I am the Empire

I am the Empire

I have been talking to Ariel last month, asking for a Microspotting T-Shirt since I had mentioned her earlier on my blog.

I have been on holiday in the meantime… but the T-Shirt had arrived and was waiting for me in my letterbox in the office !! How cool is that???

So today I am walking around the Rome office in it… and I am looking at people’s faces: you need to understand that Italian dress code is more or less the opposite of how people usually dress in Redmond… Italy is historically more formal, and it would be the norm to dress fancy… one would definitely look BAD here if he would show up in sandals in the office… and VERY bad going on sandals to a customer… 🙂

Backup or Store stuff to GMail via IMAP in Ruby

Once upon a time, I used to store some automated small backups into GMail just by having the scheduled backup send an email to my GMail account. At one stage they blocked me from doing so, marking those repeated email as SPAM.

After that, I took a different approach: I kept sending the mail on the SAME server as the backup, and using IMAP I could DRAG-and-DROP the backup attachment from the mailbox on one server to the mailbox on another server (=GMail). They did not mark me as a spammer that way, of course.
So that worked for a while, but then I got tired of doing this manually.

So the following ruby script is the way I automated the "move offsite" part of that backup.
For completeness, I will give the due credits about who set me on the right track: I started off by this example by Ryan.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
begin_ = Time.now

#includes
require 'net/imap'

##Source Info
$SRCSERVER="mail.muscetta.com"
$SRCPORT=143
$SRCSSL=false
$SRCUSERNAME="daniele"
$SRCPASSWORD=""
$SRCFOLDER="INBOX.Backups"

##Destination Info
$DSTSERVER="imap.gmail.com"
$DSTPORT=993
$DSTSSL=true
$DSTUSERNAME="muscetta@gmail.com"
$DSTPASSWORD=""
$DSTFOLDER="Backup"

#connect to source
puts "connecting to source server #{$SRCSERVER}... nn"
srcimap = Net::IMAP.new($SRCSERVER,$SRCPORT,$SRCSSL)
srcimap.login($SRCUSERNAME, $SRCPASSWORD)
srcimap.select($SRCFOLDER)

#connect to destination
puts "connecting to destination server #{$DSTSERVER}... nn"
dstimap = Net::IMAP.new($DSTSERVER,$DSTPORT,$DSTSSL)
dstimap.login($DSTUSERNAME, $DSTPASSWORD)
dstimap.select($DSTFOLDER)

# Loop through all messages in the source folder.
uids = srcimap.uid_search(['ALL'])
if uids.length > 0
	$count = uids.length
	puts "found #{$count} messages to move... nn"

	srcimap.uid_fetch(uids, ['ENVELOPE']).each do |data|
		mid = data.attr['ENVELOPE'].message_id

		# Download the full message body from the source folder.
		puts "reading message... #{mid}"
		msg = srcimap.uid_fetch(data.attr['UID'], ['RFC822', 'FLAGS', 'INTERNALDATE']).first

		# Append the message to the destination folder, preserving flags and internal timestamp.
		puts "copying message #{mid} to destination..."
		dstimap.append($DSTFOLDER, msg.attr['RFC822'], msg.attr['FLAGS'], msg.attr['INTERNALDATE'])

		#delete the msg
		puts "deleting messsage #{mid}..."
		srcimap.uid_store(data.attr['UID'], '+FLAGS', [:Deleted])
		srcimap.expunge

	end

	#disconnect
	dstimap.close
	srcimap.close
end

total_time = Time.now - begin_
puts "Done. RunTime: #{total_time} sec. nn"

A Rant about Openness

It is interesting to see that a bunch of open source projects written on and for the Microsoft platform grows and grows, and also nice to see that a lot of Microsoft employees are very active and aware of the open source ecosystem, rather than being stuck with only what the company makes. Phil Haack, in a post about an interview to Brad Wilson,  wisely writes:

"[…] What I particularly liked about this post was the insight Brad provides on the diverse views of open source outside and inside of Microsoft as well as his own personal experience contributing to many OSS projects. It's hard for some to believe, but there are developers internal to Microsoft who like and contribute to various open source projects. […]"

In fact, being made by Microsoft people or not, the list of open source software on CodePlex keeps growing too. Mentioning CodePlex and interviews, another interesting one is that of Sara Ford, Program Manager for CodePlex posted on Microspotting. But Microspotting is awesome in general. My favorite quote by her:

"[…] Hey. My name is Ariel and I'm the person you thought would never work at MSFT […]".

In fact, just as I do, she is running that blog on WordPress, posting her photos on Flickr, using a RSS feed on Feedburner and in general using a bunch of things that are out there that might be seen as "competing" with what Microsoft makes. In fact, this attitude towards other products and vendors on the market is what I am mainly interested in. Should we only use flagship products? Sure, when they help us, but not necessarily. Who cares? People's blogs are not, as someone would like them to be, a coordinated marketing effort. This is about real people, real geeks, who just want to share and communicate personal ideas and thoughts. I had a blog before being at Microsoft, after all. Obviously I had exposure to competing products. My server was running LAMP on Novell Netware in 2002 – after which I moved it to Linux. It is not a big deal. And if I try to put things in perspective, in fact, this is turning out to be an advantage. I am saying this, as the latest news about interoperability comes from MMS (Microsoft Management Summit): and that is the announcement that System Center Operations Manager will monitor Linux natively. I find this to be extremely exciting, and a step in the right direction… to say it all I am LOVING this!!! But at the same time I see some other colleagues in technical support that are worrying and being scared by this – "if we do monitor Linux and Unix, we are supposed to have at least some knowledge on those systems", they are asking. Right. We probably do. At the moment there are probably only a limited number of people that actually can do that, at least in my division. But this is because in the past they must have sacrificed their own curiosity to become "experts" in some very narrow and "specialized" thing. Here we go. On the opposite, I kept using Linux – even when other "old school" employees would call me names. All of a sudden, someone else realizes my advantage.  …but a lot of geeks already understood the power of exploration, and won't stop defining people by easy labels. Another cool quote I read the other day is what Jimmy Schementi has written in his Flickr profile:

"[…] I try to do everything, and sometimes I get lucky and get good at something […]".

Reading on his blog it looks like he also gave up on trying to write a Twitter plugin for MSNLive Messenger (or maybe he never tried, but at least I wanted to do that, instead) and wrote it for Pidgin instead.  Why did he do that ? I don't know, I suppose because it was quicker/easier – and there were API's and code samples to start from.

The bottom line, for me, is that geeks are interested in figuring out cool things (no matter what language or technology they use) and eventually communicating them. They tend to be pioneers of technologies. They try out new stuff. Open Source development is a lot about agility and "trying out" new things. Another passage of Brad's interview says:

"[…] That's true–the open source projects I contribute to tend to be the "by developer, for developer" kind, although I also consume things that are less about development […] Like one tool that I've used forever is the GIMP graphics editor, which I love a lot".

That holds true, when you consider that a lot of these things are not really mainstream. Tools made "by developer, for developer" are usually a sort of experimental ground. Like Twitter. Every geek is talking about Twitter these days, but you can't really say that it is mainstream. Twitter has quite a bunch of interesting aspects, though, and that's why geeks are on it. Twitter lets me keep up-to-date quicker and better (and with a personal, conversational touch) even better than RSS feeds and blogs do. Also, there are a lot of Microsofties on Twitter. And the cool thing is that yo can really talk to everybody, at any level. Not just everybody "gets" blogs, social networks, and microblogging. Of course you cannot expect everybody to be on top of the tech news, or use experimental technologies. So in a way stuff like Twitter is "by geeks, for geeks" (not really just for developers – there's a lot of "media" people on Twitter). Pretty much in the same way, a lot of people I work with (at direct contact, everyday) only found out about LinkedIN during this year (2008!). I joined Orkut and LinkedIN in 2004. Orkut was in private beta, back then. A lot of this stuff never becomes mainstream, some does. But it is cool to discover it when it gets born. How long did it take for Social Networking to become mainstream? So long that when it is mainstream for others, I have seen it for so long that I am even getting tired of it.

For some reason, geeks love to be pioneers. This is well expressed in a digression by Chris Pratley:

"[…] some of them we will be putting out on officelabs.com for the general public (you folks!) to try so we can understand how "normal" people would use these tools. Now of course, as we bloggers and blog-readers know, we're not actually normal – you could even debate whether the blogosphere is more warped than the set of Microsoft employees, who comprise an interesting cross-section of job types, experiences, and cultures. But I digress. […]"

But I have been digressing, too, all along. As usual.

Popfly Virtual Earth Mashup on Moonlight

Popfly Virtual Earth Mashup on Moonlight

Installed moonlight on Ubuntu from source by following these instructions (there are some typo's but they are understandable and correctable).

All in all, even being still under heavy development, what Miguel de Icaza has achieved (with moonlight, just like with mono) is amazing.

After I posted the above picture on Flickr, John Montgomery was amazed to see PopFly (his creature) working on moonlight, and he linked to me from his blog.

Of different digital expressions and Blogs

Pool

"I have not posted in a while" …well you certainly will have read tons of posts beginning this way, right?
But that's the truth. One of the reasons is that you can follow very well a lot of what I do and write elsewhere on the Internet by using my lifestream RSS feed, which includes much more than just what I post on this blog. Our minds are not stuck on one subject matter only, but our thoughs just go around in many different directions. I mentioned the integrated feed/lifestream in a previous post, but I found that the concept gets explained very well by Yongfook in this post:

"[…] We interact with various websites and create content on them – why should I then have to come to my own website and reconstruct, repost or repackage the same content? It already exists out there on the internet, and it’s grabbable and usable. This is not to say I think conventional blogging is dead. I do however think it is evolving. The pace at which we consume and create content – photos, videos, links etc – is getting faster, more frequent. If we wanted to republish everything manually on our blogs, we’d just run out of time. […]"

So at least even if this SITE does not get updated often you can see I have quite a busy digital public life on the web.

Very interesting to also read this post by Scott Hanselman on the subject. He rather just focuses on twitter/microblogging as an evolved form of blogging which was getting boring and time-consuming to people:

"[…] The rise of blogs brought conversations on the 'net more out in the open. Blogging enabled conversation via essay, but as blogs have matured, posts have gotten longer and longer and threads more difficult to follow. Now, most posts are jumping off points for the more interesting conversations that inevitably move to the comments. […]"

He then goes into more detailed/structured analysis of what you can or could do with Twitter. While his analysis is pretty good about the many ways you could use Twitter as a broadcasting tool (and in fact loads of companies do already), I rather use it as public instant messaging. Or maybe not just. I don't actually know and to be honest I am not too much into classifying things, really. For example, if classifying what this blog is… I really am not sure I know myself what this blog is. It has been very funny when other people have tried to classify it… one said it was about "programming" (that would be nice, if I really was a better developer!), other people said it was "personal", other thought it was just about "IT" in general… Heck, there is no classification possible I am afraid. Therefore, not knowing what this blog is, I at least think that I know what this blog is NOT:

  • it isn't a marketing blog
  • I am not here trying to sell anything
  • I am not promoting anything, anyone, or any brand
  • It isn't just focused on one subject, on one area of interest

…and so are all my other "expressions" on the Net. Just me. Sprinkles of me all around. No special industrial plan for it. Just be myself. You might like me sometimes. You might hate me. You might not care at all. It's all good, anyway. Sorry for wasting your time.

Ca(p)tching Cats and Dogs

I read on Jeff Atwood's blog about most strong Captcha having been defeated. Also, on top of visitors getting annoyed by it, the Captcha plugin I am using has gone unmantained lately. And, one way or another, I am getting comment spam again. Which is something I really hate as you know what I would love to do to spammers

I am seriously considering giving Asirra a try. It is an interesting project from Microsoft Research for an HIP (Human Interaction Proof) that uses info from petfinder.com to let users set apart pictures of dogs from those of cats. There is also a WordPress plugin, in the best and newest "we want to interoperate" fashion that we are finally getting at Microsoft (this has always been the way to go, IMHO, and BTW).

Anyway, what do you think ?

Get-FlickrPhotos

A while ago, talking to some friends, I was mentioning how cool it was that Flickr provides APIs, so that you can always get your data out of it, if you want to. There are several downloader applications that I found on the Internet, but I have not yet chosen one that I completey like among the few that I've tried. So, inspired by Kosso's PHP script for enumerating your photos on Flickr, I thought I'd port it to Powershell and make my own version of it. Just for the fun of it. My Powershell script does not do everything that Kosso's one does: I don't build a web page showing description and comments. I suppose this is because the original script was made with PHP, which you usually run on a web server and outputting as HTML is the standard thing you would do in PHP. I just concentrated on the "download" thing, since mine it is a console script. You can think of mine as a "full backup" script. Full… well, at least of all your photos, if not of all the metadata. It should be trivial to extend anyway, also considering Powershell XML type accelerator really makes it extremely easy to parse the output of a REST API such as Flickr's (I would say even easier and more readable that PHP'simplexml). There is a ton of things that could be extended/improved in the script… including supporting proxy servers, accepting more parameters for things that are now hardcoded… and with a million other things. Even this way, though, I think that the script can be useful to show a number of techniques in Powershell. Or just to download your photos 🙂 So you can download the script from here: Get-FlickrPhotos.ps1

Merry XMas

This post is to write down some thoughts before Christmas, along the lines of what I have written yesterday in an email to a lot of colleagues (and I definitely forgotten some of them because there are too many great people I've worked with… so if you are one of the forgotten ones and you are reading this: I'm sorry!).

The last few months have been very busy with work. As much as I enjoyed them anyway, and learned a lot in the process and from the people I worked with, I now really want to enjoy these few coming days of Christmas holidays and RELAX and spend some quality time with my family and friends.

So I wish the same for all of you: that you may spend a Merry, relaxing Christmas, and have a great start for a grand, brilliant new year!

 

As a side note, having been very busy I have blogged a lot less. Blogging implies that I already have a sort-of-well-formed thought, that should span a few lines or paragraphs, otherwise I don't find it worth it. That does not mean I don't have small ideas or other things I like to share when I come up with them. That is why I am using microblogging and Social Networking a lot lately, so I remind you that even if this blog's builtin feed only includes the REAL FEW blog posts, then I also have another (very "chatty") feed that you can use to "follow me" and that one includes all of the following combined feeds: my status messages from Facebook, my Twitter messages, my pictures on Flickr, the stuff I read somewhere else and then share on Facebook, the places I visit and mark on 43Places and the goals I achieve, want to achieve, or I simply talk about on 43Things, as well as the REAL posts on this blog. It is my implementation of what has been called a "lifestream" by other bloggers.

Doha, Qatar

Doha, Qatar | Commercial Road

Doha, Qatar | Commercial Road, uploaded by Daniele Muscetta on Flickr.

Last week I have been to Doha, Qatar, visiting a customer site and learning from a colleague how to deliver my first "official" MOM Health Check. I have spent most of my time working on Microsoft Operations Manager, of course, but I also did manage to walk around a bit on my late afternoons and evenings and see some stuff. So, as I usually do in these cases, I took a ton of pictures.

I found an interesting place, filled with contrasts between old and new, tradition and competition, ancient and modern.
It's a living place that is certainly working hard to get over the oil business model and attract richness in different ways.

John Lockerbie spotted my photos on Flickrs and asked me permission to use some of the, so they have been now republished on his very interesting page about Islamic Urban design and architeture and the one about islamic society.
They both are an interesting read, and most of his site is.