Mike Swanson

December, 2004

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    Paul Thurrott on GIANT AntiSpyware

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    As you've probably already heard, Microsoft acquired GIANT Company Software, Inc. so that it can "provide Microsoft® Windows® customers with new tools to help protect them from the threat of spyware and other deceptive software" (from the press release). A beta version, based on the AntiSpyware product, is expected to be available by the end of January, 2005. Personally, I hadn't heard of GIANT until our announcement, but based on what I've read, it sounds like a nice piece of technology. For a more in-depth review, read Paul Thurrott's article on his SuperSite for Windows. One of the more interesting quotes:

    And I'm not alone: In a Spywarewarrior.com product tests, Giant AntiSpyware came out on top, detecting 111 of 138 possible spyware installs, compared to just 79 for Ad-aware (second place) and 69 for Spybot (fourth place).

    I've long been an advocate of both Lavasoft's Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. I have both products installed on all of my computers, and I run them freqently. However, it would be nice to have a single application that provides broad coverage. Welcome to Microsoft, GIANT!

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    Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8

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    About two months ago, I ran across a blog post by Jon Udell of InfoWorld about his experience with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8. Like him, I toy with speech recognition technology every few years to see how it has progressed. After reading his post and watching his video, I decided to order a copy of the Standard edition for myself.

    The software comes bundled with a headset that includes an attached microphone. I’m not sure of the headset quality, but so far, I’ve been very happy with its results. Noise from the surrounding environment always wreaks havoc with speech recognition applications, and a good microphone can make a significant difference (especially if it’s a noise canceling microphone).

    The software installation was very smooth, and before long, I was reading through the included training texts. For some odd reason, I enjoy reading the training text for these applications. Perhaps it’s because I know that the more I train the software, the more accurate the recognition will be. Some of the texts are relatively short, but a couple of them took me more than 45 minutes to read through.

    To further increase accuracy, NaturallySpeaking 8 can optionally scan through your documents and e-mail to learn your writing style. Although I don’t know all of the technical details, I’m guessing that it looks for unique words, proper nouns, and spellings so that it can recognize or suggest them later. Pretty cool.

    After setting everything up, you can fire up your favorite application, turn on the microphone, and begin dictating. As you speak, NaturallySpeaking 8 listens to sentence chunks and uses context and grammar rules to figure out what you said. Best of all, there’s no need to talk in a stilted manner, and you don’t have to insert pauses between your words. You can actually speak naturally. Imagine that!

    So you could see how I created this blog posting, I downloaded an evaluation copy of Camtasia Studio and recorded myself dictating this text into Microsoft Word. In the interest of full disclosure, I did write this post ahead of time, because I didn’t want to fumble around for the demonstration.

    All in all, I’m very impressed with the accuracy of the recognized text. The problem is that I type very quickly, so I’m not sure it saves me any time. However, for getting thoughts into the system or for people who don’t type for a living, this is a great application.

    Update: As you'll notice in the recorded video, there were a couple errors that I had to fix manually for this post. Also, you may need to install the TechSmith Codec to propertly view the video.

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    Visual Studio 2005 CTP for December 2004 Available for Download

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    According to Rob Caron, you can now download the Visual Studio 2005 Community Technology Preview (CTP) for December 2004 at the MSDN Subscriptions site. The download is an ISO image for the English version of the DVD and weighs in at a whopping 3.16GB. Rob has also posted about an updated version of the Team Foundation Installation Guide for the December CTP which you'll definitely want to read if you plan on installing the Team Foundation Server. Happy holidays!
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    Cardamom Bread and Pepparkakor Cookies

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    I thought about titling this post, Man Found Dead with Cardamom Bread Recipe Stuffed in His Mouth. However, after considering the situation realistically for a moment, I realized that my grandparents probably wouldn't knock me off for sharing two of our secret Swedish holiday recipes. But, if I turn up missing, you know who to look for! :-)

    Every year around the holidays, I look forward to these two tasty treats. I've eaten cardamom bread and papparkakor cookies during Christmastime for as long as I can remember. The smell of either of them baking immediately brings back warm memories for me. About 10 years ago, I asked my grandparents for these recipes, and they were kind enough to provide them. I'm posting both of them here so that others can enjoy their fantastic flavor.

    Cardamom Bread

    Here's the recipe that I use for cardamom bread. The original recipe is the version that I received from my grandparents. The modified recipe is my own conversion for use with a bread machine. I've made this recipe tens of times, and I'm always pleased with the results.

    Original Recipe         Modified for Bread Machine
    ¾ cup milk   ½ cup milk
    ¼ cup butter   3 tablespoons butter
    1 egg   1 egg
    1/3 cup sugar   ¼ cup sugar
    ½ teaspoon salt   ½ teaspoon salt
    3 cups flour   2¼ cups flour (bread flour)
    2 teaspoons yeast   1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
    1½ - 2 teaspoons cardamom   1½ teaspoons cardamom
    (3 teaspoons if using powder)
    1. Microwave milk and butter for approximately 50 seconds
    2. Make dough using all ingredients (manually or with bread machine on "dough" mode)
    3. Divide into 3 rolled strips, cover with cloth, and allow to rest for 10 minutes
    4. Braid dough and top with light sugar coating (not included in above ingredients)
    5. Allow to rise for 40-50 minutes under plastic wrap
    6. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes
    7. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack

     Cardamom bread is good toasted or plain, buttered or not. If you're like me, you won't be able to limit yourself to just one or two slices. :-)

    Pepparkakor Cookies

    Done properly, pepparkakor cookies (a Swedish twist on ginger cookies) are relatively thin and crisp. Pepparkakor cookie dough is my favorite, with chocolate chip cookie dough coming in a close second (at least the Nestlé Toll House recipe). Yeah, I know...raw eggs, Salmonella, etc. Call me crazy, but kids and adults have been eating raw cookie dough since the dawn of time (okay...maybe not quite that long), and as far as I know, kids aren't keeling over in the kitchen. But hey, I'm no doctor, so proceed at your own risk.

    1 cup butter
    1 egg
    1 cup white sugar
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon ginger
    2 tablespoons milk
    3 tablespoons molasses (I prefer the “Dark Full Flavor” kind)
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    3 cups flour
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1. Cream butter with sugar
    2. Add egg, milk, and molasses
    3. Mix everything else in
    4. Refrigerate the dough overnight
    5. Roll dough onto flowered surface until approximately 1/8" thick, and cut into shapes
    6. Bake at 350 degrees until done (approximately 8 minutes)

    If you end up making either of these recipes, or if you have similar recipes that you'd like to share, please leave feedback. I'm very curious to hear what you think!

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    Revised: Ripping DVDs for Media Center

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    It seems that the legality of my original article was in question, so I've decided to play it safe and replace it with this text. Although I thought the issues of fair use and the court cases surrounding 321 Studios DVD copying software had been resolved, one look at their web site indicates that this isn't the case (read this Wired article for more detail). After a little searching, even Kaleidescape, a product I mentioned in my original post that has been around for quite some time, has had recent legal troubles. I certainly hope that—like CDs—we can someday enjoy legal copies of our licensed material for use with products like Media Center.

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