Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Next Stop: Aditi Technologies

I am excited to announce that I have officially joined Aditi Technologies as Director of Product Services.  Taking what I have learned building large scale solutions in Windows Azure, I will be responsible for building Aditi's own portfolio of SaaS services and IP/frameworks.  We have a number of exciting projects underway and I hope to blog more about what we are building soon.

Along with this move, I get to rejoin Wade (now my boss!) and Steve as well as some of my former Cumulux colleagues.  I took this role because I see a great opportunity to build software and services in the 'cloud' and I am convinced that Aditi has been making the right investments.  It doesn't hurt at all that I get to work with top-notch technologists either.

Along the way, I plan to build a team to deliver on these cloud services.  If you think you have what it takes to build great software, send me a note and your resume.  Thanks!

 

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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Exporting your Windows Mobile Contacts

Just before I left Microsoft, I got a new Windows Phone 7 device.  I duly synced it to the company Exchange server and forgot about it.  Once I left Microsoft, I simply deleted the connection in WP7.  That turned out to be a big mistake.  Not only did I lose the email and calendar (which I expected), but it also blew away all my contacts on the phone as well.  That was tragic.  You see, I had been building these contacts in my Outlook and phones for years.  These were mostly personal contacts and lasted across many jobs.  These contacts existed nowhere else in the same form.  Heck, I didn't even have my brother's phone number as I only use my cell phone as my number memory.

Well, it turns out that my old Windows Mobile phone was my saving grace.  Since I had recently upgraded phones to my WP7 device, I had simply turned it off.  However, it had a complete copy of my contacts.  Here is how I fixed it (and will never have this issue again).

First, you need to find and install the excellent little app called PIM Backup.  This app look pretty sophisticated as it will backup pretty much everything on the device, including the contacts which is what I cared about.  Once you backup the device, you should go ahead and delete the Exchange partnership on the phone.  This will wipe the device of all your contacts.  You should simply go and restore the backup at this point and your contacts will be back and in good shape on the Windows Mobile phone.

Next, you should create a new Exchange Sync partnership on Windows Mobile and this time use Google.  It is super simple to setup and there are numerous guides (I followed this one).  You just need to remember to use your full email address for the username and no domain.  I chose to only sync contacts and within a minute, I had all of my phone's contacts in Google Contacts.

What followed for the next 30 mins or so was a simple cleanup of years of contact data.  I made extensive use of the 'Find & Merge Duplicates' option in Google Contacts.

Now, WP7 phones will automatically sync with Google Contacts, so I thought everything would be great.  However, there is one complication with that.  By default, WP7 treats Windows Live as special.  It appears that you cannot choose to ignore your Windows Live contacts and only use the Google Contacts.  This leads to an ugly mess on the phone as you will potentially have duplicate accounts or partial data in each.

The solution is to make sure that your Windows Live account is up to date with the right contacts as well.  For me, this was a simple as opening Windows Live Mail, deleting every single contact in it and importing the contacts from Google Contact.  You can export from Google Contacts pretty easily, so this was a very quick operation.  In about 5 mins time, my WP7 phone was synced and ready with my years of contacts.  Furthermore, this shouldn't be an issue anymore as I know have the contacts stored in both Google and Windows Live.

Next time, I will remember to delete partnerships with great care.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A new Career Path

As some of you may know, I recently left Microsoft after almost 4 years.  It was a wonderful experience and I met and worked with some truly great people there.  I was lucky enough to join at the time when the cloud was just getting started at Microsoft.  Code words like CloudDB, Strata, Sitka, Red Dog, and others I won't mention here flew around like crazy.

I started as the SQL Server Data Services (SSDS) evangelist and later became the Windows Azure Evangelist (after SSDS eventually became SQL Azure).  For the last 2 years, Windows Azure has been my life and it was great seeing a technology very rapidly grow from CTP to a full featured platform in such a short time.

Well, I am not moving far from Windows Azure - I still strongly believe in what Microsoft has done here.  I recently joined Cumulux as Director of Cloud Services.  I will be driving product strategy, some key customer engagements, and take part in the leadership team there.  Cumulux is a close Microsoft partner with a Windows Azure focus, so it is a great fit for me for both personal as well as professional reasons.

While I will miss the great folks I got to work with at Microsoft and being in the thick of everything, I am very excited to begin this new career path with Cumulux.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Last Week of Parental Leave

I have been largely offline for the last 3 weeks because I have been on parental leave (again).  I was lucky enough to have another baby girl last December right around Christmas.  Working for Microsoft, this means that within the first year, you can take 4 weeks off to be at home with your new baby.  It is a terrific benefit.  Hence, for the last 3 weeks I have been largely caring for my youngest alone while her older sister is at daycare.  What a unique bonding experience - it is something that has been wonderful.

Priya 

Sisters

Anyhow, I will be back to work next week and I know that I will miss my time here.  It has gone by far too fast.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Netflix on Media Center

Finally!  I have been using some great plugins for VMC that gave me Netflix streaming support.  However, for the last few weeks all of my computers have been unable to use Netflix streaming because of DRM issues with the older (non-Silverlight) mechanism.  I didn't want to upgrade my account to use the Silverlight capability until someone got it working on VMC.  Now, I finally can.  I can't wait to try it out - it's the main reason I have Netflix.

Monday, 04 May 2009

NoScript and the mysterious updates

I use AdBlock Plus and I use NoScript from Firefox (when I am not running IE8).  I selectively enable ads on sites where I care about the advertising (usually technical sites).  I absolutely loathe the ads I see on most mainstream sites (usually some idiotic dancing baby/man/woman/thing hawking predatory loans), so I don't feel bad in the slightest about blocking them.  That might seem strange given that I run ads on my blog site.  However, I honestly don't care if folks block them.  My ads happen to be targeted at technical folks so they should be largely relevant to the vast majority of my visitors.  Given that a huge proportion of my visits are via RSS readers, most folks never even see the ads anyway.

Over the last few months I have noticed that NoScript has been updating basically every time I open and close the browser.  I thought, "wow, these guys must have found new and interesting exploits almost daily".  Nope, turns out it was a spat between the author of NoScript and the maintainers of AdBlock Plus.

It seems clear to me that NoScript was in the wrong on this one.  People who have enabled AdBlock Plus want it because they don't want to see ads.  It really doesn't matter if NoScript likes it or not.  It is not their settings to mess with.  Respect your users's choice - end of story.  It also doesn't bode well for the security architecture of Firefox that these things can mess with each other, but that is another story.

Sunday, 01 February 2009

SuperBowl XLIII

I am getting ready to watch the SuperBowl again this year.  Last year was surprisingly entertaining, so I have high hopes.  It will be interesting to see if the Stealers can win this one on their own this time or if the referees will hand them the game again like last time with another litany of unbelievably - shady calls (two of them enough to make the top 10 for the season).  It will also be interesting to see if the coverage will be nearly as biased as last time.

I still remember the stupid black and white montages of an individual player that would be shown at timeouts and other events.  It was telling that the entire first half was Steelers players and coaches and fully half of the montages during the second half were Steelers players as well.

Well, it is about to start - let's see how much the media sucks up to the Steelers again.  Maybe without Jerome to retire they will officiate honestly this time.

Monday, 26 January 2009

First Day of Parental Leave

We had our first child in October and my wife stayed home the first three months.  I only stayed the first week after delivery and started back to work.  It was hard to go back to work so soon, but I knew that my wife would be fine with her parents helping out.  We wanted to maximize the time that she stayed at home with family, so we decided to take our leave separately with no overlap. Even though I felt like I missed a bit with her at first, I knew also that babies get a lot more fun a few months down the road so I wasn't too broken up to wait awhile.

Well, the time has come for the wife to head back to work.  As such, I decided to take advantage of the generous parental leave policy from Microsoft.  For the next 4 weeks, I will be exclusively focusing on non-cloud related matters during the day and spending my time with with my super-cute (super-turd) daughter.

IMG_9447

What a joy. and quite a handful.  She is all smiles most of the time and has recently discovered the joy of her own voice in squeals and shouts.  I am really excited right now about spending this time with her, let's see how that turns out in 4 weeks however. :)

Sunday, 07 December 2008

A Solution for your Secret Santa Needs

Every year, we siblings and their spouses (or significant others as the case may be) in the clan Dunn get together and exchange gifts.  Years ago, we decided that trying to get each person a gift was a bit burdensome and it diluted the value of the gift.  Instead, we decided to do the Secret Santa - each person getting a name and spending ~$50 on that person.

Well, we used to actually see each other before Xmas and pull names out of the hat.  Not so much anymore.  As such, it was getting harder and harder to pull names.  I tried setting up some programs, Excel sheets, etc. to pick names randomly and email, but I always ended up knowing who my Secret Santa was since I was the admin, and since I also didn't have time to put in fancy restrictions like 'no spouses' or 'no reciprocity' (i.e. A gets B and B gets A), people complained.

I found the solution:  The Secret Santa Random Name Generator

It will even hide the names from you and email the people on your behalf.  You can also list exclusions in the picker.  The really great part:  it's free and I don't have register for anything.  Admittedly, I have to give up an email address - but with the amount of spam I get already, I doubt this will turn the tide.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Programming Meme

My buddy Vittorio tagged me for this meme that has been making the rounds.  It is interesting to see what some people have answered.  Mine probably is pretty tame in comparison I am sure.

How old were you when you started programming?

My first computer was the Commodore 64 in the early 80's.  I think it was around 1982 or early 83, so that would have made me around 7.  My first exposure to programming was typing programs out of magazines and books.  I remember computing the checksum as a way of catching errors.  We initially had a tape drive for storage and eventually had the 5.25 disk drive to save files.  I learned quickly the BASIC language and programmed trivial things there.

It would be a few years later when we got a 286 10mhz (it was a JET!) computer with 640K RAM and some obscenely small harddrive size that I forget now (maybe 20MB?).  It had a Hercules graphics card that drove the monochrome monitor (amber no less).  I became very proficient with word processing and using DOS at that time.  I tried using QBASIC I think around that time.

How did you get started in programming?

I was only interested in computers as a hobby until I started working after college.  My degree was for operations management and statistics.  I happened to be working when the internet boom started (and busted).  Since operations management was often about manufacturing and manufacturing jobs were often located in small towns, I watched my colleagues with envy as they got better projects in better locations just by learning Java.  I will never forget Shelbyville, TN or Shenandoah, IA - if they weren't such horrible places to work I would probably never have jumped at an opportunity to learn ASP and get out of manufacturing consulting.  It was simple to learn ASP and by extension VBScript and I never looked back again.

What was your first real language?

I didn't program again after my brief stint with BASIC until college.  I had my intro computer science course taught in Turbo Pascal.  It wasn't terribly hard and I enjoyed learning the algorithms.  I knew BASIC from the C64 and TRS-80 days, but I would say that I learned Turbo Pascal probably better than that and it was my first real language.  Of course, I don't remember it at all now, but I was good in the day.

What was the first 'real' program you wrote?

I had to write a final project for my CS course in college.  I ended up writing a poker program that emulated the kind of poker you would play on a slot machine.  It actually worked pretty well and I wish I still had it. 

What languages have you used since you started programming?

BASIC, Turbo Pascal, VBScript, Javascript, VBA (for Access), VB6, TSQL and now mostly C# these days.  I don't know if XSLT, XPath, DHTML, etc. count or not.

What was your first professional programming gig?

I think my first program I got paid for was writing some VBA code for a Lotus Notes application (what a gawdawful programming model, btw) at a client.  Before I finished it, I was sent to a small startup called Point.com (now defunct) and wrote a whole ton of Javascript and XML code.  This was using the XmlHttpRequest object well before people called that 'AJAX'.  Unfortunately, the bust came around that time and that code never saw the light of day...

If you knew what you knew now, would have have started programming?

Hard to say.  Part of me wishes that I would have gotten a masters in CS or taken a number of other programming courses in college.  Part of me however wishes I would have just gone to medical school and kept this as a hobby.  It just depends on the day of the week and what I am working on.

If there was one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Find a better developer, read their code, understand their code, and then emulate them.  This is also called "saddle yourself to a better developer and learn".  I became a better developer when I watched my friend help me with an Access database that I was attempting (badly) to write for a internship one summer.  He was (and probably still is) a much better developer.  I learned a ton just by seeing how he was doing things.  Later, I would see code from senior developers and I would study their style to learn what they were doing.  I always tried to emulate what I saw and make it a part of my style.  If I had never read anyone else's code or never tried to incorporate it, I would still be a second rate programmer (I might still be... who knows).

What's the most fun you have ever had... programming?

I actually enjoyed learning Javascript and XML back in the day.  I remember being excited about optimizing the rendering speed in IE 5 for a particularly large XML payload.  I was learning a lot, and becoming a better developer.  I didn't mind working crazy hours and I read constantly on how to be better at ASP, Javascript, and XML.  The projects I hated were the ones where you produced code, but never got to see it get implemented and never saw anyone use it.

Now... on to two other suckers:  Nino and James - you've been 'tagged'.

Monday, 02 June 2008

Continental Offers Million Miler Program

As a frequent flier and former Continental Platinum Elite member, I was always jealous of the American Airlines program where you got lifetime status on the airline whenever you achieved a million air miles with them.  However, I was browsing the FlyerTalk forum when I noticed this announcement.  I can't wait to see how far away I am on it (probably 600K or more away is my guess).

FlyerTalk Announcment

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Amazon MP3 Downloader

I just tried out the new Amazon MP3 store and the accompanying MP3 downloader.  So far, it seems like a nice piece of unobtrusive software (unlike that evil, evil iTunes POS).  Although I was not a fan of the Unbox service, I think I have found where I will be downloading music from now on...

Saturday, 12 April 2008

My Comcastic Reaming Adventure

I recently moved and had to get Comcast.  Is there any other business entity in the world that is so despised as cable companies?  The RIAA is close, but you are much more likely to deal with cable companies than the prior.  Warning: ranting to follow...

Part I: Ordering

Calling Comcast to order packages found on comcast.com is an exercise in futility.  First, the rep will spend 20 minutes trying to upsell you to their damn $99 triple play bundle.  My favorite part of that experience:  If you tell them you are not interested in the phone service (I am not) and you use the word VOIP, they will correct you: "no, no... it is not *VOIP* sir, it is *secure* voice communication over your cable line".  Ahh... I forgot that Comcast sells magic flippin' fairy dust that makes the IP packets carrying your voice a.) turn magically secure, and b.) not be called IP packets.

I didn't bother correcting her as I realized she was just a script-reading monkey making commissions on selling Triple Play.  After firmly insisting that no, I really didn't want magic non-VOIP, 'secure', VOIP communication, I asked what the price of basic cable was.  I was told it was something like $53 for just basic cable.  Note, you cannot find this price on the website, you can only find the price of bundles.  I tell her that I know for a fact that people can get cable for $20 or so and she tells me, "oh, you want *limited* cable!, yes that's $20".  She then proceeds to tell me that you can either have limited for $20 or what they call the "Digital Starter Pack" for $53.  I tell her that Comcast's website says that there is a package in between called "Basic", and she denies it.  Perhaps they should fix their (censored) website:

 

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So, at this point she is just lying to me and I know it, so I decide to test her a bit.  I ask her about adding internet to the package and bundling the price.  She tells me that is the $53 + $43 or $96 a month and that there is no bundle for that.  She then mentions that the triple play would be a better deal at $99 with more channels (plus phone!!).  I love it when the $8/hr. help tries to treat me like a retarded cave man.

I point out that the a.) the internet is $20/month on the website and b.) internet + cable on the website is only $60 a month there as well.  She tells me that it is a special deal only through the web.  So, I press the point:  "are you telling me that you do not offer a "Double Play" bundle like the website, but you *do* offer the same "Triple Play" bundle as the website?  Do you or do you not sell a Double Play option?"

The truth slowly bubbles to the surface.  It turns out yes, they do offer a internet + cable bundle called "Double Play" she corrects herself, but it is $70 a month, not $60.  I ask her why she told me $96.  She tells me she thought I wanted only basic (Digital Starter cable), while the "Double Play" version she sells includes "Digital Preferred" or Premier, I forget.  So in essence, she was willing to sell me an inferior package for more money than admit there was a bundle that offered more for less money to prove her point that I should be buying the (censored) Triple Play still.  She still won't admit there is a "Basic" cable tier between Limited and Digital Starter either.

I end up telling her that I will order through the website since she can't even sell me the same things that are being offered and she hasn't been entirely forthcoming with me.

Part II:  The Installation

After ordering the $60 Double Play bundle including a nice $45 charge to "install" the cable, I confirm online that I want the HD equipment and 2 boxes for my two HD capable TVs.  The technicians (contractors) show up on Saturday (1 week ago) and guess what they don't bring?  If you said HD boxes... you're right!

After calling support while the contractors were there, the support rep tells me that she will add the HD equipment to the account and that she will call me back.  I tell her I want the fee waived since the install is botched - she agrees to waive the fee (yeah!).  Guess what happens?  If you said, "she won't add the boxes and totally will not call you back and will not waive fee"... you're right!

So, after dickering around a bit, I get the contractors to give me an 'extra' HD box they have in their truck and they call and get it added to my account.  Then, they tell me that I will have to drive to the store to get another HD box and "later man", they are gone.  At no point did they actually test to make sure that I was getting the programming package that I paid for.  So, guess what happens?  If you said, "Ryan won't get any of the channels he paid for"...  you're right!

Part III:  The Cleanup

So, after 1 day I notice that I don't have many channels... in fact I have very few channels.  I start an online chat to get those turned on.  The rep there can't get them on despite "sending a signal to the box".  He schedules a technician visit for me.  I explicitly ask for three things (I have this in a transcript): a.) my channels turned on, b.) the missing HD equipment with firewire output for my media center, and c.) to waive the service charge since this a botched thing on their part.  He agrees on all three things and tells me they will be there tomorrow between 8am and 12pm.

I wake bright and early on Monday in case they decide to show exactly at 8am.  I realize of course that if I am ready at 8am they won't show until 12pm, but if I am not ready at 8am you can bet that will be when they show up according to Murphy's Law.  Around 11:20am I decide to give Comcast a call to confirm the scheduled visit.  Turns out that the previous rep left no notes to why I called and that they were not going to send anyone.  One emergency page later, I have a Comcast technician showing up exactly at 12pm.  He admits he has no idea why he is there however and asks me what he can do.

The only bright part in this entire story is that technician.  He was a nice, competent guy that actually got things done.  He determined that they had just botched configuring the box back at the main office.  A few phone calls later, my box is turned on and channels are fixed.  Next, he happens to have the HD box I need, so he hooks me up there.  He apologizes to me and admits that none of this should have happened and that it could all have been easily fixed on the first attempt.  All in all, I think I am done with this tragedy.

Part IV:  The Lingering Stink

Today, I got my Comcast bill.  Guess what?  If you guessed that I would be charged not only for the first $45 botched install, plus the second $20 install to fix the first and would be facing a $150 cable bill for < 7 days service... you're right!

So, today I decide to email them through the Comcast website and see what gets resolved.  I explain nicely and in detail what has occurred to this point and try to submit.  Of course, nowhere does it explain there is a limit to how much you can email (side note, I forgot that most email systems choke up under 4 paragraphs of text these days).  So, many shortened revisions later, I try to submit my story for resolution and here is what I get:

image

My comcastic adventure is just getting better and better.  Naturally, I decide to look up "comcastic" to see what the actual definition is:

comcastic (adj.)

1. A blithe attempt to screw consumers.  "The comcastic enterprise left few consumers happy with the reduced service higher prices, and hidden charges".

2. Lacking follow through or resolve.  "That fat lazy bastard approached his work like he did exercise:  with comcastic resolve."

synonyms: see LIARS, UNRELIABLE, CRAPTACULAR, PRISON SEX

Turns out that is was my fault for not checking the dictionary first when I was told that my experience would be "comcastic".

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Internet Connection Sharing is Amazing

I am on the road this week, working from a hotel and Starbucks primarily.  My hotel provides a wireless connection throughout the building which is a great thing.  The downside is that it basically dies in the evening when everyone gets to the hotel and slows the pipe to a trickle.  The other major downside is that it is incompatible with Microsoft VPN software.  What to do?

I recently switched phone providers from T-Mobile to AT&T.  The reason for this was actually quite simple:  It was waaay cheaper to switch to AT&T, get a brand new Blackjack 2 phone along with the 3G network offered there (T-Mobile is GPRS only right now) than to remain a T-Mobile customer.

I remember reading from Omar about using ICS with the Blackjack 2, so I give it a try.

Wow, the AT&T 3G network is amazingly fast (~863 Kb/s down, ~281 Kb/s up) for a phone.  But more to the point, it is faster and more reliable that the hotel wireless, plus it lets me VPN into work to boot.  That feature alone is worth the price of admission.  It's a shame that the Blackjack 2 doesn't have any way of getting Hotmail into your messaging app or that they didn't include ICS by default.  But, using the hack that Omar pointed out goes a long way to fixing some of it.  Very nice...

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

On Retaining Customers

When I see companies act against their own interests it really no longer surprises me.  I suppose I have become so jaded in a sense that I can now accept that people and companies are completely inflexible from what they have been told to do.  I see this all the time, from the people at TSA that cannot make a judgement call on whether a 5 year old is a terrorist, to company presidents that believe a good business model is to sell a single screw for 50 cents and ship it for $7 (not to mention who get pretty mad when you ask if they are serious).

Case in point, I tried several months ago to upgrade my craptastic HTC Wizard phone to the new slider phone from T-Mobile called the Shadow.  My office mate, David has had good things to say so far about it, so I figured I would give it a shot.  Here's the rub - I have been a long time T-Mobile customer, so I no longer have a contract.  However, that does not mean that I get new customer pricing.  In fact, it means I get zippo for being a loyal customer.  If I want the phone, I need to pony up either the full price or I have to pay $150 and get a new two-year contract.  Keep in mind, if I was a new customer, I would get the phone for $79 and get a two-year contract.  Where's my motivation?  If I switch to AT&T, I could get the Blackjack 2 plus a much faster 3G data connection (T-Mobile is still on pokey GPRS) for only $69 and *no* contract (Microsoft has an awesome deal with AT&T).  Even if I wasn't getting a stellar Microsoft deal, I could get that phone and data plan for much cheaper by switching companies.  I mean, if you are gonna get screwed into a 2 year contract, why not take the one that screws you for less?

I pointed out that it was cheaper and faster to go with AT&T than remain with T-Mobile to the representative on the phone.  They told me to try going to the store in Redmond as they might be able to do something there more for me (as they deal with Microsoft all the time apparently).  A few weeks later when I finally got to the store, the answer was the same - "Nothing we can do" and "I don't have the authority to do that".  I don't think I was asking for a lot - just give me the same pricing as a new customer and I will even take a 2 year contract.  T-Mobile keeps me as a customer, and I get a new phone - a win, win.  Sidenote: I wasn't really surprised because as I mentioned, I am used to this now and I was dealing with the same company, that if you change your service plan to a higher (more expensive) tier will automatically add a 2 year contract.  "We punish you for spending more on our services" is the motto here - how does that make any sense?

Long story short, I quit T-Mobile and I am using AT&T again.  I was able to get the new Blackjack 2 phone, plus all the accessories and a 4GB data card for *less* than the price of the T-Mobile Shadow, plus get a much faster 3G data connection to boot - all without a contract!

Don't get me wrong, I am probably trading one problem for another, but at least I was able to get a decent phone for now and walk away feeling better about the whole situation.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Rockbox for MP3 Player

A number of years ago, I purchased an iRiver iHP-120 20GB MP3 player for a long trip I was taking.  At the time, this thing was pretty nice, with plenty of storage, lots of codec support, recording support, and also an FM tuner.  In comparison to the leading MP3 player of the time, it beat it feature-wise hands down on every single specification (including price).  Fast-forward almost 5 years now, and this bad boy is starting to show its age.  It is a little bulkier than most players these days and it is pretty slow when booting.  The boot time seems to be caused by a large number of files that it must parse before actually starting.  This was driving me crazy.

Rockbox was a project created some time ago to replace the firmware on Archos devices.  Eventually, these guys also got around to replacing most of the iRiver products firmware as well.  Now, they also have custom firmware for a bunch of the iPod devices, too.  I have always kept this project on my radar, but never jumped on it because they did not have support for the WMA codec.  Even though I only have a few files in WMA format, I hate the idea of losing functionality.

Well, after getting frustrated with the long boot times again, I decided to check on the project again.  I found that they have actually added WMA support based on a Google Summer of Code project.  That was enough to put me over the edge and give it a shot.  It was actually pretty easy to do.

  1. You simply download a bootloader that is patched into the official firmware.  Using the standard firmware upgrading procedure for you device, you simply allow this patched firmware to intercept and act as a bootloader.
  2. Next, you download the latest build from Rockbox and copy the folder to the device.  The folder is named .rockbox and it contains all the files necessary to run a completely different firmware.  You have the choice of course to boot into the original firmware at any time.

It is amazing the difference between the Rockbox and the iRiver functionality.  Rockbox beats iRiver hands down - this is the way the firmware should have been to begin with.  Right off the bat, I noticed:

  1. Lighting fast load times - my device now turns on and is ready to go within 3 seconds versus the over 25 - 45 seconds of the original firmware.
  2. Smaller font size - this is a good thing.  The original firmware font was so big that most titles fell off the sides and you could only read the name by waiting and allowing it autoscroll sideways.  The smaller font means much less scrolling and more titles fit on each page as well, making it easier to find what you are looking for.
  3. Playlists!  This was another major missing feature on the original firmware.  You could only create playlists from a computer and load it on the device.  There was no way to listen to a song, flip back into the database, find another song and queue it for next play.  Finally, Rockbox has given me this feature (and much more).

Ahh... to think I could have been enjoying this for years now.  Oh well... better late than never.  Great job to the Rockbox team!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Architect Evangelist

This blog has been quiet for some time now as my career took an unexpected twist.  I am excited to announce that I accepted a position with Microsoft on their Evangelism team.  My area of focus will be the web platform and all surrounding various technologies.  My first day with my new team was on Tuesday, and I am excited to get moving, ramp up, and start to contribute.

As for this blog... I am not sure yet what will happen.  I expect I will just keep it and use it more as a personal outlet with continued directory services technical posts.  I imagine I will most likely also get a blog on the MSDN blogging site that will remain purely technical and related to my particular job.

On a personal note, I spent 3 good years with my last employer, Avanade.  It was a difficult decision to leave behind a lot smart and very talented folks and a great consulting company.  Ultimately, it came down to me wanting to try a new career, that while technical, was a change in direction from consulting.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

An Office with a View

One of the downsides of consulting is that there is no permanence in what you do.  By permanence, I mean that I never get too comfortable with whatever I am working on or even where I am located.  They just change too much.  Unlike 'normal' jobs, where your title and responsibility remains the same for long periods of time, consulting is inherently about change.  I suppose one might argue that this lack of permanence might be a good thing as well - especially if you hate your job or situation and desperately need change.

I have never had an office.  I have never had an admin (or secretary as we used to call them).  I have never worked in the same role or with the same client for longer than 18 months.  Even at longer engagements, my role on the project is constantly changing according to needs.  One day I will be writing code and another I will be writing business cases.

My latest project comes with an unexpected perk - an office.  Well, not really an office as much as a phone booth.  It is approximately 6' by 4' in dimension with a table, phone and a window.  However, this piece of real estate has a door and is not a cube for once.  Today was my first day in my new phonebooth office.

My excitement at having a semi-private working space was dampened a bit this afternoon as I discovered what my view consisted of.  I look directly over some train tracks nestled between a building to my right and a scrubbrush covered hill and highway overpass to my left.

I don't know what it is about train tracks that attracts bums and filth, but there is an unmistakable association between all three.  Throw in a highway overpass nearby and you have a regular cesspool (though, not in an Indian-train-depot kind of cesspool way).  Today I was reminded of this even more as I unavoidably had to watch the homeless man under the overpass walk into the scrub brush, lower his drawers, and presumably drop a deuce.

Perhaps offices are overrated...

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Doug Reilly will be missed

I learned today that fellow MVP Doug Reilly (Douglas J Reilly) recently lost his battle with cancer.  I remember from the last two MVP conferences sitting and talking with Doug at meals and being amazed at how self-effacing and sincere this guy was.  He was an old timer in the tech industry to be sure, but with such depth of experience and insight that it was always a pleasure to sit and listen to him speak.  There are some personalities in MVP program that drive me nuts with their egos, but never Doug.  A more level-headed, humble, and genuinely nice person would be hard to find.  Everyone will miss Doug's contributions to the .NET community for sure, but I will miss his personality and presence the most.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Moved to Seattle

Well, I have been keeping this quiet for about 2 months now, but my wife and I finally are in Seattle and (somewhat) settled in our new apartment in downtown.  Travel had become too much in my work and I was missing way too much time with my wife.  Some people I know can deal with that type of relationship, but together we decided it was just not healthy to see each other only 2 days a week for 18 months.  My wife had no problem getting a job in the area and I simply transferred offices.  Avanade was really good in this regard about working with me and making the transition easy.

I had moved from Seattle after high school to go to college in Cleveland.  That was where I met my wife and we had lived for the last 12 years.  In moving back, I thought it would be fun if I didn't tell my family and made it a surprise.  It was fun seeing the look on their faces as they realized I wasn't just in town for a Microsoft conference and it wasn't a 'corporate' apartment I was staying in.  The slow realization that something wasn't right as they noticed the china and wedding pictures was great.

We are both excited to be here - Seattle is a much better city than Cleveland in so many ways.  But, it is bittersweet in many ways as well.  We left behind a lot of good friends and my wife's family as well.

Now that I am a bit more settled, I will be more responsive to emails and questions on the forums.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Back from South America

Things have been crazy lately.  I was lucky enough to spend a couple weeks with my wife's family and friends down in South America.  We visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru.  I will post more on each as I get time along with some pictures I think.  Each one of these countries was very cool in its own way.  There was so much to see and it was such packed trip.  Anyhow, if you have been emailing me for help or ask questions on forums and I have not been answering, that is why.

Finally, if you are trying to get ahold of me for the next few weeks on LDAP stuff and I don't respond quickly, please try to post the question to the website: http://directoryprogramming.net on the forums.  I am not ignoring you, but I have lots and lots of things going on right now and not enough time to get to my email these days.

Wednesday, 04 October 2006

MVP Again

I was fortunate enough to receive the MVP award again for the 2007 year.  I would like to thank Microsoft and all the program supporters that make this possible.  I enjoy helping others and that is why I do it – the MVP privileges however are a very nice perk.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

I'm a Dork

Joe Richards, of Active Directory 3rd Edition fame was nice enough to label me here as one of his ‘dorks’.  His book, btw is one of the best (if not the best) references to Active Directory.  Thanks Joe.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Busy

Unfortunately the blog has been dark for the last month or so.  I have just been very busy with work and life in general.  More posts to come next month…

 

Friday, 07 April 2006

What a small world

I was reading a post by my friend (and ex-coworker) James Avery today that made me want to checkout the status of the NHibernate project.  I had heard of this project a long time ago, but never looked into at all.  So, browsing the first page I see a name I am pretty sure I recognize – Mike Doerfler.  He is listed as one of the main contributors to the project on the homepage.

The funny part is that Mike and I used to teach classic ASP together back in the day when we both worked at Ernst & Young.  I think the market had slowed or something and we needed to keep busy, so we took the job as an internal project to teach the basics of ASP programming.  I can still remember how easy it was to crash the NT4 servers when students either put their database or UI code into infinite loops.  Having 20 generally horrible developers work on a single IIS server and one database server is like locking a couple sheep into the same room with a bunch of wolves... the poor things never stood a chance.

So, I am pretty sure Mike left in 1999 or 2000 and we slowly lost touch.  I have a ton of MSN Messenger contacts and Mike has been on there forever though the chats have been fewer and fewer until non-existent.  To be fair, I almost never chat with anyone anymore.  First, I am hardly ever online with Messenger, and second, I just don’t have a lot to chat about.

Anyhow, I had to send Mike an IM to see if it was the same ‘Doerfler’.  Turns out it was!  Now, I wonder who else is on my IM list that has gone on to fame and fortune…  I really need to do a better job of keeping in touch with people.

Friday, 10 March 2006

Four things...

Fellow Avanade’r Nino seems to have ‘tagged’ me for this four things game.  Well… here goes:

Four Jobs I’ve had…

  • Target Store stock boy
  • MS Access Developer (during college)
  • Ford Intern for IT department
  • Management Consultant

Four movies I can watch over and over…

  • The Big Lebowski
  • Office Space
  • Fight Club
  • Groundhog Day

Four TV shows I love to watch…

  • Scrubs
  • Mythbusters
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Modern Marvels

Four places I’ve been on vacation…

  • Maui, Kauai, HI
  • Australia (all over), New Zealand (all over)
  • Greece (Hydra, Mykonos, Santorini)
  • Grand Cayman Island

Four favorite dishes…

  • Cutthroat Salmon (Shucker’s)
  • Porterhouse Steak (Hyde Park or Metropolitan Grill)
  • Duck (Wild Ginger)
  • Sushi (best is in Seattle and Hawaii)

Four websites I visit daily:

Four places I’d rather be…

  • On vacation
  • At a bar
  • In an electronics store
  • relaxing with my wife anywhere

Four bloggers I’m tagging

  • Keith (security guy extraordinaire)
  • Cole (general super stud)
  • Joe (besides being an LDAP/AD guru, he’s got a lot of opinions… which I love reading)
  • Ulf (another AD guru and all around nice guy)