Friday, November 30, 2007

SQL Server Compact 3.5... still no x64 support

It has LINQ. Who cares.

What I want to know is why did Microsoft release yet another version of SQL Server Compact edition where the server tools don't install on 64-bit IIS? Do people actually run x64 servers and then run their IIS in WOW64 mode?

Microsoft's x64 support has been horrendous so far. WOW64... with a whole new registry and Program Files directory? And how about the decision to require Vista x64 drivers be level 3 signed? We've been ready to deploy x64 for like 5 years.... stop jacking around and fix these things already.

Fixing Outlook

If you get this error in Outlook 2007: "Could not install the custom actions the object could not be found", it's because somehow you have a custom form installed on your machine that has gone south. I think the custom form might be an Exchange-based distribution, since I've never installed any custom forms.

Anyway, first close Outlook. If you're on Vista, go to "C:\Users\[UserName]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\FORMS" or on XP "C:\Documents and Settings\[UserName]\Local Settings\Microsoft\FORMS". You may have to make hidden files and folders visible to see this directory. Once you find the directory, blow everything in it away. Then relaunch Outlook.

Now enjoy your time in Outlook. It's so aw3some!!11!

Monday, November 19, 2007

How Come Print Isn't Dead Yet?

The consumer market rewards inefficient behavior if it's easier than change. That's the summary of why print isn't dead.

More on that in a minute, but let's first look at where print actually is dead: businesses. How many businesses still own typewriters? How many use paper adding machines? None, at least on this side of the world. Most people carry now Treos instead of Filofaxes.

Every day, we read and write enormous amounts of text on screens when we go to work. We do this because businesses (well... some businesses) cannot tolerate inefficiencies that are simple to fix. Migrating from typewriters to computers, Filofaxes to Treos and slide shows to Powerpoint are good examples of easy efficiencies.

But when we get home, we have racks of books sitting on shelves, collecting dust and taking up space. How did those books get there?

  1. Trees cut down using oil-powered machinery
  2. Trees then transported using oil-powered trucks
  3. Paper mills process tree using coal power
  4. Paper transported to printer via trucks
  5. Printed books transported to warehouse via trucks
  6. Warehouse has an HVAC using coal power
  7. Books then distributed via trucks and planes to stores or direct to consumer
  8. (Optional) Consumer drives car to store to find book and buy it in an air conditioned store
That's got to be one of the most inefficient delivery systems for intellectual property besides chemically-processed film. Print can be transmitted anywhere in the world in seconds. With my broadband connection, I could download whole books in a few seconds.

Print distribution is inefficient because it's easier to keep it that way than to fix it. Publishers want the same locked-in business of publishing the same content as an expensive hardcover followed by a cheaper paperback. To convince readers to do something different and keep the margins just as high sounds too risky. Plus, book store owners don't want to go out of business like Tower Records, so they probably pressure publishers not to change anything.

Today Amazon launched their Kindle device -- a wireless device for reading and buying books. You would think that people interested in the environment would be very keen on Kindle and digital distribution of books. But instead, what I have read a lot is:

a) "I could buy 40 books for the price of Kindle"
b) "When I buy a book, I want my right to give it to someone else" (the age-old DRM complaint)
c) "Why should I buy something so ugly?" (this is my favorite)

The trick to marketing to consumers is you have to give them something they don't have now and convince them they need it. Of course, it doesn't matter if they actually need it. Kindle doesn't do a very good job of this, hence the complaints you see above.

Let's look at a marketing success that changed distribution: the iPod. For music, Apple has already convinced people of the first two by overcoming the last one. Buying a iPod -- which some people have done a few times over -- costs about 20-30 CDs. Why buy the iPod when you can get a CD player for like $10? The iTunes Music Store gives you DRMed music and no right to transfer -- and they've sold a billion songs and videos or so.

All of the downside was initially overcome by the iPod being a slick looking, hip device. And now that people have used it and ripped their CDs -- I actually had to go find my CDs the other day -- most people realize the benefit of having a digital music collection and a portable device to play it. Even if Apple stumbles, digital music isn't going away.

People forget this when thinking about Kindle, an ugly duckling. No one considers the space they dedicate to hundreds of books in their house? They don't consider carrying hardcover books on airplanes or on the train? They don't consider the amazing waste of space called "public libraries"? No. Actually it seems more important that the device be attractive.

But, you know...I could also be the only one who, when buying a book, thinks that I'll have to find space for that book and inevitably lug it around in the future. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it's almost 2008 and weren't books supposed to be a thing of the past like 30 years ago? I've been trying to get rid of books forever. I usually give away books I would have once kept, simply because I don't want to dedicate the space to all of these books.

Well, I commend Amazon for trying to push forward with Kindle. I think their recent movie (Amazon Unbox) and music (Amazon MP3) offerings have been great. A friend ordered a Kindle and I can't wait to see what he thinks of it. I agree it's pricey, but I also think if one believes in something, the most effective vote for an idea is with cash.

Friday, November 16, 2007

This Cracked Me Up

As spotted over on Don Gerard's blog.

Awareness Ribbons Customized - ImageChef.com

I found this blog because Don used to be the bassist in a band I often went to see when I lived in Champaign called The Moon Seven Times. I still like the first album a lot. 7=49 was ok too. It would be nice to see some of this older, obscure music get digitized and put up on Amazon MP3, Zune, Rhapsody, iTunes, whatever. The cost of doing it is nearly zero, so shouldn't the long tail still apply to old, obscure music as well?

Zune 2: Another Paper Launch

Hey, Zune 2 "came out" on Tuesday. Or... did it?

Basically there are about maybe seventeen 80 GB Zunes available in the US, and all were snatched up within minutes. Many major stores, even Best Buy, didn't get any at all.

Trust me, I believe in the idea of artificial scarcity as a marketing tool. Nintendo has been doing exactly that with the Wii for over a year. The "scarce" Wii has sold about 13 million units. But I'm starting to wonder, are paper launches near Christmas effective? What's the point of putting a hot item out there and not having enough available for Christmas? The Wii still had at least a few million under trees by December 25 last year.

Apparently this was a snafu on Microsoft's part, not some intentional marketing ploy. But let's have a reality check here. When's the last time Apple had a shortage for Christmas? How about, like, never. They plan to release their stuff earlier in the year to avoid that kind of thing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to bail from Hotmail to Gmail using IMAP

Tired of Hotmail? Want to transfer from Hotmail to Gmail?

Here's how, in just 5 easy steps!!


  1. Install Windows Live Mail. This is the windows application that supplants Outlook Express and Windows Mail (in Vista)

  2. Set up your Hotmail account in Windows Live Mail

    * Go to Tools->Accounts
    * Click "Add..."
    * Select "Email Account"
    * Type in your Hotmail email address and password and hit next

    In the right panel of Windows Live Mail, you should now have your hotmail folders and be able to read emails there.

  3. Create a Gmail account at the Google website, if you don't have one already.
  4. Set up your Gmail account for IMAP. The instructions are very similar to the Outlook Express setup instructions on Google.

    * Go to Tools->Accounts
    * Click "Add..."
    * Select "Email Account"
    * Type in your Gmail address and password
    * Check "Manually set account settings for this account" and hit "Next"
    * Set your incoming mail server to IMAP
    * Your login ID should be your gmail address
    * Incoming server is "imap.gmail.com", then check "this server requires a secure connection (SSL)"
    * Outgoing server is "smtp.gmail.com" and set the port number to 465
    * Lastly, check "My outgoing server requires authentication" and "This server requires an SSL connection

    In the right panel of Windows Live Mail, you can now see your Gmail folders. If you do not see the gmail folders, right click on the envelope icon that says "Gmail", go to "Imap Folders..." and double click on the folders you need to show them.

  5. Now comes the fun part. Click on your Hotmail Inbox, or any folders on Hotmail you want to transfer. Select all the messages you want to keep -- or just hit "Control-A" to select all of them in that folder, then right-click and select "Copy to Folder...". Select the folder you wish to copy them to from the Gmail folder list. If you don't wish to sort them, instead relying on Gmail's search to find them again, just copy them to [Gmail]/All Mail. You can also move the messages, thereby deleting them from Hotmail, by dragging and dropping them to the Gmail folder of your choice.

One of the most annoying things about Hotmail or Live Mail is that there is no viewing of messages by thread, like on Gmail or even Outlook. But even if you drag over separate messages from Hotmail, Gmail will re-thread them into a conversation. Very slick!

Gmail IMAP has come in really handy. Using this technique, I've started uploading old messages to Gmail to make them faster to search (not to mention, from anywhere on the planet). I have 2001-2007 covered. I'm not sure if it's worth uploading 1990-something-2001. Is there any email I want to search to find from, say 1995? Doubtful.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Joy Division: Officially Hot Again

Ok, Joy Division is awesome and their songs haunt my mind, but isn't it a little bizarre that the entire world suddenly has resurrected Joy Division this year?

There's a new documentary about them, as well as Anton Corbijn's movie "Control". Peter Hook even came out in NME to rip the latter.

What's even weirder is I didn't know any of this was going on. I just was searching for stuff about Joy Division today because I randomly thought of the movie "24 Hour Party People" (which I reviewed a couple years ago on my movie blog). I thought the scene mentioned in there where they get up on stage and sing "Digital". Here it is, thanks to YouTube.






I like this version better than some of the actual footage of Joy Division playing this song. It makes me feel like I was there, when "Warsaw" (their name before JD) was playing a small club and was an unknown band. The real films of this song being played live are very crappy in quality (at least on YouTube). Plus, this guy does a really good Ian Curtis imitation. However, there are some quality versions of JD playing "Transmission" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart", as well as "Shadowplay" on YouTube if you're interested.

Maybe JD is hot again because it's the 30th anniversary of them starting out?


Hey, here's something... in just 3 more years, both Ian Curtis and John Lennon will have been dead for 30 years. Who do you think will have more influence on young muscians in another 30? (My hunch is Ian Curtis, which, IMO, is the case today as well)

Monday, November 05, 2007

People aren't getting Android

Google's open platform for mobile computing is widely misunderstood.  Joe Wilcox pretty much summed up the ignorance of Android's importance by calling it a "FUD announcement".   The iPhone mentality has sunk in too much.  Android is not just about being able to develop 3rd party applications.  Apple's the only vendor who doesn't allow that.

Android is an open source operating system and API for mobile computing.  It is free for companies to take and extend and use commercially.  It's not forced to Google and is not going to have forced Google advertising or whatever.

Why would Google make this?

Let's make an analogy to the yesteryear of broadcasting.

In the 1940s, NBC was created by RCA to sell televisions.  The belief was that RCA needed some kind of content to sell these new-fangled TVs.  Good thinking.  RCA used its muscle to force a broadcast standard down the FCC's throat, and made insane money by selling the TVs.

Then what happened?  Everyone started making TVs compatible with the standard.  RCA was the loser, and NBC was the winner.

Google is currently trying to "broadcast" content to a market where every "television" (OS vendor or web browser maker) has a different "broadcast standard" (CSS/Javascript/HTML compliance).  Since there is no FCC, the television vendors (Apple, Microsoft) are willing to change formats anytime they like, and in a closed source fashion.  In the case of the iPhone's locked browser, Apple has complete control over the user's web experience.

You really think that Google wants to play this game for the next 30 years when cell phones become the predominant internet platform instead of the PC?  (See next section)

So Google will give away the TVs, essentially, because it makes their core content business that much more efficient.  Google is playing the NBC game.  Apple is playing the RCA game in every market they're in.  Microsoft and Symbian are closer to the RCA game, since they're closed, licensed OSes, though they don't sell hardware.

What I really think we've seen today is a failure by the Google PR department.  Not only have they done a poor job at representing the reasons for making Android, but they let months of rumors grow that a magical gPhone would compete against the iPhone.  So of course there was a lot of disappointment by gadget freaks.  What would be better than a $600 glitzy gadget they could show off to their friends in time for Christmas?

I'm glad that someone out there is at least trying to fight against the consumer restrictions that we have in the cell market.  Now is the time, while the idea of browsing the web from your phone is still relatively young.  I wish them luck and I'm looking forward to seeing the SDK.

By the way, how much more do you think Linux would be adopted today if it had been developed and backed by a corporation like Google originally?  What if OS/2 had been open-sourced in the early 90s?  Companies usually do open source as a desperation move when their closed-source model isn't working.  If IBM had realized that their revenue growth was entirely in services, they could have open sourced OS/2 very early in its life and never lost a penny.  Google at least has that insight thanks to the success of their core business (AdWords).

The Death of the PC

This is the section I mentioned above.  Apologies for the long post.

Today a co-worker and I were discussing the imminent release of Visual Studio 2008.  He said something along the lines of "Can you imagine ever trying to write a large application in WPF?"

Wow.. so true.  WPF, if you haven't used it, is Microsoft's really big and really slow .NET-based UI framework.  It's kind of neat for small applications -- and I like the markup language nature of it -- but like my co-worker said, utterly useless for large ones.  Try even using the Orcas UI editor for it sometime.  It's very, very slow.

WPF will be useful for large apps someday, on a machine with 16 x86 cores, 16 GB of RAM and a quad-SLI 8800.  But before then, what are we paying for to buy Orcas?  What are we paying for to buy Vista, or Leopard?

This all comes back to my "Leopard v. Vista: Both Are a Scam" post.  We already didn't need Vista or Leopard, and at some point soon, the essential features are not going to require a PC anymore.  Cell phones can already do email and web, and that's 90% of what people want.  Eventually they'll be able to do our photos and videos too.  Just put a USB port on a cell phone and maybe you can edit videos on your MyBook.  Better yet, why can't I just set a powerful cell phone down on my desk here and start working?  It wirelessly connects to my 24" monitor, my keyboard, my mouse, my extra HDD.   PCs will be like workstations were 10 years ago:  niche devices used by people who need to do 3D graphics.

Don't worry, I have doubts about this too.  But I'm probably wrong when I think "No, it's not possible, I'll always need a PC."  Soon, those of us who believe that are going to be the old generation falling out of favor.  We'll be those old people who talk about how it used to be.  Meanwhile, the MySpacers who SMS instead of speak will be doing everything on their phone.