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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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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide
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09/26/2010

Book Review - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Category Book Review Stieg Larsson The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
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OK, so I'm a little late to the phenomenon that is Stieg Larsson and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  This book, and in fact the whole Girl trilogy, seemed to come out of nowhere and reach a fevered pitch in a very short period of time.  I find it even more amazing that it did so as a novel that had to be translated into English after the author's death.  Regardless, I finally got a copy and started reading... and was immediately hooked.  Larsson mixes a criminal mystery plot with a number of very dark characters to come up with a story that was very hard to put down.  All of the characters are flawed in some way or another, and the main character, Lisbeth Salander, is exceptionally dark but well-written.  Her past is mysterious, and she has some severe emotional and psychological issues that go with her incredible intelligence.  She hooks up with Mikael Blomkvist, a Swedish journalist who wrote a scathing expose of a financial giant, only to find himself on the wrong end of a libel suit for his story.  Blomkvist finds someone who will give him the information he needs to finish what his article started, but he has to solve a decades-old missing persons case first before his source will reveal his knowledge.  Salander takes an interest in the case (after hacking her way into certain files to find out more about Blomkvist), and it's with her unconventional methods that he's able to find certain clues that have gone undiscovered until now.  Add in some unexpected twists and tension at the end, and it had everything I look for in a memorable novel.

If you like your mysteries to be gritty and uncomfortable, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will definitely be to your liking.  I know a couple people who didn't like the story at all because of the subject matter and the morality of the characters, so you might want to keep that in mind if that sort of material bothers you.  But my guess is that once you get started, you might as well get used to the fact that you're going to be up later than normal for a few days.  I found that putting this book down was very hard.


Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

09/25/2010

Read a sample chapter from the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User’s Guide

Category IBM/Lotus IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User’s Guide
Packt Publishing has made chapter 7 available for you to read online – iNotes and Sametime—Chatting from the Web.

09/25/2010

Book Review - Presentation Zen Sketchbook by Garr Reynolds

Category Book Review Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen Sketchbook
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I'm not sure that "book review" is the right term to use for reviewing Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen Sketchbook, as book reviews usually involve thoughts about the *content* of a book.  But this book *has* no content, as it's designed to allow you to write and sketch your own thoughts, ideas, and images for your next project or presentation.  In terms of blank page books, this is one of the nicest and most interesting ones that I have.  While it demands to be used, I almost don't want to write in it as it feels like I'd be marring its beauty.  Yes, I *do* have issues to deal with... :)

The Presentation Zen Sketchbook is a spiral-bound moleskine-style notebook that alternates between blank pages and storyboard-formatted pages.  If you know anything about Reynolds and his Presentation Zen concepts, you'll immediately understand the reason for this.  Rather than create a presentation by immediately going to the computer, he prefers to jot down ideas and images in an analog format to eliminate the forced constraints of a presentation tool like PowerPoint or KeyNote.  By putting pencil to paper, he can play around on the page and formulate his message better than trying to make it appear on screen first. This sketchbook gives you the same opportunity to create in that fashion, using basic tools you can take with you anywhere.

I mentioned the "beauty" of this sketchbook, and you might be wondering why I get excited over plain blank pages.  In this case, they're not completely blank.  Every couple of pages, you'll find some sort of surprise waiting for you.  It may be a quote from Presentation Zen or some simple yet graceful image of a plant or flower.  They are scattered in their location on the page, yet they don't intrude on the blank canvas you have for your creation.  After anywhere from eight to ten blank pages, you'll find from eight to ten storyboard-formatted pages, eight squares to a page.  You can think of them as your analog PowerPoint tool, or sticky notes that don't move around on the page.  Either way, the combination of the two types of page formats is perfect for preparing your next presentation or talk.

This may be the first blank book that I've actually gone through page by page, looking for the quotes and images.  :)

If you're a writer or presenter who easily falls in love with paper, books, writing utensils, and all the other "tools of the trade", I think you'll love the Presentation Zen Sketchbook.  I only wish I had a case of them here in my office so I wouldn't feel like it was such a big decision about what project I'll allocate this particular one to...


Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free

09/23/2010

Now it feels real... the IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide book is available on Amazon

Category IBM/Lotus Sametime
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I know it was real before when the book was available on the Packt website, but somehow seeing it on Amazon is even more satisfying.  It's probably because we hopefully will start to see (GOOD!) reviews, I can see if people click through on my affiliate link for the book, and we'll see Amazon sales rankings.  Yes, this moment will not last forever, but right now, it feels pretty darn good!

Again, thanks to everyone who has helped Marie and I get to the finish line on this project.

09/23/2010

Singapore Airlines Strengthens Global Communications with IBM Software

Category IBM/Lotus
Singapore Airlines Turns to IBM to Empower Its Geographically Distributed Workforce
Airline Expanding Use of IBM Lotus Collaboration Software to Strengthen Global Communications


ARMONK, N.Y. - 23 Sep 2010: IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced today that it has signed an agreement with Singapore Airlines to empower the airline's geographically distributed workforce to collaborate and communicate more effectively.
After a comprehensive total cost of ownership study, Singapore Airlines decided to retain IBM Lotus Software as the company’s messaging platform.
 Singapore Airlines will upgrade to the latest version of Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5 by end of 2010, and will further enhance its collaboration, knowledge management and mobility using the Lotus Collaboration platform powered by IBM Lotus Quickr, Lotus Connections, Lotus Sametime, Lotus Notes Traveler and Lotus Mobile Connect.
"Enterprise collaboration and communications is critical for a company whose employees are as dispersed as Singapore Airlines," said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president, messaging and collaboration, IBM Lotus Software. “The use of social software and collaboration solutions can significantly impact the productivity and knowledge sharing across an organization."

IBM Lotus Notes collaboration software is available for the full spectrum of proliferating mobile and Web-connected devices such as thin clients, laptops and desktops used to access corporate applications and business processes.  Lotus Notes is available in a cloud-based version, and also comes bundled with hardware and other offerings via its Lotus Foundations line for mid-sized businesses.

About Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines is the world's most awarded airline, and is the first to fly the world's largest commercial passenger aircraft, the new Airbus A380. From its hub at Singapore's world-renowned Changi Airport, Singapore Airlines operates a global passenger route network, serving 62 major cities in 34 countries, with a fleet of 106 passenger aircraft. Singapore Airlines is committed to providing its customers with the best flying experience, through innovative product and service offerings, as well as by operating a young and technologically advanced fleet of aircraft.
For more information about IBM, visit www.ibm.com/software/lotus.

Contact(s) information

Karen Lilla
IBM Media Relations (U.S.)
617-693-8115
karen_lilla@us.ibm.com


Audrey Pereira
IBM Media Relations (Singapore)
65-6418-1756
pereiraa@sg.ibm.com

09/23/2010

The IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide book is now available (both book and ebook format) on the Packt site

Category IBM/Lotus Sametime
These are sweet words to see for an author... "Book and eBook available now"

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We're still pestering them to get the book listed on Amazon (why they haven't listed it before in "pre-order" status is beyond us), but you can order it now at the Packt site.  

EDITED: Or even better.. go to Amazon and order it there using my Affiliate Link!

09/20/2010

Finally back from our Disney vacation, and the Keys to the Kingdom tour at the Magic Kingdom is highly recommended...

Category Everything Else
I'm back home now, and the magic that is Walt Disney World now becomes a memory from our nine day vacation.  Normally I would have tried to blog stuff I saw/learned/experienced, but Twitter changed that.  I found pictures that reminded me of certain friends, and those got snapped and sent as tweets from the iPhone and Tweetdeck.  Along with the vacation goings and doings, I had a bit of finish-up work to do on the book to get it uploaded for (hopefully) quick availability on the different book sites.  Fortunately I only got pinged once from work, and that was a very basic question from the department lead.  Of course, when I go back tomorrow, Notes mail is dead and Exchange/Outlook is now the standard.  I'm sure there will be plenty of emails and questions surrounding how our Notes applications are interacting with the change.  But that's tomorrow... :)

Probably the only thing that deserved a separate blog entry was the Keys to the Kingdom (KttK) tour we took at the Magic Kingdom last Thursday.  In all the years I've gone to WDW, I've never taken any of the "behind the scenes" tours, so this was a first.  And had I known what these were like, I'd have signed up for one every trip.  It was fantastic.  KttK starts off at City Hall on Main Street, and then goes through Adventureland, Frontierland, into the Cast Members Only areas, and finally ends up in the Utilidors.  The tour guide gives you the history and concepts behind why things are as they are, and shows you a number of things you've likely never noticed before.  

While the content of the tour would probably be good regardless, I quickly noticed that the person leading your tour could make or break it.  Our tour guide was Meghan, and I was amazed at her skill in doing tours.  You could tell she well and truly loves working for Disney, is a major extrovert, and walks the perfect line between "this is the company history" and "here's the Meghan view" of things.  And if you give her a hard time (jokingly), she'll dish it right back.  It was perfect.  We all had fun, learned a lot, and saw things that very few people ever get to see and experience.

Her goal was to get everyone to have a "gee whiz, Meghan!" moment.  Those are the moments when you see something for the first time and go "gee whiz, Meghan, I never knew that!"  Mine came early at the end of Main Street.  The park had just opened for regular hours, and we had made it down Main Street to the end.  Meghan was having fun mouthing the words to the announcement (that she's probably heard a thousand times before), and then said "ever wonder where all the sound comes from?  Here's something I bet you never noticed.  Look at the windows on the second story of the buildings and just watch..."  First off, the windows were open, which isn't normally the case.  Ah, the speakers are in the windows!  But since you can't just leave the windows open all day, they slowly close themselves about seven seconds after the announcements and music finish.  The show facade is back to normal, and the show can continue.  :)  

Ever wonder why the water looks green and not terribly clean in the Jungle Cruise?  They inject dye into the water to disguise the fact that the water is only about three feet deep.  The hippos in the river?  They're not hippopotamuses... they're hippobottomlesses, as they have no bottoms or undersides.  The water hides that fact, so why build what can't be seen?  And listen carefully to the African characters and their war dance...  You *will* hear the phrase "I LOVE DISCO" in there.

That only begins to touch on many of the things I saw for the first time.  I was again reminded of the power of imagination, vision, and attention to detail.  If you haven't ever taken the KttK tour or wondered if it was worth the time or money, you owe it to yourself to go on it.  

09/18/2010

Yes... the Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide book is now finished!

Category IBM/Lotus book authoring
As Marie Scott mentioned in her blog post yesterday, we have FINISHED the book!  We reviewed the final "front matter" material yesterday, a scant 15 minutes before they wanted to upload it.  So we are now in possession of a real book cover and book content (and index!) all in PDF format.  Once they upload it, I'm not quite sure exactly how long it will take them to make the ebook versions available along with the actual dead tree versions, but it shouldn't be long.  I know their goal was to have it published by September 23rd, and we certainly met all of OUR timeframes. :)

The main thing *I* want to see is the book posted on Amazon.  For some reason that I don't understand, Packt isn't listing this with Amazon until it's "published".  Strange, but other recent Lotus books they published seemed to be available on Amazon in pre-order mode long before they were available.  Oh, well....  deep breath... it'll all work out.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped us along the way with encouragement, technical content, advice, and everything else that seems to be but a blur now.  And at the top of my list, thanks to Marie for convincing me that I *could* do this, bringing me along for the ride, and helping me to accomplish something I had only vaguely dreamed about.  I can't imagine having a better co-author than her...

09/16/2010

IBM Lotus Sametime Connect Webcontainer Unspecified Vulnerability (along with IBM technote addressing it)

Category IBM/Lotus
Secunia Advisory SA41463
IBM Lotus Sametime Connect Webcontainer Unspecified Vulnerability
Secunia Advisory         SA41463        

Release Date         2010-09-15
           

Criticality level         Moderately critical
Impact         Unknown
Where         From remote
Authentication level         Available in Customer Area
           
Report reliability         Available in Customer Area
Solution Status         Vendor Patch
           
Systems affected         Available in Customer Area
Approve distribution         Available in Customer Area
           
Software:        
        IBM Lotus Sametime 8.x

Secunia CVSS Score         Available in Customer Area
CVE Reference(s)         No CVE references.

                   

Description
A vulnerability with an unknown impact has been reported in IBM Lotus Sametime.

The vulnerability is caused due an unspecified error in the Sametime Connect webcontainer. No further information is currently available.

The vulnerability is reported in IBM Sametime 8.5.1 running on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.

Solution
Apply Sametime Connect 8.5.1 Cumulative Fix Pack 1.
Further details available in Customer Area

Provided and/or discovered by
Reported by the vendor.

Original Advisory
IBM (LXUU87S57H and LXUU87S93W):
http://www.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg21445669

--------------------------------------------------------------

IBM Lotus Sametime Connect 8.5.1 Cumulative Fix pack 1 (CF1) Release Notice September 07, 2010
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 News
 
Abstract
IBM Lotus announces the release of Sametime Connect 8.5.1 Cumulative Fix pack 1 (CF1), a cumulative set of all fixes to help customers safely avoid known issues. Included are fixes for Sametime 8.5.1 Connect standalone and Sametime 8.5.1 Connect embedded for Notes 8.5.2 clients. These issues have been discovered by IBM Lotus during the deployment, use, and testing of Sametime Connect 8.5.1.
IBM recommends that customers running Sametime Connect 8.5.1 standalone or the embedded version within Notes 8.5.x upgrade to this Fix Pack to reach a greater level of stability. Future Fix Packs are always cumulative and contain all of the fixes from previous versions.
Customers can continue to apply future Sametime Connect 8.5.1 Hotfixes for both the standalone and embedded client after applying this cumulative fix.
 

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Content
IBM Lotus announces the release of Sametime Connect 8.5.1 Cumulative Fix pack 1 (CF1), a cumulative set of all fixes to help customers safely avoid known issues. Included are fixes for Sametime 8.5.1 Connect standalone and Sametime 8.5.1 Connect embedded for Notes 8.5.2 clients. These issues have been discovered by IBM Lotus during the deployment, use, and testing of Sametime Connect 8.5.1.
IBM recommends that customers running Sametime Connect 8.5.1 standalone or the embedded version within Notes 8.5.x upgrade to this Fix Pack to reach a greater level of stability. Future Fix Packs are always cumulative and contain all of the fixes from previous versions.
Customers can continue to apply future Sametime Connect 8.5.1 Hotfixes for both the standalone and embedded client after applying this cumulative fix.

This fix is available for download from Fix Central: 8.5.1.0-Lotus-ST-IF-CREH-88VSN6-CF1




09/15/2010

IBM's Technote on the iCalendar vulnerability

Category IBM/Lotus
Stack buffer overflow vulnerability in Lotus Domino iCalendar functionality
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 Flash (Alert)
 
Abstract
MWR InfoSecurity and TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) contacted IBM Lotus to report a potential buffer overflow vulnerability with the Lotus Domino iCalendar functionality.
 

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Content
It is possible to cause a buffer overflow situation based on the iCalendar content included in a calendar invitation.

To exploit this vulnerability, an attacker would have to send an iCalendar invitation with specific parameters. The vulnerability is exposed when the Domino server goes to process that content which could result in remote execution of code.

For related information, see the following advisories:



Recommended Fix

This issue was reported to Quality Engineering as SPR# NRBY7ZPJ9V. To address the issue, customers are encouraged to upgrade to the following releases:



Workarounds

There are no known workarounds.




09/15/2010

Full-disclosure - ZDI-10-177: IBM Lotus Domino iCalendar MAILTO Stack Overflow Vulnerability

Category IBM/Lotus
Full-disclosure - ZDI-10-177: IBM Lotus Domino iCalendar MAILTO Stack Overflow Vulnerability
by ZDI Disclosures on 2010-09-14T17:59:13+00:00

ZDI-10-177: IBM Lotus Domino iCalendar MAILTO Stack Overflow Vulnerability

http://www.zerodayinitiative.com/advisories/ZDI-10-177

September 14, 2010


http://www.tippingpoint.com

The specific flaw exists within the nrouter.exe service while processing
a malformed e-mail. The process copies the contents of the MAILTO header
within a calendar request into a fixed size stack buffer. By providing
enough data this buffer can overflow leading to arbitrary code execution
under the context of the SYSTEM user.


http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?rsG5&uid=swg21446515

09/06/2010

Product Review - Western Digital My Passport Essential 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive WDBAAA5000ABK-NESN (Midnight Black)

Category Product Review Western Digital My Passport Essential 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive WDBAAA5000ABK-NESN (Midnight Black)
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Through Amazon Vine, I got a Western Digital My Passport Essential 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive WDBAAA5000ABK-NESN (Midnight Black) for review.  Although one of the selling points is the automatic backup software that comes with the unit, I have no use for that.  What I wanted this for was 500 GB of portable hard drive goodness.  And overall, I think that's what I have.

When I first plugged it in, I found it wasn't the "plug and play" that they advertised.  The automated driver setup fails, and you have to go into the drive to find and run the full driver setup to get everything set to perform.  The next thing I did was delete the over 600 MB of backup software that comes with the unit, as I wanted nothing to do with it.  I was able to get it quickly set up under both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 that I run.

The other reviews on Amazon seem to have a number of complaints about loose USB connections, but that's not the case here.  Everything is secure and well-fitted.  It also doesn't bother me that it uses a micro-USB plug, as it's likely I'll just leave the plug attached to the hard drive when I travel with it.  It's not like I have a dozen of these I'm switching back and forth between.

I believe your satisfaction with this unit will depend on what you wanted it for.  If you want a backup unit that does all sorts of things automagically for you, it appears that you might be disappointed.  The software hasn't gotten rave reviews.  But if you're viewing this as the equivalent of a 500 GB USB thumb drive, it rocks.  Just minor points off for having to install drivers instead of it just working "out of the box."

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

09/06/2010

Book Review - The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey

Category Book Review Susan Casey The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues Freaks and Giants of the Ocean
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From the Amazon Vine program, I received a copy of Susan Casey's The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean.  She mixes two different types of types of stories here.  First, there's the surfer culture that goes after The Big One, waves that could easily kill them.  That story revolves mainly around Laird Hamilton, well-known for his ability to not only find but ride waves that run 60, 70, even 80 feet in size.  The Holy Grail in surfing is to find and ride a 100 foot wave, and the narrative works up to the point where Hamilton and his crew find themselves in the position of having to decide whether to go for it when the moment finally arrives.

The other story centers more around the science of giant and rogue waves.  They don't follow a set pattern, so they're very difficult to forecast using current techniques and theories.  To make the study even more challenging, very few structures and devices can withstand the energy released by waves of that magnitude, so gathering information borders on the impossible.  As such, reports abound of ships lost at sea without a single distress call from the crew, and there's little anyone can do to nail down the exact cause and improve the survivability of these oceanographic freaks of nature.

Overall, The Wave was a good read.  It's slanted more heavily towards the story of the surfers than the science behind the waves, and I wish the balance between the two angles had been a bit more even.  Not being a surfer myself, there's only so far I can go in fully appreciating the risks that these individuals take every time they go out on the water.  I would have preferred to go more deeply into some of the mysteries surrounding the sunken ships and what's being done to try and predict the formation of rogue waves.  Even so, Casey is an accomplished writer, and I was drawn into the book in ways I didn't expect.  I know that when I'm on my next cruise, I'll spend an extra few moments looking at the waves and wondering "what if..."

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

09/05/2010

Book Review - 101 Places Not to See Before You Die by Catherine Price

Category Book Review Catherine Price 101 Places Not to See Before You Die
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Continuing in the vein of offbeat books I've been reading of late, I picked up an interesting and amusing read at the library this week... 101 Places Not to See Before You Die by Catherine Price.  Most travel books cover the places you *should* see before you depart the bounds of earth.  Price saves us all time and agony by telling us what we can bypass. :)  If taken with the requisite dose of humor, this book is pretty funny.  Of course,  you may not think so if you live in Nevada...

Price decided to write the anti-travel book as a way to relieve pressure on herself.  Every time she went into a book store, she was seeing lists of things she had to do *before* she died... 101 places to see... 1001 beers to drink... 100 movies to see.  With that kind of pressure, who can relax and just enjoy things?  With this book, she could help people ignore the places that just aren't worth the time and effort so they could focus on all the other things that are apparently required before death.  Some of her choices are meant to be tourist destinations, such as the Colorado Testicle Festival or an overnight stay in a Korean Buddhist temple.  Others are definitely *not* places you'd choose to visit or experience, such as rush hour on a Samoan bus or forensic anthropology facilities, also known as "body farms," where dead bodies are left to decompose in various situations to aid crime research.  She even picks on some of the biggies, such as Euro Disney and Las Vegas.  Actually, she includes the entire state of Nevada, as some of her friends focused on "the heat, the emptiness, the atrocity that is Lake Las Vegas, the nuclear waste, the alien sightings, and the fact that Criss Angel calls it home."  Yes, you *do* have to have a sense of humor to read this, especially if you live in one of the places she chooses.

If you take this for what it is, it's a fun read.  Obviously some of the choices are meant to be funny, as you can't go visit ancient Rome on the night of July 18th, 64 A.D. when a fire destroyed much of the city.  But you learn something along the way, and you get a few laughs in the bargain.  I certainly enjoyed 101 Places Not to See Before You Die, and my desire to visit Garbage City on the outskirts of Cairo has finally been put to rest...

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

09/03/2010

Marie Scott and I now have a REAL BOOK! IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide is posted up on Packt Publishing's site!

Category Sametime IBM/Lotus
Well, it's been a long nine months (yeah, it feels like a baby!)...  But Marie Scott and I today found that our book is now posted on Packt's site and is available for pre-order:

IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide

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I can't begin to say how thrilled Marie and I are to be so close to bringing this to completion.  We're finishing up the tech edit reviews right now, and then Packt will be able to get it out there into print.

Thanks to EVERYONE in this community who has helped us along the way.  It truly was a community effort.  No, that does NOT mean we're sharing our advance/royalties with you... just our heartfelt appreciation.  :)

Now, feel free to go out and place your order. :)

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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.

Thanks!

Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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