Archive for March, 2006

"out of the box" eclipse picture

March 30, 2006 Comments off

145622main_image_feature_538_ys_4NASA – Total Solar Eclipse.

I’ve always wondered what a solar eclipse would look like from space.  Now I know!

Categories: Uncategorized

New toy on the way!

March 29, 2006 Comments off

Dell620QSI am proud to say that I have a new gadget on the way, and I guarantee I’ll use it every day.  Just ordered through our corporate Dell account is the brand-spaking-new Dell Latitude D620 (pictured).  This is Dell’s latest notebook generation, complete with features like integrated WiFi and cellular data support, fingerprint reader, SATA hard drive, and a 9–cell battery that Laptop Magazine purports to last up to 7 hours (no doubt with the screen dimed and not doing anything).

The current theory is that I’ll have this new puppy in 3–4 weeks, but hopefully this is another example of Dell overstating lead times so they can beat them.  🙂

The most suprising thing about the system I ordered was the price … a tad over $2000 with our corporate pricing.  Here’s are the hilights of what I got…

  • Intel Core Duo T2500 processor @ 2.0GHz with a 667MHz bus and 2MB L2 Cache
  • 14.1 inch 16:10 WXGA+ LCD capable of 1440×900 resolution
  • 2.0GB DDR2 667MHz SDRAMM; system can hold 4GB (2x2GB) if you can afford $1000 per memory stick
  • 256MB nVidia Quadro NVS 110M video card
  • 100GB 7200rpm SATA laptop hard drive
  • 8X DVD+/-RW optical drive
  • Gigabit wired NIC
  • Intel 3945 WiFi card
  • Verizon CDMA/EVDO cellular card
  • Dell 350 Bluetooth 2.0 card
  • Integrated fingerprint and smart card readers

This is going to be great!  One of the first things I want to do is connect to a wired network, a WiFi network, Verizon’s EVDO network (will transfer service from my existing PCMCIA card), and Bluetooth all at the same time.  Hopefully that will be enough radiation! 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized SPORTSNATION – Tourney challenge: By the numbers

March 27, 2006 Comments off SPORTSNATION – Tourney challenge: By the numbers.

Ha … there were four brackets submitted on ESPN that got the Final Four right.  That’s four out of more than [give me your best Dr. Evil here…] 3 million people!  WOW.  As Adam Barr surmised, “They must have all grown up in Louisiana, gone to GMU, done graduate work in Florida, and now work in L.A. Or something.”

I was just telling Alicea this weekend that I remember being in college when ESPN did their first online bracket challenge (I forget the year … ‘96 or ‘97 probably).  I played along and got completely hammered by a weird year like we’ve been having this year.  In the end, though, there was 1 guy who got every single game right.  Now THAT is skill!  Either that or it was Marty McFly….

Oh, and before you ask how my brackets did I have to state that I didn’t fill any out this year … I haven’t for years now.  While growing up we religiously cut out the bracket from the newspaper and stuck it on the fridge for March … updating it by hand after each game ended.  And yes, we did learn to use pencil and not rule a game over until the final buzzer.  A few years back (before we moved to Seattle) I went in on a pool AND WON!  I never saw the reward though, and that’s spoiled me.  Just hasn’t been the same since.

Maybe next year…

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Honest advertising

March 23, 2006 Comments off

I just saw a commercial on CBS (just turned on the NCAA tourney Sweet 16 game between Gonzaga and UCLA) for th US Navy.  Bunch of action shots of … well shots.  Rockets being fired from jets, submarines, ships, etc.  Here’s the tag line…

“The US Navy – because rocket science is more fun when you actually have rockets.”

At least they’re honest.  🙂

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IE7 Beta 2 Preview feedback

March 20, 2006 Comments off

So I’ve been watching the keynotes streamed online for the Microsoft Mix06 conference.  Pretty interesting stuff to watch in BillG’s session, especially the geeks behind  150+ servers to publish their user home pages … and just their home pages.  Running 64–bit Windows and 64–bit SQL 2005.  Nifty!

Anyway, a new preview build of IE7 Beta 2 was published today to coincide with the conference.  I downloaded it and threw it on my virtual Windows XP SP2 machine (I tried an IE beta on my main laptop once … BIG mistake).  Here’s a list of the issues I identified within the first 5 minutes of using IE 7.

  1. Yahoo’s portal doesn’t remember my identification, even though I selected the “remember me” box on the sign in page.  I use MyYahoo as my home page on all my workstations.  IE 7 remembers me during a session, but once I close the application it kills the bits (cookie?) that allows Yahoo to identify me as a returning (and logged in) member.  I also tried this with (local TV station) and had the same behavior.  I can’t find a way (something to turn off) to make that work.  And if I can’t do it, how is my mom going to use this?
  2. We use SharePoint internally at my organization as our intranet portal.  In IE6 if I connect to a local server (not behind a firewall) it will pass through authentication from my Windows logon session (I’m logged into our domain).  IE7 didn’t do this.  My coworker tried the first beta 2 preview a few weeks ago and figured out a bunch of settings to get this to work, but geesh.  Corporations that have spent a lot of effort towards single sign on are going to HATE this.
  3. The Blogger Atom feed for the blog you’re reading ( doesn’t work.  In fact, IE7 says the “feed download was interrupted” and continues to blame the server!  “This is possibly due to a server error or an interrupted Internet connection.”  Funny – it seems to work just fine in RSS Bandit.  I don’t do anything special to that feed, in fact it’s totally automatically generated by the Blogger service and then published to my server via FTP.  I can only extrapolate from this that the millions of Blogger feeds out there can’t be subscribed to in IE7.  LAME.

So my conclusion from about 5 minutes spent with IE7 is that while the interface is a lot better, and the security is better, and it’s ability to display content (CSS, etc.) is better … IT IS NO WHERE NEAR READY to be deployed in the wild.  And if some of these things aren’t address, then deploying IE7 in our organization (about 80 client machines) is going to be a nightmare.

Categories: Uncategorized

Escher in real life

March 14, 2006 Comments off

I came across this in Boing Boing this morning.  That’s pretty cool!

Get your profile lathed into a dowel, become an Escher print:







[Via Boing Boing]

Categories: Uncategorized

How to build a darn big plane

March 11, 2006 1 comment

How to build an Airbus A380 in about 7 Mins – Google Video.

I know it’s somewhat blasphemous for someone who lives in Boeing country (Seattle, WA) to post this, but the video at this link is really cool to watch.  Would I like to see one of these?  Sure.  Would I want to fly on one – heck no.  It takes 20+ minutes to board a regular jet with 150 people.  Can you imagine how long it’s going to take to board 500–600 people?  No thanks.

I personally think Boeing’s got the right idea with smaller, more fuel efficient jets making direct runs instead of bigger jets only linking major hubs (which is Airbus’ bet with the A380).  Under the Boeing model I might need to make 1 connection between here and my destination.  In the Airbus model it’s likely I’d have to fly from my starting location to a major hub, then an A380 to the next major hub, and then a smaller jet to my final destination.  No thanks.

I should have entitled this post “No thanks.”  🙂

Categories: Uncategorized

Scott Adams – he’s not nuts

March 9, 2006 Comments off

You really need to read this article.  Great humor and an amazing story to boot.  Thanks for sharing Scott!

…As you might imagine, when you tell a doctor that you think you have a very rare condition, that doctor will tell you that it’s very unlikely. Your first impulse might be to point out that “very rare” is a lot like “very unlikely,” but you don’t do that, because doctors have wide latitude in deciding which of your orifices they will use for various medical apparati….
[Via The Dilbert Blog]

Categories: Uncategorized

Pinball isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

March 9, 2006 2 comments

Adam Barr posted an interesting article today – Microsoft’s New Pinball Wizard: Robert Scoble:

…If you can get Scoble interested in your prototype, so that he blogs about it, does a Channel 9 video, etc. then beyond the immediate satisfaction of recognition, you have the potential to push it closer to the more significant goal of executive approval. In the end Scoble cannot greenlight any projects, but he can throw significant weight behind them. External users can weigh in on the merits and deficiencies of an idea, and early-stage communities can form around them much sooner than in the current system. Plus, the conversation is now taking place (at least partly) on a public blog, so it is much more transparent….
[Via Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters]

Adam, while I follow your logic I don’t quite agree.  Yes, projects for new products need to get sold internally at Microsoft (and any other manufacturer of a tangible or virtual product).  BUT, I disagree that Scoble is a force behind getting things pushed through that process.  Rather Scoble is an evangelist for projects that have already run the gauntlet.  MS’s legal team would never want him to disclose products or ideas that aren’t making it to market – why give a leg up to the competitors and let them know you’re going to tack before you execute the maneuver?

Channel 9’s role, in the cynical view of the world, is to be the first out of the gate to generate marketing excitement in the user community; or to at least fan the flames that have already been started.  Sure, I’ll grant you that some of the stuff shown out of the MS Research teams is advanced and not ready to hit the market yet, but I’ll bet you the patents or other legal protections are in place for that intellectual property before it shows up on the business end of a Ch.9 video camera.

That all being said, I can’t agree more that services like Channel 9 and people like Robert Scoble (and blogs like the Blogger Status blog I wrote about earlier today) are definitely changing the way companies interact with their users.  Perhaps your underlying point here, Adam, is that we’re seeing companies realize that they need to involve the user community in product decisions more than they used to.

Because if they don’t then someone else will create what the market is looking for, and the online community will help evangelize your competitor instead of you!  🙂

Categories: Uncategorized

Excellence in customer communication

March 9, 2006 Comments off

I want to take a moment and commend the staff that runs Blogger.  They’ve been battling a number of hardware and software issues over the last year, and it’s been fun to watch.  Fun?  Yes – because it proves that even highly successful services suffer the same issues those of us who run smaller IT shops face.  We’re not doing something wrong … shit happens.

That being said, it’s also a GREAT customer communications tool to be open about what is happening with your system!  If I couldn’t post to my blog or readers couldn’t get to my site, I sure would want to know what’s going on.  Now I’m still not warm and fuzzy when things go down (though for me it just means I can’t post – my content is hosted on my own server) but at least I know what’s going on.  I can say “oh, well that makes sense … I’ll try later.”  The alternative is “this darn system is just plain down again and I have no idea what’s going on and when it will be back.”  The later is much more frustrating and prone to loosing users.  I’ve seen similar status pages for AIM and MSN (though I’ve never seen them actually updated during an actual incident).  Why can’t more services do this?

Here’s the blog post from Blogger…

Some users are currently getting “403 Forbidden” errors when viewing their blogs, and “Permission Denied” errors (or variations thereof) when publishing. You may recognize this problem from Monday.

The offending server is being replaced and then shot. We’ll let you know when things are back up. Shouldn’t be too long.

Until then, affected blogs will be unavailable and unpublishtoable.

Update, 5 minutes later: All fixed!

[Via Blogger Status]

Want a non-tech example of great customer communication?  Puget Sound Energy’s automated phone system.  We had a storm yesterday and power got knocked out to our home just before 6p.  [Note to self – make sure the cable modem gets plugged into the UPS … and buy a replacement for the one that died 3 months ago!].  I called up PSE’s toll free number from my cell phone, followed the prompts to report a power outage, and it asked if the address in question started with “36…”.  How did it do that?  PSE has my cell phone number on record as a contact number.  When I call the hotline they use caller id to link my call with my account!  I have no idea what my account number is.  🙂  After I confirm the address the system told me the outage had been reported by 38 of my neighbors already (I’d waited a few minutes to call), a crew had been dispatched, the outage was caused by a tree falling into a main transmission line, and there was no estimate on restoration yet.  ALL that without bothering a human being!

If organizations could leverage their customer and service data more like PSE has, people wouldn’t be so ticked off at an automated phone answering system.  PSE’s line is the only number I actually look forward to calling and working with the computer!

Funny story there … later last night I called back to get an update and restoration estimate.  For some reason the system transferred me to a live person to get the resolution estimate (it’s never done that before … and we have power outages all the time).  Unfortunately for Alicea and Jeff, who was in PSE’s call center, I had the call on my Blackberry’s speakerphone.  Alicea let out a tremendous burp right as Jeff answered.  HA!


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