OffBeatMammal

Searching for monkeys in Cyberspace

SyncToy - keeps getting better

clock November 30, 2007 18:47 by author offbeatmammal

In the past I've used SyncToy to keep files on a couple of computers and my iPod in sync so I was pleased to discover a new version that's even smarter is now available in beta for us to play with.

So, what's new? Lots that what....

  • Dynamic Drive Letter Assignment: Drive letter reassignment will now be detected and updated in the folder pair definition
  • True Folder Sync: Folder creates, renames and deletes are now synchronized for all SyncToy actions
  • Exclusion Filtering Based on Name: File exclusion based on name with exact or fuzzy matching
  • Filtering Based on File Attributes: The ability to exclude files based on one or more file attributes (Read-Only, System, Hidden)
  • Unattended Folder Pair Execution: Addressed issues related to running scheduled folder pairs while logged off
  • Folder Pairs With Shared Endpoints: Ability for folder pairs associated with the same or different instances of SyncToy to share end-points
  • Command line enhancements: Added the ability to manage folder pairs via the command line interface
  • The SyncToy engine has been rearchitected to provide scalability and the ability to add significant enhancements in future releases
  • Sync engine is also more robust insomuch that many single, file level errors are skipped without affecting the entire sync operation
  • Sync Encrypted Files: Sync of Encrypted files works when local folder and files are encrypted, which addresses the common scenario involving sync between local, encrypted laptop PC folder and remote, unencrypted desktop PC folder
  • 64-bit compatibility
  • Folder pair rename
  • Sub-folder Exclusion Enhancements: Descendents created under excluded sub-folders are automatically excluded
  • Folder Pair Metadata Moved: Folder pair metadata removed from My Documents to resolve any issues with server-based folder pair re-direction setup
  • Removed combine and subscribe actions

So, stop reading and go and have a look.

If you just want to keep machines in sync automatically over the internet then check out FolderShare - a Windows Live service currently in Beta to keep files in sync and allow web access (secured of course) to any files you designate. Not to be confused with SkyDrive of course - that's a cloud storage space for you to dump files in manually... no synchronization, just convenience!



Facebook - The beacon is fixed

clock November 30, 2007 18:31 by author offbeatmammal

Looks like I was right when I said that I guessed it was just an unintended consequence when Facebook implemented the beacon that accidental data leakage count occur.

The process has now been tweaked and looks like it's working just how I'd expect it to - keeping me in control of my personal information.

Good on you Facebook for listening and doing the right thing.



Pandora and Objectivism

clock November 30, 2007 18:26 by author offbeatmammal

As I've mentioned before I'm a fan of Pandora and I've been following some of the issues around the SoundExchange Royalty Rate battle.

Initially I thought that the only option was for Federal Govt to rein in SoundExchange to ensure any increase was fair and equitable but thanks to a strong proponent of Objectivism I'm finding out that there's more to the story and more ways to solve this problem.

I suspect the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes, but I certainly feel some form of facilitator is needed simply to ensure the process can scale. How the facilitator would be funded and overseen... that's a whole new can of worms!

Thanks to Darren for the perspective, and thanks to AppScout for pointing me his way.



Get Hotfixes while they're hot

clock November 30, 2007 17:34 by author offbeatmammal

One thing that always used to bug me before I joined MS was the problems getting hold of a Hotfix. You're smart, you've worked out the problem and checked everything in the KB article and you know it's what you need. But then you have to make a phone call or fill in a big form and all the while time is ticking by.

Of course working here and living a life on the bleeding edge (us brave dogfooders get to play with really early bits to make sure what you get is safe and stable) access to Hotfixes become less of a frustration, but over lunch yesterday I discovered that the situation is much improved...

Hotfixes are pretty much delivered on-demand now (and have been for a couple of months). Simply go to the KB article and click on the link to "get hotfix". It takes you to a form where you confirm some simple details and a short while later you get an email back with the link to your required Hotfix.

I tried it out for an issue I've had with one of my personal machines at home and today the Hotfix is applied and everything is running happily.



Media Center Health Monitor

clock November 30, 2007 16:56 by author offbeatmammal

Although my Media Center has been a well behaved and loyal companion these last couple of years it does sometimes do weird things that I only discover by accident after the fact.

Luckily that looks like it won't be the case any more... Ian Dixon has written what sounds like a very near little utility to monitor the health of many aspects of the Media Center.

I hope to be able to try it out soon....

As I'm often away from home (and the girls are not that technical!) having it alert me via a remote method - email or Windows Live Messenger Alerts would be fantastic - then I know I've got to remote in and fix something.



Chat with Santa on Messenger

clock November 30, 2007 09:58 by author offbeatmammal

The folks at Messenger Café have just got their direct line to Santa up and running and now if you add northpole@live.com to your contacts in Windows Live Messenger you can tell Santa if you've been naughty or nice, and argue why you really should get that shiny red bike for Christmas this year....

If you don't have Windows Live Messenger go get it here.



Winter is rolling in...

clock November 28, 2007 18:32 by author offbeatmammal

Rhiannon in a winter garden (close up)Until we moved to Redmond a year ago Rhiannon has spent all her life in a tropical climate. Luckily she seems to be adapting to the weather here quite well.

Looking on Weatherbug the temperature has dropped to 25.7F already this year (on Nov 22nd)... I wonder how low it'll go (and if we'll get snow).

Both she and the dog seem to be enjoying the changing seasons and variety in the weather. It doesn't even seem to rain as much as everyone says (but it's early days yet!)



Facebook and partners sharing your data

clock November 27, 2007 16:11 by author offbeatmammal

I'm a fan of Facebook and the concept of social networking and their particular slant on things. I'm also really intrigued what's going to happen as their platform continues to evolve over time.

One thing I'm a little wary of however is invasive advertising and accidental leakage of personal data.

I was initially quite surprised when I logged into my wifes Blockbuster account today and had it offer to send my data to my Facebook profile.

Luckily I managed to hit the "no thanks" button before it did (not that I have any credibility in my taste in movies, but my daughters SpongeBob wish list wouldn't help!)

I did a little bit of searching on the web to see what was going on and discovered I was behind the curve on the outrage that had accompanied this which meant I was able to look at it with less vehemence than some had visited upon Facebook and their partners.

My biggest concern I guess it having Blockbuster and others sharing data without giving me obvious and timely control over the process, especially when the data it's about to share is wrong!

I elect to share my twitter posts, or Last.FM data publicly because there's nothing private and personal. But I do consider my movie and TV viewing or Amazon purchases to be private - not just because I don't see value in sharing them simply to help someone (be it Facebook, Google or Amazon) track data about me but also because I don't like the potential inferences they may make because they don't have context surrounding the decisions. I don't watch SpongeBob, my daughter does. I didn't rent Forever Young with Mel Gibson, my wife did. I didn't buy a book on Renaissance painters for me, it was a gift for my Mum.

If I can control what is shared and when (so I can give it context or filter the irrelevant) then I'd be happy to share data with them. If Blockbuster or Amazon included something like the MadKast "ShareThis" widget or AdaptiveBlue Smartlinks on every line (ideally with a multi-select option for my Blockbuster queue).

If it makes the advertising and personalization more appropriate, just in the same way I love the idea of fine-tuned TV advertising, I'd be happy to share.

For now though, I've added a new AD Blocker filter rule to IE7Pro - all calls to *.facebook.com/beacon/* get blocked ... when I get a bit more granular control I'll be happy to turn the rule off again.

FWIW I don't think Facebook did it to be sneaky or "evil", they simply didn't look at it quite as carefully as they could have and think about the unintended consequences.



Converting from SWF to XAML for Silverlight (or WPF)

clock November 27, 2007 14:59 by author offbeatmammal

So, you're got a Flash project that you want to convert to Silverlight because you've seen through the marketing hype and realize that a nice human readable source like XAML is the way of the future, or you just want to play and see how the performance or feature-set compares.

Now you know that the Expression Suite is a really good design environment to start from scratch in, and Visual Studio is, of course, the ideal coding IDE for Silverlight but ... you don't want to start from scratch. You just want to have a look and see if Silverlight can render your magnum opus with some degree of fidelity before you talk a client into using it.

Well.... thanks to TheConverted there's a solution that, if you can drag'n'drop a file in Explorer, gets you started in a couple of clicks of the mouse (and even though it's really cheap, there's a 30 day trial you can use to check it out)

SWF to XAML converter



Sometimes a really clever campaign backfires

clock November 26, 2007 22:14 by author OffBeatMammal

I used to work a lot with folks in the advertising industry. With small independent producers, big name agencies and really smart digital delivery companies (and of course that has continued since joined Microsoft as projects need). In that game you try to be as clever as you can, create a buzz, deliver a message, do good for a brand, sell some product or whatever.

The worst case outcome is when you drive a customer away. Not leave them apathetic* or unmoved (heck, most marketing can do that) or reaching for the "skip" button on their media center.

I never thought two of the biggest marketing brands out there would succeed. Especially through such a well meaning campaign that rewarded me, the consumer, for my loyalty, required no change of behavior on my part or had any obvious downside.

As folks who know me will testify I drink quite a lot of coffee (I don't have a problem... I can admit my addiction!) and these days most of it comes from Starbucks thanks to their sheer convenience and weight of number (ah, I miss Zaraffas from Australia).

Despite working for the folks who brought you the much improved Zune 2.0 I still have my old iPod (4G ClickWheel) and despite having some issues with iTunes I still have it running on one machine for synching.

So, you'd think a campaign that gives away a free tune every day just for buying a cup of coffee has to be a winning combination wouldn't you?

At first I thought so. I continued my daily ritual and picked up the added bonus of the card and put them aside meaning to have a frenzy of downloading when the promotion finished.

That was when it hit me. Not how generous Starbucks had been. Not what a great online store iTunes was. Just how much I was spending on over-priced, variable quality coffee in jumped up fast food outlets (that keep tempting me with fattening treats).

The result of the campaign. No more loyalty to iTunes (the moment my iPod finally dies I'll get a Zune. maybe). No more loyalty to Starbucks. But I did pick up a Keurig coffee machine that delivers 10 cups for the price we were paying a day for a morning pick-me-up, so the cost of the machine should be covered pretty quickly.

Oooops! I guess that campaign didn't quite go as planned. Starbucks haven't lost me as a customer, and I don't think any less of them, but I am now more aware in a tangible fashion just how much I spend there! Ironically, thought their rival, Tullys, is one of many suppliers of the Keurig pods... Starbucks aren't. I don't know if it's a deliberate choice on their part or Keurig failing to market the product to them. Luckily we have a "pack your own" attachment so if we miss a particualr Starbucks blend we don't have to miss out - just buy the grind

* I had hoped Hugh would have a witty cartoon on the subject of apathetic marketing. I guess I'll have to ask him nicely.



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