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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08/27/2003

Wow... a walk down Lotus memory lane...

Category Software Development

While reading new and updated documents in the Lotus/IBM Knowledgebase, I stumbled across one titled Lotus Customer Support Process and Dates For End Of Live Product Support.  I don't point it out necessarily as a reference, but as a trip down memory lane.  If you've been doing Notes/Domino for over three or four years, you'll smile when you see things like BeanMachine, Domino.Action, Domino.Chat, and my personal favorite, Weblicator!

So how many of these t-shirts do YOU have?  :-)  Yes, I still have the Weblicator shirt, and it gets drenched in sweat at the gym about once every two weeks or so...

08/26/2003

Team development in Domino...

Category Software Development

During the next couple of weeks, I'll be writing an article on team development in Domino.  I'll be covering the new Design Locking features in the ND6 Designer, as well as looking at some other options that are available on the market (such as offerings from TeamStudio).

If you have any input/recommendations/stories/etc., feel free to respond here or send me an email at my contact address.  I'd like to make sure to cover the information that you would find useful.  The deadline is a little tight (considering everything else I have going on right now), so don't delay!  :-)

08/24/2003

Cool NASA photos of pre- and post-East Coast blackout...

Category Everything Else


http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/images.php3?img_id=16273

08/24/2003

A life? I don need no steekin' life!

Category Book Reviews


The next month or so is going to be crazy...  In order to fill in some personal learning gaps, I want to learn SQL Server 2000.  And in order to motivate myself, I'm using the Microsoft certification test to measure my success.  My goal is to take and pass exam 70-229 by the end of September.  The side benefit will be another TLA (three letter acronym) to put next to my name...  MCP.  Since I already took and passed the DB2 Fundamentals test less than a year ago, it should help somewhat with the basic RDBMS concepts.


Somewhere in my free time, I also need to get started on article #5 for the Advisor series that Joe Litton and I are doing on Java.  And I also need to start mapping out how this information would translate into an approximately one hour talk.


Guess my recreational reading is going to take a hit during the next month...


But before that happens...  I did finish up Tom Clancy's
The Teeth Of The Tiger this weekend.  In his latest spy thriller, Clancy creates a shadow organization that gets information from the CIA and NSA, then uses it to "eliminate" individuals before they can commit acts of terrorism against the US.  I liked this a little better than some of Clancy's previous efforts.  I felt there was less "filler" in the middle, and the story kept moving.  There was also a decent examination of the issues surrounding the killing of people in a non-war setting who are committing acts of terror against a nation.  A good read if you're into the spy thriller genre.

08/22/2003

Welcome to a new blogger in the Domino community...

Category Blogging

Andrew Pollack, a well-known name in the Lotus business partner world has started to blog.  Take a look over there and say hi!

Welcome, Andrew!

08/21/2003

The latest book, and a couple of minor blog changes...

Category Book Reviews

First off, I just finished reading 24 Days by Rebecca Smith and John Emshwiller.  Yes, another book about the Enron debacle.  Smith and Emshwiller were the two reporters from the Wall Street Journal who started picking up on parts of the story, and broke many parts of it that ultimately led to the company's downfall.  There's not as much "inside dirt" in this view of the events, as they are writing from the outside looking in.  But I think this is the story as most of us experienced it.  They didn't have the smoking gun and they didn't have the inside info.  They were finding out the revelations and trying to understand the convoluted dealings that either no one knew about or that Enron was lying about.  After reading this book, you'll think "Boy, Enron really deceived a lot of people" and it will explain how so many of us, even former employees, trusted the company until the end.  

And a couple of minor blog changes...  In order to stop appearing so high in a couple of particular Google search terms, I've decided to modify the views that show Google/Yahoo searches as well as the list of referrers.  I now use an !@Contains selection formula to prevent these referrers and searches from appearing on my blog, so I hope over time I'll start to drift down the list for people looking for those terms.  I think this is the same thing that Volker ran into when he became the "expert site" on AOL software.  He finally just removed the referrer list from the main page.  I'd like to leave it there, but if this doesn't work I may take the same approach he did...

08/21/2003

What to do in a Terrorist Attack...

Category Humor

A little humor provided from a friend...  (Thanks, Bas!)

The US government has a new website, http://www.ready.gov.  It's another attempt at scare mongering in the style of the old "duck and cover" advice after WWII.

The fun thing is that these pictures are so ambiguous they could mean anything!  Here are a few interpretations.
image

If you have set yourself on fire, do not run

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If you spot terrorism, blow your anti-terrorism whistle.  If you are Vin Diesel, yell really loud.

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If you spot a terrorist arrow, pin it against the wall with your shoulder

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If you are sprayed with an unknown substance, stand and think about it instead of seeing a doctor.

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Use your flashlight to lift the walls right off of you!

image

The proper way to eliminate smallpox is to wash with soap, water and at least one(1) armless hand.

image

Michael Jackson is a terrorist.  If you spot this smooth criminal with dead, dead eyes, run the f*** away.

image

Hurricanes, animal corpses and the biohazard symbol have a lot in common.  Think about it.

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Be on the lookout for terrorists with pinkeye and leprosy. Also, they tend to rub their hands together manically.

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If a door is closed, karate chop it open.

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If your building collapses, give yourself a b***j** while waiting to be rescued.

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Try to absorb as much of the radiation as possible with your groin region. After 5 minutes and 12 seconds, however, you may become sterile

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After exposure to radiation it is important to consider that you may have mutated to gigantic dimensions: watch your head.

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If you've become a radiation mutant with a deformed hand, remember to close the window. No one wants to see that shit.

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If you hear the Backstreet Boys, Michael Bolton or Yanni on the radio, cower in the corner or run like hell.

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If your lungs and stomach start talking, stand with your arms akimbo until they stop.

img

Austin is radioactive, move to Houston

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If you are trapped under falling debris, conserve oxygen by not farting.

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If you lose a contact lens during a chemical attack, do not stop to look for it.

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Do not drive a stations wagon if a power pole is protruding from the hood.

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A one-inch thick piece of plywood should be sufficient protection against radiation.  Always carry one!

08/20/2003

New feature I just added to my Blogsphere template...

Category Blogging

Yes, I know about RSS feeds...

Yes, I know I should use a newsreader to follow the blogs on my blog roll...


Sorry, I prefer going to the actual site.


So, I normally click each of the links, launching however many IE windows I need, and then I quickly see if there's anything I want to read in each one.  But being essentially lazy, I really wanted to click a single link and have ALL my blog roll links launch automagically.  Sorta like doing a
SuperSearch on MartinScott.com.

If you check out my blog roll, you'll see a link at the bottom labelled "Launch Them All!".  That will launch each of the blogs in a separate window.  Let me know how/if you like it.  If I'm not raked over the coals for such a useless feature (but it's useful to ME!), I'll package up the design elements, ship them off to Declan, and also make them available here for download...

08/19/2003

The Google Toolbar is very cool...

Category Everything Else


After reading the
Google Pocket Guide last week, I was prompted to check out the Google Toolbar offered by the site.  Cool stuff!  Aside from having the ability to hit a Google search from the toolbar, it also sports a popup blocker.  No more Orbitz ads!  :-)  

If you haven't had a chance to try this great little addition to your browser, you might want to head on over and give it a whirl.

08/18/2003

And how in the heck did I become the site to see...

Category Blogging

... in order to learn how to hack xanga?  I'm watching my Google referrers very closely to clean out those hits so that I can get off Google's beaten path...  That, and LiveJournal icons...  

08/18/2003

OK... Last hockey post, I promise...

Category Everything Else


Here's the
online photo album at ofoto that links to some of the pictures I took...  Ian is the one in the white jersey, and Cam is the goalie in the red jersey...

A picture named M2        A picture named M3

08/17/2003

I am SO glad to be back...

Category Everything Else


Just spent the last 11.5 hours with my butt in the driver's seat of our car getting back from Penticton.  We started out at 8 am which was a little later than I really wanted to get going.  We stopped for lunch, and then had to wait at the border a little in order to get back into the US.  The border guard asked us all the usual questions, knowing that we had been to a hockey camp.  He then asked me to pop the trunk open.  That's where the two hockey bags had been for over 24 hours.  After a VERY brief check, he came back shaking his head and recommended that we air that trunk out...  No duh!  :-)  Lots of accidents on I-5 northbound (we were going south), but it slowed down our lanes while everyone looked.  I wish I had a transition day before going back to work, but no such luck...  Have plenty to do tomorrow at work...


I blogged over the course of the week, so there's some new stuff you can read following this post.  Have fun!

08/16/2003

Almost done....

Category Everything Else



It's Saturday night, and we're almost done with the week that was hockey.  Today was the last day for the camp, and it involved each of the kids playing in a game in Memorial Arena here in Penticton.  This is a classic small-town ice arena that just reeks of history.  The Penticton Vees won the world amateur championship back in the 50's, and there's no end to the reminders of this event.  In Portland, our major junior team plays in a couple of arenas that hold between 10K and 18K people.  You forget what junior hockey is throughout Canada.  It's played in arenas that hold 3K, that have benches instead of seats, and that are shaped like large quonset huts.  You understand the term "barn" as it relates to hockey arenas.  It's quite the experience...


The kids games went well.  Ian's was first at 7 am (WAY too early).  He was sort of responsible for the first goal when he missed a clearing pass out of his zone, but he was on the ice for 2 of the 3 goals that his team scored, and they won 3 - 1.  Cam's game was at a more reasonable time (2:30), but is more stressful to watch.  Since Cam plays goalie, all his mistakes show up on the scoreboard.  Fortunately, his team played very well in front of him, and he left the game midway through the 2nd period with a 3 - 1 lead.  The team went on to win 5 - 1.  A nice way to end the week.


Finished up a couple more books over the last couple of days.  On the business side, I finished
Built To Last from James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.  This is the book that preceeded From Good To Great, but actually deals with how great companies have succeeded over decades of existance.  The approach is to take companies like IBM and Disney, compare them to a comparable company that didn't make the same strides (Burroughs and Columbia), and distill what principles can be gleaned from these great long-lasting companies.  The point I liked most was the use of BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) to drive the company's growth and advancement.  

The other book on the recreational reading side was called
Running From Legs And Other Stories by Ed McBain (a.k.a. Evan Hunter).  These are some of his short stories that had never been published before.  Some work, some don't, but it's an entertaining short read.

Final observations from the Great White North...
  • Restaurants move a lot slower up here.  With the exception of the fast food places we went to, service was usually best described as "leisurely".  We would wait quite a while to get an initial order taken, and then we'd wait another significant chunk of time before we'd get the food.  We actually walked out of the Denny's here at the hotel the first day we arrived.  They seated us and then we were ignored for a good 10 minutes.  No water, no waiter, no silverware, nothing.  Everyone seemed to be engrossed in talking with other staff, wiping down counters, or whatever else they could do to avoid the customers.  
  • And what's the obsession with the letter "U" up here?  It's not "honor", it's "honour".  Hockey isn't "molding" character, it's "moulding".  We don't see "color", we see "colour".   And once you get that down, you can start dealing with the "center/theater", "centre/theatre" issue...

08/14/2003

So I guess New York ISN'T the center of the universe...

Category Book Reviews


It seems as if every time I'm gone somewhere with no internet access, something big happens in the news.  This time, it was the MSBlast worm and the huge power blackout back east.  The worm doesn't surprise me, as that seems to be par for the course with Microsoft any more.  Since neither of my machines are currently hooked up to the 'net, I'm pretty safe from infection.  But I'll need to make sure to get all the virus updates taken care of when I get home.


The blackout back east is very interesting.  I first heard about it on CBC radio up here, which seems to be the equivalent of PBS in the states.  Of course, all their news was centered around Toronto's blackout and how it was affecting Ontario.  Oh, and there's a few cities in the US affected too, like New York, Detroit, and Cleveland.  When I got back to the hotel room and switched on CNN Headline News, it was all about New York.  Oh, and there's a few areas in Canada affected too, like Toronto and most of Ontario.  Amusing to see how one's location affects the perception of the news, and to finally understand how we in the US can get such biased coverage based on our US-centric view of the world.  I must also 'fess up that my Enron background kicked in a little here...  My first thought was "I bet the Enron energy traders would have had a field day on this event!", followed closely by "I'm sure someone will figure out a way to blame Enron for this...".
 

One more day, one more book down.  
Writing On Both Sides Of The Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser is a good guide on how to use both parts of your brain to improve your writing and to break down the barriers and internal criticism of your work.  Since I seem to be spending more and more time in this activity, I thought it best to start understanding it more.  I recommend the book both to people who have to write as part of their job, as well as to people who need to write more but don't enjoy it.

Observations:
  • The tech guy at the library told me that the problem with Hotmail not working was due to the worm.  Doesn't quite explain how come JavaScript functions on Yahoo didn't work, but it doesn't really matter.  It's not my library, it's not my city, it's not my country...
  • I'll be glad to get back home.  The trip here has gone better than I expected (especially considering the horrible start), but I'm tired of living out of a suitcase and not having internet access whenever I want.
  • I wonder if either car will ever smell the same after the hockey gear stench has permeated all the fabric...

08/13/2003

I'm getting lots of reading done...

Category Book Reviews

When you are sitting in the car outside a skills center or a field where your kids are doing plyometrics, there's not a lot to do except read (and try to stay cool).  As a result, I met one of my goals, which was to finish up all outstanding book reviews I had going for O'Reilly.  The last one I had was the book Learning Java by Patrick Niemeyer and Jonathan Knudsen.  While it doesn't have quite the flair of a learning guide like Head First Java, it is very well done and a valuable addition to your bookshelf if you trying to learn Java.  You can read my review here.

I also finished a novel quicker than I expected...  This one was titled
Temple by Matthew Reilly.  It's like reading an Indiana Jones movie.  The government asks a linguist to translate an ancient Spanish manuscript that talks about an Incan idol that's made from a meteor.  A number of groups are trying to track this idol down as it is the missing ingredient for a bomb (called the Supernova) that can literally destroy Earth.  Non-stop action, plenty of plot twists, and quite a few "you've got to be kidding me" moments.  If you can suspend your moments of disbelief, it's a fun read.

Observations:
  • America is a violent society.  Ian said that the number of shooting deaths in Canada last year was so low as to be a great number for a single major US city.  That could explain why they asked if we had any guns when we came across the border.  Watching the Seattle news in the morning, it was a series of one shooting death after another.  Guess it takes being out of your culture in some form to see just how bad your culture is...
  • How can you take Canada's currency seriously when they call their dollar coin a "looney"?  Yes, I understand they have a loon on one side of the coin, but still...
  • Last night I stayed in the room and did laundry while Sue took the kids to the evening ice session.  I was getting real tired, so I stretched out on the floor between the beds.  When I woke up at 10:30, there were three people hanging over me with maniacal grins and laughing.  I was apparently snoring (I'm SURE I don't snore) and they were trying to apply a Breathe-Right strip to my nose without waking me up.  I'm glad THEY thought it was funny!

08/12/2003

Another day, more hockey...

Category Everything Else


When you get to Tuesday or Wednesday of camps like this, all the days start running together.  You are used to the schedule, you know where all the meeting spots are, and you just start getting into the routine.  Not having anything unusual happen is probably the best thing at this point...  The worst part of today was waking Cam up at 6:30 thinking his session started at 7:45 like normal.  Turns out that today's stuff didn't start until 9:20.  He wasn't very happy with me...  :-)


Had to have one of the cars looked at due to some knocking noises from the engine.  The GM dealership next door to the hotel doesn't really know anything about Saturns, but they at least listened to it and told me that it was not a major issue that needed to be fixed before we head back.  That was good to know.


Finished one more book (and review).  It's the
Google Pocket Guide by Tara Calishain, Rael Dornfest, and DJ Adams.  I wasn't expecting much when I received it, but I was very surprised.  There's a lot more to Google than I had realized, and I can't wait to get back home and try out some of the features I haven't used before.  You can read my review here.

Observations...
  • This is a cultural stereotype and generalization, but people up here are much more polite than I'm used to.  Staff at stores and fast-food places actually answer your questions and listen to you.  
  • There are few minorities around here.  Hockey tends to be a "white" sport with relatively little minority participation (when compared to sports like basketball or baseball).  And I assume that the closer you move into the central part of Canada (a lot of agriculture), you start to use some of the cultural diversity.  In Portland, much of your service industry has a lot of minority representation.  Up here, all your fast-food help seems to be young white females.  Nothing right or wrong there, just very noticeable.
  • There also seems to be less of a problem with obesity up here.  Whether it's because this tends to be a "resort" town or something else, I'm not seeing a lot of really heavy people.  Makes my "over-weight-ness" even more obvious.
  • Internet connectivity is a bit better than I ranted about yesterday.  It appears that the six terminals have different configurations (that the library staff can't figure out).  I was waiting for a terminal yesterday and I saw someone using Hotmail.  Since I couldn't get it to work yesterday, I was a little miffed.  I decided to sign up for a station I knew was functional, and it was OK after that.  Someone else was complaining at one of the "non-functional" stations, and the librarian was trying to pass it off as a "slow" site.  While part of me wanted to get involved in helping them fix it, I decided that staying out of it was probably a better idea...  

08/11/2003

It's amazing what a good night's sleep will do for one's attitude!

Category Everything Else


Much better day...  I got between 8 to 10 hours of sleep last night, so I was much better prepared to handle the newness of the camp routine.  Today was my day to follow Ian (my wife and I are switching between kids), so that means I have to make sure to have snacks, sports drinks, insulin, etc. ready whenever needed.  And generally speaking, it went well.  Ian's doing "Shooters And Scorers" camp, and it's a LOT less demanding than Cam's goalie camp.  Ian didn't have to be to his first session until 9:20, where poor Cam had to be ready to go before 8.  After various lectures, workouts, etc., the day concluded at McLaren Arena with about four hours of ice time until nearly 10 pm.  Once again, Ian's sessions weren't bad, but Cam was exhausted!  Spending four hours in 30 pounds of equipment, constantly getting up and down, taking pucks from shooters, and so forth.  He had more exercise today than he's probably had in the last month!


I got two O'Reilly book reviews done, both related to UML.  The first one was
Learning UML by Sinan Si Alhir and the second was the UML Pocket Reference by Dan Pilone.  Both very good resources for learning and using UML.  When I get back to Portland, I plan on spending a great deal more time with the Learning UML book.  You can read both reviews here.

I also finished a book called
How Would You Move Mount Fuji? - Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle by William Poundstone.  It covers how Microsoft uses the job interview as a way to test the creativity and problem-solving ability of the prospective employee.  Questions such as "How would you weigh a jet without scales?", "How do they make M&M's?", "How many piano tuners are in the world?", and the question in the title of the book have actually been used in Microsoft interviews, and this book talks about the reasoning behind this type of interview as well as analyzing the answers to these questions (and what the interviewer is looking for).  I found out a couple of things...  I don't do well with these kinds of puzzles, and I would never get hired at Microsoft...  :-)

General observations of the day...
  • Worn hockey gear is the WORST smelling scent in all of sports.
  • I couldn't find my Intel wi-fi card before I left, and my Cisco one isn't properly configured.  So, no wi-fi (if I could even find an access point).
  • The internet access at the library here sucks.  They have JavaScript turned off, so I can't log on to my Hotmail accounts, nor can I send an email via Yahoo as it won't load the rich text editor.  Of course, the link to switch over to a plain text box doesn't work either.  So I had to ask Joe to clear out my email accounts by sending him instructions in three emails using strictly the Subject line...  :-)
  • I just assumed the cell phones would work up here, as they worked in Vancouver last time we were there.  Bad assumption.
  • I am SO directionally-challenged!  I have gotten lost so many times it's not funny.  And this isn't a large town!  But to be fair, the map for the hockey school facilities isn't the best.  There are a number of buildings involved, and most are within a block or two of each other in a large campus.  But there is one arena that you get to by bus.  Looking at the map, it appears to be more more than two or three blocks away.  In reality, it's two or three MILES.  The map also makes it look like the two streets that bracket the arena are a block apart.  They are actually about 10 blocks apart.  If I hadn't quickly decide to follow the bus to the arena, I might STILL be looking for it...

Enough for today.  It's late, and it's another early morning tomorrow...

08/10/2003

They say the worst vacations make the best stories...

Category Everything Else


... and this one is starting off to be a real doozy!


We're up in Penticton, British Columbia in Canada for a hockey camp for our two kids.  We needed to have Cam checked in at 11 am on Sunday, and Ian had to work until 11 pm in Portland, Oregon.  The drive is 10 hours...  Yeah, I wasn't looking forward to it either...  The good part of the trip was there's no traffic at that time of the morning, so we made the Canadian border in about 4.5 hours.  The bad part is I was doing it on an hour's worth of sleep.  I found that sugar-free Red Bull energy drink is pretty good stuff...


Once making the border, things got messy.  Our instructions were less-than-wonderful, so I missed the turn to start out with.  Backtracking, we stopped at a Wendy's (still open at 4:30 am) and found a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer that got us going in the right direction.  Five hours and lots of slow roads later, we arrived in Pentiction, where I then promptly got lost again.  The city is on a lake, and the map looked pretty clear on that.  What the map DIDN'T show is that there is a lake on BOTH ends of the town, and I didn't know that.  Trying to find a hotel based on a wrong lake doesn't work well.  


Then things got ugly.  Sue had left a day early to stay with her parents overnight just before you get to the border.  She was then going to drive the rest of the way and meet us up there before Cam's 11 am checkin.  To complicate things, our T-Mobile cell phones don't work up here.  11 am comes, no Sue.  Noon, no Sue.  12:30, no Sue...  Honestly, I was stressing out big time.  Sue had done most of the setup of the trip, so I was working on less-than-complete info.  Sue had the kids hockey sticks.  And due to lack of sleep, I was envisioning the worst having happened to her.  The relief was great when she finally showed up just after 12:30...  


The room up here at the Sandman is rather small.  We've been spoiled with the type of rooms we stay in when on a normal vacation.  The bad thing is having four people in the room.  The saving grace is that the kids are both busy from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, so we're not spending much time here.  Sue gets rather stressed at clutter, so she's on them constantly to clean up.  And since both kids are, quite frankly, slobs, I play the peacemaker most of the time.  I think the kids are going to be worked harder than they ever have been worked on the ice, so the room is going to be pretty much a crashpad for most of the trip.


Enough for today...  It's 6:30 pm, and I'm exhausted with lack of sleep and the stress of the day.  I'll see if I can discover any wi-fi points on Monday.  There's a Starbucks as part of a Safeway store up here.  Perhaps I'll have to "drive by" and see if the laptop picks up any access points from outside.

08/09/2003

Wrapping up this week, and prepping for next week...

Category Book Reviews


It's been a rather busy week...


We had a meeting with our users on Friday to examine our timesheet system we're developing using XP.  They were very pleased with the look and feel of the form so far.  I'm happy with the results so far, and it should be a really good system when we're done.  And "done" should be around the end of this month.  Also, "done" in XP means that you have a release-able product.  It's not completely finished (what system ever is?), but it will be such that we can start using it and getting value for the time spent developing it.


Book reading has "slowed down" a bit...  Just finished a novel called
Critical Condition by Peter Clement.  A doctor has a stroke (during sex, but that's not important!) and she's rushed to emergency.  While being treated, she's exposed to a secret treatment therapy involving stem cells.  She starts showing rapid improvement, but she's trying to help uncover the doctors and the mystery surrounding what was done to her.  There is also a killer on the loose that seems to be murdering all the doctors involved in this, and she's next on the list.  It's an OK book, but the middle part of the book seems to leave you hanging as to why all this is occurring.  I give this book an "Eh..."  :-)

Joe and I got the edit PDF version of our first Java article back from Advisor this week.  It was SO cool to see our writing surrounded by all the Advior trappings, and to see what it will look like in print.  We made our corrections and got them back to our editors.  It looks as if the first one will debut in the October issue!  Whoo-hoo!  Thanks for all your help in getting us to this point, Rocky!

And this upcoming week should be "interesting"...  The kids have a hockey camp in Penticton, British Columbia (in Canada).  It's an eight hour drive to get there, and we have to take off after Ian gets off work at 11 pm this evening.  Guess who's driving all night???  While I won't be at work, I'm not looking at this being a real vacation.  Due to Ian's diabetes, we really need to be at the ice rink to handle any emergencies that might come up.  Therefore, we'll be in the arena between 10 to 12 hours a day.  I love my kids, but this isn't my idea of time well spent!  So, in order to feel like I've done something, I'm packing up my laptop and a ton of books.  I hope to get a few O'Reilly book reviews done, as well as getting a good start on article #5 for our Java series.  I also want to make an attempt at getting some ideas down on how to fashion a presentation on learning Java.  It's a good thing I like what I do...  :-)


So....  I hope everyone has a great upcoming week.  I may blog from Penticton if I can find a wireless hookup somewhere.  If not, I'm sure
Chris will feel free to hijack my blog if necessary...  :-)

08/08/2003

Following are three mods to the Blogsphere software...

Category Blogging

I have forwarded them to Declan, but I decided to also post them here after one other Blogsphere user expressed an interest in getting them in order to fix a problem he was having.  

I almost ended up NOT posting them due to all the trouble I had.  I first tried to post all three in one entry, but I had problems with the links.  Then my internet connection timed out while posting them separately last night.  Then I find out this morning that the hosting server went belly up last night during the backups, and that my posts from last night got dropped.

I repost them once more hoping they are not jinxed in some fashion...

08/08/2003

Mod To Blogsphere - Fix Verify Referrers Agent

Category Blogging

Here's a modification I made to the Blogsphere template and forwarded to Declan.  Feel free to download and determine if you want to install them prior to the release in a future version of the software.  Just pull the design elements from the download database and copy into your template.  All standard disclaimers apply to testing before use...  :-)

Fix Verify Referrers Agent - this agent would throw stack trace errors in the Java program if a connection could not be made to the referring site.  The errors would show up in the system log and drive administrators crazy!  These fixes now report on the reasons why a validation failed and lists those failures in a Failed Validation view.  The agent is also changed to allow for scheduled runs or manual runs as opposed to running on all new/modified documents.

08/08/2003

Mod To Blogsphere - RSS Feed Validation Fixes

Category Blogging


Here's a modification I made to the Blogsphere template and forwarded to Declan.  Feel free to download and determine if you want to install them prior to the release in a future version of the software.  Just pull the design elements from the download database and copy into your template.  All standard disclaimers apply to testing before use...  :-)


RSS Feed Validation Fixes - These fixes will correct errors that prevented the XML feed file from validating properly.

08/08/2003

Mod To Blogsphere - Add Yahoo Searches To Google Hits

Category Blogging

Here's a modification I made to the Blogsphere template and forwarded to Declan.  Feel free to download and determine if you want to install them prior to the release in a future version of the software.  Just pull the design elements from the download database and copy into your template.  All standard disclaimers apply to testing before use...  :-)

Add Yahoo Searches To Google Hits - these design elements will examine referrer data for Yahoo hits and parse out the search terms just like Google.  Results will be included in the Google Hits listing.

08/04/2003

General Monday stuff (random)....

Category Everything Else


I got an email today with a humorous article called
On A Wing And A Prayer by Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly.  In order to keep from forwarding something that didn't really exist, I did some searching to find the original source.  If you have three minutes or so, click on the link and read the story.  It's laugh-out-loud funny...

Checking my referers list today, I saw a hit from
employerslawyer.blogspot.com.  That's enough to make me curious (and maybe a little paranoid?).  I clicked on the link, and it is referencing my post on outsourcing IT jobs.  I emailed the guy and asked how he got here.  It was due to a hit on Feedster that referenced my post due to some combination of words.  I always like when you see referrers that are from outside the normal Domino group.

For the first time in over 20 years, I am not wearing a wedding ring...  No, I'm still married!  Sunday afternoon I took a tumble (note to self:  step UNDER the wire, not over it!) and jammed my ring finger.  It was OK last night, and didn't look too bad when I woke up.  But it kept swelling over the course of the morning, so I went to the doctor to have it checked.  To be safe, we decided that cutting the ring off was probably a wise move just in case the swelling got any worse.  I certainly have a "marriage indentation" on the finger, so I can't pass myself off as single!  There's not much they can do, as the x-ray was clear with only a slight chance of a bone chip fracture.  They recommended taping the fingers together...  THAT oughta improve my typing!


I notice that a number of bloggers are starting weight loss programs.  I decided to do the same on August 1st, as I'm tired of being this fat.  At one point MANY years ago, I was considering doing some competitive bodybuilding.  But for various reasons, it didn't happen, and the body has had a slow downhill slide to "well-paddedness".  I was doing well under the low-carb style diet last year, but I got off track.  I'm going back to that plan now, and we'll see how it goes.  Here's to group success!


And today is my OTHER son's birthday.  Ian is 17 today.  This concludes the week that my wife and I dread...  "Birthday Week".  With Cam's birthday on July 29th and Ian's on August 4th, our paycheck takes a beating this time of year...  :-)

08/03/2003

One last weekend post... review of What Should I Do With My Life?

Category Book Reviews

Today I finished a book I've been reading over the last week or so.  It's titled What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson.  Po Bronson is the author of a couple of other books, such as Nudist On The Night Shift.  In this book, he looks at the age-old question that people struggle with; specifically, what should one do with his/her life?  Unlike other "self-help" books, this one doesn't attempt to come up with a formula to follow to discover your life's calling.  It's more of an exploration of the question both in his own life and in the lives of hundreds of people he's interviewed.  You hear their stories, and you realize there are no pat answers or systematic formulas, nor is there a single way to approach the answers to this question.  

This book can have a couple of effects on a reader.  It might be a comfort to know that others struggle with the deep questions of life and that they are not alone.  It can also be a bit unsettling to know that there ARE no guarantees or answers that someone else can give you.  These are things you have to figure out for yourself.

A recommended read if you are going through the questioning process in your life...

08/02/2003

Book Review - JavaScript & DHTML Cookbook

Category Book Reviews

As part of the User Group program, I just finished a review of the book JavaScript & DHTML Cookbook by Danny Goodman.  You can find the review on our PDNUG web site here.

Basically, it's a very good companion guide to a technical reference manual for JavaScript and DHTML.  This book gives real examples of code with solutions on how to do different functions.  Recommended...

08/02/2003

And the final Blogsphere fix is done, and my RSS feeds should validate properly now.

Category Blogging

Thanks to Rich for pointing that out, and those changes have been sent to Declan.

08/02/2003

The "guilt" of using open-source software...

Category Blogging

I don't know about you, but I've always felt a little "guilty" when I use open-souce software like Blogsphere.  

Why?

Well, when you start to get a little visibility in a tech community (for me, it's the Notes/Domino community) and you are using a very visible open-source tool to remain out there, I think it's assumed that you will participate in the development of that tool.  OpenNTF has done a fantastic job on the apps they sponsor, and the contributors have produced some incredible results.  But of course, the ratio of contributors-to-users is very small, and I all-too-often fall into the "user" category.

I can't give any good reasons that wouldn't more more than an excuse.  Generally outside of the work environment, I want to USE software, not DEVELOP it.  And therein lies the guilt.  There are some little things about Blogsphere that I know I could make better, but I end up being too lazy to do anything about it.  And when others (like Rocky, Joe, etc.) contribute some changes, the guilt gets worse...

So, in order to live with myself, I actually shipped off some changes to Declan over the last couple of days.  The first was a couple days back, and added the ability to pull Yahoo searches in addition to Google hits.  No big deal there.  The second was sent off last night, and it was a fix to the Verify Referrers agent written in Java.  I turned it into a scheduled agent using items in the Pending Verification view (instead of executing on all new/modified docs).  This will ease the load on hosting servers.  I also fixed the error handling to not show stack traces in the log, and to flag different types of errors that occur during validation.  There's also a new view that shows referrers that failed validation, and for what reason.  Still, not a crucial life-or-death fix, but at least it's a contribution...

This weekend, I hope to examine the RSS feed.  Rich pointed out to me that I'm getting validation errors, so I need to get that fixed.  And if I find any changes that should be integrated into the main package, off they'll go to Declan...

There...  I can now continue using Blogsphere and feel good about it...  :-)

08/01/2003

XP and Refactoring (it's cool!), and more bloglinks added...

Category Software Development

Today was another interesting day in our XP project.  I was unable to work with Alex on the project the last couple of days due to another project I was working on for our staffing group.  When he got in this morning, we started on some refactoring.  Refactoring is when you take existing code that is not working well (due to design or performance) and rework it for a more solid code base.  In XP, it's nearly a requirement that you refactor code whenever it becomes necessary.  The time taken now to refactor pays huge dividends in the long run as future changes become easier and less prone to errors.

The main concern in our refactoring today was performance-based.  We had made some early assumptions on how to handle time sheet detail records when a time sheet was saved.  While we realized it probably wasn't the most efficient design when we did it, we knew that we could reexamine later.  When we ended up with save times taking upwards of 20 to 30 seconds on a somewhat full timesheet, we knew it was time to refactor.  We added some timer code in order to narrow down the bottlenecks.  We quickly found that using the recycle() command on Domino objects in Websphere takes nearly a half-second per call.  In some cases we were doing a number of these during a submit, so it was slowing things down big time.  We eliminated those for some improvement.  We then reworked what would happen during a submit so that only underlying time sheet detail records that changed during a transaction were updated/deleted/added.  We had been processing the entire set.  When we finished, we ended up with response time for typical transactions in the 1 to 2 second range.  Not only is the system more efficient, but the code base is much more solid now.  Refactoring is cool stuff...

And in other news, Declan has the changes to include Yahoo searches in the Google searches view.  So once those make it into the next version of Blogsphere, you'll be able to see both Yahoo and Google hits in your "Recent Googles" block (the one I call Duffbert's Stalkers).  I also finally got around to adding about ten bloggers to my blogroll list.  These were ones I've added to bookmarks over the last month or so, but hadn't made them permanent.  

Finally...  I dropped off Ian this evening for his first day at his first job.  He's training for the next couple of days at the ice rink, and then he'll work a few full days next week when they strip down the ice for the annual maintenance.  I guess he's growing up (and I'm getting older)...  :-)

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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