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

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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide
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09/28/2005

Flash: End of Service (EOS) of Lotus Notes and Domino 5.x

Category IBM/Lotus

Ah, yes...  We knew you *super* well...  :)

Flash: End of Service (EOS) of Lotus Notes and Domino 5.x

Flash (Alert)

Abstract
In accordance with the standard IBM Software Group release management process and our commitment to continuous improvement of our product line, IBM Lotus software is announcing that effective September 30, 2005, IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 5.x will be retired from service.

Content
For more information, refer to the document titled "End of Service (EOS) of Lotus Notes and Domino 5.x" (#1117092).

Cross Reference information
Segment Product Component Platform Version
Messaging Applications Lotus Notes Lotus Notes Platform Independent 5.0.13, 5.0.12, 5.0.11, 5.0.10, 5.0.9a, 5.0.9, 5.0.8, 5.0.7a, 5.0.7, 5.0.6, 5.0.5, 5.0.4a, 5.0.4, 5.0.3, 5.0.2c, 5.0.2b, 5.0.2a, 5.0.2, 5.0.1b, 5.0.1a, 5.0.1, 5.0a, 5.0


09/28/2005

Book Review - The Practice Of Deceit by Elizabeth Benedict

Category Book Reviews

I had the opportunity to explore a new author I hadn't read before...  Elizabeth Benedict.  She found me on Amazon and suggested I might be interested in her latest book, The Practice Of Deceit.  I picked up a copy at the library, and just finished it last night.  Very impressive...

Eric Lavender is a psychotherapist, visiting California to help clean up affairs after his father's death.  Before he heads back to New York to resume his life, he happens to meet Colleen Golden, an attorney, single mom, and survivor of a nasty divorce where the father left her while she was pregnant.  Eric falls for her hard, and ends up moving in with her.  To his surprise, fatherhood agrees with him.  She's quickly pregnant with their own child, and all seems to be wonderful...

But life is hardly ever all that it seems...

Eric gets a client who is having problems with his marriage.  After a couple of sessions, the wife files for divorce and kicks him out.  Eric finds out that the man's wife is represented in the divorce by his own wife, Colleen.  Ethics dictate that they both have to sever their associations, but Colleen is insistent that Eric drop his client but that she keeps hers.  The strain of this issue is the beginning of some eye-opening revelations for Eric.  He finds out that her prior divorce may not be exactly what she told him.  Her best-selling handbook for divorce, ghostwritten with a freelance writer, has a murky past that Colleen won't discuss.  And the divorce aspect of her business is a lot more substantial than she's let on.  When he starts digging in earnest to find answers, life comes crashing down.  The police show up at his door with an arrest warrant, charging him with sexually abusing his own child.  Eric has to clear his name and come to grips with the two different sides of his wife...

I found this book to be completely absorbing.  So often the legal arena is littered with "he said, she said", and the truth is nearly impossible to discern.  I don't think you could pay me enough to be a judge.  There's no doubt that accusations like this happen on a far too frequent basis, and the mere hint of sexual abuse on a minor, regardless of truth, indelibly marks the accused for life.  Benedict's writing is spot on, especially considering she's a woman writing a first-person novel from a guy's perspective.  Hard to pull off, and impressive when you do.  This is one of those recreational reads that, if it's not opening up old wounds, is a highly recommended read...

09/27/2005

Help? ND 6.5 mail template design opening on web... only iNotes?

Category Software Development


Hopefully someone can educate me, as it was a very stressful afternoon...  :)


I have a mail-in database based on the old R5 mail template that has some custom forms and such.  Part of the group uses the Notes client to manage the emails and suggestion forms that come in, and the people who submit suggestions use the browser.  The application is set up on the web to launch a frameset with a single frame showing a custom form.  Basic information is collected, the submit is clicked, the form is saved, and the browser window closes.  The rest of the mail file is never accessed via the web.


Now they want to update the design of the template to the ND6.5 look and feel.  I applied the ND6.5 mail template, figured out the custom forms and such, and everything looked OK via the Notes client.  And basically that's the only way I ever use it.  What we *forgot* to test (I overlooked it as I have never done much with it) is how it launches on the browser.  When we applied the update, the app now tries to launch the iNotes template stuff...  


Not good, and we backed out to the original...


I have the Web launch options set to launch the same frameset containing the custom form, but everything I do seems to have no effect.  It still wants to head off to iNotes-land...


What am I missing?


Is it impossible to have an ND6.5 mail template-based database launch to anything other than the iNotes stuff on the web?


I keep thinking "This is a freaking MAIL template!  Why can't I get it to launch as required?"


help!

09/26/2005

Did Microsoft send the wrong guy to Massachusetts' ODF hearing?

Category Microsoft

From ZDNet.com:  Did Microsoft send the wrong guy to Massachusetts' ODF hearing?

Microsoft called Massachusetts' bluff and lost.  One of Microsoft's biggest mistakes in what will prove to be a critical turning point for the Redmond-based company is that it sent the wrong men to Massachusetts' last hearing before that state set a new IT policy into stone: one that essentially bumps MS-Office from its approved software list.  

In case you haven't been following the saga of Microsoft vs. Massachusetts [sic], the Commonwealth of Massachusetts last week officially ratified what it calls its Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM).  Amongst other things, ETRM requires that all of the Commonwealth's agencies as well as outside entities that do business with it move to the OASIS-ratified Open Document Format (ODF) as the state-wide standard for storing and exchanging documents that are produced by productivity applications such as word processors and spreadsheets.

Either Microsoft thought the state was bluffing, or it gravely miscalculated when it didn't send one of its top executives — either Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates (someone who could make a decision on the spot) — to that last hearing on Sept. 16, 2005.  The reason I say "gravely" is that there is much more at stake for Microsoft than it may realize.  Not only does the ODF decision extend to any of the state's 80,000 employees who may need access to an Office-like productivity solution, but also to nearly everyone whose business with the state may involve the exchange of electronic documents.

I have no doubt that Office 12 will magically support ODF, as this is one of those "ripple effect" items that will require other entities who work with the state to have a way to generate ODF-compliant documents.  If not Office, OpenOffice.org?  We're talking other states, contractors, etc.  Not a good precedent to set just to say that you only want to support your own formatting...  

If Microsoft insists on not generating ODF, this will definitely affect their market share to some degree.  But I just can't see them doing that.  It will be a simple case of spin when the time comes to announce it.  Remember, there was no new IE coming, nor was tabbed browsing something that customers wanted...  :)

09/26/2005

A couple of Linux failures...

Category Linux

From InformationWeek:  Case Closed: When Open Didn't Work

Regal Entertainment has decided to replace their IBM Point-Of-Sale terminals running Red Hat with a Windows XP Embedded solution.  Turns out they didn't have the necessary in-house support experience to support Linux, and decided they could do better with Windows.  Definitely a consideration to take into account when considering a migration...

From TheAge.com.au:  Linux misses Windows of opportunity

Crest Electronics in Australia installed Red Hat Linux servers to handle their SAP environment, but it was running into major stability issues.  Makes me wonder how good SAP is on the Linux platform...

09/25/2005

Book Review - VoIP For Dummies by Timothy V. Kelly

Category Book Reviews

Businesses and organizations have the potential of saving large numbers of dollars if they move to running their phone system with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).  But to pull it off, you really do need to have an understanding of how it all fits.  VoIP For Dummies by Timothy V. Kelly does a nice job of getting you there.

Contents:
Part 1 - VoIP Basics: Getting Down to Business with VoIP; VoIP: Not Your Father's Telephone Service; Everything You Need to Know About Charges
Part 2 - Taking VoIP to Your Network: Road Map to VoIP Transports and Services; Getting Switched; Going Broadband; We're Dedicated; Going Wireless; Using VoIP on the Internet; Telephones and VoIP
Part 3 - Making the Move to VoIP: Simplifying Cost Management; Locations Galore; Setting Up the Smaller Office; Providing Dollars and Support for VoIP
Part 4 - The Part of Tens: Ten Reasons Why Your Company Should Switch to VoIP; Ten Reasons Why You Should Switch to VoIP at Home; Ten VoIP Myths; Ten VoIP Manufacturers
Part 5 - Appendixes: VoIP Providers; Glossary
Index

I've had the opportunity to read and review a number of VoIP books lately.  Many of them have been more geared towards the consumer application of VoIP with services like Skype and Vonage.  The business titles have been more into technical details of VoIP implementations in an organization.  This book fills a nice niche on the business side.  Kelly effectively takes the reader through phone technology, both past and present.  Building on that information, he then transitions into how VoIP offers alternative solutions that save a lot of money.  The book doesn't go into details on packages like Vonage, but you'll walk away understanding the entire spectrum of phone systems and how to plan for a successful VoIP implementation.

I'd see this book being a good read for a networking or communications professional who wants to explore VoIP for their company.  It'd also be a good read for someone who wants to put VoIP to work for them in their house, but also want to know exactly how phone systems work.  I wouldn't recommend it to someone who just saw a Vonage commercial and wants to sign up right now.  There are better titles out there for those types of consumers.  

Bottom line...  really good read for the right audience.  I don't think I've seen a book this readable that explains telephony in a way that makes it understandable for someone who hasn't worked for Ma Bell for years...

09/25/2005

Book Review - Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies by Kevin Beaver and Peter T. Davis

Category Book Reviews

Think your wireless network is secure from unauthorized use or attack?  It's probably not.  I just finished reading Hacking Wireless Network For Dummies by Kevin Beaver and Peter T. Davis, and this is one of the most practical books I've ever read for testing a network against attack.

Contents:
Part 1 - Building the Foundation for Testing Wireless Networks: Introduction to Wireless Hacking; The Wireless Hacking Process; Implementing a Testing Methodology; Amassing Your War Chest
Part 2 - Getting Rolling with Common Wi-Fi Hacks: Human (in)Security; Containing the Airwaves; Hacking Wireless Clients; Discovering Default Settings; Wardriving
Part 3 - Advanced Wi-Fi Hacks: Still at War; Unauthorized Wireless Devices; Network Attacks; Denial-of-Service Attacks; Cracking Encryption; Authenticating Users
Part 4 - The Part of Tens: Ten Essential Tools for Hacking Wireless Networks; Ten Wireless Security-Testing Mistakes; Ten Tips for Following Up after Your Testing
Part 5 - Appendixes: Wireless Hacking Resources; Glossary of Acronyms
Index

The target of this book is the security professional involved in testing networks to make them more secure.  There's a heavy emphasis on "ethical hacking", or learning how to test a network's security without doing harm or using the information in a destructive fashion.  A security consultant using this book would learn how to pre-plan a test, work with the company to make sure they were properly authorized, and then write up the results in a professional manner.  That aspect of the book is impressive, and it helps to frame the information in the right light (not as a textbook on how to break into networks).

From a practical standpoint, this book excels.  Each of the chapters covers the theory behind how or why a certain aspect of a wireless network would be vulnerable to an attack or exploit.  Then the authors cover a number of open source and commercial software packages that are available to focus on that area.  For instance, chapter 14 goes into why WEP encryption is flawed and how it can be broken with relatively little effort.  It's followed by an explanation on how WPA addresses some of those issues.  Finally you get coverage on available tools that are used to crack WEP and how you can use them to test your own network.

Highly practical and heavy on application...  If you're a security professional with responsibility for your organization's wireless network, you need to read this book.  And if you're a techno-geek with your own wireless network, you'll want to get this book to play around.  I know I will be doing a little hacking at Chez Duffbert...

09/24/2005

Book Review - Rootkits By Greg Hoglund and James Butler

Category Book Reviews

I don't think I've ever seen a book as detailed as this on "subverting" an operating system...  Rootkits - Subverting The Windows Kernel by Greg Hoglund and James Butler.

Contents: Leave No Trace; Subverting the Kernel; The Hardware Connection; The Age-Old Art of Hooking; Runtime Patching; Layered Drivers; Hardware Manipulation; Covert Channels; Rootkit Detection; Index

Hoglund and Butler have devoted a lot of time to understanding how the Windows kernel works, as well as how rootkits can be utilized to manipulate the kernel.  This knowledge led to the website rootkit.com, and subsequently to this book.  They explore the definition of rootkits, how they work, and how they can remain hidden from detection.  Using the C language, they go into great depth on how rootkit kernel manipulation can be accomplished.  If you have a basic knowledge of C, you'll be able to follow along and learn the intricacies of the kernel.

It'd be tempting to wonder why all this dangerous knowledge should be put in book form for junior hackers to use.  For one, this isn't script kiddy material.  If you don't know how to program (and in C), the book is basically far over your head.  I suppose if you were bent towards building your own rootkit for world domination, this material would help.  But in reality, this information is probably already accessible to those who would abuse it in the first place.  Having a compiled volume of the information helps "the good guys" understand the risks involved as well as how you can protect yourself from rootkit attacks in your own environment.

While programming geeks will likely get the most value from this book, all security experts need to understand the concepts covered here.  The worst thing isn't finding out you've been "owned" with a rootkit on your network.  It's *not* knowing the rootkit is there...

09/24/2005

Book Review - Hacking RSS and Atom by Leslie M. Orchard

Category Book Reviews

Rather than just read RSS feeds, would you like to *do stuff* with RSS and Atom?  I received a copy of a really good book that goes beyond the nuts and bolts of RSS formatting...  Hacking RSS and Atom by Leslie M. Orchard.  

Contents:
Part 1 - Consuming Feeds: Getting Ready to Hack; Building a Simple Feed Aggregator; Routing Feeds to Your Email Inbox; Adding Feeds to Your Buddy List; Taking Your Feeds with You; Subscribing to Multimedia Content Feeds
Part 2 - Producing Feeds: Building a Simple Feed Producer; Taking the Edge Off Hosting Feeds; Scraping Web Sites to Produce Feeds; Monitoring Your Server with Feeds; Tracking Changes in Open Source Projects; Routing Your Email Inbox to Feeds; Web Services and Feeds
Part 3 - Remixing Feeds: Normalizing and Converting Feeds; Filtering and Sifting Feeds; Blending Feeds; Republishing Feeds; Extending Feeds
Part 4 - Implementing a Shared Feed Cache
Index

This book starts with the assumption that you either already understand all the details of RSS/Atom formatting, or that you're willing to learn the details on your own as you go.  This is *not* a reference book on RSS standards.  Rather, Orchard answers the question "what can you *do* with RSS that's cool and useful?".  Using a series of projects, he starts to get you thinking about how you might use RSS technology in ways you haven't considered.  For instance, having your log files report things via RSS feed could give you immediate notice of unusual situations.  Or perhaps having RSS feeds go to your IM client would allow you to react quickly to news and information.  The possibilities are endless, and Orchard does a good job in getting you to think.

The caveat here is that he assumes a particular software language and platform for building these hacks.  Python is the language used, so this book would be most helpful if you already knew the language (or were willing to figure it out on the fly).  Likewise, he writes for the Unix platform primarily.  You can use Unix emulators like Cygwin to run Unix-like command in Windows, or you can mentally adapt the concepts to whatever hack you want to build.  At first I was thinking that single focus might be a liability for the book.  But after thinking about it, I don't think it's that bad.  It maintains the focus on the hack instead of on how every different platform needs to be coded, hence the book is more concise.  Also, his goal is to get you to hack and experiment, not to teach you a technology via a tutorial.  Since hacking is experimenting, you may end up hacking these ideas on a couple of different fronts...

Excellent idea and application book...  If you're interested in going beyond simple feed readers and building stuff for yourself, this is a definite purchase you want to check out...

09/24/2005

Book Review - Anywhere Computing with Laptops by Harold Davis

Category Book Reviews

It used to be that buying a laptop meant you gave up a lot in terms of power and features.  Now you don't give up much (if anything), and gain a lot in the process.  If you're new to the laptop game, getting a copy of Anywhere Computing with Laptops - Making Mobile Easier by Harold Davis might help you exploit your new toy a bit more...

Contents:
Part 1 - Mobile Computing Quick Start: Understanding Intel Centrino Mobile Technology; Buying a Mobile Computer; Configuring Your Mobile Computer
Part 2 - Getting the Most From Your Mobile Computer: Software That Makes the Most of Mobile Computing; Taking Digital Pictures from Your Laptop; Using Your Mobile Computer As a Telephone; Let Your Laptop Entertain You - Streaming Media, Gaming, and More
Part 3 - Mobile Computing On The Road: Entering a World Without Wires; Finding Hotspots; Working with National Wi-Fi Networks
Part 4 - Your Own Wireless Network: Networking Without Wires; Buying a Wi-Fi Access Point or Router; Setting Up Your Access Point; Configuring Your Wi-Fi Network; Advanced Access Point Configuration; Adding Wi-Fi Antennas to Your Network
Part 5 - Securing Your Computer and Network: Protecting Your Mobile Wi-Fi Computer; Securing Your Wi-Fi Network
Part 6 - Appendixes: Wireless Standards; Where the Hotspots Are; Intel Centrino Mobile Technology Platform; Glossary; Index

Given the right audience, this book is pretty good.  It caters to the person who is a first-time laptop buyer (or owner) and doesn't quite understand the things necessary to start connecting to the internet sans cat-5 cable or modem.  Davis does a good job showing how a laptop with Intel Centrino technology and Windows XP can connect to hotspots and allow you to access the 'net anywhere.  Some of the material (like gaming, streaming media, internet telephony) isn't solely the domain of laptops, but it's worth covering to let the newbie know that everything they do on their desktop machine can also be done on their laptop.

The only thing I found a little annoying after awhile was the constant reference to "Intel Centrino".  He's making the assumption that you have Centrino technology, so information on wireless cards and such is pretty light.  Since wi-fi is built-in with Centrino, there's not much need to cover wi-fi cards.  From the perspective of focus, it's an OK decision to do so.  But Centrino is pushed really hard, and I almost felt like the book should have been sent to me from Intel, not Que.  The newbie might think that if it's not a Centrino processor, it's no good.  In reality, it's all a matter of trade-offs.  I just bought a new laptop, and I don't spend hours on the road or in planes.  Therefore, battery life (a Centrino plus) isn't that important.  CPU processor power is, so I got a Pentium 4 3.33 GHz.  Reading this book, it'd almost appear that I made a mistake, when it's really just a matter of what's important to the user.

So... if you're a new laptop user or owner who is using Windows XP and a Centrino processor, this book was written for you.  If you've been around laptops for awhile, you'll probably already know most of the material...

09/24/2005

Now going with StatCounter.com for tracking page hits...

Category Blogging

I still had the cursed Webstats4u on my Less Duffbert page, and I wanted to remain consistent in my avoidance of their advertising.  In addition, I had an old Microsoft page counter from bCentral on this page that I've used since day one.  I figured it was time to ditch that one also.  I didn't want to support Microsoft on my counter, plus I couldn't remember the user ID and password any more...  :)

So, I just switched over both the counters to StatCounter.com.  It seems to have much better reporting capabilities than webstats4u, and I was able to seed the counter to retain all my bCentral hits.  What more could I want?

09/24/2005

Book Review - Learning Jakarta Struts 1.2 by Stephan Wiesner

Category Book Reviews

If you already have a Java background and are looking to learn how to use Struts for web apps, a good concise tutorial title would be Learning Jakarta Struts 1.2 by Stephan Wiesner.

Contents:  Introduction to Struts; Hello Struts; The Struts Shop; Internationalization and Taglibs; Logging and Configuration; Forms; Logic; Exceptions; Controller and Templates; Putting It All Together; Struts Validator and Plug-In Classes; JSTL; Tools and Tricks; Solutions; Glossary; Literature; Index

This is a 200 page tutorial that assumes a basic background in your IDE of choice and Java in general.  It's written well, but there's not a lot of hand-holding going on.  The author dives right in and brings you up to speed on the concepts you need to know to work with Struts.  The associated platform choices are all open source (like Tomcat and MySQL), so it won't cost you anything to get started.  Conversely, the coverage of these other software packages aren't covered in great detail.  You're told where you can download the software, and quickly how to install it.  If you have problems, you'll probably need to check out other sources to fix them.  The book follows a common development project throughout (a book store application), so it does a nice job of building on itself as it goes along.  Couple that with the exercises sprinkled throughout the book, and you should be able to learn enough to become competent on the basics.  For long-term Struts work, you'll probably want to get a Struts reference book or check out the project website.  Still, as a first book to learn by doing, Learning Jakarta Struts fairs well...

09/24/2005

Microsoft's nightmare inches closer to reality

Category Microsoft

From News.com:  Microsoft's nightmare inches closer to reality

Very well-written article on the challenges facing Microsoft when it comes to Google and the web platform they are pushing...  Worth reading.

As early as May 1995, three months before Netscape Communications' initial public offering sparked the dot-com boom, Microsoft executives were worried that the nascent World Wide Web could one day become a significant threat to the Windows franchise.

In an extensive memo called "The Web is the Next Platform" that was introduced as evidence in Microsoft's antitrust trial five years ago, Microsoft engineer Ben Slivka described a "nightmare" scenario for the software giant.

 "The Web...exists today as a collection of technologies that deliver some interesting solutions today, and will grow rapidly in the coming years into a full-fledged platform (underlined for emphasis in the original memo) that will rival--and even surpass--Microsoft's Windows," Slivka wrote.

Microsoft, however, didn't heed the warning. Instead, it embarked on a strategy--championed by Jim Allchin, who today heads up development of the next version of Windows--that was fanatically focused on the operating system.

Fast-forward 10 years: The nightmare is inching closer to reality and Microsoft execs are apparently paying attention to the decade-old alert.

09/24/2005

Trackbacks bite the dust...

Category Blogging

I have been getting dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of trackback entries each day for poker sites that use various domain names to post under.  Rather than continue to manually delete them, I've decided to just blow away the trackback feature.  I never quite saw that they were different enough from comments anyway, and the number of valid trackbacks in the two+ years I've blogged don't even fill a full screen of the trackback view.

If you see any problems with the blog from the result of this change, let me know.

Unless you're the poker posting site, in which case...  Go find another host, you parasite.

09/23/2005

Webstats4u... outta here!

Category Blogging

Like Rocky, Rich, and others, I've now removed Webstats4u from this site...  Don't wanna see popups, and don't wanna support them.

09/22/2005

IBM's potential MS-Office killer to roll out by year's end

Category IBM/Lotus

From ZDNet.com:  IBM's potential MS-Office killer to roll out by year's end

David Berlind's blog about how IBM Workplace support of OpenDocument formats by year end could make it an "Office killer"...

In an telephone interview earlier today, IBM vice president of Workplace, Portal and Collaboration Products Ken Bisconti told me that IBM not only has an ODF-compliant solution in the works, but that it will also be released by the end of the year. That solution is IBM's Workplace.  Built on top of IBM's Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based Websphere application server stack, Workplace can trace its pedigree to the collaboration technologies found in Lotus Domino/Notes and to Big Blue's portal technologies, typically based on WebSphere.  If there's one common thread to the direction that Microsoft and IBM are taking, it's that collaboration underscores everything knowledge workers do and that at the end of the day, tasks are less about the content that people create (for example word processing documents and spreadsheets) and more about the business process they follow — all sort of underpinned by the notion of "presence."

But, by the end of the  year, when IBM officially makes the solution available to any enterprise (typical cost runs in the six digit category), ODF-support will be baked in.  Currently, the Workplace Managed Client (WMC) supports Microsoft's file formats.   What that means, according to Bisconti, is that users who need to convert their Office documents into ODF-compliant ones (the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will soon have this need) will be able to do so by opening them with WMC and then saving them in ODF.

This article does a really good job explaining the benefits of Workplace in addition to how it allows IBM to compete with Microsoft at the desktop level.  While I'm not quite ready to call it an Office killer, it does position nicely should the Massachusetts decision pick up steam in the marketplace...

09/22/2005

Book Review - Nanotechnology For Dummies by Richard Booker and Earl Boysen

Category Book Reviews

It's *amazing* what you can find in the "For Dummies" series...  :)

I've always enjoyed the Dummies series, especially when it comes to a complex subject where "I don't know what I don't know".  A book that can explain the subject in simple terms gives me the mental framework on which to build my learning.  This book is a perfect example...  Nanotechnology For Dummies by Richard Booker and Earl Boysen.

Contents:  
Part 1 - Getting Small with Nanotechnology:  The Hitchhiker's Guide to Nanotechnology; Nano in Your Life; Gathering the Tools of the Trade
Part 2 - Building a Better World with Nanomaterials: Nanomaterials Galore; Adding Strength with Composites
Part 3 - "Smarter" Computers!  Faster Internet!  Cheaper Energy!: Building a Better Digital Brain; Routing Information at the Speed of Light; Nano-fying Electronics; Getting Energy and a Cleaner Environment with Nanotech
Part 4 - Living Healthier Lives: Diagnosing Personal Health Quickly, Easily, and Pain-Free; The Fantastic Voyage into Medical Applications
Part 5 - Investing in Nanotech: Industries Going Small; Countries Investing In a Nano Future; Nanotechnology Goes to School
Part 6 - The Parts of Tens: Ten (or so) Nanotech Movers and Shakers; Further Reading on the Web and in Your Library
Glossary; Index

My prior knowledge of nanotech was pretty much restricted to the sci-fi realm, where machines build themselves and nanotech runs amok.  But if asked how it all works, I'd be at a complete loss.  In this Dummies title, Booker and Boysen do an excellent job in making the very, very tiny...  very understandable.  You won't be ready to launch your own nanotech firm or get a degree in nano-medicine, but you'll at least walk away with a better understanding of the subject.  While the authors do tend to be wonderfully enthusiastic about the nanotech future, I think that their optimism is somewhat warranted.  They show you the edge of the future that we are about to enter, and even after dismissing the hype, there's some intriguing stuff out there.

I think I was most fascinated about where the medical field is going with nanotech.  Customized delivery systems for medicines that can put the dosage right where it's needed.  Nanocells that can attach themselves to cancer cells and then respond to laser stimulation and fry away the cancer.  Obviously not next week's cure, but the authors show you it's closer than you might think.

If this subject is something you've thought interesting but still don't understand very well, it's well worth getting a copy of Nanotechnology For Dummies.  It's an enjoyable read, and you'll come away with many "small" pieces of insight (sorry, bad nano-joke there...)

09/21/2005

Book Review - Podcast Solutions by Michael W. Geoghegan and Dan Klass

Category Book Reviews

Obviously I'm familiar with blogging, as I've been doing it for the last 2+ years.  And I'm aware of the quick rise of "podcasting" but I have to admit I've remained willfully ignorant of the details.  A copy of Podcast Solutions - The Complete Guide to Podcasting by Michael W. Geoghegan and Dan Klass arrived in the mail the other day, and I'm ignorant no longer...  at least about podcasting...

Contents:  Podcasting 101; Listening to Podcasts; Podcasting How-To; Planning Your Podcast; Podcasting Tools; Recording Your Podcast; Putting It All Together; Preparing Your File; Serving It Up; Getting Heard; Making Money with Podcasting; Conclusion; Glossary; Podcasting Resources at a Glance; Index

Geoghegan and Klass have taken a subject that can be a bit intimidating and made it extremely approachable.  They don't target the techno-geek who understands all the technology.  Instead, they assume that the reader is someone who is reasonably intelligent, just getting started in (or interested in) podcasting, and needs assistance to get up and running.  They cover some of the more popular tools and techniques currently on the market without trying to cover every last option.  Because of that, you get the benefit of their experience and can avoid the dead-ends that are so common when you get started with a new toy.

I was impressed with the span of coverage they gave the subject.  Everything from "what is a podcast" to "how to do preproduction" to "how to do postproduction".  While you may not end up being an A-List podcaster, everything you absolutely need to know to start down that path is in here.  I don't know that I'm personally ever going to produce a podcast, but after reading the book, I'm much more likely to check into listening and subscribing to a few.  And who knows what will happen from there...

Very good book, clear information, and great writing...  Highly recommended if podcasting in on your radar screen...

09/19/2005

IBM sued over Lotus Notes, Websphere

Category IBM/Lotus

From the Inquirer:  IBM sued over Lotus Notes, Websphere

A FIRM HAS SUED Big Blue for allegedly infringing patents it claims it owns which applies to products sold by IBM including Lotus Notes.

The first action was filed earlier this month by Information Technology Innovation (ITI) in the Eastern district of Texas, Marshall Division. The patent alleged to have been infringed is No. 5,892,908, a "method of extracting network information".

This claims to describe a method of extracting network information from an initial link address which then retrieves a file associated with the initial link address. The drawings associated with the patent, filed in 1996, include general block diagrams, such as figure four in the patent, shown below.

A picture named M2

It amazes me that things we use every day that almost seem to be part of the landscape have patent holders who are just waiting to make the big score...  Talk about a broken system...

09/18/2005

Book Review - The Symantec Guide to Home Internet Security by Andrew Conry-Murray and Vincent Weafer

Category Book Reviews

If you're a techno-geek, it's easy to find material on how to secure your computing environment.  It's considerably more difficult to find readable and understandable material that you can give to Uncle Joe to prevent him from becoming the latest spam zombie.  A good entry into this niche is the book The Symantec Guide to Home Internet Security by Andrew Conry-Murray and Vincent Weafer.  

Content:  Understanding Internet Risk; Preventing Identity Theft; Firewalls; Getting Rid of Unwanted Guests, Part 1 - Viruses and Worms; Getting Rid of Unwanted Guests, Part 2 - Spyware, Adware, and Trojan Horses; Just Say No To Spam; Securing Windows; Keeping Your Family Safe Online; Wireless and VoIP Security; Privacy and the Internet; Conclusion; Index

This book doesn't attempt to "entertain" the reader or dazzle them with funny graphics or drawings.  It's just solid material on internet security presented in a clear and concise manner.  The target is for nontechnical Windows users, and in my opinion the authors pretty much nail it.  The heavy duty jargon is either avoided or explained clearly, and nearly any internet user with a small amount of interest should be able to use this book.  Each chapter ends with a Checklist that covers the things you need to do (or things you shouldn't do) in order to enhance your security.  Even if you can't get Uncle Joe to read the entire chapter, he can get the gist of the useful info in a short page or two.  I'd prefer they understand *why* they are doing something, but I'll take whatever I can get with some people...

If you're the target audience for this book, it's a definite recommended purchase and read.  And if you're a techno-geek who's tired of incessantly cleaning spyware and viruses off the neighbor's computer, buy them a copy of this book.  It's a relatively cheap way to get your life back...

09/18/2005

Book Review - The Black Silent by David Dun

Category Book Reviews

I was recently contacted by a publicist for David Dun who asked if I would be interested in a copy of his book The Black Silent.  The plotline looked interesting and I had never read anything by Dun.  So of course, I accepted the offer.  And I'm glad I did, as this is another author who goes on my "must catch up" list...

In The Black Silent, the main character Sam Wintripp is recuperating from a near-death torture experience incurred during some prior covert operation (I guess...  I'm assuming that's all covered in a prior novel).  While trying to take it easy in the San Juan Islands, he becomes involved in a search for a scientist (Ben Anderson) who goes missing.  Anderson is the mentor for a former love interest of Wintripp, and Sam doesn't take it very well when the local "cop" running the investigation starts threatening her.  In fact, the "cop" is behind the disappearance, and he's willing to kill whoever gets in his way.  And what's the goal?  The scientist's work on youth retention and methane extraction that will eliminate the world's energy crisis.  The island is pretty small, the cop has a number of resources at his disposal, and Sam isn't physically hitting on all eight cylinders.  What transpires is an interesting chase involving high stakes and life-or-death decisions...

As I mentioned above, this is the first novel of Dun's that I've read.  I think I will end up really liking the Wintripp character once I catch up on his past.  He's one of those mysterious characters with a shady past but not without human flaws.  I probably would have liked the book a bit more if I had read this in sequence.  I also would have liked to see a little more about Anderson during the story.  He's central to the story, as everyone is fighting to find his research.  But he disappears for a large chunk of the book, and I kept wondering whether he was still alive or not...

On the other hand, there's some interesting thoughts about how a longevity "drug" would affect the world.  How would recipients be determined?  How would the world's resources react to a growing population not controlled by death?  And what would people do to make sure they were getting the drug (or would keep getting it)?

A good read that kept me turning the pages...  

09/18/2005

Book Review - Car PC Hacks by Damien Stolarz

Category Book Reviews

I never knew there was so much computerization you could do to your car...  Car PC Hacks - Tips & Tools for Geeking Your Ride by Damien Stolarz.

Contents:  Car Power Basics; Automotive Audio Entertainment; Automotive Video Entertainment; In-Car Computers; Car PC Interface Options; Wireless Connectivity and in-Car Internet; In-Car Applications; Index

In this Hacks book, you get 75 different ways to "geek your ride".  This can range from simple modifications to the stereo system (#13 - Installing a New Head Unit) to installing a full-fledged PC in your car (#41 - Choose an in-Car PC Hardware Platform).  While many of the hacks don't have step by step instructions on how to make it all come together, there's enough information to point you in the right direction.  In reality, it'd be almost impossible to do detailed instructions, as each car will be different, and your options for mounting and installing hardware can often be limited only by your imagination.  Even if you're not all that handy with tools and such, this book will give you a really good idea of what can be done.  From there, you can figure out who to befriend in order to get the installation taken care of.  

I also appreciated the in-depth coverage of how a car's electrical system works.  I'm the type who just turns the key and figures everything starts up.  When you start adding in all sorts of new equipment, the demands on the battery change dramatically.  In addition, PC equipment doesn't view momentary power drops during start-up very kindly.  After reading this material, you'll understand the issues involved as well as how they can all be overcome.

Bottom line, this is a very good book if you're interested in tricking out your car with the latest in custom electronics.  The first time you sit in the back seat and start playing the latest XBox game mounted in the headrest, you'll be hooked...

09/17/2005

A new acronym from our vacation... NAGL

Category Everything Else

NAGL...  rhymes with "bagel"...  and it stands for...

Not A Good Look

And there were *far* too many NAGL sightings in the last week down in the parks in Orlando...

Listen up, people...  just because you're on vacation does *not* mean that you're forbidden to use a mirror.  Being a thousand miles away from home does *not* mean you can subject your fellow park attendees to a new fashion style you've been wanting to try out because you'd be too embarrassed to be seen wearing it at home.  And just because a celeb was wearing your outfit on the cover of some glamour mag does *not* mean it looks just as good on you.  It doesn't.

If you're from Brazil, are image conscious, and have a great beach body (and there were a few that fit that category), knock yourself out.  You can get away with just about anything.  

If you're an American with a white (or sunburned) front or back, I don't want to see that exposed hunk of flesh between the bottom of your top and the top of your shorts.  If you had to suck in *anything* to put on the pants to wear that midriff-exposing outfit, just stop right now.  It looks *really* bad.  Yes, we're looking at you, but no, we're not thinking good things...

If you're wearing an off-the-shoulder tube-style top, can you spare us that fashion if your boobs sag into your stomach region without support?  The fashion looks good if the top fits snugly under your armpits, not if it's halfway down your body and still doesn't show anything.

I know it's hot out, but bikini tops don't work on a large number of body types.  And if there's any question as to whether you have a belly-button piercing, that's a sign that perhaps you shouldn't be playing that guessing game with total strangers.  Just put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.  

And guys?

Black socks with dress shoes and shorts?  It'd be a capital offense if I had my way...

09/17/2005

Book Review - Stealing The Network - How to Own an Identity

Category Book Reviews

The latest installment in Syngress' Stealing series is Stealing The Network - How to Own an Identity by Timothy Mullen, Johnny Long, Raven Alder, Jay Beale, Riley Eller, Brian Hatch, Chris Hurley, Jeff Moss, Tom Parker, and Ryan Russell.  The reason there are so many authors is that each chapter is written by a different person with an emphasis on the type of security issues they know best.  The net effect ends up being an informative novel with hacking details woven in.  

Since this is written in novel form, listing the table of contents wouldn't shed much light on what you're getting in the book.  Suffice it to say that there is a lot of technical detail about particular hacks and social engineering attacks.  The different writers cover various areas such as encryption and ciphers, hacking personal wi-fi networks to gain identity info, using credit card offers to help build alternate identities, and forensic examination of devices like fax machines and printers to gain knowledge of prior activity.  

From a review perspective, I wasn't quite as engrossed in this book as I was with the prior installments.  For one, this tries to pick up where Own a Continent leaves off.  Many of the characters and incidents in this book got their beginning there.  If you could read the two back-to-back, you might find better continuity.  As it's been awhile since I read Continent, the story line wasn't as fresh to me as it could have been.  Also, the basic storyline is rather vague and hard to follow.  I kept thinking that the book was like a "certain type" of movie where the story line is only there to transition between the "action" scenes.  While I'm not expecting NYT Top 10 Fiction material, I was hoping for something a little more cohesive.  If the material contained in the book wasn't so important, I probably wouldn't rate this book as highly as I am.

Even with having said that, it's still a book worth reading for those who are not up-to-speed on identity theft.  The technical info is sound, and you'll never view your mailbox as being secure again...

09/17/2005

Book Review - Die Trying by Lee Child

Category Book Reviews

Next up in my catch-up reading of Lee Child is Die Trying, the second book in the Jack Reacher series.  As with the first one I read, it's a good "mind-candy" read...

Reacher happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in Chicago.  He attempts to help a woman coming out of a dry cleaners shop with an armful of clothes and a pair of crutches.  At the same time, two other people show up with plans on abducting the woman.  Since Jack just happens to be there and appears to be paired with her, he ends up going along for the ride.  He eventually figures out she's an FBI agent, recovering from a knee injury, and is also the daughter of a very well-known general in the US military.  The kidnappers belong to a militia group who want to use her to extract concessions from the government, chief of which is the formation of their own country within the borders of Montana.  Regardless of how much of a pain she is, they can't afford to kill her.  Reacher's another story, however...

This is one of those books where everything works out right for the good guys and not so good for the bad guys.  I'm enjoying the character of Reacher, as well as Child's writing style...  rapid fire action and lines.  If you're looking for deep significance or intricate plotlines, you may be disappointed.  But if you just want to kick back and take an action ride, this book will get you there...  

09/17/2005

I was *wrong*... Barry Bonds did come back...

Category Everything Else

... and he hit a home run last night.

I will admit to being really surprised.


Update:  09/17/2005 - On ESPN.com, there's an article about how Bonds is looking to become "skinny" and lose 28 pounds for next season.  While the reasoning (his knee won't hold up under the strain of his current weight) is sound, I find it "interesting" that it also becomes a perfect rationale behind why his body type will change during the off-season, as well as how he can explain away his "non-use" of steroids.  

09/17/2005

Microsoft tries and fails to recruit open-source guru

Category Microsoft

From TechWorld.com: Microsoft tries and fails to recruit open-source guru

I guess we potential "Exchange Rangers" weren't the only ones to receive emails asking about joining Microsoft.  You'd think if MS wanted to recruit a well-known name in the industry (especially one that has been diametrically opposed to them on nearly all counts), they'd do better than sending an e-mail...

Microsoft has tried and failed to hire high-profile open-source advocate Eric Raymond, according to Raymond himself.

On Thursday, he received an e-mail from a Microsoft recruiter asking him if he'd be interested in discussing a position with the software company. The open-source guru was not impressed. "I thought it was an utterly ludicrous offer that deserved nothing but a ludicrous response," he said.

And so that's what he offered. "What were you going to do with the rest of your afternoon, offer jobs to Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds? Or were you going to stick to something easier, like talking Pope Benedict into presiding at a Satanist orgy?" he wrote. "I’ve in fact been something pretty close to your company’s worst nightmare since about 1997."

09/17/2005

I'm BACK!

Category Everything Else

Our vacation in Orlando is officially over...  We arrived back last night around 1 am in Portland, and I'm still a bit jet-lagged.  Add to that a large number of Google news alert emails to wade through, blog stuff to read via RSS, and other such miscellanea, and I've got plenty to keep me busy today...  

09/08/2005

Gee... could media and government leaders have been... *wrong*?

Category Everything Else

In a follow-up to my Katrina death toll post, we have this from Yahoo News:  Katrina death toll still a question

Estimates of the death toll from Hurricane Katrina have run as high as 10,000 but the actual body count so far is much lower and officials who feared the worst now hope the dire predictions were wrong.

The recovery of Katrina's victims speeded up in the last two days. As of Thursday, Mississippi had recorded 201 deaths and Louisiana 83, while other affected states had much lower numbers.

"I am thinking we are better off than we thought we'd be," said Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso, who represents St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, parts of which still sit under 8 feet of water.

In the first week after the disaster, officials and politicians discussed the possible death toll reluctantly, often only after being pressed by journalists.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin offered up a figure as high as 10,000 under such questioning. Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter said his "guesses" started at 10,000, but made it clear he had no factual basis for saying that.

"No factual basis for saying that"...  But it didn't stop him from saying it, did it?  And every media report since then has offered up statements like "perhaps up to 10000 deaths expected by officials".

It's still bad, and it's still disturbing to find 30+ people dead in a location like a nursing home.  But it's also irresponsible to report estimates that are no more than SWAGs ("silly wild-@ss guesses") as if they were fact...

09/08/2005

Gotta love progress like that...

Category Everything Else

As of last night's weigh-in...

A picture named M2

09/08/2005

Book Review - Origin In Death by J. D. Robb (Nora Roberts)

Category Book Reviews

You didn't think I could get away without one more book review, did you?  :)

A friend of mine loaned me her copy of Nora Roberts' (writing as J. D. Robb) latest Eve Dallas sci-fi crime novel, Origin In Death.  I keep expecting that I'll see some downward turn in the quality of this series due to the longevity and rate in which they are published.  And with each new installment, I keep being happily disappointed.  Again, Nora writes an excellent story...

Dallas is called into a murder case when she happens to be on site when a prominent plastic surgeon is murdered...  scalpel through the heart, and no solid leads or clues.  The surgeon appears to be a true selfless saint, but Dallas thinks the background is *too* clean to be real.  When the man's son (also a surgeon) is murdered in the same fashion, it becomes obvious that a person with an agenda is at work, and it might be related to some "less than legal" work that both were engaged in.  The wife of the son is looking like a potential suspect, but she's got an airtight alibi.  How can a person be in two places at one time?  With what the doctors were up to, it's possible...

There have been some novels in the In Death series that have served to advance the characters and/or relationships between them.  This one really doesn't do anything along that line.  It's just a solid murder crime mystery, set in 2050, and delivered up with the normal hard-edged dialogue you come to expect from Robb/Roberts.  It amazes me that after 24 novels in this series, I'm still as excited for a new one as much as I was when I first discovered Eve Dallas.  I certainly hope that Nora Roberts continues to crank these out at the same high quality we've come to expect, as this is one of those "gotta read" series whenever a new one hits the stands...

09/08/2005

Startup Zimbra releases open-source Notes alternative

Category Software Development

From InfoWorld:  Startup Zimbra releases open-source Notes alternative

Zimbra, the open-source startup that lured Scott Dietzen away from his former job as chief technology officer of BEA Systems, has released a beta version of its enterprise collaboration software. The San Mateo, Calif. company bills the software as an open-source alternative to enterprise collaboration products such as IBM Lotus Notes or Microsoft's Exchange Server.

Called the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, the software includes e-mail, contact and calendar software, according to an announcement posted Wednesday on Zimbra's Web site. The suite includes an AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and Extensible Markup Language) client, as well as server software. In addition to Zimbra's own code, the suite employs a number of open source products, including the MySQL database and the Apache Software Foundation's Lucerne indexing software.

Sounds like it's more an open-source alternative to Exchange than Notes, in that it appears to be more focused on email/calendar/scheduling as opposed to an application development platform.  While I generally like to see new ideas like this get a chance to survive in the market, I have my doubt about this niche.  With Notes and Exchange holding such a dominant place in the market, it will be hard to get traction.  Enterprise software such as this is an area where you want to have assurance the company will be around for the long run.  But you can't get customers until you show success in the marketplace, and you can't show success in the marketplace until you get customers.

Of course, the same's been said for Firefox, too...  :)

09/07/2005

So am I biased on this blog?

Category Blogging

In short (what *else* would you expect from 1/2 of Team-TSG?), yes...

I had a response on my blog entry about Microsoft and the state of Mass. deciding to ditch Office and support the OpenDocument format.  Dave from Colorado (no, I looked up the IP and it wasn't from Redmond) responds:

Explain to me how this is different than us waiting for the next version of Domino to get our DB2 support? Or pick your favorite new R7 feature, and explain the difference. It seems unfair to attack MS just because they tell people that new features are coming, especially when the content you are critiquing is just a blog post of from one guy working on the team -- it isn't even an official microsoft statement.

Or let's look at this another way --
Now suppose that MS tells everyone to wait, then on the day of their product release, says, "Sorry, that feature wasn't tested enough -- wait for the next version."
If MS did that, you would be all over them. But IBM does exactly that, as an official statement no less, and nobody says a peep?

I'm not saying that any of the above is good or bad. Just pointing out that there is a major double standard going on.

Now, I think the issue I raised and the one he's taking exception to is the following snippet I highlighted in that post:

if only Massachusetts had waited to see the beta of the new version coming out in a few months

I do understand what he's trying to point out, but I *do* think there's a difference...

For one, I don't think IBM has been trying to freeze the market in collaboration by promising grandiose new functionality in ND7 that would be a vast improvement on ND6.5.  To take the DB2/Domino feature, it has always been a feature that was *optional*, and that could be used in particular situations to create new and different types of applications.  At no time (the way I see it) was there a push to have everyone hold off on doing anything with their Notes environment so that they could upgrade to ND7 and convert everything to DB2.  Regardless of what a certain software corporation might have you believe...

Second, IBM didn't pull the feature.  You can get a key to unlock it, but it's not fully supported at this time.  That may be nitpicking, but I think it's a major difference.  If you were waiting to build a specific application based on that feature, you can still move ahead, but carefully.  Again, this has been another option that IBM has added to a wide range of choices in Notes.  It's not a conversion path required to continue to use the product.  

Finally, you're right in that the statement I quoted is a blog and not an official Microsoft release.  Regardless, it shows the mindset of people running the show, and it gives a window into the thought processes that often play out in public.  And in this case, I think the statement matches past (and future?) actions.

IBM's not perfect...  It would have been nice to see an earlier statement on the DB2 deployment situation instead of hearing about it via "rumors" and such.  It might have made planning for some sites easier.  And the recent disappearance/reappearance of the ND7 software on the IBM sites was rather bizarre and could have been explained better instead of causing confusion and doubt for four or five days until we got a better explanation.  I didn't comment on these as others in the blog circles I run in did so, and probably did so better than I might have.  Still, I see these as aberrations from IBM, not a consistent track record.  

Every blog out there...  every *media* source out there...  they all have a set of assumptions and perspectives that color their writing and reporting.  My perspective is that I'm an IT professional who's good at what I do, and who makes my living with IBM software.  I also feel that Microsoft is competing in the marketplace using tactics that are ethically suspect at times, and have been ruled as outright illegal at others.  Therefore, I will be more forgiving of IBM than I will of Microsoft.  If you read this blog, that's what you get.

(Standard disclaimers apply...  My opinions, not my employers, your mileage may vary, results not typical, close cover before striking...)

09/07/2005

Another visitor milestone reached...

Category Blogging

Before leaving for work this morning, I found this on my hit counter...

A picture named M2

I went back and found where I hit 100000 (December 3rd, 2004), and it took me around 22 months to get there.  It only took me 9 months to reach the next 100000, and that doesn't even figure in the RSS hits.

I know to A-List bloggers, this is a mere drop in the bucket.  But for a short runt in the Northwest area of the U.S., it's far better than I expected when I started this over two years ago...  Thanks for riding along with me, and now it's off to 300000!

09/06/2005

I'll probably get flamed, but can we tone down the media "reporting" about dead bodies left by Katrina?

Category Everything Else

When it comes to the media, I'm pretty cynical anymore.  When public officials start throwing about large numbers and terms like "catastrophic", I start to wonder...  Is that reality?  Is it the person trying to get noticed above the rest of the media din?  Is this an attempt to focus more government aid?  Will the media only listen and quote things that register higher on the hype scale?

Real numbers about deaths related to Katrina seem to be hard to come by.  It's almost as if no one wants to try and come up with a full account to date.  I know if I were a government official in charge of emergency preparedness, I'm not sure I'd want to see those numbers either.  But officials have thrown out statements about "thousands" of bodies yet to be found, and now every news story reports on those thousands as if it's a reality.  It may well be the case, and it wouldn't be totally unexpected, but I'm starting to tire of media reporting of "facts" that aren't yet so.

I'd much prefer to see real counts and reports on the progress of recovering the missing.  It's been said that we need to "prepare" ourselves for the large number of deaths that will come from Katrina.  True, but all the hype that is currently out there in the media is just numbing us to the reality, whatever it might be.  It's almost as if we want to report on "potentially 10000 or more deaths" so that we can feel relieved if there are "only" a couple of thousand.

Any way you approach it, Katrina has caused more devastation in a populated area than anything in recent memory.  While this part of the ordeal is bad, I still think the worst is yet to come with health concerns about the water toxicity and the mass demolitions of housing that will follow once the city is drained.  This is a disaster that will continue to have repercussions for years to come...

09/05/2005

Book Review - Home Networking - The Missing Manual by Scott Lowe

Category Book Reviews

Boy, I wish I had this book about a year ago...  Home Networking - The Missing Manual by Scott Lowe...

Contents:  
Part 1 - Setting Up Your Network: Planning Your Home Network; Creating a Wired Network the Ethernet Way; Setting Up a Wireless Network; Setting Up a Powerline Network
Part 2 - Using Your Network: Using the Network with Windows Computers; Using the Network with Macintosh Computers; Mixing Macintosh and Windows Computers; Fun and Games with Your Network; Using Your Network on the Road
Appendix: The Macintosh Keychain; Multiple User Accounts in Mac OS 9
Index

My lack and fear of networking is well-known amongst my geek friends.  It's one of those things I don't get and pretty much don't dabble in, either.  I won't tell you how long I had a cat-5 cable snaking up my basement stairs and across the kitchen floor in order to do Internet Connection Sharing with the computer that had the internal DSL modem.  And I was *proud* to have figured that much out!  With this book, I would have purchased the wireless router *much* sooner, and I wouldn't have paid the cable guy $50 for screwing in the cable modem as the "install".  Lowe takes what can be a daunting subject and simplifies it enough that even non-geeks can follow along.  There are plenty of pictures, and the instructions are clear and concise.  And by including both PC and Mac networking, you should be able to use the information in this book regardless of your operating system preference...

As a computer geek (just not one that does networking), I was highly impressed that he included electrical system networking.  This seems to be one of those technologies that's on the cusp of becoming mainstream, but just hasn't bridged that chasm yet.  While I don't think that'd be my first recommendation to someone unless absolutely necessary, it's nice to see it included as a viable option for the adventurous.  Well done...

If you have more than one computer at home and you've been putting off networking them together due to lack of knowledge, delay no longer.  Grab a copy of this book, and get "hooked up" in no time...

09/05/2005

Book Review - Object-Oriented Analysis And Design by Mike O'Docherty

Category Book Reviews

Trying to cover the full gamut of object-oriented design, analysis, UML, etc. in a single book anymore is a daunting task.  There's just so much out there now.  Trying to make it readable is even more difficult.  Go ahead and add in a textbook style format on top of that, and it's enough to normally scare me away.  Surprisingly, Mike O'Docherty overcomes all these obstacles and does a good job with Object-Oriented Analysis And Design - Understanding System Development with UML 2.0.

Contents:  
Part 1 - Setting the Scene: Object Concepts; Inheritance; Type Systems; Software Development Methodologies
Part 2 - Understanding the Problem: Gathering Requirements; Analyzing the Problem
Part 3 - Designing the Solution: Designing the System Architecture; Choosing Technologies; Designing the Subsystems; Reusable Design Patterns; Specifying the Interfaces of Classes; Continuous Testing
Appendix: Ripple Summary; iCoot Case Study; Summary of UML Notation Used
Bibliography; Index

Any one of these particular areas could be expanded out into a full volume (and I have a few of them on my shelf).  I was a little surprised that O'Docherty was able to squeeze them all into a book that doesn't cause adverse back strain to carry around.  Even better, the coverage of the subjects is adequate to get the first time student, either in school or in an organization, up to speed on the subject matter.  By using a single case study throughout the entire book, he maintains a continuity in which skills and terminology learned in one chapter easily glide into the next one.  I didn't feel like I was getting whiplash trying to follow a large number of unrelated examples that didn't pull together anything I had learned in previous pages.  He also gives you enough knowledge on UML to be able to effectively use it on your job without becoming bogged down in the minute details that UML gurus argue over for years.  Practicality seems to be the keyword here.  While he does use Java to illustrate the few code examples that exist, the book largely steers clear of code and focuses on design that is language-independent.  What code *does* exist can easily be followed regardless of your knowledge of Java.

Basically, this is a book I wouldn't have a hard time recommending to someone who didn't know object-oriented design and wanted to move into that area.  There's not much wasted effort, and the payback for the time and effort expended should be pretty high...

09/05/2005

Book Review - Open Source For The Enterprise by Dan Woods and Gautam Guliani

Category Book Reviews

All too often, the discussion about using open source software in an organization takes on an emotional or political tone.  And since most information about open source decisions tends to feed that emotion, it's nice to find a book that tries to look at the subject from a rational perspective.  This book does a very good job of that...  Open Source For The Enterprise by Dan Woods and Gautam Guliani.

Contents:  The Nature of Open Source; Measuring the Maturity of Open Source; The Open Source Skill Set; Making the ROI Case; Designing an Open Source Strategy; Support Models for Open Source; Making Open Source Projects Easy to Adopt; A Comparison of Open Source Licenses; Open Source Under Attack; Open Source Empowerment; The Open Source Platform; End-User Computing and the Desktop; Open Source and Email; Groupware, Portals, and Collaboration; Web Publishing and Content Management; Application Development; Index

As I stated above, open source technology books (covering the topic as a whole, not individual projects) tend to be "rah-rah" in nature, pitting the plucky open source alternatives against the big evil proprietary software companies.  While I may just happen to lean in that direction, it's not very helpful if you're trying to make a solid business case for adopting a corporate open source strategy.  You need to concentrate on risks, financial return on investment, support issues, and all the other things that apply to *any* software used in your organization.  Woods and Guliani do a very good job in aiming for, and hitting, that target.  While they believe in the promise of open source, they give the reader some solid tools to judge whether a particular open source alternative is worthy to explore.  For instance, some open source projects take off and soar, while others languish with no activity after a few months.  By checking release levels, discussion boards, documentation quality, etc., you can mitigate the risk of committing to a project that doesn't continue to grow.  Conversely, if you find a project that addresses a need but may not be overly active, they provide guidance on what type of skill base you'll need to have or acquire to take the development in house.

Open Source For The Enterprise is one of those books that you should see in a number of organizations, helping management and techies come together to make rational business decisions that benefit the company and not someone's resume.  Very good material...

09/05/2005

Microsoft's latest 10-K report... fearing security lawsuits?

Category Microsoft

A couple people pointed out to me the following statement in Microsoft's latest 10-K filing with the government, under Risks:

Security vulnerabilities in our products could lead to reduced revenues or to liability claims.    Maintaining the security of computers and computer networks is an issue of critical importance for us and our customers. There are malicious hackers who develop and deploy viruses, worms, and other malicious software programs that attack our products. While this is an industry-wide phenomenon that affects computers across all platforms, it affects our products in particular because hackers tend to focus their efforts on the most popular operating systems and programs and we expect them to continue to do so. We devote significant resources to addressing these critical issues. We are focusing our efforts on engineering even more secure products, enhancing security and reliability options and settings when we deliver products, and providing guidance to help our customers make the best use of our products and services to protect against computer viruses and other attacks on their computing environment. In addition, we are working to improve the deployment of software updates to address security vulnerabilities discovered after our products are released. We are also investing in mitigation technologies that help to secure customers from attacks even when such software updates are not deployed. We are also advising customers on how to help protect themselves from security threats through the use of our online automated security tools, our published security guidance, and the deployment of security software such as firewalls, antivirus, and other security software. The cost of these steps could adversely affect our operating margins. Despite these efforts, actual or perceived security vulnerabilities in our products could lead some customers to seek to return products, to reduce or delay future purchases, or to use competitive products. Customers may also increase their expenditures on protecting their existing computer systems from attack, which could delay adoption of new technologies. Any of these actions by customers could adversely affect our revenue. We devote significant resources to improving the security design and engineering of our software. Nevertheless, actual or perceived vulnerabilities may lead to claims against us. While our license agreements typically contain provisions that eliminate or limit our exposure to such liability claims, there is no assurance these provisions will be held effective under applicable laws and judicial decisions.

I'm still surprised that no one has challenged those agreements in some form of a class action lawsuit after a significant virus outbreak...

09/05/2005

More Microsoft mindset... "Just wait for our *next* release!"

Category Microsoft

From PC Pro:  New file format causes Mass panic at Microsoft

In regards to Massachusetts' plan to standardize on the OpenDocument format and ditch Office:

Writing in his blog, Brian Jones, Microsoft's Office Program Manager said he agreed with the principle that file formats should be open but claimed that the forthcoming formats for the upcoming Office 12 product were just that - if only Massachusetts had waited to see the beta of the new version coming out in a few months.

'Moving to document formats that are open, documented, and royalty-free is actually really valuable,' writes Jones. 'The default format for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 12 will be completely open, meaning you aren't tied into Microsoft software to access your files. They will now totally belong to you and you have control over them. I'm extremely excited about the opportunity this gives to people to build solutions that operate on Office documents and it's royalty-free (no cost).'

Having put in his pitch for the new Office 12 formatting, Jones condemns the State's decision as being based on 'no thorough research' as the first beta of the new productivity suite will not be out for a another couple of months. ' I can't imagine that they would have made this decision as it actually provides the easiest path of moving from proprietary binary formats into open XML formats,' he writes.

Did you catch that key line?

 if only Massachusetts waited to see the beta of the new version coming out in a few months.

In other words, put your business and organization on hold indefinitely until we show you a beta release of a new version of software coming soon.  If that's not freezing the market, what is?

I also love the complaint that the decision was based on "no thorough research".  I think it's more a case of "we didn't win, so the decision was wrong".

09/05/2005

Microsoft's FUD... straight from the horse's mouth...

Category Microsoft

From The Register:  Microsoft's Ballmer: chair-tossing potty-mouth

Gotta love that publication!  :)

In a continuation of the story about Lukovsky going to Google, we have the following from the court documents...

Thereafter, Mr. Ballmer resumed trying to persuade me to stay....Among other things, Mr. Ballmer told me that "Google's not a real company. It's a house of cards." Lukovsky left Microsoft in March this year.

Yes, Mr. Ballmer...  And Linux is more expensive to run than Windows, and Lotus Notes is dead, and there will be no release past Lotus Notes 6.5, and, and, and...

If you can't win on merit, lie.

09/04/2005

Book Review - Computer Privacy Annoyances by Dan Tynan

Category Book Reviews

Privacy?  Good luck!  Even the slightest misstep on line (or anywhere else, for that matter) can open you up to privacy intrusions that you may not know about.  Dan Tynan does a really good job in outlining these areas in Computer Privacy Annoyances.  This is pretty much required reading for living in our heavily computerized society.

Contents:  Privacy At Risk; Privacy At Home; Privacy On The Net; Privacy At Work; Privacy In Public; Privacy And Uncle Sam; Privacy In The Future; Index

In this Annoyances title, Tynan looks at a wide range of activities and situations that involve a potential unwanted loss of privacy.  Using a question and answer format, he effectively shows how seemingly innocent activities (like booking a hotel room or ordering a kosher meal on a flight) can be logged and combined to build a profile of your activities that may not present a very flattering picture of who you are and what you do (and with whom).  While there's the obligatory chapters on spam, online registration sites, and the like, there are also excellent chapters that cover privacy at work (what your employers can and can not do) as well as health record concerns.  Things may not be as secure and private as you think they are...

Realistically, there's already more information out there to be gleaned than you'd probably expect and be comfortable with.  But by reading and digesting the contents of this book, you can start to reduce your exposure going forward.  Even just the awareness of privacy concerns will start to cause you to question *why* a merchant might want certain information.  They may *want* your zip code or phone number, but that doesn't mean you *have* to give it to them.  Even if this book keeps you from making just one mistake that would lead to identity theft, then it's more than paid for itself.  A recommended read...

09/04/2005

Book Review - Killing Floor by Lee Child

Category Book Reviews

I actually *do* read books other than technology non-fiction!  A regular reader of my blog emailed me and recommended that I check out an author named Lee Child.  Since there are a number of books he's written with the main character Jack Reacher, I decided to start at the beginning...  Killing Floor.  I now officially hooked and will be working through *that* entire series...

Reacher is an ex-military cop who has gotten his discharge from the military and is now simply drifting from place to place with no commitments for nearly the first time in his entire life.  He decides to hop off the Greyhound bus outside of Margrave, Georgia, nothing more than a dot on the map.  He's into music, and there's a singer from way back, Blind Blake, who hailed from Margrave.  But before he gets very far, he's arrested at gunpoint for the murder of someone at a factory owned by a major citizen of the town.  Although he is able to convince the local detective that he's not the person, the detective has to put him in holding in the local prison over the weekend until they can get it all sorted out.  While there with another person who just *might* have committed the crime, they are both targeted to die in a prison fight that increasingly looks like a setup.  Once out, Reacher starts working with the detective and a local female cop, Roscoe, to solve the crime and figure out why everything seems a little "off" in this small town.  It becomes personal when he finds out that the murdered person was his brother who he hasn't seen in a couple of years.  The deeper they get, the more people surrounding the case start to get offed.  Worse, there's an obvious conspiracy involving the major and nine other townspeople, and the trio investigating the crime can't trust that anyone is clean or dirty...

The whole plot and style of writing pretty much hooked me from the start.  Reacher, although a loner, is very human and works well as a main character.  His love interest, Roscoe, adds a certain tension to the book as you're not sure whether things will work out or if some twist is going to take you off in a direction you don't expect.  Once they figure out what's really going on, the story becomes even more interesting as you see how it could all fit together...

Very, *very* good first novel from Child, and I can't wait to work through the other Reacher novels.  Good thing I have a vacation coming up soon.  :)

09/04/2005

Book Review - Search Engine Marketing, Inc. by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt

Category Book Reviews

With the ever-increasing attention paid to the search engine space, it pays to know how best to design your web site and plan your marketing campaigns to optimize this resource.  A recent book I received fills that space nicely...  Search Engine Marking, Inc. - Driving Search Traffic to Your Company's Web Site by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt.

Content:  
Part 1 - The Basics of Search Marketing: Why Search Marketing Is Important...  And Difficult; How Search Engines Work; How Search Marketing Works; How Searchers Work
Part 2 - Develop Your Search Marketing Program: Identify Your Web Site's Goals; Measure Your Web Site's Success; Measure Your Search Marketing Success; Define Your Search Marketing Strategy; Sell Your Search Marketing Proposal
Part 3 - Execute Your Search Marketing Program: Get Your Site Indexed; Choose Your Target Keywords; Optimize Your Content; Attract Links To Your Site; Optimize Your Paid Search Program; Make Search Marketing Operational; What's Next?
Glossary; Index

First off, this book is really well done.  Using a writing style that's more conversational and readable than I expected from the cover, they go into solid detail about everything related to search engines.  This includes how they work, what people are looking for when they search, and how best to understand the types of visitors you'll get in order to turn them into potential customers.  They also spend plenty of time telling you what to avoid in the way of spammy and sleazy tricks to get better rankings (which will probably also get you banned from the engines).  As a result, you can read the information with confidence that you're being useful and ethical information related to improving your visibility on the web.

While most any size business could benefit from this information, I kept thinking of larger organizations during my reading.  Marketing Communication (MarCom) departments, at least those who understand the web, absolutely need to know this information and formalize their organizational approach to search engine optimization.  A single person business looking to advertise on the web, especially if this is their first foray into the cyberworld, might find themselves a bit overwhelmed by over 500 pages of information.  Conversely, a MarCom department would have the time and resources to commit to a focused and planned approach to their search engine results.  Both businesses would benefit, but I think the larger companies would benefit more...

Regardless of your organizational size and structure, it's worth the read.  You'll come away with a much more complete understanding of how you need to position yourself to get noticed in the increasingly crowded world of search...

09/04/2005

Book Review - Word Annoyances by Guy Hart-Davis

Category Book Reviews

Because I spend most of my time programming and not writing reports and such in Word, I just figure that certain quirks of Word existed because I was too dumb to know better.  While that may still be the case, I now have a way to make my Word time more productive and less annoying...  Word Annoyances by Guy Hart-Davis.  This is a *really* good book for anyone who uses Word (although Microsoft may tend to disagree)...

Contents:  Installation, Repair, and Configuration; Creating and Saving Documents; Text Entry and Editing; Formatting and Layout; Forms, Revising, Proofing, and Finalizing; Printing, Faxing, and Scanning; Tables, Columns, and Text Boxes; Automate Annoyances Away with Macros; OLE, Mail Merge, and Office Applications; Mac Word Annoyances; Index

If you've never had the pleasure of reading an Annoyances book before, here's how it works.  The author gathers up a large number of questions and "annoyances" from regular users of the product.  Then in an irreverent question and answer format, he (or she) proceeds to show solutions and workarounds to allow the reader to bypass those irritations.  Since this book deals with Word, you'll learn all sorts of interesting stuff on how to "fix" auto-formatting, how to change your default template, and dozens of other gems that will quickly make this one of your favorite Office books (much to Microsoft's chagrin).  I'm sure they'd like you to believe that their software doesn't have any annoying features, and that everything is very helpful and well-implemented.  Not!  Even things that I didn't give a second thought to before now stand out as things I don't have to live with.

Obviously, not every tip in this book will apply to your needs or situations.  You'll either never use a particular feature, or you've already figured out how to fix the behavior.  But there are far more instances where you'll say "so *that's* how you get rid of that!".  So get a copy of this book, sit down in front of your computer, open up Word, and start reading.  The "Eureka!" moments will start coming fast and furious...

09/04/2005

Book Review - XML Pocket Reference (3rd Edition) by Simon St. Laurent and Michael Fitzgerald

Category Book Reviews

The other review book I received yesterday was XML Pocket Reference (3rd Edition) by Simon St. Laurent and Michael Fitzgerald.  Depending on what you're looking for, this may or may not the book for you...

Contents: Introduction; XML Structures; Document Type Definitions; W3C XML Schema; RELAX NG; Schematron; XML Specifications; Index

Admittedly, trying to cover "XML" in a single book is a daunting task.  XML is made up of so many standards and technologies (XPath, XForms, XML Schema, etc.) that you either have to specialize your coverage area or be ready to publish a *really* heavy book.  To their credit, the authors stripped out XSLT into it's own pocket guide.  That act keeps this particular book small enough to fit in your pocket and that's good.  But if you're wanting information on XSLT and think this might be your book, forget it.

Next, the XML Structures and Document Type Definition chapters seemed to be a little confusing.  There was something introduced that I had never heard of before...  something called "Productions" followed by syntax that looked like regular expression language.  Never having seen that term before in my XML reading, I went back to the introduction to see what the authors wanted to convey there.  The only explanation was "As each structure is discussed, applicable productions from the XML 1.0 and 1.1 specs will be listed in the order in which they appear in the specs."  So, I still really don't know what productions are, and I probably have to go to the specs to find that out.  The description of each section in an XML document, like CDATA or declarations, was nice though.

The book starts to become really useful when you get into the XML Schema section.  There they go into each of the elements along with each attribute that can be used with the element.  This is the type of reference information I'd expect to see in a pocket guide.  Something I can turn to quickly as a refresher for what parameters or attributes I can use with an element, or to gain a quick understanding of an element I haven't seen before.  This same structure is followed for the RELAX NG and Schematron schema languages, so the book will be helpful if you live in those worlds also.

Basically, I found the XML Pocket Guide to be a little "hit and miss".  If the title had been "XML Schema Pocket Guide", I'd have felt like the book was pretty on target.  Trying to call it the XML Pocket Guide seems to infer there's a lot more in here than there actually is, and a buyer might get a copy and be highly disappointed in what it doesn't cover.  If you're looking for schema info, you'll love the book.  If that's a secondary reason for you to get the book, you might be disappointed.

09/03/2005

Book Review - Eclipse IDE Pocket Guide by Ed Burnette

Category Book Reviews

Short, sweet, and to the point...  Eclipse IDE Pocket Guide by Ed Burnette.  

Contents:  Introduction; Workbench 101; Java Done Quick; Debugging; Unit Testing with JUnit; Tips and Tricks; Views; Short Takes; Help and Community; Commands; Index

Given that this book is only 117 pages, I really wondered how useful it might be.  Maybe a list of things for Eclipse veterans that they could find quickly.  Since most O'Reilly pocket guides seem to assume some level of knowledge to begin with, I thought that the target audience for this might be somewhat limited.

Wrong...

I'm actually surprised that this book could be used by someone who has never seen Eclipse, and there's a pretty good chance that they could get up and running with it in short order.  That's not to say that a larger, more tutorial-style book wouldn't also be helpful, or that they will get everything they need in this pocket guide.  But there are plenty of techno-geeks out there who just want the basic facts presented in quick fashion to get them started, and then they'll take it from there.  And this book definitely delivers on that.  Granted, I use Eclipse and have read a number of other books on the topic, but I could have used this one my first time out.  You could almost think of it as 117 pages of bound documentation for Eclipse that prevents you from having to print out something you downloaded from the Eclipse website.  Better yet, it's *readable*!

If you're going to be using Eclipse on a full-time basis in your job or for software development, definitely check into one of the larger books out there to get all the gritty details and minutiae about the software.  But if you've just skimmed the surface in the past or you need to get a quick intro to get up to speed, this is definitely a book that will be worth your while...

09/03/2005

My new "toy"...

Category Everything Else


Since Ian took my old laptop to Orlando with him, I decided I didn't want to be "unplugged" when we travel.  Therefore, I bought a new laptop last weekend and finally got a chance to set it up today...  It's *so* nice...


A picture named M2

09/03/2005

Microsoft's Ballmer vows to "kill" Google...

Category Microsoft


From The Telegraph:  
Microsoft's Ballmer vows to "kill" Google

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's ebullient chief executive, threatened to "kill" Google and "bury" its chief executive during a foul-mouthed tirade against the internet search engine giant, according to court documents.


Ballmer's alleged threats are detailed in a sworn statement by Mark Lucovsky, a former Microsoft engineer, who met the Microsoft chief executive in November to discuss his intention to defect to Google.


The documents say that when he became aware of Lucovsky's plan to move to Google, Ballmer roared: "F**king Eric Schmidt [Google's chief executive] is a f***ing p****. I'm going to f***ing bury that guy. I have done it before, I will do it again. I'm going to f****ing kill Google."


Lucovsky's statement said that Ballmer picked up a chair and threw it across the room, hitting a table in the office.


Ballmer yesterday dismissed Lucovsky's version of the events as "a gross exaggeration of what took place". He said the engineer's decision to leave Microsoft was "disappointing". "I urged him strongly to change his mind," Ballmer said. "His characterisation of that meeting is not accurate."


Yeah, the chair probably only went halfway and missed the table...  :)


Seriously, I know this is one of those "I did not, you did too" stories, but I don't have a hard time making this mental connection.  It also falls right in line as to why I don't believe Microsoft's "benevolence" when they offer help to "integrate" Notes data with .Net technology.  Co-existance is not part of their makeup, just complete domination of any and all markets.  Regardless of the spin coming out of Redmond by ex-Loti, Microsoft is a competitor and not a partner.

09/03/2005

Book Review - XForms Essentials by Micah Dubinko

Category Book Reviews

One of the recent IBM acquisitions leads me to believe that the XForms standard will begin to play a larger part in my area of software expertise.  To that end, I got a review copy of XForms Essentials by Micah Dubinko in order to try and get a basic understanding of the standard and technology.  The book does a pretty good job of that, but is probably more useful for someone who is all ready to dig in and use it.

Contents:  Introduction to Web Forms; XForms Building Blocks; XPath in XForms; XML Schema in XForms; The XForms Model; The XForms User Interface; Actions and Events; Submit; Styling XForms; Form Accessibility, Design, and Troubleshooting; Extending XForms; Examining Microsoft InfoPath; The GNU Free Documentation License; Index

Dubinko starts off by examining how HTML forms work, and then transitions into how XForms addresses some of the problems (heavy reliance on scripting, restriction to flat key/value data pairing, etc.).  Chapter 2 does a pretty high-level overview of an XForms document and what components do what in the layout.  From there, you start to get pretty deep into the different areas that make up the entire XForms family, like XPath and XML Schema.  At this point, having a solid footing in XML technology is probably required (or highly suggested), because the terminology gets technical and a fair amount of reference material starts to creep in.  If you're actually using XForms in your application development, then you'll be able to use those reference sections to understand and use things like datatypes and computed expressions.  I also really liked the appendix section on the comparison between XForms and Microsoft's competing InfoPath implementation.  It does a nice job highlighting the major differences in a really short number of pages.  

While this might not have been the best "first" XForms book for me to read, it definitely does a good job in covering the information for the right audience.  If someone were faced with a software application that used XForms and they needed to support it, I'd definitely suggest getting a copy of this book.  The technical nature will help as you get your hands dirty on a daily basis.  If you're simply looking for a high-level understanding of XForms, there's a fair amount here that will cause your eyes to glaze over...

09/03/2005

Book Review - 19 Deadly Sins Of Software Security

Category Book Reviews

With the continual alerts and patches for software vulnerabilities, it may appear that there is no way to write secure software.  While I agree there are no "absolutes" when it comes to secure software, there are ways to greatly reduce your potential of writing software that can be exploited.  19 Deadly Sins Of Software Security - Programming Flaws and How To Fix Them by Michael Howard, David LeBlanc, and John Viega does an excellent job in helping you focus in on this subject...

Content: Buffer Overruns; Format String Problems; Integer Overflows; SQL Injection; Command Injection; Failing To Handle Errors; Cross-Site Scripting; Failing To Protect Network Traffic; Use Of Magic URLs And Hidden Form Fields; Improper Use Of SSL And TLS; Use Of Weak Password-Based Systems; Failing To Store And Protect Data Security; Information Leakage; Improper File Access; Trusting Network Name Resolution; Race Conditions; Unauthenticated Key Exchange; Cryptographically Strong Random Numbers; Poor Usability; Mapping The 19 Deadly Sins To The OWASP "Top Ten"; Summary Of Do's And Don'ts; Index

This book came out of a list developed by Homeland Security that declared that 95% of security issues in software came from 19 programming mistakes.  What you read in these pages go into more detail about each of those issues, but in a very concise, practical, no-nonsense fashion.  This is the type of information you'll need as a professional who needs to get a job done without wasting time on fluff and verbose writing.  Each chapter covers one of the sins, and follows a standard format for the information.  The subsections in each chapter are: Overview of the Sin; Affected Languages; The Sin Explained; Related Sins; Spotting the Sin Pattern; Spotting the Sin During Code Review; Testing Techniques to Find the Sin; Example Sins; Redemption Steps; Extra Defensive Measures; Other Resources; Summary.  Since each chapter stands on its own, you can use this as a reference tool if you're having a particular issue to resolve, or you can read it cover to cover to get a good understanding of the security concerns you need to face when programming.

Just about every significant programming platform and language is covered somewhere in here (Windows, Unix, Linux, C, C++, C#, Java, PHP, Perl, etc.), so there's no real reason why nearly every developer won't take *something* away from their reading.  And if you're writing software that will be exposed to usage outside your company, there is *no* reason to not have this book on your shelf.  You'll get the core of what you should do very quickly, and you'll end up writing more secure software up front instead of issuing patch after patch after patch...

09/02/2005

Katrina's Half

Category Everything Else

Rocky Oliver has come up with an interesting and intriguing concept...  Katrina's Half.

Basically, it's a pledge to share half of your lottery winnings to Katrina aid and relief should you be the lucky jackpot winner in a national or state lottery.  All it would take is for one or two winners to do this, and a huge dent could be made in the misery and despair of the hurricane victims.

Check it out and make your pledge...

09/02/2005

Book Review - Spam Wars by Danny Goodman

Category Book Reviews

I was recently sent a review copy of the book Spam Wars by Danny Goodman.  This is an excellent read for anyone wanting to understand where spam comes from and how the whole "spamonomy" operates...

Contents: Introduction; Email Predators, Guardians, and Victims; Grasping Spam (not SPAM); How We Got into This Mess; Behind the Curtain: How Email Works; It's the Spamonomy, Stupid!; How Spammers Get Your Email Address; Meet the Spammers and Scammers; The Spammer's View of the World; How Spam Differs from Junk Mail; The Antispammer's View of the World; Spammer Tricks Part 1: Headers; Spammer Tricks Part 2: Messages; Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts; Rule #3: Spammers Are Stupid; Technology as a Partial Solution; The Law as a Partial Solution; An Email Manifesto and To-do List; All about Email Message Headers; An Introduction to Span Sleuthing; Online Resources; Glossary; Index

Unlike books that offer purely technical solutions to reduce the amount of spam you receive, Goodman takes a step back and lays the groundwork for how we found ourselves in the current environment.  Any reasonably intelligent person will be able to take this book and begin to understand just how much of a problem this is.  It's not just the 50 (or 500) emails you have to delete every day.  It's the billions that get sent out continuously by spammers and scammers who don't deliver on their offers.  And because there are people dumb enough to respond, it's a very lucrative business that has no regard for the victims...  those of us who don't want to increase certain body parts or meet girls who are hot for us.  Please!

Goodman has a very irreverent style of writing in this particular work, and it's fun to read.  He has no qualms to call spammers "stupid" and then back it up with examples that are far too numerous.  I also appreciate that he doesn't attempt to offer some "silver bullet" that will magically take care of all your issues.  There isn't one, and he openly acknowledges that.  Technology can fix part of the problem, and laws can somewhat address another small segment.  But in his final chapter, the "manifesto", he offers a series of steps and actions that each of us can take to start reclaiming our rightful possession that the spammer has stolen from us...  our email address.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who doesn't understand what the fuss is, or to those who have reached the end of their rope with spam.  You don't have to be a techno-geek to read and understand the material, and you can start to make a difference in your little corner of the internet.  And if enough people take the same steps, perhaps things will become better for everyone...

09/02/2005

Ian's fun with lightning at Epcot today...

Category Everything Else

So I get this call from Ian today on the cell phone about 4:30 his time...

DUDE!!!!  I am in the *worst* lightning storm I've ever experienced!  I just had a bolt hit the ground 10 meters away from me!  There are about 10 strikes every minute!

And I as a parent 3000 miles away would want to know this why???

Even better...  he calls again about five minutes later once he got on the bus to change his Epcot outfit at the end of his shift.

DUDE!!!!  A bolt just struck the bus!

The only thing that makes me feel better is that it officially freaked him out just as much as it would have freaked me out...

09/02/2005

Time for... August Oddities for search hits...

Category Book Reviews

Yeah, I'm a little late on this one.  It's been a really long week at work, and I was pretty much burned out every evening after working on a secondary project that was finished up yesterday.  So now that I have a little time to breathe over the three day weekend, let's explore the search hit view to see what "gems" and "turds" are milling around in there...
  • lotus domino sucks - And the alternatives blow!
  • low cost nice duff - Sorry, but if you want the *nice* duff, it costs extra...
  • the roling stoned - Which is what I would have had to be to wear that Hooter's outfit John wore...
  • golden years suck pillow - That's a bizarre one...
  • lotus domino migration to exchange 2000 - Since nothing much ever changes in Exchange, I guess that's as good a release as any if you have to switch.
  • free lotus notes databases - Check out OpenNTF.org
  • hillary duff and weight loss - Must be something about the genetic makeup of Duff's...
  • when did tom clancy novels start to suck - LOL...  I still read them, but I will admit that they've become a bit long-winded of late...
  • hillary duff's naked picture - If she's having weight issues, would I really want to see her naked?
  • www.google.com/free sex - Hope you're enjoying your first experience on the internet, guy!
  • Emperor Julian naked - This will make for some interesting Lotusphere conversation.
  • I'm still not rich - And I'm still not 6' 2"...  move on!
  • connectria Tom Duff - I don't work there, but I *am* a happy customer of their blog hosting service...
  • laptop backpacks Enron - That's the only piece of Enron-branded merchandise (other than clothes) that I didn't sell off on eBay.  Of course, now Cam has it and it's looking pretty trashed...
  • active directory sucks - Another satisfied Microsoft customer!
  • lotus notes and dead - We're not dead!  We're not even feeling under the weather!
  • hillary duff slimmer? - Don't know, but I am!
  • radicati exchange - I'd *gladly* exchange them for someone with an informed opinion!  :)
  • stuffed butts - I'm working hard on unstuffing mine.
  • learn to drown - Seems odd to learn a skill that can really only be executed successfully once.
  • pwc sucks - I think I can safely assume this *didn't* come from Joe...
  • roling stones bash bush - I think John *would* stone and bash him if he had the chance.
  • exchange ranger - If I ever meet an "Exchange Ranger", he's going to wonder why I'm laughing hysterically...
  • living with a type 1 diabetic - It's even harder when they leave home for the first time...

All things considered, this month looks a little more laid back than past ones...  :)

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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