You MacBook Pro is not old enough to drink

3 05 2013

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men  / Gang aft a-gley.” – Robby Burns (Scottish Poet)

You can say that again!

And by “that” – I mean no one ever really plans to pour a drink into their computer while working under deadline. It lets the smoke out of the computer, and is technically “alcohol abuse.”

But, sometimes, that just happens.

So I thought I’d tell you, as a volunteer participant in Microsoft’s SkyDrive Insider’s program, how using a little pre-planning a long time ago paid off. We were able to recover my wife’s important documents, email, contacts, etc. in about 10 minutes. The best part was that she could continue her work staging of the World Premier of her adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion at the San Jose Stage Company.

What follows may seem like a lot of prerequisites

True… however, here is how the situation played out in real life:

I was driving home from rehearsal – listening to a podcast. My phone reads a text message to me:

“@*&^%!  #&*^! I just spilled a beer on my computer!”

Which, was robotically funny… but started the gears turning. “What are we going to do? How much was this going to cost? Was the data all gone? I wonder if the documents were saved?”

Answer: The computer itself was mostly dead. The time was about 10 minutes to get working again.

The cost… well… that’s up to you.

Here’s how the preparation paid off:

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How to rehearse a play with SkyDrive

17 03 2013

I was recently asked to act in a production of a new play. Now, I love to do new work. The process is interesting, and getting new work on its feet can be both taxing and rewarding at the same time. This is the first time the playwright entrusts their vision to about 4 to 15 other people all at once.

Technically, unless the playwright is going to rewrite the play, it’s time for him or her to step back and absorb the process. The execution of the material will result in discoveries that could never have been envisioned except by the most seasoned author.

So this part of the post isn’t about the creative process, but how I ended up using bits of technology to bring together elements of the show to make that creative process run smoother.

I figured it would be a good thing to talk about as part of the SkyDrive Insider program (a volunteer program where you basically explain how you use SkyDrive a few times a year) – because I literally had to use SkyDrive to get the play on its feet.

We had 4 weeks, 16 rehearsal hours, and 16 hours of “tech rehearsal” in the theatre prior to our first public performance. If anyone knows what it takes to produce a show, they know that this is not nearly enough time to do a full production. Least of all one where we are missing (or became devoid of) a few crucial elements (I won’t say exactly… but let’s say one starts with “d” and rhymes with “erector”…).

The Script…

First off, the script was emailed to me in chunks. Which was fine. Except it was in the “old Word” format. So, I upgraded that, and put that in my SkyDrive folder so I could review it on any number of devices (including my Windows Phone 8) whenever I needed to.

I also decided I needed to move print areas so it could print multiple sheets per page and later, create a cutting of the script for cues and props. So, I was able to fix those periodically in SkyDrive’s Web Apps, or via Word 2010 / 2013 whenever I needed to.

If others needed it, I could share it easily to them.

Audio Cues…

The script called for many many audio cues. So, I recorded them using my Zoom H2 Stereo Recorder with wired lavaliere microphones. We cut those up into separate tracks. And, so I could get familiar with them, I posted the raw audio files (captured in WAV format) in SkyDrive.

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Syncing under the weight of the cloud

10 01 2013

This will have to be a two part post because, this problem isn’t easy to solve. But, I think I’ve found a solution. I haven’t tested it thoroughly enough to say “yes this is as awesome as I want it to be” but, it is getting there…

After 8 months of preparing for the death of Windows Live Mesh, that day is so near that it was time to take action. But the cloud has killed Peer to Peer file sync!

The two reasons I am unable to ONLY use SkyDrive are twofold:

  1. I need, really need, Peer to Peer Sync without the cloud. And the “partial sync” of SkyDrive is great, but Comcast will simply shut down my up / downlink if I need to re-sync a few hundred GB of RAW photos between hard drives via the cloud.
  2. I need to have folders that sync outside a single hierarchy.

But what options are left if you want to NOT include the cloud?

It turns out, not very many. And, by the time you read this post, there may be fewer. At least 2 of those options that do P2P sync use Java – which is a non-starter for me personally right now. If the security profile of Java improves, that’s fine. However, a file sync engine with Java as its basis seems like an invitation to badness.

(Those two are Wuala and AeroFS – which is still in private beta.)

Also, most of the offerings that do P2P sync require a monthly fee, which includes cloud storage – which I already have SkyDrive for.

Why copying files is so freaking hard

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Inappropriately Touching Windows 8

5 03 2012

It’s time to dust off the cobwebs here.

I’ve got a few things to do in 2012 technology-wise and I may shift the focus of this blog so that its content better includes what I’m actually doing. Including more content like photography and shooting information in addition to computing and technology topics.

Most of my technology these days involves cloud computing and lots of data management. Photography happens to be involved or reliant upon both those things!

Onto Windows 8…

Starting with the Developer Preview, I knew that this would be something interesting. In fact, prior to its release, I bought my new Tablet PC Convertible with multi-touch, and a pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus (for Photoshop) knowing that “the future of computing” involved touchscreen computing.

(And, I have looked at the iPad for a long time. I’ve used them, and I’ve used the iPhone as a primary device, Mac OS X etc. I’ve also been watching Android tablets closely to see if they would fit my needs…)

Now, I’ve used Tablet PC’s for the past 8 years, so that’s nothing new. I know Apple says that “if you see a stylus, they blew it,” but Wacom appears to have made an OK business out of it. And now, I have a mini Cintiq that is also a computer with me (note – I would not refuse owning a real Cintiq!).

The Windows 8 Developer Preview was pretty lumpy. I did use it as my “primary desktop” for a few months. But, I used Windows 7 as my “photography OS” for using Capture One, FastPictureViewer, Photoshop, etc. while using Windows 8 for Office tasks and Visual Studio.

The current Windows 8 Consumer Preview seems like a totally new, much smoother experience. And, I will state up front, that this experience will be very familiar to me because of the following factors:

  • I have a Windows Phone 7 (going on 18 months) – but my LG is dying
  • I used the Developer Preview
  • I have a multi-touch device

That said, I use the keyboard and mouse just as much (I don’t use my tablet as a “tablet” – I just touch the screen).

You’re going to love this when Apple invents it!

If I’m in a public setting, inevitably surrounded by iPads, and I boot up my laptop, I have to touch the screen to boot into an OS… it’s a dual boot system. And the boot screen uses the Zune / Windows Phone 7 “swipe up” type unlock move which isn’t subtle on a bigger screen.

I get asked: “Did you just touch your laptop?!”

No kidding…

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Innovation process and theatre

25 05 2011

Here’s a weird mashup of my life and work… some may know, and some not, that I do a lot of disparate things. They all relate in my head, but perhaps not to the outside observer.

They do contribute to the reason this speck of the internet is called “Spackle”. By combining the things I get paid to do and like to do, I get disruptive and refreshing ideas.

Innovation and development as a process to “attaining the remarkable result” is slow in the technology space compared to a confined time frame of a theatre production. And, after nearly 10 years of being off stage and taking pictures of people doing theatre (and basically being jelly of them), I decided I’d try acting again.

You can see pictures I take of productions over here at my photography web site.

The process of creating a remarkable theatre production is very similar to creating a remarkable product of any sort. Except your tools are humans, words, and your physical assets don’t need the same rigorous testing as a product you’d allow the general public to use. I mean, they’re actors, so who cares about safety, right? (Note: Actor’s Equity Association exists so that catastrophes like Spiderman don’t kill people… they need to do a better job on that production, but I digress…)

So in essence, with theatre, you get to bring to market an amazing prototype and sell it.

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A gift or two for your Windows Phone 7

17 12 2010

As a follow-on to my last post, I thought I would quickly note a couple things that would help anyone looking for a last-minute gadget gift for their Windows Phone 7 owner.

The list isn’t really long, but these are things I have bought and am using or have just started using (so I can’t say I have a billion hours clocked on them yet).  But, I don’t get any of this stuff for free, so I can’t just go buy anything else if this stuff doesn’t make me 100% happy… all I can do is update this post later with further thoughts.

A plug for the arts

First, as a request – if you order anything from Amazon.com (which I link to here), I would humbly request that you click-through a non-profit theatre company’s Amazon Associates link to help give them a 4% boost from your purchase.  It costs you nothing, and helps them produce amazing theatre.

Read about UponTheseBoards.org

So, CTRL-click their Amazon link and start shopping (or shop, come back here, and click, then finish I guess).

Items to consider

Cradling your phone:

Previously I said that the USB port location is NOT standard in any of the WP7 hardware.  So it is very unlikely that a standard phone cradle will exist.  And it is probably unlikely that a GPS enhancing cradle will come out anytime soon (like the ones for the iPhone).

So I bought this one, and it works very well.  It’s cheap, works great, and fits all sorts of phones securely while giving you charging access (although that part’s clumsy).

Satechi SCR-31

Listening to your phone:

I have owned a lot of headsets.  I was going to buy one of the new Motorola’s (HX1) back when they introduced the “new” bone conduction, noise cancellation, wind reduction models.  But, it was too expensive, and only Verizon or Sprint carried it for a while.  So, a few friends got it and liked it.  I waited.  And now a different version of it came out.

I have sideburns (though am not a hipster), so I always wonder how much that gets in the way of conversations on some headsets.  This headset seems to work over my glasses, pairs to 2 phones, has the same technology (v2.0), and has a more secure over-the-ear fit.  And, it has the same charging micro-USB charging tip as the Kindle, our phone, etc.

I haven’t clocked much talk time with it, but it feels way better than previous headsets.  So, the fit is better, and the pairing etc. was as you’d expect.  The lady in the headset is informative (and seems to get along with the lady in the phone) and I like the physical on/off switch.  Voice command works great, and it has a physical mute switch.  Nice.

Motorola Oasis Headset

Retractable cable:

These things are expensive, fragile, and of course, your mileage may vary (YMMV). But, ZipLinq make the stoutest of these types of cables.  And, they know it. So, put some of that college fund aside if you want one.

Retractable cable

Windows Live Domains:

Ha… you wonder why this is in here?

Do you host your email somewhere else?  Would you like 25GB of your own SkyDrive?  How about some good SPAM filtering?  Or decent Web Mail?  How about a personal domain name and a place to sync and store your Windows Phone 7 stuff?  Or personal Live Mesh and remote desktop support?

Well, it’s pretty easy, but way beyond the scope of this article and would involve changing your LiveID on your phone… however, it all might be worth it.

Head over to http://domains.live.com and see about taking your email away from your current domain host (just your email mind you), and you can set up your email, get a SkyDrive, a photo site, your own Messenger domain, etc.  All for free.

If your domain name has some questionable word in it, you may have to appeal to the gods for a dispensation.  My domain name “CumulusLight.com”, a photography site, seemed to be “dirty” to them.  Warning: there are no dirty pictures there. Sorry.

But, once you get in there, you can offer your family membership to your domain and have a shared (and private) Calendar, photos etc.

Plus, now that Windows Live Mail is all ActiveSync, and there’s an Outlook Connector, the iPhone (in iOS 4.x) supports multiple ActiveSync accounts, and of course Windows Live Mail and Windows Phone 7 support Live Mail… well, it makes things very nice.

Apple Mail (on the Mac itself) is way stupid.  So, if you have Mac users, please consider buying mBox for them.  It’s $20 and you’ll save many many headaches.  Plus, there’s Live Mesh for the Mac, and you’ll be able to sync big files around to each other.

One warning: you CAN upload all your email from another account there into your new Live Mail domain.  4 things to know:

  1. You will be making a DNS change, so update your old account settings with the IP address of your old mail server, test that, and then move your mail domain to Live Domains.
  2. Live Mail has a DAILY UPLOAD LIMIT on it.  I’m not sure if it is quantity or size of the uploaded messages.  However, if you drag 1,500 messages into your new Live Mail account, expect the process to finish in 3 days.  Not because it takes that long, but because of the limit.  Live Mail and the Outlook Connect with give you ZERO FEEDBACK about what’s going on.  To me, that’s a huge mistake.  Don’t panic though.  Just wait.
  3. During a time of a big upload like that, you will NOT receive email in Live Mail or in Oulook on that account.  But you will get email.  You’ll have to use Web mail.  So leave Live Mail open and the computer on.  Or just do it in batches of 100 or 200 a day.
  4. Changes you make on Live Domains happen pretty quick, but do need to propagate like DNS changes – so expect to wait a couple hours for full functionality.  A few things you can do let you “Refresh” to see changes.  Sometimes you’ll see something changed, and refresh the page, and see that it hasn’t changed… this is because it is propagating through the server farm.  Be patient.

OK.  I promised this would be short.  My wrists haven’t recovered from the last post yet.

Enjoy some holiday cheer and travel safely!  And, if you’d like to support this blog somehow, consider buying a print from CumulusLight (I have Coupon Authority – so contact about special offers)!





I still love my Windows Phone 7 after 30 days

15 12 2010

I admit that I like shiny things.  I also admit that I don’t like the iPhone very much.  I also have looked forward to owning this phone for quite some time.  So I knew what I was getting into.

However, as a v1.0 product, I also knew that there would be some warts.  After all, it’s v1.0.  But, did Microsoft learn from Windows Mobile 6.x?  Could it match Steve’s app phone thing and Google’s mobile thing?

A short bit of background

The only phones I haven’t used for over a few months WebOs and Symbian phones.  They both looked alright, but I wasn’t in the position to ditch what I had to try them out.

However, I have used Windows Mobile since the very first incarnation in 2003.  Wow, that was not great.  Though, I did like the Motorola clamshell form factor at the time.  It also did so much vs. the other phones, it was OK to overlook the warts.  But, WM2003 basically remained the same until WM6.5.

The phone I stuck with, and modded the heck out of, for 2 years was the HTC Kaiser / TyTn II / AT&T Tilt.  It got flashed with every new Windows Mobile 6.x that saw the light of day.

And then, some wonderful people at XDA Developers put together a few builds of Android for testing.  And while that phone’s CPU wasn’t the strongest, I did use Android 1.x and 2.x for several months as my primary phone OS.

As my Tilt’s battery just couldn’t hack it anymore, and new batteries were basically dead on arrival, a good friend of mine loaned me his iPhone 3G for use.  So, I used that in iOS 3.x and 4.0, 4.1, and finally 4.2.1 for several months.

So, have I used enough of the available market to be informed?  I hope so.

What I like about Windows Phone 7

It’s different.  And not just arbitrarily or just because it’s shiny and new.  It’s different in that someone thought about how to use a phone to do their job, and took a good stab at it.

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Why removing “Drive Extender” from the next Windows Home Server is bad product management

29 11 2010

Yeah, I should have posted at least once more this year.  But I guess it takes something of epic frustration to prod me into re-prioritizing my schedule right now.  Removing a technology called “Drive Extender” from Windows Home Server is just the right move to get my fingers on the keyboard again.

Let me explain why…

Through a series of weird coincidences, I happened upon the necessity to consider purchasing a “real” Windows Home Server box from an OEM.  My current “Frankenstein’s Monster” box I assembled many years ago (after all, Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster) is probably a liability.  I keep feeding it drives, and it keeps running.

For all of you out there who have businesses of some sort, the end of 2010 means the last opportunity to spend some money on capital assets (i.e. shiny toys) and write them off.  Because everyone is soooo scared that taxes might change in 2011, CPA’s are telling people to spend money this year as though a great plague is upon us and the only way to slake its blood lust is to feed it cash.

It’s like written permission

So when you get this letter from your CPA and you look for toys to buy, you start thinking about all the non-sexy stuff that you worry about at 2AM when you can’t sleep.  My Windows Home Server is one of those items.

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An SXGA+ article to get me back into the game

25 05 2010

Yup… I should have been posting for the past few months.  Hopefully I can get back into the habit!

I don’t need a new laptop yet.  Yet… however, the screen size trend in industry really bothers me.  Wider is not better if we’re sacrificing vertical pixels!  Yet, every manufacturer is basically training us to accept low vertical pixel density by hiding behind the “HD” moniker.

Today, you will be hard pressed to find anything functional with a vertical pixel count of 800 or more.  I’m not talking about netbooks (although I have one).  I mean most new laptops in general.

We’re just taking a step backward to the 90’s… 1024×768 (VGA) is really close to 800 pixels tall!

Now, I’ve been a user of Tablet PC’s for the past 5 or 6 years now and I find them incredibly useful.  I do mainly 3 things with my tablet:

  1. Draw User Experience Prototype Sketches
  2. Take down whiteboard sketches of architectures and the usual “ideation” work therein
  3. Retouch, enhance, and correct photos I take (portraits especially)

I find the tablet’s interface to be as natural as we can get for work in photography.  For example, there’s a big difference (in my mind) in the look of a brush stroke made with a pen vs. made with a mouse.  This guys seems to agree with me about screen size and art.

I can draw something in OneNote quickly, and then go into SketchFlow and redraw the same thing and make it function.

I can retouch a photo using an airbrush that actually almost works like an airbrush.

Yes, I could use an external tablet like a Wacom Bamboo, but it’s so much nicer to see exactly what you’re doing on the screen.  Moreover, you don’t have to carry one more thing around.  I’m sure that anyone who’s seen Microsoft Research’s Project Gustav will agree that more pixels will be better!

As a backup plan, I have one of these Hantech Stylo pens that will work with any PC.  But, it’s probably not quite the same (I have yet to really try it out in earnest).

Size is everything, actually

My criteria for picking a Tablet PC has been pretty simple:

Get the one with the highest screen resolution possible!

 

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Long term digital lifestyle vision

26 02 2010

I love it when a plan comes together… or at least, I like to watch someone put a long term plan together and execute it – especially when I am along for the ride. 

I’ve been told that I’m too impatient when it comes to proposing and executing strategic organizational and product movement.  Perhaps that’s true.  Sometimes the wait is internal inertia, sometimes it is for technology to catch up with the science fiction, and sometimes it’s waiting for the market to emerge.

Seeing the market before it emerges is what differentiates revolutionary plans from incremental plans.  While revolutionary plans come together on the backs of incremental gains, those gains are shaped and directed by a vision.

Your digital lifestyle

OK, this is going to sound like an advertisement, but I’m looking at it from a strategic roadmap and product management perspective.  Also, I already have a lot of this stuff lying around, so I’d like to see it work!  Now, onward…

Whether you knew it or not, the first thing to make progress toward the “paperless” (or perhaps “virtual”) anything was your house.  The office has too much inertia and weighty processes holding it back to really embrace the digital vision wholeheartedly.  It will move that direction, but nowhere near as quickly as your own household. 

That’s largely because you choose your own digital destiny.  New sexy products become available rapidly and the adoption curve for certain new technology items is based both on peer pressure and the desire for shiny objects.  Because of this, your house is very likely more advanced than your office.

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