Great post on setting up a Sharepoint test/dev server

Everytime I set up a new sharepoint test/dev server I have to try and remember how to do everything I always do to the server….like how to remove the Event Tracker Shutdown dialog. Here is a great posting on all the things that you might want to do when you setup such a server.

I only post this so that next time I go through this again, I wont have to search everywhere for it for a few hours…

Speeding up Omea

Over the years I have been a user of a number of RSS reader applications. NewsGator was a favorite for a while, then FeedDemon, RSSBandit, and a whole bunch of others. Right now I am using Omea Pro 2.1.1. But I was getting ready to switch again. The problem I was having with Omea was that it took SOOOO FREAKING LONG to start. Upwards of 3–5 minutes to start an application. Not every time, just some of the time. Its ridiculous. Then I looked at the Plugins in the Options menu. In order to show you that Omea does a lot of things, they enable everything. There are plugins for Miranda (I don’t know what Miranda is), ICQ, Outlook, and more. So I turned off a bunch that I either don’t understand or simply don’t want (Contacts, ICQ, Miranda, Outlook, Tasks). Wow, Omea now starts in less than 5 seconds every time. Excellent.

Download Managers for Web and Windows

One of the things I do quite a bit of is download resources. I grab existing VPCs, training materials, and tools from internal Captaris network shares in the US. I grab documents and other resources off of public web sites. In both cases, my connection is never guaranteed. If the file is big then there is a good chance my connection will be lost before I finish. And nothing is more annoying than waiting for a 3 GB VPC download from across the Atlantic Ocean, then have the connection sever 1 minute before it is complete. With the default copy method used by Windows, the whole file is lost. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

On the web the solution is easy. Get a download manager that will reconnect if the connection is lost. The download manager I use is the Free Download Manager from www.freedownloadmanager.org. There are a lot of features in this free tool, but I don’t really care. It just works every time and I don’t have to think about it. Maybe someday I will investigate what other things I could get done with it.

But on Windows there is a lack of download managers. There are two problems that need to get solved. First the slow connection that may get terminated. The other is the need to copy 1000’s of small files. Internally at Microsoft we had a tool from one of the devs in Japan called something like Threaded Copy. You specify the source and destination directories and it would copy 10 files at a time. The theory being that for small files a good percentage of the file copy time is spent on the handshake and opening and closing the files on each end. For copying lots of small files, it decreased the time required to copy a directory by a huge amount. For a few big files there wasn’t much improvement. I still haven’t found a tool that helps with that second scenario, but the first seems to be solved with a great tool called CopyHandler. This thing intercepts a drag and drop or a copy file and takes on the role of a download manager. If my connection dies, it resumes when the connection comes back. Its not perfect, but I haven’t had a serious issue with it yet.

Why do the Heineken horses still go from the brewery to somewhere north???

If I am still home around 10AM (like I am right now….I am heading to work, really, I am) I always hear the Heineken horses clop by below my window. It happens every day. They go out around 10 and come back in the afternoon. There are no tourists on the cart, just about 10 kegs. But every day they go and come back. I have no idea why. I live on Utrechtsestraat fairly close to the Heineken brewery so if they want to head north, it would make sense that they pass me. I just don’t know where they go. Oh, and for you Americans reading this, the Heineken beer is a little bit better than the crap they sell in the US, but not a whole lot better.

DualPhone for Skype

I bought a new toy yesterday. Actually I bought it after being denied what I was really planning to do yesterday. I was going to test drive a Seat Leon 2.0 tfsi (for you Americans reading this, Seat is a Spanish car company owned by Volkswagen) and a Volkswagen Golf Gti 2.0 tfsi but it turns out that I need a Dutch driver’s license before I can test drive any cars in the Netherlands. My 30% ruling came through a couple of weeks ago, so all I have to do is swap out my Washington DL for the Dutch version, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. It turned out that the Seat and VW dealers I went to were very close to the MediaMarkt right by the Ajax soccer stadium (Again, for you Americans, Ajax is the local soccer team and I hear that they kinda suck, but the stadium is spectacularly massive).

While browsing through the aisles, I remembered that I wanted to get a Skype-enabled handset. I use Skype every now and then because calling from the Netherlands to the US on my cell is probably not cheap. But shouting at my laptop isn’t always the most comfortable thing to do. When I am at home I just suffer from a tired throat. But when I am at work or at a cafe or airport lounge, its just embarrassing. Plus, in order to talk to anyone, I have to have my computer on my lap. Although I knew that there were some Skype-enabled handsets out there, I didn’t have high hopes for finding anything. MediaMarkt doesn’t exactly have the best selection. And if you can’t find it, don’t bother asking the staff as they are completely incompetent. But unfortunately MediaMarkt seems to be as good as it gets here for selection. They have a lot of stuff across every category of electric products (Dishwashers to digital cameras, computers to coffee machines), just not a very deep choice in each genre. Many Dutch know that this is the place to go for these types of things, so it is always packed.

Anyway, I go to the phone section and was very surprised to see 3 choices for cordless Skype-enabled phones. Seeing no real difference between the phones, I picked up the DualPhone at 119 Euros. Of course, I can’t go into a store like this and buy only one thing, so I also managed to find aCruzerMicro 1GB USB stick for 50 Euros and a Microsoft Optical Notebook Mouse 4000 for about 35 Euros. One nice thing about buying stuff in Europe is that the price you see is what you pay. All prices typically already include the painful 19% tax. 

So I get these things home and eagerly plug in the phone. It requires a software install which recognizes the phone and automatically updates the phone and its base station to the latest version and syncs it up with Skype. All my Skype contacts automatically appear on the phone. If someone isn’t online, I don’t even see them listed on the phone. But most of my contacts are actually SkypeOut contacts, regular phone numbers in the US that I pay 1.7 cents per minute to call. I also have a 305 area code SkypeIn phone number to enable my parents to call me without dialing international long distance. 

After the thing updates itself and charges for a while, I try my first call. Anytime I get a new device such as a phone, microphone, etc, the first call is to my parents. And the first question is something like: how do I sound. Apparently most times I ask this, I sound like I am either in a fishtank or a large echoey room. This time they said it was the clearest I ever sounded. In fact they said it sounded like I was at a local Key Biscayne number. A few minutes into the conversation (we didn’t just talk about sound quality) I noticed how much easier it was for me to talk to them. My throat wasn’t tired. On a cell phone or a bluetooth headset, I always talk a little louder. With this I was able to talk normally. 

Now that I have this device I can see my Skype usage going way up. At 1.7 cents a minute, its so cheap I don’t have to really think about it. And the sound quality is so much better than a cell phone (my only other choice when I am not at work as I never got around to getting a land line at home). For now, until I have my first problem, I am totally recommending this phone. Way too cool…