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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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06/29/2004

Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Notes software development documentation... a question

Category Software Development

I have a question posted on the Lotus Informer site related to Sarbanes-Oxley and documenting changes to a Notes application...  If you could head over there and give it a read (and offer your opinions), I'd be forever grateful.  Thanks!

06/29/2004

Book Review - Enterprise Patterns And MDA by Jim Arlow and Ila Neustadt

Category Book Reviews

Over the last month or so, I've been reading Enterprise Patterns And MDA - Building Better Software With Archetype Patterns And UML by Jim Arlow and Ila Newstadt (Addison-Wesley).  This is another one of those books that I thought would deliver one thing and instead produced much more than I expected.

Chapter breakdown:  Archetypes and Archetype Patterns; Model Driven Architecture with Archetype Patterns; Literate Modeling; Party Archtype Pattern; PartyRelationship Patter; Customer Relationship Management Pattern; Product Pattern; Inventory Pattern; Order Pattern; Quantity Pattern; Money Pattern; Rule Pattern; Summary; Archetype Glossary; Bibliography; Index

Now, when I requested this for review, I was expecting something in terms of programming patterns and technical material.  What I got was a great business tool for modeling typical business objects and transactions.  The authors take a business concept like Inventory, and they build a model around it.  The model is an archetype, or a entity that exists in some shape in every business.  Through UML diagrams, you'll see all the parts that make up the archetype and how to take the parts you need to build your own version of the entity.  While the Inventory model is very comprehensive in the book, you can also pull the pieces you need to model the reality that exists in your own business.

There's some very practical benefits you can gain from this book.  If you're building an application and need to track a customer (for example), you can turn to the Party model and see all the parts that make up that type of entity.  This will help you to understand all the data elements that make up a Party, such as address (web, email, telephone, geographic), organization, person/gender/ethnicity, relationship, etc.  These are elements you might think of and/or remember to include, but having the model there helps you get it right early on.

If you're a business analyst, you will really get your value from this book.  And if you're a developer who also has to design the systems, you'll look like a wizard when you complete a solid design with features the customer didn't even realize they needed.

06/29/2004

And some random Microsoft articles...

Category Microsoft

From ZDNet:  The beginning of the end for Microsoft?

Interesting reading, with some philosophical and case study material.  

From The New York Times:  Microsoft to offer streamlined products aimed at programmers

Microsoft is going to release a number of their developer products as "express" packages.  Low/no-cost versions of the full packages like SQL Server or Visual Studio.Net meant to capture the hobbyist or non-professional developer.  A really good move on their part, as how can you compete with thousand dollar packages when the competition (such as Linux or MySQL) is free for downloading?  The quote of interest to me:

The new Express offerings will not be a big profit generator for Microsoft. "This is really about broadening the base," said Eric D. Rudder, a senior vice president. "We're trying to make the Microsoft commercial ecosystem bigger."

Sounds like they are feeling the pinch and are looking to stem the tide of developers to open source alternatives.

06/29/2004

Sun: IBM needs to contribute more to the open source movement... HUH???

Category IBM/Lotus


From InfoWorld:  
Sun's McNealy chides Microsoft, Red Hat, IBM

Scott McNealy is trying to fend off calls for Sun to turn Java over to the open source community.  In this article, we have the following bite:


Sun has been a good steward of Java, McNealy said, defending the company’s position to not open up Java under an open source format. “Somebody’s got to be in charge or nobody is,” he said. He also criticized IBM for urging Sun to offer Java under an open source format, stressing IBM has been lacking in its own open source contributions while Sun has been a major contributor.


Did I miss something here?  How much of Eclipse was underwritten by IBM?  Wasn't Xerces, the XML parser from IBM turned over to open source?  How much work has IBM been doing on the portal standards?  I'm sure there is much more I'm not aware of, too.  


I think McNealy needs to get his facts straight before shooting off his mouth like that.

06/29/2004

Some random Linux news articles...

Category Linux

The Straits Times (Singapore) - Microsoft chief attempts to stem Linux tide

It seems like less than a year ago, Microsoft was publically saying that there was no real threat from Linux.  Now Bill Gates is flying all over the place offering to create custom versions of Windows for very little cost.  

IT-Analysis.com - The Dominance of Linux on the Server

Quotes of interest:  An OS, or platform if you like, becomes dominant by virtue of becoming the source of innovation for the IT industry. That explained the rise of Solaris and the rise of Windows, but the spark has now clearly passed to Linux. It is really only a matter of time before Linux becomes completely dominant in the server space.

As for the desk-top, it is difficult to say. The major gating factor for take-up is that device vendors have yet to provide it with good driver support, which will only come with grater take-up. This may now be happening to some degree. I heard an interesting comment about a month ago. In the US Wal-Mart sells Linux PCs and is doing good business with them. Recently, I'm told, it started to sell these bargain PCs in units of 5, 10, 15 and 20. It's clear that home PC buyers don't buy such quantities. So, it looks like some of SME market is already voting for the Linux PC.

Techworld.com - Linux finds Irish banking champion

Allied Irish Bank is going to install Sun's new JDS in over 7500 branches.  While it doesn't sound like much of a moneymaker for Sun, it will serve to push the Linux desktop paradigm further.

06/29/2004

I haven't done a "what's been Googled here" in awhile...

Category Humor

I know a number of the bloggers occasionally go through their referrer hits to see what sort of search engine hits brought visitors to the site.  I haven't done that in awhile, so let's see what happened in the month of June...
  • Spam Sentinel - Warms the cockles of my heart to see people hit my site for that term...  :-)
  • lotus scream cam - is this some new piece of Halloween software or what?
  • "desperate housewives" and "wifeswap" - one simple posting about ABC's slutty fall lineup, and everyone comes looking...
  • kk32.dll - lots of hits on the latest Microsoft virus a day or so after I posted Microsoft's instructions for cleaning it up.
  • "Please allow me to vent.  I have had it." - Did I say that somewhere?
  • www.google.com free video clips hard core People having sex with animals - Excuse me???  Move along, there's nothing to see here.
  • "enron OR broadband OR girlyman Tom Duff" - From an Intel IP address in Santa Clara....  I'd love to know more about *that* one.
  • "enron OR broadband OR pantywaist dan porter" - Same Intel IP address, a minute before the previous entry.  Dan was my boss at Enron.
  • "is Barry Bonds supplementing" - your guess is as good as mine.
  • anti-gary - I thought this was hitting my thread about Microsoft speakers at IBM conferences, but I was wrong...

Everything else seemed to be Domino related in most cases...  One thing I've noticed.  I've heard that Google can go a number of weeks between visits to your site.  I'm finding that Google seems to pick up my content every couple of days.  I wonder if they have some sort of formula they use to determine how often to index your site based on new content.

06/28/2004

Book Review - Open Source Solutions For Small Business Problems by John Locke

Category Book Reviews

I just finished a rather interesting and different book on Open Source Software.  The title is Open Source Solutions for Small Business Problems by John Locke (Charles River Media).  The author contacted me and asked if I'd like to review the book, and I accepted.  Since this is an area which is grabbing more of my interest these days, it was helpful in many ways...

First, the chapter layout:  
Part 1 - Small Business Computing Infrastructure - Open Source Software in Your Small Business; Why You Need A Server; Setting Up Your Office Network; Open Source on the Desktop; Setting Up an Email Server; Setting Up a Web Server
Part 2 - Computing Your Business Operations - Customer Relationship Management; Calendar and Schedule Management; Document Management; Financial Management; Managing Resources, Schedules, and Projects
Part 3 - Extending Your Business With Open Source - Sharing Information with Your Partners; Marketing Your Message; Connect from Offsite; Providing Private Communications
Part 4 - Keeping Your Network Secure and Intact - Securing Business Data; Network Security in a Wireless World; Disaster Recovery; Viruses and Spam
Appendices - The Open Source Definition; Basics Of Networking; Common Open Source Licenses

When I first started reading it, I was expecting something non-technical in nature, something that would be targeted for the average business owner that knows s/he wants to spend less on software and is looking for alternatives.  And to be sure, the book does deliver to that group.  But there are also chapters (or areas within each chapter) where the content gets pretty technical.  For instance, the detail on how to set up a web server isn't for the person who simply wants to turn on their computer and go.  These areas are going to appeal to the in-house technical support person who's been charged with making it all work.  While you could (and probably should) find whole books on many of these topics, there's enough detail to get you started in the right direction.

I think Part 2 is extremely valuable, in that it helps both the business owner and the techie figure out what's available in terms of open source alternatives to the typical business software.  You learn about OpenOffice.org as a replacement to Microsoft's Office.  You learn about MySQL as an alternative to Microsoft Access or many other more expensive relational database systems.  You'd be able to find all this out if you dug around on the web long enough, but the author packages up the information in a single location and helps you start to understand what's available for you.

There's also a CD in the back of the book that contains many of the open source packages discussed in the book.  Being that these packages move pretty quickly as far as release cycles go, I think I'd prefer visit the web site for the specific package and download the latest.  Still, if you're wanting something quick, you'll have it on the CD.

At first, the mix of technical and non-technical content in each chapter didn't quite set right.  I wanted the book to target one or the other.  But the longer I read, the more I liked the fact that the book could serve as a single volume to allow both the tech and non-tech sides of a business to come together on common ground.  The non-techies can ignore the parts that are over their heads, but still understand the possibilities.  The techies will understand where the business is coming from, and will get a good start on implementing the software.  As a result, I give this book high marks for anyone wanting to some or all of their business computing to an open source model.

06/27/2004

Whoo-hoo! Duffbert has a penguin now!

Category Linux

Meet the newest addition to the computing basement....  Fedora Core 2 and Tux!

A picture named M2

I got enough of the desk cleared off to set up the spare machine, and I downloaded the four ISO images of the Fedora Core 2 system.  Other than it taking a long time to set up, it went without a hitch.  Now, there's only a 10 GB hard drive in there, and I just told it to load everything (desktop, server, the whole works).  So I think I have a whopping 2 GB free now.  :-)

My next task is to find a cheap 20 GB (or so) hard drive to put in there so that I have some space to do things with.  I'll then start working through a couple of O'Reilly books and figure out what I can really do with it.

I must admit it's rather cool to have two boxes on my desk...  One that is totally Microsoft for the core functions, and one that doesn't have a single shred of Microsoft on it.

06/27/2004

Book Review - Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich

Category Book Reviews

Yes, time for guilty pleasures again...  It's Janet Evanovich's latest Stephanie Plum novel, Ten Big Ones.  Every time one of these come out, I always fear it's going to be the start of a downward spiral a la Patricia Cornwell.  I'm happy to report that Evanovich is still on track with fun reads.

Stephanie Plum (a "fugitive apprehension agent") starts out at the wrong place at the wrong time when she witnesses a robbery by someone wearing a red devil mask.  She also sees his real face, and she's the only person who can identify him and stop a string of increasingly violent hold-ups by this guy.  Turns out he's part of a gang who wants her dead.  Plum, her "partner" Lula, and Grandma Mazur end up dodging gang members who are hunting her down.  Her cop boyfriend Morelli wants her to quit the job and hole up in his apartment, but she wants none of that.  Ranger, the mystery man who excites and scares her, loans her his truck after her car gets blown up (again!).  She hides out in his apartment, and then has to figure out how she feels about him vs. Morelli when he returns unexpectedly and finds her camping out there.  Throw in her sister's impending wedding and a transvestite wedding planner/bus driver/singer, and you once again have a wacky read with unforgettable characters.

I've yet to read one of these novels that I haven't liked.  There is less Vincent (the head of the bond agency) in this one, but much more Lula.  In fact, Lula ends up going out with Stephanie on most of the collections, and adds plenty of color to the apprehensions.  You also learn more about Ranger, and there's a fair amount of room there for the next installment.  Which I already am looking forward to...

06/26/2004

Book Review - Plan Of Attack by Dale Brown

Category Book Reviews

I think this will catch me up on my book reviews over the last week...  :-)

For some recreational reading, I picked up Dale Brown's Plan Of Attack.  This is one of those military war thrillers involving the use of hi-tech weaponry to defeat the enemy.  Overall, a pretty good read.

In the latest episode of Patrick McLanahan's adventures, he's been demoted a rank for once again skirting a direct order given to him for defending a certain area by having and using some offensive weapons when they are attacked.  He ends up tucked away at a desk top with strict orders to mind his own business and just do his job.  But he ends up getting intel that points to Russia preparations to launch a full-scale nuclear attack on the US.  His direct superiors won' t listen to what appears to be an outlandish conclusion, so he goes over their heads and ends up facing a court martial.  But of course, he's right and the attack takes place.  His small group of hi-tech commandos are one of the few resources left to counter-attack, and he has to once again disobey some orders in order to make his plan happen.

Since this book uses characters that have appeared in other Dale Brown novels, there is not a lot of background character development.  If you haven't read the previous novels, you might be a little lost as to why McLanahan is viewed in such a negative light.  The story moves along at a decent pace, and the different weaponry is interesting to think about.  While I didn't see it as a "can't put it down" book, I did enjoy the read.

06/26/2004

Security concerns may be Microsoft's achillies heel in the Linux conversions...

Category Microsoft

I know that most of the time, Microsoft vs. Linux arguments center around the "Linux is free" mindsets.  And while there are varying levels of truth to that statement, there are other concerns out there too.

From vnunet.com:  Munich Opens Gates To Linux

The story related to the Munich government switching to desktop Linux is now pretty well-known.  This article is an interview with the city IT chief, and talks about IT issues surrounding the decision.  There's one statement in there that should serve as a major wakeup call to Microsoft and send a cold chill down the spines of the marketing people:

What were the main reasons for the city's decision to change to Linux?
The key aspect was the ability to control the release policy ourselves; in other words to free ourselves from reliance on the product cycles of a small number of software companies.

Another important point, of course, was licence costs, and security also plays an important part. We are switching directly from Windows NT to Linux, since NT, which is non-secure, was followed by a number of systems from the same manufacturer, which were also open to attack.

Our OS was insecure, and the ongoing pattern from "the same manufacturer" is much the same.  This is something that cut-rate licensing and visits from Mr. Ballmer can't fix.  And based on the most recent security issues sweeping the 'net from Microsoft's latest software flaw, I don't know that anything else can either.  

So, it will be interesting to see if Microsoft starts touting how much better security is in MS software than Linux now...  :-)

06/26/2004

Linux, Wintel, and Lotus Workplace...

Category IBM/Lotus

From LinuxInsider:  Linux On Wintel - Think Dead Man Walking

OK...  I'm not quite ready to buy all the assumptions here, as large companies *usually* don't let newcomers destroy their markets.  Well...  um...  never mind that last statement.  

Anyway...  There was a line in this article I found interesting:

The Wintel oligopoly looks strong, but is extremely vulnerable because of Intel's failure to deliver on Itanium. Without a replacement for the x86, Wintel has no place to go but down -- and neither IBM nor Sun, the two companies with technically successful CPU strategies in the works, have anything to lose by accelerating that process.

Last week, I talked about the cell processor expected from Sony (NYSE: SNE) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) [Paul Murphy, "Fast, Faster and IBM's PlayStation 3 Processor," LinuxInsider, June 17, 2004]. This week I want to think out loud about what happens in the industry if Toshiba launches a PC based on this processor into the Asian market and IBM promptly follows suit with a series aimed at the American and European markets. Such a machine would run Linux, be compatible with most Linux software, and come with a subscription license to a suite of IBM software built around Lotus Workspace.  

It's not "converting the Domino masses", but instead targeting a whole new group of users for whom the field of collaboration is something new.  It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.

06/26/2004

Microsoft's latest security snafu...

Category Microsoft

I've reproduced the information that Microsoft is providing on their latest security risk that is putting millions of web users at risk.  I'm *still* awaiting for the first class action lawsuit to result from one of these massive virus attacks...

I'm getting real close to taking Microsoft's advice to "increase your browsing safety"...  Dumping IE for Firefox full-time.  

--------------------------------------------------------------


What You Should Know About Download.Ject
Published: June 24, 2004 | Updated June 25, 2004 8:35 P.M. Pacific Time

Microsoft teams are investigating a report of a security issue known as Download.Ject affecting customers using Microsoft Internet Information Services 5.0 (IIS) and Microsoft Internet Explorer, components of Windows. (Download.Ject is also known as: JS.Scob.Trojan, Scob, and JS.Toofeer.)

Important  Customers who have deployed Windows XP Service Pack 2 RC2 are not at risk.

Reports indicate that Web servers running Windows 2000 Server and IIS that have not applied update 835732, which was addressed by Microsoft Security Bulletin MS04-011, are possibly being compromised and being used to attempt to infect users of Internet Explorer with malicious code.

How to Help Protect Your Systems


Actions for Home Users

Install Critical Updates
Visit the Windows Update Web site to install all critical updates.

Check for Infection
To determine if the malicious code is on your computer, search for the following files:
  • Kk32.dll
  • Surf.dat
Steps for Windows XP users:
1.        On the taskbar at the bottom of your screen, click Start, and then click Search.
2.        Under What do you want to search for? click All files and folders.
3.        Under All or part of the file name:
type: Kk32.dll
and then click the Search button.

4.        Under All or part of the file name:
type: Surf.dat
and then click the Search button.

If either of these files is present, your computer may be infected. You can find tools to clean your computer and obtain up-to-date antivirus protection from the following software vendors participating in the Microsoft Virus Information Alliance:


Increase Your Browsing and E-Mail Safety
Follow the steps outlined on the page to Increase Your Browsing and E-Mail Safety.

06/25/2004

Book Review - Black Hat: Misfits, Criminals, and Scammers in the Internet Age by John Biggs

Category Book Reviews

I recently received a copy of Black Hat: Misfits, Criminals, and Scammers in the Internet Age by John Biggs from Apress.  While the information technology professional might not learn anything new from this book, it will serve as a readable resource to help typical computer users to understand the threat to their well-being when they surf the internet.

The chapter selection is as follows:  Black Hats: Things That Go Ping In The Night; Y.O.U MAYHAVE ALREDY 1!: SPAM; Deep Cover: Spyware; Shockwave: Worms and Viruses; Dear Friend: Scams; Upload Or Perish: Pirates; Break In: Hacking; Don't Get Burned: White Hats; Glossary; Selected Reading; Index

Biggs has written a relatively short (158 pages) book that deals with most of the major security risks an average user will face on a regular basis on the internet.  For example, the chapter on spam starts off with a real-life scenario involving Alan Ralsky, a well-known spammer.  You're then taken back to the early days of the 'net when the first generally recognized piece of spam made its appearance in UseNet.  The growth of unsolicted mail is tracked to current day levels, as well as the reasons why spammers do what they do.  He even takes a typical piece of spam mail and dissects the headers to show the reader how all is not as it seems in terms of where it came from and how it got to you.  The current solutions, along with the pros and cons of each are discussed, in addition to where spam seems to be headed in the future.  All this is done in a narrative fashion that stays at a level that is understandable to the average "Joe Computer User".

The chapter on scams is also very valuable for helping people avoid getting fleeced.  A lot of space is given to the Nigerian 419 scam, where you are asked to help someone transfer money out of their country into your bank account for a cut of the millions.  I keep thinking no one would fall for this, but it still keeps sucking people in.  Biggs also explains phishing scams, where users end up at web sites which are clever imitations of real sites.  The person enters financial or personal information, and then finds themselves the victim of credit or identity fraud.  This is definitely a scam on the upswing, and can catch people at all levels of internet expertise.

I personally enjoyed reading it, knowing that there were a number of people I would recommend it to.  Like my kids or my parents.  :-)  If you're not an IT professional but you are an internet user, this book will help you to understand and avoid some very real dangers out there.

06/25/2004

Book Review - Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly

Category Book Reviews

I recently finished Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly.  This is one of those techno-thrillers that you will either love for the constant action or hate because it's so implausible.  I tend towards the constant action guilty pleasure end of the spectrum...  :-)

Shane Schofield, a Marine with the code name Scarecrow, is leading a mission to Siberia to attack some rebels who are holding the world hostage with a threat to fire off nuclear missiles.  But when he gets there, he finds that he is the quarry of a number of bounty hunters who are after him and want his head to claim the $18 million reward.  And he's just one of 15 people on this worldwide list of targets.  He has to figure out who's on the list, why they are on the list, who's sponsoring the hunt, and stop the resulting terror that's about to be unleashed by these people if they are not stopped.  And by the way, he needs to stay alive himself.

Reilly purposely writes a novel that is designed to be constant cliffhanger action.  The scenarios are usually made up of insurmountable odds, which he then beats.  The escapes are improbable and spectacular, and if you're of the "hate it" camp, you'll quickly tire of the leaps of believability that you'll have to make to stay with the story.  But if you suspend belief and read it for what it is, an action-filled "Indiana Jones" type adventure, it's a lot of fun.

I'm not sure I'd recommend this to everyone, but if you just want an escape, it's great fun.

06/24/2004

Time to reevaluate my email accounts...

Category Everything Else

At the start of June, I had three main personal email accounts (one on Yahoo, two in Hotmail) that delivered up a whopping 54 MB of storage.  I tend to keep my mail files pretty small and clean, so I never really maxed them out.  The Hotmail accounts are pretty much throw-aways, and I've gone to only checking them once every two or three days.

Now, I'm sitting with four email accounts (add in the new Google account), and I have a whopping 3.5 GB of mail storage.  Now, just *what* am I going to do with that much space???

First off, I'm going to phase out my Hotmail accounts.  I've got a couple of MyPoints accounts that are about ready to reach a reward level that I'll cash in on.  At that point, I'll shut them down.  The Google account is quickly becoming my central point of reference for writing interaction and industry news.  The Yahoo account will still hang around for when I want to give out a real email address but don't necessarily want to take a risk on spam.  I know I can't keep the Google account spam-free forever, but we'll see how it all goes.

06/23/2004

A couple "new" blogs of note...

Category Blogging

First off, I've seen a few references to a new blogger...  Bob Obringer.  A very unique design with some really good content so far.  Welcome to the blogging world, Bob!

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mentione the relatively new e-Pro blog called The Lotus Informer.  This blog is managed by Libby Schwarz of NotesGirl fame, and will have entries by her, the technical editors of the different e-ProWire newsletters, and a few guest bloggers on occasion.  And the best part is...  We don't have to agree with each other!  Feel free to drop in and comment.  

06/22/2004

Living with a type 1 diabetic...

Category Everything Else

Ian's been diabetic since he was 8, and he's nearly 18 now.  He graduated from high school this week, and we gave him a trip to Disneyland with two of his friends.  It's tough to let him go, as what happens if he goes low or has an episode?

We know the answer now.  It's been quite an evening...

He took a nap, which is something he shouldn't do as it messes up his blood sugars.  His friends noticed he was not quite coherent, and tried to get some glucose gel down him.  No go.  They had to draw and deliver a glucogon shot to his leg.  He's back up and alert now, and they don't want me to make a rush flight down there to watch them.

Calls to the doctor, the hotel, the pharmacy, the cab company, and the kids...  It's hard enough watching (and letting) your kids grow up.  Lessons like this are even harder.  I think I'll feel much better once he's back Friday night.

If you happen to remember, say a prayer for his safety.  

06/22/2004

Giving Linux A Lead Role At Home

Category Linux

From LinuxInsider:  Giving Linux A Lead Role At Home

As a tech professional, I think this is a very good idea for a number of reasons.  For one, we should always be in learning mode in order to keep ourselves fresh and up-to-date with current technology.  Second, I would make the argument that Linux is quickly growing and you'll encounter it more and more as you move forward.  And third, businesses are going to be looking at Linux as a viable alternative to MS software with ever-increasing frequency.  If you take the time to position yourself now, you'll be in a prime position to be in the forefront of that movement when your company starts to wonder about alternatives.

And considering that all the software you need is available (legally!) at no cost, your return on investment should be pretty quick...  :-)

06/21/2004

Mon Dieu! France looks to open-source in challenge to Microsoft...

Category Microsoft

From Computerworld:  France looks to open-source in challenge to Microsoft

Yet one more example of a foreign government looking to open up the playing field against Microsoft...

06/21/2004

Microsoft... this is *not* how to win friends and influence people...

Category Microsoft

From NewsForge:  Microsoft sues Brazilian magazine, IT official for defamation

From Asia Computer Weekly:  Microsoft cries foul over open source bias

I find these two stories rather amusing.  Microsoft certainly is more than happy to use fear, uncertainty, and doubt to freeze the competition and the market.  But when government groups in other countries start asserting their independence from the Microsoft monopoly, that's "different".  I don't believe for a moment that Microsoft only wants a "neutral" policy.  In order to continue to satisfy shareholders and show consistent growth, they can't afford to have entire countries start turning their back on them.  

Microsoft is starting to show signs of maturing and leveling off so far as growth goes.  Stock buyback programs, cutting staff, cut-rate offerings to new markets to try and gain new market share.  I'm not all too sure I'd want to be an MS shareholder in the near-term.

06/21/2004

The Munich showdown... Linux vs. Microsoft... And the winner is...

Category Linux

Linux...

USA Today:  German city picks Linux over Microsoft

Bloomberg:  Microsoft loses Munich contract for 14000 PCs to Linux program

In my opinion, this is a *very* significant win as Microsoft was unable to buy their way past this.  Even with cheaper prices and significant licensing concessions, the city decided to go with open source software and not tie themselves into a single vendor OS solution.  It will also be a crucial test for the use and interoperability of Linux on the desktop.  I felt that this was the "year of the Linux desktop", and all it would take is one or two major companies to make the switch to open the doors.  Having an entire government operation will do just as well...

Time will tell how it all works out, but this could be a pivotal point in the history of the Linux/Microsoft struggle.

06/20/2004

Book Review - Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy

Category Book Reviews

While at my conference this week, I started and finished Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy.  This is a very nice cyberthriller with a number of plot turns that does a pretty good job until the very end.

A software company called Monkeewrench puts out educational software, but decides to go with a serial killer "who dun it" game.  While some of their clients aren't thrilled about the content, things are OK until a series of real life murders start mimicing each level of the killings in the game.  The killings are occuring once a day, and even with the cops staking out the locations, they can't prevent the killings.  The leading programmer (Grace McBride) is a security paranoid who is blaming herself for all the killings, and the cops are wondering if the killer is her or one of her four co-workers at the company.  The cops from two different killings are able to trace down who the killer might be based on some clues, but they have no idea who this person might be at this point in time (due to name changes).  To complicate issues, all of the Monkeewrench staff have blocked FBI files and no traceable history past 10 years ago.  The killer starts communicating with McBride and seems to be getting close to killing her also.  All this builds up to a final showdown where the full story is revealed and the true killer is uncovered.

First off, I really like good cyberthrillers where computer software or technology plays a lead role in the story.  For that, the book gets high marks.  The building tension of each killing with no way to stop them is also well done.  The final scene was, in my opinion, a bit of a letdown.  The revealed killer along with the story of why it all happened didn't make a lot of sense, and it seemed like it could have finished up better.  Still, a very good read, especially if you like novels that include elements of computer gaming and programmer lifestyles.

06/20/2004

Book Review - Liars & Thieves by Stephen Coonts

Category Book Reviews

Stephen Coonts' latest novel, Liars & Thieves, is a reasonably good techo-espionage thriller set in the United States.  Tommy Carmellini is a CIA agent who happens to stumble upon a CIA safehouse as a massacre is going down.  The disturbing part is that the killers are most definitely from the US and look professional (either military or law enforcement).  Carmellini is able to rescue one lady who is a Russian interpreter debriefing a Russian defector that was an archivist for the government and copied seven cases of materials over the years.  The defector is able to escape on his own, but his age and failing memory leaves him in a state of confusion as to where he is and what's happening.  The killers figure out who Carmellini is, and he (and anyone around him) is now a target of someone who appears to be high up in the government, and wants everything related to the defector (including the defector himself) eliminated to protect a secret.  Carmellini enlists the help of Jake Grafton (a major character from earlier Coontz novels) to get to the bottom of the mystery and to stay alive.

I'd give this a higher rating if it weren't for a stretch before the final showdown takes place.  Through the first half of the book, someone is after Carmellini is being hunted every time he turns around.  Once he decides to go to New York to try a last effort to uncover the truth, he ends up being left alone for a number of days while he sets up survellience and listening bugs.  Then at the end, he's conveniently a walking target again and nearly gets killed at every turn.  The break just didn't seem to fit too well in the story flow.  That fact notwithstanding, it's an entertaining read that will entertain you for awhile.

06/20/2004

Back from Westminster, and Duffbert on a t-shirt!

Category e-Pro

I got back from Westminster, Colorado last night after attending the Penton editorial conference for two days.  I had a great time.  I met a number of talented people, participated in a lot of useful information exchanges and brainstorms, and laughed a lot.  The e-Pro team of tech editors is made up of Libby (our leader, or so...), Chris Miller, Michael Fromin, and myself.  I already knew Libby and Chris, but I had never met Michael.  Great guy, and a hockey fanatic to boot.  It didn't take us long to figure out we shared that in common, and we were quickly left to babble about all things hockey-related...  :-)  Michael won the article award for internal writers (well-deserved, I might add), I won an award for being the writer with the best on-time record for article due dates, and I also was awarded the e-Pro t-shirt award for my alter-ego, Duffbert...

A picture named M2

Too funny...  I'm sure Chris will have a number of pictures posted soon, including a new Miami Vice duo who made their law enforcement debut at Dave & Buster's after Friday night's dinner...  You'll just have to head over there and see for yourself once the pics are posted.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience, and I feel like I'm part of a great team at Penton.  I'm looking forward to continuing my writing and sharing for all of you.

06/17/2004

Kicking back in Westminster, Colorado...

Category e-Pro

I made it safely here to Westminster....  The flight from Portland to Denver was uneventful, and I found Chris and Libby with no problems.  We had a nice lunch with Michael Fromin at Tuk Tuk's (a Thai-Asian place), and now it's time to relax until this evening's activities.

Nice hotel (a Westin) with a pretty nice view...

A picture named M2

Beats the parking lot views I normally get...  :-)

06/15/2004

I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about SpamSentinel, Mayflower Software, and InsideDomino...

Category Everything Else

No, I haven't changed my views related to their unethical behavior and underhanded journalism...

I'm just amazed that they still have Elgort's article on the front page, even with the negative feedback on the article and a few blog entries.

So, they either don't care about their ethics (that's bad), they don't read their feedback (that's bad), they don't feel they are in the wrong (that's bad), or they are that desperate for content that they'll risk bad press and potential legal action to get it (that's bad).

If anyone *ever* thinks I'm behaving in that type of manner or am pushing the envelope of what's ethical, *PLEASE* hold me accountable!

06/15/2004

Linux "jihad"?

Category Linux

From silicon.com:  Linux "Jihad"?

Microsoft's "Get The Facts" roadshows in England have been getting a pretty fair chunk of press lately, as well as a quote from an MS executive that could best be termed "inappropriate".  At one of the events, an MS exec said that the anti-Microsoft feelings of Linux supporters was a "jihad".

Now, I'm a little frustrated that we (American society) has become so politically sensitive in our speech.  Kevin Garnett described one of the basketball playoff games as a "war", and got lambasted in the press for belittling the war effort.  Bill Parcells referred to surprise plays using a term that was offensive to Japanese-Americans.  I'm amazed that Larry Bird hasn't been strung up for his comments about the NBA needing more "white players".  But this is apparently what we've become, and using politically or racially charged wording in public is a bad thing.

So using our current standards, referring to anything in the technical realm as a "jihad" is highly inappropriate.  This term is associated with religious warfare and now terrorism.  Microsoft's use of the word in referring to their competition crosses a number of lines and standards that shouldn't be approached.  

I think Microsoft owes the tech world an apology.

06/15/2004

How To Talk To Microsoft About Linux

Category Linux

From ZDNet:  How To Talk To Microsoft About Linux

I have a sneaking suspicion that MS sales reps are going to hate this article...  :-)

06/15/2004

Yahoo's rough day, but let's cut them some slack...

Category Everything Else

Today was the first day of Yahoo's new mail offerings.  Free accounts at 100 MB, and paid accounts upgraded to 2 GB.  The paid accounts have a bit of an interface change too.  I found out later in the day that Akamai had a denial of service attack, and that affected the Yahoo mail system.  So that explains how come the Yahoo mail service has been iffy at best today.  Sometimes I get a response, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes the delete button works, sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes I can reply to an email, and sometimes I can't.

Now if this were the new state of things, I'd be majorly miffed.  But I'm sure they are pulling out all the stops to get things cleaned up.  And being I got a size increase on the order of several magnitudes over what I had before, I'm feeling that a little patience and understanding is in order.

06/15/2004

Bah! I *scoff* at your 1 GB email accounts!

Category Everything Else

I woke up this morning and went to check my Yahoo mail account.  I paid for a 50 MB account a few months back, since I use that as my primary email account.  I wondered how the GMail situation would affect that.  Now I know.

There was a notice in my mail file this morning telling me I had...  *TWO* GB of mail storage now!

Whoa!

06/14/2004

Book Review - The Career Programmer: Guerilla Tactics For An Imperfect World

Category Book Reviews

There's the official and sanitized version of how IT works and how to manage your career within that realm.  And then there's the *real* lowdown from those who have been there.  Christopher Duncan has written a funny but all too true guide to IT in his book The Career Programmer: Guerilla Tactics for an Imperfect World (Apress).

The chapter selection is as follows:  Welcome To Corporate America; Business Is War. Meet The Enemy; Good Coding Skills Are Not Enough; Preventing Arbitrary Deadlines; Getting Your Requirements Etched In Stone; Effective Design Under Fire; Practical Estimating Techniques; Fighting For Quality Assurance; Keeping The Project Under Control; Managing Your Management; Corporate Self-Defense; Controlling Your Destiny; Index

OK...  Looking at this list of chapters, you may be thinking, ho hum.  But when you are quickly introduced to the night guard's attack Chihuahua who is paranoid from dodging monitors that have been thrown out of the 5th story window, you know you're in for something different.  And in the last chapter, you'll find this gem concerning resumes designed to weed out potential idiots you may not want to work for (and yes, this is part of *his* resume):

This system supports controllers in their management of large, heavy flying objects containing people who typically prefer uneventful landings, so the system must run 24/7 with zero failures... Design phase of the system utilized UML and only a small number of cocktail napkins, all of which were object oriented.

Perhaps it's not a recommended style, but it goes to show that you are looking for the right boss as much as they are looking for the right developer.

The chapters on designing your application are especially valuable as they show you how to deal with too much work in too little time with next to no requirements.  You'll learn how to play the game such that you can build in the time you need to do the necessary design (or at least as much as you can hope for) and not find yourself forever working 20 hour days to deliver a project that is never done.  And throughout the book, Duncan's irreverent wit and sense of humor will keep you laughing and reading along.

This should probably be required reading for all new IT personnel starting out on their "grand adventure".  And for those who have been in the field for awhile but still can't understand why they work 70 hour weeks for months on end, you'll find some ways out in these pages.

06/14/2004

Book Review - Nice Girls Finish Last by Sparkle Hayter

Category Book Reviews

With all the talk from Greyhawk lately about "guilty pleasures", perhaps I have to come to grips with this book genre as being my form of said guilt...

Some time back, someone recommended Sparkle Hayter to me as an author.  She writes in the female amateur detective genre, much like Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.  I was low on recreational reading material, so I picked up Nice Girls Finish Last.  I think I've found another favorite author...

The main protagonist in this series is Robin Hudson.  She's a reporter for a large news network, and she's part of the "Special Reports" division.  That would be the group that does stories on alien abductions and stuff.  She's not thrilled with this assignment, but she's stuck with it.  A doctor in her work building is found murdered, and it looks like there might be an element of S&M involved.  The news editor wants Hudson to package the story as an S&M killing, even though she thinks it might have nothing to do with that.  She starts investigating on her own, but unfortunately all the guys in her work and personal life are also getting shot at (she was supposed to have an appointment with the doctor that got killed later that evening).  The police see her as the common thread, but she can't figure out why for the life of her.  And it might be a short life if she can't get it solved quickly...

The character is single and cynical, loves the big city and her job, but hates her boss.  A real modern woman.  The dialogue and writing is sharp and witty, and I got into the story and the characters pretty easily.  The book is pretty short, so it's not much of a time investment to read.  Well worth picking up if you want to indulge your "guilty pleasures"...  :-)

06/14/2004

Well... *That* was a productive weekend, in a geeky sort of way...

Category Everything Else

While some might consider it just another sign that Tom needs a life, I considered it pretty productive...

First off, I fixed the BlogSphere template to stop the horrendous load times you all had to put up with.  I'm still surprised it was nothing more than a view indexing setting.  It should have been obvious to me, but then again, all things are easy once you know the answer.  That single event would have been more than enough to call it a great weekend...  Boy, I'm *such* a geek...

Next off, I finished a tech review for a book that Addison-Wesley is working on.  This was a significant step in my book review "career", in that they contacted me asking if I would be interested in critiquing the working draft.  And they paid me...  :-)  I always wondered if something like this would end up happening somewhere down the line.  I'll be interested to see how my input is viewed and/or incorporated.

I also bought a new computer this weekend.  I want to start working with Linux, but I don't have an extra box around the house (and I don't want to dual-boot my laptop).  Cam had a machine that would be fine, but of course that's *his* computer.  I found a refurbished eMachines computer at Frye's for $400.  80 GB hard drive, 512 DDR memory, CD-RW, DVD, blah, de blah, de blah.  I gave Cam that one and I'll get his machine.  Everyone's happy.  Hopefully next week I'll start working with Fedora.

And later this week (Thursday/Friday/Saturday), I'll be part of the Penton editorial conference in Colorado (the group that puts out e-Pro).  I'm looking forward to meeting with my counterparts as well as meeting some of the other people who influence my writings.  Little did I think when I first had an article published online in 2002, I'd end up with my own newsletter with e-Pro.  Perhaps I'll write a book sometime and call it "The Accidental Writer".  :-)

06/12/2004

Linux desktop and Lotus Notes... We've *got* to get there...

Category Linux

From LinuxInsider:  Seeing Penguins Everywhere

Interesting quote:

Availability of applications is still a stumbling block for some organizations mulling a move to Linux -- such as Steinbach, Man.-based C.P. Loewen Enterprises Ltd., which is happy with its Linux-based servers running Oracle database software, but won't consider desktop Linux until IBM's Lotus Notes has better support for the operating system.

06/12/2004

Whoo-hoo! No more complaints about blog load speeds, people!

Category Blogging

OK...  I really *should* be doing a tech review on a book that Addison-Wesley asked me to do.  But this blog loading speed was still bugging me.  

I took the subform that contained the daily stories view and removed the embedded view.  The load times were *much* improved.  I then focused on what was causing the load times to be bad for that view.  I removed a view selection formula item that included a @TextToTime("Today") part, so I can't "pre-date" published items any more (like I ever did anyway).  But the big winner was the indexing settings.  That view was set to index "at most, every six hours".  Not good.  To compound the error, the view indexing was set to discard *AFTER EACH USE*!  So, every time you called up my blog, you were reindexing that view.  No *wonder* the load times sucked.  

On my laptop, I went from spiking the CPU at 90% for each page hit to a mere 25%.  I think that setting was the "magic bullet".

And I'm sorry about all the bad things I said about your hosting server, Chris...  :-)

06/12/2004

"Linux Is More Of A Threat Than Before" - A lesson in critical reading...

Category Linux

From ZDNet:  Microsoft: Linux Is More Of A Threat Than Before

The main gist of this story is that people are using the threat of a Linux migration to extract better terms from Microsoft.  Nothing new there.  But I'm trying to read more critically now, and a few things really jumped out at me...

"It's definitely more of a threat than it was," said Nick Barley, director of marketing at Microsoft, when asked if more businesses are telling Microsoft that they're planning to migrate to Linux rather than to one of its own operating systems or applications in the hope of getting a better deal.

Barley wouldn't say how successful this tactic has been.

Well, it's nice to see that Microsoft is acknowledging that there's a problem out there.

"It shouldn't be successful if we have built an appropriate value-based relationships with our customers, so that they appreciate the extra value that we offer," Barley said, speaking at a Microsoft event in London. The '20:20 Seminar Series: Microsoft Windows and Linux' event was billed as an "open and honest technology discussion" and included speeches from Microsoft executives and independent parties.

Whoa there...  I am to believe that a Microsoft event, with Microsoft executives and "independant parties" is supposed to be an "open and honest technology discussion"?  Um...  sure.  Just like I'd expect an IBM event, with IBM executives and independant parties, to be an open and honest discussion about the merits of Exchange vs. Notes.  Of *course* a vendor is going to slant things.

Microsoft used Thursday's event to try and dispel what it called "the myths" surrounding Linux. A key plank in its argument is that open-source software isn't actually cheaper in the long run because companies need to spend more on retraining IT staff who may be experienced in Windows software but not in the open-source arena.

"We asked an audience of 250 or 300 business people today if they thought that Linux was a free option, and no hands went up," said Nicholas McGrath, head of platform strategy at Microsoft.

OK...  so much for the "open and honest" part.  And I found the hand-raising exercise encouraging.  *NO* technology option is free.  Hardware isn't free, support takes time, and time is money.  Licensing is certainly cheaper.  The retraining costs are a bit of a red herring.  Learning Active Directory didn't require retraining?  Learning Windows 2000 server from NT didn't require training?  Going from VB6 to C# was a no-brainer?  Every technology professional has to be forever "training".  

Paul Hartigan, chief executive of PharmiWeb Solutions -- who attended the event as an example of a satisfied Microsoft customer -- said that he would welcome more visibility regarding Microsoft's pricing structure.

PharmiWeb recently chose to use Visual Studio .Net rather than J2EE or Eclipse, the open-source, Linux-based tool, as the development environment for a portal it has build for the healthcare sector. Hartigan said that the number one reason for making this decision was that Microsoft was a "one-stop-shop" for PharmiWeb's various needs.

*THAT'S* an example of an "independant party" at the event?  O...K...   This customer does illustrate that there is no single solution that works for everyone.  For PharmiWeb, going with Microsoft made sense for them.  And that's good.  Choice in the marketplace is good.  

I guess my point in all this is that we all need to learn to "read between the lines" of stories like this.  Delve into the things that aren't said.  Look at who has a vested interest in an event.  Read the fine print.  All may not be as it seems...

06/11/2004

A few tweaks to ye olde blog...

Category Blogging

I still haven't found the magic change to make this blog scream on loading (instead of the user screaming at it for taking so long).  I did find that by removing the Google and Referrers blocks, it dropped a few seconds from the load time.  I also cut down the number of blocks that are allowed (from 10 to 5) as well as removing the "NoCache" lookups for those blocks.  Still not great, but getting somewhat better.

I also fixed the comment RSS feed to where it shouldn't be broken any more.  I found that if someone led off a comment with one of the emoticons, the CDATA statement ended up dropping the left bracket in the coding.  I just modified the view to always add a space after the left bracket.  No more emoticon worries.

06/11/2004

The new U.S. Navy...

Category Humor

With thanks to Bas for passing this along...

---------------------


The effects of budget cuts on the Navy are reflected in their most recent acquisition of the modified shallow draft aircraft carrier. Though not quite equal to the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) or the precomm George HW Bush (CVN 77), it's proponents tout it's maneuverability, low profile, and reduced operating costs associated with its fuel consumption and reduced manning requirements. The only complaint received thus far are is from the pilots who think the squad bay has lost some of it's luster.

There have also been discussions among senior Naval and Coast Guard staff who are considering its use in the war on terrorism as part of the fleet used to maintain Maritime Domain Awareness.

A picture named M2

06/10/2004

What are we coming to as a society?

Category Everything Else


I'm sitting here writing some content for the e-ProWire newsletters, watching game 3 of the NBA playoffs.  ABC is advertising two new series to debut soon.  One is called WifeSwap.  The other shows a woman crossing off items on her to-do list, and the last is "cheat on husband".  The series is called Desperate Housewives.


I don't know if these are dramas, comedies, or reality series.  All I *do* know is that this is just plain wrong.

06/10/2004

Protect Your E-Mail Address

Category Blogging

From eWeek:  Protect Your E-Mail Address

I have to take some of these steps on this site.  My Yahoo address is becoming a major spam magnet...

06/09/2004

Domino Does Not Normalize Multiple Sequential Escape Characters in a URL

Category Software Development

OK...  this one bit me today.  We are undergoing a migration of servers from 5.x to 6.5.1.  Our internal web server has been running fine.  But today, a user called and said that a document that had Word attachments was returning an HTTP error 400 when clicking on the attachments.  Two of the attachments were fine, but the other three were in error.  And it worked in R5 but not now.  What's the problem?

During some troubleshooting, a stray random thought hit me and I figured it out.  The failing Word attachments all had percent signs in their names.  When I changed the name of the document and reattached it, all was fine.  I then went looking in the Knowledgebase to figure out *why* it worked before and not now.  This is the answer...

Domino Does Not Normalize Multiple Sequential Escape Characters in a URL

Document Number:  1107117

Problem

You have an application that is coded to use URLs that contain multiple escape characters in order to represent their ASCII or UTF8 equivalent, as in this example:

http://<server-name>/dbname.nsf/Files/$File/master%2520news%25201.txt

With Lotus Domino R5 this works as desired and displays the text file indicated in the URL.  When executed on a Domino 6 server, these URLs no longer work but return the following error message:

"Error 400 Reason: HTTP Request contains a malformed escape sequence."


Content

This issue was reported to Lotus software Quality Engineering and has been addressed in Domino 6.0.3 with the addition of the NOTES.INI parameter HTTPAllowDecodedUrlPercent=1.  Add this parameter to the server's NOTES.INI file to avoid the error.

To work around the issue in earlier releases, do not use multiply encoded escape character sequences; special characters should be singly encoded instead.


06/09/2004

Random Wednesday Musings...

Category Everything Else
  • Yes, I know this blog loads as slow as molasses...  no, I don't know why yet.  Yes, someday I will probably fix it.
  • Heard a great new project management metric today...  Truck Number -- the size of the smallest set of people in a project such that, if all of them get creamed by a truck, the project is in serious trouble.
  • I got an email today that referenced an event at this year's USENIX conference:  "*PUBLIC DEBATE: Scott Charney, Microsoft's Chief Trustworthy
    Computing Strategist, will debate Dan Geer, Chief Scientist at Verdasys, on the security threat of a Windows monoculture.
    "  Imagine being Microsoft's Chief Trustworthy Computing Strategist...  That's gotta be a position that sucks.

06/07/2004

Random sports-related musings on this fine Monday...

Category Everything Else
  • Tonight...  Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals (hockey for those who don't follow sports), Calgary vs. Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay.  This has been a great playoff year, and it doesn't get much better than a game 7 of the finals.  I'm torn on who to root for, however...  For Tampa Bay, you have Dave Andreychuk, a 22 year veteran who has never played for the Cup, much less gotten his name on it.  Great guy, and I'm a sucker for a good personal interest sports story.  On the other hand, It's been 10 years since the Cup was won by a Canadian team, and come on...  This *is* hockey!  I'm just hoping for a close, physical game...  Maybe even an overtime or two...
  • Although I watch the finals, I find basketball continues to bore me more and more.  I don't even like to follow the Portland Trailblazers, the hometown team.  The only thing I liked about last night's game 1 of the finals is that all the sports analysis "experts" were *so* wrong.  I really don't like the Lakers with their attitude and all.  I'd like to like Detroit, but I just can't bring myself to root for Rasheed Wallace after all the garbage he pulled in Portland.  Here he was an underachieving head case who wouldn't talk to the media and racked up drug convictions.  Now he's the greatest thing since sliced bread in Detroit...

06/06/2004

Book Review - Professional SQL Server 2000 Programming by Robert Vieira

Category Book Reviews

Occasionally I have the need to leave my IBM/Lotus programming platform and interact with data stored in Microsoft SQL Server 2000.  I even have it running on my laptop as a higher-end alternative to Access.  I found that the book, Professional SQL Server 2000 Programming by Robert Vieira (Wrox) is a very good reference for manipulating data in that environment.

Vieira concentrates specifically on the programming aspects of SQL Server 2000 as opposed to teaching you how to administer the server.  He does touch on an administration overview in chapter 30, but it's not something you'd read in order to pass an administration exam.  Although the title does say "Professional", this does not mean you have to be a veteran SQL programmer to benefit from it.  The earlier chapters cover the fundamentals of RDBMS technology, as well as how SQL is used in a SQL Server 2000 environment.  The further you get into the book, the more you'll find subjects that are either more advanced or cover techniques you'll use in application development, such as how to build triggers and stored procedures.  While you will learn all these skills within the SQL Server 2000 platform, the core technologies are transferable to just about any RDBMS.  Time spent with this book will continue to pay off regardless of what database system you need to use at any given time.

While the content is technical, the writing style is conversational and approachable.  It's actually quite easy to read the material and digest the concepts without trying to fight against the author's style.  If you have need to work with SQL Server 2000 from a development standpoint, this is definitely a book to consider to guide you along the way.

06/06/2004

Book Review - JavaScript Bible

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – JavaScript Bible

Title
JavaScript Bible
5th edition, 2004, 1236 pages, Wiley

Target Audience
Anyone who either uses or wants to learn JavaScript.

Contents
This is a detailed reference and tutorial guide to the JavaScript language.  It is divided into six parts and the following chapters:

Part 1 – Getting Started With JavaScript: JavaScript’s Role In The World Wide Web And Beyond; Authoring Challenges Amid The Browser Wars; Your First JavaScript Script
Part 2 – JavaScript Tutorial – Browser And Document Objects; Scripts And HTML Documents; Programming Fundamentals, Part 1; Programming Fundamentals, Part 2; Window And Document Objects; Forms And Form Elements; Strings, Math, And Dates; Scripting Frames And Multiple Windows; Images And Dynamic HTML
Part 3 – Document Object Reference – JavaScript Essentials; Document Object Model Essentials; Generic HTML Elements Objects; Window And Frame Objects; Location And History Objects; The Document And Body Objects; Link And Anchor Objects; Image, Area, And Map Objects; The Form And Related Objects; Button Objects; Text-Related Form Objects; Select, Option, And FileUpload Objects; Event Objects; Style Sheet And Style Objects
Part 4 – JavaScript Core Language Reference – The String Object; The Math, Number, And Boolean Objects; The Date Object; The Array Object, Control Structures And Exception Handling; JavaScript Operators; Functions And Custom Objects; Global Functions And Statements; Body Text Objects
Part 5 – Appendixes – JavaScript And Browser Object Quick Reference; JavaScript Reserved Words; Answers To Tutorial Exercises; JavaScript And DOM Internet Resources; What’s On The CD-ROM; Index
Part 6 – Bonus Chapters (CD-ROM) – HTML Directive Objects; Table And List Objects; The Navigator And Other Environment Objects; Positioned Objects; Embedded Objects; XML Objects; The Regular Expression And RegExp Objects; Data-Entry Validation; Scripting Java Applets And Plug-ins; Debugging Scripts; Security And Netscape Signed Scripts; Cross-Browser Dynamic HTML Issues; Internet Explorer Behaviors; Application: Tables And Calendars; Application: A Lookup Table; Application: A “Poor Man’s” Order Form; Application: Outline-Style Table Of Contents; Application: Calculations And Graphics; Application: Intelligent “Updated” Flags; Application: Decision Helper; Application: Cross-Browser DHTML Map Puzzle; Application: Transforming XML Data

Review
What can you say about a reference book that is in it’s 5th edition?  In this field, technologies change rapidly and it’s tough to keep up.  Often, authors stop after a first edition of a book, either due to lack of sales, financial return, or lack of interest in creating a follow-up.  Not only has Danny Goodman created a definitive guide to the JavaScript language, he’s continued to keep it current and fresh through five iterations.  For that alone, he could be commended.  But aside from longevity, this is likely the most complete coverage I’ve seen on a given topic.

By starting off with a tutorial that is easy to follow, the JavaScript Bible will appeal to new users of the scripting language.  All of the essentials are covered, along with questions at the end of each chapter to test your retention.  For the veteran coder, parts 3 and 4 are worth their weight in gold.  Not only is every method and property of every object covered and documented, but you also are told what the browser compatibility expectations are.  Since all the browsers are not equal in support of JavaScript, you can quickly get into situations where a coded routine will run for IE but not Netscape.  You may even find problems between versions of the same brand browser.  By paying attention to the compatibility information, you have a fighting chance of writing code that will be usable by more than one browser.

This is also a situation where the CD-is actually useful.  The bonus chapters actually add more content to the book, instead of just adding on demo versions of software that you will never load.  Since the CD contains the entire text of the book, you also have the distinct advantage of loading the PDF to your computer and searching for information you need.  There isn’t much in this book that is a waste of time, nor is there much else I can imagine that could be added to the book to improve it.  It’s truly a classic.

Conclusion
If you use JavaScript at all, this is the single reference book you’ll need to own.  This covers it all.

06/06/2004

Book Review - Google: The Missing Manual by Sarah Milstein and Rael Dornfest

Category Book Reviews

Last summer, I had the surprise of receiving and reviewing the Google Pocket Guide.  I thought it was for people who didn't know how to use a search engine, but was quickly corrected in that misconception.  Google's power is phenominal.  Because of that, I decided to read and review Google: The Missing Manual (O'Reilly).  Once again, I continue to be amazed at what Google has put together.  The service, and this book, are great.

This book is split out into five parts with the following chapters:  Introduction; Google 101; Superior Searching; Googling Further: Images, News, and the Directory; Googling With Others: Groups and Answers; Shopping with Google; The Google Toolbar; More Cool Google Tools; Becoming A Search Result; Making Money With Google; Appendix: The Google Wide Web

Due to fewer space constraints than a Pocket Guide would have, Milstein and Dornfest can take more time to explain and illustrate the various features that make up the current Google universe.  If you did nothing more than read the chapters on Google 101 and Superior Searching, you'd know more than the average Google user.  You'd also give yourself a huge edge in finding relevant content on the web without slogging through thousands of results.  Using their tips, you quickly pick up the separating line between searching science and searching art.  All the remaining chapters go into features that are less known and used, but that will blow you away once you find them.  Even if you already know about a feature, like Google images, the chapter can help you figure out how those image indexes are created, and how to use the Google search syntax to narrow down your results more quickly.

Another feature I really appreciate about this book is the instruction on how to manage and design your site to maximize it's Google interaction.  The authors go into the robots.txt specification and how to either block off your entire site or just certain pages.  In addition, they give you a great overview of how Google crawls and indexes pages, so you can make sure your site is Google-friendly for the best search results possible.

You may think you're a Google wizard, but chances are you're not tapping the full potential.  With this book, you can learn how to turn Google into your second brain and personal research assistant.

06/06/2004

Book Review - Red Rain by Michael Crow

Category Book Reviews

I recently decided to read a paperback I've had kicking around for awhile...  Red Rain by Michael Crow.  This is a crime thriller with a very gritty edge to it.  Good in some ways, not so hot in others...

The basic plot is this...  Luther Ewing, a cop, ends up running across a Russian mobster who he apparently fought next to in some war action.  The Russian is pushing drugs into his area, and Ewing decides to run undercover to get close to him and shut down the ring.  The problem is that he has to do this outside the bounds of normal law enforcement to protect a number of cops from getting killed by the ex-Spetnaz employed by the Russian.  Plenty of people in the drug world and law enforcement circles start getting assasinated, and Ewing has to kill or be killed.  There are a few side stories too, but I'll leave it at that.

Now, the book is written in a first person style.  The main character is half-Vietnamese, half-black, and takes medication to control brain damage from a bullet wound he suffered.  He's a trained killer, so his emotional side is less than touchy-feely.  There's a darkness and edge to the writing that matches the character and makes it a compelling read.  What I don't like is that much of the background of the different characters is only alluded to during the story.  If this were a second or third novel with the main character, I could understand it.  But this is the first one, and I would have expected a bit more character development along the way.  I wasn't always sure where the story was going or why certain things were happening.  

So...  Stylistically, it's an interesting read.  From just a pure story viewpoint, it was average.

06/05/2004

So why does IBM push Linux, a free operating system?

Category IBM/Lotus

Simple...  From Forbes:  Kill Bill

If there's any doubt as to why IBM would push an open source operating system so hard with seemingly no financial return, this article will answer your questions...

06/05/2004

An absolute must-read... Microsoft's Cash Cow...

Category Microsoft

From Seattle Weekly:  Microsoft's Cash Cow

This is a longer article, but it's very much worth the time (in my opinion).  Jeff Reifman, a former Microsoft technology manager, puts into words Microsoft's past, present, and potential future.  I think he touched on all my formed and unformed feelings and opinions as to why Microsoft's future is not great, as well as why they have to do everything they can to discourage the use of open-source alternatives.

Great article that should be read...

06/05/2004

And while we're at it, welcome to the real world, Microsoft workers...

Category Microsoft

From the Seattle Times:  Hearing Voices About Microsoft

The last few weeks have been "hard" for Microsoft workers...  They only get a 10% discount instead of 15% on their stock purchases.  And they will have to start paying a bit more for their prescriptions.  And how dare Microsoft do that when they have so many billions sitting in the bank?

Forgive me if I have just a bit of difficulty in working up much sympathy, 'Softies.  Corporate America in the mid-2000's is harsh.  You're pretty much guaranteed your next paycheck, and that's about it (Enron workers didn't even get that in all cases).  You can go on and on about all the unfairness foisted upon the typical worker, but the reality is what it is.  I know the stories of how hard all you coders work, the insane deadlines and marathon coding sessions, the lost opportunities at having a life.  Perhaps that's why we find most computer users card-carrying members of the "virus-du-jour-patch-of-the-month" club.  But I digress...

You have jobs...  consider yourself fortunate.  You have benefits far in excess of the typical American company...  consider yourself blessed.  Your company is in no immediate danger of declaring bankruptcy or missing their next loan target...  consider yourself relatively secure.  

But most of all, look outside your own little bubble of reality and see the IT world as the rest of us see it.  You still have it far better than almost all others.

06/05/2004

Oh, pul-eeezzzee, Microsoft...

Category Microsoft

From Reuters...  Microsoft Brasil Decries Government Use Of Linux

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Microsoft Brasil's president, Emilio Umeoka, said that ideology led Brazil's government astray when it decided to adopt Linux's free software in public sector computers.

"If the country closes itself off again -- as it did when it protected its information technology, 10 years from now we will wake up and be dominant in something insignificant," Umeoka told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

"My boss once said: 'Irrelevance is the beginning of the end'," the Brazilian executive of Seattle-based Microsoft Corp. said.


I am just amazed at the retoric coming out of Microsoft concerning Linux.  Linux is unconstitutional, Linux is bad for the economy, Linux will destroy your country...  Do they really believe this, or do they know this is an attempt to deceive the public and protect their monopoly?

The last line I quoted above is really humorous to me...  I keep wondering if those words will come back to haunt him.  :-)

06/03/2004

IE disaster recovery...

Category Everything Else

A colleague sent an email out with a tip on recovering from some malware that nailed his browser...  I'll pass this along in case it can help anyone else...  Thanks, Bas!

----

Some piece of malware changed my home page on IE to their particular page which locked up IE beyond redemption.  Restarting IE would try to open their page and bingo! that's all she wrote.

Knowing that Tools/Internet options has a button to set the current page as the home page or a blank page, the task became how to get there from here.


Drawing on the good ole DOS days I thought "what the hey!"  In a command prompt window I CD'd to the IE directory and tried the following: "IEXPLORE http://www.basex.com" and whaddaya know.... it opened the home page.  Then it was a simple matter to get rid of the offending lockup URL.


If it ever happens to you..... now you know

06/03/2004

Nasty people...

Category Everything Else

This should be required reading for all Human Resource departments...  From CIO Insight:  Nasty People

We've all worked with or for nasty people.  Fortunately, my last two employment situations have been "nasty-free" zones, and a pleasure to work at.  Enron Broadband, however...  That's a different story.  While there were some brilliant people who worked there, there were also some absolute emotional nasties that terrorized the place.  Managers and directors who would yell and rant at staff in open door offices for things beyond their control.  Project managers who threw hissy fits if they didn't get their own way, no matter how unfeasible or unreasonable their request was.  People who felt that burning out staff was a badge of honor.  The longer I examine that situation, the more unhealthy I realize it was.

There is sometimes payback, however...  Recently I was asked about a person I had known of in a prior employment life (I'll hide the details here).  It wasn't a reference or anything, but more of a "do you know this person?" question.  They were a major nasty, and I was able to relate that information to the inquiree.  While they were probably qualified for the job, the employer was more concerned about the fit with the group.  Needless to say, that was probably a death blow to that job opportunity.  It was a vivid reminder to me that in this area and industry, burning bridges and staff can bite you hard down the road...

06/02/2004

A Windows User's Guide To Getting Started With Linux

Category Linux

A nice article from NewsForge.com...  A Window User's Guide To Getting Started With Linux

06/02/2004

Bugtraq Scientist Mauls Microsoft Security Effort

Category Microsoft

From Computerworld...  Bugtraq Scientist Mauls Microsoft Security Effort

I can imagine that the MS representatives were less than pleased to be in the audience for that one.  Much like the MS reps who show up for Ed Brill's talks...  :-)

06/01/2004

Welcome, e-ProWire Lotus Developer Tips readers!

Category e-Pro

Today was the initial publication of the new e-ProWire Lotus Developer Tips newsletter sent to you by e-Pro Publications.  I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to be the technical editor for that newsletter, and now I just have to create material that you'll find interesting once a month...  :-)  

Feel free to interact with me, and let me know what you'd like to hear more of or see covered.  This newsletter is meant to be something that will help you in your day-to-day activities working with Lotus technologies, and the more you talk, the better it will be.

06/01/2004

Some interesting Linux desktop links...

Category Linux

From Silicon.com...  Oracle To Be Linux Shop By End Of Year

From Salt Lake Tribune...  Symantec Using Linux Software, Says CEO

From PC World...  Will Your Next Desktop PC Run Linux?

This goes back to a view I expressed earlier in the year...  I think the Linux desktop is gaining traction, and I don't see it being too far away where Linux at the desktop will be a viable alternative to Windows.  The trend that I'm finding encouraging is that major tech firms are starting to consider Linux desktops.  Getting Bob's Consulting Company to move to Linux is nice, but that's too small to register on anyone's scale.  Getting a company of 500 people to move to Linux is interesting, but still not a driving force.  But when you get major tech players (IBM, Oracle, Symantec) making the move, you now have clout.  800 pound gorillas start to stand up to the 1200 pound ape, and things aren't so certain any more...

I'm still waiting for a box from work so that I can set up a Linux desktop environment and start playing around.  My goal is to not ditch Microsoft, but to understand the pros and cons of open source, and to be a resource for our company should the discussion come up.

05/31/2004

Book Review - The Present by Spencer Johnson

Category Book Reviews

I tend to like self-improvement titles, as picking up one or two good ideas you can implement in your life can make a world of difference.  To that end, I picked up a copy of The Present by Spencer Johnson.  Johnson, the author of another book I really liked, Who Moved My Cheese?, tells a parable about a young man who is mentored by an older gentleman.  The gentleman tells the man about "the present", and he does all he can to figure out what exactly that means.  He finally realizes the "present" is not a physical gift, but a concept involving being totally involved in whatever you are currently doing.  By learning how to learn from the past and prepare from the future, you can be much happier and productive in the present.

Definitely some interesting concepts, and ones that I can easily see myself working to implement in my own life.

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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