Thursday, December 20, 2007

Unified Communications & work-life balance: a plea for 'off-duty' mode

Need a mode for mobile comms devices so that 'work stuff' doesn't bug you.
Email should arrive silently
phone calls from work contacts should go straight to voicemail (maybe with a 'press 1 if it's urgent and you really need to ring through')
IM status should be "off duty" (or "do not disturb" - but that kind of implies working really hard, doesn't it?)

Personal contacts, emails and IM's are allowed through though.

Saying "well, you can sset that up" - doesn't do any good for the vast majority of people who never even LOOK at the settings, much less change any of them. It needs to be a top-level, out of the box config.

Whoever delivers this functionality will be hailed as saviors, antidotes to the always-connected, always-interrupted life of the crackberry toters.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Testing 123

This is a test post.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Zen of Using COTS

One of my rules of thumb for COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) software is: use it the way the designers thought you would. That way you can cruise along the "happy path to success" instead of fighting the system and trying to use it in ways the designers didn't anticipate – encountering bugs and poor usability along the way.

You may have seen this idea writ large in ERP implementations as "adapt the business process to the system instead of vice versa". Think of this as the microscale version.

Or call it the Zen of using COTS.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Microsoft's "Vista Tips N Tricks" site ownz0r3d?

The Windows Vista Tps & Tricks site used to be a Microsoft site that had "tips and tricks for the non-technical user" faced with Windows Vista. ( has several captures of that content.)

But now, it shows... a biography of John "The Yank" Harrington ???

Hmm, looks like maybe someone snarfed up the domain registration away from MS?

Maybe this is one of those domain name registration renewals that the indicted MS embezzler claimed to have done but didn't....

Update: Google's cache of shows the bogus version, too.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Bug!

Scoble is right - this is TOO cool!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Paste Magazine's 50 best albums of 2007

I made a Rhapsody playlist that has 47 of 50 best albums of 2007 as selected by Paste Magazine. (Update: the article is online now. Doh! The web version has the best 100 albums!)

I'd already been listening to these albums before the list came out:
Joe Henry: Civilians (my recent post about Joe)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: 100 Days 100 Nights (thanks, Bach!)
Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
The Shins: Wincing the Night Away
Ryan Adams: Easy Tiger
Wilco: Sky Blue Sky
White Stripes: Icky Thump
Bruce Springsteen: Magic

I'm particularly enjoying these bands from the list:
The National
Band of Horses

I think Melissa will like:
the everybodyfields
The Avett Brothers

I don't know why these albums are on the list:
Norah Jones
Amy Winehouse
These albums from the list aren't available on Rhapsody at the moment:
Battles: Mirrored (MySpace page)
Olof Arnalds: Vid Og Vid (online store with previews)
Radiohead: In Rainbows (You've heard about this, right?)

The new charts has updated its charts. Now with shiny flashiness! This is a test so I can decide whether I want to replace the old charts that've been living in my blog sidebar.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Now that's a reception!

Saudi King Abdullah visits London and is received by the Queen and British PM Gordon Brown. Her Majesty's band plays a most appropriate fanfare to welcome him. (Hint: it's one of Zeb's favorite songs.)

Hard to believe this is real, but it is!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Netflix 'Watch Now' on XP on VMware Fusion on Mac OS X

I'm SOOOO close to being able to use Netflix's on-demand 'Watch Now' feature. Just one leeetle problem is standing in my way - DRM.

I've got VMware Fusion running WinXP SP2/IE7 on Mac OS X 10.4. I've installed the Netflix viewer software, and I can get as far as the movie player web page with the red Netflix opening screen and bandwidth check.

Then this lovely message comes up: "Instant watching message: Continue to your video by clicking the Play button when it appears below." But the Play button is greyed out, and it never ungreys.

The first time I tried this, there was an error message about a license, but instead of bothering to grab a screenshot, I just rebooted XP. That error message hasn't come back again.

Aha, I am not the only person who has run into this problem. This digg comment suggests updating Windows Media Player. Fair enough, I've still got WMP 9, and in fact previously told Windows Update to stop offering me WMP 11.

And.... success!!!!

Of course if I'd just RTFM'd I would've seen that WMP 11 is required. But where's the fun in that?

Friday, October 19, 2007

How to win at computer security

Stop caring about keeping the client secure.

When it comes to security PCs, Rouland’s advice is radical: Give up.

“In the next generation,” he says, “we will all do business with infected end points,” he says.

He was asked to repeat what he said, just to be sure. So he did: “Our strategy is we have to figure out how you do business with an infected computer. How do you secure a transaction with an infected machine? Whoever figures out how to do that first will win.”

He's right.

But... wha???? Howdoyadodat?

That'll be the trick.

Also in the same series:

“The thing about MPACK,” says James, “this is the start of the whole thing.” By this he seems to mean that Golden Age of Internet Crime, that dawning era. “They’re starting to think like architects instead of engineers.” MPACK brings together the best iFrames, the best exploits and some state-of-the-art malware into a single package all of which is being improved constantly, and sold with a focus on customer service. In marketing parlance, it’s not a product, it’s a solution.

It's not pretty out there, folks.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Asked and Answered

Yeah, I think Vista is the new WinME.

Of course, I've only been running Vista for the past two years and two months (since Beta 1 in August '05) so what do I know.

Windows Vista: the new WinME?

I'm just asking.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Joe Henry is back!

Joe Henry has a new album out, Civilians. I've been liking it a lot. "Our Song" is a great track from it, starts out spotting Willy Mays in a Home Depot. Genuinely moving.

For some of Joe's older stuff, I love the albums Fuse and Short Man's Room. (You may have heard these in heavy rotation on my cd changer at Mac or on Madison.) "Monkey" and "Angels" are the first two songs from Fuse. He took his music sound in a totally different direction on this disc from where it'd been on his earlier records.

Short Man's Room is much more alt-country sounding; "Good Fortune" and "King's Highway" sound like The Jayhawks circa Hollywood Town Hall or Blue Earth. And they lyrics of the title track - well, the guy knows how to write.

More Joe factoids: he's been busy producing like a madman, and he's quite an excellent producer - see his Wikipedia entry for a partial discography (including Aimee Mann, Allan Touissant and Elvis Costello, and Loudon Wainwright III).

And his sister-in-law's surname is Ciccone. Yeah, she's even recorded one of his songs.

Click to listen on Rhapsody....

1. Our Song - Joe Henry
2. Monkey - Joe Henry
3. Angels - Joe Henry
4. Good Fortune - Joe Henry
5. Short Man's Room - Joe Henry
6. King's Highway - Joe Henry
7. Don't Tell Me - Madonna
8. Two Angels - The Jayhawks

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Iraq 2009

Around March 2009, don't be surprised if this is going on:
One sensed too that Iraq will in fact be issue No. 1 to be faced by the next president, whoever he or she is. That individual, in January 2009, will likely be faced by mischief makers of all stripes throughout the capital, with a question that is an artificial construct. "Did he see the mission through?" Or "Did he lose Iraq?" The latter would be most unjust, because we never had Iraq. We haven't found it, in spite of our best efforts, because the people of Iraq never found it. And it was their nation to find. This seemed clearer than ever this week, which was part of the reason for the sighing.
(via Andrew Sullivan)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Searching Rhapsody from your web browser's search box

You can add Rhapsody to the search box in your web browser's toolbar.
(Yeah, I know, this isn't anything you couldn't figure out for yourself just by following directions.)

Adding Rhapsody search to Firefox:
1. Click this link.
2. Click on the link for the Rhapsody plugin (not the link that says

Adding Rhapsody search to Internet Explorer 7:

1. Copy this URL
2. Go to the web page for "adding search providers to IE7"
3. Paste the URL into the Create Your Own box
4. Type Rhapsody into the next field.
5. Click Install.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Podcasts via Rhapsody

I've been trying to find out for months whether it's possible to get both podcasts AND Rhapsody To Go on a single device.

As far as I can tell, it can't be done.

My 3rd gen, 30gb iPod croaked this week after i dropped it one too many times - at first, there was just a problem where the dock connector was tweaked out of alignment, so it wouldn't sync. Then the hard drive started having read & write errors, and now it is kaput. I've had it for years and years, so I feel like I definitely got my money's worth.

Now that Apple is going to introduce new iPod models in 2 days, I have a choice to make:
1. get a new iPod (I need a hard-drive based one, 8 or even 16gb is not enough space for me)
2. borrow Melissa's 3rd-gen iPod (no video)
3. get a Rhapsody-to-go compatible player (no podcasts, but access to a very big library of new music to listen to while on the go).

So if anyone out there knows how to get a Rhapsody to go player (especially one of the Sansa's) to work with podcasts, please let me know!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A "Joel Test" for infrastructure/operations groups

So - Joel Spolsky has famously (well, famously among a certain type of techies) spelled out a simple test to evaluate how good at software development a shop is.

It's really simple:

The Joel Test
1. Do you use source control?
2. Can you make a build in one step?
3. Do you make daily builds?
4. Do you have a bug database?
5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
7. Do you have a spec?
8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
10. Do you have testers?
11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?
12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

I highly recommend you pop over and read his blog post about this, it's just a page or so.

I'll wait.

Ok, so the question is - can we come up with a similar list for infrastructure/operations groups? I'm particularly coming at this from the POV of an enterprise client group - desktop/laptop/mobile systems - but I suspect similar issues will apply across many types of infrastructure.

Something that is to the Joel Test what ITIL is to SEMA.

Although there is a defined scoring criteria for SEMA - CMMI - there is not such a scorecard for ITIL that I'm aware of. (This in no way proves that no white crows exist.) Hmm, could there actually be an ISO standard in the works? Oh my.

If an ISO standard is approaching, I think a Joel Test for infrastructure is very badly needed!

So, here's a late night, staying up late to catch the eclipse, first draft, unconsidered stab at it.

1. Do you use source control?

Basically the same, but instead of source-code oriented, oriented towards saving, organizing, and tracking the artificats needed for running infrastrucutre: config files, manifests, scripts, documentation, install packages and system images?

2. Can you make a build in one step?

This translates easily. Can you deploy a system in one step, fully automated, the same way every time?

3. Do you make daily builds?

A bit trickier.

4. Do you have a bug database?

Same. But more of a problem/incident database than strictly speaking a bug database.

Don't worry Joel, you can use FogBugz for this, too. :-)

5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?

Ah.... might have to punt on this for the moment, while giving a quick nod to the canard about choosing between delivering new systems vs. refactoring creaky systems that are held together with duct tape. (It's a false dilemma. More on that in a future draft?)

6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?

Should be adaptable. "Do you know who is working on what tasks, and have an idea when they should be done?"

7. Do you have a spec?


8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?

Yeah! (s/programmers/sysadmins/)

9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?


10. Do you have testers?


11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?

Ummm... ? Do new candidates fix broken systems during their interview? Do new candidates review system requirements specs written by BA's and see the obvious problems? ("Ah, you are specifying that the system uses MS Java Virtual Machine - that is end of life, and won't be available on Vista, never mind Linux or Mac. Suggest you specify Sun Java instead.")

12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

Do you have a pilot group of real users? Do you use them while it's still early enough to make a difference? Do you really try hard to get their feedback? Do you listen to it?

So, to make this Joel-Test-ish, let's summarize:

1. Do you use version control for documentation, scripts, binaries, and other artifacts needed to build and run your systems?
2. Can you deploy a system in one step?
3. Do you monitor your environment for compliance with its desired state and to see deviations (unusual events) when they happen?
4. Do you have a bug (issue/problem) database?
5. (not sure this works, but:) Do you think you have to choose between fixing problems and deploying new systems?
6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
7. Do you have a spec?
8. Do sysadmins have quiet working conditions?
9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
10. Do you have testers?
11. (needs work - suggestions?)
12. Do you pilot to real users?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Digital River: 6 years of suckage and still going strong!

I just read this article in Ed Foster's Gripeline about yet another Digital River customer getting ripped off.

Back in 2001, I had my final, terrible experience with Digital River. I wrote the whole thing up on my website.

Ever since then, I've received countless emails from frustrated people tearing their hair out over the bizarre, terrible, and perhaps fraudulent misbehavior of Digital River.

No doubt I receive these messages because a) they can't get anyone at Digital River to respond to them and b) my rant is the #1 google result for "digital river awful", #2 for "digital river sucks" and #4 for "digital river terrible".

As for me, I've refused to purchase any software online if I find myself staring at Digital River. This has directly resulted in thousands of dollars in lost sales for vendors who choose to use DR.

Sad to see it hasn't changed at all in 6 years.

For your reading pleasure, here are just a few of the many, many, many DR emails I've received. Names obscured to protect the innocent.

I needed to read your website BEFORE digital river took $164.00 twice out of my bank account, while sending me nothing! I am a college student and needed to update my trial version of microsoft office so I could finish my internet class assignment. I ordered the update only to receive a message saying that "there was a problem with your payment". After checking my bank account, I saw that there should be no problem. So I naively backed out and placed my order a second time. There was still a payment problem. After checking my account the second time, I notice that Digital River had secured $164 twice out of my available funds in my bank account, and yet I had received nothing from them!!! No email, no way to contact them! I immediately sent an email to customer service, telling them that they better not take that money out of my account and that I want a full refund.
Anyways, got a zero on my assignment (received no product), Digital River took both transactions of $164 twice out of my bank account, after I sent a refund request, and all I got two days later is an email that says they will send me a refund within 5-7 days. Meanwhile, I have no money left, no software program, and will fail another assignment or two before they refund me my money! There goes my GPA!!!!!!!!!!!!
Amber W.

I also was duped in the same manner, only the software I purchased totally crashed my PC. Now I am unable to even get through to D.R. to talk about a refund, but I have in fact found a better way to deal with there incompetence, I just called my Credit Card provider and was assured that they would receive none of the $ 61.00 that they charged me for software that neither worked, but did manage to crash a brand new notebook. I have tried as you did to solve the problem without being rude or argumentative, but all I received in return was errors on the website and absolutely no customer service what so ever. I would suggest to anyone even thinking of buying from “Digital River” to close your browser and go to the local software store and never look back!
Regards, Steven M.

I just found your article on the internet re Digital River and your experiences with them. I'm having similar problems with DR in that I purchased a MS Money program, unknowingly through them or not understanding at the time that this is a 3rd party vendor, and now that I had a computer breakdown, had to do a restore, and need to re-download my copy of MS Money, what a nightmare? Can't reach them, can't get a response, no acknowledgment of anything, and if I had seen your article first, I would have known better. It appears to me that they are no better than when you had your experience in 2001. Now it appears I will be forced to re-purchase the program to get it on my "restored" computer and for obvious reasons, I'm very unhappy not to mention the number of hours I've already spent trying to get through to them.

Just wondered if you have heard from others with similar experiences, and I would like to get my story out on the internet for others to see, however I'm not sure how to do that. Maybe you could clue me how to do this. These people (Digital River) should be out of business. This is rediculous.

Thanks for listening.


Tim A.

I have just finished reading about your travails - a mild term in view of the frustrations you encountered - while trying to get some help to download pc cillin internet security 14 from Digital River bought on 10 March 06. I have spent some 12 hours trying to do this over and over again because I figure with my lack of computer sophistication that I was doing something wrong. Finally, four days ago I gave up and sent for help via the attached email. I have received NOTHING in response. And of course I have paid for the product and have an order confirmation, serial number. Oh, how I wish I had read your long painful message first.
Any advice would be appreciated as I am not protected at the moment from viruses and the like.
John C.
PS I am sending a copy of this to Digital River but I am not expecting any thing will be done.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New realms of suckage

Microsoft's new whitepaper on benchmarking Vista performance caused me to say that it could be useful for determining whether add-ons (like antivirus software) were responsible for dragging Vista performance down into new realms of suckage.

One of my co-workers liked the phrase. I thought it was a Buffy-ism, but a google search for it revealed zero hits.

This post should change that. :-)

(Update 8/12/2007 - Yes!!! I now ownz3rs "new realms of suckage"! w00t!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Open Library demo site

The Open Library has a demo site up. This is going to be amazing....

To get a taste, look at this.

Want to know more? Take the tour.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Things to do in Seattle in the summer

For friends visiting the first week of August:

Check the Seattle Weekly's calendar to see if there's anything interesting going on. Also check The Stranger's calendar.

Early August is mainly Seafair here. I think the Blue Angels might be buzzing Seattle while you're here. The fleet may be in as well (at which point downtown fills up with sailors and everyone - well, at least those who are into sailors in uniform - goes all a-twitter).

Let's see, there's also First Thursday - monthly art gallery etc walkaround in Pioneer Square. Guess what night that is....

If you have an urge to ride in a ridiculous vehicle blowing a quacker, Riding the Duck is actually a nice way to get a tour of parts of Seattle.

You can also take one of the ferry tours, but to be honest, just taking the regular WA DOT ferry round trip over to Vashon or Bremerton, wandering around on the other end for an hour or three, and then taking the ferry back, is better imho. Very nice way to spend a morning/lunch, but the weather has a better chance of being sunny later in the morning.

Pshew! Ok, somebody else pitch in some ideas, I'm empty for now.

(Mel says the underground tour.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Marc Andreessen, lovin' on social networks

I think this is a good post, not so much because of Ning itself, but because Marc sees what's happening here. (But you don't know what that is, do you, Mr. Jones?)

Why Ning?: "After 12 years of experimentation, when I and a lot of other people tried a lot of experiments to try to figure out how people everywhere were really going to use this marvelous collective invention, I think it's becoming crystal clear what some of the defining characteristics of the Internet really are.

Giving people the ability to communicate in many new ways -- making geography finally irrelevant.

Giving people the ability to express themselves in many new ways -- the impact of the printing press, magnified a millionfold.

Giving people the ability to create their own worlds for everything they care about -- and connecting with everyone else who shares the same interests, goals, and dreams.

These are things that previous technology and media -- telephone, telegraph, paper mail, fax, television, radio, newspapers, magazine -- occasionally approached in sharply limited and fragmented ways... but now with the Internet are available to over a billion people worldwide already and a lot more every day.

And I think that over the next several years we are going to see an unleashing of creativity and innovation in this realm that will make the 1990's look like a sideshow act.

It's a magical time, and I couldn't be more fired up to be a part of it."


The question for me is, with all these wonderful tools, will it change the way people behave? (Both individually and as a global society.)

I'd love to see our world get some basic project management and architectural abilities:
- identify major sources of risk and ways to evaluate and mitigate those risks
- define goals - what the hell you want to accomplish
- understand implications and future effects of things we are planning to do, and things that are already part of the system

Saturday, June 23, 2007

How to not hate Rhapsody

I've been using the web version of Rhapsody all week. Aside from not syncing with a portable player, it actually works MUCH better than the Rhapsody fat client (which doesn't work on Mac OS X anyway). It does everything else I need Rhapsody to do for me - except act as a source for my Roku SoundBridge, drat!

And I haven't had ANY of the "ARrrg!! WTF?>> 'I hate Rhapsody, but it's worth $10 a month'" experience that I'd been having SO much with the fat client on Windows.

So, I suggest if you haven't recently, give the web version of Rhapsody a try.

This is on Firefox 2.0.4 on Mac OS X 10.4.9, btw.

(I should note that the main reason I use Rhapsody for subscription-based music is that a few of my friends who I share music recommendations with are addicted - if it wasn't for that I'd try a bunch of the others.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Windows toolbelt

These are the things I install on every single frickin' Windows box I build (and yes, I know, but you're wrong, that won't work for me):

Firefox (with and Googlepedia)
Google and Wikipedia search providers for IE7
Process Explorer

Note that Process Explorer is not quite as much of an absolute requirement on Vista as it is on XP/2k, thanks to the new Resource Monitor, which is hiding behind an innocuous button on Vista's Task Manager Performance tab. Also, cool new thing from Russinovich is Process Monitor, but I'm still very comfortable with PE and so only check out PM from time to time.

Also - this is a good toolbox list.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Buffy Buffy Buffy! (Season 8!)

With the first several episodes written by Joss himself!

It's a comic book....


"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans can be called many things -- vocal, prolific, perhaps even rabid -- but they're seldom described as "patient." In the four long years since the last episode of the show's seven-season run, they've had to satisfy their Buffy cravings by poring over old episodes, dressing up at conventions, playing along with a variety of games, and slaking their thirst with Buffy-related books and comics. Many have found diversions in Joss Whedon's other projects like "Angel" and "Firefly." But since the closing line of the Buffy TV finale -- "What are we going to do now?" -- many fans have been dying to know exactly that: What happens next for Buffy and the Scooby Gang? Some inspired followers have even taken matters into their own hands, creating their own fan films and dozens of scripts for a would-be eighth season. But now, finally, the wait is over for an official Season Eight, and the Buffyverse is no longer confined to the special effects budget of a minor TV network. The canonical Season Eight takes place on the pages of Dark Horse Comics, with Joss Whedon himself writing the first few issues/episodes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

No-No by a landslide!

No-No is in the lead in early returns... but it'll be another day or three before final results from people who mailed 'em today come in.

But I don't see anyway it turns out different from No-No, not with 29% of registered voters' ballots already counted.

And man, the tunnel sure got stomped. 30-70! Ouch! Guess we'll have a new mayor next time around. Bye Greg.... Peter Stienbrueck for mayor!

(In case you're completely baffled - which should apply to anyone reading this who does not live in Seattle - I'm talking about Seattle's special election on replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct with a new viaduct, a tunnel, or none of the above.)

Friday, March 09, 2007


It’s been a long time since there was a true generation gap, perhaps 50 years—you have to go back to the early years of rock and roll, when old people still talked about “jungle rhythms.” Everything associated with that music and its greasy, shaggy culture felt baffling and divisive, from the crude slang to the dirty thoughts it was rumored to trigger in little girls. That musical divide has all but disappeared. But in the past ten years, a new set of values has sneaked in to take its place, erecting another barrier between young and old. And as it did in the fifties, the older generation has responded with a disgusted, dismissive squawk. It goes something like this:

Ok, I've only read the first page of this article.
But I already have to chuckle to myself. Y'know what we're going to call this generation? Something like "Youth 2.0"
Kinda fits, what with all our political movements being neo (-conservative, -populist, -lithic) these days.
Neo's just fancy talk for 2.0.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bruce Sterling is so right - Web 2.1

(sigh) The grim realizations this brings me.... You know what? In ten years, I'm gonna be walking around with my googlemapping spimedetecting iPhone clone, dumping scraps of geolocative video into my socially-networking personality cult... I can smell that already.


Those *&&%$$ blogger revolutionaries! They're worse than the 90s dot-com boomers! They're more disruptive. They're violently disruptive. They are not just kiting stocks, they are really tearing into the fabric of reality.

What a thing to see.

Go read the whole thing.

Monday, March 05, 2007

One way to fix a video problem in Ubuntu

So, now that the Vista betas are over, I gave my home test PC a break from monthly (or sometimes weekly) reinstalls of Microsoft's latest, and installed Ubuntu. Ah, what a relief! It all just worked!

I even pointedly told some Microsofties how much less painful Ubuntu was to install and run.

All was good for weeks, until... all of a sudden, my machine would only display at 800x600 or 640x480! And the cursor was on the wrong place onscreen - it was offset by about 2" from the place the clicks would actually register. So, no good. And I get enough trolling google and RTFM'ing in my day job, I don't need more of that from my home PC.

So I put the Vista install DVD in the drive, and rebooted - but missed hitting the key to boot from DVD.

And what do you know, Ubuntu healed itself!

I guess it was scared of being replaced....

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Instant Netflix!

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.