jmiller's blog

10th anniversary fun

Fun with mini golf on our 10th anniversary

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Justus

Justus, the band

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Google@Work seminar

Yet another seminar photo

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Picture on the run

Need an ID for the heat??!!

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WalMart sign after the dog food scare

I'm always critical of "custom" signs in the workplace--you know, the ones produced by the staff in a business to address the seemingly pressing needs at the time. They include things like:

  • Out of Order
  • Cash only please, and
  • Out for lunch, back at 1PM

They seem to always be signed by the mysterious "MGMT" character (whom I've never met personally).

Well, this sign actually contained one very important piece of information--a URL! The web page cited is from the FDA's official website and contains information about the FDA's dog food recall. Note the presence of hand-scrawled messages at the bottom of the sign. This is all-too-typical of "custom" signs. The world will never learn!

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Moblogging...

Moblogging...

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Adding SyncToy to the Autoplay list

SyncToy is a "power toy" from Microsoft. Although it is officially an unsupported product, I've found that the quality of the tool is sufficient to depend on it for some critical file synchronization operations.

I've been using SyncToy to backup and synchronize files on the SD card I use in my Palm Zire 72. The synchronizations that I have set up include documents (Microsoft Office—Word and Excel) as well as pictures and videos taken with the PDA's camera.

Sometimes it's a pain to launch the SyncToy application when I insert the memory card into my Dell PC's internal card reader. I saved some time by "pinning" SyncToy to the Start menu. That works very well, and I recommend you do likewise.

However, the thought occurred to me—why can't I make SyncToy be a choice in the Windows dialog that automatically launches when I insert the memory card? Well, it turns out that you can.

I did some initial digging in the registry to isolate the branch containing the text of the choices that display, and I found this key:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AutoplayHandlers]

It turns out that this branch has all kinds of goodies in it, all related to how the Autoplay feature works.

After more experimentation and Googling, I came across a few important related articles:

Ultimately, I created a registry script based on the first of the three links above that looks like this:

 

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerAutoplayHandlersEventHandlersMixedContentOnArrival]
"SyncToyHandler"="" 

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerAutoplayHandlersEventHandlersGenericVolumeOnArrival]
"SyncToyHandler"="" 

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerAutoplayHandlersEventHandlersShowPicturesOnArrival]
"SyncToyHandler"="" 

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerAutoplayHandlersEventHandlersPlayMusicFilesOnArrival]
"SyncToyHandler"="" 

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerAutoplayHandlersHandlersSyncToyHandler]
"Action"="Synchronize with SyncToy"
"DefaultIcon"="\"C:\Program Files\Microsoft\SyncToy\SyncToy.exe\",0"
"InvokeProgID"="SyncToyHandler"
"InvokeVerb"="open"
"Provider"="SyncToy" 

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTSyncToyHandler]
@="SyncToy"
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTSyncToyHandlerDefaultIcon]
@="\"C:\Program Files\Microsoft\SyncToy\SyncToy.exe\",0" 

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTSyncToyHandlershell] 

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTSyncToyHandlershellopen]

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTSyncToyHandlershellopencommand]
@="\"C:\Program Files\Microsoft\SyncToy\SyncToy.exe\""

It works great! Now, when I insert my memory card, SyncToy displays as an option in the list!

Blogging with Microsoft Office Word 2007!

It seems a little strange, but I'm actually blogging using Word as a client for WordPress. This is actually kind of cool! I was considering investing in a rich-client Windows blog editor. I've had WordPress on the backburner for a while, but I may be marching forward now that Word supports blogging. In fact, this opens up some new possibilities for using Word as a client for more than just blogging. Here's a thought: how about Word as a Journal client?

Imagine journaling in your "favorite" (maybe) word processor and posting to a blog that serves as a personal, private journal. Nobody says that every blog has to be public—you can have private entries too. Just be careful to make sure they stay that way because Google has very prying eyes, finding things you might not suspect. I know, because I have found some things that probably weren't intended for general public consumption. You've been warned.

Nonetheless, it tickles the brain with new possibilities. I wonder how hard it is to write addins for Word 2007 in .NET.

By the way, upgrading to Office 2007 with Outlook 2007 has broken the synchronization with my Palm Zire 72. My version of HotSync with the Outlook conduits does not support Outlook 2007. No support information was available on Palm's website. Interestingly enough, Palm claims that the latest version (for the Zire 72 anyway) of their Palm Desktop software is not compatible with Windows XP Media Center Edition. Now, maybe I'm not running the exact same version (I have version 4.1.4 rather than 4.1.4E), but I'm skeptical about the claim about incompatibility since I am indeed running the software on Windows XP Media Center.

I do have a solution to my synchronization problem, however. It is Chapura's PocketMirror software, which claims to be compatible with Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista. I'll probably be dropping the $29.99 for the software soon.

New Year's resolutions - Blog! and Finish What You Start!

My blog has been terribly quiet for a couple of years, with posts popping up only every couple of months, if that.  I would apologize, but nobody really cares.  If I was saying anything important here, somebody would notice and investigate.

Nobody is investigating.

BLOGGER license plate

I still have the BLOGGER license plate.  I'm almost embarassed to drive around with it.  I feel like such a hypocrite.  On the other hand, it says "Hey! I was here first! I grabbed it before anyone else, before blogging was so popular!  I saw blogging coming before the larger masses!"

In some ways it's a lot like reserving a domain name--except you can't sell the really good ones for a higher price. :-( Believe me, I would have already done it if it were legal.  You can "squat" on a good license plate label, but there's no incentive, and you can only squat on one license plate per car.  With domain names, you can reserve as many as you like, so long as they're available.

By the way, I have switched to the WalMart of domain name registration: GoDaddy.com.  While I do not think their advertising is appropriate for their type of business, they do have much lower prices than my former registrar: Dotster.com.  Dotster charges $14.95 per year for registration, and DNS Management costs $10.00 extra per year.  GoDaddy.com throws in DNS Management for free.  Instead of $25 per domain name, I'm paying about $9.  Multiply that by the number of domain names I control (squatting again) and it adds up quickly.

In the past, I've squatted on some cool domain names:

PrayerChannel.com
HelpMeDonate.com
NoteBase.com (NoteBase is the old name for my long-envisioned vaporware product)
BlogHappens.com

All of these domain names represent ideas that never made it to fruition.  Inspirations that never made it to implementation.  Dreams that never made it to development.

So, my big focus, in this new year, is learning from those failed and fizzled efforts to improve my completion ratio.  Some things are OK to be abandoned because they really don't hold as much intrinsic value as we first think, but the really meaningful things in life take work and commitment.

Here's to a new year!

Blog Audio: Odiogo, FeedForAll, and TextAloud

iTunes decreases my blog consumption

After all this time, I'm finally blogging again. I think the issue has been the lack of time (other things are more important?) and the lack of motivation (i.e., burning desire).

Oddly enough, I think podcasts have taken me away from blogging. Since I no longer use NewsGator and FeedStation to download podcasts (I use iTunes instead), I spend less time in my news aggregator. Oh, I still consume blogs, and I think that they're still a great innovation, but I'm not using them like I used to.

A twist on blog consumption: Text-to-Speech conversion

One new product that puts a twist on consuming blogs is Odiogo. It's software that will "audify" RSS content to create MP3 audio consumable by your media player or portable audio device.

This is similar in concept to a combination of products I saw a while back: mixing FeedForAll, an RSS publisher, with TextAloud from NextUp.com. This combo allows you to create a "podcast" version of your blog. TextAloud also has other uses for text-to-speech conversion as a stand-alone product.

Odiogo, on the other hand, combines an RSS aggregator with a text-to-speech converter in one product. The price is fairly accessible at $29.99. I may try it. There are some sample audio clips of Odiogo available.

One thing I noticed is that Odiogo seems to offer only one voice (male). TextAloud, on the other hand, offers multiple voice options with a range of sampling rates from vendors including AT&T (Natural Voices), NeoSpeech, Cepstral, and ScanSoft (RealSpeak). TextAloud comes only in a Windows version and costs $29.95.

FeedForAll costs $39.95 and is available for Windows and Mac. They have an interesting set of partners offering complimentary products related to RSS feed consumption, RSS-friendly web hosting, and podcast creation.

Conclusion

I may try the audio blog content option. Unfortunately, most of my podcast solutions involve a lot of manual labor to put it onto my player (my Palm Zire 72 with an SD card). The other downside is that the text-to-speech output can sound somewhat bland, causing me to zone out instead of actively listening. I'll put it on my Someday/Maybe list (GTD).

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