | Tech
Friday, 04 January 2008 10:26:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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