Friday, March 08, 2013

Come Hither!

A lot has happened since my last blog post here in May of 2010, not least of which is that I've become a professional writer. Specifically a technology writer focusing on identity -a growing field.

After a long hiatus, I've rebuilt, somewhat, and have moved my blogging to that place. I don't have a lot there at the moment. Like many other blogs I suspect, much of the content I'd put on a blog, wondering if anyone looked at it, now goes into social media where I know people will look at it (unless they block me).

But a blog is good for longer-form writing, and I will occasionally add to it when I have good examples like my exotic car driving experience. (That's a tease; you have to go to to read about it.)

See you there!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Three New Acquaintances, And An Old Friend

This was an unexpectedly musical week for us. I started it out not even remembering we had a Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday (last) night, and ended up seeing two world premiere performances and a very rare performance of a piece dear to our hearts.

The first new acquaintance was The Dallas Opera’s production of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, composed by Jake Heggie. The Dallas Opera, in conjunction with several other opera companies, commissioned Mr. Heggie to write a new opera for the inaugural season of Dallas’ first dedicated opera house, the Winspear (our second new acquaintance). It’s gotten excellent reviews, so we wanted to get to it somehow. Sharon managed to score a couple of musician’s comp tickets from a friend in the orchestra, so we had free nosebleed seats up in the grand tier. (The only available public tickets were $300 apiece, which was out of the question.) It was a great evening.

The opera was compelling and easy to follow, and the set – which I’m sure could only be done at a modern theater like the Winspear – was spare, yet terrific. It was cast as the inside of a ship’s hull, so the deck (which is, incidentally, what the stage floor is actually called) curves up as it goes upstage (to the rear) until it’s vertical. There are three sets of rungs that go up onto this wall, and chorus members and supers would climb up onto them…and when they had to go downstage (to the front) or exit, they’d jump off and slide down to the level section , just like a kid’s slide! Large, two-sided ladders rose up into the fly loft above the stage, and the entire cast clambered up and down them the whole production. (I’m told the casting call required one be “fearless of heights”.) And the center section of the hull could pivot forward, revealing a large platform for more action with large rendering stoves in the background.

The lighting was really innovative, showing that this was a 21st century opera. Some kind of computerized projector was used to create simple, yet evocative white line drawings I’ve never seen before in an opera. The opening sequence started with a slowly rotating star field which evolved into a sailing ship that grew, and grew until its bow filled the stage. Other images later in the opera had you flying over and around the ship, kind of like the sequence in the Titanic movie. Finally, the lighting was used to remarkable effect to turn the three sets of rungs upstage into three longboats on the water! The longboat crews sat on the rungs, and longboat outlines, spotlights, and water effects were displayed around them. When a longboat was cracked up by the whale, all slid off the rungs and disappeared offstage while a rotating and breaking up drawing sequence made it perfectly clear what had happened.

This post is long enough already, so I’ll talk about the last “new and old” next time…

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Day In Vancouver

I’m working up in Seattle this week, and a big company meeting on Friday had me stay over the weekend. My plans for Saturday collapsed late Friday night, leaving me wondering what to do with a rare opportunity. When left with free time, interesting places to explore, and a rental car, I usually dash out of time. Last  time I did this I ended up in Chamonix, France.

Saturday it was Vancouver. It’s only about two hours away in good traffic, and so I was able to get up there, swing by the local Mountain Equipment Coop (the Canadian equivalent of REI) for a daypack for my stuff, and knock around for the afternoon. I didn’t get much beyond a little of Yaletown, Granville Island, and a trip around Stanley Park, but it was a good recon trip for further explorations. Central Vancouver, anywhere near the water – what a city of high-rises! Photos and a video of the day are here.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Live Mesh: Your first step onto the Cloud

Paul Thurrott just posted on how he' uses Live Mesh, and I remembered I’m overdue to jump on this particular bandwagon.

Live Mesh is one of Microsoft’s consumer-facing, free applications that gives you up to 5 GB of storage somewhere in one of their massive data centers – i.e., the Cloud. I won’t duplicate Paul’s remarks on how it works; I just think you should use it. image

Live Mesh has pretty much replaced USB keys for me as the next generation of portable storage. First we had the floppy or diskette drive. (Can you imaging how limiting 1.44 MB is now? And the speed of it??) Then we started using networking to copy files. Now we have USB keys as a quick way to copy large files between computers…but they don’t keep them synchronized. I’ll be the first to admit my job no longer involves moving from server to server to server installing things, but I haven’t had to do that for oh, well over a decade.

My biggest portable need is creative work – articles, presentations, webcasts - that I typically develop on my home PC, then either use on my notebook at my company’s offices in Seattle or give presentations at a conference. Before Mesh I’d always be copying files to a key (or before that, burning it to a disc) to be absolutely sure I had the presentation and a backup in case it was corrupted, deleted, or my notebook hosed itself. (Or I forgot the power cord…but that was a long time ago :-} ).

I’ve moved all my presentation and webcast development work to a Mesh folder , and synchronize it between my home PC, my work notebook, and my Live desktop. Within minutes of updating a file on one side, I know I’ll have received the updates on the other side. It has another plus on the disaster recovery side: You can go to any internet-connected computer, go to, login to your Live account, and access all the files on your Live desktop. I used this at my last conference to download the latest versions of my conference presentations to the conference director when we realized his Vista notebook didn’t recognize my portable Bitlocker-encrypted USB drive.

Here’s another use: A few months ago I set a shared folder up with a friend that was going to New Zealand. He’d take photos during the day, download them to his notebook, sync them overnight, and the next day I could browse through them here in the States. We were only limited by the bandwidth on his side to upload his big Canon DSLR images.

It’d definitely not perfect. It’s emphatically NOT for inter-company collaboration, or really any kind of collaboration with frequent updates. There’s no file locking, so more than one person could be working a file and you have a versioning mess. You also can’t put the Mesh folders anywhere other than on your desktop. I get around that by putting all the folders in a Windows 7 library I call Live Mesh. There’s a 5 GB limit in files, though as Paul points out you can get around that by simply not synchronizing a folder with the Live Desktop. Finally, when you create a new folder on the Live Desktop Mesh annoyingly creates a shortcut on ALL your shared device’s desktop, seemingly just in case you might want to add the folder to it.

Warts and all, Live Mesh is a really handy tool that gives you a very first-person feel for blurring the distinction between what’s local and what’s out there in the cloud. And though there haven’t been any recent updates to it, Mesh is one of Ray Ozzie’s pet projects, so expect we’ll be hearing more about it in the future.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Speaking at “Business Critical Virtualization” Online Conference 3/31

Fresh back from doing a pre-conference session and three breakout sessions at the Virtualization Pro Summit in Las Vegas last week, I’m giving a session on using virtualization for business critical applications at the upcoming Business Critical Virtualization conference. (Whew, that was a lot of “virtualization”s for one long sentence. My apologies.) The event is being held on March 31st.

The session focuses on benchmarks and best practices for virtualizing SQL Server, SharePoint, and Exchange, with a Q&A afterward, and a general Q&A at the end of the day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Speaking at TEC 2010!

I’ve been accepted to speak at TEC 2010 April 25th – 28th, in LA! TEC – formerly the Directory Expert’s Conference – is a 400 level propellerhead’s conference about directory services, identity, Exchange, and SharePoint. On top of that, it holds the record in my book for being the quirkiest conference with the most unusual traditions I’ve ever attended (e.g. the DEC / TEC chicken, the Joe & Dean show, the DEC / TEC Wook Lee Memorial Pro / Am Challenge*, Stuarts Kwan ordering pizza delivery for all attendees, even the opening keynote). I’m sure all the new Exchange and SharePoint attendees will be confused :).

I’ve been invited to speak for a number of years, all my friends go, but this is the first time I’ve spoken there. I’m giving a session on AD replication troubleshooting based on my troubleshooting flowcharts at

MS Directory Services Team at 2008's conferencePlease try to make the conference! You get to rub elbows with the top – I’ll repeat it, top – directory experts in the world, both inside  and outside Microsoft. A significant number of the Microsoft Directory Services team comes to this conference. It’s 400 level detail, beyond what you get at a Tech Ed. It’s in LA this year, not Las Vegas, so you can’t be accused of just going to party. But it’s still a heck of a lot of fun.

* No, he’s not dead. It’s a long story. Which you’ll hear if you attend.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Polychrome Pass

Last week I was walking past a colleague’s desk, and did such a double-take that a couple of other heads popped up to see what was so interesting.

Satish had downloaded a new Windows 7 theme, Bing’s Best, that has what someone at Microsoft picked as the best photos from the amazing collection displayed on a daily basis at Bing. The particular photo is of a hiker standing on a point, looking out at a stunning collection of green tundra, multihued (polychrome) rocks, snow-covered mountains, and a cloud-dotted blue sky.

Polychrome Pass

I saw it when it first came out and was transfixed by it. It’s an interesting photo with great colors, and a perfect example of why you want to put the point your eye moves to – the hiker – well off to one side instead of in the center. Where on earth was it?? Poking around on Bing, I saw it was called Polychrome Pass, deep in Denali National Park in Alaska. Huh, what are the odds of getting to THAT in my lifetime.

I was never able to get a clean JPEG of it, so it faded into that netherworld in your head where the eye candy of amazing photos goes. Little did I realize when I first got to see this photo I’d be standing in that very spot six months later.

Alas, I wasn’t able to duplicate the exact shot because I didn’t remember by then what it looked like exactly. This is what all of Polychrome Pass looks like, after a harrowing drive in a Park Services bus on a narrow dirt road.

Polychrome Pass Panorama

The hiker’s point is in the bottom center. The Bing photo’s viewpoint is off to the left of the camera, so the photographer was actually comfortably standing on the road :). But the picture is just as stunning even with that knowledge.

We had a really terrific day ourselves, a very rare day when Denali was perfectly clear instead of being covered in clouds (it’s so big it has its own weather system), but it didn’t look as nice as that. Might be sour grapes, but I think a little Photoshop work might have been applied to it. Or at least that’s my story :).