Unusual Stocks: Moller International (MLER.PK)Moller International
could be considered yet another penny stock trading on the pink sheets with a far-out idea. However, this one is a bit different from the usual. Moller is in the business of designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing personal vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The intended first product is the M400 Skycar
. This automobile is intended to have a top speed of 350 MPH while achieving 28 miles per gallon. They aren't shipping anything yet, but are accepting deposits to "secure delivery positions for our M400 Skycar". The company has been involved in an SEC dispute recently, which appears to have been resolved, and doesn't seem to be in a big hype mode - the message board at Raging Bull
, a hotspot for penny stock chat, is pretty quiet. Despite being a pink sheet stock, they are fully reporting to the SEC, although their financial situation seems poor at best, with only $14,037 of cash at the end of 2002.read more:
Lazyweb: full list of Sony BMG owned domains?
A non-spam comment recently arrived on the old Boycott Sony site, which is something of a rarity these days. Reader PJ asks whether there is a known list of sites that are owned by Sony BMG, or Sony generally, so that he can block those sites for showing up in AdSense ads.
I don’t have such a list. Does anyone out there? I suspect that part of the issue may be that Sony Music/Sony BMG registers unique domains for its artists, meaning that blocking ads for them may turn into a game of whack-a-mole. But I’ll throw the question out to LazyWeb anyway.read more:
yahoo trip planner
Yahoo just announced the release of their trip planner.It allows you to plan a trip to see different sites and print out a list of all the things you’ve planned so you can actually do them when you get there. They integrate the use of Yahoo Maps and you can also see other people’s [...]read more:
Book Update: 2Q2006
So many great books, so little time! This posting is to recommend two books that were extremely interesting and enjoyable. First is Genome by Matt Ridley. After the Computational Biology panel at Demo in February, I asked the panelists what book I could read to learn more about the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome. All three experts recommended Matt Ridley's book. Genome is organized into twenty-two chapters as a convenient way to tell the incredible unfolding story of what we are all about. Each chapter is like a story unto itself describing the characteristics of some of the more important genes that are part of that chromosome. The twenty-third chromosome pair is what we learned in high school -- two large X chromosomes in women and , one X and one small Y in men.
Ridley explains in almost excruciating detail how some of the genes work and the implications of having a particular gene that doesn't work. For example, there is a family of genes called the apolipoprotein genes, or APO genes, that comes in four basic varieties -- A, B, C, and E. If you happen to carry of the E variety genes, your probability of getting Alzheimer's disease is dramatically higher than the population at large. Whether you would actually want to know that you have propensity to get a disease that for which there is no cure or prevention steps is another question. One thing for sure is that by reading Genome you get an appreciation for how much is actually known about genes and how incredibly fast the knowledge base is growing. There is no doubt in my mind that the improvements in medicine over the next ten years will surpass what we have seen in the past 100 years.
Equally intriguing but much more entertaining is Digital Fortress by Dan Brown. To call it a techno-thriller is an understatement. It is riveting and chilling from the first page to the last. I could not put it down. Like The Da Vince Code, you will question how plausible some of the happenings are and you may question the validity of the details of the inner workings of the NSA. The core theme of the book has to do with one of my favorite topics, cryptography. After designing a computer that could break any encryption, the NSA found itself hostage to the technology. Highly recommended read.
Stories from the "favorites" category of patrickWeb
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:
At a speech in New Orleans on Monday I said we were just five percent of the way into the Internet -- that of all the things that could simplify our lives and save us time, only five percent of them are here so far. New companies such as Pandora are pressing the envelope to do great things but unfortunately many existing companies have not kept pace with expectations.
This morning I checked on the status of a medical prescription at Express Scripts, my "online" pharmacy. The web site had an order number but did not show the name of the medication. Clicking on "check status" gave a line that said "In pharmacy" -- since May 6. No information available. Sending an email to them is hopeless -- I have done it before -- they respond to the email by telling you to call if you need information. I called and was told they had received the prescription on May 3 and it then takes them three days to enter it into the system. Four days later they determined that it needs "prior authorization" and so they faxed a form to the doctor requesting that he fax a form to the insurance company who would then need to fax a form to customer service who would then notify the pharmacy it is ok to ship the medication. The pharmacy and customer service are the same company. There is no feedback to the customer at any point. Meanwhile everyone is calling everyone and the doctor's office is so overloaded with calls about prescriptions that you can't get through to them. This is the status of online pharmacy. Five percent would be an overstatement.
The point that top management of these and many other companies are missing is that the perception of their company and their brand is no longer based on their past history or even the reputation of their products and services. The way we see them is the way we see their web sites. Unfortunately, a lot of things we see are not pretty. Increasingly our loyalties will shift to the companies who make our lives simpler and save us time instead of frustrating us. Many are trying hard but they have a long way to go. read more:
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:
Business Leadership Forum - Day 2 (part 2)
Following Nakamura-san at the Business Leadership Forum would not be easy but Sunil Bharti Mittal, CEO of Bharti TeleVentures Limited had quite an amazing story to tell. Bharti is India's leading mobile operator and one of the top five companies in India. Revenue per month per person has shrunk from $30 to $8 and he believes it will go to $3-$4. The good news is that the number of users has gone from 2 million to 90 million. India is a huge consumption economy because there are so many young people -- 50% are under 25. He expects mobile phone users to grow from 90 million to 300+ million by 2009-2010 and his strategy to address the market has been to give away everything except the customer ; i.e. outsource everything except the customer relationship. IT was outsourced to IBM -- a $1 billion contract. Networking was outsourced to Nokia & Ericsson. Call centers were outsourced to an IBM joint venture in India. Mr. Mittal said their growth (1 million new customers per month) could not be achieved without having outsourced to top partners. Complete alignment is achieved and the business model becomes predictable. Innovation in many areas including "Lifetime Validity" where incoming calls are free to customers for life. The theory is simple, if people receive a lot of free inbound calls, they will eventually *make* calls, which are not free. His goal is for his many partners to be happy -- not to laugh but to smile. He hopes to grow from 7 billion minutes per month to 20 billion.
Mr. Yang Mingsheng, President and CEO of the Agricultural Bank of China, was the only speaker who did use English but the simultaneous translation to Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, German, and English allowed all of us to hear what he had to say -- which was a lot. The bank has 500,000 employees and 28,000 branch offices. Although I could not understand a word of what he was saying without the headphones, I could tell that the speaker was very articulate, enthusiastic, and confident. 95% of all bank services are available online. The bank has 400 million depositors, 12.4 million outstanding loans, and 220 million credit cards issued. They have introduced many e-banking and mobile products to their customers. This is being done by centralizing IT infrastructure. Mr. Mingsheng is both a ceo and a member of government. For hobbies he writes poetry and plays the violin. His speech covered every aspect of consumer and business banking services. I don't think a similar presentation by Citigroup or JP Morgan Chase would much if anything that ABC isn't also doing.
Pierluigi Bernasconi, CEO of an Italian electronics retailer called MediaMarket. The company is the No. 1 consumer electronics retailer in Europe with 66 stores in Italy, more than 500 stores in more than a dozen European countries, and a new web-based business in Germany. One of their stores is the largest in the world -- it has six floors of consumer electronics products. Steady growth over the past decade has taken them from $4 to $16 billion. They have taken an innovative business model approach whereby they have two different store brands (MediaMarket and Saturn) that compete with each other. They believe that "self competition" results in better service and price to the consumer. Fifty million people per month spend time in one of their stores. Mr. Bernasconi described an intensely competitive environment in Italy from 4,000 photography shops, 6,000 telephone stores, e-retail sites, hyperStores, and in the future new channels such as Digital Terrestrial TV. In spite of this the company continuously outperforms the competition and gains market share. They have been using the web for sales and communications since 1995. Utilizing advanced IT the company has integrated all their distribution channels. They believe that communication is key and will result in customers thinking of MediaMarket or Saturn as the first choice as a place to get information and subsequently purchase. Their strategy is to exploit multi-channel strategies -- tying together so a person can call from land line or mobile, surf via the web connect via digital terrestrial set top box, or visit in person and all the experiences are recognized and tracked. read more:
Intro to Roman Rendezvous Stories
Index to Roman Rendezvous stories
Dinner at the Vatican
The shuttle buses departing from the Auditorium Parco della Musica each had a sign indicating the language of the onboard tour guide (the entire Business Leadership Forum was simultaneously translated and available to all attendees through headphones in Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, German, and English). The route from the auditorium took us through the Olympic Village which was built for the 1960 Games. The guide on the "English" bus was superb and she pointed out the many architectural features along the route and also the history of Vatican City.
The Vatican is a landlocked enclave in Rome, but it is actually the world's smallest sovereign state (country). Beyond the territorial boundary of Vatican City, the Holy See has authority over twenty-three sites in Rome and five outside of Rome, including the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. The Vatican was closed to the public when we arrived. I had been there some years ago along with many thousands of other visitors. It was a unique feeling to be there with a small crowd of five-hundred. Being divided into small groups of a dozen or so made the experience very special -- a lifetime memory for all of us.
The Vatican Library is home for many of the world's rarest books and documents.The library has more than 150,000 manuscripts, including the four oldest surviving manuscripts of the Roman poet Virgil dating from the fourth and fifth century AD; and the oldest known manuscript of the Bible, written in 350 AD. There are also more than a million books, including 8,000 published during the first 50 years of the printing press. Virtually all civilizations and cultures in the history of humanity are represented somewhere in the Vatican Library. The wealth of content is phenomenal and scholars from all over the world are deeply interested in studying it in detail. The result will be an advancement in the general understanding of the history of the world. That is the good news. The bad news is that due to the cost of travel and the physical limitations of the Library to accommodate visiting scholars, only about 2,000 scholars per year can actually visit. Fortunately, a number of technical collaborations have focused on how to both preserve the treasures of the Library and make them more accessible to scholars. IBM developed a digital library service to extend access to portions of the Library's collections to scholars worldwide. (more on the project here).
Walking into an empty Sistine Chapel is hard to describe. The chapel is 135 feet long and 44 feet wide. The paintings are awe inspiring. It took Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (March 6, 1475 – February 18, 1564) four years to create the 68 foot high fresco ceiling. Our tour guide happened to be an artist and she herself was in awe of the art and knew an amazing number of details about every aspect of the incredible room. We spent nearly an hour listening and craning our necks to try to absorb what we were seeing. One part of the "creation" panel contains an image that depicts the various parts of the human brain. It has been only recently that the image has been validated as being an accurate depiction. When Michelangelo painted the ceiling in 1512 he certainly had no MRI's or medical texts to refer to.
Cocktails in the courtyard outside of St. Peter's Basilica and dinner in the Braccio Nuovo Gallery at the Vatican were beyond outstanding. The blessing was offered by the president of Vatican City, who is also a cardinal. His eminence then thanked IBM for the digital library project and said it was that generosity that inspired them to make an exception and allow a formal dinner in the Vatican for IBM and the BLF guests. He also reminded Sam that there were still many thousands of manuscripts left to digitize. The outstanding food and wine were accompanied by a string quartet which played a selection of works from the great masters: Bach, Pergolesi, Boccherini, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann. It was an evening to remember forever.read more:
Intro to Roman Rendezvous Stories
Index to Roman Rendezvous stories
Connecting Sony Ericsson K700i to the Internet through my PC
I was recently stumped with CSS over handheld devices. I was using Sony Ericsson J200i, an entry level nice hand phone from Sony Ericsson to access WAP pages over GPRS. Now I need to test run my web sites development and CSS on handheld devices. In a quick impulse shopping I got myself a mid entry level Sony Ericsson K700i for RM850. The phone was selected for its price and features. The guy was nice enough to throw me a free gift in the form of quite nice canvas bag. So if you are shopping for Sony Ericsson, just try your luck but don't forget to be nice to the salesperson. I also bought a DiGi prepaid, activated the GPRS account and surf away with K700i.read more:
Let's Design A Website That Sells
Designing a website to market you products on the Internetread more:
Plasticpilots: News from all Over
Alex has a nice interface here, that aggregates news from a number of design related sites (many of which have resources listed here). He also has a program that features well-designed sites, one anyone can submit entries too. Lots of great stuff at PP.read more:
Dumpy Digg, Flabby Flickr
High calorie toolkits can weigh sites down.read more:
This just in: standards-oriented design continues to speed sites, increase intelligence. Bonzer!read more:
W3 Compliant Sites
If your design meets W3C standards by using semantic and valid markup, separates presentation from structure and content, and incorporates accessibility features, then submit it here to be listed with other developers who have gone the extra mile.read more:
The Weekly Standards
There are plenty of Web design and development sites out there, both personal and professional, with clean, structured markup and standards-based designs. But how often do you see corporate sites doing this? This site showcases a few each month.read more:
Developing With Web Standards
This document explains how and why using Web standards will let you build Web sites in a way that saves time and money for the developer and provides a better experience for the visitor.read more:
Web Standards Awards
The Web Standards Awards aims to promote Web site design using W3C standards by seeking out and highlighting the finest standards-compliant sites on the Internet.read more:
Designing with Web Standards
Standards enable you to create sites that will work as well tomorrow as they do today. It also allows you to work seamlessly with XML-based Web services and tools, and can help you stay on the right side of accessibility laws and guidelines.read more:
Buy Standards Compliant Web Sites
Adding standards compliance to your requirements helps achieve a more powerful, accessible, and maintainable final product, and leverages the energies put into standards.read more:
The Business Value of Web Standards
Does designing to Web standards give organizations a return on investment? Does the transition to XHTML and CSS make financial sense? The answer to those questions is yes.read more:
Color Contrast Analyzer
A Firefox extension that reveals the color contrast of all elements in the DOM. If you evaluate Web sites for color contrast, this extension will be useful for saving you time, and also takes out the guesswork required to determine which colors to test.read more:
Evaluating Web Sites for Accessibility with Firefox
Developing sites for users with Cognitive Disabilities
"When people think about the accessibility of Web content, there's a tendency to concentrate on people with visual impairments. People with cognitive impairments and learning difficulties are often overlooked"read more:
Juicy Studio: Accessibility Articles
Developers put a lot of effort into ensuring their sites can be viewed in outdated browsers, but all too often ignore newer browsers, or worse still, a whole range of visitors. Accessibility means access to information for all.read more:
Accessify.com: Attractive, Accessible Web Sites
Or, disproving the myth of ugly. An article discussing how to achieve both. With both good and bad examples. Many more resources on this site including tutorials, news and reviews, and discussions.read more:
Designing and Understanding Accessible WWW Pages
The 5 first steps for designing accessible Web sites. Those who design and construct web sites can do a great deal to ensure universal access to their sites.read more:
How People with Disabilities Use the Web
This document provides an introduction to use of the Web by people with disabilities. It illustrates some of their requirements when using Web sites and Web-based applications.read more:
Well Designed URLs are Beautiful!
Another article on designing your site, and the URLs used to navigate it. Well thought out, with many good points that I seemed to have instinctively adhered to here (and few people do): point number six: Well Designed URLs are Readable and Heirarchical.read more:
Although you may have never thought of it as "design" (I do), it is important to carefully think about site structure and how URIs to different resources are related. Failure to do so can come back and haunt you. I speak from experience.read more:
Creating Websites with CSS and XHTML
A wonderful set of 30 tutorials on designing with CSS and X/HTML. Raphael first covers a few basics, then moves on to tableless layout, menus and advanced topics. These articles are translated from French, so there are a few spelling and other mistakes.read more:
A gallery of inspirational, CSS-designed sites, as well as many CSS resources. A good place to check out examples of CSS applied to real (commercial) Web sites. New material is added every month, on top of a large archive.read more:
The Paradox of Choice
I don't like to just link to stuff, but outsourcing choice at 37 signals is worth linking to. The post talks about designing interfaces with fewer choices. Really, the interesting thing here is Barry Schwartz and his book, The paradox of Choice. The paradox of choice being that having more choices makes [...]read more:
Mozilla Firefox 1.0 - 1 million Downloads on First Day?
Mozillazine is reporting that Mozilla Firefox 1.0 appears to have been downloaded over one million times on the day of its release, based on preliminary data. My emphasis on the word "appears".This time around there were more unofficial mirror sites. Some mirrors were activated on the fly as the main servers came to an almost dead stop from the rush to download the new Firefox release. Actualread more:
The effect of outgoing links on your web site
While most webmasters are aware that incoming links are important to the success of a web site, many site owners don't know that outgoing links also have an impact on their web sites. Learn how outgoing links influence search engines and web site visitors.read more:
How to get high Google rankings with Flash sites
Flash movies are a great way to add multimedia elements to a web site. Unfortunately, Flash cannot be indexed by most search engines. For that reason, it is very difficult to get high search engine rankings for Flash sites. This article explains how to get top rankings on Google with Flash sites.read more:
The effect of co-citation on your rankings
The effect of co-citation is often overlooked by search engine optimizers. The other web sites to which your link partners link can influence your search engine rankings. Read on to learn more about this important topic.read more:
New Google acquisition: Can we expect a shift in Google's ranking algorithm?
Google has recently acquired an advanced text search algorithm that has been invented by University of New South Wales PhD student Ori Allon. Will this change the way Google ranks web sites?read more:
A new Google trick: how to get links from high PageRank sites
There's a new trick that some webmasters use to get high rankings on Google. Just like the trick we mentioned in a previous issue of our newsletter, this new technique exploits security holes of other web sites.read more:
Can online press releases really increase your search engine rankings?
Online press releases have become a popular because some webmasters think that they can increase the search engine rankings of their web sites with them. Do online press releases really help your search engine rankings? How can you benefit from these services?read more:
How many link partners are there? How many are enough for a link campaign?
Exchanging links with other sites is a promising way to increase your Google PageRank and to draw visitors to your site. Good incoming links have a positive effect on your search engine rankings and they also bring targeted visitors to your website. But how many potential link partners are there, and what is a realistic goal for your linking campaigns? How many link partners should you have?read more:
The most important search sites for your website success
Many webmasters face the problem that they don't know for which search engine they should optimize their websites. Of course, Google is the most important search engine for most webmasters. But which other search engines are also important for your website success? This article provides the answers.read more:
The importance of robots.txt
lthough the robots.txt file is a very important file if you want to have a good ranking on search engines, many Web sites don't offer this file.If your Web site doesn't have a robots.txt file yet, read on to learn how to create one. If you already have a robots.txt file, read our tips to make sure that it doesn't contain errors.read more:
Ten ways to link popularity
Link popularity has become an important factor in the ranking algorithms of most search engines. If many quality Web sites link to your site, you'll have a good position in the search engines.There are a number of ways to improve the link popularity of your Web site. Here's our top 10 list on how to improve your link popularity.read more:
Hand Fighting Referrer Spammers
The WikiPedia defines Referer spam as "a kind of search engine-targeted spam. The technique involves making repeated web site requests using a fake referer url pointing to a spam-advertised site. Sites that publicize their referer statistics will then also link...read more:
So here's the plan - which includes ExpressionEngine and Sokkit
Yes, we've been a bit quiet, only because of a lot of server reshuffling of several other sites I run (or used to run). So here is the very short-term plan: Move old MovableType version of HYCW over to the...read more:
Note to Pastors: #1 - Why Website Maintenance Sucks
Creating and designing websites is sexy and hi-profile - whereas maintaining code and a consistent stream of compelling content is difficult and is about as glamorous as the janitor who keeps the toilets clean. This is why we should not be suprised to hear that data-driven, CMS-based church websites are being replaced with FrontPage brochure-ware.read more:
Sample Regular Expressions
Neex an example of a regular expression real quick? Want to test it without fouling up your code? Here are two 'resource-filled' sites that help get you there and back.read more:
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.
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