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19 posts from March 2007

Light blogging this week during Cairo trip...

This week, March 19-23, I will be in Cairo, Egypt, to present at a regional conference for Mitel resellers. I expect that I will not be writing much here or on my other blogs during this week.  Of course, if I wind up being stuck in airports that also have WiFi access... or decide that 12-hour airplane flights might be a good place to write... I might wind up posting.  But my expectation is that you won't see much here until next week.  If I post anywhere, I may do what I've done in the past and post a bit of a travelogue to my personal blog and/or my Twitter account.

If any of you reading this happen to be in Cairo this week, do drop me an email as I'm always interested in meeting people in different parts of the world.

Back at you in a week...  I'm off to go sit in planes...

Is OpenID really secure? Can you trust it? A Security Round Table podcast explores the issue... and provides a ton of links

What is OpenID? What are the security issues around it? Should you trust using it? What do you have to be worried about? What are the main security threats to it?

While I've mentioned here why bloggers should care about OpenID (and written more about it over on DisruptiveTelephony), I really wanted to understand more about the security issues around OpenID, so I got together with two other members of the Security Round Table, Michael Santarcangelo and Martin McKeay, to explore the issues around OpenID and security to a far greater degree.

We have shared the resulting conversation as a SRT podcast, and have also published as the show notes the large body of links that we accumulated during our preparation for the show.  I'd encourage you to check out the SRT site purely for the links alone, as I think we pulled together one of the more comprehensive lists of links I've seen related to OpenID.

In the end, the three of us came aware quite impressed with the possibilities of OpenID with regard to the specific piece of the identity puzzle that it is aiming to solve.  We hope this podcast helps people understand both the potential benefits as well as a few potential challenges with regard to security and OpenID.  Comments and feedback are very definitely welcome.

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Trying to kill a buzz in a podcast with Audacity

Frustrating night tonight... I was doing the post-production on a Blue Box Special Edition podcast of the 90-minute workshop that I did along with podcast co-host Jonathan Zar and security researcher Shawn Merdinger out at O'Reilly's Emerging Telephony conference last month.  Unfortunately, even though I'd jacked into the mixer provided at ETel (or perhaps because I was connected into the mixer), I wound up with an annoying buzz throughout the recording.   I can only guess that it was something with one of the audio components in the setup for the room out there at ETel.  I've seen a buzz be created by something as simple as a bad wire or a connector not fully inserted into a jack.  In any event, I wound up with a buzz.

Since I had solved (and blogged about) a similar issue before using Audacity, I spent literally a couple of hours trying to kill off the buzz.  I used hi-pass filters.... notch filters... equalizer effects... all sorts of things.  Searched the web, the Audacity wiki and more.  Unfortunately, this particular buzz seemed to be located right down on the end of the frequency spectrum where our voices are also located!  So when I used a high-pass filter to allow through only frequencies over, say, 300 Hertz, you could hear the effect on our voices.  If I moved the high-pass filter down to say 100 Hz, there was no impact on our voices, but the buzz was still at full strength.  Move it up to 500 or 600 Hz and the buzz was reduced... but so was the quality of our voices.

Wanting to get this episode posted today, I finally gave up and ran it as it was recorded, which was not overly appealing to me.  I always strive to have the highest audio quality possible, which is why I spend the time I do on post-production.  But in the end, there was just no way I could figure it out.  Perhaps with better tools... or more time... perhaps not.  Fun, fun, fun...

Speaking to PR students - ah, to be young again...

Working alone in a home office, the walls of your room can start to close in on you, so it's nice to get out now and then to meet with other people locally.  This afternoon I was invited to speak to a class of seniors in the PR program of one of the local colleges about social media.  It's a topic not well covered in their text book (do any cover it?  I don't know.) and while the instructor has been bringing in pieces of it all semester, she'd asked me to come in and do a deeper dive.  Given my lengthy background in teaching/training - and my passion about social media - I was delighted to do so and provided an overview of what's going on out there with regard to social media from a PR point-of-view.  My audience was 25 or so students and one small dog.  (The dog seemed to like it.)  It was quite fun and I enjoyed hearing and answering their questions.

I set up the presentation as "So You Want to Get a Job in PR?  In 2007?"  and provided 14 suggestions for what they might do to learn about social media and potentially differentiate themselves from other candidates for jobs.  In thinking about it, I should probably write that up as a blog entry here.  (Note made to self...) The students were, of course, already into social media in the sense that they pretty much all already had either Facebook or MySpace pages, but outside of that many of them had limited experience, so it was fun.

They turned out to all be seniors, graduating in about 2 months and heading out into the big, wide-open whatever...    they are entering PR at an interesting time.... so much is in chaos... and yet, the opportunities are out there in abundence for those that want to dive in.  I wish them all well - there is so much ahead of them of which they have absolutely no idea...  they'll be in for a fun ride... :-)

Watermarking your images... using Windows Live Writer??? Huh?

Over at Saunderslog, I have been curious about how Alec Saunders was getting a watermark of his URL across the bottom of his blog images, as shown on the right in the quick screenshot I took of the twitter window. I thought he might be using some new feature in Flickr or in some other editing program. In any event, it turns out to be a feature of Microsoft's Windows Live Writer beta which he is using.  The funny thing is that I'm using WLW as well, but had not yet discovered this interesting little feature. (Nor is it clearly mentioned on the WLW information page.)

Using this watermarking capability is remarkably simple. First you insert your image into WLW, which might just be a simple "Paste" from another program.  As shown in the screenshot on the left, when you click on the image to select it, you get a sidebar for the "Image Properties".  I use the first and second tabs all the time, but had never played with the third "Effects" tab.

Ta da... click on the green "+" sign to get a drop-down menu, choose "Overlays" and then "Watermark".  Enter the URL and change the font and sizing and you're done!

What's nice is that WLW is changing the image itself versus using CSS or something like that... which is what I would want it to do, so it's great to see. 

Since I was exploring this third tab, I also now noticed that under the "+" sign there is a "Transformations" menu with a number of image effects, such as "Black&White", "Sepia", "Sharpen", "Blur", etc.  Now I typically do such manipulation in some other program (like Google's Picasa), but it's nice to know these are here if I just want a quick change to an image.

So thanks, Alec, for pointing me to something I already had and just hadn't fully explored.

As to Windows Live Writer, what I don't get is why the WLW blog hasn't been updated since November.  Has Microsoft stopped development on it? Or paused their work?   There does seem to be activity in their forum... it's just curious that there have been no blog posts in, now, almost four months.  Puzzling...

Suddenly having problems posting to TypePad with image uploading from Windows Live Writer...

I'm suddenly experiencing some problems uploading images from Windows Live Writer to TypePad, so I'm just doing a sanity test from a different computer to see if the problem is with a specific computer.  If you are actually reading this post, I'll know that the problem was with that other computer, and I'll probably be in the middle of doing the whole shutdown-and-restart routine...  aren't computers supposed to make our life more productive?

Cisco acquires technology and staff of social networking site

Curious moves by Cisco... they just announced the acquistion of the technology behind the social networking site.  The deal does not include the actual site but includes the technology and the developers responsible for the site.  Given that just last month Cisco announced the acquisition of FiveAcross, it is pretty clear they have visions of some role for social networking within the broader portfolio.  This NetworkWorld update has more analysis (including the comment that Cisco should just buy Second Life developer Linden Labs... methinks the Lindens have probably had all sorts of offers!)

PC World: The 50 Most Important People on the Web

Like any such list, PC World's list out today on "The 50 Most Important People on the Web" is inherently subjective, but still, it's definitely worth a read.  There are many names on there that will be commonly recognized... while a good number of others will probably not be outside their specific domains.  For that alone it is worth reading, because there's a good number of folks out there laboring away in lesser-known corners of our online world.  You will of course disagree with some people who are included and wonder why others aren't... such is the way of these lists.  (The good news is, if you really don't like it, you can always create and publish your own list!)

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Yahoo!Pipes and its dating problem... (and a failure of RSS standardization)

In its short existence, I've become a great fan of Yahoo!Pipes, but until very recently it did have a fundamental problem... dates.  If you took a bunch of RSS feeds and combined them together and then tried to sort by date... well, you had a problem.    When I was out at ETel last week in San Francisco, I actually met someone from the Yahoo!Pipes team there at ETel, and we had a chat about the challenge of sorting out the dates, when all the data to work with is very different.

Now, it seems that Yahoo!Pipes has fixed the problem!  As I went to write this post today, it now looks like they have figured out how to sort the dates out.  (My contact out at ETel indicated that they were working hard to try to fix this issue.)

So for those interested in the problem and why it existed, take a look at my pipe combining my various RSS feeds. If you dig down into the actual RSS feed, you'll see the fundamental problem faced by Yahoo (or anyone else trying to mash up different RSS feeds).  Here is the date associated with an entry from Disruptive Telephony, a TypePad blog:

pubDate 2007-03-05T14:37:34-05:00

Here's the date from an entry from Voice of VOIPSA, a WordPress blog:

pubDate Mon, 05 Mar 2007 16:14:52 +0000

Here's the date from an entry from my LiveJournal account:

pubDate 2007-03-01T00:00:00-06:00

Here's the date from a RSS feed item from Twitter:

pubDate Mon, 05 Mar 2007 19:48:48 +0000

Here's the date from a RSS feed entry from Blue Box: The VoIP Security Podcast, also a TypePad blog:

pubDate Thu, 22 Feb 2007 22:39:48 -0600

Are we seeing the problem yet?  Note that different feeds are using different formats for the date.  Indeed even two of my blogs from the same host, TypePad, appear to be using different date formats!  Also note that some are using GMT/UTC (the ones with +0000) and some are using the timezone (although why some are -5 and some are -6 is a bit confusing).   I had another feed somewhere that used yet another time format as well.  Since RSS is entirely text, Yahoo!Pipes has to parse the text and try to make sense out of it... and then presumably convert it to some neutral format that it can use for the actual sorting.  Not exactly a fun task.

When I first noticed this shortly after the launch of Yahoo!Pipes, there also was a problem that each feed seemed to have a different date field.  In some RSS feeds, it was "pubDate".  In others, it was "dc:date".  I think one was "publication date".  This created a royal headache when you were trying to create a filter or sort in Yahoo!Pipes. 

Again, though, this seems to have gone away or at least been normalized by the Yahoo!Pipes team.  All my feeds now seem to have "pubDate", albeit in differing formats.  So kudos to the Yahoo! team for figuring out how to make it all make sense.

Interestingly, though, this really appears to be a failure in RSS standardization.  Perhaps not in the specification, but in the adherance to the specification.  Near the top of the RSS 2.0 Specification, in talking about channel elements, it states:

All date-times in RSS conform to the Date and Time Specification of RFC 822, with the exception that the year may be expressed with two characters or four characters (four preferred).

This would argue for the "Mon, 05 Mar 2007 19:48:48 +0000" format which is also shown in the example for individual item entries in RSS.  So it would appear that some vendors have not exactly implemented RSS feeds per the spec (is anyone surprised?).

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