Vista & Office 2007

After reading numerous articles about it and discussing it with other tech people, the time has finally arrived for installing an MS Windows Vista beta. Just for the heck of it, the Microsoft Office 2007 beta will also be installed on the Vista machine.

The Vista and MS Office 2007 betas arrived today in the MS Action Pack quarterly update. Luke had gotten a copy of the Vista beta from Andy M at NEW NET but had not yet installed it. When the Action Pack arrived, it seemed like a sign that the Vista and Office betas should be installed. Luke is installing the 64-bit Vista tonight and will do the x86 Vista install tomorrow at NEW NET in case anyone is interested in seeing what the install is like.

Before starting the install Luke needed evening sustenance. Min du Buffet in Appleton is an Asian restaurant he had not previously tried, so the car was pointed toward Wisconsin Avenue to check out their dinner buffet. Although it had fewer choices than many Asian buffets in the area, Luke highly enjoyed his delicious meal and plans to visit them in the future.

During his Chinese supper various options were discussed for building or buying a Vista demo/gaming computer. Based on Luke's general recommendations for computer components, it was decided the Vista/gaming system would cost around $800 to build. The system specs include a 3800+ or better Athlon processor, two 512 MB sticks of matched RAM, a 256 MB 7600GT nVidia or X850XT ATI graphics card, a 300 GB HD and a DVD burner. The case would be either a mini-ATX or an ATX, depending on whether a good mini-ATX motherboard could be located at a reasonable price. But if the case is ATX (midtower?), it should have an integral handle for easy transporting to clients' homes for demos or to LAN parties or other gaming situations. Not sure if a 939 or AM2 socket is best, although AM2 seems to be leading in the polls.

The purpose of a new system is to have a good system for showing Vista Aero demos and for gaming. The Vista release is getting close enough (May 2007) that some myDigitechnician clients have started asking questions about Vista. For the type of service myDigitechnician strives to provide its clients, it will be valuable to be able to demo Vista Aero so they can make informed decisions about how quickly they upgrade to Vista and what hardware they should buy over the next six to twelve months. For gaming, especially with respect to the Black Ops Division, it would be good to have a more portable, more modern system. The new system will certainly not be cutting edge, but it will be an excellent system for today's games.

MS Office 2007 isn't of high interest to most myDigitechnician clients, but it is being put on with Vista to have an application to run, as well as to see some of the Office 2007 features being discussed online these days.

If you have Vista questions or suggestions, feel free to comment here or contact me.



'Net Fasting

How often do you go an entire day without connecting to the 'net?

The past couple weeks in this office have seen some internet connectivity problems. Not sure if it's due to the heat, because of heavy usage by our 'cable internet neighbors' or just miscellaneous ISP problems. The cable modem has been manually powered down then reconnected ten times today to restore a lost connection. Normally months go by without losing our connection or having to power down the modem due to ISP problems. Having this flaky connection to the 'net has given wings to thoughts about what would happen if the internet totally died for a day, or a week, or even several months.

Because of our two companies, I'm usually online at least a couple hours every day. The only days I go without connecting are those days where I don't have the opportunity to connect for free. I'm not to the point (yet) where it's worth it, or I feel the need, to connect if I have to pay for it, other than my office/home internet service provider. It would be fun to have 24/7 'net availability, but it's not worth any money to me. There are enough free hot spots around that a person can at least download and send emails at no cost whilst on the road or away from home for long periods. If you need a connection away from home or the office, start with the local library or coffee shops.

Ignoring the issue of what you would do if the 'net totally died for an extended period of time, the question remains, "Is it psychologically beneficial to consciously avoid use of the internet periodically?" If a person has a high speed internet connection and tends to log on at least once per day, would it be good to not log on for at least one whole day each month? Or maybe twice a month. Maybe take three days off in a row. Maybe stay off the internet completely for two weeks if you go on a long vacation.

My pda calendar just got an entry for 19 August 2006. The entry reads, "NO INTERNET USE TODAY." I'll let my business partners know that I'll be offline that day. Looking ahead, there is a strong reluctance to make that commitment, because I truly enjoy using the internet. At this point, however, it seems like an internet 'fast' should be scheduled simply because I'm hesitant to do so.

The next step is to decide when a 'no food' fast should be scheduled for the benefit of soul and body.



Web Interactivity, AJAX and Security

Two items read online today raised interesting and potentially high impact points about the web. A News.com article talked about the security risks being introduced by highly interactive websites of the 2.0 variety, especially with respect to AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript And XML). The other item, a Tara Hunt post on HorsePigCow discussed the coming demise of web browsers.

"The Security Risk in Web 2.0" makes the point that for highly interactive websites built using AJAX, an important component of Web 2.0, "in the rush to add features, security has become an afterthought." Although AJAX isn't the only aspect of Web 2.0 sites which results in decreased security, it is one of the big contributors. In describing AJAX, the article says, "A traditional Web site is like a house with no windows and just a front door. An AJAX Web site is like a house with a ton of windows and a sliding door."

Two general causes of security problems on the new, more interactive sites are website programmers lack of security focus and the inherent insecurity that comes with web interactivity. The twenty-something web programmers building the Web 2.0 sites are more focused on the features and interactivity of the site than they are on the security. They haven't had much experience programming sites where security was the most important attribute of the code. Many of them haven't had any formal training in secure coding (possibly no formal programming training at all) and many of the code examples they have learned from have not been optimized for security. Additionally, in many ways web interactivity is synonymous with insecurity. When a website is programmed to easily interact with legitimate users, it automatically becomes that much easier for a malicious visitor to misuse the site, especially if security wasn't the top concern when the site was designed.

Tara's post, "R.I.P. Browsers" discusses an interesting theory that should bring a smile to Steve Ballmer's face. Her premise is that browsers should soon become a thing of the past because of their design. For one thing, doing everything on the web with browsers (such as Gmail, Writely, Gspreadsheets, etc) means that when you're offline, by choice or by necessity, you likely have limited access to your info that is stored online. Also, using a web application like Gmail within a browser is recursive, running an application within an application (within another application if you want to consider a modern OS an 'application'). Instead of this situation, Tara suggests we should have "No more browsers. Just connected desktop apps." Read the list of points supporting her theory and see if you agree.

The 'net continues to evolve. Its nearly continuous innovation presents both opportunity and problems, bringing to mind the E. F. Russell phrase, "May you live in interesting times."

For a brief background of AJAX, read "AJAX breathes new life into Web apps" from InfoWorld.com.

Here's the initial weekly issues list for NEW NET's 01 Aug 2006 gathering:



Barter in Northeast Wisconsin

Will increased bartering in northeast Wisconsin make the region a better place to live? For some people, the answer is a resounding yes!

My research on the topic of barter is just beginning. From the small amount of reading done so far, it appears some people make barter a regular way of life. They even use barter for things such as travel, hotel rooms and meals at restaurants.

One reason increased bartering will make northeast Wisconsin a better place to live is it allows people to get more value for their time and money. Another reason is it can help you build strong new personal relationships throughout the region. An improvement in the quality of life is at least as important as the money you can save.

There are large, international, commercialized barter systems available to people living in northeast Wisconsin, such as International Monetary Systems (IMS), which recently changed its name from Continental Trade Exchange. They are headquartered in New Berlin, Wisconsin, and I'm considering taking a trip down to the Milwaukee area to talk with some people at the company.

However, another barter system seems like it might have benefits not available through a large organization such as IMS. Those benefits are strong relationships and a widespread regional network that could be come from a smaller barter system designed primarily to connect people and businesses in northeast Wisconsin.

There may already be significant opportunities to be involved in barter in northeast Wisconsin. I will continue to talk with people to locate barter opportunities that are already established. But if there is no regional barter system, it could be fun working with other like-minded folks to establish one.

The main problem I see with barter is making sure everyone involved in the barter deals gets fair value for their contribution to the system. The main benefit to finding an established barter system you like is that those problems will (if you're lucky) already be solved or at least minimized.

If you are interested in or active in regional barter, or know of people and businesses interested in barter in northeast Wisconsin, please contact me.



Data Backups - Some Options

At NEW NET last night, Andy M and I discussed several options for computer backup. Those options were:
1. Online data backup
2. Drop & drag a data folder between hard drives on two different computers
3. Tape backup
4. MS SyncToy backup between hard drives on two different computers
5. IBM Continuous Data Protection
6. Backups to a CD or DVD

What option is best for you depends on several factors. Two main factors for this discussion are whether the person is comfortable with using a computers and networks (such as a home wireless network) and how valuable the data is.

For those people who are relatively tech savvy, I like the sounds of Andy's SyncToy solution. For people or companies whose data is highly valuable, such as customer records, accounting information or other data critical to a business, an online data backup seems the best answer.

A prime requirement of mine for a usable backup system, especially for consumers, is a highly automated solution. Home computer users tend not to do manual backups even though they have economical, reliable options, such as burning to a CD or DVD periodically and using a flash drive for data changed between times when they back-up to CD or DVD.

Andy has worked with a number of clients who use an online backup system. The backup is made each night, so the most data that can be lost is one day's worth. The same would be true for most of the other backup plans. The IBM Continuous Data Protection (CDP), however, works in the background, sort of like anti-virus software. Assuming CDP doesn't slow the computer down significantly, it might be a pretty good option. If CDP works correctly, the most data you would lose is possibly the file you are working on when the disaster strikes, and even the data on that file may be only partially lost. IBM's website has a trial download option for CDP, so I downloaded it and will be trying it out. I'll let you know how it works. In addition, a system will be set up for using the SyncToy method so CDP and SyncToy can be compared.

If you have a backup method you find particularly easy, automatic, reliable and cost effective, please comment on this posting or send an email.



AMD Bought ATI -- Good or Bad?

So, are the GPU/video card wars over? Will AMD's purchase of ATI mean ATI's role will be dumbed down to just compete with Intel graphics? Or will ATI's dominance in the portable device market mean happy days are ahead for AMD.

This merger or acquisition will take a while to figure out, and there's no doubt that most AMD and ATI employees have the same questions as you and I. Hopefully after a few mis-steps and some minor job cuts, AMD will integrate ATI's products and expertise into the processor company and develop some innovative new technologies that would not have happened if the two companies had stayed separate.

The biggest potential downside IMO is if nVIDIA is left feeling they have no competition, resulting in stagnation in the video card market. Sort of like Creative and sound cards. Although it's questionable whether coming out with new $600 video cards is progress. If things work out to the benefit of consumers, the AMD-ATI combo will develop some awesome new cards and nVIDIA will be back to the drawing board working to stay ahead.

In a separate move, AMD announced processor price cuts this week, averaging a 47% decrease. If you've been waiting to buy an AMD cpu, check out your favorite tech parts store.

Here's the final weekly issues list for NEW NET's 25 July 2006 meeting:

Geek Activism

Reading Techmeme.com this morning led me to "95 Theses of Geek Activism." Hardcore and mediumcore geeks should read the '95 Theses' and consider a bit more activism than is their normal bent. A large percentage of tech enthusiasts have personalities that result in an introverted, laissez faire lifestyle. That personality is not generally given to excessive activism, but perhaps the time has come in the development of computing and advanced technology for a concerted effort at connecting geeks and making a difference in today's world.

Benefits of 'geek activism':
  • Appropriate legislation is enacted
  • Disruptive, innovative products can be developed by individuals or small companies
  • Individuals can have a chance to change the world
  • Non-geeks will more clearly see the benefits of technology
  • Personal privacy will be improved in some regions; in other countries the loss of personal freedoms and privacy will be slowed
  • Public policies and legislation will be more favorable to the geek population
  • You'll get to meet more geeks
  • You might enjoy it...
Steps to 'geek activism':
  • Read the '95 Theses'
  • Decide which of the actions listed in the '95 Theses' are ones you can effectively do; also try a couple that you're intrigued by, even if you're not sure you have the qualifications to do well on those items
  • Consider attending or organizing a barcamp or other geek event to meet new tech enthusiasts, build new relationships and expand your technology horizons
Some people feel the world is getting 'smaller' because of advances in communication technology and travel. An alternate way to look at the situation is that individuals' worlds are getting a lot bigger. People can easily, economically and instantly communicate with someone on the opposite of the globe. 'Communities' are being built with people from five, ten or even twenty countries every day. Fifty years ago people thought it was a big deal to travel across the country or hear a foreign language spoken. Kids today expect to hear many foreign languages and many of them expect to travel across the world. Just this morning I read articles online talking about Anousheh Ansari, who will soon be the first civilian woman in space and about a company that will soon be offering 'space walks.'

A majority of the world's population doesn't understand technology. To ensure that appropriate, innovative and disruptive technology is allowed to happen and to improve the world, maybe it's time for technology enthusiasts to get more involved in the political process and in some of the other areas of society mentioned in the '95 Theses.'

Read the '95 Theses.' Then expand your world.



BarCampMilwaukee has made good progress in the week that's passed since BarCampChicago happened.

Justin decided on 17 July he'd help lead the charge and registered the domain barcampmilwaukee.com. He also has a commitment for a venue in Milwaukee. Pete made the BarCampMilwaukee page on barcamp.org on 22 July. As of 23 July there are four organizers and one participant registered for BarCampMilwaukee on the barcamp.org page. I sent an email to a Microsoft evangelist to see if we can get our second sponsor (assuming the venue is an in-kind sponsorship).

It will be fun to see this event take shape. I don't know how much help Jason had putting together BarCampChicago. He had a number of people helping him during barcamp, but from my uninformed viewpoint it appeared he did most of the organizing by himself. A Herculean task on which he did an outstanding job. It looks like BarCampMilwaukee already has a good organizing nucleus. That bodes well for the success of the event.

If you're interested in being an organizer for, participating in, or sponsoring BarCampMilwaukee, just indicate that on the event webpage linked above. Hope to see you there!

(Speaking of BarCampChicago, Troy said he helped Jason clean up on Monday and it was over 100 degrees in the barcamp rooms...)


Linux Users Groups

Linux Users Groups (LUGs) are generally loosely-organized assemblages of people enthusiastic about using Linux and, to a certain extent, passionate about the open source concept. See the definitions at the end of this posting if you don't know what some terms in the preceding sentence mean or are referring to.

The LUGs within reasonable driving distance of Appleton, Wisconsin, are primarily the Fond du Lac Linux Users Group, the Milwaukee Linux Users Group and the Madison Linux Users Group. People have tried to get a LUG going in the Appleton/Green Bay area in the past five years, but as far as I know, there isn't currently an actively meeting LUG near Appleton/Green Bay. I've been to FDLLUG meetings and a couple MLUG meetings, but have not yet made it to a MadLUG meeting. With luck, I'll get to one of the MadLUG meetings in the next year or so. Because the FDLLUG meeting location is the closest to me, their meetings are the ones I most frequently attend.

The purpose and activities of a LUG depend on the leadership of the LUG and interests of LUG members. If the participants are mainly casual Linux enthusiasts, there will be a lot of interest in and presentations about Linux or open source application programs, such as OpenOffice, The GIMP, etc. If the group is a little more hardcore geek with a high percentage of programmers, there is likely to be significant time spent talking about various Linux distros, or distributions, such as Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat (Fedora), Suse, and others, and about how to solve specific programming problems or how to get a particular Linux program or distro to work with a specific computer or peripheral device. Nearly every Linux meeting I've been at also includes a significant amount of troubleshooting of the hardware and software involved with the presentation. An activity often sponsored by LUGs is a Linuxfest, which consists of a long meeting (four to eight hours) revolving around Linux topics, with a particular focus on helping people new to Linux load a Linux distro on their computer and learn how it works. Because Linux and application programs to use on a Linux system are (or can be) free, participating in a Linuxfest can be an excellent way to learn some new computer skills. (The Linux Users of Northern Illinois, LUNI, are organizing an Uberfest sometime in the next few months, so if you want to participate in a Chicago area Linuxfest, that is one to consider.)

The people at LUG meetings are generally open, inclusive and welcoming, to the extent that a bunch of geeks can be. If you go to a LUG meeting, just introduce yourself to everyone else at the meeting, listen to some of the conversations, and start asking questions of the people who seem the most interested in discussing Linux with someone new to the field. If you're not new to Linux but you are new to a LUG, bring along a computer (especially a laptop, because of portability) and start asking any questions you have about your Linux system or about other people's Linux boxes.

If you are a Linux enthusiast or interested in learning more about Linux, find the LUGs near you (or start one), participate in their meetings, make some connections with other LUG users, help make the LUG meetings worthwhile for everyone, recruit new LUG members and/or new Linux users and enjoy an aspect of computing made possible by thousands (probably millions) of mostly unpaid hours of hard but fun work from Linux enthusiasts around the world.


Linux - An open source kernel for a computer operating system written in the early 1990s by Linus Torvalds when he was in college in Helsinki, Finland. He originally named the kernel Freax, and it was later renamed Linux (a combination of Linus and Unix) by someone else on the internet after Linus made it available to others via the 'net.

Kernel - the central part in most computer operating systems because of its task [function], which is the management of the system's resources and the communication between hardware and software components. (from Wikipedia)

Open Source - Open source means many different things to people, but to me open source means both a social approach to life and people's creative products, and a way of looking at and dealing with computer software or programs. The definitions herein are my own. More precise or accepted definitions can be found in Wikipedia, Open Source Initiative, The Free Software Foundation, and in many other places. Open source software, referred to by some as free and open source software (FOSS), means software you can freely read and modify and can be free of cost. The phrases 'free, as in speech' and 'free, as in beer' are often used in referring to open source. The traditional commerical software, such as that made by Microsoft, was/is proprietary, and the source code cannot be openly viewed and modified by anyone who wants to take the time to figure out how to do it. MS programs are usually neither free as in beer or as in speech. Open source, on the other hand, is designed to be improved, modified and shared by anyone interested in doing so (assuming they are a sufficiently-skilled programmer). Many people think of open source software as being 'free, as in beer', so they can legally acquire for zero cost all the programs and software needed to operate their computer. To a certain extent that is true, but even more important is the fact that improvements to open source software are limitless because the programs are 'free, as in speech.'

Operating System - a software program that manages the hardware and software resources of a computer. (Wikipedia)

Unix - a computer operating system originally developed in the 1960s and 1970s by a group of AT&T Bell Labs employees including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and Douglas McIlroy.... Unix was designed to be portable, multi-tasking and multi-user in a time-sharing configuration. (Wikipedia)

Weekly issues list, so far, for the 25 July 2006 NEW NET meeting:


Fireseed - 'Casual Think Tank" For Technology in Milwaukee

Fireseed (http://fireseedgroup.net/) defines itself as "a technical peer group in Milwaukee, WI for passionate technologists that wish to grow through new skills, friendships, and are seeking an environment to hone in on technical risk taking opportunities like competition and startups." If you live anywhere near Milwaukee and the above description appeals to you, check it out. There's a calendar on the website that lists Fireseed meetings and many other tech events in Wisconsin and the midwest. The next Fireseed meeting is Sunday, July 23, tentatively scheduled at Brewing Grounds in Milwaukee starting at 2:45 pm.

Although I've not attended a Fireseed meeting yet, I'm looking forward to doing so in the near future. Fireseed appears to be designed for the hardcore technology enthusiast, while the NEW NET group in Appleton is meant more for a wide range of technology enthusiasts. On the Fireseed 'About' page, under the heading of "Who does not show up to Fireseed meetings?" it mentions "people who have never read a line of code." While I have read lines of code, I'm certainly not a coder, and nobody will be asking me for help with their programs in the near future. But I still enjoy discussions with those who do code, and I enjoy learning more about programming.

It would be fun if we could connect ten or twenty hardcore geeks in the Fox Cities area who wanted to meet on a regular basis. I might even end up doing some regular programming, just for the fun of it, if I had the opportunity to review and discuss the code with people who knew what they were doing. As I connect with more tech people over the next few years, being part of a Fireseed type group in northeast Wisconsin is not out of the question.


Potential Opportunities With Vista

Vista is the name of the Microsoft next-gen operating system that will replace Windows XP. The current stated release time is January 2007, although you may want to refrain from placing a large bet with your favourite bookie that a Jan07 release will happen. As with any new software package, especially an OS, there will be many opportunities, and Microsoft will be doing its best to market the opportunities Vista will bring you for better computing.

Unfortunately, not all Vista opportunities will be seen as good by the general public. One opportunity will be a chance for vendors of computer hardware such as video cards and RAM, to make money by helping upgrade computers so they can better run Vista. Another opportunity will be for pc manufacturers to sell completely new, more powerful computer systems that are better suited to Vista. Yet another opportunity will be for malware writers, especially the ones oriented to illegally making money through malware, to attack a new operating system.

One article on this week's NEW NET tech news topic list (see below) explores the issues related to security holes inherent in a new software package. The article specifically addresses the issue of the networking component of Vista. One potential 'opportunity' is described as follows:

"…For example, Vista will be the first Windows version to support IPv6, the next update of the technology standard used to send information over computer networks, by default. To help transition to the new protocol and for peer-to-peer networking features, Microsoft has functionality called IPv6 tunneling in Vista. This functionality could expose PCs that otherwise would be invisible behind a firewall...As Vista becomes available, businesses should update security systems, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, to prevent that…"

Regardless of whether you are looking forward to Vista, don't care about Vista or dread Vista, it's coming. It will be an opportunity for innovation, frustration, a boost in the tech economy, new malware, gold doubloons in the MS coffers and increased in-home computer service for myDigitechnician helping people understand and adapt to a new computing standard. Be judicious when transitioning to and using Vista, and call us when you have questions or problems. (www.mydigitechnician.com)

Weekly tech issues list for 18 July NEW NET gathering at Mister Churro in Appleton:


Communication Media for NEW NET

Still haven't ferreted out a communication medium that's highly appealing for NEW NET. Since Blogger posts are fairly easy to do from anywhere on the net, we'll try using this blog in various ways for a few weeks as the way to make available aNEW NET list of interesting tech items for the week.

Might also consider doing a wiki for the NEW NET weekly topic list, as a result of listening to and talking with Jimbo Wales (Wikipedia founder) at BarCamp Chicago on 15 July. An interesting, deep-thinking, fun guy. A wiki would be much better for archiving NEW NET lists and enabling collaborative weekly tech news list, but I have this blog and don't have a wiki. Maybe the next time Yoda is at NEW NET, we can put together a NEW NET wiki at the meeting...

A few more topics may be added tonight or on Tuesday before the NEW NET gathering, but here's the list as of now. I'll put the complete list on the myDigitechnician blog by 3 pm on 18 July. For those who print it out before coming to the meeting, you can highlight the list and do print/selection, or just cut and paste the list into a text document, then print the text document.

Tech issues list for 18 July NEW NET meeting at Mister Churro:

(Tech issues list for 18 July NEW NET meeting are found in the 18 July post for this blog, titled "Potential Opportunities With Vista")


Recap & Reactions: BarCamp Chicago July06

If you are a passionate tech enthusiast, Do Not Pass Go. Rather, go directly to your nearest, soonest BarCamp. BarCamp Chicago July06 just ended for this tired camper, but the neurons, ganglions and synapses are firing and creating new pathways faster than they can be assimilated and appreciated. BarCamp Chicago wasn't everything I imagined it might be. But it was lots of things expected and more. There's no doubt it was worth the time, money and energy.

If interested in more info about BarCamp Chicago, go to http://barcampchicago.com. There will be more info, presentations, names, connections and ideas added there over the next few days or weeks. So check back a couple times. And if some of the people, projects or companies sound interesting, take the effort to connect with the people involved in your area of interest. They'll be glad to hear from you.

BarCamp, from my initial, not-yet-digested perceptions:
- Jason Rexilius, hostedLABS (camp catalyst, many other accolades if he'll accept them...)
- Troy Haaland, eSigma
- Justin Kruger, Fireseed
- Sean Johnson, nextChicago
- Dan Ratner, nanotech and Sittercity
- Aatish Salvi, NanoBusiness Alliance
- Jimbo Wales, Campaign Wikia
- Matt England, Cleversafe
- Chris Gladwin, Cleversafe
- Andrew Turner, High Earth Orbit
- Samir Faci, LUNI, Uberfest
- Seva, LUNI, Uberfest
- Roberto, LUNI, Uberfest, XGL
- Rachel Engel
- Alex Rakoczy, ChicagoLUG
- Brian, late night FPS (realNetwork Solutions?)
- James Nahikian, Nahikian Global IP & Tech Group
- Jess Balint, Improved Ideas
- Jed, Ovacore
- Jonathan Andrew Wolter, Techsocial
- Jason, TECHcoffee
- Ron May, TMR
- lots more people...
- Ideas & Activities: BarCamp Milwaukee, Open Collaboration Camp, nanotech in northeast Wisconsin, eSigma & AMW Process Group telecollaboration tools, Campaign Wikia, nextChicago, Cleversafe and 'free' online storage, EAA & civilian aerospace enthusiasts, Uberfest, Linux XGL, Giordano's pizza, there is 'free' beer, next barcamp, TECH cocktail, Arsmeets, all the people I didn't get to talk with at barcamp, all the sessions I missed, all the informal conversations I missed.

There were 92 people signed up on the wiki to attend BarCamp Chicago Jul06, and somewhere between 80 and 120 showed to participate in at least some of the event. Jason R pretty much wore himself out with preparations for the event and keeping things running on Saturday and Sunday. He must have had a combined total of four hours of sleep on Friday and Saturday nights. Troy H helped Jason out with BarCamp things and got about the same number of hours of sleep, although nobody made him stay up until 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning...(point of clarification: Troy said he HAD to stay up until 5:30 because the event would not have qualified as a true barcamp if everyone went to bed by 2 a.m. -- ed)

The Six Degrees, Flat World effect was present at BarCamp Chicago. Troy H grew up in the same small town as my wife, and he went to the same college as moi -- Michigan Tech. (correction: Troy said he didn't attend MTU -- ed.) In addition to talking with him about numerous tech topics, it was fun to talk about common experiences. But combo pasties?? What's with that?

BarCamp Chicago sparked lots of ideas. Now we just need more hours in a day. Have no doubts about whether people enjoyed and appreciated BarCamp, Jason. It was worthwhile, effective and fun. Thank you!

...so what's the tentative date for the next BarCamp Chicago?...


Connecting Tech Enthusiasts

Talk about crazy. A left brain engineer/tech enthusiast trying to connect other tech enthusiasts, many of whom are either left brain or at least less extroverted than the mythical John or Mary Doe. Doh!

Here's a web description of a left brain person:
  • Logical
  • Sequential
  • Rational
  • Analytical
  • Objective
The above description doesn't sound like a perfect networker, outgoing social butterfly or a person who is skilled at connecting with new people. Regardless of the inherent roadblocks in the concept, I'll continue to work on finding and connecting tech enthusiasts, both within Wisconsin and outside its borders. Meeting people like Andy M make it worthwhile.

Examples of existing groups/events:
Fond du Lac Linux Users Group
Milwaukee Linux Users Group
Madison Linux Users Group
WIN NE (Wisconsin Innovation Network, Appleton)
WIN Milwaukee
WIN Madison
Fireseed (Milwaukee)
The Hive (Appleton)
Innovation Mondays (Milwaukee)
NEW NET (Appleton)

If you're a tech enthusiast who wants to get involved in this Quest (not for the Grrrail...), post a comment and we'll connect to discuss it more!


BarCamp Chicago 2006

BarCamp Chicago 2006 (15 - 16 July) is explained on its website as "ad hoc un-conference for technology skillz trade." Although not a coder, I'm planning to participate in BarCamp Chicago because I'm going to work with others to organize a barcamp-type unconference in Wisconsin, albeit one that's less focused on hard-core tech. It's probably a good idea to be involved in an unconference before planning one, just to get some experience and figure out some things to emulate and some things to do a little differently.

The event we're planning is tentatively called Open Collaboration Camp. Right now we're in the alpha stage, working on getting the planning team assembled. We tried to organize this unconference in April/May 2006, but due to planning team previous commitments, the spring 2006 event didn't happen. The new target date is September/October 2006. The planned audience is a mix of tech, innovators, entrepreneurs and other like-minded people.

If interested in finding out more about unconferences, here are a couple good links:

Tech news topics for 18 July 2006 NEW NET:

· Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger Now Compatible http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=3303
· Google Must Die (more about Y!/MS IM) http://www.fool.com/news/commentary/2006/commentary06071302.htm
· Internet con artists turn to 'vishing' http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060712/ap_on_hi_te/vishing_scam
· The Internet is old news and boring.. Deal with it http://www.blogmaverick.com/entry/1234000380073791/
· ASUS LCD monitor, 2ms response time, delivers performance demanded by hardcore gamers http://www.biosmagazine.co.uk/article.php?id=3754
· Man Controls PC -- With His Mind (Matrix v. 0.1 beta…) http://news.yahoo.com/s/zd/20060712/tc_zd/183165
· Yahoo 9 daily videos http://9.yahoo.com


Ars Meet - Indy 2006

The best relationships have a combination of face to face interaction and long distance communication. This past weekend, Luke and I participated in an F2F event with a bunch of people known previously only through long distance communication. The event was the Indy Ars Meet 2006.

Arstechnica.com is IMHO one of the best tech enthusiast sites on the web. Luke and I have read and benefited from Ars for many years and hope to do so for many years in the future. Luke is a subscriber and a relatively frequent poster on the forums. I use Ars to maintain current tech knowledge and as a news resource for NEW NET. Arsians have been holding tech gatherings around the US for several years to connect in person some of the people whose interactions are only or primarily online. Luke and I went to the Madison Ars Meet a couple months ago and decided a quick road trip to Indianapolis to meet the legends Ceasar and Hannibal, as well as many mere mortal Arsians, would be a good use for the July 8 - 9 weekend. About 50 people were planning to attend the event at the northside Indy home of Panders, another renowned Arsian.

Both Luke and I thoroughly enjoyed the Indy Ars Meet 2006. If we're not banned from the event, we'll likely attend in 2007. Three things I really enjoyed -- meeting some interesting new tech enthusiasts, lots of good food, a bottle of la Fin du Monde. Three things I wish I'd done differently -- talked to and gotten to know a few more Arsians (I spent most of my time talking with just a couple people) , eat a caramel brownie (we brought caramel brownies, which I love, and I didn't eat even one of them), and take some pictures.

Another face to face event for tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs is the BarCamp Chicago 2006 event scheduled for July 15 - 16. I plan to attend that if at all possible. Going to that and talking with lots of the participants will be good preparation for the Open Collaboration Camp.

Discussion Topic - July 11 NEW NET

Best Technology For Keeping Brain Young or Increasing Its Capacity

Would you buy a Nintendo DS Lite to keep your mind young and maybe even improve your thinking skills? The DS Lite and its Brain Age game will cost you $135 - $160. Most people would gladly pay much more than $160 to significantly improve their brain’s capacity or to keep it sharp and ‘young’. The real question is, does ‘playing’ Brain Age have a noticeable positive effect, and is the game engaging enough to induce you to keep playing it.

Reviews I read for Brain Age w/ Nintendo DS were mixed. Some people thought it was great and others severely downgraded the game due to technical glitches (voice recognition has problems with the word ‘blue’, some handwriting recognition issues), narration that’s unnecessary after the first few times you play the game, and the contention that your brain isn’t being beneficially exercised but is rather being trained how to do the exercises in Brain Age. The Sodoku puzzles in Brain Age were highly appealing to some and completely worthless in the opinion of others.

Likely the best way to keep your brain young and to increase its capacity is by including lots of critical thinking activities in your daily life, both vocational and avocational. What ways do you use or do others you know use to keep their brain young?

Links related to brain-building tech: http://www.sciammind.com/article.cfm?articleID=00016C9D-2761-1477-9D3383414B7F0000&pageNumber=1http://www.brainage.com/launch/what.jsp

In The News for July 11 NEW NET:


Continual Change on NEW NET

My ideal for regularly scheduled gatherings of people are ones where people show up because they want to (as opposed to it being required) and all those who show up participate in the gathering in some way and leave feeling like it was a good use of their time, having learned something new and having shared something with others in the group. The challenge for NEW NET is to continually try new things to connect Wisconsin tech enthusiasts in ways that effectively work toward the above ideal.

One new thing I'm trying out for NEW NET is putting the weekly NEW NET issues list on this website. The current/interesting tech topics will be posted each day on the site, and weekly list will be accumulated and carried forward between meetings. If you have any suggestions for other ways to communicate the weekly issues list, or to make the NEW NET meetings more interesting and worthwhile, please contact me.

Discussion Topic - July 11 NEW NET

Best Technology For Keeping Brain Young or Increasing Its Capacity

Would you buy a Nintendo DS Lite to keep your mind young and maybe even improve your thinking skills? The DS Lite and its Brain Age game will cost you $135 - $160. Most people would gladly pay much more than $160 to significantly improve their brain’s capacity or to keep it sharp and ‘young’. The real question is, does ‘playing’ Brain Age have a noticeable positive effect, and is the game engaging enough to induce you to keep playing it.

Reviews I read for Brain Age w/ Nintendo DS were mixed. Some people thought it was great and others severely downgraded the game due to technical glitches (voice recognition has problems with the word ‘blue’, some handwriting recognition issues), narration that’s unnecessary after the first few times you play the game, and the contention that your brain isn’t being beneficially exercised but is rather being trained how to do the exercises in Brain Age. The Sodoku puzzles in Brain Age were highly appealing to some and completely worthless in the opinion of others.

Likely the best way to keep your brain young and to increase its capacity is by including lots of critical thinking activities in your daily life, both vocational and avocational. What ways do you use or do others you know use to keep their brain young?

Links related to brain-building tech: http://www.sciammind.com/article.cfm?articleID=00016C9D-2761-1477-9D3383414B7F0000&pageNumber=1 http://www.brainage.com/launch/what.jsp

In The News for July 11 NEW NET:

NEW NET (Northeast Wisconsin Network for Economy and Technology issues), in the words of Andy, is a group of like-minded tech enthusiasts. It is an informal weekly gathering of people interested in getting together to talk, share and learn about a wide ranging variety of topics related to technology and the local economy. Anyone who think that sounds like a good time is welcome to show up regularly or periodically -- no dues and no formal meeting program. If interested, check this website for the place and time of the next NEW NET convocation (July 11, 7 pm, Mister Churro, 207 N. Richmond St., Appleton).

NEW NET was started because several of us had a strong desire to connect with other tech enthusiasts around northeast Wisconsin. The utopian ideal would be to have small tech enthusiast groups that meet weekly or monthly in many communities around the region (state?) which periodically (semi-annually, annually?) all get together in one location. If interested in working with us on this goal, please contact me by leaving a comment with your email address.