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Internet Explorer Team removing “Click to Activate”

November 10, 2007 Comments off

Back in April 2006, the IE team added an measure to ActiveX controls loaded in Internet Explorer after losing their lawsuite to Eolas (another interesting editoral from 2005).  It was subtile, but required you to CLICK the control to activate it.  Many users, not seeing the text informing them what to do, simply thought that they were lagging out and clicking twice, instead of once, fixed it.  The April 2006 update found its way into our SUS updaters and wasn’t caught—driving our Customer Service department absolutely mad for the following weeks.  Good times all around.

So, two years later, it appears the team is backing the change out by finally purchasing licensing from Eolas.  Whether right or wrong in this case (I actually side with Microsoft and the evidence from W3C on this one… but meh), it’s absolutely insane that this took two years of frustrated consumers “clicking to activate” their embeded QuickTime movies, Flash movies on YouTube, and even controls built on web pages.

Timeline?  Looks like the first preview release (e.g. public beta) will be released in December 2007 with another pre-release included in Vista SP1 and XP SP3.  The final patch won’t be until the two year anniversary of the change—April 2008.  How slowly the cogs turn…

The IE Team has posted up the background here: http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2007/11/08/ie-automatic-component-activation-changes-to-ie-activex-update.aspx

Big Brother is Watching Me Surf

October 25, 2007 5 comments

I was mid-read of Matt Berseth’s blog this morning and was greeted with our filter’s cheerful message:

You cannot access the following Web address:

http://www.mattberseth.com/

This site is blocked under the filtering policy. If you believe this site has been blocked inappropriately, send a request for a site review to {email removed}. In order for your request to be processed you must include the address of the site you would like reviewed, your name, and the educational application of the site in question. Please contact your site STS or Customer Service at {phone removed} if you have additional questions.

The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Malicious Sites

So, I contacted with a serious WTF question.  Lately, more and more blogs, forums, and community sites—which are key resources to modern developers—have been blocked. 

The answer I got: Send in a formal request, it will be reviewed by the curriculum department to ensure it’s safe for children.  If it’s not, then it will remain blocked.  Coding sites are considered malicious because they teach potential hacking skills to children that could endanger the stability of network systems.

w.t.f.

I haven’t even responded yet.  I don’t have anything nice to say that will keep me employed.  And, for now, I don’t have to worry… because THIS blog (my blog) is blocked too… tomorrow, maybe Google will be blocked because we don’t want children to find anything “bad”.

Thankfully, I can still RDP into my home computer and WORK.

Note: I’m not saying Internet filtering and such are bad; but due dilligence of staff/parents/etc. should make up for some of that—and educating children what they should and shouldn’t access will make it less taboo.  Oh, and separate filtering policies for the MIS Department and the kindergarteners, kthx.

[Update 12:45pm: I now have an ‘understanding’ of the full process.  An email to a monitored address, a response, a form to fill out, a few committee or individual, a response with further questions, an email back, and finally it’s opened up.  I’m tempted for two things: a) just continue RDPing out because that process took almost 1.5 hours, b) send in 100+ of them at one time.  And yes, my blog is still blocked—RDPing home to post.]

Technology is a tool for education, not a replacement

August 13, 2007 1 comment

<rant>

It’s a constant battle to fend off those who want to use technology as either a replacement or implementer of policy.  Technology is awesome—and those of us who are programmers are at a point in time when we can do almost anything we can imagine to empower people; however, many forget the EMPOWER part.

Technology is a tool used to augment a human’s value.  In the classroom, technology allows teachers to better instruct students, better assess their progress and redirect where necessary, and better communicate with parents—but it is not a replacement for a competent, well-educated teacher.  If we want computers teaching our kids, why would we need teachers?  Because they add value—they can apply human emotions, understanding, and life experiences to educating our youth.

Unfortunately, many try to use technology to ‘fix’ everything—assess the students a few more times, rework the results until the results demonstrate what we want, and then repeat.  If something isn’t right, the common answer, lately it seems, is to use technology to fix it, not the teacher.  Teachers are left out of the picture (and many seem to want it that way—it’s less work) and place the students in front of a computer for assessment.  The computer then prescribes (ala prescriptive teaching) what the student should learn and everyone goes about their business.  A teacher who steps up and “prescribes” something different with a gut feeling or understanding of the student, they are simply told that they are wrong.

If a teacher cannot teach, but is simply a facilitator of prescribed curriculum, then what value do they add and why should parents send their children to school when they could receive the same education (sub the social effects) using the new “online” schools?

The only real reason I have continued my education is for the educators—the teachers that I’ve met over the years.  I honestly can’t say that I’ve been affected by a book I’ve read or a lesson taught out of a manual, but I can attest that the personalities, the humor, the life experiences of some of my teachers and their passion for teaching will forever live with me. 

To me, to go through nearly 20 years of school with a drone reading a lesson plan and not providing any human value, would be a horrid, horrid experience.  I pity today’s children who are locked in this psychological box.

</rant>

Tags: , ,

Categories: Education, Politics, Standards

Postal Inflation…

I don’t buy a lot of stamps, so I’m probably to blame for this, but I was hit by sticker shock last Friday.

I’ve had the same post office box for about ten years now, ever since I moved out to this small suburb and needed a sufficient mailing address for my consulting companies.  It’s the smallest you can get and started out at 14.00$/year.  That wasn’t too bad—a bit over a dollar per month.

It’s slowly grown, however, and rightfully so.  Postage has went up, costs have gone up (heck, it costs me more to DRIVE to the post office now!) and the price of the box has slowly made it’s way up to 24.00$, 28.00$, then 32.00$ last year.  But this year, the change was insane.

$52.00 for a small, 3×4” postal box.  What… the… heck!  4.33$/month just to RECEIVE mail that other people have paid to send me?!  Now, given, I’m probably a bit too accustomed to e-mail… in that it’s costs are given away by companies because it’s so easy to absorb, but… eesh.

So what will I do?  Will I rebel and not pay it and force everything (that isn’t already) to eBills?  No, probably not.  I’ll just do what everyone else is doing—suck it up, pay it, and accept it as a cost of life.  *shrug*  Though I’ll draw the line when I have to pay to park at the post office. 😀

Tags: , ,

Categories: Politics

I make the things that does the stuff that solves your problems(tm?)

July 6, 2007 Comments off

I’m, currently, the solo ‘designer’ in our organization with the noted title of ‘Web Designer’.  However, we’re experiencing a paradigm shift as many of our Oracle Forms systems move to web platforms, whether J2EE or .NET and other developers are wanting to take the plunge.  A fellow programmer, extremely bright, more experience than I’ve been alive (and I mean that in a good way) asked me with eager anticipation:

“I want code so I can do what you do?”

“Ehh.  Umm.  What kind of code, what are you making?”

“Just whatever… just code, it’ll tell me what it is you do.”

So, we’ll just stop here because, from what I’ve discussed with others in the field, this isn’t a unique discussion we’re having.  But, unfortunately, “the code I do” isn’t really linear, it’s object oriented with classes, methods, and such.  It contains multiple different languages (HTML, JavaScript, C#, TSQL, CSS, XML, etc).  It contains open-source applications and tools, such as the Enterprise Library, NAnt, and other tools.  It contains unit tests.  Things that are ALL foreign to these individuals, but that they want to consume all at once.  I’m very happy they want to learn, but honestly, not sure where to start when they’re unwilling to “start somewhere”.  Osmosis doesn’t work to my knowledge (and if it does, please, tell me how… that’ll really help cut down on the stack of books I want to get read).

I turned over my code and promised to answer questions, but, none-the-less, it’s an odd conversation to have. I don’t think of what I do in terms of code, I think of it in terms of “things done”.  I don’t solve every problem with a web site, but commonly create custom console applications, winforms apps, or whatever the job needs.  Thankfully, the .NET platform is generous enough to provide these different mediums to meet my needs.

Personally, I’m a demonstrator—I explain by showing and by helping others do, so showing “what I do” by handing over some code seems… void to me.  I’m HUGE into whiteboards, markers and just doodling out ideas and concepts (and, even better, handing over the markers and letting others try to explain and build from there).  But, in the end, I’m not sure I can simply doodle out what I do.  I sit around all day (and all night) making things that does stuff that solves my customers problems.  Whether it’s a complex, multi-tiered web site connecting to enterprise database clusters, web services… or a little console app I jotted together in Notepad and compiled… it’s all the same—problem solving.

On a similar conversation, I had a customer ask me a similar question:

“Our old product was an Access database, what do we call this?  Web site seems so common.”

So, I have a new goal of finding a marketing-hip name for a web site.  Stellar, my goals and evaluations are coming up this Monday and I needed something to put down.  “Come up with new stunningly cool name for web site.” 

Beyond the rhetorical conversation, I do have a point as I’m interested: how do you answer these questions?  Regarding the first progarmmer-to-programmer discussion, is it less of a change in technology and more in a change in methodology?  How do you convey that to linear programmers “in 5 easy steps” or can you?  For our customers, do we even have “names” for our technology?  I can’t fathom actually explaining “well, this is an LDAP authetnicated, Oracle-based web application”… it’s simply “your problem’s solution.”

Though, truly, I wish I got to customize my business cards (I curse the horridly ugly standard cards we have and must use) as I’d put that phrase on the card.   I could officially point out that I “make things” and leave the rest up to my imagination.

Categories: Politics, Standards

Internet Filtering for Dummies

June 11, 2007 Comments off

<rant>

Okay, I realize I work for an educational instution that must protect students from the dangers of the Internet because parents, teachers, and everyone else is too busy to teach our youth the difference between fiction and reality; however, I have a real problem when we set such wide catch nets to include almost everything under the sun. 

That problem is when these are applied to everyone because those involved are either too lazy or too incompetent to design the system to target groups.  We’re a full Windows 2003 environment with very finite levels of groups based on classification, location, and whether or not you’re staff or student.  Somehow, someway there has got to be a way to prevent a kindergartener from “bad bad things” and let adults, especially those that are not located in the schools (and far away from students’ prying eyes) do their job.

Why does this come up today?  It appears our Internet filters were beefed up over the weekend.  The sites that appear to be horrible now are:

  • XM Radio, Pandora (we’re a solid metal/brick building (our building is a nuke shelter)… there is no other radio except streaming).
  • Google Images, Google Gadgets (God forbid we have the weather on our homepage… this broke my Google homepage until I removed all of the gadgets, including my MBA graduation countdown *pout*).
  • Also, Google “Cached”, “Similar Pages”, and “Note this” no longer work.
  • Internet Wayback (VERY annoying since I use this constantly to see disconnects in site design or find now-unavailable information).
  • Various forums and such; though more and more, it appears to be links to forums, so I’m finding ways around this…
  • *angry face*

    Most of all, since I work with these individuals day in and day out, I find it disturbing that our own department didn’t take a minute to notify us of the changes. 

    From a student’s perspective, I’m embarassed that our organization society (this is inflicted on us at a federal level through CIPA) has reached the point that minute filtering is required to ‘protect’ people… rather than allowing everything and educating the differences between fact and fiction and allowing the future leaders of our world to make their own decisions.  We’re supposed to be guiding them—not hiding what we deem “wrong” from them and then expecting them to be able to “properly” handle it when they face it the first time.

    According to CIPA, the following is required for school districts:

    “(A)(i) has in place a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are—

    “(I) obscene;

    “(II) child pornography; or

    “(III) harmful to minors; and

    “(ii) is enforcing the operation of such technology protection measure during any use of such computers by minors; and

    “(B)(i) has in place a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are&endash;

    “(I) obscene; or

    “(II) child pornography; and

    “(ii) is enforcing the operation of such technology protection measure during any use of such computers.

    Which leads me to assume the the other services were filtered out because a) they cannot filter specific thumbnail images as such from Google Images or b) they want a way to prevent the traffic going across our wires and are using this as a cover.

    </rant>

    Categories: Education, Insanity!, Politics

    Microsoft sued over Windows Vista name

    June 7, 2007 Comments off

    Microsoft sued over Windows Vista name
    French TV presenter ‘owns Vista’

    A French television presenter has sued Microsoft for “violation of intellectual property”. Philippe Gildas accused the software publisher of illegally using the trademark “Vista”.

    Microsoft sued over Windows Vista name News – PC Advisor.

    Okay, does it ever reach a point that someone goes through the dictionary and trademarks every word in the dictionary (or has that been done)?  Honestly, Vista isn’t a new term, even in the computing industry.

    The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has had automated data processing systems within its medical facilities since before 1985, beginning with the Decentralized Hospital Computer Program information system, including extensive clinical and administrative capabilities. The Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) supports both ambulatory and inpatient care. VistA includes several significant enhancements to the original DHCP system. …
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VistA

    VISTA is the Visible & Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, a 4m telescope in development which will be sited at Cerro Paranal in Chile. It is hoped that it will be operational in 2006. It will have a wide field of view, and as the name suggests it will focus on optical and infrared surveys of the sky. VISTA is being built close to ESO’s VLT by a consortium of 18 UK universities.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VISTA_(telescope)

    Yeah, both of those are acronyms, but… what about the real word?  We can find a reference in it with J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels:

    In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Vista is a part of the atmosphere that surrounds the world of Arda before the cataclysm at the end of the Second Age. Vista forms the inner layer of normal air: above it is Ilmen, and above that Vaiya.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vista_(Middle-earth)

    Or simply… a beautiful view in the park.

    view: the visual percept of a region; “the most desirable feature of the park are the beautiful views”
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

    I truly believe that intellectual property rights MUST be protected—authors and inventors deserve the right to protect their creation; however, there is a balance between reasonable protection and greed when the creation is not being attacked, but a loosely-tied promotional scheme.  If Gildas had registered Vista two years ago as a technology term for an operating system, piece of software, or something besides a senior citizens television channel, ehh, maybe… but, yeah.

     

    Categories: Politics, Windows Vista