Eric Richards' place of techno (as in technology) happiness, rants, and corporate love.

Browsing Posts published in July, 2006

IronPython can now be found on CodePlex: IronPython

As of this posting, it’s hit RC1.

One thing I find super useful with IronPython is that it allows interactive playing with .NET and other libraries; very useful if you’re trying to figure out the right business logic without going through an entire deployment cycle of your associated solution.

My to-do list includes learning more about emerging Microsoft Live technology, including:

Virtual Earth / Local Live has my greatest attention right now – I’m especially interested in some sort of GeoRSS mash-up.

Uh. I hate that ‘mash-up’ term because I feel it is an IQ dropper… how about GeoRSS API Cross-Synergy… leveraging… thing.

Okay, mash-up it is.

I was a big Dell fan once upon a time. Then it seemed more and more value-added, er, crap-ware was getting installed. I understand Dell wanting to make some extra cash by pre-loaded software. But I know what I want and I especially know what I don’t want and I really don’t want promotional and demo software sucking up space on my new machine, let alone hogging up the start-up / services of my computer. So the last big computer I bought (that I’m typing on right now) was a Gateway. And I’ve been exceptionally happy with it.

I just learned that Dell has an option for “clean” installs: No Bloatware, Please – one2one, Dell’s Weblog

I left the below comment and it’s true: when it’s time to buy a Vista Premium system, I will now reconsider Dell.

This is excellent news – the main reason I bought a Gateway last time instead
of a Dell (after having bought two Dells) is that I was able to sit in front of
a new Gateway and look at what was installed: nearly nothing. That was exactly
what I wanted… in not wanting anything.

Given how much time I spend “cleaning” new consumer systems that friends and
family members buy (msconfig.exe and all that), I mentioned I’d even be willing
to kick in $5 or whatever to avoid such value-adds from showing up in the first

When I’m ready to buy my Vista-premium system, I will reconsider Dell given
this option.

What’s interesting to me regarding this: I wouldn’t have known about this non-bloatware option if it wasn’t for (1) Dell setting up a conversational blog, and (2) TechMeme picking it up. Given those two events, Dell has both my attention and, quite possibly, some cash from me in 2007.

I only heard about Rocketboom given the explosion in posting around the blogosphere when there was a meltdown with the previous host.

Truly, any publicity is good publicity.

Robert Scoble pointed to the latest Friday Rocketboom entry (that makes two Friday Rocketboom entries viewed for me now) so I gave it a watch – always something good to do while putting off a load of laundry – Rocketboom for 7/21/06 – how to tie shoelaces.

Now I’m amazing myself with a new way to tie my laces. But video-blogging? Or video viewing in general?

The one thing about the web and blogging is that appeals to the multi-task textual scan nature of the increasingly complex person. Video watching is a stop everything and pay attention event. So either it has to be short or very well done and meaningful.

The laces bit is shot and edited very well. I especially love the bits around the implications of having two extra seconds back in your life – and in case you didn’t notice, there’s a directors cut: a nice nod to insiders.

So I’ll probably be back, at least every Friday, to check in on Rocketboom. And if anyone can put up a how-to on how to do a New York City cab-call whistle (I’ve always wanted to know), I’d be deeply appreciative… I figure one of those shrill whistles can probably bring traffic to a halt in Seattle.

So far, it’s up to nine (!) parts with more to come: Christopher V. Domino : InfoPathology – Part 1 – a nice technical discussion of some of the deeper aspects of InfoPath, written in a way of discovering how things really work.

Woof! This is awesome: Microsoft buys Windows utility software maker CNET

“In buying Winternals, Microsoft is getting the company’s free tools, its
Sysinternals community Web site as well as several paid-for software products
for businesses. However, it appears Microsoft made the deal, in large part, to
hire the company’s two co-founders.

‘It’s definitely about talent,’ Platform and Services division architect
Jason Garms said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. ‘Mark is one of the top
five or 10 people in the world when it comes to Windows internals.’ “

I hope that the Sysinternals web site stays up and that we continue to offer the tools and their source. That toolset is one of the essentials for working on Windows machines.

So I’ve let Gnomedex soak in and have meditated on it and I’ve decided to write up my near-final impressions of Gnomedex6 and how it may apply to Microsoft and Microsoft product teams.

This wraps up everything but thoughts around Second Life.

What follows are my personal opinions and insights.


  • Microsoft should commit to any data being manipulated by Microsoft properties having straight-forward, documented APIs for getting the data in and getting the data out. Microsoft tools (e.g., Office) should easily operating within this data in/out life-cycle so that they can have worth as the best toolset for the 21st century.
  • Microsoft sites and applications that can track usage patterns of what a user is doing should data mine this information, in a trusted and secure way, for the user, combining it across all the different computers that the user my log in to, and aggregate this data into useful information to re-enforce the user’s memory and to provide serendipity in finding related quality information.
  • Microsoft needs to have a toolset distribution to support innovative startups that rivals LAMP. Early adoption of Microsoft technology by niche players means ongoing future investment in Microsoft by niche solutions that explode into larger, innovative solutions.
  • Microsoft should adapt our growing community efforts to engage more often between each product group employee and the product’s users and be open to, and support of, user generated feature design.
  • Microsoft should foster and nurture success within the start-up and innovative markets to address the prevalent distrust within the anti-Microsoft base. Demonstrate with real-world results that speak for themselves how success was easier – if not dependent upon – use of Microsoft technology.

Standards for easy in and out: Marc Canter is a big standards fan, and his time on stage was spent discussing standards. He sees adoption and use of standards as a way of owning data and being able to get it in and out of various programs and web properties. He harassed Jeremy Zawodny from Yahoo! for Yahoo! being locked in and not being able to get your Yahoo! data out.

First: I think data transportability is a lot more important than rigid adherence to standards. Of course, I’m jaded: when the web was new and Netscape was indulging in <BLINK> and Microsoft in <MARQUEE> we needed the W3C to knock some heads around and get things straight. Same thing for XML, XML namespaces, and XSLT and XPath. All good efforts supported and implemented by industry getting back on their own interim work (e.g., XQL). Those standards were needed. Now? Well, XSD was the turning point for me, especially seeing of how people can design their XSD schema and then discover no consistently good handling for it within the available implementations. XQuery makes me somewhat ill. And XHTML 2.0 and onwards makes me tilt my head quizzically and ask: why? It seems as though the answer is, “Just because one day there might be an XHTML 2.0 so… why not today?” What industry partners are clamoring to implement what XHTML 2.0 will give us? Hell, we’re having a hard enough time getting CSS 2.0 to be happy.

So, that’s just a small point: the standards can’t be just for the sake of a committee getting together and implementing a standard, especially pre-emptive standardization. It has to arise out of a real and present need, perhaps replacing something organic that is smoking and tearing apart at the duct-taped joints. But, smoking aside, that works and provides real-world use.

Second: easy in and out for data. I think Microsoft can be a, well, standards bearer here. How about first being able to archive my blog? Next: how about being able to migrate my blog and associated comments? How about migrating my social networking data from Friendster to MySpace? Good. Next up would be a way to easily get data out of a site, edit it within say Word, and then put it back into that site. Say I want to edit my MySpace profile. How easy is it to get into Word, edit, and back? Something beyond the clipboard as it currently stands. Perhaps something more associated with a Live Clipboard that is micro-format aware and can serve as the adapter between the cloud and the client.

If Microsoft tools can exist as a part of the lifetime of data’s existence, the tools can become an important foundation to manipulating and moving that data around. The data becomes the platform we operate within. But we have to be open to not only consuming and editing a user’s data but also allowing that user to get the geeky-goodness of their data in and out directly. And a good implementation can always result in an industry leading, practical standard.

Attention: so I do recommend reading the following short paper: The Attention Economy The Natural Economy of the Net – this is a good paper to reflect upon given that it helps you understand sites like Memorandum and how they are doing a temporal aggregation of what people are writing about and linking to and rolling that up as a moment of: “Hey, this is what people are currently paying attention to.”

Attention, in today’s society, is power. The economy aspect of it, though, it what causes people to stumble as they ask, “How do I turn attention into money?” Well, how does a famous person turn attention into money?

As for the geekier aspects of attention, I’ve tried to conjure up a deeper understanding of Attention before: Eric’o'theque! Attention! After the first day of Gnomedex6, I wrote some unfortunate things regarding Mr. Gillmor’s Attention Operating System talk, but it still escapes me, excepting the above paper, what’s so super and beyond the obvious related to attention. It seems like simple data mining, like what Amazon does for each customer, and what attention strives to do is empower the user to data mine themselves and, if they choose, anonymize and share their attention so that an aggregate set of web-space sites can be unioned together to see what people in general are paying attention to.

As for Microsoft? Eh. Well, it would be useful if Sharepoint could create a page representing the sites and subsites that I have been visiting and using. What forms do I frequently fill out? What lists do I tend to edit? Digital bread crumbs aggregated over time and use. Then, I guess, knowing my organization, they could find associated sites within my reports, my peers, and my management (should my boss be on vacation and I need to fill out a report my boss usually does once a week). There shouldn’t be any privacy concerns there since I’d only see information I have access to.

For Internet Explorer: should there be a way to do a more indepth history feature? Something I could push-up and push-down between the four different computers I use during the day would be nice. Call it “Live History” – oh yes, enjoy the oxymoron! – and provide a rich web page experience where I can review and organize where I spend my digital time, merged across participating devices. The most important thing is that I can let it roam, keep it updated, and access it from any computer. This would be something beyond the hierarchy of OPML.

Online life is exceptionally chaotic and a lot of data tracking a person’s usage is collected. Perhaps there is something to the poor person bouncing around everywhere to opting in to having what they pay attention to collected and data mined and repurposed for themselves. And that’s probably all fine and good until the lawyers get involved. Fine. Be sure to encrypt it.

Niche-ification: you could say that Web 2.0 right now is an explosive growth of niche solutions looking t
o do well in a particular small, passionate problem space and then grow into other spaces. This is related to one aspect of The Innovator’s Dilemma, where it notes that new breakthroughs are usually a groundswell movement that start small. This is pretty opposed to swinging a billion dollar bat: instead of going after a single one billion dollar sure bet, are you willing to go after one hundred ten-million dollar bets, gambling that in addition to a small chunk of profit in the millions you’ll also have one to five percent of those be a breakthrough innovation that brings in future billions?

Well, that might be me taking Chris and Tara’s talk further than it should. Right now, however, is a grand time for starting up niche businesses, sexing them up with Ajax and Web 2.0 monikers, and being able to get a presence to build on. How does this apply to Microsoft?

I’d seriously bet that Microsoft technology is absolutely absent from these niche gambits. If anything, it’s 100% LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl/Python/PHP (which, I guess, is more LAMPPP). Microsoft’s loss here? Explosive growth for one of these niche gambits is not going to risk transitioning technology to a Microsoft equivalent toolset.

Marc Canter was walking around with a lei necklace of giveaway USB drives containing the LAMP-centric source code to the People Aggregator he was evangelizing. If Microsoft was to create a “niche-in-the-box” toolset, what would those tools consist of and would it be free? Would it be as directly straight forward as LAMP? Obviously the “L” equivalent is WinXP Pro or W2K3 and it’s not free. And the A would be a feature of that OS. Database? The goodnews is that the “P” equivalent is pretty well covered with .NET technology, the SDK, and the free VS environments.

But it’s not easy for people with startup mentalities to eschew LAMP for a Microsoft equivalent to go from prototype to beta to release. We’re losing mindshare in the innovators market, and people are investing more time learning Python and PHP over C# and ASP.NET. Those tools have the gravity well. We don’t.

User design innovation: this was Dave Winer’s talk and it has me thinking. When the next rev of your product starts (or you’re designing a new product) what do you do to be confident regarding the high-level impact of the feature set you’re going to implement and deliver? Some people talk to key customers. Some people look for new markets that the feature set would allow growth and dominance.

How much comes from direct, everyday users? Now, the Innovator’s Dilemma (again) would say watch out for giving people what they want because maybe they don’t really know what’s best for themselves and you’re limiting yourself by listening to your customer. Is that always true? And with more people indulging in online transcription of their every thought, isn’t it easier to find users and groups that could have good influence regarding what your product does? And if they start taking proactive engagement in specifying what they want (and want fixed), would you engage and listen to them?

I’m not sure how much each Microsoftie is engaged with tracking how users are responding to our products, other than what we see rolled up in articles and reports. What if each person had to go out and find a reaction, pro or con, to their feature in the real world, and write it up, along with deciding if there was anything actionable and why they came to that decision? I’m pretty interested in getting more involved in our community efforts right now and seeing how much of that can become part of everyday life for Microsofties.

Anyone But Microsoft: so to wrap this up: what was it like being a Microsoftie amidst the echo-chamber + VC + Web 2.0 innovation crowd? Personally: I didn’t feel relevant. And I didn’t feel Microsoft was relevant as anything else than a disrespected boogie-man. Even if we’re running on probably 80% of the laptops there, Microsoft and its technology was more something to endure vs. being excited about and use and leverage and profit from. This only burns my biscuits because I saw a number of the attendees present as individuals I respect and that I’ve been following for years. They’ve influenced me. And I see them as influencers to others going forward. And to them, Microsoft is the butt of a sad, sad joke. I disagree.

I certainly want to change this, though I have to do my own reality check whether there’s anything Microsoft could ever do for some crowds or if they are happily situated in their own space. But still. Kaliya tried to invigorate the crowd to develop innovative community solutions because if they didn’t “Microsoft would.” Booga Booga! But… is that so bad? Whatever happened to win-win?

When I’m an interviewer, I of course look up the person I’m about to interview on the ‘net. I have yet to stumble across someone who has put up something racy or racist or something so outright offensive that I couldn’t imagine hiring them. I can only hope that such a person would fail our initial screening. But as online sites like MySpace and Facebook and Friendster allows people to indulge more and more in transcribing their transgressions in life, you’ve got to expect there’s a backlash looming. And one of these days, I’m going to be surprised.

Case in point:

Facebook, Myspace, etc. And Getting Hired - a snippet:

But, during the interview, something he was not prepared for happened. The interviewer began asking specific questions about the content on his listing and the situation became very awkward and uncomfortable. The son had thought only those he allowed to access his profile would be able to do so. But, the interviewer explained that as a state agency, recruiters accessed his Facebook account under the auspices of the Patriot Act.

Sometime soon, high-school and college students are going to realize that you have to build your professional, easy to find, upstanding public net presence that you control and shape and, off to the side, keep a relatively anonymous indulgence not directly associated with you but rather a persona that gives you plausible deniability. Sure your friends know who it is. And that’s good enough. They’ll have to be split. Anything else is just mud spelled backwards.

Oh, and within my zeal to discuss all the great Win32 client InfoPath hosting we’ve done I’ve neglected to note that the InfoPath server side is hostable within an ASPX page as well: Hosting an InfoPath form in an ASPX page. So you can use InfoPath server-side forms technology within your ASP.NET application, too.

We give you the sun and the moon, baby.

Whew-wee, it’s hard to believe I was once a UI designer and Edward Tufte fan looking at this ugly little web utility I slapped together: DHTML Taggy!

Feel free to save locally and modify. Send me any feedback or ideas.

Taggy is what I intend to use as my homegrown tag generator so that I can add some Technorati tags at the end of my more meaningful blog posts. Well, and non-meaningful, too. I’ve been doing this by hand so far.

I had intended to do this as a Yahoo! widget but, well, two months later and it took 30 minutes to write in DHTML and verify and this good enough for now.

In addition to typing in your tags (ten tags max) there are three fields for customizing the resultant HTML:

(1) The outer HTML that should be generated containing your lists of tags. By default, I have two HR tags in there to help seperate out the HTML I want to copy and paste. The %s represents the series of tags to be inserted.

(2) The HTML for each tag. %u is the escaped form (spaces converted to plus-sign, all text converted to lower-case). %s is the tag you typed in.

(3) What goes between each tag (e.g., comma, space, hypen).

It generates both an HTML area you can copy and paste from and a textbox containing the raw HTML (should you need that instead).