Basic Cable for the Internet
Saturday, November 26, 2005
  Free physics text
Edumification wants to be free!

Mountain Motion: The Adventure of Physics

Seems to be a pretty complete text: can’t wait to get to the chapter where they explain the whole unification theory! Ah, here it is, chapter XII… not yet available?


Here’s my favorite quote out of context: “The limit speed for Olympic walking is thus only one third of the speed of light.” Nice mix of serious, complex subject with some easy to understand examples.

Friday, November 25, 2005
  Wordpress and the free blogs
Unlike this site, it includes trackbacks. Nice.

Look me up at:

Or get your own WordPress blog here
Monday, November 21, 2005
  Really Simple Sharing
Ray Ozzie does it again: he's proposed (under a CC license, no less) a new standard that leverages RSS to allow multi-master sharing of the info that you need replicated, with appropriate filters. As an example, think of having all of your calendars (private, public, home, work, shared with spouse, shared with study group) managed through one interface, with the updates only going where you want them to go, thus keeping your worlds as separate or as together as you want them to be. And this applies to your contacts, your files, any list you have anywhere of stuff that needs to be replicated elsewhere.

It's marvelous.

Here’s the draft spec for SSE, and

Ray has a blog: only two items so far, but it will be one to watch.

Sunday, November 20, 2005
  A theory in draft
Just some thoughts from a conversation on parenting, that I had over the weekend. Nothing in here is a final statement of belief.

Over thousands/millions of years of evolution, humans (and in fact, one could argue, most animals) have acquired a sense of need to fulfill basic requirements for survival. This need was relatively constant, since these basic requirements weren't always in full supply. Specifically:

- Physical nourishment (food, water, as much fat as could be acquired in order to sustain through lean times or when the gazelle had too much caffeine that morning)
- Shelter (a roof over one's head, whether that roof be shingled or the inside of a cave)

So we are programmed to always be in pursuit of those basic requirements. All the time... we don't really have an "off" switch for it. We have an "I'm full" switch, which really only goes off way past the point when we're full, and that is why people recommend eating your food slowly: the triggers that say "I'm full" only reach your brain about ten-fifteen minutes after the fact. However, that switch is a very short-lived on, and turns itself off after about an hour.

This serves as a possible (at least partial) explanation about obesity and consumerism in societies in which basic requirements (food, shelter) have been fulfilled. Even though you have enough nourishment and a roof over your head, that doesn't stop the programmed "need to pursue". Even though you do not want for anything right now, your body/mind is constantly pushing you to prepare for the time when you will, which as far as it knows (from thousands of years of evolutionary training) will most probably be very soon.

A pat little explanation for ennui as a whole. And as with most broadly oversimplified arguments, there's some truth in it as well as some analogies that have been stretched too thin. But we have been trained for millenia to always be in pursuit, and only feel basic, temporary satisfaction when we achieve the goal. What we have now is the spilling out of that "need to pursue" beyond the realm of basic requirements, since these have been met (at least in the society in which I live). Since we have no other defined triggers and requirements to meet, it gets messy: we pursue those things that give us a quick shot of that feeling of contentment that arises when you're sitting at home around a crackling fire, surrounded by family and the remains of a really good meal: the Rockwell Thanksgiving feeling. The easiest route for that pursuit leads to more food, an obvious choice: it's just more of what you already acquired. Otherwise, we end up with consumerism, monomania, addiction, etc.

Makes sense to me.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
  Mac OS/Linux/Windows Single Sign-On
Yes, Centrify and Vintela allow you to do much much more to integrate your Mac, *nix and Windows environments, but what do the *users* really want? They want Single Sign On. They don't care about the rest of it... centralized inventory and management, blah blah blah. That's for nerds.

You can give them single sign-on in ten minutes (if you already have an AD domain set up, that is...). This site gives you the details. Yes, you'll have to go to each machine to do it, but it's a quick win, and if you only have a handful of non-Windows machines in your environments, it's a slam-dunk.

Heh heh. "Quick win". It's pun night.

Plus, your users will love you. And isn't that why we got into IT? For the user love?

No? Just me? Fine. Here's a different site, Linux-specific, similar info.
  Web insanity
It feels like the bubble all over again. How many services do we have now that are offering stuff for free... in some cases, even without the inane "we'll pay for it all with advertising" mantra that doomed the first bubble?

Yes, they are now owned by MS, but how does FolderShare work in the real world? I can share any number of files? Unlimited? As long as each file is less than 2GB?

And what about mozy? Free online continual backup? Up to 2GB? Yes, that's not enough for your MP3 collection (nor my 10+GB of photos either) but for your average user, that's massive. And paid for by the occasional spam in your inbox.


But beautiful. Between mozy, ultraVNC, FolderShare, Blogger, helpful analysis tools like Google Analytics and a handful of others free online tools, I have almost everything I need to launch my business. Except for a physical space.

And Google Maps should help me find that. But I still don't understand how Google Base will fit in here. It's one of those tools that I know that if I look at hard enough, suddenly an amazing use will pop out of the woodwork for it. I promise you, in five years there will be businesses based (pun fully intended) at least partially on Google Base, and they will seem really obvious in hindsight.

Viva la Web 2.0!
  SharePoint complaints
I've long complained (off-line) about the inconsistencies and incompleteness of the current SharePoint implementation. I like the product overall, but it still has too much of a "ver 1.0" feel to it. MS seems to be positioning SP as an upgrade to the collaborative functionality in Public Folders in Exchange, along with a basic document management system as an upgrade to using Windows as a file server. However, in many cases SP is actually a step back from those products, or at the very least a lost opportunity to improve issues those systems had. In particular:

Yes, I understand that some of these issues are ones that can be taken care of with a little programming or a third part tool, but I believe they should be part of the basic functionality of the product. They are capabilities that, like better GPO management in AD, everyone who uses the product will eventually have to deal with, and will be very frustrated by having to reinvent the wheel and roll their own solution.
  Remote support
I'm looking for tools to provide remote tech support to people who aren't necessarily part of a domain that I control, and who might not be happy with someone else installing remote control software on their home computers. So far the best alternatives seem to be:

- Free: UltraVNC, which is a *great* tool to allow a single support instance that the end user can download onto their machine.
- Not free:
- Citrix GoToAssist
- Network Streaming's Support Desk. Probably about $1700 list.

The Support Desk tool has a nice benefit: you can reboot and automatically reconnect, which is always a problem in this kind of scenario.

Any other suggestions?
  MS Helps with the whole browser hijacking problem they helped cause

Can't blame them for trying... I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't go into a little bit more detail on ActiveX awareness, and what the user will see when IE detects or blocks suspicious software. For example, after setting the security settings in IE to "Medium" (as the page recommends), there will be new messages that IE will start showing. These will confuse the user who doesn't understand why their browser is acting differently all of a sudden. These are the usual two that will appear under the IE toolbars:

In my experience, if you tell a typical end-user that changing Setting X will help raise their security posture, and Setting X causes some behavioral changes that the user isn't expecting or didn't clearly understand, you're just asking for another support call. "Hi, I'm not sure if this is relevant, but now that I'm paranoid about security and about how IE can be hijacked, I just noticed these new messages that starting appearing in my browser whenever I visit my... work... related... sites."
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
  Starting a new business

So how hard is it? A small business, maybe 5-6 employees...? I need to learn pretty quickly. Like most things, I guess the answer is "it depends".

Can't say what it's about--I kid myself that I'm in my pre-IPO "quiet period", but it's nothing of the sort--but like all best businesses (from the owner's perspective), it marries two things that I am passionate about. Teaching is part of it, but it has nothing to do with any formal education environment.

Combine two things I love with the ability to be my own boss (other than the bank, to whom I will owe everything including current and future children), and I'm pretty excited about it.

Watch this space.
Friday, June 17, 2005
  The rules of engagement
Interesting post by Glenn McDonald on why he feels "stealing" music is justified. Unfortunate choice of word (mostly influenced by the fact that the music companies want you to call it stealing), since what he's really talking about is copyright infringement, but some strong stuff in there.

While you can't help but agree with some of his points, some of the arguments do come across as specious. You have to pay more because an album isn't available for sale in the U.S., or won't be available for some time? You may disagree with the business model, but it doesn't justify getting it for free by infringing copyright instead. Too many slippery slopes there, my friend.

I think the core problem stems from the music industry trying to keep a single solution for all of their markets, and the music consumers steadfastly refusing to conform to being a single market. Yes, you may be a music connoisseur who needs to experience the music and listen to it several times before you decide to purchase the album, but compare that to the thousands of listeners who will listen to a song twice and be done with it. If the business caters to your way of experiencing music, you may end up losing some level of sales from the other audience. If the business caters to their way of doing it, then they may end up losing some level of sales from you. Which way is the bigger gain for the company? Can you prove it, other than through anecdotal evidence or personal assertions ("I will buy $1000 more in music over the next year if you conform to my proposed business model")?

Here's the problem: you want to convince a business to change their business model? Don't try to appeal to their feelings about the grandiose nature of music as an experience that must, in principle, be shared to all, so then the consumer will make an informed decision on how much that experience is worth and (hopefully) pay you. Ummm... how's that going to look on a pie chart, exactly?

Give them numbers for your solution. Which is what, exactly? Make all music available for free download, and trust that the consumer will pay for it if they like it and delete it if they don't? Whatever your new business model, and no matter how altruistic you believe your fellow humans are, there will be *some* sales lost to people who would have otherwise paid for the experience, but now won't. Human nature. Until the business can understand clearly *how much* that lost sale amounts to, they won't change their model, and here's the problem: they don't know how much it is, and neither do you. You believe it will be a small amount, they believe it will be a lot, and neither of you can decisively prove your belief to the other side. Otherwise we wouldn't be having these discussions in the first place.

Here's the thing: let's say the amount of sales lost under a new model will be X. I don't happen to believe X=0, but I imagine some of you might. If you can prove that to me, excellent, but let's assume X>0 by some amount. There will also be some amount of sales increase (Y) due to people discovering and purchasing music to which they would have otherwise never been exposed. I happen to believe that Y>0, but I can't prove it. The business assumes that (X-Y)>0, you may assume the opposite. Personally, I do not know.

So what the business feels they have to do is increase the price per CD by a certain amount to recover (X-Y). How much is that? Is it a dollar? Is it $10 or $100? Is it even a positive number? You don't *know*, I don't know, and neither does the business. And there are other factors, like the fact that if I increase the cost per CD by $100, fewer people will be able afford it.

Until you can prove the value of X and Y, or at least prove that (X-Y)<0, you're not going to get the business to listen. In the meantime, if you like Group X from BigBadRecordCompany, there are probably a hundred local bands that *are* making their MP3s available online because that's the only way they get listeners. Go listen to them. Patronize the record labels that do treat their musicians fairly, and that do subscribe to a business model you're happy with. Don't complain that it makes the music hard to find: the ease of finding a popular album on Amazon is one of the things you pay for under the current business model. Instead of trying to get businesses to change their business model by saying you don't like it, make those businesses _go_away_ by not buying what they sell: eventually, they will be replaced by the companies you *do* support.

This goes for all businesses, not just music: don't like the way Wal-Mart treats their employees? Don't give them your business.

Warnings and Promises
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
  High tech vs. low tech ID theft

A point that was brought up in an offline conversation: while at TechEd last week I had a few discussions with companies that claim to "fully protect" your data by doing things like blocking the transfer of files to USB-attached devices, prohibiting access the the "print" command from specific apps, content analysis on all outgoing emails, all kinds of convolutions.

However, the recent ID theft bank attacks (Wachovia Corp., Bank of America Corp., Commerce Bancorp Inc. and PNC Bank NA) were a lot more low-tech, and thus effective even if the systems are fully locked down: the employees would bring up a person's data, and then either printscreen or copy the data out by hand (!!). Talk about the analog hole!

Any company that claims to provide you with "complete security" (as several did last week at TechEd) is either lying or doesn't know what the hell they're talking about.

  2005 Internet Attack Trends
For those of you who read Bruce Schneier's blog (, RSS 1.0 feed at, RSS 2.0 (just excerpts) at, or subscribe to the CRYPTO-GRAM ( the below comes from the most recent edition of the 'gram. If you're in IT security and you're not reading Schneier... well, then you're not really in security.

Considering where they see attacks happening, it might not be a bad idea to check all of the recent patches that affect the DCOM interface and the LSASS, and ensure they're installed on your systems. "These seem to be the current favorites for virus and worm writers, and we expect this trend to continue."

If they're they favorites, that usually means that not enough people have patched them yet, so the victim population is large enough to target. Let's work on removing the targets, shall we?
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
  New Microsoft Exchange User Monitor
We could have really used this tool a couple of weeks ago. Announcement here.

This seems to also be a really good tool to address the inevitable complaints from users stating that "the server is slow" when the rest of the users on the server seem fine.

You can download it from MS here.

Make sure you run this for a while when you *don't* need it. The interface takes some getting used to, and you want to be familiar with it so you can tell what normal looks like.

Posted: 4/20/2005 8:30 AM
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
  RIM signs with MS, IBM, Novell for IM
Enterprise-level instant messaging. Quote-unquote. A step better than the late (and not at all missed) Yahoo Enterprise IM, since it appears will work with the handheld devices. Integration with LCS with trials starting in September?

I can definitely see doing IM on the 957-style keyboards, but not on the 7100 series. The 7100 keyboard is not built for easy typing, and I say that as someone who's been using one for six months now. I could type like a demon on the old keyboard, with this one it's painful to type more than a sentence or two: I thought it would get easier with time, but I think I achieved top speed after day 4 and have not improved since.

RIM needs to expand their service offerings in a really bad way: with Good nipping at their heels (and providing far more basic services for the price) they really need something to distinguish themselves.

But I still think they're going down the toilet unless they get their iPaq integration together.

Thursday, March 31, 2005
  In the bumper sticker vein
Apparently the Secret Service takes bumper stickers far more seriously than I do: according to this story, several people were ejected from one of George Bush's Social Security reform/privatization-pumping events. The reason? They had been ID'ed from the bumper stickers on their cars as potential troublemakers.

Whether I agree or not with the political views expressed by either side, this seems wrong to me. It's OK for *me* to make sweeping generalizations about people based on their bumper stickers, of course (see my post below): I just don't think people should be ejected from ostensibly public events (apparently paid for by their tax contributions) based on those generalizations.

To summarize: sweeping generalizations from me = good. From anyone else = bad.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
  This brought back memories
Icons from various OSes, and the things they led/lead to. Neat stuff.

  Why I hate bumper stickers: 2 reasons
I won’t even mention the fact that your life philosophy (at least, the part of it you find so compelling that you need to express it to random strangers on the freeway) can be summarized in 2-8 words in 72pt-font on something the third of the size of a sheet of paper. My two reasons:

(1) No bumper sticker ever asked "What's *your* opinion?" I, the reader, have to assume that you believe the statement on your bumper sticker to be so undeniably true that you will broach no argument or alternative viewpoint. After all, you're not exactly inviting a conversation, are you? Unless said conversation can be held entirely via extended middle fingers at 75mph, the implication is that your bumper sticker is Truth with a 72pt "T", and anyone who has even a slightly different opinion can go suck lemons.

Bumper stickers never express a middle ground or a nuanced perspective, let alone invite conversation on opposing views; forget considering the possibility that the driver's perspective on things just… might be… wrong. Or at least that the issue might not as absolutely black/white as it may seem at first blush? I have to assume that this is the driver's mentality, and so he/she will be less willing to have an enlightened, open, informative discussion than in having a slogan screaming shoutfest. Thanks for your input, Mr. Meat is Murder, but thanks to your stickerized personality summary I’ve already decided that I’d rather not have that discussion with you without a police barrier between us, so that the venomous spittle of your inspired soundbite chanting can fall on an article of riot gear instead of on my face. Feel free to continue supporting Calvin’s inalienable right to urinate on whatever it is you hate today, but don't expect me to pay any attention.

I do not believe that anyone’s mind was ever changed thanks to a bumper sticker (“A fish with feet! Darwin was RIGHT!”) Therefore, they are used only to declare membership in (and the un-nuanced, obvious complete superiority of) a particular groupthink. Since bumper stickers are designed to stay on your car and yell your point of view as long as possible, I assume your opinion cannot change over time either.

For this reason, I tend to believe people with bumper stickers are opinionated (not a bad thing in general) but inflexible (definitely a bad thing). Their minds are made up, and unless you subscribe to their particular groupthink, you are wrong. Not someone I want to engage in conversation or debate, whether I share some version of the expressed opinion or not.

(2) By definition, a bumper sticker assumes that my opinion is worthier than yours simply because I am in front of you. You never see them on car doors, and only rarely do you see them on the front bumper. It is human nature to extend superiority or leadership in one area to other areas in which the subject may not be fully qualified, but in the same way that I don’t particularly care about a good actor’s political views, I don’t necessarily value your opinion on whale killing more, simply because you managed to leave your house a fraction of a second before I did. Hey, I needed my coffee so I could think.

There are very few things in this world, maybe 3 or 4, that I feel that completely 100% sure of, to the point where I'm not open to even considering opposing views: most of those are much too personal for a bumper sticker (my love for my family, for example).

Not too personal for a blog, of course. But at least blogs can have comment sections.

P.S. Extra-special detention: people who “support” a cause by buying a ribbon magnet, the proceeds of which are far more likely to end up in the coffers of a magnet manufacturer than actually being used to explore the rain forest to find the cure for Projectile Soy Intolerance.

Funny enough, I hate those things for the opposite reason of the above: it's a magnet. It's such a wimpy, temporary expression of support, regardless of who the funds went to. So... fighting breast cancer is something that, sure, you can commit to supporting now, but that if the physical laws of magnetic attraction change polarity at some point in the future you're willing to reconsider?
Thursday, March 24, 2005
  Attachment Processor for Outlook
Interesting little app: allows you to automatically extract attachments from your Outlook mailbox and save them to a folder (or set of folders, set by filters and parameters), replacing the file in your mailbox with a link to the file.

You'd want to configure this to save your attachments to a network drive, since the local drive on the workstation is easily reachable via a variety of methods.

Not exactly a KVS "file-vault" replacement, since a lot of central control over attachments is lost: they are no longer visible for indexing or searching from a central location, and if you're using OWA or a Blackberry you're out of luck.

Still, there are plenty of people for whom this would be a perfect (and relatively cheap) solution. I would configure it so that it saves all attachments that are in folders other than the Inbox, and that are in emails older than (say) 30 days. That way my most recent docs are available in OWA and Blackberry, but the older stuff is saved off. In addition, I would create a one-to-one mapping from folders and subfolders in Outlook to the file folder structure, so that all common files are held together.

Attachments Processor
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
  Visio Cafe
Incredible collection of Visio templates/stencils. Even includes collections specific to Sarbanes-Oxley and Citrix, which is cool.
Look Ma! A Blogger template!

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