Fool me 8 times, shame on me.

  1. Reader
  2. Postini
  3. Calendar sync
  4. iGoogle
  5. Gears
  6. Code Search
  7. Pack
  8. and now Voice XMPP integration

These are a few of my favorite things,
…that Google has yanked out from under my feet.

And let’s not forget Gmail’s Activesync. (That’s why I switched to Outlook.com, and happily).

Why are geeks still trusting Google? We should know better by now.

You can remember dozens of other loved ones in The Google Graveyard

Long Live Reading

With Google Reader now buried, and
my preferred reading app NewsRob with it, I figured I’d share how things shook out in my quest to keep reading…

My targets:

  • content-focused web app, keyboard navigable, and somehow able to theme it dark (y’know, light the content, not the room :)
  • responsive mobile app with good caching, plugin support, and also dark-skinnable

On the web service side, I tried and found:

  • Yoleo – ok, but strange UI, and no mobile app!
  • The Old Reader – UI similar to Reader, but much too basic and slow
  • CommaFeed – almost perfect clone of Reader’s UI, and great features (including custom theming), but somewhat slow
  • NewsBlur – fast UI, but focused on its own slickness, and bad keyboard accessibility
  • Feedly – (originally NO web client, but they made one for Reader fans!) – fast UI, but missing +/- to zoom text.

For mobile apps, I tried:

  • CommaFeed – too little/late. Alpha released 2 days before Reader buried, and didn’t even have caching.
  • Feedly – too dog slow to be at all usable.
  • GReader – very sophisticated (and better performance than my previous try a year ago)

My friend Sean McCabe (who really needs a blog!) enlightened me that GReader supported Feedly, and that Feedly also imported Reader’s Starred Items. I have 6 years of Starred Items that I didn’t want to use, so that sealed the deal: Feedly+GReader it is!

Feedly’s only cons: missing +/- zoom, and themes only cover navbar — I figured I can handle that… But I just remembered the Chrome extension Stylebot, which can inject your own custom CSS into any page. I’ve just used it to create a black AND zoomed theme for Feedly. Perfecto.

Keep on reading!

RIP Reader Google

Google is shutting down Reader.

Crap.

6 years ago, I made a lengthy search and was happy to find it, and I happily use it daily for 454 feeds on various computers and devices.  So I’m not sure what comes next.  Everyone seems to be sharing lists or gimmicks of Reader alternatives, but they all look like steps back to me.

For now, I’ve left a flower for Reader at the The Google Graveyard.

Beyond that, my strongest next inclination is to stop trusting Google with my stuff.

Dear Acer: It’s your own fault

So Microsoft is about to sell its own hardware running Windows.    And Acer is unhappy, because Microsoft is effectively competing with its own partners.

Now, working for a Microsoft Partner, I can understand the feeling.  I have my beefs with Microsoft, like how they’ve just disenfranchised Small Business Specialists and cut down Small Business Server at the knees
(The 30-day discontinuation of SBS on SA is really throwing us for a loop now, since we relied on TechSoup to provide affordable solutions to non-profits, and Techsoup only has SA software, not OEM).

But consider this:

Acer and their ilk have been making Windows suck.

How so?   What do you think you should get to do after first powering up your brand-new computer?   Hours manually uninstalling paid Norton or McAfee trials, a dozen manufacturer addons, and a dozen more partner promotions?   Me either.    Here’s our experience:

  • Once upon a time, we manually removed the junk, as a labor of love. 
  • A few years ago we started using PC-Decrapifier to help automate the process, followed by CCleaner for the remnants.  Down to an hour or so…
  • Last year, we started wiping the (brand new) systems, and scratch installing from Microsoft’s own media.   It’s some upfront work, but actually faster, and the result is so much better.  (The only downside is tracking down weird laptop drivers).

 

Last week we bought an Acer netbook, and (for some crazy reason) gave their install a shot.   After powering up and doing some standard Windows configuration, Acer started their first-run customization process .   Now I’ve done this a LOT, and know this process should take about minute or two.  

Instead, it took 45 minutes, and crashed with a BSOD.

Then, after finally getting past “buy me” promos, it was sluggish.   Task Manager showed 35% CPU gone to a McAfee trial, and 67% RAM used overall, when I HAD RUN NO PROGRAMS YET.   Did we buy a pet to run for our amusement, and do nothing useful?

 

Dear Acer, I don’t like the idea of Microsoft taking their ball back either, but you dropped it, and someone’s gotta run the bases.  

 

P.S.  Also noteworthy about the Microsoft shift is that’s how Apple sells:  unified software AND hardware.  Other criticisms aside, Apple delivers a pretty tight package. 

How to redirect OWA HTTP to HTTPS (the actually easy way that works)

 

With SBS 2008, if try to open Outlook Web Access at http://remote.example.com/owa, you’ll get “Error 403 – Forbidden: Access is denied…”, because SSL is required in IIS.   The proper URL is https://remote.example.com/owa, but most users don’t remember that little “s”.

 

 

As a note, SBS 2011 already redirects this for you.  But if you’re stuck with SBS 2008, there are tons of articles that show how to automatically redirect users :

 

Microsoft has 4 different articles on the topic, but the forums are still covered with it.  The solutions vary on a few themes:

  • Redirect in IIS on the Default website (doesn’t work since that site doesn’t actually answer those HTTP requests in SBS).
  • Disable Require SSL, and edit OWA’s default.aspx to Response.Redirect (doesn’t work because it’s precompiled and handled by DLL).
  • Set a redirect or custom 403 page on the actual OWA directory to a custom SSLRedirect.html with a Meta redirect (might work, but clunky & straight outta 1998!)

Other solutions either forget you can’t get past “Require SSL” to reach the redirect, or they don’t know you’ve already been redirected (creating an infinite redirect loop and “Too many Redirects” error).

 

I think I have a much simpler solution — Just set the OWA directory’s 403 error to redirect to the right URL.  Here’s how:

  1. Start the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager snap-in.
  2. Expand the local computer, expand Sites, and then click SBS Web Applications.
  3. At the bottom of the SBS Web Applications Home pane, click Features View if this option is not already selected.
  4. In the IIS section, double-click Error Pages, and double-click 403 in the list.
  5. In the Edit Custom Error Page dialog, select Respond with a 302 redirect.
  6. Type the Absolute URL of the /owa virtual directory. For example, type https://mail.contoso.com/owa.

 

OWA’s Error Pages list should look like this when you’re done:

image

 

Hope it helps someone.

Vista/Win7 Solution: Skip the Switch User screen

So I’ve been happily using Windows 7 for a couple years (since the beta), but just finally moved my family into it, and discovered a new issue in the process:

Like XP, the “Win+L” key combination locks your profile so the next person won’t “be you.” But instead of the main Welcome screen with the list of accounts, you get the Switch User screen, with a button to take you to the real Welcome screen. This a confusing extra step when you’re the next guy just looking to login.

I did some research, and it looks like a LOT of folks have wondered how to skip the Switch User screen, but without luck.

Not sure, but I may be the first with a decent solution. The ingredients are tsdiscon.exe (which does the “Switch User”), and Task Scheduler (which hooks it up to the Win+L combination), both of which are built into Windows. Here’s how:

  1. Click Start, type taskschd.msc, enter. Confirm any UAC prompts you get, and Task Scheduler will open.
  2. In the Action menu, click Create Task.
  3. In the Create Task dialog > General tab, type a meaningful Name like “Lock » Switch User”
  4. In the Security options section, click the “Change User or Group” button, type _Users_ in the dialog and click OK.
  5. On the Triggers tab, click the “New…” button. In the New Trigger dialog > “Begin the task” list, choose “On workstation lock” and click OK. This takes you back to the Create Task dialog.
  6. In the Actions tab, click the “New…” button. In the New Action dialog > “Program/script” field, type tsdiscon.exe and click OK. This takes you back to the Create Task dialog.
  7. Click OK again and enter the password for the administrative account it offers.
  8. Test it! Press Win+L and you should see the Switch User screen for a moment, then the main Welcome screen.

2011-01-17 UPDATE:  As I was setting up this tweak on a new system, I noticed Windows 7 HOME doesn’t include tsdiscon.exe. It’s easy enough to copy from a Win7 Pro machine (from/to %windir%\System32), and then works as I described.

2011-02-10 UPDATE:  It looks like I was on the same track as Duncan Smart.  He didn’t make automate it with Task Scheduler, but he did write a downloadable substitute for tsdiscon.exe (handy if you have no access to a Windows PRO machine.)

Standing Desk, day 6

Previously, on Standing Desk: Day 1 and Day 2

Well I’m over a week into my experiment.  Here’s what I know:

  • Standing all day definitely gets easier.  My feet aren’t really sore anymore, or maybe I’m just used to it.
  • BUT, a bad night’s sleep is a lot more noticeable.  I had a couple rough nights, and standing around really made me want to crawl back into bed (more than a chair would).
  • I’m not noticing any general energy improvements yet.
  • But I do feel generally more Ready and Present while I’m working.  37 Signals’ Jamis says it better:
    My attention span improved, too. I noticed an immediate increase in my ability to focus on a problem for longer, and with greater clarity. When I was blocked by some problem, I was able to just walk away from the desk, whereas before the effort of getting up from my chair often made me prefer to just sit and stew in my frustration.

  • I’m getting used to it. Walking up to my desk doesn’t seem unusual anymore. Nor does the various fidgeting, dancing, pacing it allows. I didn’t even think about it today until I was walking out to my car.

So I think it’s a good thing and I want to continue.  My next thought is about getting a real standup desk (“real” as in no cardboard boxes required).  Apparently, IKEA’s Jerker is Undisputed King of Standup desks.  It does look great, but I can’t seem to find it.  More news as it happens…