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Skype My wife usually uses a cheap calling card to call her mother in Japan. Unfortunately, for the last month, every time she would try to call, there would be problems. Today for example, they were having problems routing calls and she kept waking up some man in god only knows what god forsaken country he was in.

I suggested she finally give Skype a try and she’s now downstairs on her iBook chatting with her mom. Since her mom doesn’t have a computer, she’s using the Skype Out service which is still much cheaper than using the phone.

I don’t exactly know why, but I find this use of computers and software so interesting and compelling. Part of it is the simple enjoyment of seeing how technology can foster community and communication. But more personally, it is also the excitement of seeing software and technology that I am excited about that my wife can also enjoy and be excited about. Most of the time my excitement for technology falls on deaf ears.

Hey honey, check this out! These new Visualizers allow me to view the values within a Hashtable while stepping through the debugger. Does’t that just blow your socks off!?

Umm… sure it does honey.

Reach out and Skype someone.

I just read what I wrote up there and it sounds just like a Skype ad. Hey Skype! Pay me! ;)

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IPod DJ MixerWhen this whole “Software Development” fad dies out (and yes, I am using air quotes here with the two fingers), I know what my next calling will be: An IPod DJ!

Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be using this at the next house party I throw. And yes, Kid AND Play are both invited.

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Samsung SSD Too bad these things aren’t out yet. With no moving parts, this thing sips power, less than 5% of the power consumption of current hard disk drives, while blazing at 150 percent of the performance of comparably sized drives.

The downside is that these will start off much smaller than your typical hard-drive and the first ones won’t be available until August. I need a new drive before Tuesday when we leave for Japan.

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Toshiba M200 I’m pretty bummed today as my Tablet PC went on a holiday and refuses to come back. I’m pretty sure it’s a problem with the hard drive as the last event viewer message I saw was a warning that the system detected an imminent hard drive failure. That’s when I started backing everything up.

Hey there buddy, thanks for the heads up, but if you see it coming, can’t you do something about it?

The worse part is that I am getting the warranty runaround and I am not yet sure who is at fault. Toshiba is telling me that my warranty was only good for 90 days because it’s a factory reconditioned system. Well that’s odd because the warranty pamphlet that came with it says that I have a year warranty. Specifically it says…

One (1) Year Limited Warranty ENCORE Notebook Computers

For ENCORE (Remanafactured) Notebook Computers Purchased within the Fifty (50) United States and District of Columbia.

If that weren’t enough, the sticker on the back of the computer says the following:

This Toshiba Computer Product has been reconditioned, and although not new, is warranted by Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. under its standard Limited Warranty, excluding any coverage for external blemishes.

Now let’s see, I bought the computer in Californ-eye-aye, which qualifies as being a member of the Fifty United States. A Tablet PC is a notebook. And it is remanafactured. Now I wonder what leads me to believe I am still covered?

The nice lady in a far off country on the phone for Toshiba told me that some remanafactured PCs come with one year and others come with three months. She says I?m in the three months camp. She says resellers such as Tiger Direct (her example, not mine) sometimes tell customers what they want to hear, and not the truth about the warranty. I wonder if she’s blowing smoke up my rear (an impressive trick) or if indeed, the retailer pulled a fast one on me.

So tomorrow I need to call PC Video Online to find out their version of the warranty story. Worst case scenario, I’ll purchase a new and even better hard drive. Either way, this sucks.

UPDATE: I called PC Video Online and they told me that they are indeed an authorized Toshiba reseller and that they don’ open the boxes they receive from Toshiba. Therefore, they have no responsibility for the warranty materials packaged within.

As Walter (a brilliant lawyer I might add) pointed out in my comments, it does appear that I am entitled to a one year warranty. From various reports around the web and my comments, it seems that hard drive failures in the M200 is quite common. At this point, I don’t necessarily want the same old hard-drive anymore. I just want Toshiba to honor its commitments.

[Listening to: Remind Me - Röyksopp - Melody A.M. (3:39)]

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James
LavelleI’ve been pretty head down lately with work. But I just had to take a short break to blog this sweet funky song. The refrain is too catchy. You can click on the image to the right to sample the CD at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon\ In La La Land.\ Something about those little pills\ unreal\ the thrills\ they yield\ until they kill a million brain cells.

I have a feeling he’s not singing about a particular physical location, but “La La Land” is a common term for Los Angeles. Breathing the air here will have the same effect as the little pills he mentions.

Disclaimer This blog in no way promotes nor condones drug use. It promotes interesting music. Just assume the lyrics are discussing aspirin. Very potent aspirin.

[Listening to: Green Velvet - La La Land - James Lavelle - Fabric Live. 01 (2:39)]

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Zinedine Zidane

You know how in Monopoly you can draw a Community Chest card that says “Bank Error In Your Favor, Collect $200?” We had one of those moments regarding the Real Madrid vs Galaxy game.

The Galaxy put in place a rule that in order to purchase tickets to the Real Madrid game, you had to purchase as many tickets to another Galaxy game. A somewhat sleazy tactic to raise sales, but I wasn’t complaining too much. I figured more soccer is better than less.

So we purchased two tickets to the July 4th game against New England and two tickets to the Real Madrid game. In the mail, we only received one ticket for the Real Madrid game.

So I sent emails and got on the phone to customer support last Friday to no avail. I discovered that we only were charged for one ticket, so I began to worry that we would not be able to pick up another ticket because the game was sold out. Yesterday, I spent an hour or so trying to work my way through customer support to make sure our other ticket would be there at the box office and would be seated next to the first ticket.

When we got there, the will call line was a mess. It seems that everyone who bought via the Galaxy Online website was having problems with their orders. Apparently they were unable to send out all the tickets they intended to and got a lot of orders wrong. The line was held up as they tried to print the tickets from the system while scalpers hovered about offering tickets for $200 a piece.

I wanted to hand the Galaxy my business card and tell them I can help build them a new software system and business process to improve their ticket sales management. ;) Meanwhile, those who purchased from TicketMaster seemed to have no trouble at all.

Sure enough, when we got there, we got a second ticket in a completely different section. However, it turns out that they could only give us a $75.00 ticket in a much nicer section (which I think they comped us). Not pleased with the prospect of my wife sitting alone, I figured we would both check out the section to see if there were empty seats.

It turns out that the ticket was in an ideal location, section 108 row M right near midfield, much better than our original seats. We decided to try it out and we ran into a couple of soccer buddies (one who works for Fox Soccer Channel) and a few empty seats in a prime location in section

  1. Goooooooooooooal!

The game itself was quite entertaining. It was clear that the Galaxy was overmatched, as Real Madrid scored early and with ease on the part of Zidane’s superb play. However, the Galaxy put in a good showing and showed some grit. The highlight though, was Zidane’s amazing control and composure with the ball, not to mention scoring midfield seats.

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Did I ever tell you I really love Flickr? I’m sure I have. Anyways, found this little gem via Roy.

hlopes_aMetallic
Aflag
emblemDSC00055Smartie
lid
\"e\"One
Letter /
D

The interface is also RESTful in that you can append your name to the end of the URL. For example, http://metaatem.net/words/Haacked.

My name above is displayed by adding the following script tag to this blog post:

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://metaatem.net/spell.php?picsize=s&string=Haacked”></script>

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Ok, one of you forgot to send me the memo about the MVC application block released by Microsoft. Fess up. Who forgot to send the memo?

Perhaps I missed this because they chose the name “User Interface Process Application Block” (“UIP” for short). A name that means very little to me and would not catch my attention. Not a big deal, but it seems to me that “MVC Application Block” would catch developers attentions more to its real use, unless there really is more to it than just MVC (which I have not yet investigated).

Just recently I was working on a UI that could have benefitted from the MVC pattern. I decided not to roll my own at the moment since I was trying to rapdily prototype the UI. I was implementing this UI in ASP.NET, but with the idea that a WinForms version could also be useful at some point.

Fortunately, Mark Seeman comes to the rescue with this article, “Easy UI Testing - Isolate Your UI Code Before It Invades Your Business Layer”. Mark succinctly outlines how to implement the Application Controller pattern using the UIP and completes the picture with UI agnostic unit tests (using NUnit) of the controller logic. You know how I loves me some unit tests!

Mark, I owe you a beer for highlighting the real potential underneath this hidden gem of an application block.

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Just the other day, I tried viewing a web application I’m developing on my local machine. After navigating to http://localhost/MyWebApp/ I got a blank browser screen. Nada. Zippo. Nothing. Not even the benefit of an error message.

Fortunately, the nice people at SysInternals have graced the development world with their suite of fantastic utilities including TCPView.

I ran TCPView and noticed that Skype.exe was listening on port 80. I shut that down, restarted IIS and sure enough, my local sites were back to their springy selves.

Turns out that the latest version of Skype attempts to listen in on port 80 and 443 by default, in case your firewall blocks all other ports. That’s an interesting feature, and one I’ll probably thank them for some day, but I wish they would have indicated that they were going to attempt this.

To fix this issue, I went to the Tools | Options menu in Skype and selected the Connection and unchecked the box next to “Use port 80 and 443 as alternatives for incoming connections.”

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Chairs Having
SexWarning! This video contains graphic scenes of home furniture having sex. Although the video might be safe for work, the audio portion is not (for those who cannot see the screen). So turn down the volume a bit and check out this funny video.

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Black Rock
City Ok, this is kind of a crazy idea, so as Ron Burgundy would say,

I wanna say something. I’m gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don’t, send it right back.

I have to admit, I am a bit jealous that there hasn’t been a Code Camp in the Los Angeles area AND that I cannot attend the Portland Portland Code Camp. It sounds like there will be some very interesting people attending and giving talks.

For the uninitiated, a Code Camp is a weekend gathering of geeks for the community by the community. Geeks from all over gather to hear other geeks (generally not big name speakers) talk about interesting code and tech. It is not Microsoft specific, though there seem to be a lot of .NET focused talks.

Now you might say I should quit my bellyaching (if you were inclined to use such dated phrases) and suggest that I start one in Los Angeles. That’s really a great proactive idea and I hope someone takes it up because I simply can’t. At least not this year because I have too much work and two mandatory trips I am taking. The only way I could help organize one is if I were to combine it with one of my trips.

So here’s where the crazy idea part comes in. The week of August 29 through September 5 (give or take a day), I’ll be out soaking in the ambiance of Black Rock City in the desert near Gerlach Nevada attending a quaint little festival known as Burning Man. Wouldn’t it just totally suit my agenda (and kill two birds with one stone) if I could drum up interest in a Code Camp in Black Rock City? I’m really not sure how many attendees are code jockeys and would be interested in this, but if we even had ten people, it’d be worthwhile. It wouldn’t be too hard to get it on the BRC calendar of events as perhaps a more informal version of Code Camp.

It’s too bad I didn’t have this idea before because I might have been able to get Chris Sells involved as that crazy cat went to Buring Man last year.

In any case, I read the Code Camp Manifesto and I do see one potential issue:

#2 Says that code camps are always free. Burning Man itself is not free to attend, but we could certainly make the code camp free within the context of Burning Man.

So what do you think of the idea? Do you think I’m smoking something, because I’m not. At least not right now. Or is this perhaps not a terrible idea? Thoughts? Are any of you even going? Maybe if Scoble puts the word out, we can see if there’s any interest.

This is just an idea I’m putting out there. I am making no commitments or guarantees.

[Listening to: GF - Burning Man (Gee Shock Remix) - Anthony Pappa - Nubreed 001 CD2 (4:58)]

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Scott Hanselman has the interesting tendency to run into the weirdest debugging problems.

When I worked at Solien, I had the same talent for uncovering strange bugs. My CTO at the time said I had the “Gift Finger” which is German for “Poison Finger”. My blessing (or curse) was the anti-Midas touch in software. Code that seemed to work just fine would suddenly collapse in a flying mess of runtime errors when I took a look at it.

Fortunately, I was as good at tracking down the root causes of bugs as I was in coaxing them out of hiding. In a similar vein, Scott describes a harrowing account of some in depth detective work he did to track down a particularly tricky bug. Reading his account felt like watching a good Columbo episode. He really does give it the pacing and tension of a good detective story.

That gave me an idea. Why not try to aggregate some great “Debugging Detective Stories”? Scott suggested the name “CSI:ASP Debugging”. I don’ know if such a thing would warrant a published book (or a TV pilot), but at the least, I could collect some on my blog here. So if you have a great story of debugging a particularly nasty bug, post it in the comments of this post or post it on your own blog and link to this one.

As for me, I don’ have any good debugging stories off the top of my head since, as an independent contractor, I no longer have coworkers to introduce bugs to the code. ;)

Yes, I am kidding.

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I just received the good news from one of my clients that they installed Subversion over the weekend. We’ve all been wrestling with using Microsoft Visual SourceCrapSafe over the VPN (and yes, we tried out SourceOffSite which helped) but the sheer number of problems we ran into was overwhelming.

I had suggested they either look at SourceGear Vault or Subversion. In the end, they went with Subversion which is fine by me. That’s just one less SCC Provider to deal with. Sweeeeet!

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Before I spend time writing my own, does anybody out there know of an ASP.NET custom control that can render a nice interface for specifying a connection string?

Honestly, I think a TextBox does a pretty fine job of it, but I have to assume there are better options for those who don’t have the various connection string formats memorized. Ideally it would allow the user to select whether they want to use a trusted or integrated security connection, and based on that selection provide the correct fields to fill out.

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London Blast By now you must have heard that there was a Terrorist attack in London in which at least 33 are dead and many more injured.

There are a lot of photos coming into Flickr. Take a look at the “Hot Tags” in the last 24 hours such as blasts, bombs and london to see pictures from the ground.

My thoughts and well wishes go out to those in London, especially to those affected, their families and their friends.

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Randy posts this summary list of tips from challies.com. It’s a nice list to be sure, but I’ve always been partial to a big fat wad of cash.

  1. Visit - This one may seem obvious, but to support your favorite blogger, visit his (or her) site.
  2. Comment - When you visit, why not leave a comment?
  3. link - If you have a website or blog of your own, link to your favorite bloggers every now and then.
  4. Encourage - Encourage your favorite blogger every now and then.
  5. Prayer - This is the support bloggers receive that they may never know about.
  6. Clicking Advertisement -Randy: Click fraud? Not encouraged.
  7. Affiliates - Many bloggers have affiliate accounts with various companies. The most popular of these is Amazon.
  8. Products - Many bloggers offer products through their sites.
  9. Tip Jar - Many bloggers have what is known as a tip jar. These are the little buttons on their site that say “Donate,” “click to give” or something similar.