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jaysonKnight.com
A conduit to the voices inside my head.

Jayson's Blog

  • Are Personal Websites/Blogs Passé?

    I have a love/hate relationship with my personal website/blog. When I started this site almost 9 years ago, social networking wasn’t even in the vocabulary of the internet, and personal branding was a must have. Fast forward to 2012, and Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are ubiquitous, and Tumblr is a great turnkey solution. I purposely left out Google+ because like so many other companies, they are way too late to the party. This website is a labor of love, but a little more laborious as of late than loving. Running a personal website is a lot of work: Hosting costs, infrastructure work (DNS entries, SLR’s, dealing with the daily deluge of comment spam, bug fixes, trolls…*sigh*).

    There are so many options out now, which also creates new problems: Store your content on one site, photos on another, and if you are a coder like myself, do we use CodePlex, GitHub, etc. for our code? How do we integrate all of these into one cohesive entity to brand ourselves now? And what about syncing all of our stuff amongst different networks? Sneakernet (aka thumb drives), or the pains that I’ve taken to enable folder redirection, offline file sync’ing, and my own internal SharePoint implementation, and paying out the nose for hosted Exchange Server for email/contact/calendar sync’ing amongst my literally dozens of devices?

    There are just too many moving parts these days. Which brings me to “the cloud”…it’s so confusing to get the cloud to play nice with one another. Where one solution excels, it lacks in other areas. All of the solutions combined ALMOST solve the problem, but not one single one does anything quite well. We’re going back to the thin client days, where our computer is just a screen that displays information. Mainframe days if you like.

    Sometimes I feel that all of this complexity has re-introduced us to the stone ages. Introducing all of these extra layers sets us back and makes more work than it solves. I spend so much time keeping up w/ disparate information sources, and my own infrastructure. So, the million dollar question is could there ever be one “site”/”network” to rule them all?

    As computer professionals we have to brand ourselves. I guess what makes me a little sad is that it’s not the name that matters anymore, or the work you put into the branding. But, the amount of disparity makes things worse. I have a twitter account (@jaysonknight) which is pretty much read only, I rarely tweet. And the amount of info I receive in my feed is way too much to keep up with. Facebook, of course…but that’s mainly for personal stuff. G+? A joke. LinkedIn is the most valuable of all my social networks as it helps pay the bills w/ contract/job leads.

    The internet has matured quite a bit, but is compounding the underlying issue: In the end, we just want to post content under one name. Whomever can solve that issue will be the next big thing. One domain, all content, and simple tools to enable publishing. I love the social networks, but I also feel they’ve set us back a bit. They’ve generified branding, and handcuff us to “their” way of doing things.

  • Windows Live Writer Beta

    It took me a couple of tries to get the new Windows Live beta package installed on my machine; the secret fix for me was to enable the Windows Firewall service (I disable it since I’m behind other firewalls), so if your install is failing, turn on the Firewall service. You can turn it off again after you’re done.

    The previous version of Windows Live Writer hasn’t worked on any of my machines for quite some time now, so it’s nice that the new version actually works again. I might actually start keeping up with my blog again, although in a completely new mode of content since my tech days are long behind me (professionally at least). If you want to test drive the new Windows Live Essentials beta, you can download it from here. The new Windows Live Messenger is worth the download alone in my opinion. Much more polished, and you can plug it into social networks like Facebook, etc.

    So let’s see if this new version actually works, and if it does look for more updates in this space. I have my blog linked to my FB notes, so this post should show up on my FB profile as well.

  • Matriculating Into Columbia University, Moving to New York

    I have the proud distinction of being able to say that I have been accepted to Columbia University (yeah, that Columbia...the Ivy League one) and will be finishing up my degree there. I'm still in shock that it's actually happened, that I get to fulfill my lifelong dream of attending an Ivy League institution...and Columbia at that which is IMO the coolest of the Ivies, namely due to its location in Manhattan. I have busted my ass over the past year in my studies, and it's great to see this hard work paying off. So long as all the logistics fall into place, I will be moving to the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in early January to begin classes. All of my credits transferred, so I'll be enrolling as a Junior. I'm excited and apprehensive at the same time, but I have no doubt that this was meant to be. I have a philosophy of believing that things happen for a reason, and the more effortlessly they happen, the more they were meant to happen.

    And it would seem that I'm not the only one making a big move these days. My good friend Keyvan Nayyeri (Facebook profile) has also fulfilled a lifelong dream and is finally making it stateside to complete his Ph.D in Mathematics at the University of Texas: San Antonio. The internet sure does make the world seem awfully small sometimes, and the prospect of finally getting to meet this guy in real life is astounding. I'm so happy for him as I know he's wanted this for a long time now. I know he's going to do great, and I wish him the best of luck.

    Any readers of this blog (if there are any left actually) located in and around the NYC area, please feel free to drop me a line. Next post will be from the Big Apple!

  • Another Semester Done, Summertime Is Here

    beach_wallpaper_brazil[1]Spring semester at UNCC has ended, and compared to previous semesters, this one was quite the crusher to say the least, even though it was only 15 credit hours. My GPA for the semester was a 3.53, so I’ll make Dean’s List again, but I was a bit disappointed by one particular B in my Chemistry lab…the TA said I was extremely close to an A, but that there would be no curve. My most surprising comeback story was Calculus I; bear in mind I haven’t had a college level math class in about a decade, so all of those skills had long disappeared. Combine that with the fact that about halfway through the semester our professor fell gravely ill, and we got a new professor that although very smart, hadn’t taught a low level math class in years so he was way above our heads. I found some fantastic online lecture notes and basically locked myself in a room for an entire weekend and taught myself everything I needed to know for the final exam. I went from a 67 on the first exam to a 92 on the final, good enough to get an A as my final grade.

    One thing this semester taught me is that I no longer want to be a Chemistry major. My first round in school, before I discovered computer science, I was absolutely fascinated by Chemistry and had a natural knack for it. The knack is still there, but the interest…well, not so much. Of course my end goal is medical school so the major doesn’t matter per se, but I have to be interested in the work I’m doing. This round, my interests are much more towards the biological sciences. I have decided to change to either a B.S. Biology should I decide to stay at UNCC, or Biomedical Engineering should I decide to transfer to a school that offers an undergraduate degree in that area. I have also decided that UNC-Chapel Hill may not be an option for various reasons that I won’t go into…it’s mainly a matter of timing. As such, I’m going to apply to other schools in the region that offer a competitive BME program such as NC State and GA Tech for consideration of a Spring ‘10 transfer. A BME degree will be a fantastic fallback degree should my physician aspirations not work out (which of course I have complete confidence that they will, but there are so many places where pursuing an M.D. can abruptly end).

    The end of this semester was complicated by some strange medical issues I’ve been having. I won’t get into a lengthy diatribe nor will I play armchair physician in this post about what’s going on, but it got severe enough last week that it warranted 2 physician visits, a smattering of chest x-rays, and a CT scan. The findings are leaning towards gallstones (which I suspected all along), but aside from that I’m a perfectly healthy 30 year old according to test results. I have a consultation with a general surgeon tomorrow morning to discuss a further course of action. I will say that I wouldn’t wish the amount of pain I’ve been experiencing on my worst enemy. My last 2 exams of the semester, I was basically writhing in pain throughout them feeling pretty close to death, and still managed to do well on both. Mind over matter I guess. It’s also safe to say that dye contrast CT scans are quite interesting…the barium sulfate shake given beforehand provides you with about 18 hours of severe cramps and diarrhea, and the IV injected contrast dye also has some interesting physiological properties…feels like your skin is on fire and like you’ve peed all over yourself. Highly recommended.

    First summer session (aka 5 weeks of Organic Chemistry pain) starts in just over 2 weeks. I was planning on enjoying my break, but it looks like it’ll be consumed with physician visits until we get the pains resolved. It’s all good, I have faith in the system (even though it does move pretty slow). Watch this space for more updates.

  • One Month’s Worth of Sleepless Nights To Go Please

    Spring semester at UNCC has gotten off to a roaring start; I can’t believe it’s already been 6 weeks. I had to do some schedule adjusting…trust me, my course load is not to be envied at 16 hours: General Chemistry 2 (with lab), General Biology 2 (with lab), Calculus, Japanese, and I’m TA’ing for a deductive logic professor. The labs are what absolutely kill me each week since they are three classroom hours + lab reports + quizzes, exams, and papers…all for one lousy credit hour. So far it’s a bit rougher than last semester, but definitely manageable.

    The good news is that I have finally completed my application to UNC aka Carolina aka Chapel Hill. It’s a phenomenal school with one of the better Chemistry programs in the country. The bad news is that notification won’t be coming for at least a month, and I don’t do too well with suspense and waiting. Fingers are crossed, but this will be by far one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life. Chapel Hill is only 3 hours away from Charlotte, but my life is here: Friends, family, girlfriend…I mean it’s not the end of the world, but it’s still a heavy decision. Like I always say, I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it. Provided I get in, it would be the opportunity of a lifetime.

    Sidenote: Condolences to those who didn’t survive the great Telligent Carnage of ‘09. Over the years before I got out of the software business, I got to know quite a few of you, and even before that, many of you were household names amongst .Net developers. My heart especially goes out to Rob Howard…I know just how passionate you are about software and your company, so I’m sure the decision was not an easy one. No doubt that even with what little sleep I’ll be getting over the next few weeks in anticipation of an acceptance letter, they are nothing compared to the sleepless nights you had before having to make this decision. I am truly sorry.

  • I'm Drowning in Paper, So I Bought a Tablet

    Latitude XT Tablet PC

    So another semester has drawn to a close…this semester was my first full one; I did 17 hours and I can say one thing for certain: It’s a lot easier to focus at age 30 than it was at 18, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Finals were pretty gruesome, but overall it was a successful semester, and I’ve loaded myself up with 18 hours for Spring. One thing I learned about myself is that at some point, I stopped being able to do consecutive nights of 4 hours of sleep…I paid dearly for it during finals week and it caught up with me at the end. Yet another thing drastically different than being 18.

    I also learned that a decade of cube life spoiled me in some ways…I haven’t put pen to paper (e.g. taking notes) in many many years having always used a computer for all of my document generation needs. The problem wasn’t with the note taking itself, but rather being able to quickly find information I had written down for later studying. Over the past few months I had gone back and forth on whether to get a laptop, or get a tablet. Since I’m a chemistry major, a good portion of my notes include drawings, charts, and equations with lots of symbols involved…so a regular laptop was not going to be a feasible solution. The obvious choice was then a tablet, but to get a decent one is a sizable chunk of change. A friend of mine reminded me about the Dell outlet site, and since the Latitude XT is the tablet I was interested in (namely due to multi-touch capabilities), it became a matter of checking the outlet page on a daily basis waiting for the configuration I wanted. It took a couple months, but the one I wanted finally showed up yesterday. To say I got a great deal would be an understatement. Brand new, the configuration I got would have been around $3,500…I ordered mine for $1,500. The main component I was holding out for was an SSD, which apparently are really hard to come by on the outlet site. Regardless, it gets here on the 22nd, and I’m beyond stoked to be getting rid of all the paper notebooks I would have had to keep up with next semester.

    So the question now becomes, do I stick with XP Tablet Edition, or do I use the free upgrade coupon it comes with to move to Vista Business? I’ve read reports on the web of Vista’s tablet capabilities being less than stellar, with many reviewers preferring XP for tablets. I personally love Vista, and would see going back to XP as a huge setback, but of course I want to use whatever works best. Any readers have experience with one or both?

    Anywho, I’m all caught up on sleep, have a week of family obligations, and am off to Vail for a week right after Christmas for a well deserved vacation. I keep telling myself I’ll blog more, but school is keeping me fairly hemmed up. Perhaps I’ll make a better effort come next year. Have a wonderful holiday season everyone!

  • Vista Gigabit Performance Issues: Fixed

    Like quite a few folks, I've been plagued by issues with Vista on a Gigabit LAN, namely seeing throughput that's a fraction of what it should be. I tried the fixes Scott Hanselman outlined in his excellent Vista Gigabit post to no avail. The Google gods must have been smiling on me yesterday because I found an article I had not seen before: Disable Vista network autotuning. In a nutshell, open an elevated command prompt and run the following:

    netsh int tcp set global autotuninglevel=disable

    I'm now seeing sustained throughput between Vista and other machines on my network in the neighborhood of 80-100 MB/s. From what I've read, none of these 'fixes' are needed when all machines are utilizing SMB 2.0, e.g. Vista <-> Windows 2008 or other Vista clients. Regardless, it's great to finally be able to utilize all of my LAN bandwidth after almost a year of frustration.

  • Obama Picks UNCC As His Last Stop Before Election

    Barack Obama has chosen UNCC (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the university I'm attending) as his last stop before the elections on Tuesday. It's pretty telling when a state that can only be described as historically very red is not only a democratic candidate's last stop, but is also seemingly going to go blue, exactly what kind of change people actually want.

    We're honored to have you here on the eve of the elections.

  • eTrade Commercial: Mobile Trading Baby

    I don't know why I find this commercial so hilarious, but I can't help but giggle out loud whenever I see it. Brilliant piece of marketing on the part of eTrade.

  • CS Tidbit #28: Creating Nested Navigation Bar Items

    In my previous CS Tidbit, I outlined how to add an archive page to your blogs to free up some sidebar real estate while still giving readers access to our post history. Of course, now that we have this in place, how do we let our readers know where it is? In the past, adding links to one of the standard sidebar widgets meant manually adding entries to various skin files, and doing it in each theme on our site. There was also really no way to control security on the links either without adding some more customizations, ie if you had a link that you only wanted displayed to logged in users, or to owners of a particular section (Sharepoint calls this Security Trimming, I'm not sure what CS refers to it as).

    Fortunately for us, CS now supports creating nested navigation bar items via the control panel, and also allows us to specify security attributes to control what audience gets to see these links. In this tidbit, I'll outline how to accomplish this. Our end result is going to look something like this:

    image

    This is just the standard navigation bar that you'd see in CS2008.5's Hawaii theme, along with 4 nested navigation bar items. To create these items, navigate to Control Panel and select Site Administration, and then head over to Site Theme. The url to this page will look something like http://<yourSite.com>/ControlPanel/Settings/ThemeConfiguration.aspx. In the theme configuration editor, select the Header tab and look for the section called Navigation Bar. You'll see a box similar to the one pictured here:

    image

    In this example, we'll add a link to the archive page we created in the previous CS Tidbit. Click the Add button, and then fill in information similar to the following:

    image

    Once you're done putting in the correct info, click save. You can then click and drag the newly created link to the section where you'd like it to be nested under. It's actually a pretty slick control. Once you have it where you want, click the save button in the lower right hand corner and navigate back to your site. The newly created nested navigation item should be displayed under the section you placed it in. All of this adds some nice navigational touches for your site visitors to be able to find stuff in an easier more consistent manner.

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