About Duffbert...

Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide
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Co-author of the book IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Administration Guide
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02/27/2003

Reading recommendation...

Category Book Reviews
If you like techno-thrillers, check out Liberty by Stephen Coonts. The main character is Jake Grafton (from Coonts' earlier novels), and he's been placed in charge of tracking down four nuclear warheads that are being smuggled into the country for a terrorist attack. It's a good read...

02/26/2003

Tired....

Category Everything Else
Ok... I'm way tired from my kids' hockey game last night (didn't get home until nearly midnight, and still got up at 4:15 am)... Nothing of substance, nothing of importance, just a little fun...

And here's the link to the final rankings for the 100 Best Companies In Oregon award...

02/25/2003

But what will we do for an encore?

Category Everything Else
This has been a great start to the year for Boom Vang Consulting, the company I work for... First off, we took home an IBM Beacon award a couple weeks ago for Greatest Midmarket Success. We would have been happy with that. But today we attended a luncheon hosted by Oregon Business magazine for the Top 100 Companies in Oregon (and yes, there are more than 100 companies in Oregon!). They gave out awards for the top five in the large business and small business category, and we placed #4 in the small business category! Way to go, BV! It's nice to work for a company that you're proud of and enjoy being a part of...

Of course, I felt that way when I started working for Enron Broadband too, but that's a whole different story... :-)

02/24/2003

Disturbing Microsoft information...

Category Microsoft
Some disturbing Microsoft info...

A friend of mine (Chaz) sent me a link to an online article titled "Windows XP Shows The Direction Microsoft Is Going"... Some disturbing stuff here...

I think I've seen/heard a lot of this before, but not all in one place like this...

02/24/2003

So where is Microsoft going?

Category Microsoft
Another column questioning Microsoft's direction...

Back on February 14th, I wrote that I thought Microsoft was approaching a critical point in their history. Not quite an inflection point, as it's not a single event that is (I think) going to cause them grief. It's a series of moves and mindset that will get them there. In this week's issue of Computerworld, Frank Hayes writes a column ("Frankly Speaking") titled "Which Microsoft?". It talks about the recent departure of Dave Stutz and the letter he wrote about Microsoft's future. His premise here is this...

But we know from experience that an insider's predictions in this industry often aren't predictions - they're thinly veiled descriptions of things that are already going on.

and...

These are words that should worry corporate IT people. The Microsoft that Stutz is not-quite-describing isn't a software vendor that can help us succeed. This is Fortress Microsoft, hunkered down with a siege mentality and at war not just with competitors but also with what customers need.

I personally would like nothing better than to see Microsoft continue making these missteps. As someone who is personally investing a lot of effort in IBM technology, I'd like to see my career paths continue to widen.

Time will tell...

02/23/2003

Laptops are great...

Category Everything Else
Laptops are a wonderful thing...

As usual, it was off to the hockey rink pretty much right after work today with Cameron. I took along the work laptop that has Websphere Studio Application Developer loaded on it, as well as the servlet book I'm studying. I was able to get in a decent hour of study in one of the party rooms I "appropriated" (with management approval, of course). So now, Cam's happy as he went to hockey, and I'm happy that I understand what the init() and destroy() methods do in the lifecycle of a servlet, along with some quick methods on storing data for initialization between servlet runs...

How did people study without laptops? I know, I know... I need to get out more!

02/22/2003

The lost weekend...

Category Software Development
This feels like the lost weekend...

A team of people (of which I was a part) attempted to do an install of Websphere Portal Server. This is actually a number of installs of (what we though were three) products... DB2, Websphere Application Server, and Websphere Portal Server. We also had to make sure LDAP was working properly. DB2 went well, and WAS was OK on the second attempt. WPS was a major pain, however... We would get 90% of the way through, and then get errors indicating the server wasn't there. After 10 hours, we finally decided we'd had enough. This morning, one of the team went back in, did some more research, and found that there's a fourth package we needed (the Personalization Server piece). When he installed that, it all went well.

I think the Websphere software is very interesting, but it's not a walk in the park to install and configure. In all our research yesterday, we found a number of people who seemed to have the exact same problems we were having, but we could never find an answer anywhere. It was frustrating to spend so much time and not be able to say we were successful at the end of the day.

To add to the misery, last night we got a wrong number phone call at 2:15 am. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I finally went to the basement to read a little and go back to sleep. And in a couple of hours, my kids have a hockey game against the top team in the league. The other team will play without a goalie, and we'll STILL probably get shut out. Fortunately, we like their coach, and Ian will probably play for their team in the spring league rather than try and form another team from his own high school. He may actually get his first win! :-)

This is one of those days I really didn't care if I saw a computer at all. And of course, I spent too much time online anyway... :-)

02/20/2003

e-business on demand...

Category IBM/Lotus
This explains why I like where IBM is going with Notes/Domino and Websphere, and why I'm spending so much mental effort to learn new skills...

e-business on demand: A developer's roadmap

The cynical side of me says this sounds all well and good, but it's difficult to get there. The optimist somewhere in there says it's worth it to be pushing in this direction. And the developer in me says this is where I want to be playing.

No, I haven't sworn off the Lotus kool-aid... I'm still committed to the Lotus/Domino platform. I just know that Notes/Domino can't do everything (although I've tried to make it do so on many occasions), and e-business as defined by IBM is much larger than "just" Domino. I want to be able to use Notes/Domino where it fits, and I want to have the ability to use other skill sets for those solutions where it doesn't.

02/19/2003

Need more hours...

Category Everything Else
I need more hours in the day...

I really wanted to do more servlet studying today (actually this evening). But of course, kid #2 wanted to go to hockey. So, it was up at 4:15 am, out of the house at 5:30 am, work by 6:15 am, leave around 3:10 pm, home at 4:00 pm, off to the ice arena at 4:30 pm, and finally back home at 7:20 pm... Guess what isn't going to get studied this evening? I did get a little reading in while I was at the arena, but I'm there so often that I know most of the staff and we kid around a lot. I've actually been asked by customers if I work there. I'm thinking that means I'm spending FAR too much time at the arena. Considering I was also there on Monday (see the same schedule as above) and yesterday (both kids had a high school hockey game that started at 7:30 pm), I'm really tired of the place. Tomorrow night, I WILL get some study time logged, and then on Saturday I get to help out on the build of a Websphere Portal Server.

Yes, I'm such a geek, and I'm in dire need of a life. Good thing I like what I do... :-)

02/18/2003

Reading recommendation...

Category Book Reviews
Want a funny, bizarre read? Try Triggerfish Twist by Tim Dorsey.... It's a "Florida genre" novel that reads like a mix of Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen. Very quirky, very strange, and quite a few laughs for the absurdities of the situations.

02/18/2003

Ego blogging and other good stuff...

Category Blogging
Ego blogging and other good stuff...

Running through the blogs I follow was great today! Chris Miller's entry today links back to my blog. It's a stupid thing, but I always smile when I see my name out there like that (so long as the context is OK). Bruce Elgort's blog links to the IBM Beacon award that Boom Vang Consulting was awarded this week. Joe Litton has a great writeup on the future direction of Lotus/Domino. His premise ("change and learning is a GOOD thing") is so important, and there's a great link to an IBM article on future directions. Well worth reading that one today (but don't bother scrolling down... the rest of his rantings are a waste... :-) ). Ed Brill's personal blog points to some good "evidence" that IBM isn't killing off Lotus. In fact, it's becoming more ingrained into all the other IBM power brands. And finally, in the Lotus Business Partner forum, someone linked to a great article on the departure of a top Microsoft developer, and his views on how Microsoft is blowing it...

I also had an email exchange with Chris Toohey from the DominoGuru blog commenting how the Lotus blogging world seems to be heavy on community, not personal attacks (good natured ribbing of coworkers aside).

Good stuff out there today!

02/17/2003

It's ALIVE!

Category Software Development
It's ALIVE! It's ALIVE!!!

OK... It's not much, but I got my first counter servlet running this evening! I'm working with the book Java Servlet Programming from O'Reilly. Two reasons... One, it appears to be pretty well written. Two, I'm also reviewing the book for our Notes/Domino user group. I'm using Websphere Studio Application Developer (v4), and after a little mucking around, I was able to key in the code, package the servlet, fire up the test server that's included in the development package, and hit it with a browser.

Now that I know I can compile and test this stuff, I can start reading the book from the start and actually learn what I'm doing!

A brave new world! (yeah, I don't get out much...)

02/17/2003

NextGen presentation...

Category IBM/Lotus
I did a presentation today at our Notes/Domino user group on Lotus software and where it is going with NextGen. It sparked some lively conversation afterwards, and I think it got some people thinking about what they need to be learning... I have a Powerpoint file of the presentation (pretty small), and I'll send it out if requested via email.

02/17/2003

Boom Vang's Beacon Award!

Category Everything Else
Boom Vang Consulting, the IBM/Lotus consulting company I work for, picked up an IBM Beacon award at the Partnerworld conference yesterday! Nice to see the company recognized for the hard work of everyone...

02/16/2003

Tax stuff...

Category Everything Else
I FINALLY got all my tax stuff together and sent off to my tax accountant...

No, I don't earn THAT much that I need a tax accountant. It's just that the last two years have been "different" in terms of doing my own taxes. Last year I had Enron income, contractor W-2 income, contractor 1099 income, and unemployment income. I had my taxes done for the first time in 15 years, and it was worth it. This year it was somewhat better, but not "back to normal" This year it was two sources of contractor W-2 income and one source of 1099 income. Plus, I had to account for dumping my Enron stock during 2002. Getting THAT data wasn't fun... PaineWebber didn't have all the info for the different allocation periods, so I had to piece it together from fragmented records. They recommended calling Enron for that info, but I could get OLD waiting for them to respond. The good news is that I was able to figure it out. The bad news is that I would have enough capital losses to offset gains for the rest of my life if I could carry it forward indefinitely... :-)

I'm looking forward to next year where I will have nothing but a single employer (I hope) with a sole source of income...

02/15/2003

Reality TV sucks!

Category Everything Else
SPARE US THE FASCINATION WITH "REALITY TV"!!!!

OK... I don't like "Survivor". I have never watched "The Bachelor" (nor "The Bachelorette"). I didn't watch a single episode of "Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire". And I think that "Joe Millionaire" is the sleaziest premise for a show ever aired. "I'm going to lie to and sleep with 20 women, and then we'll see if love survives when they learn the truth"... IT'S ALL BASED ON A LIE, AND YOU WANT TO SEE IF "LOVE" SURVIVES???? Of course, the women who participate in these things are at fault too, but that's a different story.

And now, Fox is getting ready to show a series where America pairs up a couple who have never met nor seen each other, will get married sight unseen, and we'll see how it goes...

What is this American fascination with watching trainwrecks unfold on TV??? And people wonder why I spend most of my time watching ESPN and Sportscenter..

02/15/2003

Recommended reading...

Category Book Reviews
I finished the book Orange Crush last night. It's a wacky novel by Tim Dorsey with Florida politics as the subject matter. If you want a plot "explanation", follow the link to the novel. It's too strange to try to cover here... But if you just want to laugh and can ignore the bizarre plot twists, it's a good one.

02/14/2003

Amazon.com is cool!

Category Everything Else
Amazon.com is a cool thing...

Right after my departure from Enron in September of 2001, I decided it was time to start cleaning up my basement office. One thing that was getting out of control was my collection of tech books. You know the story, as you're in the same boat. You have some books you use all the time, some you use occasionally, some that sounded like good ideas at the time, some for technology directions that were never followed, etc. I discovered that Amazon allows you to set yourself up as a used book seller. Once you sign up, you can search for a book you want to sell, click on the I Have One To Sell button, fill in the blanks as far as the condition and price, and you're a bookseller! Amazon takes a cut, but they also give a shipping credit to reimburse for media class mailing.

I didn't expect much out of it, but for awhile I was making daily trips to the post office! I figure I've sold around $1000 worth of books over the last 18 months. My book collection is now much more focused, and I have cash in pocket.

My favorite Amazon.com story happened this month. I ordered a Websphere book that I thought would be good. Through Amazon.com, I was able to get a brand-new copy of the book for $15 total (it lists for nearly $50). I took a chance, ordered it, and it arrived in great condition. But when I started reading it, I quickly figured out I didn't care for the book. The author was a techno-bigot (in my opinion). It was written for Unix platforms and no IDE as that was the only reasonable configuration in his view. He also felt that all administration should be done with Perl scripts, as all programmers worth anything know Perl. Right... Anyway, I decided to sell the book on Amazon for $30. More than I paid for it, and less than other sellers were listing. It sold in less than a week...

I shoulda bought more copies... :-)

02/13/2003

Microsoft aquiring Placeware...

Category Microsoft
And what does one industry pundit (Pimm Fox) think of Microsoft acquiring Placeware? Not much...

http://www.computerworld.com/softwaretopics/software/story/0,10801,78299,00.html

Though I DO disagree with his following assessment:

"For those seeking an on-premise option, IBM has already spread out its road map to move customers from Domino to WebSphere, DB2 and Tivoli."

Just another false impression that Domino is dead...

02/13/2003

Reading recommendation...

Category Book Reviews
Just finished an interesting book... It's called The History Of Photography As Seen Through The Spira Collection. It covers the evolution of photography from the early days of chemicals and major effort to the point-and-click ease of today. The author has amassed a huge collection of photography gear that covers the entire span, and the book is richly illustrated with pictures of the various items. Not necessarily something I would have picked up normally, but one of the researchers was Basilio Alferow (Bas) who is a good friend. He recommended the book, and it was an interesting read....

02/13/2003

Microsoft's turning point?

Category Microsoft
I wonder if Microsoft is entering that phase that all companies seem to go through...

Every large company, as least once in its existance, goes through a crisis point where it either folds, becomes a shadow of what it once was, or transitions to a new level. According to Lou Gerstner, IBM hit that point in the mid-90's and transitioned. Many mainframe companies of the 60's-70's hit that point and didn't make it. Compaq hit it and became an absorbed shadow. I'm sure you have your own examples.

Microsoft has been the gorilla of the PC software world. While usually not the "best" software, it has always won by being the defacto leader in far too many categories. But over the last year, a number of things have transpired that appear to be hitting MS hard. There's been the anti-trust suits, but those have had little impact, IMO. Linux, always dismissed as a niche OS, is now making VERY large strides in the server area. Open-source alternatives don't have the same "for nerds only" baggage they've had in the past, and large companies are now considering them for "real" work.

On top of this, MS has gotten continually hammered over security issues inherent in their software. They have also had a number of miscues of late on branding and architecture decisions that aren't flying. .Net seems to be taking flack over a lack of understanding exactly what it means. The "everything will be .Net" branding is now actively being forgotten. MS buys Placeware for collaboration, but it doesn't integrate with anything they currently have. They buy Groove for collaboration, but who is REALLY using Groove for much? And for the high-profile uses we've heard (Homeland Security), do we REALLY want something like that being built on Groove?

I don't believe MS is about to fold... Too much money sitting there. I DO believe they are headed for a crisis point in which market share is falling, revenues are not meeting expectations, and people have alternatives they didn't have before. Will they fail to adapt and disappear? Will they be slow to adapt and become a shadow? Will they have a complete change of focus and "play nice" with the rest of the world? Time will tell...

02/12/2003

Food or free books...

Category Book Reviews
Gee, but I feel chatty today... :-)

I'm in the middle of a pretty good "mindless" novel right now. It's called Final Orbit by S. V. Date. It's about a space shuttle accident involving the death of a crewmember that gets covered up. Reading it so soon after the Columbia disaster, it makes for a somewhat strange experience...

It's a little unnerving to see yourself quoted in places you don't expect... Our Portland Notes/Domino User Group participates in O'Reilly's user group book review program. This means that we can order review copies of books (FREE!) and write up a review on the book. O'Reilly's gets the review and can use it as they wish. I didn't think much of it until I was on their site looking at some books, and lo and behold! One of the "media reviews" was an excerpt from what I wrote! I always wanted to be "media"...

Between writing for e-Pro (for money) and reviewing books for O'Reilly (for books), I'm starting to wonder if my motto should be "Will Write For Food Or Free Books"...

02/12/2003

Working from home today...

Category Everything Else
I'm working from home today, and that scares me. Why? Bad things happen in the world when I work from home...

I went home sick and arrived home just in time to watch the Challenger explode many years back. I was staying home watching the kids when the first Iraq war broke out. I was unemployed (and home) on September 11th and watched the drama unfold all day long.

Today, I watch news stories about Washington D.C. and New York on high states of alert in expectations of terrorist attacks... sigh...

02/12/2003

The subconscious..

Category Everything Else
Guess the subconscious picks up things you aren't aware of... Back on the 5th, I had written about a dream I had concerning employee layoffs and contractor terminations at a client I work at. The employee layoff portion was an actual event a few months back, and it was sad to watch people go through that after having lived it at Enron twice during 2001. The contractor piece was out of left field, or so I thought...

I recently found out that there ARE contractor cutbacks occuring, and I was totally unaware of it. Fortunately, I'm in an area that's not affected, so my situation is unchanged. But how did I come up with that dream when I didn't know that it was happening?

Things that make you go "hmmmmmm...."

02/12/2003

The kids hockey game...

Category Everything Else
Last night, the kids had a league hockey game. And as normal, they got blown out. It's like watching the Tampa Bay Bucs play Portland Community College. Most of the other teams have a number of kids who have played for large chunks of their lives. Our team has two players who had never skated before the season started! There are only about four games left, and it's a good thing. Everyone is pretty frustrated, and things can get violently out of control in those situations. With any luck, Ian will choose to play with another team (a GOOD one) for the Spring league, so it should help him improve.

Hey, Joe... Glad I can serve as your certification target... :-) Just remember our saying...

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't do either, get certified!"

02/11/2003

First servlet...

Category Software Development
OK... so the "first servlet" didn't make it last night... I started reading and typing, but I apparently wasn't getting the CLASSPATH stuff set up properly. As a result, I couldn't get my program to compile properly. I also downloaded Tomcat thinking I'd try for a simple implementation of servlets. That got set up properly, but if you can't compile a program, it's not real useful... :-) Anyway, I need to get Websphere Studio Application Developer installed anyway, so I settled for reading some more and getting that installed. Probably won't get anything done Wednesday night due to the kids having a hockey game tonight.

So much to do, so little time...

02/09/2003

One big multi-task...

Category Book Reviews
My life is one big multi-task... As soon as I got home from work today, Cam (my younger son) wanted to go to Mt. View Ice Arena for sticktime. He plays goalie, and if it's not Cam we're taking, it's Ian (my older son) (or both). A whopping 45 minutes or so of "down time" between arrival at home and departure for the frigid confines of the arena. During that time, it's eat dinner, check for critical email, download the marked-up copy of my third e-Pro magazine article, pack the laptop, and off we go. I was able to get the edits done along with a few updated images for the article, so I don't have to worry about making the Friday deadline. Yee-haw!

Of course, now I feel I should be cracking open the book to start the servlet studying, but it's 8 pm and I don't feel like going there. What I want is some mindless novel to get lost in. What I have is Lou Gerstner's Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?... An OK book, but not what one feels like reading after a full(+) day of work.

I know... whine, whine, whine....

02/08/2003

Time for the reinvention...

Category Software Development
Time for the reinvention... time for the next push in my career... I just got back from Barnes and Noble, where I purchased the book Core Servlets And JavaServer Pages by Marty Hall. This will be what I base my study on as I start learning how to code servlets and JSPs. I need this in order to start working on the Websphere Portal platform. There are a lot of portlets out there already, but you'll need to be able to roll your own. Short of coding Java agents in Domino, this will be my first opportunity to do something useful with all the Java study I've done in the past...

The interesting thing here is my feelings about this change. In the past, I've always been somewhat nervous about major changes like this. "Can I hack it?"... "Am I too old for this change?"... "Will this be the time I fail to learn something new?"... But for some reason, that fear isn't there this time. Part of it is that I'm going to be part of a team where I'm not expected to have all the answers. They know where I'm at, and they expect me to learn it. Another part is that I've been wanting to go down this path for some time. I think we can add in a little comfort over the likely move to becoming salaried as part of this new direction. I feel excited about this one... So unlike the seemingly weekly change of directions we had at Enron, especially near the end. We were always trying to learn new things, hopefully before it was decided we weren't going in that direction any more (as in the on-off-back on-dead again relationship with Tibco). And when we did learn something, you always wondered if you were going to be able to learn enough before a major project was proposed with insane deadlines with you as the technical lead as you've been learning this stuff, right? :-)

02/06/2003

A good week...

Category Everything Else
Well, THIS has been a very good week! Wednesday did not start off well, as noted below. It got worse as I tried to walk a fine line at a client site between wanting to assist on a project and not stepping on toes. I won't go into any more detail, but it was not a fun position to be in. Fortunately, I was able to make sure that everyone understood what was going and I think all is well. From there, I had my first review with the consulting company I work for. Very good review, and they are looking to build out their Websphere Portal expertise with a team that will include me. This is great, in that it takes me in the direction I want to go technically. Furthermore, it looks like we'll be working out an arrangement that will allow me to be on staff instead of hourly. This is even better, as it removes the "do I work or do I train on my own time" conflict I was constantly facing. Now I will have a salary and I can forget about that worry. But don't fear... I can always come up with more things to worry about! :-)

02/04/2003

Dreams...

Category Everything Else
I hate having and waking up from dreams like this (no, not THAT kind of dream...). I had a dream where I was contracting at a client site, and the client decided to lay off staff and terminate contracting positions (actually, most of that is based on current and past reality). I was one of the contract positions eliminated, and apparently there was no other work for me to be doing for the firm I contract with. I was going into the spiral of doom/gloom/where is my next paycheck coming from.... Then the alarm went off and I was shoved back into reality...

Now, getting OUT of that dream was a good thing. It was feeling all too real. But I also struggle with those emotions in the waking world on far too many occasions. Having to wake up from a dream like that so abruptly seems to leave one feeling rather uncomfortable all day, like "was the dream trying to tell me something?". I'll probaby be fine by the end of the day, but this is not the way I like to start my day...

02/03/2003

Welcome...

Category Blogging


Welcome to my life...  I don't find it terribly interesting, and I don't expect you will either...  But everyone else has a blog, so I guess I need to have one too!

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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