Tuesday, September 27, 2005

OneNote SP2, OneNote 12, and my newfound fame

I started this post intending to complain about how little was added to OneNote SP2. Then I went to search for Chris Pratley's post on all the great stuff that his team added to SP1 and found to my amazement that in his most recent post, he mentioned my post on OneNote and SharePoint! I'm, like, famous now, or something.

Anyway, I am somewhat humbled and will temper what was intended to be a rant with a more humble and professional post than was originally intended to welcome the millions of people that will soon be linking to me.

It was with great anticipation that I noted the release of OneNote SP2. Perhaps performance had improved in opening files from SharePoint? Maybe they had gone and added a scrollbar for the page tabs? Fixed the little glitch where you can't easily copy a picture with writing on top of it? Or link the writing to the picture so that when the picture changes position because you edited lines above it, the writing stays on it? Maybe they had added the ability to do an Insert-->Hyperlink like Outlook? Or to be able to paste some text without prepending and appending carriage returns to it? No, none of that. (Since I am self-critical I will say that I have not attempted in any way to submit any bugs or feedback to Microsoft on these issues.)

No, changes made for SP2 are as follows:

There they are, all three of them. So this is what constitutes a service pack these days? I am disappointed. I was hoping for a functionality leap like we had with SP1.

But I will say that Chris's description of OneNote 12 has me very interested. First, to again pimp my original article, it definitely seems like team note sharing is a focus of OneNote 12:

Likewise if you make a change, we now autosave to the cache (way faster than autosaving directly to the server!). Periodically we try to push up the changes to the server, again just moving the part that has changed if possible.

Pasted from <http://blogs.msdn.com/chris_pratley/archive/2005/09/27/474299.aspx>

So that directly addresses my huge problem with OneNote + SharePoint, which is that periodically the entire giant file is saved back over HTTPS to your SharePoint server (or Windows/Netware/NAS server) at once, during which time OneNote hangs and you can't do anything. It is just a smarter way to do it and will improve performance as well as adding all the stuff Chris talks about like tagging updates with the name of the author to allow for remote real-time sharing.

I am on another project with a team and my team mate also takes all his notes in OneNote. So we have initiated a shared OneNote file on our SharePoint server, but to get around the saving limitation right now, we are using "personal" OneNote files to take notes and then pasting them into the SharePoint file. This has already begun to annoy me a little bit as the pasting is a manual process so we forget to do it, and also I've thought of adding URLs or contextual information (e.g. "recommendation delivered to [client] on such-and-such a date") or what have you to the file after I've pasted it, but then I realize that my local copy won't update, so should I delete and re-paste or what? It is making me treat the shared OneNote file like a static repository which defeats the purpose of having a living, changing team information store.

That said, I haven't quite gotten my head around OneNote shared sessions, though they interest me very much. Some of this is my team mate thinking it is too nerdy and some is me thinking it is too confusing. I will say that in our last visit to the client we wrote a migration plan together and could independently research items and gather screen shots within our shared session, which was helpful. I will be trying to use it in our meetings next week to stand in for an IM client; since I'm on the tablet I would like to be able to write my IMs, we cannot VPN into our office from this client to use Windows Messenger (and the Juniper (Neoteris) SSL VPN is annoying), and I am not going to force my coworker onto MSN Messenger as he is an AIM/Google Talk man. I guess I am hoping that I could just share my note page and then write some additional notes as questions for him during meetings; it just seems like it would complicate things for us to both be trying to participate in design decision meetings, capture information, and leave notes for each other all in the same program. We'll see. I'll blog about it.


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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hotels in St. Louis that you should not stay in

I have started regular travel to St. Louis for work; I will be going every week starting in October. I had never been to the city before but I just came back from my third visit.

In each visit, I have stayed in three different hotels. I will discuss each hotel in reverse chronological order.

Adam's Mark St. Louis

This past Monday through Wednesday, I stayed in the Adam's Mark St. Louis. The architecture was fairly interesting, the lobby was large and fairly fancy-looking, it had an active bar that seemed to stay open late, and they gave me a high floor room with a view of, well, 40% of the Gateway Arch. However, this was the shittiest hotel in St. Louis in which I've stayed. Let me count the ways it sucked:

1) It was quite presumptuous to refer to their "high speed internet access". That shit was like 56k. It was free but I'd rather pay $10 for something usable.

2) They did a terrible job of cleaning the toilet and bathroom. There were actual pee stains on the toilet rim and some long black hairs on the floor. They even cleaned the inside the second day of my three-day stay but not the pee stains. I am a pretty mellow person and try not to think of myself as a fastidious, annoying New Yorker and didn't want some poor maid to lose her job, but seriously, that's fucking gross. And it's not like I'm some prima donna -- when I was in high school I actually cleaned an architect's office, including the toilets, as an after school job. So I can deal with piss on a toilet rim. But what does that say about a hotel that they don't clean it off two days in a row?

3) They did clean the bathroom by taking my soap and shampoo, replacing the shampoo, and not the soap. That's right. No soap. I washed with shampoo because it was like 8:10 and I had to shower, pack, and be at the client site at 8:30 and I didn't have time to wait for someone to come up with soap.

4) I asked for water with my room service breakfast and they made sure to say "water comes with it". Water did not come with it. Also, $25 for pancakes without even a side and coffee. I know, room service is expensive, I was just more annoyed that I didn't get the water.

5) Also on the room service, there was no way to pay for it with cash. The client pays my hotel bill directly and I don't want to stick them with room service charges, that's taken care of by some arrangement between my firm and the client. So the bill notes that I got some $25 pancakes so I look like some high class New York City $25-pancake-eating swell.

6) My room was right by the elevator. Literally as close to the elevator as you could be.

7) No coffee pot in the room. I basically need coffee within 20 minutes of getting up thanks to the influence of my wife (who practically needs coffee to leave the bed). So I have to order some $8 pot of room service coffee. I know, this is my problem that I should address at some point, but I just got spoiled by the last 200 hotel rooms I have been in.

8) No minibar. Again, I can't say I've been to every hotel in the world, but so far 80 of the 100 or so had minibars. Even in Cambodia they had bottled water in mini fridges that you would have to pay for if you used. Not so the Adam's Mark.

9) The clock radio didn't get any stations. And it was on playing low static and popping noises when I got in the room. It took 20 or 30 unsettling minutes before I figured out what it was.

10) With those last couple you know you're done.

Total cost: $105 per night on my client's discount rate

Radisson St. Louis Downtown

Last week, I stayed in the Radisson St. Louis Downtown. I stayed there because my wife was in town at the same time for her work, and I figured I would save my client money by staying in the room her company was paying for rather than using my reservation at the Drury Plaza. The nice things I can say about the Radisson are that it was conveniently located to my St. Louis workplace, it was a really big room on a decently high floor, and that the room service was shockingly cheap and pretty good. They also had a coffee machine AS EVERY HOTEL SHOULD. Pancakes with sausage were like $8. I am a pancake eating machine when I travel, so sue me. However, here were the bad things:

1) The whole hotel looks worn and heavily used. Like, the tiles in the bathroom floor looked filthy but they were just really scratched. How does that happen? Likewise, the sides of the elevator doors and even the sides of the hotel walls had all these marks all over them. Do they care so little that they can't paint?

2) The first room we got was filthy; we were told it was the last king bed and it was clearly the shittiest room in the hotel. The second room still had a messed up bathroom floor and a mildewy odor.

3) They charged $10 per day for wired internet access, and did not have wireless internet access. This is not such a big deal but it wasn't really significantly faster than the crap speeds at the Adam's Mark.

4) We had a drink in the lobby bar and there were some sketchy looking dudes who kept coming in and out of the bar. The one guy seemed to have set up camp near the bar. We sat on couches and watched them come and go. I guess St. Louis has a lot of poor and homeless people even in the downtown business area so maybe all hotels have this problem if you hang out in the bar. One really cool and bizarre thing was that there were a bunch of old Amish people walking around the hotel in traditional dress. I wish I had taken a video of an old man and three old women descending a long escalator. Had they ever seen an escalator before? What the hell were Amish doing in downtown St. Louis? Taking in a Cardinals game? (That's what was going on that night)

Total cost: $120, no discount

Drury Plaza Hotel

The first time I was in St. Louis I stayed at the Drury Plaza Hotel. I hope I stay there for every subsequent visit. Let me tell you all the great things about the Drury Plaza:

1) Free wireless and/or wired internet access. It works throughout the hotel.

2) Three free drinks per day at their 5:30-7 happy hour. THREE free drinks! When I was at the Adam's Mark I came over and my coworker gave me one of his. Three is a lot!

3) A free, pretty good breakfast: coffee, waffles, bacon. No sausage but they basically have the breakfast I would have gotten, and I can just go down and serve myself for free. It totally rocks. No worries about my per diem and expensing things.

4) One hour of free long distance on their phone. Why would you have to do that in this day and age of cell phones? I don't know, the Drury people are just nice like that. I had a long chat with my wife when I got back from work and didn't worry about my Treo running out of batteries or anything. And I didn't get my Treo all greasy from a long phone call… you know how it is. (I don't use a headset or earpiece; never have)

5) Of course they have a coffee maker

6) Two free cans of soda in a decent-sized mini fridge. Why? They are just being nice. Same with the free popcorn.

7) It's a fairly newly renovated hotel and so the rooms were definitely nicer than the Radisson or the Adam's Mark.

The only downsides I can think of is that it doesn't seem to have that many other amenities in the lobby like a gift shop, and the only restaurant is a Max & Erma's which I guess is analogous to T.G.I.Friday's. I haven't been there because my coworker who's been out there for a few months now is utterly sick of it. My room also had one of those "inside views" of a walkway and the elevators so I could not see the sun, only artificial light, but that didn't bother me. All things considered, if my client is going to spend $100 per night to put me up, I would way rather be in the Drury than those shitty other hotels.


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Saturday, September 17, 2005


Shit, this is bad news for one of my favorite local places:

Amsterdam Bars below 114th.

The 103rd Street Dorm:
While not technically a bar, this new, anonymous dorm is quietly the biggest change around here. This addition to the CU Empire will have underclassmen sleeping further south in Manhattan Valley than ever (one nighters at the nearby Youth Hostel excepted). While we've yet to see the effects, locals have been bracing for a stampede of sweatpants-wearing, overexcited youngsters. Adjacent bars like Tap A Keg, Eden, Smoke and Broadway Dive may or may not see spikes in illegal orders for cranberry vodkas, which would certainly cramp their respective working stiff, white jazz, hispanic, and cirrhotic styles. Whatever the case, Abbey Pub, which in years past was the darkened bar of choice for high school Engles fans, will be packed. Those >30 might want to stay clear (or bring GBH, your call.)

[Via Verbose Coma]

I loved the Abbey Pub :(

(Broadway Dive was pretty good also)

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Firefox bugs and benefits

Let me start this by saying that, while I'm neither an elitist nor a person who uses the term "M$", I honestly can't believe people still use Internet Explorer. And no, I haven't used IE7 and its tabs and whatever other features it has added. Once search keywords, type to find, AdBlock, FlashBlock, Mouse Gestures, SessionSaver and of course tabs become part of your daily browsing experience, there's no going back.

However, I started this blog entry because there are a few irritating Firefox bugs and I just hit the most annoying one right now. Sometimes, you can no longer type into forms because the Firefox "begin finding when you begin typing" feature takes over after the first letter. The only fix is to exit Firefox and restart. It is an annoying bug that has not been fixed in the last five versions of Firefox. Since I didn't want to write some dumb complaint without acknowledging Bugzilla, I searched and found this bug and voted for it. It was actually a learning experience as the bug stated that it was caused by launching a second instance of Firefox.

Actually, let me take this opportunity to give a shout-out to SessionSaver. Closing and restarting Firefox isn't that big a deal because of it. When I first got into Firefox in the 0.7 days, I found TabBrowser Extensions which included that feature. But as Firefox progressed, it seemed to become slower and more crash-prone and I finally asked on a forum how to alleviate the problem given that saving session state and restoring it upon relaunch was a feature I couldn't live without. The resounding answer was SessionSaver and I have been happy ever since. It's not that Firefox crashes so often, it's that I like to have a core set of tabs like GMail, my band's forum, PERFECTLY LEGAL BitTorrent files I plan to download, blog archives I'm slowly reading, etc. as well as things that are somewhat temporary that I haven't acted on yet (things to send to my coworkers, software to try at home) and I like to pick back up where I left off without leaving my computer on or hibernating. I now expect a browser to work like this because it is so useful and great.

Moving along, I find that Java is another cause of crashes in Firefox. Before Google Maps came out I was blown away by www.map24.com which is a great mapping tool that had all the features of Google Maps and more, months before Google Maps came out. However, as soon as I found it, I quickly discovered that it crashed Firefox every other time you loaded it. So it became an IE-only program but that just meant I really didn't want to use it that much. I was happy when Google Maps came out because it wasn't a Java applet and so far Google Maps has never crashed my browser.

When Java isn't crashing the browser, it's running up high utilization on the machine. I guess this is not really a Firefox problem but rather a Java problem (or a problem with a Java program, to be exact) but that I haven't seen this crash in IE but regularly with Firefox is either a nefarious plot by the people of map24.com to limit the number of people who use their free, advertising-supported product or it is that the linkages between Java and Firefox are not quite as robust as those between the 10-year-old Internet Explorer and the 3(?)-year-old Firefox.

The other annoying thing about Firefox is not Firefox's fault at all. It is that there are sites that don't work with it. This is the fault of developers who relied on wacky IE quirks rather than test their site with other browsers or operating systems. I mean, two years ago in the 0.7 days I can totally understand it; who had the budget to re-architect for a browser used by 500,000 people, 499,990 of whom were not your customers or intended site visitors? But with somewhere between 6% and 10% (depending on which stats you believe) of all individuals using Firefox, it's time for chase.com, Interwoven WorkSite Web, et al to get with the program. Fortunately, until then, there is the IE View add-on to launch these sites in IE.

I'll write another entry extolling the virtues of AdBlock, Gestures, and more Firefox stuff later. I'm finding that I have several long blog entries sitting here in OneNote that I never finish… and it's because I'm being too long-winded. Gotta learn to keep 'em short and sweet.

Technorati tag(s): Firefox


Friday, September 09, 2005

High on Fire, the old neighborhood

Last night I saw High on Fire" at Irving Plaza. They are my favorite band and this is the third time I've seen them live. They played a mix of songs from their latest album "Blessed Black Wings, their second album "Surrounded by Thieves", and one song ("Baghdad") from their first album "The Art of Self-Defense".

Totally as an aside, allow me to hypocritically note that I hate it when people use URL links foolishly in their web writing. I recognize that hyperlinks predate HTML and were considered a revolutionary way to tie information together. What I mean by "foolishly" is that, for example, saying "Looks like Google is planning a stock split! I bet Microsoft employees are jealous as hell right now!" Like, who is reading the sentence and saying to themselves, "Google? Looks interesting! How do I get to that website?"

However, linking to things that are NOT obvious is useful as hell. I in fact keep launching the simple but awesome program EnterLink so I can create links to paste into OneNote (which has no other function for creating friendly hyperlinks) while writing in my blog. For example, I would assume that the average reader stumbling across my blog would not know who High on Fire is, and I would like them to both check out the web site and at least by "Surrounded by Thieves" if not also the other two albums. So for that reason I link them.

It's also helpful to learn useful linking tricks like Google searches/cached sites/directions, Technorati searches and tags and whatnot and link them.

High on Fire opened for a band that I'd never heard of called Every Time I Die but we didn't stick around. To be totally honest, the people in the little pit that formed made me think that since the band's fans were a bunch of chumps that didn't say much about the band. But I'm a crotchety old bastard and I never really enjoyed the pit, and there used to be a pit at EVERY show I went to. Even when I saw the Melvins at St. Andrews Hall (Detroit) 12 years ago, that pit was like one dude slowly walking around and bumping into people. But this pit at Irving Plaza was four kids that were like skipping, doing goofy Fat Albert walks, jumping jacks, etc. The sort of thing that would earn you a bloody nose in Detroit after like 30 seconds. And yet this whole vast area had opened up in the middle of Irving Plaza to let them do their ridiculous faux moshing. So I hate to stereotype a band because four numbskulls were being assholes, but there you have it. That's the kind of guy I am. I will probably check out their music and will perhaps post an apology if it turns out to be good. But I didn't bother to stick around. I'm old and it was getting to be near my bedtime.

Anyway, my wife went to the show with me and I'm not sure how much she enjoyed it but I certainly had an awesome time and I think that rubbed off on her. It was also nice to visit the old neighborhood, too -- we used to live on 14th & 3rd before we moved up to where the married people go. Before the show we went to our old favorite local restaurant, Friendhouse, which is like a reasonable sushi and pretty good Chinese restaurant with a nice outdoor garden. It's not that fancy but it served a critical need in that it allowed my wife to get sushi, which I used to never ever touch, while I could get Chinese. I am more open to eating sushi now so this issue is lessened but at the time it was the primary restaurant where we could find something to satisfy both of our very different food tastes. Also, it was not quite as much NYU parents'-credit-card hell as most restaurants in the neighborhood.

While I am rambling about personal shit that is of no interest to any readers who may have optimistically subscribed based on my
OneNote/SharePoint post, I might as well note that my band Dudes of Doom played a show at a very cool establishment called Wild Spirits on Friday night. It was just a fun place and we had a good turnout. Also there was a big pedestal for me and the drum kit -- all clubs should have this so I can be truly worshipped for the awesome drummer I am! Next step: giant rotating pedestal with a whole spotlight set!

Uh, anyway, please go see the Dudes of Doom with Detroit's Electric 6 and Outrageous Cherry at Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ, Monday September 26th. This is the biggest show and with the most famous band and in the most famous venue we've ever played so I hope you all can make it.


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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Unreal Tournament 2004

I play Unreal Tournament 2004 a lot. Before that I played UT2003, Quake III, Unreal Tournament, and the original Unreal online. Before online gaming I played Rise of the Triad and Duke Nukem 3D on the office LAN (back when office computers were capable of playing current games). I also once played Quake II on the Microsoft campus server with a friend, and was lambasted by many Microsoft employees for team-killing (I didn't know it was a team game and kept killing my team-mates).

Nowadays, with UT2004, I have fallen into a strange comfort zone in that I only basically play the four low gravity maps (Plunge, Morpheus3, TokaraForest, and Phobos2) in Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch mode. I really don't like anything more complicated than "see someone else, quickly determine if they are on your team or not (not necessary in regular deathmatch), shoot them". And I've found that the maps where you jump around in the air without fear of hurting yourself when you land and where you can possibly knock people off into space (and win a frag) are the kind I like best.

Let me take a moment to send some shout-outs to my UT2004 low grav crew: Shane1V, [DoW]-shatter-, MAQUINADEMATAR, MenZ, Hedge_Mgr, Tom_PQ, HIDEATHFINITION, and Tj-hubble. I'm not gonna say my name here but suffice it to say I demonstrate P.R.I.D.E. in my gaming.

Now that the UT2004 is approaching two years on the market, I worry that it is getting harder and harder to find servers and players, particularly given my very particular preferences for maps and game types. In fact I started writing this entry because there's only one server running that meets my criteria right now and I do not have a very good connection to it. I bought both Doom 3 and Half Life 2 when they came out to hedge my bets against the inevitable eclipse of UT2004 by these games, but I didn't like them anywhere near as much as UT2004 so I stopped playing them after a few games. So I am stuck with UT2004 until they replace it with something new, at which time I look forward to many new players and places to play.

However, I just learned recently that there will be a UT2007. (Yeah, I'm kinda slow with this stuff.) The screenshots on Shacknews make it look like it's all about spaceships and cars which doesn't excite me (I've played with the cars in UT2004 no more then a half-dozen times) but I am sure they will deliver a solid deathmatch/TDM experience. At the very least they are getting my money for keeping the franchise going and continuing to innovate. As long as there is the ability to jump around and rain rockets on my online enemies or zap them with shock rifles, I will be playing.

Technorati tag(s): UT2004


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