Movin' On Out

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I have finally re-established my relationship with Slicehost (oh, you didn't know I left. Well, it had nothing do with them; it was a personal decision on my part to leave temporarily). And now that I feel that this time I will be sticking with Slicehost more permanently, it is time to do some housekeeping.

One item on the agenda is to move this blog from wordpress.com to Slicehost.

There may be some intermittent downtime, but hopefully I can get this all up and running by the end of this week.

As I understand it -- joelmarcey.com will remain, but be stale (with this as the last post). That is, of course, unless I delete the old blog.

joelmarcey.com will be transferred to the new host where you will see all of my previous posts, including this one, and all new posts.

We'll see how it goes!

See you on the flip-side.

How I Resolved the “There Was A Problem with this Installation. Windows Live Suite Was Not Installed” Catastrophic Error

So I wanted to install the latest version of Windows Live Mail. I figured OK, that should be easy. (Note: I am running Vista x64 w/ SP 1)

I went to http://www.windowslive.com/Explore/Mail and clicked on the Get It Now Button

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then I clicked on Download Now

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After clicking on Run for the Windows Live Installer, accepting the agreement and allowing it to try to start installing, I got this:

 

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I was thinking what the heck is this. I tried again, and same thing.

So I did what every person would do in this situation – GOOGLE!

Doing a search with these terms:

"There was a problem with this installation. Windows Live Suite was not installed" "Catastrophic Failure"

yields many results with help options like:

image

After thinking about this and really not wanting to go through a workaround for something that I think doesn’t require a workaround, I realized that I already did have Windows Live Writer installed. As such, I figured I would look into my Control Panel Add/Remove Programs.

And here is what I found:

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Ahh Ha!

Right click on it and you will get an option to uninstall or change Windows Live Beta.

I then choose Install or uninstall

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and click continue.

Then you get to a window that shows you all of the programs that you have not installed. And you click a check box to the one(s) you want to install, and it works like a charm!

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I had already installed Mail Beta before I wrote this post; that is why this is checked.

There are two things that I am still unclear on:

  1. Why did the original installer still not work? Was it because I already had an installer available locally?
  2. Did I install the latest version of the Windows Live Mail Beta? I think so according to my research, but I am only 99.9% confident.

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I hope this helps at least one person. Let me know if you have any questions.

Installing a LAMP Server, with Wordpress, on Slicehost (and maybe elsewhere)

[UPDATE: April 19, 2009: I added a follow-up post to this article with some more tidbits]

[Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any mishaps that may occur by following these steps or advice because you follow them out of your own free will.] -- I figure I better put that up-front. :-)

Someone wrote me an email today asking me how to get a LAMP server up and running on a Slicehost VPS (...in Slicehost land, your VPS is called a "slice").

During the time when I was setting up my slice, I made a little personal document on how to set up a LAMP server with Wordpress (I used Ubuntu Hardy as my base Linux installation).

While this is by no means anything official or 100% complete, I figure when I need to set up a LAMP server again, it will serve as a great starting point for me.

Like I insinuated in my disclaimer, I cannot guarantee the accuracy  or the 100% "foolproof"-ness of these steps. I am by no means an expert at this stuff, but, hey, they worked for me.

Below are the contents of that document in its raw form. Feel free to ask any questions, although I cannot guarantee I will know the answer. Feel free to correct any mistakes in comments, although I cannot guarantee I will fix them.

Ubuntu Linux (Server): Setup @ Slicehost

Basic Commands and Instructions

  • sudo aptitude install <package1> [package2]
  • sudo aptitude purge|remove <package>
  • whereis <program> (to find out where something is located)
  • root shell: sudo –s (get out of the root shell by ctrl+d)
  • ps aux (to find out processes running) (ps aux | grep <process name> to narrow --- e.g., ps aux | grep httpd)
  • apache2ctl configtest (to make sure your Apache configurations are ok)
  • Apache logs are at /var/log/apache2 (Must be in a sudo shell -- see above)
  • sites-enabled is a symlink; make vhost changes to sites in /etc/apache2/sites-available
  • Don’t worry about .htaccess and httpd.conf files. Use vhost config files instead.

Server

  1. Get bare bones install
  2. Log on as root via ssh ( ssh root @ <ip address> )
  3. Use provided password and immediately change it via passwd.
  4. Change time zone
    • sudo ln –sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/US/Pacific /etc/localtime (replace US/Pacific with what your timezone is)
  5. Follow these instructions for security http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/25/ubuntu-hardy-setup-page-1
  6. Backup the private (and public if you want, but especially private) key from your local machine! (preferably in a couple different places)
  7. Continue with these security instructions http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/25/ubuntu-hardy-setup-page-2 (add \u@\ before \h\ to add user name in front of hostname in PS1)
  8. A good package to install would be unzip for downloads (only tar is available at this point): sudo aptitude install unzip (http://codeghar.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/zip-files-in-ubuntu-cli/ )

Setup Domain via DNS Manager

  1. Log into the slice manager: https://manage.slicehost.com/
  2. To configure the DNS records for your domain, go here: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/10/24/creating-dns-records
    • Make sure you have set the nameservers properly on your registrar (e.g. ns1.slicehost.net)

Setup Domain Email via DNS Manager

  1. I use Google Apps for email. The next steps are specific to that. If you don’t use Google Apps, just make sure you set the MX records properly in the Slicehost DNS manager, otherwise you may be without email if you have completed the “Setup Domain via DNS Manager” step.
  2. If you haven’t done so already, set up Google Apps for your domain (www.google.com/a)
    • For verification, you can use the HTML method since you can control your website
  3. Set up the MX records like described here: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/10/25/creating-mx-records-for-google-apps

Apache/PHP

  1. Start here: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/25/ubuntu-hardy-installing-apache-and-php5 (making sure you use your own server name and user names)
  2. Read http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/28/ubuntu-hardy-apache-config-layout to understand enabling/disabling sites and modules
  3. Follow these instructions: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/28/ubuntu-hardy-apache-configuration-1, and at least change the Timeout and KeepAliveTimeout to something much lower.
  4. Follow these instructions: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/28/ubuntu-hardy-apache-configuration-2
  5. Read these articles about virtual hosts before setting things up: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/5/28/how-to-serve-multiple-domains, http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/9/17/introduction-to-virtual-hosts
  6. Read this article to understand how you are going to layout your directory structure for the domains you are going to host: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/9/13/multiple-hosts-layout
  7. Secure virtual host permissions and create skeleton virtual host directory: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/9/18/apache-virtual-hosts-permissions
    • For all new domains, just follow the following command:
      • cp –a /home/<user>/public_html/skeleton /home/<user>/public_html/<new domain>
  8. Create your first virtual host: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/29/ubuntu-hardy-apache-virtual-hosts-1 (remember to change domain1.com, domain2.com to your own domains in the examples AND 'demo' to your username) (note: search and replace in nano is “ctrl-\”)
    • Remember that if they navigate to the IP Address, they will most likely get the “It Works!” message for the default Apache site. You can change this.
    • Change DirectoryIndex to “index.php index.html” if you are going to be using WordPress
  9. Change and add settings in your domain virtual hosts file: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/29/ubuntu-hardy-apache-virtual-hosts-2
    • Make sure you set some directory options – one I would for sure do is turn off directory browsing

MySQL

  1. Follow the instructions here: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/11/23/ubuntu-gutsy-mysql-and-ror. Only do the MySQL part and make sure you do not put the Ruby option in the install string (unless you want Ruby of course)
  2. Follow post setup instructions here: http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.0/en/default-privileges.html to secure your initial mySQL accounts
  3. After I am done, I like to clear the mySQL console history. Exit mySQL and at the command prompt do 'rm ~/.mysql_history'
  4. Setup DNSUtils (for dig especially): sudo aptitude install dnsutils 

Set Up Sending Mail From Slice

  1. You need to change “exim” settings on server to send email from Wordpress
  2. For Google Apps, see this thread: http://wiki.debian.org/GmailAndExim4. Follow the instructions all the way down to Run # chown. I didn’t have to do this.
    • Also, accept all defaults for questions after the DNS-queries minimal question. There are more than the thread instructions let on.
  3. See this thread for more general info: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=196112 (don’t need sendmail after all, exim is already installed so try that first, see page 2 of thread for meat)
  4. Now for multiple email addresses (when you have more than one blog, for example, each representing a different domain), you will need to follow some different steps. This might be a good place to start: http://www.debuntu.org/2006/05/17/52-how-to-exim4-virtual-host-on-debian-etch.

WordPress

  1. Load mod_rewrite for Apache
    • Sudo a2enmod rewrite
    • Sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 reload
  2. Follow instructions here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress (especially Detailed instructions)
    • DB Name: wordpress (or whatever)
    • DB UserName for wordpress: wordpress (or whatever)
    • Append table names if (1) you want more security (2) going to have more than one Wordpress blog using the same database
  3. Probably don’t want to put on google and technorati until you are done with the blog design
  4. Make sure to change admin password after first log in
  5. Change the “admin” user in MySQL to something else:
    • Mysql> use wordpress;
    • Mysql> UPDATE <wpTableName>users SET user_login=’admin’, user_login=’<new admin name>’;
  6. NOTE: Many instructions say to add things to “.htaccess” or “httpd.conf”. Since you have root access, don’t worry about these files. Make your configuration changes to the vhost file (or maybe, sometimes, the master apache2.conf file).
  7. Add Rewrite Log to vhost file
  8. Turn off directory in “public” browsing in the vhost
    • <Directory /home/<user>/public_html/<domain>/public>
      • Options –Indexes
    • </Directory>
  9. Put wp-config.php database and key info into another file and put that new file in /home/<user> (outside the public_html). Then put an include to hat file in wp-config.php. This is for security (http://danemorgan.com/blog/wordpress/wordpress-security-secure-your-wordpress-wp-config-info )
  10. Log into the Wordpress admin panel (http://<domain>/wp-admin/) and go to Settings/Permalinks. Set the permalinks to something like “Day and name” and click on Save Changes
    • Then, assuming you don’t have an .htaccess file, go to the bottom of the page and copy the code in the text area and paste in your vhost file (within the <Directory></Directory> for the top level directory (usually /home/<user>/public_html/<domain>/public)
  11. Do some security around the wp-content, wp-includes and wp-admin directories.
    • Only allow access to images and javascript to wp-includes and wp-content
      • <Directory /home/<user>/public_html/<domain>/public/wp-includes>
        • Options –Indexes
        • AllowOverride None
        • Order Allow, Deny
        • Deny from all
        • <Files ~ “.(css|jpg|jpeg|png|gif|js)$”>
          • Allow from all
        • </Files>
      • </Directory>
      • ….and do the same for wp-content
    • Either restrict access to wp-admin by adding a password layer or by IP address
    • You might also want to do the same as you did for wp-asmin for wp-login.php at the file level since going to http://<domain>/wp-admin redirects there (see: http://www.reaper-x.com/2007/09/01/hardening-wordpress-with-mod-rewrite-and-htaccess/
      • <Files /home/<user>/public_html/<domain>/public/wp-login.php>
        • …..
      • </Files>
  12. Install login plug-in @ http://www.bad-neighborhood.com/login-lockdown.html. Copy the download link and use ‘wget’ to get it from the command line (instead of FTP)
  13. Activate the akismet plugin in the admin panel.
    • You need a Wordpress.com account so you can get an API key. This key is found in Settings/Your Profile
  14. Install WP-Super-Cache plug-in

DIDN’T INSTALL

phpMyAdmin

This is a MySQL front-end that is more user friendly than the default mySQL client

  1. sudo aptitude install phpMyAdmin
    • IMPORTANT: Make sure you press the space bar when selecting the web server you are using
  2. Go to /etc/apache2/conf.d/ and edit phpmyadmin.conf
    • Change Alias from phpMyAdmin to something more obscure for security purposes
  3. Change the /etc/phpmyadmin/config.inc.php file to support https: http://forums.vpslink.com/security/2282-do-you-use-phpmyadmin-2.html#post11246
  4. Then go to https://domain.com/obscureToPhpMyAdmin

My Web Host Is ...... Slicehost

Amazingly, I have finally settled on a web host. For all intents and purposes, this is the first time I have ever personally signed up for a web host. To choose one was a long and arduous task of research, research and more research. I really hit a paralysis analysis wall. Choosing one finally is a relief. I am signing up with a web host because I plan to first host some blogs. Then, down the line, I plan to host some other web sites.

I knew I was either going to go with Shared Hosting or VPS Hosting -- I don't need dedicated yet. Shared Hosting would have been easiest for me because I could get blogging software up and running very quickly, it would have been cheap, and I wouldn't need to know much Linux (or Windows) if I went that route. VPS Hosting is more expensive and requires command line knowledge of Linux (oooohhhh, command line), but you are guaranteed a set of memory, CPU and resources (albeit not as much as some of the shared hosts *claim* to give you). Plus, you are in control of everything from the OS perspective -- you get root access.

I decided to go with a VPS solution (to tell you how close this decision was -- this morning when I woke up, I was *sure* I was going with shared hosting). At the very worst, I learn a little bit of Linux and understand how to run my own LAMP server (LAMP = Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). At the very best, I am able to successfully host everything and anything I ever need to host, all under my control. In the end it will cost me $10 a month more than shared hosting would have. But that is OK. I am excited about the process.

So, the host I decided to go with after much deliberation is Slicehost. I had two VPS providers in mind, and I chose Slicehost because of what I considered its great website, excellent tutorials, community support options (chat being one of them), and the recommendations from many at the Business of Software forum. The last one was the tipping point.

So I am excited to try this out. I have already signed up for a new account and got the LAMP server up and running. Their tutorials helped out a lot here. It is important to note that this is an unmanaged hosting environment, which means, other than hardware failures, I am responsible for everything. There are no traditional support mechanisms other than the community.

In case you are interested, I signed up for the smallest package of $20/mo which gives me 256 MB of deddicated RAM, 10 GB disk space and 100 GB bandwidth/mo. You can upgrade/downgrade at anytime and I have 30 days to try this out to get some of my money back (You have to pay for at least 3 months of service initially - this was the only "downside" I saw about this)

My first major project is to move this particular blog over to the new host. I figure that should inundate me in the whole hosting process, real quick. That will be the topic of a future post.

I had 5 web hosts in mind; if you are interested in the other 4 that were on my short list, let me know.

That's all for now.

State of the Me - Quick Hits

It has been a while since I have given a progress report of where things stand for me professionally. Back when I worked for Intel, I was mandated to give monthly status report. I am feeling nostalgic today.

Here is  quick bulleted list.

  • I am still consulting, but, unless I am told otherwise, my current work is ending fairly soon here (maybe in the next couple of weeks).
  • I told you about a month ago that I figured out the product I was going to develop to start my micro-isv. My progress on that front has been limited. However, I am fleshing out a new idea that would make that product a subset of this new, what becomes an overarching, idea. I won't say much now other than say I am looking for a couple of partners and it includes, but goes beyond, software development into the world of internet media and other information dissemination mediums.
  • I am exploring the options for a webhost. I believe I have narrowed my choice down to 1, but I have an outstanding question to their sales department before I can say for sure. The hard part was to choose to go with a Linux based host over Windows because Windows is what I know.
  • When I choose my new webhost, I believe I am going to move this blog from its current home (Wordpress.com) to the new webhost via Wordpress.org. The reason for this is two fold - (1) Consolidation of all blogs and websites at one place (2) A learning experience about Wordpress.org and the migration process. I have never self-hosted a blog before.
  • I have gone totally Mac. Well, that is a little disingenuous, I suppose. I am running Mac OS X Leopard as my primarily operating system and running Windows Vista via VMWare Fusion (primarily because my current consulting gig requires it). This configuration is just awesome!! I love it!!! I am beginning to love Mac OS X as much as Windows. Also, I just bought a 20" Apple Cinema Display on Ebay that I expect to get today or tomorrow.
I will provide more detailed posts on any of these bullet items as warranted.

User Interface Before Code

Jeff Atwood had a great post earlier this month entitled UI-First Software Development.

In the blog he mentions:

Of course, UI is hard, far harder than coding for developers. It's tempting to skip the tough part and do what comes naturally -- start banging away in a code window with no real thought given to how the user will interact with the features you're building.

Actually, I am the exact opposite of this. I need an understanding of the UI before going off and writing any code for an application. To me theory, while important, is different than reality. The UI prototype serves as a guide not just for the navigation of the application. For me it serves as an aid in understanding what classes, methods, etc. are going to be needed for the application.

Jeff's post is apropos since I am just starting to sketch out how my application Z is going to look and feel.

That leads me to a minor dilemma. What to tool to use to create my UI prototypes. Many people use pencil and paper, and I see much merit in that. However, I am, for better or worse, and electronic type of guy. So I am trying to see if I can use something besides pencil and paper to do my prototyping.

I have Visual Studio 2008 that I could use, but I am trying to stay somewhat away from the temptation to do any coding.

I also have Microsoft Expression Studio which I may indeed just end up using. I could use Microsoft Expression Blend which is specifically geared towards application UI development. The only downside is that it might be way overkill for what I am trying to do initially.

So, if I don't use Microsoft Expression, what do I use then? PowerPoint? Paint.NET? Other?

I found a couple of posts that list some UI Prototyping tools.

Here is one.

Here is the other.

Given that I already have Microsoft Expression Studio, and even Microsoft Office 2007 if I wanted to go the PowerPoint route, I am not sure I want to spend a bunch of money on such a tool. However, if anyone has any recommendations, I am surely open to purchasing something -- I mean, come on....being a wannabe micro-ISV who would want people to buy my product, I need to support my fellow software developers if it warrants. Of course, a really good free tool isn't so bad either ;-)

Btw, here are some free trials I am thinking about checking out:

  1. Mockup Screens
  2. Serena Prototype Composer (this is actually free)
  3. Designer Vista

If anyone has any thoughts, recommendations, or ideas about this, I am all ears.

Until next time.....

Microsoft offers 44.6 Billion for Yahoo!

[Update: It is 44.6 not 44.5 billion -- that 100 million may not be significant to Bill G., but it is to us mortals :-) ]

[Update: Would Microsoft try a hostile takeover if Yahoo! rejects the offer? That would be very interesting and a can of worms I am not sure Microsoft wants to open]

Yahoo! has not accepted this deal yet.

In the back of my mind, I knew this would happen. In fact, after Yahoo! reported earnings earlier this week, and the stock plummeted, I thought to myself "I bet Microsoft buys Yahoo! now". I didn't buy Yahoo! stock. :-( Oh well, woulda, coulda, shoulda, I guess.

Anyway, I am still chewing on this deal. Is it good for Microsoft? Is it good for Yahoo! Is it going to be a disaster a la Time Warner-AOL?

The big and obvious question is how Microsoft plans to integrate Yahoo! into its Windows Live offerings. That is a huge undertaking in my mind, and not a 100% slam dunk by any means. For example, what becomes of Yahoo! Mail -- does it get integrated into Windows Live Hotmail? Does Microsoft integrate Yahoo!'s search algorithm into its Windows Live Search?

And, not to mention the culture clash of the two companies. Yahoo! is already laying off 1000 people. Can Microsoft absorb the other Yahoo! employs, or will a mass layoff come?

And then comes the other side of the equation. How does this affect Google? Of course, this deal is a direct aim at Google. Google's stock is starting down after it reported "not great" (according to analysts) earnings last night. That doesn't really matter with respect to this deal, I don't think. It is a long term question -- will Google's dominance be affected by this deal in a negative fashion? This deal would make Microsoft the clear #2 in the search/advertising space, but could it make Microsoft #1?

Very interesting start to the morning, for sure.

No Case-Sensitive Searches in Windows Vista?

For the life of me, I cannot find a way to do a case-sensitive search in Windows Vista.

I am trying to search the documents on my computer that contain a specific word, let's say "Foo". It shows me all documents that contain the word "Foo", "foo", "FoO", etc.

That is fine in and of itself, but there should be an option somewhere in Vista to say "No, only give me 'Foo' and nothing else".

Alas, I cannot find such an option.

Anyone?

State of the Joel

It has been a few weeks since my last blog post. I have what I consider a valid excuse for that -- I moved across the country.

In the spirit of the new year, and inspired by the various State of the State/Union addresses that have occurred or will occur, I have decided to provide you a "State of the Joel" address.

The State of Joel is a calm after the storm.

We have completed our move from North Carolina to California. We met with some old friends who have helped us as we settled in (thank you very much -- you know who you are). We have made our rental house into our new home. And things are starting to feel "normal". Being back in California feels right, and visiting San Francisco yesterday just affirmed that even more. By the way, I highly don't recommend flying across the country with two near-two year olds on a regular basis ;-)

My wife starts work next week, and I watch the kids for a week (see below as to why only a week). After that, we have a trusted person to watch the boys for 3 weeks. Then they go to part-time daycare starting in mid-February.

On my job front, I just finished one consulting job. That lasted around 3.5 months. I have another 3-6 week consulting job that starts in two weeks, related to the work I just finished. I like the consulting work that I am doing as it provides some new challenges and great flexibility.

I received an email last night from an old friend and colleague of mine asking me if I would like to partner on a business venture with him. I am in the midst of reviewing the idea. I have a lunch meeting tomorrow with another friend and colleague to talk about other venture possibilities as well. These startup ventures may never pan out, but it is very cool to even consider things like this.

I still have my initial business projects to focus on. However, I will continue to examine new ventures and consulting work as they come available and make appropriate decisions.

Oh yeah, and we bought a Panasonic 50" Plasma TV as our Christmas gift to each other. I didn't go 1080p -- I figure the prices will come down in the next couple of years and we are sitting 13' feet away and thus will not notice any noticeable difference. So I went 720p for a very good price at Costco. Watching the NFL Playoffs in HD is awesome -- and I cannot go back! My next home entertainment decision is whether I should go get a Blu-Ray player now that it seems like it is leading the charge in the hi-def DVD war (although I have friends who work in HD-DVD land, the other competing format).

So, what do I see for 2008? I see this as a year of clarity, specifically with respect to the careers of me and my wife. I also see us buying a house.

Choosing a Web Collaboration or Conferencing Solution

I wanted to show my brother a skeleton of a website that we are developing. He lives about 30 miles away from me right now, but soon he will be living across the country from me. So this type of functionality will be crucial.

I could have emailed the skeleton. That would have been simple, I suppose. But it is not real-time collaboration. We can't make changes on the fly. Those sort of things.

We both have Windows Vista. I have Ultimate. He has Home Premium. We are on different networks -- basically our home networks via our Internet Service Provider (ISP).

So what to do? What can we use to collaborate real-time when we are basically just two people on the Internet somewhere.

 

Windows Meeting Space  image

Vista has this new "feature" called Windows Meeting Space. I thought that would help, but no such luck. It only supports collaboration on the same wired network, WLAN or ad-hoc, PC-to-PC network. Basically, you have to be close to each other. That really doesn't help me in this situation.

NetMeeting  image

So I looked for NetMeeting. That would work, of course, right? I have used it before. Wrong! NetMeeting exists no more in Windows Vista. Apparently Windows Meeting Space is supposed to take the place of it. You can download NetMeeting for Vista, but it only works on Enterprise, Business or Ultimate. Again, can't be used in my situation.

Remote Desktop Connection  image

I thought about Remote Desktop Connection. But then I realized Remote Desktop Connection is not really for web collaboration. It is more of a 1-way communication system with another desktop. Only one person can see the desktop. So that was out.

Windows Live Messenger  image

I have the latest Windows Live Messenger. My brother could have easily downloaded it. I know I remember in the past being able to use Windows Messenger to share my desktop. There was a button or menu item to do this. It is not there anymore on the latest version. But then I realized that it used NetMeeting on the back-end -- so see my comments above about NetMeeting ;-)

Microsoft Office Live Meeting  image

OK. So Microsoft Office Live Meeting is now Microsoft's recommended way of web collaboration. It could work, sure. But the pricing is prohibitive. For now, I am trying to be a bit frugal (i.e. free). So I looked for other less pricey alternatives.

GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc.  image

For comments about GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc., see comments for Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

 

Yugma image 

So I found this thread on the Business of Software forum where someone recommended Yugma. I never heard of it. But the poster used his real name and had a link to his website, so I figured chances were that it wasn't spam or anything evil. I went to the Yugma site. Seemed easy enough. Sign up for a free account. Install some software. And go.

Both my brother and I went through the sign up and install process. I started a meeting. I gave my brother the session id. He joined the meeting. And off we went. It would pretty flawlessly, actually.

And, it is free for up to 10 meeting participants. This more than meets our needs.

And, it is Java based so I can host a meeting using Mac OS X if I wanted to and my brother can still remain on Windows.

I was very impressed for our first collaboration. It was quite cool.

Yugma will be my collaboration tool of choice until something better comes along.

 

Any comments?

Anyone have any experience with Yugma? Any better collaboration tools out there? Am I mistaken on my thoughts about the other collaboration tools I mentioned here?

My First Micro-ISV Product Ideas

[Note: I have a phone meeting on Wednesday with an old colleague where the result could change my plans. I will keep you posted]

OK, here it goes....for better, worse or the other, I am letting the world know my first product ideas. We'll see if announcing these now was a good idea or not. ;-)

Before reading my specific ideas, make sure you obtain some context by reading my previous post about goals.

As you will notice below, I am entering into pretty saturated markets (i.e much competition exists). However, I have subscribed to the theory that while a totally unique idea that is a hit may provide the best overall outcome, those come very far and few between. Instead, it is much more normal to add value to existing ideas, and let the execution and marketing of the added value bring success. Looking at it from the glass half full perspective, having competition means that people want the product or service (i.e. there is a market).

Also, I have a motto that I want to develop products that *I* will use on a daily basis. That is important to me because it makes me my own customer -- and I don't want to use crappy products either.

So without further ado, here are my product ideas for the next year or so. Again, these products align with my goals.

 

RSS Reader (Desktop)

Yes, there are many RSS readers out there, both web (e.g. Google Reader) and desktop (e.g. FeedDemon) based. I am going to enter my hat into the desktop ring. I will offer the basics, of course. But, I do have some ideas that I hope, in conglomeration, will differentiate mine from others. One is having both a Mac and Windows reader, with the same user experience. The second is being able to sync your feeds (e.g. read/unread) so you can be up-to-date no matter which computer you use the reader on (this requires some sort of web-based storage solution, probably). The third is being able to....well, I don't want to give this one away yet :-)

Business Model: Free basic version; Fixed-price premium version [Note: I am still working out if the free/premium model is the best way to go.]

 

Fantasy Football Information Web Site

Two of my many passions are sports and technology. I figured, hey, why not merge the two. I love playing fantasy football (NFL). There are many fantasy football websites that offer information about who are the best players to play during a given week, game previews, answers to emails, draft software, etc. Some of these sites are from the big boys (e.g. ESPN) and some smaller, yet popular, folks (e.g. Fantasy Football Today). I figured I would offer the same sort of valuable information and tools, but try to do it better and/or differently. In the end, when it comes to sites like these it is all about providing good, relevant and as accurate as possible information.

Business Model: Advertising

 

Package of Tools and Utilities for Windows

I have always like building small tools and utilities. Most of the tools I have built, either for my own uses or for work, I was doing back in my corporation days. I have had folks appreciate the tool work I have done. So I figured why not come up with a list of (hopefully) useful tools and utilities and offer them up free for people. I don't consider any of my ideas here earth shattering, nor unique, but just things I have found a need for. I don't plan for these tools to make money, nor get bought out by Microsoft like SysInternals. I just want to provide them for fun and test an open source business model -- where my goal wouldn't be to make money, but more just get my name out there. Here are a few examples I am thinking of implementing (and, yes, initially these will be Microsoft centric because that is what I know)

  1. An Outlook mail component that makes sure you actually have an attachment in an email that is supposed to have an attachment.
  2. A component for IE7 that automatically puts widely used links in the Links portion of the IE7 browser and makes sure they are bubbled to the "top" of the Links portion (e.g. they are visible in the max screen browser window)
  3. A small utility that allows a user to increase/decrease the number of simultaneous downloads allowed from IE7
  4. A tool that finds all the files where there are multiple instances on your computer (this could be Mac and Windows)

Business Model: Free, Open Source

 

I will provide specific details on each of these efforts as I move along the development path. Right now, I think I am going to work on the Fantasy Football website first so I can have it ready in time for the next NFL Fantasy season, which begins in full force around August.

So there you go. The cat is out of the bag. :-) Now it comes down to execution. Also, I am not adverse to discussing/collaborating/partnering on these ideas or any other ideas. So if you have any thoughts you want to share with me personally, feel free to contact me by email or leave a comment.

Why is Gmail Still Called Beta Software?

I have been using Gmail since early 2005. I believe I was an early adopter. It was called "beta" software back then. Perfectly sensible. OK, it is late 2007. I have over 5000 messages in my inbox (and that is even after a few month hiatus where I went back to Hotmail). Gmail has millions and millions of users.

So, why, oh why, is Gmail still called "Beta"?

I would really appreciate someone giving me an answer to that question. My thinking is that it is an "out" for Google in case something goes wrong with Gmail --- "Oh, it is beta software. Use at your own risk. If you are adverse to beta software risk, wait until the official release of Gmail, which will be......" NEVER!! :-)

Goodbye Tiger, Hello Leopard

Today at 6 PM, where ever you are in the world, Apple lets yet another big cat out of its cage. Leopard, the next major Mac operating system update from Apple, will be delivered, bought and/or installed on many a Mac computer. I ordered mine from Amazon because I am frugal, I suppose. So I won't be getting mine until next week. But, I did get an email this morning with the oh-so familiar Amazon subject line: Your Amazon.com order has shipped.That's good news. And, I will be heading out to my local Apple store to see the hoopla (I did that for the iPhone and it was kinda wild -- I don't expect it to nearly match that for Leopard though)...and then have a nice meal at Chick-Fil-A with the family.

 Now, given I am a relatively new Apple convert (I just got my MacBook Pro back in June), I am not sure what to expect with this new update. Apparently, there are 300+ new features or updates from Tiger (the previous Mac operating system).

What I am going to be looking for is how I feel about this update as compared to Windows Vista. I am in the minority in my opinion that Windows Vista is worth the upgrade -- and I am running it on a Mac, which is also relatively rare. So we'll see how how impressed I am with Leopard.

Disabling Reply-All in Microsoft Outlook

Tip for the day from Scott Hanselman. I know I have wanted to do this at times, in addition to disabling forwarding of messages as well (which I am assuming can be done with a similar macro).

Now this doesn't really stop someone from replying to all altogether because a recipient, if so determined, could just manually copy all the recipients from the original email message to the reply email message. But this does solve the "accidental" reply-all.

Apple Will Allow 3rd Party Applications for the iPhone

This is good news! Why? Well, 2 reasons:

  1. Customers and developers alike have demanded this functionality, and Apple has seen the light. Applications that just run in the iPhone version of Safari was not going to cut it.
  2. My new business can make use of this wonderful news in product development :-)

More details need to emerge before I get super-excited, like what will the developer limitations, if any, be? But I am a bit excited.

Some discussion has been going on everywhere in the blog-o-sphere. Example: Robert Scoble discussed this.

Microsoft Shares Source Code to the .NET Framework

I saw this on Scott Guthrie's blog yesterday (I must have had a brain freeze for leaving him off my blogroll): Releasing the Source Code for the .NET Framework Libraries

This is good to see. And this is great news for software developers. For this post, let's leave out the obvious technical reasons as to why this is a good idea for .NET software developers. Releasing the .NET Framework source in and of itself is to me, maybe surprisingly, really not the biggest news. We have been able to "view" the source code for a while now (thanks Lutz!) -- although, being able to "step" into the .NET Framework code in the debugger is huge!

Let's instead focus on the business perception reasons. Microsoft has been slammed by many a person for being the 800 pound gorilla, an opportunistic monopoly, the evil empire, the company that pretends to care about software developers but doesn't, <insert your Microsoft slam here>. Many of these come from the open source community. While Microsoft isn't releasing the source to Windows or Office to the world, the .NET Framework is hardly a flash in the pan. I mean, they are integrating the .NET Framework and all of its siblings and underpinnings into many cash cows, including Windows. With this release, Microsoft is taking a huge step to fully understanding the importance of the software development community. I see this as just one of many steps that Microsoft is going to take in the future to make it real easy to have software developers target .NET, Windows and/or Microsoft technologies in their development --- one semi-bold prognostication I have (and others do too) is the *full* .NET Framework on the Mac, not just via Silverlight.

This alone won't change many of the "gorilla" perceptions that people think about Microsoft, but it's all about baby steps, and I think the baby is beginning to at least toddle around now.

Oh, and to those that think the licensing is bad....it's nothing that isn't expected. All it is really saying in a nutshell is that you can view the source code but can't modify it. That is perfectly reasonable. Microsoft is not a purely open source company, and won't be, so this licensing allows exactly what the intention of the announcement is -- for you to view the source code during your development process.

Leaving Work With That Squeaky Clean Feeling

My last day with my current company is this Friday. I am going to follow Scott Hanselman's advice regarding leaving your job with a "good feeling". However, I am going to add a couple of things:

1. Change all your work-related passwords to something generic in case you need to tell your former employer some password. This includes such things as the password you use to login to the work network domain. I do this so I don't have to tell my employer password structures I normally use in everyday life.

2. If you have the means, create a generic administrator account for all of your computers, and tell your employer that account and password. That way they can log into your machines with that account instead of your domain account.

And, Scott, I am not really fond of my current employer's office supplies, so I will not be taking any of that with me ;-)

My New Mobile Phone Carrier is AT&T (Cingular)

Well, against my better instincts, I chose AT&T (Cingular) over Verizon as my new mobile phone carrier. Remember, I needed to get one because my old employer would not allow me to keep my current one (not even the phone number), even if I paid for it. I know the horror stories about coverage, etc. But here is my rationale.

1. My immediate family is on AT&T, so I should get free calls to them.

2. In the near future we are going to get the family plan, and AT&T has a cheaper plan than Verizon.

3. If I want an iPhone, I would just need to extend my contract as opposed to paying a termination fee with another carrier. Yes, I know about unlocking it.

Btw, I got a free black Motorola Razr V3 with a free bluetooth headset.

Here's hoping for the best.

Thank You Scott Hanselman

I sent Scott Hanselman an email this morning asking him how he likes Google Apps after a few months of real use. We are considering using them for hosting our business-related email. He answered the email within 2 hours. Now this is the same Scott Hanselman who runs the Hanselminutes podcast, a popular blog and just started to work for Microsoft. So it is not like he is just sitting around waiting to answer emails from complete strangers. And, btw, he does like Google Apps.

Thanks for the response, Scott. I do appreciate it.

Gateway One, an IMac killer!

Ha! Just kidding. I just noticed this on the Gateway site:  http://www.gateway.com/programs/one/index.php

But, it does raise an interesting question. Are we seeing the end of the "box" computer as we know it? Is this new sleek, efficient design going to be the norm? Some will say, maybe justifiably, that the Gateway One is an Apple copycat (it wouldn't be the first time people have accused a company of copying Apple, and vice-versa). But maybe this design is becoming the new black. It may take a few years to get the design right for the ultimate productivity machine, for example, but that is what innovation and technology are for.

Would I buy a Gateway One? If we weren't going to buy an iMac, I would consider it. Maybe I am a schmuck, but I love these type of desktop computer designs.