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mashby

The personal blog of Michael Ashby

Just Like The Good Ole Palm Days

It’s the little things that give me the biggest kick. Today I read where Stevens Creek software is going to make software for the iPhone. Why does that make me smile? Because Stevens Creek was one of the early pioneer’s in Palm OS software development.

They were most known for PalmPrint which allowed you to print directly from the Palm Pilot to a printer, but I used HandyRandy for nearly 11 years every time we pulled for door prizes at the local PUG meeting. So you can imagine my delight when I read that HandyRandy for iPhone is one of the three applications that they are releasing the day the App store launches.

They haven’t announced pricing yet, but rest assured HandyRandy is going to be the first app I buy on July 11th. I’m so very happy!

Twitter Is Becoming Irrelevant For Me

I’ve been a fan of Twitter for quite some time now. I would love to be able to tell you how long I’ve been a user, but the archives only go back a week or so and there’s no other indication of when I became a Twitter member. Along with it’s archives, Twitter has been plagued with uptime issues, so much so that they’ve created an entire blog to it’s uptime status (or lack there of) at http://status.twitter.com. By the way, if you don’t know what Twitter is, I highly recommend the Twitter in Plain English video.

Twitter is a victim of it’s own success, that’s for sure, but I’m sticking with the service because that’s where my friends are. However it dawned on me today that this may not be the case for much longer. Why? Because of the interface I use to interact with Twitter — Instant Messenger.

One of the coolest things about Twitter is that you can interface with the service from many different avenues. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but here’s a quick list of ways you can post to and receive updates from Twitter:

  • Directly through the web site
  • SMS
  • 3rd party applications like Twitterific and Twhirl
  • 3rd party web sites like Hahlo (mostly for the iPhone, or site specific browsers like Fluid, Bubbles
  • An Instant Messenger (IM)

For me it’s the last method that I use the most. I use AdiumX, which is a multi-protocol instant messenger. It allows me to be logged into AIM, GoogleTalk, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN Messenger all at the same time. If you’re not on a Mac and this interests you, be sure to check out Pidgin, or Trillian. The point is that for me sending “tweets” and receiving updates from my friends have always occurred via IM. I already had a habit of leaving AdiumX open, so adding Twitter as a “buddy” seemed like the natural thing to do. Not only that, but it was one less thing open and running on my desktop, which can get rather cluttered.

Unfortunately when Twitter started scaling back it’s services in order to salvage as much uptime as possible, the first thing to go was IM support and a month later it’s still unavailable. They’ve added back updates a few weeks ago, but at best I have a one-way conversation since I’m unable to post via IM. The end result of all the outages is that I’m left wondering if it’s even worth the trouble.

When Twitter easily integrated into my established habits, it was easy to submit an update here or there, but now there’s an obstacle. I either have to launch a web page, or a special app and there’s a better than 50% chance that the service is down all-together. So perhaps my relationship with Twitter is rather shallow, or it’s just become more difficult than it’s worth, but right now Twitter is becoming less and less relevant for me.

What about you?

Paying The Price For Being #1

One of the funny things about having a blog is that you never know what is going to strike a chord with the people that read your blog, or for that matter Google. By some quirk of an algorithm you find that you’re at the top of the charts on one topic or another and you find yourself being put in the role of “guru” on that subject (wether you are, or not).

This happened to my good buddy Mike Rohde with an article that he did on Yoplait yogurt. He wrote a quick article about an idea he had regarding their packaging and next thing you know, he’s in the top 4 on Google if you do a search for yogurt packaging.

As for me, my hotspots have been Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap (currently slipped to page 2) and National Brand 43-571 (page 1) because of an entry I wrote concerning my love affair with paper. However, in looking at my Google Analytics this week, I found that the bulk of the traffic to my blog comes from an entry entitled “Having A Hard Head Can Sometimes Pay Off“. Doing a search for “Axiom and Garageband” turned up the reason why — I’m the #1 result.

The article dealt with my trials and tribulations in getting my Axiom 25 to work with GarageBand. It was a project I did almost 2 years ago and one month after the post, I never went back to it. Another case of something I “had to have” only to move onto something else 20-days later. 🙂

Regardless of my lack of interest in the subject, clearly there were plenty of people still looking for a solution, finding me and as luck would have it, being met with frustration. Over the past year, I’ve hacked this site every which way and never really completed the process. It goes a little something like this.

1. A client of mine wants to change something with their install of MoveableType.

2. I apply it to this site first to see if it’ll work.

3. It does/doesn’t and then I usually, but not always, revert the site back to the way it was and you can see where this is going.

All these changes affected my Axiom / GarageBand article when they broke the download to the PDF that provided the solution. Doh! So this afternoon, I updated the PDF, checked all the links, fixed the download tool I use to keep track of such things and generally cleaned this up a bit in the process.

So for those of you that found that article only to be met with frustration, I apologize. Hopefully the revised article will be more helpful. As for me, I’m going to be a bit more cognoscent of the long tail of my articles so that they don’t spank me in the butt. 😛

Holly Performs Live

Holly was a guest performer at the Moore & Moore Fan Appreciation Concert on Thursday for the CMA Music Festival (aka Fan Fair). The concert was held at the MetroCenter Neely’s Barbecue in Nashville, TN. You can watch the video that I shot below.

Holly met Debbie & Carrie Moore (aka Moore & Moore) in her Jazzercize class and found they had a lot in common. The girls were kind enough to invite Holly to come sing at their latest gig and it was a lot of fun. It was a thank you concert for their fans and after doing a small set, they turned the show over to several guest artists while they socialized with their fans. It’s a really great idea! We met people from all over the United States who came to Nashville strictly for Fan Fair and to see the Moore sisters.

Speaking of which, Moore & Moore have a very popular video right now to “Find Me A Man Like Goober”, which you can see on YouTube at this link. There are a TON of cameos, so keep your eyes peeled.

And for the geeks out there, I shot the video with Flip Ultra and edited it in iMovie HD 6 because iMovie 08 doesn’t import .mpg (don’t get me started).

The Reality Of Internet Explorer

I absolutely despise Internet Explorer. It is a complete turd of a program in every conceivable manner. It’s insecure, it doesn’t follow web standards when displaying web pages, it’s integrated into the OS so if it crashes it brings down your entire computer, and the list goes on and on and on, but I won’t belabor the point any further. Most of my gripes are with IE 6 and earlier but the latest version of Internet Explorer — version 7 — isn’t that much better, so it goes out with the bath water too.

From a system administrator perspective, I convert every system I can over to Firefox and go so far as to ban IE on systems that I control. As a web developer, I spend a serious amount of time in the development process dedicated to changing my code to make IE work properly. Every other browser on the planet will display content correctly, but IE always has some oddity that requires a tweak or hack.

As much as I and the millions of other geeks like me hate IE, it simply won’t go away. So it was with great interest that I read an older article by Kevin Hale on Particle Tree entitle On the Tenacity of Internet Explorer 6. When I read that adoption rates were flatlining and his question of “Have we basically converted everyone that had a problem with Internet Explorer 6?” I thought perhaps we were finally done with IE6. Unfortunately, after reading the entire article, it’s clear that IE6 is here to stay and it’s something we’re going to have to live with for a long time.

And why is that? Well, it boils down to the fact that the main reasons people were switching was due to the fact of popups, spyware and the like. Now that toolbars have fixed many of those glaring issues, people aren’t motivated to switch.

Now, you may think IE6 obviously makes browsing the Internet suck because it doesn’t have tabs and tends to implement CSS and JavaScript poorly. But that’s because if you’re reading this site, you’re probably a designer or developer. Remember: ugly, buggy and slow aren’t enough to make users think it sucks enough to switch (think MySpace and Windows). In hindsight, the best thing to happen to Firefox was probably the rise of file sharing networks, spyware and pop-ups. Basically, everything that made the web suck. Everything that made the web a safer place to browse, made Firefox less relevant and quelled the urgency that made an alternative to IE6 a necessity.

It disappointments me to now end to have to agree with his conclusion. I’ll still push Firefox, Opera and other alternative browsers every chance I get, but it sucks that the reason that there are so many Zombie Computers is due to ignorance and lethargy. I know that I’m a geek and that this falls into my domain expertise, so you might chalk this up to the ramblings of a nerd, but we’re not talking small numbers here – botnets number in the hundreds of thousands. Their impact can be felt everyday in the billions of SPAM messages that are sent from them every day.

All gloom and doom aside, Hale’s article did leave me laughing in the end. It may not end positive, but it does end on a funny note.

Just goes to show that it has to be in your face popups of wangs and cooters to make you download something different.

Reverting ReCaptcha Plugin To .01

I’ve been a big fan of the ReCAPTCHA service since it launched and was eager to implment it on my blog when MT4 was released last year. It was a complete kludge to get it working, but I eventually did figure out the voodoo necessary. You would think I’d leave well enough alone, but alas, I did not. I attempted to upgrade to the latest version, failed and then took the long road back to version .01.

How It All Began
For starters, I decided to upgrade to version 4.1 from version 4.01 of MovableType. I exported my entries and comments, deleted the entire site from the server and then did a clean install and import. Once I was sure everything was running properly, I began adding my plugins back and saw that there was an update for the MT ReCAPTCHA plugin. That’s when I played with fire and decided to upgrade to the new version only to find out it didn’t work.

What Went Wrong
The plugin itself installed just fine and the one big change that I saw what that the public and private key information was stored properly now in the plugin. Previously you had to enter this into the plugin itself, so this was a nice change. There could be other enhancements, but that was the one that I noticed.

So far so good, but as I walked through the rest of the instructions, I ran into a huge snag.

8. Edit Javascipt index template, to remove these lines of code which calls delayShowCaptcha… [snip] …If your install does not have these lines in JavaScript index template, these lines should be in GlobalJavaScript, which is a global system template.

Guess what, there was nothing in the Javascript index template that matched the calls I was looking for. Moreover, there isn’t a GlobalJavaScript template in the default build of 4.1.

Hitting a dead end, I tried rebuilding the site in the hopes that everything would work anyway, but of course it didn’t. No errors, but no display of the ReCAPTCHA code either.

Time For A Rewind
Luckily, I had copies of my templates and the old plugin, so I figured I’d simply revert back to what I had previously. Things didn’t work out that way because in an effort to get the new version working, I’d made changes in the “Blog Settings” as well.

“No problem”, I thought, because I could just pull up Josh Carter’s original reference of how to implement version .01 of the plugin. Unfortunately, it appears that he’s moving his site to TextDrive and that page is no longer available. CRAP!

Doing a Google Search and then pulling up the cached version though did save the day and I was able to get my blog configured properly again. *WHEW*

Plugin Redux
With everything back up and running properly, I decided to indulge in one more whim. I kept the templates and blog settings like they were for .01 and just dropped in the .02 version of the plugin. My hope was that the problem existed with the templates and not the plugin itself, but that didn’t work either.

So as it stands, only the hacked .01 method has successfully worked for me. The new version simply doesn’t work in any way shape or form. Looking in the forums, I see that other people are having trouble with it too, so at least I’m not alone.

Given the fact that Josh’s site is down and that I can’t seem to find the earlier version of the plugin, I’m thinking I might need to create a post specifically on how to get this working as a resource for others. Maybe even go so far as to provide the original plugin. I don’t know. What do you think?

Don’t Call Us… We’ll Call You

Since switching to Mac OS over a year and a half ago, I have been in hog heaven. Truly. Almost every day I’m reminded of just how elegant and, dare I say, FUN it is to actually work. I’m not kidding, it’s a true joy and I’m reminded of this nearly daily because I also work in Windows every day and I’m reminded of just how painful computing can be on the other side.

A good portion of my day involves network management and I use a wonderful little tool called Remote Desktop to manage the many Windows servers I’m responsible for. RDP is primarily a Windows program, but, thankfully, Microsoft has Mac Version as well. I’ve been using the beta version of RDP 2.0 for quite awhile now and it’s performed quite well. I use it on a daily basis and can report no real problems with it. Well, that was until recently.

About a week ago, I was prompted with the following dialog box when I launched RDP:

rdp-screenshot.png

Updating software on the Mac is a fairly common experience and it’s rather quick and easy so there was no reason for alarm. I selected the button “Download Latest Version” and was directed to the Mactopia site, which is Microsoft’s Apple Software section, and it was with this one click that the “Microsoft Experience” kicked in.

  1. Instead of taking me to a page dedicated to Remote Desktop, or even directly to the download file itself, I was taken to the Mactopia home page. “Hmm… oooook.”
  2. Left to my own devices, I had to search for what I was looking for until I found the link in the navigation for the Remote Desktop page.
  3. Once on that page, I then had to find the link to download the latest version and select it.
  4. That link sent me to the bottom of a new page which showed me another link to actually download the file. Of course that was after I figured out what the heck I was looking at.
  5. After waiting for the download to start for about 30 seconds with nothing happening, I click the link again… and again…
  6. I refresh the page and it’s then that I see that there’s a “Details” window that’s changing. So I click the link again, see that this small window in the bottom right corner of the page is providing me with details on the download.
  7. I scroll several pages of details until I find the actual download link at the bottom of the iframe window and click that bastard.
  8. The file finally downloads

But Wait… There’s More
After all that hullaballo, the file is finally on my hard drive and I go through the install routine to update the program. I relaunch RDP and I’m surprised to find that the same dialog pops up. “What the?!” Starting the process AGAIN I read the RDP page more closely and see in the sidebar the following:

rdc2-screenshot.png

I had to read that sidebar a couple of times to make sure that I understood it, but what I read was correct. After a convoluted 8-step process just to download the program and then go through the install routine, I learn that there was no need to do all that. Microsoft HASN’T actually released an update and not only that, they have no real indication when it will be ready. Just sometime in the next two months. And just to add insult to injury, instead of releasing an interim program with a revised expiration date, you’d prefer that I see this damn nuisance screen 800 times a day until you get around to releasing a new version.

W o w .

This is yet another example of where the user experience leaves me wondering “I’m I the first person to do this?” So much of what I do with Microsoft products leaves me feeling like I’m the first person to even try a product, much less run into a problem. This one thing may seem small from your side of the fence, but since switching to Mac OS, I have less and less of this kind of problem. When the “Microsoft Experience” rears its ugly head, it’s now it’s pulling from a deep, deep well of past pain and suffering.

I guess I’ll just have to wait until Microsoft releases an update in a month or two and just do what Microsoft suggests and dismiss the update button. Question is, how will know that there’s been an update if I’m ignoring Microsoft’s own update notifier?

Bunch of ass-hats.

Upgraded to 4.1

I just upgraded the blog to version 4.1 Personal so that I can kick the tires and become more familiar with all of the new changes. Just on my initial inspection, I can already see that this is what 4.0 should have been. Well, they don’t call it “cutting edge” for nothing I guess.

Google Docs — Now With Gears!

I read on the Google Docs Blog today that Google Gears has been enabled for Google Docs. Given that I’ve become quite enamored with Google’s software products, like Docs Calendar and of course Gmail, I was eager to try being able to edit documents offline with Google Gears.

What’s Google Gears?
Google Gears is a browser plugin that allows you to take certain Google Products “offline” and edit/read the data when you’re not connected to the Internet. It’s currently in Beta and as of this entry, is only available for the Firefox browser on Mac OS. Windows users can use Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Once installed, “Gears Enabled” applications have new offline features that users can take advantage of. Currently this is only limited to Google Reader — although some 3rd party applications support Gears, such as Remember The Milk — so Docs support was the tipping point for me to give it a try.

Sorry Charlie
I installed the plugin for Firefox and validated that it was indeed enabled and fuctioning properly. I went to Google Reader and Remember The Milk and both immediately provided me with the popup image. Unfortunately, Google Docs does not. I tried repeatedly to reload the page and even went as far as logging out and then logging back in, but alas no love.

Then I went back and read the article more clearly.

…and I’m happy to tell you we’ll be rolling it out over the next few weeks, starting today with a small percentage of users.

Guess I’m not in that small percentage. Poo. 🙁

Mix Tapes Are Back Baby!

In the immortal words of Bender, “I’m back baby!” Well, mix tapes are at least. 🙂

Via a twitter message late last night, I saw that Mike Rohde had posted an 80’s mix tape. I’ve been listening to it this morning and I have to say that it rocks and I’m happy to see that the intent of the mix tape has lived on.

I think the tape imagery is a bit silly, but clearly their target market is to those of us that remember creating and sharing mix tapes. For those that find that cassettes a bit dated, like my good friend Pickles, perhaps it’s just a cool retro thing. Thinking about that for a moment makes me cringe slightly when I think that my memories have become kitsch. Wow, that’s a really special feeling.

But that’s beside the point — these mix tapes are fun and Rohde’s 80’s mix is quite a trip down memory lane. You can listen to his mix tape below, or create your own at MixWit.com

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