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daryl's picture

A Fear of Kites (Redux)

I was poking around at technorati today and discovered that a Wired blogger had written a bit on kites and linked to a 4-year-old blog post of mine about my discomfort around kites. In his words: “being afraid of kites doesn’t make you a huge honking pussy: it makes you smart.” Nifty.

I’ve flown Lennie’s little kite a few times recently, admittedly just in our little street and not higher than 20 feet or so, but it’s a step, yes?

Reading the original entry and the comments (it’s probably the most commented non-techy entry of mine) made me want to give it a little bump. Whether it’s vanity or an inclination toward public service I’m not entirely certain.

daryl's picture

Flock Eco Edition

Word seems to be getting out that we’re releasing an eco edition of the Flock browser for Earth Day. I haven’t tried it myself yet (we’re doing final QA on the build to make sure it’s in good enough shape to release), but I do know that it comes with all sorts of green-related links and feeds built in (it’s not clear to me whether these will be dumped in along with your existing ones if you’re already a Flock user; back up your profile first just in case) and that it has a green theme (complete with a recycle button in place of the reload button, which is kind of nifty).

Flock makes money when people use the search widgets built into the browser to search through Yahoo, and we’re opting to donate 10% of the money we make through this edition of the browser to some green cause (to be determined later by user voting). It kind of makes me think of the free rice game: Play a fun little game and give rice to starving people just by playing. Keep your search engine set to Yahoo and use our product to actually do your searching and save trees at the same time. Who knows? It could be your search for Paris Hilton that enables an ecologist to rescue a baby panda from the clutches of a poacher bent on selling its organs to a far eastern natural medicine dealer.

DylanW's picture

What's SharePoint Good For?

In a previous post I discussed some of the trials and tribulations I've encountered with the mandate that we replace our current document management system with SharePoint. From the comments on that post, it sounds like pretty much everyone hates SharePoint to some extent.

Now, users, tend to hate anything that requires that they follow procedure or document their work, so it's not entirely SharePoint's fault. But some of it might be that SharePoint is being used for things it shouldn't be used for. It's a tool, and just like any other tool, it's only good for certain situations. And even more to the point, it seems to have certain economies of scale as far as productivity goes.


daryl's picture


I’ve been using my 3-year-old gmail account more and more for things lately. I created it back when gmail was still in invite-only mode because I could, but I’ve never had much use for it because I’ve preferred to have my mail stored locally in an email client that didn’t necessitate that I keep a gmail tab open in my browser. But I’ve been more and more irritated by spam lately and have even thought about changing my email address. Problem is, my personal email address is old enough that it’s attached to accounts and lists I can’t even remember that I might still need to get info from. I had noticed that spam control on my old gmail account seemed to be pretty good. So this weekend, I looked into hosted gmail for my domain. It was actually very easy to set up. Within a half hour of starting my investigation, I started getting mail at my own personal instance (for all practical purposes) of gmail. And I’ve been lonely ever since. Only one or two spams have actually gotten to my inbox (and some 500 were successfully blocked in the past day), and this paucity of spam has actually helped me to garden a few other emails I get but am not interested in. I’ve just continued to delete them along with spam for however many years, but now that I get no spam, I’m finding it easy to weed out these other annoying messages (e.g. from lists I no longer care about). The result, of course, is that now I’m lonely. My old email client (Thunderbird) caught mucho spam, but mucho still got stuck in my box, so there was always something of a clatter simulated by the clutter. Now that’s gone, and I’m rattling around in my own inbox, listening for the whisper of footsteps, peeping out the front window for visitors.

DylanW's picture

Linking Membership to other tables

I ran into a very simple problem today that, unfortunately, had a somewhat complex solution. A user's Active Directory login name had changed, and I needed to update his record in a web application which uses Membership to handle its logins.

Now, of course, the easiest way to uniquely identify your users is by username. You can easily get the ID of the currently logged in user from User.Identity.Name. Of course, as I discovered, this is a Bad Idea, because now I have to update 14 fields in 11 tables.

Instead, it's best to user the ProviderUserKey property of the MembershipUser. This means it takes one extra step to get the current user's ID: Membership.GetUser(User.Identity.Name).ProviderUserKey

On the other hand, you can pass the ProviderUserKey value into Membership.GetUser just like you did the username.


daryl's picture

Hard Drive Enclosure

We have an old laptop whose AC adapter in is busted. It’ll stay powered on for just a minute or two before shutting off. This means of course that we can’t keep it on for long enough to charge the battery. Unfortunately, we have a year’s worth of photos of Lennie on this computer’s hard drive. This week, I went in search of a hard drive enclosure that would allow me to pull photos off the drive and then go on to use the drive as a portable external disk. I’ve bought two so far, and neither one has hardware that’ll accept the pins on my drive. This is where I hang my head in shame and admit that I don’t know very much at all about hardware. ATA vs. IDE vs. SCSI? It’s all Greek to me. Here I implore my friends who do know about hardware to help me out. Drive specs follow, along with photos of the pins.

Some strings from the back that look like model numbers:

Cylinders: 16383

Compaq P/N: 312954-001

Update: A coworker took a quick look at the images and said he guessed the piece pictured was a connector that could be removed. Sure enough, I gave a slight tug and the thing wiggled. So I tugged a little more, and there was a regular old IDE connector plugged into it. I currently have the drive mounted and am yanking pictures off of it. Whew.

DylanW's picture

Questions about Document Management with SharePoint

This is something of an expansion of my question on Twitter from last week.

We are currently using a third-party document management system for the entire company. All documents are categorized within a hierarchy (rather than a flat category structure). It's got both a web-based component as well as a desktop component which provides integration with Office and other applications. (This last part is an annoyance, as it tends to make Office unstable.)

However, it's an old version of the product and we need to either upgrade or look for something new. Between some of the annoyances people have with it and the licensing and support contract costs, we're trying to find an alternative. A newer version of the product in development is going to use SharePoint as its platform. Since we've had a bit of experience creating intranet sites with SharePoint, this is what my boss is wanting us to use. (Currently, we're using WSS3, but we can license MOSS2007 if necessary.)

I know how to use some of the document management features of SharePoint libraries--versioning, check-in/check-out, Explorer integration--but going from document management features to enterprise document management system is a big leap that I'm not willing to make without some serious planning and evaluation. It's difficult, however, as we're not really sure what we need--we have a vague idea of what features people need and what annoys them, but no hard-and-fast requirements other than it needs to be a replacement for our existing DM system. (This is made even harder by the fact that we have no dedicated DM administrator anymore.) Quite simply, we don't know that we won't implement something and then have the users tell us it's completely unusable.

The last time I looked at using SharePoint for this purpose, I got bogged down in trying to recreate our DM system in SharePoint. This ended with a lot of tinkering with hacking a cascading drop-down field feature and messing with InfoPath forms for Office integration. My problem with SharePoint is that I don't do much development with it, so when I do, it's always poking around in books to figure out how to do something very particular. What ends up happening is I ask the question, "how do I make this work in SharePoint?" rather than "how is this supposed to work?" and then "what's the best approach to use in SharePoint?", and that just ends in kludgy implementation. I have a feeling there's an approach we need to take with SharePoint that won't be mimicking our current DM system's approach, but will still meet all of our current requirements. The problem is, I don't have the experience to do this.

We need the hierarchy of categories and we need to be able to force users to profile their document before they upload it. Integrating both of these into Office would be nice--I imagine if we don't have that, we're going to get some pushback from users. We're also under quite a bit of pressure, as our current support agreement has run out, we're at least a version behind on our current DM software, and the age of the hardware is going to force us to switch or reinstall soon.

So the question is: has anyone used anything like this before? If not, is there a good source of "best practices" for this sort of thing? Or doing it right so far over our heads that we just need to call in a consulting company to give us some direction?


daryl's picture

Brioche, Take Two

I tried making a brioche again this weekend, but this time I dispensed with the fancy pan and just made regular loaves that would be better suited to sandwiches. One of my loaf pans is a little smaller than the other, but I let the dough for both rise the same length of time. So the smaller one rose a bit too much and has a big air pocket in the top. It’s kind of neat, actually, but it makes (correction: made) it difficult to cut the bread without smooshing it down. The extra rising also made the bread less densely structured all around, so it’s not as firm a previously. I’d like it a little firmer than the small loaf came out, though there’s something to be said for having it a bit less firm than before. I suspect the second loaf will be a near-perfect denseness. There are a few spots in the bread where I didn’t get the butter fully integrated, and around these, yummy gooey buttery air holes formed. We ate the small loaf within a day. I’m hoping the larger loaf will last a few days, at least, as I’ve got a pile of salami and turkey for sandwiches.

Brioche is thought to be the bread Marie Antoinette was referencing when she (the story goes) said “let them eat cake.” My bread book has recipes for three grades of brioche, broken down into the classes “rich man’s,” “middle-class,” and “poor man’s” brioche. The primary difference among them is the quantity of butter, which was harder to come by (and keep) a few hundred years ago. Antoinette’s plea, then, was basically an attempt to swap a little butter for her own dear neck. I’ve made the middle class version so far, with its two sticks of butter and five eggs (the rich version has double the butter!). I’m not sure I have the nerve to make the rich man’s version. You can probably see why this bread translates into cake. And come to think of it, the bread actually looks a bit like pound cake.

daryl's picture


I had a dream last night that I was working on location on the coast in a new office (it felt like I was in Victoria, but Flock HQ in Mt. View is actually moving a way down the road to Redwood City, so this is probably a convergence of my recent trip to the Victoria office, which is just a couple of blocks off the water, and the impending move, neither of which actually affects me very much because I work remotely 95% of the time). We were out on sort of a pier, pretty far out. The office itself was, I mean. I could look out a big window (parallel to the pier) and look to the left to see that our office was easily 50 or 100 yards out from the shore. We began to notice some pretty heavy rolling waves. Oddly enough, they were originating (or more like bouncing back from) the shore. They started getting bigger and bigger. At one point, a heavy wind blasted along the shoreline and did some damage to the buildings (also on a sort of pier) running perpendicular to our pier. The buildings sort of blew over sideways but mostly recovered. It was as if they were made of tin or corrugated plastic or something — a substance that would flap in the wind but would go more or less back to its original position once the wind stopped. Then the rolling waves started getting really big, with both a fairly long period and a high amplitude, to the point that they were nearly at window level. Finally, one of the reverse rollers (remember that these are coming from the shore!) flipped over itself to show a little whitecap, and the next wave broke less than halfway to my window, gathered momentum shockingly quickly, and burst through our building at around chest height. It made a great hollow, roaring, shrieking, exploding sound, and its force was sufficient to physically take my breath away. I literally could not draw breath as the wave was passing through, almost as if the rush of the wave was drawing the oxygen out of my lungs and keeping me from refilling them. Oddly, I don’t think I felt the water or was tossed about by it very much, though it had very definitely burst through our office. And that was it.

DylanW's picture


After some amount of counseling on here, plus Chad's diagnosis that I should just buy a new case, I ended up finding a micro ATX power supply on Newegg. With shipping, it cost me about $40.

I got it Monday but only found time to install it today. My desktop is working again. w00t!