Moving Blog Sites, Your Input Appreciated

I think it’s a good time to move my blog to a permanent new home on an web address that’s easy to remember, share, and under my supervision.  Big thanks to Susan w msmvps.com and msdn.com for hosting me all these years, but I’m ready to move on.  So your input would be appreciate in this super short little survey, thanks.



(if the survey isn’t showing up above (it’s embedded w jscript) then use this direct link, http://surveymonkey.com/s/FLZRM2T)

Your Web Password Will Be Leaked

password_crack[1]One of the big internet media companies (Gawker Media) had a their user database of usernames and passwords leaked this weekend, including one of my favorite sites http://lifehacker.com.  I hope none of my dear readers usernames or passwords were leaked (like mine was), but it goes as a lesson that this could happen to anyone.  The lesson to be learned is:

don’t use the same password on multiple sites

and when creating a password, use a strong password, containing letters, numbers, symbols, or is really long (>20 characters).  "Pass phrases" are best like "letsgetsomeicecream" or at least multiple words like "blackkeyboard".  Some suggest using motivational phrases to remind you of things, like "drinkmorewater" or "exercise20minutesdaily".  Single words, parts of your name, simple numbers etc can be hacked in just minutes.  When a leak like this occurs, the world has access to your username and password.  If you use that password anywhere else they have practically instant access to all other sites you use that password on, like your bank, facebook, email, etc.

Here is some interesting reading on the topic:

This is written to inspire the reader to think more securely and update insecure passwords so it doesn’t happen to you.  Remember, in today’s age of computers your username and password will be leaked, it’s like having your hard drive crash and losing all the data on it… it will happen you to, it’s just a matter of when, so be prepared now.

p.s. In my case I use a separate password for every site, usually multiple words phrases with numbers and symbols too so the leak didn’t cause any personal damage.

p.p.s. If you create websites, store and enforce passwords properly, see these links to learn more: Dictionary Attacks 101, Smart Enough Not to Build this Website, Rainbow Hash Cracking, and Using Salt Tables.

Microsoft Office for Students

College fundHere are some ways students (college, high school, etc) can get Microsoft Office or similar apps for a deep discount.  My sister is a student and was asking how she could get discounts on Microsoft Word so here’s a quick guide.

  • Office Professional Academic
    At the time I’m writing this Microsoft is offering Office 2010 Professional for $80 to students (college, high school, etc).  This is the same thing as the Pro version, but licensed only to students for academic (as opposed to commercial) use.  It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access.  If you have an email address from your school that’s about all you need, otherwise you can just supply a scan of your Student ID, class list, or payment for classes to prove you’re a student.  Pay the $80 online and download, done.
  • Office Live Documents (http://office.live.com)
    OfficeLiveNewDocCreate (edit/view) Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote docs right online for free!  This is a light-weight version of these apps running online and even look like their full counterparts.  You can share docs with others (like Google Docs) and you can keep the files in sync on your computer using MS SkyDrive. Thanks to Justin Van Patten for pointing this out in the comments!
  • Google Documents (http://docs.google.com/)
    Google provides very lightweight free versions of Microsoft Office like apps Document (like Word), Presentation (like PowerPoint), Spreadsheet (like Excel), and a few others.  While these apps have the basics (like spell checking), they focus on the basics instead of being as fully featured at the Microsoft suite.  A big advantage is that the docs are always accessible from anywhere online, work independent of what kind of computer you’re on (PC, mac, etc), have easy access from mobile devices (like the iPhone), and support great online collaboration with others.  Even book authors are starting to use it and my wife and I use Google Docs for most of our shared docs.
  • OpenOffice (http://openoffice.org)
    OpenOffice is an entirely free open-source “Microsoft Office like suite” of apps (written in Java).  It is a quick and simple to download and install.  It includes equivalents of most the major Microsoft Office apps as well as staples like spell checking but has its own user interface.  The document format is fully compatible with Microsoft Office apps like Word.
  • University + Microsoft Run Discounts
    Some universities have a paired up a deal with Microsoft to provide many MS programs real cheap to their students.  Each school is different in this case so check with your school’s IT support.  For example at Texas A&M you can go to https://software.tamu.edu/ to get Office 2010 for $15.
  • University Computer Science or Engineering Department
    Many CS/Eng departments have a free subscription to the MSDN Academic Alliance program that provides most all Microsoft’s major applications.  Just ask at your CS or Eng IT help desk about it.  Typically the dept gets discs from MS and put them on a network share.  Texas A&M’s CD dept does this and makes it real easy to get if you ask where to look.
  • Microsoft BizSpark (http://bizspark.com)
    BizSpark is a program for startups that gives you all of the major MS apps (Office Ultimate, Visual Studio, SQL Server, Windows, etc).  It is easy for anyone to create a startup business (incl students), all you really need is a name for your business.  Then fill out the form on the BizSpark website about your business and you’re good to go.
  • Microsoft DreamSpark
    MS provides development tools and servers, like Visual Studio, SQL, Windows Server 2008 R2, etc directly to students for free.  Now this does not include Microsoft Office, but is another freebie from MS.
  • Buy Retail
    If none of those options work out, you can still pay full retail.  At the time I’m writing this Microsoft Office 2010 Home & Student is $140 retail (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote).  If you buy from microsoft.com for $140 you can download it right away, or pay $120 at amazon.com to get a disc version mailed to you.

ms-word[1]For a quick comparison of the Microsoft Office 2010 offerings, see this handy comparison table.  If you know of other ways to get MS Office or similar products for students for cheap, please let me know in the comments.  thanks!

iPhone’s Magic Little Headphones Button

iPhoneHeadphones04-01Apple packs a lot of functionality into that little button on your iPhone headphones!  There are plenty of posts out that cover some of the functionality, but here’s a consolidated list.

When a call is coming in (the phone is ringing)

  • One click = answer or hang up the call
  • Hold for 2 sec = ignore the new call (and send to voicemail)

During a call with a second call coming in (call waiting)

  • One click = hold the current call and switch to the new call
  • Hold for 2 sec = ignore the new call (and send to voicemail)

Outside of phone calls

  • Hold for 2 sec = activate Voice Control (on 3Gs or newer models)
  • One click = play or pause music
  • Double click = next song
  • Tripple click = go back (start of song or previous song)
  • Click once then click and hold = fast forward
  • Click twice then click and hold = rewind

Up & Down Buttons

  • While music is playing, up & down adjust headphones music volume
  • While music is stopped/paused, up & down adjust ringer volume

Thanks to Brian Hart and ismashphone.com for their posts.  Know of any other functions I’m missing?

The Ever Shrinking Wallet

wallet01My wallet is small.  Friends’ wallets are getting smaller.  Years back I was using an wallet insert (pictured here); and now you can get thin wallets like this by themselves.  Wallets are shrinking themselves into oblivion.

Today my wallet contains just these three things:

  • Driver’s License
  • Payment Card (VISA Check/Debit/ATM)
  • My company’s product, a LifeNexus Personal Health Card

My company’s goal is to be able to combine payment cards with our Personal Health Card (PHC), so that’ll reduce the number down to two.  My last six years at Microsoft, instead of the PHC I had my Microsoft ID, again just three cards.

Sometimes I’ll add a receipt for reimbursement, a blank check, or a little cash, but those above are the only staples.  Cash is only really required at certain types of establishments, like local festivals.  Additional cards like loyalty programs (Kroger, Fred Meyer, etc) or rewards points (Subway, Freebirds) are kept in the car, since they usually tie to my phone number anyway, are only needed occasionally, or can be provided via other means (like a faxing a copy of my medical insurance card).

My expectation is that when we’re able to make payments and provide ID through our cell phones there will be no need for a wallet for many.  That may seem a long ways out, but mobile payment is used in Asia and Apple filed a patent using the iPhone for payment.   Federal ID via a mobile device may be much further out, but I’ll predict you’ll start seeing it within the next 15 years.  Then the wallet will become a relic of the past, used only for a warm fuzzy feeling of security, nostalgia, or as a style piece, like the wrist watch.

DiscountASP.NET for Outstanding Web Hosting

DiscountASP.NET Logo I’ve been using http://discountasp.net for the last five years for hosting my website, http://coad.net, and it has been as smooth, easy, and elegant as one could hope for.  The company is as good as it gets in my opinion when it comes to service, value, and their offerings. 

In full disclosure, they have provided some of my hosting for free for the last few years due to community participation.  They have a real interest in supporting the ASP.NET community.  The reason I’m writing this post though is because I really believe in their product.  I also have a few paid accounts (w/ no discounts) for my other companies.  All of them use DiscountASP.NET because I believe it is the best web hosting choice.

If you give them a try, please use this referral link.  thanks

Here are some of my favorite aspects of DiscountASP.NET…

  • Easy and Fully Integrated Control Panel
    Some companies use off the shelf web-based management tools, or feel fragmented with different sites/tools for different services (eg: godaddy.com).  DiscountASP.NET has a one-stop-shop integrated management system where everything from billing, permission management, email addresses, database setup, etc… all at your fingertips with a very easy to use interface.  Stuff like usernames, passwords, URLs, SQL credentials, connection strings, are all very obvious.

    I’ll say this has been probably been my #1 favorite aspect of the service.  They’ve spoiled me.  I’ve had to manage other hosing systems which may be relatively straight forward, but are just a pain in comparison.  They also have a Control Panel demo so you can see it.
     
  • Microsoft SQL and SQL Express Databases
    Just drop a .mdb for SQL Express like database access, or pay a reasonable little more for dedicated SQL Server database.  You may say ‘what about the free MySQL’?  Well dropping a .mdb file in your project is also a free option and has better .NET support.
     
  • Grow as You Go
    Honestly most hosting providers these days have good ‘grow-as-you-go’ plans that let you start out small and add on as need be, but I’ve noticed (and it must be because they’re good guys) that they’re plans are particularly reasonable.  You can start out with a small plan and add services ala-cart as need be, or move to a larger package plan, whatever works.
     
  • Free SSL
    They have a number of secure SSL certificates you can use for HTTPS, with a free cert to start out with.  All are easy to configure and just snap in.
     
  • Latest .NET & SQL Versions
    DiscountASP.NET is always right on top of the latest versions of the .NET Framework, ASP.NET, MVC, SQL, etc.  When a product is in beta, they have a free sandbox site you can work with.  Then when the product goes live, within a day or two you have the free option of upgrading your site to the latest.
      
  • Outstanding Support
    The support system is simple and engineers get back to you fast.  They’re KB system is a wealth of info and they have active community forums.

They’re also highly decorated with plenty of hosting award year-over-year.  So if you’re looking for an ASP.NET hosting solution, give DiscountASP.NET a good serious look (go ahead, just try them out).

PI in the Bible

Here’s an old article I put together while in college that was worth reviving…


An Analysis of π in the Bible


Overview
Mathematics is the one truly universal language as it spans time and space.  We find in the Hebrew Bible that there is a mathematical anomaly involving PI that is remarkably simple and accurate.


At 1 Kings 7:23 there is a unique spelling of an otherwise common word.  It is the word circumference, translated “line”, and is usually spelled with two Hebrew letters.  But in this case it is spelled with an extra third letter.


“And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.” – 1 Kings 7:23


You can see this verse in Hebrew at Bible Study Tools (requires the BSTHebrew.ttf fonts).



Hebrew Numbering System

Hebrew uses an ancient numbering system in which each letter is assigned a value, and a number is indicated by a group of letters by adding their values.  Today it is Hebrew tradition to use this numbering system in dates and in numbering items.  Numbers can be made similarly to Roman Numerals in that XI = 10 + 1 = 11 (but Hebrew is read right to left).  See this Hebrew Numbering chart for each character’s value.



Analysis of PI

Hebrew uses letters to represent numbers.  There is an extra letter in this spelling of line as apposed to the normal two lettered word of line.  We simply add the numerical values of the normal and specially spelt words individually, take the ratio, and multiply by three to obtain an incredibly accurate representation of PI.


Special Spelling: LineHebrewExtra = 5 + 6 + 100 = 111


Normal Spelling: LineHebrewNormal = 6 + 100 = 106


Radio of 111/106 = 1.04716981
Multiplied by 3 = 3.14150943
Actual PI = 3.14159265
Difference: 0.0000832 = 0.00026%


Note that this occurs specifically when the verse is referring to line as in circumference.  Since the pool/bath was ten cubits in diameter and the verse said it was 30 cubits in circumference (which is close to 10*3.14~30), it would appear that the author wanted to emphasize more precise accuracy to the acute reader.


This unique spelling occurs three times in the Bible, each time in reference to something round (a bath, a hill, a city).  See the unique rounded spelling in Strong’s Concordance, or the ‘normal’ straight line spelling found 21 other times.


Below are the best known values of PI that the Babylonians and Egyptians used (at least that I could find).  Their cultures had been around far longer than King Solomon and they are generally accredited with a superior understanding of mathematics and science.


               Ratio               Value             Difference
Babylon : 3 1/8 = 25/8 = 3.125 0.0165926 Egypt : 3 13/81 = 256/81 = 3.16049382... 0.0189012 "Solomon": 3 * 111/106 = 333/106 = 3.14150943... 0.0000832

By the way, the letters used in these verses are the only letters in Hebrew that will reveal this ratio with the difference between the geometrical value of 3 letters and 2 letters.  In other words this is the lowest mathematical sequence in Hebrew to produce this ratio.



References




Personal Note:
I had heard of this years back from a source long forgotten.  I was impressed, but waited until I had time to research it myself to share my findings here.  cheers

PC Pet Peeves: Kill the "Reply" Email Button

Death to the email "Reply" button!!  Long live "Reply All"!!

OutlookToolbarNoReply

One of the more frustrating behaviors I find in the online world is when people click "Reply" to an email instead of "Reply to All" (or whatever is similar on their email app).  Why clicking "Reply" is a bad habit is that usually other email addresses on the email that need to be kept in the loop are dropped.

When I joined Microsoft I was in such a bad habit of clicking the Reply button that I removed it entirely from the Outlook toolbar (right-click on the toolbar, choose Customize, then drag the button off).  This made my life so much easier, just having the "Reply All" button visible.  Alt-L became my friend.  Now this is a standard practice at my current company. (see this little video on how to remove the Office 2007 "Reply" button)

Of course there are cases when you need only reply to the one individual that sent a mail to a long list of recipients, but I find these to be the exception rather than the rule, and it is still very easy to remove email addresses from a reply.

Google Gmail gets this.  The very first Labs option (under Settings > Labs) is an option to make the "Reply to all" button the default.

GoogleGmailLabsSettings

GmailReplyToAllDefault

 

The Call to Action
So my call to anyone that does email, please, help destroy the "Reply" button and remove it from your Outlook toolbar or other email client.  Help make the world a more peaceful place by facilitating better communications and use the "Reply to All" button instead.