update

MEME: Interview Tag

Grand Canyon, Arizona. The canyon, created by ...
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It's been a while since I posted last and I've been looking for a reason, an impetus to start blogging again.  Well, my friend Jenn over at www.youllgrowtoloveme.com tagged me in an interview meme.  Of course I wanted to take part, but then I saw the questions.  Oh well - here are the answers to her juiciest questions:

1. How many times have you been naked in public? Elaborate.

I guess the first question is what is public?  I can't really remember any time that I've been out streaking or naked in public on purpose.  The only time that I remember was a hot summer day at Aquabhagan - a water park in Maine.  I was on the racing slide that goes incredibly fast and you race your friend in the lane next to you.  When I hit the bottom pool, my bottoms decided that they had had enough and slipped right off.  My times naked in public = 1. 2. Now that you've been knighted, what else is there to look forward to in life?

As amazing as being knighted has been, there is plenty more to look forward to.  I'm still waiting for "the one" - the woman that I spend the rest of my life with.  I'm still looking forward to my first job and even my last job.  I'm looking forward to having children, a dog, a family.  I can't wait to go skydiving, continue to blog and write.  I look forward to meeting all the rest of the people that will be part of the story known as my life. 3. What is your favorite sound in the world? Why?

I think my favorite sound is the complete lack of sound when I am out in the woods alone except for nature all around.  Living in the city, there aren't many times of quiet... I mean COMPLETE silence.  When my mother's side of the family went whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon, I experienced a complete silence that was indeed "deafening."  Yes, the river burbled at the shore and the wind blew through the grass but the air was completely devoid of human sounds.  I found the quiet comforting, rejuvenating, and personal. 4. What is the best thing about women?

I think the best thing about women is that they make men want to be better men - at least when things are going well.  Have you ever noticed that a coed apartment is generally cleaner than the frat house you used to party at?  Have you ever seen the way that men dress when they're trying to impress women?  What about the man that learns about something from a woman and because they said something, they stick to the change.  Recently, my friend Rachel made a cup of tea for me while I was sick.  I've had tea before but her lack of coffee drinking and this amazing cup of tea seemed to spark something within me.  Since that day, I've forgone coffee and slashed my caffeinated beverage intake to nearly none.  Women are great - and they're pretty too. 5. How would you propose to me?

Jenn, the one who tagged me on this, loves to travel.  She went abroad while in college and was in a different city each weekend for a time.  At the same time, I have always wanted to travel with someone I love because I think there is nothing better for two people than to experience something together and make some amazing memories.  This particular trip would be throughout Europe, backpacking style.  In Paris, my favorite city in Europe, we would spend the day seeing museums, the Tower, and lounging by the river eating a baguette.  As night falls we would walk towards the Tower once more and the timing would be perfect where it flashes just as I get on my knee and ask her to marry me.

Okay so here’s the deal. It’s now YOUR turn to be interviewed! Here’s how:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me!” 2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions. 3. Update your blog with the answers to the questions. 4. Include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. 5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you get to ask them five questions.

Even if you’ve already been interviewed by somebody, you can still play. I’ll be sure to e-mail you new and exciting questions

Starting A "Real" Job

I've started a new chapter in my time here in Ireland. With exams now over, it's time that I turned my eyes away from the pages of notes and stick my head into the wild world of business. Yes, that's right, I'm at my new job... internship, work placement - whatever you want to call it. I just posted up a bit on how the whole exam thing went down... very interesting indeed. I'm currently mooching my lunch as much as possible and have the entire room of the office to myself. So, what am I doing? I'm working as a management intern at Campus IT ltd. Their main offices are in Dublin, Ireland with another office in the UK. It's an interesting company - they build software applications on top of Oracle database programs and sell them to colleges and universities. The real wonder is how they can exist when the market is so small. Since there are probably as many college in all of Ireland as there is in the Boston metro zone, I would say that their market is rather small.

What am I doing here? Well, it's not computers and it's not finance either. I'm actually going to be running a research project on what makes up a student's experience. Since their market is primarily the administration of these large colleges and universities, the student experience they talk about is the one that is tied to the differing models of administrative back-ends. I think it could be an interesting project and will definitely be a good conversation piece for future interviews. My role will be lead project manager, interviewer, head researcher, presenter, and coffee guy.

In reality, though, I'll have the opportunity to stretch this oddly creative brain of mine to try new things and experiment with the way I think. Having no background in sales, marketing, or market research, I wouldn't think that I'd be a good fit for the role BUT we had that amazing thing called the Cross Functional Core Curriculum! Hurray for Boston University School of Management and your ability to make me stretch my mind further and further every year.

I'll keep you all posted on the outcomes of the research and periodic updates for sure!

A Weekend in Paris

Well well well - another update for another trip.  This time it was a long weekend in PARIS!  What a gorgeous city.  I have to say that it was probably one of the prettiest city that I have traveled to thus far this semester if not ever.  It was after class was over on Thursday afternoon and a team meeting at the same that I boarded the Air Coach en route to Dublin Airport.  No worries and an easy transit through security - surprisingly so.  However, once I was given the gate assignment, I noted that it was in a different terminal.  I headed out to the place where I was supposed to be a noted that it seemed like a commuter terminal, no jetways but rather doors that opened out onto the tarmac.   Anyways, I found food and drink and found a seat to just cool my heals before we took off.  On the plane, I was seated next to an Irish couple heading to Paris for a vacation.  We spoke about what to do, practiced our little French and compared notes.  They were so cute. Upon arrival at Charles de Gaul airport, I thought I had stepped into a pipe dream.  There were not the normal sorts of straight walkways that we are used to in the states.  Rather there were moving sidewalks that dipped up and down as if it were an ocean swell that we were transiting.  All the while, the path was in these huge tubes with concrete walls - it felt like I was in a cave spelunking or something.  Once into the central terminal, it was through passport control (so many stamps now!) and into what they called "tube central."  The atrium was literally something out of the game chutes and ladders with tubes crisscrossing through the center.  It was so weird but I was able to find signs that pointed to the rail line that headed into the city center.

Onto the shuttle train it was and towards the RER (their version of a commuter rail I guess) station and trying to figure out their system of ticketing.  I opted for the unlimited pass that would let me get onto pretty much anything anywhere any time just because I didn't want to have to deal with that sort of stuff while also trying to navigate and translate my way through the city.  That first night, I made my way alone into the Montmartre (sp) area on the North side of the city and into my hostel for the night.  The only other BU person was in the city on the opposite side staying with a friend so I would be alone at the hostel for two nights before setting myself in with the other BU people that would arrive on Saturday.

Friday started bright and early as the Australian pair, whom were staying their last night in Paris at my hostel (they had been on the road for 2 months then) got up at 0-dark-thirty.  To my glee, there was breakfast waiting in the downstairs for me - croissant and crusty roll with coffee and OJ - I headed out into the city knowing only that I needed to meet Nicole at the Eiffel Tower at 10am.  My plan was to hit the metro over to the Arch du Triumph, which I did, and then walk into the city from there.  It was really need to see all these places that I had seen photos and videos of but now in the flesh.  Onwards into the city, I went and moseyed in towards the center seeing Parisians going about their normal morning.

Nicole made it out to the tower just a bit later after getting lost on the C-Line of the RER (I do not blame her that line is CRAZY with odd end points and routes).  We opted to save some coin and walked up to the first level of the tower, grabbed a quick snack, and then pushed on to the second level.  Photos all around then found out how to get to the tippy top.  The weather could not have been better - clear and relatively warm, minus the wind.  We finally got into the HUGE line for the top stage elevator then it was on our way up!  Hopefully you do not have a fear of heights and in the back of my mind, I was trying to remember that I am planning to jump out of a plane this summer...

Anyways, we hit the top and walked around taking photos as we went.  Somewhere up there Brian and my mother become engaged and on thinking that, I saw a couple seal that deal right there as well - very odd but I took the opportunity to get on a knee for Nicole and ask her to take a photo of me.  You should have seen the looks on people's faces when I said that - haha!  After getting down, we walked around the park adjacent to the tower, took the obligatory photos, and then headed out for more adventure.  The next spot would be Notre Dame Cathedral and oh, goodness it was beautiful.  From the outside to the inside, it was absolutely amazing.  History, stories, meaning, beauty all coming together.  I lit a candle within for my family and friends so I hope good fortune reaches you wherever you are.

After the cathedral, it was to the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxemburg Gardens) where we actually spotted David Letterman with his son, publicist, and personal assistant.  It was SOO surreal to see him there, totally unexpected.  I did not know where to place his face but I knew it was from US TV back home so I started to go through shows that I knew and I finally realized it was David Letterman with a salt and pepper beard.  Too funny.  Once we had had enough sun, we moved towards the Louvre where it was going to be a student's night with free admission with a student ID.  It was a lot of fun to see the old and impressive stuff.  We saw the naked lady without arms - very famous, old cuneiform tablets, the Mona Lisa and so much more.  I was definitely disappointed that the real thing was so small and unimpressive - not to mention the room was completely different from the movie, The DaVinci Code.

That night we headed back to Nicole's friend's place at Cite Univeriste and had a cool little family dinner with parents and friends.  Then I made my journey back north to my hostel for a night of annoyed sleep.  Some drunken bitches rolled into the hostel room at 2am and not only turned on all the lights but were like yelling to each other.  Of course, they were American.  I bit my tongue while they were getting ready for bed but when they continued to yell at one another from the opposite sides of the room, I had to say something.  Needless to say, they shut up really fast - I also adjusted my wake up time to be up showered and out before their alarm even went off.

Saturday started much the same way as Friday but I then ventured through the city on my way to Gare Du Nord (The North Train Station) where I met up with Nicole, Parker (her friend), and Parker's mom and aunt.  We tried to find a train to Giverny, Monet's home, but there was not anything from that station - we found that it was on the other side of the city where we could make it out to the gardens there.  We trucked and barely hopped on the train as it made its way out of the city center.   I caught up with Lost on my iPod while on the train - much fun.  Upon arrival in Vernon, we boarded a bus to get us to Giverny and we set ourselves loose on the small town.  We devoured some delectable crepes at a small hotel/b&b before heading into the house and gardens of Monet.  I took MANY MANY photos of flowers and really got my artsy on.  With someone's suggestion, I have been trying to find marketable photos that I might be able to print and sell at some point in the future.  Check out the Flickr feed for more of those.

That night, I wandered the streets of Paris after moving my stuff from Le Village to Le Montclaire hostels.  Starbucks and all the rest of the American fat machines were around.  After a brief dinner, I thought it would be a good idea to walk down along the Seine... well that was sketchy but I managed to navigate the stone boardwalks without getting mugged.  I had a really good talk with a close pal, a long think while making my way from Notre Dame over to the Eiffel Tower.  I snapped a couple fun night pictures of the tower just before and during the "sparkling" that happens late at night.  That was really special for me.  Along the way, I got a call from my softball pals that were in and we met up along the Seine and headed back towards the hostel by foot.

The next morning we (softball pals and I) trekked our way out to Versailles.  WOW - that was an amazing experience.  I do not think I can remember any buildings that are that old and that HUGE!  Unfortunately there was a ridiculously long line to get tickets and then to get into security and to get into the halls.   In the face of that, we headed around the back to the gardens.  Let us just say it was just like the paintings and all the books - expansive gardens, trees, shrubbery, grass, lakes, ponds, fountains etc... it was perfect.  We wandered snapping photos all along the way.  Tucked away in one of the maze gardens was a café where we pickets up from paninis and that amazing ice cream that you just can't get in the states.  More wandering and more photos ensued before we retreated to the train just as the bad weather rolled in.

It was a chill night that followed and then the next morning I had an uneventful trek back to Dublin.  Sorry for the super long post... I sort of got away from myself.  Hopefully this means my writing spirit is back and I will be able to keep this guy topped off a little bit better.  Thanks for reading!

A New Name - A New Mission

Well, I have been reading a lot online and learning more and more about how to market yourself online and bascially, I've decided that I needed to own my name a little more than I do (online that is).  Therefore, I have registered www.jamesmconnors.com to bring together all of my projects.  If you came in over the old jconnors.net URL, hopefully you were redirected without issue.  I'll be doing more testing to make sure that the transition doesn't break anything major. So the look is the same, the name is different, and now I'm trying to figure out where to bring this blog.  I know I want to keep it as an outlet for me to spend time on and all that but I also want to make sure that I can tie together my projects.  Some know that I'll be launching a company in the near-ish future and hopefully that'll bring my online operations into one single entity.  So look for information about that in the near future.

Hope you're all keeping well and that you're stopping in every now and then.  For more updates on my current adventures, please check out http://www.jamesindublin.com for a narrative of my semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland and my various romps around Europe.

Wow - Long Time, No Write

Sorry to keep you all hanging.  There's really no reason for not posting - I've been having a great time relaxing in the past while since writing last.  Brief overview of what's been going on to catch up quickly: 1 - Last week was the last week of class before our break.  It was really uneventful except for the first bit of work that I've really needed to do.  It was a term paper for our Irish history class and it's worth 30% of the grade.  I'll be sure to let you all know how it went.  I wrote about the causes of the 1641 Rebellion in Ireland.  It was just like most of the other rebellions in Ireland (unsuccessful) except that it was the first look of the North vs. South and Catholic vs. Protestant conflicts that have been in headlines over the last few years.  Needless to say that I did a lot of research for a 2000 word essay and got lost in the beheamouth that is James Joyce Library (HUGE - think Boston Public Library on steroids).

2 - Last weekend I went down to see parents and cousins in the southern portion of the island.  Castle Island, Co Kerry where they called home.  There was a lot of catching up, a bit of harmless birthday partying, and lots of relaxing.  It was really great to see all those that I hadn't seen in 9 years now.  How things have changed, but oddly stayed the same in some ways.  I ended up doing some work online for one set of cousins while fixing a couple computer issues with another.  I guess it's just my currency with which I can pay the family back for all their hospitality and the like.

3 - Currently, as of 5pm yesterday, I'm in the historic Amsterdam City.  I met Grace, long time best-friend, at the airport last night then journeyed through the city to find our hotel.  It's a cute little boutique hotel (Hotel Piet Hein) situated in the quiet and quaint depths of the museum district.  Things here have been great so far and I'm going to be writing more for sure.  So stay tuned and come back often for updates (I mean it).

Thanks for staying subscribed and keeping up to date.  Just a reminder - if you want to get in touch, don't hesitate to email me at james.m.connors@gmail.com or leave a comment here.

James In Dublin Newsletter

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Well, the Eagle (that's me) has landed! I've safely arrived here in the Emerald Isle and I couldn't be happier! It's rainy, windy, cold, and expensive but I'm away and having a blast. Of course, I miss you guys back home and all too ;-) . I hope this email finds you all well and good back in the USA where a dollar really is a dollar and not 60 cents.

This newsletter is going to be an occasional note put out by yours truly to try to keep all of you that aren't IM'ing or Skyping me on a regular basis. Speaking of which, you can find all the ways to contact me at http://www.jamesindublin.com/contact. Feel free to call, text, whatever you want and I'll try to respond as soon as I can.

So, what have I been doing?! Other than starting the first two days of classes, it's been an exercise in thriftiness, Guinness, and meeting WAY too many people all at once. Some of my observations thus far: if it's not raining, it's windy; if it's not Guinness it's not beer; the only way to meet people (in a platonic sense of course) is to go "out" - a.k.a. pub/club; the Euro makes my savings look insignificant. If you hadn't figured it out yet, it's expensive to live abroad and the current state of the Dollar puts us Americans at a HUGE purchasing power disadvantage.

Enough complaining. It's been an absolute dream to be here, it really has. Sometimes I have to step back and realize that I'm taking classes thousands of miles away from my best friends, my favorite haunts, and the familiarity of Commonwealth Avenue. I'm sure that the Dublin City Centre will become a new fixture of familiarity at some point it the not so distant future, hopefully, and I'd be more than happy to show it to you if you decide to come visit. Officially I can't host anyone in our apartment but the reality is that there's space enough on the floor and my room has its own bathroom with shower.

Let's go out with a story - this tale comes from the first Saturday we were in country... the 3rd night since arriving. Our group of 11 BU students were on our way to a pub in Raneleigh, just north of campus. It was latish - for me anyway - at about 10pm. As we walked along the sidewalk as a group, I felt a sharp pain in my arm like someone had hit me with a stick or something - come to find out it was an egg. We were, I was, egged in the first 72 hours of being in this country, which is supposed to be filled with some of the nicest people in the world. Let me tell you, Mr. I drive a car on the wrong side of the road and throw eggs at Americans, we were none too pleased with your mischief. But really... were we THAT obvious to the locals?!

I hope you found this entertaining - remember to sign up with the link to the newsletter for further fun tales and antics. This message will be posted up on the main site, http://www.jamesindublin.com too in case you delete this pretty little message before you get a chance to click the links. There's a sign up box in the right hand navigation of the website as well.

Cheers,

James Connors

International Student Extraordinaire

8 Hours Until Aer Lingus Sweeps Me Away

That's right, it's now 11am EST and in 8 short hours I will be getting onto the proverbial chariot ready to whisk me away to a new world. I think I'm ready. I've done my homework, packed the bags, weighed out the luggage (It's far too heavy for sure), and said some really hard 'see you later's. This isn't going to be an easy change, I don't think, not having all the things that make everyday "normal." But isn't that the point? Study abroad, in my mind, is all about stepping outside of the normal hustle and bustle - the daily grind. Yes, I'll meet people that might not like me because of my citizenship. Yes, I'm going to have to learn to deal with people driving on the wrong side of the road (that's humor btw ;-) ). All of that is part of the experience. During my semester abroad, I'm going to have the unique opportunity to study at a new school, meet new people, do new things. I won't be condemned to walking along Commonwealth Avenue playing the life or death game of "Dodge Car" just to get to class. I'll be getting a different view of the our country, the world, and all of humanity (if everything goes according to plan).

All that said, leaving is still difficult. How do you say "Goodbye" or "See you in 6 months" to people that you've spent practically every day with? How do you express the sadness and loneliness you'll feel not having them close by? How do you tell them that everything is going to be all right and fine? You can't. It's impossible to express in words all that you wish to say. It's impossible to get that across in a few minutes of goodbyes. It's too difficult a feeling to communicate among strangers and worse - so, you do your best. You make the efforts. You show the intent and try to look at the positives.

At least this time, when I leave, I'll know when I'm coming back - a firm goal to work towards. Please, don't take that to mean that I'll be counting down the days until we leave Ireland because that wouldn't be accurate at all. In fact, I have the benefit of being so swept up in all things Dublin that I won't have much time to stew on these thoughts after I step on that plane.

On the upside, Dublin is in a heat wave at 43 Degrees F, and only light rain forecasted for our arrival :-P. Lots of rain gear and warm clothes will be the staples for fashion these next 6 months - though for my friend from Seattle, this might not be that big of a change.

Once I'm settled in at UCD (University College Dublin) I'll be able to send out a mass email pointing everyone here and updating them on how to get ahold of me while I'm abroad. As for this website, I think It's going to become a regular travel journal of sorts that I update on a regular basis (schedule unknown at the moment) but rest assured, you'll have plenty to read.

Until next time, safe travels to all and take care!

-James

I Started a Couple of Different Projects

It has been far too long for this blog to get updated.  It's true, weeks and months have moved past and settled without a single update, not a word.  I kept promising so many things and didn't get you anything.  I'm sorry about that everyone, I feel badly.  That all said, I want to show you a couple of the projects that I've been working on. Number 1:  SCHOOL!

Some of you know that I'm in Boston University School of Management's Cross Functional Core Curriculum program.  For those of you who don't know what this innovative program is, let me fill you in.  CORE, as it's known, is a comprehensive class sequence that integrates four different classes together as you work in a team towards building full business plan.  What constitutes an integrated program?  Well, let me put it this way: I take four classes that are in different subjects but the topics, the goals, of each class is to provide you with more information about your business plan.  Marketing, Operations Management, Finance, and Information Systems classes feed us bits of information that we must assimilate and coalesce into a complete and manageable business plan.

My team is working on a product known, right now, as the Portable Laptop Lock.  Without going into details right now, let me say that seven other teammates and I have worked countless hours designing, developing, marketing, building, and all the other applicable verbs, for this one little product that culminates in 30% of our grade.  Which is silly since we spend 80% of our time on the team project.  It's unique in that having one common thread throughout the course gives examples in real time, something solid and tangible to tie the business concepts to that we're working on.

Our product will be able to be found on our team website at http://www.hemispheresecurity.com where we'll be able to show off what it takes to be a real presence in e-commerce.

Number 2: College Tech Central

My other baby is my new podcast, College Tech Central.  But, James, what is a podcast? A podcast is very similar to a blog, sometimes called an audio blog.  I first got turned onto the idea over the summer when I was using a MacBook Pro provided by my office at ISPS.  It was so easy to play in the digital lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I didn't get out any shows before I had to turn the computer back out.  Macs make it so easy to build a podcast and produce and distribute the entire system.  Well, I finally got it up and going.  If you run over to the website you can see some of the great content that we're putting out over there.  I'm recording Information Systems lectures from Professor Shankar, with permission, as a student study resource.

Once the class winds down a bit, I'll be able to produce a more robust podcast that brings together so many more bits.  College Tech Central, Technology on Campus, is your home for technology news, tips, tricks, reviews, and secrets where we demystify computers and make it easy for students and young professionals.  Tune in sometime soon for some great content.

Well, that's all for now, everyone.  Thanks so much for surfing over and taking a look.  I hope that you bear with me as I try to get more work done and still maintain these blog posts at least on a weekly basis. Until next time, take care!

Adding Another Hat

Some of you may know that I recently accepted a new position as the Network and Web Administrator for Generations Incorporated.  If you've read this blog for long, you know also that I'm currently working desktop support for Boston University.  It's about 10:30 here in Boston and I was thinking about the transition in skills and knowledge of a job such as this.  Desktop support with Information Systems Planning and Support has been a really great experience where I've learned a great deal from the technical aspects to time management and relationship maintenance.  These are all skills that I'm able to apply to this new organization I'm working with. Unfortunately, as a student employee and the nature of the desktop support position, I have not learned much in the way of server technology.  Sure, this means that Generations Inc (GI) took a bit of a gamble with me since their prior admin was basically a brain-child genius.  On the other hand, having worked in an environment where you don't always see the whole picture or deal with users that honestly don't know what happened, I have learned the ability to troubleshoot problems.  Perhaps this, the ability to systematically find problems and resolve them in an orderly fashion, has been the greatest benefit I've gained from my work with ISPS.

Troubleshooting skills aside, I face a large learning curve when it comes to specific technology such as Windows 2003 Server, Windows Small Business Server, Terminal Services Server, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.  These particular OS's are my bread and butter - the daily grind if you will.  My primary tasks on a day to day basis are communicated via the task application of outlook and revolve around server maintenance and backup, desktop user support (similar to my position with ISPS), and longer term research and development projects.

I think I'll mention a couple of the projects I'm working on right now.  The first, a full inventory and audit of computer assets, users, policies, and infrastructure.  This is a rather basic concept - figure out what we have, where it is, and who uses it, then make changes as necessary.  Since we're such a small shop, it won't be difficult to get any one bit of information but to do the updates and remediation that I think will be necessary, I expect that I'll need some out of hours time.  The other big project I'm working on is to align mobile computing to our network where users with Blackberries will be able to sync with our servers or perhaps Windows Mobile devices will use the AirSync technology.  I'm still in the research phase for this project, gathering the raw numbers and information to then present to the directors in a report.

So what spurned all of this?  Well, I was bored for one.  I'm in the midst of a book that teaches the Windows 2003 Server information in a crash course sort of way.  I've been reading about installing, domain controllers, all sorts of bits about network infrastructure that I just needed a bit of a break and here I am.  In any case, I will bring this to a close.  I know I haven't been writing often but I think that my more regimented schedule will do well for my publishing cycle.

Thank you to all that continue to read and support City Streets, my professional blog and website!

Social Networking Right in Your Browser - FLOCK

We all know that there are a number of browsers on the internet these days. Today, I want to take some time to discuss FLOCK, a socially oriented browser built on the Firefox platform. This unique browsing program combines a host of features from Blogging to media streams right into your browser, thus eliminating the need to browse to blogging interfaces or load special plug-ins. Though their market share isn't even on the level of the big three, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, FLOCK carves out a niche for socially minded, tech savvy users. Perhaps we will see more and more users from my generation using this tool as social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace become more and more popular. I think FLOCK is worth everyone's time because of the accessibility, standardization, and tools that this wonderful browser has to offer. Dominating the browser scene is the standard, meat and potatoes, Microsoft Internet Explorer. Despite a recent update, IE still fails to follow some basic web standards and is known to be vulnerable to many mal-ware exploits. Mozilla Firefox is the open source alternative giving IE its toughest competition. This browser combines an easily extensible platform with standards compliant engine and a healthy dose of non-conformism that has many younger users leaving Microsoft behind. Apple's Safari browser should be familiar to every Mac user since it comes bundled with every Apple system much the same way IE takes over Windows. Steve Jobs boasts about Safari's fast load times and full compatibility as two of the browser's strongest point. Apple has even launched a Windows Beta aiming at promoting market share and providing development tools for Windows programmers to use on the newly released Apple iPhone. Unfortunately, none of these browsers can combine all of the bits and pieces of social media that I was looking for straight out of the box. Then came a mention of FLOCK on the CNET Buzz Out Loud podcast that brought this new browser to my door.

As I said earlier, FLOCK is built for those who have a large web presence, especially if that has to do with social networking and blogging. Being a 20 something and interested in technology, this was a natural step for me - perhaps just an extension of my long hours spent crawling through Facebook. In a nut shell, FLOCK brings all of the best things that I love about Firefox, ScribeFire, Sage, and live bookmarks into a single integrated interface. I'm going to focus on the two features I find to be the most convenient: blogging toolset and the Feed Sidebar.

The blogging tool set will automatically discover most internet based blogging interfaces such as Blogger, Wordpress.com, Livejournal, and more. Asking permission first, FLOCK can import your settings from these blogs and then offer you the ability to write a post straight from a button on the tab-bar. For me, it's always been cumbersome to have to navigate to the back end of my wordpress blog and then post so this was a great time saving feature.

By entering the interface (a quill icon), the user gets a new window with full HTML support in which to craft their post. At this point, the user hasn't needed to decide where it's going. Upon finishing their work, the blogger gets a confirmation screen and chooses where to post their blog. I have to admit, sometimes when I start writing a blog post, I can get carried away and end up with a rant rather than something tat is designed for public consumption. Having the option of where to post the article allows me to easily tunnel to my rant blog and come back another time to write the intended article when I'm relaxed. All in all, it just works. The interface is easy and intuitive, such that I've recommended it to many of my non-technical friends.

The second feature I wanted to mention was the use of a sidebar feed aggregator. Those familiar with Sage in the Firefox browser will appreciate the simplicity of this nifty tool. Whenever you browse to a website that has an active RSS or ATOM feed attached to it, FLOCK will post a toolbar and ask if you want to subscribe to it. Assuming you choose to subscribe, you can then browse through all the available articles from the feed via a sidebar interface. The sidebar will show the number of new articles in the feed and, when clicked, opens a tab that shows you the feed in a Sage-esque sort of interface. The reader can choose the display to work with two or three columns, and decides whether to see headlines, excerpts, or the entire article. By default, FLOCK will mark the news items read as you scroll past them allowing you to scan the headlines for something of interest while leaving not requiring the user to check or click anything to proven that they've moved on from that given nugget of information.

The innovation just continues from here. Media feeds, visual bookmarks, and a trendy "in" feel brings FLOCK to the top of my list of browsers now. It's as easy as Firefox but more useful for those spending lots of time on the social web. I appreciate all of you readers and especially Todd Cochrane's mention on his Podcasting website, www.geeknewscentral.com. I listen to his witty conversation many times a week, so go on over and check him out. Stay glued to this feed for more web centric posts and all of your technology analysis!

Documentation

I am currently working on a project for ISPS that simply doesn't want to work correctly. Sure, the project wasn't commissioned by anyone in particular but rather, it was the manifestation of seeing a need and fitting a solution to that need. That need is of documentation. So what is this project that you speak of, James? Well, our office administers somewhere in the neighborhood of 1700 computers and 2 data centers... that equates to about 50 - 100 support tickets per day... we're a busy shop. Users break things, download programs they shouldn't, contract viruses, or just flat our fry the computer at times. As a department, we have some unique ways of fixing these ailments but they aren't set down anywhere.

For this reason, I have taken it upon my self to produce some sort of support repository that would be an easy place to update solutions to various computer problems. For example:

This week, our office has seen a number of cases where users, particularly laptop users, have contracted the notorious VUNDO or VIRTUMUNDO virus. This particularly nasty computer virus blocks anti-virus software, locks itself away with guard dog dll's and even changes it's name at logoff through a registry rewrite.

Some people may be scratching their heads at all of that, but if you're still with me, then you'll realize how nasty such a program is. In fact, there isn't an anti-virus product out there that takes care of everything related to VUNDO, therefore 3rd party programmers have made effective programs freely available. But where are they?!

This was what I faced this week - a learning curve on how to attack such a problem as a computer virus that did not tell me where it was laying. Rather, it hid from me with all it's heuristic intelligence. If we had at hand the necessary documentation to deal with the problem, I would have been able to resolve the infection in a matter of hours (time for the computers to run the various cleaning utilities) rather than having the issues drag on over night.

To this end, I am building a support wiki that will rule the world!... or just our department (with a little luck and some group buy-in). For privacy purposes, I will not disclose the URL to this website but anyone interested is welcome to email me for more details.

Ubuntu 7.04 Fiesty Fawn - My New Best Friend

IntroIt wasn't too long ago that Ubuntu launched their new open source linux release, Ubuntu 7.04 Fiesty Fawn. Later that day, the Ubuntu servers crashed under the unprecedented load from enthusiasts attempting to pull the new release. But what is Linux and what does it mean to be open source?

Definitions Linux is an operating system (OS) similar in function to Macintosh OS X Tiger and Microsoft Windows Vista. These programs run your computer and allow the user to interact with the machine and complete operations. Wikipedia defines Linux as: Linux (IPA pronunciation: /ˈlɪnʊks/) is a Unix-like computer operating system family. Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free software and of open source development; its underlying source code is available for anyone to use, modify, and redistribute freely. The kernel - or core - runs like Unix and has a similar reputation for stability. But Unix is text only so the latest version of Linux provide user interfaces that resemble those that Mac or PC users operate. In some cases, Linux interfaces are easier to use and customize than their corporate counterparts.

I've been saying a lot about open source on this blog, but what is it really? It sounds highly technical and scary - let's try to clean it up a bit. Open source products are a different way of developing, designing, and ultimately releasing a software product. All programs run on a source code that is the backbone or spine of the application - it holds it all together and like our spinal cord, communicates or coordinates the many processes of a software program. Traditionally, corporate software designers like Microsoft opt to hold the source private so that others cannot duplicate or change the programs they distribute. This ensures market security but stagnates 3rd party development and kills customization.

Open source projects do just that, they "open" the source code and distribute it along with the program they've developed. Now 3rd party programmers and customers can view and alter the underlying code that runs their programs in order to customize their programs. A number of different software licenses are used by developers to control their products but this is beyond the scope of this article. Open source is gaining popularity throughout the world because it pulls on the expertise by many in a community feel to maintain and develop projects. You probably know a few open source projects. RedHat Linux, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird, Wordpress, and many more. All of these projects have huge user bases and programming community support that keeps them fresh - Ubuntu is no different.

Ubuntu So let me talk about the crux of this entire post -> UBUNTU 7.04 Fiery Fawn! I just have to say that this Linux release is amazing. I haven't had much experience with Linux yet just because all of my work has been on Windows PC's and Apple Mac's so far - I wanted to try it out. I'm really happy that I chose to launch into Linux with Ubuntu. The UI is flawless and easy to use - maybe even familiar. It features easy access to the terminal as well as customization and system control panels. But I think the best part is that it's FUN! I can't think of too many OS's that I would call fun.

Right from the get go, I knew that this was a different kind of OS. Ubuntu is distributed in ISO disk image formats that you must either virtually mount to a drive or burn to a CD. These CD's are what is known as LIVE-CD's because they will boot and run the operating system from the CD-ROM drive without changing anything about your computer. I could try out the UI and use all of the features of the program before deciding to install. When I did decide it was time, Ubuntu did the installation right from the LIVE-CD interface rather than the nasty text interface that you have to install windows from. It was so easy.

15 Minutes later I was using Ubuntu on a crappy old Dell laptop. I didn't need to find drivers, programs or anything - it was all there. As the computer booted into it's new operating system, I was greeted by fresh graphics and fun sound effects. I wanted to play and play I did. I spent an hour just going through everything in the OS and trying to learn more and more. As of today I've even installed Flash into Linux and used it a number of times. So... what's that's about all I can muster right now, but I'll be getting back to this and posting an update in the next week. I'm really excited to use this even more.

Conclusion Ubuntu is a dynamic and refreshing departure from the standard graphical interface such as Windows and Mac. I was excited to play with it and learn and try out this new product. I know that I can take it for a ride any time I want or program modules and customize my own version. I could even sell it if I wanted. I suggest that everyone should take a few minutes and try it out - it's so easy. There's also a Server release that features customizations and 1 touch LAMP (Linux, Apache, MYsql, and PHP4) installation - something that every webserver needs.

This operating system is a huge step in the right direction for open source projects and I feel that if someone wants to step into the Linux/open source realm, this is a great first OS to play with.