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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What Microsoft Customers Want...

Category Microsoft

In the latest issue of Computerworld, Nicholas Petreley writes a column titled What Microsoft Customers Want.  Since MS has backed off the word "innovation" in their advertising, they are now prefacing everything with the statement "this is what our customers are asking for".  Petreley decides to try his hand at composing a letter requesting certain things (and thanking them for others).  Very satirical, very funny, and (sadly) very true...


A final book entry before an extended break...

Category Book Reviews

I finished up Snow White & Rose Red by Ed McBain last night.  This is a pretty short novel featuring Matthew Hope as a lawyer who often ends up playing detective (also an older book...  1985).  In this story, there are two plot lines going on.  In the first, Hope is retained by a young lady who's been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.  She seems very sane, and blames the situation on her mother who is trying to control a chunk of money she's inherited.  In the other plot line (that seems totally unrelated), a pair of detectives find the body of a young lady in a swamp.  She was shot in the throat and her tongue was cut out, and she's been there for six to nine months.  As the two plots unfold, they start moving towards each other with a twist at the end...  Good read.


A good read for you "old" techno-geeks...

Category Book Reviews

I just finished the novel The Bug, by Ellen Ullman.  It takes place in the mid-80's when graphical user interfaces didn't exist and they all had to be built from scratch.  A bug in a new product being built by a database company takes on a life of its own, and seems to appear at the worst possible times (like during critical demos to investors).  The programmer responsible for the interface is unable to track it down, and you see the decline in his personal and mental state as it becomes an all-consuming passion.  Some of you young pups won't related too well to the environment described in the book, but for those of us who programmed back in the 80's, it's very familiar.  There are also a lot of interesting observations at the end on how we tend to project human attitudes and characteristics onto technology, but in reality it's all just digital instructions that don't equate to real life.


A progress meter for use in LotusScript applications...

Category Software Development

Back quite a few years ago, I ran across a Notes database that contained logic you could use to create a progress meter based on LotusScript code.  This was nice in that document processing on @Forumula agents automatically does that for you, but LotusScript agents do not.  And of course, the users ALWAYS want that meter...  :-)

This NSF file was put out by a group called Unity Consulting which doesn't seem to be around any more.  I've kept it around in my Notes database collection, and I thought it might be of use and interest to this group.  If you'd like to check it out, download it from this link...  


Chris Miller is my hero! (or, it's not WHAT you know, but WHO you know...)

QuickImage Category Everything Else

Today was one of those days where you realize it's not always WHAT you know, but WHO you know (and who will help you when you need it!)  

The person pictured here is
Chris Miller of Connectria host fame.  You've probably also read his articles in e-Pro magazine or seen him as a speaker at various conferences.  While he can't code his way out of a wet paper bag, he can administer and troubleshoot mail domains like nobody's business.  I also understand he's a terror on the soccer pitch, but I can't speak to that...  

Anyway...  I fielded a call from a client today involving a problem with SMTP mail routing.  The person who would normally take a call like this was out.  While I might HAVE a certification in Domino administration, it's become more of a paper cert as time has passed.  To borrow a phrase from Star Trek, "Dammit, Jim...  I'm a simple country developer, not an administrator!"  I had no clue as to what was causing the problem, nor was there much chance I'd stumble into the answer either.  I posted a question in a Business Partner Forum, but more importantly I sent an instant message to Chris.  He responded (after getting back from lunch!) quickly and offered to be part of a call with the client to help out.  Due to a strange phone connection, I ended up getting off the line to let these two hash out the issues.  Bottom line is that in a very short period of time, Chris had found the problem, suggested a solution, and left me with a VERY happy client.  

I 'fessed up to the client when I first called him back that I probably couldn't answer the question but would try to find a solution.  Because I've developed a friendship and business relationship with Chris, I knew someone outside my office who might have answers.  And due to that relationship, he was willing to help out.  He didn't have to do that, nor did I absolutely HAVE to come up with an answer myself.  But because we both went beyond the normal boundaries of our areas of responsibility, a client is back to business as normal.

As I've made the transition into the consulting world, I've become more aware of developing those personal and business relationships that will expand your abilities to get things done.  I've been traditionally "not very good" at networking.  This year at Lotusphere I had two goals.  The first was to learn as much as possible about Websphere Portal.  The second was to network.  I was very happy with both results.  I met
Ed Brill, and now he's coming to speak to our user group in June.  I met Libby Schwarz and Bruce Elgort.  Chris got me invited to an e-Pro dinner where I met more people.  I feel so much more tuned in to the world of Domino professionals out there.  And it's those relationships that allow you to do more than you ever thought possible.

To Chris specifically, I say "thanks so much" for your help today.  And to those I IM and email on a daily basis since Lotusphere, I say "thanks" for helping me be more effective.  And to the LG&T (you know who you are), thanks for keeping my humble for the last six years...  
A picture named M2


So you need to remove an icon from your Notes workspace?

Category Software Development

Awhile back, I was faced with a situation involving migration of applications from one replica on a server to another replica on a different server.  While we could explain to users how to switch their workspace icons, we felt that most users would get confused over that.  As a result, we decided to automate the process.  If you
download the attached zip file, you'll find an NSF file with design elements you can paste into a database that will walk the user through the process whenever they open a database that is being migrated.  You'll find the developer instructions for implementation in the ChangeServer form...

This solution affectionately became known as "Duffware"...  

Have fun!


Wanna guest blog? Now's your chance...

QuickImage Category Blogging

It's getting close to the time where the Duff family starts its trek across the US to the Land Of The Mouse.  For those who don't know, that means Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Yes, I am proud to admit I'm a Disney nut.  Between last year's vacation down there in June, a short stay prior to a 20th anniversary Disney cruise in October, Lotusphere in January, and the upcoming trip, I'll have been down there four times in 12 months.  Not bad when you consider we live thousands of miles away.  We have a Disney Vacation Club membership (basically a timeshare), too...  That's usually how we are able to stay on property down there for not very much cash.

We get the questions every time...  How many times have you been down there?  Don't you get bored?  The answers are lots and no.  It's one of those things that works on many levels for me.  First off, there's the fun of being at Disney.  After that, there's the study of Disney as a corporation and how they run the parks.  It's a study in how things should be done.  When you've been there as many times as I have, you can start to look for little things that you don't see on your first visit(s)...  Like the mural at Malestrom (in Epcot)...  Ever notice that one of the vikings in the ship is wearing mouse ears?  The fact that Lotusphere is held there also adds to the atmosphere for me.  LS has meant a lot to me over the years, and I always associate Disney and LS together.  It's meant a lot to our family over the years, too.  When I go by myself (thinking I just want time to wander on my own), I almost always end up thinking how much the kids and/or wife would like one thing or another.  And to get horribly philosophical, there is a connection you feel when you walk down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, knowing that you are part of Walt's dream and the experiences of millions over the years.  Yes, I've got it bad...

So...  starting mid next week, this blog will go silent for awhile.  I know that Chris will probably take the opportunity to trash the blog in my absence knowing there is little I can do about it.  Maybe Libby will be gone too and Chris can blog on all three!  If anyone else is interested, send me an email.  I can work something out to get you an ID and connection info to fill in during my absence...


Someone else thinks Microsoft's in decline... (and my kid survived the hockey game last night)

Category Microsoft

In the latest issue of eWeek, Aaron Goldberg has an opinion piece titled
Microsoft Hits Downslope.  In it, he talks about technology cycles and suggests that Microsoft is beginning the end of their cycle of software dominance.  Since I've blogged on this before, I thought it was worth a mention here...

The main comparison that Goldberg draws is to the IBM of the '80s.  They used to be the dominant company and platform, but due to changes in the customer environment, they lost their edge.  In the same way, Windows is reaching the same point in it's lifecycle.  He sees this for three reasons...  There is now more of an emphasis on cost control, not new features, there are now viable alternatives, and Microsoft has lost touch with the needs of the customer.  I like the quote from the third point...

"Third, Microsoft has contracted the same disease IBM had in the mid-'80s.  It's called screw-your-customer-itis.  The symptoms go from the ill-timed price hikes last year disguised as licence changes to the poorly executed, capricious end-of-life announcements for key products to the carnage they've left in the "Windows-compatible" software business."

He doesn't see this decline happening next year, nor does it mean that Microsoft will become irrelevant.  But he contends that the Microsoft of the 2007 - 2010 date range will resemble the IBM of the mid-'80s.  I agree with him...

And the hockey game...  My kid is 5'4" and is around 155 or so.  He's been playing hockey for a couple of years.  He's OK, but matched up against kids who have played most of their life, he suffers at the skill position.  As a result, he tends to play an aggressive role.  He'll try to get under people's skins in order to take them out of their game.  And remarkably, he's quite good at it.  Two weeks ago, he REALLY got under the skin of another high school player who also happens to play major junior level.  The kid is also 6'4" and weighs around 230.  Ian goaded him into slashing calls and a 10 minute misconduct (with no penalties in return).  Last night was the return match, and Ian was pretty sure it was going to be his last day on the planet.  I'm not sure whether he was disappointed or pleased, but the other kid didn't show up for the game.  Most of Ian's "friends" were disappointed, as they had all been angling to see who would inherit Ian's earthly possessions.  Since he had a new lease on life, Ian had to get OTHER kids on the opposing team to take dumb penalties.  And while he did draw a couple of matching roughing calls, he also got another kid removed with a game misconduct.  I think I'm raising a goon...  :-)


Book blogging...

Category Book Reviews

Reading Libby's blog today, she had links to a couple of sites that scan updated blogs for links to books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's.  They then compile lists of who is blogging about what books.  The lists are driven off of the weblogs.com site, but I hadn't activated the feature in Blogsphere that pings that site when I update/add an entry here.  After a small agent tweak, it works great!  I now can spread my warped reading interests to the world!  BWAH-HA-HA!!!!

And on that note (and since I have my laptop back!), I have a couple of book entries over the last three days that haven't made it to my blog yet...

The first one is Sims, by F. Paul Wilson.  In this near-future novel, a corporation has created a life-form which is basically a chimpanzee with human DNA added in.  These creations are used as cheap, compliant labor, making a fortune for Sim-Gen.  But when a move starts to unionize the sims (and thereby move them more into the realm of persons instead of products), the company has to protect it's future.  There are some great twists and some interesting issues to deal with.  I recommend this one...

And the second one is an oldie...  It's Beauty & The Beast by Ed McBain.  This is a pretty short book written back in 1982.  McBain has written a ton of books, and he's considered the master of the police procedure novel (think Hill Street Blues in print).  This one is part of his Matthew Hope series, in which a lawyer finds himself trying to defend an African-American husband against the accusation of murdering and burning his white wife.  As a novel it's fine...  A very quick read, and a story with some interesting twists.  What is VERY interesting is seeing the style of writing and attitudes that were common in 1982 but that would get you flayed alive if you tried it today.  For instance, the whole issue of white/black relationships is central to the story, and it's a very uncommon thing in the Florida community where the novel is set.  Also, the user of the "N" word is very common in the book, which I don't think a white writer could do these days.

Bas...  thanks for the latest box of McBain novels...  I really like them!


My laptop lives, Bruce did good, googling your phone number, and other random stuff...

Category Everything Else

OK...  The lead story...  MY LAPTOP LIVES!!!  
A picture named M2
  • My wife took it to the Gateway store on Friday to get it repaired, and they said it would take 7 to 10 business days to get it back.  Today it arrived via UPS!  It appears to be in perfect working condition.  I think they replaced the keyboard, as it sounds a little different.  But I am SO thrilled to get my toy back...
  • I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the words of encouragement and support on my last post related to the dysthymia.  I was overwhelmed with the outpouring from this group, and I am honored to be part of it.  I'm also encouraged that some people have decided that they too need to investigate some options, and that makes me feel great that I may have been able to play a part in helping others...
  • Today's Portland Oregon Notes-Domino User Group had our own Bruce Elgort as a speaker.  He did a great overview of many of the OpenNTF projects, and we learned a lot.  As part of today's event, we had a contest to see who could bring the oldest Notes item.  While we had some interesting contenders with Notes 3 student manuals and the geek badge from the first Lotusphere, the winner was Axel from Sirius.  He booted up his laptop, launched VM-ware, and proceeded to demo....  NOTES V1.1!!!!  I've never seen it before (except for a few scattered screen shots), but this was a working copy.  He showed the UI and the design environment, and it is absolutely amazing how many of the things that make Notes so powerful were there in the beginning.  Joe Litton was also there and took pictures, so head over to his blog and see what he ends up posting over there.  
  • Did  you know that Google has a very powerful (and scary?) feature involving phone numbers?  Go to the Google search bar and type in your phone number (like 8005551212).  If your number is published, it will return your name, address, and a link to get a map to your location.  If you click on the phone icon, you can get to a link that will allow you to get your information removed from the database.  This isn't anything that you couldn't find out from a number of other sites, but Google has made it very simple to see it all in one place.  This probably only affects people in the US, but it might be interesting to know if this works for European (or other) locations...
  • And finally...  A friend gave me a belated birthday present today.  It's a framed copy of a magazine cover from Telecom Magazine in May 1999.  It was when Enron Communications (later Enron Broadband) first made it's appearance, and they had nearly our entire staff line up for a picture.  I'm the guy pointed out by the arrow.  The other "funny" aspect of this picture...  The three guys in the front?  They were all part of the most recent indictment...  A picture named M3

A picture named M4


Saturday Morning Random Thoughts (laptops, The Matrix, books, etc.)

Category Book Reviews

Boy, the last two days have been rather crazy and full of stuff I wanted to blog about.  So, we're just going to do a collection of random thoughts here...
  • I saw The Matrix Reloaded on Thursday.  I must say I was disappointed.  The original was SO different than anything out there, and the story line was full of twists.  This one seems to focus way too much on the effects, and (at least to me) the plot doesn't really start to kick in until towards the end (which is just about where they leave you hanging for the next one in about three months).  I thought the fight scenes were too long, and I kept thinking "can we move on now?" during most of them.  I still thought the movie was OK, but I was afraid that the movie wouldn't measure up to the hype.  And at least for me, it didn't...
  • I finished the short book Since The Layoffs, by Iain Levison.  Since surviving the Enron layoffs, I thought it might be an entertaining novel.  The story line revolves around a guy in a small town where most people have been laid off by a factory in town.  In order to pay off his bets to a local bookie, he consents to kill the guy's wife.  He decides it wasn't so hard, so he continues to accept more jobs along those lines.  He also decides that killing people is a way to eliminate some of his personal problems.  But when he meets someone  who he starts to fall in love with, he needs to decide how to get out of the business.  It's an OK read, but not as good as I would have hoped.  It's one of those books you finish and say, "so what?"...
  • Now for the laptop story...  After seeing The Matrix Reloaded on Thursday, we came home and I checked my email on my personal laptop.  I then went upstairs and paid bills.  When I went back downstairs, I noticed that the laptop was shut off (which it never is).  When I started it up, nothing displayed on the screen, and the folded towel I use as an armpad was very damp.  When I lifted the laptop up, I saw a few drops of liquid there too.  It was obvious that one of my kids had spilled something on my laptop and killed it.  And like all good teenagers, neither one will 'fess up to it.  After getting over the initial distress, I started working with it a little to see what was and wasn't working.  It still boots up, and you can see a VERY dim image on the screen of everything booting up.  It appears that the keyboard's death is the main issue.  I had my wife take it to the local Gateway store, where they will send it off for repair.  I should be covered under the 3 year service package I bought (best money I ever spent!), and I should get it back in 7 to 10 days.  While I'm still not thrilled about losing my laptop, it has had some positive effects, which I've decided (after some internal debate) to share...
  • The last couple of years have not been easy.  The last six months at Enron were rough.  Then I was unemployed for the first time ever.  From there, we go to contracting/consulting at various levels of hours.  My older son (16) is diabetic, and my younger son (14) is not doing well in school.  And of course, there's always turning 40 (42 now) and the mid-life crisis.  I've been feeling more "down" than "up", and it was affecting many parts of my life (mainly personal).  After reading the experience of another Notes professional and his experience with depression and what he's done to combat it, I finally decided to seek some medical help to deal with this.  With assistance from some friends (thanks, C!), my doctor and some medication, the last couple of months have shown me that things can be much better.  I'm excited about things again.  I'm a nicer person to be around at home.  I'm not filled with so much self-doubt any more.  The laptop incident was an eye-opener.  Had that happened two months ago, I would have made life miserable for everyone at home for a VERY long period of time.  And thinking of past reactions, I really can't blame the kids for not wanting to deal with me after having broke my expensive toy.  But after an hour of fretting about it, I had come up with a plan for replacement if needed, how I would work through the issue, and was ready to deal with life again in the morning.  I also apologized to both kids for prior reactions (and both kids acknowledged that I've been much easier to be around as of late).

So why did I share that?  Because someone else I respected shared his experience online, I realized that what I was feeling and struggling with was "not normal".  I realized that I wasn't the only person who was struggling, and that there were options to deal with it.  Part of me thinks that I should just keep quiet on a forum such as this so that nothing could come back to bite me later on.  On the other hand, I know what it's like to go through life wondering why I keep bothering.  My situation wasn't dramatic (like bi-polar or clinical depression), but more of a low-level chronic melancholy (also known as dysthymia).  If you are struggling with issues like this, I urge you to see a doctor and get it checked out.  Life can be better...  And if you're a guy struggling with this, I recommend checking this site out...


If you have my site blog-rolled, could you make sure you have the right link?

Category Blogging

Please make sure you are pointing to my site at http://www.twduff.com instead of the old http://twduff.blogspot.com.  I have seen that some sites are still linking to the old site, and I'd like to get rid of it in the very near future....

Thank you!


Alternatives to Microsoft, and Giuliani's book "Leadership"...

Category Book Reviews

Informationweek reports in an article titled
Companies Weigh Microsoft Alternatives that Gartner is finding that governments are encouraging more government departments and companies to seek alternatives to Microsoft software.  This move is more pronounced in non-US companies, as there doesn't seem to be quite the concern over the reliance on Microsoft.  Linux is seen as the likely option for groups seeking to break out of the Windows-based operating systems.  Looks like I need to start becoming familiar with Linux...

And I FINALLY finished up Rudolph Giuliani's book
Leadership.  I decided to read the book after hearing him speak at the Lotusphere opening session.  He's a very dynamic speaker who faced some incredible challenges leading the city through the 9/11 terror attacks.  The book is interesting in that it gives you some insight as to what he faced during that period.  I tend to be somewhat skeptical of these types of "leadership" books in that I wonder how many of the decisions were based on predefined principles vs. how many stories are molded to fit a picture of the person as a leader.  Reglardless, there are some good principles to pull from the book.  A little side note...  During the LS speech, Giuliani mentioned how much IBM had contributed to the recovery effort.  I wondered (being the cynic that I am) if that was the part of the speech where he inserts the name of whatever company is sponsoring the speech.  But in the book, he specifically mentions how IBM contributed many of the computers that were used as part of the command center....  That makes me feel better...  :-)


Enterprise Blogging... A "Disruptive Technology"? (and Ray Ozzie's blog is back)

Category Blogging

In the latest issue of Computerworld, there's an article titled Blogs Play A Role In Homeland Security.  It talks about how blogs ease the sharing of information from the bottom-up in critical infrastructure agencies.  It's an interesting article to see how groups are using blogs in the enterprise.  But there's a quote from a software vendor that states that enterprise blogs "have all the hallmarks of a disruptive technology".  Might that be a little strong?

To be sure, blogs can have some unique applications in an enterprise.  They can put a personal face on a corporation, much like
Ed Brill's blog for IBM.  And Joe Litton has some interesting ideas on the use of blogs in the software development cycle.  But "disruptive"?  Personal blogs are trendy and have opened up new avenues for communications.  But enterprise blogging is a different beast.

I think that this might be another case of software hype falling short of software reality.  Maintaining a blog for ANY reason, be it personal or corporate, is as much a matter of culture as of technology (perhaps even more so).  There are plenty of personal blogs that started out with great intentions and then haven't been updated in months (thank you,
Ray Ozzie!)  A software developer who loathes doing documentation isn't going to become a prolific documentation specialist just because he has a blog.  People who are hesitant to share information aren't going to start doing so just because the enterprise mandated the use of blogs.  This is an issue we're all too aware of with groupware, and it isn't any different here.

So...  do you think that enterprise blogging is a "disruptive technology"?

SIDE NOTE:  In the process of getting a link to Ray's blog as an example of a "dead blog", I discovered that he has started blogging again after an extended absence...)


Great pair of articles, and a good read for you...

Category Book Reviews

From Matthew Murphy at IBM:

You may recall Microsoft's initiative to have Windows CE used for embedded systems in cars:

Microsoft has announced that the BMW 7 Series features its real-time embedded operating system, Windows CE. This comes shortly after Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit launched Windows CE for Automotive v3.5. This latest telematics software version based on Windows CE is an open platform that allows developers to create powerful in-car computing systems. It offers flexibility and choice of hardware platforms, peripherals and software components, as well as being able to take advantage of the growing community of experienced CE developers.   Siemens VDO Automotive AG, BMW's preferred navigation supplier used CE in the Control Display, part of the BMW's iDrive concept which gives easy operation and access to in-car features including the navigation, telephone, climate control and entertainment systems.

So now we have the inevitable news story a year later:

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Security guards smashed their way into an official limousine with sledgehammers on Monday to rescue Thailand's finance minister after his car's computer failed.  Suchart Jaovisidha and his driver were trapped inside the BMW for more than 10 minutes before guards broke a window. All doors and windows had locked automatically when the computer crashed, and the air-conditioning stopped, officials said.   'We could hardly breathe for over 10 minutes,' Suchart told reporters. 'It took my guard a long time to realize that we really wanted the window smashed so that we could crawl out. It was a harrowing experience.'

And for the reading review portion of our blog today...  I finished the novel The Jester by James Patterson and Andrew Gross.  I normally read Patterson's work for the crime thriller stories, and I initially thought that was what I was getting into here when I put the book on hold at the library.  When I got it, I was surprised to find that the story takes place in the 1050 AD time period, and involves a lowly jester fighting back against the injustices visited on him and the villagers by the ruling class.  They think he has a relic from Christ's time, and they want it badly.  He doesn't know what they are looking for, but he wants to avenge the death of his wife and child that occurred while he was off fighting in the Crusades.  If I had known the story line beforehand, I would have (unfortunately) passed on it.  Instead, it was a great story with plenty of twists and engaging characters.  Highly recommend this one...


What is IBM's core value proposition?

Category IBM/Lotus

In the latest issue of Application Development Trends magazine, there's a column titled "Open Source Upsets The Apple Cart".  The basic premise is as follows:

"Microsoft's recent quarterly SEC 10-Q report cited open source as a potential threat that could force dramatic price cuts.  Pricing, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.  Open source will also require vendors to demonstrate their core value propositions."


"Beyond all the spinning and positioning, open source is forcing vendors to revisit the question, "Where's the beef?"  Traditionally, value is what the customer buys, and competitive edge represents the way a vendor uniquely delivers that value.  It could come through pure technology advantage, domain expertise, delivery excelllence, or by virtue of a commanding market presence that implied that the product - and the support accompanying it - remains available.

"The software market is rife with contradictions as to what does and does not add value.  The suscess of Linux proves that operating systems alone don't carry intrinsic value.  Yet, Microsoft Windows illustrates the value of market dominance that draws all the third-party products and assurances of ongoing support."

With IBM's strong push into the open source and open standards area, the question is...  What is IBM's core value proposition behind delivering the technologies that become commodities under open source?

As I move into the J2EE application server world (Websphere and Websphere Portal), I see in many ways that IBM has taken a very confusing technology and packaged it  for ease of use and setup.  They are not there yet.  There are still far too many quirks in the process that can only be understood by those who are already up to speed with the application.  Experience still counts for a lot here.  But the direction that IBM is going with tools such as Express packaging for quick setup of Webspere Portal and the Domino Designer toolkit for Websphere Studio Application Developer shows me that IBM is committed to bringing this technology to a level where you don't have to be an IT guru to understand and use it.

Couple that with the approach of IBM's involvement on many of the open standards boards.  Many of the technologies you see coming out of IBM are being pushed as the proposed standard for the rest of the industry.  You could argue that this is no different than Microsoft's approach to making their own standards.  But at least IBM is willing to open them to group acceptance instead of taking the "my way or the highway" approach.

So...  Where do you feel IBM's core value lies, or do you feel that IBM is cutting their own throat by embracing open source?  The comment link is open for business...


The blog's been upgraded, and this was TOO funny...

Category Humor

OK...  I just upgraded to the latest version of the Blogsphere template, and it was a piece of cake.  I just made sure Chris Miller of Connectria was there to sign the agents, and everything worked great first time through.  There are now RSS feeds too.  I haven't played with them yet, but you're more than welcome to start using it.  If you have any feedback, just let me know...

And now for the funny part...  I was killing some time at Borders bookstore today before I met my son for lunch at Todai's.  While scanning through the tech books, I came upon this title...

A picture named M2 Now...  I suppose one could find humor in the irony of a book from Microsoft Press having the words "secure" and "code" together in the title...  But no, it goes even further than that...

It's not in the picture, but the book has a quote line ON THE COVER at the bottom:

"Required reading by all programmers at Microsoft" - B. Gates

Ok...  they may all HAVE a copy, but I'm betting it's used to raise the monitor a couple of inches...  It's for sure they aren't READING the thing!


Serious Microsoft Passport flaw uncovered...

Category Microsoft

And does anyone wonder why I would NEVER put my credit card information in Passport????

Read about it here.


IBM pulls away in app server race

Category IBM/Lotus

It appears that IBM is beating BEA (and Sun, of course) in the Web app server race.

Big Blue's share of the market for the software--used to run custom business applications written in Java--moved from 31 percent in 2001 to 37 percent in 2002, according to new research from Gartner Dataquest. BEA slipped from the top spot, dropping from 2001's 34 percent to 29 percent last year, the Gartner study says.


In the application platform suite category, IBM topped its competitors with 20 percent of the market, compared with 11 percent for BEA and 5 percent for Oracle, according to the study. In individual categories for integration software and portals, IBM again came out on top in 2002. In integration brokers, Tibco and WebMethods held the second and third slots, respectively. In portals, SAP and BEA held the second and third positions, respectively.


Correia said the growth outlook was "cautious" for all product segments within what Gartner Dataquest calls the application integration and middleware market. On top of slow software spending at corporations, Java application server providers will continue to face price competition from rivals and open-source alternatives, such as JBoss.

To read the whole story:  
IBM pulls away in app server race


Another Book Review - Java Servlet Programming

Category Book Reviews

Here's a link to another O'Reilly book review I did on the title Java Servlet Programming by Jason Hunter.  If you're moving into the world of coding portlets for Websphere Portal, this is a book you should get your hands on...


Review of the Portland Lotusphere Comes To You, and my life this week just got uncomplicated...

Category IBM/Lotus

Today was the Portland, Oregon Lotusphere Comes To You event.  As you probably know, this is a one day event hosted by IBM and various business partners (like Boom Vang Consulting) where selected sessions from Lotusphere are presented in a condensed format.  Overall, it's a pretty good event.  The price is right (free!), and it does give you some high level information on many of the different products.  If you actually WENT to Lotusphere, it's a little hard to sit through some of the information presented by people who didn't do the original talk.  But overall it works well.  I assisted Chad Layman (president of Boom Vang) on the Sametime presentation, and have a few questions I need to dig out answers for.  He did a great job on presenting that info (and no, this isn't an attempt to kiss up to the boss, either)...  A picture named M2  I did get to meet Catherine Lord from Ed Brill's team.  She did a good job on the session titled "The Boss Loves Microsoft...  Where Does That Leave Lotus?".  

And my week just got easier with a phone call a short while ago.  After debriefing from today's event, we decided that my time could be better spent working away in the office instead of driving up to Seattle tomorrow for Thursday's LCTY event.  We have four other people going up there, and they can more than adequately cover the event without the additional two people we had at this one.  Attendance at the Portland event was on the light side, and it sounds like the Seattle event might have fewer than Portland.  So, I don't have to pack tonight (as we were leaving right after work tomorrow), I can go to my kid's hockey game tomorrow night, and I won't get home around 9 pm on Thursday!


Book Review - JavaServer Pages

Category Book Reviews

As part of their User Group support,
O'Reilly Publishers will supply user groups with review copies of books for their members.  The only thing they ask is that the program coordinator get a link to or a copy of the review.  I do this on a regular basis to exercise the writing skills and to get free books!  A picture named M2

Anyway...  I just finished
reviewing the book JavaServer Pages by Hans Bergsten.  The review link is to the Quickplace for our Portland Domino-Notes User Group hosted by Valu.org.

Bottom line...  good book for learning about JSPs, and to help you get a handle on a technology that is becoming more relevant in the IBM/Lotus world...


Gonna be a busy week!

Category Book Reviews

Boom Vang Consulting is hosting two of the Lotusphere Comes To You events (in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington) on Tuesday and Thursday this week.  I attended last year's event in Portland as a member of BV, but not in any role.  This time I'll have the shirt and be available for questions.  I'll also be part of the Sametime session.  Guess I better read Chris Miller's latest article in e-Pro...  (gee...  three links in one short sentence!).  Also kudos to Ed Brill for providing us with some good info on Microsoft's Greenwich offering (their new IM software they are pushing).  While I think Greenwich could come up in Portland, I would be really surprised if it doesn't come up in Seattle...

OK...  That explains Tuesday and Thursday.  There's travel up to Seattle (about a three hour drive) on Wednesday and then back to Portland on Thursday night.  And then Friday is my birthday...  I'll be turning 42...  In this field, that makes me older than dirt (but still younger than
Joe!).  A picture named M2  My entire career has usually had me being on the younger end of the age continuum of wherever I was working.  I'm now the "elder stateman" at my current company...  How did that happen???  A picture named M3

And finally, a finished book...  
Sucker Bet by James Swain.  Tony Valentine is the main character, and he's a retired cop who now specializes in working with casinos to find swindlers.  In this one, he is asked to find out how a certain con is going down at an Indian casino, but he then finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation and some mafia activity that threatens his own life.  Very entertaining novel...


A good read, and e-Bay is wonderful...

Category Book Reviews

First off, I finished Phillip Margolin's latest book Ties That Bind.  It's a crime thriller based in Portland Oregon, and it involves a defense attorney that finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy involving a secret group of powerful members of society.  For one, I think it's a good story...  Not likely in real life, but a good tale.  And it also is an interesting twist to read a novel like this that is set in your own city.  You can actually visualize what is taking place as you've been there.  This is probably no big thing to those of you who live in New York or Chicago, but it's not as common out here...

And e-Bay is so cool...  I've sold a lot of used books on Amazon, so I'm into the concept of personal internet retailing.  I've probably bought more on e-Bay than I've sold there, but I've done both.  My wife is going to a quilting camp this summer (whatever...) and wanted to raise some funds for it.  She dug out some of her quilts and stuff yesterday, I took the digital photos, and we posted the items up there.  To me, I'm thinking that there's little chance this stuff would sell.  And of course, I was WRONG.  She already sold one set of blocks on a Buy It Now setting, and she's got opening bids on much of the other stuff...  


Time for the Saturday morning Random Thoughts....

Category Book Reviews

It's been a busy week between transporting kids to hockey and client work, so I didn't blog about a number of items in my email and/or that I stumbled across...  So now you get them all...

Finished a book the other day called
Darwin's Children by Greg Bear.  It's a near-future novel where millions of children have been born with the SHEVA virus which gives them certain genetic advantages.  Some people see this as the next evolutionary leap, while others see them as a threat to humans.  The story centers around a particular child and family, and their struggles to deal with society's view of this "disease".  Meanwhile, the father discovers archeological evidence that shows that Homo Erectus and Homo Sapien co-existed together in the past.  I didn't care much for the story, as it seemed to be pretty disjointed and the points the author was trying to make were pretty obscure in my opinion.

Friday was a strange day in my consulting career....  When I was laid off from Enron in September 2001, it was rather tramautic to be out of work for the first time in my life.  I started doing some contracting work through Boom Vang Consulting with a company I had worked for prior to Enron.  I started the week of Thanksgiving 2001 for what was to be an engagement doing Lotus Notes work through the end of the year.  Based on how well that engagement went, the contract was renewed through 2002 at 20 hours a week with the option for more if the situation called for it.  Since I was an hourly contractor at that stage, I was after as many hours as I could get.  The contract was renewed at that level for part of 2003 in order to complete a federally mandated project.  Since we're now done with that project, we're temporarily suspending the engagement so as to move the hours to the end of the year when some other projects are due to be completed.  Now that I'm full-time with Boom Vang, I am fortunately not "out of work".  I've got a lot of other stuff going on with other clients, and things are exciting.  But it's odd to think that for the first time in 18 months I will not be heading off to a particular place for part of the week.  It's been a great engagement, and it made the transition into the consulting world much easier than I expected it to be...  I almost felt like I was an employee on my last day on the job.

And finally...  You know you're addicted to computers when...   We're going on vacation later this month, and I'm concerned that three of my "public" mail accounts at Yahoo and Hotmail will fill up with spam while I'm gone, and that I'll miss real mail that will get bounced during that time.  I'm taking the laptop along in order to download digital pictures, but I don't know that I'll be doing any dial-up.  So I have a friend that will log on to the three email accounts while I'm gone and clear out the junk/bulk folders on a regular basis...  


"... prosecuting a piano player in a whorehouse..."

Category Everything Else

OK...  now that I have your attention...  
A picture named M2

I was actually going to write about work-related stuff today, but too many things happened that relates to a prior life and time.  As I've alluded to in the past, I worked at Enron Broadband from 1998 through 2001.  During the dot.com days, it was exciting and vibrant.  At my level in the organization (Notes developer), we thought we were reinventing the world.  In hindsight, we all know now it was a major con job.  While there's been a number of criminal charges filed to date (well deserved, I might add), most of them were on people who I knew of or didn't know at all.  Today they
filed additional charges against a number of individuals who I worked with when it all got started.  Without saying who is who, some of the people were real slimy, some were really nice, and others I really don't know if they were involved at the level charged in the indictment.

I took some time to read the actual
indictment.  It was a walk down memory lane to read the timeline of the events that took place.  One of the major fraud allegations surround the investors conference that happened in January of 2000.  It was when they announced the existence of the broadband unit and brought out the CEO of Sun to announce a major agreement to use Sun servers on the network.  I was at Lotusphere at the time, and the stock went up like 35% in two days.  If I had known then what I know now, I would have sold my options and started pursuing my dream of working at Disney for the rest of my life (because I wanted to, not because I had to).  As it was, I believed the hype like everyone else and held on to nearly all of it.  I did get our PT Cruiser and our Disney Vacation Club membership out of it, but it could have been so much more.

When you get to the end of the indictment, they list the money gained from insider sales, where the money was moved to after the sales, and what property is being sought for seizure.  It's truly amazing to see the dollars and toys that these people had.  It's also sobering to realize that these people pretty much have had their financial history laid wide open for the world to see.  

I wish it could have all turned out differently.  The stock and options I had supported a fair number of fantasies about what I was going to do after I turned 41 and retired.  Alas, it was not to be...  While there are times I think about decisions I would have made differently with what I had, I can sleep at night knowing that I did a good job for them while I was there.  I also haven't had to live with the fear of whether I would live out my years in a minimum security facility.  There aren't enough millions in the world to make me want to live through what these people brought on themselves...

Oh, and the quote in the title?  It was from an attorney for one of the individuals who turned themselves in today.  He was defending his client against the charges by comparing his role in the company to the piano player who innocently provided the music while everyone else was carousing and carrying on.  When I saw that quote, I couldn't help but steal it for the blog...  How else could I ever legitimately use the term "whorehouse" in my blog without offending?  
A picture named M3

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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