Thursday, 21 April 2005

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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