About Duffbert...

Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

Email Me!

Search This Site!

Custom Search

I'm published!

Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide

Purchase on Amazon

Co-author of the book IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Administration Guide

Purchase on Amazon


Visitor Count...

View My Stats


Book Review - Hackerteen: Volume 1: Internet Blackout by Marcelo Marques

Category Book Review Marcelo Marques Hackerteen: Volume 1: Internet Blackout

I've mentioned in the past that I occasionally pick up and read material that isn't my normal fare.  When offered a chance to read the graphic novel Hackerteen: Volume 1: Internet Blackout by Marcelo Marques, I figured this would be my foray into different stuff.  While I don't know that I'm the best person to review something like this, I'll say that it probably does a good job with what it sets out to do.

This first volume sets the stage.  Yago is spending a ton of time in front of his computer, and his parents are worried.  They find a school called Hackerteen that teaches students how to ethically explore and prevent computer crime.  Yago is under the age limit, but impresses HackerIP (the head of the school and the "greatest" hacker in the country) with a test of his skill.  As such, he's accepted into the program, becomes part of the team that is the upper echelon of the school, and is called upon to stop a hacker threat that will take down the entire Internet.  But at the same time, he's been conned into planting a computer virus that threatens to do great harm, all because he wanted to earn some extra money to help his father keep his bakery afloat after a huge grocery store moves in across the street.  He has to admit to his ethical lapse and clear his mentor of the charges being leveled against him.  But don't expect to get full resolution here...  Volume 2 is due out soon.  :)

Here's where we get into the "your mileage may vary" part.  Nearly all the books I read have more words in one chapter than this has in the entire volume.  So, we're not talking about a major transfer of technical knowledge in the 101 pages of Hackerteen.  I'm also old enough to remember when something like this was called a comic book, not a "graphic novel".  Conversely, far too many kids don't read much of anything unless it's entertaining or assigned by a teacher.  In Hackerteen, the author weaves in themes of ethical behavior, teamwork, and questioning authority.  That last one comes into play with electronic voting machines that are "certified" to be accurate, as well as hacking laws that make it possible to convict just about anyone using a computer.  It's not a stretch to see how the government has tried (unfortunately with a fair amount of success) to do these exact things.  A 12 year old may not care much about voting machines that they won't be able to use for another six years.  On the other hand, a graphical novel such as this can start them down the road of thinking for themselves.

There are URL links at the bottom of many of the pages that *should* give additional information on some of the subjects mentioned in the story.  But when I went to the site, it was lacking any content, and the navigation didn't work half the time (in either IE or Firefox).  That's too bad, as I think a strong website working hand-in-hand with the book would be a powerful combination.  Still, I think Hackerteen does accomplish what it sets out to do...  Educate young minds about hacker ethics in a way they'll understand and read.


Product Review - Netgear RND2150 ReadyNAS Duo 500 GB Desktop Network Attached Storage

Category Product Review Netgear RND2150 ReadyNAS Duo 500 GB Desktop Network Attached Storage

This is probably one of the best "toys" I've received as part of the Amazon Vine review program...  The Netgear RND2150 ReadyNAS Duo 500 GB Desktop Network Attached Storage device.  Having never had a network storage device to use at home, I was a bit unsure as to how useful I'd find it.  In less than a week, the answer is "how did I live without it?"

A picture named M2

First impressions...  I expected something much bigger.  The largest dimension is 8 inches deep, while being only 4 inches wide and 5 inches high.  So in terms of footprint, there's not much there to take up desk or counter space.  I plugged it into my Netgear wireless router, ran the set-up software, and it immediately was recognized once I ran the RAIDar software to interact with the administration console on my Windows XP machine.  With little effort and no directions, I was able to set up accounts for my wife's machine and Ian's Macbook.  I didn't have a clue as to how I was going to walk him through the setup, but by designating the AFP protocol on his share, he found it automatically and started downloading to it right away.  He even complained when he couldn't transfer files over 100 MB, as that was the share size limit I had set him at.  Evil Dad...  :)  Now that I know that worked, I bumped him up to 100 GB.

The 500 GB gives me a ton of extra space for backups, media downloads, etc.  There are two bays in the unit, one of which is used in this setup.  If you added another 500 GB drive, it would use that to set up a RAID configuration.  Some have complained that they'd rather have it equal 1 TB instead.  If that's important, you can buy a larger configuration that goes to that amount of space, but the second drive is always going to make it a RAID device.  Being this is my first NAS device, it's not a big deal to me.  In terms of noise (or lack thereof), I'm really happy.  It sits across the room from me (about 12 feet away), and I can barely hear the unit.  In fact, my Dell desktop is slightly more noisy than the NAS, and I thought the desktop was already pretty quiet to begin with.  The only sound that threw me off was when I started doing some downloads on it, and you'd hear the read/write heads moving around.  I knew that wasn't a "normal" noise for my office, and it took me a second to realize where it was coming from.  Given about a week, I'll probably not even notice the small pops.

The feature that I really like is the built-in BitTorrent client.  You can start a torrent download on the NAS, and it'll run independently from there.  So instead of having the torrent client taking up cycles and memory on your regular machine, the NAS is just chugging away on the download for you.  It's an ideal set-up if you have to move around a lot, or if you're disconnected from your network for any length of time.  The BitTorrent client is pretty bare-bones, but it controls all the critical functions, such as throttling the transfer rates in both directions.

I'll dive into the manual this weekend to see what else I can do with it.  I know there is automatic backup software you can use, but I currently use an online backup service.  I'm torn as to whether I want to maintain that (backups available from anywhere) or save the money (but know I could lose both the computer and NAS in the event of a disaster).  But even if I didn't use too many other features of the device, I'd be very happy with it.  And if I can keep Ian out of the admin console and restrict his media files to 100 GB, I'll be doing well.  :)


Finally, someone building tools to migrate *TO* Notes *FROM* Sharepoint!

Category IBM/Lotus

From InformationWeek: The Weekly Watch On Content Management

Well, isn't *this* a pleasant change!

Here's one from the "I'm not sure if I can beat 'em" file. Mainsoft, an IBM partner, will soon release its SharePoint Integrator for Lotus Notes.

According to a company spokesperson, the software gives users point-and-click access to SharePoint content, including Word documents, Excel worksheets, and PowerPoint presentations, all from a Notes-driven sidebar. Mainsoft says Notes users also can store updated documents within SharePoint sites. And I got a kick out of the PR firm's pitch, if for nothing more than its attempt to balance things a bit delicately.

"For enterprise IT, replacing multimillion dollar Lotus Notes/Domino infrastructures with a Microsoft stack is a highly political, costly project. Migrating from SharePoint to Quickr is one option, though SharePoint fans oppose it."

Wouldn't it be fun to get our hands on this and see if it's better than Red Bull at going the other direction?  :)


Book Review - Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide

Category Book Review Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide Brian Fugere Chelsea Hardaway Jon Warshawsky

You know you've got too many books lying around (or your office area is too messy) when you stumble across a book in an unexpected area and think "where did *this* come from?"  I have to admit that's what happened with Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky.  I'm guessing it got put down somewhere, was covered up by something else, and it took awhile for me to move that stack again.  But, having "re-"discovered the book, I've found a real gem.  Excellent for everyone who is fed up with people using big words with no content.

Part 1 - The Obscurity Trap: The Fog of Business; The Smartest People Use the Dumbest Words; Size Matters, But Not How You Think; It Depends on What the Meaning of "Is" Is
Part 2 - The Anonymity Trap: You've Been Templatized; The Power of Imperfection; Being Funny Is Serious Business; Pick Up the Damn Phone
Part 3 - The Hard-Sell Trap: The Non-Sell Sell; Kick the Happy-Messenger Habit; Flop Penance
Part 4 - The Tedium Trap: Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll for Business People; Make Your Point by Making Theirs; An Actuary's Guide to Storytelling; The Substance of Style
Monday; Resources - A Bull Spotter's Guide

You've all heard (or done) it...  Someone is making a presentation or is talking to others in their organization.  In order to be thought intelligent, they resort to using big words and business catch-phrases that make them sound like an expert.  But in reality, there's little substance behind the talk, and their audience is bored stiff.  Bullfighter's Guide goes to the heart of communication and calls "BS!" to those who are wasting our time by inflating their own ego.  Rather than put away the "real you" when you step into your office, try instead to use your own voice and style to get your message out.  It's surprising how much more effective you can be.

The four Traps covered here pretty much cover the perils and pitfalls of business communication. The Obscurity Trap happens when the speaker exchanges their voice for jargon, wordiness, and evasiveness.  They try to sound important by using words and phrases that aren't generally understood or have been stripped of any real meaning by overuse.  Take that paradigm and bury it, please!  The Anonymity Trap is where you try and fit in to the mold that's expected in the business world, thereby covering up any personality you might inject into your messages.  These are the people who live and die by the template so that all communication is "standard".  The Hard-Sell Trap means death to your efforts to get someone to buy your product.  People like to buy things, but they don't want to be sold by someone who is only interested in their money.  Instead, tell them the facts and listen to them explain what their needs are.  And finally, there's the Tedium Trap....  boring, boring, boring.  Don't make your audience sit through an hour of slides and slogans.  Instead, tell them stories that make your point.  Be different.  Do the unexpected, and the audience will stay awake, wondering what you'll do next.

Bullfighter's Guide is not a large book, and it practices what they preach...  get to the core of the message, and make it happen with your "own" voice.  If you've ever tried to get a message across to someone (that should be about 99.999% of you), make sure you don't fall into any of these traps.  Well worth reading, and I'm glad I found it...  although I *still* don't know where I got it from...


Book Review - Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi's Spy-Tech World by Kristie Macrakis

Category Book Review Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi's Spy-Tech World Kristie Macrakis

Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi's Spy-Tech World by Kristie Macrakis takes you back to the Cold War era when East and West were constantly trying to steal each other's secrets.  She was given access to many of the East German archive files related to their espionage organization, the Stasi.  While not necessarily a "can't put it down" read, it does take you behind the scenes of what and how spying worked back then.

Part 1 - High-Tech: Agent Gorbachev; Stealing Secrets; Hero, Traitor, Playboy, Spy; The Crown Jewels; "Kid" and "Paul"; The Computer Fiasco
Part 2 - Spy-Tech: James Bond, Communist-Style; Communicating Secrets; Secret Writing Revealed; Eye Spy; Big Ears; Smell Science; Spy Dust
Notes on Archival Sources; Notes; Index

Macrakis lived in Berlin in the mid-1980's and experienced the events that led to German reunification.  In 1998-99, she decided to do more research into the subject of Eastern Germany espionage at a level not usually granted.  From the archives, interviews, and other sources, she was able to peel away much of the Hollywood stereotypes that cloud our understanding.  Given that she's a professor of history, she could have turned the book into a dry recitation of facts, figures, and reporting.  Instead, she tries to weave those facts into context by looking at some of the real spies of that time, showing how the technology of the time influenced the way they carried out their roles.  For instance, the "Agent Gorbachev" chapter follows a real spy, Hans Rehder, as he passed industrial secrets from his West German employer over to his handlers.  The fact he did so for 28 years without raising any suspicions shows how East Germany (and in most cases the Soviet Union) were able to keep up with the West without bankrupting their economies.   Payments for these secrets were determined by how much money it would save the country by not having to do the research themselves.  There were no Googles out there to search and no networks to hack into.

For those who prefer to read about the "spy toys", Part 2 is very interesting (it was my favorite part).  Macrakis found files showing the science behind invisible ink formulas, listening devices, and visual surveillance.  The Stasi even went so far as to capture the "smells" of dissidents, using yellow cloths that were vacuum-packed in jars.  These smells were used by search dogs to find and track certain people when necessary.  I'll admit that was the first time I had ever heard of governments tracking people by smell.  You could think of it as the precursor to DNA tracking.  :)

Overall, Seduced by Secrets was an interesting read.  Had it not been for some of her stories of real spies, the book would have turned into a long, dry dissertation of facts, statistics, and events.  Conversely, had she tried to turn it into a novel based on her research, it would have lost much of the scholarly value that she put into it.  For a general audience (like me), it is an interesting look into espionage.  For researchers, it's a gold mine of detail.


Book Review - Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein

Category Book Review Stephanie Klein Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp

If you grew up as the "chubby" or "fat" kid on the block, you'll understand and relate immediately to Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein.  I could definitely relate...

Part 1: Baby Fat
Part 2: Weigh of Life; Sabotaje; Sloppy Seconds; Bay of Pigs; Your Worth In Weight; Blame It On the Rain; Shrinkwrapped; Mamma Mia; When Even "Misfit" Misfits; American Pie; Hurts So Good; Are You There, God? It's Me, Pound Cake; Caught; Inside Out; Tall Takes and Heroes
Part 3: Moose; To Fat and Back; The Hate Diet; Father Figurative; The Mother Load

This is an actual "memoir" of the author and the five years she spent at various fat camps.  She was overweight as a child, and struggled (like we all do) with acceptance and self-worth issues.  Her parents sent her to the camps to learn better eating habits and to get more exercise.  The style is somewhat unique, in that she blends all the camps, friends, counselors, and enemies into a single fictional camp over one summer.  As she states up front, names and some details have been combined and modified to protect the innocent, but everything in the book actually did happen.  Things like falling in and out of love numerous times, sneaking out of camp with friends to have a food binge, and learning how to make oneself vomit in order to get rid of the food gorging that just took place.  Throughout the book, you get a peek into the mind of an overweight child who desperately wants to be accepted for who she is, but is constantly judged by how much weight she carries.  Her obsession with weight continues on to this day, manifesting in issues such as not wanting to gain any weight while pregnant for fear she'll once again be fat.  Part 3 of the book does get more into her adult attitudes and issues, but you realize they're still tied back to that overweight child being shipped off to fat camp.  No matter how thin she gets, in her mind she's destined to always be "fat".

Having been that fat kid myself, I could identify and relate to many of her experiences.  Unlike her, I'm still fighting my weight problem on the upper end of the scale.  But that self-image of the short fat kid is always there, and will probably never go away.  Moose is well-written and worth reading.  If you've never grown up with weight issues, you'll begin to understand what those of us who did went through.  And if you *were* the fat kid, this may be a way for you to step back and realize that those times are gone and you've grown up.


Book Review - Never On These Shores by Stephen R. Pastore

Category Book Review Stephen R. Pastore Never On These Shores

I seem to be on a bit of an "alternative history" kick right now.  I find it fascinating to see how things might have played out if a rather insignificant event turned out differently.  In Never On These Shores by Stephen R. Pastore, you're given a look at what might have been if Hitler had taken Britain and signed a peace treaty with Stalin...

World War 2 turns out completely different.  Hitler is able to keep Russia in check with a peace treaty, allowing him to concentrate fully on his next goal...  invading the United States.  But Germany isn't the only group with that goal.  The Japanese have laid waste to the west coast, from Seattle through Portland, all the way down to San Francisco.  Their goal is to take over Los Angeles, and their level of brutality towards their captives brings to mind the Nanking atrocities.  The Italians have landed in Cuba and are using that as a base to invade Florida on their way up the east coast.  Germany befriends the Mexican government and gets support to invade through Texas.  So where is the bulk of the American military?  They're all stranded in Northern Europe.  Not only has their ally been defeated (Britain), but the Atlantic is controlled by Germany and can't be traversed safely.  That leaves the defense of the United States in the hands of women, children, the elderly, and gay men.  Obviously before the days of "don't ask, don't tell"...  Completely outmanned and with little training, those who are left at home must figure out a way to fight back...

Pastore doesn't spend a lot of time building up the story. He starts hot and fast with the mayor of San Francisco losing his head (literally!) when he attempts to surrender the city to the Japanese.  He then takes a few characters throughout the country and follows their stories as they try and survive the invasions.  Pastore also does not pull any punches when it comes to being politically correct in his writing.  Racial slurs pepper the conversations, which would be accurate based on the times.  Neighbors and fellow citizens do strange things when faced with life and death situations.  For instance, the KKK attempts to join up with the Nazis in Texas as they both have similar goals of racial purity.  But when given a bit of power, you see a truly ugly side of human nature emerge.  It's not hard to imagine the story-lines coming to pass if something like this were to actually happen.

Also, as an FYI, keep in mind this is the first novel of a series.  I kept getting closer to the end wondering how he was going to wrap everything up.  But on the last page you see the "Coming Soon" title of the next book.  I'll be there to read it, no question.  I will warn readers who are easily offended with graphic violence and language that they might want to steer clear of Never On These Shores.  There's plenty of both.  But if you want to read something that will make you think and imagine life in an alternative history, you'll love this one.


Take Jess and Tom's LUG Lotusphere Challenge!

Category LotusUserGroup.org

Sometimes there's just no way you can say it better...  check out Jess and Tom's LUG Lotusphere challenge!


Book Review - Securing Ajax Applications by Christopher Wells

Category Book Review Christopher Wells Securing Ajax Applications

Since Ajax is such a hot subject right now, I thought the book Securing Ajax Applications by Christopher Wells would be a worthwhile read.  Unfortunately, that's a very specific title for a book that tries to cover far more ground than just Ajax security.  When you get done, you'll have a better idea about web-based software and hardware security from an architecture level.  But you'll probably still be wanting a book that specifically covers "Ajax" security.

The Evolving Web; Web Security; Securing Web Technologies; Protecting the Server; A Weak Foundation; Securing Web Services; Building Secure APIs; Mashups; Index

The book starts out with the history of HTTP web communication, alternatives that developed over time (like Flash and applets) that would allow e-commerce, and then how Ajax stepped into the fray.  All pretty general stuff, and probably already known if you're picking up this book as a means to refine what you already do with Ajax.  The chapter on Securing Web Technologies talks about the types of attacks that can be carried out over the web.  Again, you've likely covered all this before if you've been programming web apps for any length of time.  From there, you learn about browser weaknesses using Microsoft's STRIDE model (Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information disclosure, Denial of service, and Elevation of privileges).  As before, it's good information about security, but still not what I would consider Ajax-specific.  Protecting The Server gets into how to harden a HTTP server, but the same observation applies...  not specific to Ajax.  The last few chapters get into more of what I would consider Ajax topics, like web services, mashups, API's, etc.  But even then, we're still in a position where the information can be characterized as applicable to far more than just Ajax usage.

I think most of the problem comes down to the title of the book.  After all, that's what attracts you to pull it off the shelf and take a look.  If the title was more generic, like Securing Web Applications or Web Environment Security, I'd feel that I was getting the content that the author "promised" in the title.  But using Ajax in the title appeared to be an attempt to use a hot buzz word for a book that was more general than that.


Great quote from my doctor today...

Category Humor

I went to the doctor today for a neck and shoulder problem.  I mentioned it was due to the perils of growing old, which he told me I still had three more years before things really started to break down (i.e., the big 5-0).  I said "so you go into free-fall at that point?"  The answer...

"No...  freefall doesn't hurt until you hit the bottom.  You actually start to tumble, which means you feel every ache and pain all the way down."

Gotta love that encouragement...


Book Review - Running Scared by Ken Douglas

Category Book Review Ken Douglas Running Scared

Another Ken Douglas novel showed up a couple of weeks ago...  Running Scared.  He writes a really good crime/mystery novel, and I'm grateful to the person who turned me on to his writing.  In Running Scared, he places a couple of women in the Caribbean who are being set up for a major crime which they didn't commit (nor do they know why).

Joey's day starts off pretty badly when she wakes up on a sailboat, covered with blood, next to a guy she doesn't remember.  She can't ask him either, as his throat has been cut.  She doesn't fancy her chances with the authorities since she can't explain what happened.  She figures that dumping the body overboard and feigning ignorance might be her best bet.  But it becomes apparent that whoever killed the guy in the first place is tracking her also, and she's not sure what she can do about it.  Meanwhile, her husband Mick is pursuing a life and agenda that involves marrying a young Brazilian girl, Nina, he got pregnant.  When the two women discover and meet each other on board Mick's boat, fireworks should fly.  But after comparing notes and stories, they both realize that Mick is true scum, and is probably involved in something highly illegal...  maybe even murder.  Their best bet is to team up, try to make it to the States, and meet with Mick's parents to get to the bottom of everything.  The problem is that a pair of killers seem to be on their trail, often arriving within hours or minutes of where they are at any given time.  It is taking every last bit of energy they have (and then some) to stay alive long enough to find answers...

Douglas does a great job of building his characters and giving them life in the pages of the novel.  Nina Brava's character is especially engaging, as you watch her shift between her young enthusiasm and her abusive past.  You don't find out the real driving force behind all the killings and crimes until pretty late in the novel.  I would have preferred learn a little more a little earlier, as it would have likely cranked up my reading speed as I raced to find out how it would end.  But even so, it's not something that affected my enjoyment by much.

This is another one of those "leave yourself some reading time" books, as you'll end up spending more time than  you probably had allocated.  :)


My feelings aside about the whole polygamous issue...

Category Everything Else

(for those of you not in the US, here's but one of many links to the story...)

The officials are claiming they got a call from a 16 year old girl who was forced into an arranged marriage in the sect, and was subsequently abused.  Now that they've removed over 400 children from the ranch, they still can't figure out if they have the girl who originally placed the call.

I can't get rid of this nagging feeling that perhaps the whole call was a ruse or set-up, designed to give officials the reason they needed to raid the ranch.  It is a tricky situation, pitting religious freedoms against federal law and potential child abuse issues.  If indeed there were cases of child abuse (and 13 or 14 year olds being put into arranged marriages might well qualify), then someone does need to step in.  But if this was a case of manufacturing "evidence" in order to "legally" act, then everyone loses.

And it's for sure that we've seen enough manufactured evidence over the last seven years...


A bit of code that can make your TeamStudio Configurator reports a bit easier to work with...

Category Software Development

I had a request from an internal customer today involving scanning a particular Notes database for the occurrence of some specified strings.  This is related to a request from Legal, so of course it needs to be accurate and the results need to be easy to use.  After listening to what she was trying to do on her own, I suggested that it would be best if I did the scans for her, using the TeamStudio Configurator tool.  So far, so good.

The only issue I have with the output from the tool is that the Configurator report only shows you the string being scanned for along with the document title and Notes ID.  But unless you're a Notes geek, that Notes ID means virtually nothing to you as an end user.  In those cases, the users try to find the document title in the database.  Not pretty...

I wrote the following quick and dirty code to put behind an action button that I add to the Configurator report form design.  It's meant to be used under the condition that you have a separate report document for each string match.  Feel free to steal or appropriate as needed...

Sub Click(Source As Button)
 Dim session As New NotesSession
 Dim ws As New NotesUIWorkspace
 Dim dbThis As NotesDatabase
 Dim dbScanned As NotesDatabase
 Dim uidocThis As NotesUIDocument
 Dim docThis As NotesDocument
 Dim docScanned As NotesDocument
 'Stores the primary extracted strings needed to get the document that matched the scan
 Dim strScannedDBServer As String
 Dim strScannedDBPath As String
 Dim strScannedNoteID As String
 Dim intStart As Integer
 Dim intEnd As Integer
 Set dbThis = session.CurrentDatabase
 Set uidocThis = ws.CurrentDocument
 Set docThis = uidocThis.Document
 'This grabs the canonical server name stored in the frptDatabase field of the Configurator Report document
 intStart = Instr(1, docThis.frptDatabase(0), "CN=")
 intEnd = Instr(intStart, docThis.frptDatabase(0), "(")
 strScannedDBServer = Mid$(docThis.frptDatabase(0), intStart, intEnd - intStart)
 'The file path follows the canonical server name, so grab that here.
 intStart = intEnd + 1
 intEnd = Len(docThis.frptDatabase(0))
 strScannedDBPath = Mid$(docThis.frptDatabase(0), intStart, intEnd - intStart)
 'Finally, the NoteID of the scanned document is stored at the end of the frptNoteTitle field of the Configurator Report document
 intEnd = Len(docThis.frptNoteTitle(0))
 intStart = intEnd - 8
 strScannedNoteID = Mid$(docThis.frptNoteTitle(0), intStart, 8)
 'You have everything you need to get the scanned database and document now.
 Set dbScanned = session.GetDatabase(strScannedDbServer, strScannedDbPath)
 Set docScanned = dbScanned.GetDocumentByID(strScannedNoteID)
 If Not (docScanned Is Nothing) Then
  Call ws.EditDocument(False, docScanned, True)
  Messagebox "NoteID " + strScannedNoteID + " not found"
 End If
End Sub

EDIT 10/13/2008 - John Kingsley from TeamStudio suggested making the following change in the code so it would work for both server-based and local databases...  Thanks, John!

This post was fabulous.  I had to make some changes to it because they don't let me near any servers here, so everything is local.  Try this

instead of

'This grabs the canonical server name stored in the frptDatabase field of the Configurator Report document
 intStart = Instr(1, docThis.frptDatabase(0), "CN=")
 intEnd = Instr(intStart, docThis.frptDatabase(0), "(")
 strScannedDBServer = Mid$(docThis.frptDatabase(0), intStart, intEnd - intStart)

try this.

'This grabs the canonical server name stored in the frptDatabase field of the Configurator Report document
        If Instr( 1, docThis.frptDatabase( 0 ), "CN=" ) Then
                intStart = Instr(1, docThis.frptDatabase(0), "CN=")
                intEnd = Instr(intStart, docThis.frptDatabase(0), "(")
                strScannedDBServer = Mid$(docThis.frptDatabase(0), intStart, intEnd - intStart)
                intStart = Instr(1, docThis.frptDatabase(0), "Local")
                intEnd = Instr(intStart, docThis.frptDatabase(0), "(")
                strScannedDBServer = ""                
        End If


Book Review - The Gatherer by Jerry Bayne

Category Book Review Jerry Bayne The Gatherer

This supernatural/investigative book showed up on my doorstep the other day, and it was an enjoyable read...  The Gatherer by Jerry Bayne.  Bayne is a first-time author who does a good job with his plot and pacing.  As with most books, nothing is perfect (especially the first time you try it!) But I hope this won't be his only foray into the book-writing world.

Dr. Carey Blake (a woman) and Father Frank Daniel, long-time friends, are thrown together on a special project driven by the Catholic Church.  They have to decipher an ancient scroll that has many leaders of the Church uneasy about the contents and ramifications.  Time seems to be of the essence on the project, although Blake and Daniel aren't quite sure why this has such a rushed deadline.  Meanwhile, Detective Frank Sams is tagged to look into a case where the victim was severely and brutally killed by what looks to be some sort of wild animal.  What animal, he's not sure, as there are no DNA samples left behind, nor do the bite marks match anything on record.  These two cases come together when Sams' case seems to take on a Satanic element, and Blake and Daniel end up seeing ties to the scroll that they are translating.  If the partial translation is to be believed, then the killer is something far more deadly than any wild animal...

Unlike some of the Dan Brown novels, this book doesn't attempt to rewrite Christian history and tradition by turning everything into a conspiracy.  Instead, it's more along the lines of Dean Koontz where evil has been unleashed on earth, and ordinary mortals have to figure out a way to combat and conquer it.  As a first-time novelist, Bayne has a good sense of plot and pacing with few awkward moments.  The romantic angle seemed to come on very suddenly, which seemed a bit out-of-place.  A lot of the meetings end up having the participants agree to use first names, and then the first name stuff seems to be repetitious.  The dialog isn't bad, but the repeated use of first names struck me as odd.  I would have also liked a bit more background into how Daniel and Blake were doing the translation.  I kept wondering how they would figure out that a certain symbol or series of symbols would equate to a certain phrase.  I realize there's cross-comparisons with other known languages, frequency of use analysis, etc., but it came across here as more of a "I bet these words mean this" guess.  Even so, it didn't take away from the enjoyment of the story.

You may want to make sure you have some time cleared out before you start The Gatherer.  There's a good chance you'll spent more time than you intended to when you sit down and start reading.


Book Review - Days of Infamy by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen

Category Book Review Newt Gingrich William R. Forstchen Days of Infamy

I previously picked up a copy of Pearl Harbor by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen.  Much to my surprise, it was far better than I expected, and gave me a greater appreciation of Pearl when we visited Hawaii last year.  I was recently contacted by the publicist for an advanced reader copy of  their follow-on novel Days of Infamy.  Of course, I accepted.  :)  As with Pearl Harbor, it's a well-written historical novel that looks at how the Japanese/American conflict might have played out if the Japanese had made a few different choices in their strategy.

The novel covers a four day period after the initial two attack waves on Pearl Harbor.  In this alternative history, the Japanese lead a third wave over the islands along with a coastal bombardment with two of their battleships.  This has everyone thinking that an island invasion might be imminent, when in reality it's a ploy to draw out the carriers that fortunately happened not to be docked in Pearl during the attack.  Due to a complete and total destruction of the communication facilities, there is little intel that the US can use to figure out where the Japanese fleet is, how large it is, and what their plans might be.  Likewise, the Japanese don't know where or exactly how many carriers the US has available or where they were if not docked at Pearl.  It's a chess match between Halsey and Yamamoto that involves millions of tons of naval and aerial equipment, tens of thousands of lives, and quite possibly the fate of the free world.  The story also involves James Watson, a cryptographer who lost a hand in an earlier conflict, and is not well-equipped to be part of a battle zone.  His wife and mother-in-law are Japanese, and that brings an additional burden to his work.  The social backlash against *all* people of Japanese descent in the US is starting to whip up, and he can't guarantee that those he loves will be safe from marauding bands of thugs seeking revenge.

Since the timespan covered in this installment of the story is much smaller, there's not as much character development as there was in the first episode.  More of the action is focused on the battle strategy and the actual attacks from both sides.  Still, there is plenty of personal material here to keep you interested in the characters.  Watching people overcome (or be overwhelmed by) their prejudices is a strong theme covered.  I was also struck by how much warfare has changed since then.  It was possible back then to be within 100 miles of each other and still not know what was going on.  Now with satellite imagery and other technology, war is fought at a completely different level.

If you haven't yet read Pearl Harbor by these two authors, do so before this book comes out.  That will lay the groundwork for what continues here.  For fans of alternative historical novels, this is a great read.


Book Review - From Program to Product by Rocky Smolin

Category Book Review Rocky Smolin From Program to Product

Most programmers at some point think they have something they've built that, with a little luck and hard work, can be the next Visicalc of the computer world.  In reality, there's a lot more that goes into it than that.  Rocky Smolin talks about that process in the book From Program to Product: Turning Your Code into a Saleable Product.  You'll know some of the stuff already, but it will keep you from making some other mistakes that could keep you from getting all you could from your brainchild.

Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?; So What Do I Do First?; The Program - From The Outside Looking In; The Price of Success; Legal Matters; Some Financial Considerations; Sample Software Licence; Index

Smolin has a couple of different product offerings that he's taken from idea to saleable product.  He uses that experience to talk about the perils, pitfalls, and payoffs of selling your work to others.  Much of what he covers is how to take a step back and actually plan the product.  This ideally should be done *before* you build it, but you may already have the program built and working for the original intended purpose.  He shows how it's best to have that architecture and analysis done before you actually release it, as it will give you the foundation you need to create something that is solid and doesn't start breaking down under the strain of multiple customers.  Probably the best information is on licensing and other legal issues (like escrow).  We may be good at slinging code, but we're not all that hot at making sure the legal groundwork is done.  Without it, you may find yourself giving up all your hard-earned profits to lawyers and disgruntled customers.  Worth reading and considering before you make the mistakes.

There are a couple of nits I have with the book itself.  Smolin is mainly an Access/SQL Server developer, so pretty much all the examples, interviews, and colleages mentioned in the book hail from that software niche.  That doesn't make the core information any less valuable, but it does tend to get a bit old having all the examples showing the same type of software technology.  Also, I'm not sure the interviews at the end of each chapter work as well as they could.  They are nearly verbatim transcripts, so you have too many sequences of answers consisting of single word "yes" and "no"s.  I realize that gives you the realism of the interview, but it also reads in an awkward fashion.  I think I would have chosen clean up that area a bit more.

This book is worth reading if you plan to go down the independent software vendor route.  It'll save you the hassles of repeating the common mistakes that nearly everyone ends up making.


Are political journalists falling prey to technological misdirection?

Category Everything Else

From Nieman Watchdog: Are political journalists falling prey to technological misdirection?

David Gewirtz is the ZATZ editor who sort of uncovered the major "missing email" scandal in the Current White House administration, and has done an excellent job in turning over stones to get at the real truth behind this story.  This article does a nice job in consolidating the major points of what's going on, and why it's a problem...

Here are five important points – somewhat self-evident to e-mail experts -- that journalists are overlooking.

#1: The White House’s e-mail archiving system is wildly inadequate to the point of negligence.

#2: The White House apparently had no good reason to switch e-mail systems in the first place.

#3: The Hatch Act has made it much too easy to bypass the Presidential Records Act.

#4: Insecure messaging puts national security at risk.

#5: And what about all those amazing gadgets?

If you haven't followed the story to date, or you're struggling to explain it to others, this article should cover both of those scenarios easily.


O'Reilly webcast - iPhone Forensics Demonstration

Category Software Development

You are invited to a free webcast:
iPhone Forensics Demonstration
April 17
10:00am PDT
(17:00 GMT)
Register Now
Register Now and we'll send you a reminder!

Meeting link:
Teleconference dial-in:
East Coast US:
+1 617 231-0350 and pin 8136507
West Coast US:
+1 213-455-0500 and pin 8136507
iPhone Forensics Demonstration
Jonathan A. Zdziarski

With the iPhone quickly becoming the market leader in mobile devices, the need for law enforcement personnel to perform forensic analysis of these devices is beginning to surface. Unlike most other smart phones, the iPhone incorporates desktop-like features in an easy-to-use mobile package. As a result of its high level of technology and available features, many are likely to use it as a primary device for various forms of data and communication. While some of a suspect's data can be viewed using the direct GUI interfaces in the iPhone's software, much hidden and deleted data is available as well, which may provide for more thorough evidence gathering.

Existing commercial forensic tools are sadly lacking their ability to perform deep raw disk level recovery, and so Jonathan will demonstrate how to install his custom forensics toolkit on any existing model iPhone and send a raw disk image to a desktop machine. He will also show you how to recover files specific to the iPhone including deleted keyboard caches, photos, web objects, and much more.

Jonathan's custom forensics toolkit and his accompanying forensic manual will be available free to forensic investigators in law enforcement.

Attendance is limited, so register now. We'll send you a reminder before the webcast. Or, please feel free to share this invitation with others.

Date: Thursday, April 17 at 10am PDT (17:00 GMT)
45 minutes
Meeting link:
Teleconference dial-in:

(select the number that is closest to your location)
East Coast US: +1 617 231-0350 and pin 8136507
West Coast US: +1 213-455-0500 and pin 8136507

Please send email to

About Jonathan Zdziarski

Jonathan Zdziarski is better known in the hacker community as "NerveGas". He has played a key role in opening the iPhone's environment to third-party software development, and is hailed on many geek news sites for cracking this device and leading the effort to write the first open source applications. Jonathan was the first to develop an application that takes full advantage of the major iPhone APIs with NES.app, a portable Nintendo Entertainment System emulator.

Jonathan is also a full-time research scientist and longtime mobile hacker. Prior to the iPhone, Jonathan was well known for uncovering vulnerabilities in Verizon's online systems and hacking popular Verizon phones to restore functionality once crippled by the communications behemoth.

Available online at http://www.oreilly.com/store/O'Reilly.com


Book Review - Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich

Category Book Review Janet Evanovich Plum Lucky

Sometimes, all you want is mind candy and entertainment that doesn't demand much in terms of time or effort.  I picked up Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich from the library two days ago, and breezed through it in less than a day (only 166 pages).  It's a "between-the-numbers" installment of the Stephanie Plum series, which means it's smaller than normal and isn't as involved as the main novels involving that character.  Unlike some of her other filler titles, this one is fun, has the flavor of a regular Plum story, and is worth the small investment of time.  

Stephanie ends up on a quest to find and rescue Grandma Mazur, who disappeared from her parents home.  She stumbled upon a duffel bag full of cash, and decided to buy a Winnebago, drive to Atlantic City, and live it up on the slots.  The problem here is that the short man who claims the money is rightfully his (after he stole it from a crime family boss) wants it back so he can save the life of a horse that he's rather attached to.  And if that's not complicated or strange enough, Diesel (another one of those mystery detectives in her life) also wants the short guy for a case he's working on, tied to (you guessed it) the stolen money.  Stephanie, Connie, and Lulu all head off to the casinos where *everyone* converges at one place.  Of course, life is never normal with Lulu or Grandma Mazur around, and Stephanie's life continues to take odd and "unusual" turns.  And yes, yet another car gets toasted...

If  you're a fan of the Grandma Mazur character, then you'll really like this installment.  She's a prominent player here.  The interplay between Diesel and Stephanie is also fun and delivers some humorous moments.  Plum Lucky is like watching an episode of a favorite comedy.  Some you like better than others, but you're mainly there for the entertainment and the characters.  Sit back, enjoy it for what it is, and get ready for #14 due out in June.


IBM Pitches Mashup Suite to 'Enterprise 2.0'

Category IBM/Lotus

From InternetNews.com: IBM Pitches Mashup Suite to 'Enterprise 2.0'

Well, it looks like the Lotus Mashups software is now ready to make it's debut:

IBM plans to announce today a new multi-tiered mashup portfolio for companies to create new business applications cobbling together data drawn from disparate sources.

The IBM Mashup Center will bundle Lotus Mashups, a drag-and-drop tool geared for non-technical workers, and the InfoSphere Mashup Hub, for more advanced users.

Additionally, IBM is introducing WebSphere sMASH, a resource center for developers supporting dynamic scripting languages in a RESTful environment.

Apparently the release date is April 15th.  I'll be interested to get my hands on that and play around with it.


Is that a book in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Category Humor

Steve McDonagh points out a very funny (but not probably true) article in the New York Times titled It's Not You, It's Your Books.  I link you to Steve's site first, as there's no way I can improve on his post in terms of laughs or mental images...

Yeah, it'd be nice to be drooled over for six-pack abs or long, flowing hair.  But since my abs are hidden by the effects of six-packs, and long flowing back hair doesn't have the same effect, I guess I'll play the hand I was dealt with the book angle.  And here I thought it was just me being cute and huggable...  :)


So here's *my* "How I Got Started In Notes" story...

Category IBM/Lotus

I blogged about this back in 2003, but obviously a few things have happened since then.  So let's do a rewind and then bring things forward...

I started my IT career back in 1979 out of high school working in a bursting room for Georgia-Pacific here in Portland Oregon, stripping carbon off reports and separating reports on the perforations.  And yes, there was filing of the punch cards also (told you I'm old!)  That lasted about a year until I moved into their Operations area, loading up the card decks and hanging those tapes.  Around 1983'ish, I was offered the chance to move into programming with good old RPG.  Like everything else I end up involved with, I grabbed the book and started teaching myself.  1985 had Georgia-Pacific downsizing their Portland operation, and that led me to First Farwest Insurance (long since departed) as a COBOL programmer.  Not bad considering I had never coded a line of COBOL before in my life.  A couple years there (and before they went under), and I was off to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon using those same COBOL skills to help maintain their Medicare claims processing software.  BCBSO would continue to be a constant in my life from then on...

In 1995, things were getting rather ugly with the Medicare contract, and I didn't necessarily want to be part of a large system conversion coming up.  I was fortunate enough to move to a position in the company where I could start working with "groupware technology", i.e. Lotus Notes.  I was offered the chance to go to this "Lotusphere" thing, and it was there that my life forever changed.  I really didn't understand much of what was going on (WORK THE WEB!), but the lasers, lights, and music of the opening general session had me convinced I wanted to do this for the rest of my career.  It was at that point that I decided to specialize in Notes and try to become "really good" at it.

1998 saw me leave my home at BCBSO for a start-up called FirstPoint Communications.  You'd know it better by the name it ended up becoming...  Enron Broadband.  I didn't leave because of the siren call of stocks and options.  Yes, they were there...  But what I really wanted to know is if I could play with the big boys in the dot.com era.  We were building everything from the ground up in Notes, so it was a great time of building and learning.  Yeah, the ending wasn't so great in September 2001, but I wouldn't trade the overall experience.  It's there that I learned I really could contribute to the Notes community at large.

Laid off on September 1, 2001.  9/11 happened, and I was convinced I'd never get another job again.  My interview at BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon (now Regence) on September 10th wasn't the best one I ever had, and now I was unemployed for the first time in my life.  I was able to dip my toe in the consulting waters starting late November of that year, along with beginning my fledging writing career with ePro magazine with Libby Ingrassia.  The one-off consulting jobs led to a full-time Notes development consulting position with Boom Vang (now Marquam Group) up through February of 2003.  

That's pretty much where my original blog posting left off.  But wait, there's more!

Joe Litton, my fellow developer at Enron and the person who got one of the Notes jobs at Regence before 9/11, decided to head off to the sunny climate of Florida, leaving an opening back at Regence.  In the course of a week, I went from a full-time consultant with Boom Vang to a full-time developer back at Regence.  It was great to be "home" again.  On top of doing a lot of Notes development here (as I'm currently employed by them), I've also opened up my world via blogging, writing, and speaking.  I've been on stage a few times at Lotusphere, got my passport de-flowered in Ireland, and generally am living an experience I never dreamed possible.

I look back to the time when I was transitioning from Medicare to the Groupware area.  I was part of a Medicare user group and had some really close friends in that community.  But I was not allowed to go to the last user group meeting during my time there, thereby denying me the chance to say goodbye to people I worked with over the phone every day.  I was convinced I'd never experience that same type of friendship and camaraderie again in my professional career.

I was *so* wrong...  What I had then is but a faint shadow of what I have now.

Thanks, everyone...


Product Review - Logitech Z Cinema Advanced Surround Sound System--2.1 Speakers

Category Product Review Logitech Z Cinema Advanced Surround Sound System

I recently received the Logitech Z Cinema Advanced Surround Sound System through the Amazon Vine program.  I thought it'd be a great replacement for my 5+1 surround sound speaker system on my computer, with all those pesky wires on the floor.  Although it took me a bit to get it working (user error and issues), I'm quite pleased with the results.  Great sound, nice interface, and more more wires to run over with my chair.

A picture named M2

The subwoofer is where all of the wiring interface occurs, and that's where I had most of my self-inflicted problems.  First off, I plugged it into a dead outlet.  That explained why it was taking the USB so long to be recognized.  Then I had a bent pin on the connection to one of the two desk speakers.  With some gentle pressure, I was able to get that straightened out and the plug connected.  I also had to reseat my left speaker connection as it wasn't kicking out any sound.  But once I got all that taken care of, I was impressed with the sound and interface.

The system comes with its own remote control that is set up to work both with the speakers and with Windows Media Center.  The layout is clear and the buttons are labeled such that there's no guesswork as to what button(s) might be doing what functions.  I really like the volume control, which is a rotating ring in the middle of the remote.  It's calibrated well, in that you don't get massive volume changes by barely touching it.  The on-screen interface isn't quite as nice as the remote, but it's perfectly adequate to run the speakers if you don't want yet one more remote laying around.

The speakers accomplish a "surround sound" effect by positioning the output of the two desk speakers.  For me, this is what I enjoy the most.  Before, I had the five tweeter and midrange speakers surrounding my desk, and there was no good way to deal with the speaker wires.  Now, I just don't have any wires to deal with as I only have the two units on my desk (with the subwoofer underneath).  All the great sound with none of the mess.

Bottom line, I'm very impressed with what Logitech has done here.  It's a high-quality sound system that avoids the wiring mess.  It's another very impressive offering from the company.


If for some reason you have never visited Steve McDonagh's site...

Category Blogging

... you owe it to yourself to check out Domi-No-Yes-Maybe.  Steve is truly one of the most gifted, humorous, and talented writers out there.  His ILUG 2008 Guide To Irish Idioms series is one of the funniest set of posts I've ever read, and his ability to weave a story in true Irish tradition is incredible.

And for you readers who follow me but aren't part of the programming world?  Check him out anyway...  It's not all techie stuff, and it's *all* unique...


Can someone answer this question?

Category Humor

While out shopping on Saturday, we happened upon this in the frozen seafood department:

A picture named M2

Hence the question...  What part of the catfish do the nuggets come from?

And how many catfish does it take to get five pounds of them???


Book Review - My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas

Category Book Review Clarence Thomas My Grandfather's Son

Before reading My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas, I must admit I was pretty limited in what I knew about the man who sits on the Supreme Court bench.  I remember the Anita Hill controversy during his confirmation hearings, but that was about it.  What I know see is that Thomas overcame a very hard childhood and plenty of discrimination to rise to the highest court in the land.  Keeping in mind that there's always more than one side to a story, this is an inspirational look at what someone can become even when the odds are against them.

His story starts out as a young child in the Deep South, dirt poor and without the benefit of a two-parent family.  Thomas and his brother are shipped off to live and be raised by his grandparents, which was a turning point in his life.  His grandfather was a hard-working man with little education but an iron rule.  That discipline is what Thomas needed to push himself to be more than what his surroundings would dictate.  Rather than go to the normal black colleges available at the time, he applied to and was admitted to Holy Cross and Yale Law School.  You'd think that was a major achievement to be proud of, but he found it was more a detriment in that it was viewed as a "gift" of affirmative action.  During this time, he was also married, expecting their first child, and was swimming in debt.  He's very open about how the pressure and stress led to the breakup of his marriage, his rocky relationship in his later years with his grandfather, and his guilt over not being there for his son (much like his father wasn't there for him growing up).  The Anita Hill situation haunted him throughout his career, where she's portrayed as an aggressive troublemaker who didn't fit in well with her coworkers, but who was promoted based on requests from colleagues who wanted "a sister" to do well.  But through it all, he was able to continue to stay true to his views and get to where he never thought he could be...

Along with his story, you also learn about his attitude and philosophy about racial tensions in America.  He's not totally popular with his views, in that he doesn't toe the standard line about minorities needing handouts and assistance.  But it's nice to see someone who had every opportunity to become a radical liberal remain consistent with his upbringing.  You may not agree with his political views or leanings, but you'd be hard pressed not to be inspired by his life story.  Well worth reading.


Book Review - Dead Ringer by Ken Douglas

Category Book Review Ken Douglas Dead Ringer

Another recreational read that kept me up a bit later than normal...  Dead Ringer by Ken Douglas.  This was actually sent to me by another author who is friends with Douglas.  Not knowing what to expect, I went in with few expectations.  Turns out that Dead Ringer is a pretty good crime thriller with some major cases of mistaken identity going on.

Maggie grew up thinking she was the only surviving twin of an airplane crash that killed her mother and sister two weeks after her birth.  She learns that's not exactly the case when she is reported as being "murdered" and dumped behind a bar on the beach.  The murdered woman is a dead ringer for her, and Maggie figures out that it's her twin who really didn't die as earlier reported.  The problem is that Maggie is still being stalked by her sister's killers, who apparently want her dead for some reason she doesn't quite understand.  Since they screwed up with the first killing, they're under pressure to get it right the second time.  Maggie is also pregnant from a one-night stand, and she doesn't want to lose her well-known husband who will know the child isn't his.  Can she take the risk of telling him and driving him away, or will she get rid of the child and deal with that guilt for the rest of her life?  Her "death" reveals a few facts she didn't know about her husband, so she decides to leave him and step into the role of her dead twin (since no one really knows she's the one that was actually killed).  Maggie's twin has quite a bit of money as well as some strange emotional baggage that brings its own series of complications.  Maggie needs to maintain the illusion long enough to find out why the killers want her dead, as well as what her sister was involved with that made her so much money.

Overall, the story was pretty good.  Surprisingly, the main hitman is struggling with his own situation involving the murders, and really wants to put that life behind him.  It doesn't change the fact that he's scummy, but there's still a bit of empathy there for him.  I also enjoyed watching Maggie try to act like her sister she never met, and how to take over the mother role to an eight year old who knows something's a bit off, but likes the "new" version of mom much more than the old version.  Things wrapped up well at the end, and I was glad that I had taken the time to dive into Dead Ringer...


Book Review - Gecko by Jack Priest

Category Book Review Jack Priest Gecko

Via another request direct from the author, I was mailed a copy of Gecko by Jack Priest.  As it was described as a horror story in the tradition of Dean Koontz, I was predisposed to like it already (yes, I'm a warped fan of Koontz's earlier novels).  Gecko holds up well to that description, and I don't think I'll stop at this being the only Priest novel I'll read...

Jim Monday is walking along the street with his lawyer and friend David Askew.  But as they start to cross the street, Askew is nailed by a hit-and-run driver.  Monday is convinced he was the target when a doctor, Bernd Kohler, immediately shows up on the scene.  Why?  Because Kohler has stolen Monday's wife, will get half of his money in the divorce settlement, and likely wants the other half of a large life insurance policy on Monday as well.  He physically assaults the doctor, and is restrained by a couple of cops.  But something in Monday's story gets the cops thinking that Monday might just be right about the attempt on his life, and they start digging around privately on the side.  Turns out there's far more sinister elements at play in the doctor's life, and everyone close to Monday and the investigation ends up confronting a nasty gecko-like monster that hunts humans for food.  Monday has to dodge all the other cops who think he's a serial killer based on the mayhem left behind by the gecko creature, while trying to rescue his wife and save the daughter of the cop who's trying to help him.  Oh, and there's that matter of the voice in his head belonging to a woman in New Zealand who is also being held captive and needs Monday's help to escape...

Priest's style most definitely reminds me of the early Dean Koontz books.  Plenty of graphic gore playing out on a supernatural stage.  I'll admit that on the first read of the novel, I missed the pages that explained the voice in the head.  Perhaps that was when the Ambien was taking effect that night.  My gripe was that we really needed to know more about the reason for the voice earlier in the story.  But as I write this review, I went back into the book to get a name and found the four pages I missed at first.  Having read that, things fall into place much more readily now.  As such, I have to say it was a very well done horror novel (if that's a genre you like), and I will be checking out a few other Priest titles when time permits...


Book Review - Breaking a Sunbeam by Geoff Hunter

Category Book Review Geoff Hunter Breaking a Sunbeam

Seems that I've been getting a number of requests lately to review novels, and this one sounded interesting...  Breaking a Sunbeam by Geoff Hunter.  If you like your storyline with plenty of gore and mayhem, this one will work for you.  It was also interesting to see how the hostages changed during their ordeal.

Jake and Kay Winter are an ordinary couple, young and in love.  But their lives change when they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Juel, Carl, and Roy are pulling off the theft of some jewels from a old friend of Jake and Kay.  The couple show up at the shop at the same time the situation deteriorates, leaving their friend dead and the criminals somewhat trapped.  Juel shoots Kay, expecting that she killed her.  But Kay does survive, and Jake, arriving just as Juel and company flees the scene, also gets a good look at the killers.  That makes Kay and Jake "loose ends" that need to be tied up...

After a couple of botched attempts to kill both of them off, they stumble onto an opportunity.  They kidnap Kay in order to force Jake to help them "clear up" a few matters.  The promise is that they'll let Kay and Jake go after Jake does the job for them.  In reality, they'll both be killed off at that point.  But since there's really no other choice, Jake agrees to go along.  The first job involves killing a doctor and burning down his house.  But Jake finds out that the doctor is really a child abuser, and he's tied into Juel's past.  Jake handles the job well, and they decide to use him for another "clean-up" job.  This one goes bad, and Jake ends up killing someone to defend Juel and Carl.  And while he's still planning to get his wife back, he's now much more sympathetic towards Juel, even to the point of falling in love with her.  

Meanwhile, Kay is locked up in a cellar with no clue as to what's going on.  Rather than sit and await her fate, she decides to try to escape.  This becomes even more of a necessity when she comes face to face with Roy's fantasy world of medieval torture and control.  She too undergoes a change in attitude towards Juel and Carl, and gets sucked into situations she would have never thought she could be part of.

While some of the action scenes seemed to go on a bit longer than I thought necessary, the overall plot, pacing, and character setup was well done.  Juel is a true psychopath, and it's hard to figure out why she's that way until you find out her backstory.  The relationship between Juel, Carl, and Roy seems odd at the first, but again it builds well over time.  Watching the change in Jake and Kay as they crash through social and emotional boundaries is also compelling.  Bottom line, I found myself racing more and more at the end to see how it would all wrap up.  If you can put up with some rather violent imagery, you'll likely enjoy this read.


Um... I'm Technorati's #1 reviewer???

Category Book Reviews

From Brightsitegroup's blog: Technorati’s #1 reviewer, "Duffbert", reviews Richard Laermer's 2011

How the heck did I pick up THAT designation???  


Book Review - 2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade by Richard Laermer

Category Book Review Richard Laermer 2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade

If you've read any of Richard Laermer's stuff before, you know you're in for a highly irreverent look at whatever the subject at hand happens to be.  In 2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade, he takes a shot at identifying the important trends coming down the road, and more important, how to figure them out for yourself.

Part 1 - Trendspotting for the Novice: The Next Few Years are All Wondrous; Mediocrity; Gumby - The Mascot of 2011; The New Way to Say Shove It!
Part 2 - The Caboodle - Advanced Trendspotting: Dive into Trends...  And Believe In Them; Fad, Faddy, and Fattening Trends; The Bolts from Blue; The Decade Is Starting Anew (and Maybe The World Is Too!); Stay Informed by Depersonalizing
Part 3 - Business Of Selling, As Opposed to Shilling: Treat Me Right, or You Won't Get My Money; The Biggest Picture - Customer Is a Hyper-Aware King; Can An Athlete Really Be Trusted To Make Money For Us?; Lying - That Your Final Answer?; We Fib; Why Smart Sellers Can Spell Fnord And Why It Really Matters; Yes - Sadly - Sprint Was Correct; Frito-Lay's Cholesterol Story; How To Major In Napping; Welcome to BAS - I'm Talking To You; Greet This - How A City Civility Campaign Ruined Friendliness; "46" - The Middle Ages; The New Low In Business Etiquette - Stealing Without Aplomb; Victoria's Secret's Mentality - How Cities Got Overtaken By Lingerie; Fred Trump & That Other Guy; Machiavellian Skin; The 1-Word Chapter - What's The Mission Of Every Company?; Sex, and Snakes & Couch Jumping - How To Be Sure You're Not Selling To People Who Don't Buy During This Era of Attention-To-Noise Surplus Ratio, Otherwise Known As "What's This? A Laermer Blog Post?"; What Happens On TV (Stays On TV) - Building A Brand From Personal Experience
Part 4 - Techno Centric: What's DAT Exactly? Another Fabulous Analogy About Unnecessary Technology; Bacn & The Art of Communicating Later; Ah My Identity - Take It At Your Own Risk; Give Me Some Couch Love, Babe, Yeah, Give It To Me; Battery Management Corp - One Further Step In Our Quest For Power; Computer Is Gone - Is Life?; Heads In Air - The New toy Won't Replace Our First Love; And Finally, EID, Email Is Death (Long Live New Mass Communication); Sport Mail; Hi-Tech - The New New & Improved; Blog Anonymously & Lose Your Self - errr, Your Cell; The End Of The Beta - You Just Got To Stop This Affair
Part 5 - Entertain Your Diversions: Just Being Nominated Is Enough - Ah, Award Show Overload; The Game of Famous - A Case Study That Is Far From Hollywood; And They All Lived Hollywood Ever After; Serial Lifer; Jennifer Lopez's Antics - The J Down Lo
Part 6 - Make Media Your Friend (Then Make Bank): Watch and Learn; The Black Eye of Memory - Media and Big Stories; The Media Next Decade
Part 7 - The Language of Life: One Potato, Two Potatoes Later; Where Are Phrases To Catch Us? Revival of "Fun Speak"; Taking Responsibility For Your Words Is Not Just Good Psychology; Living with Ed
Part 8 - Society with a Small s: New Rule - You're Not Freaking Cool Just Because You Say So; How To Keep Nascent Trends From Dying On The Vine; Say You're Gay and Induce A Yawn (or "Gay for Play" Has Its Day); Faith, Politics, and the Death of a President; 609.72 Minnesota Statues 2006 - The Oddest of Current Laws; Demeaning The Presidency Has Brought Us Down; Planned Layovers In America - An Article That Did Good; Savvy Muscular Old People; Teens Shall Remain Narcissistic (This Surprises You?); Generation Zero - NCD35 (Part One); Gap of Mentoring (Part Two, Generation Zero); Truth About "Kidlessness" and the Future of Pals With A Kid Between Them; Ah, To Be Nice, Perchance To Dream
Part 9 - Epilogue And Other Chapters I Couldn't Fit Anywhere Else So Stuck Them Here: Terms I Made Up + Newfangled Future Speak; Self Something Or Other; Good Morning, Today Is January 21, 2011; To p7 Mistakes Small Businesses Make - A Guide To Saying "WTF"; The Epilogue - Last Words, First Words, Wordiness...

As you might be able to tell, Laermer has his own style...  :)  Each of the chapters are only two to five pages long, and each starts out with a particular trend.  For instance, the chapter The Media Next Decade has the trend of "The press will stop being meaningful because, well, we know more than they."  When you look at the current wave of blogging, personal reporting, etc., you see that it's not far off where bloggers and journalists become in many cases one and the same (and some would rightfully argue that it's already here).  Another "f'instance" is Serial Lifer, in which he sees even more serialization or "chapter-ization" of books, TV, and every other form of entertainment out there.  We don't sit still long enough to take things in one sitting, so we're tending to move towards smaller bits of info fed to us over time.  

Rather than give you an academic argument for what exactly will happen by what date, Laermer tends to go more towards feelings and observations, giving trends that he sees happening, while also giving you room to interpret his views with your own slant or spin.  Even if you don't necessarily agree with his trend or observation, you will have to admit you had a good time reading about it.  And you *will* be forced to think things through to their logical conclusion based on current events and prevalent trends.  That's why I think this is different than most "futurist" books.  He's got his own ideas as to where things will go, but he's also willing to listen to other views and ideas as to how things will play out.  

It'll be fun to go back in 2011 and see exactly where things ended up at, and to see what transpired and what didn't...  

Want to support this blog or just say thanks?

When you shop Amazon, start your shopping experience here.

When you do that, all your purchases during that session earn me an affiliate commission via the Amazon Affiliate program. You don't have to buy the book I linked you to (although I wouldn't complain!). Simply use that as your starting point.


Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

Ads of Relevance...

Monthly Archives