FormShield for .NET 2.0 Released

Kevin Gearing of has released an updated CAPTCHA control for .NET.  Not only compiled against the latest version, there are a lot of new features, too:

Version 2 of FormShield builds on the previous .NET 1.1 version, adding a wealth of new features, options and accessibility improvements. The most notable feature addition is the capability for FormShield to now automatically generate a spoken version of the value shown on the image to aid with accessibility legal compliance. This however is just one of a handful of major new features, not to mention the number of improvements and changes made since the previous version.

If you’re looking for an ASP.NET CAPTCHA control, this one is worth checking out.

Full story at

Getting Started Blogging by Commenting

If you’re interested in getting started blogging, but don’t really understand what blogs are, or what the fuss is all about, maybe the best idea is to wade into the blogosphere, rather than dive in.  A recent article at Marketing Profs includes this advice, from ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse:

Listen first, and then join the conversation.

What he means here is start by reading blogs.  Then, leave some comments when you feel you have something to say.  Once you’re comfortable with expressing your opinion, start your own blog.  And that’s where the rest of Marketing Prof’s tips come into play.

Full story at Blogging Baby Steps: How to Join the Conversation Without Starting Your Own

Do We Want Open Search to Beat Google at Search?

On Friday at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, Wikia, the Web 2.0 community builder behind Wikipedia, gave the world an update on its progress toward building a new search platform based on open-source software and human collaboration.

Wikia executives said that by combining Grub with the power of a wiki to form social consensus, the Wikia search project has taken the next major step toward a future in which search is open and transparent.  

Full article at; additional story at

At first blush, this sounds like a great idea!  But, where human input is allowed–especially when from anonymous sources–one must watch for agenda-driven results, rather than relevance-driven results.  We see this already with Google-bombing, Digg-ing, and even on Wikipedia itself.   Part of the death knell of DMOZ was ego-driven editors keeping rivals from the listings.  The directory was wildly incomplete, and its utility was limited and eventually surpassed by Google’s* search abilities and completeness.

For politicians, their entries in Wikipedia are a constant tug-of-war between their supporters (or their staff) and those who oppose the politician.  Usually, the truth is somewhere in the middle, but depending on the moment you read Wikipedia, are you getting the full story?

User reviews have also become targets of “black-hat” techniques.  Recently here in Pittsburgh, someone rated six flower shops with almost identical comments (now removed) and 1-2 stars.  There was obvious malicious intent, possibly from a competitor.  The reviewer could not show she had ever been a customer from any of the shops she reviewed, which is why the reviews were promptly removed when pointed out to the review service.

Anonymous human collaboration has opened up an entire new industry known as “reputation management”.  The mere existance of such an industry puts the lie to the idea that harnessing human collaboration is superior to cold mathematics.  I’d much rather have the scatter from mathematics than a single train of thought provided by the most active linkers/diggers/editors.

*Yes, I’m aware Google has human editors tweak search results, but I’m not sure to what extent, and from what Matt Cutts has implied, it’s mainly to cull spammy and malicious results or confirm algorithms.

10 Tips for Choosing a Domain Name recently published an article with 10 tips for choosing a domain name.  All are pretty good, but this one needs some elaboration:

2. Short and easy to spell — Shorter is better.  A short URL is easier to remember and less likely to be misspelled than a long one.  For obvious reasons, avoid any domain name that by its nature is hard to spell or confusing.

Not just easy to spell–easy to say on the phone or the radio.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear domain names said on the radio, and have no idea how to spell them.  If you’re buying radio advertising, include a clear spelling–accents (especially the Pittsburgh-ese in this area) make B and V, M and N difficult to discern.

Full article at

Software Review: FeedGhost

In my continuous quest for The Perfect RSS Aggregator, I’ve tried a number of
options, including Thunderbird, NewsGator, Google Reader and RSS Bandit.  I’ve lately been testing FeedGhost, and have been very pleased thus

Upon installation, a three-step installer gets you started very easily with
the reading style, importing OPML and choosing a theme.  When the app
starts, you’re trated to a gorgeous interface.  Even on Windows XP, the
application carries a Vista look.  Screenshots are available from their
website at
Instead of a menu, FeedGhost uses a ribbon-like interface.  I am partial to
the Outlook-style interface, but the application can also be used in the Google
Reader “river of news” style.

After installing at work, FeedGhost imported the OPML from RSS Bandit
flawlessly, and started checking for posts.  FeedGator is fairly
fast–considerably faster than Thunderbird, but not quite as fast as RSS Bandit
(still the fastest RSS aggregator I’ve found).

FeedGhost supports tagging of posts, and the creating of “link blogs”
(similar to which can be shared.  During the trial period,
synchronization is available and automatic.  I installed FeedGhost at home,
and after the wizard, it instantly synchronized my feeds from their server, as
well as the posts I had not deleted, and began checking for updates. 
Overall, it was seamless, painless and quick to have everything I left from work
appear at home.  And that’s a lot of what I’m looking for in an

Once the trial period has ended, there’s a $20 annual fee for continued use
of some of the features (such as synchronization and support for more than 20

Three improvements I’d like to see are:

1) Speed.  Reed Ghost is fast, but RSS Bandit is so much faster.

2) Mobile reader (mentioned as an upcoming feature)

3) The ability to take posts off-line, for reading on a plane for instance,
and to sync up again when reconnected.  Double bonus if I can sync the
off-line feeds to my Treo 700w.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased, almost enough to switch from RSS Bandit and
pay the annual subscription for the sync capabilities.

Rant: Kodak EasyShare Software, and Cardinal Sins of Installation

My company recently purchased a new Kodak EasyShare camera for one of our warehouses.  There’s a lifespan of approx. 2 years for anything electronic on a loading dock, and the previous camera was called to its heavenly reward.  Or run over by a forklift–there’s some uncertainty there.

EasyShare cameras can be mounted via USB connection, and operate pretty much as a USB drive, or you can install the EasyShare software for some added functionality.  I was disappointed in Kodak when the installation committed three cardinal sins of software installs:

1) Slow.  It took nearly 10 minutes to install, and required a reboot.

2) Unwanted icons on the desktop without asking.  I’m not so picky about the program icon on my desktop without being asked, but I’d prefer being asked.  One of the two icons was QuickTime, which is notorious for this (as well as one in the Quick Launch bar, but these are a beef with Apple, not Kodak).  The third was an icon to download and install FireFox.  WTF?  Unrelated software and shortcut clutter.  Stop that!  Leave my desktop alone–I have it just how I want it.

3) The last one is unpardonable.  An un-cancellable wizard, not for configuration, but for information gathering.  Kodak wants to know where you bought your camera, but “gift” isn’t an option (“other” is).  But the worst is a setup for Kodak’s EasyShare Gallery, which sounds like a photo-sharing site.  The three options are presented below.  To paraphrase, “I have an account”, “I want an account”, or “I want an account later”.  There’s no “Thanks but no thanks” option.  And that is unconsionable.

I finished the wizard, and promptly uninstalled the software.

My advice–avoid EasyShare software until Kodak repents.  The cameras are good, but don’t install the software.


My Treo 700w must-haves

Several of us in the Treo Brotherhood at work are trying to convince a corporation of Blackberry users to make the change.  To show off the capabilities of the Treo, I usually show some of the following applications.  There are the ones I recommend new Treo owners install right away (in no particular order):


Windows Live Mobile (free)

You know that cool demo in the iPhone commercial, where the user searches for sushi, gets a list of restaurants on a map, and then can dial one from its result?  That’s not the phone, that’s the software, and this is what you need. Web search, maps, movie times, traffic, local businesses, etc.  You can do all that on your Treo with this freebie from Microsoft.

eWallet ($24.95 w/ desktop app, free trial)

It’s amazing how many websites require a free user id and password, and it’s tough to keep track of them all.  eWallet is not just for passwords, though–you can also store frequent flyer logins, combinations, serial numbers and warranty info, and more can design your own cards as well.  I recommend the desktop application too, and one will sync with the other to keep all your information straight.  You owe it to yourself to use the free trial.  For many years I’ve used FlexWallet.  Recently, FlexWallet and eWallet were merged, so I’ve updated the link.

Windows Live above will also do maps, but it never hurts to have a second set of directions.  As with Live, maps can be dragged around and zoomed, and display traffic information.

Kevtris (free)

The best Tetris clone on any system.  Something to do on the man seats in Ann Taylor Loft.

PocketWeather ($9.95, free trial)


Excellent weather application–current conditions, future forecasts, for one or more cities.  Again, check out the free trial and see its full feature set.

Good sites

Using ScrewTurn Wiki as a Portable Wiki

Wikis are an all-too-often misued application, but they do have their
places.  One place I think wikis work well is as personal note/organization
apps.  Hanselman likes Tiddlywiki, but I found it to be very
heavy in JavaScript, and I didn’t like the way it flows or organizes

I recently discovered Screwturn
.  Screwturn is an open-source .NET based wiki with a nice
feature set and a very simple design.  It’s a simple design, stores data in
XML files, and the interface is more intuitive to me.  There are some
advanced administration tools, and you can even make the wiki private.

Several distros are available, including one (the Desktop Edition) which
includes a customized Cassini server.  You can install this edition on
systems without IIS installed (I didn’t test this on a system without .NET 2.0
installed, since all of my systems have it).  Because it contains its own
server, and OOTB data are stored in XML files, you can simply copy the
application to a thumb drive, and use it as a portable app.

The application installs in c:\program files\ScrewTurn Wiki Desktop Edition;
simply copy the ScrewTurn folder to your thumb drive, and uninstall it from your
parent system.  You can then start the spp from the thumb drive, update the
physical path in the startup dialog, and you’re off to the races.  Your
data will travel with you wherever you take your drive.  One hint–assign
the same drive letter to your thumb drive on all your systems.  You can see
more about the operation at

The admin pages provide a full spectrum of file, page and user management
tools.  Providers can be added for storage in SQL Server, and the default
layout can be tweaked via the admin tools.  Individual pages can be made
private, locked from editing, or rolled back to previous versions.

The simplicity of the design (and lack of unnecessary JavaScript effects) has
an additional bonus–with some tweaking to the skin, this wiki would work from a
Treo 700w.  I can post to it, but the interface is smashed up on the small
screen, so some tweaks would smooth that out.