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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...

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06/30/2010

Book Review - Horns by Joe Hill

Category Book Review Joe Hill Horns
A picture named M2

Most people have wished at some point in their lives for the ability to know what another person is thinking or feeling about them.  Ig Perrish has just received that gift, and it's not working out so well.  Couple that with the new set of horns that Perrish woke up with, and Perrish's life is headed downhill at terminal velocity.  But at least his new abilities will help him figure out who really killed his girlfriend on a cold rainy night a year ago.  That's the storyline in Joe Hill's latest horror novel titled Horns.  I haven't read any of Hill's work before, and I must say this was very different and "out there."  I found the constant time period shifts a bit disconcerting as the story would flash back to earlier times and work back up to the current crisis, but it didn't stop me from turning pages to see how the final showdown would play out.

Ig Perrish and Merrin Williams fell in love when they were quite young, and it looked as if they were destined to get married and live happily ever after.  But right before Perrish is supposed to head off to England for some volunteer work, Williams decides it would be best if they saw other people to make sure they were right for each other.  Perrish is devastated by the news, and gets plastered.  He leaves her at the bar after an angry confrontation, and sometime during the night she is raped and murdered in the woods next to an abandoned building which is a popular teen hangout.  Everyone is convinced that Perrish is the murderer, but nothing could be proved.  Perrish maintains his innocence, and is completely lost without her.

As the anniversary of her death approaches, Perrish goes out to the spot where she was found and vents his drunken rage at the whole situation.  In the morning, he wakes up to find he has a new body part... a pair of horns growing out of his head.  When he tries to go to the doctor to get them examined and removed (because he certainly can't explain how they got there), he finds the horns come with a new ability.  People looking at him forget the horns and start telling him their most darkest secrets and desires.  And if he touches them, he can see their sordid lives played out in instant clarity.  When he leaves, they can sort of remember talking with Perrish, but they have no idea as to the topic of conversation, and they don't remember the horns at all.  This isn't so great for Perrish, as he finds out that most everyone in town hates him and thinks he murdered Williams.  He also finds out far more about certain proclivities of the town's "upstanding" citizens.  The only good he can see coming from this gift is the chance to get someone to confess to the killing, allowing him to even the score and exact his revenge.  But even then, there's no guarantee that everyone will fall under the same spell and spill their guts.  That's up to Perrish to figure out...  who is telling the truth, and who is lying.

Horns is definitely a page-turner, as it's hard to tell exactly who is going to confess to what, and how long Perrish will be able to hold himself together before going completely off the deep end.  Because the story is told in a series of flashbacks to bring you up-to-date with all the characters at the time of the killings, there's a fair amount of jumping around that makes the story a bit hard to follow at times.  The ending was also a bit bizarre, or at least bizarre given the level of strangeness that's already established by this horror novel.  Still, I'm likely to go back and read Joe Hill's first novel, and would be very much open to reading future works.  If you're a fan of the horror/supernatural genre, Hill's a good pick.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

06/30/2010

This is why I have such a hard time believing/diving into any "new" Microsoft offering...

Category Microsoft
So Microsoft kills off the KIN mobile device after devastatingly nonexistent sales.  And... it does this just two months after they release the device.  Can you imagine if you had decided to build an offering for the KIN or staked a significant amount of time and effort to support the device based on Microsoft's assurances that this would be the next greatest thing since sliced bread?

I find it hard to believe that a company the size of Microsoft could spend hundreds of millions of dollars (if not billions over the life of the project) on a device that reportedly only sold between 500 and 1000 units.  This is during the same time that Apple can't even keep up with the demand for iPhones and iPads.  Was their market research for the viability of the KIN *so* off-base as to give it a shelf-life of only two months?  Did they even *do* research?

It amazes me that a company, regardless of their size, could spend as much as they did on "Project Pink" and basically write the whole thing off as a loss without the market clobbering them.  And it's not like this is a first for MS when it comes to entertainment devices... Zune has underwhelmed the market.  Xbox has been a money pit with MS subsidizing the devices in hopes of establishing market share.  Quarterly reports would argue that they haven't been successful with that strategy unless they're playing by the rules of golf... lowest dollar total under break-even wins.

If I were on the board of directors for Microsoft, I'd be looking for some heads to roll, and there's just been one head at the top of all of these flops...  Perhaps Ballmer needs to step down to spend more time with his kids and family, and to pursue "other opportunities."

It's repeated episodes like the KIN that make me look at all new and shiny Microsoft offerings with a cynical glance, and let them play out for awhile before seeing if something's going to stick.  It's a given that betting on first-generation MS offerings is not a sure thing, and life is too short to follow a company around hoping to stake your career on something that for them seems to be nothing but a rounding error if they decide to write it off.

06/29/2010

Book Review - Inside Out: A Novel by Barry Eisler

Category Book Review Barry Eisler Inside Out: A Novel
A picture named M2

Some of the best novels I read are ones that seem as if they could be ripped out of the daily headlines of your favorite newspaper or news magazine.  Add in behavior and characters that ring true due to past uncovered abuses by the government, and you have the ingredients for a story that makes you wonder if the plot hasn't already been played out in real life.  Barry Eisler does that with torture and detainees in his latest book Inside Out: A Novel.  I had a really hard time putting the book down, as I wanted to get to the end of the story before some news broadcast ruined the ending for me.  And if you honestly look at how power corrupts people, it's nearly impossible not to wonder how many times this same scenario happens on a regular basis.  It's a scary read...

Eisler brings back Ben Treven, one of the best black ops soldiers the US has, along with his commander Colonel Scott Horton.  The tension starts early as Horton tried to kill off Treven in the last novel in order to close a few "loose ends."  While all has been forgiven, Treven is wise to doubt Horton's motives and what he wants of Treven on this next mission.  A number of videotapes that recorded detainee torture sessions have gone missing, and more than a few government agencies are "highly motivated" to track them down and destroy them before the contents end up on the Internet.  Horton has a bit more of an inside line as to who might be in possession of the tapes, and he convinces Treven to track down and flush out the quarry.  But that presents a few problems.  For one, the target is even more deadly than Treven, and Treven isn't sure who he can trust, as in who might be on "the home team", as each agency has a different goal for recovering the tapes, and collateral damage (as in Ben Treven) isn't a major issue for any of them.  Men who are desperately trying to hold on to their power and prestige will do anything to make that happen...

While Inside Out is a great novel in itself, where it shines is in how it disturbingly (and accurately, in my opinion) portrays the inner workings of our government.  Pure torture inflicted on terrorism detainees is called "enhanced interrogation techniques."  People are held with no charges, hidden away in unknown locations, and likely disposed of with no accountability by the agencies who held them.  And of course, we the people have no way of knowing whether these "techniques" are truly giving us information to avoid terror attacks, or whether it's become a sadistic form of retribution on suspected terrorists by people who have become drunk on their own power.  And if the scenes of Treven discussing the tapes with Larison (the person who has them) or Treven discussing with Horton how the government runs doesn't stop you dead in your tracks and scare you to death, then you're not paying attention.

I felt like I waited forever for this next novel from Eisler, but it was well worth it.  Even better, the ending hints at bringing both Ben Treven and John Rain together in the next novel.  If *that* happens, then I really *will* have a hard time waiting for the next installment.  I hope Eisler is already writing. :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free

06/24/2010

I got my DODOcase for the iPad today... quite cool!

Category iPad
When I was looking for protective cases for my iPad, I came across the DODOcase.  Handcrafted to look like a moleskine notebook, it really appealed to my writer's side.  I wouldn't mistake it for being a great travel case where you can pack cords and such, but for the everyday carry-around protection, I really like it.  The wood edges are carved such that you have full access to the switches and plug-in spots without having to remove the device.  You can even fold back the top and have a nice tilted surface for reading or typing.  

Here are three quick iPhone pictures of it right after I dropped the iPad in...

A picture named M2

A picture named M3

A picture named M4

It'll get it's first outing this weekend as we visit some family and the iPad goes along on the trip (complete with 3G activation too).  I'll let you all know if something goes terribly wrong with the case, but right off I don't see quite how that would happen...

06/19/2010

Book Review - Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs

Category Book Review Tim Downs Wonders Never Cease
A picture named M2

What do you do if you see angels and nobody is willing to believe you?  You just keep telling your story and let the chips fall where they may.  Such is the attitude of Leah Pelton, the little girl in Tim Downs' latest book Wonders Never Cease.  Some people will say you're crazy, and others will figure that you have serious medical issues.  But a few people might be open to the possibility that you actually experience a reality that others may not be open to believing.

Leah's mom, Natalie, is a single mother who is a nurse at a hospital in Los Angeles.  Her live-in boyfriend, Kemp McAvoy, is also a nurse at the same hospital working the same night shift.  He's a highly intelligent self-centered heel who is always looking for the big payoff, and feels that money spent on Leah's private school and a housekeeper should be better spent on cars and new places to live.  Leah's stories about seeing angels makes life difficult for Natalie, as the school officials are worried that she's got mental issues that may turn her into the next school-shooter story.  Life gets even more difficult when her housekeeper has to quit, and McAvoy becomes nearly non-existent as he has a new scheme to make millions.  A famous actress nearly dies in a car accident, and McAvoy is her nurse in ICU during the night.  She's being kept in a drug-induced coma, and he conspires with her agent to bring her out of it just a bit each night to pose as an angelic being with a personal "spiritual" message to her.  She'll then be able to recall that message (and fully believe it) after she recovers and make millions with the associated books, interviews, and movie.  But the plan starts to fall apart when McAvoy's past catches up with him, and the actress starts to recall messages that were not part of their script.  And it may turn out to be that Leah was right, and there really *are* angels at play here...

Overall, Wonders was an entertaining read.  It did an excellent job in poking at just how bizarre some of these celebrity stories and mystical messages are, and you have to wonder how many are honest and how many are just trying to cash in.  The "good guy" characters are quite sympathetic and easy to relate to in the story.  I was a bit surprised at how McAvoy has *no* redeeming characteristics.  Even the loan shark in the story is more sympathetic than this guy.  I found it difficult to see how someone like Natalie would have ever hooked up with him.  I'm not sure I ever understood how that arrangement would have come to be in the first place.  

Even though I prefer Downs' Bugman novels more, Wonders Never Cease was worth spending a few hours with.  Not that I didn't already look at authors like Shirley Maclaine with a healthy dose of skepticism, but now I'll add a topping of "and how much are they making for this" on top of it.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Gift
Payment: Free

06/18/2010

Open Sr. Programmer Analyst position (Notes/Domino) in Charlotte, North Carolina

Category IBM/Lotus
If you're interested in the following Sr. Programmer Analyst position in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, please contact Eric Perdew at Ericp@dpconsultants.com

Rock Hill, South Carolina

The company is responsible for marketing, sales, aftermarket, local manufacturing and logistics for industrial and oil-free products in the United States market and employs about 800 people.

The organization consists of four Regional Industrial and Oil-Free Customer Centers (Westfield, Massachusetts - Chicago, Illinois - Houston, Texas - Fremont, California) and a multibrand Chicago Pneumatic compressor organization in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Each serves their specific customers throughout the United States.

The Company also operates four Product Companies: a Portable Air assembly plant in Rock Hill, South Carolina; Custom Design engineering for special products in Houston, Texas; Greenfield, high pressure applications in Dallas, Texas; and Pneumatec filters and dryers in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The North America Distribution Center in Rock Hill, South Carolina, supports the logistics for all customer centers.

Under the leadership of the Regional Workflow & Collaboration Application Manager, this individual will be responsible for enhancements, production support changes and development of new Lotus Notes, web and BlackBerry development.

As a Sr. Programmer Analyst you will be part of the Workflow & Collaboration Service Team within ASAP North America, which covers three main areas: Product Administration, Application Development, and Application Support & Roll-out.

* Ability to design and develop new web solutions (within the Domino environment, as well as using other technologies)

* Ability to design and develop new BlackBerry solutions

* Ability to design and develop new and update existing Lotus Notes applications

* Ability to provide access control and content management upkeep to existing Lotus Notes databases

* Work with our internal Service Desk group on escalated issue resolution

* Manage ongoing 2nd level issue resolution and operational improvement activities

* Be able to develop locally while allowing for regional expansion

06/17/2010

It appears the Washington Post Co. is the next large showdown for MS vs. Lotus vs. Google...

Category IBM/Lotus
From Internet Evolution: Washington Post CTO Talks Collaboration

Looking at this article, it appears that there will be a major platform consolidation coming, and a significant competition amongst the vendors...

"It is not about 'build it and they will come,' " said Yuvi Kochar, corporate CTO for The Washington Post Co., highlighting the mistake many IT managers made in Phase One of the Enterprise 2.0 period. "That's a dream every IT person has which is never fulfilled. But that's because it's not about just having good technology. It's about: How do you show value to your customer? How do you get them to adopt it? Who champions it in each functional area?"

As corporate CTO for The Washington Post, Kochar told Internet Evolution, he is charged with creating collaboration opportunities across all of the entity's businesses. The company is implementing a wide range of enterprise 2.0 technologies in its individual divisions (Google Apps, SharePoint, Lotus Notes, etc.), and Kochar's challenge for the year ahead is to launch a common collaboration platform company-wide.

"These are diverse businesses and we run them in relatively siloed fashions," he said. "You think about our education business -- we own Kaplan -- and then consider a cable company. There's not a lot of synergy between the two organizations... So there's not a lot of collaboration going on across businesses. We're thinking about how we can start some grassroots-level collaboration in a narrow functional area."

Anyone know how large the Washington Post group of companies is?

06/17/2010

Here's how at least one SharePoint blogger guru views the Notes discussions this week....

Category IBM/Lotus Microsoft
With all the conversations about Lotus Notes this week, a few statements have been made about how the Microsoft bloggers are viewing all the angst.  I don't follow many MS-oriented bloggers, so I'll admit I hadn't seen that statement play out in reality.  But today I ran across a blog entry by Joel Oleson, who is one of the biggest SharePoint gurus in that universe...

Give me your tired, your poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free... With open arms we welcome Notes Admins and Developers to SharePoint

It’s no longer a fierce battle.  The battle is over and we welcome you with open arms.  It’s a time of reparations it’s a time of healing.  If I could I’d say welcome Notes admins and developers on an icon like the statue of liberty. Which represents the open arms that America once had for welcoming the rejected.

Ouch...

06/17/2010

We already have the movie rights to the Sametime 8.0 Users Guide optioned... here's the trailer!

Category IBM/Lotus Sametime 8.0 Users Guide

Sametime Western Trailer

Mr. Robichaux missed his calling in life.  :)  This will be appearing on our book blog site soon to be set up.

06/13/2010

Book Review - Aurora Rising by Toni Seger

Category Book Review Toni Seger Aurora Rising
A picture named M2

Toni Seger, author of The Telefax Box (first book of The Telefax Trilogy) sent me the second book in the series to read and review... Aurora Rising.  While I wasn't quite as fascinated as I was by The Telefax Box, Aurora Rising does a good job of looking at issues like discrimination and control over societies by taking them out of their normal context and transferring them to a time and location in the distant future.  Common to today's global realities, Central Command wants to take control of a planetary area and society that they consider "less advanced" than the culture of the rest of the galaxies.  In reality, they are really only interested in the resources that they consider valuable and critical to their own survival.  Central to this battle is Aurora, a half-machine/half-Samerac being that doesn't socially belong or fit into any culture, but has become a rallying point and lightning rod for the Samerac people as they attempt to stave off the takeover by Central Command.

In The Telefax Box, I was drawn to the technology depictions of different life forms all brought together in a planetary "United Nations" of sorts.  Aurora Rising builds on that and goes more into subjects like diplomacy, societal norms and acceptance, and governmental hypocrisy.  I probably would have been more in tune with everything going on had there been less time between my reading of The Telefax Box and this book.  As such, my mind tended to wander a bit at times.  In addition, Aurora Rising doesn't stand very well on its own.  You really need to read The Telefax Box first, and there needs to be a third book in order to wrap things up.  Given those "keep this in mind" caveats, Aurora Rising gives the reader a number of things to chew on while they wait for the final installment.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free

06/13/2010

Book Review - 61 Hours by Lee Child

Category Book Review Lee Child 61 Hours
A picture named M2

If a new Lee Child novel comes out with Jack Reacher, it's a given that most all of my free time becomes "unavailable" once I start to read.  That was again the case with Child's latest, 61 Hours.  I found this to be one of the most suspenseful Reacher novels, as something is counting down from 61 hours and you don't have a clue as to what it might be as the story unfolds.  I just wish someone had told me up front that this is the novelistic equivalent of a TV show's season-ending cliff-hanger.  I won't get to find out how it all turns out until this fall.

In 61 Hours, Reacher is on a bus headed to nowhere in particular.  In the midst of a North Dakota blizzard, his bus ends up in an accident and Reacher pitches in to help try and keep the mostly elderly ridership of the bus from freezing to death before they get rescued.  Once the rescue takes place and everyone is transported to a tiny town to await the arrival of the replacement bus, the local police display a major wariness over Reacher, his background, and why he was on the bus to begin with.  Only after countless explanations and discussions does he gain their trust and figure out why everyone in the town is on edge.  The town houses a large federal prison that  houses a major drug dealer coming up for trial. The chief witness also lives in the town, and everyone is sure that her life is in danger as someone tries to keep her from testifying.  To complicate matters, the local motorcycle gang that runs the drug trade from an abandoned military camp outside the city just ups and disappears overnight.  Reacher is dipping into his past to try and find out the original reason for the base, but certain information seems to be deeply buried for some unknown reason.  And when the cops decide to enlist his help with the escalating crisis, it's very possible that he might be the only person who can make sure the witness lives to see the trial.

61 Hours seems like more of a chess match or jigsaw puzzle than a raw action-adventure novel.  Reacher is putting pieces together a few steps ahead of the locals, and he shows up at the right places at the right times to see what he needs to see.  Two things stood out for me in this installment.  For one, the "what happened to Jack" ending was completely unexpected while I was reading.  But as the final seconds transpired and the aftermath was described, I couldn't help but wonder if Child had decided to kill off Reacher.  The "To Be Continued" was a partial "wha?" and "whew" at the same time.  The other very noticeable part of the novel was Child's depiction of the freezing weather and how it affected just about every scene.  So very detailed and realistic... almost felt like putting on a jacket or turning the thermostat up a couple more notches. :)

61 Hours was another great episode in the Jack Reacher story, and now the only question is whether I can hold out to see what miracle he pulled off to survive the end of this book.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

06/13/2010

Manuscript Review - My Name Is Inferno by Dwight Norris

Category Manuscript Review Dwight Norris My Name Is Inferno
About a year ago, I had the pleasure of reading Dwight Norris's debut novel,  The Gentleman Host: A Cruise Ship Nightmare.  It was an enjoyable read, with interesting characters and a setting that isn't one that you normally associate with murder.  I had hoped that Norris would have another novel in store for Flanagan and Murphy, and indeed he did.  I received the manuscript for his sophomore effort titled My Name Is Inferno.  I truly hope that Norris is able to find a publisher for this work, as I enjoyed it as much as I did Gentleman Host.

Inferno brings back Flanagan and Murphy, fresh from their partnership in tracking down the cruise ship killer from the last novel.  Murphy's going to get married now, and the wedding will take place on, naturally, a cruise ship (as Murphy is a security expert for a cruise ship company).  He decides to invite Flanagan and his wife along, which isn't enthusiastically as Flanagan can't swim and really doesn't like to be out on the open water.  But his wife changes his mind for him, and off they go for a fun-filled and peaceful Caribbean cruise.

Or so they think...

Unbeknownst to either of them (or anyone else for that matter), a Somalian pirate decides to make up for a botched attempt on a freighter of no value by going after a pot of gold... the cruise liner that Flanagan and Murphy happen to be on.  The pirate, who goes by the name Inferno, takes over the bridge with the help of another foreign national employed by the cruise line.  From there they call in the mother ship in the middle of the night, and the passengers wake up to find they are now the hostages of 200 pirates.  Their only way to get off the ship is to ransom their lives for one million dollars per family, at which point they will be released.  While most all the passengers are cowed into obeying their captors, Flanagan and Murphy decide to be a bit more aggressive, which brings them to the attention of Inferno.  While Inferno has no qualms about killing them, he also is intrigued with Flanagan's life, his values, and especially what it is like to have a wife and someone who loves him.  Flanagan is able to play on this fascination to gain the trust of Inferno in hopes of ending the situation without a bloodbath on either side.

As I mentioned, this is a manuscript so unfortunately you can't rush out to Amazon and buy it.  Norris is hoping to attract the attention of an agent or a publisher who would be interested in moving it forward.  If so, you can contact him at dwightenorris AT yahoo.com.  There are areas where the help of an editor could improve certain parts of the story (such as the final confrontation between the pirates and the rescuers happening pretty quickly), but that's what good editors are for... to improve good stories and turn them into great one.  I for one hope My Name Is Inferno finds that agent/publisher, as this would be a fun series to follow.

06/13/2010

Book Review - Big Jack by J. D. Robb

Category Book Review J. D. Robb Big Jack
A picture named M2

When I see a J. D. Robb book that doesn't have an "In Death" title, I have to check and see if I've passed into an alternate reality.  For better or worse, my reality is still the same one I've been dealing with for the last 50 years, and Big Jack is indeed a J. D. Robb title.  Once I got into the book, I was pretty sure I had read it before, and I finally figured it out.  Big Jack is the second half of a novel titled Remember When written by Nora Roberts/J. D. Robb back in 2003.  Hot Rocks was the story of a diamond theft and was written by Nora Roberts.  Then the second half of the book jumped forward 50 years as a case to be solved by Eve Dallas written under Robert's J. D. Robb pen name.  Back in 2003, I read the entire novel as Remember When, which is why I didn't quite remember the second part of it as Big Jack.

So how did I feel about Big Jack as a stand-alone novel?  It wasn't too bad.  There are times when it seems like you're missing some significant parts of the story, and that's to be understood since... well, you ARE missing half the original story!  Big Jack does stay true to the J. D. Robb style, albeit from seven years prior.  Normally I won't knowingly read a novel over again unless it was *really* good or I don't have anything else to read.  Well, I'm never out of reading material, and Big Jack was good (but not *that*) good.  I think it was more the case of having gotten far enough into it before realizing the situation, and then I just figured it was worth finishing out.

If you haven't read Remember When, then Big Jack is a good installment in the Eve Dallas series.  My problem is that the publisher isn't clear about the prior history of the story, and it feels a bit slimy to sell half a book that you already published around seven years ago...

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

06/13/2010

Found a 5 page summary doc: IBM Lotus Notes/Domino Market Analysis, 2010-2014 - Editor: Sara Radicati, Ph.D; Principal Analyst: Daniel Oh

Category Radicati IBM/Lotus
 IBM Lotus Notes/Domino Market Analysis, 2010-2014
Editor: Sara Radicati, Ph.D; Principal Analyst: Daniel Oh


It doesn't necessarily shed a *lot* of light as to what their in-depth analysis is, but it's better than nothing...

06/12/2010

Significant milestone in the writing of the Sametime Users Guide... Marie and I are finished with the first draft!

Category IBM/Lotus
Today, Marie Scott and I hit a major milestone in our authoring efforts on the Sametime Users Guide we're writing for Packt Publishing.  We submitted the first drafts for Chapter 12 and the three appendices to our editor, finishing three weeks early for our deadline schedules.  Hard to believe we've written 300 pages of material, and we're still speaking. :)

The next step is to start taking the technical and editorial feedback we've received on earlier chapters and incorporating it into 2nd (final?) drafts.  Then with any luck, they'll all be accepted, and Packt will go to work getting the book printed and ready for distribution.

It'd be nice to see the book on the shelves by Lotusphere 2011 so they can have it there in the show floor bookstore.  

My unending gratitude goes out to those who have helped Marie and I get to this point, be it with servers, documentation, or images we needed to make our explanations clear to the readers.  And of course, special thanks to Marie for making this project much easier than I ever expected it to be.  I said I'd never write a tech book, and once again I'm reminded to never say never...

06/11/2010

Useful visibility into your Windows boot times - Soluto "Anti-Frustration" software

Category Everything Else
Like all Window environments, my boot times have gotten slower as more and more software gets installed.  You can dig into the logs in Windows 7 to check into what loads when and what can be changed, but it's not overly easy or intuitive.  I ran across something today that looks like it takes a lot of that hassle out of the equation, however...  Soluto.

Soluto monitors your boot process and figures out what exactly is going on during that period.  It then presents a clean, intuitive interface to allow you to either pause or delay certain programs to get your computer to a useable state more quickly.  By mousing over the colored bar, you get a dropdown of the application, the time it took to launch, an explanation as to what it does, and a recommendation for pausing, delaying, or leaving in the boot sequence.  It also shows you what others chose to do, so you have an idea as to what the conventional thinking is on particular applications.  

A picture named M2

I have this running on both my desktop and laptop computers now, and I like the results.  Some of the applications, like QuickTime or Adobe Reader just get paused, as I don't mind the extra few seconds when I want to actually use them.  Others I just put into a delay status so they can start up when the computer goes idle.  

It's a free download for Windows, so if you want to streamline your boot process without too many headaches, give this a try.

06/09/2010

Interesting website/Chrome-Firefox add-on: Builtwith.com

Category software development
I ran across an interesting website this evening that goes into a website (you provide the URL) and digs out the underlying technologies that make up the site.  Builtwith.com does this either via a web page where you enter the URL, or with a Chrome/Firefox add-on that adds a icon to your browser to do the same thing for the page you're currently on.

For instance, when I ran the add-on for the home page of my blog, it came back with a wealth of information:

A picture named M2

Where it really comes in handy is to figure out what Javascript libraries might be in use for a particular site to accomplish a certain effect or function.  It certain beats having to dig through all the HTML source to figure it out on your own.

A picture named M3

I just installed the add-on to my Firefox browser this evening.  Since it doesn't do anything until you click the icon, it shouldn't introduce any instability.  If you don't want to clutter up your browser with add-ons, you can just go to their website to run the analysis.  

This should be a great addition to a web designer's toolbox...

06/05/2010

Book Review - Supreme Justice: A Novel of Suspense by Phillip Margolin

Category Book Review Phillip Margolin Supreme Justice: A Novel of Suspense
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Via the Amazon Vine review program, I was able to get an advanced reader copy of Phillip Margolin's latest novel, Supreme Justice: A Novel of Suspense.  Overall, this is an enjoyable read, good for a few hours of suspense and escape.  It didn't grab me quite as hard as many of his earlier works, and that might be due to the length of time since I read the last Margolin novel.  He carries over a number of the characters, and I was hazy on the backstories.  Even so, I enjoyed the read and the character issue wasn't that big of a deal.

There are a number of plots and subplots going on in Supreme Justice that all merge and get tied together at the end.  There's a ghost ship docked in a small Oregon town that mysteriously disappears courtesy of the US government when local police try to investigate a mass killing on board.  Apparently only a single person survived the killings, and now he's also been murdered.  A Supreme Court Justice is lobbied hard to reject a plea to reopen the case where Sarah Woodruff was convicted of his murder, but her refusal to roll over leads to an attempt on her life.  A surprise resignation on the bench leaves an opening that a former head of the CIA wants to have filled with a hand-picked (and likely in-his-pocket) choice.  It seems as if everyone wants to keep Sarah Woodruff on death row for fear of what a new trial might bring to light...

My haziness on the main characters made the motivations somewhat hard to follow.  As such, I had to just go with the story and let it unfold without trying to analyze why certain things might be happening.  There were some decent twists at the end, and you had to re-examine a lot of what had come before based on what new information came to light.  Supreme Justice was a nice way to spend a few hours without feeling like I had to keep reading to find out what happened next...

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free

06/04/2010

Product Review - Acme Made Slick Case for iPad (Matte Black)

Category Product Review Acme Made Slick Case for iPad (Matte Black)
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Via the Amazon Vine review program, I selected something I was in the market for already... an iPad case.  I was able to get the Acme Made Slick Case for iPad (Matte Black), and I found it's a solid, basic iPad case without many frills, but that does what it should.  The outer shell is a neoprene case that is perfect for protecting against liquids and other types of messes.  Inside, it uses a spongy felt-like material to prevent any scratching.  The tactile feel of both parts is comfortable and pleasant, and it just feels like it would protect against typical scrapes and close calls.

Internally, the Slick Case has a pouch on one side and four elastic corner straps on the other side.  If you're not going to be using the iPad, slipping it into the pouch portion adds another level of protection regardless of whether the case is open or closed.  The other side would be used if you're going to want to unzip the case and start using the iPad right away.  The straps hold the iPad securely without interfering with the screen at all.  My only question would be how long the straps will keep their elasticity.  I'm not expecting it to be a problem, but you never know.  The strap placement doesn't score quite as high when it comes to using the small controls on the edge of the iPad, as it partially covers them.  You can press through the fabric, and you really don't spend a lot of time using the controls anyway, but it is a bit of a design quirk.  When the case is zipped up, I found the size to be fine.  Obviously it adds some bulk due to the padding, but I didn't think it was excessive.

Probably the two things that I find lacking or not quite as advertised have to do with the inner pouch (for accessory storage) and the inability to have the case serve as a stand.  The product description says the inner pouch can be used to store cords and small accessories.  Cords, yes... but anything more or larger than the electrical plug-in would make for a lumpy case or something that was hard to zip up.  Just figure that you won't have much in the way of extra storage space here.  The lack of a case stand is a bit more irritating.  If you wanted to prop the screen up to watch a video, you wouldn't be able to with this case.  That's probably the one thing that I miss the most with this case, and the only reason I might caution someone if they were looking to buy one.  If it doesn't matter, then no big deal.  But just know that it doesn't have that feature.

I don't think the Acme Made Slick Case for your iPad would be a bad purchase given the price point.  You could spend more and get more, or spend less and get (a lot) less.  But for basic protection that looks and feels nice, this case works.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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