About Duffbert...

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

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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide

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Co-author of the book IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Administration Guide

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Went and saw War Of The Worlds this evening...

Category Everything Else

My wife was wanting to see it, so I (of course) made sure that was in the plans for this July 4th weekend.  Without getting into any commentary about Tom Cruise's erratic behavior of late, the best I can give the movie is a "so-so"...

It doesn't take long for the creatures to make their appearance, so it's not like you're waiting half the movie for something to happen.  That was a positive.  The special effects were OK and fit the movie, but nothing that just made you sit back and say "whoa!".  The plots a little thin, but there's a fair amount of suspense going on most of the time...

I guess my biggest gripe involves a number of "how come" moments.  Now, I'm not terribly astute on picking up obvious disconnects and such.  But for instance...  These creatures make their presence known with freak lightening storms that create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that fries all electronics.  Every car in Cruise's neighborhood is disabled...  except the Caravan that he "borrows" from the neighborhood mechanic.  The pulse even takes out his wristwatch, but some idiot is using a camcorder to film the monster during the first rampage.  Huh?  There's "creative license" and then there's "how wide was that plot hole?"

Relatively entertaining, and it will probably do OK on opening weekend.  But I don't think it's going to have much staying power past that.  It's a "see once" movie...


Book Review - Eleven On Top by Janet Evanovich

Category Book Reviews

It's a good day when the latest Stephanie Plum novel shows up...  Eleven On Top by Janet Evanovich.  This may be one of my favorites of the series...

Stephanie Plum has decided to quit the bounty hunting business.  Her life isn't going anywhere, and she's decided to get a steady job with a regular paycheck.  Of course, not having anyone shoot at her or blow up her car would be nice too.  But of course, nothing is normal or steady when it comes to Ms. Plum's life.  She gets fired on day one from the button factory.  She gets fired from the dry cleaning job after a couple of days (and when the matriarch of the owner's family dies when Plum's car blows up).  And her job in the fast food business ends after a day when the chicken restaurant she works at burns down after a couple of days.  So why all the pyrotechnics?  Someone's apparently out to settle an old score, and Stephanie's life seems to be in peril.  Threatening notes, exploding car bombs, exploding garages, burning restaurants, and she's not even in the business any more.  Add into the mix that she's now working for Ranger at the same time she's trying to nurse Morelli back to health from a broken leg...

As I said above, this may be one of my favorites in the Stephanie Plum series.  I enjoyed the interaction between her and Lula as Lula tries to take over her old job (and still get Stephanie to help with all the apprehensions).  There's a bit more Ranger time as you learn more about his business, as well as wondering whether Stephanie will succumb to her urges to jump his bones.  And her gramma is as zany as ever.  Even though you think you know how the story is shaping up, there are still plenty of twists that accelerate at the end, making sure that I stayed up later than I wanted to find out how it all ended.

A good, fun read, and another excellent installment in the series...


Pretty good Ozzie interview in Redmond magazine...

Category Microsoft

It's Groove Baby!

I liked his observations on moving to Outlook/Exchange as a user:

It has been interesting in the first few weeks. I have been using Notes for my own mail for as long as there has been a Notes. You get habits. You use it a certain way. Now I'm an Outlook and Exchange user. The Exchange groups and Outlook groups already have a wealth of feedback (from me) from those experiences.

There are some aspects of Outlook that just kick Notes' butt and there are some aspects of Notes that kick Outlook/Exchange's butt. They have different heritages and different architectures. I think our experience with Notes will help make Outlook and Exchange a better product, because we can give them that kind of feedback. But it is interesting calling them "we."


The general impression I got after reading it was that Ozzie doesn't have much that he *has* to do at this stage.  He wants to "influence", but he doesn't have staff or decision-making capabilities.  He still thinks that Groove will be a stand-alone product.  Everything he wants to do is in the "idea" stage.  I don't want to call him a figurehead, because he's more important than that.  But I don't quite see so far where he's tasked to make things happen or lead some new software development.

Time will definitely tell...


Book Review - Score! A Better Way To Do Business by Thomas T. Stallkamp

Category Book Reviews

I just finished a book that covers a way of doing business that should be obvious but isn't...  Score! A Better Way To Do Business by Thomas T. Stallkamp.

Contents: Breaking the Mold; Adversarial Commerce and Why It's Wrong; Ending Adversarial Commerce; Where in the World Is Adversarial Commerce?; Information Is Power and Sharing Doesn't Come Naturally; The Collaborative Approach; The Extended Enterprise Concept; Collaboration Doesn't Mean "Soft"; Implementation Steps; The Conversion Experience; Breaking the Mold: Moving to Collaboration; Appendix; Index

The subtitle of this book is "Moving From Conflict To Collaboration", and it pretty much sums up the gist of this book.  Stallkamp was the president of Chrysler during some of the most difficult times of the company.  The automotive industry was struggling with the depressed economy, and the general answer was to implement draconian measures to extract costs from their suppliers.  But rather than follow the same path as everyone else, Chrysler decided to implement a program called Score.  The program was designed to partner with suppliers and use their improvement suggestions as a way to extract costs out of the system.  And rather than keep all the profits themselves, the suppliers were able to share in those profits, thereby benefitting both parties.  While the initial reaction was one of distrust, Chrysler quickly proved they were serious and soon the savings were topping $1 billion.  Stallkamp takes the reader through the thought processes of the company during that time, how the program was implemented, and the type of corporate mindset necessary to make it all work.  He also talks about how the merger with Daimler caused the program to pretty much die out since it was so contrary to the German way of doing business.

This isn't a "do this, fill out this form, and you're set" book.  It deals more with concepts and ideas that you can apply to your own organization.  There does seem to be a bit of repetitiveness in the material, but when you're done you have a pretty good idea as to why collaboration beats conflict.  While not an easy path due to resistance from years of doing it "the other way", it's a way well worth traveling...


Nasty LotusScript/Word mail merge problem I faced today...

Category Software Development

I got a call from a user who said that their Notes application wasn't printing labels any more.  Since it wasn't my application, I didn't know what I was getting myself in for when I offered to come over and take a look.  Turns out the prior programmer (*not* Joe!) had used a VBA type script to launch Word and do the mail merge for labels programmatically.  All this worked great until our Office suite was converted to Office 2003.  Now that they are on Word 2003, it doesn't work any more.  It would get to the point where .Destination = wdSendToNewDocument, and then blow away with the error "Microsoft Word: Requested object is not available".  And not being terribly familiar with the Word object model, it was a bit of a struggle to find an answer.  

Searching Google, it appeared that a number of people started to run into this problem with Word 2003.  Here's one of the MS technotes as to why:


There's another out there too, but I can't find it again.  Basically it's a security patch that prevents mail merge from programmatically running the SQL statement to load up the document from the data source.  The Microsoft fix was to update the registry and reduce the security level.  Typical MS fix...  
But after digging through a number of entries, I found one person who had a suggestion that worked:


Since I was calling a template already created in a Notes document, his suggestion made sense...  Reestablish the data source before doing the mail merge activity, since the data source link was lost when opening the document.  I added the LabelDoc.MailMerge.OpenDataSource statement to the agent, and it all works fine.

I'll post this out there, as there was a distinct lack of answers online for how to solve this...  Even though it's a Notes agent and not some Access or VB6 program, the concept should still transfer over...


'Launch Word in the background
Set wordAppObject = CreateObject("Word.Application")
wordAppObject.Visible = False

'Create a Word document, and get a handle to it
Call wordAppObject.Documents.Open(filepath)

'The new piece of code...
Set LabelDoc = wordAppObject.ActiveDocument
Call LabelDoc.MailMerge.OpenDataSource("F:\data\GrpLabels.txt")
With LabelDoc.MailMerge
.Destination = wdSendToNewDocument
.MailAsAttachment = False
.MailAddressFieldName = ""
.MailSubject = ""
.SuppressBlankLines = True
With .DataSource
.FirstRecord = 1
.LastRecord = 999
End With

End With


Book Review - Assembling Panoramic Photos - A Designer's Notebook

Category Book Reviews

Digital cameras and powerful software tools have made panoramic photography much easier than it's been in the past.  If you want to see real state-of-the-art panoramic work, you'll like Assembling Panoramic Photos - A Designer's Notebook published by O'Reilly.

Contents: Studio 01 - Waterfalls of Ice - Bertrand Bodin; Studio 02 - At the Restaurant - Arnaud Frich; Studio 03 - Frenzy at Almanarre Beach - Albert Lemoine; Studio 04 - The Workshop - Christophe Noel; Studio 05 - Urban Sphere - Sacha Popovic; Studio 06 - On the Boulevards - Peet Simard; Studio 07 - The Phare des Baleines Lighthouse - Laurent Thion; Studio 08 - Venice - The Orseolo Basin - Gilles Vidal

This book was translated from French by William Rodarmor, and all of the photographers hail from France.  The general format of the book takes a particular panoramic photo from the person who created the picture, and then goes into detail about how it was done.  This goes everywhere from the thoughts behind the composition, the equipment used to take the raw material, the software used to retouch and stitch the different pictures, and how certain difficulties had to be overcome.  There are a number of different types of panoramas, going from traditional wide-angle content to a circular composition wrapped around a point on a sidewalk.  This book will serve as both a source of inspiration and a catalog of techniques.

You'll get the most out of this book if you are intermediate to advanced in both digital photography and Photoshop.  A number of stitching programs are used in the images, so you'll learn why some people prefer one over the other.  If you're just Joe Schmoe with a digital camera and a stitching program, you'll probably be a little lost here.  These photographers are professionals, and the results they produce are professional.  They understand the tools of their trade very well, and it's that knowledge that allows them to get these types of results.  So don't feel bad if the book is a little beyond you when you first start reading.  But if you're willing to work at it and try out some of the techniques shown here, you'll soon be showing off some interesting results.


Ah, yes... When I had hair...

Category Everything Else

We had dinner with a couple last night we've known for 25+ years.  Her father is the minister that married Sue and I, and they recently did a photo retrospective of his 25 years of ministry at that church.  In the process, they found some pictures of Sue and I taken back in 1982.  Here's one that must have been taken in late 1981/early 1982 as Sue doesn't have her engagement ring on (February 1982).  

As you can see, I *did* have hair at one point in my life...

A picture named M2


Book Review - Two Dollar Bill by Stuart Woods

Category Book Reviews

A favorite fictional character of mine is Stone Barrington, the main character in Stewart Woods' latest Barrington novel, Two Dollar Bill.  I enjoyed this one quite a bit...

Barrington is caught off guard when the legal firm he works with presents him with a new client who specifically requested his services.  The client's name is Billy Bob Barnstormer, and he's a flamboyant character who seems to be flush with money (and doesn't have a specific reason to need legal representation).  He ends up at Barrington's house as an overnight guest, and ends up leaving a dead prostitute in Stone's guest room.  After a number of inquiries from various parties and a little research, Stone finds out that Billy Bob is just one of a number of aliases, and he's wanted by the local authorities, the FBI, *and* the CIA.  And every one of those agencies wants Barrington to work with them to get their hands on Billy Bob first.  Barrington has his own problems, because Billy Bob wants him dead for some reason.  And the *real* Billy Bob is an ex-CIA agent who is trained to kill...

I really enjoyed this read.  Nothing real heavy or complex...  just an interesting story with some twists along the way.  It took quite awhile to find out the "why" of how come Billy Bob had it in for Barrington, but it made sense once you got there.  Seeing the cons unfold along the way were also entertaining.   If you're a Stuart Woods/Stone Barrington fan, this makes a nice installment in the series...


Seeing my review material in promotional announcements...

Category Book Reviews

Since most all the tech books I review are provided gratis by the publishers (like O'Reilly, Apress, Addison Wesley, Prentice-Hall, Wiley, and others), I make sure to send them a copy of the review via email at the same time I post it here and on Amazon.  The basic unwritten agreement is that I get the book, they get the review, and they can use the review in whatever way they wish.  Occasionally I'll get an email from a publisher contact asking for permission to use some quote from the review for promotional material (which I always grant).  This could be something for the book cover on a 2nd printing, or perhaps a news release on a book.

The review I did for Performance Tuning For Linux Servers ended up in the news release category over on NewsForge as a New Book Announcement.  
Always sort of cool to see your name show up somewhere (so long as it's not an obituary or a "be on the lookout for" alert)...


Getting the Netsky virus from... Radicati!

Category Everything Else

I receive a number of Netsky viruses (at least that's what I think they are) in my Yahoo account, and they always get routed to my bulk mail folder.  Sometimes I recognize the address/domain they come from, and sometimes I don't.  But today's latest delivery of a Netsky email was just too rich...  I'm not knowledgeable enough to tell if it actually came from Radicati or if it was forged...  Still, way too funny to get something like this from such a "respected analyst in messaging systems"...  

From announcements-mailer@radicati.com Thu Jun 23 04:08:43 2005
X-Apparently-To: twduff@yahoo.com via; Thu, 23 Jun 2005 03:55:06 -0700
X-Originating-IP: []
Return-Path: <announcements-mailer@radicati.com>
Authentication-Results: mta141.mail.re2.yahoo.com from=radicati.com; domainkeys=neutral (no sig)
Received: from (EHLO yahoo.com) ( by mta141.mail.re2.yahoo.com with SMTP; Thu, 23 Jun 2005 03:55:06 -0700
From: announcements-mailer@radicati.com  
To: twduff@yahoo.com
Subject: Delivery failure notice (ID-00000326)
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005 13:08:43 +0200
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary="----=_NextPart_000_0008_000005A4.000062B9"
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
Content-Length: 18187

--- Mail Part Delivered ---
220 Welcome to [yahoo.com]
Mail type: multipart/related
--- text/html RFC 2504
MX [Mail Exchanger] mx.mt2.kl.yahoo.com
Exim Status OK.

New message is available.


Book Review - Out by Natsuo Kirino

Category Book Reviews

I had heard some buzz about a novel written in Japan and translated into English...  Out by Natsuo Kirino.  I picked up a copy at the library and finished it last night...  A very dark story that redefines "desperate housewives"...

The story revolves around four Japanese women who work the night shift at a packaged food plant.  It's a nasty job, but it pays better than day shift work and affords them a part-time schedule.  But all of these women are living lives of quiet desperation.  One is in a marriage where the son doesn't talk to them and the husband has moved into a separate room.  Another fancies herself a fashion plate but is overweight and deeply in debt to the loan sharks.  The third is widowed with two daughters and an invalid mother-in-law that makes her life miserable (and has to have her diaper changed multiple times a day).  And finally there's the wife with kids, a husband who beats her, and has spent all their savings at the gaming tables (besides chasing around other women).  He gets roughed up at the club and sent home.  She snaps and strangles him with a belt.  She enlists the help of her friends to dispose of the body by cutting it up into small parts and trashing it around the city.  But the police find some of the bags in the park trash and are able to identify the body.  They are trying to figure out if the wife did it or if the owner of the casino was responsible for the death.  After all, the casino owner does have a nasty murder on his record.  The tale is tightly woven between the women, the casino owner, and other various players who have figured out the truth and are playing it for their advantage.  The question is whether any of them will survive the changes that have occurred now that they are highly involved in the murder...

"Dark" doesn't quite begin to cover this story.  Not only do you have the dismemberment of the murdered husband, but they are coerced into other "jobs" because they need the cash.  Greed between the friends leads to blackmail, and pretty soon it's hard for each to figure out who can be trusted to keep their mouth shut and not spill the beans to the police (or others).  The overwhelming helplessness of each life also is vividly portrayed in the writings.  While not condoning the events that happen, you understand how they play out.  I'd have given this a top rating if not for the ending.  While I don't have a problem with what happens in the end, the emotion and mental "conclusion" were entirely lost on me.  I really didn't get what the writer was having the woman feel...

A good read with cultural elements that will probably be unfamiliar and fascinating to you...  Just a little confusing at the end...


Microsoft meets the hackers...

Category Microsoft

From news.com:  Microsoft Meets The Hackers

Kudos to Microsoft for coming face-to-face with the real world, not the world they imagine or ignore...


Book Review - Degunking Your Personal Finances by Shannon Plate

Category Book Reviews

Getting into financial difficulties is far too easy in today's society, and getting out is a struggle.  Shannon Plate has written a book that will greatly aid you in the process of getting your financial house in order...  Degunking Your Personal Finances (Paraglyph Press).

Why Are My Finances All Gunked Up?; Where Do I Start Degunking My Finances?; Organizing Your Financial Life; Creating a Clear Picture of Your Financial Situation; Degunking Your Credit and Debit Cards; Degunking Your Consumer Debt; Degunking Your Home and Mortgage; Degunking Your Housing and Living Expenses; Degunking Your Savings and Investments; Degunking Your Credit Report; Fine-Tuning Your Budget; Degunking Other Expenses; Degunking Your Taxes, Benefits, and Insurance; Finding Hidden Money; Putting Your Computer and Other Technology to Work; Improving Your Credit Security; Backup and Emergency Planning; Index

All the Degunking titles are set up to have you follow a 12 step program that, if followed, will greatly improve the area being "degunked".  In this case, it's your financial affairs.  Plate starts out with the very basic first step...  set up an area where you can organize all your financial papers.  If they're scattered all over the place, the internal resistance and effort is multiplied.  Then figure out where you really are with your finances, and start on cleaning up your credit and debit cards.  Each additional step builds on that base and works up through the final step.  Many of the later steps are ones that you can implement at any time (like implementing a financial security program, backing up financial records, etc.), but it all follows in a logical order.  The author also doesn't offer any quick fixes to your problems.  It's work to get out from under the pile, but if you structure your approach to doing so, it may not be quite as bad as you thought.  And it's definitely not as bad as continuing to go down the same path and finding yourself unable to get credit due to bankruptcies or such...

Degunking Your Personal Finances is a well-written book that's personable and enjoyable to read.  The author's personality shines through, and it's easy to follow her steps and suggestions to start cleaning up your life.  And even if you think you have everything under control, you'll probably find some things in there that you can implement that will make your good situation even better.  A highly recommended read...


Book Review - Database In Depth by C. J. Date

Category Book Reviews

Over the last week or so, I've been reading C. J. Date's book Database In Depth - Relational Theory for Practitioners (O'Reilly).  While it's a well-done title, it's the type of book I have a hard time reading...

Introduction; Relations Versus Types; Tuples And Relations; Relation Variables; Relational Algebra; Integrity Constraints; Database Design Theory; What Is The Relational Model?; A Little Bit Of Logic; Suggestions For Further Reading; Index

C. J. Date, along with E. F. Codd (the acknowledged "father" of relational database theory), are probably the two most influential individuals in this field.  Much of what we know and practice in today's RDBMS packages all goes back to the work these two have done.  Rather than write a textbook style discussion of the finer points of database theory, Date has used this book to update some of his thinking and to consolidate a number of his talks and writings of late.  For serious students of relational database concepts, I'd consider this the latest "must read" to keep up with current thinking by one of the masters.

Having said that, I had a hard time slogging through the material.  I tend to gravitate to technical reading material that is practical and understandable.  Debates over finer points of arcane minutia will cause me to zone out quickly.  Unfortunately, I felt that way through a lot of this book.  There is a lot of solid technical material here, and it's definitely geared towards serious readers.  Date doesn't have a lot of kind words to say about how database vendors have implemented the relational model, nor does he feel SQL is a good thing.  I, on the other hand, figure the packages are what they are, and you had better learn to use them to create the systems needed by your customers.  That's probably why I'm a developer and not a system architect.  Reading a number of pages on why Date and Codd disagree on whether nulls are valid or allowed doesn't do much for me.  They're there, you need to understand them, and then you need to move on.  Another hard part for me was the heavy emphasis on mathematical proofs and such.  Since I don't have that type of background, I'm quickly lost...

Even though I wasn't completely enamored with the book, I still think it is a good title.  For the right reader, this will be material that they will benefit from.  For the average person who got training on Oracle or DB2 and understand basic relational database theory, this may be a bit more difficult to get through...


Book Review - Exact Revenge by Tim Green

Category Book Reviews

One of my favorite authors is Tim Green, and his latest novel, Exact Revenge, was a nice escape from reality for awhile...

Raymond White is living the good life in the mid-80's with all the trappings of money and power.  Even better, he's been pegged to be the successor to a Congressman who has passed away of old age.  But there are others who want what he has, including his fiancee.  On the night of his introduction as a political force, he's arrested for a murder he didn't commit.  The jury convicts him after certain evidence is destroyed, and he's sent to prison to live out his life.  He's a tough prisoner and does all he can to stay in solitary confinement, thereby avoiding some of the more unpleasant aspects of prison life.  But he finally is befriended by another old prisoner who helps him adjust his view of life.  He also offers to share a vast fortune with White once they make good on an escape.  With all the money he could ever need, want, or spend, White can start a new life and forget all the bad things that have happened to him.  But what he really wants to do is follow up on a principle he learned in prison...  exact revenge.  He's willing to spend whatever it takes to reward those who helped him before prison and to make life a living nightmare for those who put him there.

From a story-telling point, I liked this story a lot.  Watching White set up intricate plans to lead his enemies into total destruction was fascinating.  It's also interesting to watch him struggle with who he is and what he might become if he gives in completely to his hate and burning need for revenge.  There is a bit of suspended belief that needs to take place to get here, however.  You have to believe that the old guy in prison really did accumulate a vast fortune.  You also have to believe that White was able to convert the treasure to cash resources without drawing undue attention to himself.  But once money is no problem, there's not too many logistical problems that can't be solved in the story line.

Definitely a good, entertaining read.  Not the most likely plotline, but it's easy enough to play along for the ride...


Book Review - Maran Illustrated Weight Training

Category Book Reviews

I'm really getting addicted to these Maran Illustrated titles.  I received a copy of Maran Illustrated Weight Training, and this is one of those fitness books that speaks to the "normal" person...

Section 1 - Weight Training Basics: Weight Training Basics
Section 2 - Work Your Upper Body: Work Your Chest; Work Your Shoulders; Work Your Back; Work Your Triceps; Work Your Biceps and Wrists; Work Your Abdominals
Section 3 - Work Your Lower Body: Work Your Legs; Work Your Buttocks; Work Your Calves
Section 4 - Using An Exercise Ball And Tubing; Using an Exercise Ball; Using Exercise Tubing
Section 5 - Design A Weight Routine: Design a Weight Routine
Section 6 - Stretching: Stretching
Section 7 - Cardiovascular Training And Nutrition: Cardiovascular Training; Nutrition; Index

Although my current fitness and weight level wouldn't necessarily show it, I've spent a lot of time in the gym doing weight training.  I even considered competitive bodybuilding for awhile, and I was familiar with that entire scene and lifestyle.  So while I'm fine with a weight training book by a current Mr. Olympia, the person trying to get started for the first time can easily be intimidated by that.  Hyper-muscular individuals enhanced by various "substances" aren't realistic for 99% of the population, and it sets some pretty false expectations.  Fortunately, there are alternatives, and this book is one of them.

The Maran Illustrated approach to a book involves a graphically appealing format with an abundance of photos to illustrate points.  No endless pages of "text only" here.  Each exercise that's illustrated follows pretty much the same format.  A photo of the starting/ending position, a photo of the middle position, a picture of the muscles targeted by the exercise, and most importantly, a photo of what you *don't* do when performing the exercise.  I can't tell you how many times I've had to bite my tongue when watching others in the gym, knowing that their particular motion on a given exercise makes it either useless or dangerous.  This emphasis on what to do and what *not* to do isn't normally covered in other books.  In fact, I don't think I've seen any other book show that level of responsibility.  I'd commend it for that alone.

But we're not done yet.  The material in the first section is stuff that I'd like to get all gym attendees to memorize.  They cover the basics on equipment, how to choose a gym, why weight training is good for you, etc.  But they also devote some time to etiquette.  Etiquette!  That's another hot button for me.  I don't want to listen to you scream while you crank out that last rep.  I don't want to use the bench that's still covered in your sweat.  And I *really* don't want to wait to work in while you're reading the paper between sets.  If I could staple this section to the forehead of a few individuals, I'd be a happy man.

Do I like this book?  Yeah, I like it a lot.  The models illustrating the exercises are normal-looking, fit individuals.  The information is technically sound, and effort is made to make sure you're doing things right.  They even cover fitness balls and exercise tubing, which I normally dismiss in my mind as gimmicks.  But I had to rethink those attitudes after covering that area.  

Bottom line:  This would be the first book I'd recommend in nearly all cases if someone was getting ready to take up weight training.  Great job!


Good news on the ND 6.5 posters!

Category IBM/Lotus

I got the shipment today on the Notes/Domino 6.5 Object Model posters.  We were all discussing this a few days ago, and one of the issues was that the price dropped from $60 to $36.25 while the set quantity dropped from 5 to 1.  

We were wrong...

Yes, the price dropped.  No, the set quantity didn't.  I'm now the proud owner of 5 complete sets of Domino Object Model posters!

So instead of having to pay $181.25 to equip the developers at work with the posters, it's only going to cost the company $36.25!


Thank you, IBM!  This is a valuable resource to developers, and you've made it even more accessible now.

Update:  If you are looking for the URL (or one that works), you can follow the directions from a reader (Andrew Dempster) who commented in a previous post:

Then choose your country and choose the following pub. code:
That should find all five charts in your native currency.


A new blog to chronicle a journey... lessduffbert.blogspot.com

Category Everything Else

I launched a second blog this evening as a personal chronicle of a journey I set out on today...  http://lessduffbert.blogspot.com

As may be evident by the title, I've decided to get serious about weight loss.  I'm reaching some danger points that aren't good, and my wife still insists she'd like me to hang around a bit longer.  So long as I quit snoring...

Less Duffbert will be the site where I put down my thoughts and feelings about this process.  I didn't want to make Duffbert's Random Musings be a "watch me lose (or fail to lose) weight" site.  Besides, if it doesn't go well, I can always just delete the blogspot site and pretend nothing ever happened.  :-)

I'll get the RSS feed going in the next day or two, but for right now I've at least got the basic structure in place.

I promise no "before" shots that will cause permanent retinal damage.  At least until I can put a decent "after" shot next to it.  :-)


Hot on the heels of my last Amazon milestone, we now have another one...

Category Book Reviews

A picture named M2

I *finally* broke into the top 200!  Based on my prior progress, I thought it would be a lot easier to get to this point.  But things slowed down dramatically once I got to around 230 or so, and progress has been painfully slow since then.

Of course, I've had 59 helpful votes on my reviews since I posted my 500th review milestone note.  I haven't had that many helpfuls in a four day period ever.  Something tells me certain blog readers were kind enough to send a few votes my way...  :-)

I guess I'll be setting my mental goal now to reach 150 by the end of the year.  I won't get a new "badge" (like "Top 500 Reviewer") until I reach the top 100.  But competition up there is rather stiff, and I don't quite know if/when that will happen...

Anyway...  thanks to everyone for letting me indulge my writing habits here and for making the publishing companies believe that my opinion counts...  :-)


An Amazon reviewing milestone...

Category Book Reviews

A picture named M2

Today I wrote my 500th review on Amazon.  Those reviews have garnered 2841 helpful votes over the years.  The helpful votes are tallied by people going to the Amazon site, viewing the book review, and clicking on the "Yes" button next to "Was this review helpful for you?"  Certain accumulations of vote totals (3 helpful/10 helpful) count towards reviewing points, and then you're stacked up against everyone else who has this obsession...

If you want to see all the books I've reviewed on Amazon (and if you care to leave helpful or not helpful votes), you can check out my About You area here:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A3R19YKNL641X3

And it seems like I've been stuck between 207 and 210 forever...  :-)


Book Review - Purple Sun by Lawrence McAuliffe

Category Book Reviews

I was recently contacted by Lawrence McAuliffe, the author of the novel Purple Sun, and asked if I'd like a review copy of his book.  Never one to turn down a good read, I accepted.  After finishing the book, I can truly say this was a very well done effort...

Lance Corporal Billy Kern, a soldier in Vietnam, commits an act of aggression during a mission that he can't come to grips with.  In his effort to blot it all out, he nearly kills himself in a drunken stupor.  Found by an old mama-san, he ends up getting cleaned up by Master Technical Sergeant Isaiah and given some advice on what he should do with himself in order to get his mind back together.  Kern is pretty messed up as he has three purple hearts, should have died from his last chest wound, and is convinced he has to find an old monk he met in the hills during the fateful mission.  An attempt to steal a jeep and continue his journey leads to military court, where Sgt. Ross testifies that he feels Kern can carry out the rest of his tour.  And as Kern still feels he has a mission in life to find the monk, this is just what he wants.  He disappears during an intense firefight and is never found.  A military journalist, Patric Gallo, feels that Kern's return to service was a massive injustice, while Ross feels that Kern's return was the right thing to do, both by law and for Kern's sake.  Ross writes him off as dead, while Gallo feels he could still be alive.  Decades pass with rumors of a strange Doa-Nai, or wandering monk, who inhabits the hills of Vietnam, caring for the dead.  Circumstances and a need for closure drive both Ross and Gallo to a remote monastery, the Purple Sun, to learn the truth of what happened 28 years earlier...

As I've stated on more than one occasion in book reviews, I don't do "subtle" very well.  Pondering the deeper meaning of an author in a book is something I just don't do well.  So I'm not even going to try to come up with some profound insight based on this novel.  Still, even with my somewhat shallow reading skills, I was moved by this book.  It was easy to understand how Kern was able to become detached from reality given the trauma he suffered.  Watching Ross deal with the conflict between justice, law, and spirituality was something that I could identify with.  Gallo's tenacity to find the truth, never giving in and letting the story die...  It all made for a story that drew me in and kept me turning pages to see how it would all turn out.  
McAuliffe's background as a Vietnam chaplain permeates the writing, and you can tell he knows the story of which he writes.  For those who desire a deep read with much to chew on, this book will deliver.  And even if you're just looking for a good story to kill a few hours, you'll get that and quite a bit more...  


Book Review - Tinnitus Treatment And Relief by Jack A. Vernon

Category Book Reviews

Being a tinnitus sufferer to a small degree, I picked up a copy of Tinnitus Treatment And Relief by Jack A. Vernon at the library the other day.  This is one of those books you could either think is absolutely great or something that you shouldn't read unless you have a medical degree.

On the good side, this book doesn't attempt to push a single treatment option or tout some specialized treatment routine of the author.  It's a series of chapters written by doctors and researchers that cover a range of techniques that have been studied and found to have varying levels of effectiveness.  Since little is known about tinnitus and there are no fool-proof or totally effective treatments, it may well be that what works for one person only serves to exaggerate the problem for someone else.  Also, tinnitus is highly subjective in the level of discomfort to the patient.  As measurement of the extent of the problem can be difficult, placebo treatments often offer some level of relief just because the patient expects it to help.  If you're a sufferer looking to find out about a range of treatment options, this book will help.

What I didn't like about the book is that the content varies greatly in its readability.  Some of the chapters are written with the patient in mind, and it's easy to understand what the doctor is trying to convey.  Other chapters are nothing more than research papers targeted at other researchers, complete with technical statistical analysis and research jargon.  Although each chapter ends with a "question and answer" section from a patient perspective, far too much of the writing will be heavy going for the average reader.

I think the best I can do is give this an average rating with the caveat that your results may vary.  Depending what you're looking for, this may be an important read to deal with your condition or it may offer even more frustration of a condition you don't understand...


Book Review - Maran Illustrated Piano

Category Book Reviews

I was recently sent a copy of the book Maran Illustrated Piano from the maranGraphics Development Group.  It's another subject treatment using the "maran illustrated" technique, and again it's an excellent work...

Chapter List:  Piano Basics; The Basics of Reading Music; Basic Hand Positions; Playing Scales; Playing Chords; Beyond the Basics of Reading Music; Tips to Improve Your Playing; Special Playing Techniques; Improvising and Playing with Others; Styles of Music; Buying and Caring for Your Piano; Quick Reference; Index

The Maran books use a graphic-intensive format with liberal use of color and heavy-stock paper.  With Frank Horvat as the technical consultant, they take the reader through an informative history of the piano, famous composers, and the structure of the piano (along with the various styles and related instruments).  From there, they get into how to read music as well as the basic hand positioning for playing.  The material on reading music is well done for anyone who needs to acquire that skill, even if they aren't interested in the piano.  The book then starts to show how to play scales, chords, and progressively more difficult pieces.  It would be very easy to use this book to do your own self-learning program, and it'd be a great way to figure out if you want to take the next step and find a piano teacher to help you progress.

The illustrations and photography of hand placement jump off the pages with the high-quality printing and paper.  The pictures of Horvat sitting at the piano look a little stilted, but there's only so much "action" you can add to those settings.  The only photo series I didn't much care for in the book have to do with the piano pedals.  The pedal photos have someone's black shoe, white sock, and bare leg in the frame.  That's just wrong...  :-)

Shoes and socks aside, this is an excellent choice if you are looking to learn how to play the piano on your own.  You will gain a solid foundation with the instrument, and from there you can take it to whatever level appeals to you...


Book Review - Shell Scripting Recipes by Chris F. A. Johnson

Category Book Reviews

I'm a strong believer in "R&D"...  "Rob & Duplicate".  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'd prefer find code that works and use/modify it to fit my purposes.  Chris F. A. Johnson has a book that fits that mindset perfectly...  Shell Scripting Recipes - A Problem-Solution Approach (Apress).

Chapter List: The POSIX Shell and Command-Line Utilities; Playing With Files - Viewing, Manipulating, And Editing Text Files; String Briefs; What's In A Word?; Scripting By Numbers; Loose Names Sink Scripts - Bringing Sanity To Filenames; Treading A Righteous PATH; The Dating Game; Good Housekeeping - Monitoring And Tidying Up File Systems; POP Goes The E-Mail; PostScript - More Than An Afterthought; Screenplay - The screen-funcs Library; Backing Up The Drive; Aging, Archiving, And Deleting Files; Covering All Your Databases; Home On The Web; Taking Care Of Business; Random Acts Of Scripting; A Smorgasbord Of Scripts; Script Development Management; Internet Scripting Resources; Index

Johnson has written a book that is perfect for the person who has studied the basics and now wants to start applying their knowledge.  The book is one page after another of scripts written to solve specific issues and scenarios that can be solved using scripting techniques.  Each problem has the format of description, "How It Works", "Usage", "The Script", and any "Notes" that might apply to this situation.  The vast majority of problems are covered in two or less pages, so the scripts and examples are very tight and concise.  The scripts were tested by the author using bash, pdksh, KornShell 93, and ash.  If this is the type and flavor of shell scripting you use, they you'll be able to use the scripts without too many fears of finding problems.  If the author knows another technique to make the script applicable to more types of shell environments, those will be noted in the Notes for the particular problem.

I really liked the focused nature of the material and writing.  This is the type of book that will either solve a specific problem you have or will give you ideas on automating/simplifying something that you've lived with for far too long.  And with repeated perusals, you may find gems you overlooked the first time that now address a current need.  Definitely the type of book that deserves to be on your bookshelf with dog-eared pages throughout.


Book Review - Performance Tuning For Linux Servers

Category Book Reviews

If you're responsible for Linux servers and you need to keep things running at peak efficiency, you *need* to get this book...  
Performance Tuning For Linux Servers, edited by Sandra K. Johnson, Ph. D., Gerrit Huizenga, and Badari Pulavarty.  It's an excellent blend of theory and practicality.

Chapter List:

Part 1 - Linux Overview: Linux Installation Issues; Kernel Overview; Overview Of Server Architectures

Part 2 - Performance Analysis Tools: System Performance Monitoring; System Trace Tools; Benchmarks As An Aid To Understanding Workload Performance

Part 3 - System Tuning: System Performance Principles And Strategy - A Benchmarking Methodology Case Study; Scheduler Tuning; The Linux Virtual Memory-Performance Implications; I/O Subsystems-Performance Implications; File System Tuning; Network Tuning; Interprocess Communications; Code Tuning

Part 4 - Performance Characterization Of Linux Server Applications: Web Servers; File And Print Servers; Database Servers; Application Servers

Part 5 - Tuning Case Studies: Case Study - Tuning The I/O Schedulers In Linux 2.6; Case Study - File System Tuning; Case Study - Network Performance On Linux; Case Study - Commercial Workload Tuning; Tuning Kernel Parameters; Index

This is one of those rare books that ranks high on many criteria...  It's got a lot of theory, the "why" of different features as they relate to performance.  It's also packed full of practical material.  They tell you how to measure key components in the system and what parameters you can change to affect those areas.  When you get done, you've covered every conceivable area that exists in the Linux environment.  I particularly liked the blending of measuring/monitoring along with the instructions on how to change performance.  The chapter on system performance monitoring tools can be used immediately to see how your system runs.  Once you become comfortable using those tools, you can use them to run before and after comparisons of tuning efforts.  There's no guesswork involved.  Measure, tweak, and remeasure.  Repeat as necessary.  Same with the benchmarking tools.  They will allow you to know without a doubt whether the changes you made work or not.

I'm also impressed with the readability of the book on a couple of different fronts.  For one, books like this can be dry as dirt, especially in the areas dealing with theory and architecture.  But surprisingly, it really wasn't hard to follow, nor was I getting bored.  The other reason the readability is surprising is that the chapters are done by 21 different contributors.  When you get different chapters being done by different techies (with varying levels of communication skills), you normally get a very uneven book.  Not so here...  The editors should be commended for taking material that I'm sure was all over the board and weaving it into a cohesive and coherent volume.

Bottom line...  If you run a Linux system and you are responsible for making sure it performs, this is the book you need to have.


Book Review - DHTML Utopia by Stuart Langridge

Category Book Reviews

I ran across an interesting title on web programming the other day...  DHTML Utopia: Modern Web Design Using JavaScript & DOM by Stuart Langridge (Sitepoint).  If you already understand JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, along with the concept of the document object model (DOM), this book might give you some pretty good ideas...

Chapter List:  Introduction; DHTML Technologies; The Document Object Model; Handling DOM Events; Detecting Browser Features; Animation; Forms and Validation; Advanced Concepts and Menus; Remote Scripting; Communicating With The Server; Dom Alternatives - XPath; Index

The main intent of this book is to show the reader how DHTML can be used to add a degree of dynamic interaction not often seen in average web pages and applications.  Because the book is not overly large (slightly over 300 pages), there is an assumption that you're already familiar with JavaScript, CSS, and HTML.  These technologies make up a large part of what's known as DHTML.  The other piece is the document object model.  Using JavaScript to manipulate the page structure when events occur, you can make the page do things like add fields, expand and collapse parts of the form, highlight rows and columns of tables, etc.  Langridge does what I would consider a review of basic DOM concepts before launching into many, many examples of DHTML you can steal for your pages.  

This is one of those books where you "learn by doing".  Under no circumstances would I consider this a book I'd use as a reference manual.  If you have problems with a script or you don't understand certain language functions, you're basically on your own.  The ideas and techniques are relatively easy to follow, and you can easily add the code by typing (or downloading from the website).  So if you're comfortable with learning by diving right in, you'll probably have better luck with this book than those who might be trying to gain a comprehensive understanding of every part of DHTML.  You'll also like the book if you just want some ideas to explore...


Book Review - All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

Category Book Reviews

Seth Godin always has an interesting perspective of marketing in today's society.  His latest book seeks to add to that perspective with a purposely inflammatory title...  All Marketers Are Liars - The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World.

Chapter List: Highlights; Got Marketing?; Step 1 - Their Worldview And Frames Got There Before You Did; Step 2 - People Notice Only The New And Then Make A Guess; Step 3 - First Impressions Start The Story; Step 4 - Great Marketers Tell Stories We Believe; Examples - Stories Framed Around Worldviews; Important Aside - Fibs And Frauds; Step 5 - Marketers With Authenticity Thrive; Competing In The Lying World; Remarkable? The Cow Has Not Left The Building; Bonus Part 1 - Master Storytellers And Those Who Are Still Trying; Bonus Part 2 - Advanced Riffs; Good Stuff To Read; So, What To Do Now?; Acknowledgments; Index; What's Your Story?

This is one of those books where you think it's going to say one thing, and it ends up telling a different tale than you expected.  The general premise was easy to grasp, but I kept having to slow down to make sure I was really understanding the finer distinctions involved.  Probably the best way to summarize the material is to quote from the Advanced Riffs chapter:

"Remember, the marketer tells a story.  The consumer believes it and it becomes a lie.  And that lie can spread from person to person.  Then and only then is the marketer going to succeed and will sales grow."

Advertising that involves stating facts and comparing your product to the rest of the market is an effort that is potentially doomed to failure (or worse, doomed to be forgotten).  You as a marketer have to tell a story about your product.  One of the examples involved Puma tennis shoes which are marketed as a luxury "want" that will make you look cool, special, and so forth.  Bottom line, it's an assembly of material used to make a shoe that costs very little when assembled in an off-shore plant.  If all the consumer wants is a reliable pair of shoes, s/he can do much better with different brands that are far cheaper.  But the consumer buys into the story that Puma is telling, and that story then becomes the "lie" that the consumer tells themselves to explain their attachment with the item.  They then start to tell that lie to others, which can form an ideavirus that sweeps through society very quickly.  Think of iPods...  MP3 players have been around for quite awhile.  The story of the iPod has become the lie that millions have told themselves and others.  If Apple had simply tried to sell it as a portable music player with gigabytes of storage, there would have been little to differentiate it from others.  Then it would have been a race to add more memory.  But you can't compete with the "cool" factor of the iPod.  A very successful lie...

Godin does a good job writing a book that is compelling to read.  Although I think I unknowingly understood why the iPod (and other Purple Cows) were successful, I don't think I quite categorized their success as a lie that they successfully spread.  This is definitely causing me to rethink what I'm being told by media...  Good job!


My "parallel universe" blog...

Category Blogging

The other day,
Ralph Unden brought another "Duff's Random Musings" blog to my attention.  Wondering who might have had the fine taste to pick such a classy name for their writings, I just had to check it out...

Apparently I have an alter-ego in Columbia, South Carolina who goes by the nickname of Duff...  And so far as I can tell, we're just about as opposite as you can be...  :-)


YES! Notes/Domino posters DO exist!

Category IBM/Lotus

First off, thanks to everyone who responded to my post earlier today about the posters.  Although I had a link to the ND 6 posters, there was no way to order them as the on-line process kept saying they weren't orderable.  Even worse, when I called IBM direct, they didn't have that item number even listed!  

Ah, but all is not lost!

diminutive Florida counterpart blogged about my distress and is actually mailing me a set.  I take back all the nasty things I blamed him for at work.  But the problem still remained that my boss had allowed me to buy a set for everyone, and Joe's kind offer would make me rather unpopular if I didn't share...

I went back on-line this evening and did some more digging, and behold!  You have to look for the ND 6.5 posters!


They order just fine, thank you!


ND6 Object Model Charts... How/Where to order?

Category IBM/Lotus
I know the R5 Domino Object Model Charts for LotusScript and Java were the last ones to be distributed free at Lotusphere.  The ND6 charts were nowhere to be found, and I seem to remember that you had to order them from IBM.  My admittedly dim memory seems to recall the posters were packaged five to a set for something like $60.

Now of course, for the life of me, I can't find *any* source for ordering them.  

Can anyone out there in my blog readership shed any additional light on this question?

(P.S. - I know there are on-line interactive versions of the posters as well as PDF files, but I'm looking for the hardcopy versions.)


Book Review - The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

Category Book Reviews

This is my type of book on project management...  readable without a rigid methodology!  The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun (O'Reilly).

Chapter List:
Part 1 - Plans: The Truth About Schedules; How To Figure Out What To Do; Writing The Good Vision; Where Ideas Come From; What To Do With Ideas Once You Have Them
Part 2 - Skills: Writing Good Specifications; How To Make Good Decisions; Communication And Relationships; How Not To Annoy People - Process, Email, And Meetings; What To Do When Things Go Wrong
Part 3 - Management: Why Leadership Is Based On Trust; How To Make Things Happen; Middle-game Strategy; End-game Strategy; Power And Politics
Notes; Annotated Bibliography; Acknowledgements; Photo Credits; Index

Most books on project management, while useful, can be painful to read.  A structure and methodology is laid out, each step is spelled out in exact detail, and every exception to the rule is covered somehow.  If your only job is to manage projects, perhaps you can do all the paperwork required.  Berkun's written a different style of book.  Rather than introduce yet another methodology, he focuses more on the skills and techniques that a project manager should have.  He talks about how to schedule projects, not "this is the way you should do it".  He touches on soft skills such as communications between team members and with management.  Bottom line, it's the things you need to think about in the role of project management instead of what steps you need to follow.  What's nice about this book is that you could apply it to your job even if you're required to adhere to a specific process-driven methodology like RUP.  Since it deals with mindsets and skills you'll need in any case, you'll come away better prepared to do your job.

This is one of the more practical books on project management that I've had the chance to cover.  The writing style is also less formal and a bit more "real life" than most.  You actually feel like you're talking with the author instead of being "talked to".  It doesn't look like your typical O'Reilly book, but it is a great addition to their collection of titles.  If you need to understand more about project management, this would be a very nice place to start...


Book Review - Moral Intelligence by Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel, Ph. D.

Category Book Reviews

I don't think morality in business is a new phenomenon, but it's gotten much more focus in the post-Enron business environment.  I had a chance to read and review the book Moral Intelligence by Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel, Ph. D.  This is an excellent book for more than just people in business...

Chapter List:  
Part 1 - Moral Intelligence: Good Business; Born to Be Moral; Your Moral Compass; Staying True to Your Moral Compass
Part 2 - Developing Moral Skills: Integrity; Responsibility; Compassion and Forgiveness; Emotions
Part 3 - Moral Leadership: The Moral Leader; Leading Large Organizations; Moral Intelligence for the Entrepreneur; Becoming a Global Moral Leader; Strengthening Your Moral Skills; Moral Competency Inventory (MCI); Scoring the MCI; Interpreting Your MCI Scores; Index

The main points that were driven home to me in this book are the concepts of moral intelligence and moral competence.  Moral intelligence is the ability to know the "right thing to do", whereas moral competence is the ability to actually "do the right thing" when the time comes and the situation demands it.  Unless there's some sort of physical or emotional damage to a person, everyone has a moral compass.  In the business world, none of the people being convicted of criminal activity can say that the activities that they did were right.  The intelligence of what is right and wrong was there (if ever so faint).  It's the ability to act on that intelligence consistently that was lacking, and it's the reason many of them know where they'll be spending the next 5 to 10 years.  The authors set forth the concepts in a clear fashion, and there are exercises throughout the first part of the book that will help you figure out exactly what your moral values are.  Once you understand what you value, it's much easier to determine what the right thing to do might be in ambiguous or emotionally charged situations.

While the book is generally written for business leaders, parts 1 and 2 apply to anyone.  The daily situations where you need to act in a morally consistent fashion are present regardless of what part of the business you occupy.  Part 3 gets more into specific applications that apply to business leaders, and it's there that today's business leader will learn how best to apply the concepts learned earlier.

Excellent material that if considered and applied will change the way you run your business and your life.  You'll definitely come away a happier and more fulfilled individual as you live a life that's in alignment with your values.


Book Review - The Preservationist by David Maine

Category Book Reviews

Another Amazon reviewer recommended a book that turned out to be a great read...  The Preservationist by David Maine.  This book has everything I can't do as a writer, and I love it.

Maine takes the biblical story of Noah's Ark and weaves a narrative tale around it.  Using a combination of first and third person voice, the story is fleshed out through the eyes of "Noe", his wife, and his three sons (along with their wives).  The core story follows the biblical account, but plenty of room is left for the author to add personality to each player.  You see the fear and doubt that Noah encounters as he follows his directives from God, knowing he has to act but not knowing how to accomplish the huge task set before him.  His sons are all distinctive individuals who don't always play well with each other.  Each wife is distinctly different from the rest, but their uniqueness addresses the ability to bring in animals that no one has ever seen or imagined.  Best of all, Maine does a great job in painting a picture of what it would be like to be trapped on a boat with a huge number of animals and little to do to break the monotony of each passing day.  What is largely a sanitary account in the Bible becomes a struggle that every reader can identify with.

The reason I liked this book so much is that I don't do very well in painting color into a story.  If I wrote War And Peace, it'd probably be done in 75 pages.  Not that I write tight prose.  I just don't describe events and emotions very well.  Maine has forever altered the way I'll view Noah, and for me that's a good thing.  Very well done...

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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