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The GeekWithin

Friday, January 27, 2006

Phishing Around

While reading an article at d3 eMinistry blog, titled Phishing, Stop the Madness!, I noticed his recommendation to take a quiz as to your fool ability. Well, I took it and got a 90%! It would have been 100% if Capital One was better at their emails... but at least I errored by calling a legitimate email a fraud.

Check out d3 eMinistry's entry for tips on how NOT to be the next victim.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Good Book

During my daily check of the Reg Developer I noticed they have a book review for a book titled Code Complete.

I am in complete agreement with them as to the value of this book. While most people will walk away from a book published by Microsoft Press, it is important to know that this book does not speak to any single programming language but rather is all about best practices and techniques.

Some of the topics:
  • Design for minimum complexity and maximum creativity
  • Defensive programming techniques
  • Safe refactoring
  • Building quality into the process
I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Spaminator

There is a great article at The Register that sums up the past and current states of the spam problem (Hey Bill, why am I still getting spam?).

This topic is similar to one my friend Joe addressed yesterday ("Free": the Devil's Favorite word).

To me the answer should be a mix of detection technologies and jail sentences. First, why can't we track these people down? I know they use zombies, I know they go to foreign countries... but ultimately everything can be traced back to a source. It would be interesting to see an article on our limitations in this area. Alternately I think we should impose fines on companies that use spam as a marketing tool. Why don't we do this already? Simple - money. Lawmakers are paid, via campaigns, not to pass laws that would stop spam. Sad isn't it.

Ultimately we all hold some personal responsibility as well and need to control that clicking finger. Between protection software and a better aware computer user this should have been cleared up years ago. Yeah, right.

To Framework or Not To Framework

An article on Reg Developer titled "The 'f' in framework" has given me food for thought.

/begin rant

Do we really need to design complex frameworks, or even buy complex management systems for our websites? Almost every project I have been on the first thing that is suggested is the purchase of a framework or some workflow system. To me these add a complexity that needs to be addressed, they do NOT automaticaly fix your problems.

I also find it annoying that just because someone says they want workflow that it means we need a system to manage it. Hello?!? Maybe they just want you to pay attention to how they use the app and how it needs to guide them through the business process.

/end rant

Friday, January 20, 2006

New Now Playing Sidebar

Messing around I found a really cool Windows Media Player plug-in (unfortunately now longer supported, but source is available) that can save an XML file with data about the current song you are listening to.

There are many options, but only four that I liked: album cover art (small size), album name, song name, and artist name. The coolest feature of all was that you could have it FTP the XML file and a jpg of the art to any server you have access to. WOW!

So, I took that and worked it so that the files were uploaded to a service I have that also allows ASP.Net execution. I added some quick code to the code behind page (C#) starting with four public variables:
public string album;
public string artist;
public string song;
public string image;

And added this to the page_load event:
string filepath = Server.MapPath("songout.xml");
System.Data.DataSet ds = new System.Data.DataSet("nowplaying");
ds.ReadXml(filepath,System.Data.XmlReadMode.InferSchema);
artist = ds.Tables[0].Rows[0]["artist"].ToString();

if (artist == "Stopped")
{
image = "nosong.jpg";
artist = "";
song = "";
album = "Not Listening";
}
else
{
image = "smsongout.jpg";
album = ds.Tables[0].Rows[0]["album"].ToString();
song = ds.Tables[0].Rows[0]["title"].ToString();
}

Adding it to Blogger was as easy as using the IFRAME HTML tag. I plan to change it to an object tag later seeing as the IFRAME tag is on its way out, but for now it will do the job.

Final product? Check it out on the sidebar... way cool!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

RSS Madness 2.0

As I mentioned just a few posts ago (RSS Madness), I have been messing around with RSS and enabling it for my site.

Well, the builtin Blogger version (Atom) is good, but I much prefer what I found at FeedBurner and have changed over to using theirs.

My new RSS feed link is located on the sidebar.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Who Are You?

Having just read Joe's post on the d3 eMinistry blog about Anonymous operating systems, I am reminded of Microsoft's announcement on some new IE 7 features for flushing the browsing history.

I am disturbed by the trend to excuse anonymous access as a method to retain individual privacy. What is the root of this requirement? Why do we believe we have a right, that trumps all others, to have privacy on a computer network that inherently knows all about us.

I believe there are two main reasons people want to maintain a level of anonymousness:

1. Afraid of Big Brother
I must admit that this one makes me laugh. If someone wants to waste their valuable time watching all the boring stuff that I do, let them. The root fear here is that the government will take control of our lives and usher in what the bible declares will happen in the end times. Interesting arguement, but ultimately fruitless since God will move when He decides and nothing we can do will stop it.

2. Porn or other equally sinful obsessions
Face it, you don't want others to know you have fallen down. This is something I struggled with myself in the early Internet years and I am happy to say that God has worked in my life in this area. Technologies, such as the new IE history flusher, only serve to 'hide' what we have been doing when we shouldn't be doing anything that needs to be hidden in the first place. Confess and repent.

Opinions will vary and I am sure I have missed some points, but ultimately we need to be reminded who it is we serve and to what degree we have given our life over to His work.

Monday, January 16, 2006

RSS Madness

I don't recall if I had it turned on previously, but I do now. Use the normal Blogger URL to add The Geek Within to your feed reader (http://geekwithin.blogspot.com/atom.xml).

Friday, January 13, 2006

Unmaintainable Code

I followed a link from The Geek Times to an article on how to keep your job forever, or at least make those who come after you cry.

Very funny.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Million Dollars Worth of Pixels

Well, he did it. Alex Tew has sold all one million pixels he set out to sell and he did it in four monthes. Congrats on a great idea that paid off big.

Links:
The Register news
Million Dollar Homepage (may be slow due to the curious)

"Live" Visual Studio?!?

My first response? WTF (as my new friend joe says - what the fudge)!

First there is going to be a "Live" version of Office, as if it wasn't slow enough already... but now they are talking about a "Live" version of VS. I can tell you why it won't work:

Live software taps into a growing trend for software to be delivered online, with relevant data and content held on back-end servers.


Uh, what?!? That's is exactly what my company, or even I would want as an independent consultant. To put my content on THEIR servers. No thanks.

Exception Handling

If you are not familiar with the Tech News website TheRegister.co.uk, you should be. Not only do they host the classic BOFH series, but they have recently launched a version of their site for developers named Reg Developer.

The article that caught my attention was a putting down of C++, Java, and C# developers and their approach on exception handling. I've met too many people that fit this mold not to laugh.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Holy Loading of an Image, Batman!

I can't say much more than: wow.

Well, maybe a little more... It seems that Lokesh Dhakar has solved a problem that many web developers face: how do I show a graphic (no matter what the size) in a nice way without losing my customers interest. What do I mean? For me there have only been a few options for showing enlarged versions of graphics:
- Javascript pop-up window (sized properly for the graphic)
- A new window with close button
- Load in current window with back button

Well, my unspoken wishes have been granted and Lokesh has found a solution that will now be my favorite... take a look here.

Podcasting: New or Newly Improved?

The podcasting revolution has facinated me. I have been involved with web technologies since its wonderful inception in the early 90's and I have noticed a trend. Those of us we have been around the block get to see the technology many months before it hits the publics view. Usually the big shift is based on the involvement of a company that wishes to capitalize on the technology.

Enter podcasting.

Just by looking at the word it is easy to see what its origins are... who hasn't heard of the iPod? But is the technology that new? Nope. If you look closely you will find that podcasting is really just the combination of two existing technologies, MP3 and RSS, wrapped up in a great marketing campaign.

A quick read of this history of MP3 page informs you that this awesome standard of digital audio has been around since 1992. Of course its wide spread use wasn't until 1998 with a wide distribution of encoders and decoders. Did you know that the first music album distributed via MP3 was issued in 1999?!?

As for RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a technique that evolved from many different sources but was moved forward, at least initially, the most by Netscape. What was the goal? To publish news and other tidbits that could be easily updated and "pushed" out to subscribers. This isn't much different than what it has become, but with many more options and lots of confusion. It appears those in the RSS arena don't always play well with others.

This brings us to podcasting itself. By taking a proven digital audio format and creating an RSS feed that can be queried by individuals who have or want to download it. Don't get me wrong... this is an fantastic use of technology. Who wouldn't want to know if there is a new version of an MP3 available?

The big question on my mind is this: is it a fad or will it become commonplace, like HTML? Time will tell.

Links:
Web RSS (Syndication) History
Podcasting: Evolution or Revolution?
History of RSS
What is RSS?

Happy New Year

Robert Cringley is on a roll. His latest article lays out a strategy that if Google is truly following can change the course of history.

The world we live in revolves around market research. All of the online advertising, sales discounts, and superbowl ads have one purpose: to get you to buy something they have determined you need or their surveys say you already want it.

Google is the best at this and if they are following the vision laid out in the article will continue to be the premier market knowledge retailer.


 

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