Thursday, November 29, 2007

Outlook's killer feature

Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 has one feature that I really miss from using it daily for 2 years -- the ability to copy and paste an image into an email.

I really like taking screen clippings and including them in emails, both because pictures make things fun to read and because they're often worth a thousand words (and who wants to write or read a thousand words?!).

But with all of the web-based email services (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc) it seems you have to save the image as a file, then attach the file to the email, and in most cases, it doesn't get inserted in any particular position in the message body.

The fact that this is still the case in 2007 is tragic. I'd even go so far as to switch back to Outlook for work email, except that I imagine when I would send an email with a few pictures between paragraphs from Outlook to a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail recipient, they would probably often arrive out of order and/or looking different than how they looked when sent? But maybe it would work alright if I switched Outlook from rich text to html email? Has anyone ever tried?

When Ray Ozzie took over Bill Gates's job last year, he was working on a pet project to help bring copy/paste to the web. Has it gone anywhere, or was it a complete failure? Ray hasn't updated his blog at all since mid-2006. (As a sidenote, anyone else notice that regular Windows Live Spaces users get their blogs plastered with ads at the top but Ray Ozzie doesn't?)

Perhaps now that Gmail supports IMAP, I should try the Windows Live Mail client app again. Should I be willing to suck up having to look at banner ads while I read my email if I can paste my screen clippings? Perhaps I'll give it a go...

[Update 12/25/2007] I ended up giving the Windows Live Mail desktop client another try, and it's absolutely wonderful with Gmail's IMAP support. Images pasted into messages still appear inline in Gmail, and it has a great offline sync story. Check it out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

DIRECTV Removes TiVo From Our House

Before I returned to my family's home in LA for Thanksgiving, my Dad apparently got a call from DIRECTV letting him know that in order to continue receiving service and newer HD content, they would need to replace his dish and receiver. So, without providing any more information or options, they came out to our home and did so.

In the process, DIRECTV did something pretty sly -- they sneakily kicked his TiVo to the curb.

I love TiVo. They're sorta the Apple of the DVR -- pretty, friendly, and easy to use. I bought my parents their first TiVo 6 years ago after owning and loving one of my own. They loved it too, and bought more newer ones over the years -- including a DIRECTV receiver with TiVo software.

At some point, DIRECTV figured it would be cheaper to bundle their own software instead of offering TiVo. That's fine and well. But to come into our home and replace it without even telling us in advance that that was what they would be doing? Shady.

There have been news articles that DIRECTV has extended support for TiVo, and that new TiVo-enabled models will even be released in the future. So I'm not quite sure what's really going on -- but now you've heard my family's experience from the front lines.

Poor TiVo. RIP.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gooooood Morning Los Angeles!

Pheeeew! After 15 hours of traveling by ferry, car, and plane, it's good to be back in Los Angeles with my family for Thanksgiving.

As an early Hanukkah present, my parents, who have been incredibly supportive of this whole quit my job and burn through savings adventure, replaced my dead Thinkpad T40 with a brand spankin' new Thinkpad T61. It's a beautiful machine with a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB ram, 100GB 7200RPM disk, 128MB NVIDIA Quadro video card, bluetooth, "Wireless N", and a 15.4" WSXGA+ TFT display that runs at a smokin' 1680x1050 resolution!

I'm super happy because it was getting a little frustrating to wait 20-30 seconds after hitting 'F5' in Visual Studio on the older X-series tablet I was borrowing over the last few months!

One of the funny things about the new Thinkpad I've noticed in my first hours using it is that they split the regular-sized left Alt key into 2 smaller keys -- on the left is the Windows key, on the right is Alt. Sony is the king of non-standard keyboard layouts with their compact VAIO laptops, and I absolutely can't stand VAIOs because of it. At first, the new Thinkpad key design thoroughly annoyed me because my thumb kept hitting "Windows" instead of "Alt", bringing up the new, horribly designed "Flip 3D" feature. While it makes for sexy TV commercials, it's a horrible way to switch between windows. But I've found a solution to this problem! In just a few seconds, I'll rebind Windows-Tab to Switcher -- at which point I hope my fingers will slip more to use Windows-Tab, since as far as I know Alt-Tab can't be rebound.

That's all for now. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life without "is" is...

... null.

Software testing is a polarizing topic. Some people swear by software testers ("SDET"s at Microsoft) and demand a 1:1 developer:tester ratio, others think they're not worth the overhead whatsoever and that developers should test their own code (and we'll hear about the rest from customer service). Usually the latter camp begins to cave when they find themselves running a global service and stuff like this starts to surface at 4:30am the morning after a change.


Anyhow: "Adam Herscher is preparing for the 15 hour journey from Beaver Island, MI back home to Los Angeles, CA" (and is not null)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I spent a few days playing around with Ruby on Rails. It was the first time in over 2 years that I'd learned a new, non-Microsoft language/technology stack, and I like it a lot. The two key Rails concepts I spent time playing with were ActiveRecord and the Model View Controller scaffolding. ActiveRecord was very similar to Microsoft's new LINQ technology that I've been using lately. The Model View Controller stuff was very intuitive and easy to 'get'. This morning, I came across a post on Scott Guthrie's awesome blog about ASP.NET's new MVC framework. It looks promising. I have to imagine someone at Microsoft was inspired by Ruby on Rails, but who knows.

I have no interest in spending time right now on an ASP.NET vs RoR post (and I don't have enough Rails experience to do so)... but I must say the one thing I do love about Ruby on Rails is its "convention over configuration" philosophy. I vaguely remember reading something once in a perl manpage about a perl core tenet of being able to do one thing many different ways. There's value in both philosphies, but lately I'm starting to place a much higher value in how quick, easy, and friendly something is over how powerful/extensible/backwards-compatible it is. For example, some of the ASP.NET controls are incredibly powerful, but it takes 4 hours to scratch the surface and evaluate a single control that might or might not be useful (what's the difference between a GridView, DataList, ListView, and Repeater, and why should I care?).

I think the difference between the Rails web site and the LINQ web site really sums things up well. Rails is the "Apple guy" of web developers -- used by indie hackers and designers, and ASP.NET is the "PC guy" -- used by big Enterprise people that wear suits and get sent to training sessions and stuff.

Anyhow, that's all for now. Here's a picture from Jeff's webcam right outside our office on Beaver Island (it should be current as of the time you loaded this page):