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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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07/31/2004

IBM Press to start using Pearson Education for book distribution

Category IBM/Lotus

My, oh my...  Finally I'll have the entire IBM Press catalog available to me for reviewing, as I have a very good review relationship with Pearson...  

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IBM and Pearson Education Announce Publishing Partnership
Monday July 26, 4:00 am ET

New Agreement Grants Rights and Licensees to Pearson Education to Publish Business and Technology Books Under the IBM Press Imprint

NEW YORK, July 26 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM and Pearson Education today announced an exclusive worldwide strategic partnership to publish technology and business books under the IBM Press(TM) imprint, in English and foreign languages, and in both print and electronic formats. The arrangement, which combines IBM's leadership in the technology and services market and Pearson's leadership as the largest publisher of technology and educational books, aims to make IBM Press the world's leading imprint for technology knowledge.

Pearson will use its resources and experience as the largest technology and educational publisher in the industry to offer IBM Press books that address the wide range of IBM products and services, architectures, and business solutions.

IBM Press is the official publisher of IBM retail books for professionals and students. With books designed to help users prepare for IBM certifications, master the implementation and support of a diverse range of IBM products and solutions, and educate business leaders, IBM Press provides a variety of books to suit individual learning styles. IBM experts and industry innovators write and contribute to the various titles and series that make up the IBM Press portfolio of books.

IBM Press books are authored by eminent architects, engineers and consultants, as well as business leaders, with contributions from consultants and other experts working in the IBM community. IBM Press books will be published and made available though all of Pearson's distribution channels, including retail bookstores, corporate, government, and other institutions; in academic bookstores; and in international markets.

"IBM Press represents an extension of our long-standing commitment to excellence in technology education and thought leadership," said Ted Hoff, IBM's vice president for Learning. "This partnership reinforces our desire to help our customers learn in a way that best meets their needs."

Will Ethridge, president of Pearson's Higher Education, International and Professional Group, said, "Learning is a process that is ongoing throughout one's lifetime. We look forward to working with some of IBM's brightest talents and bringing to a wide audience educational and professional materials that communicate compelling ideas and important knowledge across a wide range of technology and business issues. Whether people are interested in preparing for certification or staying abreast of business and technology thought leadership, we anticipate that IBM Press books will become the standard for technology knowledge and learning."

IBM Press is overseen by the IBM Press Publishing Council and also has an IBM Editorial Board with member representation across the IBM brands. IBM Press is co-managed by Tara Woodman and Ellice Uffer. For inquiries regarding submitting a proposal, interested authors may contact twoodman@us.ibm.com or euffer@us.ibm.com . IBM Press is affiliated with the publishing business of the Pearson Technology Group, under the leadership of Gary June.

About IBM

IBM is the world's largest information technology company, with more than 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. For more information, see http://www.ibm.com .

About Pearson Education

Pearson Education is a business of Pearson (NYSE: PSO - News; LSE: PSON - News), the international media company with market leading businesses in education, business information and consumer publishing. Pearson's primary operations also include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. For more information about Pearson Education, see http://www.pearsoned.com .


Source: Pearson Education

07/31/2004

The power of blogging, and the pressure it creates...

Category Blogging

This last week has been interesting in the Domino blogging community to see how the power of blogging can influence and affect corporate entities.  The prime example, of course, is the Ed Brill blog entry about the Radicati report that created a major furor over the ethics of analyst reports (and analysts themselves).  The report was already on shaky ground anyway in that it looked like a Microsoft puff piece.  But when certain Radicati employee(s) started posting with aliases on Ed's blog to "argue", any last shred of respect for the firm that might have remained simply disappeared.  With a simple blog entry, a company's credibility was trashed.  Prior to blogs, the job of opposition viewpoints was relegated to the media.  And there's only so much of that to go around.

Point 2 (on a much smaller scale) was with SearchDomino.  They ran a feature on the best of the Domino blogs and listed their choices.  All safe and sound, except that they lifted the blog roll list from my site.  Now I'd like to think that my choice of blog reading *does* reflect the best of the bunch.  :-)  But still, there was no acknowledgement that 95% of the entries there were a direct copy/paste from the blog.  This has a much happier ending, however.  The situation was blogged about, and the editor responded and corrected the oversight.  So, rather than refuse to openly discuss issues (as in the Radicati situation), SearchDomino did the right thing and corrected the story.  Everyone's happy...

And of course, there's my favorite.  Spam Sentinel, Mayflower Software, and InsideDomino.  The happy incestuous troika of product, corporation, and media in which the ownership of the media (Mayflower) is not acknowledged.  This leads to InsideDomino awarding product/event awards to their own product and touting it as an extensively researched outcome.  Yeah, right.  Add on the fact that InsideDomino took content from Bruce Elgort's site, ran it without permission, and then refused to answer any questions or comments about it.  I've blogged about this often, and I get more and more Google hits on the product.  Is this really what the company wants the public to see?

I don't think it's possible to write off bad publicity as "just one blog" any more...  One blog writes something.  Another blog picks it up.  Pretty soon it's indexed and possibly picked up by a reporter.  It jumps into mainstream media and takes on a life of its own.

The power of blogging...  It's rewriting the rules of media exposure and corporate power.

07/31/2004

IBM news recap...

Category IBM/Lotus

rediff.com: IBM plan to combat BPO critics

IBM is working on coming up with different hiring policies to cover situations when jobs are outsourced...

IBM employees, whose work is sent abroad, are expected to take a 'comparable job', which may be at a lower pay and a low employment classification, The Wall Street Journal reported quoting the company's internal policy documents.

Obviously better than losing your job outright, but still could be painful.  And...

Those facing the possibility of a lay-off will get at least 60 days' warning and often more, rather than the 30 days of the past.

In late June, IBM notified hundreds of people in a 5,000-person group that their jobs might be moved abroad and that they should start evaluating their skills and looking at options.

One person in the group told the Journal that the notifications had "a devastating effect on morale." Another said that though she is a 20-year veteran, she is constantly scrambling to lock in future assignments.

Which is what most people should be doing on a regular basis anyway...  Unfortunately it takes pressure to get that done sometimes...

07/31/2004

Microsoft news recap...

Category Microsoft

rediff.com: Microsoft shifting jobs, work to India

Looks like MS is coming under the same type of pressure that's been hitting IBM lately on where they have their coding done.

Computerworld.com: Details scant on Longhorn specifics

"It's a big release, and pulling together that many pieces in an integrated fashion, it's bigger than anything we've ever done," said CEO Steve Ballmer. "I always tell our people relative to our scale, it's a lot more like Windows 1.0, maybe 3.0 than anything we've done before. It's a whole new development platform, and getting the whole new development platform done is harder than just making incremental improvements in user and administration features. We're working hard at it."

That's gonna give people a warm fuzzy...

07/31/2004

Some Linux news items...

Category Linux

It's been a busy week, and I've gotten behind on some of the Google news items I've gotten...  So here are some news stories of interest to me...

Washington Times:  Linux gaining support in Japan's schools

Interesting in that both government and industry (*not* Microsoft, however) is promoting putting Linux on personal computers in the schools.  Guess what these people will be using when they graduate and move out into business?

Linux Journal:  Linux In Goverment - Unseating Incumbents

This is an intriguing look at how the adoption rates of Linux can be compared to how an incumbent is unseated in government.

eWeek:  Microsoft Sales Chief - 'Facts' show that Windows trumps Linux

Microsoft is stepping up their "Get The Facts" campaign against Linux by adding more case study and analyst report "evidence".  Analyst reports...  I think we've seen *that* avenue is a dead end this week over at Ed Brill's site.  Interesting quote in the article...

Microsoft's Get the Facts campaign hasn't been without controversy, however. A number of industry watchers have noted that Microsoft has sponsored the majority of these studies, thus bringing into question the objectivity of the research. (Johnson specifically noted that of the 16 studies conducted over the past year, the last five were not sponsored by Microsoft.)

It's nice to see that the media is starting to question this stuff.  I also liked the nice touch of putting the word "facts" in quotes in the title of the article.  Nice job, eWeek.

07/31/2004

The monthly search engine referrer review...

Category Blogging

Let's see what gems I can find in my referrer list from search engines for the month of July...
  • EAAS Lottery - I still get a lot of hits for this scam, and a number of people still respond to my old posting on it.  I'm glad I'm able to steer some people clear of this stuff.
  • Spam Sentinel review - I'm getting more and more hits on Spam Sentinel which refer back to my InsideDomino rant.  :-)
  • LotusScript SQL attack - I'm guessing this refers back to my article I did for e-Pro.
  • Everybody loves parfait - this one really confused me...  I know where it was used in the blog, but I didn't know why it was being googled.  It's apparently a line from Shrek.  OK...  I get it now.
  • How to measure duff - I just don't wanna go there...
  • Is Domino going away? - NO!!!!
  • prozac poop-out - fortunately still hasn't happened yet...
  • Lotus scream cam download - I still wanna see this new Lotus software.  :-)
  • who covered the nathan's hot dog eating contest for espn? - apparently someone who was in the doghouse with the assignment editor...
  • hate jeff skilling - yeah, I'm not too fond of him myself.
  • Tom Nichols fashion model - I never thought of "Biscuit Man" as the epitome of high fashion...

07/29/2004

Book Review - Backstabber by Tim Cockey

Category Book Reviews

One of the nice things about being a regular at the library is that the librarians start to "look out for you".  They know my tastes and make sure I know when particular books come out.  One of my favorite ladies over there clued me in to the latest Tim Cockey novel, Backstabber.  Fun mystery, good story, and excellent writing and dialog...

Cockey's main character is Hitchcock Sewell, an undertaker.  This series could accurately be called the male amateur detective genre.  Hitch is called to the scene of a crime, complete with dead body, by his friend Sisco.  The victim is the husband of the wife that Sisco is having an affair with.  Hitch wants no part of the plan to cover up the crime, but still becomes a suspect when he's seen leaving the house in the early morning hours before the police have been called.  The widow isn't really forthcoming on who might have been involved in the killing, so Hitch has to defend himself as well as Sisco to the police.  In the meantime, he gets wrapped up in the death of an elderly lady he knew.  She died in what appeared to be suspicious circumstances in a nursing home, and Hitch is unable to accept the fact that something is amiss.  Characters from these two plot lines start to intertwine until a final showdown at the end that finally clears up who did what, as well as why they did it.

Cockey writes a fast-paced novel with a smart-alecky main character.  The dialog is directed at the reader in first person form, almost like a Archie McNally novel.  Hitch doesn't get flustered by much, and there's always a good comeback regardless of what happens.  This is really one of my favorite series, and I appreciate the fact that it was brought to my attention again.

07/28/2004

Book Review - Wi-Foo - The Secrets Of Wireless Hacking

Category Book Reviews

I recently finished the book Wi-Foo - The Secrets Of Wireless Hacking by Andrew A. Vladimirov, Konstantin V. Gavrilenko, and Andrei A. Mikhailovsky (Addison-Wesley).  This is an excellent book for people charged with running and securing a wireless network.

The chapter breakdown:  Real World Wireless Security; Under Siege; Putting the Gear Together: 802.11 Hardware; Making the Engine Run: 802.11 Drivers and Utilities; Learning to WarDrive: Network Mapping and Site Surveying; Assembling the Arsenal: Tools of the Trade; Planning the Attack; Breaking Through; Looting and Pillaging: The Enemy Inside; Building the Citadel: An Introduction to Wireless LAN Defense; Introduction to Applied Cryptography: Symmetric Ciphers; Cryptographic Data Integrity Protection, Key Exchange, and User Authentication Mechanisms; The Fortress Gates: User Authentication in Wireless Security; Guarding the Airwaves; Deploying Higher-Layer Wireless VPNs; Counterintelligence: Wireless IDS Systems; Decibel-Watts Conversion Table; 802.11 Wireless Equipment; Antenna Irradiation Patterns; Wireless Utilities Manpages; Signal Loss for Obstacle Types; Warchalking Signs; Wireless Penetration Testing Template; Default SSIDs for Several Common 802.11 Products

As you can see from the chapter selection above, there's not a lot left that isn't covered in some way in this book.  The coverage of wireless security is taken from both sides.  The first part of the book looks at how to mount a survelliance effort and a concentrated attack on a wireless network.  This could, as with all books like this, be used by the hacker community to crack your system.  On the other hand, they already know this stuff.  You as an IT professional can use this to view your system as an outsider to understand where the weaknesses might be.  The second part of the book then shifts over to what it takes to secure your system and fend off all but the most diligent and agressive attempts to hack your system.  Using both parts together, you have no reason for having glaring holes in your environment.

To be sure, this is not a fluff book.  There is an abundance of technical detail on software configuration of both systems and hacking tools that you will need in order to be totally locked down.  The chapters on cryptography go into great detail on how crypto systems work and how the formulas are derived.  I'm still not sure if its too much detail for a book on wireless networks, but it will definitely keep the uber-geeks fully engaged in the material.

Definitely a must-have/must-read for the wireless security/wireless administrator professional...

07/28/2004

Not as bad as InsideDomino, but still...

Category Blogging

Chris Byrne just clued me in on something I hadn't noticed...  SearchDomino ran an article on July 23rd titled Domino Blogs: The Rest Of The Best.  I stumbled across it yesterday during the course of researching something, and was a little miffed I didn't make either of their blogs or blogs via RSS feeds list.  There's a reason for that...

With the exception of a couple of entries in the non-RSS column, they used my blog roll lists!  Same people, same labels, same descriptors, same breakout of RSS vs. non-RSS entries.  And since I don't list my own site in my own blog roll, I'm not included...  :-)

It's not as bad as InsideDomino's blatant use of Bruce Elgort's article without his permission, but it would have been nice if they had at least mentioned it to me...

07/28/2004

Book Review - Under The Banner Of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Category Book Reviews

On the recommendation of my sister, I went to the library and picked up Under The Banner Of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.  It's a look at a murder of a woman and her baby by two Mormon Fundamentalists who claimed that God told them to kill the victims.  But while that's the core premise on the cover, it's really a deeper examination of the Mormon religion and how the Fundamentalist groups have split off over the issue of "plural marriages", or polygamy.  I found the book and material interesting and challenging on a number of levels.

I'm not a Mormon, but I can understand how many adherents to that faith would find this book distasteful.  It doesn't paint the history of the Mormon religion in a very positive light.  On the flip side, this would be like examining evangelical Christianity through David Koresh or Catholicism through the events of the Crusades.  It's not hard to see how the narcissistic tendencies of a single charismatic individual can lead people down a path that eventually leads to corruption and abuse of power.  It also forced me to look at my faith and belief system in a more critical light.

Krakauer writes a very clean and factual account of the events he covers.  Into Thin Air was a riveting account of mountain climbing deaths, and this book follows in the same style.  I might have structured the last third of the book a little differently, in that he jumps way back into Mormon history as a break in the telling of the story about the killing.  By the time you got through all that, there was a bit of continuity loss.  But still, it's a book well worth reading...

07/27/2004

Book Review - Every Second Counts by Lance Armstrong

Category Book Reviews

I recently got Every Second Counts by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins at the library.  Seemed a timely read with Lance winning the Tour de France.  I'm not sure this is a great book, but it was interesting in a number of ways...

The book picks up after the end of his first one It's Not About The Bike.  There is less of the cancer struggle in this one, but more of the drive and fight to win the Tour race.  The underlying theme here is that you aren't guaranteed anything in life, and life is precious.  So you should live life to the fullest and make each second count (and hence the title).

There's a certain "rambling" element to the book.  You'll start a chapter with one story that illustrates some point he wants to make.  Before you get to the end, you're someplace else entirely.  Not that it's a good or bad thing, it's just seemingly a little scattered at times.  There are some excellent points to make you think, such as what it's like to be "thrown back" into life after being at death's door.

While I can admire what he's done and his drive and accomplishments, I don't know that I'd like Lance as an individual.  I think the book gives you a good sense of who he is and what drives him, but I'm not sure I could exist long around a person who is that intense and driven.

07/27/2004

A public thank you to Ed...

Category IBM/Lotus

No, this isn't an attempt to curry favor or to kiss up...  :-)  It's a heartfelt acknowledgement and appreciation of Ed Brill for being there...

I've had occasion of late to call upon Ed for some assistance, some of it with little to no lead time or warning.  It's one thing when it's a fellow programmer or a resource within your own company.  But when it's a highly placed person with numerous responsibilities working for a huge company (that isn't yours), it's a whole different story.  We're not talking about going through channels or getting callbacks in a week or so.  We're talking responses to emails within the hour.  Phone calls answered in person...  when they are at a mall...  with their daughter...  on their day off...  and taking 15 - 20 minutes to give us some timely information.  Does *your* vendor offer that kind of service?

It never ceases to amaze me how much time and effort he gives to the job and to us.  Rather than waffle around on issues or telling you he'll get back to you later, he finds out what's going on and is willing to take risks when necessary to get things moving.  I feel extremely fortunate that I have the privilege of counting Ed as a friend and a colleague.

Thanks, Ed.

07/25/2004

Book Review - Naked Brunch by Sparkle Hayter

Category Book Reviews

I'm almost done with my Sparkle Hayter read-a-thon...  This one is Naked Brunch.  This is not one of her Robin Hudson stories, and despite the back cover description is more serious than her other stuff.  You'd think you're about to read a zany story of love and werewolves, but the zany part was pretty subdued.  But don't get me wrong.  I actually really liked it.

A legal secretary finds out she has Lycanthropic Metamorphic Disorder (LMT) when she morphs into a wolf and kills someone during a full moon.  She's not really sure it all happened until the same thing happens the following month, and she finds another wolf in the same condition.  Meanwhile, the city is in turmoil over the "Mad Dog" killings, and a private clinic (run by someone who also has LMT) tries to find her and bring her under control.  A power struggle arises between the head of the clinic and the other wolf, who had been a clinic patient but faked a suicide when he was accused of killing another female wolf while staying there.  Since the doctor can't assure himself that he can bring the situation under control, he decides to kill both of them.


Playing out at the same time is a secondary plot of a newscaster who is about to be fired as he doesn't have a clue as to how to report, but he picks up this story and starts to run with it.  His wife, another media personality, is cheating on him and is outed in a gossip column, but he's oblivious to all the talk.  The news station wants to keep him that way so that he can follow the story, and steps are taken to make sure that whole "affair" is controlled so that he isn't hurt in the process.


While the cluelessness of the reporter and the gossip column material is funny, the core story of the wolves is pretty serious and involves a lot of death and destruction (although the people who get killed deserve it).  The basic plot could be really good Dean Koontz material.  Definitely a different style of story for Hayter, but one I really liked.

07/25/2004

Book Review - Design Concepts With Code: An Approach For Developers

Category Book Reviews

One of the books I recently finished reading for review was Design Concepts With Code: An Approach For Developers by Kelly Carey and Stanko Blatnik (Apress).  While this book might appeal to some niche of website design and development, I don't think I'm part of that group.

The chapter breakdown:  Introducing Interface Design; Introducing Design Principles; Project 1: Building an Open Source Portal; Implementing Design Elements: Line, Type, and Shape; Implementing Design Elements: Texture, Space, Size, Value, and Layout;  Project 2: Building an Online Resource Center; Working with Content and Typography; Using Color; Project 3: Building a Webzine; Exploring Site Issues and Accessibility; Index

This is a different book that is hard for me to describe.  There are a number of abstract sketches in boxes that are about 1" x 1". The reader is asked how they would interpret the lines and they are given three choices.  They are then told which answer is correct as far as the attitude and mood that is suggested by the design.  Each sketch is followed by Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) code to show how that sketch is coded.  After a number of these exercises, the concepts are used to show a design of a web page or site that incorporates that type of design to create the proper sense and feeling.

If you're a graphic designer of web sites, you would probably get something from this book.  A developer (or at least *this* developer) would have a much harder time getting past the "here's a picture and here's the right answer as to what it should mean to you" style.  Outside of that, the incessant use of showing each sketch's SVG code seems to be nothing more than a space filler.  I would have much rather seen something like this be downloadable from a website and to skip the endless code listings.  I guess I misread the title Design Concepts With Code.  I was thinking the book would cover how your code can show design concepts, not to show design concepts with code printed for each picture.

I won't say it's a bad book...  It's just got a few flaws I would have done differently, and it definitely isn't a book that will appeal to everyone.

07/25/2004

I'm ready for the World Poker Tour!

Category Everything Else

The hottest new talent in Texas Hold'em Poker is about to hit the circuit...  it's the killer father-son duo of Tom "Duffbert" Duff and his son Ian "The Kid" Duff...

:-)

OK...  back to reality.  Ian and I played in a poker tourney yesterday held by a small local group called the Westside Poker Club (http://www.westsidepokerclub.com).  This is a number of friends who enjoy poker and play together on a regular basis.  Ian's really into the game and wanted to play in the tourney, and I decided to contribute my entry fee to the cause as "dead money" (the term for people entering a tourney with no hope of winning or placing).  I understand the basic rules, but I've never played except electronically or online.  All I wanted to do was not be the first one out and to not embarrass myself.  Fortunately, I did neither!

In a case of dumb beginner's luck, I actually held my own and knocked a couple people out on all-ins.  Ian, meanwhile, was pulling some incredible luck on the flops and was creating havoc on the other table.  After about 1.5 hours, the group was whittled down to eight and we reorganized onto the final table.  Ian and I were side by side, looking to see if either of us would place in the money (top five placings).  Ian held up well, and ended up taking 6th.  After some additional action, myself and three others were left.  Talk about being in far over my head.  Then the absolute unreal run of luck began...

I was down to what was realistically my final hand.  I started to fold out of turn, which prompted the guy ahead of me to call me all in.  To end my agony, I decided to call him just to bow out.  I took the hand on the final card.  I pulled the same type of luck over the next three hands, and ended up with possibly the chip lead.  We continued to trade blinds and chips for quite awhile with no one able to deliver a killing blow.  One of the players proposed we chop up the prize money four ways since we had been playing for nearly four hours.  We all agreed and called it a day...

So...  Ian and I left feeling extremely good about the day...  I graciously gave Ian his entry fee so the day didn't cost him anything.  I covered my fee, we stopped for a pizza, put gas in the car, and I still had a bill or two left over.  I can definitely see the rush that people get from playing the game, and it was a great bonding time for Ian and I.  

I do feel sorta bad that players who actually knew what they were doing got killed by cards that I had no right to be playing.  To try and fold, and then to win the hand on an all-in call is the epitome of dumb, stupid beginner's luck.  I have no doubt that if we were to do it again today, I'd be a spectator in short order.  But still, it was a great time...  Thanks, guys (and Suzie!).

07/24/2004

Life seems to be one major blur right now...

Category Everything Else

I'll be the first to admit my life isn't terribly exciting.  I have a number of routines and ruts that seem to work for me, and life proceeds.  But overall, I like it that way.

But occasionally, a dynamic changes that makes everything a little off-center...  like this last couple of weeks.

We recently had the vacation in Sun River.  That was a nice variation.  Broke the routines a bit.

Came back on Sunday, and on Tuesday Sue (my wife) took off for California with Cam to visit her sister.  That really alters the dynamic.  One car instead of two.  Sole responsibility for watching Ian and his diabetes instead of shared effort (or Sue would probably say that it's still "sole responsibility", just a different parent).  It's freaking hot outside (over 100 yesterday, and slated to be over 100 again today).  And sleep...  or the lack thereof.  

Thursday evening, Ian went to play hockey and we miscommunicated as to when he was going to be home.  I assumed (incorrectly) it would be earlier than it was.  When your kid still isn't home by 11:30 pm and there's no answer on the cell phone, you start getting a little "concerned".  All was fine, but I didn't get to bed until about 1 am, and was up at 4:15 am like normal for work.  Then last night...  Ian had to work, and I expected that I'd see him around 11:30 or so.  At 1 am, I woke up (sleeping in the front room where the air conditioner is) and called to find where Ian was.  He was just wrapping up at work as they were short-staffed at the ice arena and cleanup was nasty after a dance there.  He got home at 1:30, and then we had one of those rare "heart-to-heart" talks about life, direction, and such.  It's nice to hear that your kid thinks you do a great job of raising them, but then again, he was having low blood sugars and will probably disavow any knowledge of those 3 am revelations....  :-)

So...  we made it to Saturday, Sue and Cam won't be back until Tuesday, I'm still running a major sleep deficit, there's a number of chores I need to do, and Ian and I are participating in a Texas Hold'em poker tourney today.  Ian's really into poker, I'm just dead money who has no experience but who needs to be there anyway, so why not give it a try?  

I want to sleep for eight solid hours, I want it to be 70 outside so I can sleep in my own bedroom, and I want to have a car at my disposal again for the times when Ian has the other one.  :-)

07/22/2004

Book Review - Web Standards Solutions - The Markup and Style Handbook by Dan Cederholm

Category Book Reviews

I've mentioned in the past that books on web standards and markup tend to irritate me due to their "I'm an expert and my opinion is always right" attitude.  But never one to give up, I had the chance to review Web Standards Solutions - The Markup and Style Handbook by Dan Cederhold (Apress).  Much like the book Designing With Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman, this is a refreshing change and extremely practical.  I really like it!

The chapter breakdown:  Lists; Headings; Tables Are Evil?; Quotations; Forms; <strong>, <em>, and Other Phrase Elements; Anchors; More Lists; Minimizing Markup; Applying CSS; Print Styles; CSS Layouts; Styling Text; Image Replacement; Styling <body>; Next Steps; Index

The chapters follow a common format...  A topic is introduced, and three or four different methods are shown on how to accomplish the task (like lists).  Each method is explored for pros and cons, with the goal of finding a solution that puts emphasis on semantic meaning and clean markup.  This is followed by an "extra credit" section that pushes past the basic topic and starts to show some more unique ways to use CSS for appealing page images.

For one, the tone is conversational in nature.  You're not being lectured to or scolded for not adhering to perfect and exact standards (or opinions).  The book is also not a reference manual as such.  It's a practical guide on how to use CSS to get the job done and give yourself a solid design that will work for multiple types of browsers.  Throw in a little humor along the way, and this book becomes one which you find yourself picking up repeatedly.

The sign of a good book for me is one where I'm using the book either before or during my review.  Based on a project I'm currently coding, I've already started to memorize certain page numbers I keep going back to.  This book will definitely secure a spot on the bookshelf at work, and will be closely guarded to make sure it doesn't disappear.

07/22/2004

Book Review - The Chelsea Girl Murders by Sparkle Hayter

Category Book Reviews

In keeping with the Hayter streak I've been on of late, I started and finished The Chelsea Girl Murders by Sparkle Hayter.  This is probably one of the more serious Robin Hudson novels to date...

Robin Hudson's apartment burns down, and she's forced to take refuge in a friend's apartment at the Chelsea Hotel.  The Chelsea is a quirky historic hotel that caters to artists and celebrities.  Anyway, a runaway girl also shows up at the apartment, apparently with the approval of Hudson's friend.  This girl is trying to escape an arranged marriage.  There's also a young man who shows up, and Hudson naturally thinks that those are the two lovers.  But each of them keeps disappearing, and Hudson is trying hard to find them and reunite them.  Meanwhile, someone is murdered on Hudson's doorstep, and quite a few residents have a reason to have wanted him dead.  The two plotlines start to converge, and Hudson finds herself the target of killers who are mixed up in the whole affair.

As all Robin Hudson novels, the story is quirky and funny.  But this seems to have a more serious element in it, and isn't quite as offbeat as the others.  This could possibly be my favorite novel in the series.

07/22/2004

Terror In The Skies, Again?

Category Everything Else


From WomensWallStreet.com:  
Terror In The Skies, Again?  and Terror In The Skies, Again? Part 2

This is a first person account of Annie Jacobsen, a writer for WWS, and what she experienced recently on a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles.  It's hard to imagine that this was anything else but a "dry run" of a terror attack using airliners.  I will admit to being somewhat sceptical when I first read the story.  Such is life when you're optimistically cynical.  But the followup article by WWS, along with the uptake by mainstream media has me convinced that it took place as stated.


I think what bothers me most about this is that no one in a position of authority will confirm or deny that this is taking place.  But yet, we are supposed to be "vigilant and aware" whenever Homeland Security decides to issue a terror threat based on non-specific information.  Leaders...  If you want us to buy into Homeland Security, make us aware of the real threats like this.

07/21/2004

Sell'em if you got'em....

Category Linux

If you happen to be holding SCO stock hoping for the Hail Mary of lawsuits to succeed, it might be time to bail.  According to ComputerWorld, SCO's suit against AutoZone has been put on indefinite postponement pending the outcome of the IBM suit, and another judge threw out the DaimlerChrysler SCO suit.

http://www.computerworld.com/softwaretopics/os/story/0,10801,74564,00.html

According to an analyst... "As a result, SCO "will run out of cash mid-'06 unless it can significantly reduce legal costs, improve the profitability of its core business, or attract additional financing."

Ouch...

07/21/2004

Q&A: Carol Stafford, IBM worldwide vice president of Linux sales

Category Linux

From vnunet.com:  Q&A: Carol Stafford, IBM worldwide vice president of Linux sales

Interesting article from IBM on how they view their Linux strategy.  A quote of interest to me...

Q. So you disagree with Microsoft that Linux is only a server product?

A. Our strategy had always been the server. But what we are seeing this year is that our customers are forcing us into the desktop. They are trying it, they're doing it. IDC thinks the Linux desktop will grow by 30 per cent per year. We have 30,000 Linux desktops in IBM. What we are telling customers that want to do is to segment their users. Some people can easily use Linux, particularly single-function users - people such as bank tellers and weather forecasters.

We have people who want to isolate their users and only have them do email and one or two functions. Those are easy to change. If you have major users of Microsoft Office, what's the point? In IBM we think that by the end of 2006 we might have 50,000 or 60,000 Linux desktops.

There are a lot of options now for desktops and we will have our own Lotus Workplace, which is a server managed client.

07/20/2004

Book Review - Hardening Windows by Jonathan Hassell

Category Book Reviews

If you're a Windows network administrator responsible for making sure your environment is secure, you'll be interested in reading the book Hardening Windows by Jonathan Hassell (Apress).  

The chapter breakdown:  Hardening: Theory and General Practice; Windows NT Security; Windows 2000 Security; Windows XP Security; Defining Enterprise Security Policies with Windows 2000 and Later; Patch Management; Network Access Quarantine Control; Internet Information Services Security; Exchange 2000 Server Security; Security Auditing and Event Logs; Quick Reference Checklists; Index

A couple things to keep in mind when you read this book.  The target audience is definitely network administrators, as there is plenty of talk about group, system, and security policies.  If you're looking for a book to help you secure your home laptop, this isn't it.  The other thing to remember is that this isn't meant to be a comprehensive reference manual to explain every last security setting.  It's meant to be a practical "quick reference" to help you focus on what it takes to make a Windows environment secure.  Even with that caveat, there's a lot of information packed into less than 200 pages.

The key word that typlifies this book is "practical".  Hassell uses a lot of lists and charts to show recommended settings to ensure a secure environment.  In addition to that, each chapter ends with a "Checkpoints" list that enables you to get a quick list of activities and rules to implement in order to maximize your time and efforts.  An experienced administrator could use this to make sure nothing has been forgotten, and a new administrator would do well to use this as a roadmap.

07/20/2004

Some Microsoft news...

Category Microsoft

From ZDNet: HP Memo: Microsoft planned open-source patent fight

Interesting article that points to statements made by an HP exec about Microsoft's plans to stop open-source projects by legal means.  By claiming patent rights, they planned on killing off Samba, Apache, and Sendmail.  Whether this was in the works or not is not as scary as the fact that they could still decide that the courts are the last resort to fend off attackers.

From SeattlePI.com: Microsoft to pay as much as $75 billion to shareholders

$75 billion over four years.  That should suck up a bit of that cash surplus...  :-)

07/20/2004

Some Linux News

Category IBM/Lotus

From DesktopLinux.com: Cisco to expand internal use of Linux desktops

Apparently engineers could already go that route, but now its been declared OK to use desktop Linux at other non-techie levels.  As more and more high-tech groups start converting to Linux desktops, I still predict you'll see that trend start moving into mainstream corporate America.

From DVHardware.net:  Doom III for Linux

Finally...  the "killer" Linux app.  :-)

07/20/2004

A little catch-up on IBM news and notes...

Category IBM/Lotus

From ZDNet:  IBM tries to hook computer science students

Finally, IBM is going to target universities with free/discounted software and hardware in hopes of snagging the loyalty and mindshare of tomorrow's computer leaders.  It's about time that someone gave Microsoft a run for their money in that arena.

From ComputerWeekly.com: IBM advancing Workplace platform

We're now starting to see the tools that will allow us to build Workplace apps.  This is probably the missing ingredient that has caused most developers to either question or fear the Workplace initiative...

07/19/2004

How to Code the "Submit" Button when Using JavaScript Form Validation

Category Software Development

One more "reference piece" for me...  From the KnowledgeBase...

How to Code the "Submit" Button when Using JavaScript Form Validation

Doc Number:  1087237

Problem
Using Domino Designer 5.x, you want to use JavaScript to validate a form's input values before allowing a document to be submitted and you would like to design this form so that it works the same way in a Notes client as it does from a web browser.  But when you select a Button that saves and closes the window from a Notes client you find that the document is closed regardless of whether input validation failed or not.

Content
Using Domino Designer 5.x, the Submit button on the form can be coded as follows:

@If(@Command([FileSave]); @Command([FileCloseWindow]); "" )

The JS Header property of the form has the following code:

function validate() {
        if (document.forms[0].Test.value == "") {
                alert("Must enter value for Test");
                return false;
        }
}

The onSubmit event of the form should be coded as follows:

return validate()

When the form's Submit button is selected, the browser displays a JavaScript Alert and the document will NOT be submitted to the server.

To provide this functionality on a Domino 4.6.x server, see document number  172406, "Global Input Validation with JavaScript in a Web Browser."

07/19/2004

How to Use a LotusScript Print Statement to Open Another Web Page in a WebQuerySave Agent

Category Software Development

This is something I want to post out on my blog so I can find it when I need it...  From the KnowledgeBase...

How to Use a LotusScript Print Statement to Open Another Web Page in a WebQuerySave Agent

Doc Number:  1089692

Problem
How can a WebQuerySave agent be programmed to go to another URL after a document is submitted?

Content
A WebQuerySave event or $$QueryOpenAgent field can be used to call a LotusScript agent that contains a Print statement like the following as its last line of code:

Print "[http://www.site.com/dbname.nsf/viewname?openview]"

The syntax is Print "[ URL ]".  The URL can be relative to the server's Data directory or absolute.

The print command will not do anything in a script called from a WebQueryOpen event or $$QueryOpenAgent field.  

You can also execute a Print "[ URL ]"  redirect from a button, hotspot, or URL by calling the agent containing the Print statement in the following ways:

@URLOpen("/database/agentname?OpenAgent")

@Command([ToolsRunMacro]; "agentname")

JavaScript

window.location="/database/agentname?OpenAgent")

07/18/2004

Book Review - The Taking by Dean Koontz

Category Book Reviews

Also while on vacation, I started and finished The Taking by Dean Koontz.  This is his latest supernatural thriller novel, and it's not bad.  Not his best, but I still like his style.

A couple wakes up in the middle of the night as a strange torrential downpour starts.  It feels oppressive and doesn't stop.  Even some of the wild animals in the woods around them (like wolves) start acting strangely and seek shelter in their house.  News stories from around the world show that this is not a local occurrance, and pretty soon TV and radio stations starting going off the air, along with the power going out.  They go into town to try and band together with others, but people are acting strangely.  There are odd creatures that are starting to grow out of fungus that isn't natural to the area (or anyplace else), and these creatures seem bent on evil and killing.  They can even animate dead bodies and communicate through them.  Throughout all this strangeness and killing, the couple is safe, along with the dog that is helping them find children that have been abandoned.  Although they don't know why, the creatures seem to be unable to harm the children or the people/creatures that are helping them.  The story progresses through the buildup of the alien creatures and what will happen to earth when they are done.

While this isn't probably his best work, I still like his style of writing.  He paints vivid scenes with his words, and I enjoy building the story in my mind as he writes.  The plot line seems to be a little short, with a lot of writing about not much action.  If I didn't like the writing so much, I'd probably give it an average.  But since I learn a lot about style every time I read a Koontz novel, I'll bump it up one star from there.

07/18/2004

Book Review - The Last Manly Man by Sparkle Hayter

Category Book Reviews

In hopes that her next work would be better, I read and finished The Last Manly Man by Sparkle Hayter while on vacation this week.  It was definitely better than the last novel of hers, so I'll keep her on my favorite author list.

In this story, Robin Hudson is approached by a man who she doesn't know, but who gives her a hat and an address before being abducted off the street by some thugs in a limo.  She attempts to find the address to return the hat, but it's bogus.  A couple of days later, the guy turns up dead in the waters off Coney Island, and she wants to figure out what happened.  A number of people now appear to be after her, and they think she knows some secrets that were passed on by the dead guy.  Throw in animal rights activists, vegetarians, missing horny bonobo chimps, and radical feminism (yes, it all fits), and the story gets wacky, crazy, and deadly at the end.


I continue to enjoy the craziness of the story lines that Hayter puts out, as well as the attitude of the lead character as she tries to steer clear of dead bodies and develop some type of relationship with any guy she can find.  While this isn't a "deep" novel with a moral or anything, it is a fun read that will provide a few hours of entertainment.

07/18/2004

Back from vacation...

Category Everything Else

I took a short vacation (four day weekend) to go to a family reunion at a place in central Oregon called Sun River.  Every year (or pretty much every year) we rent a vacation house over there and have a number of the Duff side of the family show up.  This year my dad and stepmom couldn't make it, as he had to head back to Arizona to look into probable hip replacement surgery.  But most of my family made it (Ian had to work), plus my sister and her family.  The new addition was her son's new wife Jennifer.  Poor girl...  subjected to the weirdness that is the Duff family, and nowhere to hide.  :-)  Actually, she fit in perfectly, and we all have a great time over there.  Nobody is expected to do anything in particular, and it's just a nice time to relax.

But I have to admit to some level of geekiness here...  Driving through Bend (right outside of Sun River), Cam had my laptop going in the backseat.  He plugged in the wireless card and I had him start Netstumbler.  We then proceeded to wardrive through the town.  I went back on Friday to see if I could snarf an open hotspot to check my mail.  I found one outside a small computer shop.  Even chatted with Ed Brill online, who agreed that sitting in an air-conditioned car outside a computer shop using a wireless hotspot is right up there in geekiness...  :-)

07/15/2004

In the latest DominoPower, there's a book review for...

Category Book Reviews

... the title "Special Edition Using Lotus Notes And Domino 6" by Jeff Gunther and Randall Tomura.  Sounds like a pretty good book.  I had to laugh at the following quote by David Gewirtz:

If you want to know everything you need to know about Lotus Notes and Domino, wouldn't it be cool if there was a book like the original Macintosh Bible for Notes and Domino? Wouldn't it be cool if there was just one book that covered pretty much everything about Notes and Domino?

As it turns out, there is.

Unfortunately, the name of the book isn't something as simple as, say, The Notes Bible. But though Special Edition Using Lotus Notes and Domino 6 is far more cumbersome to say, it's just as comprehensive a resource for Notes and Domino as that original Macintosh Bible was for Mac users.

Um...  I think there's a good reason why it's not called "The Notes Bible".  Rocky Oliver and Brian Benz already did that one!  :-)

07/14/2004

CRN Interview with Jeff Raikes, Microsoft

Category Microsoft


There's a dozen things I should be doing to get ready to go on vacation for a few short days, but this article just stood out too much to let it go.


CRN:  Interview With Jeff Raikes, Microsoft

Go ahead and read the interview...  then click on the Read More for some Duffbertian analysis.  There are quite a few areas I want to quote, so I didn't want to clutter up the main page.  :-)


(Update 07/14/2004:  Ed Brill also picked up this article and made some observations on it...)

07/13/2004

Book Review - Network Distributed Computing by Max K. Goff

Category Book Reviews

Today I was able to finish the review on the book Network Distributed Computing by Max K. Goff (Prentice Hall).  If you're looking for a high-level work that deals with much of the theory and direction of NDC, you'll get a lot from this book.

The chapter breakout:
Fitscapes and Fallacies; Ten Technology Trends; The Scope of NDC; NDC Theory; NDC Protocols; NDC Messaging; NDC Datacom: Wireless and Integration; Today's NDC Frameworks; Tomorrow's NDC Framework Options; Fallacies and Frameworks; Composability: Real-Time, Grids, and the Rise of an NDC Meta-Architecture; Innovation and Convergence; Index

Now let me go on record right away.  I deal much better with practical hands-on material.  I want to see code and systems.  From that perspective, this book was a let-down.  You aren't going to find code you can cut and paste to build a peer-to-peer client.  Having said that, this *is* an excellent book to understand exactly what types of issues are involved in conceiving, designing, and building NDC systems and architectures.  In fact, I could easily see this as a textbook for a college-level course on the subject.  The author stays remarkably vendor- and platform-neutral, so you won't get an overdose of *just* Sun or .Net approaches.

Not having spent much time thinking about all that goes into NDC systems, I was amazed at the complexity and issues that come into play for even the simpliest applications.  With the increasing significance of distributed computing, I think most IT professionals could benefit by reading through the material and becoming aware of trends that will be here in very short order.

07/13/2004

Book Review - Computer Security for the Home and Small Office by Thomas C. Greene

Category Book Reviews

I recently finished reading and reviewing the book Computer Security for the Home and Small Office by Thomas C. Greene (Apress).  While it does seem to lose focus a bit towards the end and has a definite bias (which I agree with!), the overall content and information is vital to know and understand.

The chapter breakdown:
Introducing the Dark Side; Vectors; Social Engineering; From Newbie to Power User; Treasure Hunt; The Open-Source Escape Hatch; Trust Nothing, Fear Nothing; Glossary; Procedures, Processes, and Ports; Online Resources; Index

First off, this is a highly readable and interesting book on how to secure your computer systems against attacks and keep your data private.  The author is very vocal in his opinions, and you'll quickly learn where those biases are.  He is a major proponent of using Linux and ditching Windows.  The only reason you should use IE is because you're forced to.  Even with that, he does go into each system and explain in detail what you need to do in order to harden your system.  This includes shutting down unnecessary services, running anti-virus software, and using firewalls.  All the stuff you'd expect to see in a book like this, and he delivers.  The detail is sufficient for most intermediate users to follow, and after you're done you'll have a system that most script kiddies will bypass as it's not worth the time or effort to crack.

Starting in the Trust Nothing chapter, he starts to rant about how security is portrayed in the media, along with the potential conflicts of interest between vunerabilities and the companies who fix them.  While interesting material, the focus on home/small office seems to get lost in the mix.  I don't know if it's just the style of the writing or what, but I was starting to wonder if we could just move on...

Windows bashers will love the book, Windows defenders will think he's overly critical of the platform.  Either way, this is material you can't afford to ignore in today's environment.

07/13/2004

Book Review - Tampa Burn by Randy Wayne White

Category Book Reviews

I finished the first book I've read of Randy Wayne White, Tampa Burn.  A pleasant surprise, and I'm sure I'll be reading more of his stuff down the road.

Doc Ford is a marine biologist with a murky past as a government agent involved in some killings in foreign locales.  He's living a quiet life around Tampa until he gets a call from Pilar Fuentes, the mother of his child and former wife of a corrupt Central American general who wants him dead.  Their son has been kidnapped, and Pilar wants Ford's help.  The kidnapper is a killer who is called Incindiaro, as he's fascinated by fire deaths and in fact is severly burned over most of his body.  The kidnapper appears to want the kid's skin for a face transplant, and Ford isn't about to let that happen.  To complicate everything, Pilar now wants nothing to do with Ford romantically, Ford's new love overhears his confession of love for Pilar and dumps him, and his sidekick Tomlinson may not be who Ford thinks he is...

Nice plot and pace, with some left-field (but reasonable) plot turns as the story comes down to the final pages.  There was definitely the potential for an "everyone *doesn't* live happily ever after" ending, but it resolves without being overly sappy or abrupt.  If I had read other books in the Doc Ford series first, I'd probably give this a top rating.  Starting here, there's some character development that's left out (and I assume is covered in earlier books).  Still, a very good read and well worth the time.

07/13/2004

Book Review - I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Category Book Reviews

There are some gaps in my classic sci-fi background, and I filled one of them in today.  I finished I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.  With the upcoming I, Robot movie with Will Smith, I figured it was about time to read the book before I ruined it by seeing the movie first.  :-)

Bottom line, this is top-flight classic science fiction by a master.  The book is part of the Robot series, and lays the foundation for the three laws of Robotics.  1) They mustn't harm a human being.  2) They must obey human orders.  3) They must protect their own existence, but only if it does not violate rules one and two.  The book is made up of a series of vignettes related to the rise of robots, from safe menial labor to all-knowing logic that runs society.  The interplay between the three laws and how they are interpreted definitely makes one think.

07/13/2004

Ballmer aims partners at Novell, Notes, Linux

Category Microsoft

Microsoft doesn't want to work "with" you, they want to convert you...

From eChannelLine USA:  Ballmer aims partners at Novell, Notes, Linux

There are so many inconsistencies here...

Also looking for an out, he told partners, are customers of IBM's Lotus Notes messaging software, whom Ballmer said are looking for options because of unclear roadmaps for the collaboration package. "I don't know what the heck IBM is doing with those people, but even we have never been this confusing about the future of a product for customers," he said.

I'll give him that one...  Microsoft just flat out came out and said they were ditching their Exchange strategy and didn't know yet what was going to replace it.  "There is no future right now for Exchange.  Stay tuned and trust us."

Thinking more long-term, Ballmer said Microsoft has a concrete roadmap for the future of Windows, and partners can "ride that tidal wave," instead of having to create new products and markets for Linux. A key concern for partners should be lining themselves up for where the technology innovation is going to be, Ballmer said, and his view is still that innovation is going to be led by commercial software.

Right...  Longhorn in 2004...  er, 2005...  er, 2006...  er, when we get our patches for IE done...  er, we'll roll out parts of it as we go.  Yeah, soon.

"A lot of open source work is being done as a good clone of commercial software, like Linux is to Unix," Ballmer said. "The breakthrough on the innovation front just has not been there as yet."

OpenOffice *is* a good clone of Microsoft's Office.  It does 95% of what everyone needs it for.  And it doesn't cost $400 to license it.  And if I'm not mistaken, uptake on the last few revs of Office haven't been too stellar as there was nothing much in the way of "killer features" that mandated a migration.  Innovation isn't always technology.  It can be ROI...  Remember, MS?  That thing that you said Linux doesn't have?

He also raised the specter of indemnity and liability, asking partners who will stand behind them and hold their customers liability-free in an open source environment, and brought up the "one throat to choke" issue, noting that it's not clear where to turn to get quick responses to security or other issues with Linux.

And it's crystal clear where to turn to get quick security responses for Microsoft software?  This is why CERT has recommended that IE is not secure and you should switch to an alternative browser?

Sorry, Mr. Ballmer...  either you're totally out of touch with what's happening to your company on the front lines, or you're in major spin mode.

07/13/2004

Microsoft CEO Touts Security Push At Conference

Category Microsoft

From Reuters:  Microsoft CEO Touts Security Push At Conference

OK...  I know sales people and CEOs are supposed to gush about their products, wax eloquent about how wonderful they are, and spin till their heads fall off.  But this one just floored me...

Ballmer told a crowd of hardware, software and consulting companies, which provide the bulk of Microsoft's revenue by reselling its software to businesses and homes, that the world's largest software maker was on track to deliver on its 2-1/2-year-old promise to make its software more secure and reliable.

Microsoft said Monday that in August, after a two-month delay, it is set to release an update called Service Pack 2 for the Windows XP operating system.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has made it a top priority to improve the security and reliability of its software, after Chairman Bill Gates launched its "Trustworthy Computing" initiative in a companywide memo in early 2002.

Major worms, such as Blaster and MyDoom, have exploited flaws in Windows -- causing computers to crash and putting them at risk of data loss and highlighting the challenge that Microsoft has in making its flagship product more secure.

Microsoft has encouraged users to sign up for Windows update, a service that automatically downloads patches to keep Windows up to date.

Ballmer said that Microsoft's Windows Automatic Update service has seen a fivefold increase in downloads over the last 10 months, with more than 112,000 servers accessing Microsoft's computers that check for updates on a daily basis.

OK...  Let me get this straight.  You're getting "better" at security because you've seen a five-fold increase of servers that check for security patches ON A DAILY BASIS???

This is like saying that a terminally ill patient is showing improvement because you can resusitate him in a fifth the time it used to take...

07/12/2004

Hopefully he'll forgive me for sharing this, but it's just too funny...

Category Humor


Let's frame the story correctly...  This is a Zamboni, the machine used to clear the ice at ice arenas...


A picture named M2

The scraped ice collects in the Zamboni, and then is deposited into the ice pit...


A picture named M3

Hard to see, but that pit can be around 4 to 8 feet deep...


The stage is now set...


I get a call from Ian on Sunday.  He's on the job at Mt. View ice arena.  I hear "Hey Dad, guess what I did?"  Being the typical father, I start thinking about the car being wrecked.  Not quite that bad.  He had just done an ice cut and the load was full.  To get the tip, he was supposed to rev the engine, but the Zam wasn't in neutral.  Oops!


I wish I could show you a picture of a Zam nose first into the ice pit, but I wasn't there.  Fortunately, Ian's fine, he's still employed, the Zam is OK, and it only cost $80 to get a tow truck to remove it from the pit.  He's not the first to do it, and he won't be the last, but he's going to be the butt of quite a few jokes around the arena for the next month or so.


This is the same Ian that shattered a pane of plexiglass with a slapshot some time back (same arena before he was employed there).  As his friend said...  "These things happen...  but not usually all to the same person!"

07/10/2004

Notes Security Vulnerabilities Reported with Java Applets

Category IBM/Lotus

There's not much here to go on yet, but I'll post a link to the advisory when it becomes available...

 http://www-1.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?rs=0&q1=1173910&uid=swg21173910&loc=en_US&cs=utf-8&cc=us&lang=en

It pertains to 6.x and 6.5 and has been reported to IBM.  Jouko Pynnonen is the person who has reported the findings.

07/10/2004

Isn't Now The Time To Try A Linux Desktop?

Category Linux

From eWeek:  Isn't Now The Time To Try A Linux Desktop?

Steven Vaughan-Nichols talks about the benefits of trying out a Linux desktop to run a more secure system.  He makes some very good points...

I found the following piece interesting...

Now, let's look at the latest Mozilla bug. This bug affects the Mozilla suite, the Firefox browser and the Thunderbird e-mail client. Just like the IE ones, it enabled crackers to run remote programs on Windows computers—no others—and it had been described in theory long before anyone demonstrated an exploit for it.

In early July, a way was shown on how to exploit the problem. By July 7, it was fixed. IE bugs? Still unfixed.

You know there might be something to this whole notion that open source speeds up security development.

What I find especially funny about this, though, is that the problem really wasn't with Mozilla in the first place. Mozilla simply revealed an XP hole—that Web pages could invoke the "shell:" program, which in turn would let a cracker run pretty much any program they wanted. Not good.

Yes, other browsers wouldn't let you get at this hole, but my point is that while Mozilla did provide a key—since destroyed—Microsoft put the keyhole there in the first place. Heck, Microsoft knew there were problems with "shell:" a year ago and it's still not patched. Now, Microsoft plans to close this hole in SP2.

Hmmm ... let me see now. It took open-source programmers less than a day to fix it, Microsoft programmers still haven't fixed the real problem, and it's been more than a year. I know which record I'm more impressed by!

Why so interesting?  One of the books I'm reading and reviewing right now talks about some of the statements that Steve Ballmer has made publically in Microsoft's attempt to demean and derail the open source movement.  Specifically, that all open-source software is developed by hackers in other countries with no concept of structured development and quality control.

I'm so glad we have Microsoft to show us the way...  :-)

07/10/2004

IBM Plans E-mail Server

Category IBM/Lotus

From New York Times:  IBM Plans E-mail Server

IBM will be announcing a new Express package called IBM Lotus Domino Messaging Express next week.  $48 a user when you convert from a competitive product...

Not bad...

07/10/2004

Dell Stops Shipping Windows On All Its Computers

Category Humor

From NewsForge:  Dell Stops Shipping Windows On All Its Computers

:-)

07/09/2004

Book Review - Just One Look by Harlan Coben

Category Book Reviews

I finished up Harlan Coben's latest novel Just One Look.  A page-turning mystery that delivers pretty well all the way through.

A woman by the name of Grace Lawson is living a normal life until she picks up a package of pictures from the photomat one day.  In the package is an older print of a group of people, one of which looks like a younger version of her husband.  When she asks him about it, he denies that it's him, but takes the picture and heads out late at night.  And like all good mysteries, he doesn't return.  Grace is trying to piece together what's going on when she gets a call from him asking for "space" to sort things out.  The police aren't quite sure what to think, especially when Jack's disappearance is tied into a murder and a near-killing from someone who is expert in martial arts.  The picture is the key, and they start to figure out who each person is.  But all the people have either been murdered or have disappeared.  The killings get closer and closer to Grace, and the race is on to find the killer and Jack before she's killed.

Overall, there's good suspense and action.  The thread that ties everything together is slowly revealed throughout the book, but each revelation seems to bring a new plot twist that takes it all in a different direction.  At the very end there's a number of things that come together quickly with a number of turns, but it all seems to be a bit muddled.  Not exactly a feel-good ending, but still worth the read.  

07/09/2004

The penguin wins more converts...

Category Linux

From ZDNet:  French Ministry leaves Microsoft for Linux

Mon dieu!  Vous ne pouvez pas faire confiance ces fran├žais !  :-)

Seriously, I would have liked it more had it been desktop Linux in addition to the servers, but still...


And from ComputerWorld:  Low-fare airline flies from Windows Server to Linux

While some may complain that open-source software has "no support", the truth of the matter is that if you don't have a solution with proprietary software, you have no other options.  With open source, you can build your own if necessary.

07/09/2004

A new acronym... HAMSH!

Category Microsoft

HAMSH...  Here's Another Microsoft Security Hole!

The latest HAMSH comes to us via a story from eWeek:  IE Exploit Attacks Another Piece of ActiveX

Using Internet Explorer hasn't gotten any safer in the past few days as a Dutch security hacker, Jelmer Kuperus, pointed out yet another unblocked security problem in the popular Web browser.

The latest exploit, an attack on a Windows ActiveX component called Shell.Application, is similar to the Download.Ject attack, also called JS.Scob.Trojan. In that exploit, crackers broke into IIS servers on several popular but still unnamed sites and used them to spread keyboard loggers, proxy servers and other malware through IE's ActiveX scripting technology.

Kuperus has published code that he claims can be used to break into Windows systems running IE with the Shell.Application exploit. The possibility of attacks using Shell.Application has been known in security circles since at least January 2004, when it was reported in the @RISK newsletter from The SANS Institute, a cooperative security research and education organization.

The Shell.Application exploit, like Download.Ject before it, makes it possible for crackers to create malicious, self-executing HTML files that can install and run an executable on the Web browser's PC.

At this time, however, there have been no reported attacks using the Shell.Application exploit. Microsoft is working on security updates for Internet Explorer that will address this and other ActiveX security problems.

And somehow this is supposed to be a competitive advantage???

07/09/2004

Friday fun... the Age Gauge

Category Humor

http://www.frontiernet.net/~cdm/age1.html

07/08/2004

Various Microsoft news items...

Category Microsoft

From Slate:  How Mozilla's Firefox Trumps Internet Explorer

From Slate!  Microsoft's own online publication!!!  It's pretty bad when your own media is telling people to abandon the product...

From InfoWorld:  Microsoft to pitch 'security' as competitive advantage

HUH???  It's stuff like this that scares me so much when it comes to Microsoft.  Are they so deluded that they believe that, or are they so unethical that they will spin anything to make a sale?

From Fortune:  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's Memo To Employees

An interesting read...  the text (slightly abridged) from the MS memo sent to all employees.

07/08/2004

New Blogger Alert! New Blogger Alert!

Category Blogging

The latest to join the Domino blogging universe (however you define it) is Christopher Byrne with his site at http://www.controlscaddy.com.  Very nice design and layout, and he's already making changes to the BlogSphere design...  :-)

Welcome, Chris!

07/07/2004

Microsoft's cost cutting...

Category Microsoft

A number of stories on Microsoft's plan to cut $1 billion US from their expenses in the upcoming year...

Forbes
Seattle Times
ITWorld.com

One of the perks that is on the potential chopping block is the "all you can drink" free soda/pop.  Oh, the humanity!  Actually, as a diet Coke/diet Pepsi addict, this one would infuriate me if I worked for MS.  :-)

Reminds me of my Enron days as the company was winding down in Portland before the office closure.  The budget was getting tighter and tighter, and we saw a number of ammenities go away.  No more shuttle to take us to the downtown area from our riverfront office building (where there wasn't much of anything).  Then they closed down our cafeteria with the hot grill.  We were supposed to get vending machines, but they never really showed up.  Then they only manned the guard desk from 7 am until 6 pm, and no one was allowed in the building outside those times.  Once they announced the office closure and gave us 60 days notice, they also quit filling the pop machines that dispensed free cans.  *THAT* was when I got really inconvenienced and had to start bringing my own, storing it in the departmental fridge, and making sure I rationed myself.  :-)

Seriously, I don't think that Microsoft is becoming another Enron.  But I do see glaring signs of a maturing company that can't sustain the growth they have in the past, and now are resorting to cost cuts to make the revenue expectations.  Perks first, then people...

There was a line in one of the articles I found interesting.  Ballmer is quoted as saying that they expect growth in the OS market as the number of PCs grow from 600 million to 1 billion by 2010.  There's a major assumption there, however.  Implicit in his statement is the assumption that Windows will be running on all of them.  I don't think that's a given any more...

07/07/2004

How To Replace Internet Explorer

Category Microsoft

There's been a lot of talk lately about how users are being advised to move away from Internet Explorer due to security risks, and to switch to other browsers.  Now Ziff-Davis has an article that covers just that subject:  How To Replace Internet Explorer.

It's mainly targeting an IE-to-Firefox move, and there's some good reading there.

07/06/2004

The July issue of the e-ProWire: Lotus Developer Tips newsletter is out...

Category e-Pro

The July issue of the e-ProWire: Lotus Developer Tips newsletter is now out.  There are articles on Notes/Domino application exploits, Lotus Instant Messenging development resources, and a book review on the Notes Notes And Domino 6 Programming Bible.  Feel free to drop by (or better yet, subscribe!), take some time to read through the articles, and offer feedback.

07/05/2004

Book Review - Deception Point by Dan Brown

Category Book Reviews

Instead of doing a number of things I *should* have been doing, I decided to start the novel Deception Point by Dan Brown.  Bad mistake...  I couldn't put it down.  :-)

The main story revolves around a meteorite which has been found embedded in ice in the Arctic Circle.  Even more surprising is that it shows fossils of bug-like creatures that prove that there is extraterrestrial life.  This occurs on a political backdrop where NASA (who discovered the meteor using a high-tech satellite) is under fire to be privatized, and the president is taking a beating from his opponent during an election year for defending them.  The president sends an NSA intel agent up to confirm the finding and report back, and at first all seems as it appears.  But people start getting murdered and some facts surface that point to the meteor being a well-constructed hoax.  Meanwhile, the senator gunning for the president's job is riding a roller coaster of fate on his campaign as NASA's stock goes up and down.  He's being illegally financed by a group that wants to take over the agency, and their discovery of the meteor could spell the end of his political life.  All these plotlines (and a few others) coverge at the end to a final showdown with a few twists I didn't see coming...

This is probably one of the best recreational reads I've had of late.  The pacing was perfect.  It wasn't over-written, even though the book is 557 pages long.  I was actually interested through the whole thing.  While I had my misgivings about his other works like The Da Vinci Code, Brown writes an excellent techo-thriller.

07/05/2004

IBM Lotus Domino Web Access Message Handling Denial of Service

Category IBM/Lotus

From Secunia - IBM Lotus Domino Web Access Message Handling Denial of Service



TITLE:
IBM Lotus Domino Web Access Message Handling Denial of Service

SECUNIA ADVISORY ID:

SA12007

RELEASE DATE:

2004-07-05

VERIFY ADVISORY:

http://secunia.com/advisories/12007/

CRITICAL:

Moderately critical

WHERE:

From remote

IMPACT:

DoS

SOFTWARE:

IBM Lotus Domino Web Access (iNotes) 6.x

DESCRIPTION:

Andreas Klein has reported a vulnerability in IBM Lotus Domino Web Access (formerly iNotes), which can be exploited by malicious people to cause a DoS (Denial of Service).

The vulnerability is caused due to an unspecified error when processing mails and can be exploited by sending a mail containing an overly large, specially crafted JPG image attachment (about 12 MB) to a vulnerable system.

Successful exploitation reportedly crashes the whole Domino server, when the mail is opened.

The vulnerability has been reported on a system running Domino 6.5.1. Other versions may also be affected.


SOLUTION:

A fix will reportedly not be issued.

Limit the maximum message size.


REPORTED BY CREDITS:

Andreas Klein

07/05/2004

Microsoft's patchwork mess

Category Microsoft

From ZDNet:  Microsoft's Patchwork Mess

Interesting article related to the latest MS security hole and how they responded to it.  To quote:

But the process reveals a lack of attention to detail--and that's the bigger problem because it represents a glaring shortcoming in the company's Trustworthy Computing initiative. Microsoft is trying to limit the length of time authors of malicious code have to inspect software fixes, to write and distribute malware that exploits the vulnerabilities, and to attack still-unprotected systems.  

The notice, which was posted on Microsoft's site by 9 a.m. on July 2, 2004, says the Windows Update service will be distributing the fix later in the day. People who want to move more quickly are directed to download the code from Microsoft's Download Center.

But clicking the link will lead to a page that offers not a clue about where to find the fix that Microsoft says is there. The site lists popular downloads and even featured downloads. But nowhere is something that says, "If you've come here for the download that protects you against Download.Ject, click here!"

The only hope of finding it is in a link that expands the list of most-popular downloads to one that's more comprehensive. I clicked on that. A scan of the list offers no clues as to whether one of the downloads might be the one I'm looking for. At the very least, a list of dates should be shown here.

So, in exasperation, I entered "Download.Ject" into the keywords search field. Presumably, when I hit go, this will take me to the download I'm looking for. But still nothing.

Microsoft had no comment at the time this story was published about why the statement refers to a download that can't be found. But it did offer a link that leads directly to the download. Unfortunately, following this link reveals yet another problem.

Instead of mentioning Download.Ject or "keystroke logging" (some keywords that users will want to see in order to know that they've reached the right place), the heading on the page appeals to software developers instead. It says "Critical Update for Microsoft Data Access Components - Disable ADODB.Stream object from Internet Explorer (KB870669)." The more recognisable keywords aren't mentioned in the description of the update either.

This glitch in Microsoft's processes doesn't speak well of the Trustworthy Computing initiative or the attention to detail that Microsoft is applying to the most dangerous of transgressions. In order to breed confidence, Microsoft still must go to greater lengths to make sure that updates for securing systems are ready to go before announcing them. And it must also post prominent and easy-to-understand road signs that point regular users and administrators of Windows systems to the highest priority updates as quickly as possible.

This brings up a couple points for me...  For one, Bill Gates last week said that many of the security problems could be solved if people would just turn on their automatic update feature and let Windows do it automatically.  That's just patching a symptom rather than solving the problem, and there are times where the patch could kill the patient.  There is no way I'm going to let Microsoft automatically patch and reboot my machine at their whim.

And two...  As developers, we need to pay close attention to our systems and how we relay information to our customers.  If we say we're going to do something, make sure people can find what it is we want them to find.

07/04/2004

Book Review - Hidden Prey by John Sandford

Category Book Reviews

Back to a little recreational reading...

I finished Hidden Prey by John Sandford a couple of days ago.  This is the latest in his Prey series with main character Lucas Davenport.  While I enjoyed it, it wasn't as good as some of his previous installments...

A Russian from a docked freighter is murdered on the docks.  The killer notices a homeless woman who has witnessed the crime and takes off after her (but doesn't find her).  A couple of days later, a homeless lady is found strangled and everyone thinks it's a connection to the first murder.  Davenport is called in to help investigate the crime when Russia sends over a female "police chief" to help with the case.  She is not who or what she seems to be, and it starts to look more and more like an espionage ring is responsible for the killing.  It's up to Davenport to not only figure out who the killer is, but why the killings took place.

I like Sandford's writing and characters, so from that perspective I liked the book.  What I didn't care for is how the story is structured.  Murder mysteries seem to be written in two main styles.  Either you don't have a clue who the killer is (and the story is tracking down who dun it), or you know right up front who the killer is (and you watch the action unfold as s/he is brought to justice).  This is a blend of the two.  You know who did the killing, and you watch them being tracked down, but there's no clue as to why the Russian was killed or how the espionage angle (which is very big in the story) figures in.  Since you don't learn the "why" until very close to the end, I tended to lose some interest in the whole story.  I was getting close to a "who cares" point.  I'd probably give this a 3.5 stars if I could do half ratings, but since I can't I'll error on the up side.

07/04/2004

Competitive Eating contests... This just seems *wrong*...

Category Everything Else

Every year on the 4th of July, Nathan's Hot Dogs holds a competitive hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.  It's been going on for nearly 90 years.  The goal is to see how many hot dogs you can eat in 12 minutes.  A new record was set today by a Japanese guy (small little dude) who has held the title for the last four years.  He downed 53 dogs in that 12 minute period.  53!  ESPN covered it live and was hyping it like a major sporting championship.  I hope much of it was tongue-in-cheek, as there was far too much enthusiasm being displayed for people stuffing their faces.

I suppose this is similar to the country fair pie eating contents of Americana lore.  But at least that was a one time shot.  These hot dog eaters compete and "train" year around.  There's a competitive eating sporting association that sponsors these things.  And it's not just hot dogs.  There are hard-boiled eggs, peppers, burritos, and just about anything else you can imagine.

This just seems wrong on a number of levels.  For one, "training" your body to consume 17,000 calories in a 12 minute period?  And for another...  with hunger being a problem in many parts of the world, how do you justify "competitive eating"?  Activities like "extreme ironing" are funny, but competitive eating seems to be morally suspect.

07/03/2004

Book Review - XML Programming Bible by Brian Benz and John Durant

Category Book Reviews

As a follow-up to the XML 1.1 Bible review, I took a look at the XML Programming Bible by Brian Benz with John Durant (Wiley).  For those who want to use XML within their application development (as opposed to just web pages), this is the perfect follow-on book to have.

The chapter breakout...
Part 1 - Introducing XML - XML Concepts; XML Documents; XML Data Format and Validation; XML Parsing Concepts; Parsing XML with DOM; Parsing XML with SAX; XSLT Concepts; XSL Transformations; XSL Formatting Objects
Part 2 - Microsoft Office and XML - Microsoft XML Core Services; Working with the MSXML DOM; Generating XML from MS Access Data; Creating an Excel Spreadsheet from an XML Data Source
Part 3 - XML Web Applications Using J2EE - XML Tools for J2EE: IBM, Apache, Sun, and Others; Xerces; Xalan; XML APIs from Sun
Part 4 - Relational Data and XML - Accessing and Formatting XML from SQL Server Data; Accessing and Formatting XML from Oracle Data; Accessing and Formatting XML from DB2; Building XML-Based Web Applications with JDBC; Transforming Relational XML Output into Other Formats
Part 5 - Introducing Web Services - Web Services Concepts; SOAP; WSDL; UDDI; Microsoft Web Services; J2EE Web Services
Part 6 - Microsoft .Net and Web Services - Creating and Deploying .Net Web Services; Accessing .Net Web Services; Building a .Net Web Services Client
Part 7 - Web Services and J2EE - Web Service Tools for J2EE: IBM, Apache, Sun, and Others; Web Services with the Sun Java Web Services Developer Pack; Apache Axis; Access Web Services from Java Applications
Part 8 - Advanced Web Services - Accessing Relational Data via Web Services; Authentication and Security for Web Services; Index

I think I got finger cramps just typing all that!  :-)

Seriously, there's really good material here.  The assumption is made that you already understand basic XML technology.  Benz doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time covering introductory material.  Part 1 does do a bit of that, but only enough to establish the basic direction for the rest of the book.  There is much more attention paid to XML concepts that come into play for programmers, such as the document object model of XML and how the two types of parsers (DOM and SAX) work.  The rest of the book is highly practical, with examples of how to generate or access XML data using a variety of platforms, such as Microsoft Office, .Net, J2EE, Oracle, etc.

For me personally, I appreciate the emphasis on code and working examples.  I have always learned more by taking something that works, tearing it apart, and using it as the basis for my own efforts.  Benz has provided many examples that provide just that opportunity.  Being that he doesn't restrict his writing to a single platform (like .Net or J2EE), this is one of few books that have a cross-over appeal to many technology platforms.  If you happen to work in a shop that uses both Microsoft and Java technologies, you'll be able to get a single book that will assist you on both sides of the fence.

Basically, there's nothing I can find fault with for this book.  It's solid writing of essential information you need for using XML in your various applications.  This is a book that gets my highest recommendation.

07/03/2004

Book Review - XML 1.1 Bible by Elliotte Rusty Harold

Category Book Reviews

I've had the opportunity to go through the XML 1.1 Bible by Elliotte Rusty Harold (Wiley), and I must say it's impressive.  Any time you get a tech book going into a 3rd edition, you have to think that the author is doing something right.  If you fit the criteria for the target audience, you should be pleased.

The chapter breakout:
Part 1 - Introducing XML - An Eagle's Eye View of XML; XML Applications; Your First XML Document; Structuring Data; Attributes, Empty-Element Tags, and XSL; Well-formedness
Part 2 - Document Type Definitions - Validity; Element Declarations; Attribute Declarations; Entity Declarations; Namespaces
Part 3 - Style Languages - CSS Style Sheets; CSS Layouts; CSS Text Styles; XSL Transformations; XSL Formatting Objects
Part 4 - Supplemental Technologies - XLinks; XPointers; XInclude; Schemas
Part 5 - XML Applications - XHTML; Modular XHTML; The Resource Directory Description Language; Scalable Vector Graphics; Designing a New XML Application; Index

I mentioned the "target audience" above.  As you can tell from the chapter layout (and also in the introduction), the author is targeting XML as used in web page design.  You won't find anything in here about how to write a Java program to parse out XML using one of the XML parsers available.  If that's your need, don't get this book.  You'll be highly disappointed.  This should be used as more of a reference tool for working with XML or related technologies like DTD or XSL.  

I also appreciated the author's explanation as to what went into the 3rd edition.  Rather than just add more stuff to what already existed, he removed XML technology chapters that just never caught momentum, like VML or RDF.  So although the book is still 1000 pages, it's made up of content that is usable and applicable to the current state and direction of the technology.  It's nice to know you're not getting a rehash of material just so the author can squeeze a few more bucks out of a title.  Thanks!

The conversational and informal tone of the writing makes the material very approachable and readable.  The examples are clear and concise, and relevant to how the technology would be used in the real world.  Overall, a very good selection to add to your XML bookshelf.

07/02/2004

Book Review - UML Bible by Tom Pender

Category Book Reviews

If you are at all involved with the use of UML in your programming or analysis activities, you'll most likely be interested in seeing the UML Bible by Tom Pender (Wiley).  Like all 'Bible' titles from Wiley, this book covers a wide range of topics that should give you most any answer you need to find.

The chapter breakout is in seven parts:
Part 1 - An Introduction to UML - What Is UML?; UML Architecture; UML Diagrams and Extension Mechanisms; Object-Oriented Concepts
Part 2 - Modeling Object Structure - Capturing Rules about Objects in a Class Diagram; How to Capture Rules about Object Relationships; Testing With Objects
Part 3 - Modeling Object Interactions - Modeling Interactions in UML 1.4; Modeling Interactions in UML 2.0; Modeling an Object's Lifecycle in UML 1.4; Modeling an Object's Lifecycle in UML 2.0
Part 4 - Modeling Object Behavior - Modeling the Use of a System with the Use Case Diagram; Modeling Behavior Using an Activity Diagram
Part 5 - Modeling the Application Architecture - Using Packages; Modeling Software Using the Component Diagram; Using Deployment Diagrams in UML 1.4; Using Deployment Diagrams in UML 2.0
Part 6 - Bringing Rigor to the Model - Applying Constraints to the UML Diagrams; Action Semantics
Part 7 - Automating the UML Modeling Process - Using a Modeling Tool; Customizing UML Using Profiles; XML Metadata Interchange
Appendices - UML 1.4 Notation Guide; UML 2.0 Notation Guide; Standard Elements; Glossary; Index

Now, I'm not a UML expert by any stretch of the imagination.  But based on what I have read and studied to date, this book covers everything.  Taking the Use Case chapter as an example, I can see that there is an abundance of technical detail and diagramming to explain the topic completely.  Couple this chapter with the notation guide in the back, and you have a reference guide that is hard to beat.  At the time this book was written, UML 2.0 wasn't yet released.  But the author takes the specs that should be part of the final release and explains how those features are different than UML 1.4.  As a result, you shouldn't outgrow this book anytime soon.

The only quibble I have with the book is the audience that the author says he is targeting.  Readers new to object-oriented analysis are expected to be able to get an in-depth understanding of UML and be able to become a productive member of a team by reading this book.  In my opinion, that may be a bit of a reach.  If I had no UML experience, I'd find this book very daunting in both the size and complexity of the material.  My recommendation would be to find an entry level UML book, and work through it before tackling this book.  With the UML fundamentals fresh in your mind, you'll be able to come at this book from a much better position and benefit much more quickly.

Overall, a good book to have around...

07/02/2004

Book Review - Eats, Shoots And Leaves by Lynne Truss

Category Book Reviews


Just the other day I finished
Eats, Shoots & Leaves - The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss.  You can draw one of two conclusions from this.  Either I'm getting really serious about my writing, or I've gone over the edge and started reading books on arcane points of grammer and writing.  I'd like to think it's the first of the two options, with a bent toward reading some really funny stuff!

Lynne Truss is English, and has written a book that took many by surprise.  Ranked #5 on Amazon at this time, and it's a book on punctuation?  Hey, where else can you get writing like this:


"As we shall shortly see, the comma has so many jobs as a 'separator' (punctuation marks are traditionally either 'separators' or 'terminators') that it tears about on the hillside of language, endlessly organising words into sensible groups and making them stay put: sorting and dividing; circulating and herding; and of course darting off with a peremptory 'woof' to round up any wayward subordinate clause that makes a futile bolt for semantic freedom.  Commas, if you don't whistle at them to calm down, are unstoppably enthusiastic at this job."


As a writer, I at least try to pay attention to punctuation.  As a reader, you're more influenced by punctuation than you probably realize.  Truss covers the history of words and such with dry English wit and humor, making sure you learn dispite yourself.  After finishing this book, you should have a much better grasp of what little symbol goes where, and when you should use a comma vs. a semi-colon vs. a colon.  It's almost worth reading just for the quality of writing, regardless of whether the subject matter appeals to you.


The only problem with reading a book like this...  Now that it's known I've read the book, you can watch my writing and see whether I've learned anything.  :-)

07/01/2004

Book Review - Java Testing And Design by Frank Cohen

Category Book Reviews

I recently received a review copy of Java Testing And Design - From Unit Testing To Automated Web Tests by Frank Cohen (Prentice Hall).  While there is some good information to be gleaned from the book, there were a few things that got in the way.

The chapter layout:  The Forces at Work Affecting Your Web-Enabled Software; When Application Performance Becomes A Problem; Modeling Tests; Java Development and Test Automation Tools; Bridging from Methodology to Design; Design and Test in HTTP/HTML Environments; Tuning SOAP and XML Web Services; State, Design, and Testing; Integrating with .NET Web Services; Building and Testing Intranets and Secure Environments; A Web Application Framework from Construction to Test; Turning Test Agent Results into Actionable Knowledge; Concurrency and Scalability in a High-Volume Datacenter; Making the Right Choices for SOAP Scalability; Multiprotocol Testing in an Email Environment; Index

When I first requested the book, I was thinking it would help me to understand how to adequately test my Java programs using software like JUnit and such.  Throw in some methodology and best practices, and I was ready to go.  To be fair, the author does cover the topics of testing quite throughly, and especially testing of web-based HTTP applications.  If you're not looking for software how-to or detailed discussion of many different products, then you'll benefit from the book.

Where I had problems is that most of the technical parts of the book involve showing the reader how to use an open source package that he wrote called TestMaker by PushToTest.  There is, in my view, too much "using the software that we wrote" material.  All the code uses JavaDoc comments that show the particular PushToTest developer who wrote the code.  Before too long, I felt as if I was in a 500 page infomercial for TestMaker.  The software might well be excellent, but I felt somewhat lead astray in that I felt as if I was being pushed towards TestMaker rather than towards a variety of tools that one could use.  I would have felt better about the whole thing had the title been "Java Testing And Design Using TestMaker".

07/01/2004

Book Review - Revenge Of The Cootie Girls by Sparkle Hayter

Category Book Reviews

Back to some amateur female detective genre...  This time it's Revenge Of The Cootie Girls by Sparkle Hayter.  I picked up some of her work earlier and liked it, so I thought I'd keep reading.  In this case, it's a good thing this wasn't the first book of hers that I read.  It might have been the last.  This one just didn't click for me.

Robin Hudson, now an executive producer for the studio she works at, is ready for a Girls Night Out event on Halloween.  She invites her best friends as well as an intern who works for her.  When the intern doesn't show up at the appointed meeting place, Hudson gets a little concerned.  She ends up stumbling onto what appears to be some sort of charity event where her intern is going from place to place, and is then given a clue for the next location.  Since the questions are about Hudson, she thinks it's some sort of benefit.  But the clues get more bizarre, the locations more risky, and additional people start showing up who don't quite look like they're into "charitable events".  Hudson thinks it's all part of something put on by an old school chum (a fellow "cootie girl"), but even that gets complicated.  The story works up to a life or death showdown at the end.

I'll give the book an average rating as I like Hayter's writing style and imagery.  For story and plot, it'd be a lot lower.  The story line is muddled and doesn't move much, and far too much time is spent reexaming Hudson's years as a school outcast.  At the end, I'm not quite sure who was doing what, much less why.  I sincerely hope for better stuff to come, as I still have a couple more of her books to get to...

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