Monthly Archives: May 2006

Oh. My. GAHHH.

Office 2007 Beta 2 is amazing. For the first time, I think Microsoft’s created an interface where the things you expect to be there are just…there. I was skeptical at first but now that I see what they’ve done and have been able to use it, it is astounding. No more menu mazes and digging in obscure dialogs to get at stuff – for the most part, the Office 2007 UI finally puts its myriad of features out there on the ribbon, with all its features logically grouped and made unbelievably easy to access (a click or two in most cases). No more digging for a feature – I love it.

Update: After giving Outlook a try, that’s kind of disappointing. They’ve done such great UI work elsewhere, but Outlook is a hodgepodge of the two. It doesn’t have the same Office menu, doesn’t use Ribbons, or anything like that. Kinda sucks, really – I think Outlook could still benefit from a ribbon of some kind.

Major, major, major, major kudos to the Office team for totally rethinking the product and delivering beautifully. The Windows team could learn a few things from them.

Windows Media Player 11 preview to be released today(?)

Neowin is reporting that it’s likely that Microsoft will issue the public beta of Windows Media Player 11 to the public today. WMP 11 will only run on XP systems that have gone through the Windows Genuine Advantage check.

I managed to find a copy a little early ;) and have been playing with it a bit. I don’t use WMP much as I’m a Winamp man, but I like what they’ve done with WMP 11 for the most part. The user interface is VERY dark and is customizable by color sliders, much like previous revisions of WMP, to a point. No matter what color you choose, the interface is still quite dark. It’s quite consistent between XP and Vista, though, except Vista will display glass in most of the interface instead of the black.

The other big deal surrounding WMP 11 is the URGE music store by MTV. Microsoft is clearly trying to position Windows Media Player as something of an iTunes Music Store competitor. Interesting stuff, for sure.

Otherwise, a lot really hasn’t changed. What works in WMP 10 was carried over to 11 for the most part, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth bought by NSA to hand over phone records

“In other words, one end of the communication must be outside the United States.”
President George W. Bush, on the NSA phone monitoring program

Whoops.

USA Today is reporting that the NSA phone monitoring is far broader than previously acknowledged. Apparently AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth have been, since just after September 11, 2001, complicit in permitting the NSA to create a massive database — possibly the largest database, ever — of phone calls made inside the country (despite the Administration’s consistent reassurances that one end of any monitored phone call is outside the country) for the purpose of attempting to identify terrorist activity by calling patterns. While no voices were recorded, and no customer names and addresses exist in this database, it’s hardly trivial to pin the gathered phone numbers to a person. The same article also reports that the three companies were paid by the NSA to provide this information. More interestingly enough, Qwest Telecom refused to join the program, because of fears over fines and privacy concerns. Bravo.

I’m just starting to wonder what would happen if General Hayden is confirmed as the CIA head. CIA agents working domestically to gather intelligence, much as they would do overseas? We probably already have that too.

Needless to say, I smell a giant lawsuit against these three companies for a gross and willful invasion of privacy. The Fourth Amendment is still valid in the Constitution, right? Or was repealing the 4th yet another secret clause in the “Patriot” Act that no one read? You just can’t make this stuff up anymore. Orwell would be shocked. I, for one, am pretty disgusted.

Heavy thunderstorms…

Got some pretty decent street flooding out of one particular thunderstorm that just roared rain today. I was able to snap quite a few decent pictures on my phone. I’ll probably post those tomorrow.

Comments now open to all visitors, including unregistered

I’ve removed the registration requirement for posting comments. I still recommend you register to lock in your name, but it’s not necessary anymore. Please be aware that this is a trial run. If it’s abused, then I’ll reinstate registration. Let’s hope I don’t have to do that – I’d rather not. :)

Enjoy!

J

“[Y]ou, sir, have become a blog-posting slack-ass.”

I don’t think Derick could have put it any better.

It’s almost been a month since my last post. I’m mind-numbingly busy these days, going crazy with lots of projects and trying to find a place to move. Luckily the latter is almost completed, and now I’m in a rush to finish the former. With this crunch, as you might expect, blogging and other personal-site-things have just not found much time.

I hope to break my string of “rundown” posts soon (by blogging more). Today is not my day, though.

  • Finding a place to live should not be that stressful – but maaaan oh man. I’ll recount that whole saga later.
  • What’s with 50 degree lows in May, after 93 degree heat in April?
  • Stephen Colbert is my hero. I must say, his routine was much better than Bush laughing at himself for not finding WMDs. Thank you, Stephen. If I ever run into you whenever you visit Charleston, I’ll buy you a beer. (When I’m less broke, of course.)
  • So is The Spirit of Truth. It takes a special kind of person to smoke crack and preach from the Yellow Pages, all set in a serene mountain scene with Ice Cube’s “Bop Gun” playing in the background. (Note: YouTube account required. This guy loves him some F-word!)
  • Thanks to John Sinteur for his great review of Building Online Communities. The book’s Amazon sales ranks have been consistently high, considering the topics we cover. It’s doing better than I ever thought possible. Hell, yesterday we beat The Mack Within. That has to count for something, right? :) It’s even finding its way into libraries! Which reminds me, CofC needs a copy for its library…
  • As much as they suck for our pocketbooks, high gas prices are good for America — in a sense, anyway. It’s finally jumpstarting real debate and progress on research into alternative fuels. The single best thing we can do for our economy and for national security is to get going on a realistic alternative fuel migration plan. However, that’s no consolation for people who can barely afford to get to work. Neither are $100 “gas refund checks.”
  • I might be crazy, but I really am looking forward to going back to school.
  • 20 days until I turn 22. Nuts.

I can’t promise that I’ll blog with the frequency that I did over the winter months, but I’ll try, nonetheless. Happy biking!

J