Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NWNUG Redesign Launches

I spent a good portion of my evenings last week working on a redesign of the website for the Northwest Ohio .NET User Group (NWNUG). It officially launches today! I can't claim credit for everything, though, because there was a committee of members that helped to identify important content and redesign the logo, despite their own incredibly busy schedules.

Over a month ago, I had some ideas of how to take our web presence to the next level. Besides a new look and feel, we also needed a content management platform that would support categorization, permanent links to content, and syndication (i.e., publishing content to RSS).

For the record, our old platform used DotNetNuke. It's not a bad tool, and allows for quick assembly of a portal. But, in some areas, it was too much tool for our needs, while in other areas, it was insufficient.

The new platform is currently a mix between static HTML and newtelligent's DasBlog Community Edition. I modified the "Portal/Compass" theme that was designed by Johnny Hughes, and configured DasBlog to use that theme exclusively. At this time, DasBlog is used for the "Events and Announcements" portion of the site.

One reason behind my choice of using DasBlog is because it is open source. I have some ideas of tapping into DasBlog's template and data model in order to bring some more dynamic functionality to what is currently static HTML. I have also identified some behaviors (macros and otherwise) that I would like changed.

Kudos to Scott and the other DasBlog contributors! It's a fantastic piece of software.

Friday, April 21, 2006

EOLAS is teh sux0rz

Companies should not be able to patent an idea for implementing something in software, especially if they do not produce software themselves. The End.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

AACS: Day of .NET GrokTalks

Leading up to the Day of .NET in Ann Arbor event, the Ann Arbor Computer Society (AACS) is hosting an evening of GrokTalks as part of their regular meeting on May 3, 2006 featuring a lot of the same speakers that will be presenting at DoDN.

What's a GrokTalk, you ask? It's a short (~10 minute) presentation on a single topic ("All Stuff and No Fluff" is the format). The Regional Directors gave a series of GrokTalks at last year's TechEd (

The May 3 evening will feature 8 or 9 talks in 90 minutes. At this time, speakers include Aydin Akcasu, Jason Follas, Darrell Hawley, Jim Holmes, Josh Holmes, John Hopkins, Martin Shoemaker, Bill Wagner, and a very special disembodied guest presenter: Carl Franklin (.NET Wonk, MVP for Visual Basic, Regional Director, Hunter/Gatherer... oh yeah, and host of a little podcast called .NET Rocks! ).

(The final list of confirmed speakers will be posted to the AACS site prior to the event).

AACS meetings are free and open to the public. Supporting membership is $20 per year.

Time: 6:00 pm
Location: Spark Central. 330 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor MI

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Connie Arrives! I initially doubted it, but using a ratchet strap on each side of the handlebar really does hold a bike secure in the bed of a pickup truck. I had some webbing also tied around the rear of the bike, just in case it fell to one side or the other, but it didn't budge.

Know your knots! There's a clove hitch around the hand grip. One end also tied around the handlebar (couple half hitches) just to keep the clove hitch from working loose, and the other end had a bowline. The ratchet strap's hook connected to the bowline. For security, I also tied a rope through the bowline and the webbing of the ratchet strap (in case the hook somehow magically slipped off).

I had to take a 2-step process to get it off of the truck. The first step went from the truck to my front porch. The second step went from the porch to the driveway. (Notice the 2-year old supervisor watching through the window).

Finally got 'er on the ground! One of the front brakes was seized, so I actually removed the caliper, tie-wrapped the pads into place, and pumped the brake to push the pistons out. Then I tie-wrapped the caliper to the front fork. The Connie has 2 calipers for the front wheel, so I still had a front brake (which is good, since I used it exclusively as I rode down the ramps).

I even managed to figure out how the saddle bags are mounted.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Day of .NET in Ann Arbor

 Registration for the Day of .NET in Ann Arbor is now open!

Day of .NET is a one-day conference on all things .NET organized by developers for developers. This event is being offered at no cost to anyone interested in .NET development, and features speakers from across the Heartland Region, as well a special guest speaker: Mark Miller from Developer Express and Mondays.

The Day of .NET in Ann Arbor is a collaborative effort between the following INETA member groups:

This rare event takes place Saturday, May 13, 2006 on the campus of Washtenaw Community College (Business Education Building) in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 9:00 am to 5:15 pm.

Further details and event registration at:

Sunday, April 09, 2006

YALAL (Yet Another Look At Linux)

Linux is interesting to play with, I'll give it that. There's something awe inspiring about seeing the console screen scroll through all of that information when it runs for the first time, and starts firing up different device drivers. And the fact that this operating system has been compiled for just about every device in pretty cool.

Even usability has come a long way. KDE has some pretty cool little widgets, yet things seem strangely familiar to the old Sun SPARCs that I used to use back in college. I also like the behavior when you run as a regular user (not root) and you access something that requires administrative access: it simply prompts you for the root password, and then runs that one application as root. Sure, Windows has Runas just like *nix has su, but the autodetection makes this is a step beyond simple user switching.

The trip down Linux Lane this time started with a New World G3 iMac that I happen to have acquired. I don't have a MacOS CD, and there's no way that I'm going to buy one just for this old thing. So, what's the next best thing? Yellow Dog Linux.

I upgraded the iMac to 256MB of RAM, and dropped in a 20GB Hard Drive. Then, I downloaded and burned the YDL 4.1 CDs. Installation was pretty easy with the exception of partitioning the drive.

To make a long story short, in order to have OpenFirmware load yaboot, your drive will need an Apple_Partition_Map partition, and YDL's installer does not seem to be able to create one. Normally, after dropping in a new hard drive, you would use the MacOS CD to create the Mac partitions, including the all-important Partition Map, and then install YDL. Without a MacOS CD, I had to find a PowerPC LiveCD (Gentoo project has one), and then use mac-fdisk to initialize the disk (i), which creates the Partition Map partition. Once that was done, the YDL installer did everything else for me.

So, now that I have Linux running on a PowerPC, is it usable? Yes, as far as everything that comes on the CDs. However, if you want to install something else, you need to look for a source-code distribution and build it yourself. That pretty much rules out commercial software.

You see, it's almost guaranteed that any company that distributes a binary Linux version of their product will only have x86 available (not PPC). That makes it kind of tough to download things that you take for granted in the Windows environment that only runs on x86.

Case in point: almost every web site out there that my daughter would want to visit seems to use Flash, but Macromedia does not have a PPC Linux version of the Flash player (they do have a Linux x86 version, though). So, this means that this new machine, even with it's very standards compliant FireFox 1.5, is almost worthless in the eyes of an 8-year old.

I'll give it another 6-12 months, and then I'll get the urge to see what's new in Linux. Next time, I'll likely install on x86 so that I can get a true representative experience.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Congratulations Jim!

When you become involved in user groups to the point that you're either helping to lead a group, or actually leading, it becomes inevitable that you'll form acquaintances (if not friendships) with leaders from other groups in your region. As such, I've gotten to know [at some level, at least] John Hopkins, Bill Wagner, James Avery, Dave Donaldson, Brian Prince, Patrick Steele, and the Holmes Brothers (Josh and Jim).

Congratulations to the latter: Jim was awarded the Microsoft MVP Award for Visual C#!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

CableCards and the DIY HTPC

It's been widely discussed, including on this blog, that because of certification requirements, only the big system builders will be able to put together a HTPC (Home Theater PC, like Media Center) that includes CableCard technology.

As a refresher, a CableCard is an addressable device that you would register with your local cable company, and is essentially a whole digital cable converter box on a little card. The point is that with a CableCard, you don't need the converter box in order to tune in the digital-only channels (including premium channels).

I have always said that this would be a PCI form factor. But, I went over to my friend Mokee's house over the weekend, and he showed me his new HDTV. Among other things, it had CableCard support built into the TV (and they, in fact, are renting a CableCard from Adelphia). To my surprise, a CableCard actually uses the PC Card (PCMCIA) form factor. I didn't get to fully examine it, but I'm assuming/guessing that the tuner itself is built into the TV and the CableCard is just a decryption device.

Given the fact that the cable companies will rent you one of these for your TV, I don't see why you wouldn't be able to just move one from the TV into a PC after the cable guy leaves your house. This is assuming that you'll have drivers for it, and can somehow integrate with your existing ATSC tuner card, but I'm sure that the gray market folks and/or Open Source crowd will ensure that those are available.

Bottom line: At this time, I think that the Do It Yourself'ers will be very likely to build a Media Center PC with CableCard support (renting the card from the cable company).

Ghost Hunters were in Louisville, KY

Last week kicked off Season 3 of Ghost Hunters on SciFi. That episode took place at an old Sanitorium (Waverly Hills) in Louisville, KY, and they captured a couple of neat pieces of evidence.

The Where Clause

I've been listening to some of Chuck Boyce's interviews from DevConnections. Chuck has a podcast called The Where Clause that is hosted on SSWUG Radio, and my blog has been linked to on a couple of his shows.

In particular, the Matt Nunn interview is interesting because it contains some enlightening information about SQL Server Express (I met Matt last year at the CSD Competition dinner. At the time, he was a Program Manager for SQL Server, but now has moved on to a VSTS role).

Carl Franklin interview is next...