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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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06/29/2006

Book Review - Linux Annoyances For Geeks by Michael Jang

Category Book Reviews
Let's face it...  as much as we'd like Linux to be an oft-chosen alternative to Microsoft Windows outside of IT environments, the fact remains that you still need to be a geek to get everything to work "just right".  Michael Jang has written a very nice book to help both you and the users you support overcome the Linux annoyances with his book Linux Annoyances For Geeks.

Contents:
Configuring a Desktop Environment; Configuring User Workstations; Optimizing Internet Applications; Setting Up Local Applications; Installation Annoyances; Basic Start Configuration; Kernel Itches and Other Configuration Annoyances; System Maintenance; Servicing Servers; User Management; Administration Tips; Index

In some ways, this feels a bit like one of O'Reilly's Recipe books.  Each chapter has a series of "problems" (in this case, annoyances) that are dissected and resolved based on the author's knowledge and advice.  The writing is very person-to-person, with problems like "My CD/DVD Is Locked", My Hard Drive Is Too Slow", and "I Can't Boot Because of a Kernel Panic".  You get the feeling that the author is talking *to* you, not *at* you.  As a result, some problems that could be very intimidating (like kernel panics) are treated in a calm and rational manner.  The information is also not restricted to a single distribution.  He covers solutions in the major distros, like Debian, SUSE, Fedora, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  And the solutions for desktop issues in most cases cover both KDE and Gnome.  You should be able to find *something* in here that relates to your particular setup...

Like many books that try to cover a range of issues or scenarios, your impression of the book is going to be dictated by whether he covered the annoyance(s) that bother you the most.  But even just getting two or three really good answers can make the book extremely valuable to you.  Overall, I thought this was one of the best troubleshooting Linux books I've seen, and one that should be given serious consideration if you regularly work with Linux.

06/28/2006

Book Review - Pro JSF and Ajax by Jonas Jacobi and John R. Fallows

Category Book Reviews
If you already have a background in JavaServer Faces (JSF) and you want to start exploring the integration of that with some of the Web 2.0 technologies, Jonas Jacobi and John R. Fallows have a book that might interest you...  Pro JSF and Ajax - Building Rich Internet Components.

Contents:  
Part 1 - Developing Smarter with JavaServer Faces: The Foundation of JSF - Components; Defining the Date Field Component; Defining the Deck Component
Part 2 - Designing Rich Internet Components: Using Rich Internet Technologies; Loading Resources with Weblets; Ajax Enabling the Deck Component; Ajax Enabling the Date Field Component; Providing Mozilla XUL Renderers; Providing Microsoft HTC Renderers; Switching RenderKits Dynamically
Index

To be honest, this book was beyond my current technology level.  While there is a brief overview of JSF technology, you'll get the most out of the book if you already have a relatively solid grounding in it.  They use two components, the Date Field and the Deck components, to show how JSF can be used to build internet application components that are able to be reused in other applications.  The real value comes in Part 2, where they take those two components and start mixing them up with technologies that allow for rich internet functionality, such as Ajax and XUL.  Using the examples provided, you start to see how a JSF application mixed with something like Ajax allows you to start building internet applications that behave more like desktop client apps...  no round-trips to the server...  no constant screen refreshes to get new content...  Pretty cool stuff.  I'd also recommend that you be pretty conversant with the rich internet technology already.  Like with JSF, there's an assumption that you already understand the basics, so don't think that your first exposure to Ajax could be with this book.  You'll be in pain if you try that route...

If you've had the exposure and you're now looking for some really cool project on which to apply your JSF skills, this could easily be the book that helps you make that transition from "Hello World" to "ooooohhh..."

06/28/2006

So why *are* Europeans more svelte than Americans?

Category Everything Else
In response to my recent post about Americans being fat, I got the following email from a long-time reader...

"I was just wondering, after reading your stream of conscience post, why do you think that Europeans are more svelte that we are? Less 'fast food?' More exercise? Or are those over generalizations?

Curious In Cleveland"

Dear Curious...

Any answer I could come up with to defend my assertions would be just that...  over-generalizations.  Even the statement that Americans are fatter than Europeans is a generalization.  

True, but a generalization...  :)

I suspect it's due to a number of reasons.  Our society is one of convenience, of abundance.  We want to be comfortable and entertained, whether that be with TV, movies, or food.  Why walk a half mile to the store if I can drive there?  Why deny myself the joys of ice cream when the freezer shelf at the supermarket has 100 varieties?  We have no responsibilities, just "rights".  And it's my "right" to have whatever I want, whenever I want it, and I don't want to have to deal with any potential consequences to getting my way.  And if something bad happens in that pursuit, I'll just sue...

Keep in mind, that this comes from someone who is quite comfortable, who is about to go drive to the store (a half-mile away), and who still is 40 pounds over a weight I'd like to be at (which is still 30 pounds over what charts would consider "normal").

My over-generalization is that Americans have lost their drive to excel and to lead.  We've grown complacent and sluggish, and it's happened over a long period of time...  Like the frog who boils to death because they adjust to the slowly rising heat, we've become blind to the predicament we've put ourselves in.  Our world image of ourselves is stuck in the 40's and 50's, and that's not us any more.  We wonder why countries don't react to us as they did back then.  We still want to lead, but no one wants to follow any more.  We've marketed our way into a slumber, while the "third world" countries have ramped up capacity to take over things we used to do.  They are us, 50 years ago.  We are the Roman empire...  a feeling of entitlement in a decayed world that is about to crumble...


And don't ask me how I got from "svelte" to "decayed world"...  reading back over what I just wrote, I don't have a clue...  It just appeared on the screen...  :)

P.S. - "Curious in Cleveland" did not sign his email that way.  He's not from Cleveland.  He's probably not even curious.  I just took artistic license, because I always wanted to answer an email "Dear Curious"...

06/27/2006

Book Review - Refactoring in Large Software Projects by Stefan Roock and Martin Lippert

Category Book Reviews
The concept of refactoring code shouldn't be a new idea to most software developers, but often it's done on a very limited basis.  In those cases, it may be possible to allow the IDE to take care of much of the renaming and such.  But what happens when you want to make a major refactoring change that spans the entire system?  Resources and best practices are a little more rare in that case.  Stefan Roock and Martin Lippert attempt to address that situation in their book Refactoring in Large Software Projects.

Contents:  Introduction; Refactoring - An Overview; Architecture Smells; Large Refactorings; Refactoring of Relational Databases; API Refactorings; Tool-Based Detection and Avoidance of Architecture Smells; Conclusion; Glossary; Index

This book will be most helpful at the architecture level of a system; that is, when you determine that you've painted yourself into a design corner.  It may be necessary to introduce a new feature that is somewhat similar to an existing one, but you can't just kill off the old feature due to unknown usage by others.  Roock and Lippert show how it's possible to make these wholesale changes in a manner that allows for a graceful degradation of current functionality without sacrificing the new design.  It's also helpful if you've solely focused on refactoring at the code level.  The term "code smells" refer to situations where code develops a "stench" due to bad design or practices.  This book takes that concept and stretches it out to the design level.  Even if you're not in a situation where you need to redesign a system to remove some architectural smells, you'll learn what types of designs will introduce those "aromas" and how to avoid them.  Much better not to make the mistake up front, than to have to refactor it out later.

Not an easy read, and you'll probably find some areas a bit more useful or applicable to where you're at.  But if you're responsible for a system that is showing some age and getting harder to maintain, this might be a book that helps you turn the situation around.

06/26/2006

Book Review - MySpace Safety: 51 Tips for Teens and Parents

Category Book Reviews
I recently received a copy of the book MySpace Safety: 51 Tips for Teens and Parents by Kevin Farnham and Dale Farnham.  Since I have two teens (and I'm their parent), I thought it might be interesting to see what they had to say.  As a means for some common ground discussion (and to help educate the adult side), this works pretty well.

Contents: Introduction; Get Ready For MySpace; Joining MySpace; Setting Up Your Account; Your Profile; MySpace Friends; The Extended Network; Group Interaction; Scripted Safety; Abuse; Leaving MySpace; Afterword; Resources; Order This Book

This appears to be a self-published book that focuses on the MySpace social networking site.  The main thrust is to educate parents and teens on how they can be active in MySpace without taking unnecessary risks to expose themselves to predators or identity thieves.  The material is presented in (as the title states) 51 safety tips on what you need to know about MySpace when it comes to personal information.  The authors have combined the safety tips with a small amount of "how to" information that will help the MySpace newbie get up to speed on the features, as well as helping them to avoid initial mistakes that might be hard to fix later on.  The writing is pretty clear and understandable for both adults and teens, so really anyone with decent reading skills should be able to use this guide effectively to understand what's at stake.

Realistically, most techies who spend a lot of time online will not find many new revelations here.  There's a lot of emphasis on not giving out information that could be used to allow others to narrow down your location and such.  But that's not, in my opinion, a drawback.  The value in this book is to give you (as the parent/adult) and your kid a framework for discussing important online safety issues.  The clueless parent who knows nothing of MySpace except what is reported on the news will learn that all MySpace members are not potential threats (as the media often portrays).  The teen (if you can get them to read the book) will at least be presented with the basic privacy tools to allow them to have fun but not risk falling prey to predators.  Since teens already know everything there is to know (just ask them!), they might not take this as seriously as you'd like them to.  But if they remember just enough to get that twinge of "something's not right", then you've done well...

So...  if you think your child will willingly follow all the steps in the book, dream on.  But if you've wanted to instill some sense of online privacy in them and you don't know how, this could well be the place to start...

06/25/2006

I'm doing better at letting Ian go now...

Category Everything Else
Last time Ian took off from home for his DisneyWorld internship, I was a mess...  Once he got there and I got used to the fact that he was going to be OK (probably), I was able to relax a bit.

Yesterday he took off for Walden, New York.  That's where his girlfriend lives, and he's going to spend the summer out there.  He's living in an "apartment" that's part of the funeral parlor that her father owns and runs.  And with any luck, he'll find a job there too.

In Walden...  not necessarily the funeral parlor...

And how did we handle it this time?  Just dropped him off at the airport, wished him well, and then went shopping for groceries...  :)

06/25/2006

Book Review - Thinking In Java (4th Edition) by Bruce Eckel

Category Book Reviews
This book has influenced my Java skills more than any other...  Thinking In Java (4th Edition) by Bruce Eckel.  It's the first one that actually made object-oriented programming understandable for me.

Contents: Introduction; Introduction to Objects; Everything Is an Object; Operators; Controlling Execution; Initialization & Cleanup; Access Control; Reusing Classes; Polymorphism; Interfaces; Inner Classes; Holding Your Objects; Error Handling with Exceptions; Strings; Type Information; Generics; Arrays; Containers in Depth; I/O; Enumerated Types; Annotations; Concurrency; Graphical User Interfaces; Supplements; Resources; Index

I first got a copy of Thinking In Java back in 2000 when I was trying to wrap my mind around the language and object-oriented concepts.  I was fortunate to read it before taking a Java class at the Sun headquarters.  The person teaching object-oriented concepts was "less than stellar", but I was able to get my money's worth because I had been prepped with this book.  Eckel has the rare ability to explain and structure his content in such a way that you feel like you're getting a personalized lesson.  The diagrams and code samples work hand-in-hand to clarify each concept and to build your skill base step-by-step.  Once you get done working your way through the 1400+ pages (yes, it's big!), there's not much you won't be able to do or understand in the world of Java.

Thinking In Java is one of two books I recommend to anyone looking to get started in object-oriented Java coding.  It will always hold a special place on my bookshelf, and I'll be forever in debt to Bruce Eckel for writing such an outstanding book.

06/25/2006

Book Review - Write Great Code Volume 2: Thinking Low-Level, Writing High-Level

Category Book Reviews
Back in "the day", you really couldn't write high-level code without at least some exposure at some point to lower-level code, like Assembler.  Now, you can pretty much be completely ignorant of what happens in your Java or VB code "under the covers".  But that doesn't mean you can't benefit from understanding how your compiler turns your readable code into machine-readable operations.  Randall Hyde does an excellent job in explaining all this in his book Write Great Code Volume 2: Thinking Low-Level, Writing High-Level.

Contents: Thinking Low-Level, Writing High-Level; Shouldn't You Learn Assembly Language?; 80x86 Assembly for the HLL Programmer; PowerPC Assembly for the HLL Programmer; Compiler Operations and Code Generation; Tools for Analyzing Compiler Output; Constants and High-Level Languages; Variables in a High-Level Language; Array Data Types; String Data Types; Pointer Data Types; Record, Union, and Class Data Types; Arithmetic and Logical Expressions; Control Structures and Programmatic Decisions; Iterative Control Structures; Functions and Procedures; Engineering Software; A Brief Comparison of the 80x86 and PowerPC CPU Families; Online Appendices; Index

This is the type of book that will really excite you if you're wondering why a nested if statement performs differently than a case statement.  Hyde explains basic compiler theory, and applies that to how your compiler of choice decides on optimization strategies.  It's impractical to get a program optimized for all factors, like code size and speed, but there are reasonable trade-offs as well as compiler options you can use to prioritize one factor over another.  You also don't have to be completely conversant with Assembler in order to work through this book.  He uses a number of high-level coding examples from various languages (like C, C++, and Pascal) that should be understandable to most any IT developer.  He then shows the translated code at the assembler level and explains why a particular compilation might be good or bad (depending on your requirements).  Once you start to understand how (and why) your compiler "optimizes" your code, you can make more intelligent choices as far as programming constructs.  There is often a dozen ways to do something, but a few of those ways will be far more efficient at the machine level than the others.

If you're writing a program that runs in a second or two, these techniques may not necessarily have an immediate practical application for you.  But that hour-long program may have the same underlying problem as your first program, and it could be that a slight change in program structure at your end could dramatically reduce the run time.  This is one of those books that most serious software developers should have sitting on their shelves...

06/25/2006

Book Review - Blogging For Dummies by Brad Hill

Category Book Reviews
I know I've been blogging for awhile now, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to review this book...  Blogging For Dummies by Brad Hill.  Of course, some may say it's just the book I needed...  :)

Contents:
Part 1 - The What, Where, Why, and How of Weblogs: Understanding Blogging at Last; Blogging Options; Living the Blogging Lifestyle
Part 2 - Starting a Blog Today: MSN Spaces; Yahoo! 360; Finding a Home in Blogger; Creating a TypePad Blog
Part 3 - Installing Your Own Blog Program: The Ins and Outs of DIY Blogging; Running a Movable Type Blog; Blogging with WordPress; Power Plus Ease in Radio Userland; Hybrid Blog Hosts - Power Without the Pain
Part 4 - Total Blog Immersion: Hooking into RSS Feeds; Rules of Blogosphere Citizenship; Blogging for Bucks (or Pennies); Using Your Real Voice - Podcasting; Photoblogging and Audioblogging
Part 5 - The Part of Tens: Ten Blog Engines and Directories; Ten Resources for the Power Blogger
Glossary; Index

It seems that when most people start to blog, they learn a bit about blogging in general and then jump right to a familiar tool like Blogger or MSN Spaces.  That's all well and good, but your style might not be best served by the blog choice you made.  Hill does a pretty good job in categorizing the most prevalent blog tools available today, and then giving a basic install/usage overview for each.  I was familiar with some of these, but the basics of Movable Type and WordPress were something I hadn't explored.  After reading Part 2 and 3, you should have a pretty good idea of which tool fits your style and your anticipated direction.  At that point, you can go online and start diving into your new tool of choice.  

Even if you're a blogger with some history, there's still a few items here that might have slipped off your radar.  I wasn't aware of the audioblogging technology that allows you to embed a spoken clip into a blog posting.  Not necessarily something I want to do, but good to know of.  Part 5 - The Part of Tens - is always a good area to find sites you didn't know about (like a few of the blog search engines and directories).  There are a couple of sites that I could benefit from, and I'll be checking those out...

This is probably a bit more than Uncle Joe would want if he's asking "what's a blog", and the alpha male techno-nerd will likely find it a bit simplistic or light on coverage.  But for the average power user or technology person looking to explore blogging, this might just be the broad coverage they need to start to put things into context...

06/24/2006

Book Review - Prioritizing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger

Category Book Reviews
This is one of those book reviews where I have to separate content from my biases on the presentation of that content...  Prioritizing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger.  Let me elaborate...

Contents: Introduction - Nothing To Hide; The Web User Experience; Revisiting Early Web Usability Findings; Prioritizing Your Usability Problems; Search; Navigation and Information Architecture; Typography - Readability & Legibility; Writing for the Web; Providing Good Product Information; Presenting Page Elements; Balancing Technology with People's Needs; Final Thoughts - Design That Works; Index

I acknowledge that Nielsen is an industry expert in web usability.  He has done extensive usability studies with web sites to capture what works and what doesn't when it comes to web design.  His book Designing Web Usability is often cited as the bible of what should and shouldn't be done on your site.  In Prioritizing, the authors take a look at the past to see if there's been any improvement on the killer sins of web design as covered in Designing.  They update the ranking of the most heinous examples of "features", and then cover what items should be addressed first when it comes to fixing your site.  There's no way to make a perfect site, and you can use this information to focus on getting the biggest payback on your efforts.  

Where I have a problem is with the "attitude" that I perceived in the material.  Designing was one of the first web design books I read, and it really put me off of those types of books.  The expert says "I don't like this", therefore no one should do that.  If something loads in more than 1.52 seconds, it's bad.  I'm exaggerating a bit, but that's the sense I got from reading the book.  Prioritizing is a bit better, but I still had the feeling that Nielsen's preferences and nitpicking were being held up as "best practices", just because he says so.  Yes, I know there is an abundance of research behind his numbers, but going on about how 17% do this and 19% do that got to be a bit much at times.  And when I ran across a couple of pages that had a number of typos scattered throughout, I couldn't help but chuckle...

Yes, this is good information to read and know.  We all know that many sites leave much to be desired when it comes to actual usage.  But I would have had an easier time being open to it if there was a bit more pragmatism and a bit less dogma...  Could just be me, and your mileage might vary, however...

06/24/2006

Book Review - Robert Ludlum's The Altman Code by Gayle Lynds

Category Book Reviews
The other paperback I was using to kill time on the plane during my recent trip was Robert Ludlum's The Altman Code by Gayle Lynds.  This is my first exposure to the Covert-One series, so I can't compare it to others for quality.  But so far as political espionage yarns go, this wasn't bad...

The American government gets wind of a chemical shipment from China to Iran, and the material has only one use...  as weapons.  The official cargo manifest doesn't reflect that reality, and therein lies the problem.  If the military stops the boat, they risk international condemnation for aggression (especially if they are wrong about the contents).  But if they don't stop the boat, then the Iranian government has weapons of mass destruction.  To complicate issues (because there *always* has to be complications), all the official channels that could be used to resolve this matter are taking stances that will move each country to the brink of a massive war.  Not only does the boat need to be stopped before it enters the Gulf, but the government also needs to figure out who is pushing for war over peace...

In many ways, this is the typical "covert action, disavow all knowledge if anything happens" type story.  There's a subplot involving the President and an old prisoner held in China who claims to be the President's biological father.  It's a little "out there", but not so much that it distracts from the main story.  Based on what I saw in this novel, I'd be inclined to look for a few more in the series if I was looking for some mind-candy...

06/24/2006

Book Review - The Simple Truth by David Baldacci

Category Book Reviews
On my recent trip to a user group meeting, I threw this book into my suitcase...  The Simple Truth by David Baldacci.  It ended up being better than I expected...

John Fiske is pretty much estranged from his brother Michael, who is a clerk for the Supreme Court.  But when Michael is murdered, John decides to take a break from his defense attorney life and revisit his cop days to help out in the investigation.  The key piece of evidence is a missing appeal that Michael took from the mail room but never logged into the system.  It was filed by one Rufus Harms, a black soldier who has been in prison for a quarter century for murdering a little girl.  The appeal must have something that others wish to have buried, because everyone who touches the appeal or someone close to it becomes a target...  even John Fiske.

The book is structured such that you know the appeal must be personally damaging to many high-powered individuals, but you really don't know the what or why until close to the end.  For a 500+ page novel, I was surprised he could keep the plotline moving enough to prevent me from wanting to put the book down.  It probably could have been condensed a bit, and the love interest aspect seemed a little awkward.  But still, an enjoyable summer/airplane read when there's some down time...

06/22/2006

Have you seen this man?

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Have you seen this man?

Just uploaded the few measly photos I took...

06/20/2006

A real-life Ireland miracle...

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
How many books did I read on this trip?  This trip with 24+ hour air journeys and serious jet lag and time zone issues?

Less than 2...

Yeah...  the number greater than 1 (one) and less than 3 (three)...  That's not a typo.

Mooney said there was cash in it for him to keep it at less than three...  :)

06/20/2006

Random synapti from the last few days...

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
This is the "non-professional" list of random brain firings from my trip to Ireland.  If you don't understand a phrase, it's because it wasn't meant for you.  If you want more information on any particular item, I could be persuaded to follow up in the comments...
  • Where does an Irishman keep his golf clubs?  Anywhere the Scotsman puts them...
  • Hurling...  Lacrosse for real men.
  • Driving on the left side with roundabouts is insane.  Fully sober, I would have driven worse than someone blowing a .20 on the breath-meter.
  • I love you, I love you, I love you...
  • Why...  Why...  Why...
  • As with my trip to Canada last year, I am again reminded...  Americans *do* have a major obesity problem.
  • A friend is someone who hears you snoring after they put you to bed, and consider it a good sign that you've finally crashed.
  • A good friend is someone who buys you nasal strips for the next night because it will cease to be tolerated at that point...
  • And you're with *really* good friends when you're not worried about any of that, as the friend who bought the strips has nearly been murdered by other friends for nasal sounds...
  • Just because a shirt is "fashionable/normal" in the States does not mean it works in other countries.
  • At that point, wearing a tourist shirt is a step up.
  • Indian food, Cobra beer, the local, electric screwdrivers, and 2:30 in the morning do not mix.
  • Waking up the next morning finding the results of the above combination in the kitchen probably isn't the best thing either.
  • And for once, the American had nothing to do with it.
  • I'm not as old as I thought I was...  I can still go for 48 hours on virtually no sleep with few drawbacks (see nasal strip thoughts above).
  • Morning, friends, and cameras are a dangerous combination.
  • Wearing t-shirts is a good idea in the above situation.
  • If you choose to disregard the t-shirt and/or sleeping shorts, make sure no one has any lead time or warning.
  • Google and Flickr remember everything (see above).
  • And again, the American had nothing to do with any of that.
  • Have I mentioned how *fat* the average American is?
  • A drunk Irishman is your best friend within 15 seconds of meeting you to get directions to the loo...
  • Getting rid of the drunk Irishman will take the next 30 minutes.
  • Putting the American in the front side passenger seat for the group's entertainment is great fun for them.
  • Only grabbing for the dash once is great fun for the American.
  • Speaking in front of a non-American crowd for the first time is a bit different...
  • If you're fortunate, good content translates well and bails you out.
  • If something says "5 euro", you pay 5 euro...  not 5 euro + tax.
  • American politicians...  are you listening?
  • "Bollocks" *does* need to see more usage over here.

And finally (for now, at least)...
  • Meeting, making, and having international friends is an amazing thing...


Update:  
  • "Ireland For Dummies" is a funny book...  in Ireland.
  • A cell phone fits nicely in a Pringles can.
  • A vibrating cell phone makes a great noise when in said Pringles can.
  • Hiding the Pringles can in nearly plain view when someone is trying to find said Pringles can is hysterically funny when non-sober.
  • Paul is incredibly cute (in a funny, sad way) when begging for said cell phone in above Pringles can.
  • Don't irritate Kitty.

06/20/2006

The only part of the trip I'd like to forget... JFK to PDX

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
Air travel is not glamorous (unless you're getting jammies and a self-contained sleep pod, but I digress...), but I don't do enough of it to complain much.  But yesterday would have made me cancel trips in the next two weeks if I had any.

The 7+ hour trip from Dublin to JFK was fine.  Read a bit, zonked out a bit on Ambien, and overall things went as expected.  Got into JFK about 13:00, and Bas and Chaz picked me up for lunch and the NY "bus tour".  :)  Again, thanks guys!  It was wonderful to meet up with both of you again, and seeing things "in real life" that I had only seen on TV was fascinating.  I got back to the airport around 17:00 for a 19:00 flight, and everything seemed to be lined up perfectly.  Three hours of hockey viewing on the plane, a couple hours of reading, and home and in bed by 23:30.  

Yeah, right...

Due to a late incoming flight and bad weather in the region, we didn't even get on the plane until two hours after we were supposed to have left.  Waiting in line to take off was another 45 to 60 minutes.  The DirectTV feature only really starts to work once the plane gets airborne (I guess).  All of which means my Stanley Cup viewing consisted of watching Cam Ward get the Con Smythe trophy...

I'll practice my newly-acquired Irish/English skills...  BOLLOCKS!

To proceed beyond whining, I'll just say that it was 02:45 when the taxi dropped me off at the house...

I got up around 08:00 when the Ambien wore off, and it's now 10:52.  A nap sounds really good.  :)

06/19/2006

Getting close to getting home...

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
No long post(s) (yet), but just a quick one to say I'm back in the States and a final plane trip away from home.  The eight hour flight from Dublin to New York was long, but I've had worse so far as "bad flights" go.  I met up with long-time friends Bas and Chaz, and I got taken to lunch along with a two hour drive through tour of New York...  A great way to spend the afternoon, and more on that later, too...

I'm actually looking forward to the final leg of the trip (and not just to be home).  I'm going on JetBlue, which has DirectTV screens for every seat, and it's FREE!  The 7th game of the Stanley Cup hockey finals starts five minutes after we take off, and that should take care of at least half of the flight.  I'm hoping for a triple overtime thriller that ends on final approach to Portland.  And if the game *isn't* done by then, I'm not getting off 'till it's over...

I'm taking tomorrow off to try and figure out which time zone is up.  I'll try gathering my thoughts and ruminations of the event then...

06/17/2006

Weather is here, wish you were beautiful... :)

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
I have been having an incredible time in Ireland the last couple of days.  I'll do some recap either Sunday or Monday as I'm making my way back to the States.  Suffice it to say the user group event was, without exception, a smash hit.  It's the closest I've come to a Lotusphere high outside the last week in January.  I'm inexplicably still functioning with minimal sleep and a fair amount of caffeine.  

It's getting close to 7:30 pm here, and we'll be heading out for dinner.  Just wanted to drop a short note here to let you all know I'm still moving.  

And to those who are monitoring the count...  One.  

Honest!

06/16/2006

The slides and sample database from my presentation today... Java Jumpstart

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
Slides

Sample database (thanks, Julian...)

06/14/2006

The International terminal at JFK is a real melting pot of cultures...

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
Every third person is speaking in a language you don't understand, and the currency exchange "store" is more than just a little booth tucked in the corner.  On the other hand, it seems as if the terminal is more quiet than many others I've been in.  Fewer screaming babies, which bodes well for my next flight (to Dublin).  Having only carry-on has made check-in very easy, as I can just use the kiosks and head to the gate.  I also switched my seat to something a little further back (2 - 5 - 2 configuration) to get a window with no one next to me (at this time, anyway).  If my luck holds, I'll try the Ambien again, move my backpack under the empty seat, and use this seat cushion gizmo Sue bought me that's supposed to give you more comfort in a reclining position.  We'll see...

It would have been nice to get out and see a bit of NY, but it's been good to catch up on some writing, read a little bit (no, I haven't finished a complete book yet), and just unwind from the stresses of the last couple of weeks...

I'm thinking I'll grab an early dinner now, then get through security, go down to the gate, and watch a DVD I have ripped to my laptop...

The joys of travel...

06/13/2006

Time to ditch my "Euro-virgin" status...

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
I leave tonight at midnight for the start of my great Ireland adventure.  Looking at the lineup of speakers for the meeting, it occurs to me that I'm the only one (I think) who has not traveled the pond to get somewhere...

Pack, check lists, fret, fret, fret...  :)

06/12/2006

Book Review - Web Design Before And After Makeovers by Richard Wagner

Category Book Reviews
I'm always on the lookout for books that can help me improve my lackluster interface design skills when it comes to web development.  I found a lot to like in the book Web Design Before And After Makeovers by Richard Wagner.

Contents:
Makeover Essentials; Page Layout Makeovers; Navigation Makeovers; Page Element Makeovers, Text Makeovers, Image Makeovers; Image Performance Makeovers; Home Page Makeovers; Content Makeovers; Form Makeovers; Add-On Makeovers; Site Makeovers; Extreme Makeovers; Index

The focus of this book is to take ordinary pages and redo them using standard CSS and JavaScript techniques that add the polish to make the site look more professional.  Some of this is more "under the covers", such as using CSS and div tags instead of tables to lay out your form.  But tricks on how to round the corners of your boxes, changing the default look and feel of forms, and more professional spacing and layout are definitely more visible and obvious.  The tool of choice for his coding is Dreamweaver and Photoshop for image manipulation.  But in most cases, you can pretty easily figure out how to do the same thing in your own toolset (if it differs from him).  You shouldn't expect a lot of "how to" on the CSS end.  He shows you the CSS that he uses to do the coding, but this is *not* a tutorial on the subject.  If you didn't know any CSS, you might struggle a bit.  For me, the book was worth it for a Firefox developer tool tip that shows the div layouts of your page.  I have a coding project coming up, and I think that will be the tool that saves my hide...

If your page design skills haven't progressed much past 1998, you would do well to spend some time here.  Most of the information is not overly complex, and it can make a world of difference in your sites.

06/11/2006

I don't consider this a selling point on the Microsoft collaboration tools...

Category Microsoft
At the MS Collaboration Tools blog, there is a post that talks about the ongoing development of their conversion/migration tools, a.k.a "Wave 12".  One of the points is as follows:

What is changing?  Actually quite a lot.  Most of the Microsoft targets. (Especially Exchange 2007 and SharePoint 2007) have had major changes in the interfaces we use.  As a result, most of the tools as they are known today are being completely retooled.  

And one of these days, perhaps they'll get it right and come up with something that migrates forward well...

06/10/2006

So my cholesterol results weren't quite as bad as I thought they'd be...

Category Everything Else
Reading Joe's post about his high cholesterol led me to think about getting mine checked out.  I had been monitoring my blood pressure with one of those wrist cuffs, and I was consistently running in the moderately elevated range. I also had my cholesterol checked years ago, and the ratio of good to bad cholesterol was all messed up.  I chose to ignore it that time, but I'm getting older and (hopefully) wiser.  My 50+ pound weight loss notwithstanding, I was pretty sure the results of a test would be ugly.  So I did the all day fast and went in to have my blood drawn last Friday (I *hate* needles!)...

The results came back in today.  Surprisingly, my overall number is 180, which is lower than I thought it would be.  LDL is about 15 points over what would be considered normal, and HDL is about 11 points under what is considered optimal.  The triglycerides are also over the desired range by about 35 points.  So while not the picture of perfect health, I'm not the walking heart attack waiting to die, either (apparently).  These are numbers I can work with and work on...

06/09/2006

Book Review - The Bookwoman's Last Fling by John Dunning

Category Book Reviews
I normally really like the Cliff Janeway series by John Dunning.  His latest, The Bookwoman's Last Fling, wasn't quite up to usual standards, however...

Janeway (a bookseller) has been called on to evaluate a collection of rare juvenile books and discover why a number of the valuable titles have been replaced over the years with cheap copies not worth owning.  The books belonged to the wife of a guy who just died, and the question of the stolen titles has to be resolved before the estate can be closed.  And oh, by the way, the wife's death due to a peanut allergy may not have been an accident, so could you uncover her murderer from many years ago while you're at it?  The story revolves around the horse racing culture, of which the old man and his wife were part.  Janeway signs on as a hotwalker to get close to people who knew the woman, and who might have clues about the books and her death.  Janeway's not having much luck getting useful information, and it may be an unsolvable mystery...

All the previous Janeway novels revolved strongly around books, book fairs, book sellers, etc.  While there was a book element to this one, it was pretty secondary to the murder investigation and the horse track.  This also seemed to be a transition novel, where Janeway is struggling as to whether he can be happy running a bookstore, or whether his prior career as a cop is what will really make him happy.  The plot seemed a bit stagnant at times, and the ending, while an unexpected twist, seemed to come out of far left field and was rather jarring.  I had to read it a couple of times just to make sure I was tracking.  

I'll end up giving this a higher rating than some because I like the series and the character of Cliff Janeway.  But this was definitely not the best of the Bookman series, and I hope his next one gets back on track.

06/09/2006

If you're in/around New York (JFK airport to be exact) on Wednesday, June 14th and want to meet up for lunch...

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
... send me an email and let me know.  I was going to meet up with a good friend there during my 8:30 am to 7:30 pm layover before the Dublin flight, but he's unfortunately tied up with work stuff.  

06/09/2006

Book Review - Wi-Fi Home Networking Just the Steps For Dummies by Keith Underdahl

Category Book Reviews
This is a book I wished I had known about and had available about 2 years ago when I made my plunge into wireless networking...  Wi-Fi Home Networking Just the Steps For Dummies by Keith Underdahl.  It would have saved me a ton of angst...

Contents:
Part 1 - Starting a Wireless Network: Setting Up Wireless Access Points; Configuring Your Network; Adding Wireless Devices to Your Network; Using Your Wireless Network; Wireless Networking with Your Mac
Part 2 - Securing Your Network: Activating Wi-Fi Security; Managing Firewalls and Network Security; Preventing Unauthorized Network Users
Part 3 - Improving Your Network's Performance: Monitoring Network Performance; Improving the Speed and Range of Your Network; Troubleshooting Network Problems
Part 4 - Using Someone Else's Network: Finding and Using Public Hotspots; Making Ad Hoc Peer-to-Peer Wireless Connections; Using Bluetooth Devices; Networking Wirelessly with Your Pocket PC
Part 5 - Practical Applications: Creating a Network Bridge; Networking a Game Console; Setting Up a Wireless Media Center; Adding Wireless Network Storage; Converting to a Digital Media Receiver; Turning Your Pocket PC into a Remote Control; Adding a Wireless Print Server to Your Network; Setting Up Your Own Hotspot; Voice Chatting With Your Wireless Network; Adding a Wireless Camera to Your Network
Index

The "Just the Steps" sub-genre of the Dummies series involves a lot less narrative and background and more "step 1, step 2" information to enable you to get things up and running without necessarily knowing the complete background and history of the technology.  For instance, if you need to determine the MAC address for a device, it's spelled out in three easy steps, complete with screen prints.  As a result, it's pretty easy for someone to figure out how to get their wireless environment up and running quickly (and correctly!) without a minor degree in computer networking.  The book covers Windows, Macs, and Pocket PCs, so you're well covered there.  The book specifically uses the D-Link brand of router for the screen captures and steps, but it's pretty easy to translate between that brand and some other one you might be using, like LinkSys.  Still, if you want the closest "book to reality" linkage, the D-Link brand is the one to use.

The reason I would have liked this book a couple of years ago is that I was pretty "network-phobic" (even being a techie!).  I didn't understand how it all worked, and I had observed situations with fellow techies setting up wireless networks that had convinced me I'd be over my head.  With a book like this, I'd have been much more likely to dive in with less trepidation.  While I'm more comfortable these days with the whole subject, I can still see the benefit of a book like this.  The practical applications listed in part 5 gave me some ideas for a few projects I might consider.

Quick read, but really beneficial...  Ideal if you're not yet convinced that wireless is the way to go (it is...)

06/07/2006

Book Review - Babylon Rising: The Europa Conspiracy by Tim Lahaye and Bob Phillips

Category Book Reviews
I wanted to like this book...  I enjoyed the first two in the series.  But this one left me a bit dry...  Babylon Rising: The Europa Conspiracy by Tim Lahaye and Bob Phillips.

This continues the story of Michael Murphy, a college professor teaching biblical archaeology.  He is now heading off to Iraq to follow a tip on the location of "The Handwriting on the Wall" from the days of Daniel.  He's falling in love with a colleague who is in the same area, and he fears for her safety as things start to get dicey in his life.  Talon and the mysterious Seven are trying to eliminate him, and there are a few attempts on his life.  Mixed into this story is a terrorist attack on New York designed to throw America into an economic and national panic, as well as to prompt the UN to move their headquarters to the ancient city of Babylon.  Murphy, for someone who's pretty much a small fish in the large ocean, finds himself in the middle of all this...

As I said, I really wanted to like this book.  The Murphy character is likeable, and I enjoyed the action.  But the plotline was spotty and over the top.  Murphy was using martial arts to take out everyone who attacked him (highly unlikely).  Everything the terrorists tried to do was thwarted just in the nick of time (over the top).  The story attempted to be both a Christian End Times novel and a terrorist suspense novel, and they didn't do either one especially well.  Murphy's growing infatuation with Isis was rather repetitive with the "she's so beautiful" and "could she be interested in me" interludes.  And finally, none of the plotlines wrapped up.  You got to the end and thought "so?"  Fine if you're ready to read the next installment, but not good if you started here or you have to wait some months for the next one...

Part of me wants to be nice, give the book the benefit of the doubt, and rate it a "3".  But the authors are better than this, and I've come to expect more from someone who's been doing this for a long time...  If you're committed to the series, you'll want/have/need to read it, but just don't come in with your expectations very high...

06/07/2006

Counting down the days until I leave for Ireland...

Category Ireland User Group Meeting
What a lineup to be part of...

My only demand (which was granted) was to not have to follow Novak...  Following a demo god is never a good thing...  :)  I also didn't want to go head to head with Wild Bill...  How do you compete against the Kilted Wonder?  Besides, I want to see his Dev Blast...

06/06/2006

The June LotusUserGroup.org Developer Tips newsletter is out!

Category LotusUserGroup.org
If for some bizarre reason you haven't signed up to get your copy via email, you can check it out online.

06/06/2006

Book Review - Google Search and Tools in a Snap by Preston Gralla

Category Book Reviews
Yet another book about how Google works, and yet one with a different enough slant that it fills a niche...  Google Search and Tools in a Snap by Preston Gralla.

Contents:
Part 1 - Find Anything with Google: Start Here; Searching with Google; Finding Pictures with Google Images; Searching Discussion Boards with Google Groups; Specialized Google Searching
Part 2 - Unleash The Power of Google's Special Tools: Searching Your Computer with Google Desktop; Getting Maps and Directions with Google Local; Creating Your Own Google Home Page; Googling Anywhere with the Google Toolbar; Using Gmail, the Best Email on Earth; Discovering the World with Google Earth; Creating Your Own Blog with Google's Blogger; Reading News, Blogs, and More with Google Reader; Managing and Sharing Pictures with Google's Picasa; Chatting and Talking with Google Talk; Google Tools and Services
Index

Like all other Google books, this one has the prerequisite "how do you search in Google" information.  The explanations are clear and short, and the annotated screen shots help to tie the discussion to the product.  Where this books differs a bit from others is that it spends a lot more time in the other Google offerings that aren't necessarily search-related.  For instance, there's a pretty good discussion about how Google Local (also known as Google Maps) works and how you can utilize it.  I had forgotten that Google came out with an online RSS reader in Google Reader.  I may have to check it out this time.  Include in other features like Blogger, Picasa, and Talk, and pretty soon you find yourself spending more and more time in the Google universe of tools.  Which is probably just how Google wants it to be...

Hardcore techies probably already know most of this, and as such might not get much here.  But the niche I see it thriving in is the "Uncle Joe/Aunt Mae" area.  For your run-of-the-mill user who doesn't live on their computer (I'm assured there *are* people like that!), it's likely that many of these features are not on their radar.  They've heard about "blogs" but don't have a clue as to what they are and how they work.  The "in a Snap" approach will make it easy for them to venture outside their comfort zone and try a few new things that might otherwise remain a mystery to them.  

If you're tired of being the "computer guy" (or "gal") in your family, this might make a great gift for that "special someone".  You know what they say about giving someone a fish as opposed to teaching them *how* to fish...

06/04/2006

Book Review - Design Patterns For Dummies by Steve Holzner

Category Book Reviews
Yes, patterns are important.  But if you try and get your first exposure to them via the classic GoF book, you'll likely be more confused than enlightened.  Steve Holzner has a practical, understandable treatment of patterns in the book Design Patterns For Dummies.

Contents:
Part 1 - Getting to Know Patterns: Congratulations, Your Problem Has Already Been Solved; Putting Plans into Action with the Strategy Pattern; Creating and Extending Objects with the Decorator and Factory Patterns; Watch What's Going On with the Observer and Chain of Responsibility Patterns; From One to Many - The Singleton and Flyweight Patterns
Part 2 - Becoming an OOP Master: Fitting Round Pegs into Square Holes with the Adapter and Facade Patterns; Mass Producing Objects with the Template Method and Builder Patterns; Handling Collections with the Iterator and Composite Patterns; Getting Control of Your Objects with the State and Proxy Patterns; Coordinating Your Objects with the Command and Mediator Patterns
Part 3 - The Part of Tens: Ten More Design Patterns; Ten Easy Steps to Create Your Own Patterns
Index

The problem I've always had with patterns is that they seem to always be discussed in general terms.  I have a hard time visualizing exactly what they mean unless I can see real code.  Holzner uses a humorous "pattern consultant" storyline throughout each chapter, and relates a "business requirement" to actual Java code.  He starts with a typical solution that doesn't implement the pattern, and shows how that approach can lead to problems down the road.  He then refactors the solution to implement the patterns being discussed, and suddenly it's easy to understand exactly how that pattern looks in code.  In fact, you may find yourself recognizing techniques you already use, but didn't know they were pattern solutions.  I ended up thinking "oh, so *that's* what that pattern does" a number of times throughout this book.  There's only been one other pattern book that I got that from, and it's a shame that something so valuable ends up being so obscured in theory and generalities.

While it's advisable to get the GoF book if you are really going to dive into patterns, it's also advisable to get a book that gets into practical, concrete examples.  Between the two, you'll know everything you'll need to know about patterns.  Design Patterns For Dummies definitely fits the bill for the practical volume you'll need...

06/04/2006

Book Review - The 5th Horseman by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Category Book Reviews
I finally made it through the library hold list on The 5th Horseman by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.  I enjoyed the read, but it wasn't without a few caveats...

This is one of Patterson's Women's Murder Club novels, and brings in the latest member, Yuki Castellano.  Yuki's mom suffers a small stroke and is admitted to the hospital.  But while recovering with little ill effect, she suddenly dies at a hospital with a dubious track record of pharmaceutical errors.  In fact, the hospital and a particular doctor are on trial for malpractice in a number of these cases.  Yuki feels her mom was murdered, and wants justice.  The doctor is the prime suspect, and is extremely arrogant about his innocence.  Lindsay Boxer, the police lieutenant in the group, is convinced he did the acts that caused all the deaths, including Yuki's mom.  But she has to put her reputation on the line to prove it, and the evidence isn't there...

That's a pretty brief description, because I don't want to give away the plot twists or ending.  It was definitely a fun read, but there were still some strange quirks that I still don't quite get.  There's a subplot involving the murder of young women by two people using the date rape drug.  I kept expecting that plot to link up with the main plot line.  At the end, I was wondering why it was even there in the first place.  And the final epilogue chapter is rather jarring and abrupt.  I had to go back and reread it a couple time before I was sure I was done...

So...  good mind candy and entertainment.  Not the best in the series, but still worth reading...

06/03/2006

Book Review - Steal This Computer Book 4.0 by Wallace Wang

Category Book Reviews
This is one of those books that never quite turns out as good as I hoped it would be... Steal This Computer Book 4.0 : What They Won't Tell You About the Internet by Wallace Wang.  It tries to cover a lot of ground, and as a result it's not as focused as it should be...

Contents:
Part 1 - The Early Hackers: The Hacker Mentality; The First Hackers - The Phone Phreakers; Hacking People, Places, and Things
Part 2 - The PC Pioneers: ASNI Bombs and Viruses; Trojan Horses and Worms; Warez (Software Piracy)
Part 3 - The Internet Hackers: Where The Hackers Are; Stalking A Computer; Cracking Passwords; Digging Into A Computer With Rootkits; Censoring Information; The Filesharing Networks
Part 4 - The Real World Hackers: The Internet Con Artists; Finding People On The Internet; Propaganda As News and Entertainment; Hacktivism - Online Activism; Hate Groups and Terrorists on the Internet
Part 5 - The Future - Hacking For Profit: Identity Theft and Spam; Banner Ads, Pop-Up Ads, and Search Engine Spamming; Adware and Spyware
Part 6 - Protecting Your Computer and Yourself: Computing On A Shoestring - Getting Stuff For (Almost) Free; Computer Forensics - The Art Of Deleting and Retrieving Data; Locking Down Your Computer
Epilogue; What's On The Steal This Computer Book 4.0 CD; Index

This book has been around for quite a long time, and it's gone through a number of revisions (the 4.0 in the title).  The earliest reviews of this book are from mid-1998, and in some areas it looks like the book has never been updated.  Part of that is the historical nature of the material he's covering, and I'm sure there's a number of readers trying to figure out what MS-DOS is.  The central theme of the book is "hacking", but there are areas where he strays into areas that I've not traditionally put in that category.  Getting free stuff like email accounts and blogs?  Censoring information? Hate groups?  Even in the areas that I *do* consider more "hack-like", like file-sharing networks, he leaves out any mention of BitTorrent.  Granted, there's a reference to the Steal This File Sharing Book, but still...  It just seems that the information is a bit eclectic and rather "hit or miss" at times.

But even having said that, there is a guilty pleasure in reading this book.  It's similar to reading about the seamy underbelly of your local city...  you know it's there, you don't condone it, but you have a hard time averting your eyes when you drive by.  And there are some things that I didn't know...  like services that will email you requested web pages so as to avoid http logging.  

So...  I don't know that you'll get a lot out of it if you've been around computers for any length of time.  It's still a fun read, and you can scan the areas that don't quite hold your interest...

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06/03/2006

Book Review - The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes

Category Book Reviews
It's been awhile since I've done any diabetes-related reading.  My son has had type 1 for over 10 years, and I wondered if it was time to revisit some of my patterns I've developed in dealing with him and the condition.  I found a number of helpful tips and aids in the book The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes: Three Experts Answer Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask by Janis Roszler, William H. Polonsky, and Steven V. Edelman.

Contents: Hey, Who Invited You?; Even Robin Needed His Merry Men; Diabetes Police and Diabetes Criminals; Like a Pebble in a Pond; Don't Be A Diabetes Couch Potato; Is It Time to Panic?; Testing, Testing, and More Testing!; Does the Checkout Lady Need to Know?; Mind Your P's and Q's; Sex and Other Fun Stuff; Suggested Resources; Index

This isn't a long read (around 180 pages), and the payback for your time is pretty high.  The book is written for both those who have the disease and those who live with someone who has it.  After covering the material related to the chapter, they end the chapter with two sections.  The first is titled "What A Person With Diabetes May Want His Or Friends To Know", and the second one is "What A Loved One May Want The Person With Diabetes To Know".  These sections have a small handful of bullet points that relate feelings and emotions that each side would like the other to understand and recognize.  If the whole subject of diabetes is one that you have a hard time talking about, these can serve as discussion points with your partner and will help focus the discussion into some productive areas.  I realized that I've probably gone too far in one direction in terms of identifying Ian with the disease ("Does the Checkout Lady Need to Know").  I need to step back and understand that some people need to know and others don't.  There's also a number of things I'd like Ian to read here, but we all know how hard it can be to get 19 year olds to read something *you* want them to read...  :)

I would definitely recommend this book, especially to someone with type 2 diabetes.  This can be something that is not taken as seriously as it should be, and having the discussions this book can produce could make all the difference.

06/02/2006

Book Review - Acts of God by James BeauSeigneur

Category Book Reviews
I was moderately optimistic that the third book of the Christ Clone Trilogy, Acts of God by James BeauSeigneur, would continue to improve much like the second title improved over the first.  Fortunately, it did, and I can say it wasn't a waste of time...

The seven year tribulation period is nearing the end, and Christopher Goodman (the Christ clone) has truly become the anti-Christ.  He is leading the world in rebellion against God and his followers, and the ante to refuse the mark continues to climb.  Robert Milner, Goodman's "prophet", is posing as the person responsible for stopping the judgements being sent down upon the earth.  Goodman's last effort to rid the earth of religious zealots is culminating in an attack on the Petra enclave, where most of the Jewish believers are holed up.  All the armies of the earth are converging on that single spot with hopes to usher in the new millennial age.  Meanwhile, Decker Hawthorne, Goodman's guardian when he was younger, is starting to question the motives and reality of Goodman's rule, and he disappears for an extended period of time.  While hiding out, he starts to read Revelations and understands what is really going on.  This leads to a personal confrontation in Goodman's office with an unfortunate ending...

As I mentioned in the first book review, I wasn't real excited after the initial installment.  But at the urging of friends, I kept going.  Book two was better, and started to bring together the story line that I was expecting.  This final episode was a great read, and stands up well against other "end times" series such as Left Behind.  The Goodman character had some twists I didn't expect, and it forced me to think through some scenarios that I hadn't thought about before.  

All in all, a good series.  Definitely a case where you should commit to reading them all, and not be put off by a slow start.  It does get better, and it ends very well...

06/02/2006

Take. The. Freaking. Drug.

Category Everything Else
One of the blogs I follow is called Pumplandia, which is one person's chronicle of managing diabetes with an insulin pump.  In her latest post, she was talking about her struggle with depression and how she's deciding whether to take medication or "grow out of it".  I thought it was a great metaphor for how we all view these types of problems all too often...

Then I thought about my other thoughts, the nonbloggable ones, and I came to understand that sometimes you reach a moment when you have, say, a large and gaping hole in the roof of your home, caused maybe by the antics of squirrels or your roommate's fondness for illegal fireworks or the mediocrities of bargain-priced shingles or the little kid next door who likes to hit his baseball up onto your roof several times every Saturday--the cause is not the point; the point is that the hole is there--and outside the thunder is clapping and the lightning is sparking, and you know that the rain on the way is not just any ordinary storm but the kind that generates Significant Media Attention. At such a time you do not look into your toolbox and say to yourself, I will work alone, using only the small nails and the small hammer to repair this hole because by doing so, I will grow immeasurably in my knowledge of carpentry, and that will make me a better person. No, you pull out every tool that might help, small, large, and in between, and you give one to your roommate, another to the kid next door, and whatever remains to the squirrels, and you all go to work on the damn hole.

In other words, you Take. The. Freaking. Drug.

06/01/2006

Rasasi Perfumes Industry and the use of Domino...

Category IBM/Lotus
A nice write-up in ITP.net Business Sense on the use of Domino at Rasasi Perfumes Industry...

Rasasi opted for the IBM Lotus Domino platform to support all aspects of its internal and external communications. Information Systems Design (ISD), an IBM business partner, implemented it.

ISD completely replaced the existing systems, which were based around a Microsoft Exchange environment. “We didn't have to replace any of the hardware because they had quite a good, solid infrastructure there,” says Abdul Caffoor, managing director of Information Systems Design.

However, ISD also had to write specific applications for Rasasi. Caffoor says: “We customised the whole email system to take into account what they want. They wanted everything to be routed through their managers and only then the emails get approved and get sent out. Incoming is the same way. It's a family business and they felt that security was of the essence.”

While you may not agree that email should be handled that way, the beauty of the solution is that you *can* customize the solution!

There's other Domino information about Rasasi in there too...  a good read...

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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