Orbius entered preview mode back in March.  Since then we’ve been adding new features and tweaking our User Interface. Admittedly, we started off with some great features but some of them needed a facelift. This current release is really nice and things on the site look great.  We’ll keep working on that too.  Our strategy, and a sound business plan in my opinion, is to start simple.  Now that we have a great feature set, we need to improve upon it a bit and we’ll do that based on user feedback.  So if you have any suggestions, contact me or use the Orbius Support Orb.

Of course, if you have no idea what Orbius is, check out this post or just click here and go right to Orbius.  We no longer have the preview gate up, which means that anyone can use Orbius! 

We’re always working on tweaks and new features for Orbius, don’t be surprised if every few weeks you see changes on the site.  I’ll try to blog about then too.  This week’s release has so many enhancements, I can’t even remember them all.  But here’s some highlights:

Content Rating:  Now content rating is enabled on blog posts, discussion forums, calendars, images and other content.  Community members can rate whatever they like on a 5 star scale.  Then everyone can see the ratings and sort by them too.

image image

Also, the Orb admin can customize the theme and choose a different ratings style:


Featured Content:  As an Orb administrator, if you want to highlight some content in a community, you can mark it as “Featured”.  When you do this, it will appear in a Featured Content widget is added.  This is a great way to make sure that your members see the content that you feel is really important.

In this example, I featured a Forum Post titled “Tons of new features in Orbius”.  It shows up in the Featured Content widget, along with Calendar Event that was also featured.

FeaturedContent image

New Menus:  Now Orbius has enhanced menus so you can easily nest items.  Plus you can add a hyperlink right to your menu and point to an Orbius page or even an external site.

And you can move menu items around.  In this example, I created a menu item for “Blogs” and moved two blogs underneath it.

image nested menu

Popup menus for Orbs, Profiles and Personas:  When you see a thumbnail image (that’s the picture that represents an Orb or a Persona) on a page, hover the mouse over it to get a popup menu with actions that you can take.  This also works for links too so most places where you see a link to a Profile (a user in Orbius) or a Persona (a user in an Orb), you can see the menus.  Just like this:

Here is what I see when I hover over the Orb thumbnail.  The popu has links to join or visit the community.

Orb popup      

And I get a different option on the popup when I hover over the link to Elise. 

Persona popup

 Enhanced features for embedding Video:  Want to include a video in your Orb?  Just create a textblock.  When you edit the textblock, click on videobutton and you will be guided to insert the video.  You can choose a variety of video providers.

Choose a provider, search for your video (or put in a specific url) and you’ll have embedded video in your Orb in no time at all!

VideoProviders youtubesearch SkiingVideo


There are lots of other new and existing features on Orbius.  Too many to mention here.  The only way to find them out is to click over to Orbius and try it out.  It’s free and it’s a great place to host your community.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

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DSC03379 Ben is very excited that summer is here!  In fact, summer hasn’t officially started but no one told that to Ben.  Like all cool kids, Ben needed a wardrobe upgrade to get ready for the season.  Now he’s got a few bathing suits, shirts and hats so he can enjoy the weather.  Plus, if you hadn’t noticed, Benny is pretty fair skinned so we need to be extra careful in the sun.

Ben’s friend Lauren and her family invited us to swim at their club.  Ben had a really good time in the kiddie DSC03382 pool.  Most importantly, he didn’t embarrass us with any “accidents” in the pool! 

The following weekend was a big one.  Not only was it Ben’s first trip to the Beach but it was my first Father’s Day.  Lucky for Ben (and us), his Zaida and Bubbie have a beach house. FYI, that is Yiddish for Grandpa and Grandma, although I am not positive on the spelling.  Ben hopes to spend a lot of time with them at the beach this summer.  We spent Father’s day with Rebecca’s dad and his wife, as well as her brother and sister their families.  It was a really nice day and Ben got to hang out with cousins Billy, Dylan and Fiona.  We missed Bret who had a sleep over that night with a friend.

That Saturday we took Ben for his first walk on the Boardwalk.  I think it was pretty special for Rebecca since she spent all of her summers there since she was little.  Sunday’s weather was pretty bad.  In the afternoon it seemed to be clearing out so we decided to take Ben to put his feet in the ocean for the first time.  Our friends Dean and Alexis joined us. After some preparation we were finally making our way to the beach.  As we were about to step off the board walk the neighbors  told us that the beach was CLOSED!  What?  Yes, the lifeguards told everyone to leave because of a lightning storm that was approaching. Sure enough, looking in the other direction we saw some nasty clouds.  I guess Ben will have to wait until next weekend to hit the beach.  Incidentally, within a few minutes the sky opened up and it poured for quite some time!

Here’s some shots from the weekend:  Don’t forget you can click on the to see a larger version

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I love toys an gadgets!  They are so much fun.  Most of us geeks are gadget guys too.  I just got a GPS for my car, it’s so much fun to play with.  Toys that help me get my job done faster and better are really cool.  They help me pay for the other cool toys like GPS’s, HD Camcorders, MP3 players, etc.  One of my favorite toys for work is ReSharper, a super Visual Studio add-on that helps out in many ways.  If you aren’t using ReSharper, you should check it out.  It isn’t really a toy but it makes coding so much more enjoyable and easier, it may as well be a toy.

I’ve been using ReSharper for a pretty long time, I blogged about it over a year ago.  But in Oct 2007 I started my current job and switched to VS 2008 (it was beta at the time) so I couldn’t use ReSharper because it didn’t work with LINQ and Lambdas and all of the other cool stuff in VS 2008.  I had hoped that ReSharper 4.0 would have been ready a little sooner since the VS 2008 was officially released quite some time ago, but unfortunately I had to wait.  But now it’s here and packed full of cool enhancements.

One of the best features of ReSharper is that you don’t need to compile your code to see all of the errors — not that my code has any errors ;-).   But I wrote about that and some other old features already.  Here’s some new features:

  • ReSharper fully supports LINQ and the other language enhancements.
  • ReSharper provides great code completion/intellisense in aspx pages (source view)! 
  • Also, ReSharper will create method stubs from an ASPX page source view – so if I type OnCommand=”foo”, ReSharper can create:

protected void foo(object sender, CommandEventArgs e)
     throw new NotImplementedException();

  • With “CamelHumps”, you can abbreviate class names and method names and let ReSharper complete the word.  So if I have a method named GetAllDuplicates(), I can just Type GAD!

So far, I have only one complaint but it is really no big deal.  ReSharper wants to convert a lot of my local variables to the new variant type – var.  I use the var type in code where I want it, but I don’t believe it should be over used like this.  If a variable is a string and I know it is a string, it should be typed as such, as a string.  ReSharper offers the suggestion to convert it to a var.  But the cool thing about ReSharper is that I can tell it I’m not interested in this and it won’t bother me any more!

Believe me, there are a ton of other great features.  Just download a trial version or ReSharper 4.0 for yourself and check it out.


Pictures Folder Right now I’ve got 4,234 pictures taking up 8.53 GB of space on my desktop computer.  As a matter of fact, I’ve got a boat-load of video files too since I recently bought an HD Video camera.  And 33 GB of music too.  So soon I’ll be exploring ways to back up all of this information.  But for now, let’s talk about tagging! 

The other night I wanted to organize all of the pictures on my PC.  Sure, I’m a Vista user but I still haven’t figured out all of the features included with it.  I fired up Windows Photo Gallery to see what it can do.  It’s a pretty intuitive application so before long I had all of my files organized and tagged.  Tagging is a cool concept.  If you aren’t familiar with it, when you tag a photo (or another file), you assign it a category.  But unlike the folders that we store photos in, I can put many different tags on a picture.  So if I have a photo of my wife and I, I can tag it “Andy” and also “Rebecca”.  Plus, if we are on vacation, I can tag it with “vacation” or “skiing” or whatever. 

Although Windows Photo Gallery is part of Vista, I also have Windows Live Photo Gallery, which is a free download.  It seems to have a few more features then the version included with Vista and, as far as I know, it works on Windows XP too.

Why tag photos?  Now that my collection is organized with tags, I can easily search my collection with Windows Photo Galleryphoto gallery search for specific pictures.  If I want to see all pictures of my wife and I on vacation, I just enter “Andy Rebecca vacation” in the search box and BAM, I get what I was looking for.  Or I can search for “Rebecca Hiking” or “Friends Skiing” or “Family Beach”.  Plus, I can sort the results by date, tag, folder, etc.  Pretty cool, huh?

Tagging It’s really easy to do.  I started off tagging photos in bulk.  My files are already organized in nested folders with meaningful titles such as “Skiing-> Big Sky” or “Vacation -> Italy”.  Andy I’ve (already) got tons of pictures of little Ben in folders like “Ben -> Week 1″.  So to start, I selected every picture in the the folder called “Ben” (including 6 sub folders) and tagged every picture “Ben”.  I did the same for the vacation photos.  I found folders named after various holidays with my family so I tagged all the photos “Family”.  You get the idea.  Within a few minutes I put some simple tags on most of my pictures.  Since the thumbnail viewer is pretty good and I have a wide screen monitor, it was easy for me to then open folders, select lots of pictures at one time and apply more specific tags such as “Andy”, “Rebecca”, “Grandma”, etc.  Plus, I removed the tags that didn’t seem appropriate from my earlier “bulk tagging”.  For instance, there were pictures in the folder Ben that were just of other family members.

The project only took about an hour and I was pretty well tagged up, but I am sure I’ll keep on tagging my existing files to get more accurate.  From now on, I’ll be tagging all of my pictures as I import them from my camera.  My tagging strategy is pretty simple.  I have tags for people such as:  Andy, Rebecca, Mom, Grandma, Grandmom, Grandpop.  Plus I use last names for siblings and their children.  So “Doe” would be used for my brother John Doe, his wife and all of their children.  And one for Friends too.

I also have activity/event tags such as Weddings, Vacation, Skiing, Sightseeing, Beach, Outdoors (hiking, etc).  You get the idea.

With 4,234 pictures and still growing, I’ve got a lot of great photos, and some that aren’t so great.  But I hate to delete photos, (even though I should start doing so).  But with Photo Gallery, I can also Rate pictures!  So I can put 5 stars on all of my favorites.  By doing that, I’ll be able to filter my pictures even more!

DSC03269DSC03278 Yes, at the ripe old age of 3 months old, Ben went to visit his Great Grandmom in Arizona!  We  were pretty nervous about flying with the little guy but he was great during our flights.  Although on the way home, as I carried him onto the plane in the Baby Bjorn he spit up all over my chest.  Thanks!  Then when we got settled on the plane I was holding him and he spit up all over my lap!  He got me twice in 10 minutes!!  Anyway, the trip was great and Ben and his Great Grandmom had a fantastic time.  He also got to meet his Great Aunt Naomi and Great Uncle Mark.  I think they all had fun.  Ben’s “firsts” for the trip include flying, sleeping in a hotel, swimming in a pool, and more.  He even went to his first Zoo.  Of course, he could care less about the animals at his age. 


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DSC03373In addition Ben has been working at improving some of his skills.  These days he love to play with his feet and he’s starting to use his fingers more.  He’s sitting up well (with a little help) and he’s trying to roll over.  He’s hasn’t mastered it yet, but he’s getting there.  The first time he did it no one saw.  He was playing on his “play gym” and Rebecca turned to him and noticed that he had flipped from his back to his front!  He’s done it a few other times but each with a bit of a nudge!  He loves to sleep on his side now.  When you lay him down on his back, he just flips himself right onto his side to sleep, it is really cute.  The down side is that due to all of his new abilities, Ben is no longer allowed to be swaddled in the blanket for sleeping.  He still sleeps pretty well but he tends to wake up more at night.


Here’s some more great pictures:

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