Ready for a New Day

Today, I attended the launch event in Indianapolis for Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007. As a result of attending the launch event, I have valid unused product keys for both Office Professional 2007 and Office Groove 2007. If you are interested in either of these, let me know, and I will pass along the product keys and download instructions.

There were two tracks I attended. The first track was the IT professional track. This track covered deployment of Windows Vista, new features in Exchange 2007, and deployment of Office 2007. In this track, the later talks were more interesting in my opinion.

The other track I attended was the developer track. I went to the launch event with a fellow student, so I had to leave early from it. However, it was definitely interesting.

Open Casting Call

I am currently casting for a role of a lifetime. The role is in an impromptu production entitled Life co-starring myself as Brant Gurganus and one other person as herself. The production is currently set on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The requirements for the position include at least cursory interest in both computing and camping. This role is open only to straight, single females between the ages of 18 and 25. This production has a worldwide audience. No acting experience is necessary. In order to apply for the role, just e-mail Casting ends when the role is filled. All casting decisions are final.

In case it isn’t clear, this is not an actual acting role. It is just a creative method that came to mind to advertise my availability and interest in dating or some other activity with another.

Comedians at Rose-Hulman

I attend Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. It is a technical college in Terre Haute, IN. Until 1995, it was an all male school. By both reputation and subject matter, the school is still predominately male. The school has student organization that has many comedians and musicians perform at the school throughout the year. In my four years, I have noticed that nearly every comedian makes the same jokes. They make jokes about the male/female ratio. Those are funny the first time, but they get old when every comedian tells them. They make gender-related jokes that generally get progressively sexual due to the large male audience. Those get pretty old too. The comedians joke about the smell of Terre Haute. Though I have never really noticed it, Terre Haute apparently has a notable odor.

It seems like the jokes are either overused as in the case of those already mentioned or they rely on their distastefulness. I have noticed these comedians even make fun of their audience. I really have not been impressed by the comedians at Rose. I have found some of the musicians, mentalists, and other performers to be funnier without being distasteful. Here is my message to comedians that will perform at Rose-Hulman. Make yourselves stand out. Don’t use the jokes other comedians will use. Don’t resort to being distasteful. You can be funny without making fun of races, genders, etc. Especially don’t single out people in the audience.

Why Isn’t Your Software Ready?

Today, I tried renting a video from CinemaNow. It seemed like things were working fine until I actually tried to play the video. It seems like CinemaNow doesn’t work properly on Windows Vista yet. I have asked for a refund of the rental amount as a result.

Here is the problem I have with incidents like this: Windows Vista has been developer ready for over a year. There are various prereleases that were freely available. There is no excuse for companies not being ready. Here is my message: Windows Vista is released. Windows Media Player 11 is released. Windows Internet Explorer 7 is released. Software needs to work on these now. It is true that public availability is not until the end of January, but these products were released in November. Businesses may already be running these products. Users that were in the beta programs for these products may already be running the released products.

I am no business person, but I cannot see how you save money by not making your product work on these systems. Instead, you waste money dealing with support calls wondering why your products are not working.

Get it together! Quality software development includes developing for the future. As I already mentioned and want to reiterate for emphasis, Windows Vista has been freely available in API stable state for over a year. There is no excuse why actively developed products are not working on them right now.

Not Quite Normal

This entry relates to yesterday’s entry. Another main requirement of Firecrafter is to:

Plan, prepare, and conduct a campfire program.

The requirement has additional clarification:

The Scout and his Scoutmaster should select the time and place of the campfire. Not more than one candidate may conduct any activity. Before beginning this requirement, the Scout should be thoroughly trained in the skills required to complete this requirement successfully. This requirement will be graded on an equal basis with those of all other candidates. Scout will be provided a grading sheet at the beginning of their candidacy. They will be carefully judged on each of the points of the grading sheet. It is preferred that three Firecrafters grade the activity, but who, or even one will-qualified Firecrafter may do the grading.

As anyone who has attended one of these campfire programs knows, these campfires have themes. That was the first order of business. At one point, I remembered that some of my fellow scouts, the scoutmaster, and I would tinker with coming up with different songs. One of the songs had a line like: "If the world were upside down, then the sky would be green and the grass would be blue." I felt that line was appropriate to my life and my troop. My ideas were converging along the line of "Not Quite Normal." I would not describe my life as normal. I would not describe the majority of my friends as normal. It definitely seemed appropriate. I came up with some ideas for program contents including a nine part rendition of "If I Weren’t a Boy Scout" using only three people. Fire programs frequently start with the song mentioned in the previous post. There was a backwards version of which I was aware, so my program started with that version instead. Some of the scouts liked the impromptu show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" so I thought that would fit into the program. I had other ideas as well, but I do not recall them anymore. Fire programs also frequently close with what is called a scoutmaster’s minute. It is a candidate talk related to the theme of the campfire. I asked my scoutmaster to expand the upside down world song and sing, rather than say, it. In addition, the melody of the song was played on a normal acoustic guitar that was missing all but two strings. That also fit in with the theme.

As with the fire by friction set, I built the fire at the very beginning of the week. Since it had been raining, I covered the campfire with a tarp and put some rock and wood on it so it wouldn’t blow away. The fire program was set for Wednesday when my family and many other scouting families visit during the week. I prepared for the fire by removing the tarp. Strange, there was a mouse nest at the very top of the fire. I suppose it wanted out of the rain since the fire was essentially in a giant puddle from all the rain. The fire program went well. I had one of the other scouts light the fire. It never really did anything other than smoke due to the wetness. The program went fine though, for the most part that is. That mouse nest apparently had an occupant that was deeper into the fire lay. About half way through the program, a mouse comes running out of the fire. It was blocked in one way by performers so it went another way. That way was blocked by the audience. It was quite a spectacle. Above all, it certainly wasn’t normal.

The fire program finished, and I was asked to gaze into the dying fire as the evaluators graded the program. What was interesting is that I can hear pretty well if I focus on it, so although I was several yards away, I could hear what the evaluators were saying. I knew I had passed. When I was called over, I pretended I didn’t know and was told that I passed. One of the evaluators asked who the hot girl was that got asked to participate. I told him that it was my sister. The evaluator was a bit embarrassed, but it was funny. I called my sister over. It was yet another not quite normal event.

All in all, the night went well. Even the things that were not planned such as the mouse running out of the fire fit with the theme.

Making Fire

A couple of weeks ago, I overheard a friend talking about different roller coasters. As a result, I shared a story of a different thrill that I had experienced with her, and now I will share it with anyone that reads this blog.

For several years, I was actively involved in the Boy Scouts of America organization. As a scout, I attained its highest rank and went beyond by receiving three palms. I was elected into the Order of the Arrow, a fraternal organization within scouting. There was still another organization within scouting, at least in Indiana. That organization was Firecrafter. One of the interesting ranks within Firecrafter is that of Firecrafter itself. There are two noteworthy requirements. The first is:

Build a fire-by-friction, unassisted, using a set made by the candidate while in camp of natural materials (except thong) and keep the fire burning for 15 minutes.

The requirement has the additional clarification:

The fire set must be made of natural materials gathered and assembled at during the candidacy by the Scout himself. The best wood Indiana has to offer for the floorboard and spindle are red elm and cottonwood, or similar combinations. A leather thong, rope, or nylon cord may be used for the bowstring. Tinder, firewood, and lubricants for the thunderhead must also be natural materials. Suggested tinder is the inner bark of red cedar. The best lubricants are sassafras leaves and the stems of jewel weed. The fire must burn for at least 15 minutes, after which time the candidate will extinguish and clean the area. The scout must obtain the spark and build the fire himself, although advice may be given. At no time will there be double pressure, double pumping, steadying of the bow, or "Warming up" of the set to obtain a fire.

In actuality, there are several ways in which to create a fire by friction. In Indiana, the method used is a bow drill due to wetter conditions. There is an illustration of a bow drill and other methods by Campfire Dude.

The first day of camp was rather rainy, so fire-building materials were wet. Anyhow, between the start of camp and Wednesday, I cut a piece from a log, split it, and made the necessary pieces. I purchased material for the bowstring from the camp store. Between Wednesday and Friday, I spent time practicing. I was able to generate smoke, but there was no spark. Eventually, it was Friday night. I only had overnight in which to "pop a spark." I attended the closing campfire. After the campfire, it was around 10PM. I went to the scoutcraft area where other scouts were pumping on their sets. I began pumping on my set. The smoke starts coming, and my arms get tired. I look, but there is no spark. I try again, and still I fail. After four hours of failure, I am getting to be too tired to stay awake. My scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster are there cheering for me. The other people who have "popped their spark" are there cheering for me, but with all that support I feel like giving up. The person supervising takes me into the woods and talks to me. I tell him I’m tired and just want to go to sleep. He convinces me to try one more time. He says I’m so close. Of course, I’ve heard that several times before, but I do try again. I give it my all, I actually break my bow as I recall and collapse. Luckily, one of the supervisors takes a look and there is indeed an ember. Luckily somebody has what is called a bird’s nest around. A bird’s nest is just some unraveled natural rope. The ember is placed within it. The technique is then to whisper to it. Eventually there is enough hot ash to start moving the bird’s nest into figure eight motions. I do so. Then something amazing happens. That ember erupts into a ball of flame! I rush into the woods to collect twigs and small pieces of wood. I then get some larger sticks and the fire lasts the requisite amount of time. We rejoice by singing, as is the tradition, "Hot Time in the Old Town."

Late last night in bed we all were in bed
Grandma left a lantern in the shed
When the cow kicked it over,
she winked her eye and said
‘There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight
Fire! Fire! Fire!’

I don’t think there has been a more thrilling moment in my life. There is also the amazement that all that work gets you one little spark. But with the right attention, that spark can erupt into something magnificent.

Who Reads This?

In many things I do, I like to have information that can help me. In this case, I am interested in finding out who reads my blog. This blog is imported into Facebook, so these posts appear there as notes. Whether you directly read this through the Windows Live Spaces site or indirectly through the RSS feed or Facebook notes, send me a message, note, comment, wall post, whatever with how you receive the information and what interests you from what I have posted so far.

Vista Still Not Vulnerable

While I have no professional need to do so, I monitor the Microsoft Technical Security Notifications. Specifically, I monitor the comprehensive feed that includes bulletins, revised bulletins, and advisories. Security is an interest of mine, and I have been trying to use secure practices ever since I received malware through a remote procedure call vulnerability in Windows XP during my freshman year. Something that has amazed me is that none of the security notifications since the Windows Vista release have applied to either Windows Vista or Office 2007. I believe there are two reasons for this. The first reason is that both products are significantly more secure than their predecessors having been fully developed with Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle of its Trustworthy Computing Initiative. The second reason is that Windows Vista has not been widely deployed yet and is not generally availability. This makes it a less promising target for malware writers. It also is not in the hands of security researchers.

There have been some vulnerabilities during the beta and release candidate stages of Windows Vista reported in the popular news, but most of these were misinformed. One issue was reported in the Windows Powershell. This tool is not included in Windows Vista and never has been. Another issue is the so-called frankenbuild of Windows Vista. Unethical hackers took activation components from prereleased version of Windows Vista and spliced them into the release version so that activation could be passed. Microsoft released an update addressing this issue and the product keys used would quick working for activation once the prereleases expired.

Professor Challenge

I have a challenge for teachers and professors of the world. In particular, this challenge is targeted toward teachers of advanced high school courses on up into higher education but it can apply elsewhere. The challenge is to give a test, quiz, or assignment that you would give your students to your colleagues. If your colleagues are missing problems, then your test, quiz, or assignment is not at a reasonable difficulty. As another teacher or professor, your colleague should know the material better than you expect the students to know the material.

The reason I am making this challenge is because there are cases when material appearing on assignments simply does not belong there. Examples include many proofs. In particular, I refer to proofs that do not appear in lecture and course material. Of those, I refer to those proofs that do not deviate in a patterned way from proofs that are shown. When these proofs were originally formulated, which is a feat you are asking your students to repeat when the desired proof meets the mentioned qualifications, it took much longer than a day. In some cases, you are asking students to repeat such an amazing feat in less than an hour. Does that seem right?

If you are a professor or teacher and you take this challenge, please let me know your results. Additionally, if you have a differing view on this issue, let me know. I am interested in education and have thought about being a teacher or professor someday, likely after a career in my chosen field.

You’re the One that I Want

I am usually not interested in reality television shows, but I am interested in musicals. For that reason, I gave Grease: You’re the One that I Want a try. This premiere episode was not particularly interesting, but I think things will get more interesting later in the season. Assuming I remember, I think the show merits watching the next episode. This show seems modeled after American Idol. There are three judges, but the decision is up to the US public. The primary difference I see is the prize. The prize in this show is a lead role in the new Grease production.