Ed Bilodeau

This weblog had moved: http://www.coolweblog.com/bilodeau/

# Notice (Oct 19/05): So ends my stay here on Blogger. This morning Google implemented an anti-spam 'feature' that forces me to answer a challenge phrase when I want to post to my own blog. No notice of the change, nothing. Worse is that it doesn't even work! I type the phrase, submit, "An error occured", post deleted. Damn you, Google. Chances are I will revive my blog somewhere else, sometime soon. I'll post the new coordinates here as soon as they become available. (BTW, I'm unable to post anything to my RSS stream, so I'd appreciate it if readers could spread the word and ask people to take a look at this notice)

Update (Oct 19/05, ~noon): After a frustrating few hours (and not just trying out alternatives to Blogger), I've decided that this is a good time to take a break from all this. A day? A week? Who knows. But I need to step away from it before I pass a heavy magnet over the whole mess.

Update 2: According to this post, the reason I'm seeing the CAPTCHA (challenge phrase) is that Blogger has classified my blog as spam. Thanks. User for five years and now I'm spam. I searched the Blogger site, but there is no mention of how to get the spam flag turned off. There is also no way of contacting anyone at Blogger. Wow. Spam they say I am, so spam I must be. Maybe it is time to take a break.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

This summer I am determined to make some progress in establishing a proper focus to my work. Dropping out of the PhD program (and returning to finish my Master's degree) has left me without a medium-term plan. It has also changed my future career path fairly drastically. I need to choose a destination, something to work towards. The ability to drift where the flow takes me is all too alluring.


But that's not what I want to write about. My thoughts this morning are much more mundane and technical. I've been thinking about the need for me to improve my skills with my tools, which of course leads to the question of just what my tools are.

Looking at software for now, my main tools are: Windows XP, IE, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel. Add in a text editor (currently using Crimson Editor) and a few utilities, and that's it. But the bulk of what I do on a day to day basis depends on the first set of tools.

About ten years ago (+) I invested a lot of energy in that basic toolset, and have been more or less coasting on that effort ever since. Microsoft has made it easy for me to leverage my existing skills and maintain my productivity with each new release of their software. Having said that, there is (probably) a lot of functionality that I am not aware of, that I don't know how to use. I'm not getting the most out of my tools, and I believe it is important that I do.

My toolset is the Microsoft universe, and I need to focus my efforts accordingly. I have to accept the fact that it is not my calling to live on the technical frontier (Linux, etc) or choose my technology to make a statement (Apple). I just have to get my work done.

Luckily, there is a lot of interesting stuff happening in the Microsoft universe, new things and older things that I haven't been paying attention to. Now that I've realized that, I may be able to make some progress.
Flickr: Stick Figures in Peril

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

This morning I was the first one out the door, the first one up the stairs and into the station.
If I walked out in morning and saw these kinds of clouds in the sky, I would fall to my knees, crawl back inside, and hide under my bed.

Dan Brinklin interviews Joel Spolsky. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Back at work after a long weekend. Looking at my news aggregator this morning, I forgot that not everyone celebrates the Queen's birthday.

The train was late this morning, leading to an even greater amount of positioning and opportunism by my fellow passengers. Decency and consideration go out the window when we're jostling for position to make sure we are first out the door, first up the stairs, first to the line-up at Tim's, first to the elevator.

It is probably this same initiative that helped these people to get ahead. I can't seem to muster it up in myself. I suppose I shouldn't let it bother me so much, then.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Here are two pictures I took yesterday morning after walking out of our new apartment. To the right, downtown Montreal. To the left, the park, and eventually, the train.

(The layout of the pictures in the page is wrong, I know. I'll try to work on it over the weekend. My day is over and I have accomplished nothing.)
I just spent the past 1.5 hours watching a techie with a backpack and a skateboard fiddle with my PC to set up the Novell/AD 'coexistence'. Everything seems to be ok, with on small problem. Firefox appears to be broken hard. I tried reinstalling it, and I get the same problem: Firefox loads and displays the menu and toolbar, but is otherwise disfunctional. Don't have time to play with it, so I'm back to IE.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I wanted to play a computer game tonight. Instead, I read blogs, tweaked my blog, and posted something. Gods...
I've been reading through Jon Garfunkel's New Gatekeepers writings, something that has left me doing more reading and thinking, with less writing. Or rather, less linking. Not the same thing.

It's a recurring thing: the dissatisfaction with skimming, shallow links, that feed... something. I keep coming back to them because they are easy. An illusion of progress, of accomplishment, when really, I've just stamped the paper that came in my inbox and dumped it in my outbox. Next.

These short, no-effort posts have a cost. They reinforce a way of thinking, a way of interacting that is, I believe, harmful, or at least ineffective. A waste of time, if you will.

It has something to do with finding my voice, finding something to say. Opening my eyes and turning my brain on. And sharing.

(My thoughts are always skitting around like this. Sometimes I think I need medication. Mom always said there's a crazy gene in the family.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

NYTimes: College Libraries Set Aside Books in a Digital Age. Actually, the 90,000 books are being relocated to other libraries within the university in question. The space they occupied is being transformed into an information commons, which I generally think is a good idea.

While I understand the need to provide PCs for those students who do not have one of their own, I don't think that the information-commons-as-computer-lab model is where the future is. Think portable PC devices (laptops, PDAs) brought in by students, in an environment studded with collaborative technologies (vlarge displays/projectors, printing, videoconferenceing), everything bathed in wireless. Oh, and lots of tech support staff (who will all be dreaming of the good old days of centralized, locked-down, computer labs).

Monday, May 16, 2005

Migrating to new My Yahoo!: On the odd chance that they ever get around to allowing existing users to switch over to the new My Yahoo service. The page linked to above has a big yellow button that says "Update My Page", but clicking on it displays the following message:
Thank you for your interest in the new My Yahoo!

Unfortunately, we are unable to update your page at this time. We will post an announcement on your page when it is ready to be updated. In the meantime, thanks for using My Yahoo!

The My Yahoo! Team

When? Why make your existing users wait? I'll probably end up creating a new account just to get this. Or maybe look at some of the alternatives.
I just deleted a number of Technorati watchlists from my RSS reader. I had set them up to see if they would be useful for discovering resources relating to KM and CoPs. They were mostly spam posts, people posting junks to ad-filled blogs to get the traffic. There were a very small number of positive hits, but too few to make sifting through the mess worthwhile.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The conference is over. My talk went OK, although it felt rushed. We each only have 15 minutes, which, when you are used to talking for 2+ hours, is nothing. Its breathing space. That's why I spent almost all day yesterday working on my presentation deck: I knew I'd have to be better prepared to make sure I got the important stuff in. I think I succeeded.

Although I won't be doing formal research on the topic, I plan on continuing to work on the model I have developed, that of professional education as a socialization process, as a series of migrations between communities of practice. No firm plans as of yet, just a vague feeling that it is something I should and want to do.

High points of the conference for me were catching up with Karl, as well as Louis D'Alton's talk on copyright in Canada.

Low point: realizing that a lot of folks are using sloppy definitions of knowledge, and will probably get away with it (this conference was not the place to call them on it).

Although the experience overall was more positive then I expected it to be, I'm still glad it's over, my last PhD commitment now fulfilled. Second to last, actually, since I plan on writing a brief paper on the talk and submitting it to my advisor for inclusion in my file. I prefer to leave as few loose ends dangling as possible.
Connections, Day 2. My session starts in 20 minutes, my talk in 70. I'm more or less ready, although I think I'll go pre-load my ppt onto the presentation PC. Here goes nothing.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Just discovered a few more bits that didn't survive the HD crash: typefaces. Specifically, Albany and Andale Sans. I'm not sure exactly where I got them from. I think they were included in Star Office, which I tried a long time ago. If anyone knows where I could download them, please let me know.
Over the summer, McGill will be migrating from Novell to Active Directory. Part of this introduces a policy that each user will have a home drive with 1GB of space. I'm already over this for my backups, so I have a problem.

(My current backup procedure is to use SyncBack to mirror my /My Documents folder to my network drive. I have a reminder in Outlook that pops-up everyday reminding me to run the process. Eventually, I'll figure out how to have the process run automatically on a regular basis, although part of the problem is that I'm not always connected to the network, so the automatic process kicks up a bunch of errors, sometimes without letting me know. Anyway, blah, blah, its a problem to solve.)

I'll need to go through and clean up my documents. One potential solution is to clean out a bunch of PDFs that I downloaded and saved. Rather then store references, I've had a habit of storing the whole PDF. Not very efficient, and, as I am finding out, it puts a load on my backup procedure. They'll need to go.

Other then that, I'll probably do a search and see what the big files are. In most cases, I'm expecting to be able to gain some space there.

But in the long run, is this going to work? As I make more extensive use of Camtasia, including more screencasts in my lectures, where am I going to put those files? Where am I going to back them up? I can't be the only person on campus for whom 1GB is insufficient.
McGill's Premium wireless service extends to the Second Cup across from the Roddick Gates. This post is proof. Nice.

Friday, May 13, 2005

This weekend is the Connections conference. Although it is for doctoral LIS students, the committee has decided to let me present nonetheless (I was a PhD student at the time my proposal was accepted). Attending the conference will be my last act as a supposed PhD student, and to be honest, I'm not looking forward to it.

Although my decision to drop out of the PhD program has been met more or less with approval and support from everyone I've talked to, there have been a few rough spots I've had to work through with myself. The first was the hardest, that being attending Wenger's talk at GSLIS only days after deciding to abandon my research. It was clear to me that I had stepped down a rung on the ladder, that while I may be the intellectual peer of the others in the room, socially, professionally, culturally, I no longer was. A hard pill to swallow, but something I will have to get used to.

It has gotten easier since. Mostly small twinges of regret as I filled out the official paperwork, was told my mailbox would be moving back to the hallway, asked if I could return my keys to the office, etc. Reminders that help me tear down the shaky construct that was my identity as a PhD student. If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly.

This weekend, however, I'll be thrown back into a situation that will feel even more alien to me then it did before. What is likely to be an energizing and motivating experience for most will be for me a long, difficult, cumbersome charade.

I'll do my best, but I am not looking forward to it.
Reading this post over on Stephen's site made me think of the many other examples of waste in academia that I have encountered or heard of second-hand since starting at McGill back in 2001. Now, every organization suffers from some degree of inefficiency, but when you start to look at how academic research is carried out, esp on the publishing side, it is hard to believe the system continues to work at all.

I think that academia plays a critical role in providing an environment for individuals so gifted and so inclined to advance our understanding and make the world a better place. It pains me to think how many more people could be accommodated, how much more could be accomplished, if there wasn't so much waste built into the process (for reasons that have very little to do with the goals of academia, btw).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Another redesign for the site, this one with an eye towards the inclusion of more photography. My plans for the site are, as always, tentative and ever-changing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I wrote a post in Blogger. Tried to spell check it. IE says no-go to the popup. Damn, let the site spellcheck already. Yes, I'll allow popups from Blogger. Yes, I know I'm about to navigate away from this page, yes, yes, OK, OK..... uhhhh. No. No. NO!

And so you get this.

My laptop is back and setup almost the way I like. Tomorrow I'm going to make a proper restore point so that I don't have to waste two days the next time it decides to go south.

The original post was much better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

It took less then the minute from the time I connected my clean PC to the internet to get one of those annoying messenger popups. Egads. Time to install windows update, etc. etc.
I'm at the library's information commons again this morning, answering email and performing whatever few online tasks I have that must get done. I'm supposed to find out this morning (a) what is wrong with my laptop, and (b) when I can expect to get it back. I'm hoping that the answer to (b) is 'today', and that I don't have to go through any additional grief.

Once I get the laptop back, I still have a good half a day of cd shuffling, downloading, and configuring to do. I need to check if we have a copy of Ghost somewhere so that next time (and there will be a next time), I won't have to go through the same hassle.

My daily routine is still shot. I'm not sure what to work on, where to start.

Stupid laptop.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I've managed to get my slide deck ready for tonight's class by borrowing a laptop from ICC (a monster A## ThinkPad... and not 'monster' as in 'wicked' but 'monster' as in 'weighs-a-ton-w2k-slab'). I had no problem connecting to the Novell network and accessing my files (good as of Thursday). Internet connectivity was a no-go, however, so I'm at the library's information common's doing all the net stuff I needed to do for tonight's class.

I also scanned my email (nothing too critical.. will have to wait for tomorrow) and checked a few sites. I got a sinking feeling when I saw Karl's post on having lost his HD as well.

Once I get my laptop back, I'm going to do everything I can to minimize my dependance on any one piece of hardware. That means using web-based services as much as possible, and lots of backups. I'm sure it won't work nearly as well as I would like, and I'll still have a ton of software dependancies to deal with. Maybe I just phased by today's events, but I think it would be better if my work (and by extension, my sanity) didn't depend so much on any single end-user-maintained piece of disposable technology.
I came into work to find that my laptop's hard drive had died. No boot, no safe mode, even the build in IBM Recovery wouldn't work. Had to bring it into support. They are going to give me an update tomorrow (TOMORROW!) as to where things stand.

Fortunately, I did a data backup on Thursday afternoon, and I have a hard copy of the one document I worked on all day Friday. So the data loss will be minimal. Unfortunately, I have class tonight, and no slides. I guess I'll have to borrow a laptop to make it happen.

It is times like this when I feel my dependancy on technology the strongest. Not just as a way to access/create files, but as a critical component of how I frame my work, my day. Take away my PC, and I don't even know where to start. None of my routines are useful. It is like starting at zero.

Tomorrow... *&^@#&*$^!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

My site doesn't appear to be displaying properly in IE. The text should be beside the photos, not after it. I'll fix it sometime next week.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Wicked: a convention for time travellers. As they say in the artcile, "theirs is the only time traveler convention the world needs, because people from the future can travel to it anytime they want." Heh. Personally, I've always contended that time travel is impossible exactly because we have never encountered any time travellers. Being humans, regardless of any efforts we made, would inevitably mess up and expose ourselves. That is one trait I expect to be retained throughout humanity's evolution.
Deroy Murdock, National Review:
"These dangerously naive or clandestinely seditious librarians are beyond foolish. They potentially jeopardize the lives of American citizens. No square inch of this country should be a safe harbor where terrorists calmly can schedule the slaughter of defenseless civilians. Whether fueled by sincere civil libertarianism or malignant Bushophobia, those who thwart probes of Islamo-fascist library patrons have the same impact: They make it easier — not harder — for terrorists to kill you.
The possibility that someone could read an article like this and not see it as pure bunk fills me with dispair.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

In my class on Monday, I was explaining to students the importance of articulating and reflecting on their learning experience throughout the semester (and beyond, of course!). Holding up my collection of paper notebooks, I urged them to purchase their own and use them regularly. I also suggested they start a weblog. Blank stares all around. "A web-what?" Mein Gott...

Today, however, I had a student of mine tell me that he's met Dave Winer three times.
If anyone knows of an article that does a good job of summarizing organizational learning, I'd be much obliged. Drop me a line!.
Lovely spring day here in Montreal. Much too nice to be cooped up inside working. Alas...
FireFox > Tools > Options > File Types > Plug-ins
Disable everything relating to Adobe Acrobat. That will force Firefox to download PDFs instead of trying to open them in-place. Trust me on this one.
More tweaking, more photos, no set typeface, think it works in both browsers, good enough.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I'll be fiddling with the layout here over the coming days. Some changes (like doing away with titles) will cause the archives to look a bit wonky. I've tried to make it so that as little as possible is lost in the transition.
I've tried Backpack, and wasn't overly impressed (plus refresh glitches w/ Firefox)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Actually, I'm having a hard time justifying this format over just using delicious :
BTW, links I might actually want to retrieve some day go into delicious :
In Defense of PowerPoint :
Asian countries overtaking US in broadband and mobile tech :
We still don't have a DVD player... should we get a PS2? :
Microsoft gunning for Adobe's PDF format : - but is it multi-platform?
US intelligence problems not due to technology :

Monday, May 02, 2005

AnandTech: Detailed review of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger :
Majority of search engine users unaware of paid placement :
Life-sized x-wing on e-bay :
Adam Curry gets a gig aggregating podcasts for satellite radio :
Challenges of merging Lenovo and IBM teams :
Outlook on Lenovo/IBM deal :
Eye-catching sidewalk paintings : - Impressive