Features Microsoft

Some good Microsoft experiences

And they weren’t even Xbox 360 or Live related.

Maybe my move to Seattle has mellowed me. Maybe I’ve grown up a little and realized that “hating” takes too much energy. I dunno, maybe it’s just the little things that impress me.

This weekend I had two Microsoft experiences that were really nice. Every good story starts with something bad happening and that bad thing for me was trying to load Windows XP Media Center Edition onto my MacBook. I’d bought Parallels so that I could effectively have two laptops in one. The Windows laptop would function as a test bed for new software and website rendering and the Mac laptop would do everything else.

On top of that, I’ve really wanted to play with MCE because I love 10 ft interfaces (ok, it’s a laptop, but work with me here) and the HCI aspects of working with computers in different ways. Unfortunately, Parallels mentions nowhere in its docs that it supports MCE, but I figure, what the heck, it’s really just a 10ft interface tacked onto XP, right?

Building Community Epinions Features Social Media

Epinions Lesson #1: Let them talk to each other

One of the things that stunned me when I joined Epinions was that they had no formal message boards. Before I joined, (in my mind) the very definition of a Web community was message boards. I had spent countless hours either lurking or actively participating in many message board, Usenet, and BBS communities even before the Web existed. It was weird that Epinions didn’t have message boards. This was community, right? How did they talk to each other?

I discovered, however, that members did talk to one another. Quite a bit actually. First, there were off-site message boards (we’ll save those for another post), but second, while I hadn’t noticed it, every review on Epinions has a comments section. The comments section is where all the community interaction happened on Epinions prior to the launch of Epinions’ message boards.

So what could you expect in the comments section? This is what Epinions wanted to happen in comments:

And here is what happened as well:

In many cases, comments were just a way for friends on the site to let each other know that they read the review and what they thought of it. This is where the flame wars happen. This is where people let you know that they like you. And just like the blogosphere, that’s where community happens on Epinions.

Lesson learned – give people a place to talk, or they will do it wherever they can.

[By the way, we launched message boards on Epinions while I was there. A hell of a lot of community happens there as well :-) ]


@ Wordcamp

Would love to meet you if you are here. Come up and say hi.


Ask Stewtopia Features

How to make a business card in 3 days (Part 1)

businesscardcomposer.jpgA couple of weeks back, I attended the Gnomedex conference to hobnob with the digital l33t and make some techie contacts in the Seattle area. I registered late for the conference and was not completely prepared to go.

I had no business cards.

The cardinal rule of attending a conference (and making people remember you) is to bring lots of business cards. As I’ve been playing stay-at-home dad for the last few months, my company (ok, my 2 year old daughter) hadn’t yet supplied me with business cards.

I’ve never designed or had business cards made, the companies I’ve worked for have always done it for me. Being a fairly DIY kind of geek, I set out to make them myself. I had several criteria:

  1. They had to look professional.
  2. They had to grab attention.
  3. I had to have them in less than 4 days.

Today I’ll talk about the design part of the process and tomorrow I’ll finish with how and where I got them printed.

More after the link.

Downloads Features General

Plaxo for the Mac – Loves yummy addresses

The short version – DO NOT USE PLAXO ON YOUR MAC!

The long version – Ok, I know that Plaxo is evil, but I really wanted another way than .Mac (which isn’t evil, merely incompetent) to backup my address book online.

I had never tried Plaxo when I was in the Windows world (like I needed one more thing to slow that lovely ThinkPad down) as I had heard the tales of spam that Plaxo had generated. It seemed that Plaxo had mended their evil ways and were not going to spam people any more. Apparently, now they just eat your data.

This morning I woke up to 99% of my entire address book gone.

Obliterated. Kaput. Tot. Dead.

This wasn’t the first time that there was a little problem with my address book and syncing, but I didn’t know the culprit before. I’m one of those neurotic folks that likes to have his data in many places, so the thought of something like Plaxo (or .Mac) backing up my data is very enticing, but after today I’m going to shut Plaxo down and cancel my account.

I’ve sent Plaxo two emails in the last month and even paid for the upgraded service to make sure that I would get help if I needed it. This morning, I chatted with a CSR from Plaxo and they informed me that my data would return within one hour.

Well, folks, it’s been a 3 hours… and I still have just 3 addresses in my address book.

[UPDATE: Looks like my post did some good. My address book is back (albeit with dupes, but hey, it’s back). Thanks Mark Jen and for Plaxo customer support for fixing this.

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Not dead yet…

Sorry folks, I’m still here. Very busy last couple of weeks, but posting should resume soon. And no, I haven’t just been playing the Xbox for the last week.


What’s in my carry-on?

A little post vacation post here – I’ve just returned from vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii to escape winter here in the Pacific Northwest (for the rest of the country, its really pretty moderate, but for a recent San Francisco transplant, oy, it’s been a bit rough).

Being a nerd on the go, I always travel with a fair bit of gear and adding an 18 month old to the mix changed out my gear bag substantially. I think folks are always a little shocked at the amount of crap I take on board the aircraft, but pleasantly surprised when they enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Here’s what I took, why and a letter grade for usefulness.

  • iPod 60gig with video A+ – This little guy saw lots of use from putting Olivia to sleep to supplying tunes for the crew for dinner or on long drives.
  • Altec Lansing inMotionA+ – Helped Olivia fall asleep and kept the vacationers in music.
  • Monster iCarPlay FM TransmitterA+ – Kept us occupied on two 3 hour drives. Worked great with little FM interference.
  • Etymotic ER6iC – These headphones are great for blocking out noise on a plane, however, demanding children shouldn’t be blocked out. I didn’t really use these much.
  • Powerbook G4B – Had a few movies/tv shows downloaded but didn’t really watch much tv. Internet connections were few and far between, but did manage to pick up last week’s episode of Lost.
  • iGo JuiceA+ – Kept everything powered up and saved us from taking 5 other power adapters. A must for gadget loving travelers.
  • Palm Treo 650C – The Treo was kind of a mixed bag as Sprint’s network worked pretty badly on the Big Island. As a GPS front end, it worked fairly well (except for a major freeway not appearing on the map). It seems my friend’s Cingular phone worked great the entire time.
  • Palm GPSB – As mentioned above, worked great except when it failed to have a major freeway on the map.
  • Tom Tom 300F- – Didn’t include Hawaii in its onboard maps. Was a complete dead weight. Apparently, you can download these maps from TomTom’s website. We brought this for our fellow vacationers, but thankfully my phone pulled double duty.
  • Canon SD450
    A – Just picked up this camera before we left and it was a gem. A lot smaller than my S100 (yep, the original Digital Elph) and the huge LCD was incredible.
  • Panasonic LV-DVD75 portable DVD playerA+ – You might wonder why I didn’t just use my laptop as a DVD player and the answer is simple: would you give your laptop to a 18 month old? While Olivia doesn’t watch much tv, having a few episodes of Arthur and the Teletubbies onboard was a boon to keeping her from screaming her head off while bored on the flight and while were getting ready to go somewhere.

While it makes the carry on pretty heavy (I’m guessing at least 20 lbs), the trip gadgets definitely aided in our enjoyment.

CES Features

Stewtopia CES Photo Gallery on Flickr

We’ll be updating pics and posts throughout tomorrow (wifi willing) so check ’em out while they’re hot. Special props going out to photographer extraordinaire, Suzi Blakely for putting up with me dragging her all over the show floor at this latest nerd fest.


MUSIC UPDATE 2“Take These Broken Wings” – Please, somebody, make it stop!

Features General

Gift Guide Roundup

Not sure what to get the nerd in your life? Here’s a pretty decent list of places to start.

Most Unique
Gifts (mostly) under $100 – Make Magazine
Scientific American

General Geeks
Ultimate Geek Gift Guide – Wired Magazine
Ars Technica
PC Magazine
CNN Money
Den Guru – part of Tom’s Hardware.
Washington Post

Mac Geeks

Gamespy’s Holiday Gift Guide

Treo Lovers
Everything Treo

Let me know if I’ve missed your favorite Holiday gift guide.

Digital Cameras Features

What to Buy?

I love researching new products for people. I love learning all the intricacies of new gadgets and why one thing might be better than another. I spend waaaaay too much time thinking about the trade offs between model ‘x’ and model ‘y’. Why do I do this? So when someone asks me “Which x should I buy?,” I have an answer for them.

Most people don’t do this. Often times, they get to their favorite (or least favorite) electronics store and know they want to buy a digital camera (in this case) but don’t know where to start. So naturally, they talk to the salesman whose best interest isn’t always theirs.

“What to Buy?” will tell you the best product to buy in a given product category. Today, we’ll focus on sub compact digital cameras. Sub compacts are the smallest digital cameras available.

Canon Powershot 450

Sub Compact Digital Cameracanonsd450.jpg

Why? Big LCD, bulletproof build, 5.0 megapixels, SD memory and good picture quality.

Who? Novice-Advanced person who wants a pocket camera with a big LCD and decent picture quality.

How Much? Street prices ~$300


CNET – 7.4/10
DPReview – Recommended – 5/5
Steve’s Digicams – Liked it.

Ask Stewtopia Features

Ask Stewtopia – Plasma vs LCD

Marco writes,

“Does plasma pixelate fast moving objects? lcdI’m just wondering because I saw a few plasmas that were doing that at frys and didn’t know if it was the dvd player that may have been messing up, or if it was just the plasma. I also noticed that LCDs go up to 1080 pixels yet they aren’t as bright as a plasma screen. Would you ever go back to LCD, or is the plasma just too pretty?”

Recently, I had to replace the lovely 32″ Sharp Aquos LCD I purchased last year because it was damaged during our move from San Francisco to Seattle. As we had moved into a larger house (dang those SF prices), I was thinking that it also might be time to upgrade the size of display.