Articles from January 2007

Searching for Philanthropy

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:27 PM :: 1156 Views :: Other , Microsoft :: Digg it!

I thought this interesting when I saw it, so I figured I'd share it. Whenever you search at Click for the Cause Mobile-ready link, Microsoft will donate to ninemillion.org Mobile-ready link, an organization dedicated to improving the education of refugee children.


Is Microsoft an Innovator?

By Michael Flanakin @ 2:42 PM :: 1197 Views :: Technology, Research, Microsoft :: Digg it!

I mentioned this in the past, but I had to touch on this on its own because it's a huge problem. There is a somewhat common outlook that Microsoft isn't an innovator. This is hugely incorrect. While throwing money around doesn't say anything about what is produced, Microsoft puts more money towards research than any other IT company. That, in itself, should speak to the importance of innovation to Microsoft and its future. Microsoft Research Mobile-ready link recently passed its 15th birthday Mobile-ready link. If this is something you're interested in, check out the video that sums up those 15 years. Of course, this doesn't speak enough towards the level of effort put into the company's research arm.

Here's a big annoyance to me... surprise, surprise, Vista is being looked at as a Mac clone. Why? Good question. I asked a Mac fan why he feels this way and he pointed out two things: the desktop background and Mac's widgets. Later, he pointed to the somewhat popular video that tries to point out similarities. That video pointed out desktop search, 3D chess, triangles as directory hierarchy markers (instead of +/- icons), the calendar/scheduling program, and the photo gallery. All of this is ridiculous. First off, I have to say that Apple didn't invent any of these concepts. If I had the time and cared enough, I'd track down the initial use of each of these features and I'd put money on the fact that none of them would be Apple. Apple is more of a design/usability company than a feature/capability innovator. I'm not going to get into defending against these ridiculous claims, but I can. These features don't even make up a significant portion of the operating system. Anyone who bases their opinion off of these "examples" is an idiot... including the New York Times guy. I don't remember his name, but I don't care enough to find out.

With all that said, I'm not saying Microsoft doesn't have room to grow. The most notable innovation of late is probably going to be the Office ribbon. I have to say I love it. I had my doubts, but it's a fantastic change that will definitely make life easier for everyone. The only problems I've heard of is transitioning from the old, menu-based structure to the ribbon layout. Speaking of this, we should see similar changes in the next version or two of Windows (1 Mobile-ready link, 2 Mobile-ready link3 Mobile-ready link), which I'm excited about.


My Interests

By Michael Flanakin @ 12:44 PM :: 1201 Views :: Other , Research :: Digg it!

I've always been interested in what's next. Beyond that, I've always wanted to be a part of the research that goes into finding and honing the future state of whatever technology or practice is in question. Unfortunately, I've never really had the opportunity to work for a company that did such a thing. Well, I take that back... I've worked for organizations that had research labs, I just didn't work close enough to them to be a part of that research. After starting with Microsoft, I figured I might have the opportunity to do just that -- work with researchers on some next-gen concepts. Of course, I love consulting and I'd like to get settled in here (in Microsoft Consulting Services) as much as possible for the time being. Perhaps after a couple of years I'll see what my options are. One thing I like about consulting is that you typically bounce between projects fairly often. Unfortunately, my current customer has so much going on, I'll stay gainfully employed for the foreseeable future. Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing, but I'd almost like to see about taking a 3 month break to work on a research project. Of course, in the big picture, there's no telling how much I could gain from that since research projects are typically multi-year efforts. Right now isn't the time to start that, anyway, but I might have to start looking into it for the future.

Lately, I've been thinking about this a bit more as I try to put together what I'd like to do over the next few years. The main research area I'm interested in is software engineering. It's hard to define what I like, but if I had to, I'd say my interests revolve around best practices and making life better for the user. Again, this is still a fairly broad area, but that's good... there's plenty of room for improvement. As a matter of fact, I'm always trying to think of what might define "next-gen" with respect to various areas of software engineering and usability. On the software engineering front, I might ask how we can reshape the way software is developed by increasing productivity and integrating best practices where they make the most sense. I have several ideas around this, but the overall concept is fairly sketchy. As I mentioned, usability is something I'm also interested in. When I say "usability," human-computer interaction (HCI) comes to mind, but there's so much more. Everything has a usability factor -- perhaps that's an idea... calculating usability -- and that usability factor typically makes or breaks a product's success in the market. I'd be interested in finding new, innovative ways to streamline and replace antiquated practices. Most of what we do everyday is out of habit, so it can sometimes be hard to break those habits and make some forward progress. There are so many angles to take here, so I can't really get specific. I think it'd be interesting to see how much time is spent doing various tasks with this ultimate goal of determining where streamlined tasks could provide the most benefit. This would definitely take some time to determine, so it might be best limited to computing activities, which can be easily tracked and metrics obtained... well, easier than daily life activities, anyway. Just thinking of how to track this brings up a handful of very basic concepts on how such efforts might be better implemented. The possibilities are truly endless when you start talking about research topics.

I am interested in taking on a research project, but seeing as tho I've never done it before, I need a "mentor" who has more research experience. It would also be nice if the project had a smaller scope, so it didn't take a year or so to get somewhere. I guess my goal right now is to gain some experience researching a topic. Once I have that, I'll probably break off on my own to try it out. I may take on two mentored projects before doing one of my own, but I'd like to do both. Then, wrap that up by working on a Microsoft Research team, and I should have a decent research foundation to base a PhD on. I'm not sure if I'll ultimately get there or not, but I'm entertaining the idea. I don't like the idea of taking 4-6 yrs off of work to do that, tho. I'd balance the two for 8 before I'd take off of work for 4. We'll see what my options are. I don't need the paper to do the work, but it's nice to have the recognition for the effort and get a more formal background in research.


PDF as an Open Standard

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:25 AM :: 1051 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

In what I see as an effort to defend its PDF document format against Microsoft's XPS format, Adobe is looking to make PDF an open standard Mobile-ready link. An interesting move. Granted, this is just my opinion, but I think companies are going this route in an attempt to bring back the old Microsoft stereotype regarding its lack of openness. I don't think that'll ever happen, tho. Microsoft is one of the most transparent companies around, these days. Seriously consider that statement. Think about some of the top tech companies: Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Google, Sun, and Yahoo (I know there are more, but these are my top picks). Microsoft probably shares more information on internal workings than any. IBM is probably the top-dog when considering use of open source; but let's not forget that open source does not equal transparent ethics and operations. Apple is the god of secrecy and has no foreseeable plans to change that. Surprise is good every once in a while, but this is one reason why I hate Apple as a company -- they come up with some nice stuff, but I have no faith in their direction. Speaking of direction, Google is all over the board. Most say Google is a young Microsoft. In the same breath, Google is making a lot of the same mistakes Microsoft made in its early days. This just shows the immaturity of the company. Please don't take this offensively, I'm just saying the company is young and has a lot to learn. Google is perceived as the "good guy" by a lot of people, but I don't think that's necessarily factual. Good service doesn't equate to good ethics. Google has a lot to proove outside of its good search tools. At least the company has been more transparent than Apple, but anyone can do that. Sun and Yahoo are in about the same boat as Google, in my opinion. None of them shares their plans or internal workings that much, except for marketing reasons. Anyway, I can go on and on about this, but you get the idea. This is, of course, just my personal opinion. Each of these companies has its own approach to winning in the market, but I just don't see the same transparency I do as with Microsoft. Anyway, I'm way off topic...

Back to the PDF/XPS discussion, the funny thing is, I thought XPS was supposed to be an open standard. I'm not sure if I read that somewhere, I'm confusing it with another standard Microsoft is working on, or if I'm just plain crazy. My vote goes on a combination of all three. 


Long-Awaited Tracker Comparison Update

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:42 AM :: 928 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!
Well, after quite some time, I've finally updated and migrated the web tracker comparison I had on my old weblog to this website. For subscribers and those interested in what's changed, I created an introductory article Mobile-ready link that will be updated when I make changes. I created a separate page for the meat of the comparison Mobile-ready link, which will allow me to do a lot more with the comparison itself. I'm still looking at different ways to organize the data to make it easier to consume.

Version Control Standards

By Michael Flanakin @ 11:01 AM :: 2128 Views :: Development, Patterns & Practices, Configuration Mgmt, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

Standards are very important; especially in team environments. One thing that's been getting to me the past few months is what seems to be a lack of standards when it comes managing Visual SourceSafe (VSS) and Team Foundation Server (TFS) repositories. Since most of my version control experience is with Subversion, I want to bounce back to the fact that data in the repositories is managed very simply. You have three (or four) top-level directories that represent the major version controlled entities: branches, tags, and trunk. The term "tag" may not be familiar to some, so let me just say that tags and labels are the same thing -- an ear-marked version of the repository in a significant state. "Trunk" is another term that some may not be familiar with, but it is essentially the main line of code you're working with. I love the fact that Subversion introduces you to these right off the bat because it almost forces you to learn and abide by good version control practices. You don't have this in the VSS/TFS world. For those who caught on to the optional fourth directory with Subversion, that would be shelves. "What? Subversion doesn't support shelving!" you say? Not true. A shelf is simply a branch in the Subversion world Mobile-ready link. (Shameless plug: Woohoo! I'm the first result when searching for shelving in Subversion.)

As I mentioned, digging into VSS and TFS for the first time, you don't really see these same principles. It's too bad, because that can cause chaos in the field. Well, maybe the word "chaos" is too strong of a word; but you'll be hard-pressed to find two implementations that work the same exact way. Putting some thought into it, I guess the best thing I can come up with is having an application directory with branch directories sitting alongside it. For instance, if my application is called MyApp, I would have MyApp, MyApp-1.0, MyApp-2.0, and MyApp-2.1. These map to the main and release branches, respectively. Not rocket science, I know, but I just haven't seen a common practice. If anyone has one, I'd love to hear about it. If I have more than one releasable project within my repository, then I'd include all project-related branches within a parent directory called MyApp, or something similar. Then, other releasable projects could sit alongside this one. Again, pretty simple.

Beyond this structure, which will probably change over the coming months, I also have something else of mild interest. Time and time again, I need to explain version control concepts to developers who haven't dealt with configuration management before. Not that I mind, but I recently created an image to visualize this for a project I'm on. I figured I'd share this for others to take advantage of. Looking at it, it's fairly easy to explain how the release cycle works and when/where branching and merging comes into play.

Note that this isn't specific to any type of repository, so whether you use VSS, TFS, Svn, or any other version control solution, it should apply to you just fine. The dark blue line represents the main branch (or trunk). At some point, a code freeze is identified, which is when the codebase is branched for the release. Testing is performed and bug fixes are applied to the release branch while, at the same time, changes are also made to the main branch for the follow-on release. Once the release branch is considered stable, a tag/label is applied (identified by the red star-burst), the release is deployed, and the changes applied to the branch are merged (identified by the orange line) back to the main branch (or trunk). Over time, while development on the main branch is moving along, there will inevitably be bugs in the production system. Let's just say your next major/minor release isn't for another 6 months. In that case, you'll probably want to do a point release to push out a bug fix or two (ok, 10 or 20 :-P). In this case, developers will pull the latest (aka head) from the specific release branch and apply necessary fixes. This is again tested, tagged/labeled, and re-deployed. To get these changes back into the main branch, the release branch is again merged to the main branch. This process will continue for the life of the project.

Honestly, it's all pretty simple; but as they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words."


Win a $25,000 Computer Lab

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:30 PM :: 1053 Views :: Other , Microsoft :: Digg it!

I know quite a few teachers, so when I saw this, I knew I had to send it out. Apparently, Microsoft is having a contest Mobile-ready link at 34 tech stores throughout the continental US where it's giving away 34 $25,000 computer labs and 136 XBoxes. Totalling just short of a million dollars, the contest is aimed at K-12 faculty and students and their families interested in buying Vista. 

Windows Vista $25,000 PC Lab Giveaways (Jan 30, 2007)


...2 1/2 Years Later

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:37 AM :: 1229 Views :: Development, Architecture :: Digg it!

I just ran across a 2 1/2 year old post Mobile-ready link about what a software architect is on Mike Sax's weblog Mobile-ready link that was a comment to a post I made Mobile-ready link. Mike quotes Alan Cooper quite nicely:

Web designers are called programmers, programmers are called engineers, engineers are called architects, and architects are never called!

I just wanted to say that I am (and was at the time of my original post) familiar with Alan's quote and whole-heartedly agree!


Wal-Mart Goes Solar

By Michael Flanakin @ 10:38 PM :: 1442 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!
Looks like Wal-Mart is joining the solar bandwagon Mobile-ready link. Can it be called a bandwagon if only two big-name corporations are doing it? Oh well. No word from Microsoft, yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens in the coming years. I expect to see more and more people doing this sort of thing. If not going completely solar, every little bit helps! Congrats to Wal-Mart and Google Mobile-ready link for their efforts!

Amusing Thought for the Day: Windows on Linux

By Michael Flanakin @ 3:40 PM :: 1595 Views :: .NET, Java, Technology, Microsoft :: Digg it!

Don't ask why or how this came up, but with the talk about Windows redux (1 Mobile-ready link, 2 Mobile-ready link3 Mobile-ready link), I had an interesting thought: imagine Windows being rewritten to run on the Linux kernel. Don't get me wrong, I don't think this would ever happen, but could you imagine? The OS wars would almost be completely naught. You'd have the Linux family, which are all having their own internal battles today; Mac, which is based on Unix; and Windows, the mack-daddy (based on usage), would take the same approach Mac did with OSX, whether based on Linux or Unix, the results would be the same.

Linux advocates would feel like they've won, in a sense, because Linux would then become the most used kernel by far; however, we all know the cost model wouldn't change, so then the only difference would be between the user experience and proprietary software. With this, Microsoft would have to bring .NET to the Linux world, which would completely consume the major portion of Mono. By this time, I imagine the majority of the Windows-specific features and core applications (i.e. Office) would be implemented in .NET, which is what I believe they're moving towards, anyway -- not 100% of the code, but as much as makes sense at whatever pace makes sense. Java would see an even more drastic decrease in usage because .NET would see more "multiplatform" benefits. Honestly, there's so much you could speculate with such an extreme move. All you can really do is laugh at the idea.


Tech Year in Review: Media Devices, OSs, and AOL

By Michael Flanakin @ 3:07 PM :: 990 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Predictions :: Digg it!

I just listened to a recent This Week in Tech Mobile-ready link cast, The Year in Review Mobile-ready link. There were several things that were discussed I wanted to talk about. I have to say all of the TWiT casts tend to irk me in one small way or another because just about everyone on them seems to be one small step short of being an Apple fanboy. Nonetheless, there are some interesting discussions that go on...

As usual, the Zune was hated on. One thing I think is funny is that Apple fanboys tend to talk down on the fact that there's a brown Zune. I have to admit that I don't like the brown Zune. If I had interchangable covers, I might be willing to get one; but outside of that, I doubt it. Most people say that the brown Zune is much better in person and the majority of those say it's the best of the three primary colors. I haven't seen it in person, so I can't say. Back to the TWiT discussion, they did say that most people who're buying into the Zune are doing so more for what will come rather than what it is today. In part, I can agree with that. While my iPod experience is limited, I never found the devices interesting enough to throw money at one and I think the Zune will ultimately be a force to be reckoned with. With that, I expect it to take some time, tho. If Microsoft releases a wider range of device form factors that target different niches, they'll have much more success; but I expect the Zune to hit 25% market share by mid-2008.

While I'm ranting about what fanboys these guys are, I must say they actually talked nice about Windows Vista. One person said most Windows users weren't impressed. I have to say I haven't met one Windows user who thought that way. The only negative comments I've gotten with respect to Vista are from Mac users who don't have much (if any) experience with Vista. I'm not saying Vista is revolutionary, but it is a must-have advancement for Windows. I think anyone who looks at it will find that it's a worthwhile, much needed improvement on many levels.

One of the predictions for 2007 was that this year would be the year for the three-headed OS war. MacOS is and has been a viable consumer OS for quite some time. Now, with better positioning on standard hardware and with a Unix core, the OS is even better off... again, for consumers. I don't think Mac is ready for enterprise usage. Not that the OS can't survive, but I don't see any major organization switching from Windows to Mac even if it was completely free. Mac doesn't have anything near the enterprise management features of Windows. I'd like to see some details on such a transition, but don't ever expect to. Linux, on the other hand, has a different niche. Linux is for gear-heads who want the most productive "feel." I say "feel" as opposed to feel because command lines aren't always more productive. That's besides the point, tho. I've ventured the way of Linux on several occasions and get so aggravated at the waste of time to do somewhat menial tasks that should be simple. From what I've seen in the few Linux implementations I've played with, Linux is going to a lot more than one year to get any true capability to take over the corporate or consumer desktop. Again, this isn't because it's not capable, but because it's still too damn hard to do simple tasks. Techies can figure it out, sure, but we aren't the average user. Why do you think people like Mac? Part of Mac's appeal is its oversimplification of some tasks; the other major part is that it looks pretty. Both of these things are nowhere to be found in the Linux world... at least as far as I've seen, anyway. If I had to throw out some random numbers based on no real conecpt of what percentages are today, I'd say Linux usage might increase a few percentage points and Mac usage will probably get into the low 10's. I also see a great many new PCs coming out with Windows Vista and, poised to take on the major post-Vista changes, I expect both Linux and Mac numbers to drop in 2008; especially as iPod sales start to decline, which I expect to start late this year.

Perhaps the most exciting topic discussed was the idea of AOL's acquisition. When this came up, one word came to mind: Google. Of course, this is the same thing the TWiT guys were thinking. AOL would be a more than perfect complement to Google's arsenal. Google has the search strong-hold, but I don't think its other features have much usage outside of the heavily tech savvy crowd. Taking over AOL would give them unprecedented (for them) access to the desktop in a very new area for them -- the "average" (and lower) user. Google started with techies and worked its way down from there. This was a perfect approach; especially as a search provider. Think back to where you learned about Google from and I guarantee you it was ultimately from a techie -- who am I kidding, only techies are going to read this :-P Anyway, an AOL purchase would see massive changes. First and foremost, IE would be changed out with Firefox. Second to come would be the extensive use of Google tools in all areas of AOL. The major ones being web and desktop search and Google Talk/AIM merger (or at least connected networks w/ shared friends); but don't think Google wouldn't take this the extra mile by including a "free productivity suite" in AOL. Introducing this to AOL's userbase would be more than ideal for Google. Again, I have to stress that Google's top-down proliferation mixed with AOL's years of bottom-feeding are the perfect match made in heaven.

One person said that, if Google did purchase AOL, Microsoft would look into purchasing Yahoo; however, Yahoo would strive for individuality. While I understand this point of view, Google can get away with an AOL buyout; however, I don't think Microsoft could get away with a Yahoo buyout. While AOL has the lowest denominator, Yahoo shares some of that along with more of the "average" userbase. This didn't come up in the cast, but an AOL-Yahoo merger would rule the world of the lower 2/3 of the interent userbase. It's just too bad they wouldn't make any money.

Oh, let me explain Microsoft's current position with respect to Google, AOL, and Yahoo. Well, first off, I don't think AOL is in the game very much; but I do know they're into more than I know about -- always important to know what you don't know ;-) There's been a lot of confusion around why Microsoft has MSN and Live.com; but, in actuality, the answer is pretty simple: Microsoft competes on more levels than Google, Yahoo, or AOL alone. MSN competes with Yahoo for the users who like news. In the cast, Leo asked why people still use MSN. Well Leo, that's why. They don't want the simplicity of a blank screen, they want news. Their web world revolves around news content. Live tries to get into this game with their custom homepage, but that's more of a techie feature, if you ask me, and maps bet to Google's personalized homepage. While we're on the topic of Live, we all know it's a Google compete. Live Spaces is a MySpace and Yahoo compete. Soapbox is a YouTube and Yahoo compete. Live Mail is a Gmail and Yahoo Mail compete. Live Maps competes with Google Maps and MapQuest (AOL). And, there's the all-way IM battle between AOL, Yahoo, MSN/Live, and Google Talk. Honestly, there's a lot more than just these, but I'll leave it at that. This should be good enough of a list. With all this, I think a Yahoo merger would be beneficial because it would increase Microsoft's userbase, but I don't think it would happen. Microsoft typically acquires innovative start-ups, not web giants. Instead of a merger, I'd expect stronger co-opetition. Expect to see Live and Yahoo services working better together, like the IM coop that started this year. Beyond this, I don't expect much. I'd even go out on a limb to say this will definitely not happen. In the same breath, if Google goes for AOL, which would be the smartest move of 2007, in my opinion, Microsoft will have to do something to solidify its desktop. Having such a strong competitor who's already taking pot-shots from the web on the desktop is not going to be good for the bottom line.

If it isn't obvious, I'm very interested in this AOL issue. The only thing I could say about it would be that Microsoft might want to go for a buyout as somewhat of a preemptive strike before Google can. At the same time, I think AOL would deny that based on principle. As a company, I think AOL would rather go to Google. Man, the more I say it, the more I can see Google-AOL... this may be one exciting year!


Thanks be to XPS

By Michael Flanakin @ 10:22 AM :: 1131 Views :: .NET, Technology :: Digg it!

I just had to say that I'm glad that I had the chance to dig into the XPS document format Mobile-ready link. While it was interesting, that's not why I'm happy. Lately, I've been working with what seems to be countless online forms, most of which are non-saveable PDF files. When you get a non-savable PDF, all you can do is fill it in and print it or print it and manually edit it, which I hate doing. Luckily, XPS comes to the rescue! I filled out the form and then printed to XPS. Later, I realized I used wrong dates, so I was able to go in and edit them manually. Perfect!

If that wasn't enough, I had to fax a couple documents to someone else. Instead of printing, signing, faxing, and trashing the papers, I extended my paperless office concept by digitally signing the documents and faxing them using Outlook. There's only one problem... currently, there's no application that allows you to edit XPS documents. To get around this, I printed the original form to XPS with a signature I inked into the PDF using FoxIt PDF Reader Mobile-ready link on my tablet. Since XPS is built on XML, I was able to dig into this new document and copy the XML that defined my signature. Then, I simply went thru each of the pre-existing XPS documents and pasted the XML signature into the page. Next thing I knew, I had over a dozen signed XPS documents in a matter of about 6 or 7 minutes. Admittedly, I could've printed, signed, and faxed them in slightly less time, but this method allows me to archive and protect the documents and even change them again, if needed -- something I couldn't do with PDF (even with Acrobat Pro).

Once I got to this point, I thought about a somewhat novelty change I could make that would make the related documents easier to manage. I took the 14 separate documents and merged them into one XPS file. The process was very straight forward. I need to document it in a blog post.

I admit that none of this is revolutionary, but it was very helpful and has saved me a lot of time and aggravation. Let's not forget that XPS documents are considerably smaller than PDFs. What I couldn't do with proprietary, "closed" PDF documents, the open architecture of XPS documents made relatively easy. I can't wait until there are apps that help manage some of this for you. I may write something, but who knows. Font management seems to be the main problem, but that could probably be circumvented by looking into the full spec and/or .NET support. All-in-all, I'm very excited about using XPS documents instead of PDFs, which have always been the bane of the paperless office.


.NET Statistics: My Space

By Michael Flanakin @ 9:53 AM :: 1155 Views :: .NET, Architecture :: Digg it!

People are constantly doubting the abilities of .NET and SQL Server when it comes to enterprise capabilities. For this reason, I'd like to keep track of some stats from popular applications. One of these is My Space, which has been using .NET 2.0 since before it's official release. Before that, the application was built using Cold Fusion. As for the metrics, My Space gets 2-2.5 billion page views per day and has an average of 4-5 million simultaneous users. Compared to the Cold Fusion system, the server load decreased by 2/3. While it may be an interesting statistic, the performance difference between Cold Fusion and .NET shouldn't be the focal point. The true point of this post is the load .NET can handle. If I get more numbers from other systems, I'll post them as well.


Mounting ISOs

By Michael Flanakin @ 9:48 AM :: 1029 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

ISOs are CD/DVD images that can be easily burned. When you don't need a bootable CD/DVD, however, there's typically no need to burn the image and possibly waste a disc. I hate having extra CDs floating around, so I avoid burning discs as much as possible. I've seen/heard a lot of talk about ISO mounting tools which basically simulate a CD/DVD drive to access the ISO file. Personally, I see no need for them. Why? Because I already have this capability in my current toolset.

One great advancement of Windows XP was the built-in support for ZIP files. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of other archive file formats the built-in features don't support (i.e. TAR, RAR, and GZip). You can get any number of tools to support these, but I use 7zip Mobile-ready link. I admit, there are better tools, but it does the job very, very well. I prefer this much more than WinZip, which seems to be the defacto standard. I absolutely hate WinZip. If you are looking at tools, I did like WinRar when I last saw it a few years ago. Anyway, 7zip is open source and does a great job with managing archives... even ISOs, which is why I mentioned it. Actually, I've also been able to use 7zip to do my investigation into XPS documents Mobile-ready link without having to rename them.

There is a trade-off here, tho. Using 7zip, I have to take the additional time to extract the ISO as I would an archive file. I'm fine with that because it doesn't typically take that much time and only takes about 15 seconds of think time outside of the extraction, which I can do in the background. Personally, I'd rather maximize my current toolset than continually add on tool after tool. Of course, everyone is different. I just figured I'd mention it for others to consider.


Mac Break Weekly's Jilted View of Windows

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:55 AM :: 963 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

I try to keep abreast of different tech areas when I can. One thing I started somewhat recently was listening to Mac Break Weekly (MBW) Mobile-ready link. In episode 21 Mobile-ready link there was a comment that was made about Windows. I can't remember who said it, but basically, the guy said he thinks Windows Vista will be the last version of Windows. I was expecting him to say "...in its current state" or something of the sort, but he didn't. This is something I've noticed with most Mac users -- they're completely oblivious to the other side of the fence -- outside of rumors and misconceptions. Granted, this happens to anyone who doesn't keep up with competing technologies, but it's very annoying. This comment is garbage; I truly hope there was a misunderstanding on my part. I can't believe anyone would make such a moronic statement.

Another topic that came out was that Apple has slowed down Mac development and will continue with less frequent release cycles. Despite MBW's belief that this is because "Apple is happy with the state of MacOS," I see this being because Apple can't afford it. We all know Apple was going downhill until the iPod came out. Apple has changed for the better in the past 5 years, but they have a lot farther to go. Based on MBW's comments, Apple seemingly believes there aren't new areas to drive the OS into. These aren't there exact words; however, by saying "Apple is happy with the state of the OS," as a consumer, that tells me they either can't or won't innovate much more. To say operating systems can't be drasticly changed would ultimately point out a lack of innovative thinking, in my mind. Again, I'm hoping I misunderstood this. Admittedly, I'm expressing my view of what they said, but I don't think it'd be that far off. Anyone can say they're happy with what they have, but that doesn't mean it can't be better. I think I can say that no current OS will be in its current state in 10 years. If they are, they won't be very popular. There is so much room to grow in the OS arena. I'm hoping the "next gen Windows" will bring some of these concepts into reality.


2007 Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Notre Dame

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:54 AM :: 1303 Views :: LSU :: Digg it!
I just had to say somehting about this. Today's the big day: LSU vs. Notre Dame at the Sugar Bowl Mobile-ready link. My girlfriend and her family are all big ND fans, so I have to make a big stink about the game :-P ND is a very good team and has had a great season; I won't deny that. In the same breath, LSU is just a better team, plain and simple. There's only one thing stopping LSU from taking this game: itself. LSU has had a problem with showing up in the past few years. They have the skill, but for some reason, they seem to let a few games go each season. There really is no reason LSU hasn't been undefeated for the past three years. Anyway, I could go on with that for a while, so I'll leave it at that. Yeah, I'm Irish and all, but this one's going to LSU. Geaux Tigers!

Month of Apple Bugs

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:36 AM :: 1387 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

Looking at making Apple products more secure, we've just entered the kick-off of the month of Apple bugs Mobile-ready link. This reminded me about the week of Oracle database bugs Mobile-ready link in  November 2006. I went to see how that turned out and it looks like it didn't go so well -- it was postponed "due to many problems." As I stated before, I think Argeniss over-estimated their ability to come out with a bug-a-day. Not that they don't exist, but I had doubts in their ability to deliver. Hopefully this will come back.

I mentioned I'd like to see a similar effort for SQL Server 2005, which was claimed to be more secure than Oracle's database Mobile-ready link; but I'd also like to see the same effort for Windows Vista. Such an effort on the new operating system would be welcomed with open arms, in my opinion. I can honestly say that I don't think a week of Vista bugs could be done at this time. I extend the challenge to anyone, tho. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a month's worth of Vista bugs exist, but it would take a while to find them and Microsoft is very good at fixing these things in relatively short time frames. I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say it should never be possible to come up with a month of Windows bugs; but, in the same breath, we know it is. Either way, I don't expect to see such an effort anytime soon.