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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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02/28/2006

Book Review - Out of Control by Ben Young and Dr. Samuel Adams

Category Book Reviews

As of late, I've been feeling like perhaps I'm doing far too many things that don't matter at the expense of things that do.  This is particularly true in the spiritual aspect of my life.  The Nelson publishing group sent me a review copy of Out of Control: Finding Peace for the Physically Exhausted and Spiritually Strung Out by Ben Young and Dr. Samuel Adams.  The timing could not have been better...

Contents:
Section 1 - Living Freely and Lightly: A Culture Spinning Out of Control; Are You Out of Control?; Seven Lies That Feed the OOC Lifestyle
Section 2 - Spiritual Practices for Peace and Rest: It All Starts with the Sabbath; The Practice of Solitude and Silence; The Practice of Presence
Section 3 - Three Movements for Lifestyle Change: Move Your Priorities; Move Away from Technology; Move into Community
Conclusion: Your New Life in His Control
Study Guide; About the Authors; Acknowledgements

Now, I know they sent me this book because I mentioned that I am a software developer and write technology articles (and blog, and review, and and and...).  They probably figured "here's a stressed out technogeek...  let's see what *he* thinks!".  This Christian technogeek liked the book a lot.  Rather than present a list of ten steps to follow in order to have a more peaceful life (great...  another "program" to incorporate into my schedule!), the authors make the case for establishing a few practices to recenter and refocus your life on things that matter.  Taking the time to pray and meditate on a regular basis in order to reconnect with God...  Turning off the ever-present cacophony of sound and stimulus that keeps us from learning about ourselves...  And of course, stepping back from the tyranny of technology that demands more and more of our attention on a daily basis.  Technology was supposed to help us *save* time, not become the slavemaster that forces us into being available 24/7.  And while it would be good to be able to do everything in the book, they're realistic enough to know that small steps can start to change you.  Maybe it's shutting off the cell phone after you leave work.  It could be ignoring email for a day while you focus on family.  It might even be as simple as starting to use the word "no" when people ask for your time and attention, and you don't have it to give.  Written in a conversational tone, the authors deliver their message in an empathetic way while also challenging you to make some changes that will have significant rewards in other areas of your life.

Fortunately, I'm not (yet?) feeling like I'm trying to fit 36 hours into a 24 hour day.  But I know the time I *do* have isn't spent the way I want it to be.  Now that I've read the book once, I'll be going back through it and pondering exactly how my life needs to be altered to make a difference in the lives of others.  A very good and potentially life-altering read...

02/28/2006

Microsoft "FUD"ing on their partner site...

Category Microsoft

http://partners.ms-sst.com/ctrevents.aspx

TS2 – Competitive Tools and Resources Event Series

Does your organization have Lotus Domino and/or Novell migration expertise?

Today's organizations that own Lotus Domino or Novell Netware have reached a "fork in the road" in the future of their collaboration platform. According to the Radicati Group, "Only 21% of the Lotus Domino customers surveyed are planning to deploy IBM Workplace." For Novell Netware users their operating system is coming under intense pressure from Linux with Novell’s acquisition of SuSe! According to the Yankee Group based upon a survey of 100 Novell customers, "8 out of the 10 businesses are planning to migrate from Netware to Windows by 2006." The opportunity is here! Come join Microsoft as we present to you the competitive tools and resources that are available to assist your organization to take advantage of this current market opportunity!

Maybe if they repeat the "fork in the road" lie long enough, they'll start to believe it themselves.  The Radicati stats are worthless, and IBM Workplace is not a "migration" from Lotus Notes/Domino...

Novell might be a different matter, however...  :)

02/28/2006

Will Lotus Notes Lead Microsoft To Linux Desktop?

Category IBM/Lotus

From emailbattles.com:  Will Lotus Notes Lead Microsoft To Linux Desktop?

IBM's upcoming release of Lotus Notes for Linux is, according to Novell survey responders, among the most eagerly anticipated events in Linuxdom. And rightly so.

Luckily for IBM's Lotus team, millions embrace the current version of Notes. But continued success doesn't accommodate standing still. Microsoft is blatantly stalking the Notes/Domino combo with its upcoming feature-rich Office/Exchange 12 on Vista.

<snip>

If IBM Lotus Notes for Linux takes off, expect others to follow IBM's lead, albeit slowly: Intuit, Autodesk, Adobe-Macromedia, Sage and more.

Microsoft's reaction will be measured but predictable. Microsoft's UK director of platform strategy said it best:

    The simplest way I can answer the question is that Microsoft is 100 percent focused on Windows. We have no plans at this present moment in time to deploy or build a version of Microsoft Office on Linux.

In Microsoftspeak, that means, once IBM makes the market, you'd better believe Redmond will both build and deploy a version of Microsoft Office on Linux... with a few "unintentional" kinks, of course.

Just like they didn't have any plans for IE7 and tabbed browsing...  :)

02/26/2006

Follow-up to my Speak of the Devil book review...

Category Book Reviews

This morning I checked my email to find the following...

Duffbert...
 
I feel honor-bound to write you after your fantastic amazon review of my new book. My publisher performed one very large gaffe in the publishing of the book and to my own scurrilous discredit, I didn't stop them. That line in the bio about 'this is his first novel.' Balderdash. This is the first Richard Hawke novel and the first 'thriller' that I have ever penned.
 
But who  am I? Hawke? Nah, he's just another fiction. My life is becoming a meta-life. I wanted a hard-boiled fellow to write my hard boiled books and Hawke is the guy. But pulling the strings is Tim Cockey, the kinder and gentler punster of the so-called hearse books.
 
I hope this revelation doesn't sour your enjoyment of 'Speak of the Devil'. Believe me, from where I was sitting, there were a lot of 'firsts' going on. I wish the publisher had pulled that line from the bio...and I'm seeing to it that the line is gone when the book comes out in paperback. Janet Maslin outted me (with no malice) in the Times last week, and I'm fine with it. I always intended the pen name to be a horribly-kept secret. Those really are the best kind.
 
Anyway, I've always enjoyed reading your reviews.  You're on the (very) short list of those who can sway me on or off a book. Please keep up the good work. I need your discernment.
 
All the best,
 
Tim

No *wonder* I liked the book!  I love Tim Cockey's "Hearse" novels, and I now vaguely remember him talking about putting Hitchcock Sewell to bed for awhile to work on something different.  Turns out this is it.  I would have liked the book regardless of whether I had known Cockey was behind it.  As I mentioned in a response to him, this is a good way to see if people really like your work and talent, or whether they're just sucking up to you.  :)

Also, this email really made my day.  I don't write reviews with expectations of getting noticed by authors.  In fact, there have been a few reviews that I really hoped the authors would never find.  :)  But this isn't the first time Tim has emailed me after finding my reviews on Amazon, and it's always obvious that it's not just a form letter "thank you".  When an author cares enough about his work and his fan base to make a personal contact, it really sets them apart...

02/26/2006

Book Review - Security Patterns: Integrating Security and Systems Engineering

Category Book Reviews

Sometimes the subject of IT security can be a bit overwhelming with too many (or too few) options.  But if you can break it down to specific items or patterns, it starts to become much easier to work with.  I am impressed with the book Security Patterns: Integrating Security and Systems Engineering by Markus Schumacher, Eduardo Fernandez-Buglioni, Duane Hybertson, Frank Buschmann, and Peter Sommerlad.  They have produced a nice reference volume that does just that.

Contents: The Pattern Approach; Security Foundations; Security Patterns; Patterns Scope and Enterprise Security; The Security Pattern Landscape; Enterprise Security and Risk Management; Identification and Authentication (I&A); Access Control Models; System Access Control Architecture; Operating System Access Control; Accounting; Firewall Architectures; Secure Internet Applications; Case Study - IP Telephony; Supplementary Concepts; Closing Remarks; References; Index

Following a common format, the authors outline 46 different security patterns that apply to systems and architectures.  The format includes the Name (name of the pattern), Also Known As (alternative names in common use), Example (a real world example of the pattern's use), Context (when it may apply), Problem (what problem the pattern addresses), Solution (the solution principle), Structure (a detailed examination of the pattern), Dynamics (typical run-time behavior), Implementation (how the pattern is commonly implemented), Example Resolved (aspects not touched in prior sections), Variants (any customizations of the pattern), Known Uses (examples from real implementations), Consequences (benefits and liabilities), and See Also (references to other patterns that may apply).  This consistent structure of each pattern makes it very easy to find the information you need in order to determine whether you should be considering the pattern for your own use.  They also do a good job in laying the groundwork for why security is important, as well as what various factors come into play when building systems in today's internet-based environment.  

While this isn't a book you'd sit down and read from cover to cover, it is one that should stay close at hand.  After reading the first five chapters, you'll have the foundation you need in order to start focusing on specific chapters that address your particular needs.  But even an occasional browse through less-visited chapters could spur ideas that may address new problems that weren't present when you first read the material.  Definitely a solid book with ample opportunities for benefits on the job...

02/25/2006

Book Review - BlackBerry for Dummies by Robert Kao and Dante Sarigumba

Category Book Reviews

Seems like all the tech talk lately has been about the potential shutdown of RIM and the BlackBerry network.  But it dawns on me that I really don't know *why* these devices have been dubbed "CrackBerry" by those addicted to them.  After reading BlackBerry for Dummies by Robert Kao and Dante Sarigumba, I can see the appeal...

Contents:
Part 1 - Meet and Greet Your BlackBerry: Your BlackBerry is NOT an Edible Fruit?; Turning On Your BlackBerry (And Keeping It Happy)
Part 2 - Getting Organized with Your BlackBerry: Remembering Your Acquaintances; Never Miss Another Appointment - Ever!; Bring Your Own Taskmaster; Making Notes and Calculations
Part 3 - Getting Online with Your BlackBerry: You've Got (Lots of) E-Mail; Too Cool for E-Mail; Surfing the Internet Wave; Calling Your Favorite Person
Part 4 - Working with Desktop Manager: Synching the Intellisync Way; Installing Applications; Running Redirector; Protecting Your Information
Part 5 - The Part of Tens: Ten (Or So) New Features on the New Generation BlackBerry; Ten Great BlackBerry Accessories; Ten Productive BlackBerry Applications; Ten Fun Games on Your BlackBerry; Ten Must-Have BlackBerry Programs; Ten (More or Less) Web Site Categories for BlackBerry Browsing
Index

I can see how this book would appeal to both the prospective BlackBerry owner and someone who just opened the box and is wondering "what next?".  The first part of the book does a nice job explaining the different types of BlackBerry devices and how they are all branded based on the network provider who is selling them.  From then on, it's a matter of exploring all the different software options that come part and parcel with the device.  You could almost look at this as the readable instruction manual for your new toy, because there's not much that's not covered here.  I was especially surprised about how the PIN to PIN messaging occurs, and how it's potentially the most secure type of messaging you can find on the market today.  Plus it continues to work when many other cellular services break down due to overload.  All really good stuff here...

This is worth purchasing if you've just jumped into the BlackBerry field or if you've been handed one at work with little explanation on how to use it.  A little time spent between you, this book, and your BlackBerry will make everyone a whole lot happier.  I'm even considering making the switch now...

02/25/2006

Book Review - Wicked Cool Java by Brian D. Eubanks

Category Book Reviews

There are times you just want to try something different or get a few ideas to take you in a new direction.  Wicked Cool Java by Brian D. Eubanks definitely goes down that path...

Contents:  Java Language and Core API; String Utilities; Processing XML and HTML; Crawling the Semantic Web; Scientific and Mathematical Applications; Graphics and Data Visualization; Multimedia and Synchronization; Fun, Integration, and Project Ideas; Glossary; Index

First off, this isn't a Java tutorial or a beginning text on how to code Java.  Eubanks assumes you've already been there, done that.  What he's done here is gathered a rather eclectic collection of tips and techniques that encompass both core Java functionality and external 3rd party API packages.  If you haven't been keeping up with the latest version of Java, some of the material in the first chapter will touch on the new functionality such as generics and assertions.  But really, you could get that in just about any Java book.  Where the book really shines is when he starts introducing other Java API packages that you either 1) may not know existed, or 2) heard of but never explored.  For instance, there are a number of entries that utilize the Jakarta Commons package.  Based on what you see here, you might be motivated to download it and explore a bit more.  Into music and sound generation?  Then the sections that show the JMusic open source API would interest you.  Or even JFugue...  All it takes is finding out about one package you didn't know about, and the book will more than pay for itself.

Don't expect absolutely every one of the 101 entries to be of interest to you.  Books like this are not designed to be 100% useful on every page.  But an initial browse through the book will reveal a number of gems, and periodic re-reading could provide a serendipitous solution to a vexing problem...

02/25/2006

Book Review - Fundraising on eBay by Greg Holden and Jill Finlayson

Category Book Reviews

I don't think I ever considered eBay a source of income for fundraising.  But Greg Holden and Jill Finlayson convinced me otherwise in the book Fundraising on eBay.  A valuable book that should be a "must read" for nonprofits...

Contents:
Part 1 - Mastering the eBay Marketplace - Opportunities for Nonprofits: Why eBay? A Guide for Nonprofits; eBay Fundraising Success Stories; Planning Your eBay Fundraising Event
Part 2 - Selling Donated Items: Deciding What to Sell; Deciding How to Raise Funds with eBay; Building Your Credibility - and Your Donor Base; Listing Your Items for Sale on eBay; Managing Your Auctions and Building Good Donor Relations; Advanced Selling - Using All of eBay's Sales Options
Part 3 - Leveraging eBay for the Biggest Bang: Making Your Charitable Auction a Major Event; Partnerships - Good for Bidders, Good for Partners, Great for Nonprofits; Marketing to Make the Most of Your Event; Glossary; Index

I've always mentally framed eBay as a way to sell some of your own stuff or for a business to market direct to the consumer.  I wasn't even that surprised when cities and governments started using eBay to unload surplus equipment.  But I never really thought about how the use of eBay could be leveraged by a nonprofit or charity to raise funds and expand the donor base.  Holden and Finlayson make a strong case for using eBay to generate money for your nonprofit, and they cover all the eBay features specifically designed to assist you in this.  I've probably seen those features before, but I guess I just ignored them.  They also cover the traditional information on how to get set up as an eBay seller, how to price your items, etc.  So even if you've never touched eBay before, you can confidently venture forth with this book and get started with little effort.  All those books on how to become an eBay power seller can then be used to fine-tune your selling techniques.  The abundance of real-life case studies help the reader to see that this really *can* work and has been used successfully by thousands of other groups.

Definitely a unique book in the growing collection of eBay titles, and one that could be the best investment you ever made in your cause...

02/25/2006

Book Review - Running Linux (5th Edition) by Matthias Kalle Dalheimer and Matt Welsh

Category Book Reviews

Matthias Kalle Dalheimer and Matt Welsh have done an excellent job with Running Linux (5th Edition).  It's one of the few Linux books that strikes a nice balance between overview and in-depth, novice and guru...

Contents:
Part 1 - Enjoying and Being Productive on Linux: Introduction to Linux; Preinstallation and Installation; Desktop Environments; Basic Unix Commands and Concepts; Web Browsers and Instant Messaging; Electronic Mail Clients; Games; Office Suites and Personal Productivity; Multimedia
Part 2 - System Administration: System Administration Basics; Managing Users, Groups, and Permissions; Installing, Updating, and Compiling Programs; Networking; Printing; File Sharing; The X Window System; System Start and Shutdown; Configuring and Building the Kernel; Text Editing; Text Processing
Part 3 - Programming: Programming Tools; Running a Web Server; Transporting and Handling Email Messages; Running an FTP Server
Part 4 - Network Services: Running Web Applications with MySQL and PHP; Running a Secure System; Backup and Recovery; Heterogeneous Networking and Running Windows Programs
Appendix: Sources of Linux Information; Index

There are a couple of things that I really like in this book.  First is the "distribution-neutral" approach.  It's easy to get hung up in the Fedora/Ubuntu/SuSE/etc wars, and there are definitely books that cater to each specific distro.  But often you really just want to understand Linux as a whole (or perhaps you use a variety of distros).  Running Linux covers the core material common to all Linux installations, so you won't find yourself dealing with large chunks of the book that are irrelevant to you.  The other feature I liked is their balance of coverage, and that's hard to do.  You can either go for in-depth coverage and end up with a 2000 page book, or you can try to breeze through everything, and it's worthless once you use the feature.  Dalheimer and Welsh were able to keep it under 1000 pages, touch on both desktop and server, and do it in such a way that both newbies and experienced Linux users can get something out of the book.  It's not a highly graphical, handholding approach to the subject matter, so there tends to be more words packed in to the pages.  But the flow and content is such that even someone brand new to Linux, if motivated, can go a long, long way with nothing more than their computer and this book...

Definitely one of the better "single volume" Linux books that can get you started down that road, as well as hang around on the bookshelf and be useful during the entire journey.

02/24/2006

Book Review - S is for Silence by Sue Grafton

Category Book Reviews

One of the longest running character novel series has got to be the Kinsey Millhone writings by Sue Grafton.  Her latest, S is for Silence, might also be S is for Sedate.  An OK read, but a little on the slow side...

Millhone is called onto a case involving the disappearance of a woman more than 30 years ago.  The woman, Violet Sullivan, was a bombshell beauty, beaten by her husband, and was sleeping around the town.  And given the town was small, there weren't too many secrets.  Daisy Sullivan, the daughter, wants to know what happened to her mother when she left on the 4th of July and was never seen again.  The town is still split on whether she was killed or whether she finally had enough of her husband's beatings and ran off to start another life.  Kinsey is pretty sure there's not much chance of success after so many years, but consents to ask around and commit to five days work.  It seems like all the stories have been told with nothing new to add, but opening old wounds isn't going over well, as Kinsey appears to become a target for someone who is feeling threatened.  And when she does come up with an answer, the stakes to make it all go away go up as well...

This installment of the alphabet series is quite a bit slower than prior ones.  It's not as bad as Q is for Quarry, but it ventures closer to that one than I'd like.  The story is told in a series of flashbacks that put today's players in the context of life 30 years ago, and there's not much drama in the way of potential danger to Millhone.  The obligatory "life at risk" aspect is introduced in a fairly low-key fashion, and doesn't kick into gear until the last few pages.  Most of the story involves the characters and their motivations.  It's an OK story, just not much action.  There's also virtually no involvement of the side characters in Millhone's life, such as any love interests or her landlord.  If you're looking for those players, they're not here.

If you're a fan of the series, you'll like the book.  Perhaps not as much as prior installments, but it's OK.  I just never found myself compelled to keep reading to find out what happened next...

02/23/2006

Book Review - Speak of the Devil by Richard Hawke

Category Book Reviews

I don't remember who recommended Richard Hawke to me, but I recently picked up his first novel at the library...  Speak of the Devil.  This guy has an excellent future as a novelist...

Fritz Malone is a New York private investigator who happens to have a family pedigree in law enforcement.  But rather than follow in his father's footsteps, he decided to go the PI route rather than take the badge.  Things are going along just fine until the annual Thanksgiving Day parade unleashes a killer on the city.  A shooter starts randomly (or so it seems) firing into the crowd, and Malone takes off after him.  He's able to take the shooter down with a shot to the shoulder, but the cops quickly hustle him and the shooter off under cover and blindfolds to an undisclosed location.  The police chief is shocked to see Malone, who he knows from his father's time as chief.  It turns out that the shooter (who mysteriously died from gunshot wounds from a pursuing cop) is really just a bit player in a larger crime scene, and the chief wants Malone to figure out who's behind it all.  Malone is digging pretty deep and is uncovering a number of things that some people apparently would prefer stay buried.  What's worse is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to determine who might be playing both sides of the street...

If this is Hawke's first novel, then I am really amp'ed for future installments of the Malone adventures.  Fritz is a snide, wise-cracking guy who has a great relationship with his girlfriend, the daughter of the guy who taught him the PI ropes.  The dialog that Hawke creates between the two of them is excellent.  The plot line is well done, with nice pacing and unexpected twists throughout the journey.  I really didn't know "who dun it" until we got to the end.  Even then, the surprises weren't done...

A great novel, especially considering this is his first.  There are plenty of experienced novelists who haven't done this well.  A recommended read...

02/21/2006

World's largest Windows error message...

Category Microsoft

From NetworkWorld...

That's gotta hurt.  :)

02/20/2006

Book Review - Apache Derby - Off to the Races

Category Book Reviews

If you've ever been curious about using or integrating Apache Derby (or IBM Cloudscape) into your project, here's the book you'll need...  Apache Derby - Off to the Races by Paul C. Zikopoulos, Dan Scott, and George Baklarz.  Very well done...

Contents:  On Your Marks... Get Set... Go!!! - An Introduction to the Apache Derby and IBM Cloudscape Community; Deployment Options for Apache Derby Databases; Apache Derby Databases; Installing Apache Derby and IBM Cloudscape on Windows; Installing Apache Derby and IBM Cloudscape on Linux; Managing an Apache Derby Database; Security; SQL; Developing Apache Derby Applications with JDBC; Developing Apache Derby Applications with Perl, PHP, Python, and ODBC; "Your Momma Loves Drama" in JDBC; "Your Momma Loves Drama" in Windows; "Your Momma Loves Drama" in PHP; "Your Momma Loves Drama" in Perl; "Your Momma Loves Drama" In Python; Web Site Contents; Apache Derby and IBM Cloudscape Resources; Troubleshooting Hints and Tips; Index

Derby is one of those technologies that has remained "under the radar" for awhile.  The Cloudscape database from IBM was released to the open source community under the name Derby, and basically those two packages are the same core code.  Cloudscape has a few more add-ons and support from IBM, but if you learn one you learn them both.  The authors do a very good job here in helping the reader to understand the architecture and benefits of having a small-footprint embedded relational database system in your application.  The start of the book lays the groundwork very well, and establishes the "why" of Derby.  But rather than remaining a high-level overview, they dive into the core of the software, showing how to install it, work with it, and how to secure your data.  The real value comes when they take a sample ticket application ("Your Momma Loves Drama") and shows how Derby can be integrated the application in a number of different languages.  Even if you don't necessarily know Perl, PHP, or Python, you should be able to follow along enough to extrapolate how the concepts can be applied to your platform of choice.  After reviewing this book, I've got some ideas on how I'd like to play around with this...

A very solid addition to your programming bookshelf.  Between this book and the online resources, you should have everything you need to master the Derby/Cloudscape software.

02/19/2006

World class juggling...

Category Everything Else

http://www.sonnyradio.com/chrisbliss.htm

Check out the Watch This link...

02/19/2006

Book Review - Dear Me by Peter Ustinov

Category Book Reviews

Suggested to me by a fellow blogger, Dear Me by Peter Ustinov is an autobiography of the actor/screenwriter/playwright.  I'm not a big film fan, and I can't say I've seen any of his acting roles or stories.  But as an avid reader, I greatly enjoyed his way with words.  The book takes you from his birth through 1977 when it was penned.  The writing style is unique, in that he's carrying on a conversation with his internal self, or ego.  The ego interjects at the end of most chapters (or at the start in some cases) and attempts to draw Ustinov out when it comes to some of his motives and thought processes.  The writing is funny and sharp, as he has a great sense of irony and sarcasm.  While not a encyclopedia of his life, it does dwell on many of the life episodes (like the Army) that turned him into what he became.

If you're a fan of Ustinov, then you'll likely enjoy the book a great deal.  Even if you're Ustinov-ignorant like me, it's worth the time to watch how an accomplished writer can spin a tale...

02/18/2006

Book Review - Nanotechnology: Science, Innovation, and Opportunity by Lynn E. Foster

Category Book Reviews

Nanotech is a rapidly moving field with plenty of promise for the future.  Lynn E. Foster has compiled a set of essays that explore a number of aspects of the field in the book Nanotechnology: Science, Innovation, and Opportunity.

Contents:
Section 1 - Development Drivers: Lessons in Innovation and Commercialization from the Biotechnology Revolution; Nanotechnology and Our Energy Challenge; Fads and Hype in Technology - The Sargasso Sea of "Some Day Soon"
Section 2 - The Players: Nanotechnology Commercialization - Transcending Moore's Saw with Molecular Electronics and Nanotechnology; Investment in Nanotechnology; The Role of the U.S. Government in Nanoscale Science and Technology; Overview of U.S. Academic Research; Understanding University Technology Transfer for Nanotechnology; Intellectual Property Policy and Impact; Entrepreneurs in the Technological Ecosystem; Major Corporations - Technology, Business, and the Culture of Opportunity; Nanotechnology in Federal Labs
Section 3 - Materials and Industries: Nanoscale Materials; Nanotechnology-Enabled Sensors - Possibilities, Realities, and Diverse Applications; Microelectronics; Drug Delivery; Bio-Nano-Information Fusion
Section 4 - Convergence and Integration: Convergence and Integration; Ethical Considerations in the Advance of Nanotechnology
Epilogue: Infinitesimal Machinery
Acronyms and Abbreviations; Index

As a compilation of articles and essays, you're exposed to the thoughts and concepts of many of the people working on the front lines of nanotech.  You also get a broad coverage of the different areas that will be affected by it, such as the delivery of medicine.  Having a family member who is a type 1 diabetic, it's interesting to read how a nanotech-enabled approach to insulin delivery could dramatically alter the way he lives his life.  While not a "cure" per se, it does allow the body to function as if nothing is broken.  It was also interesting to read how universities and companies really can't live without each other in this field.  Most companies can't afford to do pure research without some view towards an end product to recoup costs.  Universities can do that research, but often need financial assistance.  By licensing their discoveries, universities can pay for their research, and companies can benefit from that research at a fraction of the cost and risk of doing it themselves.  A real symbiotic relationship...  It's this type of material that you'll find in here...

The standard disclaimer applies here when it comes to compilations.  Since you have different writers, you'll have different styles of communication.  Many chapters are very readable, but some are a bit more "slogging" than others.  And overall, this book does assume a relative familiarity with the field.  It's not a book I'd recommend to someone looking to get their first exposure to the subject.  But if you've been moderately following the industry, you'll benefit from the time spent reading...

02/18/2006

The DVD of our Lotusphere session arrived today!

Category Lotusphere 2006

Having never watched myself speak before, I was somewhat hesitant to load it up.  I mean, what if my mental image of "Duffbert, the speaker" is grossly off from what resides in my imagination?

Well, I'm happy to say it's not too bad.  I only watched a few minutes of it, but it's passable.  I'm sure I'll develop a laundry list of things to work on as a speaker (it's already started), but I'm at least OK with letting people at work see it.

I think...  :)

I'll have more input after I get done ripping it to my hard drive in CD size so I can preserve the original evidence...

02/16/2006

Show And Tell Thursday: Dynamic Sorting Of Data On A Document...

Category Show And Tell Thursday


Some time back, I inherited an application that tracked milestones on a project.  Each milestone line contained milestone name, start date, original planned end date, current end date, and actual end date fields.  Not so bad, except there were 70 lines of this data!  Five fields times 70 lines...  350 fields!  The only redeeming factor is how the fields were named...  Milestone_0, Milestone_1, and so on up through Milestone_69.  At least you could access them programmatically.

Now the users made a request that really worried me.  They wanted to be able to sort the 70 lines of data on any one of the five field values.  So if they wanted the list to be sorted in start date order, all the data on the document needed to be rewritten in those 350 fields in the proper order...  What to do?

What I ended up doing was somewhat creative (for me, at least!).  I would ask the user to specify which column should be the sort value, and then I would build an array of that data concatentated by a caret ( ^ ).  The lead value in the array element would be the value found in the specified sort column, followed by the five fields in each line.  I then used a sort routine stolen from somewhere that would sort an array.  Since my sort value was at the front of the array, the sorting was no problem.  Once the array was sorted into the new order, I simply read the array and replaced the field values.  Voila...  dynamic sorting at the user's request!

Here's the code I used to accomplish this hack...

02/14/2006

Book Review - The Non-Designer's Type Book by Robin Williams

Category Book Reviews


As an avid reader and (some would argue) somewhat-successful writer, I spend a lot of time looking at the printed word.  But I don't have a full appreciation behind the effort and thought that goes into how that word gets transferred from writer to reader on paper.  Robin Williams has a great book for those of us who are not professionals in the world of typesetting...  
The Non-Designer's Type Book.

Contents:  Centuries of Type; The Art of Readability; The Art of Legibility; Quotation Marks - Or Not?; Hang that Punctuation; Punctuation Style; Shift that Baseline; OpenType & Expert Sets; Small Caps; Oldstyle Figures; Ligatures; Condensed and Extended Type; Display Type; Kerning; Linespacing (leading); Paragraph Spacing; Alignment; Headlines and Subheads; Pull Quotes; Captions; Emphasizing Type; Line Breaks and Hyphenation; Swash Characters; Initial Caps; Typographic Color; Ornaments & Dingbats; Pi & Picture Fonts; Don't be a Wimp!; Evocative Typography; Choose a Typeface; Telltale Signs of Desktop Publishing; Trends in Type; Typographic Terms; Listen to Your Eyes; Font and Product Vendors; Special Characters; Index


It's easy to look at something written and get an immediate impression as to whether it looks good or not.  But it's really hard sometimes to know exactly why.  Williams demystifies the whole world of print design in such a way that even a novice like me starts to "get it".  Her explanation of font styles and when to use what should be required reading for everyone putting words to paper.  Just because you can use 10 fonts in a report doesn't mean you should.  Going a little deeper, you learn about kerning (spacing between letters) and how that can be adjusted for the best visual results.  All of these subjects continue to build on each other, and by the end of the book you have a solid foundation on the subject.  What makes the book even better is that her writing style is conversational and somewhat irreverent, and there are an abundance of examples on nearly every page.  Even if you already know a particular rule (such as using smart quotes or hanging punctuation), the visual nature of her writing can be used to glean ideas for your own work.  Reference and inspiration in a single volume is a hard thing to accomplish, but she pulls it off with ease.


This is another one of those books that will stay close at hand.  This will probably be more of a "stay at home" book, as that's where a lot of my writing takes place.  But it's guaranteed to get slotted in next to all my other volumes that allow me to make-believe I'm a writer.  Great book...

02/13/2006

Book Review - The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Category Book Reviews

I'm always in the mood for a good legal thriller, and I had the pleasure of reading Michael Connelly's latest, The Lincoln Lawyer.  An interesting story of right, wrong, and ethics...

Mickey Haller is a defense attorney that is very good at what he does...  giving his clients the legal defense they are granted by law.  And while his clients are not really the cream of society, he takes pride in his services.  He stumbles into a "franchise" case, one in which the money is large and the benefits will be long-term.  He only has to prove that his rich client didn't savagely assault and nearly murder a prostitute.  And initially, it looks like the client really *is* innocent.  But the facts start to show that not only did he do it, but he's done it in the past.  And a client that Haller forced a plea-bargain on many years ago may have been a victim of this same person.  Haller has to start balancing his legal and ethical obligations to his client against what is truly "right".  And one misstep may mean that he's on the hook for a murder he didn't commit, but that his client has him framed nicely for...

This was really an excellent read.  The good guys and bad guys are all just shades of gray, and often what's right isn't what's legal.  The story paces nicely and accelerates towards the end, with a few twists that are just enough to keep you guessing as to the outcome of it all.  While Connelly isn't an author I get on library wait lists for, I'm always entertained by his writing...

02/13/2006

Consolidating email on the Pod

Category IBM/Lotus

From Paul Murphy's blog:  Consolidating email on the Pod

Lotus Domino is the central component in a messaging and document retrieval system capable of far more than email and scheduling - it can, for example, host a professional firm's knowledge management efforts or a collaborative work environment for ad hoc teams.

In the long run it's those other capabilities that could make consolidating to Domino a good idea for your organization - because you'll be able to do stuff, like deploy multiple portals concurrently or skip the Active Directory, Exchange, and Outlook upgrades coming with the next Microsoft server release, that just aren't practical in the traditional Microsoft client-server world.

From a quick and dirty porting perspective, however, Domino's simplest use is as the core element in a Microsoft Exchange replacement scenario aimed at consolidating multiple Windows based Exchange servers on one larger machine. The key to this is that you don't have to change all your Outlook clients to do it - according to IBM's features support comparison almost everything Outlook can do in an all Microsoft environment is now also fully supported in Domino.

Domino runs on just about everything too: meaning that your consolidation options include servers running major Windows variants, zOS, Linux, Solaris, and even AIX.

02/12/2006

Close to joining the VoIP revolution for our home phone...

Category Everything Else

One of the benefits to reviewing books is that I end up with exposure to a lot of different technologies that I might otherwise ignore.  One of those exposures has been to Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, phone service.  Basically, it's running your phone service over your internet connection instead of over the traditional phone system.  Skype is the freebie example of this, and Vonage brought the concept home to ordinary consumers.  Now it seems that every broadband provider is more than willing to take your money in this area.

For me, I'm a Comcast subscriber for both analog cable and high-speed internet.  I've been real happy with the results, so I don't have a problem with service levels.  My wife saw an ad for switching to digital voice with Comcast for $29.95 a month for the first three months ($39.95 after that).  I've sort of ignored our personal phone situation, since our Qwest bill doesn't run much more than $45 a month.  Most of our long distance is done via cell phone, so our long distance charges are negligible.  But now Ian has a girlfriend...  in New York...  3000+ miles away...

And you don't want to know what the last cell phone bill was...

I finally convinced him to load up Skype to talk with her, but this was at the same time as my/his old laptop died.  So now he's back to weekend talks and IM'ing from various computers around the house.  If I get Comcast digital voice, the problem is solved.  I talked with a friend from hockey last night about it.  He switched to Comcast voice awhile back, and has nothing but good things to say about it.

So...  I may not be a bleeding edge adopter of new technology, but I know enough to determine when it will be stable enough to benefit me personally.  And I think that VoIP just hit that point...

02/11/2006

It's migration, *not* coexistence...

Category Microsoft

From yellowisthenewblack.com: Coexistence?

Gary Devendorf's team leader (boss?) has a blog post talking about his role managing Microsoft evangelists, including Gary's role.  And what's the definition he uses for that role?  

Notes migration

Let's just look at the definition of that word "migration":

migration

   1. A change from one hardware or software technology to another. Migration is a way of life in the computer industry. For example, once known only to those in the glass-enclosed datacenter, users today understand the meaning of migrating from one operating system to another.

   2. Moving data from one storage system to another (data migration).

   3. Moving data and applications from one computer to another.

That's quite a bit different than "coexistence", which is the story we've been told.  

Co·ex·ist·ence

Existence at the same time with another; -- contemporary existence.

I took a bit of heat in my blog for the pre-Lotusphere post supporting IBM's position of denying Microsoft and Gary a booth.  A lot of people tried to tell me that his information was useful, which I don't deny or argue.  A few suggested I have a problem with Gary, which I don't.  My main problem is that Gary's repeated message of coexistence and cooperation is at odds with Microsoft's message of migration away from Notes.  And his assertion that Microsoft really doesn't care about Notes and that all this work is his own personal quest to help Domino developers just flat out doesn't hold water.  

So Gary?  Rock on with your Domino/.Net work.  For those who need to integrate with or even <shudder!> migrate to Microsoft technologies, the information will be invaluable.  But can we now officially cut the kumbaya crap about just wanting to help us Domino developers out?  Your job is evangelizing Notes migration.  You work for Microsoft now, not Lotus.  And if you represent Microsoft in any official capacity at an event, you also represent their position.  

Regardless of what you might want us to believe (or what *you* personally believe) otherwise...

02/11/2006

The February issue of the LotusUserGroup.org Developer Tips newsletter is out...

Category LotusUserGroup.org

You can find it here.

Yeah, I'm biased.  I'm one of the editors...  :)

02/10/2006

Major kudos to Rob Novak and company...

Category Everything Else


One of the highlights of my Lotusphere session attendance was BP303 - The Great Code Giveaway by
Rob Novak and Viktor Krantz.  One of the techniques and code giveaways involved an Ajax-based web-enabled calendar.  The reason this was so cool is that I had a project waiting for me at home that was asking for that exact same thing (minus the Ajax, of course).  I knew what I was seeing on the screen was basically my new application with a new style sheet.  Couldn't wait to get back...  :)

So, I finally got to the point of adding in the proper elements from the code example and firing up my DWA calendar app.  The good news was that the functionality worked perfectly.  The bad news is that I was getting no style sheet info.  After a bit of digging, I noticed that the URLs that were being built to grab style sheets from the design were not formatted correctly.  What was worse is that I couldn't figure out why!  After running out of ideas, I emailed Rob and Viktor at
SNAPPS hoping that I could get some sort of answer in a couple of days...

Probably no more than 30 minutes later, I got a response back from Rob explaining exactly why I was seeing what I was seeing.  With his suggested workaround, I was able to get the calendar styled with CSS and delivered the application for testing to the user later that day.


So...  my public thanks to Rob and Company for 1) giving away such cool code, and 2) responding so quickly to questions related to it.  A real credit to the Domino community...

02/10/2006

Book Review - Hacking Gmail by Ben Hammersley

Category Book Reviews

Gmail rewrote the rules on how online email functions.  At the same time, the folks at Google have offered up a platform for some really cool programming tricks.  Ben Hammersley explores a number of those tricks and hacks in the book Hacking Gmail.  A very enlightening read...

Contents:
Part 1 - Starting to Use Gmail: Desktop Integration; Integrating Your Existing Mail; Gmail Power Tips
Part 2 - Getting Inside Gmail: Skinning Gmail; How Gmail Works; Gmail and Greasemonkey; Gmail Libraries; Checking for Mail; Reading Mail; Sending Mail
Part 3 - Conquering Gmail: Dealing with Labels; Addressing Addresses; Building an API from the HTML-Only Version of Gmail; Exporting Your Mail; Using Gmail to; Using GmailFS; Long Code Listings; Index

Hammersley has written an entertaining book that delves deep into the inner workings of Gmail, and in the process uncovers a lot of functionality that isn't apparent on the surface.  By using Firefox and a few strategic plugins, he's able to dissect the HTML and Javascript used to display the Gmail interface.  This hunting trip shows how Ajax grabs data in the background so that screen updates happen without trips back to the server.  It also uncovers the URLs that are used to get that data, and he then shows how those URLs can be used for so much more.  Many of the hacks he shows use Perl and Python libraries that you can use to interact with Gmail without the Gmail interface.  He also shows how you can use a few Greasemonkey scripts to completely change the user interface, or "skin", of Gmail to fit your own preferences.  It's all really incredible stuff that you probably won't find from too many other sources.

There's only one "drawback" to this book, and that's the everchanging "beta-ness" of Gmail.  All the analysis that Ben's done could easily be wiped out by an update to Gmail by Google.  In fact, as I type this, Google has announced a whole new interface that is being rolled out.  You could look at that and think this book is already obsolete.  I would disagree, however.  The fact he was even *able* to get this book published with all the ongoing Gmail changes is amazing.  But even with all the changes, the fundamental principles he uncovers will likely *not* change for a long time.  He also shows you an interesting set of hacking tools that will serve you well for other projects going forward.  To me, those were worth the price of admission themselves.

The sooner you read this book, the more immediate gratification you can get.  But even if you buy it six months down the road after a Gmail interface change, you'll still learn more about the service than you thought possible...

02/09/2006

Book Review - Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell

Category Book Reviews

OK...  this one earns a spot on my bookshelf at work...  Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell.

Contents: What Users Do; Organizing The Content; Getting Around; Organizing The Page; Doing Things; Showing Complex Data; Getting Input From Users; Builders and Editors; Making It Look Good; References; Index

This is one of those books that you'll read once and then start making post-it note bookmarks in certain areas.  Tidwell starts each chapter with an explanation of that particular area of interface design.  For instance, in Organizing The Content, she talks about how layout of content makes a difference in how users find and perceive the data.  In addition, you have a number of constraints to work under, depending on the target of your application (full-screen monitor vs. cell phone browser).  Then things get really good.  She presents a number of "patterns", or practical examples of how you can implement a design technique.  Sticking with the Organizing chapter, you have the following patterns: Two-Panel Selector, Canvas Plus Palette, One-Window Drilldown, Alternative Views, Wizard, Extras on Demand, Intriguing Branches, and Multi-Level Help.  Each pattern has a visual showing what it looks like, a "what" explanation, a "use when" description of when it should be considered, "why" it works as a technique, "how" it should be implemented, and some "examples" of how it's used in real software and websites.  What you end up with is a rich volume of design techniques that can make the difference between a "wow" application and shelfware...

Like many good designs, you will probably look at some of these and not even realize that there was a pattern at play.  Some designs have become de-facto standards for particular situations, and we don't even think about them any more.  But when you deconstruct a site and see what's really going on, you can start to become more savvy in your choice of layout and interaction with the user.  And for those of us who are more comfortable with back-end coding than front-end user interfaces, we'll take all the help we can get!

This book will carve out a space within arm's reach on my work bookshelf.  Periodic review of the contents will go far in making me a better designer in my development activities.  I really like this book...

02/09/2006

Book Review - Perfect Passwords by Mark Burnett

Category Book Reviews


Mark Burnett has probably spent more time thinking and investigating passwords that either you or I.  He takes all his accumulated experience and wisdom and offers it up in the book
Perfect Passwords - Selection, Protection, Authentication.

Contents: Passwords - The Basics and Beyond; Meet Your Opponent; Is Random Really Random?; Character Diversity - Beyond the Alphabet; Password Length - Making It Count; Time - The Enemy of All Secrets; Living with Passwords; Ten Password Pointers - Building Strong Passwords; The 500 Worst Passwords of All Time; Another Ten Password Pointers Plus a Bonus Pointer; The Three Rules for Strong Passwords; Celebrate Password Day; The Three Elements of Authentication; Test Your Password; Random Seed Words; Complete Randomness; Index


If you've been around computer systems for any time, you've heard the conventional wisdom on creating secure passwords.  And regardless of how many times it's said, you still get users picking the word "password" for access to the payroll system.  Burnett has created an easy-to-read, easily-understood guide on how passwords work, how passwords are usually chosen, and why most of those methods are really bad.  But rather than just be gloom and doom, he also presents a number of techniques for generating long passwords that are easy to remember but that will resist virtually all efforts at password cracking.  For instance, passwords of 15 to 20 characters with a mix of upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters are resistant to every known form of cracking attempt (even rainbow lists).  But how do you pick a word or words that meet that criteria?  Maybe you use rhyming (poor-white-dog-bite) or repetition (2bitter@2bitter.com).  Visualization is pretty good, too (Frozen banana in my shoe.)  The phrases are nonsensical, but that's why they are not "guessable".  And the diversity of the character set coupled with the length of the phrase means that the permutation possibilities are astronomical and can't even begin to be brute-forced with today's technology.


I'm not sure you could get every user in your company to read the book, but it'd be worth trying.  It's a fast read at only 180 pages, and they could even benefit just by making sure their password isn't in the top 500 list.  :)

02/09/2006

Book Review - Insider Threat by Dr. Eric Cole and Sandra Ring

Category Book Reviews

Often the worst threats to your systems are from those you consider "trusted".  Dr. Eric Cole and Sandra Ring discuss that subject in the book Insider Threat - Protecting the Enterprise from Sabotage, Spying, and Theft.

Contents:
Part 1 - Insider Threat Basics: What Is There to Worry About?; Behind the Crime
Part 2 - Government: State and Local Government Insiders; Federal Government
Part 3 - Corporations: Commercial; Banking and Financial Sector; Government Subcontractors
Part 4 - Analysis: Profiles of the Insider Threat; Response - Technologies That Can Be Used to Control the Insider Threat; Survivability
Index

Through the use of a very large number of stories and examples, Cole and Ring explore the (unfortunately) large number of ways in which your company or organization can be compromised by "insiders", people who you would consider to be trusted.  It's one thing to make sure the grounds are secured and the computer systems are protected from outsiders.  But what happens when the top sales guy decides to move to the competition and takes his client list with him?  What about the cleaning crew who has full run of the office when nobody is there to watch them?  And my favorite...  the disgruntled computer guru who decides to teach the company a lesson on his way out the door.  These threats are very real, and perhaps even more damaging than the threats you normally think about from the outside.

While I generally like the content and material they present here, I think the book suffers from poor editing and layout.  There are few illustrations or diagrams to break up lengthy sections of text, and the amount of white space seems to be pretty low.  I'm also not fond of how the bulleted points are handled.  You'll be reading along and come to a point with four bulleted items.  Each item is then given a paragraph header and a few pages.  By the time you make it through those bullet points, you've lost the flow of what led up to them.  I also felt like I had to read quite a ways through the book before I started to learn how to set up a system to guard against insider threats.  There are plenty of examples of threats along with quick points about how to mitigate them, but there didn't seem to be much in the way of a comprehensive "bringing together" of the information into some sort of a framework.  By the time I got to what resembled that at the end, I was a bit worn out...

The subject matter is good, and the points made in the book need to be considered and followed.  Your company can easily be wiped out if you aren't careful.  I just which the book had been laid out better for the reader...

02/09/2006

Book Review - Private Wars by Greg Rucka

Category Book Reviews

After reading the first Queen and Country novel, A Gentleman's Game, and being moderately entertained, I decided to try Greg Rucka's follow-up called Private Wars.  I think I'll end up reading more by Rucka, but they probably won't be on my A-list...

Tara Chace is back after losing the father of her unborn child at the end of a botched mission in the Middle East.  She's had it with government politics and espionage, and wants nothing more to do with it.  Until she realizes that now she's really just like everyone else, with no real direction in life other than raising her daughter as a secretive single mother living with her dead lover's mother.  Her boredom gets the best of her, and she's lured back into the game when she's offered a chance to extract an Uzbekistan politician who might well be killed by his sister in a government coup.  That mission becomes a fiasco when it's found that her handlers really just want to find some missing anti-aircraft missiles, and they really don't care to support the Uzbek politician.  She's captured, tortured, and is close to being murdered before her release is secured at the last moment.  The fear and humiliation of the ordeal fuels her desire for revenge, and she jumps at the chance to go back into Uzbek territory a few months later to clean up the original mission (and dish out a little retribution in the process).  She has to guess who might be telling the truth, who might be playing her, and which side she wants to support...

Generally I liked the book, but I tended to get bogged down when the story turned to internal politics of the English intelligence service.  I was never quite following who was aligning with who and for what reason, and I'm sure that probably caused me to miss a bit of the story-line of Chace's missions.  When the story focused on Chace and the actual mission, it was pretty good reading.  And towards the end, things really flew.  But this was the type of book that I could finish in a couple days if I really get into it.  Instead, it took me a week and I was reading a number of other books at the same time.  No real compulsion to keep turning pages...

If I have the chance to read another Rucka novel, I probably will.  It'll probably sit around for a bit if there are other books in the pile, though...

02/09/2006

A plea to anyone accused of something in the media...

Category Everything Else

With corporate corruption, financial mismanagement, and general criminal activity running rampant in society today, it's not unusual for the media to get ahold of a story.  And the knee-jerk reaction of all the accused individuals, either personally or through their lawyers, is to loudly proclaim "I didn't do it, I'm innocent, there's nothing to see here."  And to that I say...

Society ain't buying it any more...

We've become far too jaded as a society to believe just about anyone when they protest their innocence now.  We're cynical from being lied to repeatedly, from the highest levels of government clear down to our sports heros we've put on pedestals.

Take the latest gambling scandal in the NHL.  Potential ties to organized crime.  Wayne Gretzky's wife implicated.  And what does he do?  Hold a press conference proclaiming how confused he is about it all, how he's trying to figure out what's going on himself, and how he's not involved in any of it.  And what happens today?  News of wiretapped conversations where he's discussing the gambling ring and how to keep his wife from being named.  Guess you *lied* to us, Wayne!  And if you lied about that, are we to believe that you weren't placing any bets either?  And don't tell me you were unaware of her involvement...  We already know you know.  And I don't think a wife dumps $500K and easily hides it from hubby...

From now on, can people accused of something just issue a simple "no comment"?  You look *really* stupid when facts show otherwise...

02/09/2006

Follow-up on my Google/Dell post from yesterday...

Category Microsoft

That was the post where Google is reportedly paying $1 billion to put their software on Dell computers...

Now I read in the Manila Bulletin Online that Google is testing GooBuntu, their own version of Linux.  If that's indeed the case, what would it take to extend their partnership with Dell to offer that as an OS option, perhaps saving consumers (and Dell) a few hundred in OS licensing costs per machine?

And this dovetails nicely with an eWeek article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols where he asks Must Linux Buy Its Way Onto The Desktop?  

Opinion: If Google has to pay a cool billion to Dell to get its applications on the desktop, what is it going to take to get Linux pre-installed on a tier-one vendor's desktop?

My guess is, they just did...

02/08/2006

Microsoft's response to the latest Red Bull findings has been strangely silent...

Category Microsoft

I'm semi-surprised/semi-not about how all the "official" Microsoft sources for Red Bull information have stayed silent over the technical analysis of how Red Bull works...

Apparently the original situation was so bad that the collaboration team there decided to start a blog to address the issues.  On that count, I laud them for deciding to use a powerful medium to get their side of the story out (regardless of how wrong we might think it is).  So what do they do with this ideal mechanism?  Everyone introduces themselves, pats themselves on the back for assembling such a great team, tells us all sorts of exciting things are going on, and basically holds a Kumbaya lovefest amongst themselves.

And meanwhile, let's just ignore the fact that the software do much, and what little it *does* do is based on a flawed premise of determining a template application...

02/08/2006

Dell's Google software test may hurt Microsoft

Category Microsoft

From The Seattle Times:  Dell's Google software test may hurt Microsoft

Dell is testing software from Google and may distribute the programs on its PCs, a move that would be a blow to Microsoft.

The test includes a Google-powered Dell home page, Google desktop search and Google Toolbar, Dell spokesman Jess Blackburn said Tuesday. He declined to discuss a possible deal.

Google is apparently looking to pay Dell a billion dollars over three years for this privilege.  Although I think the software being mentioned in the article isn't *that* big a deal, it's the nose of the camel poking into Microsoft's tent.  Users buy Dell computers, and they see Google software.  Next step, Google creates their own browser ("Growser"?) and adds that to the mix.  People use it because it's there...  the *exact* advantage that Microsoft has had with all their software being part and parcel of each new Windows PC.  Linux-based Google operating system ("GoOSe"?) ventures forth?  Dell offers it as a choice on new PCs...

Some stock analysts have clobbered Google on this, as they see it as a huge expenditure to get new customers.  I see it as a pretty shrewd investment to get a place at the table that's been traditionally a Microsoft-only event.

02/08/2006

IBM Lotus Domino LDAP Server Denial of Service Vulnerability

Category IBM/Lotus

From Secunia:  http://secunia.com/advisories/18738/

Secunia Advisory:        SA18738
Release Date:        2006-02-07

Critical: Less critical
Impact: DoS
Where: From local network
Solution Status: Unpatched

Software: IBM Lotus Domino 7.x

Description: Evgeny Legerov has discovered a vulnerability in Lotus Domino, which can be exploited by malicious people to cause a DoS (Denial of Service).

The vulnerability is caused due to an error in the LDAP server within the handling of certain requests. This can be exploited to crash the service via a specially-crafted request sent to port 389/tcp.

The vulnerability has been confirmed in version 7.0. Other versions may also be affected.

Solution: Restrict access to the LDAP service.

02/07/2006

Yeah, but we still hate you...

Category Everything Else

Back in the early '80's, my wife and I used to follow the Portland Winter Hawks, the local major junior hockey team.  At that time, Portland was one of the first American teams in the CHL, and our owners had money.  While the other teams played in small towns, in arenas that would seat 4000, we played in the same arena as the NBA Portland Trailblazers, often to crowds of 10000 or more.  We became the first American team to win the Memorial Cup, major junior's equivalent of the Stanley Cup.  Needless to say, the 'Hawks weren't necessarily the most popular team in the league...

When we'd go on road trips to "happening" places like Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, the small group of boosters would be harassed endlessly by the home fans, and the chant of "Portland Sucks!" was heard at least one during the game.  The funny thing was, the "Portland Sucks" chant was also heard at games where Portland *wasn't* playing!  Didn't matter if we were there or not...  Portland sucked, and the fans wanted to make sure we knew it.

Why do I share this?  I was reminded of this when I was reading a story about the cartoon protests raging in Denmark and other places.  For once, it wasn't "the Great Satan" that did something to evoke worldwide protest.  And what did the protesters chant outside the Danish embassies?

"Death to America"

:)

02/06/2006

Another great post on Workdomosphere...

Category Microsoft

David DeWell is fitting in real nice with his latest post Sometimes life hands you material.....

Definitely a piece of writing that Microsoft doesn't lead with...  :)

02/05/2006

Book Review - Windows XP Hacks And Mods For Dummies by Woody Leonhard

Category Book Reviews

If you run Windows XP and you're annoyed by the number of things you can't do (or so says Microsoft), you'll love this book...  Windows XP Hacks & Mods For Dummies by Woody Leonhard.

Contents:
Part 1 - The Nuts & Bolts of Hacks & Mods: Windows XP - What's Not to Love?; Tools of the Hacking Trade; A Quick XP Makeover
Part 2 - Controlling the Look and Feel of Windows XP: TweakUI, the Power User's PowerToy; Pinning Down the Start Menu; Taking On the Taskbar; Decking Out the Desktop
Part 3 - Adjusting Everyday Activities: Reining In Windows Explorer; Cool Keyboard Hacks and Menu Mods; Searching on the Desktop; Switching to Better Online Software; Pulling Off Pictures
Part 4 - Modding to Monitor and Manage: Seeing What's Happening; Decoding IDs, Accounts, and Passwords; Using Remote Assistance; Retooling Disks
Part 5 - Protecting Yourself (And Your PC): Changing (In)Security Settings; Taking the "Mal" out of Malware; Keeping Your Privates Private
Part 6 - Entertaining Yourself: Making the Most of Media Player; Buying Music and Videos; Trading Music and Videos; Getting Games to Work
Part 7 - The Part of Tens: Ten Steps to Mastering the Registry; Ten Speed-Up Hacks - Maybe
Index

This was one of the most entertainingly informative books I've had the pleasure of reading in awhile.  Leonhard is not at all a fan of Microsoft and his cynicism drips on every page.  Things I normally take for granted as "that's just the way it works" are dissected, and ways to hack around them are outlined.  For instance, perhaps you don't like the way that the roller wheel on your mouse scrolls more than one line at a time.  Woody shows you how to download the TweakUI powertoy from Microsoft, which has the ability to tweak that setting and seemingly a hundred more.  He also suggests a number of other software packages (non-Microsoft, of course) to allow you to have a more safe and secure computing experience.  Substitute Firefox for IE.  Switch out MSN for Trillian or Gaim.  Basically, you'll find dozens of gems in these chapters that will quickly pay back your investment in time and dollars with the book.  Plus, you'll have fun reading it.  Leonhard's a great writer...

Definitely a recommended volume to have at hand for your Windows XP computing experience...

02/05/2006

The Red Bull "Analyzer"... Is it actually *this* bad?

Category Microsoft


From the Workdomosphere blog by David DeWell (modchaos):  
Microsoft Application Analyzer has my official FUD seal...

After looking through the Microsoft.Exechange.AppAnalyzer.DataCollection DLL I see absolutely no methods or functions reading design in this application. All the DataCollection is doing is reading the database header information. Being the disbelieving soul that I am, I restarted my machine with the SoftIce suite. Re-Ran the Analyzer and pulled up Softice during the "Data Collection" stage. Much to my surprise, there are functions that I missed that are being called that access the database. With method names such as "StartDataCollection" and "StartDataImport" I thought maybe I had missed so methods looking through these DLLs when it dawned on me that SoftIce was not lying that they returned null values. There is no code in these methods. They do NOTHING. So, after confirming that this application just gets header information with SoftIce, I pulled out my trusty HexEditor and scanned through the DLLs looking for clues and verified what my DLL search had brought to my attention.


Since David provided a trail as to what he did, this information should be verifiable.  And if true, it proves *exactly* what the Notes community has been contending all along.  The tool is useless and is nothing more than a smoke screen released to coincide with Lotusphere.  


Redmond, your turn to counter.  Let's see if you can come up with less than four official answers this time, huh?

02/05/2006

Notes tip - removing blank browser windows when launching notes:// URLs

Category Software Development

Another one of those "if I type it here, maybe I'll remember it next time..." tips...

I frequently use Notes URLs (notes://) to allow a webpage to launch a Notes database, document, or view.  I also have a habit of using a "target=_blank" parameter in many of my URLs.  But when you combine these two things, you end up getting your Notes document launched along with a blank browser window.  If you eliminate the target parameter, the Notes client fires up with no additional browser window activity.

I never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer, OK?  :)

02/04/2006

Book Review - Greasemonkey Hacks by Mark Pilgrim

Category Book Reviews

Bottom line...  I'm hooked.  I was vaguely aware of what Greasemonkey was, but I really hadn't taken the time to explore it.  That time is now over.  I had a chance to review a copy of Greasemonkey Hacks by Mark Pilgrim, and I don't think I'll look at web browsing the same again.

Contents:  Getting Started; Linkmania!; Beautifying the Web; Web Forms; Developer Tools; Search; Web Mail; Accessibility; Taking Back the Browser; Syndication; Site Integration; Those Not Included in This Classification; Index

This is a typical O'Reilly Hacks title, where you have 100 tips and tricks on exploiting some technology or toy.  In this volume, Mark Pilgrim shows how you can use the Greasemonkey extension for Firefox to completely change the way you interact with web pages.  The first two tips show how to install Greasemonkey and how to install a Greasemonkey script that you either download or write yourself.  From there, it's all over the board as far as what you can do with these script gems.  Tired of dealing with URLs on a site that aren't clickable?  Check out tip #13 (Turn Naked URLs into Hyperlinks).  Want to have a web page refresh itself automatically every x minutes (even though they don't have a meta refresh tag)?  Then go to tip #41 (Refresh Pages Automatically).  And my favorite...  Hate those web site registrations that force you to enter basic information every time just to see the content?  Do you normally use BugMeNot to find an existing registration?  Wish that all could be integrated and automated in your browser?  Tip #84 - Bypass Annoying Site Registration.  I can tell you that this one was the first Greasemonkey script I installed, and it's way cool...

This is really not a "how to code Greasemonkey scripts" book.  You're dealing with JavaScript and the document object model, but Pilgrim and his group of contributors don't spend any time trying to teach you how to do all that.  The book delivers the scripts already coded and tested, and you just have to install them.  But that's not bad, and it works on a number of levels.  If you've never used Greasemonkey, it's a great way to discover the power (as I did).  And if you *are* a Greasemonkey user and/or developer, this will give you many new ideas on scripts you might want to write yourself.  And since you can download the scripts from the O'Reilly site, you already have a solid base of code from which to start.  Hard to beat that in terms of value...

Obviously, I like tech books and I read a lot.  But not often do I run across a book that ends up changing the way I view the basic technology I touch every day.  If I wasn't a Firefox user, this book would convince me to become one in short order.  As a Firefox user, I'm now convinced that I can personalize and manipulate web sites and information in ways I never imaged.  This is really a recommended read...

02/04/2006

Book Review - Pro Apache Ant by Matthew Moodie

Category Book Reviews

Ant is one of those "Swiss Army Knife" tools that can take care of a stunning amount of work when it comes to automating your build process.  Matthew Moodie does a good job mixing reference and practical information about Ant in his book Pro Apache Ant.

Contents:  Introducing Ant; Installing Ant; Using Ant; Examining Ant's Types; Building a Project; Deploying an Application; Running an Application; Testing an Application; Using Ant in Large Projects; Writing Custom Tasks; Extending Ant; Using the Ant API; Index

In Pro Apache Ant, Moodie does a quick intro to the package and shows you how to install it.  Once that's done, then you're off on a tour that touches on a wide array of functionality that Ant brings to your development project.  The book seems to be a smooth blend of reference material covered in a format that is more geared towards practicality.  For instance, the Building A Project chapter sets up an example scenario that would commonly be seen in a programming environment.  The structure of the development system is put forth, and then the Ant code is built to show how an Ant script can automate the many manual tasks that would normally be part of the build process.  Interspersed throughout the chapter are tables that show the particular command being used, as well as an explanation of all the particular attributes and parameters that can be used with the command.  As such, you learn *how* to do something as well as having the tools to extend your use beyond the example.  Having the blend of styles makes the book one that will last beyond your learning period.

If you've never worked through build processes in your environment, or if this is your first exposure to a scripting tool like Ant, you may end up proceeding a bit slower than you'd like.  While you can learn everything you need from this book, it seemed to me that the reader would probably do better if they had at least a passing familiarity with scripting tools and a Java build process.  The intro is quick, but if you're willing to do what's necessary to get the basics down, the book will be invaluable going forward.  And if you're looking for something to round out your knowledge of Ant because you use it on a regular basis, then this is a very viable option.  Nice job...

02/04/2006

Notes tip - be careful copying outline entries between databases...

Category Software Development

This is more for me than for you readers.  It's something that I do instinctively, and it always comes back to bite me...  :)

Say you have two or more databases that have similar outline entries, and you're doing maintenance on them.  You add a new outline entry for a new view you introduced, and you set it to "Current Database".  Logically, you can then copy that view entry from the one database into the other database where you just added the same view.  No problem, right?

Wrong...

The outline entry doesn't copy over as "Current Database".  It copies over with the original database as the target.  This means that when the user clicks on the outline entries in the second database, they are actually taken to the view in the first database.  This is a *bad* thing...  :)

I'm hoping that by typing it here and dealing with the aftermath of one of those design decisions, I'll remember *not* to do this in the future...

02/04/2006

Book Review - One Shot by Lee Child

Category Book Reviews

I knew this day would unfortunately come...  I'm now caught up on all the Jack Reacher novels with the completion of Lee Child's One Shot.  Another excellent story in the series...

A sniper sets up in a parking garage and kills five people as they come out of an office building in a small mid-western town.  There's an abundance of evidence left behind, and in short order the police have arrested a retired military veteran who refuses to talk about the crime.  His sister is about the only person who believes him innocent, and the only thing he'll say in his defense is to find Jack Reacher.  Reacher happens to see the story on CNN and travels to the town because he knows the guy.  But it makes no sense that the sniper would want to see Reacher, as it's not the first time he's killed like this.  And Reacher promised him that if anything like this ever happened again, he'd personally deal out the punishment.  Reacher's ready to help them tie the noose until he starts to wonder why all the evidence so perfectly points back to this guy.  And when someone tries to set him up to be "silenced", it only serves to make him dig deeper.  Reacher is convinced there's someone else pulling the strings, but it's all murky as to why.  So the question is whether he'll find out the truth before he gets killed, and who in the small town is trying to cover up reality?

As with all of Child's novels, the plot twists just keep coming.  What is obvious isn't reality, and what's reality isn't obvious.  Reacher is able to draw inferences from the smallest observations along with his experience, and then it's a matter of trying to figure why the story doesn't match the observation.  I'm never quite sure "who dun it" until the end, and I keep putting other things off in order to finish the book.  One Shot was as good a read as I've had in quite awhile, and I'm sorry that I finally caught up with all the books in the series.  The only bright spot is that his next installment is due in May...  :)

02/04/2006

Book Review - The Regime: Evil Advances by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Category Book Reviews

Now that the Left Behind series has finished, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have gone back to the time prior to the first book.  The Regime: Evil Advances picks up from the first prequel and continues the story to a point close to the original Left Behind installment.  While much better (in my opinion) than the first prequel, this one still didn't do a lot for me.  If you're a fan of the Left Behind series, then you'll probably want to read it to understand the characters and their motivations more completely.  If you haven't read the series and have no intention to, then this isn't a book you'd care for.  It starts off with an assumption that you read the first prequel, and it leaves you hanging in a strange place at the end.  The only way this book makes any sense is if you keep reading into the next installment.

Ultimately, I still think the series should have stayed finished without the additions to the prequels...

02/03/2006

Following the Lotusphere Speaker Rating meme...

Category Lotusphere 2006

For our Java Jumpstart session, the numbers (approximately, depending on how you count surveys that answered some questions and left others blank) are...

Quality of material:  85% Excellent, 15 % Good
Quality of speakers: 91% Excellent, 9% Good
Update recommended: 97% Yes, 3% No
Speakers recommended 100% Yes, 0% No

That last one must have been Julian's good looks.  Every time I showed pictures of our session at work, the ladies would be "so who's the cute guy you were presenting with?"  The Joe model co-presenter didn't elicit that kind of reaction...  :)

02/03/2006

Interesting additional pickups of the Red Bull fiasco...

Category Microsoft

Microsoft Lotus-eating tool pulls disappearing act

Lotus friendly blogs smell blood

02/01/2006

The referrer log trend when you get MS Watch-dotted and Ed-dotted all in the same day...

Category Blogging

A picture named M2

:-)

02/01/2006

Mary Jo Foley has picked up the Red Bull story in Microsoft Watch...

Category Microsoft

Microsoft's 'Red Bull' Explanation: A Lot of Bull?  

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