About Duffbert...

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

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01/30/2005

Free for downloading... Notes database of all MS Office constants!

Category Software Development

Hi, everyone...  Some time back, John Coolidge created a set of files that listed all the Microsoft Office constants.  These files were really useful, in that you could easily see what the numeric value was of any constant used in a VBA (and for us, LotusScript) application.  With his permission, I put them into a Notes database to make it a little easier to work with.  I had sort of forgotten about these two databases until John Head brought them up during one of his Lotusphere presentations.

So rather than continue to sit on them, I'll post them out there so that you can download them at your leisure...


R5 version of the MS Constants database

ND6 version of the MS Constants database

01/30/2005

Book Review - PC Hardware Annoyances

Category Book Reviews

O'Reilly has a series of Annoyances books on the market, and I recently had a chance to review the PC Hardware Annoyances book by Stephen J. Bigelow.  It's a really good book with an enormous number of tips and tricks to fix misbehaving computer components.

Chapter List:  
Desktop Annoyances: Setup Annoyances; Keyboard Annoyances; Mouse Annoyances; Startup Annoyances; BIOS/CMOS Annoyances; Memory Annoyances; Processor Annoyances; Card and Port Annoyances; Maintenance Annoyances
Laptop/PDA Annoyances: Setup/Startup Annoyances; Battery Annoyances; LCD Annoyances; PC Card Annoyances; PDA Annoyances; Maintenance Annoyances
Graphic Annoyances: Configuration Annoyances; Driver Annoyances; Upgrade Annoyances; Desktop Annoyances; Monitor Annoyances; 3D Annoyances; Video Capture/Playback Annoyances; Player Software Annoyances
Sound Annoyances: Configuration Annoyances; Setup Annoyances; Speaker Annoyances; CD Audio Annoyances; Music Player Annoyances
Hard Drive Annoyances: Configuration Annoyances; Performance Annoyances; Maintenance Annoyances; Backup and Restore Annoyances
CD/DVD Drive Annoyances: Configuration Annoyances; Performance Annoyances; Playback Annoyances; Recording Annoyances; Rewriting Annoyances; Burning Software Annoyances; DVD Player Annoyances
Network Annoyances: Configuration Annoyances; Modem Annoyances; Cable Annoyances; DSL Annoyances; Wireless Networking Annoyances; General Networking Annoyances; Printer and File Sharing Annoyances; Firewall Annoyances
Printer and Scanner Annoyances: Setup Annoyances; Performance Annoyances; Maintenance Annoyances; Color Printer Annoyances; Paper Annoyances; Scanner Annoyances
Index

As you can see, Bigelow covers a lot of ground in the book.  I almost view this as a combination between a Hacks book and a compilation of questions asked by readers.  And in fact, the compilation angle is pretty accurate.  O'Reilly solicits annoyances from a number of sources, and these submissions make up a large part of what the author writes about.  The questions can range anywhere from pretty basic ("my cursor skips all over the screen, and the mouse doesn't seem to be controlling it very well") to pretty advanced ("I get an HPF9XDR0 error whenever I try to print to my HP printer"), and Bigelow covers all of them with complete and often humorous information.  In between the annoyance/fix entries, you will find a number of warnings, tips, and tools that will make your interactions with your hardware much more error-free.

The "bad" thing about a book like this is that *your* particular annoyance may not be covered.  Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do about that.  But the breath of questions covered should give you some insights that can be applied to your problem if it isn't answered directly.  This is a book you probably want to have around your bookshelf "just in case" something goes wrong.  Very well done.

01/29/2005

Book Review - Torpedo Juice by Tim Dorsey

Category Book Reviews

My recreational reading while at a software conference last week was the newest Tim Dorsey novel titled Torpedo Juice.  Like all that come before them, the book is hard to explain, but so much fun to read...

Serge Storms, the main character in many of Dorsey's other works, is now convinced he needs to settle down and get married.  He just needs a wife, and what better way to find one than to start doing reconnaissance at local venues (complete with binoculars and tails).  He passes up an obvious choice for a librarian who seems to be completely and totally closed off socially.  But one thing leads to another, and they *do* get married, and Serge now learns that communication between husband and wife is a difficult thing.  Meanwhile, the other plotlines of the book are swirling around at tornado pace.  Anna is trying to escape a band of killers who murdered almost everyone she knows, and she's next.  The bartender at the No Name isn't quite what he seems to be.  The mystery drug kingpin who lives on No Name Key may not be either.  Will Coleman get laid, and will the lucky lady ever be the same?  Who's trying to kill Serge?  And what are all the Key West deer doing roaming around the book?

There's no good way to describe a Dorsey novel.  I tend to think of him as Carl Hiaasen on speed.  Storms is a wacky killer who longs for the Florida that's rapidly disappearing, and he's doing everything he can to preserve it.  You'll see every stereotype of Florida natives during the story, and if you're from there you might even see yourself.  If you're looking for a measured, well-paced story with logical progressions, keep moving...  there's nothing to see here.  But if you want slapstick comedy with twists coming out of *deep* left field, this book will be perfect.  

01/29/2005

Book Review - Empires Of Light by Jill Jonnes

Category Book Reviews

What does one do when they are on a red-eye flight for six hours and can't sleep?  They read!  The target of my insomnia for this trip was Empires Of Light - Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, And The Race To Electrify The World by Jill Jonnes.  If this is a part of history you haven't ever been exposed to, it's a fascinating read...

Jonnes goes back to the mid-to-late 1800's and covers the story of how Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse transformed society with the power of electricity.  Back then, the predominate form of lighting was the gaslight...  dirty, smoky, and not very efficient.  Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse all had ideas about electricity and how it might be packaged in a form that could illuminate the night and run motors.  Edison was a proponent of Direct Current, or DC, power, while Westinghouse was pushing the Alternating Current, or AC, power type.  Since we obviously now have an AC power grid worldwide, you can tell who won the war over the long term.  But in the beginning, things were far from settled.  DC is a much safer power source, but it can not travel very far.  As a result, power stations had to be built all over a city to provide the necessary electricity to that area.  On the other hand, AC can travel great distances and is much more efficient, but it can be much more dangerous and deadly.  It was this safety issue that led to some of the more "memorable" events of the time, like Edison pushing AC power for an electric chair to kill someone, so that AC would be associated in the public mind as dangerous.  While Edison and Westinghouse were fighting things out on the lighting side, Tesla was a complete eccentric who wanted to invent the first AC powered motor (when it was thought that it couldn't be done).  

Being in the tech industry, what kept standing out to me was how those times were nearly identical to the dot.com era.  There are new technologies that are changing the way that people live.  Standards are nonexistent, and everyone is fighting to become the king of the new economy.  A quote that seemed so appropriate:  "For many years the Edison Company contented itself with flooding the country with circulars trying to ridicule the Westinghouse system.  One morning it suddenly awoke to find it had a competitor.  Now it says that if the contract is given to Westinghouse an injunction will head him off."  Remind you of any software companies today?

While the overall writing style may not be as riveting as a techno-thriller, it's good enough to carry the reader back to a time where technology was *truly* changing people's lives.  This is a must-read for people who think we are in "unprecedented times", when in reality we are just replaying the past.

01/29/2005

Some various news stories that came out during the week of Lotusphere...

Category Lotusphere 2005

From InfoWorld: IBM's Lotus Jumps Ahead With Domino 7

Both IBM and Microsoft are trumpeting their respective messaging platforms this month and the two roads are diverging.

Both vendors a couple years ago drew up big plans for a unified data store across messaging, database, applications, which they promised would simplify data management.

Well, IBM has jumped ahead in a piece of that vision. Big Blue confirmed this week that the forthcoming Lotus Notes Domino Version 7 will offer the ability to store Domino data in IBM DB2. Microsoft, meanwhile, earlier this year deferred the WinFS unified storage technology in Longhorn and last week said that the next version of Exchange, due in the 2006 or 2007 timeframe, will stick to the JET database technology. Earlier Microsoft officials had suggested Exchange might adopt WinFS or SQL Server 2005, formerly called Yukon.

As users look ahead to messaging upgrades, how important is this distinction?

Significant productivity benefits can be gleaned through a unified data store across e-mail, content creation, database, and storage, according to The Yankee Group senior analyst Dana Gardner.

"There is a lot of lost productivity when you don't have a common format for all of your different data. Attachments and spreadsheets are difficult to manage and finding things is [going to get] increasingly difficult," Gardner said.

IBM and Oracle have a lead over Microsoft in moving to a more unified data platform for messaging, but IBM has a huge global installed base with Notes, Gardner said.

Although Microsoft laid out strong TCO gains in Exchange 12, IBM and Oracle customers can get a jump on some of the productivity benefits of having a common data layer.

"There are some risks for IBM as users consider their options for Domino, but the advanced enterprise that exploits the DB2-Domino tag team and builds out a common data architecture using DB2 Integrator products to gain broad control over content and data will gain significant long term productivity," Gardner said.

"Microsoft will still have its users mucking around in spreadsheet marts and Exchange public folders for their intelligence assets for years to come," he said.

From Ferris Research:  The Notes Roadmap - Additional Perspective

This take from Ferris just freaking rocks!  Go read it.

From Gartner: IBM's Workplace Strategy Gains Credibility At Lotusphere

During 2004, most Gartner client inquiries about Workplace were about IBM’s Workplace strategy — in particular, what it meant for established Lotus Notes and Domino investments. IBM’s lack of a clear strategic message created this concern.

Based on feedback Gartner analysts collected at the event from more than 100 users and business partners, we believe IBM’s refinements in both Lotus Notes and Domino and Workplace strategy and messages have eased most Lotus Notes and Domino customers’ concerns — perhaps a bit too much. Lotus Notes and Domino customers still need to understand Workplace technology, and IBM still needs to communicate its Workplace message to its Lotus Notes and Domino customers, most of whom were not at the event.

AND...

Recommendations:

Technology buyers: Evaluate IBM’s role-based, vertical-market-focused and starter-kit versions of Workplace.

Lotus Notes and Domino customers: Stay the course. An immediate migration anywhere makes little sense if your Lotus Notes and Domino investment was justified in the first place.


And I think what's more telling....  There were no "look at me!" preemptive announcements from Microsoft during the week...

01/29/2005

Don't you love going to the doctor, paying your co-pay, only to be told...

Category Everything Else

... Yup, you're sick!  Everyone here has it, it's viral in nature, antibiotics won't help, blah, blah, blah...

I did get a prescription for some industrial-strength cough medicine that I can take that should help me sleep some.  

My sincerest apologies to everyone I coughed around last week...

01/27/2005

Lotusphere Day #6 - Thursday

Category Lotusphere 2005

The turntable has slowly spun down to a stop, the signs at the Dolphin are all gone, no one is wearing badges around their necks, and no one has a backpack on.  Was the last week real, or was it a dream?

The final day of Lotusphere always tends to be a bit light.  All the side attractions like the product showcase are shut down, and you're pretty well funnelled into a smaller set of choices and repeats of the week.  After getting up at 6:00 (actually, after *waking* up at 9:30 pm and not going back to sleep much after that), I went down to breakfast, ate the ever-present scrambled eggs and muffins, and then went over to the Swan to see Bill Buchan's Best Practices for Object Oriented LotusScript.  I've never done classes in LS, and after listening to Bill, I wonder how I lived without them.  Besides being full of content, the session was funny.  Imagine a hairy Scotsman the size of an ewok presenting at 8:30 in the morning after smoking two packs of cigarettes the night before at Islands Of Adventure.  Yes, it *was* that scary.  From there, back over to the Dolphin to catch Application Performance Techniques for Domino Developers.  Another loaded session for content, and there are some downloads I'll need to get when I get back.  Definitely opened my eyes to a few things.  *Back* over at the Swan for GuruPalooza, which was a new event where all the Best Practices track speakers were up on stage to answer any questions thrown at them by the audience.  It was pretty well packed out, and there are some excellent resources out there.

I met up with Chris Byrne for lunch before he headed back home.  This has been a great Lotusphere for him as he continues to launch his business that focuses on compliance issues.  Of everyone I talked to, Chris might have been the big winner there.  Normally, I would have gone back to the Swan for Meet/Beat The Developers, but I was fading quickly.  I dropped by my room and zoned for an hour or so until the closing session at 3:30.  This year they had comic Steven Wright on stage.  I've never seen his stuff before, and it's a continuous string of one and two line observations of life delivered in a laid-back monotone...  supposedly from smoking Ritalin as a kid.  Pretty funny stuff, and a great way to end the conference...

So...  It's approaching 9 pm, and I'm popping Nyquil and trying to render myself unconscious for eight hours.  I'm sure once I get back to Portland late tomorrow night, I'll have some general overall impressions and thoughts to share.  Right now, I'm just letting the experience that is Lotusphere wash over me.  An enormous number of highs, a few selected lows (all health-related), and as ever, a memory never to be forgotten or taken lightly.

Thanks everyone...  In 1997, it was all about information and learning.  In 2005, it's all about the people.  The information just happens.  It's all of you who make this an event that recharges me and gives me some professional focus.

Ah, just great...  where's the kleenex?

01/25/2005

Lotusphere Day 4 - Tuesday...

Category Lotusphere 2005

Who in their right mind scheduled the freaking certification breakfast for 7 am this morning???

OK...  after last night's early morning hosting of the Duffbert hospitality suite, I knew that the special certification breakfast was going to come far too early this morning.  Actually, I woke up before the alarm went off at 6:15 as the coughing and cold continues to plague me.  After figuring out it started at 7 instead of 7:30, Joe and I scrambled to get ready and hustle over to the Yacht and Beach Club hotel.  The breakfast was really a continenal affair with plenty of carbs and coffee.  Honestly, I think the main breakfast would have been better.  I thought that the special journal and pen was rather nice, until John Roling (who *skipped* the breakfast) pulled one out of his backpack that he had picked up at the CLP lounge.  I wanted to hurt him.   :-)

Off to session #1 - Leveraging Java to integrate Domino into Portal and Workplace.  Snoozer.  No mention of Workplace, and the Portal piece was basically how to code a portlet.  Not the best session I've been to.  Grabbed a couple of diet Pepsis and headed over to the Domino Application Tuning session.  That was good, and there's some good stuff coming up in 7.0 that will greatly aid in figuring out how to write more efficient agents.  Session #3 was Rocky Oliver's Formula Big Top.  By far one of the best sessions I've seen.  Rocky is a great presenter (so glad I didn't have to follow him this year), and his tips on some new @Formula uses will get some immediate applicability back home.  Lunch after that, and finally got a chance to talk a bit with Chris Miller.  We usually have run into each other a number of times by now, but this year it just wasn't happening.  After lunch, I was hiking back over to the Swan for a DXL session.  Not the best hour I've spent.  The speaker had just gotten in two hours before from the storm, and the information was rather confusing if you didn't know DXL.  I probably should have headed over to Henry Newberry's CSS session, but I didn't (much to my regret).  Oh, well.  The 3 pm and 4:15 pm sessions were no-shows by yours truly, as my body was rebelling over the cold and less-than-acceptable sleep patterns.  After a bit of a rest, it was off to a 6 pm demo of the TeamStudio BuildManager product (very cool stuff) and then my 7:30 pm dinner with the e-Pro staff.  That's always a highlight of my Lotusphere, and it was nice to *finally* see Libby this week.  Seems like we've been orbiting on opposite sides of the sun until now.

Overall impressions...  Another great day with some definite take-home stuff to try when I get back.  Although you're burning the candle at both ends throughout the entire week, this is really an energizing time with other IBM/Lotus professionals.  It's events like this that remind me why I made the decision in January 1997 (my first Lotusphere) to focus my career on this technology platform.  I've gone places I never imagined, done things I never dreamed of, and met people who have changed my life.

That's what Lotusphere is to me...

01/25/2005

Lotusphere Day 3 - Monday...

Category Lotusphere 2005

General session and a day's worth of sessions...  *THIS* is the 'sphere.

The general session was great.  Goyal came out swinging at Microsoft, sales figures were announced that showed double-digit growth in a "stagnate, mature" industy, John Cleese was the guest speaker (very funny), and the ability to run Notes in the Workplace rich client will come in 7.0, not 8.0.  All good stuff.  

From there it was on to sessions for what's new in the Notes 7.0 client and what's new in the Domino Designer 7.0.  As usual, there are plenty of things I'd like to use in the new designer (like shared columns and web services), but I'll have to play with that on my own.  The Designer session was good too, in that I'll be doing a webcast the end of March on new Notes/Domino 7.0 development features.  That information will help me plan out my talk.  I went to a couple of other sessions on integrating WAS/WP/Workplace with Domino, as well as getting more out of the Domino objects.  Not as much practical stuff there as I'd have hoped, but interesting at a conceptual level.

From there, it was down to the showfloor to wander the booths and meet up with people.  I must be getting old, in that I don't have the drive any more to try and come home with one of every giveaway the vendors are handing out.  Oh, well.  I did meet up with a lot of old friends, talked/ate/drank the provided refreshments, and proceeded to blow out the rest of my voice.  I was hoping I was getting over this bug, but it's still not done with me yet.  

The most entertaining part of the day was getting an invite to the Penumbra suite where there were more people to meet and talk with.  I spent quite a bit of time talking with Ben Langhinrichs, and that's always fascinating.  I've never seen someone so excited and enthused about what he does.  I was going to call it a night around 10:15 or so, but Joe decided to invite "a few" people back over to the "Duffbert suite" for drinks.  That "few" ended up being about 13, and I think we hit the sack around 1:15.  grooooan...

So...  a fun time was had by all, many good things were learned, but the body is less than enthused with me this morning...  

01/24/2005

For those looking for our Lotusphere session (JMP104) slides and sample database...

Category Lotusphere 2005


I have them loaded out here now.  You can get the
slides at this link, and the sample database is right here.

For everyone who attended, thanks for making it a fun time for all.  We enjoyed presenting the material, and I'm glad it was helpful.

01/23/2005

Lotusphere Day 2 - Sunday...

Category Lotusphere 2005

Sunday...  The first "actual" day of Lotusphere, what with the Business Partner Day and all the Jumpstart sessions.  This was also the day that Joe Litton and I were slated to do our Java For The Domino Developer session...  A big day, to be sure...

I ended up waking up at 4:15 am, unable to go back to sleep.  I *can't* keep doing this!  I'm past my limit on existing on 5 hour nights.  I read for awhile (didn't work), checked email (there wasn't any), and tried to keep from coughing and keeping Joe up (not terribly successful).  My big fear was that I'd not be able to shake the sore throat and morning congestion in time for our 10:30 session.  We finally ended up heading over to our room around 9:30 to get unloaded and prepped.  There were 3 cases of Java books to lug over for giveaways, so the trip was a little slower than normal.  :-)  Things got started at 10:30, and I feel it went OK.  The room was set up for about 220, and there were probably 190 - 200 there.  They were lively, and stuck around for the whole session.  We had to bribe them with books to do so, but whatever works.  :-)  I'll be interested to see the evals tomorrow...

From there, I dropped by John Head's session on Notes/Office integration.  I've done some of that with Word and Excel, but John showed some tricks that I want to try when I get back.  I could have hit a 4 pm session, but the stress of the last six weeks or so finally caught up with me.  Back to the room, and I turned on the first of the football games.  I'm so wiped out, that I even committed one of the cardinal sins of Lotusphere...  I'm skipping the Sunday night welcome party.  I could barely keep my eyes open lying on the bed, and they were crossing when they were open.  The cold, the sleep, anticipation...  it all came to a head when I got back.  Time to finally be nice to myself for once.

So...  perhaps I'll get a decent night's sleep and wake up on the backside of the cold.  Knowing I don't have to baby the voice for any more speaking is a great relief.  Just in time to start hitting all the sessions...

01/23/2005

Lotusphere Day 1 - Saturday...

Category Lotusphere 2005

Saturday is always a strange experience for me at Lotusphere.  I red-eye'd in from Portland, so I'm sleep-deprived.  I normally try to take in a park, but this year I skipped that.  Since I was just down here in December, there didn't seem to be anything that I couldn't live without.  So, early check-in at the Dolphin, and then a bit of relaxation...  even sleep!  But no...  I dozed on and off for a couple of hours, but nothing I could claim as "restful".  Oh, well...  Lotusphere and sleep don't go together anyway...

I ran into Greyhawk, Bruce, Vince, and a number of others throughout the day in the Dolphin lobby...  Joe showed up around 2:30'ish, got settled in the room, and then we did some practice for our session tomorrow.  Tek-check at 6 pm, and everything looks good.  The Swan 1-2 configuration looks like it will seat around 200 (there were no chairs there yet), so we'll have a "cozy" presentation.  No worries...  We have some fellow bloggers who will show up to be entertained (either laugh at or with us...  yet to be seen).

The blogger dinner and the Gonzo party were great, as usual.  Met new people, and reconnected with old friends.  I called it a night relatively early, as I didn't want to screw up my voice any worse than the cold has already made it...

That's it for now.  More to come on Sunday after we do the session...

01/22/2005

If you see me in the halls or in a session, stop and say hi!

Category Lotusphere 2005

If you're wondering what a Duffbert looks like, here's your first clue...

A picture named M2

Your second clue is to look downward, not upwards.  I'm 5' 4", so you could easy lose me in a crowd...

Joe and I will be presenting tomorrow morning at the Java For The Domino Developer Jumpstart, and I posted my planned itinerary earlier this month...

If you have feedback for the e-ProWire: Lotus Developer Tips newsletter, this blog, or just want to say hi, I'd love to meet you.

01/22/2005

One more Exchange roadmap article...

Category Microsoft

From CRN:  Exchange 12 To Rely On JET Engine Standby

The next version of Exchange Server, or E-12, will make the most out of the venerable JET engine and offer a laundry list of incremental improvements over the current release, Microsoft said.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...  know that already... Let's get to the analyst and customer quotes at the end...

Dana Gardner, an analyst at The Yankee Group, said Microsoft down-scaling its grand Exchange plans may work in its favor. At one point, Microsoft pushed Exchange Server as the basis for collaborative applications in an attempt to dislodge Lotus Domino. But Exchange was not up to the task. Meanwhile, "people started collaborating through blogs or doing app design through Web portals. Exchange got lucky in a sense. By not going to groupware, it's not stuck behind a portal and a hard place right now," he said.

The retreat from once-promised features has confused partners and customers alike. "[Microsoft] flubbed the whole unified store thing. Their credibility is shot with respect to collaboration on Exchange," said one longtime Exchange partner.

But perhaps more important, for many companies, legacy mail systems such as Exchange and Domino are beside the point, the partner said. "In small and medium-[size] businesses, Exchange faces Hotmail, [which] gives you 250 Mbytes of free storage, a calendar that can interact with Office, and it's free. If that's not enough, you can pay $9.95 a month and get more. That's an appealing story."

Gardner's quote is strange, to say the least.  By not moving forward, you're not "stuck".  Yeah, but you're also not offering your customers any value, either.

Love the quote "Their credibility is shot with respect to collaboration on Exchange".  Boy, that's for sure!  But you wouldn't know it by reading their spin.  The SMB aspect is interesting, too...  They may end up competing against themselves, and their free offering is definitely more enticing.  :-)

01/22/2005

Settling in at the Dolphin...

Category Lotusphere 2005

The Portland-Seattle-Orlando connection came through once again, so here I am, albeit with too little sleep.  I love the fact they let me check in early, so I can try to catch a nap...  :-)

01/20/2005

I *so* need to leave for Lotusphere...

Category Lotusphere 2005

This week has been a mess...  Cam's been sick, and guess who seems to be getting his whatever just before Lotusphere?  I'm packing quite a drug stash this year.  Then Sue's been on vacation down in Orlando, didn't get back until Tuesday night, and I've been getting about four or five hours of sleep each night.  That hasn't helped the overall healthiness.  I woke up at 3:15 am this morning, and couldn't go back to sleep.  So I got up and went to a 24 hour pharmacy to get stocked up on cold remedies.

This evening, I had things planned out to get all packed and such.  But what happened?  Power outage.  Didn't get lights again until 7 pm.  I fly out tomorrow around 8:30 pm, so I'm just flat out running out of time.

I'm looking forward to the Jumpstart presentation, but I expect that I'll probably start feeling much better around, oh...  say...  12:30 pm Sunday.  :-)

01/20/2005

Book Review - Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? Debugging Indian Computer Programmers by N. Sivakumar

Category Book Reviews

As a software developer, I'm well aware of the offshoring/H1-B controversy.  When I was offered a chance to review the self-published book Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? Debugging Indian Computer Programmers by N. Sivakumar, I welcomed the opportunity.  An interesting read from the "other side"...

The author is an Indian software engineer living in the US, and he presents his own observations and views on America's issues in the IT industry.  Aside from the stories about cultural adjustment, there's real solid material here.  He does an excellent job in differentiating between offshoring and the H1-B visa program.  And while there definitely are abuses in the H1-B program, an open-minded reader will see that there are some tangible benefits to the economy in general and the industry specifically.  I didn't realize that many of the major technology companies were started by immigrants who came to America to pursue a dream.  Not that I thought that Americans had to have started them...  I just hadn't given it much thought.  Towards the end of the book, he talks about offshoring and understands that as it is currently practiced, its usually devastating to workers.  He's also not in favor of it in its current form.  He recommends some changes to the process that would help ease the transition of affected workers, and the concepts are worth consideration.

Getting back to the stories...  He shares a number of cultural observations and stories of what its like to be an Indian programmer in America.  Many will cause you to laugh, and far too many will cause you to wonder how we could be so rude.  He doesn't pull punches, so it's not as if he's painting Indians as poor abused minorities.  He points out the faults and oddities on both sides.  There are a lot of generalizations, as there would have to be when you're discussing a cultural group as a whole.  But I think that the typical American IT worker could learn a lot (and gain some empathy) by reading the book.

If you're looking for a smoothly written, highly edited piece of literature, you may be disappointed.  He went the self-publishing route to tell his story, and as a result you'll see some rough edges.  But the writing is real, the views are balanced, and it's a worthy read for anyone who is trying to come to grips with the changes in the IT landscape.  You may not agree with parts of the book, but you'll be forced to put a face on the issues as opposed to dealing with "them".

01/19/2005

Book Review - Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

Category Book Reviews

I never know quite what to expect from a Dean Koontz novel.  His latest, Life Expectancy, continues his current trend away from the bizarre supernatural and into personal "horror" storytelling.

Jimmy Tock enters the world on a stormy night amid chaos in the hospital.  His grandfather is dying in one room, and his mother is giving birth to him in another.  The grandfather experiences a final moment of lucidity, and proclaims five days of horror for Jimmy during his life, complete with specific dates.  Meanwhile, a husband (who is a clown) goes on a killing spree in the hospital when his wife dies in childbirth.  The clown and Jimmy Tock are forever linked together at that point, and their lives intersect throughout the five days of horror over the next 30 years.  When it becomes obvious that the days in question are real and that the predictions will come true, Tock has to figure out how to survive them and keep everyone else in his life safe from harm.

When I first started reading Koontz, his material was supernatural horror from *way* out in left field.  In fact, unless I knew someone's reading tastes well, I wouldn't recommend him as it was that strange and disturbing.  Now he's become more "mainstream" in his storytelling, and the supernatural is much more toned down.  The stories are often done in first person, like this one, so you get a real look into the mind of the main character.  This story seems to take a lot of time setting up and telling about the first day of horror, and the other days tend to go by much faster.  Conversely, you start getting the plot twists at that point, so it balances out.  Koontz also has a way of turning a word or phrase that I really like.  The main character is a baker, so much of the conversation is "spiced" with comparisons to certain types of pastry.  The banter between him and his love interest is also very well done, and I enjoyed playing out those scenes in my head.

For fans of the earlier style of Koontz writing, you'll probably be disappointed.  But those who like the "kinder, gentler" Koontz should find plenty in here to like.

01/18/2005

Help? Submitting an HTML form using a mailto link and multipart/form-data...

Category Software Development

I got a question from a user today, and it's something I didn't know you could do.  Unfortunately, it's one of those "it used to work but doesn't after my upgrade", and I can't replicate the problem.  Can anyone shed light on this for me?

The user has an HTML form she generated, and she wants to have the form data emailed to her when the user clicks "submit".  She will paste the code into a Notes document in an intranet site, and mark it all as pass-thru HTML.  Here's the <form> tag...

<form action="mailto:blank@company.com?subject=Message+goes+here" method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data" name="Message Form" target="_blank" onsubmit="return confirm('You are submitting information to an external page.\nAre you sure?');">

According to her, under R5 the Notes client would create an email and the data would show up in the body of the email.  Since she's been upgraded to ND6.5, it now creates an email but the body is blank.  When I had a developer try the page using their R5 client, they created an email, but the data was in a POSTDATA.ATT attachment.

I didn't even *know* you could do this.  She used Dreamweaver to create the page.  

Can anyone enlighten me as to what's going on, and if this won't work, what type of workaround I could offer?  I like the idea that they can create their own forms for gathering information and just have it emailed to someone for examination.  It's a quick solution for basic "one-off" needs when I can't add a form to the database in a day or so...

01/18/2005

First Enron, now Krispy Kreme...

Category Everything Else

From AP:

The man who shepherded failed Houston-based energy giant Enron through bankruptcy reorganization is the new head of Krispy Kreme.

Stephen Cooper succeeds Scott Livengood as chief executive officer of the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, doughnut chain.

Livengood is leaving the post as Krispy Kreme faces regulatory scrutiny and shareholder lawsuits. Livengood -- who'd been C-E-O since 1998 -- has been criticized for his handling of the company's recent financial problems.

Krispy Kreme also says Livengood retired from his positions as president, chairman of the board and as a director of the company. He'll become a consultant on an interim basis.

Krispy Kreme is under a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of its franchise buybacks and earnings outlooks and is facing shareholder lawsuits.

I remember when I was working for Enron during the dot.com days, when everyone in the company had a stock ticker/tracker program running during the day.  I was trying to cash in on some high-flying IPO, and I read the latest weekly list of companies going public.  The only one on the list I laughed at was Krispy Kreme.  "Why would a *doughnut company* go public?"  Of course, being on the west coast, I knew nothing of the KK mystique.

Fast forward, and now KK is reeling from a series of accounting scandals.  They bring in a CEO, a turn-around specialist, the same guy who took over Enron and brought it out of bankruptcy proceedings.  This should be a lesson to companies who don't take their reputation and marketplace image seriously.  KK had an excellent reputation, one that was worth as much as their stock price.  Now they're lacking both.

01/18/2005

Skip Ballmer... send in Gates!

Category Linux

From eWeek:  Microsoft's Gates Wants Meeting With Brazil's Lu

Microsoft Corp. is lobbying Brazil's government to agree to a meeting between the company's chairman, Bill Gates, and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the World Economic Forum next week, a Brazilian official said.

The country has taken prominent role in the so-called free software movement, an effort that champions free computer operating systems like Linux as an alternative to Microsoft's Windows program.

"Brazil wouldn't gain anything from this, but Microsoft would gain a lot," Sergio Amadeu, head of the president's national technology institute, told Reuters. "They want to try to lobby Lula in the other direction."

Tired of paying costly licensing fees to companies like Microsoft, Brazil, the world's eighth-most wired nation, has told agencies in its sprawling federal bureaucracy to move to Linux and free software programs that run on it.

This year, the government will try to get private citizens to make the switch. It will partially subsidize the purchase for lower middle-class people of 1 million computers running Linux along with 25 other open source programs.

An effort by Microsoft to arrange a meeting between Gates and Lula could mark a shift in strategy for dealing with Latin America's largest country.

Last year, it sued Amadeu for saying the company was like a drug pusher who gives free samples to get consumers hooked and then starts charging for the product. Microsoft dropped the suit after Amadeu said he was just repeating what he learned in economics textbooks.

You get the feeling that Microsoft is just a wee bit concerned???

01/17/2005

Book Review - Unit Test Frameworks by Paul Hamill

Category Book Reviews

An important part of programming that's become popular in recent years is the move towards test-driven programming.  The O'Reilly book Unit Test Frameworks from Paul Hamill can help you understand how it works and why it's important.

Chapter List:  Unit Test Frameworks: An Overview; Getting Started: Tutorial; The xUnit Family of Unit Test Frameworks; Writing Unit Tests; Unit Testing GUI Applications; JUnit; CppUnit; NUnit; PyUnit; XMLUnit; Resources; Simple C++ Unit Test Framework; JUnit Class Reference; CppUnit Class Reference; Glossary; Index

I've done a little work with JUnit in a prior project, and I must say the concept of test-driven programming was extremely powerful.  By building up a collection of unit tests, you can make changes to a program with complete confidence that your modifications did not break existing functionality.  This particular book can help you take the necessary steps towards understanding how to write the unit tests, and how to use the xUnit types of frameworks to assist your development regardless of language.  I'll find it useful as I start to get back into more complex Java development, plus I want to explore the use of the xUnit packages that test web applications from a user interface perspective.

The book is supposed to be a language-independent overview of xUnit, and it basically is.  Still, a majority of the book deals with how xUnit works in Java, so that's most likely where you'll see the most value.  The other variants like NUnit and PyUnit get only a few pages, and it's a pretty high-level overview.  The book probably could have been larger (it's only 198 pages) in order to cover the other xUnit packages in more detail.

Still, it's a very useful book, and one that you'll derive value from as you implement test-driven programming into your development plans.

01/17/2005

Book Review - Hacking A Terror Network by Russ Rogers

Category Book Reviews

Syngress has created what I would call a new technical niche for publishing.  For lack of a better term, I'll call it the "instructional cyber-novel".  Their latest volume is Hacking A Terror Network - The Silent Threat Of Covert Channels by Russ Rogers.  And like the other books of this type, I really liked it...

The core storyline revolves around an Arab student whose brother was killed many years ago when a misplaced mortar round (by western forces) blew up the cafe he was in.  The father vows revenge, and raises the student with one overriding mission...  strike back at the US.  Using hidden internet communication vehicles such as stenography, the network is formed and a terror plot is launched.  But before the first phase can be carried out, the student finally comes to grips with the fact that this hatred isn't what their religion is all about, and attempts to help the government figure out what's going to happen before disaster strikes.  I've made the plot line pretty vague, as I don't want to give away any twists or endings...

In this instructional book, the plot line supports the technology behind covert communications.  A great deal of time is spent on the subject of stenography, which is hiding messages within pictures and .  But beyond that, they also cover how to send the data across communication protocols and use headers to hide the data.  What it comes down to is that there are nearly endless places to communicate covertly over the 'net, and trying to uncover them is nearly impossible.  The author shows plenty of software packages that facilitate this type of communication, as well as packages that help discover files that have stenography characteristics.

They story line isn't Tom Clancy blockbuster material, but it's not meant to be.  This type of novel serves to both entertain and show how technology could be used to attack a country.  I personally really like the genre and look forward to each new book that Syngress puts out in this area.  If you're at all interested in this area of computing, you'll probably like this book.

01/17/2005

At 43, I don't like icy weather any more...

Category Everything Else

This last weekend was an interesting one weather-wise in Portland Oregon.  As often happens when we are getting out of a cold spell, we ended up with freezing rain over the Portland area.  That's when a warm wet air mass overrides a cold air mass that hasn't been pushed out.  The precipitation falls as rain until it hits the cold air (around 500 feet or so) and then freezes on contact with the ground.  Pretty but treacherous...

It hit on Saturday morning around 7 am, and it was supposed to turn above freezing around 1 pm.  But the winds coming out of the Columbia River Gorge (which provide the cold air) are unpredictable, and Sunday morning wasn't much better.  By 11 am or so, it had finally jumped above freezing, and Ian was able to drive to work by 2 pm'ish with no problem.  Everything was just wet ground by then...

Except for our porch...  which was still icy...  and I didn't know it...

Cam and I went to leave the house to go to his hockey game.  I stepped out on the small porch which has two steps to the pavement.  Within moments (and completely by surprise), I ended up on the pavement butt-first, laid out over the steps, with the back of my head serving as an ice-breaker.  Cam, his usual observant self, summed it up quite well...  "That looks like it hurt."  And of course, he was right.  If I could watch it on video, I'm sure it would be funny.  

So, I'm taking a sick day to let the body complain about the abuse I put it through.  At 23, body would have been amused at the whole thing.  At 43, it's gotten a bit more pragmatic and cranky.  And it's *definitely* not amused this morning...

01/17/2005

The direction of media and reporting?

Category Everything Else

EPIC 2014...

It's an 8 minute "movie" about the demise of journalism through the rise of current trends.  While I may not agree totally with the outcome, it is *very* interesting and challenging.  

Well worth viewing...

01/16/2005

Book Review - Point and Click Linux by Robin Miller

Category Book Reviews


If you have never been exposed to Linux and you'd like to see what it's all about, you might want to check out
Point & Click Linux! by Robin Miller.  It's a high-level intro to Linux using a bootable Linux CD.

Chapter List:  What You Can Do with Linux; Running the SimplyMepis CD; Working with Linux: KDE and KWrite; Installing MEPIS Linux on Your Hard Drive; KPPP - Easy Modem Dialer Application; Mozilla: Your Key to the Internet; Setting Up and Using Mozilla E-mail; Mozilla Web Browser; Making Web Pages with Mozilla; Introduction to OpenOffice.org: Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Slide Presentations, Graphics, and More; OpenOffice.org Writer; OpenOffice.org Presenter; OpenOffice.org Draw; OpenOffice.org Calc: Spreadsheets; OpenOffice.org, Microsoft Office, and StarOffice; CheckBook Tracker - Simple Bookkeeping with Linux; Kopete - IM, IRC, and General Chat; gFTP - An Easy, Powerful FTP Program; K3B - Easy CD Burning Program; The Gimp - Full-featured Graphics Application; Digikam - Importing and Organizing Digital Photos; Games! - Amusements Included with the SimplyMepis CD; Other SimplyMEPIS Applications; Downloading and Installing Software; Cooperating with Windows; Customizing Linux; Dipping a Toe Into the Command-line Waters; Joining the Linux Community; Guide to Other Popular Linux Distributions; Books that Can Help You Become More Proficient with Linux; About MEPIS and the SimplyMEPIS CD; Index


As you can see, this book attempts to cover an enormous amount of ground in 255 pages.  And that's probably why I have a problem with how to rate this book...


On the positive side, if you've never had any exposure to Linux and you're wondering why it's getting so much attention, this book will help.  Since it focuses on the desktop environment and the common productivity applications you'd use within Windows, the average user who wants to know what they can *do* with Linux.  There are lots of screen prints, and you have all the software included in the CD that's included with the book.  On the flip side, it's *very* high-level and superficial because it covers so much.  Once you've read through the book and tried out the CD, you may not ever open the book again.  There's not enough to be a reference guide, and you'll be able to grasp the material on first pass.


Based on what you're after, this may or may not be a good book.  For pure introduction to desktop Linux, this book will help a lot.  Once you've read the information (here or somewhere else), there's not much new here.

01/16/2005

Book Review - Beginning Perl, 2nd Edition by James Lee

Category Book Reviews

Something I've wanted to do for the last couple of years is learn the Perl programming language.  With that in mind, I decided to review James Lee's book Beginning Perl, 2nd Edition by Apress.  Now I can't wait to get started.

Chapter List:  First Steps in Perl; Scalars; Control Flow Constructs; Lists and Arrays; Hashes; Subroutines/Functions; Regular Expressions; Files and Data; String Processing; Interfacing to the Operating System; References; Object-Oriented Perl; Modules; Introduction to CGI; Perl and DBI; Exercise Solutions; Index

In my job, Perl isn't one of those things that I absolutely need.  I don't have to administer a website that is driven by Perl scripts or anything.  I simply want to learn the basics so that I can use Perl if I need to manipulate files to generate test data or things like that.  This book delivers well for that need.  Each chapter explains the basic language feature or construct with plenty of examples and explanations.  The chapter ends with a summary and additional exercises you can do to practice the skills covered in the chapter.  In all likelihood, I'll be most interested in the chapters through the string processing one.  That will give me most of the tools I'll need to manipulate the files I'll encounter.  But if I get really addicted to Perl, there's additional material here that will keep the book in the "highly useful" category.

As I move into 2005 and start to work on my technical goals, this book will be close at hand.

01/15/2005

Book Review - Windows XP Personal Trainer by CustomGuide

Category Book Reviews

O'Reilly has a series of books by CustomGuide called the Personal Trainer series.  I had the chance to review the Windows XP Personal Trainer volume, and given the right audience, it's pretty good...

Chapter List:  The Fundamentals; Working with a Window; Working with a Windows Program; Working with Files and Folders; Customizing the Taskbar and Desktop; Customizing Windows; The Free Programs; Working with Pictures and Multimedia; Optimizing and Maintaining Your Computer; Exploring the Internet; Passwords, Logons, and User Accounts; Networking with Windows XP; Setting Up a Network; Index

The Personal Trainer series uses a comic book superhero motif in the design.  In some of the other titles, the theme plays out a little more strongly.  Once you get past the cover on this book, you probably won't even notice it.  Each chapter has a series of lessons that cover material related to the topic.  Each lesson is well illustrated and broken down into a step-by-step process.  To wrap up the lesson, there's a "quick reference" sidebar that recaps the particular command that was just covered.  The entire chapter wraps up with a summary, a quiz (yes, there are answers provided!), and some "homework" to stretch your understanding a bit.  Very readable and non-intimidating...

Now, I mentioned the "right audience" to open the review.  This isn't the type of book that you'd give to an IT professional or long-time computer user.  The material starts with some fundamental Windows basics, and builds from there.  If you've been using computers for years, you'll know this stuff anyway.  But think about your parents who just got a computer for the first time.  Think about your kid who just got his first computer.  This is the type of book that a computer neophyte could open up and not be scared off within five minutes.  And even if they've conquered the basics already, the material on multimedia and setting up a home network may be information they've never ventured into.  

If you're looking for an entry level book on Windows XP for someone who needs to learn the fundamentals, I'd suggest taking a look at this one.  It could work out well for them...

01/15/2005

Bernardo: Never judge a book by it's cover? I don't think he/we did, Jim...

Category Blogging


Over on Jim Bernardo's blog, you can read a nice
personal attack on IBM's Ed Brill.  And of course, Ed has a few words to say about it.  Now, I should just ignore all this, as Radicati has saved us the time and effort by telling us that blogs are not very important...

Well, I'll just spend a little time talking to myself here then.


The Bernardo view is that MS is unfairly attacked and manipulated in the press, and that Ed is a prime example.  Ed's view is that he's merely reporting the latest misfire of MS in the email and collaboration space, and combating the incessant spin that comes out of Redmond.  The reality is that everyone views their situation through their own biases, and has a hard time seeing the story from the other viewpoint.  I would expect to get a slant from Microsoft and IBM sites.  But there's a difference between slants and FUD/lies.


I haven't seen IBM/Lotus abandoning platforms, changing directions, and missing delivery dates on nearly every major project announced.  I haven't seen IBM/Lotus promise the world on a major new release, and then deliver a fraction of it past due.  I don't think IBM/Lotus has been living in front of judges the last five years trying to convince the world that they aren't predatory in nature.  When was the last time you heard Ed Brill quoted along the lines of "We know we need to rework the Notes/Domino platform, and I know we've had a number of plans in place to do so, but right now we don't know what to do, we don't have a roadmap of where we're going, we're not sure when we'll have a plan we can announce, but you should really trust us to watch out for your future and your investment in our software?"  I also don't see grossly misleading analyst reports where "truth" has been bought and paid for.


Yeah, we laugh at Microsoft during the "The Boss Loves Microsoft" session.  I notice you didn't say the information was *wrong*, however.  


The "big news" from Microsoft towards Domino professionals these days is integration.  Microsoft just wants to help Domino professionals "have choices", as if sticking with IBM was a dead-end career choice.  We're told you're not out to "convert" anyone.  But yet, you put out
white papers filled with deliberately misleading statements to convince people that switching to .Net is a trivial process.  You send Microsoft evangelists to conferences focused on Notes/Domino, but we're expected to believe there's no ulterior motive.  You're just there to share information.

Yeah, right...  Not buying it.


I'm biased.  I make my living as an IT professional, and my speciality is Notes/Domino.  I don't mind comparing platforms on a level playing field.  I do mind trying to defend my platform of choice against entities that will say nearly anything to get the business.  Both sides are playing to win, and that's great.  But the legal system has determined that one of the parties isn't playing fair.  That's not great.


OK...  time to stop talking to myself.

01/15/2005

Book Review - State Of Fear by Michael Crichton

Category Book Reviews

I look forward to Michael Crichton novels.  His latest, State Of Fear, may be one of my favorites...

Peter Evans is a lawyer who represents a rich philanthropist, George Morton.  Morton is a strong supporter of environmental causes, and he's backing an environmental activist group who is filing suit against the US government for global warming effects that threaten to completely flood the ocean island of Vanutu.  Like most people, Evans believes most of the published facts about the problems associated with the warming, and he's a firm supporter of the cause.  Things start getting strange when Morton begins to back off his support of the group, disappears for days or weeks, and is starting to act in a secretive manner.  The activist group starts pushing hard to keep the funding, but Evans is starting to get clear signs that the lawsuit is failing.  When Morton appears to die in a car accident, Evans is swept up in a effort to track down a terrorist plot that involves manipulation of environmental event.  He has to reexamine his long-held beliefs about the environment and how facts might have been twisted to sway public opinion.

There are a couple things I really like about this book.  First off, it's a pretty good story.  The race between the terrorists and the authorities is compelling, and I enjoyed the characters and pacing.  The other thing that is commendable is Crichton's willingness to go against common wisdom and popular thinking.  For the longest time we, the public, have been fed a steady dose about global warming and how all these "facts prove" that we're harming the environment.  Crichton weaves a story with ample documentation about how the facts prove otherwise, and how our best attempts to "manage" the environment have led to even worse results.

If I rated this book on just the story line, it'd probably get a four.  But I'm going to give it a five because he took a lot of risks.  This is a very good read.

01/15/2005

A Dog's Top 10 Pet Peeves About Humans...

Category Humor

DOG'S TOP 10 PET PEEVES ABOUT HUMANS:

1. Blaming your farts on me....not funny.....not very funny at all.

2. Yelling at me for barking.....I'M A FRIGGIN' DOG YOU IDIOT!

3. Taking me for a walk, then not letting me check stuff out. Exactly whose walk is it anyway?

4. Any trick that involves balancing food on my nose....stop it!

5. Any haircut that involves bows or ribbons. Now you know why we chew your stuff up when you are not at home.

6. The slight of hand, fake fetch throw. You fooled a dog! What a proud moment for the top of the food chain.....

7. Taking me to the vet for the 'Big Snip', then acting surprised when I freak out every time we go back there.

8. Getting upset when I sniff your guests crotches. Sorry, but I haven't quite mastered the handshake thing yet.

9. Dog sweaters. Have you noticed the fur? Idiot!

10. How you act disgusted when I lick myself. Look, we both know the truth, you're just jealous!

01/15/2005

Book Review - Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

Category Book Reviews

Janet Evanovich has launched a new set of characters in what could be a decent series in Metro Girl.  Although it's not perfect, it could grow into a decent run...

Alex "Barney" Barnaby gets a strange call from her brother, "Wild" Bill Barnaby, that leads her to believe he's in significant danger.  She heads down to Miami and the Keys to track him down and find out if he needs rescuing.  She quickly hooks up with a NASCAR driver, Sam Hooker, aka "The NASCAR Guy", because he knows Bill and Bill has taken off with his boat.  As they start trying to track down Bill's movements and location, they quickly find that they are not the only ones looking for Bill.  Some unsavory types also want to find Bill, and they probably want to kill him rather than just talk.  At the end, she needs to figure out who are good guys and bad guys...

The problem that Evanovich faces here is her own success.  The Stephanie Plum series is well established and is loved by the readers.  The character development is deep, and the story lines have matured since the initial episode.  By trying to launch a new series, people expect the same experience as the latest Plum novel, and that's not very realistic.  Is this a perfect novel?  No.  There's obviously a lot we don't know about Barney, and the sexual tension between her and Hooker has to start somewhere.  Could this be a good series over time?  I believe so.  I think the characters are funny and interesting, and with some development time over two or three books, it could start to come close to the success of the Plum series.

I think it's worth reading, and it's an entertaining diversion.  If you don't keep trying to compare it to her other works, then you'll enjoy it.  If you attempt to make it an extension of the Plum series, you'll have a problem.

01/14/2005

Hmmm... Radicati... Tom Peters and Fortune magazine...

Category Blogging

Tom Peters:  Fortune comes aboard!

Fortune:  Ten Tech Trends to Watch in 2005

Item #1 - There's No Escaping The Blog

Sara, Sara, Sara...  

01/14/2005

So *this* is who taught Steve "Monkey Boy" Ballmer his dance moves...

Category Microsoft

TechnoPenguin!

01/14/2005

On getting rid of the Team Workplace Authorization Error message...

Category IBM/Lotus

I mentioned yesterday that I had fixed a problem in Team Workplace that has apparently stymied Lotus Support personnel for months.  When you first try to access a Team Workplace area that requires authentication, you get the sign-on dialog box.  But instead of stating that you should sign on, it immediately says you are not authorized.  Rather confusing for users being faced with that as the first screen into Team Workplace.  Following is an exchange of email I had with our administration staff related to fixing the problem...

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

Tom,
It is hard to beleive Lotus can't get this Hotfix for us.  We have many complains from users to get this fix.  Is it hard for you to look into it?


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

Hi, <admin>...  I'll need to start by looking into the quickplaces/resources.nsf database on <our TW server> to see if I can find that design element there.  I need at least designer access to it so I can look at the design.  Can you take care of that for me?

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

Hi, <admin>... In the quickplace database resources.nsf, there's a subform called h_QPDomCfgCode.  I copied that code into Eclipse and formatted the
HTML/JavaScript so I could see what it's doing.  Towards the end we have something like this:

     var rType = document.forms[0].reasonType.value;
     var errorHtml = "";
     errorHtml = '<td><img src=' + transparentGif + ' width="1" height="30" alt="" border="0"></td><td colspan="4"    valign=top class="h-errorContent-textbg">';
     if (rType == "1") errorHtml += "You are not authorized to perform this operation.";
     else if (rType == "2") errorHtml += "Invalid username or password was specified.";
     else if (rType == "3") errorHtml += "Your session with the server has expired. The current operation was not    executed.";
     else if (rType == "0") errorHtml += "You are not authorized to perform this operation.";
     else errorHtml += rType;
     errorHtml += "&nbsp;";
     errorHtml += '</td></tr>';

That line of code (rType == 0) has me a little concerned, as it's returning the same message as when rType = "1".  My guess is that the first time through, the rType field is equal to "0" and that message gets thrown by default.  I'm hoping that if you truly try to log on to the database when you don't have
access, rType will equal "1" and throw the message properly.

I deleted the highlighted line from the QP instance on <our TW server>.  I still get the error when I try to go to my quickplace, but I think it's because the old version is still cached.  I think we may need to bounce <our TW server> in order for the new version of the subform to load.

Can you try that when you get a chance, and we'll see if I nailed it?  If that doesn't work, I want to put the rType = "0" line back in and remove the rType = "1" line.  If *that* doesn't work, I don't know what to do... :-)


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

Bingo.
It works.


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

Nice, nice...  To be honest, I really didn't think that part of the box was going to be exposed.  I'm pretty surprised myself that it was fixable...

Here's what I did:

     var rType = document.forms[0].reasonType.value;
     var errorHtml = "";
     errorHtml = '<td><img src=' + transparentGif + ' width="1" height="30" alt="" border="0"></td><td colspan="4"    valign=top class="h-errorContent-textbg">';
     if (rType == "1") errorHtml += "You are not authorized to perform this operation.";
     else if (rType == "2") errorHtml += "Invalid username or password was specified.";
     else if (rType == "3") errorHtml += "Your session with the server has expired. The current operation was not    executed.";
     else if (rType == "0") errorHtml += "Please sign in.";
     else errorHtml += rType;
     errorHtml += "&nbsp;";
     errorHtml += '</td></tr>';

I just replaced the string it displays on the first time through to be Please Sign In instead of You Are Not Authorized...

01/13/2005

IBM Support will love me for this one...

Category IBM/Lotus

We had an issue with Team Workplace (Quickplace) during the initial signon.  Instead of getting a plain logon box, there was an error message displayed under the user ID/password fields saying the user wasn't authorized.  Hey, they haven't even tried to log on yet!  Our admins placed a call to IBM support quite some time back and asked for it to be fixed.  There wasn't much headway on it, and the response was always "we can recreate it but can't figure out how to fix it".  

The admins turned to me and asked me to look at it.  Having looked at the Team Workplace code *once*, I knew enough that I didn't want to go there again.  But I was able to fix it, and it really wasn't that difficult once I isolated the subform that contained the error message.

IBM followed up in the last couple of days with this:

Development is still investigating the issue that an error message is displayed in the Login Form of the Team WorkPlace server.  Thank you for
your patience with this matter as it has been ongoing for some time.  I will inform you of any changes.

To which our admins replied:

Well,
Our expert developer, Thomas Duff,  found the way how to fix this.   You can contact him if want to know how he did it.  In the mean time, you can close this PMR.

Yeah, *that* ought to make me popular with IBM support...  :-)

01/13/2005

Book Review - Google Hacking For Penetration Testers by Johnny Long

Category Book Reviews

Want to be completely unnerved by the power and (mis-)use of Google?  If you're at all concerned about system security, you really need to get a copy of Google Hacking For Penetration Testers by Johnny Long (Syngress).  The world is more insecure than I thought...

Chapter List:  Introduction; Google Searching Basics; Advanced Operators; Google Hacking Basics; Preassessment; Network Mapping; Locating Exploits and Finding Targets; Ten Simple Security Searches That Work; Tracking Down Web Servers, Login Portals, and Network Hardware; Usernames, Passwords, and Secret Stuff, Oh My!; Document Grinding and Database Digging; Protecting Yourself from Google Hackers; Automating Google Searches; Professional Security Testing; An Introduction to Web Application Security; Google Hacking Database; Index

Long walks a fine line in this book, and I think he does it pretty well.  His goal is to show the reader how Google can be used to discover a vast array of information that most companies would not willingly divulge.  He refrains from showing exact search criteria for finding things like social security number and credit card lists.  Additionally, his screen prints of results appropriately blur exact URL information so that he's not giving up personal information.  But he does give you enough information that you can understand how certain searches could be used to find files that you may not have realized were indexed.

If you have never used Google for anything more than simple searches from the main page, you'll get a lot of benefit from the first few chapters.  He details the Google search keywords and how they can be mixed and matched to dramatically narrow your search focus.  Even the simple act of learning how to filter for file types can be immensely valuable.  The book kicks into high gear following those first chapters.  Long works through various security assessment situations and shows how Google can map your environment far better than you imagined.  Simple things like searching for "Powered By" messages or log files with certain strings can tell an attacker what software is running and at what version.  This then allows a more refined attack based on known exploits.  But instead of leaving the book at that point, he offers some strategies for limiting the amount of information Google can access, as well as ways to remove data that has already gotten out there.

Google Hacking could well be one of the most important security books you buy this year.  Even if you're not in charge of security for a company or organization, you should explore some of the techniques to search for your own personal information.  Just because *you* didn't expose it doesn't mean that someone else didn't.  Highly recommended read...

01/13/2005

Forget all this "iMini" garbage... *Here's* the computer I want next...

Category Humor

(thanks, Bas!)

A picture named M2

01/13/2005

Mac Guidera's Lotusphere Session Wiki...

Category Lotusphere 2005

Mac has launched an OpenWiki site for all the Lotusphere sessions...  Nice work!

You can find it here:  Sessions Wiki For Lotusphere 2005

01/11/2005

The January issue of the e-ProWire: Lotus Developer Tips newsletter is out!

Category IBM/Lotus

You can find it over on the e-Pro site.

This month we had great articles from Vince Schuurman, Ben Langhinrichs, and Damien Katz.  If you haven't checked out the articles, you should do so.

And if you haven't subscribed to the newsletter, you can do that over there, too.  It's free!

01/11/2005

Apparently Sara didn't learn her lesson....

Category Blogging

Radicati predictions for 2005.  Rather than rehash what a number of bloggers have already expressed, I'll just link to Ed's blog and let you jump off from there...

01/11/2005

IBM offers 500 patents for open-source use

Category IBM/Lotus

From ZDNet:  IBM offers 500 patents for open-source use

This is an interesting piece of news.  It's been obvious for a long time that IBM is a strong supporter of the open-source movement.  Witness their release of software like Derby, Eclipse, XML parsers, etc into that environment.  With this announcement, they solidify their position within that community and place themselves firmly in opposition to Microsoft's probable path...  that is, using patents to cripple or kill off open-source projects that compete directly with them (read:  Linux).

Now I have no doubt that IBM's release of patents is carefully selected to not give away any crown jewels or potential major revenue sources.  But the mindshare and goodwill they will pick up from the IT community in general is significant.  If Microsoft decides to enforce some patent against Linux and start a legal battle, IBM will eat their lunch in the courts of public opinion.  Not that they wouldn't have anyway, but now it will be a massacre.

01/10/2005

Bad start to the 2005 part of the Grant hockey season...

Category Everything Else

Last night was the first 2005 game for Grant, and the first one that Cam played in nearly a month.  There was one game that was played while we were on vacation, and apparently Grant won that one.  Last night they played Tigard, a team that this year that is struggling through their season.  We've beat them quite easily in the past, but last night was not to be one of those easy games.

For whatever reason, Grant came out flat, had no offense, and lost 7-0.  Obviously it's the worst loss of the season, and strangely reminiscent of years gone by.  Cam didn't have a bad game in goal, either.  It was just one of those nights where he faced a lot of shots, some went in, and there was no pressure in the offensive end.  

Hopefully they will learn from that and come back out and play to the level I've seen them play at earlier in the season.  I don't expect them to win every game, but they are far better than a 7-0 loss...

01/09/2005

Book Review - Eclipse For Dummies by Barry Burd

Category Book Reviews

Another one of the newer books out on Eclipse is Eclipse For Dummies by Barry Burd (Wiley).  I like the book for what it is, but there are some caveats that may affect your experience...

Chapter List:  
Part 1 - The Eclipse Landscape: Reader, Meet Eclipse, Eclipse, Meet The Reader; Installing Eclipse; Using the Eclipse Workbench; Changing Your Perspective; Some Useful Perspectives and Views
Part 2 - Using the Eclipse Environment: Using the Java Editor; Getting Eclipse to Write Your Code; Straight from the Source's Mouse; More Eclipse "Sourcery"; Refactoring: A Burd's Eye View; Refactor This!; Looking for Things in All the Right Places
Part 3 - Doing More With Eclipse: Working with Projects; Running Code; Getting Help; Squashing Bugs
Part 4 - The Part of Tens: The Frequently Asked Questions (And Their Answers); Ten Great Plug-ins for Eclipse
Index

First off, what I liked...  I'm unapologetic in my liking of Dummies titles.  They mesh well with my learning style (light and humorous), and I think they do a great job in giving one a good understanding of a particular subject.  If you had never read anything about Eclipse, this book would be a good way to expose you to the functionality of the software.  I also like how Burd covers the features of the software, like refactoring and such.  Once again, when you get done with the book, you should understand how the software can help you when you're coding your programs.  Finally, it's been published since Eclipse 3 was released, so it's dealing with the latest and greatest.

So what are the caveats?  The book deals mostly with the Eclipse as an IDE, but not so much with actual coding with it.  There are other books out there that largely cover the same material as this book does, but they have more of an emphasis on actual coding examples.  Having the practical coding examples can help cement some of the learning you'll need going forward.  

It's not that this book is bad or that it's done a bad job.  It's just that depending on what you're looking for, this may or may not be your best choice...

01/09/2005

Book Review - Professional Eclipse 3 for Java Developers by Berthold Daum

Category Book Reviews

There are definitely an abundance of books on Eclipse to choose from.  One of the latest additions to the field, Professional Eclipse 3 for Java Developers by Berthold Daum (Wrox) is a nice new choice...

Chapter List:  Introduction to Eclipse; Effective Programming with Eclipse; The Art of (Visual) Composition; Organizing Your Code; Project One: Duke Speaks; Project Development; Advanced Topics of Project Development; The SWT Library; JFace; Project Two: Jukebox; Developing Plug-ins for the Eclipse Platform; Developing Your Own Eclipse-Based Products; Project Three: A Spell Checker as an Eclipse Plug-in; The Rich Client Platform; Project Four: The Hex Game as a Rich Client Application; Conclusions and Outlook; Useful Plug-ins for Eclipse; Migrating Projects to a New Eclipse Version; Important Downloads; Bibliography; Index

There are a number of things I liked about this book.  For one, it deals with the latest Eclipse release (version 3).  Although it's not a major problem to mentally translate text between 2.1 and 3.0, it's still easier to learn if both the book and the student are on the same page.  Next, Daum concentrates a lot on practicality.  The four projects included in the book cover four of the major types of development you'd face as a Java developer.  By using the projects during your learning, you should have a good grasp of Eclipse when you're finished.  Finally, I appreciate the coverage of the Rich Client Platform.  My personal opinion is that this feature of Eclipse is going to be a very big deal, and this book is one of the few that covers it in any detail.  

So, if anyone were to ask me for a recommendation on a book for Eclipse, this book would be among the top of the list.  It's good stuff.

01/08/2005

Book Review - Beginning CSS By Richard York

Category Book Reviews

I received a review copy of Beginning CSS - Cascading Style Sheets For Web Design by Richard York (Wrox).  I'm impressed with the way he covers the material...

Chapter list:  Introduction; Document Standards; The Basics of CSS Anatomy and Syntax; Data Types, Keywords, Color, Length, and the URI; CSS Selectors; Pseudo-Element and Pseudo-Class Selectors; Inheritance and the Cascade; Text Manipulation; Font Manipulation; Liquid Design and the CSS Box Model; CSS Buoyancy: Collapsing Margins, Floating, and Vertical Alignment; Styling Lists and the User Interface; Backgrounds: Setting the Scene; Positioning; Styling for Handheld Devices and Print; Styling Tables; Styling XML; Cross-Browser Compatibility; Exercise Answers; CSS Reference; CSS Color; Browser Rendering Modes; Index

For me, the book really kicks into gear starting with the CSS Selectors chapter.  York starts to cover all the different statements and concepts of CSS in a readable and understandable format.  He states the release of CSS where the documentation can be found, along with what level of browser first supports the feature.  This is great information as you're trying to figure out if a feature is cross-browser compatible.  After an explanation of the feature, there's a "Try It Out" section that shows actual code and screen prints that illustrate the concept.  This is always followed by a "How It Works" part that dives into the code a little deeper to cement your understanding of the feature.  The chapter then ends with a summary and some exercises you can do to push yourself a bit more.

Something you don't see in a lot of CSS books are chapters on CSS formatting for handheld devices.  As PDAs and web-enabled cell phones become more common, CSS that addresses this target is increasingly important.  I also appreciated the separate chapter on cross-browser compatibility, specifically dealing with common IE bugs and how to best handle them.  Since the book has a 2005 copyright date, the information is probably more up-to-date than other books that are a year or two older.

This is definitely a book I'd feel comfortable recommending to anyone working on learning CSS.

01/08/2005

Having problems with your wi-fi connectivity?

Category Humor

Here's what you need...  WiFi Speed Spray!

01/08/2005

Some accumulated Linux links...

Category Linux

From SearchEnterpriseLinux.com:  Shun Linux and kiss your job security goodbye

From SearchEnterpriseLinux.com:  Ways to choose Linux and keep Microsoft

From CNet.com:  Venezuela opts for Linux



01/07/2005

Book Review - Regular Expression Pocket Reference by Tony Stubblebine

Category Book Reviews

It's nearly impossible to memorize all the minutiae of regular expressions, especially over multiple language implementations.  Tony Stubblebine's book Regular Expression Pocket Reference by O'Reilly is a nice way to help you out without digging through endless pages.

Chapter List:  About This Book; Introduction To Regexes And Pattern Matching; Perl 5.8; Java (java.util.regex); .NET And C#; Python; PCRE Lib; PHP; vi Editor; JavaScript; Shell Tools; Index

Like most pocket references, this book is small (93 pages), but there's a lot of information packed into a small space.  Each implementation chapter covers the metacharacters and metasequences that are supported in the language's implementation of regular expressions.  This is followed by the language functions, examples of regular expressions, and a list of additional resources the reader can use to learn more about regular expressions in that language.  If you don't know anything about the subject, this book (in my opinion) isn't going to help you out much.  It assumes that you already understand the material and you're looking for a reference guide to find quick answers.  And that's fine.  This book has a definite purpose and target audience, and I think it does a very nice job of hitting the mark.

For me, this would be a perfect companion book to Mastering Regular Expressions (also by O'Reilly).  Mastering is considered one of the definitive volumes on the subject, and having this pocket guide on hand to jog your memory on lesser-used points would be perfect.

01/07/2005

Book Review - Home Hacking Projects for Geeks by Tony Northrup & Eric Faulkner

Category Book Reviews

When I got back from vacation, one of the books waiting for me to review was Home Hacking Projects for Geeks by Tony Northrup and Eric Faulkner (O'Reilly).  After finishing the book, I think I need to invest in some X10 devices...

Chapter List:  Automate A Light; Automate Your Porch Light; Remotely Monitor A Pet; Make Your House Talk; Remotely Control Your Computer; Control Your Home Theater; Build A Windows-Based Home Theater PC; Build A Linux-Based Home Theater PC; Create Time-Shifted FM Radio; Access Your Entire Media Collection Over The Internet; Keyless Entry Welcome Home; Watch Your House Across The Network; Build A Security System; Index

Normally these types of books involve lots of soldiering and circuitry, and as a result tend to be beyond my level of expertise.  I do software, not hardware as a rule.  But the authors of Home Hacking Projects have written a book of clever things you can do with home automation, largely using the X10 protocol.  X10 is a communications protocol like TCP/IP, only it runs over power lines and is generally used to control devices plugged into outlets.  Each device has an address and can take action based on the information it sends and receives.  They start with very basic stuff such as automating a light to turn on based on a motion sensor.  From there, you get into some automation involving X10 and Perl scripts to allow X10 to be driven from your computer.  But don't worry if you don't know Perl.  The source code is included, and you can probably figure out the areas you need to tweak.  The complexity builds from there, and by the end you could happily be drilling holes in walls and such.  At the start of each chapter there's a cost/time/complexity estimate, and each chapter ends with a bill of materials so that you know exactly what to buy to accomplish the hack.

Nicely written, well documented, and easy to follow...  I'm sure my son and I will have a few projects to keep us busy in the coming months.

01/07/2005

Book Review - Linux Application Development by Michael K. Johnson and Erik W. Troan

Category Book Reviews

If you're involved in trying to port software to a Unix/Linux application platform, you should get a copy of the 2nd edition of Linux Application Development by Michael K. Johnson and Erik W. Troan (Addison Wesley).  This will become a key part of your learning.

Chapter Breakout:
Part 1 - Getting Started - History Of Linux Development; Licenses And Copyright; Online System Documentation
Part 2 - Development Tools And Environment - Development Tools; gcc Options And Extensions; The GNU C Library; Memory Debugging Tools; Creating And Using Libraries; Linux System Environment
Part 3 - System Programming - The Process Model; Simple File Handling; Signal Processing; Advanced File Handling; Directory Operations; Job Control; Terminals And Pseudo Terminals; Networking With Sockets; Time; Random Numbers; Programming Virtual Consoles; The Linux Console; Writing Secure Programs
Part 4 - Development Libraries - String Matching; Terminal Handling With S-Lang; A Hashed Database Library; Parsing Command-Line Options; Dynamic Loading At Run Time; User Identification And Authentication
Appendix A - Header Files; Appendix B - ladsh Source Code; Glossary; Bibliography; Index

With the recent rapid uptake of Linux-based servers and desktops, more and more companies are looking at porting their software from Windows platforms over to Linux.  The trouble with porting in that instance is that the underlying operating system dependancies are all different, and unless you understand how to work with the OS, you're lost.  Linux Application Development does an excellent job in first introducing the common tools that are used for application development on Linux.  The assumption is that you'll be programming in C, but within that framework the authors explain each tool and how it can aid in developing your system (such as memory-checking tools that come with the GNU C library).  Once the subject of application development environments is finished, they move on to the actual OS and how it should interface with the application.  The book presents a lot of code for examples, as well as explaining exactly why things work as they do.  By the time you've gotten to the end of the material, you should have a more-than-adequate understanding of how to build applications for Linux/Unix.

Excellent material for the application developer who needs to build on the Linux platform...

01/06/2005

Awasu's gone... Long live SharpReader!

Category Blogging

I finished transferring all my RSS feeds from Awasu to SharpReader.  I still have a couple of manual sites to add in to see if they will now work with SharpReader, but it's nice to have that task out of the way.

I thought I'd pare down some sites I wasn't reading much any more, but I ended up copying them all.  The one I struggled most with was Robert Scoble's site.  On one hand, he has a lot of traffic and there are times his blog starts a buzz in the blogging world.  On the other hand, I'm tiring of the content.  I'm not interested in the Tablet PC, I don't care who the latest "celebrity" was who sat on his red couch, and some of the stuff seems to border on "look at me and who I met/know".  But for the time being, I decided to stay with it.  Probably the same reason I never leave a hockey game early.  Regardless of how bad or boring the game might be, if you leave early you might miss that "play of the year"...  :-)

01/06/2005

Book Review - Falling Flesh Just Ahead And Other Signs On The Road Towards Midlife by Lee Potts

Category Book Reviews

Every one in awhile I find a book that far exceeds my expectations and becomes a personal favorite.  When I was stocking up for reading material to take on vacation, one of the books I picked up was Falling Flesh Just Ahead And Other Signs On The Road Towards Midlife by Lee Potts.  It was sitting there with a number of other paperbacks, the title looked funny, and some of the chapters looked amusing upon a quick glance.  Little did I know how much I'd like this book...

You know you're into a good one when you start laughing out loud during the introduction.  When the wife asks "what's so funny?" by page 2, it's a sure-fire hit.  Lee Potts, a woman examining her move into "middle age", wrote this back in 1998.  She's probably best compared to someone like Dave Barry without being so outlandish.  Her writing style is laugh-out-loud funny, and everyone (male OR female) will be able to either relate or understand her observations.  Reading her thoughts about her doctor palpitating her breasts during an exam ("This is the true definition of getting old, having to pay a man to feel my breasts") or reliving her attempt to shape up (gaining a gap between her thighs, only to find out her butt had sagged and now showed through) had me wishing the book would go on for 300 pages instead of the mere 165 it has.  Unfortunately I can't see that she's written anything else.  Too bad, as I'd be lining up to read it.

This may be the first book that both my wife and I have read and enjoyed equally.  It's probably the funniest book I've read in the past year or so.

01/06/2005

I finally got my car back home!

Category Everything Else

Well...  I braved the weather today and drove up to Everett Washington to pick up my car from the repair shop.  Sue and I had considered doing it on Saturday, but the weather forecasts were not encouraging.  Rather than risk it, I took a day off from work, rented a car one-way, and headed north.

Now, halfway up there, I was seriously questioning the wisdom of the whole trip.  The Seattle traffic reports talked about all the horrible accidents from the frozen conditions, and Olympia wasn't any better.  I did hit a couple of areas where the traffic on the freeway was down to 10 miles per hour (or less), but the main roads were fine.  I got up there about five hours after I left Portland (normally you can make it in about 3.5 hours).  It was just starting to snow in Everett, so I grabbed the car and started back right away.

They seem to have done a great job on it.  Everything works, it drives fine, and the trip back didn't uncover any issues.  Of course, you could get high from the paint fumes inside the car, but I'll count that as a benefit.  :-)

The funny part was getting into the car for the first time in over six weeks.  It felt like some sort of preserved archeological site.  The bag of peanuts Sue was eating at the time of the accident were where she left them.  Some paper garbage from the trip up was still in the side door panel.  And I'm sure the back seat area had remnants of Cam's residence back there.  

01/05/2005

We have our first 2005 Mayflower Software pig detector alert!

Category Everything Else


An astute and observant reader pointed out the latest in a long series of "less than ethical" behaviors from Mayflower Software, our favorite poster child for "truth in advertising"...


Check out this link:  
http://www.maysoft.com/web3.nsf/ByKey/FPAO5GLQYA

This appears in a Google AdSense listing for free Lotus software.  On this page they are touting a Notes Document Viewer template they are giving away.  No problems there...


Now check out the left column of reviews...  PC World, PC Magazine, and some website called HelpMeRick.com give outstanding reviews to a spam filtering product.  Keep going down, and you see links for Mayflower's SpamSentinel product.  Put two and two together, and it looks like SpamSentinel is getting positive press.


BZZZZZZ!  Wrong answer!


You have to look carefully at the words in the third review to see that they mention something called SpamNet.  Weren't we talking about SpamSentinel?  Maybe you were, but the reviewers for HelpMeRick.com and PC Magazine weren't.  They were reviewing a product called SpamNet from a company called Cloudmark.  


A little confused?  Don't worry...  The fine folks at Mayflower clear it up for you on the first link to PC World's review...  


The PC World review link is actually a press release from Mayflower that talks about how SpamNet, the underlying technology that powers SpamSentinel, received rave reviews from PC World.  The PC World reviewer quotes never mention SpamSentinel, however.  They just talk about SpamNet.


So let's recap...  Mayflower uses a side navigation bar as an advertisement for their SpamSentinel product, and uses quotes from three reviews that actually talk about an entirely different product.  Using that convoluted twist of logic, I could easily take any review of Notes/Domino 6.5 and use it to describe how my recent Notes website rocks and got top awards from the leading industry press.


The people at Mayflower never cease to amaze me with this type of slimeball behavior.  Since they've never directly responded to any of their misdeeds ("ignore them and they'll go away"), perhaps a few carefully chosen words to their booth representatives at Lotusphere(!) might bring them up-to-date on their current standing in the Notes community.

01/04/2005

I really hope to see my car again some day...

Category Everything Else

Remember our eventful Thanksgiving?  The one with the eight car chain reaction accident we were part of?  The weekend I had to take...  <shudder> Greyhound </shudder> home?  

Yeah, that one...

An update...  Our car is still up in Everett Washington being repaired.  They couldn't get it done before we left on the cruise, so we know they'd end up having it the entire month of December.  I've been in touch with them this week, and my original plan was to drive up there this weekend and get the car.  The problem is that our weather pattern is starting to look nasty for snow around that time.  I'm tentatively planning to pick it up this Thursday before the snow hits, but it's still not clear if they will have it fully repaired by then.  Today's call brought to light that there might still be some damage to something in the steering, and they want to make sure it's completely fixed before I get it.  sigh...

The original estimate was $3000, but I'm guessing it's higher than that now.  The good thing is that car #5's insurer (Geico) has accepted responsibility for liability, and they'll pick up the charges.  Now I just have to figure out how they want me to submit bills for deductible/car rental/etc...

I hope we get it soon, as this tiny Hyundi we have is like driving a sardine can...

01/03/2005

Switching my RSS feed reader...

Category Blogging

I've been using Awasu for awhile now, and it's been adequate for the job.  The only thing I haven't liked is that it doesn't handle Atom feeds, and it seems to be overly picky on RSS formatting.  It doesn't take much to cause the feed not to validate and load.

I've seen reference to SharpReader over the last couple of days by a few bloggers, so I decided to try it out.  So far, I like what I see.  The layout is very clean, the nested comments rock, and it seems to be very responsive.  I've transferred over a number of feeds from Awasu to give it a trial run, and I was also able to get a few sites that Awasu wouldn't load to work just fine on the new software.  If all goes well, I may transfer the rest of the stuff over by the weekend...

01/03/2005

A tip for Lotusphere presenters... Users shouldn't think about you.

Category Lotusphere 2005

One of my favorite bloggers and authors is Kathy Sierra, part of the authoring team that puts out the Head First series of books.  On her blog Creating Passionate Users, she has an entry today that is well worth reading if you are presenting at Lotusphere (or anywhere else for that matter)...

Users Shouldn't Think About YOU

Your goal should be as follows:

Care ONLY about what your users think of themselves as a result of interacting with your creation.

Yes, it's very easy to get wrapped up in what the class or audience thinks about you...  your style, your knowledge, your qualifications.  But ultimately, they care only about one thing...  themselves and what they are getting out of the class.  If you focus entirely on them instead of "proving" yourself, you go a long way towards being an outstanding teacher...

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Kathy...

01/02/2005

Book Review - Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

Category Book Reviews

The last "vacation novel" I took along with me was Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down.  If you want to see the reality of war, this will deliver the goods.

Bowden is a writer who decided to research out the story of America's involvement in Somalia, specifically the actions in Mogadishu in 1993.  The mission started out as a UN-led humanitarian effort to feed the population after years of war and the total breakdown of any sort of government.  It turned into a US action to remove a Somali warlord named Mohamed Aidid.  The whole campaign came to a head when the US ran an operation to raid a house known to house some top officials in Aidid's clan.  Due to mistakes and miscalculations, it ended with two Black Hawk helicopters being shot down, scores of dead and injured Rangers and Delta Force operators, the capture of a soldier, and images of dead US soldiers being paraded through the streets of Mogadishu.  The US commitment to the Somalia mission was questionable before the episode, and it totally evaporated after it.  Bowden takes great pains to tell the story of the soldiers who took part in the operation, and to voice their feelings and emotions of what they went through.

As a documentary of an ugly time in US military history, Bowden has done his job well.  His research has sorted out fact from fiction, and he does a good job in telling the story without injecting personal bias until the epilogue and afterwords.  The reception from various military sources after the book was published was very positive, and speaks well to his efforts.  The book does seem to be a bit repetitive at times, as much of the action involves trying to fight their way out of tight confined quarters (or trying to navigate to a downed copter to support the downed crew).  Still, what happened is what happened, and Bowden relates it well.

01/02/2005

Reviewing my 2004 IT predictions...

Category Software Development

At the end of 2003, I posted my predictions about what may happen in IT over 2004.  Let's see how bad of a psychic I am...

Microsoft software will continue to be hit by security holes.  OK, that should prevent an 0-for-? score this time next year...  :-)

Yup...  that was my "gimme"...  Score: 1-0-0 (right-wrong-push)

The Linux desktop will score some significant wins over Windows in corporate America.  Yes, I know that IBM has hinted that they are going that route already, and I won't count progress on that front as a "win" for my prediction.  But I do think that there will be at least 3 major corporate defections from Windows and Office to Linux and open source in 2004.  2004 will be the "year of the Linux desktop".

You may want to quibble with the "America" portion of this, but there were significant international wins.  A number of European government entities announced migrations to Linux desktops.  Even a number of American tech companies announced plans to migrate a number of workers to a Linux desktop platform.  It wasn't adopted quite as widely as I thought it would be, but it was a major topic of conversation (and a significant pain point for Microsoft, regardless of what Ballmer would have you believe).  Score: 2-0-0

Microsoft will face a major class-action or liability suit for defective software, most likely related to security.  Somewhere in 2004, there will be a Slammer-type worm or bug that will wreak havoc worldwide, and it will be the catalyst for a slew of lawsuits against Microsoft.  I know I mentioned this before, but I think that the next major virus hit will be too tempting a target for lawyers.  And it's not like Microsoft hasn't acknowledged that they need to improve their security...

This one still surprises me...  Yes, there were significant viruses, but MS still has not faced any major legal action over it.  Unless there's some unbreakable clause in the software agreement you "sign" when you install it, I'm amazed that lawyers haven't tried for the big payday against MS.  Score: 2-1-0

Microsoft will somehow "embrace-and-extend" Linux in some form.  This is how I see it...  Longhorn won't see the light of day until 2006 at least, and Linux is making major inroads on ground formerly held exclusively by Microsoft (the OS and Office).  I don't think Microsoft can hold out another year (much less three) without doing something to help keep Linux devotees from completely and permanently abandoning the Microsoft platform.  I expect to see some sort of offering by Microsoft to attempt to hold all the Linux penguinheads attention until they can get Longhorn out the door.

OK...  they didn't "embrace-and-extend".  They decided to commission "studies" to show how MS software is cheaper and better than Linux.  This seems to have backfired, however.  The industry press didn't buy their "Get The Facts" tour, and analyst firms took a beating in terms of credibility.  I could probably try and spin this as a "push" as Microsoft *did* try to keep groups from defecting, but I'll just take my lumps and chalk it up as a loss.  Score: 2-2-0

The offshore outsourcing pendulum will start to swing back a little.  It seems like 2003 has been the year of the offshore programming migration.  Everyone wants cheaper programmers.  But I think that 2004 will start to see some flaws in the rosy picture that has been painted for offshore agreements.  Culture, language, quality of software, etc.  I also think that the government will start to intervene on behalf of the software industry, either under the guide of homeland security or election year 2004.

I'll chalk this up as a push.  The government didn't intervene, much to my dismay.  But there were stories of companies taking software back in house due to quality and cultural issues involved in offshoring.  I'm also curious to see if the tsunami event that closed out 2004 will cause companies to question the infrastructure and stability of countries that may hold all their software business.  Score: 2-2-1

Grid computing will get a breakthrough application in 2004.  The concept of being able to utilize unused CPU cycles on multiple machines is rather interesting, and it makes a lot of sense.  There have been a few applications I'm aware of, like disease research and searches for prime numbers.  I'm thinking that some sort of peer-to-peer application with grid computing built in will be the next wave to hit in this area...

IBM has continued to push grid computing, and it still seems to be on the cusp of widespread adoption.  I read today that there are over 50000 computers signed up for the worldwide grid computing organization doing research into protein folding (it's even running on my desktop machine upstairs).  While we didn't get a breakthrough application this year, the concept didn't seem to lose any steam either.  Push.  Score: 2-2-2

So...  I guess the best I can say is...  you win some, you lose some, and you tie the rest.  :-)

01/02/2005

My year in review...

Category Everything Else


In many ways, this blog is like a daily "status report" of what's happened to me during the year.  I keep weekly status reports at work (my choice, not required) that allow me to easily go back and recap what I've done at the end of some period of time.  Let me take a look back over the last 12 months and see what happened to me based on my blog entries...
  • January... It started out with a nasty snow and ice storm here in Portland that virtually shut down the city for a number of days.  While I like snow, the whole thing got to be a little old after awhile.
  • I also got my first "print" article published in January with e-Pro.  That was a significant accomplishment for me in my fledgling writing career.
  • My friend Joe Litton moved to Tampa to take a consulting job.  It bummed me out to lose his companionship, but it had positive implications for my career (more in a second).
  • I started concentrating on reviewing books for Amazon and my blog.  I started out with a reviewer ranking of around 25000.  In January, I made it into the 12000 area.
  • Lotusphere 2004 and my first speaking gig in front of 600+ people.  Joe and I had a blast, and the reviews were very positive.  It's amazing what fluoxetine will do for killing nerves and fear.  :-)
  • February...  I hit my first year anniversary of blogging.
  • Joe's departure leads to me landing a new job taking over his place there.  It was tough to leave Boom Vang/Marquam Group, but it was a positive action for everyone.
  • Our Saturn was broken into and Ian's stereo was ripped out.  That's the first break-in of any type I've gone through.  It does have a sense of violation to it.
  • March... I did my first webinar for e-Pro and their online conference for Lotus technologies.
  • April... I released iWatch to the OpenNTF website (thanks to Marquam Group for letting me open source it).
  • My Amazon reviewer rank is now up to 2500.
  • May...  Ian graduates from high school and is now officially an adult.
  • June...  I take over the technical editor role for the new e-ProWire: Lotus Developer Tips newsletter!  I now have monthly deadlines and an audience.
  • I got to attend the Penton editorial conference in Westminster, Colorado.  It's great to be a part of that publishing family.
  • August... The Radicati incident plays out in the blog world...
  • I join the world of PDA users with an iPaq.  I can now sniff out wi-fi access points anywhere.
  • September... I break into the top 1000 reviewers at Amazon.
  • Ian starts college...  I'm getting old.
  • October...  The high school hockey season starts again, and Cam is the starting goalie.  Little would we expect, but they end up with only a single loss on their record by the end of the year.
  • November... Another webinar with e-Pro.  This time it's A Domino Developer Looks At Eclipse.
  • My Amazon goal is reached...  I break into the top 500.
  • We're part of a chain-reaction accident on Thanksgiving Day.  We were car #2 in a string of 8 cars, and it looks like car #5 (and Geico) will end up paying the damages for all the involved cars.
  • December... We get official notification that we (Joe Litton and I) will be presenting again at Lotusphere 2005!  Whoo-hoo!
  • We finish the year with a Caribbean cruise and DisneyWorld vacation for the last 14 days of the year.
 
747 entries in the blog for 2004 (wordy little twit, aren't I?).  Books read over the year?  182.  Yes, that's a record.  Yes, I'm a little embarrassed.


2004 was a very good year for me.  A lot of professional and personal development, and I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now.  If I could only drop about 75 pounds...  :-)


And how was *your* year?

01/02/2005

Book Review - Icon by Frederick Forsyth

Category Book Reviews

With all the reading I do, I haven't read any of Forsyth's stuff.  While on vacation, I packed his novel Icon.  An enjoyable read...

Set in 1999, Russia is falling apart.  Elections are coming, and a dynamic personality (Igor Komarov) seems to have the hearts and minds of the people.  But things are not as they seem.  A document titled The Black Manifesto falls into the hands of an American embassy worker, and no one is quite sure what to do about it.  Written by Komarov, it outlines a return to tolitarian rule, elimination of Jews and other minorities, and an active role in the government by the Russian mafia.  A former CIA agent named Jason Monk is "asked" to once again go undercover to work behind the scenes to destabilize the election campaign of Komarov so that he isn't able to use the denunciations of external governments to his advantage.  Monk also has to avoid being caught and killed as a spy due to his prior activities in the country.

There are a number of things that make this an intriguing novel.  The breakdown of the Soviet machine is factual, and presents a realistic backdrop to the storyline.  Forsyth also works in the CIA mole Aldrich Ames and the damage he did to destroy the entire American intelligence infrastructure in Russia.  It doesn't take a lot of effort to see this as a recounting of actual events.  The only problem I had was that nearly everything that Monk does works perfectly and seems to be a real stretch after awhile.  Still, it's a very good novel and I'll probably end up reading his other works.

01/02/2005

Book Review - Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois

Category Book Reviews

During my vacation, I picked up a novel by Brendan DuBois called Resurrection Day.  An interesting bit of alternative history that could have been better than it was...

The book is set in 1972, 10 years after a thermonuclear exchange that wiped out Russia and left America dependent on the aid of others.  This all happened because of the Cuban missile crisis.  The US invaded Cuba, Cuba used tactical nukes, and the US treated that as an attack by Russia.  Most of the government was killed in the attack, and plenty of areas are still off-limits (like New York City).  Carl Landry is a reporter for the Boston Globe, and he's been contacted by someone who has documentation that shows what *really* happened during that time.  But before Landry can get the papers, the source is mysteriously killed.  Landry then becomes the focus of a number of groups who want to know what the source had, and they all think that Landry either has the inside track or possesses the papers.  When he discovers a thriving underground culture of people living in New York (who the government says don't exist), he has to figure out who to trust in order to prevent an impending invasion of the US by foreign powers.

The book has an interesting premise, and on that point it's not a bad read.  It's also a long paperback (580+ pages), and I think that's where it breaks down.  I think this book could have been done very well in about 350 pages.  As it is, there seems to be a lot of ground that's covered repeatedly without advancing the story as quickly as it could be.  

If you're into alternative history, you'll probably like the book.  If you're looking for some escapism or an entertaining novel, you might find this one a little slow for your tastes.

01/02/2005

Thanks to everyone who used Amazon through my blog links...

Category Blogging

I've mentioned before that I have an Amazon Associates account which provides a small commission if someone orders something from Amazon using a link from this blog.  All my book reviews are linked to the Amazon site with my referrer ID.

In the past, my best quarter of payments through this program was around $7 or so.  Nothing to brag about, but every little bit helps.  This quarter, I ended up with over $47 in commission!  The surprising thing to me is that most of the ordered items aren't things I linked directly to.  They are items that people ordered after first clicking through to Amazon through a link from this blog.  This means that either 1) people went there for one thing and found something else, or 2) people went to Amazon through one of my links just so I'd receive some sort of commission.

Either way, thanks to everyone who ordered through here.  I appreciate it!

01/02/2005

IBM to cut pay of underachievers...

Category IBM/Lotus

From asahi.com:  Managing Management: IBM To Cut Pay Of Underachievers

This is an interesting article, especially since it's about the Japanese operations.  This is a significant cultural change for that area.  It's also a different way to balance the salary imbalances that might have developed during the dot.com boom years...

01/01/2005

December google entries...

Category Blogging

Now that I'm back from vacation and I've ignored my blog activity for half the month, let's wander through the google logs and see what warped things brought people to this site during the month...
  • euphemism for oral sex - yeah, we're off to a great start!
  • harriet klausner fraud - this is from my Amazon reviewing.  Harriet Klausner is the #1 reviewer on Amazon and she "reviews" up to 90 books a day.  I don't care if she claims she's a speed reader.  No one can read and write that many reviews a day.  There have also been some comparisons of her reviews that show a remarkable similarity to the cover promo.  Me thinks something is really fishy here.
  • pinocchio thong pic - I don't wanna know.
  • how can I account for enron in my taxes - with my settlement this year, I've actually got to consider that this time around.
  • connectria horror stories - sounds like someone with an axe to grind.  I've been exceedingly happy, Chris.  :-)
  • Richard Schwartz and Ice Skating - so are you taking up a new hobby, Rich?
  • whorehouse random events - strange...  very strange....
  • withdrawl diet coke - I did well on that before my vacation.  I'll have to try it again starting Monday.
  • genital torture - Come on, folks!  

01/01/2005

And if you want to see vacation photos that will mean little to you...

Category Vacation

I've just finished uploading them to the Ofoto site...  http://www.ofoto.com/BrowsePhotos.jsp?&collid=652403691203

01/01/2005

My favorite tech author has a new blog...

Category Blogging

Kathy Sierra has branched out beyond her Sun blog into something that's more personal...  Creating Passionate Users at http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/

Way to go, Kathy!

01/01/2005

Yes, I *can* clean up pretty well...

Category Vacation

A picture named M2

01/01/2005

Days 14 & 15 - It's good to be home...

Category Vacation

Yesterday and today were "travel days", so to speak, for our vacation trip home.  Because Alaska Air had changed our return flight on the 31st from 5 pm to 8 am out of Miami (and we were four hours away in Orlando), Sue convinced them to put us up at a hotel on the 31st so we could fly out today without leaving Orlando at 2 am...  So...

We left the Boardwalk at 6 am on the 31st for the four hour drive back.  We had to have the car turned back in by 11 am.  The hotel we were staying at was the Miami International Airport Hotel located, where else, but in the airport.  The drive was event-free, and we were back at Hertz by about 10:15.  We took the shuttle over to the airport, and checked in early (2 rooms, so we didn't have to entertain the kids).  After checking out the shops and restaurants at the airport (that took all of about 15 minutes), we were looking at spending a "fun-filled" New Year's Eve.

The MIA Hotel is rather strange.  It doesn't look to be affiliated with any of the major chains.  The best way to describe it is modern 70's/80's decor that hasn't been updated much.  The hallways and rooms make ample use of mirrors to make the place look larger than it actually is.  The entire wall at the head of the bed is mirrored.

Don't go there...

The bathroom has modern sleek faucets with hidden handles.  The toilet has no tank, just one of those flushing mechanisms you see in stadium bathrooms (and it's just about as loud).  A nice Princess Trimline push-button phone (slightly yellowed) is mounted conveniently by the toilet so you can "multi-task" as necessary.  In the entryway, there's no closet area...  just an open hanger setup that looks "sleek and modern" (or probably did 30 years ago).  The room's window area is completely shuttered with only a small area that can be slid open.  Which is fine, as our room view was blocked by a huge pipe that obscured the view of the parking garage.  My iPaq and wireless card showed four wi-fi access points (named "tsunami"), but I couldn't connect.  I asked the front desk about the access, and you'd thought I was speaking Swahili.  The guy tried to explain to me in broken English that there was access, it was the hotel's access, it was usable during business hours, but the 31st was New Year's Eve.  Yeah, so?

All things considered, it wasn't a *bad* hotel.  It just felt like it was pretending to be something it hadn't been for at least 20 years.

Today's trip home was pretty much uneventful, if not long.  The plane left Miami at 8 am and got to Seattle at 11 (add the three hours time zone shift).  Since the flight was 40 minutes *early*, we were able to get some lunch before boarding the puddlehopper from Seattle to Portland.  The flight was much smoother coming home.  Ian was talking to deities, but not making deals with them.  We got home around 3 pm, the cats hadn't torn up the house too badly, I've got five boxes of books to review, fun, fun, fun...  :-)

Did we have a good time?  Yes.  It was relaxing, everyone had fun, and we tried some new things.  But am I glad to be home?  You bet.  I'm tired of living out of a suitcase and lugging far too many pounds of electronic equipment from place to place...  :-)

Final parting shots...

Florida's rest areas on the Florida Turnpike rock.  They are commercial entities with gas stations and a visitor area with fast food and travel information (and nice clean bathrooms).  Beats the Oregon rest areas with iffy bathrooms, sometimes a few vending machines, and volunteers manning a coffee area.

One reason I *need* to lose weight in 2005...  airline seats.  My butt fits OK, but the shoulder width is an issue.  I'm tired of sitting forward or slanted for hours because the person sitting next to me is hogging space and my shoulders don't fit.

With as many times as we've been to WDW, you'd think I could drive the area with no problems.  Nope.  I always get lost or turned around at least once (if not more).  But this time, I didn't get lost once.  I think it was the electronic compass in our rental car.  It helped knowing whether you were traveling north or east...

Christmas music after December 25th seems strange.  Christmas music after December 25th when it's 75 degrees outside is just plain wrong!

And finally...  If you use a hotel internet connection, make sure you use a firewall.  I downloaded ZoneAlarm to use while I was traveling, and didn't think much of it.  A couple of times I clicked on Windows Explorer and looked for "Computers Near Me".  Not only could I see other users, but on more than one machine I could browse their drives.  On one machine, I could have deleted a student's entire semester of homework.  I'll make sure that ZoneAlarm is up and running at all times in about three weeks.

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Thanks!

Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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