Friday, December 22, 2006

Take Great Photos this Christmas

Found this article through Lifehacker - 16 Digital Photography Tips for Christmas

Some neat ideas here!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

2006: What I've Geeked Out To

Here are some of the things I've geeked out to in 2006 (in no particular order - added as I think of things):

  • OpenDNS - After years of using suffering with Comcast's unreliable DNS service, I've switched to using OpenDNS's servers. The effects were instantaneous and the speed increase was immediately noticeable. Pages seemed to load instantaneously - as they should on an 8 meg cable internet connection!

  • MacBook Pro - Who'd have thought I'd become a Mac geek in 2006? I've been using a MacBook Pro from work for about 6 months now, and I can't say enough good things about it. The thing just works - elegantly and intuitively, at that. I've even got Microsoft Windows XP running on the Mac hardware with Apple's BootCamp - and wouldn't ya know; XP runs better on Mac hardware than on any PC-compatible hardware I've ever used!

  • Windows Vista - Last weekend, I upgraded to the Business edition of Microsoft Windows Vista. This one just barely made it into 2006, and I'll probably have more to say about it next year, since I'm still finding my way around. Contrary to my expectations of a new Microsoft operating system release, this particular experience has been... dare I say... flawless. I'm as baffled as you are. The upgrade went without a hitch. (I upgraded my existing XP Professional installation and did NOT do a clean install of Vista). Vista found all of my drivers, and everything works well so far. It has not crashed a single time on me, and (after adding another gig of RAM for a total of 2GB) is quick and responsive. The interface is slick, and I have a feeling once I get used to where everything is at, I will actually like the changes they've made to its layout (unlike XP, where I ended up switching back to "classic view" on most things because its layout made no sense). Vista is much more intuitive than any of its predecessors (but still chasing Mac OS X in usability). ;-)

  • Ultima Online 9th Anniversary Collection - Yes, I still play UO. It seems that around the fall season each year, I find myself getting back into the game. I play it through winter, and then can't find the time in the summer months. Wash, rinse, repeat. My own personal 9 year anniversary in UO will be next month, and frighteningly enough, I've been committed to this game longer than anyone or anything else in my life. I'm not sure what that says about me! 2007 will be a big year for UO, as they're getting a new graphics engine for UO: Kingdom Reborn. The screenshots look fantastic. I can't wait, and it may even be cool enough to keep me playing through the summer.

  • Dead Pixel Buddy - Since I've been using LCD monitors for a couple years now, and just bought a shiny new 22" widescreen ViewSonic 5ms HD LCD monitor, having a dead pixel tester is handy. There are web based ones that don't require a download, but those tend to make my eyes bug out. The good news: my new monitor has no dead pixels that I can find. I must warn you, though. There's a downside to testing for dead pixels. Once you find one, you will notice it constantly, and it will bug the shit out of you!

  • Hamachi - Hamachi is a zero-config VPN utility for creating secure virtual networks between computers). I've been running Windows XP Remote Desktop over Hamachi so that I can access my work computer from home and vice versa.

  • TightVNC - I wanted to set my mom up with Remote Desktop so that I could do tech support stuff on her computer from home, but she's running Windows 2000, and short of installing terminal services, I couldn't do my usual Remote Desktop setup on her machine. So, I've opted for running TightVNC (a remote control software package) over Hamachi to remotely control her computer.

  • ViewSonic 22" Widescreen LCD Monitor (VX2235WM) - Life is so sweet when you have tons of screen real estate! I'd venture to say that I'm even more productive with this monitor than my old (now-dead) 17" Sony LCD. This monitor runs at 1680x1050 (I formerly used 1280x1024) and has a 5ms video response time (compared to 12ms on my old top-of-the-line monitor from 2 years ago). My only complaint with this monitor is that the stand isn't adjustable, and on my particular desk, the monitor stand is so high that I have to look upwards at the top of this monitor, making the top of the screen appear dark when playing games (due to the weird viewing angle). This isn't a fault of the monitor, really - I just need to find a way to better configure my desk to fit this monster.

  • Logitech Cordless Desktop MX3200 Laser - Wow, this sure dropped in price after Christmas. I paid $30 more for it a week ago than Logitech now retails it for. Oh sad! At any rate, the keyboard is whisper quiet and extremely comfortable, as is the mouse (which is to be expected from a Logitech mouse). They're still my favorite mice ever, despite Microsoft's very hard push into the keyboard/mouse arena. Keyboards... well... I wish Logitech had a curved key design (not the crazy over-the-river and through-the-woods curvy hilly thing that Microsoft does - just the flat keyboard with the keys curved), but other than that, this keyboard is nice. I especially like the built-in LCD display with time and date.

  • Vonage - Still using it. Still love it. I've had zero problems with call quality or reliability, and it's full-featured and cheap. What else is there? I particularly like the ability to forward calls to my cell phone, and the ability to check my voicemail on the web.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dead Monitor

I think Vista killed my monitor.

OK, it's unlikely that Vista killed my monitor. My monitor has been quirky since the day I got it. But, while completing the final phase of the Vista upgrade that I performed on my main computer system today, my monitor turned itself off and has yet to power back on.

"Then, how are you writing this?" you ask? Simple.

I went and grabbed one of the piece of shit CRT monitors out of the garage and lugged it upstairs.

How is it that a gorgeous 17" Sony LCD monitor that is less than 2 years old is sitting here lifeless, while this no-name 17" CRT monitor that I bought for $79 in 1997 is working just fine? Granted, the dot pitch has me about ready to claw my eyeballs out, but it's working!

My Sony LCD has always been quirky. It has this problem where when I push the power button to turn it off, it turns it DEAD - ie. it turns off and I cannot turn it back on for 20 minutes, a half hour, an hour, two hours... all depends. It has never powered itself off though. It would run for days no problem, as long as I never turned it off. Usually, I'd turn it off when I went to bed (to save the screen), and by morning it would be back on standby and ready to turn back on. Not this time.

Vista was chugging along with its upgrade, and so I ran downstairs to cook some dinner. I came back upstairs, and the monitor was black, with no power or standby light. I rebooted the computer via a traumatic power button shutdown, hoping Vista was truly done installing. (It was). Still nothing on the monitor. Upon running to the garage, grabbing my P.O.S. monitor and plugging it in, voila - there's Vista, just waiting for me to tell it about my network.

I still have my Sony monitor plugged in but it hasn't come back to life yet.

The problem here is... this CRT monitor is so awful that I'm already getting a headache, and I've only been on the thing for 15 minutes or so. Looks like I'll be burning the plastic tomorrow to buy a new monitor. Might as well get that extra gig of RAM I've been wanting, while I'm at it.

On a side note... the Windows Vista upgrade went flawlessly. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. There's no way it was that easy. I'll post more about it when I actually believe that it worked.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ready for the holidays

My desktop on the PC is ready for the holidays:

Christmas Desktop 2006

Here's where I got this desktop image:

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cheap, Good Computer Speakers?

My 9 year old Altec Lansing computer speakers finally took a shit on me. (Best $72 I ever spent!) I need a new set of speakers with a woofer.

Any suggestions? Altec Lansings were the cat's ass back in 1997, but I've paid no attention since.

Preferably under $100. Super preferably in the $50-ish range.

XP Remote Desktop via Mac OS X

How trippy:

XP Remote Desktop on Mac OS X

That's a picture of me on my MacBook Pro, running Windows XP via the Microsoft Remote Desktop Client over a Hamachi VPN.


It's quite snappy for standard file browsing. I was even able to log into Ultima Online and get around the game. Granted, I won't be fighting any monsters, as it's a bit laggy in gaming, but it's definitely responsive enough to do little things - like access files and email them to myself!

Hamachi is pretty damn cool. It claims to be a zero-configuration VPN, and it pretty much is. Well, Hamachi is in fact zero config. It's Windows that isn't zero config. I had to do some registry editing to get Hamachi to run as a service under XP, in case I need to reboot that machine remotely. Other than that, piece of cake.

The OS X version of the Hamachi GUI (HamachiX) is still prerelease beta software, but it worked fine for me.

Here are the resources I consulted to get everything running:
Cyberonica - Hamachi How-To
Hamachi Forums - Remote Desktop

If I weren't so sleepy, I'd write up a how-to, since I had to sort of put things together piece-meal from various sources (though the Cyberonica article is the most cohesive one I found).

Hopefully, I can get my Hamachi VPN working at work too, so I can access files on my home PC while at work. Suhweet!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Faxing through Vonage

I've got Vonage VoIP phone service (love it). Occasionally, I need to send a fax (maybe 2 or 3 times a year). It's not often enough to sign up for the dedicated Vonage fax line or one of those fax-through-email services, but often enough that I don't want to be paying a buck a page at Kinko's.

I've read horror stories about people having trouble faxing through Vonage (since VoIP lines are not meant for faxing, or even standard modem communication, for that matter).

I was able to get things working on this end using my US Robotics 56K fax modem and the Windows XP fax service (built-in to XP). I had to crank the baud rate on my modem down to 9600 (and I've read of people going even lower). Also, I dialed the *99 prefix to guarantee the highest quality call through Vonage.

I'm on page 7 of an 11 page document, and it's sending just fine so far...

(Note: It would not send at 56K or before I dialed *99. It kept dying with a "fatal error").

Update: Success! 11 pages sent successfully.

The TiVo modem is also still dialing fine, since I hooked it up to a wireless modem jack.

Friday, November 03, 2006

MS to allow Vista reinstalls... duh

Ever get the feeling that companies make up this shit just to get people talking? There's no way Microsoft intended to limit Vista to TWO installs (ie. there's no way they didn't think of this issue with non-OEM systems themselves... that's just silly).

From Slashdot:

Claus Valca writes "I just spotted over on the Windows Vista Team Blog the news that the Windows Vista retail licensing terms are being revised. Looks like PC home-brew system builders have been let back into the Vista party!" From the article: "Our intention behind the original terms was genuinely geared toward combating piracy; however, it's become clear to us that those original terms were perceived as adversely affecting an important group of customers: PC and hardware enthusiasts. You who comprise the enthusiast market are vital to us for several reasons, not least of all because of the support you've provided us throughout the development of Windows Vista. We respect the time and expense you go to in customizing, building and rebuilding your hardware and we heard you that the previous terms were seen as an impediment to that -- it's for that reason we've made this change."

Monday, October 30, 2006

I am OS X

More Mac love for luku.

My quiz results - Which OS are you?

You are OS X. You tend to be fashionable and clever despite being a bit transparent.  Now that you've reached some stability you're expecting greater popularity.
Which OS are You?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Large disparate groups

Background: There's a competition called "My Dream App" that asks Mac OSX users to submit ideas for their dream application. The top 3 apps will be developed and turned into shareware apps, and the idea person wins a prize and 15% of the proceeds from the sales of their app.

The results: The top 3 apps as determined by web-wide voters were:

1. Atmosphere, a weather simulation and forecasting app
2. Portal, an app for syncing files, folders, and apps between 2 or more Macs
3. Cookbook, an app to streamline many kitchen and cooking activities

As I read through the comments on Ars Technica's post about the Dream App winners, I found this profound gem:

Posted October 26, 2006 @ 9:33PM by segphault
A cookbook and a weather application. That speaks volumes about the mentality of OS X users.

And the reply (which is really why I'm posting this):

Posted October 26, 2006 @ 11:36PM by macFanDave
That speaks volumes about the mentality of OS X users

Windows users would have chosen an anti-spyware tool, a Notepad replacement and a PowerPoint template that didn't look like it was created by a second-grader hopped up on Ritalin and Pixie Sticks.

Linux users would have chosen a package maker, something-something-ML that's like a python hanging on Rails held up by struts bobbing for perls, and a Konqueror control where if you click on Tux's . . . uh. never mind.

If you ever wanted proof that large disparate groups can only agree on the unispired and mediocre at best, look at who we Americans have put in charge!

Bravo! I got a laugh from it, anyway.

Monday, October 23, 2006

AMP web server package for Mac?

I had a heck of a time getting XAMPP for OS X installed on my Intel-based MacBook Pro tonight. Actually, I got it running just fine, but was having permissions issues. XAMPP requires that you start it as root/superuser, so I did so from the Terminal. However, my htdocs and all other folders were read-only to my main user account. I could change the permissions so that my user account could edit the files, but then I'd have to change the permissions back to the system owner.

So - how the heck do I get XAMPP installed so that I can develop and test on the same machine? (ie. edit the files in my htdocs folder, and test them via localhost in my web browser)

Does anyone know of a better "AMP" package for Mac OS X? (Apache, MySQL, PHP)

/edit - I found MAMP and it's working just fine.... ahhh how a Mac should be! Easy!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Who needs Windows?

I'm sitting in a hotel in Dallas, typing away on the MacBook Pro that my job has provided to me. It's been a few months, and I'm now comfortable doing tasks like configuring my Mac OSX environment and installing applications. The primary applications I use are available for Mac, so there hasn't been any adjustment required in that department. I use Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Microsoft Office. Yup - they all come in Mac flavors - even Office.

This week has been the longest sustained Mac usage I've experienced, with no Windows access whatsoever. After learning how to use GarageBand to record podcasts the other day, I've decided I'm a convert. I already knew how to record and edit audio on Windows with Audacity, but it certainly isn't easy enough for my mom to do it. Podcasting with GarageBand? My mom could do it. Literally.

That got me thinking about Macs in general. In the past, one of my biggest criticisms of Mac machines was the fact that software is much less abundant and a bit more expensive (in some cases) than software for Windows. I'd say, "Would you rather walk into Best Buy and have one measly aisle of software to choose from, or lots of aisles?"

Here's the thing: who needs aisles of software, when each Mac application is typically superior to its Windows counterpart? Why do I need 5 different choices for the same application, from different manufacturers, when I can have ONE that works wonderfully?

This MacBook Pro looks good. It's slick. The screen is gorgeous. Its battery lasts much longer than my Pentium 4 Windows-based laptop. This MacBook Pro is innovative. My 2-year-old Windows based laptop is just about useless right now because its power plug has come loose and will no longer charge the battery properly. This Mac has a magnetic power plug that easily pulls away from the machine in the event of emergency (such as, tripping over the power cable). This MacBook Pro just works. I have yet to have it crash on me. (I had trouble with it early on, but it turns out I didn't understand how to implement the power management features).

Tonight, since I'm stuck in a hotel with limited television options, I went to the web site to listen to the Flyers hockey game online. When I clicked the "listen now" link, my browser informed me that I was missing a plugin.... GULP. NHL Radio requires Windows Media Player. I nearly shrieked, "Nooooooooooooooooo!" thinking that I might have found one reason why I needed Windows in my life. A little googling and I discovered that there is a plugin that allows Quicktime player to play Windows Media files - and Microsoft endorses it. (In fact, I got the link from Microsoft's web site). It's called "Flip4Mac," and it works like a charm. (No reboot required! Gosh I love this Mac).

The only thing I've been able to think of that I can't do on this Mac is play Ultima Online, and with BootCamp's ability to boot my Intel-based Mac into Windows, I could even play UO if I wanted to. I haven't tried BootCamp, but I will soon.

Who needs Windows??

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Release Candidates

Firefox Version 2, Release Candidate 2 is available for download. (Firefox 2 - RC2)

I ran RC1 on a computer at work and had no problems, so now I'm running RC2 on my computer at home. I like some of the interface tweaks. I've only been using it for an hour or so, so I don't have a good feel for it yet, but it's been stable thus far and I'm excited for the upgrade.

I also downloaded an iso for Windows Vista Release Candidate 2 last night. (Windows Vista RC2)

I had downloaded RC1 and burned it to DVD, but never installed it. I've got RC2 as well, and have not installed it. Dare I? There's no way I'd install it as my main machine. Too many bugs. However, I've been toying with the idea of repartitioning my hard drive and installing it as a dual-boot scenario. Still, any such thing risks effing up my whole system, and with Windows, the likelihood of things getting screwed up is always high.

I'm still not sure if I'll try Vista RC2. I've been reading good things about it, though.

Funny how my faith in beta version software is so different for two different companies.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Vonage and Tivo: Success at Last

For those of you struggling to get your Tivo boxes to dial out and make their daily calls via a Vonage or VOIP phone line... after years of struggle, I solved the problem in 5 minutes.

Go buy an RCA Wireless Modem Jack. (Be sure it's the MODEM jack, not the PHONE jack). Mine is model RC930. It's a wireless phone jack that runs via your power outlets. I'm currently NOT using my in-home phone wiring for Vonage, so this worked wonderfully.

Plug the base into your Vonage phone box. Then plug a phone into the base. (I have a VTech cordless 5.8 GHz phone with 3 handsets). Then take the remote piece of the wireless phone jack and plug it into an outlet near your Tivo. Set up the jacks as instructed, then plug the Tivo into the remote jack.

Voila. My Tivo dialed out with no modifications to the dialing prefix, and my phones are all working.

YEARS, I've struggled with this! All I needed was 5 minutes of installation time, a trip to Best Buy, and eighty bucks. Here's a link to the one I bought:

I've had no interference with my wireless phones or with my 802.11g wireless network thus far.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

8 meg connection... tasty!

I just got off the phone with Comcast, and after a cable modem reboot and a solemn promise to pay an extra ten bucks per month for service, my old 6 meg cable connection is now a shiny new 8 meg connection. I'm benchmarking at 8,600 kbps right now. For my trouble, they also double the upload speed, from a puny 356 kbps up to 712 kbps. I'm benchmarking 699 kbps right now.

Ahhh.... the joys of a phat pipe! (Bandwidth pipe, that is!)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bush on Technology

President Bush had this to say to recent college graduates about technology:

"Science offers the prospect of eventual cures for terrible diseases _ and temptations to manipulate life and violate human dignity," Bush said during commencement exercises at Oklahoma State University. "With the Internet, you can communicate instantly with someone halfway across the world _ and isolate yourself from your family and your neighbors."

That is quite possibly the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I've acquired and fostered more friendships online than I ever could face to face due to pure logistics. Even more importantly, I've kept in touch with face to face friends that I'd have lost touch with in the absence of technology. I probably talk to my mother MORE now (via email) than I did before she was online, due mainly to the fact that we work opposite schedules.

We sure do have an enlightened leader on our hands. Read the full article at the Washington Post.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

iPod Woes and Why Windows Sucks

This has been the most frustrating week for me and my beloved iPod. You see, I have a 4th gen iPod - the ones with the nifty color screens but sadly no video? Yeah, that one. I heart my iPod, truly and dearly.

Last week, when it came time to sync my podcasts, my iPod wasn't being detected in iTunes. Hmm. Weird. I unplugged the Pod of I and figured I'd try again another day. The next day, everything worked as expected. A few days later, I tried to sync again, and - same problem. No iPod. The next day, still no iPod.

I started searching Apple's support pages, and found this article on the 5 R's and other iPod troubleshooting steps. I tried the first 4 R's - reset the iPod, retry a different USB port, restart computer, remove iTunes and reinstall. None of them helped. I resigned myself to the fate of having to reload the damn iPod. Last night, I did the last R - Restore - and formatted the iPod, wiping out all of my music. Then, I booted up iTunes and my iPod was again detected - as the H: drive. Oddly, though, the capacity was displaying incorrectly. It's a 20GB iPod, but was showing up as having 21GB used and 30-something free. My entire library is less than 7GB of music, so this baffled me. But - at least the iPod was detecting.

As I pulled up iTunes, I found it odd that the "new iPod setup wizard" didn't start up. I manually set my iPod options, and told iTunes to copy my library back onto my iPod. An eternity later, the process was done. I unplugged my iPod and went to bed.

Fast forward to this morning. Time to update the podcasts. I plugged in the iPod, and... it's not being detected in iTunes! WTF?!?!? I unplugged it and scrolled through the menu, and it was blank! None of my songs copied over.

Cue rage.

After calming myself, I dug back into Apple's support documents. I tried booting the iPod into disk mode to see if I could see it in My Computer on Windows. I could not see it, but it did detect in Device Manager as a USB Mass Storage device. I tried a new data cable. No luck. I tried thinking back to anything I might have done over the last couple weeks on my computer that might affect this. I hadn't dropped the iPod or anything, so I just couldn't imagine something being wrong with the device itself. Running out of options, I double-checked to make sure that my iPod was still under warranty. Yup, 85 days left of the 1 year warranty.

Then, I came across a tiny little blurb buried deep in a support article:

"Windows confuses iPod with network drive and may keep iPod from mounting or songs may seem to disappear"

Suddenly, the "H:" clicked with me. A couple weeks ago, I mapped a network drive on my local wireless network to access a folder on my laptop from my desktop computer. (The iPod syncs to my desktop computer). How could my iPod be claiming drive letter H: when that's my mapped network drive???!

I went into My Computer and disconnected the mapped network drive. I plugged my iPod back in, and immediately the "set up your new iPod" wizard appeared. Right now, my library is being copied back onto my iPod, and I am completely certain that this will solve the problem.

Why, oh why, must Windows suck so horribly?

I'm an IT person and a Windows expert. I use Windows on a daily basis, and have mastered all of the extra crap we as Windows users must do to secure our machines from viruses, spyware, and hacking threats. Ever since the Mac OS put a shiny *nix OS under the hood, I've peered over the fence and wondered if the grass truly is greener on the other side.

You see, I'm also a Linux user. My desktop system has, at times, been strictly a Linux box. My problem is that there are a few pieces of software that I need to use on a near-daily basis that have no true Linux equivalents or don't run well in emulation or virtualized. I'm in love the the stability I get from Linux. Unfortunately, I'm a slave to my favorite applications, and it's not worth living without them just to be a Penguin Head.

However, my favorite apps are in fact available for Mac. It's likely that I'd achieve the same stability as a Linux box with a Mac box, due to the *nix inside. And now, with the announcement of Apple Bootcamp (which will allow Mac systems to dual-boot Windows), the only thing stopping me from buying a Mac is...


The price.

However, there is a possibility of a MacBook Pro laptop in my future via my job, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm going to fall in love with it. It certainly will be nice to be able to test drive a Mac before sinking any hard earned cash into one. With the devout loyalty of the Apple crowd, I have a feeling that no test drive is necessary.

Oh - and the library copy is done. My iPod is up and fully operational, no thanks to Windows bugs.

My next post might be as an Apple convert...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Good web hosting deal

As an alternative to seeking out venture capitalist investors, the guys that run the Web 2.0 podcast are offering a sweet web hosting deal through their company, Steel Pixel. Check it out if you're in the market for hosting services. I just might need to invest in one of these...

Friday, March 31, 2006

OMG!!! Ponies!!!

I'm still rolling :)

(Go see Slashdot while you still can)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

First Impression: Google Page Creator

I got the nod to check out Google's new Page Creator, a web-based tool for building web sites and hosting them under your Google account.

It's pretty fool-proof. The interface is basic, which - for the intended audience - is a good thing. The templates they provide are plentiful (if not a bit boring), and the page hints are easy to follow. There are tools to help with things like testing hyperlinks, which is nice. You can edit the HTML code of each section by hand, if desired, but cannot edit the page as a whole.

I created a page that I thought was nice, and took it for a test drive. I was pretty impressed - I had a nice enough looking web page in under 5 minutes.

However, when I ran it through the W3C HTML code validator, it failed miserably. The document states a doctype of XHTML strict, which impressed me, but the code failed with simple things like improper break tags (no closing forward-slash or closing tag) and no "type" declared in the javascript script call. Ambitious move Google is making, going for a "strict" doctype, but I can only hope they fix these simple errors prior to the product coming out of beta.

On the upside, the layouts are all table-less and done with CSS, which gets a thumbs-up from me.

In all, I like where this project is going. It's easy enough for my mom to use, and the end result looks decent. I hope Google fixes the code errors. Google Page Creator isn't going to put my web development company out of business, but it will lower the bar for the skill level required for users to create a basic web presence.

I give it a tentative thumbs up.

Check out Shelly's site on Google Pages.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Transparent Technology

I have to give some kudos to Why? I was thinking about something today. I was thinking that the best applications (be them standalone software apps or web applications) are those in which the technology is transparent to the user. By that, I mean that the user is free to focus on the intent of the app, rather than struggle with or jump through hoops with the technology behind it. Bloglines is one such app.

I use bloglines every day to maintain my huge list of RSS subscriptions. However, I don't ever think about bloglines. I go to their web site and spend all of my time reading my new articles - and that's how it should be.

So many applications require much more struggle with the technology. One that comes to mind is Microsoft PowerPoint. It's quite a simple application, really. I gave a workshop to faculty on how to create a ppt presentation last week, and watching them struggle with the terminology, and then fight the menu system to find the right option to do what they wanted to do was almost painful. Yet, creating a basic presentation - in concept - is quite simple. Add slides containing your text and graphics to convey your message. Apply cute transition and sound effects. Save. Done. The user interface, however, is not nearly as intuitive as the concept, and therefore presents challenges for new users. The technology is definitely not transparent in PowerPoint.

I think that all developers should pay some attention to interface design - which is a much different process than designing the logic and functionality of an application. Too many apps separate visual design and design of logic, ignoring that bridging feature of interface design. I don't mean the pretty graphics themselves - that's the visual design. I mean, the design of how users will interact with the application. That's where more attention needs to be paid.

Kudos to for being a great example of transparent technology in a web application.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Windy City gears up to be Wireless City - Wireless World -

The Windy City gears up to be Wireless City - Wireless World - "The nationwide rush to go wireless appears poised to extend to its biggest city yet. Chicago is launching an effort to offer wireless broadband, city officials said Friday, jumping on the Wi-Fi bandwagon as similar initiatives proceed in Philadelphia, San Francisco and smaller cities. [more]"

Yay!!! (though I probably live too far into the suburbs to get in on the action). Still, cool.

Full Disclosure: Security Risks in Using Digital Documents

Editing tips from the NSA | CNET "Hiding confidential information with black marks works on printed copy, but not with electronic documents, the National Security Agency has warned government officials."

You may or may not know that Microsoft Word embeds a ton of information in your Word documents without your explicit knowledge: things like the date, author (as it was input when Word was installed), and other collaboration and tracking data. A lot of this is stored in "metadata" inside the document.

The article above from the National Security Agency lists recommended procedures for sanitizing documents prior to sharing them digitally or prior to converting them to PDF files.
Interesting read. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, at least go get Microsoft's add-in for Office so that you can review and delete metadata you don't want to share. It's called "Remove Hidden Data" and is for Office 2003 and XP.

Microsoft "Remove Hidden Data" add-in for Office

Monday, February 06, 2006

IE7 Beta goes public

Microsoft's version 7 of Internet Explorer is finally available as a "preview" download. Is anybody else amused that they are using Flash as their primary technology on the IE7 web site? (Flash is an Adobe [formerly Macromedia] product).

Check out the Internet Explorer 7 web site for the preview beta download.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Testing Testing

This is a test post. hello!