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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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01/30/2007

Never expected to start getting referers from Wikipedia...

Category Everything Else
I was scanning through my non-search referers today, and I found one that stopped me dead in my tracks:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron

I wasn't sure at first if that was a good or bad thing!  Had I been tried and convicted without knowing it?  Was I accused of financial shenanigans?  Was I about to take a perp walk?

Nope...  Down in the Trivia section of the entry, I'm listed as a blogger who commented on the on-going scandal.  Very cool...  I wasn't a Houston-based employee as it states, but that's a minor point.

So...  guess I can cross "get mentioned in Wikipedia" off my list of life goals now...  :)

01/30/2007

Fire and Motion: What OpenXML Means to IBM and Lotus Notes

Category IBM/Lotus
From InfoQ: Fire and Motion: What OpenXML Means to IBM and Lotus Notes

Why is IBM working so hard to prevent OpenXML from becoming an ISO standard?

One possible explanation is that they bet the farm on ODF. We are not talking about OpenOffice, as free/open source applications are not exactly moneymakers. No, the application that IBM is betting on is the venerable Lotus Notes.

According to John Fontana of Network World, "Hannover, the first public beta of Notes, scheduled to ship this fall, will include a text editor, a spreadsheet editor and a presentation graphics editor that support the XML-based ODF standard".

More importantly, the other formats it will support include the current version of Microsoft Office and previous versions of OpenOffice. What is not included is the OpenXML format, which is understandable considering this article was written back in May.

Reading this article, I think I now understand what the productivity editors could mean to Lotus Notes when compared to Microsoft Office.  Prior to this, I thought it was "cool" that you would be able to have an Office-like capability without leaving the Notes client.  But I never really thought of it as a credible challenge to the Microsoft Office monopoly.  As pointed out in the article, there is a fine line between supporting every new twist a vendor throws at you vs. concentrating on new features.  But with the grassroots rumblings related to governments adopting ODF standards, having Notes out there as a platform that supports all those offerings out of the box is a compelling sales point.

Do I think that Microsoft Office is going to roll over and die in the face of ODF?  No.  The Word format is not a standard by any stretch, but that hasn't stopped it from cornering the market.  Pure software vendor inertia will cause OpenXML to continue along wherever Microsoft wants to take it.  But should early ODF adoption continue to grow, there *will* be a tipping point in the future.  I'd much prefer see Notes positioned to take advantage of that choice right now, rather than try and play catch-up later...

Thoughts?

01/30/2007

Lotusphere 2007 Press Recap - A Few Stragglers

Category Lotusphere2007
(Gathered from my Google News alerts and other sources)

CRN:  IBM Touts Unified Comms Infrastructure For Partner Development (Barb Darrow)
IBM partners were in Orlando last week to pledge their support for what they contend is a full platform--including Websphere, new social networking software, and Domino mail and collaboration software-- for building collaborative applications.

Amid the social networking buzz at Lotusphere, IBM Software also talked up a version of its latest portal software for smaller companies.

ComputerWorld: Users See Potential in Lotus Apps, but Rollouts May Wait (Todd R. Weiss)
At its Lotusphere 2007 conference last week, IBM detailed upcoming software tools designed to enable corporate users to collaborate more efficiently by better tying together different streams of internal information.

Users interviewed at the conference generally agreed that the promised additions to IBM’s Lotus product line could help improve their collaboration processes. But some said it might be a while before their organizations take advantage of the new tools.

Intranet Journal: Lotus Conference Ends on High Note (John Roling)
IBM Lotus concluded two straight years of double-digit growth with what executives called Lotus' best year ever. Lotus software reported a 30 percent total revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2006 while also shipping one million seats of the Sametime instant messaging and web conferencing product. The software growth brings IBM's current estimates to over 127 million Notes seats worldwide.

The momentum carried into IBM's annual Lotusphere conference last week in Orlando. Attendance was up 11 percent year-to-year with nearly 7,000 attendees. The number of Certified Lotus Professionals attending the conference was up 40 percent with nearly 1,900 total certified professionals making the annual pilgrimage.

This also marked the first foray into "virtual" conferences with Lotusphere launching in the online virtual world Second Life. Nearly 6,000 individuals attended the conference virtually, watching the opening general session, meeting Lotus experts, and chatting amongst themselves about the latest IBM Lotus announcements.

IT Jungle: Notes-Domino 8 Beta On Deck, Mid-Year GA Still on Schedule (Dan Burger)
As IBM Lotus prepares to introduce a public beta program for Notes/Domino 8 leading up to the product's ship date in mid-2007, Big Blue continues to emphasize the theme of open standards as its primary anti-Microsoft message. Collaboration, particularly as it applies to linking with applications that go beyond basic e-mail, continues to play an expanding role, as social networking tools are introduced to the workplace as an integral part of project management and the bridging of information silos.

The public beta program for Notes/Domino 8, the final beta phase, will launch in February. N/D 8 has been in what IBM calls "managed beta" since November 2006.

In its on-going battle with Microsoft Exchange, IBM is touting the open standards approach to Lotus Notes 8 and knifing Microsoft for its licensing strategy, which you could say is going for the soft underbelly of the beast. It's true that Notes 8 features productivity editors that support the Open Document Format (ODF) and therefore users have access to office tools without incurring the costs of separate license. And it's also true that Notes 8 allows users to import and export supported file formats used by Microsoft Office and Open Office file formats, edit those files, and save them in either the original format or as ODF documents.

The Notes 8 client can run on Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, and Linux. The Domino 8 server runs on Microsoft Windows, Linux, System i, System p, System z, and Sun Solaris.

01/28/2007

Book Review - Killer Dreams by Iris Johansen

Category Book Reviews
This was another one of the "what do I read on the airplane" books...  Killer Dreams by Iris Johansen.  It's my first time reading any of her work, but if this is any indication, it won't be my last.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book...

Sophie Dunston has a son who suffers from night terrors.  They were an aftermath of a brutal killing they both witnessed first-hand, when her father tried to kill her.  Somehow this is all tied back to the head of a major corporation, Robert Sanborne, and Dunston wants him dead because of it.  But Dunston's not the only one with death wishes for Sanborne.  A former "subject" of Sanborne, Matt Royd, wants him to die a slow and painful death as retribution for what was done to him, and he thinks that Dunston is the key to getting to Sanborne.  But Royd's also convinced that Dunston played a role in the whole matter, and killing her will be a pleasant secondary outcome of his quest.  A fellow sufferer of Sanborne's experiments and colleague of Royd, Jock Gavin, knows the truth about Dunston and has to convince Royd that she's actually on their side.  Royd has to sort out his conflicting feelings of hate towards Sanborne with his confusion and growing attraction towards Dunston.  Dunston's not having an easy time of it either, as Royd is a crude killing machine who is willing to do anything to accomplish his goal, up to and including using her as bait.  She'll kill to protect her son, and she's not about to start taking orders from someone who she doesn't know and doesn't trust.  But she's in the same boat as Royd.  She can't deny that she's developing feelings towards him, but she doesn't want that to detract from the goal of eliminating Sanborne...

The style of the story telling threw me off a bit at first.  Within the first few short chapters, Dunston's basically trying to assassinate Sanborne, and I didn't have a clue as to why.  Then when Royd and Gavin came into the story, I still didn't know why Royd thought that Dunston was to blame for what he went through.  But Johansen reveals the background as the story moves along, and you get just enough detail to supplement the current action and explain particular motivations.  The plotline was a little predictable, but it didn't bother me much.  Generally this was a story where the action was fast, the characters were likable, and I cared how it all turned out.  I'm sure I'll be back for more Johansen once I get caught up with some other reading.

01/28/2007

Book Review - Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

Category Book Reviews
The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz has become one of my favorite series, and he didn't disappointment me in his latest installment, Brother Odd.  This is just plain fun to read...

Odd Thomas has left society and gone to a monastery to try and regroup.  His particular trait of seeing the ghosts of dead people who haven't gone over to the "other side" is still there, but he's not looking to help solve any murders.  His attempt at mental relaxation starts to go south when he sees his first bodach, or evil ghost-like creature, arrive at the children's hospital.  As they continue to gather in ever-larger numbers, Thomas knows that an unspeakable disaster is looming over the monastery.  A select few members of the monastery know of Odd's gift, and he has to interpret his feelings and try to anticipate what is about to transpire.  The difficult issue is that there's no lead as to what or who might be behind it, so any move Thomas makes to save the group might be playing into the hands of the killers (who/whatever it might be).  The key appears to be a select few children in the hospital who have clinically died and are able to see beyond the immediate reality.

This series is rare in that I love both the writing style *and* the plot line.  Koontz has the character writing in first person, and the story is a conversation with the reader.  If it were just a narrative of what happened, it'd be OK but nothing special.  But it's so much more than that.  It's as if Odd Thomas is a real person, with real emotions and failings, and they all show through as he tells the reader the story.  Koontz continues to work magic with phrasing and word pictures, and I don't think I've had this much fun reading any author's work on a regular basis.

If Koontz never wrote another character except for Odd Thomas, I'd still be a happy camper.  He's created an extremely likable person, and I can hardly wait for the next installment...

01/28/2007

Book Review - Stephen Coonts' Deep Black: Jihad

Category Book Reviews
It's that time of year where I'm spending a few more hours than normal on airplanes, so I ended up in an airport bookstore looking for some recreational reading material.  I ended up with Stephen Coonts' Deep Black: Jihad by Stephen Coonts (of course) and Jim DeFelice.  Generally, I like Coonts' books, but this one seems more like a "I'll lend you my name if I get a cut of the profits" effort.  Didn't quite end up being a memorable read...

There's a high-tech spy group in the United States called Deep Black, and they end up pulling off jobs that are out of the ordinary.  In this novel, they set up an "assassination attempt" of an Al Qaeda leader so that they can take him to a hospital for his injuries.  While there, they implant a tracking and audio bug in his scalp so they can see where he goes and hear about the next terrorist attacks before they happen.  The story revolves around trying to correlate his movements with other intel that they have, all in order to prevent a large attack to be carried out somewhere in the United States.  What they don't count on is an internal rivalry within Al Qaeda that closes their best source of information before they know who all the plot players are.  The story moves to an ending where it's a race to see if they can find the main operative before the attack is carried out.

There are apparently a few other Deep Black episodes prior to this book, and I think that's where my problem lies.  I don't have the benefit of the prior character development, and there's literally none to be found here.  All the players are thrust into the story right away, and I had no clue as to why they reacted and interacted as they did.  Furthermore, they talked about a lot of the gadgetry as if it was common stuff.  Perhaps if you've evolved with the series, but it's a little disconcerting if this is your first exposure to Deep Black.  And at 438 pages for a paperback, I kept feeling as if we could have tightened up the story and gotten there a bit sooner.

This book probably falls somewhere between my "it's OK" and "I like it" range.  If an earlier Deep Black novel ended up in my possession, I'd read it without hesitation.  But I wouldn't go out of my way to look for them, nor would I buy a new one unless the older installments improved my outlook somewhat.

01/28/2007

Although there wasn't a "Duffbert Reading Lottery" going on this year...

Category Lotusphere2007
... I feel compelled to report the final totals...

I started Stephen Coontz' Deep Black: Jihad on Friday night before I got on my flight to Orlando.  That didn't get finished until Wednesday night.

Brother Odd from Dean Koontz came out Thursday morning and was done before I left Orlando on Friday.

And on the flight home, I started John Maxwell's The 360 Degree Leader.

So, only 2.5 books got read last week.  I'm as surprised as you are.  I think it came down to a lot of time spent with friends (instead of being my normal reclusive self), as well has having Ian stay with me most of the week.  

And to those who I met this week (both the ones I know and didn't know), thanks for all the kind words about this blog.  I realize that by all normal standards, this could be construed as something akin to obsessive-compulsive.  :)  Still, I love reading and writing, and it's a thrill to get your feedback and know you enjoy my efforts.  Thanks!

01/28/2007

Personal Lotusphere ramblings and wrap-up...

Category Lotusphere2007
Every year, I tell myself I'm going to be a blogging maniac at Lotusphere and record everything.  And every year, I end up going dark after day 2.  Doesn't mean I'm not there...  Just that I'm spending too much time learning and seeing and doing to be tied to a keyboard.  Maybe next year I'll reduce the guilt level and just admit up front that it's not going to happen.  :)

With each passing Lotusphere (I think this was #11 for me), I am amazed at how much the community means to me.  Yes, I always come back with my head buzzing about all the new stuff available, as well as a laundry list of things I have to do and implement upon my return.  But even more than that, it's the knowledge that I'll be meeting up with some of the best friends I have, and I'll be part of something far, far bigger than my little corner of the world (no references to my vertically-challenged limitiations there).  It's hard to explain to someone just what that means to me...

Probably the closest I can come to it is this...  I was having breakfast with someone Friday morning before I left.  I related that I've always struggled with feeling like I'm "tolerated" instead of "accepted".  It's gotten better since I started with the anti-depressants, but it's a demon that is never far away.  Her words of how she and others view me in this group brought tears to my eyes.  (And you only thought I was going for the laugh on Thursday night, Ed!)  I am amazed and humbled to be part of a group that drives and innovates a product far beyond what's considered normal.  And I can't begin to comprehend how many friendships I've developed that span continents and cultures, real-life and virtual-life.

Thank you all for making this one of the best Lotuspheres I've ever been a part of.  You're all part of the reason why I love my job and consider myself extremely blessed.

01/28/2007

In my view, Microsoft doesn't yet "get" social networking...

Category Microsoft
First we had the attempt to influence bloggers to write nice things about Microsoft Vista by handing out fully loaded Acer laptops (that just *happened* to be preloaded with Vista).  The latest faux pas is the revelation that they are paying people to "correct" Wikipedia entries about Open Document Format (ODF) and Microsoft Office OpenXML (OOXML).  Both of these actions, but especially the second one, shows a complete and total disregard for the ethics of this new environment.  

Manipulating public opinion is a constant in life.  That's why we have advertising.  But when you start paying money to influence mechanisms that purport to be "neutral" or informational, then you've crossed a line that people won't soon forgive or forget.  Yes, it's always up to the reader to be on guard for bias, but they shouldn't have to do that when they go to a reference site.  

I suppose you could say that this payoff is no different than having someone whose employment at Microsoft involves monitoring web sites such as Wikipedia for supposed "inaccuracies".  But at least there, the interests are out in the open and can be factored in by those who control the reference site.  The attempt to buy sources with no connection to Microsoft is what makes this different and wrong.  

But hey... I guess when you've got all that cashflow from the Office and Windows monopoly flowing in, you've got to put it to use somewhere, right?  Xbox and Zunes will only suck cash and create losses for so long...  :)

01/27/2007

Lotusphere 2007 Press Recap - January 26, 2007

Category Lotusphere2007
(Gathered from my Google News alerts and other sources)

ZDNet: Q&A: Lotus wakes up to social networking (Clive Barker)
With attention focused on all things Web 2.0, it's fair to say groupware isn't grabbing much attention anymore. However, it seems IBM's Lotus division has finally wised up to the new tech landscape, and at Lotusphere 2007, this year's annual customer event, it unveiled a raft of products that embrace emerging online social-networking technologies.

IBM's Mike Rhodin, general manager of the Lotus group, is the man charged with reinvigorating IBM's groupware strategy. After five years of relatively quiet activity, Lotus seems to have woken up to the possibilities of online collaboration. And that new strategy will bring it into conflict with old enemy Microsoft.

eWeek: IBM on TAP for New Technology (Darryl K. Taft)
At Lotusphere 2007 here, IBM showcased its TAP program, which calls on an internal community of innovators and early adopters to try new and beta versions of IBM technologies and give feedback to shape the development of the technology.

Amy Chow, manager of the TAP program, which is part of IBM's Office of the CIO, said the basis of the TAP program, which began in January 2006, was "to bring emerging technologies in early. And our big showpiece was [Lotus] Sametime. We brought in Sametime 7.5 using TAP methods."

TechWhack: New IBM Service Helps Put More ‘Eyes’ on Data
As part of an ongoing effort to deliver social computing software, IBM (NYSE: IBM) today launched “Many Eyes,” an innovative new service that allows people to explore different visual representations of large amounts of data and share it with others to help them collectively make better sense of the information.

InformationWeek:  Lotus As A Web 2.0 Collaboration Platform? Not Quite Yet (J. Nicholas Hoover)
But there's interesting products in IBM's new product lineup. That will help in its rivalry with Microsoft

IBM desperately wants a seat at the Web 2.0 table. Last week at its Lotusphere conference, IBM brought out new tools ranging from social networking software designed for businesses to a more user-friendly version of a Notes E-mail application that was once synonymous with "clunky."

All the Web 2.0 buzzwords are represented: wikis, syndicated feeds, video, presence awareness, click-to-call. Beyond the features, IBM's trying to make the Lotus brand something of a mashable collaboration platform, allowing plug-ins to products such as Cisco telephony, AOL instant messaging, Salesforce.com CRM, and Research In Motion BlackBerrys. "The collaboration market is not an E-mail-only market anymore," Lotus VP Ken Bisconti says.

01/27/2007

Lotusphere 2007 Press Recap - January 25, 2007

Category Lotusphere2007
(Gathered from my Google News alerts and other sources)

Intranet Journal: Lotus Notes 8 Beta Set for Next Month (John Roling)
IBM Lotus announced earlier this week at its annual Lotusphere conference that Lotus Notes 8 will go into beta next month, with its general release slated for mid-year. Notes 8 (formerly codenamed Hannover) is a strongly client-focused release, with new features, functionality, and a vastly updated graphical user interface.

Another focus -- stressed repeatedly at the Lotusphere -- is that the new Notes 8 client and Domino 8 server are designed not to break existing applications. With 127 million Notes seats worldwide, this was something that Lotus concentrated heavily on during development and beta testing.

IT-Director.com: The Death of Workplace... (Clive Longbottom)
Some time back (well, a couple of years, actually), I wrote an article on IBM Lotus' product, Workplace, a communication and collaboration environment written as a set of services accessed via a version of IBM WebSphere Portal shipped with the product. I really liked this solution—but felt that I had to write something to try and sort out some of the messaging confusion that seemed to be present from IBM.

ZDNet: Neil Armstrong lands at Lotusphere (Colin Barker)
IBM gave attendees at this week's Lotusphere conference an unexpected treat — a speech from Neil Armstrong on the role technology played in the race to the moon.

Armstrong is a living legend, famous for uttering "That's one small step for man" as he set foot on the moon in 1969. On Monday, he told delegates at IBM's Lotusphere conference in Florida a few tales about the early computers he worked with.

He also cited IBM's contribution to the space programme, by explaining the company's role in the Gemini spacecrafts — in which Armstrong made a trip into space in 1966.

NewsFactor Network: IBM Pushes Social Networking for the Enterprise (Jennifer LeClaire)
IBM's crack at enterprise-grade social networking in the form of the new Lotus Connection platform consists of five components: activities, communities, dogear (IBM's lingo for bookmarking Web pages), profiles, and blogs. "Lotus Connection is an opportunity for companies to roll out a business-ready solution before employees start to turn to the consumer side, like they did with instant messaging," said Andy Nilssen, an analyst at Wainhouse Research.

Globe and Mail: Online networking centre stage at IBM (Mathew Ingram)
For many large companies, it's difficult to keep track of who is who, and who knows what -- or even who is responsible for what. When it comes time to organize a particular project, even small companies can overlook talent that sits just down the hall.

Online, however, there are a multitude of ways to get and stay connected, whether it's through LinkedIn, MySpace or Facebook. And when it comes to collaborating on a project, there are plenty of ways to do that, too, including the Google-owned JotSpot "wiki" service.

Computer services giant International Business Machines is hoping to tap into the interest in social networking with a new suite of software tools it launched on Monday. While many companies might be reluctant to use open or consumer-oriented Web-based tools, IBM is pitching its suite as a solution that companies can run in-house, with no fear of disruption or security risks.

Gartner: IBM Begins to Reinvent Itself at Lotusphere 2007
Lotusphere 2007 featured an impressive lineup of refreshed favorites and some new launches that may appeal to non-Lotus users. IBM has clarified some of its plans for the Lotus products, but important challenges remain.

InternetNews.com: IBM Pushes Quickr in ECM Space (Michael Hickins)
IBM is planning to release a new product it hopes will push the competition in the enterprise content management (ECM) space.

The software, Quickr will allow users to access information buried in different content repositories through a single interface via connectors appearing in the task bars of running applications. For instance, a drop-down in the Microsoft Office toolbar will let users check documents in or out of their ECM systems.

This includes rival ECM systems like EMC's (Quote) Documentum, Open Text and Microsoft's (Quote) Sharepoint as well as FileNet, which IBM acquired in August.

Information World Review: Can IBM satisfy users, the organisation and IT? (David Tebbutt)
No sooner do I file a column (coming soon) on the clash between IT-driven and user-driven computing than IBM decides to make two announcements which, between them, more or less address the issues I raised.

In what looks like a pincer movement, IBM has extended Lotus Notes into the Web 2.0 world. It has also announced an alpha program called QEDwiki, which is providing a Web 2.0  environment for the enterprise.

01/27/2007

Lotusphere 2007 Press Recap - January 24, 2007

Category Lotusphere2007
(Gathered from my Google News alerts and other sources)

IT-Director.com: Lotus gets aggressive, and a Second Life (Robin Bloor)
So I'm here at Lotusphere, the first conference of the year. I confess to being impressed by what I've seen so far. Lotus puts on a good show—the best—great special effects and entertainment. The overture to the keynote session was a large gang of rock star impersonators, including a faux Elton John, a faux David Bowie and quite a few other fauxs. They sang a series of rock numbers then they all got together on stage to sing Pinball Wizard;

"He ain't got no distractions,
Can't hear those buzzers and bells,
Don't see lights a flashin',
Plays by sense of smell,
Always gets a replay,
Never tilts at all,
That deaf, dumb and blind kid,
Sure plays a mean pinball."

Not much of a collaborator that deaf, dumb and blind kid, so I'm not exactly sure why singing about him was the appropriate overture for Lotus, because Lotus is very much about collaboration these days—and they have technology to prove it. The Lotus portfolio now consists of five products; Lotus Notes, Sametime, WebSphere Portal, Quickr and Connection.

Information World Review: IBM adds Web 2.0 fruits to Lotus application (Mark Chillingworth)
Computing and software giant IBM has announced a set of new applications for its Lotus information management applications at the Lotusphere 2007 conference in Orlando; that lean heavily towards the collaborative modes of information management that Web 2.0 pioneers.

Lotus, traditionally known for providing large corporations with email, calendar, and staff directory applications will now offer users social networking, blogging, a presence in the online world of Second Life, as well as video casting and real time chat.

Monsters and Critics.com: IBM launches Lotus Connections suite (Steve Ragan)
Computer and corporate networking giant IBM has recently launched Lotus Connections. Lotus Connections is "The first business-ready social-networking application.” Mike Rhodin, IBM Lotus General Manager, said. The Connections suite will offer five unique tools, Profiles, Communities, Activities, Bookmarks, and Blogs.

The toolset that Connections offers is going to be a close match and possible competitor to Microsoft SharePoint, which also offers similar services. Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007 has a slight advantage over IBM with an extensive revamp of its development tools for SharePoint Designer. The Lotus Connections launch news did not report on any development or framework features, just the basic tool overview.

IT Business: I'll believe it when I see it (Shane Schick)
Among the new products launched at its Lotusphere event in Orlando this week, IBM executives also discussed Many Eyes, an online project that would help enterprise workers to manage data through visualization. Users will be able to upload data from cutting and pasting from their own Excel spreadsheets or tab/comma-delimited text files. The Many Eyes site can then present the data in one of 14 different visualization options, including bar charts, bubble charts, histograms and world maps. The idea is to offer companies that want to see the big picture a variety of ways to look at it.

01/27/2007

Lotusphere 2007 Press Recap - January 23, 2007

Category Lotusphere2007
(Gathered from my Google News alerts and other sources)

Ovum: Lotusphere: IT revolves around you (Ian Wesley)
We are attending Lotusphere held once again in Disneyland Florida. In spite of this tired old venue, there is a new sense of optimism at Lotus and there were five significant announcements on the first morning of the show all aimed at promoting the new IBM Lotus slogan above.

MarketWire: Made in IBM Labs: New IBM Service Helps Put More 'Eyes' on Data (Press Release)
As part of an ongoing effort to deliver social computing software, IBM (NYSE: IBM) today launched "Many Eyes," an innovative new service that allows people to explore different visual representations of large amounts of data and share it with others to help them collectively make better sense of the information.

Frequently business users need to analyze complex data. Visualization is well suited to this task but traditionally, it has been carried out in isolation. Many Eyes supports collaborative analysis around the visualizations of data. By drawing on the insight and expertise of users all across the Internet, Many Eyes can provide broader and deeper analyses of data.

International Herald Tribune: Lotus adds products to fend off Microsoft at Lotusphere (Hiawatha Bray)
For years now, Lotus Notes has watched Microsoft's Exchange messaging software swallow an increasing share of the corporate messaging market.

But in an interview at IBM Software's office in Cambridge last week, Bisconti scoffed at a recent report from the market research firm Radicati Group, which found that Microsoft's Exchange software has a 33 percent share of the corporate e-mail market, compared with 21 percent for Notes. "We're not losing share," Bisconti said. "We're gaining overall share."

Merely counting e-mail licenses, he said, does not take into account Lotus's greater strength in the market for complex collaborative applications, used by companies to help teams of employees work together. Without offering hard numbers, Bisconti said that Lotus remains the leader in collaborative computing.

Bisconti's comments came the day before IBM released its 2006 financial results, which seemed to vindicate him.

Information Week: A Peek At The Future Of Computing (David DeJean)
One of the best things about the IBM Lotusphere conference is always the glimpses it gives you of the future of computing. The various IBM Research labs send representatives who staff a room filled with demo pedestals -- two dozen this year -- where creators show off their projects. This year, as usual, several projects look like good prospects to become future products, and IBM Lotus has even put one up on the Web so you can get a look at it even though you're not at the conference.

Assodigitale: IBM Redefines Collaboration With New Lotus Notes and Domino Platform
At Lotusphere today, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced the planned availability of the IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino 8 public Beta starting this February. This is the final beta phase before the product's target ship date of mid-2007, concluding the most collaborative software review program in Lotus' history.

ComputerWorld:  IBM/Lotus in the house of M. Mouse (Richi Jennings)
Placing an emphasis on more closely tying together existing information streams inside companies, IBM kicked off its Lotusphere 2007 conference today by offering some 7,000 IT users and professionals a wide range of first looks at its latest collaboration tools.

Pointing to the company's new Lotus Connections enterprise social networking application, a collaborative content-sharing program called Lotus Quickr, and a host of features in the upcoming Version 8 of Lotus Notes and Domino, Lotus executives said they're offering business users the tools needed to collaborate more efficiently.

Stuart Mcintyre has the last word:

    Wow, wow, and thrice wow! ... There is definitely a buzz about the place this year, far more than any previous 'Sphere I've been to. ...

NewsFactor Network: IBM's New Push into Social Networking (Steve Hamm)
IBM is in fierce competition with Microsoft in the markets for communications and collaboration software, and the new Lotus Connections offering could give it a leg up -- at least temporarily. Last November, Microsoft introduced a new version of its collaboration software, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007, which includes some basic social networking technologies, including blogs and wikis.

CRN:  IBM Rearms Against Microsoft Office (Barb Darrow)
Could IBM be launching yet another proxy war vs. Microsoft Office? Perhaps, although the company is coy about it.

IBM's Lotus Software group is embedding updated spreadsheet, word processing and presentation editors in the upcoming Notes 8 client.

In the words of one IBM executive, these Open Document Format-compliant editors have "way more" functionality than most users need. The editors will let users open, edit and save documents created with different generations of Microsoft Office applications, including Office 2007. They also will support other ODF-compatible applications.

01/27/2007

Lotusphere 2007 Press Recap - January 22, 2007 (Part 2)

Category Lotusphere2007
(Gathered from my Google News alerts and other sources)

New York Times: I.B.M. to Introduce Workers’ Networking Software (Laurie J. Flynn)
And you thought social networking was all about text-messaging among bored teenagers.

I.B.M. has another take on it. Today the company plans to announce a set of social software tools that will bring the kind of blogging, idea sharing and war-story swapping typically associated with MySpace and Facebook, the social networking sites popular among teenagers and college students, to the corporate world.

Reuters: IBM renews Microsoft rivalry with new Web software (Eric Auchard)
IBM's Lotus unit will introduce on Monday a set of social networking services that functions like a MySpace for office workers and which analysts say marks a renewed challenge to Microsoft Corp.

Lotus is going back to its roots as a pioneer of business collaboration software with a service called Connections that features the latest ways for users to share information via the Web, while giving businesses controls over who sees what data.

Lotus Connections offers the business equivalent of Web meeting places like MySpace.com or Facebook, Yahoo Inc.'s bookmark sharing site del.icio.us and blog search tools like Technorati.com -- stitched together in one package.

Peter O'Kelly, a collaboration software expert with Burton Group, said the new software from IBM Lotus promises to shake up a market dominated by Microsoft, where IBM, Oracle Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. also compete.

"This is going to rekindle the competition between Microsoft and IBM," O'Kelly said. "I think IBM is playing offense here."

Boston.com: As sales grow, Cambridge-based Lotus adds products to fend off rival Microsoft (Hiawatha Bray)
Less than a week after reporting massive sales growth, IBM Corp.'s Cambridge-based Lotus software division is introducing products designed to keep up the momentum and fend off archrival Microsoft Corp.

At today's Lotusphere trade show in Orlando, Fla., Lotus will show off the newest upgrades to its flagship Notes and Domino software for managing e-mail and workgroup information sharing. In addition, Lotus will introduce a pair of products that will use up-to-date "Web 2.0" features like wikis and blogs to help corporate teams work more efficiently.

TechWhack: Lotus Connections: IBM to launch social networking services
US based tech giant IBM is soon going to release a new software product through their Lotus division. This new software product would feature a set of social networking services for office workers.

Market analysts believe that this could become the next big market for IBM and Microsoft might find itself lagging once again.

CNNMoney: IBM's new service challenges Microsoft
IBM's Lotus unit will introduce a set of social networking services Monday that functions like a MySpace for office workers and which analysts say marks a renewed challenge to Microsoft Corp.

Lotus is going back to its roots as a pioneer of business collaboration software with a service called Connections that features the latest ways for users to share information via the Web, while giving businesses controls over who sees what data.

MarketWire: IBM Extends Industry's Leading Unified Communications Platform (Press Release)
At Lotusphere today, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced that a new version of Lotus Sametime instant messaging and collaboration software -- which begins shipping in early second quarter 2007 -- will include real-time point-to-point video for expanded communication capabilities. This release will also include integration with Microsoft Outlook and Office applications and support for Linux servers and Macintosh clients.

Built on an Eclipse framework, Lotus Sametime is an easily extensible platform, enabling anyone to build and deploy open extensions known as "plug-ins." With the product's new integrated video capability and plug-ins developed by leading telephony and video providers, Lotus Sametime is further validated as a rich and flexible platform for unified communications and collaboration.

MarketWire: IBM Offers Leading Portal Solution for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (Press Release)
At Lotusphere today, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced IBM WebSphere Portal Express Version 6.0, the collaborative portal solution that provides a pre-built intranet and extranet experience out of the box for immediate use.

WebSphere Portal Express Version 6.0 is a new solution that allows businesses of less than 1,000 employees or departments within large organizations to be more productive and more responsive to their customers. WebSphere Portal Express provides integrated portal, document management, Web content management and collaboration capabilities in a single package with flexible pricing options.

Business Week: IBM's Social Networking Push (Steve Hamm)
In the earlier days of computing, innovations that were created for corporations gradually seeped into consumer products. But now, the traffic is going both ways—and moving quickly. The most significant example of this trend is the social networking phenomenon. Web sites like MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr have seen their popularity boom with quick and easy technologies for doing everything from creating blogs and forming communities to posting photos and videos on the Web. Now these technologies are starting to arrive in packages designed specifically for large companies. Ready or not, MySpace is coming to the enterprise.

A major advance came Jan. 22 with IBM's announcement of a new product called Lotus Connections. It wraps five social networking technologies up into one integrated package—similar to what Microsoft's Office does for traditional desktop productivity software such as Word and Excel. And, if IBM handles this right, its package could rapidly spread the use of so-called Web 2.0 applications in the business world. "While social computing software is perceived as being at the fringe of most large businesses, it's actually moving to the center fast—because it's about how the next generation of employees communicate, and create and share ideas," says Franks Gens, senior vice-president for research at tech market research IDC.

01/27/2007

Lotusphere 2007 Press Recap - January 22, 2007 (Part 1)

Category Lotusphere2007
(Gathered from my Google News alerts and other sources)

NetworkWorld: Lotus sets social networking tools, collaboration updates as focus for '07 (John Fontana)
IBM/Lotus opened its annual Lotusphere conference Monday saying its focus going into 2007 would be on the user and to prove the commitment the company unveiled new social-networking and content collaboration tools, and an upgrade to its real-time communications server.

“The end user, that is the part we are spending the most time on today,” said Mike Rhodin, general manager of IBM/Lotus kicking off a two-hour keynote that featured a handful of announcements, demos and a guest appearance by astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon.

CRN:  IBM Gets Social With 'Ready-for-Business' Social Networking (Barb Darrow)
IBM on Monday put some specifics around a range of  business-appropriate social networking tools it has been working on.

Cynics in the audience were quick to note the similarity of IBM's 'ready for business' tagline to Microsoft's equally lame 'Business Ready,' but I digress.

Here's the meat from Lotusphere 2007 in Orlando:

MarketWire: IBM Redefines Collaboration With New Lotus Notes and Domino Platform (Press Release)
At Lotusphere today, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced the planned availability of the IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino 8 public Beta starting this February. This is the final beta phase before the product's target ship date of mid-2007, concluding the most collaborative software review program in Lotus' history.

Lotus Notes and Domino 8 expands the scope of the Lotus Notes work environment to include standards-based document editors, a Real Simple Syndication (RSS) editor and composite application support. Lotus Notes 8 customers can also easily link to other Lotus portfolio components such as social, collaborative content management, and unified communications software.

Reseller News: Microsoft's annual jab at Lotus (John Fontana)
Microsoft, taking its annual dig at rival IBM/Lotus, announced a set of free tools it plans to ship in February to help customers migrate from Notes/Domino.

Like clockwork, Microsoft every year uses the eve of IBM's annual Lotusphere customer conference to entice users with its own collaboration wares. Lotusphere begins on Monday in Orlando, Florida and is expected to draw 7000 users.

This year, Microsoft is releasing a trio of tools and templates designed to ease a switch to its unified communications platform, which Microsoft has upgraded with the recently released Exchange 2007 and forthcoming upgrades to SharePoint Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007.

"This is what, the fifth or sixth time that Microsoft has built a magic box to migrate from Notes," says Ed Brill, a business unit executive for worldwide sales at IBM/Louts. "What makes this one any more likely to succeed?"

ebizQ: IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8 Upgraded
IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced the planned availability of the IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino 8 public Beta starting this February.

CRN:  Microsoft Re-Ups On Domino Migration Tools (Barb Darrow)
 Microsoft launched its habitual pre-emptive strike at Lotusphere Sunday with updated tools to ease migration from Domino/Notes to Exchange Server/SharePoint.

The tools, partially an upgraded version of last year's model will be available as free downloads over the next 30 days.

Most of the Microsoft Transporter Suite for Lotus Notes code is home grown in Redmond, Wash. although some code was acquired from Proposion, also a Lotusphere attendee and IBM partner.

InternetNews: IBM's Social-Network Experiment  (Michael Hickins)
IBM announced today that customers will be able to attend its annual Lotusphere conference virtually on Second Life, a 3-D virtual-reality world.

Taking a MySpace and Facebook page from the consumer world, the company is pushing the use of social-networking software to illustrate how businesses can use lessons learned from virtual worlds to solve real-world business problems.

According to IBM CTO Irving Wladawsky-Berger, "using such virtual, highly visual capabilities to help us design, simulate, optimize, operate and manage business activities of all sorts is going to be one of the most important breakthroughs in the IT industry over the next decade."

ComputerWorld: Lotusphere 2007: Users see promise in new collaboration apps, Lotus features (Todd R. Weiss)
Placing an emphasis on more closely tying together existing information streams inside companies, IBM kicked off its Lotusphere 2007 conference today by offering some 7,000 IT users and professionals a wide range of first looks at its latest collaboration tools.

Pointing to the company's new Lotus Connections enterprise social networking application, a collaborative content-sharing program called Lotus Quickr, and a host of features in the upcoming Version 8 of Lotus Notes and Domino, Lotus executives said they're offering business users the tools needed to collaborate more efficiently.

Users on hand for Lotusphere generally agreed -- but said it might be a while before they take advantage of the various new tools.

ITBusiness: Lamenting Lotusphere (Paolo Del Nibletto)
Over the years, this conference has become less relevant than it use to be when Jim Manzi was running the show at Lotus. The company, or I should say IBM division, is in its market space right now. They do not make any waves. They just improve the product each year and then basically go off and hibernate for nine months.

Back in the pre-IBM days Lotus made noise all the time. They had the best spreadsheet package on Earth with 1-2-3 and its Lotus SmartSuite was one of the only challengers at the time to Microsoft Office. The company's Notes product basically revolutionized workgroup computing and with its SameTime they pushed the limits of collaboration computing.

But nothing really exciting is coming from IBM Lotus so far this conference. Some of the more interesting announcements are from third party vendors such as Markham, Ont.-based Net Integration with its NitixBlue offering. However great those solutions are, the public is going to have a tough time finding out about it because IBM Lotus is only publicizing their stuff and nothing from its partners.

ZDNet: Lotus aims to be cool (Colin Barker)
IBM is trying to be hip. It is an almost frightening prospect, but hip is a definite feature of the IBM agenda and it aspires to be not just ordinary hip, but suited and button-down hip. A difficult procedure, to say the least.

At Lotusphere 2007 this week in Orlando, the company came up with a raft of new products all falling roughly into under the social networking, collaboration, groupware label. Three of the hottest, hippest buttons.

It is early days in IBM’s walks down this particular road, but the company is ready and willing, if the keynotes that peppered today’s session of Lotusphere are anything to go by. And certainly if the volume-level is any guide. Lotusphere today was a noisy, quite exciting place to be. The delegates were noisy and up for it. So noisy, it sounded at times like a Microsoft conference when Foghorn Ballmer is on-stage. (Well almost.)

01/26/2007

I think we need to rethink the phrase "What happens at Lotusphere... stays at Lotusphere."

Category Lotusphere2007
The new version is...

"What happens at Lotusphere...  ends up on Flickr."

:)

01/24/2007

The miracle about my book reading habits at Lotusphere this year...

Category Lotusphere2007
Total number of books brought to Lotusphere this year:  8

Total number of books finished so far this year:  0

As Jess Stratton so eloquently pointed out...  This should tell you how good the conference has been this year.

01/24/2007

And for those tagging on Flickr with Lotusphere2007...

Category Lotusphere2007
I checked it out this morning (Wednesday) at 6:42 am, and here's the popular tag listings...

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - And for those tagging on Flickr with Lotusphere2007...

Good job, everyone!

01/24/2007

So much for recapping Day 2...

Category Lotusphere2007
Yes, I attended sessions, met people, met vendors, and had a great dinner hosted by Symfoni.  But by the time I got back to my room, I was exhausted.  And of course, it's now Wednesday morning, I've had too little sleep, and it's about to start all over again.  :)

Perhaps I'll catch up this afternoon as I have an open timeslot where I listed a session I attended yesterday.  I thought I caught all those duplicates!

I'm glad I have a weekend coming up where I can map out everything I want to do, get, and experience in the world of Lotus.

01/23/2007

I am *so* tired of having to carry Joe Litton through life...

Category Lotusphere2007
And who's idea was it to do this, anyway???

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - I am *so* tired of having to carry Joe Litton through life...

Never mind...  I think it was mine.  

Still, we "won" by coming in second.  That means we don't have to do it again on Thursday.  :)

(thanks for the picture, Julian!)

01/22/2007

Day 1 Lotusphere Recap...

Category Lotusphere2007
If you're reading this blog, odds are that you also follow other Lotus bloggers.  I see that *many* of them have recapped the opening session, so I won't even bother.  Suffice it to say, impressive stuff.  I was unconvinced coming into the opening session about the value of "social networking" software for the business environment.  But after seeing Quickr and Lotus Connections demoed, I'm moving over to the "this could be interesting" viewpoint.  I think the biggest hindrance to acceptance will be the age and culture factor.  The under-30 crowd will immediately "get it" and adapt the tools for their work.  The "I don't own a computer at home" crowd will not have a clue.  And the "I'm overwhelmed at work and can barely keep up" group will have to be the group to "cross the chasm" before this gets full momentum behind it.  Still, I absolutely love the fact that IBM is out in the forefront of taking Web 2.0 social constructs and making an attempt to adapt them to the enterprise.  It won't necessarily be perfect on version 1.0, but there's no way to plan this out beforehand.  It will go where people take it...

Sessions:  
Worst Practices - as always, an incredible session by Paul Mooney and Bill Buchan.  Learning from the mistakes of others *before* you make them yourselves.  This should be an annual classic now.
Bloggers Q&A session - more on that below.
Creating Maintainable IBM Lotus Notes and Domino Applications - Writing Readable Code - Rocky does a phenomenal job on this session, and I don't think it matters how long you've been developing.  There's always a better way to improve your coding.
How to Make IBM Lotus Domino Sites That Don't Look (or Act) Like Lotus Domino - Henry Newberry and Scott Good presented a number of techniques on how you can improve the look and interaction of standard Notes/Domino websites, as well as overcoming some common problems like date pickers and address books.  This is a session where I'll be downloading the demo database to dissect it.

The blogger's Q&A session was an interesting experiment in letting the blogging community have access to the IBM head honchos much like a press conference.  On one hand, I give them high marks for reaching out to one of the most influential groups at Lotusphere.  On the other hand, the presenters need to adjust their style to the audience.  Many of the answers were more high-level and involved than what the blogging community was after.  The focus on our part was more technical in nature, and a quick exchange of question/answer would have worked better.  Think of the pattern established by Gurupalooza and Meet the Developers.  Ask the question, get the answer, move on.  The audience we target is more "in the trenches" than the typical press analyst.  On our part, we need to "obey the rules" better when it comes to the framework of the meeting (I'll leave it at that).  While it may not have been what was hoped for, I really hope this wasn't the "the first (and last) annual bloggers Q&A session."  This concept has potential.

Random thoughts...

Quickr (the new name for the QuickPlace/Domino Doc enhancement) has the potential to be an easy-to-manage answer to Sharepoint.  Time will tell, but releasing the personal edition of Quickr as free software was a perfect way to start the movement.

With Lotus Connections and Quickr, I can see someone living in Notes all day long, with no use for Office or anything else.  

01/21/2007

Great day 0 at Lotusphere...

Category Lotusphere2007
... as all programmers know that indexes start at zero.  :)

The day started with a quick breakfast at the Dolphin followed by a hike over to the Swan for the SOA jumpstart.  While the information was good, it was delivered lecture style with not an overabundance of enthusiam.  Glad I went, as this is a direction we're going at work.  But I did have to work at staying engaged.  The next jumpstart was the Java and Eclipse session.  Much more lively, and the speakers did a good job with the material.  I was more interested in the Eclipse material than the Java stuff, and there's a few things I learned that I'll be able to use when I get back...

After a diversion to the Dolphin for a quick lunch, it was back over to the Swan for Scott Good's Javascript and Ajax jumpstart.  This one really captured my attention, and I already have a list of techniques I want to try out when I return to the office next week.  So far, this jumpstart was the best one for "walk away with" stuff that you can immediately.  I had one other scheduled jumpstart after that, but the jet lag sorta caught up with me.  I headed back to the room to relax prior to the welcome reception.  *That* event was a classic this year...

I brought Ian along this year, and it funny how many people already knew who he was based on prior blog entries.  I found a poolside table and started the "gathering of the bloggers."  In relatively short order, we had about 20 or so people gathered around, and things just kept growing.  Paul Mooney tracked down Wild Bill for his birthday party celebration, and we ordered him into a chair and made sure he didn't go anywhere.  Mooney ran down the cake that was ordered, and a choir of thousands (hundreds?  at least a lot of 10's) belted out a rousing redition of happy birthday.  It's well worth going out to Flickr to see the pictures of Bill wearing the cake.

I'm not sure how much of a voice I'll have tomorrow, and I hope the pain in my jaw from laughing so much subsides by then.  I'm looking forward to the opening general session tomorrow, as I feel all the pre-conference buzz will finally play out to some great announcements.

01/20/2007

BALD was beautiful...

Category Lotusphere2007
The blogger's "dinner" was a lot of fun down on the Boardwalk this evening.  It was great catching up with all my friends that I haven't seen in a year.  And best of all, the servers weren't mad at us this year...  we behaved ourselves, didn't overrun tables, and had single bills for tables.  

I don't think they'll black-list us next time around...  :)

I met up with Ian around 6, got to see his apartment, stopped for a bit of food, and then came back to the room.  Ian's going to be staying with me all this week as the hotel's much closer to his work place here at Disney.  Besides, it'll be nice to catch up with him on the new job and such.

Yes, I know I should be down at Turtle's party.  But I didn't get as much sleep as I should have on the plane last night, and I'm still fighting the cold.  Hopefully a decent night's sleep will help out.

01/20/2007

Here at the 'sphere now...

Category Lotusphere2007
The night flight was uneventful, and I wasn't wedged in-between anyone.  I quickly got my luggage and ran into Lekkim (who's still looking for his).  Mears delivered me to the Dolphin by 10, and I have probably the best room I've ever had for this event.  Dolphin central tower, 18th floor, overlooking the lakes.   Very, very nice...

Well, I have to head over to Downtown Disney and meet Ian for lunch (as well as give him half the luggage I carried down).  After that, I'll head back to my room (did I mention how nice it was?), and clean up for the BALD meeting down on the Boardwalk.  Looking forward to seeing everyone down there...

01/19/2007

Lotusphere is finally starting to seem a bit more real to me now...

Category Lotusphere2007
I'm sitting at the Portland airport, waiting for my red-eye flight to Orlando (via Atlanta).  The last three years, the Lotusphere build-up involved session prep and all that good stuff.  "Just" being an attendee this year is somewhat of a different feeling.  It didn't help that I didn't get confirmation from work to attend until right before Thanksgiving.  There's been a lot going on at work, and that's sucked up a *lot* of time.  Throw the big road trip to get Ian down to Orlando, and I really haven't been able to get my mind wrapped around the event like I normally do.  I hate to admit that I didn't even visit Turtle's site this year...  I couldn't even tell you who the odds-on favorite is for the special opening speaker...  

I think I'm more excited about seeing all my Notes/Domino colleagues and buddies than anything else.  Yes, I have plenty of sessions booked, as well as some events that will be no doubt memorable.  But Lotusphere has been, is, and always will be about the people.  At work, my customers refer to this as "Geekfest 2007", but they also know how much it means to me.  The networking aspect has become more important to me with each passing year.

Just yesterday, I had someone ask me about Sametime bots.  I explained that I was friends with Carl Tyler and I would be talking with him about that very subject.  To which he replied that he had just gotten off the phone with Carl and his company, and was looking forward to hearing what I learned.  It always looks good when you can produce working relationships with people and companies that your customers found in their own research.

Anyway...  I'll stop my rambling now.  I'll pop another Comtrex tablet to fight off the pre-Lotusphere cold.  I also promised my wife I wouldn't take any of my "stupid pills" (Ambien) until I was physically on the plane and in my seat.  I don't think it would look good if I called her tomorrow morning, asking her to pick me up from the Portland airport, where I slept overnight on the floor...  :)

01/18/2007

Book Review - Netiquette: Internet etiquette in the age of the blog by Matthew Strawbridge

Category None
I'm a long-time computer geek, and I'm well aware of what is generally acceptable behavior on the 'net.  But when asked to list the "rules", it's tough to come up with a comprehensive source that you can point the newbie to.  Matthew Strawbridge has taken a shot at that goal in his book Netiquette: Internet etiquette in the age of the blog, and it's a commendable effort.

Contents:
Introduction
Part 1 - Forms of Online Communication: Email; Forums; Real-time Messaging; World Wide Web; Blogs and Wikis
Part 2 - Online Services: Transferring Files; Online Auctions; Other Online Services
Part 3 - Other Issues: Advertising and Spam; Security; Miscellany; Conclusion
Appendix A - Instant-messaging abbreviations; Appendix B - Netiquette for Internet Service Providers; Appendix C - Summary of Rules; Glossary; Bibliography; Index; About the Author

I know some people will take exception to these "rules" and assert their right to do whatever they please.  Conversely, Matthew has gathered together the conventional wisdom that has evolved over time about how people expect others to behave when they're online.  Making an attempt to generally follow these guidelines tends to make everyone's experience much more pleasant.  For instance, the forum rule "lurk before you leap" means that you should observe the flow of an online group and get a feel for how things are done before diving in.  Breaking the established norms of a discussion group gets you started off on the wrong foot and can ruin what might be otherwise be a beneficial exchange of views.  Or another "for instance"...  for bloggers, "check the spelling and grammar of your blog posts."  Instead of just blasting out something on the keyboard and hitting submit, take a second and read your entry back to yourself.  Make it easy for your reader to follow what you have to say.  And yes, I've been guilty of this one far more than I'd like to admit.

I would expect some readers to quibble with particular entries, such as "don't use VoIP unless you need an immediate response."  Depending on who you're calling and what the situation is, VoIP might be perfectly acceptable.  Or the one that states "only create a blog if you really need one."  Yes, there are far too many abandoned blogs out there, as well as too many that discuss things that no one cares about.  But how would you know if you need one unless you give it a try?    But in my opinion, these "judgement calls" are few and far between, and the vast majority of the rules are ones that you should disregard at your own risk...

Good book, and one that you'll probably want to gift-wrap for your favorite troll or SHOUTER...

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01/18/2007

IBM To Pitch 'Ventura' To IT-Enable Social Software Faves

Category Lotusphere2007
From CRN.com and Barb Darrow:  IBM To Pitch 'Ventura' To IT-Enable Social Software Faves

At Lotusphere 2007 next week, IBM plans to unveil an array of IT-friendly "social networking" tools.

IBM is expected to talk up productised versions of internal projects now going under the code names Dogear, Ventura and Geneva.

I'll be interested to see how these play out in the corporate environment.  Just because everyone has a MySpace page doesn't necessarily mean that corporations can adopt the same technology.  Social bookmarking is something that seems more cultural, and might not necessarily catch fire inside an organization.  Ventura (Web 2.0 items such as blogs and wikis) stand a better chance from what I've seen and experienced.  And repackaging QuickPlace and Domino Document Management under Geneva could be intriguing.  What I *do* like is that IBM is willing to put the technology out there and see where it goes, rather than wait for someone else to formulate the rules first.

Social tools like wikis and blogs have taken the consumer world by storm, but the current technology is viewed warily by IT people who worry about compliance issues and security breaches. If such tools come out with an IBM imprimatur, that constituency likely would take a closer look.

IBM was the first company to make instant messaging IT-friendly with Sametime, and it's now looking to do the same with other social technologies.

Looking forward to seeing more about all this...

01/18/2007

Great earning news for IBM/Lotus heading into Lotusphere...

Category IBM/Lotus
 Revenues from the Software segment were $5.6 billion, an increase of 14 percent (11 percent, adjusting for currency) compared with the fourth quarter of 2005. Revenues from IBM's middleware brands, which include WebSphere, Information Management, Tivoli, Lotus and Rational products, were $4.4 billion, up 18 percent versus the fourth quarter of 2005. Operating systems revenues decreased 2 percent to $642 million compared with the prior-year quarter. Revenues from other software and services increased, which includes the Product Lifecycle Management portfolio of products.

For the WebSphere family of software products, which facilitate customers' ability to manage a wide variety of business processes using open standards to interconnect applications, data and operating systems, revenues increased 22 percent. Revenues for Information Management software, which enables clients to leverage information on demand, increased 28 percent. Revenues from Tivoli software, infrastructure software that enables customers to centrally manage networks including security and storage capability, increased 25 percent, and revenues for Lotus software, which allows collaborating and messaging by customers in real-time communication and knowledge management, increased 30 percent year over year. Revenues from Rational software, integrated tools to improve the processes of software development, increased 12 percent compared with the year-ago quarter.

I wonder when we're going to hit Radicati's 18% of the market?  :)

01/18/2007

Great observation from the IT-Director.com blog site...

Category Lotusphere2007
From the blog of Roger Whitehead over there...

Microsoft normally announces something about now to try to attract wavering punters to its products. The Lotus faithful treat these 'spoilers' with contempt, their blog sites typically showing the infeasibility or unattractiveness of the latest Redmond offering or, now and again, scornfully pointing out its rapid withdrawal. It all makes for Wimbledon-like fun for the unaligned observer.

Ah, yes...  last year was *so* much fun!  I was curious as to whether Microsoft would learn from last year's fiasco with Red Bull.  They either 1) don't have anything to deflect attention this time around (I doubt that), or 2) they decided to wait to announce stuff *during* Lotusphere so that the "Lotus faithful" don't have the time nor attention to dig into it.  I noticed that Microsoft's "Notes Compete" group posted something to their blog yesterday along the lines of "we're still here, we're still building cool conversion tools, and we're getting stuff ready for you."  That leads me to believe that option 2 is the battle plan for 2007.

Proposal for the "Lotus faithful"...  There's been the stray suggestion occasionally that it would be interesting to get a roomful of Notes geeks and let them code jam for an hour to see what they come up with.  I would propose that if Red Bull 2 (3? what are we up to now?) makes its appearance next week, that we create our own unofficial BOF session and run it through the spin cycle.

Wouldn't *that* make for great closing session quote material?  :)

01/17/2007

Book Review - Wireless Home Networking Simplified by Jim Doherty and Neil Anderson

Category Book Reviews
One of the drawbacks of working in IT is that you get numerous requests from friends and neighbors asking for help setting up wireless networks (or fixing the ones they already have).  I've wanted a book I could recommend that would give them everything they need, written at a level they could understand.  I think I found it here...  Wireless Home Networking Simplified by Jim Doherty and Neil Anderson.  Very well done...

Contents:
Part 1 - How Does It Work: How Wireless LANs Work; Wireless Standards - What the Letters Mean; Selecting the Right Wireless Standard for Your Network
Part 2 - What You Should Know: Planning Your Wireless Network; Wireless Security - What You Need to Know; What to Buy
Part 3 - How Do I Set It Up?: Wireless Router Setup; Wireless NIC Setup; Wireless Security Setup
Part 4 - "Honey, This Stupid Wireless Thing Is Not Working": Troubleshooting - I Can't Connect At All; Troubleshooting - I Can Connect Sometimes; Troubleshooting - I Can Connect, But It's Slow
Part 5 - Bell and Whistles: Wireless Video and Entertainment; Wireless to Go; The Future of Wireless Networking
Appendixes: MAC Address Filtering; 802.11n Wireless Channels; 802.11 Additional Revisions; Glossary; Index

I would have loved to have a copy of book a few years back when I first went wireless at home.  The writing style is well-suited to a reasonably intelligent person who isn't brand new to computers.  All the examples are using LinkSys products, but it's not that hard to make the appropriate adjustments if you're running something else, like D-Link.  Rather than just giving the reader the basic "do this, this, and this", the authors explain the background and concepts that come into play when setting up an effective wireless network.  For instance, the security section goes into a good discussion about why it's important to pay attention to how you configure your router.  The options are presented in a clear, easy to understand fashion, as well as how all the other devices on your wireless network will need to be configured based on the choices you make.  I also liked the chapter on Bells and Whistles, as it goes beyond the basics of connecting your computer to the Internet.  With all the gaming consoles now supporting wireless connectivity, it's important to include coverage in this area.  You just *know* your kid is going to want to connect his new XBox or Wii to the network...

If you're wanting to take the wireless plunge, do so with this book in hand.  You'll increase your chances of success, and probably save a few hairs on your head in the process...

01/16/2007

Book Review - Run With the Bulls Without Getting Trampled by Tim Irwin, Ph.D.

Category Book Reviews
I've not necessarily related my work career with the "running of the bulls" in Pamplona.  But there are some good analogies to be drawn in the book Run With the Bulls Without Getting Trampled: The Qualities You Need to Stay Out of Harm's Way and Thrive at Work by Tim Irwin, Ph.D.  This is a book I'd recommend to anyone looking to survive in the business world with their integrity and morals intact.

Contents:
The Run
Section 1 - Thoughtful Commitment: Run to Win; The Arena; Getting to the Arena
Section 2 - Authentic Character: Run by the Rules; Keep on Running; Don't Get Disqualified from the Race
Section 3 - Exceptional Competence: Make Sure You're Fit to Run; Run Well with Others; Run with Skill; Run Your Best Race
Epilogue; Introduction to Online Assessment and Developmental Resources; Notes; Index

A few years back, the author went with his son to Pamplona to experience the "running of the bulls."  It was a life-changing experience for him, and he found a number of similarities to life in the business world.  The entity that is your organization is the bull, and it has just one thing on its mind...  getting to the arena.  Whatever it does to you in that process (trampling, goring, etc.) isn't personal...  it's just the nature of the bull.  Once you understand that key point, you can start to figure out how to successfully make it to the arena along with the bull.  By running with commitment, character, and competence, you can navigate the pitfalls and perils that exist.  

I found many parts of this book that resonated with me, far too many to try and put into a short review.  But one example is the section on committing to a life of significance, and how work life needs to contribute to that.  There's a "preflight checklist" that you can use to measure your current situation...  Does it inspire passion?  Fit who we are?  Does it serve others?  Provide meaning?  I found myself counting my blessings that I have a very good work situation that meets many of these criteria.  But it's always a good idea to review your situation with a book like this to make course corrections before you get too bogged down in a dead end situation.

An excellent read, and one that I found truly inspirational...

01/15/2007

The importance of bloggers at this year's Lotusphere event...

Category Lotusphere2007
While blogging has been a vital part of Lotusphere for the last three years or so, Lotus is taking bloggers *very* seriously this year.  On Monday, there's a bloggers Q&A session after the press/analyst meeting.  That pretty much gives bloggers access to IBM/Lotus management in the same way that press has been treated in the past.  Ed Brill has also encouraged bloggers to tag their posts with Lotusphere2007 for consolidation on various sites, and is actively telling industry analysts to monitor that tag for bloggers feedback and input.

Personally, I think that this emphasis on bloggers and their coverage of Lotusphere could be a very important side story this year...

01/15/2007

Two phrases you don't want to hear at the Orlando airport...

Category Everything Else
"Code Bravo East" and "Code Bravo West"

When flying back last Monday, I was sitting in line waiting to board my Southwest flight to Portland.  An alarm tone sounded three times over the loudspeaker, followed by the phrase "Code Bravo East...  Code Bravo East..."  This went on for about 30 seconds, and we all wondered what was going on.  This was followed shortly by our Southwest gate attendant telling us the inbound flight had arrived, but there was a "security situation" that would not allow boarding or unboarding until resolved.  From what I could piece together, someone had gone through security "incorrectly", and they had to find the person before anything could move.  After about 30 minutes, they tracked down the person and all was well.  

Not so well was my wife's experience on Saturday...  same airport, Alaska Air flying back to Seattle.  While I was on the phone with her, I heard the warning alarm followed by "Code Bravo West...  Code Bravo West..."  I laughed and said "you're not going anywhere for awhile."  I don't know what her situation was, but it required a full evacuation of the terminal for rescreening.  For those who know the Orlando airport, the security line was about three across and was backed up *past* the food court.  That's a very long line...  She didn't miss her flight, as it was already over three hours late coming inbound from Seattle.

So...  if you're at the airport this week and you hear those dreaded words, you might want to see if the Hyatt has any spare rooms.  :)

01/14/2007

Book Review - Nash Editions: Photography and the Art of Digital Printing

Category Book Reviews
Most of the time when you view photography, you think about the image and composition, not the process of how the image is put on paper.  In Nash Editions: Photography and the Art of Digital Printing by Nash Editions, you'll think more about the printing process than usual.  And there's some really stunning photography, to boot!

Contents:
Introduction - Graham Nash
The History of Nash Editions - R. Mac Holbert
The Four Stages of Photography - Richard Benson
A History of Permanence in Traditional and Digital Color Photography: The Role of Nash Editions - Henry Wilhelm
Selected Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Index

This book consists of four essays centered around the process of image creation on paper.  Nash Editions focuses on the creation of high-end digital image printing, and as such has learned a lot about the process and history of how photos are transferred to paper.  From the chemical-heavy techniques of the early days of photography to the digital printing processes of today, you'll gain insights into issues such as color fidelity and permanence.  I now know why all those pictures of the sixties faded out so badly...  The more visually stunning part of the book consists of the large number of images throughout the book.  From black-and-white landscapes to portraits to abstract compilations, each page turn gives the reader another treat to ponder and enjoy.  Very beautiful compositions...  If this were a hardbound book, it'd be a classic "coffee-table" book.  As a paperback, it doesn't have quite the same outward impact as other books similar to this.  But it definitely holds its own in terms of content.

This is a book that any serious photographer would enjoy owning...

01/14/2007

Book Review - Head First Object-Oriented Analysis and Design

Category Book Reviews
It's entirely possible that as a Notes/Domino developer, you've never had occasion to work with object-oriented design.  But as you work with other development areas in your organization, the subject will become a requirement.  Or, you might even sit in on an object-oriented LotusScript session or two at Lotusphere.  To get a better idea as to what object-oriented analysis and design means, I would strongly recommend this book...  Head First Object-Oriented Analysis & Design by Brett D. McLaughlin, Gary Pollice, and David West.  I wish I had this book about 10 years ago...

Contents: Great Software Begins Here - Well-designed apps rock; Give Them What They Want - Gathering requirements; I Love You, You're Perfect... Now Change - Requirements change;  Taking Your Software Into the Real World - Analysis; Part 1 - Nothing Ever Stays the Same - Good design; Interlude - OO CATASTROPHE; Part 2 - Give Your Software a 30-minute Workout - Flexible software; “My Name is Art Vandelay” - Solving really big problems; Bringing Order to Chaos - Architecture; Originality is Overrated - Design principles; The Software is Still for the Customer - Iteration and testing; Putting It All Together - The ooa&d lifecycle; Appendix I - Leftovers; Appendix II - Welcome to objectville

Since I originally started programming in the world of “big iron” mainframes (yes, I am old!), I learned to program in the procedure style.  Start at the top, execute the code sequentially, and finish at the end.  When object-oriented programming became the next “big thing”, I had a horrible time wrapping my mind around it.  Having someone tell me “an object is a dog” is useless, as I want to know how you code a dog!  Over the years, I've slowly started to understand what it's all about, but it's still not natural.  This Head First book is one of the first that bridges the gap between concept and code for me, as well as engaging the entire mind in understanding objects both from the design and analysis perspective.

The book starts off with a fictitious guitar shop that wants a better application for matching guitars to customers.  Using a combination of code and narrative (and graphics and unusual drawings and puzzles and...), the authors walk you through the design process using objects.  Once you see how the process fits from the software side, you start to cover the analysis and design process in the following chapters.  You'll be building the next killer dog door product, and along the way you'll pick up UML concepts such as use cases and class diagrams.  What makes all this different from your standard UML book is that the concepts are an outgrowth of the process.  Normally, you're presented with the “this is a use case diagram” writing first, followed by the “how is this used in the real world” (if you're lucky). Head First reverses the order, and as such it's a whole lot easier to understand why you'd want to use something like a class diagram.  It also tends to “de-jargonify” the concepts so that you're not struggling with unfamiliar terms at the same time you're fighting the new concepts.

All the books in the Head First series are far different than anything else on the market.  By using unusual images, fonts, and diagrams, the mind is forced to view the pages in a new light – far different from other books.  The puzzles and exercises scattered throughout are also different from the normal question/answer format, so again you use different brain cells.  The goal of the book concept, as conceived by Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates, is to involve as many senses as possible.  In all cases, that goal is exceeded without fail.  Oh, and did I mention that they are just plain fun to read?

I'll be the first to admit that learning object-oriented design and analysis isn't a “must do right now” learning task for the typical Notes/Domino developer.  But with Hannover bringing composite applications into the Notes realm, there's a much greater chance that you'll be asked to participate in projects where OO design techniques are expected.  A few hours spent with this book ahead of time will give you the tools and concepts you need in order to succeed in that world.

01/14/2007

Book Review - Process Improvement Essentials by James R. Persse

Category Book Reviews
I've had the dubious "pleasure" of reading process improvement books that would make your eyes bleed.  Fortunately, this isn't one of them...  Process Improvement Essentials: CMMI, Six SIGMA, and ISO 9001 by James R. Persse.  This is a perfect "first look" at the subject for someone who doesn't yet know what they don't know...

Contents:
Part One - Process and Process Improvement: Introduction; The Case for Process; Establishing Your Process Program; Sustaining Process Improvement
Part Two - Three Major Process Improvement Standards: ISO 9001:2000; The Capability Maturity Model Integration (For Development); Six Sigma; Considerations For Adoption
Index

The problem with many books on this subject is that they dive into the details of a specific program before you really understand *why* you're doing this in the first place.  That's fine for someone who has already decided on a particular approach, but it's completely unsuited to someone who really just needs to get a broad overview.  Persse solves this issue by starting out with a high-level look at Process Improvement...  why it's necessary, how it works, and how it's best implemented.  Based on his years of experience, he is able to point out the mindsets and approaches that will either jumpstart or doom a process improvement initiative.  Only after the reader has the mental framework does he introduce details on the three major process improvement frameworks commonly seen in the market today.  There's enough detail in each of the chapters to understand how the framework functions and what it's designed to resolve, but not so much that the reader (at the targeted level) decides it's all too complicated and walks away.  After reading this book, you should know what it is that you don't know, have an idea as to what areas to focus on, and be prepared to take *intelligent* next steps.  And before you decide to sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into a program, that's a great place to be starting at.

I'd consider this "required reading" for anyone contemplating a process improvement initiative.  Time and dollars invested here will ensure much better value for the money you'll end up spending down the road...

01/13/2007

Book Review - Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle

Category Book Reviews
Even though I had packed a fair share of books on my recent roadtrip, my flight back from Orlando to Portland was lacking some mind-candy reading.  I visited the airport book store and picked up Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle.  This is an excellent first novel, and it made the trip back a whole lot shorter...

Dr Nathaniel McCormick works for the Centers For Disease Control, and he's out in Baltimore when a strange virus outbreak occurs.  The symptoms look like a cross between a flu and a hemorrhagic fever, and it's got a high mortality rate.  Furthermore, it's only appearing in mentally handicapped individuals who reside at group homes.  The medical tests are not finding anything currently in the books, but some old-fashioned legwork is showing a web of sexual partners with a single individual at the center.  The harder McCormick pushes to question people and test the homes, the more interference he gets from high-powered officials.  And when "patient zero" is found murdered, McCormick knows that there's a major cover-up taking place.  He just doesn't know what it is or where the virus will show up next.  Together with a prior love interest, he turns his sights on a biotech firm associated with the medical college he was thrown out of earlier in his life.  Far too many of the people he visits end up dead shortly afterwards, and he's not quite sure if he'll discover his answers before they get to him also...

Generally speaking, I cut new authors a little slack when it comes to their first published work.  Writing a mainstream novel is not easy, and getting the pacing down usually comes with time.  In this case, Spanogle cut to the head of the class.  The depiction of a new virus threat seemed very realistic, as well as the constant questioning as to whether this was a bio-terrorist threat or just a new bug.  It also showed that there are no easy answers when it comes to the detective work, and sometimes luck plays a more important role than skill.  Just about the time you think you know where his story is going, there's a twist that takes you off in another direction.  And although you think there are people in the story you can trust, each one has just a slight edge to them that makes you wonder if there's something that you don't yet know...

A very good, entertaining read, and an excellent first effort...  Spanogle will be an author I keep on my "must read" list...

01/13/2007

Book Review - Physical: An American Checkup by James McManus

Category Book Reviews
This was an "I need something to read" library pickup, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect...  Physical: An American Checkup by James McManus.  It's a personal story of a typical middle-aged man facing his mortality and deciding to get "the full physical".  Mixed in with his experience, he also spends plenty of time railing against healthcare and the government's stance against stem cell testing.  A bit uneven, but incredibly funny when it's clicking...

McManus is a typical guy who is middle-aged, drinks and smokes, but has never really paid much attention to it all.  But he starts to think about whether he'll live to see his six and eight year old girls by a second marriage grow up at his current pace.  His genetics work against him too, as the men in his family don't fare too well in terms of longevity.  He's given the opportunity to take a three day "executive physical" at the Mayo clinic, and he goes into bitingly funny detail on the procedures.  The treadmill stress test "dominatrixes" are a riot, and you can just feel how his male ego is taking a beating at the hands of these two ladies.  When not discussing his personal physical, he's commenting on the state of healthcare in the United States, as well as the government's refusal to allow stem cell research.  He sees it from the point of view of his daughter, a lady in her late 20's with Type 1 diabetes.  Stem cell research holds out hope for one day finding a cure for this disease, as well as others, but progress has been handcuffed by the Bush administration.  Although there are two sides to every story, I can relate to his frustration as I have a son with the same condition.  The possibility of seeing him live without needles and insulin is a dream and wish of mine also.

It's hard to slot this book into just a single genre...  It could be comedy if you just focus on the physical.  It could also be social commentary if you just focus on the government rants.  Depending on where you stand on the stem cell issue, you could end up loving or hating this book.  In any case, McManus puts a personal face on many of the health care issues confronting us today, and Physical will probably have you laughing some and thinking a bit all the way through...

01/13/2007

Book Review - The Old New Thing by Raymond Chen

Category None
It's a common occurrence as a developer...  You go into a program in order to fix something, and you run across some quirky code.  "What idiot came up with this?"  The reality is that there were likely constraints and limitations at the time that you don't know about.  Raymond Chen talks about those issues and many others in the book The Old New Thing: Practical Development Throughout the Evolution of Windows.  It's not a book that kept me riveted throughout, but it was interesting nonetheless...

Contents: Initial Forays into User Interface Design; Selected Reminiscences on Windows 95; The Secret Life of GetWindowText; The Taskbar and Notification Area; Puzzling Interface Issues; A History of the GlobalAlloc Function; Short Topics in Windows Programming; Window Management; Reminiscences on Hardware; The Inner Workings of the Dialog Manager; General Software Issues; Digging into the Visual C++ Compiler; Backward Compatibility; Etymology and History; How Window Messages Are Delivered and Retrieved; International Programming; Security; Windows 2000 and Windows XP; Win32 Design Issues; Taxes; Silliness; Index

Chen is a programmer for the Windows operating system, and he uses this book to tell the "history" of Windows development.  The chapters are divided up into subsections that are often titled "Why..."  The approach is to explain why certain design decisions were made, given the environment of the time.  The writing style is conversational and somewhat irreverent, so in large part it's a book that you would sit down and read like an entertaining nonfiction essay.  For instance, you'll find out that having a huge dictionary for spell checking isn't necessarily a good thing ("werre" is a proper word in the Oxford English dictionary).  You'll learn that staying away from maintaining maps for software sold internationally is a wise move.  And why exactly is CR+LF the defacto line terminator, anyway?  It's those tidbits and insights that made the book well worth reading for me.

On the flip side, the book gets into a *lot* of Windows API coding, complete with code listings, comparisons, and how-tos.  Now, if you're a hard-core Windows developer, you may well find that the sections on the difference between CreateMenu and CreatePopupMenu or what is _purecall are more to your liking.  These are the parts where the geeky developer will be able to find out why a certain API comes loaded down with so much seemingly extraneous baggage.  As someone who *isn't* into Windows API work, I found these chapter sections less interesting and tended to start skimming over them.  Again, it all depends on what you're after when reading this book...

Both the specialist and generalist will have something to like about The Old New Thing.  The developer geek will probably get more out of it than I did, but it was worth reading in any case.
 

01/12/2007

U-Haul customer service gets my "Hall of Shame" award...

Category Everything Else
As mentioned in the blog entry for Leg #1 of our Road Trip, the Bully cartop cargo carrier didn't fare very well with us.  One of the four straps snapped less than 500 miles into our trip, and the front was starting to shred from the wind resistance.  Here's a picture of the overall shredding:

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - U-Haul customer service gets my

And a close-up of the damage...  We're talking see-through on a bag that is supposed to be waterproof:

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - U-Haul customer service gets my

So...  Armed with the receipt ($49.95) and bag, I returned to the U-Haul outlet at 1327 NE 82nd in Portland Oregon.  I have never been made to feel like such a criminal scam artist by any company in my life.

I pleasantly explained the situation and asked for a refund.  The first guy behind the counter was amazed that there was that much damage, and had never heard of a failure like that before.  He called the manager over, and that's where things got ugly.

The manager said that no one else had ever had that problem, and he didn't think a refund was in order.  Looking at the shredding, he first said "so how fast were you driving?  200 miles per hour?"  I said it was irrelevant how fast I was driving.  The bag was tearing due to wind resistance.  He then asked if perhaps I hadn't made sure there were no folds or creases facing the wind.  Like it's necessary to pack every square inch to account for aerodynamics???  I told him it was packed full, but I couldn't control what happened to the front of the bag when it faced the wind.  He then said again that he'd never seen something like this, and he couldn't refund my money.  I looked at him and said "So you're basically saying that I'm trying to scam you and that there's no way this could happen."  "Oh, no...  But I've never seen something like this before, and I don't think a refund is warranted.  You can try contacting the manufacturer, though..."

The guy behind the counter did offer me an in-store credit coupon for $10 and said he'd mail me another $20 coupon if I left my address.  Whatever, but it doesn't make up for the scummy way the manager handled the whole situation.  I could have seen it if I turned up with just the bag and no receipt.  But it was obvious that I purchased it, and it was obvious that it didn't perform, regardless of whether the manager had ever "seen" that happen before.  I'm not even sure I minded the "no refund" stance.  It was the insinuation that I was trying to con the store.

I'll do my best in the future to avoid that particular U-Haul outlet, and I'm not necessarily feeling much like patronizing *any* U-Haul store in the future if that's the way I can expect to be treated...
 

01/12/2007

Refreshing hide formulas on view action buttons... any leads?

Category IBM/Lotus
I have a routine in an application that marks a view of documents as "locked" or "unlocked" when the view action button is clicked.  There's a "Lock Documents" and an "Unlock Documents" button at the top of the view.  Each one is hidden based on a @DbColumn command that looks at the value of the Lock column in a view.  Since it's an "all or nothing" lock, the appearance of the lock hides the Lock Document action, and the lack of a lock hides the Unlock Document action.  After I run the LotusScript agent attached to the action button, I have the view do a refresh so that the lock icon shows up.  

All the stuff above works fine...  Except for one tiny nit...

Once the Lock Documents agent finishes, I'd like to have the hide formulas in the view action buttons be reevaluated.  It'd be great to have the Lock Documents button disappear and have the Unlock Documents button replace it.  The only way it happens now is to exit the view and go back in.  When you reenter the view, the buttons obviously refresh and all is as it should be.

I've tried a number of combinations of methods of NotesUIView, NotesUIDatabase, and anything else that looked promising.  But in the end, I couldn't manage a refresh on the view action button hide formulas.

Any ideas from the accumulated wisdom of Notes gurus out there?

UPDATE:  Declan gets the "free beer" award for pointing me to a view property that I was unaware of...  works like a charm!

01/11/2007

Lotus Domino -- Aging Gracefully?

Category IBM/Lotus
From ServerWatch.com:  Lotus Domino -- Aging Gracefully?  

A nice article about Domino 7.0 and its continued strength and growth...

IBM/Lotus Domino Enterprise Server: Enterprise-level messaging and collaboration server with a host of Web-based features.

The Lotus Domino server and its companion Lotus Notes have been around for more than a decade. Those familiar with them probably know them very well. For these people, upgrading to version 7.0 and 7.0.2 is (or more likely was) an easy decision; there is much to like. For those who are less familiar and still in evaluation mode, the Domino server is the muscle behind the Notes user interface. Together, they form arguably the best known messaging and collaboration system, the prototypical groupware, and, from our tests and experience, the most flexible and best-supported software in this category.

Although I think this is my favorite part...

About Support

For products like Domino and Notes, which have years of development and documentation behind them, the issue is not the existence or breadth of support (which is available in online docs, forums, phone support, publications, FAQs, and user groups) but how well it is organized. Although individual experiences may vary, in general, users get more support mileage from IBM/Lotus than any other company in the industry. Much of this support is free, and the large and very active user/developer community is especially important. IBM claims a highly competitive total cost of ownership (TCO); support is a big part of that.

There was a time when there were doubts about IBM's commitment to Notes and the ability of Lotus to keep up with the Web-inspired changes in technology. That's history. IBM's roadmap for Domino/Notes includes further expansion into non-email capability and pursuit of Web 2.0 features. There are nimble competitors, such as Scalix, that have more freedom to float innovative UI features, but to make a comparison is akin to praising the elephant (the massive messaging and collaboration enterprise) for having a nice trunk, when what's important is the rest of pachyderm that keeps the whole thing moving.

01/10/2007

Book Review - The Art of Software Security Assessment

Category Book Reviews
The Art of Software Security Assessment: Identifying and Preventing Software Vulnerabilities by Mark Dowd, John McDonald, and Justin Schuh is a comprehensive treatment of how to study and assess the security of your software and operating system platforms.  If you are at all responsible for the security of software in your organization (and that includes all the developers, too), then this is a book that should be resident on your shelf.

Contents:
Part 1 - Introduction to Software Security Assessment: Software Vulnerability Fundamentals; Design Review; Operational Review; Application Review Process
Part 2 - Software Vulnerabilities: Memory Corruption; C Language Issues; Program Building Blocks; Strings and Metacharacters; Unix 1 - Privileges and Files; Unix 2 - Processes; Windows 1 - Objects and the File System; Windows 2 - Interprocess Communications; Synchronization and State
Part 3 - Software Vulnerabilities in Practice: Network Protocols; Firewalls; Network Application Protocols; Web Applications; Web Technologies
Bibliography; Index

Rather than just dive right in to detailed hacks, the authors take a measured, structured approach to assessing the security of software.  The first part of the book covers the general process of reviewing for security, including design security, operational security, and application security.  They also present the general areas of potential weaknesses that you need to look for in each development stage.  Instead of just saying "look for bugs", they present different approaches to reviews that each have their strengths and weaknesses.  You come away from Part 1 with a practical methodology that you can use immediately to consistently review all parts of your development process.  Parts 2 and 3 are a bit more like other security books you've possibly seen, but much more emphasis is placed on understanding the "why" behind the problem rather than just the "how" of fixing it.  Armed with this deeper understanding of why certain techniques are lacking, it's easier to change fundamental coding habits rather than just fixing problems as they're discovered in testing (or unfortunately in production).  Many of the examples are in C/C++, so if that's your language of choice you'll get a lot more out of the book than others.  Still, a competent developer should be able to follow the concepts regardless of their language of choice.  And it really doesn't matter if you're just Unix or just Windows.  Both sides are covered...

This is definitely not a small book (close to 1200 pages), but it's not padded or fluffed out to get there.  It delivers real value for your money...

01/10/2007

Book Review - Inside the Machine by Jon Stokes

Category Book Reviews
It's possible to say you know how your computer works.  But do you really know how your microprocessor does what it does?  Without forcing you to take a crash course in engineering, Jon Stokes does a great job in uncovering the mysteries in the book Inside the Machine: An Illustrated Introduction to Microprocessors and Computer Architecture.  It's an excellent read if you want to know what happens after you press the power button...

Contents: Basic Computing Concepts; The Mechanics of Program Execution; Pipelined Execution; Superscalar Execution; The Intel Pentium and Pentium Pro; PowerPC Processors - 600 Series, 700 Series, and 7400; Intel's Pentium 4 vs. Motorola's G4E - Approaches and Design Philosophies; Intel's Pentium 4 vs. Motorola's G4E - The Back End; 64-Bit Computing and x86-64; The G5 - IBM's PowerPC 970; Understanding Caching and Performance; Intel's Pentium M, Core Duo, and Core 2 Duo; Bibliography and Suggested Reading; Index

Normally, books like this are endless pages of painfully detailed descriptions of technology that only a true engineering geek could understand and love.  For the rest of us mere mortals, we have to make do with simplistic descriptions of the chip that runs our computers.  All the details are taken on faith.  Stokes successfully bridges the gap between textbook details and real-life analogies to make the work of the CPU understandable.  He starts off with the basics of how a CPU works and how instructions are executed.  From there, he introduces the concept of pipelined instructions, and shows how that creates a much faster chip.  But there are drawbacks, and when you're done reading you readily understand those limitations.  Once the general groundwork is in place, the discussion moves to specific microprocessors in the market and how they are designed.  Yes, those chips are highly complex, but Stokes lays a solid foundation that makes it possible to actually grasp what's going on without a Masters in chip design.  By the time you're done with the book, you are well-equipped to understand why a 2.8 GHz processor may be infinitely faster than a 3.2 GHz processor, depending on how the design was implemented.  The graphic illustrations are colorful and clear, and coupled with a conversational teaching tone, this book is...  dare I say...  "fun" to read.

Definitely a recommended read for anyone who wants to delve into microprocessor design without taking a four year degree program prior to doing so.

01/10/2007

Book Review - The Power Years by Ken Dychtwald and Daniel J. Kadlec

Category Book Reviews
All too often the thought of "retirement" brings to mind growing old, playing cards, and sitting around waiting to die.  But it doesn't have to be that way, nor should it. In The Power Years: A User's Guide to the Rest of Your Life by Ken Dychtwald, Ph. D. and Daniel J. Kadlec, you'll see how you can actually look forward to this time of less responsibility and more time to enjoy life.

Contents: Welcome to the Power Years; New Ways to Have Fun; Rediscovering and Forging Vital Relationships; Creating Your New Dream Job; Lifelong Learning Adventures; Where and How to Live; Achieving Financial Freedom; Leaving a Legacy; Author's Note; Notes; Index

Dychtwald and Kadlec explore the time of your life between 55-ish and beyond, referred to as the "Power Years".  The kids are out of the house, retirement is looming, and you no longer have the daily demands on your time and attention that you had in your 30s and 40s.  Instead of looking at this time period as one of "checking out" and rocking on the porch, they advocate a complete mental shift.  You can now explore parts of your personality and interests that were logistically difficult before.  Maybe it's going back to school or taking a few classes in an area that interests you.  It could be travel or house-swapping with someone else in order to see other parts of the country or world.  It may even involve the continuation of your working efforts.  But the thought is that you can either work at something else without the demands of advancement, or you can continue what you currently do because you have a passion for it.  The key is being able to do something that you *want* to do, not that you *have* to do.

Most of the approaches in the book work much better if you've been planning financially for your power years.  If you get to 65 with nothing but Social Security, your options are limited to a degree.  But that doesn't mean that you can't volunteer your time to a cause that sparks your interest, nor does it mean you can't start exploring relationships that you've not had time for in the past.  In some cases it might be easier said than done, but it's still a choice.  The best time to get ahold of this book would be when you're in your late 30s or early 40s, and you have time to plan for the future you want (instead of the future that just happens).

I'll admit there were a few times I sorta wished I could fast-forward my life and get to the power years a bit sooner.  But I'm much more encouraged now that my power years will be valuable and full, and not just marking time until the obituary gets written up...

01/03/2007

Road Trip 2007 - Leg 2 (Tucson Arizona to San Antonio Texas)... I only *thought* it was uneventful...

Category Everything Else
... until the last four hours.

We got started at 7 am this morning, facing about a 12 hour drive to San Antonio.  We had a fantastic time staying with my family, and I'm really glad we did that.  A good time was had by all.  Ian and I did rock/paper/scissors to see who would get to drive first, and I won (it's a control thing...  I don't like to let others drive.)  I did the first couple of hours, then Ian and I shifted after the first gas stop.  After the second gas stop, I took back over and drove the rest of the way.  11 hours in the driver's seat seemed like a walk in the park after yesterday.  :)

All was going just swell until about 200 miles out of San Antonio.  I was making great time, and dusk had just set.  Then we got weather...  heavy rains punctuated by prolonged periods of torrential downpours.  And in Texas, they don't believe in highway lighting until you get to a real city.  And there aren't any of those between El Paso and San Antonio.  By the time we got into the city limits, I was doing 50 miles per hour, trucks were passing me left and right, and 50 seemed to be a major risk.  It was NOT fun.  When we pulled into the Best Western parking lot at 9:45 pm, I was never so glad to arrive somewhere in my life.

Texas wasn't quite as flat as I expected.  Granted, there's a 200 mile stretch from about mile marker 200 to 400 which is really nothing but flat horizon.  I have some cell phone camera pictures I'll post next week (titled "Life Through The Windshield").  Not great stuff, but you'll get the idea.  But for all who told me that Texas goes on forever?  I'm sorry if I didn't understand that before.  I know now what you mean.  I've never quite seen so much...  nothing.

The plan for tomorrow is to check out around 11 am, and then do the final leg into Orlando.  It's listed at 17 hours, but we're going to take it real easy and make it about 24 hours or so.  That way we'll get into Orlando around 9 or 10, and Ian can take possession of the apartment.  Then we can crash.  :)  There's supposed to be wireless access in the apartment, so we'll see how that goes.

More tomorrow, I'm sure...  And thanks for all the comments on the previous entries.  If I wasn't so tired, I'd try responding.  :)

01/02/2007

Road Trip 2007 - Leg 1 (Portland to Tucson is in the books)...

Category Everything Else
... but not without trials and travails...

The day got off to a slower start than I hoped (I wanted to be driving by 8 or so) because "certain members" of the traveling party (not your daughter, Sue) didn't get their laundry done the night before.  By the time we got everything jammed into the car, it was nearly 10 am.  The softside cartop luggage carrier was the first problem.  We got that loaded and tied down in a fashion, but it was not terribly aerodynamic.  As a result, we wondered if it was going to be a casualty somewhere along the way...  more on that later.

The first problem was heading over the mountain pass into California.  Ian had plugged the laptop into the AC adapter, and within five minutes the adapter started flashing overload.  I wasn't sure where the electrical smell was coming from, but it didn't look good when the "Service engine soon" light came on shortly thereafter.  Mentally I pretty much figured the car was trashed and Ian's internship was over before it got started.  Knowing nothing about cars, I was guessing we'd burned out the alternator and the battery wouldn't start the car the first time we stopped for gas.  But after much prayer and worry, everything started fine in Redding when we finally stopped, and the light went out.  It was likely either a bad fuel batch or a loose gas cap.  Either way, that didn't do much for my emotional well-being to start off the trip.

Next up, the carrier.  We stopped in Sacramento for gas, and I checked the condition of the bag.  A couple of the straps were already showing signs of fraying, and the front end facing the wind resistance was torn up pretty badly.  About five minutes after we resumed our trip, a strange sound started up from the roof.  You guessed it...  one of the straps snapped.  Now comes the big question...  How do you pack an already full car with even more stuff?  Very creatively...  Needless to say, there wasn't any room for two in the back seat, nor did the driver have any extra leg room.  I'm going to try and get my $49 back on that dud.  Again, another blow to my already fragile self-confidence.

I've been off caffeine for two months prior to this trip to get the max "Red Bull" effect.  The good news it that it worked very well.  I earned my "iron butt" award by logging time behind the wheel from about noon on Monday until 9 am on Tuesday.  Couple that with very little food (I was trying to avoid carb comas), and I was a bit ragged by the time we got to my dad's place outside of Tucson Arizona around noon today.  Needless to say, a VERY long day.

We've decided not to try the Tucson to Orlando leg in one shot.  Our 24+ hours today cured us of that idea pretty quickly.  The logistical support of Team Duffbert (thanks, dear wife!) got us a hotel reservation in San Antonio for tomorrow, leaving us with "only" a 12 hour drive.  San Antonio to Orlando on Thursday is 17 hours, but again, that seems "short" by comparison.

My dad and Lila have been great hosts, and we had better food today than we've had our entire trip so far.  Good company and lots of laughs, and they got to meet Ian's girlfriend, too.  It's nice to have a place to call home, if only for a few hours.  Showers are a great idea, too.  :)

The trip wasn't all bad, however.  We hit the Arizona border just as dawn was beginning, so I (as the only awake member of the group) was treated to an awesome sunrise.  And the GPS navigation unit my wife bought me for Christmas?  That thing is a freaking miracle.  If I had known how useful and convenient they were, I'd have purchased one a long time ago.  After just one day, I can't imagine traveling without it now.

I'd type more and try to be witty (for once), but my mind is just about toast.  I'm going to try and stay up a couple more hours, and then crash for (hopefully) a good long time....  I'll see if I can do a "day two" from San Antonio tomorrow.

12/31/2006

Time to wander off and prep for Road Trip 2007...

Category Everything Else
Tomorrow morning (hopefully relatively early), Ian, Helen, and I will start the great adventure...  We'll be off and running on our road trip from Portland Oregon to Orlando Florida.  And if all goes as expected, we'll pull into Orlando sometime either later on Friday or early Saturday.  With three drivers, we should be able to do this without too much pain and agony on the part of any one person.  The initial goal is to drive straight through from Portland to Tuscon Arizona, arriving sometime Tuesday morning.  My dad lives in Green Valley (right outside of Tuscon), so we'll stay overnight there and then hit the road again on Wednesday...  In theory, we could be in Orlando late Thursday night, but that would be *really* aggressive.

The laptop is going along for entertainment, so blogging is possible (but not promised).  That's the nice thing about a blog based on Notes/Domino, however...  I can blog all day long from the back seat if I want, and then a single wi-fi connection will catch family and friends up on our progress.

Anyway, Happy New Year to everyone, and I'll catch you all "on the road"...

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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