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Archive | November, 2003

Creative Commons licensing

I had seen attribution on several sites about the Creative Commons licensing project. I had seen it most prominently displayed at Joi Ito’s blog. The project gives authors and creators the ability to license their work for public use – the idea being to allow people to provide their work for public use and set conditions on that use that are legally binding while encouraging contribution to the public domain.

I have added a Creative Commons license to this site. I welcome people’s use of my work, including modification and addition, as long as it attributes the original work to me, is not for commercial gain and any modifications are offered to the public under an identical license. Click the link to the right of any of my pages to read the Creative Commons deed associated with my license. From there, you can get to the legalese version of the actual license.

On CC’s website, there is a tool for choosing your own license, which generates code that can be added to any site. If you have legal experience or otherwise have feedback for the CC team, please provide it at their site. The licenses they currently provide are version 1.0. They would like to continue to improve them over time.

Further, CC is having a contest for development of a moving image that describes their mission. The first prize for the contest is a new desktop – either an Apple G5 or an Alienware box, both worth approximately $3,000 retail. If you are a techie and graphically gifted, I recommend that you consider entering.

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I’m back

I am back from my Thanksgiving vacation. I promise to post regularly again.

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Email subscriptions now available

I have added the ability to subscribe via email to this site. The email updates are provided by Bloglet, which uses the RSS feed to send out an email to subscribers whenever this blog is updated. Use the Email Updates link on the right of this page to enter your email address if you want updates.

I still believe the best way to stay abreast of updates to your favorite blogs is through the use of an RSS feed reader, but I wanted to provide this functionality for those that don’t have one or don’t want to use that technology. In essence, the way I have configured Bloglet for this site is as an RSS-to-email converter – it reads the RSS feed for my blog and sends email updates.

Bloglet will not sell your email address, and no one other than me will know you have subscribed to the site.

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Microsoft voice command – further commentary

I have had an opportunity to use Microsoft’s Voice Command software for Windows Mobile 2003 for a couple of weeks now. I do not think it is worth the $40 price tag for those who don’t use a phone edition device.

The built-in microphone on my iPaq 3970 does not recognize well enough in my car to provide accurate recognition. I believe this limitation would have a better result with a headset and microphone that can be used on the phone edition devices. It is still better than having to look up the contact with the stylus while driving, but it requires multiple attempts almost every time.

I am interested if anyone else has had a different experience.

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Star Trek-style communicators come to the real world

vocera.jpgI read an article over at Geekzone Mobile that discussed an update for products from Vocera that will enable them to work over an 802.11b network.

When I went to Vocera’s website, I was amazed that they had in production a product much like the communicator badges worn in the Star Trek series of television shows and films. These badges allow voice communication wirelessly and hands free between users on a network. While I haven’t seen the products in actual use, the concept videos on the company’s website are very compelling.

As they continue to support standards-based networks, like 802.11, the product might be implementable in a more public way, similar to today’s IP telephone products. At a minimum, the geek in me loves the product. Long-term, this type of thing could replace cell phones.

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CNET aquires mp3.com

I received this message in my email this morning:

CNET Networks, Inc announced today that it has acquired certain assets of MP3.com, Inc.

Please be advised that on Tuesday, December 2, 2003 at 12:00 PM PST the MP3.com website will no longer be accessible in its current form.

CNET Networks, Inc. plans to introduce a new MP3 music service in the near future. If you would like to receive email updates on this service, including an invitation to a special members-only preview, please sign up here.

MP3.com is not transferring your personal information to CNET Networks, Inc. or any other third party.

This is certainly an interesting development. We’ll have to see what CNet comes up with for their mp3 service. More to come after the preview.

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Wireless hackers caught in Michigan

I found this article at The Register that discusses two young men in Michigan who are charged with crimes under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The gist is that the two parked outside a Lowes home improvement store and accessed their wireless network. While in the store’s network, they accessed other stores across Lowes’ WAN throughout the country, and they installed a piece of software to capture credit card numbers.

Even though the capture software only got 6 numbers, and the two, according to company spokespeople, did not access central corporate files containing sensitive information, this story should provide a wake up to companies everywhere: wireless networks are, by their nature, incredibly dangerous and prone to attack. They should receive equal attention to a public Internet access point with regards to securing access, perhaps even more. Further, corporate IT departments and managers should provide spot audits on all of their locations to ensure that employees are not deploying wireless networks on their own, and they should educate their employees about the dangers of simply installing an off-the-shelf wireless access point on the corporate network.

I wrote a post a while back on the basic security any user should employ if they install a wireless access point in their home or office. These steps are very rudimentary. While they will probably suffice for home users – most hackers aren’t really interested in the pictures of your kids, they provide only a slight deterrant to hackers in a corporate environment. Any deterrant, however, is better than nothing and may server to keep out at least the casual wardriver.

If you are a business owner and considering wireless networking, which you should consider – there are a lot of benefits, please make sure you contact a consultant who understands all of the issues around wireless, and please implement a wireless VPN solution that will only allow authenticated users to access the network, and then only through an encrypted tunnel.

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Microsoft security patches for November

Well here we are, another month, another security patch or two. Microsoft released patches for Office and Windows for November yesterday. The patches can be found on the Technet website. Below is a summary of the updates.

Office security bulletin
If you are using Excel 97, 2000, or XP, or Word 97, 2000, or XP (or a Works product containing one of the corresponding Word products), then you should download and install the only security patch contained in the bulletin. (If you follow the link, make sure to select the download for the appropriate product and version you are using.)

Windows security bulletin
There are three bulletins contained in the combined bulletin for Windows. The first bulletin is a cumulative update for Internet Explorer. It should be downloaded and installed on all Windows platforms since Windows ME. The second bulletin applies to the Workstation service in Windows 2000 and XP, including XP 64-bit. The final bulletin applies to Frontpage Server Extensions installed on Windows 2000 or XP.

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Because it can syndrome

I want to first say that I am a gadget geek. I love cool stuff – software, electronics, anything that is remotely new and has bell or whistle. I have come to think things are cool because they can do this or that. I have especially come to think that things are better because they can do something the other thing can’t. I think I have finally realized that assertion is not necessarily true.

I was prompted to write this post because of my discussion with Chip here on the Google Deskbar. There is another product that has a LOT more functionality than the Google bar – Dave’s Quick Searc Deskbar. It does over 200 complex searches against various Internet databases/sites and performs all kinds of calculations and conversions. It can be added to and modified at will. The Google bar has some limited customization features, but otherwise it functions pretty straightforwardly with a specific feature set.

I think the Google bar will be much more widely adopted than Dave’s quick search bar – at least by average users. Granted, in today’s world of computer use it is difficult to come up with what an average user really is, but I have come to have an understanding based on my experience in providing computer support and consultation to small businesses and end users.

Users want a product that fulfills a purpose. Some purposes are of less import than others, like having a good time or getting a good chuckle, but that makes them no less important or purposeful. The key is that most users want a product that fulfills their purposes simply. They want it to be intuitive. Most importantly, they want to turn it on and have it work – every time.

One of the pitfalls I see in the open source community is their tendancy to do one of two things – copy something that already exists or build something for one purpose and turn it into a Swiss army knife that does 1,001 other things. In the case of DQSD, the fact that it does 200+ complex searches and calculations is all well and good, but it doesn’t fulfill my purpose as well as the Google bar. For that reason alone I have made my switch, and I believe it will do the same for most other users, too.

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Adding Javascript to a Typepad post

I recently wanted to add a javascript popup to one of my posts here on my weblog. The javascript code opened a popup window and served content from another page, in this case it was a direct buy link to an amazon.com product. I couldn’t get the code to display properly and ended up posting a ticket to the helpdesk at Typepad.

As usual, the response was incredbily prompt, and Brenna was very helpful in providing the information, which I thought would be useful to give some basic instruction here. Obviously, these instructions will only be really useful for folks that are using basic templates with little or no knowledge on HTML editing. In my case, I was pasting code that Amazon provided from their associates section, so I didn’t write the code myself, nor did I think it would be appropriate to modify it. All of that being said, here is how I added a buy this item from Amazon link to the bottom of my post on the book, America 24/7.

Turn off line breaks
The first step is to edit the post and turn off the line breaks. At the bottom of the posting screen, you should see an option called Text Formatting. In the drop-down box, select none. If you don’t see that option, click the link that says, “Customize the display of this page.” at the bottom. On the next page, select custom and check off all the boxes. You will then be able to change the text formatting for the post you are editing.

Add tags for the end of each paragraph
You need to add the “< / br>” tag to the end of each line. Remove the spaces and quotation marks from my example here – I only included them so the post didn’t inadvertantly add a paragraph break. These tags are the equivalent of a hard return in your word processing program.

Add the code
Paste into the text of your post the appropriate HTML code for your desired result. I copied and pasted straight out of the code generated by amazon.

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