Mike Swanson

July, 2004

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Office 2003 Service Pack 1 Released

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    Looks like we released Office 2003 SP1 today on the Office Update site. If you’d prefer, you can download it directly from the Download Center. And, if you’d like to know what has been changed or fixed, check out KB article 842532. According to ActiveWin, the main changes are in the following areas:

    ·        Calendar logging in Outlook

    ·        Access Wizard file updates are built into the main service pack

    ·        Performance improvements in Project Server

    ·        Org chart and printing fixes in Visio

    ·        Charting and function improvements in Excel

    ·        Improved Mail Merge capability with RTF docs in Word

    ·        Bug that could cause CAB files to be removed from the \MSOCache folder is fixed

    ·        Improved alert message for File|Open failures caused by out of date Norton AntiVirus software

    ·        Security and stability fixes that have been addressed

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    Nostalgia

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    My wife, Elizabeth, was cleaning out one of our file cabinets the other day and ran across a bunch of my old computer stuff. I usually dispose of outdated hardware and software after a few years, so I was surprised to see these things lying around. Just last year, I threw out the Indus GT drive I had for my Atari 400 and 800 computers. That was a sweet drive, and I was sad to see it go.

    In the photo below, you can see some old Commodore paddle controllers. I've often wondered why we don't see paddle controllers anymore. There were a lot of "twitch" games (like Kaboom on the Atari 2600) that just can't be played without this kind of controller. Perhaps its limited freedom of motion is too restrictive for today's gamers. Who knows?

    The blue device is pretty interesting. Believe it or not, early modems weren't able to detect that the phone line was ringing, so if you wanted to have your modem answer the phone, you had to tell it to answer the line manually (no, I'm not kidding). In my many years, I've written and run a number of bulletin board systems on various computers, including the Commodore 64 and Atari 800. A BBS was a pre-Internet way of communicating and sharing files that could typically accommodate only one caller at a time (more sophisticated systems in later years could handle multiple simultaneous incoming phone lines). Since the modem never knew when an incoming caller was attempting to connect, this device would plug into the phone line, detect the ring signal on the wire, and "fire" the joystick button on the computer. The BBS software would sit around and wait for the joystick button to "fire." When this happened, it knew that the phone line was ringing, and it would issue the command to pick up the phone and communicate with the caller's modem. Although this might sound silly and convoluted, it worked great, and my BBS used it successfully for over a year. But I'm surprised I've kept it this long.

    The slender red rod is a light pen, a device that has a phototransistor in its tip that responds to light emitted by a monitor or television screen. It works by detecting the beam from the electron gun and sending a signal to the joystick port. When signaled, it is a relatively simple matter for the computer to determine where it is currently painting the image on the screen. I mostly used it with simple paint programs. I remember that it didn't work as well on low-contrast images...probably because there wasn't enough change in light intensity when the electron beam passed.

    The last device should be more familiar. It's a trackball controller made by Wico. If memory serves, the Wico Command Control was considered the cream of the crop for trackball controllers, and I was fortunate to have it. I'm impressed at its build quality...it's a bit heavier than I remembered.


    The photos below are from an old file containing artifacts from two products made by Anyware Software, a software company that I started when I was in high school. My first commercial product was called Entree, a menuing system for DOS computers (yes, I'm depressed that Entree didn't make the list). It would automatically start when the computer booted (via AUTOEXEC.BAT) and present the user with a list of applications installed on the system. Administrators could optionally create users, assign permissions to run certain programs, and audit their use. It would generate a number of useful reports, and it contained a very handy file management tool...very similar to XTree. I was most impressed with its software detection capabilities. During installation, it would optionally scan all hard drives for programs it recognized and automatically add them to the default menu. I frequently had people call and send me mail (not e-mail, mind you) to help me detect new software applications. By version 2.0, I think it would detect in the neighborhood of 1,200 unique applications. I sold the first version in 1988 for $29.95 USD.

    The other photo is Uninstall, an application I wrote to help me remove software from computer systems. As a consultant, I would often install software on customer machines for evaluation. This is before the days of 120-day evaluation copies...these were full, live copies that were sanctioned by the manufacturer. Well, it became a pain to remember which files, registry keys, CONFIG.SYS entries, etc. I needed to remove for each installation, so I wrote a utility to help. I planned to commercialize the tool, but about a month before completion, Bill Machrone wrote a column in PC Magazine lamenting software that would help him remove applications from computers. I was both excited that the need was recognized and afraid that Bill had given the idea to everyone else! So, I worked non-stop the following weekend to finish the program, and I FedEx'd it to him next-day air.

    I received a call from him after a few days, and about three months later, his column (titled Shareware to the Rescue) appeared in PC Magazine and talked about Uninstall by Anyware Software. Fortunately, he included my phone number, and this small mention unleashed an onslaught of orders. Who would have guessed that such a small mention would have resulted in so many interested customers? It was a good time.

    Has anyone out there used Entree or Uninstall? Or any of my other products from the same era (WinClock, PowerSchedule, Fire!)? Leave a comment or send me e-mail. I'd love to hear from you.

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    Pat Helland on Metropolis: Envisioning the Service-Oriented Enterprise

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    One of the more interesting presentations I attended at our annual Microsoft Global Briefing in Atlanta was a presentation by Pat Helland on Metropolis: Envisioning the Service-Oriented Enterprise. Pat is an Architect in the Architecture Strategy Team of the Developer Platform and Evangelism Group of Microsoft, and he has identified a number of very interesting parallels between urban development and the development of IT shops. By studying the history and evolution of cities, buildings, transportation, manufactured goods, retail, distribution, infrastructure, and government, Pat posits that we can make a number of very compelling arguments about the future of IT. That future predicts independent, interconnected services and a service orientation that includes four basic tenets:

    ·        Explicit boundaries

    ·        Autonomous services

    ·        Shared schema and contract

    ·        Policy-based service compatibility

    I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking with Pat while a group of us walked to Starbuck's to get some coffee, and one of his concerns was whether or not we thought he had connected with his audience. Although Pat has definitely abstracted his discussion of architecture, I personally think his insight makes a lot of sense, and I think we can leverage his insight to understand the forces that are shaping the progression of technology and communication in our industry. If you don't like to think in an abstract way, I'm not sure how much you'll get out of this presentation. However, if you're looking for a compelling argument for a Service-Oriented Architecture, I encourage you to spend time watching his presentation. The group of fellow Microsoft employees I was with was glued to Pat the entire time.

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    Lookout Available for Download

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    I must have missed this announcement while I was at our annual Microsoft Global Briefing event in Atlanta this past week, but we have made Lookout available for download. From the site:

    Lookout is lightning-fast search for your email, files, and desktop integrated with Microsoft Outlook™. Built on top of a powerful search engine, Lookout is the only personal search engine that can search all of your email from directly within Outlook - in seconds…

    If you’re like me, and you have a lot of data in Outlook, this tool will make your life much easier. Think of it as Find on steroids. I use Newsgator as my blog reader, and since the blog entries are stored in Outlook, Lookout finds them too. Fantastic!

    Update: Graymad points out that the download is now available at Lookout's site.

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    Doom 3 GOLD Release

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    I’ve been waiting and waiting (and waiting some more) for the release of id Software’s Doom 3 and Valve Software’s Half-Life 2. As a matter of fact, I’ve put off ordering my new machine until the first of these was released. Well, Todd Hollenshead has updated his .plan (a pre-blog method of primitive communication) announcing that Activision has signed-off and that we can expect the game to be on store shelves as early as August 3rd. No longer will I be fooled by the empty Doom 3 boxes that have been sitting on the shelves of Best Buy for the past 15 years.

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