Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Microsoft Expression Web is a solid product.

It's $100 to upgrade from any version of FrontPage. I don't know if it checks upon installation for FrontPage. I had an old Office 2003 CD in the other disk drive, but either it found it automatically or didn't bother prompting me. Few people still have FrontPage installed, I'd bet.

(free) Training

At Lynda.com, Joe Marini, a MS PM, offers online video training. For $25 a month, you get unlimited access to their mostly design-oriented video training courses. You can order the training on CD.

What I like to do is watch the movies, then copy the cached .mov files from the "Temporary Internet Files" folder and watch them using the QuickTime player. I paid $30 to upgrade to QuickTime Pro, so I can double-click a .MOV file to open it and press Ctrl-F to watch it fullscreen.

There are free sample movies. The first are rudimentary reviews of HTML and Javascript and XML, but check out the sample videos about the user interface (3 minutes) or setting tag properties (4 minutes) to get a sense of what's covered in the videos.

There's also training videos from TotalTraining.com. You get some of their videos as a free sample with the Expression Web upgrade. I bought the training disks ($100) because I do a lot of Web page design. I figured I can save time watching someone familiar with a program rather than use brute force.

The problem with us users is we tend to do things by experimenting and the first way that works is the only way we do it from then on.

Some features:

Joe Marini (lynda.com) shows how this works and along the way, you'll see a lot of the little conveniences Microsoft built into XWeb (that's what I think it should be called informally).

He also offers information on how XWeb works with ASP.NET. The answer seems to be seamlessly.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
What the Internet needs is a 5 cent payment system.

When the Internet began, it was a national defense strategy to decentralize communication and/or means for scientific research to be shared among academic institutions. One day in his basement, Al Gore decided that the Information Superhighway could also help America's schoolchildren compete in the world.

There was a great hubbub as to whether it should be allowed to be a commercial medium (offering advertising and selling things). It was thought this would water down or pollute the purity of this form of communication.

[flashback] When I was growing up, one of the great fears was "Pay TV," along with nuclear annihilation from Russia.

We thought in the future, TV would not be freely broadcast over amber waves from sea to shining sea ('the way God intended' the implied end of the sentence). It was suggested special events like the Super Bowl would require a fee to be watched. It was hinted, according to the domino theory of the day, that eventually we would have no free TV programming. The proponents promised TV broadcasts without commercials. The opponents envisioned pay TV that had commercials anyway.

In the 70's and 80's, the pioneer of pay TV was Ted Turner. It was said at the time that on the Turner Broadcasting System channel, you could watch Gilligan's Island or I Love Lucy reruns 24 hours a day. An all sports channel called ESPN broadcast field hockey, softball, and something called Australian rules football (kind of like rugby and soccer and kicking the ball through a goal post rolled into one mutant sport).

The number of channels allowed channels to compete for a specialized fragment of audience. Ted Turner invented not one but two full-time news channels (when TV news was a half-hour around 6 p.m.). Who would watch news all day?

I'm told there is not only a fishing channel, but also a bass fishing channel. If I were selling sonar fish finders, I'd rather have Championship Bass Fishing viewers watch my commercials.

[back to the present] Now, decades later, almost everyone I know has cable TV or satellite TV. We pay $40, $60, or more per month. It's the norm. In a way, paying for TV has replaced free TV.

Credit card payments over the Internet are fraught with danger. Even established and well-known companies can expose customers' personal data. Even protected sites can be exploited by hackers logging keystrokes on the client computers. Bogus emails and phony sites have been countered recently by Outlook Express and Internet Explorer, but there will certainly be exploits using new tactics in the future.

Yes, there have been many proposed micro-payment systems. PayPal is one standard. This might be my bias, but I didn't like using it however convenient it was when I had a credit card number with its available balance ready to be charged at any time by someone who could trick me into confirming my password with an urgent sounding e-mail. I never could tell when it was truly PayPal e-mailing me and when it was some phisher.

Will Microsoft points become the standard? The beauty of it is that it is currency-independent. 79 points may be $.99 in the United States or 600 lire in Italy or ¥43 in Japan without localizing the payment system on a web site.

Advertising is great for sites that have a predictable audience. Google AdSense is a clever income producer requiring no human intervention after the initial set-up. Nobody has to pick out what ads go with what content.

But aside from advertising, I can't help thinking that if I have some clever ideas for instructional videos that people would enjoy seeing, many searching for that specific information would be willing to pay a nickel to view some tip or technique I'd publish. And if some rating system indicated that people felt they got their nickel's worth, others would be inclined to view the content also. There are many sites I'd pay a nickel or a dime each month to subscribe to, even with some ads.

I'm going to write down some ideas of nifty techniques and how-tos, and when the payment system is in place, I'll offer this information to the world. Get your nickels ready.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
of bears and birds

On the Animal Planet cable network, they have a series called "Growing Up ..." where each show has some usually orphaned animal raised by humans. They had shows with a giraffe, a walrus, a camel... but the most touching show I think is "Growing Up Grizzly."

A big burly guy in Utah raised a tiny grizzly bear from a newborn who he named Bart. If you've seen bears in the movies or in a commercial, you've probably seen Bart or his other bears. To see him wrestling with the bears and the romping good fun they are having is something to see. I mean, the guy might be 6'5" but he looks like a hobbit next to Bart.

not some guy in a bear suit

The program shows Doug and his wife raising two orphaned bear cubs. Brad Pitt who was in a movie with Bart visits and narrates the story of how the Seuses raised first Bart, then Tank (who was in Dr. Doolittle 2), and the 2 cubs.

In another show in the series, "Growing Up Grizzly 2" Jennifer Aniston visits the 2 cubs a few years later and they are as playful and energetic as they were when they arrived 3 years before. It's really something to see.

... and the birds

I remember some National Geographic program where a researcher had taught birds (parrots, mynah birds?) to speak.

Not so remarkable, you say, but these birds could understand simplified English questions. The researcher would hold various shapes (triangular, square, circular) in different colors (red, blue, yellow) made of different materials (wood, metal, paper) and ask the birds "Where is red square" and darned if that bird didn't grab hold of the red square with its beak! ignoring the red star and blue square.

But that's not all. She asked things like "what color triangle?" and the bird answered "Yellooo".

And (check the calender and make sure it's not April 1) she would ask "How many blue?" and the bird, seeing a blue square and blue circle and blue something else would say "threee."

I think it must have been a put-on. They had me going until the birds counted things.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
I don't know if the earth is in trouble from human activity. I don't know if the earth is gradually warming. I haven't seen Al Gore's movie.

One person said that 30 years ago, we would have been worried about a possible new Ice Age, and that long-term changes are difficult to detect given the long-term fluctuations that happen in a dynamic system with so many variables. Makes sense.

I saw a segment on 60 Minutes where a former NASA investigator showed the report he submitted on climate change citing scientific evidence on the causes and possible remedies of what he thought was happening. Then he showed the handwritten edits that a lobbyist for the petroleum industry Bush administration official (former lobbyist) had mandated in the manuscript, such as changing phrases like "is" to "may be."

When asked what the industry lobbyist's qualifications were, the answer was that he had no degree or expertise in science. I remember when a group of concerned citizens met with a representative of the Department of Energy regarding the Hanford nuclear waste disposal problems of leaky tanks and proximity to the Columbia River. After an evening meeting set to reassure the residents, one attendee said to the TV news interviewer, "I would've been a lot more confident in the information if he knew how to pronounce nuclear."

When asked what the NASA investigator's scientific background was, the answer was "rocket scientist."

It's not that they are trying to determine the hard cold scientific evidence when they make those policy changes, however. What saddens me is that they are not trying to find the truth, just steering the facts to a predetermined conclusion.

An interesting sidenote is that one of the largest funders attacking the message of global warming is the tobacco industry. It's in their interest to cultivate doubt and skepticism.
Friday, December 01, 2006
The Charlie Rose showI can't believe it.

I am normally skeptical about conventional wisdom. Yet whenever I heard people speak about alternatives to the internal combustion engine, I thought they were wild-eyed and not in touch with the realities of modern civilized life.

I assumed that the modern automobile has refined the cleanliness and efficiency of the gasoline engine to approach the best possible product.

Did you happen to see the Charlie Rose show after Thanksgiving? When Mr. Lovins spoke about doubling the gasoline mileage of cars, I immediately thought, sure, we can mandate much higher gas mileage requirements, just as soon as everybody decides to give up their SUVs and drive mini-Coopers.

But he had a bowl of a composite plastic fiber something or other substance that was light as cardboard and yet rang out like a giant gong when struck. Mr. Lovins said it was several times stronger than steel (and much much lighter) and so car bodies made of this material would actually be safer and so much lighter that gasoline mileage would double, having to move about half the weight of the car.

I think the only way we can not solve our problems with dependence on foreign oil or excessive carbon dioxide is to keep to the same course of action out of ignorance or stubbornness. Or to allow a few large corporations who benefit from the status quo to keep us from investigating and implementing alternatives.

As Tom Friedman says, green is the new red, white and blue.
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