Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Definition: con-crash

Main Entry: con·crash
Function: noun
Date: 2009

1 : The physical, financial and/or mental low experienced after return from a convention.
2 : Depression resulting from a return to reality after a surreal convention experience.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bing me!

I'm not gay, but Google is hot! I mean, IMHO, they pretty much rule the roost when it comes to email and discussion groups. I never questioned making them my primary search engine over Yahoo! and Live Search...but then came Bing. We've all seen those annoying commercials and, I promise, they did nothing to encourage me to give it a shot. It wasn't until a DevLink attendee mentioned Blind Search that started to think maybe my search engine allegiance might waver. Blind Search is like the old Pepsi/Coke taste test, but instead we're comparing search results. I entered a few test searches and, to my surprise, I ended up picking Bing nearly every time.

I must admit it will be hard getting used to saying that I "binged" instead of "googling", but I'll give it a shot. :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Adding mp3 audio books to your Zune

There's nothing better to pass the time on a long drive than a good book. If you don't want to get sick from reading in the car or happen to be the driver, audio books are a great choice. Having just bought my first Zune, one of my tasks was to load some audio books for my upcoming trip. I expected this to be a simple matter of syncing, but since my audio books did not come from Audible or Overdrive it's not.

The Tools:
ZuneWaxCreator2 - Prepares your folder of mp3s for Overdrive
Overdrive Media Console - Copies the prepared mp3s to your Zune

- The specific naming scheme for your mp3s doesn't seem to matter as they will be renamed automatically. Just be sure they are in order alphabetically. If you have your files neatly organized I suggest using a copy of the folder so your original files stay untouched.
- If you want cover art, place a jpg file in the folder with your mp3s.
- Your Zune must be plugged in via USB with no applications accessing it. If your Zune software is running, close it.

1. Run ZuneWaxCreator. It will prompt you to select a folder.
2. Navigate to the folder containing the audio book's mp3s and jpg (optional) and click OK.
3. Enter the Author's Name.
4. Enter the Title.
5. Click OK.

At this point there are some optional steps. If you're like me and want the titles of your books to be neat and tidy then follow these steps. Otherwise, proceed to step 6.
5a. Click Cancel.
5b. Open the folder containing your mp3s.
5c. Rename the .wax file to your book title (ie. "Pride and Prejudice.wax")
5d. Open the Overdrive folder (ie. "C:\Program Files\OverDrive Media Console")
5e. Drag the .wax file onto TransferWizard.exe

6. Click Next.
7. Click Next.

The mp3 files should now be copying to your Zune. Once the process is complete click Finish. You should now have an Audiobooks menu item on your Zune.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 Launch

I've been shopping for a notebook computer since the end of February when my last contract ended. I couldn't justify dropping several thousand on a new computer, but I'm a bit spoiled and couldn't see settling for a mid-range machine. I lucked upon a deal on a Hewlett Packard HDX18t. I've been a loyal Dell customer ever since college and never owned an HP, but the specs are excellent for the price and the reviews are generally glowing.

As the ship date drew near for my new laptop I began looking for a bag that this monster would fit in. This led me to the HDX18 owner's thread at where I spent several hours sifting through the three hundred page discussion. I was amazed at the amount of useful information buried where nobody would ever find it and decided this was yet another job for DotNetNuke. By the end of the evening I had launched the HP HDX Owners Club at I wanted to make the site useful to the largest audience possible so I branded the site for the entire HDX line rather than a single model.

It hasn't even been 24 hours since the site launched, but it's already beginning to look like a valuable resource. Now if my computer will just arrive. :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Browser gaming with Travian

The world is becoming more browser based every day. We check our email on Gmail or Hotmail, catch up with friends and family using Facebook, share news and thoughts over Twitter and even create and view documents online. The world of Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) is no exception to this trend.

Travian is a real-time strategy (RTS) game where empires are built and wars are waged. Players farm resources in order to build their nation’s infrastructure, defenses, and armies. Sound familiar? There have been a number of successful RTS titles over the years, but few of them allowed you to play online with thousands of other people using only your browser. We’re not throwing sheep here. Players can choose to form alliances or attack their neighbors to expand their empire. Armed forces can be made up of numerous types of units, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

One of the wonderful aspects of this game is the built in time management. I spent countless hours on end playing WoW when I should have been doing something else, because there’s always one more quest to complete or item to find. This lack of self control is not an issue with Travian as it takes time to farm resources and build an infrastructure. Players are shown an amount of time it will take until they can afford to start a new task. In the beginning this can be as little as a few minutes while a resource is being extended, however soon these waits stretch to hours or even days. This means no matter how addicted you are to the game, you wont progress any faster by spending hours on end in front of the computer.

Of course, just because you have to wait for your resources to build up doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself logging on during spare moments with your cell phone. Travian does not load correctly in Pocket Internet Explorer, but it is compatible with Opera on Windows Mobile phones or Safari on the iPhone. I’m sure there have been more than a few battles waged during church and cities built while waiting in the doctor’s office.

Browser based gaming does have its pitfalls. Where as most MMOs employ sophisticated cheat detection techniques in their software, websites have limited access to the user machine and can’t detect illegal applications or scripts which may give an unfair advantage. Many players use the Greasemonkey addon for Firefox to tweak their interface, making information more accessible and increasing their efficiency. Others go so far as to employ scripts which allow them to schedule actions, something that is not available in the unmodified game. Though the temptation to improve the interface and gain an advantage is strong, players should be aware that these sorts of enhancements are illegal and efforts have been made in the past to identify abusive players resulting in bans.

There’s no monthly fee to play Travian, so grab your netbook and fire up Travian.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Avoid Twitter character limits with TinyChat

Have you ever replied to a tweet and realized you want to carry on a real conversation without having to limit your replies to 140 characters? Maybe you met them on Twitter and don't have any other way to talk with them. Just go to and "Click to create your chat room". In just a few seconds you'll have a URL which you can post or send through direct message to anyone who you wish to chat with. They can click the link, enter a name and be chatting with you instantly.

In the TinyChat Terms of Service (ToS) they say, "After you leave the chat room, all the chat data is gone, so its perfect for secure chats." While they may discard the chat data once you leave, I would caution against considering this a secure method of chatting. The only thing anyone needs to join the chat room is it's URL and the site does not make use of a secure connection.

TinyChat wont be replacing email or instant messaging any time soon, but for those instances where you want a quick and easy way to talk online it's excellent.

Note: TinyChat gives you the option of entering your Twitter credentials. I'm very wary about giving my login information out to anyone, however warhawke tried this and found that they automatically tweet your meeting room information for everyone to see. As always, give your credentials at your own risk.

Why you should check out TweeterGetter

I've read a number of articles in the past week regarding TweeterGetter, most of which identify it as a ponzi or pyramid scheme. At first glance they seem to be right, however I've given this a lot of thought and come to the realization that they couldn't be farther from the truth.

TweeterGetter is basically a multi-level marketing tool to get new followers on Twitter. Yes, it is pyramid shaped in nature and involves you following several people below you in the "chain" in order to be added to the list of those to be followed. That's where the similarity to the aforementioned schemes end. Getting new followers is no guarantee that those tweeps will continue following you. It's up to the quality of your tweets to keep those followers. On the flip side, you can stop following the people who you were "forced" to follow when you joined whenever you want. Joining essentially costs you nothing and the gains are short lived unless you add value to the twitterverse.

One of the great strengths of Twitter is the way it brings together people who would have never otherwise met through their common interests/discussion points. I see this as just one more way you can connect with people you might not have had a chance to meet. Only you can decide if gaining possible followers is worth following a few random people for a bit. If so, give TweeterGetter a try!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Amazon announces new Kindle 2

The Kindle 2 was announced today by Amazon and the buzz is positive. I've been using my Kindle for nearly a year for pleasure reading and absolutely love it. I'm so happy using an e-reader that I'm working to liquidate my extensive paperback/hardback collection. Needless to say that the gadget geek in me couldn't wait to see how Amazon had improved upon one of my favorite devices.

Audio books are great for times when you want use of your hands/eyes, but they're generally pretty expensive and relatively few books ever make it to audio. The new Kindle 2's text-to-speech feature makes any book into an audio book. Of course, the digital voice could never compare to Leonard Nimoy and, while it does an acceptable job, the inflections are often a bit off. Those shortcomings aside, it's an excellent new feature.

Battery Life
The original Kindle gets excellent battery life and rarely have I ever had to plug in while reading, however it's always nice being able to go untethered for an even longer period of time. Even more significant in my mind is the new ability to charge via USB. With my current Kindle, if I plug it into the computer to copy over books from my hard drive it operates off battery power. It has a special charger that must be used even while on a USB connection. The new Kindle 2 has no such limitation and will offer much more flexibility in keeping that extended battery juiced.

Form Factor
The Kindle 2's new design is a big selling point for me as the edges of the original Kindle are nearly covered with buttons. My biggest frustration has been accidental page turns. The new layout offers more button-free area for grip while the slimmer case keeps weight down. I also like the move to a five-way rocker instead of the roller. I often put my kindle in a zipper freezer bag for reading in harsh conditions (such as the hot tub) which makes the roller nearly unusable. I expect the five-way rocker will also make using the internal web browser much easier and more intuitive.

I have to mention the fact that they increased the internal storage, however I don't see this as a very big improvement since the Kindle has a memory card slot which allows the user to increase it's memory to whatever amount they need. I have a 16GB secure digital card that gives me enough space to carry more books than I'll read in ten years!

It only took me a few pages to get used to reading on the Kindle. I've never been bothered by the page turn "flicker", however others have told me that's a major reason why they decided against purchasing a Kindle. Those individuals should be happy to note that the Kindle 2 boasts faster page turns.

The Good
Beyond the features listed above, the Kindle 2 still boasts a web browser and free internet access. I think this is absolutely the most overlooked feature and one that would most likely tip the scales for anyone considering purchasing a Kindle. I can't count how many times I've been reading a book on my Kindle and popped open the browser to check my email, the weather, or just Google something.

The Bad
My biggest disappointment in the Kindle 2 is that it still doesn't offer native PDF support. Sure, you can email your PDF to an amazon email address and receive an e-book copy, however the conversion does not always go as planned and I've had difficulties getting larger PDFs to convert at all. Many school textbooks can only be found in PDF and contain an abnormally high number of pictures which makes the conversion even more awkward.

The original Kindle came with a binder-style cover. I didn't like the way that the cover would tend to come loose while reading so I only ever used it for protection when traveling. The new cover has a locking hinge to avoid this problem, so why would I include this in "The Bad"? The cover is not included and costs an additional $29.99.

I love my Kindle and have recommended them to fellow gadget geeks who enjoy reading. The Kindle 2 should perform just as well as the original and I would highly recommend it as well, however I'm not sure the improvements justify an upgrade unless you're likely to use the new text-to-speech feature or are willing to shell out $359 for a nicer form factor.

The Kindle 2 is available for pre-order from Owners of the original Kindle will take first priority.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Designing Business Cards

I'm designing business cards and would like to get people's opinion on the front of the card. Bear in mind that these are personal cards (ie. not company specific) and I plan on placing my contact information on the back.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Nashville Web Developer January Meeting Review

We had a great turnout for our first meeting and came up with some great suggestions for presentations. Thanks to everyone who participated. Here's a list of the meeting topics we're considering:
- Silverlight & XAML
- Silverlight 3rd Party Components
- ASP.NET Performance Considerations
- ASP.NET Security Considerations
- ASP.NET Page Lifecycle
- Introduction to JQuery
- Ajax/JavaScript Development
- Designing with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
- DotNetNuke Installation & Configuration (1/2)
- DotNetNuke Module Development (2/2)
- Overview of Visual Studio 2010
- Converting Classic ASP/ActiveX to ASP.NET
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Joseph Wichman shared his experience creating streaming videos with Silverlight. They can be found in the Research Videos section of

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nashville User Group Meetings

How enthusiastic do you think you would be if you had a 1/5 chance to win a really nice prize worth up to $1,300? We gave away a ton of great stuff at the Nashville .NET User Group meeting, but the enthusiasm level seemed abnormally low. Our first meeting at the Brentwood library went really well, despite the reserved mood and the (new) projector refusing to work for the first 10 minutes. The library conference rooms are quite nice, the speaker (Chris Hefley) was great, and we had a fair turnout considering the meeting location change.

Now that the January .NET UG meeting is behind us, I'm excited about the first Web Developer meeting this Thursday @ Compuware. If your job involves developing web sites/applications or you're just interested in learning to publish your own sites, come join us. We'll be discussing what topics people would like to see presentations on.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Microsoft Tag - Cell phone bar code scanner

I remember thinking how cool it would be to write a program that would use my cell phone's camera to scan a book bar code then automatically add that book to a digital library or shopping list.

While Microsoft Tag wont let you scan traditional UPC bar codes, it does let you create your own bar code that will send a user to a website, place a phone call, add a contact or just show regular text. The main thing I see this being useful for is posters with a URL. Imagine seeing a concert poster and wanting to buy tickets online, where all you have to do is point your phone at the poster and it pulls up the ticket purchase page.

Pretty cool stuff, but of course it all depends on people adopting the technology and printing these bar codes on their products.

You sign up for the beta by visiting Just for fun, here's a tag for this Blog.

New Site:

Palm announced a new phone named the "Pre" yesterday for release on the Sprint PCS network. It's already created quite a bit of buzz, so last night I put together a community website for it. Now my task is putting useful information on the site and getting the word out so future Pre owners start using it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

XNA Game Development for the Xbox 360

If you have an Xbox 360 and a bit of time on your hands (ie. no children) you've probably visited the marketplace to browse the Live Arcade games for something new. You may have noticed that they recently added Community Games, which is where amateur game creators can publish their games for everyone to try and rate. If a game becomes popular enough, it is added to the Xbox Live Marketplace. I was flipping through the community games the other day and was not impressed. Like a typical software developer, I thought to myself, "I could make a better game than this...if I knew anything about making games."

I mentioned this to some coworkers who are into game development and they explained how simple it is to make games for the Xbox using Visual Studio and XNA Game Studio. Now I'm intrigued. You mean I can leverage my existing skills with Visual Studio and C#? Sure, I don't know much about modeling or bump mapping, but I'm a big fan of old school games and would love to make a simple Mario-style platformer or 2D puzzle game.

The spark of interest has been coaxed into a flame of creativity. I don't want to let my other projects suffer, however I intend to check out XNA and see if I really have what it takes to put something together. I'd love to hear from others who are thinking about trying their hand at XNA or who have already developed with it.

Nashville User Groups (.NET and DotNetNuke)

Since being appointed as Vice President for the Nashville .NET User Group, I've felt like a fireman without a fire. My task as VP is to handle sponsorship and the all important SWAG (Stuff We All Get). The previous VP had a child and needed to step down early, so I expected to be swamped with current and potential sponsors to contact and have a list of companies who had donated products/books for giveaways to hit up for more stuff. This was not the case. The user group has been blessed with a number of very faithful sponsors and, although we did have to scramble for a new meeting place, doesn't seem to have any urgent needs.

As anticlimactic as this felt, I'm grateful in that I have more free time to devote towards personal projects and organizing a Nashville DotNetNuke User Group. The plan is not to create an altogether separate UG, but a child group within the .NET UG. My task now is to find out what date would be good for our first meeting. Is Thursday the best weekday? Chime in with your suggestion. Would it be a good idea to have it the Thursday after the .NET User Group meeting?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Silverlight in DotNetNuke

Have you ever been fired up about doing something, but every time you try to start you get bogged down in the details and loose interest? If you're a developer and tinker with projects at home I'm sure this has happened a time or two. I had an idea for a website, similar to Craigslist, but instead of hosting classified ads it would host a calendar of events for motorcycle enthusiasts. If you want to plan a ride to a specific destination next weekend, just go to your city's site and post a ride. Other members can join in if they're interested. It wouldn't be limited just to rides, but also bike rallies and club events.

I brought all the pieces together except one major facet, the event calendar. I used DotNetNuke as a basis for the site and couldn't find a decent event module. The core module didn't display well and was a bit buggy, and on top of the standard limitations I was trying to customize the site so events would tie in with discussion threads. Post an event and an associated thread would be created where people could ask questions and talk about the event. I also saw the need for moderation/abuse reporting, which would need some custom work. Every time I tried to make some headway it seemed I was farther away from my goal.

It's been over a year since I started struggling with the site and tonight I resumed my efforts to get something launched. What makes now different than all the other times? My current client needed a management portal and wanted it created using DotNetNuke. This gave me the opportunity to develop some custom modules in an environment where I was focused with no distractions. The result was some pretty nice modules and a lot of useful experience. I also did some work this summer with Microsoft Silverlight. If you're not familiar with Silverlight, it's similar to Flash in that it's great for making media-rich web interfaces. This is perfect for an interactive calendar. The last piece of the puzzle is Silverlight Desktop for DotNetNuke. It provides the framework for easily including Silverlight applications in a DotNetNuke site.

My goal is to have SOMETHING working by the end of the weekend. It probably wont be very pretty and it surely wont have all the functionality I want, but if I can get something published it should get me out of this rut and help generate some momentum.