Technology by Ben
Outlook users of late have mourned the loss of NetFolders - the quirkly feature that allowed users without Exchange servers share contact and calendar information nonetheless.
Diane Poremsky of Slipstick.com
has brought to my attention a tool called: PIMShare
by a company called Pagethink. Like NetFolders it lets you publish your calendar, contacts or tasks folders, people you approve can subscribe to them, and updates are transmitted automatically via e-mail.
If you need that kind of functionality, you should take a look.
Want to take a look at a different kind of technology? PBS's Nova program
has an excellent program about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
At the Microsoft Security Roadshow (which I'm still planning to blog, be patient!) Mark Minasi coined a term I found amusing. Those installs where you just accept the defaults and click "OK, OK, OK, OK" he terms..."spouse-mode installs."
Chris Pratley is back to blogging (thank goodness!) and he's got an interesting post continuing his discussion of the process used to create OneNote.
Avoiding typical pitfalls
Worth a read for software developers and people who are interested in OneNote.
Roan Kang from Microsoft is really being an all-star these days. Today he points out a KB article that applies to some of the problems people have installing OneNote and Office 2003; notably the "Installation Source is Corrupted" error.
"Installation Source Has Been Corrupted" Error Message When You Install Office 2003
There is a free upcoming OneNote Webcast. Here are the details:
Microsoft Office System Webcast: Using OneNote 2003 to Increase Productivity - Level 100
3/8/2004 12:00 PM - 3/8/2004 1:00 PM
Live Meeting Webcast
And here is a link to register online: http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032240812&Culture=en-US
PCWorld.com - Overeager Spam Filters Cause Headaches: "While the impact may have been dramatic for TDS, it was merely a small battle on AOL's spam front. 'We are forced to bounce up to 80 percent of all incoming Internet e-mail as suspected spam,' says Nicholas Graham, an AOL spokesperson. 'Our spam-blocking software is now blocking 2 to 2.4 billion messages every day.'"
This is an amazing stat that really shows how dramatic the spam problem is and what a grave threat to the Internet it has become.
It also illustrates how effective anti-spam legislation has been, so far.
Exchange Admins who are counting on the Unicode PST/OST files in Outlook 2003 to get them past the 2GB limitation should take heed -- if the user's Exchange mailbox is on an Exchange 5.5 server the OST file is still going to be ANSI and thus still subject to the 2GB limitations. This is especially relevent in those cases where the user's mailbox approaches or exceeds 2GB and they are using Outlook 2003 in cached mode.
Exchange 2000 and 2003 apparently do use Unicode OST files.
LCDs poised for prime time | CNET News.com: "That bulky computer monitor in front of you may soon give way to a svelte display, according to a new report.
This quarter marks the first time that sales of thin, LCD (liquid-crystal display) monitors will overtake those of traditional cathode-ray tube monitors on a unit basis in the United States, according to research released Wednesday by market tracker DisplaySearch. CRT monitors, typically much heavier and thicker than LCD monitors, have dominated desktops for years. "
We're poised to replace about a dozen of our CRTs with LCDs here - mostly for the savings in desk space. We're just waiting for the right bargain on the 17" LCDs to come along. Techbargains.com
has an excellent RSS feed that alerts us to price deals and frequently we see tantalizing offers on 17" LCDs. Unfortunately so far they've all required rebates that were limited to "1 per household" or some such that made buying a dozen at that price unfeasible.
VeriSign sues ICANN to restore Site Finder | CNET News.com: "VeriSign, based in Mountain View, Calif., has sparred with ICANN over a number of issues, including whether a feature called Site Finder that redirected many .com and .net domains was a threat to the Internet's security and stability. "
The only way I could support a resumption of the Site Finder service would be if they took the necessary steps to fix the problems it causes with anti-spam solutions. Spam is one of the most serious threats facing the Internet today. When Site Finder was active it redirected all unreserved .COM and .NET addresses. That meant that spam filtering software that checked the domain names of incoming spam to see if they were legitimate domain names were foiled. Essentially all mail now came from domain names that existed - removing one tool from the arsenal in the fight against spam.
gives some more good information on the inherent problems caused by Site Finder.
As I increasingly move through the Blogosphere I regret that I don't currently offer an RSS feed. Apparently you can subscribe to my grains of wisdom (they haven't reached the level of pearls yet, I'm sure) via Atom, but this free service graciously provided by Blogspot doesn't offer RSS just yet and I'm too cheap (read: Poor) to upgrade to Blogspot premium where I could get RSS. I'm considering looking around for a free blog host that does offer RSS.
In the meantime there are a lot of valuable feeds out there and one great way to find them is to use Feedster.
At Feedster you can do text searches for key words and find all of the indexed RSS feeds that contain those words. Even better...you can subscribe to that search via RSS.
I now have subscribed Feedster RSS searches for "OneNote" and for "Ben Schorr" so that I can receive automatic notification when one of the indexed feeds mentions either of those very important (to me) subjects.
It's a great way to keep up on what people are saying about the subjects you're interested in.
Roan Kang from Microsoft has been diligently tracking down a problem with OneNote online support. Microsoft has a feature on their website
where you can submit a request for online assistance. The process is very smooth and elegant. At one point in the process there is a drop-down list where you select what product you want support with. The problem is that, so far, OneNote does not appear on that list.
There is a workaround, however...you need to select "Microsoft Office" as the product, then just use your OneNote PID. One important tip here: the PID is found on the Help | About screen. Don't use the one from the CD, it's not the same and it won't work.
Roan says MS is working on getting OneNote added to the list; but in the meantime this workaround should get users the support they need.
Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger: "It's interesting. My coworkers and I talk about our advertising a lot. I haven't found ANYONE who likes the latest Office ads. Admittedly my sample size is small, but let's show off our software! Search folders in the latest Outlook, for instance, are REALLY AWESOME yet we don't tell anyone about them."
Robert Scoble brings up a point I've meant to emphasize. The Microsoft Office "Great Moments at Work" ads are weak because very rarely do they mention any real features of the product and when they do it's usually something really trivial. "Your numbers changed the night before but so did your presentation!" Hey! Welcome to Office '97!
A better idea would be ads that emphasized the actual, tangible, advantages of the products. Search Folders, spam blocker and reading pane being three good ones for Outlook. Improved XML support and other such things in the other applications.
The current ads just don't inspire me to want to go out and buy the product. Frankly I don't know that I really want to see any of my users doing the funky chicken in their office and I'm really sure that I don't want to get involved in a dogpile with them.
Catching up on my reading....
I notice that InfoWorld's Test Center
a 9.0, one of the highest scores of any product they reviewed in all of 2003. Only a couple scored higher.
Nice to get that kind of affirmation, especially for a version 1 product.
I've added Mike Walsh's WSS blog
to my RSS feeds. Though it flirts with a bit of German (which I don't speak) it is largely in English and the first several posts I read there piqued my interest.
He even mentions (successfully) testing out James Edelen's technique for getting OneNote to work with WSS which should be of interest to anybody using OneNote in an enterprise environment.
Anybody who knows me knows that I'm an Outlook
guy (in fact, an Outlook MVP
), but today somebody brought "Chandler"
to my attention. What an intriguing looking product idea.
Keep in mind that it's apparently still several months from having anything worthy of end-user operation in place but I think it's worth keeping an eye on.
The SchorrTech Store
is now open! More items will be added in the coming days; but check it out I think you'll find some fun gift ideas there.
Here's another use for OneNote
: "Know book's." The Think2x blog
(http://think2x.blogspot.com) describes an idea for a sort of personal growth journal. The idea is that there are things we come across in our daily lives that we would like to know more about. Places, people, events, words or whatever. When you encounter one of those things you write it at the top of a new page in your know book. Then you set aside some time, even as little as 15 minutes, each day to go through your book. You pick a page and do some research on that topic. Write your Notes on the page. As you go you'll learn about the topic and later you can look back through your notes to reinforce what you learned.
The Think2x idea uses an actual journal-style notebook for this but it occurs to me that there is no reason why you couldn't use OneNote to do it. Just create a section called "know book" and each new idea, person, place or whatever can be a page! You can do web research and drag/drop information you find. Plus, unlike the handwritten journal it's fully searchable.
Give it a try. So far my new "know book" has pages on "Winston Churchill", "Ralph Nader", "Tuscany" and "reduction gears."
Keeping Up With CAN-SPAM Act: "According to CAN-SPAM legislation, e-mail must meet five basic requirements to avoid being labeled 'unsolicited commercial' e-mail:
- The e-mail message must have correct header information.
- The message must have an accurate subject line.
- The message must contain a functioning return e-mail address.
- Senders must not send e-mail more than 10 business days after receiving a request to be removed from a mailing list.
- Commercial e-mail must contain a clear identification that the message is an advertisement, must contain a conspicuous notice of opportunity to decline further e-mail and must display the physical postal address of the sender.
The law appears to allow companies to send one unsolicited e-mail, but that e-mail must meet all the other criteria stated above. However, once an e-mail recipient tells the sender not to send further unsolicited e-mail, senders are obliged to comply."
The problem with this is that weary spam recipients no longer trust "Remove Me" links in spam. For years clicking that link was just a fast-track to many times more spam. Getting those users to now ask to be removed is going to be quite a chore, as a result a lot of CAN-SPAM compliant messages are going to keep coming...simply because recipients are too afraid to ask to be removed.
Furthermore how does the user know which spam is really CAN-SPAM compliant? Couldn't illegal spammers mask their messages if they were CAN-SPAM compliant in order to entice people to click the "Remove Me" link...only to find themselves deluged by more illegal spam down the road?
I don't see an easy way out of this problem, unfortunately.
I just installed a LinkSys 802.11G Wireless Router
for one of our directors who just got a cable modem. What a great device, it's super easy to install, features 4 10/100 wired ports for that desktop PC that is sitting right next to it and has solid 802.11g wireless capability.
A few tips:
- If you're not going to use the wireless yet, turn it off. You can do that easily through the configuration software.
- Change the default password.
- If you don't need remote administration, turn that off too.
- Change the default host name on the device.
- If you do enable wireless, YOU MUST enable WEP security.
- If you do enable the wireless, change the default SSID and turn OFF the broadcasting of it.
- If you do enable the wireless and will only have 802.11b or 802.11g clients (one or the other) set the router to only accept connections at that speed. You can always change it later.
When our director first got her cable modem set up she was almost immediately besieged by Windows Messenger spam.
Installing the router stopped all of that immediately.
If you have a cable modem, DSL or any other "always on" connection and do not yet have some kind of firewall in place, go get one NOW. It's cheap (the one above is under $80) and it will protect your computer.
More than that it will protect the Internet. It's unprotected, always on, systems that are getting compromised and used in denial of service attacks
against other systems.
BBC NEWS | Technology | E-mail tries out a sense of smell: "UK net provider Telewest Broadband is testing a system to let people to send aromatic e-mails over the internet. "
And you thought Hotbar was annoying? The good news is that if you don't spend the money for the scent-producing device it doesn't work. There are only two applications for this that I can think of:
1. Spam. In the article it talks about bakeries tempting you with the scent of fresh bread. That's what I need. Spam that not only clogs my inbox but also my sinuses.
2. Goofy mail from people who think it's really cute to add the smell of strawberries to their messages. These are the same people that are hardcore Hotbar users.
I don't particularly want either.
Random Powerpoint tip #4
Don't read your slides to the audience. It's even more tedious for them than it is for you.
Random Powerpoint tip #5
Don't see your presentation for the first time when your audience does. Test it. Twice.
Random Powerpoint tip #6
Design your slides for the back row. Small text or graphics are a good way to frustrate and lose your audience.
There is no patch for bad judgment.
Tremendous grasp of the obvious dept.
Just once I'd like to see a speaker at a tech conference say "hey, you don't need any management buy-in for this!"
There's a lot of chatter today on the security lists about Bagle.B
. I'm not sure what all the fuss is...at the heart of it Bagle.B is a worm that arrives via e-mail in an infected executable attachment.
Is there anybody here who has not yet put systems in place to protect themselves against infected e-mail attachments?
PCWorld.com - Leaked Windows Code Opens IE Hole: "A bug hunter claims to have uncovered a security flaw in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 Web browser by studying Windows source code that was leaked last week."
Ben's computer security tip 'o the day...
...nobody concerned about security should still be using IE5.
The upgrade is free, people. Go get it.
Random PowerPoint Tip #3
Give the show to your audience. Taking notes is good but nobody wants to have to scribble down every slide. Put it on a website for download, burn it to CDs, or print it and hand it out. They'll appreciate it and you'll be more effective.
Today I attended the Microsoft Security Roadshow at the Hawaii Prince hotel. Over the next day or so I'll attempt to document it as best I can here in this blog.
Random PowerPoint Tip #1
Try to use consistent transitions. It's really distracting when the speaker has 16 different kinds of transition in apparently random order. Pick a transition concept and stick with it throughout.
Random PowerPoint Tip #2
Less is more. Don't pack too much content onto a single slide. Some people add paragraph after paragraph of text to a slide. Remember: The slides are there to support you, not the other way around. You don't want the audience tuning you out while they read your slides.
We don't really hear much about Internet-specific currencies like Flooz
. Why do you suppose those alternative monies haven't really taken off?
GPS for your IPaq
is such a cool idea. It almost makes me with I didn't live on an island where such a thing really isn't necessary.
People talk about how high the cost of living is here, but really if I lived on the mainland somewhere and had an hour-long commute to work I'd have to have an Audi A6 and all these navigation and OnStar
kind of tools to play with...I mean use.
Do you have an interesting use for a PDA with GPS? If so....e-mail me
and tell me about it.
Most Outsourcing Is Still for Losers - Computerworld: "The most frequent reason companies turn to outsourcing is the need to increase profits. Replacing premium-priced labor with workers earning less has led to lower costs for products and services. "
I think Mr. Strassmann is making some assumptions here that don't always hold true. For one thing not every outsourced employee is full-time at the client -- i.e. you might outsource your IS function and replace 4 full-time employees with a consulting firm that is only on-site part-time but accomplishes the same tasks through increased efficiency and greater expertise. The reason they can do it for less money is that when the consultants in question aren't on your site they're on somebody else's. They may well earn MORE money than your previous staff did - they just spread that income across multiple clients.
Also, as Mr. Strassmann noted later in his article, saying that most companies that outsource are losing money is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. Are they losing money because they outsource or are they outsourcing because they're losing money? It would take a lot more analysis to know for sure.
Shortly after I mention the Technorati
site in my blog it starts to time out when I try to reach it. Has something actually been Schorrdotted?! :-)
The WiFi Zone: "Buying a G Wireless Router should be a wonderful thing. Secure, friendly. If you've recently purchased a Belkin wireless G router, you need to read the news.com story on router hijacking.
It seems that every 8 hours, no matter what site you try to surf to, the router hijacks your browser and sends you to a site that offers Parental Control software (of course for more $) to help keep your kids safe.
No matter how good the add on software is, there is just no excuse for this one. I'm not likely to ever trust a company that pulls something like this.
As they say, caveat emptor."
Barb Bowman pointed out this item in her blog
which caught my eye as we recently bought one of these routers as an auxillary WAP/Router at the office. We haven't used it enough to run up against this issue, but if it's true I think it's outrageous. We didn't pay good money for a router that is periodically going to take our users where it wants to go, rather than where they want to go.
I'll be testing this as soon as I have a chance.
There are a lot of sites out there that promise to catalog, index and otherwise further the trend of blogging but Technorati
seems like something a little special. They've got a LOT of Blogs listed and it's fully searchable with a surprisingly fast search engine.
Want to know what people are saying about something? Just go to Technorati
and type in the keywords. You'll find blogged comments from the insightful to the inane -- but it's the word on the electronic street and it's rarely dull.
MP3 Player (Samsung YP-910s MP3 Player
Since getting the early problems worked out I've been using it extensively and been very pleased with it. The capacity seems almost bottomless - I've dumped a few dozen CDs onto it now and barely scratched the surface of the 20GB (actually around 19GB usable) capacity.
The FM transmitter is adquate in the car, though I find that when I want to listen to something where I care about cranking up the volume or want to have really high sound quality I instead plug the MP3 player into a Radio Shack cassette adapter which plays fine.
During the day I have the MP3 player on my desk plugged into a spare set of computer speakers. With just a couple of clicks I can have it play the entire contents of all of my Earl Klugh
or Spyro Gyra
(or Van Halen!
) CDs sequentially. Battery life has been excellent, though I keep the charger close at hand just in case.
On Monday I had my first opporunity to take it jogging. I was a little nervous about it because I've read reports that the hard drive MP3 players (like mine) have a tendancy to skip when they get bounced around too much. Mine was flawless, though, 2+ miles past Punahou, up Round Top drive and back with the Gypsy Kings
in my ears and not a problem.
Obviously I highly recommend the unit. :)
I was reading yet another in a seemingly endless string of articles on presence technology today in the October 2003 issue of Computer
. (O.K., so I'm a little behind on my reading). Presence may or may not be the big buzz in the industry but if it isn't it won't be because the press hasn't given it enough coverage.
This article, well-written as I would expect from Computer, covers the usual XMPP
along with the concepts of servers and clients. It wasn't until the last couple of paragraphs that they really raised what I think is the central issue in the whole presence debate:
Many users are wary of it.
They view it as a privacy issue - they don't want people to know where they are or what they're doing. One consultant who was quoted in the article said that users often see presence as another way for people to interrupt them.
Before we can have all this wonderful collaboration you have to get over the natural desire that many people have to be left the heck alone.
Wow, Toshiba Progressive Scan DVD players for under $50!
The prices on these things are falling so far it's just amazing. I'm looking forward to similar price drops on LCD screens and monitors in the future.
For those of you who are Exchange administrators the Microsoft Exchange development team has just launched their blogat http://blogs.msdn.com/exchange/
It has one of the best blog names I've seen yet: "You Had Me at Ehlo." A clever play on the famous Jerry Maguire line.
Just getting started but seems to have some good stuff. I look forward to reading it.
The MP3 Player - Redux.
Well, the reinstall of the software didn't solve the problem so another call to tech support was on the agenda today. Once again the support person was very helpful -- kudos to Samsung, their support folks speak english, are helpful and knowledgeable and the hold time to talk to one is minimal.
After a bit of futzing around with it we finally discovered that the problem was not the software at all. Rather the problem was that the MP3 player was mounting itself as drive E:. Unfortunately I have a network drive mounted as drive E: and so the MP3 player was "hidden" behind it. Going into Disk Management (Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Computer Management) allowed me to reassign the MP3 player to the N: drive (N is for Napster!) after which it worked like a charm. As I'm typing this I have the smooth sounds of Earl Klugh's "Midnight in San Juan" wafting from the speakers I have connected to the MP3 player.
InfoWorld: HP loses its way, Dell ports don't play: February 06, 2004: By Robert X. Cringely�: Applications: "Bad Columnist, No Donut: My item about the Sun Java Desktop System disc allowing users to bypass Windows� gossamer-thin security was old news to readers who�ve been using Linux discs to access NTFS (NT File System)-based PCs for years. The Knoppix (knoppix.org) distribution is particularly popular among the Cringe contingent. Oh, well. At this rate I�ll never get that knighthood. "
Apparently the story I mentioned earlier is true. That seems fairly serious and is obviously the feather in the argument that you must PHYSICALLY secure any computer you want to be really secure. Just using passwords or access file controls is not sufficient if it's possible for unauthorized users to walk up and use the console.
Well, yesterday I received my new Samsung MP3 player
and my first impression was favorable. The device is nicely styled, comes with a large collection of cables and accessories (including a leather carrying case) and seems to be well put together. The Napster software installs easily and the 20 free songs will obviously be handy.
I tried the radio receiver and while some of our weaker stations don't come in too well, the stronger stations around town seem to come in loud and clear. Tip:
The unit apparently uses the headphone wire as an antenna. If you plug the included remote into that jack, then plug the headphone wire into that it significantly increases the area of the antenna and improves the reception.
Last night I tried to transfer a song from my CD player. It worked o.k., but obviously will take some practice. You have to start the CD player and press record on the MP3 player at the same moment. Then you have to stop the recorder at just the right moment otherwise the next song starts. Also the volume that the CD player is at has an effect. If you have the volume turned up too high the sound quality suffers. My first attempt at it has some obvious distortion on the more poweful notes. I'll have to try it again with the volume down a bit.
This morning I tried the FM transmitter in the car. I was apprehensive because I've had mixed results with FM transmitters before and had read bad reviews of this one...however it worked very well.
One of the included pieces is a "remote control" which is a small piece attached to a wire that plugs into the headphone jack, and in turn has its own jack that you plug the headphones into. The unit itself feels a little "plasticy" and so far I haven't found it to be very useful but it's a nice touch.
The big problem
occured this morning. I went to plug it into my computer via USB in order to download some songs into the player. I was promptly greeted with an error message indicating that the port was not a "high speed port" (USB2.0 undoubtedly) and that the device would operate slower because of it. That's fine, unfortunately that error will apparently pop up every time I plug in the device - I don't seem to have any option to just tell it to ignore that problem. The even bigger problem is that A) None of the music software (Napster or Windows Media Player) recognize the device and B) the device screen has a message saying that the device is connected and I should select "Remove Device" from the Napster File menu to unplug it. Unfortunately the Napster software doesn't recognize the device as being plugged in so "Remove Device" is greyed out.
I'm waiting for a response from Tech Support on how to get around this problem - so far resetting the device hasn't helped. In the meantime I can't download any music to the device from the computer.
I finally ended up calling tech support - got a very helpful fellow who suggested that the problem appears to be that Windows is not recognizing the player properly and that I should reinstall the Napster software with the device connected. When I originally installed the Napster software I did not have the device connected and that may well be the cause of the problem. I'll see if I can remedy that tomorrow.
In his January 26th column, InfoWorld's Bob Cringely said:
The Sun Also Surprises: Sun calls its Java Desktop System "the first viable Microsoft Windows alternative," but it’s apparently much more than that. One Cringe crew member trying out Sun’s bootable JDS evaluation disc made an intriguing discovery: You can insert the Linux-based disc into any NTFS (NT file system), boot up, and bypass Windows security to gain access to all the files on the hard drive (kids, please don’t try this at home). It’s an open source OS and an anti-Microsoft hacking tool all in one -- what more could a geek want?
Was I sleeping or did this not really raise a ripple in the security community? This seems like a fairly serious problem if it's true. Send me your comments.
A company called "Cybernet"
is selling a "PC in a Keyboard" device which looks interesting. They promise "zero footprint" for those offices that don't want the desks cluttered. Though the device seems like a neat idea, I have two main concerns with it:
1) I wouldn't know "Cybernet" if they handed me a Twinkie on the street. If one of my Dell PCs breaks down I'm reasonable confident that Dell will still be around to honor the warranty. Before I bought a Cybernet machine I'd want to do an evaluation of their business model and financial statements to get reasonably comfortable that the company is going to outlast the warranty.
2) These machines are, undoubtedly, very proprietary. If Dell goes out of business and my machines are out of warranty, I don't have any doubt that I could replace the hard drive, memory, keyboard, DVD or whatever with 3rd party parts if necessary. I don't feel as comfortable that a Cybernet machine, much like most laptops, would be as easy to get parts for if I ever needed them. And if Cybernet is the only supplier what does the pricing for replacement parts look like?
Can the machine be upgraded with 3rd party parts or do I have to buy them from Cybernet? The machines are advertised as running all the Microsoft OSs but I don't see the MS logo so do they have official sanction? Will they run Longhorn or am I going to have BIOS issues?
These are not questions solely for Cybernet and I don't mean to pick on what may well be a fine company with a fine product. Just expressing some of the nervous energy I would have in dealing with an unknown company producing a product that appears to be quite specialized. That's dangerous territory, in my opinion.
InfoWorld: Microsoft drops Mira support: January 09, 2004: By Joris Evers: End-user Hardware: "Only about a year after the first Smart Displays shipped, Microsoft is dropping further development of software for the displays that connect wirelessly to a PC. "
Perhaps I'm viewing this too narrowly but I always thought the primary application of this technology was remote display of particular images -- i.e. smart picture frames and message boards and things. I thought that it had an interesting use for displaying picture slide shows in a home, or perhaps mount one on the refridgerator that could display emergency phone numbers for the babysitter to see.
In a business environment they could be used as a message board or announcements. Perhaps on the doors of conference rooms to announce the reserved schedule for that room for that day, or perhaps which meeting was currently going on.
As such a Tablet PC would be overkill for what is essentially a read-only application. I expected these devices would be primarily small, thin, light and relatively inexpensive.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the concept or maybe it's just too early for such a thing.