Internet Presence :: Words that mean much more then 'web site'. A presence on line is about being found. It's about being noticed, and it is about interactivity with your client.
Links for 2006-05-29 [ma.gnolia]
- Waterfall Software - Typeset
Typeset lets you preview, search, and organize your font collection so that you can always find the right style for a project on your Mac.
Tags: type, fonts, typography, software, macintosh, mac
- Waterfall Software - Wallet
store and organize passwords, serial numbers, credit cards
Tags: software, macintosh, mac, wallet
Unusual Stocks: American Church Mortgage Company (ACMC.PK)
This is the first entry in a series of notes on unusual stocks. If you want to invest in a company, but are bored with 'normal' companies like software companies, auto manufacturers, oil companies, etc., then one of these stocks might interest you. Note that I am not recommending any of these stocks - just writing about them.My first selection is the American Church Mortgage Company (ACMC). Many people have heard of REITs
or Real Estate Investment Trusts, which are companies that own and usually operate income producing real estate, like apartment or office buildings, hotels, etc. ACMC is a bit different in that they are a REIT that makes loans to churches and other non-profit religious organizations. The company is run by American Investors Group, Inc.
, which also offers mortgage-backed bonds for sale issued by churches.(continued...)read more:
New Music in New Places: Visual Music Event Creates Electro Zen Garden
The Electronic Zen Garden is a contemporary music performance combined with a multi-media visual spectacle, all of which is based on the traditional Japanese Zen garden concept. Using interactive software, four performers will project images on a 12-foot-high lumina column while music from sixteen speakers surrounds the audience. Just as in real Zen gardens, audience members will only be able to see parts of the image and hear parts of the soundscape at any one time, giving every individual a unique image and sound experience.read more:
The cruise started in Amsterdam, Holland and sailed to Copenhagen, Denmark for the first stop. The main attraction there was Tivoli Gardens, a very nice amusement park with numerous gardens and restaurants. The next stop would be Stockholm, and the Century headed for the high seas and cruised at roughly 23 miles per hour -- pretty fast for an 815 foot, 70,606 ton ship with 2,500 people on it. The approach to Stockholm was scenic as we passed many small islands to get to the port. In Stockholm, the "old town" is the place to be, where cobblestone pedestrian streets are lined with shops and cafes. Just before departure I hiked up to the city's highpoint and found a micro geocache hidden behind a stone in a rock wall.
After cruising into Helsinki we enjoyed walking in the city center and having lunch at a nice cafe. The next morning we arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia for a two-day stay, beginning with a very early departure for Moscow (see "Flight To The Kremlin").
St. Petersburg is sometimes called the Venice of the North or the Paris of the East and it was the primary destination of the trip. There were many excursions available. Many people toured a palace that was the summer residence of Catherine the Great, a czarina who ruled Russia for about 50 years. There was also a subway ride to a large market, followed by an afternoon tea at a museum restaurant. I did not take advantage of that but I did take a subway ride in Moscow that I neglected to mention in the prior story. The subway stations -- 500 feet below ground -- were immaculate . One of them had 72 beautiful statues along the station walls. A bit different than New York!
The most popular destination in St. Petersburg is The Hermitage, the best landmark in the city and one of the early IBM "e-businesses". There is no substitute for being there in person but the next best thing is to take a virtual tour. The physical tour encompasses a complex of 5 buildings that includes a palace, a very large art museum and galleries of jeweled artifacts that showed the opulence during the reigns of czars and czarinas. Another tour included the grounds of the Imperial Palace built by Peter the Great who ruled in the early 1700s. The palace is noted for the 156 elaborate fountains on the 2,000 acres of gardens.
The next to the last stop of the cruise was at Tallinn, the capitol of Estonia, formerly part of the USSR. Tallinn It is located on Estonia's north coast to the Baltic Sea, fifty miles south of Helsinki. In addition to being a really nice medieval city of a half-million people, Tallinn has spawned an information technology industry in recent years including Skype. After leaving the cobblestoned city center where a brass band had played a nice concert, I took a detour on the way back to the ship and found two geocaches, one near the port and one in the woods.
The final stop was a familiar one -- Oslo, where I go every ninety days or so for meetings at Opera Software, where I am a director. This time was not a business trip, however, and although we only had six hours in port, we were able to visit Vigeland Park and see the 212 sculptures that depict many human life stages in bronze and granite. The rain subsided and we were able to have a cup of coffee with a Norwegian friend before heading back to the ship and sailing back to Amsterdam and then on to New York.
Other patrickWeb travel-related stories
IBM Happenings: June 2006
The month of June was filled with a slew of IBM announcements in hardware, software, services, acquisitions, and corporate initiatives. I am particularly excited about IBM's continued leadership in the supercomputer business. BlueGene/L has set the record for a scientific application by achieving a sustained performance in excess of 200 teraFLOPS. Here are all the announcements made by the company during the month. The complete index of prior IBM Happenings is here.read more:
The Application Web
This week I attended an IBM software technology briefing about SOA. Only brilliant technical people could come up with SOA as a name for something. Let's see, is it safe operating area, School of the Americas, Skies of Arcadia (a Nintendo game), Society of Actuaries, state of the art, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act? Nope. Maybe it is about an architectural firm that has great customer service? Or maybe it is about the architecture of a building that has a good service entrance? Neither. The SOA of the briefing stands for "service oriented architecture". It is really important. The wikipedia has a comprehensive definition of SOA but basically it is about a new way to get things done with software. Actually it is isn't new -- the idea has been around for decades -- but now it is really happening. It is so much a part of the vernacular at IBM that they just matter of factly call it "so a". After an IBM briefing about "virtualization" a year ago, I tried to explain the word in simple terms (see Virtually Real or Really Virtual). I'll try that approach here with SOA.
In a nutshell, SOA will allow web sites to do much more than “click here to buy”. In fact web sites built with SOA will result in us standing in fewer lines in the physical world and have to endure fewer telephone call centers that want to control us. Fulfillment models at our favorite retailer’s web site will result in the staple goods we need just showing up outside the garage door when we need them. If businesses have the right attitude, SOA will enable them to get closer to the ultimate Internet -- to build a people-oriented and user-friendly integrated experience for all parties involved - employees on the intranet, suppliers, customers, partners, analysts and prospective constituents. There is more to this story. (read more) read more:
IBM Happenings: May 2006
The month of May was filled with a slew of IBM announcements in hardware, software, services, acquisitions, and corporate initiatives. I am particularly excited about IBM's leadership with OpenAjax. There are a few skeptics emerging and that is how I know that Ajax is sure to be a really big thing. It will change the Internet experience for all of us more than anything so far. Here are all the announcements made by the company during the month. The complete index of prior IBM Happenings is here.read more:
How to be a better blogger -- and still keep your day job
I have known David Strom for a dozen years or so. He is one of the best writers out there. Whether it is hardware, software, audio, or how to do things, David digs deep, analyzes what's out there and writes comprehensive stories. His latest is about blogging, and I was happy to provide some input. If you are looking for tips about blogging, David's story is an excellent reference. His cardinal rule is to "tell the truth". He explains why it is important to find your voice and stick to it. Above all, he says, "be professional at all times". Many organizations are not capitalizing on the power of blogging, but it is not too late. David says "Craft your corporate blogging policy now, understand the mechanics and know your tools". As in all of his stories, this one offers really solid advice.
Other stories about blogging at patrickWeb are here.read more:
The overnight flight to Oslo was uneventful and the weather on arrival Monday morning was as rainy as it was leaving New England -- Norway is 59 degrees north latitude (and ten degrees east longitude) so it is not too far north of home. Opera Software is a short cab ride after taking the clean and comfortable train from the airport to central Oslo.
After the board proceedings a some follow-on meetings, it was time for a taxi ride to the Holmenkollen Park Hotel where a special dinner would be held for my friend and Opera chairman Christian Thommessen who will be leaving the board to take on an important position as a diplomat at the United Nations Development Program at U.N. Plaza in New York. I am sorry we will be losing him from the board but am happy that he will be putting his time and energy into some really important work and also that he and his family will be close enough for more frequent visits.
During my last trip to Oslo in February, I was determined to find the "Troll's View" geocache which is hidden across the street from the world famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The first jumps at the "Holmenkollrennet" took place in January 1892. The world's skiing elite meets at Holmenkollen every year and 50,000 spectators watch the jumps from the 180 feet high spectacle. The view of Oslo and the fjord below is breathtaking. The cache is in the woods near the famous Kollen Troll but it was so cold and there was so much snow and I was not dressed for the hunt. I finally had to give up.
Yesterday when I got to Holmenkollen, the rain had stopped and the weather was perfect. I remembered where to have the taxi stop to wait for me. It did not take too long to follow the needle into the woods and find a blue bag hanging in a tree exactly at the latitude and longitude where it was supposed to be. I signed the logbook and headed back to the taxi and on to the hotel. It was a late but delightful evening with my colleagues from Opera Software. Results for the first quarter were posted during the day. read more:
Healthcare and IBM
The Intellectual Property briefing by IBM on May 2 in Greenwich was extremely interesting and I hated to leave a bit early but there was an overlap with another briefing down the road in Stamford, Connecticut -- this one about healthcare. IBM's healthcare and life sciences business is huge with 4,000 employees and revenues in the U.S. alone that would put it well into the Fortune 500. The company counts as customers 8 of the top 12 hospitals and all of the top 30 pharmaceutical companies. What has really put IBM on the healthcare map is last year's acquisition of Healthlink, which brought with it 400 top healthcare consultants. The insight of the consultants plus the smorgasbord of IBM technology has put the company on a mission -- to be a major factor in creating "Transformed Healthcare".
IBM's vision is significant -- to build patient-centric information systems, shared health and wellness management systems, and integrated networks to pull it all together among the payers, the providers, and the patients. Many of the benefits are obvious but some are more subtle. Payer insurance companies may be transformed from claims processors to wellness concierges. Smoother workflow and process optimization due to better integration and access to information can lead to improved quality, fewer errors and lower healthcare costs.
IBM has a vested interest in becoming the leader at these things because it has a half-million employees and retirees. Their Global Health and Wellness program is a partner in developing solutions for clients and may itself become a model. The company not only has a wealth of information at the intranet web portal but also enables an electronic health record into which employees enter their personal information which is then supplemented by automatic updating from claim and pharmacy data. The company also provides incentives to exercise and stay healthy. As a result, IBM's labor cost is significantly lower than industry averages.
The conference was attended by several dozen healthcare software vendors and various industry experts, including more than a half-dozen physicians. Most of the discussions revolved around the notion of "Patient centric" -- connecting healthcare information about patients with insurers and healthcare providers for the benefit of the patient. The key to make all this work is standards and they will evolve through Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIO) and a National Health Information Network (NHIN). The RHIO includes consumers, hospitals, labs, pharmacies, payers, public health offices, and physicians. Progress is being made. A presentation was made by John Blair, MD, who is CEO of Taconic Healthcare Information Network, a RHIO just west of the Hudson River. They have connected practices, hospitals, labs and payers and have developed standardized electronic health records, e-mail access to physicians, and e-prescriptions. The NHIN has asked four IT companies to work on interconnection of the RHIO's. Part of IBM's NHIN architecture will be based on royalty-free health care information systems patents (discussed in the IP meeting earlier that day) which give priority access to requests for patient information coming from emergency rooms vs. routine office requests.
From a purely heath point of view, the biggest transformation will come from information based medicine that bridges healthcare and life sciences. Molecular level understanding of disease is being made possible, in part by supercomputers such as BlueGene, and the result will be the development of targeted drugs. In other words, based on a DNA sample and genomic analysis, a diagnosis and treatment can be based on our individual medical history and genetic predispositions. Whole new fields are opening up including pre-emptive medicine, pharmacogenomics and clinical decision intelligence. A small device the size of a cell phone can take a sample of your blood and determine your rate of metabolism which in turn affects how much of a drug you need to provide optimal results. It will soon be possible to predict the likelihood of a person getting something deadly but yet preventable.
Advanced analytics are beginning to provide the ability to run complex algorithms to answer complex questions. For example, there is a 100 page document that provides guidelines on how to perform a particular surgical procedure. It is based on the "average" person. Nobody is average so would it be nice to be able to have a system which can provide specific recommendations based on many variables that are particular to an individual -- providing the surgeon with a "how to" guide unique to each patient.
Molecular Profiling Institute is creating tools for genomic and proteomic profiling and treatment of cancers. Seventy of our 40,000 genes can predict breast cancer accurately. Dr. Robert Penny showed incredible examples. A particular gene that is missing or not working can tell the cause of a particular disease and a drug that can attack that specific gene can fix it and the patient can be cured. This is called "jumping diseases" -- using a cure for disease xyz to treat disease abc. Dr. Penny showed before and after images of a dying cancer patient. After the application of a drug that attacked the targeted gene, the cancer disappeared. It gave the audience a lump in their throats.
There are many new issues arising along with the breakthroughs. For example, being able to know you have high odds of getting xyz disease for which there is no prevention and no cure after getting it, is questionable. The trend from physician centric to payer centric to patient centric is accelerating. It is likely that what will be accomplished in the next ten years will be vastly more than what has been accomplished in the last one hundred.
Other patrickWeb healthcare related stories
IBM Happenings: April 2006
The month of April had the normal slew of announcements in hardware, software, services, acquisitions, and corporate initiatives. Being "tax" month, the company announced a new solution for optimizing tax auditing. IBM's Tax Audit and Compliance Solution uses advanced analytics to help revenue agencies zero in on questionable tax returns.
There was also a milestone in April. Ten years ago, IBM WebSphere Commerce -- then known as Net.Commerce -- made its debut at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Thousands of customers later, WebSphere Commerce is one of the best-selling e-commerce applications on the market, running many of the world's top e-commerce sites. Most of the top 100 online retailers use the middleware to power their Web sites that generate billions of dollars of online revenues. I am sure some will say it was great planning, but those of us who were there at the time know that the "ticket server" for the Olympic Games was an experiment. At about $5m in ticket sales it turned out to be the largest e-commerce site on the web at the time. The first real customer was L.L. Bean, Inc. of Freeport, Maine. See the complete history of Websphere Commerce here.
Here are the announcements made by the company during the month. The complete index of prior IBM Happenings is here.read more:
On Monday and Tuesday of this week a number of analysts and consultants gathered with IBM at an intellectual property briefing in Greenwich, Connecticut. Not as glamorous as the meeting in Rome but exceptionally interesting. The term intellectual property reflects the idea that the subject matter is a product of the mind and that legal rights to the "IP" are protected in the same way as any other form of property. IP is a vital issue for many companies but probably no company has as much influence in this area as IBM. IP is a broad and deep subject but one of the key elements is patents.
The United States granted the first patent to Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont in 1790. Mr. Hopkin's idea had to do with making potash which in turn was used in making glass and in various industrial processes.Two other major patents granted the same year were related to making candles and milling flour. Earlier this year the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that for the thirteenth consecutive year, IBM received more patents than any other private sector organization in America. No company, other than IBM, has yet been granted 2,000 patents in any year while IBM exceeded 3,000 four years in a row and last year had 1,100 more than anybody else. IBM has a portfolio of more than 40,000 patents globally and has another 21,000 U.S. patent applications pending. Potentially more significant than IBM's leadership in creating inventions is the fact that it is giving away thousands of patents. See Patent Commons (January 2005).
The industrial age focused on proprietary innovation and patents became the key differentiator for technology companies such as IBM. In the 1970's and 1980's there was a lot of cross-licensing to provide freedom of action; e.g. IBM cross-licensed with many other technology companies so that it could be able to ship it's products without any concerns about patent infringement. Since IBM's inventiveness created a lot more patent licensing income than licensing expense, the IP business became a major source of income -- to the tune of a $1 billion per year and mostly profit. Now that the industrial age has given over to a knowledge economy based on collaborative innovation, IBM has begun to re-evaluate it's IP strategy and begin to leverage IP as a new source of business growth.
Since IBM has a very large group of engineers and scientists who are prolific inventors, the patent portfolio is sure to grow and the income from it will be significant for quite some time. The company has more than 1,000 active licenses whereby companies pay IBM to use it's patents -- that represents about a third of IBM's IP income. Another third comes from joint development; e.g. with Sony, Toshiba, and Samsung where the companies work together on a project and then share the results. A prominent example was the development of the Cell processor which is used in the new Sony PS3 game console. A final third of IBM's IP income is from the assignment of patents for things that IBM invented but does not want to pursue on it's own -- digital cameras, liquid crystal displays, the laser used in eye surgery, setup boxes, and many other things.
Technologists working in healthcare and education cheered the move by IBM to allow them royalty-free access to its patent portfolio for the development and implementation of selected open healthcare and education software standards built around web services, electronic forms and open document formats. If new application software is developed in these key industries, society is better off and IBM will get it's fair share of the hardware, software and services opportunity. Very smart. To leverage internal ideas, IBM has created ThinkPlace -- a next generation suggestion program where employees don't just submit an idea and hope to get an award but where they tee up an idea and enable others to build upon the idea and collaborate to take it to the next level. IBM is also leveraging it's IP by using it to solve problems for it's clients through services engagements. For example, a group of PhD's from IBM Research helped a limousine company optimize the routes of it's cars to minimize wait time and fuel costs
The world of patents has become ever more complex across the spectrum of collaboration and competition as the world has moved from proprietary to open -- as the world has gotten flat. Patents issued have skyrocketed in the past dozen years -- more than 150,000 patents issued in 2000, and so have patent suits. The thousands of suits are taking a huge economic toll and in many cases are stifling innovation. Patent reform has become urgent. IBM is not waiting on the sidelines. It is taking a leadership role and encouraging progressive changes. For example, it has launched initiatives to improve the quality of patents by developing and proposing an index to evaluate if a patent meets the standards of patentability -- in other words, to test if the patent is really legitimate. These efforts are not just for IBM but for the entire economy. Hopefully the politicians, many of whom have links to trial lawyer associations, won't kill the pending patent reform legislation.
Other patrickWeb patent related stories
The Big Picture From Rome
The final afternoon of the Business Leadership Forum focused on the big picture -- of both global political factors and technology. A panel included Karl-Heinz Grasser, Federal Minister of Finance for the Republic of Austria. He spoke about how governments can not only avoid being an obstacle to innovation and growth but also encourage competition thereby creating more jobs. The panel was bullish about how the information revolution -- ushered in by the microprocessor in the early 1970's and the Internet of the 1990's -- has led to an explosion of new products and new business models, However, there was a consensus that retaliation from poor economies and over-regulation by some countries could stymie the growth.
Mario Monti, President of Bocconi University and commissioner in the European Union for ten years, was quite optimistic about the EU -- a market of 480 million people -- and said that the EU itself is an innovation. He said that Europe is much more like the U.S. than it was. It is now a single market, has a single currency, and has been expanding market reach around the world. The shortcoming is that Europe, unlike America, does not yet have a constitution. This results in an economic disadvantage because the European community can not make a decision for the total. The European economy is not innovating quickly enough and in fact some countries are protecting the past at the expense of the future. Mario says it is time for "naming and shaming" the laggards through peer reviews. Then he got more specific -- "Germany, France, and Italy are behind on liberalization of service markets and have resisted initiatives to increase competition". These three countries will have a negative impact on the Euro which in turn will hurt the rest of Europe. Mr. Monti's presentation was sobering but hopeful. He said the EU has a lot of good features, that it can protect intellectual property but also move against monopolies such as Microsoft. The key to get innovation going in Europe is for the EU to innovate itself by completing it's constitution.
Irving Wladawsky-Berger kicked off the final segment of the forum, which focused on the future. IBM supports Linux because it is a great operating system for computers. Irving introduced Linus Torvalds the developer of Linux which he published as a student in 1991. Don Tapscott, a widely acclaimed author, who invented the term "paradigm shift", then moderated the final panel which included Linus, Nick Donofrio, executive vice president for innovation and technology at IBM, and Ann Mettler, executive director and co-founder of The Lisbon Council. It was a wide-ranging discussion. Linus is an incredibly humble guy. He said he has no vision, just looks 5 cm ahead before each step, and loves to solve technical problems. Linux is successful, he says, because both the development and the decision making are distributed -- a "built-in meritocracy". Don asked why volunteers worked on Linux for no economic return. Linus said, "if you were all engineers, you would not be asking that question". Open source software is viable in most all software areas, with the only exception being niche markets which are too small to get adequate collaboration. "Open source will take over most all infrastructure".
Ann said there is a huge gap between businesses which are moving ahead rapidly and societies which feel left behind. The key problem is that the economy is 70% services but the regulations and governance are still based on an industrial model. She believes that government should learn how to innovate from businesses. "Politicians are clueless about the discussion of the past day and a half". She says that businesses need to share their leanings with society. The labor market in Europe is flat because companies do not want to hire and that is because the laws are so onerous. "You can hire but you can't fire". Labor reform is needed desperately.
Nick says' It' s all about change". IBM is doing a balancing act by supporting both open things and proprietary things. The company is generating a lot of patents but also giving away a lot of patents to move the ball forward in key markets such as healthcare and education. "The world can move ahead faster if the OS is Linux -- it is good enough and a "blow for freedom". A California venture capitalist asked about business ethics and Nick was very aggressive in his response saying it was not optional for companies to be totally and completely ethical in every respect. (Having been at IBM for 38 years, I can say I never ever had a concern about ethics at the company). Nick summarized that anyone can innovate if they are willing to change. "If nothing changes, nothing changes". Sam wrapped up the conference by saying corporations need to be transparent. Their ultimate responsibility is to create value for the constituencies: stockholders, customers, employees. He walks the talk.
Intro to Roman Rendezvous Stories
Index to Roman Rendezvous stories
Business Leadership Forum - 1
The shuttle buses dropped us off and we walked a few hundred feet through a large courtyard to the Auditorium Parco della Musica. It is quite an impressive place and of the thousands of "auditoriums" in the world, only this one has the url of http://www.auditorium.com. The "city of music" lies outside of Rome's densely-packed historic center where such a facility could never have been built. Four hundred trees surround the beautiful buildings where 3,000 spectators can enjoy concerts of all kinds -- from classical to jazz and rock.
IBM hosted it's fourth Business Leadership Forum at "the auditorium" earlier this month, and it was attended by several hundred of "the world's leading thinkers from across business, industry, government and academia", representing more than 50 countries. The forum facilitated two days of discussion about innovation and the challenges facing businesses in the 21st century.
IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano kicked off the meeting by saying that innovation is not optional for the leading institutions of the world -- businesses, schools, hospitals, and governments. "The bottom line of all this is that innovation is really a 'must do' unless we want to live in an environment that's commoditized and not unique, not differentiated". Sam's point was that if organizations focus only on taking out costs, they will be doomed with very low profits if not extinction. Everyone agrees that Innovation starts at the top and Sam practices what he preaches -- not just by innovating in technologies (IBM turning out more patents year after year than any company in the world), but by innovating in strategies and business models. For example, it was Sam who led the charge to transform IBM from a hardware company to a hardware, software and services company. Especially the latter, when he acquired Price Waterhouse Consulting and smoothly integrated it into the IBM portfolio of services. He also led the sale of the PC business. Some people viewed it as simply a "sale" but in reality it was a highly innovative change to the IBM business model -- selling off a low margin business but retaining the services aspect of it and at the same time gaining a stronger foothold in the Chinese market opportunity.
Note: See BusinessWeek's story about The World's Most Innovative Companies.
Sam then introduced Lord Brown, group chief executive at bp. The company had more than $20billion in profits for 2005 and is moving to even bigger numbers in 2006. Lord Brown described many innovative aspects of the company but I was most impressed with how they are using computer simulation to continuously increase the amount of oil they are able to extract from their drillings. He also described ambitious goals to put the hydrocarbon pollutants that come out with the oil back into where the oil was extracted, thereby reducing global pollution.
At the end of day we all got back in the shuttles to head to the Vatican.read more:
Intro to Roman Rendezvous Stories
Index to Roman Rendezvous stories
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Digidesign Ships the New Music Production Toolkit Option for Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools M-Powered Systems
Digidesign is shipping the Digidesign Music Production Toolkit software expansion option. With the ...
[in SynthTopia: Electronic Music News
] read more:
Just me, HTML and Windows
Have you ever been in a situation when you just need to correct an error or a mistake on a web page but you are nowhere near to your usual trusted workstation?
If you ever hand-coded your web pages, or even web application scripts such as ASP or PHP, you don't really need any extra software installed. On Windows box, for a quick job of updating a web page you can just make do with what already installed on Windows out of the box.read more:
This is ground zero for Linux and Open Source news. Stay up to date on business, hardware, wireless, trends, programming, jobs, software, product reviews and much, much more. Subscribe to the news feed with you favorite aggregator, or try dnews.read more:
The Tucows Developers' Hangout is a weblog that features articles of interest to software developers from beginner to expert, from casual hobbyist to enterprise systems programmer and whose target platform ranges from a handheld unit to the Internet.read more:
Evaluating Website Accessibility
A three-part series of articles targeting non-experts. Part one covers some background and suggests some tools, part two presents a list of checkpoints and how to use the tools, and part three explains what cannot be achieved through software automation.read more:
Watchng my Grandmother use Software
I just got back from helping my grandmother with her computer. We got her an iMac and she uses Apple's Mail program pretty effectively. Watching her use Mail is a real education in software usability. I've written before about some problems she had with mail. Apple has pretty much fixed every [...]read more:
New SEO tool offers everything for on-site and off-site optimization
This new SEO software tool offers everything you need for web page optimization and inbound link optimization.read more:
Google's Matt Cutts talks about buying links
Being one of the main software engineers on Google, Matt Cutts knows best about Google indexing and quality control issues. Find out what he thinks about buying links.read more:
How to get top 10 rankings on Google, Yahoo and MSN Search
A new software program helps webmasters to get high rankings on major search engines.read more:
The link popularity software for your website success
ARELIS is a top rated software program that helps you to build a powerful business network quickly and easily. You'll benefit from highly targeted free traffic to your website, new business contacts, a higher link popularity, higher search engine rankings and more sales.read more:
New software program for your link exchange success
This new software program can help you to quickly achieve high link popularity for your website. A serious website promotion tool with an ethical approach to website promotion can help you to get lasting results.read more:
7 professional website promotion tools in one
More than just a search engine submission software tool. This new website promotion tool helps you with all aspects of search engine submission.read more:
Publishing: Good reviews, bad reviews, and hurting oooh so many feelings.
Well, apparently you aren't allowed to have an opinion on the web anymore. I got flamed by an author after posting a personal review of his book. It wasn't an objective review, I didn't mark it as such, but I wasted a good deal of my life between reading the book and then turn that around with the extra hour I spent writing the review so I figured I'd put my real thoughts in there. Anyway, seems the author had some comments.
Guess what? Authors need to learn that not everyone can write a book. I don't care how technically able you are, how smart, or how much of an industry professional. I don't care if you've been writing X for Y years where Y > Z and Z is my age... Just because you've been working on technology since before I was born doesn't mean you have the ability to produce a book that is able to capture a wide audience and instruct them in a given area. I'll throw some points to back this up.
Microsoft Windows is a great piece of software and some insanely talented developers wrote the OS. But guess who wrote the documentation? Sure as hell wasn't the people that wrote the OS. What about the CLR? Super smart people doing super smart things over there. But how many of them dare write a book about it? Adam Nathan did a great job, but I think he took more than a year writing his. What about Brad Abarams and the annotated CLR? Well, that isn't a book of explanation but rather a book of comments that was very tactfully edited. The people that really write about the CLR are the tech writers that produced the oh so complained about .NET Framework SDK Documentation. If you think it's bad now, you wouldn't want to know what it would look like if there wasn't a dedicated team of technical writers with English degrees working on it.
You see, just being an expert isn't a license to write a book. You have to take many considerations into play. You have to design content around your audience, get down off of your soap-box, and explain things in a detail that your readership will comprehend and gain value from. It appears Edward doesn't agree with me. I pointed out that I got nothing from the text of his book, but then he points me to the free source code download. I already knew about the download and had perused the source before and after posting the original review, but I don't think that is important or relevant. When you buy a book, you are buying the material that you can read while you are in a bus, in your car, on a plane, while you are walking down the hall, or if nature calls on the toilet. You really aren't paying for the source code. The source code is an extra in the world of publishing. It is nice if the readers make use of it, but you want to provide everything in the text if you can. Popping between book and source is annoying, and even worse, nearly impossible when the book and source aren't logically connected.
Raise of hands, if I gave you a 65k file whose name was Form1.vb and I told you the compiled program would represent a rather complex regular expression validating GUI called ReLab, what would you do? How easy would it be to quickly find the information you needed in that file? Would you even bother trying to understand the behemoth? What if the text of the book didn't tell you about the code itself, but rather about the program and how it worked? What if they just gave you a bunch of pictures of the UI and some walk-throughs of how it would work? What would you say the target audience is when the book is filled with pictures and there is a huge backing source repository that contains almost no explanation?
You don't have to answer all that if you don't want, but I'm interested in what you have to say. Good or bad, wrong or right, I don't care, because this is MY opinion, but I'm interested in everyone else's opinion. I'm tired of paying 40-60 bucks for a book that doesn't stand on it's own merit. If the source is really what I'm buying then why give it away for free here http://www.apress.com/book/supplementDownload.html?bID=213&sID=1895. What in the hell would I buy the book if everything important is in the source code shown here http://www.apress.com/book/supplementDownload.html?bID=213&sID=1895. Go ahead, download it and check it out. It isn't easy to digest by any means, and the book itself won't help you at all.
Edward is taking this as a personal attack, but everyone that knows me knows better. I buy a book a week at least. Some are great, some are mediocre, but I never, ever buy the bad books. I invalidate them during my initial review process and I rely on my professional insight to quickly spot and discredit the bad ones. I don't always take the time to give those I've spotted a shining review on my blog, but there are certain things that really get my goat and this was obviously one of them. You can't ask for just good reviews as an author. When was the last time a movie released with not a single bad review somewhere on the web or published in some newspaper? But, "Oh", the actor says, "You'd like the movie better if you understood how many shots it took for that scene you didn't like and the technical difficulties behind it"... In reality, I don't care if it took them 1 shot or 50 shots, I don't care if the author produces 1 line of code or 50 thousand lines of code. I see the end result, I see what I read, and I'm going to rely on perusal process within the bookstore before deciding to buy. If you aren't going to give me the material in your book to enable that process, then I'm not going to buy your book, AND I'll post an honestly bad review.
Anyway, I responded to Edwards comments, and put my own right after. I'm sure the comment space will get heated if you are into that. In conclusion, don't put your heart and soul into a book and then get all parental when someone doesn't like it. If you can't take the criticisms, then you shouldn't be publishing. Build on it, forget about it, discount it, do whatever you must, but don't whine and use political bullshit to try and get me to take my criticisms down.
Solving big business problems in our little toolbox application. A use case for Project Distributor.
Project Distributor: Introduction to our distributed web service model
So Darren and I have put in about a month now on the Project Distributor website. We are starting to reach that critical point where the site is pretty cool, we have plenty of users, we are thinking about running out of the allowable bandwidth for the demo site, and all sorts of other things that tend to happen all at once. Now, there are some problems you can design yourself out of, and others that you really have to throw some money at. Our latest enhancements can be summed up in a short list.
- Buy a domain name and start hosting in two places. Project Distributor.com should be up fairly soon to accompany MarkItUp.ASPXConnection.com
- Have people host their own versions of the application. And that means a big source release is in the future. At this juncture risk fragmentation.
- Design away fragmentation with a series of ingenious features that will make everyone want to use the application at hand.
I'm here to talk about the last two, since Darren already bought some additional hosting for us. The concept will be to release a fairly stable version of the application so that groups can host tools, code snippets and other source/binary releases for their teams to share. The application is very lightweight and easy to set-up, so it won't require a bunch of hand holding and configuration to get up and running initially. From our standpoint we solve a number of issues at this juncture. The most obvious problem is what we classify the Lutz Roeder use case. .NET Reflector is the key type of application we'd love to get hosted because it makes it a bit easier to find, not that Google does a bad job, we'd just like to get a bunch of tools in one place, with some features for feedback, new releases, and some cool client tools for publishing.
Now, Lutz would put his application up and he'd whack our bandwidth. He is the prime example of someone that should be hosting their own tools, but possibly using our interface. He doesn't have to, we haven't even asked him yet in fact, but if he decides to do so, then all the better for the web application moving forward. Users such as Lutz probably want a certain level of control over their own sites as well in terms of branding and controlling access. This will only come from hosting the application yourself (and maybe some other features we'll see later).
From a security standpoint many teams will also want to host their own servers. In this manner they get control over the hardware their sources and binaries are stored on. They can accept tools up to any maximum (instead of our imposed limits) and provide unlimited download bandwidth if they choose. Or they can take advantage of our gating mechanisms to make sure their server doesn't get overloaded with downloads and open their tools up to the public.
The only major problem from this source release is that the initial problem we were trying to solve, promoting the visibility of tools, starts to erode. You see, the more sites that host their own tools the harder it is to find the right site with the right tools. We are trying to solve this in a number of ways. The first is allowing users of a site to store bookmarks to other projects and external resources. This is only a temporary fix, because it still doesn't allow a mass search and categorization infrastructure required to truly promote the visibility of the tools being hosted. We have to come up with a solution that brings all of the sites, but we don't want to create just another portal or gateway site. That is boring. Now you have the background, so how will we solve the fragmentation issue?
Designing away Fragmentation
I won't lie to you, I've implemented this model several times, but have never had a project that was capable of really showing off the feature set we are about to talk about. The concept is to unify all of the sites, by allowing them to easily manage views of data from all of the sites combined. Each site owns their own content, maintains their own users, but in turn peers with other sites to obtain additional content.
Web services provide a dual feature set in this model. At the current level they allow us to generate really great client-side tools for managing, well, your tools! We have a drop-client target right now so you can drag and drop new releases to existing projects in just a few seconds. Some new tools for working with build systems to promote the source code up to the server are in the works. We natively integrate with your RSS reader and will have our own alert services in the drop client just in case you don't have one. There aren't any search or local caching features, but those are also planned for the drop client so you can background download new releases, just like Windows Update.
That doesn't solve fragmentation though, that just makes me realize how much work I have left to do. The second feature of web services lies in the ability for each site to aggregate data from the many other sites that are out there hosting the application. Remember, everything we make available at the service layer can also now be remoted. The more caching we put into the data layer, the more performant the entire process will be, and we can even tune the caching depending on whether the data layer is merging off-site contents or database contents.
I'm sure there is another name out there somewhere, but for the past 2 years I've called these peer sites. Each instance of the project distributor will have a number of options allowing for adding peers that will be aggregated and added to the local collection while users traverse the site. The first step is to get the peer sites running in a read-only mode. And set up some really great options so the entire process can be controlled. This solves a number of use case scenarios for us including the following.
- Fragmentation can be mitigated through proper configuration. If everyone aggregates 5 or 6 sites into their peers, then we have a huge network now of interconnected peers and users can pick and choose which one they use for purposes of searching the tool network.
- Peer connections are unidirectional or bidirectional. Access is configurable. Teams can include tools from external sites while keeping their own tools completely private. They can exist behind a DMZ or a private network.
- Users can host their own personal tool sites in the same manner as the team sites. They can configure statically which projects to make available even. In this way you can build a collection of personal tools that you love, and have the latest information automatically update on your machine for your perusal.
Peer sites solve plenty of visibility issues, but that is pretty much all they solve for now. We still want to enable all of the features available to the client tools. After all, the web service methods and proxy infrastructure is in place to do so much more.
Well, we want to solve another problem. That is where you edit your data. A master site is where the users, groups, projects, etc... are all hosted, but thankfully, you'll be able to log in through any site (assuming it is peered with your master site) and then edit your own projects and such. This is a remote principal context and is actually one of the cooler features associated with the peering functionality of project distributor. We'll be fully secure in our login and credentials region, but unfortunately we'll still be transferring data in open text in the short term. Maybe we'll fix that with enough push back.
A clone site is where we empower a site to act on behalf of a master site. For me, my local project distributor is currently cloned to the main project distributor site. What does this mean? Right now it means I get all of the data from PD, and that users who trust my site can log-in to their project distributor accounts and cross edit data. Pretty nice if you ask me. It basically means you can fully host a project distributor installation and never, ever have to install a database server. Users can just act on behalf of a remote server.
This isn't a super reusable model like some of those you read about in the popular software architecture books, and it probably accounts for why master/peer/clone sites don't exist very often. The considerations for every option are heavily customized to the problem being solved, and I'm sure we'll be making modifications or updating the configuration context for a while. Right now you can independently configure your primary server type, whether master or clone, whether or not users can use you for a pass-through authentication and edit server, whether or not web services are enabled so peers can enable unidirectional only communications, setting up asymmetric security credentials. Man, you name it and it is in there
For the peer section we have full and selective modes. A full peer pulls all of the data on the remote peer locally for display (in a delay caching manner, just like you'd expect, unless you set up a scheduled pull which is also possible). I expect most people to configure full peers because they really are really easy to set up and maintain. A selective peer is where you specify the groups/projects that you want to display. This is best for a user setting up their own personal toolbox who wants to select a couple of items from many different peers.
We have an extensively exhaustive configuration module already and we'll be continuously adding more to it. The concept is to easily modify your toolbox to your own designs without having to touch the code. If we haven't given you enough options to satisfy your need then we'll have to make something up, because I'm just about running out ;-)
These are the basics of the model ideas I have for project distributor. That doesn't mean Darren doesn't have other great ideas happening as well. He has some pretty extensive UI enhancements, but I'll let him talk about those. We even have another product idea that is kind of a bolt-on for project distributor, but that is probably a couple of months out putting it into next year. Unfortunately we have too many ideas for our own good right now. Better than not having any ideas I guess. I'll try to drop some code with some of the ideas above, that way you can get a look at how the entire system is implemented. I have some diagrams as well, but I'm far too tired right now to add the img tags to the HTML view.
Five new links: "Graphics on Link-Rich Home Pages", "Label Placement in Forms", "SAP Design Guild Articles", "Simplicity Demands Difficult Choices", and "Personable 'About Us' Page Lifts Ecommerce Conversions 30 Percent".read more:
Living the Google Life
Starting right now (imagine a finger-snapping sound) I am beginning a week-long experiment to see if Google can successfully run my email, calendar, stocks, weather and other personal information needs.
Here’s the plan, tool by tool. Wish me luck.
Google doesn’t make it, but it’s integral to this experiment. Since Safari is only half-supported by Google, and I can’t stand Firefox for anything but web development and debugging, Camino’s a great choice. It’s my dedicated “Google Browser,” chrome-free and tabbed-up as you can see here.
I’ve been forwarding my mail through Gmail for a long time, but only recently have I considered using it as my primary mail client. (Matt Haughey inspired me to give it a try.) I’m finding it easy to explain away old excuses and relearn shortcuts and techniques. If this experiment is successful, I’ll switch completely — ending a four-year love affair with Mail.app. Possible? We’ll see.
My dissatisfaction with calendars goes way back. A month ago, I jumped the iCal ship and boarded 30boxes. I love 30boxes — it’s just about perfect — but Google’s offering matches 30boxes feature-by-feature, provides a draggable events interface, and is integrated with other services I use all the time. And since it’s hosted by Google, Calendar is almost always up and it’s very speedy.
Stock quotes are not as important as email or calendaring, but I spend a lot of time here and it warrants a spot in my personal G-Suite. I love just about everything about Google Finance — the super-clean portfolio view, the interactive charts and the time-aligned news.
Google Search (for everything else)
Did you know Google does weather? And movie times? And local listings? And a million other things? As I learn about new Google functionality, I find myself relying more and more on the search engine (remember when Google was just a search engine?) for all kinds of day-to-day needs.
See you in a week
Time permitting, I’ll post the verdict in a week. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.read more:
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On the face of it, there should be a great deal of money in the software tools business, but, surprisingly, the money really isn‚??t there for small businesses. This article will show that the ultimate cause of the deficiency is the fact that most of the large development tools are subsidized by the sales of Operating Systems and hardware. These subsidies have the effect of diminishing the profit potential of any pure software development tool vendor and thus remove the incentive to create.Click here for the full article.
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Here we continue the developer.* Systems and Software
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Before I became a supervisor, the very notion that someone might be monitoring my Internet usage was not only horrifying, but demoralizing. Didn‚??t they trust me?Click here for the full article.
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What is DSM? How is it different from UML and MDA? Can DSM languages produce significant programming productivity gains? Can software development be truly model-driven?Click here for the full article.
What is a pop-up blocker? A pop-up blocker would be defined as any software or application that disables any pop-up, pop-over or pop-under advertisement window that you would see while using a Web browser. Some pop-up blockers try to close all pop-up windows, some remove all advertising from a...read more:
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The Fool Looks Ahead
You Searched for
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