Saturday, February 21, 2009

Windows 7 & Google Latitude

As I've said a few times, I'm playing with Windows 7 Beta. I downloaded both the 32 bit and 64 bit versions, just in case I get to install the 64 bit version somewhere (I have a few computers I could install it on, but I don't want to lose what's there). I have Win7 installed on my HP Notebook, running in a VirtualBox VM. Install was easy, I just pointed the VirtualBox to the ISO image of the install CD as a virtual CD, made the virtual hard drive, then booted the image. The install went fine.


Once Win7 was installed, I noticed that there was a warning message about not having any anti-virus software on the image. Well, I wanted this to be a full test, so I clicked the button for suggestions on how to fix it, and was taken to a website with links to multiple anti-virus suites. Feeling adventurous, I decided to try Kapersky because they had a free beta test version of their anti-virus for Win7. I downloaded the software and installed it on my Win7 image. And that's when I started getting the marvelous BSOD. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence that Kapersky caused the BSODs that wouldn't allow the Win7 image to run. My main piece of evidence is that when I rolled back the install of Kapersky, it worked fine. (Kapersky = Not recommended).


So my next test was Norton 360. It installed with no issues and has been running error free ever since. However, it's only a limited beta trial that expires (I can't remember when it expires right now, but it's way too soon since the Win7 beta goes to August). I have a complaint with my Norton 360 as well. I may have it configured wrong, but I had to force it to update signature files. All it would do is say "Your anti-virus signature files are out of date" and "your anti spyware signature files are out of date". Great that's helpful. If you're so smart, why don't you fix that for me. McAfee does that for me by default. I'm not saying I'm stupid, but I do like to have things done for me. And why do I need to restart after getting a virus signature file?


My next test is to put some real programs on Win7 and see how it works. I know it will be different than a real computer since it is in VirtualBox, but it will give me a feel for it. I also have an older computer that I want to try Win7 on (an old Celeron box from a few years back) just to test out the low end capabilities. I will say I like the way Win7 looks. Nice graphics, semi-intuitive layout. More on Win7 later.


Another new toy I've been playing with is Google Latitude. Latitude is a location sensitive program for your mobile phone. It runs in Google Maps and interfaces either with the GPS on your phone or self-locates by using information from the cell towers the phone is talking to (with a large margin of error, but that's OK). I'm using Latitude on my BlackBerry Curve from Verizon Wireless. The way Verizon has the GPS configured on the BlackBerry it won't talk to anything but the default Maps application, so Latitude is using triangulation to find my location. (BTW, I saw this week that the new version of Google Maps for the Storm WILL talk to the GPS. Keep hacking at it Google, I'll be happy when Google Maps can see MY GPS).


Once I got Latitude installed (actually, Google Maps 3.0.2 for my Blackberry) and set up my account (you need a gmail account for it to work), I set up some friends so I could test it. A coworker and I configured so we could track each other's location. He's using a Bold on AT&T, so his location is off his GPS when he can get satellite signal. Standing beside each other and looking at Latitude, we were about 3 blocks apart (difference between GPS and cell tower triangulation). Again, I don't have a problem with that. I think I kind of like it, really. I don't mind people knowing I'm in a particular 750m radius of a cell tower. Getting my location down to about 3m is a little creepy. Thursday morning once my coworker got to the office, I walked up to him and said "bad traffic, huh?" He just looked at me, then it clicked that we were using Latitude, and I could see that he was in one place on I-95 for a particularly L-O-N-G time.


I can think of a few legitimate uses for Latitude. First, in a business situation, if you have a distributed sales or support team or a delivery system, you can track the location of your team members in real-time and redirect them to a new location if needed. Also, if your staff were in an on-call situation, you could contact the member closest to the location that needed attention and dispatch them quickly to that location. Of course, as an individual user, you can limit who can see your location on Latitude, so if your staff members didn't want to be tracked, they could go "off-grid" and disappear. Second, in a social situation, you can go to a location and see who of your friends may be close by and invite them to join you (or you could join them).


Latitude could be looked at as high-tech stalking, but if you remember you can limit other people's capability to see / track your location, you are in total control of the situation. However, it does go to a central server, and well, you get the picture. Administrators have access to anything on their server, right? Even taking all that in consideration, I really like Latitude and highly recommend it. All you iPhone users will have to wait a while to get Latitude on your phones, but Google says it's coming.


Next week, my current take on Twitter.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

One Thing

DISCLAIMER: This post is religiously oriented. If you are offended by religious thought and can't get over the fact that other people have opinions, feel free to stop reading now. But if you stop now, you're going to miss something good. Those of you who do read this, please comment.


Ever wonder what God has planned for you? I'm not talking about your final destination or anything like that. I mean like tomorrow or next week. Does God micromanage our lives to the point where He moves us around like pieces on a chess board? Do we have any freedom to do what we want to do?


These are questions I've been considering (I was thinking of saying struggling with, but that isn't quite true) since the beginning of the year. You see, I am of the opinion that everyone has a purpose. That purpose may be somewhat self directed, but ultimately we have a single purpose; the "One thing" that was spoken of in City Slickers. Figuring out what that one thing is takes us through the experiences of life day by day.


So what's my one thing? Well, I've tried several things, work wise. Music, radio personality, computer operator, system administrator, programmer, general geek, teacher, husband, father, grandfather, chief cook and bottle washer. That's not what I'm talking about. What you do does not define what you are, or at least it shouldn't. I think that's one of the problems with society, not just today, but since we as a race started specializing (I'm not the guy who grows food, that's Jack over there. I go out and tend the flocks so my wife can make yarn so Jane over there can knit sweaters). To quote a great fictional man, "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects!" But all those things will lead you to that "One thing". Just because you can do all these things doesn't mean you don't need and aren't directed by God.


OK, let's go back in time. Step into the wayback machine with me as we go back about 4000 years or so to the time long ago and a place far away. We see a rich man. Here, rich means he has a big heard of sheep / goats, lots of servants and mercenaries, etc. Not necessarily money. This rich man wigs out and thinks he hears a Voice. That Voice tells him to go someplace where he's never been but the Voice will tell him where to go. This rich man was named Abram. Abram lived in Iraq (well, that's what we call it now). He lived in one of the biggest cities in the world at the time (not that anyone could have known that then). He had everything going for him and left it behind because of this Voice. Abram had a purpose. His "One thing" was to become the father of a great nation. That's not to say he didn't mess up along the way because he did. He told people his wife was his sister to keep out of trouble. He was told by the Voice that he would have a son by his wife, but tried with his wife's maid instead and fathered Ishmael. Once he finally did what he was told, things started to work out. But then the Voice told him to sacrifice his son Isaac. He was no stranger to human sacrifice. I'm sure he was confused because this Voice had never asked for anything like this before. But he obeyed and God (yeah, not such a veiled reference) provided a ram to sacrifice in Isaac's place.


Fast forward to about 20 years ago. If we saw someone walking around talking to "themselves", we would have them sent somewhere that could help them. Today, we just assume they are talking on the cell phone with a Bluetooth headset. But what would you do if you heard a voice, and that voice wasn't like anything you've ever heard before? Would you ignore it? COULD you ignore it? Would listening to it help you find that "One thing"? Do you believe that God speaks to people?


I don't think I've found that "One thing" yet for me. I am still looking, though. I'm not comparing myself with Abraham except that I too am on a journey with an uncertain path. However, like Abraham I know where that path will end. I don't know when (thank God) because that would just be scary. The journey continues. Will you walk with me?