OffBeatMammal

Searching for monkeys in Cyberspace

Defrag in Denver

clock November 5, 2007 22:05 by author OffBeatMammal

I am at Defrag in Denver for the next couple of days. Because I'm taking notes on paper and not live blogging (I hate this portable keyboard. must get a better solution before my next trip) I'll link to Phil Windley who is doing a great job.

There are some really amazing speakers and conversations going on. I'm really glad to be here. I hope to gather my thoughts later in the week... 



Bootable USB drive

clock October 25, 2007 10:50 by author offbeatmammal

Recently I managed to do some damage to a Vista install (note to self - while resizing a partition from a Linux app works it's best to follow the instructions EXACTLY) and needed to run a repair.

Being a lightweight and ultra modern machine the one thing that was lacking was any sort of removable spindle media... like a DVD drive. That meant I needed to be able to create a bootable USB thumbdrive that I could copy my Vista ISO onto in order to run the repair (originally I'd used an external DVD drive but I didn't have it and needed my machine quickly) so... on my other Vista machine (everyone should have two computers) I fired up a command prompt in adminstrator elevated mode (find Command Prompt in the programs list, right click, "run as administrator" then followed these easy steps:

Run Diskpart at the cmd prompt and then enter these commands

  • Rescan
  • List disk (will list all your disks)
  • Select disk # (where # is what you found from the previous step for your usb key)
  • Clean
  • Create part pri
  • Select part 1
  • Format fs=ntfs quick
  • Active
  • Exit

You USB key is now bootable and you can copy the contents of the iso across, plug it into the other machine, reboot and ... voila - I'm trying this from the repaired machine.



Everything you've read about Vista DRM is wrong

clock September 19, 2007 08:01 by author offbeatmammal

I'm no big fan of DRM. It seems the march of technology into entertainment has been accompanied by a reducing in fair use but at the end of the day it's not a show stopper. I can still buy or rent books, DVDs and CDs and the world is good.

That doesn't stop the tinfoil brigade getting all paranoid that just because there are some new standards for DRM and content protection and they are supported by Vista that Microsoft is own to own their entertainment and eventually their mind.

One of the biggest proponents of this fear, uncertainty and doubt has been Peter Guttman who has published a long rambling paper sub-titled "The Longest Suicide Note in History" which is apparently a well researched, factual breakdown of how Microsoft are out to rule the world through DRM.

I tried reading it once after seeing a lot of chatter in the blogsphere about it, but decided that it wasn't worth the effort to wade through the rambling tome. I know some researchers can be a bit eccentric but at least they usually make sense

It turns out that I wasn't alone in that opinion. Ed Bott has started a three part analysis and examination of this work of art to actually correct some pretty fundamental mistakes.

It makes great reading and clears up some of the mystery... or at least adds some common sense and real analysis to the subject - Everything you've ever read about Vista DRM is wrong"

I do however share Mr Guttmans (warning: Strong Language Ahead) view on Lotus Notes (though I'm not sure I see the point in posting it as an Acrobat document when there are perfectly acceptable graphics formats available for the Internet that are not encumbered with useless DRM)



Linux - still not for my Mum

clock September 19, 2007 04:55 by author offbeatmammal

Over the years I've tried alternatives to Windows on a number of occasions. I'm fairly technical (I can find the Ctrl, Alt and Del keys 9 times out of ten) but even then I've struggled on a number of computers to get various Linux distros working to a point where I'd be comfortable enough to switch.

I did spend a year as an OSX user which was interesting, but even there I still relied heavily on the Microsoft Office suite and Entourage to get things done (and VirtualPC was my friend) but despite the fact the new Macbook Pros are great machines I've been back on Vista for a while now.

I was interested to see that Dell, amongst others, are releasing consumer machines pre-loaded with Linux. There aren't embedded Consumer Electronics devices, or bleeding edge hardcore geek machines but the sort of thing my Mum might consider.

Given my experiences I was hoping to hear that Dell had produced a machine that was as slick and painless to use out of the box as Vista Home Premium for basic every day stuff. According to Walt Mossberg though it looks like they've a little more work to do in order to get it polished.

The good news... hopefully getting Linux distros in front of typical users will help to push the quality of the product... which in turn will drive more improvements in both OSX and Vista (a little bit of healthy competition for the user experience can only help the user at the end of the day)



Douglas Adams, Frank the Vandal, and synchronizing computers

clock September 5, 2007 06:17 by author offbeatmammal

Back in 1989 a very clever, and funny, man called Douglas Adams got very frustrated because it was difficult to keep documents in sync across multiple machines without jumping through hoops and even manage content from different sources within a document elegantly.

Luckily in the years since Office file formats (both Office Open XML and OpenDocument) and the various Office suites have become smarter and more flexible (and dare I say "open") but the problems of keeping things in sync so the user isn't concerned where he edited the document when he wants to print it are not quite solved just yet.

Things like Groove and FolderShare are making it easier, and hopefully the promises of computing in the cloud will continue to accelerate the pace of development.

Sadly Douglas is no longer with us, but memories of Frank the Vandal live on...



See through touch screen

clock August 25, 2007 05:33 by author offbeatmammal

When I first say Microsoft Surface I was amazed at what a great input mechanism it offered. The iPhone and HTC Touch phones push the boundary of what can be done on a hand-held device but there's a middle ground of the UMPC and TabletPCs which are left out.

I wonder how long they're going to lag behind though with technologies such as InkSeine and LucidTouch evolving....



Search just got a little bit more hands on!

clock August 22, 2007 09:42 by author offbeatmammal

While the war of relevance between Google and Live Search continues unabated one thing that the folks at Microsoft have been doing more around is questioning the paradigm of how we search and deal with results.... and making those experiments public.

You may have seen an early attempt to put a more human face on searching if you'd used MsDewey to query the internet but the latest project presents a much more usable face to search.

Tafiti (apparently meaning "to research" in Swahili) takes the current search paradigm a little further using a combination of Silverlight and the Live Search APIs to allow you to search and filter in a very dynamic manner, focusing on web search, blogs, images or a mixture - and storing the results in collections (which if you sign in with your LiveID you can even keep with you across machines).

It's probably not going to totally replace search as we know it today, but it certainly presents a great new way of thinking about how you interact with search engines to actually find relevant results and manage the data you get back. Have a look at this video of it in action, and check it out yourself...



Dynamic templates for Windows Live Writer

clock August 15, 2007 03:07 by author offbeatmammal

Ever found yourself wishing there was a template to quickly do something in Windows Live Writer but didn't quite have the technical skills to go off and roll your own plug-in to do exactly what you need?

Well, thanks to a very neat dynamic template engine for WLW it's now possible.

You can create templates to easily insert common snippets of HTML or text or, if you're feeling more adventurous, you can write templates that are powerful enough to be considered "mini-plugins" in their own right, but which are still radically simpler to write and distribute than traditional Windows Live Writer plugins.

If you have ever written a PHP, JSP, or ASP page, you already have a good idea of how to write these kind of templates, but even if you haven't there's some great getting started guides on Joes page.



What's the site built with?

clock August 14, 2007 14:16 by author offbeatmammal

BuiltWith.com Have you ever come across a really cool site and wondered what technology they used to roll it? Does it support RSS, what do they use for Web Metrics, which Ajax library are they using, what server platform have the selected, DO they have a P3P policy?

Well, wonder no longer... just visit BuiltWith, tap in the URL and they'll deliver a wealth of information about the site you're interested in - along with a measure of what %age of their surveyed base is using the same technologies.

At the moment it's fairly new so the %age of people using a particular technology might be skewed but it's interesting to see how some of the apparently popular services are not scoring so well just yet... time will tell though.

Check out their blog for news of new releases and to discuss suggestions to improve it... though as it seems to do just what it says straight out of the can I can't think of anything I'd like to add at first glance (rare I know!)



ReadyBoost - making Vista just that little bit better

clock June 23, 2007 01:24 by author OffBeatMammal

Like any other operating system Vista performs pretty nicely if you've got enough RAM, but sometimes you're just on the edge. Sometimes not enough, but not often enough to justify going from 1GB to 2GB or beyond.

So, apart from the smart stuff like stopping services you don't need and making sure you're machine is tuned up is there anything you can do?

If you have a high performance flash memory device (USB Memory Key, SD Card etc) then the answer is yes.... and it's called ReadyBoost.

Setting up a ReadyBoost device is simple (just follow the instructions here) and it's pretty much a set and forget process with Vista taking advantage of the extra memory to avoid paging to the much slower hard disc.

Of course once you've got ReadyBoost helping out it's nice to know how much help it's providing. If you're happy to dig into the vast array of performance monitors that Vista provides then check out these instructions but, if like me, you like your information pretty, simple and bite sized then check out this sidebar gadget to give you the information.

Of course running lots of performance monitors or an extra service and the sidebar itself to monitor the benefit may well defeat the benefit - thought that's starting to get into Schrödinger's cat territory!

I now leave a USB Memory Key stuck into my docking station for my Laptop. Most of the time when I'm on the road I don't need the boost (though the larger USB key I carry with me can double for that) but when I'm desk bound it's nice to take advantage of the extra USB ports and a smaller (2GB as opposed to 8GB) ReadyBoost certified device.



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