Thursday, March 31, 2005

Blawger dinner recap

Had a great time at the blawger (blawgger?) dinner last night. Special thanks to Tom Mighell, Dennis Kennedy and Matt Homann for putting it together, it was a great meal. Had a lot of fun meeting people who I only knew by name/URL — and even got to explain “tins” to a frequent reader of this site.

And the tornado I spoke of yesterday? False alarm. Apparently someone called 911 saying that they heard that Aurora’s sirens had gone off, which prompted Naperville to sound its tornado sirens… except that Aurora’s had never gone off. Seems like the kind of thing that could be pretty easily verified or coordinated, no?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

On my way to the blawger dinner

Picking Buzz up at the airport, then heading into town for the blawger dinner at the Catalyst Ranch. Rumor has it that Jake Parrillo and Evan Brown will be in attendance as well (representing DuPage County well!). I’m looking forward to seeing a number of others there tonight, should be fun.

Update: Hoping the tornado that just touched down in Naperville was an aberration, and that the hail and 30 mph winds currently blowing through abate a bit, or else I may not make it in…

A taste of local politics

As readers may recall, I’m on the ballot next week for Naperville Township Trustee. This qualifies as my first real taste of local politics. My integrity was questioned, the press got involved, and the Republicans end up looking like they’re playing petty politics…

Update: The Republicans think I have good ideas! Or, more precisely: they take mine

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Obama Blog

Not that one, which has gone silent. Nope — a real, honest-to-goodness Senate blog. Just launched yesterday, rumor has it the Senator himself will be posting there.

(Disclosure: I helped set up and maintain the original campaign blog. I have nothing to do with the Senate site.)

FYI, in case anyone’s wondering: you can’t comment because Senate rules prohibit the changing of content on the site from outside the Senate’s IP addresses. Bummer.

Between Lawyers worth a look

Great new group blog over at Corante, Between Lawyers, a veritable who’s who of leading lawyer/bloggers. Early posts look great, a definite must-have in the aggregator.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Barack's smile

Via the Join Cross Blog, I saw this article at The Daily Southtown, which suggested that a picture with Barack Obama could help local candidates win…

Well, why not?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Windows tech support

Got a call from my father-in-law last night. He was unable to boot his Windows ME computer — the first clue to what it might be was that he’d installed two Windows Update patches the night before. Now it would boot, but would freeze during start-up. He’d see the cursor, but the PC would stop responding to the keyboard, mouse, etc.

I had him boot into safe mode, tried to do a scandisk — but that failed because it would restart 10 times and then kick off an error message. We tried removing Norton System works (as Erik notes, it’s worse than most of the viruses it tries to innoculate against), but that didn’t help.

The last check was to see what was trying to load on start-up. We removed the items in the start-up folder, then ran msconfig to see what was auto-loading on start-up. He gave me a list of every item that was listed, which I then checked against this list of start-up items (what a fantastic resource!). We were able to identify all but one item in the list and disable all that weren’t critical — but there was still one item — KB891711 — that wasn’t listed.

C|Net’s forums had a recent entry mentioning this item — sure enough, this relates to a recent Windows Update patch. And it turns out that when this is left to load on start-up, it causes Windows ME to freeze. Bingo.

Disabling this item from msconfig did the trick: he was able to boot up and was back to using his computer as normal.

Curious that Windows Update would render a computer unusable. And I can only imagine the utter frustration people would feel that either a) don’t know about safe mode, b) know about it but don’t know how to use msconfig, or c) just assume they’ve got a virus and give up.

Then again, depending on your definition of virus, Windows Update sounds like it might be a candidate after all…

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Naperville Bloggers March Meetup

Lot of fun last night at the Red Door. Evan, OneMan (who promises he’ll emerge from his cloak of anonymity after the April 5 election), Mike, Kris and Stuart (no blog yet, but a podcast is in the works) were all there. Thanks to the guys for coming out — we’ll definitely be doing this again next month, if you’re interested in joining, just sign up at the MeetUp page and we’ll keep in touch.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Mirra 120 backup server

Following on the heels of my near-death laptop experience last week, I committed to fixing my backup situation once and for all. I work from home, and we didn’t have a good back-up solution for either my PC or my wife’s. Though an external hard drive or a Linux box with a big hard drive would have provided storage, there is additional overhead that goes into configuring and maintaining the backup environment — something I wanted to avoid.

Then I got an e-mail from Mike Masnick, who beat some sense into me and convinced me that I needed a Mirra back-up server. (Buzz also gets credit for browbeating me into getting a Mirra.) I picked one up today, and am stunned at how simple and powerful it is.

The Mirra is a Linux PC with just an ethernet jack; plug it into your router, then install some software on the PCs you want to back up (apparently Mac support is coming), and in less than 20 minutes you’ll be backing up to the Mirra. The Mirra not only provides backup, it does it in real time, meaning the moment you save a file it’s copied to the Mirra. Even better? It stores versions of those files, ensuring that accidental over-writes are easily fixed.

Perhaps best of all, the Mirra becomes a web-accessible storage unit, instantly creating a secure web interface to your files. Now all of your files are instantly available over the web, regardless of what computer you might be at. Want to save a file with someone? Forget about online file sharing sites (why bother uploading?!) — just create a share on the Mirra by e-mailing an invite to your friend, co-worker, family member — and they’ll have access in no time.

The Mirra will also synchronize files across computers, which makes common files (I like having our pictures on my hard drive, even though the digital camera is hooked up to my wife’s computer) easy to have in two places. All in all, the feature set is solid, and so far it seems to work exactly as advertised. For $300, a 120 gigabyte hard drive with built-in real-time backup is hard to beat. All it took for me was flirting with losing a year’s worth of data to see the value in doing this.

Couple things I wished I’d done before installing the Mirra, however:

  • Compact my PST file. I use Outlook, which stores everything — e-mail, attachments, contacts, calendar entries, tasks, etc. — in one huge honking file. When I started this process, my PST was nearly 1 gigabyte. After moving some old messages to a separate PST file and compacting the file (right-click on “Personal folders”, then select “properties”, then “advanced”, then “Compact now”), I reduced the PST file to 590 megs. That’s still too big, but nearly a 40% reduction, which will make backups much faster.

  • Connected via ethernet. My original backup set was nearly 20 gigs, which is a ton of data to push over a wireless connection. After one aborted effort, I plugged into the ethernet port and things went much more smoothly.

Thanks to Mike and Buzz for their enthusiastic endorsements of the Mirra. After getting mine up and running, I can confirm: it’s worth the $300.

David Weinberger outs the Sifry brothers

David Weinberger, sharing a room with the Sifry brothers, confirms what the blogosphere already suspected about them. Isn’t blogging great? It’s like being a fly on the wall of the world.

Or something.

(For those that don’t know, David Sifry is the founder of Technorati, and Micah Sifry is the co-founder of Personal Democracy Forum, among other efforts.)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Wax on, wax off

We enrolled my five year-old in the Kids Karate Club program this winter. He’s had a blast, and yesterday was his first tournament. He came in second in his division, a pleasant surprise given that most of the time it’s a roll of the dice whether he’s paying any attention to the sensei (let alone to me). He shut out his first opponent 3-0, and lost to the winner of the division by one point. (When your opponent is a full head shorter than you, it’s hard to defend those shots to the chest.)

He even got a trophy — which is proudly displayed on his dresser now. Next week, we (I’m enrolled as a parent helper — think tall punching bag) test for our yellow belts.

I just keep telling myself that if I stay with the program long enough, Elisabeth Shue might walk through the doors…

Friday, March 18, 2005

NPR on Kevin Kuwik

Well, Ohio gave it all they had today, coming back from 20 points down to tie it with just a couple minutes to go… they came up short in the end. Congrats to the team for a hell of a season. And Captain Kuwik saw 10 days of phenomenal basketball, even if they didn’t notch a win in the NCAA tournament today.

NPR has more on Kevin, with audio from his locker room pep talk from last week and a brief interview with his Dad.

Kevin returns to Mosul on Tuesday.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Naperville bloggers meetup

A number of us have been swapping e-mails about getting together: Hiram, Kris, Evan, Jake and OneMan (who I hear will be showcasing his new haircut). There are a couple others who I’m aware of, so I started a MeetUp for Naperville bloggers to get together, talk shop, and drink. (Mostly to drink, actually.)

So if you’re a blogger in the area, our inaugural get-together is Tuesday night at the Red Door Tavern in Naperville. Join the group, RSVP if you can make it!

Fmail, ETP, and WS:Powerpoint

Confirming what all of you already know, the fact that this made me laugh out loud confirms that yes, I am a geek.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ohio's Kuwik Deserves a Salute

I’ve written about Kevin Kuwik a number of times (here, here, here, and here) since learning of his return to active duty. (If you don’t recall the whole back story, read the article from that covers it.)

Well, after Ohio’s incredible run through the MAC tournament (capped off by a come-back from 19 down in the second half, sealed with a buzzer-beater by a freshman player Kevin recruited), Kevin is becoming one of the early stories of the NCAA tournament.

Two stories today capture Kevin’s remarkable commitment to both his players and to the country. Bob Dicesare writes in today’s Buffalo News:
Kuwik, 30, decided to put in for a leave that would coincide with the MAC Tournament and the first week of the NCAAs. He had a feeling. He wanted to play a hunch. When his request was denied based on seniority, Kuwik went to work on a superior officer, Maj. Steve Hines, a MAC alum who’s about to become the most popular Ball State grad since David Letterman. Hines negotiated a swap between Kuwik and a sergeant, and Kuwik arrived unannounced in Athens, Ohio, just before the Bobcats’ first-round game against Marshall. Coach Tim O’Shea had him give the pep talk. Next thing you knew, Ohio led, 10-0.
Kuwik’s fingerprints are all over the Bobcats. He had a hand in landing smooth freshman point guard Jeremy Fears, who could be playing in the NBA four years from now. He was instrumental in recruiting freshman forward Leon Williams, the 6-foot-8 MAC tourney MVP who also projects as an NBA talent. It was eating Kuwik up, his inability to see for himself how much his two star recruits had progressed.
And John Romano, writing in the St. Petersburg Times (Ohio plays Florida on Friday, and is most definitely the underdog):
They are only games. That’s what you hear.

They have been assigned too much importance, and have no relevance in the real world. Although they must have meant something to the sergeant in Mosul who postponed his leave so a fellow soldier could fly home in time for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

This week, there are no battles. No enemies.

They are only games. They mean nothing.

And everything.
Good luck to Ohio on Friday, and safe travels to Kevin when he returns to Iraq next week.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Near-death laptop crash

Just recorded a podcast about my laptop woes over the weekend, what happened, and how I recovered from it. Some links mentioned or referred to in the discussion:

podcast.gif  March 14, 2005: My laptop almost dies

(Subscribe to my podcast here by dropping that link into your podcasting client.)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mission accomplished

My files are backed up (locally and on my wife’s PC for the time being), and I resolved to build a backup machine that would just sit on the network and store my backups.

We have two old PCs sitting in the basement — so I scrounged parts from both, burned a SuSe Linux boot CD on my laptop, booted the Frankenstein PC up, and got pretty close… only to get a partitioning error from the old Win98 hard drive.

This is actually OK, as the hard drive itself is pretty tiny, and 160 gig hard drives are less than $100 on eBay. I think that’s my next step, so my backup efforts are done for now.

Another day, another battle with the machines…

A happy ending!

I’ll record a podcast detailing the effort to recover my hard drive, but remarkably, all is in tact (even Outlook)! I’m posting this from my ThinkPad, which is back among the living.

I’ll warn you ahead of time: the audio will be beyond geeky.

I’m currently backing everything up and copying it all to a second hard drive, and I’ll be buying an external hard drive in the next couple days… This was a bit too close for comfort.

Oh — I’ll also be donating some money to the guy behind UBCD4Win — it was a life-saver this weekend.

Hard drive update

Turns out that a neighbor had an XP disc he could loan me (thanks, Dan!), which let me build the Ultimate Boot Disc for Windows. I was able to boot from the CD, and chkdsk is currently running against my hard drive. That is a good sign — means that it can read the drive, and it’s found a few bad clusters, recovered a few orphaned files, and seems to be chugging along. I don’t like that one of the bad clusters was in my PST file (that’s the file where Outlook stores all it’s stuff); here’s hoping that once this process is done I’ll be able to boot off the hard drive and see how bad it is…

One thing I will say: the Ultimate Boot CD seems to be a phenomenal tool — includes anti-virus, recovery, file management, spyware fixes, etc. — in other words, I’m never letting this disc get more than a few feet away from my PC.

Ohio wins the MAC

Wow. I’d seen that Kevin Kuwik was back in the States on a two week leave from Iraq, and thought how cool it must be for he and his players to see each other on the eve of their MAC tournament. (Kuwik went to college with my brother, and is the assistant basketball coach at Ohio who was called back to active duty last fall, and has been in Iraq since the beginning of the year.)

You can watch him address his players for the first time all season here, or you can just read about how Ohio came back from 19 down in the second half to win by one over top-seeded Miami of Ohio to secure a berth in the NCAA tourney.

Friday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer has more on Kevin’s journey back to the States.

Good luck to Ohio in the tournament — I think I know who my Cinderella team is now!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Unmountable boot volume

My ThinkPad got a little flaky last night — the display was very blurred, I couldn’t see the desktop clearly enough to shut down properly. So I did a hard power-down, which appears to have caused problems. Now when I power up, I get a blue screen error: “Unmountable_boot_volume” it says, then reboots and asks if I want to start in safe mode. (If I say yes, I get the same blue screen. Trying to restart with last known good config produces the same result.)

For those that will jump to their keyboard to type, “Get a Mac!”, let me save you the effort. I would if I could… but that’s not an option right now.

So… I think I simply need to boot to a command prompt and run a chkdsk on the hard drive, but am having a hard time figuring out how to do that. (The PC didn’t include a WinXP CD, it was preinstalled.)

Since readers of this blog have saved me before, I am asking for help (yet again!) — any pointers, tips? I have access to my wife’s computer (WinXP Home SP2), so if I need to download anything, burn to a CD-ROM, etc., I can… I’m hoping I can fix this by tomorrow so I don’t lose any work time on Monday.

Thanks in advance! (Feel free to leave a comment; I’ll check periodically to see if any saviors appear.)

(And the beautiful irony here? Just last week I’d rebuilt my wife’s hard drive, reorganizing and streamlining the disk’s files and creating a regular backup; tomorrow was my day to spend some quality time with my laptop to get it back up to shape, and buy a backup hard drive for both machines. Here’s hoping I’m not too late…)

Update: I’d remembered a post over at Jim McGee’s blog pointing to the Ultimate Boot CD, so I’m downloading that and giving it a try. Will see how it goes…

Update 2: Sigh… without the XP CD, it appears that the Ultimate Boot CD is pretty worthless…

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Happy belated birthday

To Ernie, whose inaugural blog entry was three years ago last week…

Identity theft

Is it just me, or does this article in the most recent Vanity Fair provide the common thread that connects the recent identity theft hacks? (Vanity Fair link via Ernie.)


  • Hank Asher founded DBT, which was later absorbed by Choicepoint.

  • Hank Asher then founded Seisint, which was later bought by LexisNexis.

Odd coincidence, that.

And John Robb asks the right question: “Where is this data flowing?”

Think I’ll go read Cryptonomicon again and start worrying…

On storytelling

One year ago today:

It’s not the story that matters. It’s what the story says about us — why we tell it, how we tell it — that matters.

Microsoft acquires Groove Networks

Via John Robb, I see Microsoft acquired the remaining piece of Groove Networks (Microsoft was already a large shareholder). A couple years ago (two years ago tomorrow, actually), I wrote about Groove and its growing homeland security business, its relationship with Microsoft and the possible reasons for Groove board member Mitch Kapor leaving the board. (Disclosure: Socialtext and Groove are both collaboration software companies, though we offer vastly different services and are by no means direct competitors.)

At the time:

Groove has raised a bubble-like total of $155m in venture capital in just over five years. … [W]hat are the implications of Microsoft being among the largest shareholders in a company that is providing domestic surveillance software to the Pentagon? And who raises this kind of bubble money in today’s economy?

Food for thought.

Congrats to the Ray and the team at Groove; this is exciting news for the industry, a sign that the market is still largely untapped for group collaboration.

Give the elephant rollerblades

Claire Chaundy, responding to my post the other day about why people contribute to KM systems:

The trend in a move from organizational km to personal km is mirrored in the UK. My view is don’t try to move the elephant, beacuse its big, heavy and has a very long memory for ‘the way we do things around here’. But focus on individual behaviours and km and you give the elephant rollerblades.

I like the analogy. Read Claire’s entire post for more on why she uses blogs and wikis in her day-to-day work — it’s not about incentives or rewards, it’s about the fact that it’s easier and more effective.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

My first podcast

OK, giving this a try. Thanks to Denise, whose early adoption of podcasting made me envious, and local bloggers/podcasters Evan Brown and Kris & Betsy Smith who convinced me I needed to make the leap.

So here you are, with much fanfare:

The RSS feed for this podcast is here.

This is mostly an experiment, don’t go listening to this with any expectation of grand revelations (much like reading the blog, come to think of it…)

Anyway, here are links I mentioned or referred to in my podcast:

  • Humax TiVo with DVD recorder (burn your TiVo recordings to DVD!)

I’ll be publishing more about the mechanics of setting up the podcast (including setting up the associated RSS feed) in the next couple days. Let me know what you think!

Naperville hits the blog mainstream

I’ve written quite a bit about how much we love our home town, Naperville. The community, the downtown area, the family-friendly activities — it’s all wonderful. But now it appears there’s another reason for me to love Naperville: it’s a tech haven. Who knew?!

Consider that in last week’s Naperville Sun there was a feature story about Naperville residents who maintain their own blogs. Of the three residents interviewed, one was my friend Hiram Wurf, who started the site for his County Board run and is considering another run next year. In the meantime, his commentary on local politics is among the best in the state.

Then today comes a front-page business story in the same Naperville Sun that one of the most-listened to podcasts on the net is CronCast, a husband-and-wife team from Naperville who talk about life as parents in the burbs. (Kudos are in order, as it appears that they had their second baby yesterday! March 7 is a good birthday.) It’s a great show, this is definitely a couple I want to meet. (And the husband of the twosome, Kris Smith, has opened PaleGroove Studios, a podcast production company that will do custom podcasting solutions for a fee. Very cool!)

Don’t forget that another great Naperville podcast is lawyer Evan Brown’s Internet Cases.

And I just set up the software last night, I’ll be adding my voice to the net waves soon… it finally dawned on me that this was the answer for a wanna-be DJ (I was a DJ in college in law school). Stay tuned… (And be afriad. Be very afraid.)

Monday, March 7, 2005

Happy Birthday, little man

Hard to imagine that my son is now five years old. We had the birthday party yesterday, with Mr. Bob as the magician. (For anyone in Illinois who wants entertainment for a kid’s function, he’s fantastic. The magic was wonderful, the kids were laughing hysterically throughout.)

(From the vidcap of the magic show.)

Five years ago today, in California, Ricky showed up. We don’t know what we did without him (or his brother, who turns three later this month). I love you buddy. You make me laugh.

KM, and why people contribute

Last week, I wrote about the long tail and KM, and posited that the simplicity of a wiki made it more likely that organizations would be able to capture what people knew (and therefore be in a stronger position to leverage the institutional knowledge).

Since then, Ron Friedmann (a co-presenter of mine at TechShow later this month) wrote a thoughtful piece on the same subject, and said:

Unlike Rick, I see little incentive for individual workers to take extra steps to memorialize their knowledge on the off chance that someone else may find it useful some day. As I read his argument, making it very easy to memorialize know-how means workers will more likely do so. I suspect that unless a workers think they will personally need the info again or there is institutional incentive to capture it, they will think “why bother?” no matter how easy.

Following on that theme, blog newcomer (welcome, Rees!) and long-time corporate counsel consultant Rees Morrison wrote that the greater good is no good:

Law departments struggle with these compilations of information because lawyers do not want to expose their ideas – lest they be criticized, perhaps; or they claim they do not have time, which really means that they do not see the payoff justifying their effort; or they are hobbled by technology, even down to the simple point of not being able to type proficiently.

In both cases, Rees and Ron point to the unlikely scenario in which lawyers share info simply to be nice; that there needs to be a concrete reason for capturing what they know. Rees goes further and says there may be some active disincentives that explain why some lawyers don’t share.

Jeff and I have debated this point before; last summer we offered our thoughts on whether there was a new trend in KM that focused less on the overall institutional needs and more on the individual needs — I thought then, and am even more convinced today, that by doing the latter you actually solve the former. That is, if you make it easier for individuals to simply do their job — share info, collaborate, get things done — then you’ll by necessity increase the “surface area” (hat tip: Jon Udell for that wonderful metaphor) of knowledge the organization can tap when necessary.)

To circle back to Ron’s disagreement with my original post: Am I suggesting that people will write stuff down simply because they like their colleagues? No. (These are lawyers we’re talking about, after all.) But I am suggesting that tools which make their jobs easier will get used — and if an ancillary benefit of those tools is that knowledge is slowly captured and exposed within the organization, then the organization as a whole stands to benefit a great deal.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Blog survey

Henry Copeland at is doing another survey of blog readers; please take a few minutes to fill out the survey — it should take just 4-5 minutes, and it’s a good way to get a better sense of who’s reading, what your interests are, etc.

In question #16, please mention this blog (just “tins” is fine).

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

People you'd like to have a beer with

Near the top of that list would have to be John Robb, who’s almost certainly got stories that would make a beer or two quite enjoyable…

Blawger dinner

Want to join a group of us for a blogger dinner Wednesday, March 30? A bunch of lawyer bloggers will be in Chicago for ABA TechShow, and Dennis Kennedy is organizing this year’s get-together. I hear there’s going to be quite a crowd, so if you’re interesed, be sure to leave a comment ASAP.

Hope to see you in Chicago!