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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Review

Mon, 23 Jul 2007 18:46:43 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/23/Harry-Potter-and-the-Deathly-Hallows-Review.aspxI have predicted previously that I expected dead bodies to mount up in this book like the final act in a Shakespearean tragedy. I was not disappointed. As a matter of fact, the first death occurs on page 12.  Sort of a record.  In Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone we find out about Harry's parents deaths on the same page, but we don't actually witness them. Ditto Tom Riddle's family in Goblet of Fire (page 2). But nowhere else in the series, not even Goblet of Fire, does the action pick up quite so quickly as in Deathly Hallows. For some writers, that would be a problem, particularly in a 759 page book. It's impossible to maintain that level of action throughout. And that's true in any book, not just a Harry Potter book with all its side plots and back stories. But Rowling does a masterful job of keeping the tension high. There's only one point in the middle section of the book where the reader begins to get anxious for a little more forward momentum, but there's a reason for that too. I'll do this like my review of Half-Blood Prince and I'll save the spoilers until the end, so you can read on. Suffice it to say that I was dead on on some things and totally missed the mark on others. Ms. Rowling has stated that two characters died in this book that she wasn't expecting.  I think the identity of at least one of those characters will be obvious to you (the only one where I actually shouted "NO!" as I read it), and I'm pretty sure of the identity of the second as well.  I was sad to see both of those die, but I think she made good choices. I've said earlier that I ranked HBP about 4th in the series. I think it bears up well upon further readings and I've moved it up to 3rd (3, 4, 6, 2, 1, 5).  So, where would I put book 7?  Read on and find out. I have a couple of minor nits, both based on unfulfilled expectations. I expected both Draco and Ginny to play much bigger parts than they did. It's not like they were absent, but I had expectations for their roles that were not met.  In Draco's case, I think that detracts from the story, and doesn't seem to fit what we saw in HBP, but Rowling obviously wasn't thinking along the same lines as me. In Ginny's case, it doesn't detract from the storyline, but possibly detracts from emotional content.  However, this book doesn't lack in emotional content at all, perhaps she thought adding a little more would make it unbearable. Or perhaps in both cases, her mind just didn't work like mine, and it's my expectations that were wrong, and not the book. Since she's the billionaire here, you should probably trust her judgment over mine. For other characters, I was excited to see their growth. One of the themes of this book is that of revealing hidden strengths. That theme applies to so many characters, I don't even know where to begin. Here's a quote from my review of HBP that I bring up for consistency: So, what’s in the book?  The usual, Quidditch, The Daily Prophet, disagreements between Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic, a quick stop at the Burrow and Diagon Alley, and, of course, Harry missing the Sorting Hat (I think Rowling must not like writing those scenes.  She keeps finding ways to have Harry miss them).  So, what's in the new book?  Some of the usual (no Quidditch), The Daily Prophet, disagreements between Harry and the MInistry of Magic, a quick stop at the Burrow and Diagon Alley, and, of course, Harry missing the Sorting Hat. That statement is factually accurate, but to imply that this book is at all like the other 6 is disingenuous to the extreme. There's a new headmaster at Hogwarts, a new professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts (of course), now renamed to just Dark Arts, and a new professor for Muggle Studies, now a required class. Wh[...]



Scholastic's Seven Questions On Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Fri, 20 Jul 2007 17:51:53 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/20/Scholastics-Seven-Questions-On-Harry-Potter-and-the-Deathly-Hallows.aspx

  1. Who Will Live And Who Will Die?
    1. Tough one, but I've already given my thoughts here.
  2. Is Snape Good or Evil.
    1. I've given my thoughts on this one previously too, but he's good.
  3. Will Hogwarts Re-open?
    1. My answer is again here (I don't know). But Harry won't attend, regardless.  I'd love to be wrong on this one.
  4. Who Winds Up With Whom?
    1. Harry and Ginny (assuming they both live)
    2. Hermione and Ron
    3. Lupin and Tonks (assuming they both live)
  5. Where are the Horcruxes?
    1. The choices are Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, Hogwarts, Only with Death Eaters, Godric's Hollows, Ministry of Magic, Azkaban, St. Mungo's, Among Muggles, and Elsewhere.  We're supposed to choose 3.  Unfortunately I can't choose "Elsewhere" 3 times.  Possibly one at Godric's Hollows.  I don't think in any of the other places listed.
  6. Will Voldemort Be Defeated?
    1. Yes, of course.
  7. What are the Deathly Hollows?
    1. Actually the question is poorly worded.  It should be "When will we find out what the Deathly Hollows are?"  The choices are right away, middle and end.  End, obviously.

Find out this weekend whether I'm right or wrong.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Review

Fri, 20 Jul 2007 13:25:19 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/20/Harry-Potter-and-the-Order-of-the-Phoenix-Review.aspxAs I write this, it's only 14 hours and change until the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Some people have managed to get their hands on a copy already through various means. So, since I'll be reviewing that next week, I wanted to go ahead and get my review out of the movie.  I saw it last Friday, but just haven't made the time to review it yet. First, let me say that I was a little apprehensive about this movie for several reasons. It's based on my least favorite of the six books that I've read so far. Not that I disliked it, but it wasn't nearly as good as the other five. It's based on the longest book of the series. It's the shortest movie so far. In spite of all of that, the movie does fairly well.  As in Goblet of Fire, most of Rowling's famous "side plots" are missing. No Quidditch, so no chants of "Weasley is our king".  That's not surprising, but disappointing.  As another review I read pointed out, Ron's part in the last couple of movies has diminished considerably in size compared to the book.  I expect that to continue in Half-Blood Prince.  Poor Rupert Grint.  Oh well, at least he gets paid well for it. I was very disappointed that the visit to the hospital wasn't in the movie.  I really thought that scene added a lot to understanding Neville and his family.  The scene they put in place of it with just Neville and Harry was much weaker, I thought. One of the reasons that I didn't like the book as much as others was Harry's anger.  I thought it was over-the-top.  As Stephen King said in his review, "I get it.  Harry Potter is VERY ANGRY. Can we move on now?"  You're reminded of his anger on nearly every single page. The movie goes the opposite direction, and I found myself actually missing his anger. I'm not sure why it was toned down so much.  It could've been the choice of the director or just bad acting by Radcliffe.  I tend to think the former, except there is one scene where Harry talks about "being mad all the time" even though he's hardly shown that at all. (Note: He does snap at Dumbledore at one point, but that's the strongest bit). I think this story really needs more of this anger, so that's why I'm disappointed to have it missing.  As I said earlier, the whole story is a coming of age story in three parts: SS/PS & CoS have a young and insecure Harry, very unsure of himself and even whether he belongs in the wizarding world. PoA, GoF, & OotP are Harry's rebellious teenager years. HBP & (I assume) DH have a more mature Harry, one who is beginning to accept and understand his responsibilities.  And, while I would like to see him at Hogwarts, that's not where Harry's responsibilities lie. Now, obviously there's overlap, but by reducing the anger, OotP joins the third part rather than the second.  And I don't feel that it fits there. I've spent all this time on two criticisms I have of the movie, so it probably seems as if I disliked it.  On the contrary, I found it to be pretty good.  Much better than the movie versions of either Prisoner of Azkaban or Goblet of Fire. The pacing was well done, with just the right amount of action.  I didn't hate Professor Umbridge as much in the movie as I did in the book, but I think that's a simple time question.  In the book, the reader's resentment of her is allowed to fester and grow, and there's just not enough time for that in a two hour movie.  Still, her character was handled superbly, and definitely got the point across. I was struck by some interesting historical parallels in the movie.  First, the pictures of the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge are very Lenin-ish, or possibly [...]



VersionTracker Pro

Wed, 18 Jul 2007 12:08:59 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/18/VersionTracker-Pro.aspxA few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an app called VersionTracker Pro. At the time, I was trying to determine if my video drivers were up-to-date.  I was having some issues and was hoping there was a fix. nVidia doesn't make new drivers for laptops easy to find. They want you to use the laptop manufacturer's website.  But Dell doesn't always release new video drivers promptly. And VersionTracker Pro was the answer to this prayer, and to several others I've had.  How?  What does it do? It checks the versions of all your software and drivers on your system, and compares them with the versions in their database.  If you're out of date, it lets you know, and even can download the new versions for you.  If you have version X of an app and you really like it, and don't want to upgrade to version Y, you can tell it that, and it won't remind you anymore until version Z comes out. It's very slick with a pretty nice interface: Apps in black are up-to-date.  The one in red and blue have an upgrade available.  The ones in blue are the ones that I've tagged as ok.  Their database isn't perfect.  If you look closely at my "blue" apps, you'll see that IZArc's current build is listed as 3.81 Build 1550, and I have 3.81.  They're the same.  If you find a problem like this, you can submit it through the interface, and it should be corrected in the near future.  Like an antivirus application, you download updates on a regular basis. You can also submit new apps for their database and have them watched as well. The driver version checker doesn't display version numbers, but merely tells you whether you're up-to-date or not: Notice at the bottom there's information about the specific app or driver that you have selected. I set VersionTracker to run at startup and it checks every four hours for updates.  It just sits in your system tray and will let you know if there are new downloads available. You can download a trial for free that merely checks your status, but doesn't download anything (you could do all that by hand I suppose).  The full version costs $29.95 US, and you're allowed to install it on up to three PC's. This is a great app and highly worth the $30. I have the Windows version. I believe that there are versions available for Mac OS X and Palm OS as well. [...]






TweakVista Beta from Stardock

Wed, 11 Jul 2007 11:23:35 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/11/TweakVista-Beta-from-Stardock.aspx

Stardock, the people that brought you ObjectDesktop and WindowsBlinds now have released TweakVista (as part of the ObjectDesktop suite). From their page:

Microsoft has increased both the power and complexity of its popular Windows operating system with the release of Windows Vista. Stardock’s TweakVista™ enhancement application helps you configure Windows Vista to meet your personal needs by improving performance.
Unlike other power tools for Windows, TweakVista™ automatically prompts enhancement recommendations, offering easy “one click” updates to otherwise complex configuration changes. TweakVista™ is also safe to use. By utilizing Microsoft’s system-restore technology any changes you make can easily be rolled back. You can freely experiment with different settings without disabling your computer.

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I downloaded it a few days ago, and I'm moderately impressed with it. I like that it lets you control your startup services and actually puts them with names a human can understand.  It also groups them together so you can see service dependencies.

It really gives you much better control over your system than what's available.  Actually, that's not true.  I could go through the system registry and the Administration Tools and get all this information.  But TweakVista packs it into a nice user-friendly UI.  Microsoft should've included something like this with Vista.

It's definitely a beta product, and has a few wrinkles.  It's locked up twice on me doing a system assessment. I suppose that it could be the assessment that's locking up.  I haven't tried one outside of TweakVista to find out.

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Feb. 27, 2008 is Big Day For Microsoft

Wed, 11 Jul 2007 01:16:23 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/11/Feb.-27-2008-is-Big-Day-For-Microsoft.aspx

Windows Server® 2008, Visual Studio® 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server™ 2008 will launch together at an event in Los Angeles on Feb. 27, 2008, kicking off hundreds of launch events around the world. As the next wave of innovation from Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, these three products will provide a reliable and security-enhanced enterprise platform, serve as the foundation for the next generation of Web-based service applications, and broadly support virtualization and business intelligence. Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 represent tremendous opportunities for partners and customers, and as part of the launch wave throughout 2008, Microsoft is planning extensive and far-reaching IT pro, developer and partner outreach, including worldwide training, online and virtual events, as well as myriad resources that will be made available in the coming months to help ensure partners and customers are ready to capitalize on the new benefits offered by these products.

Get the details here.

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No Love for PPC-6700 Users From Sprint

Tue, 10 Jul 2007 18:28:38 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/10/No-Love-for-PPC-6700-Users-From-Sprint.aspxSprint seems to have abandoned the PPC-6700 as far as upgrades go. The last official upgrade release from Sprint was AKU 2.2. (AKU's are like service packs)  Microsoft recommends that all Windows Mobile 5 users upgrade to at least AKU 2.3 because there are some serious performance issues with 2.2. I believe that Verizon customers have received that update, but nothing past that. The latest AKU I know of for Windows Mobile 5 is 3.5 (I've heard rumors of a 3.6, but I haven't seen one), so Sprint customers are being left behind. That's unfortunate. Now, at PPC Geeks, a number of resourceful people have found ways to get newer ROM versions (up to AKU 3.5) on various devices, including the PPC-6700. If you're interested, you should check out this thread. The link to the ROM is here. Note that these ROMs are not supported by Sprint in any way shape or fashion.  Further note that installing them may void your warranty, so I am definitely not recommending that you do so. John Naab has some additional advice and tweaks you may be interested in. I think that the smartdial color fix is an absolute necessity. If you do decide to take this risks, you'll end up with a device that may or may not be more stable, may or may not be faster, may or may not have better battery life, may or may not have better support for MMS (there seems to be conflicting responses to these questions on the PPC Geeks thread), but definitely works better as a cellular modem. The update causes your PC to just see the device as another internet connection.  No more setting up dial-up entries and reconfiguring them every time you use them. Also, you can't currently do the ROM flash from Vista, but it does work from a VMWare XP virtual machine. Overall, I think you'll like what you get.  There's no doubt that AKU 3.5 is far superior to AKU 2.0. Some of these same industrious people are working on porting WM 6 to the PPC-6700 and various devices.  That will take longer. Finally, I'm going to quote myself from above: Note that these ROMs are not supported by Sprint in any way shape or fashion.  Further note that installing them may void your warranty, so I am definitely not recommending that you do so. [...]



Why You Don't Want an iPhone -- Yet

Tue, 10 Jul 2007 12:20:11 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/10/Why-You-Dont-Want-an-iPhone----Yet.aspxFrom Jeff Atwood: Let me start by saying up front that I am a fan of the iPhone. Let me start by saying up front that I am not. He brings up one of my biggest criticisms of the iPhone: EDGE data connections, on the other hand, are none of those things. When my Samsung Blackjack is using an EDGE connection, it's like downloading the internet through an overclocked dialup modem. It's, in a word, unbelievably painful. It's the difference between "hey, let me whip out my phone and look this up really quick on wikipedia" and "eh, isn't worth the time investment." For reference, when downloading files, I see data rates of around 10 kb/sec with EDGE, and easily five times that (or more!) with 3G. Every time I see my phone displaying that little "E" icon that denotes an EDGE connection, I frown. It's a warning sign that using the internet will now be an unsatisfying, tedious, dialup era chore, instead of the fun, tiny-little-cable-modem experience it could be with 3G. So you might be more than a little concerned, as I am, that the iPhone only supports EDGE data connections-- and doesn't support 3G data connections at all! It's a cruel oversight for a phone that has such an outstanding web browser. Jobs' answer to this criticism is that the iPhone supports WiFi, and iPhone users should seek out WiFi connections instead of suffering through EDGE cellular connections. I have WiFi on my PPC-6700.  I almost never use it.  The point of having wireless web capabilities on your phone is that you can use it wherever you are. I generally have my laptop with me too, which will always be a far better surfing experience than you're likely to get on any phone.  If WiFi is my option, my laptop is my choice, not my phone. Plus, it's hard to use public WiFi on a phone.  They don't make it easy to use on anything other than a PC.  As Jeff points out: I've lived the WiFi lifestyle when I've travelled, and it's not pleasant. Free, public WiFi points are a dying breed. Most WiFi points these days are locked down tight with passwords and encryption. And if they're not locked down, they want to charge you exorbitant rates for a few measly hours of WiFi access. It's like this at every single airport I've been at in the last year. And every Starbucks. And pretty much every other commercial venue. Like Jeff, I also love the ability to tether my PPC-6700 to my PC and use it as a cellular modem.  I don't have to pay for internet at hotels.  Or anywhere I go.  I just use it. Finally, let's look at the cost.  I paid about $150 for my PPC-6700 a little over a year ago.  The iPhone has a fancy UI, but in many ways (as described above) it's not even as powerful as my 6700.  At $200, the iPhone is interesting.  At $250, the iPhone is interesting but overpriced.  At $600, I laugh at people when I see them holding one. I think that if you really want an iPhone, wait a year. By then, they'll come out with a second version, that really will be better than your typical Windows Mobile Device.  And might actually be worth the Apple premium. Jeff sums it up: It's not my goal to crush anyone's dreams of owning their first iPhone. I know you've heard this a million times, but never, never has it been more true for any technology product: wait for version 2.0 before buying. [...]



Analog Clock Control for Windows Forms

Tue, 10 Jul 2007 08:28:25 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/10/Analog-Clock-Control-for-Windows-Forms.aspx

I found this on CodeProject.  Here's a nice analog clock control for windows forms.

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There are multiple configuration options available.  Check it out.

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Denis Gobo's SQL Teaser #5

Tue, 10 Jul 2007 12:20:11 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/10/Denis-Gobos-SQL-Teaser-5.aspx

Denis Gobo has been posting SQL Server Teasers.  The one on UPDATE is interesting.

Hint: When SQL is being rational, it usually behaves like C.

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Fairness Doctrine Watch

Mon, 09 Jul 2007 17:25:04 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/09/Fairness-Doctrine-Watch.aspx

In an blatant move to circumvent the First Amendment and curtail free speech, many of our "leaders" lately have been talking about resurrecting the "Fairness Doctrine". The "Fairness Doctrine" was designed so that opposing viewpoints got equal time on any broadcast.  In the days of only three major television networks, and two major press syndicates, you might have been able to make an argument that this was worthwhile.  Now, with the internet, the explosion of cable/satellite networks, and others such a doctrine becomes un-necessary, and nearly impossible to implement.

Proponents of this issue are using it first to shut down talk radio, which they believe has too much of a voice in politics (this is a euphemism for "the American people have too much of a voice in politics"), but have no fear, the internet will be their next target.

If you're interested in learning more about this assault on Free Speech, visit the Fairness Doctrine Watch.

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ClickOnce in FireFox

Mon, 09 Jul 2007 12:39:59 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/09/ClickOnce-in-FireFox.aspx

There's now a FireFox plugin for ClickOnce Support. This removes on of my few remaining nags with FireFox.

Hat tip: Brad Abrams

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Don't Run as an Admin, yada, yada, yada

Mon, 09 Jul 2007 12:39:59 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/09/Dont-Run-as-an-Admin-yada-yada-yada.aspxJeff Atwood has a good piece on why you shouldn't run as an Admin. He even links to another good piece on the subject by Aaron Margosis. Jeff makes his point by visiting a malware website with an unprotected system running an unpatched IE 6.0.  The site installed the following spyware on his machine (not that he didn't click on anything or download anything) (Quote from Adam McNeil of Webroot Software): Webroot SpySweeper detected the following spies after allowing the installer to run over night. Virtumonde Visfx ZenoSearchAssistant PurityScan Trojan Downloader Matcash Trojan-Downloader-Zlob BookedSpace Trojan-Downloader-WaveRevenue Trojan.Gen Trojan-Downloader-Prez MaxiFiles TargetSaver Trojan-Poolsv Trojan-Dropper-Zomavis Webhancer Web Buying Command Core Adware (CoreAdware is known to use Rootkits {core.sys} to mask its presence.) In addition to the above listed spies, I have also recorded a large number of unclassified (not for long) files and registry entires that were added to the box as well. By now, we've read hundreds, if not, thousands, of times why it's bad to do this. And I never ran as an admin when I was using Linux as my primary OS. So, why do we keep doing it? Because it's painful to try to run as a non-admin. It shouldn't be, but we're surrounded by bad software writers. Here's an example for you. I like to rotate my desktop background with pictures of my kids. There's a nice little powertoy for this from MS that works with XP.  It's called the Windows XP Creativity Fun Pack PowerToys Wallpaper Changer. It's a nice little app that you can configure to rotate your pictures how often you want; you can stretch them; you can even have special pictures for special days.  It's a very nice little app. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with Vista. Now, it's a tiny little app.  I could write my own in no time flat, I'm sure.  But, why re-invent the wheel?  Surely there's another one out there.  And a little search engine digging found me several.  Most of which also don't work on Vista.  :( But, I did find one that does work in Vista: Adolix Wallpaper Changer.  Problem solved, right? Wrong.  Remember what I was saying about bad software writers?  This is people's exhibit 1.  Like most apps like this, it makes a temporary copy of whatever picture it's about to set to the wallpaper. There are various reasons for doing this, but that's beyond the scope of this post.  The point is that this product makes this temporary file in the installation directory.  It's 2007, people.  Haven't we figured out yet that that's not a good idea? So, if you installed to the default location (C:\Program Files...), then this app won't even run if you're not running as an admin! And this is just a tiny little wallpaper changer app.  You run into the same sorts of issues with your development IDE, possibly even with your web browser, and countless other applications on your system. I kept hoping that application developers would get smarter, and that it would get easier to run as a non-admin. I've given up on this.  And so, apparently, has Microsoft, or they wouldn't have put that abominable UAC in Vista. So, if you're still not running as a non-admin, and you're still waiting for the apps to get better to support it first, then my advice to you is to stop waiting. Bite the bullet.  Deal with the pain.  But stop running as an admin now! [...]



Silently Installing .NET

Mon, 09 Jul 2007 12:39:59 GMT

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/cbreisch/archive/2007/07/09/Silently-Installing-.NET.aspx

Have a nice spiffy installation program that's ruined by a popup install of the .NET Framework from Microsoft?  Did you know you can install the .NET Framework silently?

From Brad Abrams:

For .NET FX 3.0: the magic command line is: Dotnetfx3.exe /q
See this white paper for more details.   

Oh, and if you are still on .NET Fx 2.0, the command is:  Dotnetfx.exe /q:a /c:”install /q”

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