March 07, 2005

Hello GDS, Goodbye YDS

Finally there's a desktop search product that's actually useful to me: Google Desktop.

I had tried the previous version of GDS a bit, as well as the company dog food (Yahoo Desktop Search or YDS). But both lacked the ability to search the most important asset on my computer: my e-mail archive.

Being one who does not use Outlook, that meant I was on my own until now. The latest GDS release has the ability to index Thunderbird mailboxes.

This is the killer feature for me. My computer just got twice as useful. It's funny how sometimes it just takes one feature to completely change your mind about a product, isn't it?

Thank you, Google.

And yes, before you ask, I have pointed out how useful this feature would be in YDS to anyone who'd listen. More than once. And no, I can't tell you if you should expect to see it or when that might be--so don't ask.

Any bets on how long it takes for someone to write a Thunderbird Extension that adds a GDS search box to the interface?

Hopefully I'll be able to stay awake long enough for the indexing to finish. I slept for about 3 hours on the 10 hour flight back from Tokyo and am now rather out of sync with the local time zone. There is much to catch up on, not the least of which is sleep.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:58 PM

January 16, 2005

Symantec's Confusing Anti-Virus Alerts

My company notebook apparently has Symantec AntiVirus installed, 'cause it just popped up an odd dialog box. (Yes, I really ran across this at nearly 4am.)

Notice the "Action taken" part? It says "Quarantine succeeded" followed by "Access denied." I'm left wondering what really happened. Did it succeed or not?

Who knows?

I have always wanted to submit something to This Is Broken, so maybe now is my chance. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 03:54 AM

January 08, 2005

I'm Joining the Majority by Putting the Mac Aside in 2005

Something has been bugging me for the last few months. Though I got my nice new Mac and switched to using it has my main personal desktop/laptop machine, it's been a frustrating experience at times.

Back in 2002 when I reviewed a Powerbook for Linux Magazine I was quite impressed with the hardware and the software. It seemed like the best of both worlds and months after that I began using it more and more—eventually deciding to buy a more modern version and make the switch.

But it's become apparent that my logic was flawed. I was comparing the Powerbook and Mac OS X to Linux. My old Linux setup was, well, old. A modern desktop experience such as Knoppix running KDE is actually quite more usable in many respects than Mac OS X. For starters, I don't find myself grabbing for the damned mouse nearly as often.

Class Warfare

More importantly, the open source software I want to use (vim, emacs, firefox, thunderbird, gaim, the gimp, etc) are all first class citizens on Linux. On the Mac I always feel like they don't quite belong—they are second class citizens. It's very difficult for me to articulate why this is or exactly why I feel this way. I'm hoping someone else who's had this experience can do a better job than I can.

Uncle Bill

I've recently started using the Compaq nc6000 laptop that I got at work. It runs Windows XP Professional and is a very nice little machine, though I'd prefer something with more than 512MB of memory. (Mental note: get a RAM upgrade in this notebook). It has 802.11g, Bluetooth, and very good battery life so far (on par with the Powerbook). And the keyboard kicks ass. Do not underestimate how important a good keyboard is!

The funny thing is that I spent quite a bit of effort making my Powerbook work on the Yahoo network as seamlessly as possible. Through quite a bit of SSH port forwarding magic, I got it 90% of the way there. I was able to access mail, LDAP, printing, CVS, TWiki, and so on. If any Yahoo's want to know what it takes to make your Powerbook work well on the corporate network, let me know. I've seen a more and more of them around campus.

Dog Food

But it never felt quite right. The Mac felt slow and awkward for daily "office" use. So I decided to begin using the Windows box for my work related activities in 2005. Instead of hauling the Powerbook to Yahoo each day, I now take the Compaq. A nice side benefit is that I can finally start eating our own dog food.

The vast majority of our users are on Windows. When product folks ask for my feedback on our internal Desktop Search betas, I want to be able to provide some meaningful input. New features in LAUNCH? Same thing. The newest Yahoo! Messenger? Ditto. (Though I do disable all the avatar, search, and random content bullshit. Sorry, I simply want an IM client. I'm so not the target audience in this case.)

I still lobby hard for increased Firefox and Mac support because I still use both. But it's stupid to let that get in the way of really understanding many of the products we're offering the world.

I don't run Outlook or Internet Explorer on this machine and can't imagine a situation that will change that. Microsoft has a lot of work to do on both products.

Open Source on Windows

Here's the funny thing. I've found that nearly every one of the Open Source applications I've installed seems to work better and significanly faster on this machine than on my nearly new Powerbook.

In other words, open source applications feel better on Windows than on the Mac. This was quite a surprise at first.

If you're less lazy than I am, you might look at The OpenCD for a collection of useful Open Source on Windows tools.

The Mac's Role

The Mac isn't going to collect dust. I still use NetNewsWire daily. iPhoto and the Flickr plugin are still my preferred way to deal with digital photos. iTunes, my iPod, and the iTunes Music Store are still the center of my personal music world.

I'm toying with an eval copy of FeedDemon, but I'm not sure if its style suits me yet.

But Office on the Mac just doesn't compare to Office on Windows. And does anyone seriously use The Gimp on OS X? Having to run stuff under X11 just feels so awkward and... dirty. And don't get me started on Open Office on the Mac.

The Mac is my media computer. I see it handling my audio/video/entertainment needs for the forseeable future.

The iPAQ Factor

I expect to be getting an iPAQ in the next month or two. I'll mainly be using it as a portable flight computer when I fly (probably with SeeYou Mobile or maybe WinPilot), but I want to play with other stuff on it as well. Since it runs Windows 2003 Mobile Edition, having a Windows box for it to talk to will make life easier as well.

Not Linux?

Even if I could run the applications I need on Linux (several are missing), that wouldn't be enough. Linux still has poor support for hardware—especially in the laptop world. I had hoped that by 2005 this wouldn't the case anymore, but the sad fact remains. Linux on a modern laptop requires a lot of effort.

The only viable choices (for me) are Mac OS X or Windows XP. And Windows lets me:

  • feel like I'm getting more out of the hardware
  • stop fighting the Mac's usability problems (the tab key being useless in most dialogs, the lack of hotkeys in most apps, the X11 requirement for some apps)
  • have decent power management—almost as good as the Powerbook
  • get full IT "support" at work (meaning that I get on the "real" network and don't need to do all that tunneling crap)

I'm not sure what it will take for Linux to get there. Microsoft wins this round.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:03 PM

May 27, 2004

Yahoo! Toolbar Now With Anti-Spyware

The previously mentioned secret alpha test was for the just announced upgrade to the Yahoo! Toolbar which now contains anti-spyware code.

I have to say, this one of those ideas that was immediately obvious upon hearing it. "Of *course* we should use the Toolbar as a way to help poor Windows users get all that crap off their machines." But at the same time it's amazing how many folks never came up with it on their own, me included.

Congrats to the Yahoo! Companion team for this toolbar update. This update has the potential to fix a lot of really messed up computers.

Note to Microsoft: If security is job #1, how come you haven't done this already? Shouldn't Windows Update have installed a comprehensive anti-spyware solution by now?

Posted by jzawodn at 07:53 AM

November 22, 2003

Microsoft Lies, Scoble Style

I did something I haven't done in a while. I read a few items on Robert Scoble's weblog. I used to read his stuff more often, but since he's become Microsoft's voice in the blog world, I've found it a bit hard to stomach most of the time. It's not Robert that bothers me, he's a great guy. It's the effect that Microsoft appears to have had on him. I think he's forgotten what it's like on the outside already.


Anyway, I couldn't help but to notice something he said that can't really go unchallenged. Err, I mean "uncorrected." He's clearly wrong. :-)

In this post he says:

On the plane last night I met a social worker who owned Microsoft stock. Lady is retired. 75 years old. What happens if I say something that gets us hit with a billion dollar fine? It comes out of her pocket. The $50 billion dollars in our investment accounts doesn't belong to Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer or me. It belongs to her. Think about that.


According to my sources, Bill Gates himself owns roughly 1.1 billion shares of Microsoft. And according to Microsoft's Investor Relations site:

As of October 31, 2003, there were 10,812,468,881 shares of Microsoft common stock outstanding.

Let's see, that's approximately 10% of the company that Mr. Bill owns.

Saying that the "$50 billion dollars in our investment accounts doesn't belong to Bill Gates" is wrong on several levels. Bill Gates actually "owns" $5 billion of that cash, doesn't he? Scoble is trying to imply that Bill is not an investor. Not only is he an investor in Microsoft, he is the single biggest individual investor in Microsoft.


On the plus side, he partially redeems himself by being honest about Microsoft and security.

One reason I don't like promising fixes, though, is cause we don't have much, if any, credibility left when discussing security. So, any promises would ring hollow.

No shit?

+1 for stating the obvious. A lot of folks higher up in Microsoft that probably wouldn't be so honest (you know, stating the obvious and all) in public.

Perhaps Bill also generates a reality distortion field, but one of a very different nature than Steve Jobs.

Don't even get me started on his notion of XP service pack #2 helping with Windows security in a big way. What about all the Win98 and Win2K users out there?

Longhorn might be delayed until they figure out how to fix the security problems it already has? Great. That means they've designed yet another OS with a poor security model. As if good security as a requirement is somehow so new that it came up after Longhorn was designed. How long have Microsoft's OSes been used by businesses in network environments again?

Posted by jzawodn at 06:11 PM

March 23, 2003

I'm Stupid

According to Russell:

ANY company/person who wants to ignore M$ is being stupid.

I'm being stupid. It's not that I want to ignore them, I simply do.

Ya know what? I'm fine with that. I really don't care what they're up to. Microsoft is largely irrelevant for me.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:37 AM

February 03, 2003

htm vs. html

I know it doesn't matter, but I still cringe every time I see a .htm extension on a public web site. I still remember the first time I saw a .htm file. I had been working with web content on Unix machines for a while and had always used .html. It never occurred to me that anyone would need to bastardize it. But then came Windows 95.

Ever since then, I haven't been able to get rid of that feeling. I instinctively lose respect for folks who publish .htm files. (Yes, you'll find a few on my site, but they are just that: few.)

Anyway, I don't know what I thought to blog this, but I have. So there.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:09 PM

August 10, 2002


Give this to every Outlook Express user you know. They need. All of them.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:28 PM

August 04, 2002

NoPopIE, the Internet Explorer pop-up killer!

Find it here and install it if you use Windows and IE. Works pretty well. Adds an entry to the "Tools" menu in IE so you can customize it. And best of all, it's free. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 02:32 AM

June 30, 2002

Palladium or not, here he comes!

The Register is running a story titled MS security patch EULA gives Billg admin privileges on your box. Yup. Microsoft isn't waiting around for Palladium or specialized hardware. They're gonna force the new restrictions on Windows users as they download critical security updates.

Microsoft has just assumed the right to attack your computer and surreptitiously install code of its choosing. You will not be warned; you will not be offered an opportunity examine the download or refuse it. MS will simply connect remotely and install what it will, or install it secretly when you contact them.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:39 PM

June 27, 2002

Help for OS X Converts

While blogging around tonight, I ran across an old article on the O'Reilly Network that helps get folks (former Windows users, mostly) acquainted with OS X and the MacOS in general. Good stuff.

Have I mentioned how cool the Mac TiBook is? When my review in Linux Magazine finally appears on the Web site, I'll link to it.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:25 AM

June 24, 2002

The Motivation for .NET?

There is an interesting discussion going on at K5 about Microsoft's real motivation for .NET. The author derives some of his ideas from Joel's latest column, Strategy Letter V.

In his latest strategy letter Joel Spolsky describes a general principle, Smart companies try to commoditize their product's complements. It's interesting to try and apply this to Microsoft's .NET efforts. In programming the best way to learn a language is to try to write programs in it. With these sorts of ideas the best way to understand them is to try and apply them.

I'm not sure if I buy it or not. They may be on to something. But a part of me really thinks that .NET is Microsoft's answer to the threat of Java and things like Java--the thought that they'd lose control of part of the development foundation.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:16 AM

June 23, 2002

XMMS and Cool WinAMP Plugins

While reading a few comments in this thread on slashdot, I saw mention of a guy who makes some cool WinAMP plugins. Then I looked at what one of them actually produces. Amazing. Yet another thing to try out if the notebook ever arrvies.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:14 PM

Excellent Win XP FAQ

The folks over at have assembled a very good FAQ on Windows XP. When (if?) my new notebook ever arrives, it will be very useful.

Thanks to Steve Friedl, I'm a big fan of the DSLR discussion forums too. There's a lot of very good info in them.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:59 PM