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Another reason I’m proud to be a Marine

From an interview in this week’s Marine Corps Times, this quote from Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent:

Q: How will the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” affect the Corps?

A: It won’t be a problem. We made sure that the Marine Corps had a voice in this policy. We’re past the point of talking about if it should change. We’re past that point. We execute and we follow orders as a Marine Corps, and if our senior leadership says something should change, we’re going to execute it,

Semper fi!

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Thursday trivia #33

From the excellent-videos department: a magic helicopter whose blades don’t turn. (Actually they do, but you’d never guess it from this video.)

New Music Thursday: my friend Michael recommended Caro Emerald and I’ve had a wonderful time listening to them– a neat mix of swing and dance with a touch of Dixieland and some fun retro-style videos.

I think I want to try learning how to cook sous vide. The promise of a simple, repeatable way to quickly make delicious entrees is pretty darn compelling. A group of friends at Microsoft is planning on doing a group build of a home sous vide machine, so I think I’ll try building my own at first.

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2010 in review

If I were a pessimist, I would talk about what a rotten year 2010 was. Instead I prefer to believe that 2011 will be better.

Professionally it was a banner year. Things at Acuitus continue to go superbly, and I was able to work on a variety of interesting side projects (including editing Tony Redmond’s book and working with him on a roadshow.)

Personally: well, my marriage of 19 years ended. All I want to say about it here is that it was amiable and that Arlene and I remain committed to working together to raise our sons. (OK, one more thing: thanks to all who have offered support to either or both of us.)

In 2011, my plans are to continue learning Spanish; get my private pilot’s license; do more writing, and learn to cook a bit. That should keep me busy.

Happy New Year!

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The two Pauls talk about Windows Phone 7

In this video from TechEd 2010 (as opposed to the other one), Paul Thurrott and I talk about Windows Phone 7 and the smartphone market wars.

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Thursday trivia #5

Not much trivia today; it’s been a busy time with a lot of things going on.

  • Are diplomats smarter than everyone else? You be the judge.
  • The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen sounds like a pretty interesting book.
  • Chile or Costa Rica? Inquiring minds want to know.
  • I didn’t watch Tiger Woods at the Masters last year, so I have a ready-made reason not to watch him this year.
  • US Airways and United merging? Blecch. I’d almost rather fly Spirit. Well, not quite, but close.

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Seminary Feud

Neat-o e-mail I just got:

Hello from Cody, Wyoming!

I am a seminary teacher trying to create a Seminary Feud game (similar to Family Feud on tv). Remember how the contestants try to guess the most popular responses? Well I need as many responses as possible to make this fun. I won’t use or keep any names; I’ll just tally the responses. Please fill out the attached survey and e-mail it back to me at, and then if you have a few extra minutes, would you PLEASE forward this message to as many of your LDS friends/relatives as possible? I would love to tell the students I have responses from all over the country!

Here’s the clincher: I need this by FRIDAY, October 30th, so I can be ready for next week. We just finished studying the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi—these kids deserve a party! Please note somewhere on your survey if you’d like me to e-mail you a copy of the survey answers and numbers when I’m done. Thanks for your help!

Sister Noma Walton,


Please answer the following questions very quickly, writing the first answer that comes to mind.

Name a book from the Book of Mormon:
Name a Book of Mormon prophet:
A wicked person in the Book of Mormon:
A group of people in the Book of Mormon:
A time when Nephi’s life was threatened:
One of the 11 witnesses to the Book of Mormon:
A Book of Mormon hero:
One of the 10 commandments:
One of Christ’s original 12 apostles:
A weapon used in the Book of Mormon:
Something in the Tree of Life Dream:
Popular Primary song:
Most popular hymn from Hymn Book:
A book from the Old Testament:
A prophet in the New Testament:
The most well-known Old Testament story:
The hardest commandment for teens to obey:
A good Sabbath day activity:
Habits that break the Word of Wisdom:
A modern-day apostle, still living:

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How I got into the writing business, part 1

Over the years, lots of people have asked me about how I got into the writing business. I got one such mail yesterday, and it dawned on me: I’d never told the whole story here on my blog! It’s long past time to remedy that oversight.

The short answer: naked greed.

Yes, it’s true. I really, really wanted to buy a debugging tool called QC. However, it was $100, which at the time was a ridiculous amount of money for me to spend. While racking my brain to think of ways to get it, I decided "hey, maybe I could write a review of it!" A few e-mails later, I’d gotten the QC folks to agree to provide a review copy, and MacTech to agree to publish it. I wrote the review, sent it in, and a few months later saw my name in Genuine Print.

At the same time, I was working with a group of folks at Intergraph on setting up what would become their first public web site (note that the really old version from late 1994 isn’t online, for which you should probably be thankful.) One of my teammates, Brady Merkel, had just gotten a gig to coauthor a book on writing Internet applications with Visual C++. After hearing me mention the article, he asked if I’d like to contribute a chapter or three, so I did.

The acquisitions editor on that book was Jenny Watson, who (miracle of miracles) still works for Wiley, the acquirer of a number of other publishers. Anyway, Jenny was kind enough to refer more chapter work to me, so I wrote chapters for several other books.

When she left Que, she went to Prima Publishing, at the time a publisher primarily of cookbooks and other "lifestyle" books. She signed me to write a book on Windows NT 4.0; I returned the favor and got Bo Williams, Jim Kanya, and a number of other friends and coworkers to contribute chapters. When the book came out, it did well enough for Prima to sign me for a couple of other books. None of them made any money, but they were fun, and they did a great job of building experience.

Thanks in large measure to the remarkable, and sadly now-dispersed, community of experts on StudioB‘s computer book publishing list (including rock stars like Sharon Crawford, Bob Thompson, Laura Lemay, and too many more to list), I learned enough to know I needed an agent, and thus began the next chapter of my writing career.

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Limiting OVA to voice mail playback only

Suppose that you wanted to allow your users to play back voice mail through Outlook Voice Access 2007, but that you didn’t want them to have access to their e-mail. That was the question I recently got from someone who was replacing their old Avaya system, in part because they didn’t want people to get their e-mail over the phone.

(To me this is sad; I depend heavily on that feature, but different strokes and all that.)

The trick is to use the -TUIAccessToEmailEnabled flag to Set-UMMailbox ("TUI" stands for "telephone user interface", in case you were curious.) A little of this:

Get-Mailbox | Set-UMMailbox -TUIAccessToEmailEnabled:$false

and you’re done! There are also separate parameters that control TUI access to the calendar and contacts folders.

Exchange 2010 improves on this in a couple of ways.

First, instead of applying the fix to individual users, you can apply it at the UM mailbox policy level. Poof! Instant consistency.

Second, you can control user access to their personal contacts and the organization’s GAL separately. Where Exchange 2007 lumps both together with TUIAccessToAddressBookEnabled, Exchange 2010 gives us AllowTUIAccessToPersonalContacts and AllowTUIAccessToDirectory.

There are lots of other improvements in Exchange 2010 UM, some of which I’ll be writing about in the not-too-distant future.

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iDialog iPhone OCS client

The fine folks at Modality Systems in the UK just released iDialog, an iPhone client for OCS 2007 and OCS 2007 R2. Executive summary: I like it and think it was worth the $10.

Modality have a good FAQ that addresses questions about what the program does. In short, it does everything you could do from within Communicator Web Access. For example, you can send and receive text IM messages, see your contacts’ presence state, search the GAL, and control incoming OCS enterprise voice calls.

my own contact card has some editable properties

other users’ cards have the standard card properties. 

I tested iDialog this morning to see how well it worked. The overall experience was quite good; my contacts appeared as I expected.

To the left, you can see what my user’s contact card looks like. iDialog uses a similar view for your contact card as it does for those of other users, with the difference that you can edit some fields of yours (like the Note and Location fields). To change your presence status, tap the jellybean icon in the upper-left corner of the screen and you’ll see the familiar OCS presence states.

You can see the iDialog toolbar at the bottom of the screenshot, too. It’s as self-explanatory as can be (though a bit plain-looking). Tapping the Chats icon takes you to a list of current conversations, each of which shows you how many pending messages you haven’t yet responded to.

When you look at the contact card for one of your contacts (or someone that you look up in the GAL), you get a wealth of information (a la Outlook 2007/2010) about the person: their presence level, how long they’ve been away, their free-until/busy-until state (although the "free-busy at…" text is a bit confusing at first), and so on. Tapping a contact’s e-mail address launches a new mail message (incidentally quitting iDialog), and tapping a phone number opens the built-in phone app to place a call over the GSM network (provided you’re on a phone; you can’t do this on an iPod Touch).

GAL searching worked fine in my limited tests: type in all or part of a user’s name and you’ll get a list of matches back. I’ve seen a few reports of crashing during searches, but I couldn’t reproduce those myself.

The conversation view itself looks a lot like the built-in Messages app, but the bubble sizes and colors are just slightly off. I attribute that to Modality’s decision to include more information than Messages does, including the name of the sender of each comment and the time at which it was sent. Check the shot on the right of an active chat session to see what I mean.

There’s a lot going on here. You can see the name of the person I’m talking to (well, at least part of it), along with a navigation control to go back to the chat list. The Options button allows you to invite additional users or quit the chat (though there’s currently no way to kick a user from a multi-party conference). iDialog provides the same "… is typing a message" prompt that CWA does, too, a nice touch. However, what dominates the view of an active session is Apple’s soft keyboard, taking up fully half of the available screen. That makes it harder than necessary to follow what’s going on. I’d prefer to see the keyboard only when I start typing, a la Apple’s SMS application.



MPOP worked fine; during my conversations I remained logged in to Communicator. The experience had a few odd points. Mysteriously, my status was once automatically set to Do Not Disturb, although because I was logged in to Communicator at the same time this may not have had anything to do with iDialog.

iDialog doesn’t seem to have a way to edit the phone forwarding settings you currently have in place, so I had to use CWA to turn off my default forwarding. Once I had done so, though, iDialog notified me of incoming calls and let me forward them to pre-defined numbers, just as CWA or Communicator would.

A suggestions to the Modality gang for future releases: when entering an IM in the 1.0.0 release, if the IM is longer than the width of the text view, the text view scrolls right. A better (IMHO) way to do this is to do what the iPhone’s native apps do and grow the height of the text bubble. This can easily be accomplished using TTTextController from Joe Hewitt‘s excellent Three20 library.


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Heading to SJC

We have been having a wonderful family visit in Alexandria, complete with lots of great food and family time. Now I am at AEX enroute SJC. I was supposed to fly AEX-MEM-MSP-SJC but the MEM-MSP was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Too bad Northwest didn’t tell me until check-in. They wanted to reroute me to SFO, which would put me in at almost midnight. Instead I’m going aEX-MEM-IAH-SJC, which should be OK. Then tomorrow, New Job City!

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Ad hoc travel

Normally I plan my trips well in advance, but not this time! I went to San Jose to meet with a customer on short notice. How did my routine differ?

First, I packed ultralight. Toiletres and fresh clothes went into my laptop bag, meaning that I didn’t need a separate bag.

Second, I went reservationless. I dent reserve my rental car until I was on the airplane. I didn’t reserve my hotel until I was parked in its parking lot. This was slightly nervewracking, but it gave me maximum flexibility to accomodate my customer’s schedule.

Now I just want to get home!

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Exchange 2007 SP1: November 30

Get ready, folks. Exchange 2007 SP1 ships on the 30th.

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Some quick musical thoughts

First, thank goodness for the iPod and its descendants! I love being able to listen to music when I work, when I exercise, or when I’m trapped 37,000 feet above the ground in a hurtling, noisy  aluminum tube for four hours.

Second, every time I hear the opening chords of Van Halen’s “Beautiful Girls” I break out in a big grin. The song just has such an infectious good-natured energy, neatly separated by the bridge, and David Lee Roth’s swagger is a perfect match for the “Hey, hey, where ya going?” at the song’s end.

Third, being able to impulse-buy iTunes songs with WiFi on my iPhone is really, really bad. If I’m not careful, I’ll blow my yearly entertainment budget on cheesy 80s songs.

Fourth, if you haven’t heard the Dirty Funker remixes of GnR’s “Welcome to the Jungle” or Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, you’re missing out.

That’s all for now; my favorite song is on! (I kid, I kid; I have lots of favorites.)

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Finding Team Explorer

I just got Visual Studio Team System set up so I can work with some projects that our team in Redmond has been building. However, I was stumped when it came time to fire up Team Explorer– it isn’t installed by default. However, a quick application of google-fu led me to this article, which explains that you get Team Explorer from the Team Foundation Server distribution. Of course that’s where you’d look; how silly of me to think that there might be a big fat “TEAM EXPLORER” link somewhere in the cavernous VSTS installer.

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Microsoft postmortem on ANI bug

Michael Howard has posted a great postmortem and lessons-learned piece on the animated cursor vulnerability recently patched in Windows. I love to see this kind of open discussion of how Microsoft’s security development lifecycle (SDL) is working in practice, and where MS feels that it can be improved. You don’t often see this level of disclosure from major IT vendors, and I think the industry (and our security) would be more robust if it became more common.

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