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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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09/29/2008

Would *you* ride in this airplane?

Category Humor

When we went on our DisneyWorld vacation earlier this month, Alaska Air unfortunately ended up changing our reservations.  What started as a direct PDX to MCO flight turned into the more typical PDX to SEA to MCO.  Not a big deal for me, but Ian doesn't share the same opinion.

Ian hates flying...  *really* hates flying.  Medication is necessary, be it capsules or liquid.  But getting on a plane stone cold sober is *not* an option for him.  The Portland to Seattle leg of the flight uses Horizon Air, which mostly consists of puddle-hoppers that fly every 30 to 60 minutes between the two cities.  Ian took all his necessary "medication" to survive the first leg of the trip, but I'm sure seeing this didn't make getting on the plane any easier...

A picture named M2

I thought it was funny...  I don't think he concurred with my opinion.  :)

09/29/2008

An abstract I'd love to present and be part of...

Category Lotusphere2009

I was honored to be approached by Chris Blatnick of InterfaceMatters.com fame, asking if I'd like to co-present with him.  Well, duh!  Of course!

If you'd like to see what we're proposing, you can catch it here on IdeaJam:  Getting to WOW: Interface First Design for Lotus Notes Developers

It's not often you get to share the stage with someone you've looked up to for a long time.  This would be a lot of fun to present, and quite useful to boot...

09/28/2008

Oh, and for those wondering about our Disneyworld Segway tour...

Category WDW

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Sorry I didn't get around to posting sooner on this...

As you can see, these aren't the normal "whizzing around Epcot" Segways.  No, these are the two-wheeled SUV versions!  This tour kicks off from Ft. Wilderness with about 12 people and two guides.  After a short training session, it's off on the trails around the resort, both paved and off-road.  These have a top speed of 12 miles per hour, but the ones they let us loose on are limited to only 6 miles per hour.  Still, that's a pretty nice way to go exploring nature.  

From left to right, you have Ian, myself, Susan, and Cameron.  Needless to say, we all enjoyed this a lot.

Though he'll hurt me for saying it, Ian almost became the second person I've seen (G. W. Bush being the first) get thrown from a Segway.  There was one trail that was still sort of damp, and part of the entrance to the trail had some pretty deep ruts.  Rather than go around them, Ian decided that going two-wheeling might be fun.  At one point he was balanced on one leg, the Segway tilted forward and over at a 45 degree angle.  I was right behind him, and I really though he was going over.  But surprisingly, he maintained his balance, the Segway righted itself, and he came through the other side.

Had he not, he would have never heard the end of it...

09/28/2008

Book Review - Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Category Book Review Cory Doctorow Little Brother

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Based on a recommendation from a friend, I took the opportunity to read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.  While this is technically categorized as a "young adult" novel, it completely and totally transcends age boundaries.  This should be required reading when it comes to thinking about what our "terrorism-adverse" society is coming to.  Of course, the government would probably prefer you just ignored the book and trusted them to look out for you.

Marcus Yallow is a teenager who is much more comfortable in front of a computer than in trying to obey the rules of society.  He resorts to a few techno-tricks to throw off the school's monitoring system so he and a friend can head off to play a popular online game involving tracking clues and solving puzzles in real life.  While he and his three friends are tracking down the latest hint, a bomb explodes on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco (where the novel takes place).  Marcus flags down a military vehicle to get help for his injured friend, but this simple act throws him into a Department of Homeland Security Gitmo-like prison where he is grilled as a possible terrorist involved in the bombing.  He's eventually let go after four days (with threats of harm should he tell anyone), but his injured friend has completely disappeared.  With each passing day, more and more "security measures" are put in place to track all the citizens and find patterns that would indicate criminal activities.  While some consider this government action necessary for public safety (like Marcus's parents), Marcus sees this as a complete destruction of the rights he is supposed to have as an American citizen.  He helps organize a large encrypted network called Xnet to spread the truth and counter the government and media distortions.  But as the DHS continues to crack down on all sorts of freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism, his anonymity and safety becomes even more tenuous than it already is, and he's in a fight for his life and the lives of his closest friends.  He has to figure out whether the fight for truth is worth dying for, or whether he should just acknowledge the fact that he can't fight an entire government and change things.

The action in Little Brother takes place at a time not too much in the future from where we are now.  In fact, the time could be here and now, as the technology used in the book is nearly all functional and available.  It's utterly impossible to read this book without drawing references and parallels to what America has experienced and implemented since 9/11.  Doctorow weaves a story that paints media and government in a very bad light when it comes to motives and truth, but you'd have to be totally naive to think that much of what happens in Little Brother isn't possible (or in some cases isn't already happening).  The stated "young adult" audience will identify with the characters, while being forced to think about their rights and freedoms that are increasingly being destroyed.  Adults, especially ones with a techno-bent, will have to question some foundational beliefs in the integrity and the role of government that no longer hold true.

Doctorow also has a very different view on copyright material, and his beliefs make this book available to anyone at no cost.  You can go to his website and download the book in various electronic formats for no charge.  He practices what he preaches when it comes to the Creative Commons license structure.  I read Little Brother as a combination of text emails from a service called DailyLit, as well as from the PDF when I wanted to read some longer passages.  It made for a unique reading experience, and one that was seemingly appropriate given the subject matter.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about where we are going as a society.  And if you're not concerned, then you need to read this book even more...

09/28/2008

Book Review - Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Cases by John Emsley

Category Book Review John Emsley Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Cases

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The history of death by poisoning has a long and storied past.  But many times, the average person (like me) doesn't really understand the "why" behind the chemicals used.  In Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Cases, John Emsley uses a successful format that should appeal to both the scientist and the average reader.  And in the end,  you'll see why certain chemicals have the reputations that they do.

Contents:
Part 1 - From Medicine to Murder: Ricin and the assassination of Georgi Markov; Hyoscine and the murder of Belle Elmore; Atropine and Mrs. Agutter's gin and tonic; Diamorphine and the Dr. Jekyll of Hyde; Adrenaline and the near-perfect murders of Kristen Gilbert
Part 2 - So simple, so useful, so deadly: Chloroform and the murder of Edwin Bartlett; Life & Death & CO - Carbon monoxide and the homemade gas chamber; Cyanide and the death on the Nile; Paraquat and the poisoned gravy; Polonium and the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko

Each chapter covers a particular poison, highlighted by a real-life case where it was used to bring about the untimely death of one or more people.  Emsley tries something that is risky and difficult to successfully pull off; that is, to write to two very different audiences without making half the material meaningless to one of them.  The crime committed with the poison is the brief opener in each chapter.  But before the narrative of the crime goes very far, Emsley switches focus to the science behind the substance.  He covers the history of the chemical and how it came to be discovered and used in the medical field.  This is much more detailed than one would expect, as he goes into molecule structures and chemical composition.  To someone like me, much of that information is over my head.  But it's still presented in a way (and at a length) that doesn't induce rapid page skimming and turning.  Once the science is covered, then he reverts back to the story of the crime, why the poisoner chose that method, the results of the poisoning, and how it was eventually detected.  That's where a reader like myself would get most of the value and information that I could understand well, but I imagine it would also be interesting to the more scientific reader as they see how a useful chemical could be subverted to criminal purposes.

Some of the cases are ones that were highly publicized and well-known, such as the ricin used during the Cold War and injected with a modified umbrella.  The radiation poisoning of Litinenko was also an international incident steeped in government intrigue and secret police files.  Other cases are not as well known, such as Dr. Harold Shipman's use of diamorphine to kill literally hundreds of his patients.  Emsley is an English author, and some of these cases that were less well-known to me may be due to the fact that the crimes didn't take place in the US.  If you were reading this in Great Britian, they may well be more familiar to you.

It's hard to attempt a book that tries to be interesting and useful to very different audiences (without feeling like you got less-than-full value).  Emsley does a much better job than most with Molecules of Murder, and it's an interesting read that will make you much more cautious when that friendly person who you just met buys you a drink that tastes sort of odd...

09/28/2008

Book Review - Bad Seeds in the Big Apple: Bandits, Killers, and Chaos in New York City, 1920-40 by Patrick Downey

Category Book Review Patrick Downey Bad Seeds in the Big Apple: Bandits Killers and Chaos in New York City 1920-40

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Everyone seems to know the stories of the Capones and Dillingers of the crime world.  But there are other criminals of that era who commanded nearly as much press at the time.  Patrick Downey covers these other renegades in his book Bad Seeds in the Big Apple: Bandits, Killers, and Chaos in New York City, 1920-40.  It's fascinating reading if you're interested in that part of American history.  The only downside is that they all tend to run together by the end of the book.

Contents:
Gentleman Gerald and the Dutchman; Let's Misbehave; Ma Flanagan's Boys; Two Worthless Diamonds; Urban Cowboys; Bum, Killer, and Ice Wagon LLC; The Daly Show; The Candy Kid; Red Scare; From Maiden Lane to the Tombs; Don't Cry Out Loud; Seeing Red; Dishonorable Mention 1920-1929; New York's Most Desperate Criminal; Sexy Takes a Ride; King of the Punks; College Boy; It Came from Massachusetts; Bride of the Mad Dog; The $427,000 Payday; FBI vs. NYPD; Messing with the Mob; Dishonorable Mention 1930-1940; Appendix 1 - And in the End; Appendix 2 - Where It Happened; Notes; Resources; Index

As indicated by the title, the focus of the book covers the criminal elements in New York City during the days of Prohibition and the Depression.  Rather than rehash all the well-known stories of the time, Downey does extensive research on the "second tier" criminals that were big news of the day, but that didn't necessarily have the story and presence to become part of American folklore.  Many of the gangsters took advantage of the common payroll processes of the day to make off with substantial sums of money.  Since payroll money was physically carried from the banks to the company buildings for payment to the employees, they were prime targets for planned assaults and robberies.  This also happened in reverse, when armored cars would pick up daily receipts from companies to deposit at the bank.  The $427,000 Payday story is but one such action planned and executed by seven gangsters.  At the time, it was the biggest robbery in history, and Downey tells the story of the long search for the perpetrators.  It took nearly five years to track down all who were involved and bring them to justice, and the mixture of detective work and pure chance is an interesting story.  Downey also reveals how dangerous it was to be a cop during that time.  I was amazed at how many officers lost their lives, either as part of a direct shootout, or by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  While we may think we live in a bad time when it comes to crime, we don't actually have a clue as to how much worse things used to be.

My biggest difficulty with the book was how, by the end, all the crimes and criminals started to run together.  Since there were few "big name" criminals that we're used to hearing about, names started to blur after awhile.  "Dutch" was apparently a very popular nickname, and it seemed that every other crime had some "Dutch" character who played a part.  I enjoyed the first appendix that followed up the characters and covered how they lived out what remained of their life.  But I think I would have preferred to have that material included at the end of each chapter rather than in a separate appendix.  If you didn't read the appendix at the end of each chapter, it was somewhat difficult to remember some of the crime details for each of the "where are they now" parts.  Having the material at the end of the chapter would have wrapped up each segment in a clear, concise way.

Even with the blurring of details, the material and Downey's writing ability is well worth reading if you have an interest in that time and place of American history.  It was truly a time where criminals loomed large in everyone's lives, and many of them feared little when it came to shooting it out with others.

09/26/2008

Book Review - Borderline by Mark Schorr

Category Book Review Mark Schorr Borderline

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I recently read an article about a local author, Mark Schorr.  He lives in the same basic area of Portland as I do, and he writes crime thrillers.  There are two books in his Brian Hanson series, so I thought I'd start at the beginning with Borderline.  Wow...  A very tight and fast read, made even more interesting given the home town element.

Brian Hanson is a therapist working with some of the city's most forgotten and neglected citizens.  Street people, prostitutes, you name it.  He has his own issues also, as his time in Vietnam led to PTSD and drug and alcohol abuse.  He's gotten clean and sober, but his violent past is only a flashback and a drink away.  While he deals with the seamy side of Portland, his wife is a high-powered and upper-crust real estate developer who lives for the deal (and the money).  Needless to say, there's a fair amount of tension between them and their two philosophies of life, and the marriage isn't going all too well.

One of Hanson's clients, a prostitute named Tammy, seems to be getting her life slowly turned around.  But she's found with a gunshot wound to the head, and the police write it off as a suicide.  He's not so sure, and starts digging around to see if perhaps there might not be something more to the story.  This "asking around" attracts the attention of the deputy mayor, Tony Dorsey, who also has an interest in the case.  Portland's major crime stats are way down compared to other cities, and its his job to make sure it stays that way.  Dorsey decides to cozy up to Hanson's wife in order to get some inside information, exert some pressure and influence, and also get her into his bed (and other surfaces).  Hanson enlists the help of a young FBI agent, the niece of a client, to see if there's anything to his murder theory.  At first, all these separate pieces appear to be unrelated on the surface.  But very soon, Dorsey's got Hanson's wife exactly where he wants her (in more ways than one), she's trapped herself into aiding him in his larger goals, and Hanson has to figure out if his life is worth more to him than trying to find the truth about Tammy's death.  

As I started reading, the enjoyment of the home town element of the book kept me interested.  It's always fun to read a passage and imagine EXACTLY where and how it looks.  It didn't take long before Dorsey's secrets and Hanson's suppressed violent persona took over and had me hooked.  I burned a whole evening (when I should have been doing something else) finishing up the book, as I didn't want to put it down.  And I don't quite know how to explain it, but Hanson's personality evoked strong emotions that caused me to really care about what was about to happen.  

As I head out for a getaway at the coast this weekend, the follow-up to Borderline is tucked in my bag.  I have no doubt it'll be finished by this time tomorrow...

09/24/2008

Book Review - The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver

Category Book Review Jeffrey Deaver The Broken Window

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I look forward to Lincoln Rhyme novels, so I was happy when my number finally came up at the library for Jeffrey Deaver's The Broken Window.  As a technology geek, I *really* got into this story line.  I'll grant that there was some level of "literary licence" taken in the plot, but it's still an unsettling look at what's going on with data mining and personal privacy.

Rhyme, the quadriplegic genius who takes forensic crime science to a new level, gets involved in a new case that's personal.  His cousin Arthur is accused of a murder that he swears he didn't commit.  The evidence begs to differ, however.  Everything at the crime scene and in Arthur's personal life points in exacting detail to his involvement.  There's some bad blood between Rhyme and his cousin, and he's not all too keen on getting involved in what appears to be an open-and-shut case.  But he softens a bit and decides to ask a couple of questions.  What he finds is that the evidence is *too* perfect...  almost as if everything was staged to the nth degree.  He's also able to find a few other murder cases that share the same "perfectness", despite the protests of the accused.  The investigation leads to a data mining company, Strategic Systems Datacorp, who has a seemingly infinite amount of information on nearly everyone in the US.  But their operation is shrouded in secrecy, and too many people seem to be deathly afraid of crossing swords with them.  If someone at the company had detailed information about what the victims and accused bought, where they went, and what they did, they *could* create perfect crimes.  Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs have to determine who at the company had means and motive.  But if the hunted has all of Rhyme's information, just who is the hunted and who is the hunter?

I liked this on a couple of different levels.  From pure story and plot, I had a hard time putting down the book.  The identity of the killer stays nebulous for a large part of the book, so the suspense stays at a pretty high level.  The other facet of the story is the whole issue of data mining and personal privacy.  If all the information that's collected about you is gathered in a single place, your life literally becomes an open book.  Not only do they know everything about you, but they can start to predict what you might and might not do with surprising accuracy.  I think you can draw the inference to today's society.  While it's true (I hope) that an actual Strategic Systems Datacorp doesn't exist, it's no longer outside the realm of possibility.  This is a very good thriller with some interesting concepts to mull over.

09/24/2008

IBM threatens to leave standards bodies

Category IBM/Lotus

From The New York Times: IBM threatens to leave standards bodies

News broke yesterday that IBM is planning on examining their membership and role on different standards committees after the ISO OOXML fiasco.  

IBM is threatening to leave organizations that set standards for software interoperability because of concerns that their processes are not always fair.

IBM published a new set of guidelines it plans to follow, which include encouraging standards bodies to have rules to protect their decisions from "undue influence," a clear reference to competitor Microsoft.

I'm really torn on this one...

On one hand, Microsoft's gross manipulation of the ISO fast track process is completely unacceptable when it comes to creating, passing, and adopting standards.  The voting process is obviously flawed and ripe for corruption.  Standards bodies that don't have proper checks and balances in place to prevent that sort of gaming should not be supported.  This is not to say that no other vendor has tried their hardest to make sure their technology becomes the "standard".  But the Microsoft effort was just flat-out sleezy and unethical.

But on the flip side, ignoring standards bodies that *do* have influence (like ISO) doesn't seem like a good way to make sure you're at the leading edge of technological advances in the industry.  This action by IBM seems to be a bit along the lines of cutting off the nose to spite the face.

The reality is probably that IBM's statement is the first hard-line round in an exchange of negotiations aimed to clean up the standards process.  I don't expect IBM to walk away from critical standards bodies, but they've also stood up and said "things need to change".

09/23/2008

Whatever Happened to ... Lotus Notes

Category IBM/Lotus

From ServerWatch.com:  Whatever Happened to ... Lotus Notes

Interesting look at Notes, it's pedigree, and what the future may hold:

Let's not beat around the bush — mention "Lotus Notes" to people, and many will have a reaction ranging from "Is that still around?" to "Ugh." Notes has, perhaps unfairly so, a reputation for corporate stodginess that is the technology equivalent of 1980s music videos.

To be fair, Notes' roots reach all the way back to the early 1970s. And for those of us also from way back in the early 70s, let's face it — we're not the cool kids anymore. But we are still here, and maybe we know a thing or two the young upstarts have yet to learn.

I think Alan Lepofsky has pointed out a number of design "innovations" (tabbed browser windows, anyone?) now in vogue that have been there in Notes all along.

Although Notes has continued to add support for modern messaging technologies, it faces headwinds from several directions. Building on a product with such a long history can be a blessing and a curse.

The blessing is that deep institutional knowledge helps leverage Notes' fundamental architectural advantages. Not only do Lotus and IBM own a great deal of intellectual property that drives Notes, but large clients have mature programs in place for using Notes in their workplaces, including employee training and support. In other words, inertia is a blessing.

The curse of legacy is especially tricky in the fast-moving world of computers. By far, the most common criticism of Notes users — and the motivation behind the all-too-often "ugh" — is its interface. Built on metaphors and principles that stretch back to Notes' origins, it is a difficult balancing act for Notes to continue to support existing institutional knowledge while also meeting the expectations and user interface habits of today's users.

In fact, some of Notes' original design decisions are the very same that today can rub users the wrong way. Because Notes is cross-platform, its interface isn't quite like that of Windows-native software. The reality, though, is that most users — particularly in corporate environments — are using Windows machines, which makes learning the Notes interface an exception to their normal experience.

This is very true.  Cross-platform is a feature that, if you're standardized on Windows, may not be perceived as a feature so much as a hindrance.  But given the growth of the Mac and Linux desktop models (and the backend server selections), that cross-platform mentality may yet still be one of the saving graces of Notes as people look for Windows alternatives that still play well in the Windows world.

I especially like his summation at the end...

The challenge, as it always has been for Notes, will be how to add substance without adding bulk.

09/23/2008

You *DO* remember that Friday is the deadline for Lotusphere abstract submissions, don't you?

Category Lotusphere2009

Stop reading this RIGHT NOW, go to the Lotusphere website, and submit your abstract!

NOW!

09/20/2008

Webcast: The Evangelist's Toolkit

Category O'Reilly Webcast

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You are invited to a free live webcast:


The Evangelist's Toolkit: A field guide to bringing social technologies into your organization While it has become cliché to talk about how much the Internet and the Social Web have changed business, what has been less well explored is how traditional (meaning non-Internet native) businesses successfully adopt new technologies such as social networks, communities, blogs etc. Traditional business has to cope with significant hurdles when they approach creating or implementing a Social Web strategy; resistance from senior management, organizing structures that predate the Internet, different employee profile and skill sets etc. In this information packed session, Joshua-Michéle Ross takes learning from the field and shows you how to become an effective Social Web evangelist.

This webcast will explore how to:

·        Make the case: how to bring Web 2.0 concepts into your organization (including convincing upper management)

·        Fail Forward Fast: how to create effective pilot programs without losing your head (or your job)

·        Spread the gospel: The key ingredients that make a successful Web 2.0 evangelist

Based on direct consulting experience, and backed by O'Reilly's thought leadership on Web 2.0, this seminar is for executives and professionals looking to harness the power of the Social Web in their organizations.

Attendance is limited, so register now. We'll send you a reminder before the webcast. And please feel free to share this invitation with others.

Date: Tuesday, September 30 at 10am PDT (17:00 GMT)
Cost: Free
Duration: 45 minutes
Meeting link:
oreilly.com/go/evangelist
Questions? Please send email to
webcast@oreilly.com

About Joshua Ross

Joshua-Michéle Ross, vice president of O'Reilly InPractice, has been consulting with businesses on digital strategy for over a decade. During that time, he has overseen the launch of dozens of highly successful, enterprise-class ecommerce sites, exchange platforms, and community sites. He has worked extensively with start-ups to Fortune 500 companies on strategy and governance planning for ebusiness.

Joshua comes with a deep background in online marketing and communications, utilizing emerging social media technologies--community, blogging, virtual worlds, and WOM, among others-to deliver highly successful, sustainable marketing strategies. His focus over the last three years has been on applying Web 2.0 principles to deliver competitive advantage to Global 2000 clients, from new business model development to customer engagement and communication strategies. Joshua has been a guest lecturer at Harvard University on information design and human factors, and has spoken at conferences related to technology and digital strategy. Past clients include Washington Mutual, Accenture, Best Buy, Autodesk, and Polycom. Joshua holds a degree with honors in Chinese Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

09/20/2008

Book Review - Notes on Democracy by H. L. Mencken

Category Book Review H. L. Mencken Notes on Democracy

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With the US coming to the end of a Presidential election cycle, I decided to accept the opportunity to read Notes on Democracy by H. L. Mencken.  This was originally written in 1926 by the prominent journalist, but it's rather unnerving in its ability to hit so close to home over 80 years later.  I don't necessarily buy into all of his rather dark views on the failure of democracy, but I have to agree that much of what he says does ring true.

Contents:
1 - Democratic Man: His Appearance in the World; Varieties of Homo Sapiens; The New Psychology; Politics Under Democracy; The Role of the Hormones; Envy as a Philosophy; Liberty and Democratic Man; The Effects Upon Progress; The Eternal Mob
2 - The Democratic State: The Two Kinds of Democracy; The Popular Will; Disproportional Representation; The Politician Under Democracy; Utopia; The Occasional Exception; The Maker of Laws; The Rewards of Virtue; Footnote on Lame Ducks
3 - Democracy and Liberty: The Will to Peace; The Democrat as Moralist; Where Puritanism Fails; Corruptions Under Democracy
4 - Coda: The Future of Democracy; Last Words
Annotations by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers; Afterword by Anthony Lewis

There's enough material in this rather short book to make for a multipage college paper, so it's a bit hard to condense it down to a short review.  Mencken feels that democracy is really nothing more than mob rule.  The uneducated masses are not looking for freedom and liberty, as those concepts are uncomfortable and laced with the very real possibility of failure.  Instead, they want to be safe, well-fed, and entertained.  In order to get those three items, they're willing to give up most of their civil liberties thinking that those who rule have superior power to make decisions.  The mob is nearly always influenced by small vocal minorities who are able to twist and manipulate the emotions and attitudes in order to achieve their goals.  He points to Prohibition as but one example of how a narrowly held belief led to a law that affected everyone and benefited no one.  Politicians under a democratic system (or under *any* system, actually) are rarely, if ever, in office to selflessly serve their fellow man.  Instead, they are there because it is a better job to them than what the mob offers.  Their primary goal is not to make a better life for their constituents, but to make sure they retain their position and paycheck using whatever means necessary.  And if that means pandering to the roar of the masses (manipulated by the vocal minority), so be it.  The only positions and beliefs worth holding onto are those that will keep you in office.

It's very easy to look at this book as the Machiavelli of the democratic system.  I bristle at his portrayal of all religious thought as uneducated and manipulative, but it can't be denied that some have used it for personal gain.  He also doesn't offer up any real solutions to fix democracy or systems that work better.  It may just turn out to be that man's basic nature is such that any form of rule will decay and be corrupted over time.  The publishers who brought Notes on Democracy back into print did a nice job, especially with the annotations in the back.  There are a number of references in the book that will mean little or nothing to readers of this day.  The annotations help provide historical context that is necessary to understand Mencken's writing.  I think I would have preferred the notes be at the bottom of the pages, however.  It was a bit awkward trying to keep two places in the book marked for the constant referencing.

If you want to see past the typical political rhetoric, Notes on Democracy is a good read.  You will likely object to some of his thinking and characterizations, but there's a lot of food for thought here.

09/20/2008

Book Review - Spa Deadly, An Allie Armington Mystery:Things are rough at the resort, in fact they're murder by Louise Gaylord

Category Book Review Louise Gaylord Spa Deadly An Allie Armington Mystery:Things are rough at the resort in fact they're murder

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This is the actual book that the publisher asked me if I was interested in...  Spa Deadly, An Allie Armington Mystery:Things are rough at the resort, in fact they're murder by Louise Gaylord.  They also sent along the first two books in the series, so this installment had to wait until I got through those two first.  But the wait was worth it.  Allie once again finds herself in deep trouble, but just can't step away from the chase.

Allie's sister Angela has just had her baby, and really needs a break from everyone and everything.  She drags Allie up to this ritzy spa nestled in the mountains of New Mexico.  To their surprise, they find that the lady that runs the spa is a former classmate, one which Angela tormented unmercifully.  That seems to be forgotten, however, and Allie tries to slow down and and settle in to a week of pampering.  But that week ends prematurely with the death of another spa member, one who was overly bossy, broke many of the rules, and seemed to have a financial interest in the operation.  The death mystery gets even deeper when Allie and another member stumble over another dead body while out hiking, one that doesn't look like a spa member but also didn't look like she deserved to die, either.  Allie hangs around to try and discover who the murderer(s) might be, while Angela figures that heading home is a much better option.  All the spa employees appear to have reasons to be involved, and she's also spooked by the appearance of a drug kingpin and her on-and-off lover Bill Cotton.  Besides trying to stay alive, she has to figure out who is actually working for who in this bizarre business arrangement.

Gaylord has done an excellent job in this series.  Aside from having an interesting cast of characters, she twists and turns the plot so much that you really *don't* know how it's all going to fall out once the final page is turned.  I'll be keeping an eye open at the library for any further adventures of Allie Armington.  It's a very good series...

09/19/2008

Approximately one year from now, someone's going to ask me to review a book titled...

Category Everything Else

... something like The Great Depression 2.0: How America Avoided Financial and Economic Ruin In 2008.  In it, they'll tell the "inside story" about the events leading up to the last two weeks on Wall Street, as well as an hour-by-hour account of all the backroom deals and discussions between the government and major financial institutions.  

I'll likely criticize the book for having 20-20 hindsight, making some events look much more momentous and significant than they were at the time, while making other decisions look obvious now that the events have run their course.

But there will be one part of the book that I think will be chilling and scary, and will come as a surprise to the vast majority of the American public....

... and that's how close we likely came to a full-blown economic meltdown that would have made the bank runs during the Great Depression (1.0) look tame by comparison.


Of course, all this assumes that we actually *make* it through the next year relatively intact.

09/18/2008

OK... We NEED to get a Lotusphere Haka going on stage this year!

Category Lotusphere2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Zvs4T4RU30

For some haka history, check out The Most Frightening Dance You'll Ever See.

I'm seeing Wes leading the chant, with all the lotus100pushup participants showing off their buffitude...  :)

09/16/2008

Book Review - Xs: An Allie Armington Mystery by Louise Gaylord

Category Book Review Louise Gaylord Xs: An Allie Armington Mystery

A picture named M2

With the first Allie Armington mystery under my belt, it's time to move to installment #2...  Xs: An Allie Armington Mystery by Louise Gaylord.  For those who missed my review of Anacacho, I was offered the three Allie Armington novels by the publisher.  I'm finding myself really liking Gaylord's work.  I don't think Xs was quite as tight as Anacacho, but it was still very enjoyable.

Allie gets a call from her supermodel sister asking for $20000 in cash.  It appears to be an emergency of some sort, and Allie transfers the funds.  But she (and her sister) quickly find out that it was a scam for some laser surgery that was never performed (but that her sister swears actually happened).  She was talked into the surgery by her wild and hard-partying roommate Carolina Montoya, but they can't get any additional information from her, as she's been murdered in a rather gruesome manner.  Allie has a hard time just walking away from something like this, so she takes a short leave from her job as an attorney and starts to dig.  It appears that Montoya was part of a crime ring involving prostitution and drugs, and she ended up on the wrong end of an exchange.  The only way that the NYPD can get into the group is to use Allie as a substitute for her sister so she can get insider info.  Discovery could lead to her own death, but she's unable to say no when Bill Cotton, her DEA boyfriend and mystery man, is also found to be part of the crime ring.  But is he working for the feds or has he turned?  Can she trust him with her life, or is she just a pawn for him?

As with Anacacho, I had a hard time putting down the book.  The plot seemed less solid than her first novel, as the whole drug ring/Cotton situation was muddled and confusing.  At the end, I still wasn't quite sure what side Cotton was on, but perhaps that was the idea.  The plastic surgery scam was also a bit of a stretch, in that lending a family member $20K when it nearly taps you out, *and* they won't tell you why they need it, was hard to swallow.  But even with those issues, I stayed up far past my normal lights-out time, knowing that I'd get a later start to my next day as a result.  I'm definitely looking forward to the third installment, which was the original reason why the publisher contacted me.  Some things are worth working for.  :)

09/15/2008

Book Review - White House Confidential: Revised and Expanded Edition by Gregg Stebben and Austin Hill

Category Book Review Gregg Stebben Austin Hill White House Confidential: Revised and Expanded Edition

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So you really think that our early Presidents were moral, upright, hardworking individuals compared to what we have these days?  Think again...  White House Confidential: Revised and Expanded Edition by Gregg Stebben and Austin Hill is a great look at the less-than-savory side of all our Presidents, from George W(ashington) to George W (Bush).  It's definitely one of the more entertaining reads I've had of late.

Contents:
A Couple of Small Disclaimers; Weird Family Values!; Sex!; Scandal!; Impeachment!; Fights!; Money!; Prophecy!; Death!; Goofballs!; Veeps!; Executive Privilege(s)!; Take This Job and Shove It!; Conclusion; Appendix A - What's In A Name?; Appendix B - Presidential Firsts; Appendix C - The George Washington Conspiracy; Acknowledgements

Stebben and Hill have collected and compiled a large number of interesting (and sometimes disturbing) factoids about the men who have held the highest office in our land.  Categorized in the broad areas outlined in the table of contents, you learn that just about every President from the first to the last has had to deal with corruption, quirky behavior, and sexual scandal.  We definitely don't hold a patent on that behavior in the last couple of terms of office.  For instance, Alexander Hamilton was blackmailed by a mistress and her husband to keep quiet about an on-going affair.  He often had to borrow the money to keep it all hush-hush.  Aaron Burr, Jefferson's vice president, was allowed to get away with murder when he killed Hamilton in a duel.  Warren Harding had two mistresses and an illegitimate daughter by one of them.  And one of the mistresses was the wife of one of his good friends.  Makes Clinton look tame...  And Kennedy?  He apparently had hundreds of extra-marital trysts throughout his short presidency.  Given today's media glare, I doubt he would be electable with that baggage were he trying for the office of President now.  Why would someone want to be President?  You'll find out that quite a few of the "lucky" Presidents were more than happy to give up the job at the end.  And if you *really* want to challenge history, find out if George Washington was actually our first President...

I started reading this book last night and had a hard time putting it down.  I was able to finish it today with some commute reading, lunchtime reading, and a bit to finish it up in the evening.  If you're at all interested in history or politics, this fun read will have you reexamining your view of the office of President and the people who held it.  Everyone is human, and some are much more human than others...

09/15/2008

And the benefit of this migration is what?

Category IBM/Lotus

So we have this press release from Unify, one of the major vendors in the Notes migration space:

Unify Corp., a global provider of application modernization solutions, today announced that a large multinational professional services corporation has signed an agreement for Unify’s Composer for Lotus Notes, to migrate two internal, complex Notes applications to the Microsoft .NET platform.

Today, more than 1,200 users employ the organization’s applications and its associated databases. One application has a complex user interface with tabbed views of the data; the other contains heavy collaboration with substantial business logic and workflow. With Unify’s Composer for Lotus Notes, the applications will be migrated to the Microsoft.NET platform and the transition will result in like-for-like business functionality, behavior, business logic and workflow, in order to the meet the customer’s objective for little to no disruption to end-users.

"Our customer was looking for a rapid solution to move these Notes applications and get them into production quickly in its Visual Studio .NET environment," said Kevin Kane, vice president and general manager, Composer Solutions, Unify. "This is a large firm with multiple applications running on Lotus Notes. We believe a larger opportunity exists for Unify with this customer and look forward to providing a very positive experience with minimal disruption, to prove the value of our Composer solution to its business."

And where is the value in "the transition will result in like-for-like business functionality, behavior, business logic and workflow, in order to the meet the customer’s objective for little to no disruption to end-users"?  It's not as if the firm only has these two remaining applications left.  And it's also not as if Unify's been promised the entire conversion package, either.  

Seems like some "large multinational professional services corporation" has a few too many dollars to burn...

09/14/2008

Book Review - Anacacho: An Allie Armington Mystery by Louise Gaylord

Category Book Review Louise Gaylord Anacacho: An Allie Armington Mystery

A picture named M2

The joys of finding a new author that you enjoy!  I was contacted by Little Moose Press asking if I'd like to review a book by Louise Gaylord.  They also offered to send the first two novels in the series so I could get up to speed.  That's how I found myself carting Anacacho: An Allie Armington Mystery down to Orlando on vacation.  I wasn't expecting much more than some mild entertainment, but I quickly got hooked on the characters and story.  Needless to say, her next two novels moved up on my "next to read" list.  Gaylord is a talented writer who has done a very nice job with Anacacho.  

Allie Armington is an assistant district attorney in Texas who is getting rather frustrated with her job of working with grand juries.  Her upstairs neighbor (and hopeful lover) Duncan encourages her to join a private firm, which works out very well for her.  But her peaceful, comfortable existence suffers a setback when she gets a call from an old college roommate by the name of Reena Carpenter.  Reena is a beautiful woman who stole Allie's fiancee Paul away from her.  She also dumped the guy who is now the husband of their third roommate, Susie Baxter.  Allie's not sure what or why Reena wants to get together for lunch, but decides to bury her pain and go through with it.  Reena's husband has made a fortune in oil, and also seems to be seeing someone else on the side.  Reena is convinced that he's about to divorce her and leave her penniless.  She begs and pleads for Allie to come visit her at the Anacacho ranch and help her work things out.  Allie's not sure she wants to be in close proximity to her ex-fiancee, and *really* regrets the idea when he starts confessing his true love for her and tries to make a move on her.  Allie feels like Reena is setting her up for something, but doesn't get a chance to find out exactly what it is as Reena is found dead at the same hideaway where Paul tried to seduce Allie.  The physical clues to the killing are non-existent, but there's no lack of suspects...  Paul, Susie and her husband (who work for Paul and have a dispute over the land), or some rather unsavory characters who help manage the ranch (but who have rather murky backgrounds).

When I first started reading Anacacho, I thought it was going to be an OK read.  But within about 50 pages, I realized that I was going to end up a bit sleep-deprived the next day.  Allie's character is a lot of fun.  She's got her flaws like everyone else, but she's willing to take risks to uncover truth and fulfill commitments to her friends.  I'm really fortunate that the publisher sent the first two novels in the series, as I now have a solid background as to what makes Allie tick.  I'm looking forward to the next two in the series, and I'll be keeping an eye open for any additional installments after that.

09/14/2008

Book Review - Squawk!: How to Stop Making Noise and Start Getting Results by Travis Bradberry

Category Book Review Travis Bradberry Squawk!: How to Stop Making Noise and Start Getting Results

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As part of the Amazon Vine review program, I received a copy of the creative business book Squawk!: How to Stop Making Noise and Start Getting Results by Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.  This is similar in style to the book Who Moved My Cheese?, a classic in business/self-improvement literature.  If you (or someone who manages you) have a tendency to be a "seagull manager", this would be a good place to start in terms of changing your methods and (lack of) results.

Contents:
The Fable: The Seagull Manager; A Chance Encounter; Full-Fledged Expectations; Communication That Clicks; Paws on Performance; A New Day
The Model: The Three Virtues of Superior Managers; The Cost of Seagull Management; Are You a Seagull Manager?

OK...  so the title begs the question:  What is a Seagull Manager?  They are the managers that swoop into a situation, squawk orders around without knowing all the issues, and then flies off thinking they "solved" the problem at hand.  In reality, all they did was poop all over everyone and everything.  Squawk uses the parable method to tell a story and draw the relevant points.  Charlie is the manager of a group of gulls that followed him from the seashore to an outdoor food court.  He's convinced them that an abundance of food is there for the taking, and at first he's right.  The gulls are able to scavenge and steal all the food they need with virtually no effort.  "Managing" the flock takes nearly no effort.  But as time passes, more gulls join the flock, meaning there's less food to go around.  Charlie is still the leader, and swoops in to solve food problems when he thinks he's needed.  But in reality, all he's doing is creating more strife.  The flock is starving, and they decide to go back to the shore after the current batch of fledglings are old enough to travel.  Charlie's devastated by this, but he doesn't know how to improve the situation for his group.  In desperation, he takes the advice of a turtle in a nearby aquarium pond and visits a number of other aquarium residents to learn three important lessons in management: full-fledged expectations, paws-on performance, and communication that clicks.  And as with all good stories like this, Charlie is able to turn around the situation and create an even better environment than before.

Realistically, there are thousands of books that have programs for solving all the problems in your business.  If  you're not following any program or methodology, you'll likely see improvements in your abilities.  I liked Squawk because it steps away from the endless paragraphs of text and case studies in order to make its point in a memorable fashion.  Much like Cheese, you can readily identify with the significant characters in the story.  You can also easily understand each of the ideas on resolving the problem, as they are made more real in the story setting.  And when you're done, you have that mental hook that you need to remember the concepts and apply them.  

Squawk won't solve every management issue you have, but it'll definitely help you along when it comes to working more closely and effectively with the staff you have.  

09/14/2008

Book Review - The Life Guide: 10 Things You Need to Know About Everything That Matters by Robert Ashton

Category Book Review Robert Ashton The Life Guide: 10 Things You Need to Know About Everything That Matters

The Life Guide: 10 Things You Need to Know About Everything That Matters

As part of the Amazon Vine review program, I received a copy of Robert Ashton's book The Life Guide: 10 Things You Need to Know About Everything That Matters.  It's really a book of self-help lists that might enable you to improve or change particular areas of your life.  It's not bad, but it's very basic without much in the way of commentary or guidance on how to implement some of the ideas.  But if it's your first foray into self-improvement literature, it might help you get started on making positive changes.

Contents:
So What Does Success Look Like to You?; Ways to Set Priorities and Find the Time; Making Changes; Health and Fitness; Stress; Your World of Work; Making More of Leisure Time; Relationships; Children; Parents; Money; Home; Retirement; Making It Happen

Each one of the chapters listed above has a number of subsections that contain the lists of ten items that will help you change a particular item or area of your life.  For instance, under Time you have a list titled "10 Simple Ways to Make Each Day Seem Longer" with the following ideas: Set the alarm; Be tidy; Do what you do best; Take breaks; Don't reply straight away; Contemplate; Prioritize; Avoid distraction; Fill the freezer; Exercise.  Being told to "avoid distractions" is good, but the two line description following it is extremely basic at best.  You know what steals your attention, and say no to all but the most appealing interruptions.  My guess is that if you struggle with distractions, that's not going to be enough to pull you to a new level of productivity.  If it was that easy, you would have probably already have done it.  Or under Money, you have 10 ways to get out of debt: Cut spending; Reduce interest; Renegotiate; Make a budget; Check it's yours; Plead ignorance; Small claims court; Keep talking; Resist pressure; Take advice.  Even more so than the prior example, this is good advice with virtually no plan for implementation.  If you're drowning in debt, I don't think simply reading "cut spending" will be enough for you to miraculously turn things around.  It *is* the right answer, but in this format, the statement just screams out HOW???

For someone who is unwilling to read a more lengthy book with step-by-step implementation ideas, this may be one of the few ways to break the reader out of their boxed-in ways of thinking.  But just realize that many of these lists involve much more work in terms of making them actually happen.  Given the tendency of humans to revert back to familiar habits (both good and bad), I don't know if this book will effect much in the way of long-lasting changes.

09/14/2008

This is a webinar you may want to attend if you're presenting at Lotusphere...

Category webinar

Nancy Duarte
Nancy Duarte presents:
You are a Natural Born (Visual) Storyteller

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 17:00 GMT


We live in the most innovative time in history. That, coupled with pressure from a global economy, our corporate stories need to be told well and resonate deeply. In this session you'll learn how to step away from your traditional content development process, fold in compelling stories and deliver presentations in your own uniquely human way.
Learn more

09/11/2008

Book Review - Cretaceous Dawn by by Lisa M. Graziano and Michael S. A. Graziano

Category Book Review Lisa M. Graziano Michael S. A. Graziano Cretaceous Dawn
A picture named M2

So what would happen if you took three scientists and a dog, a security guard, a machine that can transport objects over space and time, a lab accident and mixed them into a novel?  You might be fortunate enough to come up with the novel Cretaceous Dawn by Lisa M Graziano and Michael S. A. Graziano.  This is very different (in a good way) than anything I've read of late, and the Graziano siblings did an excellent job in weaving this tale.

Julian Whitney is a paleontologist that works for a small college in Montana.  He's called over to the physics lab one day by Dr. Yariko Miyakara and Dr. Shanker, two scientists who are working on a machine under secret contract to the military.  This machine is supposed to allow for the transport of items over space.  But the two Drs. are confused by strange beetles that appear after each of their trial runs.  They can't identify the insects without Whitney's help, as the beetles are from the Cretaceous period, over 65 million years in the past.  Even more unusual is the fact that most of these items that have appeared in the machine also disappear on their own a short time later.  The theory that the machine transports items over both space *and* time is confirmed when an accident occurs that sends the three doctors, a security guard (and a half), and a dog back to a place in time where no human has ever been.  If the bugs that disappeared are any indication, the items that are transported do revert back to their original time and place if they are in the proper position at the proper time.  But bugs have far less mass than humans, so the calculations to be in the right place at the right time means that they have to travel approximately 1000 miles in a short period of time, in an environment that bears no resemblance to anything they know.  And if they don't make it, they could end up being the first humans on the face of the earth...

I almost didn't accept the offer of the review copy, as I have a horrible backlog of books I'd like to read and review.  But the premise sounded interesting, enough so that I decided to add one more book to my pile.  I'm quite glad I did.  In my opinion, the Grazianos have written a novel that ranks up with more well-known authors.  Plot and pacing are perfect, and the twists at the end are more than enough to make you step back and think a bit about the implications.  Even in the few areas where I thought a bit more light could have been shed on parts of the stories, it wasn't enough to detract from the enjoyment of the story.  Hey, when you write about things 65 million years in the past, you can take a few liberties.  :)

An interesting novel, even more impressive by the fact that this appears to be their first collaborative effort at fiction.  If they decide to follow up with another novel, I *will* be there to read it.

09/10/2008

Book Review - Forced Out by Stephen Frey

Category Book Review Stephen Frey Forced Out
A picture named M2

As part of the Amazon Vine review program, I selected Forced Out by Stephen Frey as part of my monthly selection.  Can never have too many recreational reads before heading out on vacation.  :)  This was a very good read that didn't even last a full day between the plane trip to Orlando and the pre-bedtime reading.

Jack Barrett is an aging guy in his 60's who is pretty much playing out the end of his life in Florida like millions of other retirees.  He used to be a scout for the New York Yankees, but that job ended with a forced retirement under clouded circumstances.  He lives with his daughter, and is doing his best to make sure her boyfriends do not become husbands so that he would be left on his own.  While watching a minor league game as a third wheel on a date (with a boyfriend he detests), he notices an infielder by the name of Mikey Clemant who appears to have some incredible skills (along with some incredible baggage).  He's convinced that this kid would be a star if he only had someone to guide him, and thus starts the intricate games to get close to someone who doesn't want *anyone* getting close for various unknown reasons.  These unknown reasons may have something to do with a mob assassin who has to overcome some of his own baggage in order to keep his job and his life from ending with the same fate as his victims.

I loved the way the motivations and actions of the characters interacted with each other, as well as how each character was trying to make the best of what were less-than-ideal circumstances they had been dealt.  Once the two main story lines intersected, I had a horrible time putting the book down.  And the ending, while unexpected, worked better than I expected.  If you have a chance to read Forced Out, I'd recommend doing so...

09/09/2008

A pathway full of Mickeys...

Category WDW
A picture named M2

09/08/2008

A nice two days so far at Disney...

Category WDW
This is exactly what I needed to relax and regroup...  Wandered the Magic Kingdom, napped, rode the monorail, dinner at the Polynesian's Kona Cafe, soak in the Jacuzzi...  And no rain until we got back to the room.  sigh...  :)

And when using my camera today, I found I couldn't take pictures without thinking "WWVD"...  What Would Volker Do?  It's hard to take pictures when you know so many really good photographers like Volker, Ed Brill, John Roling, and so many others.  On the other hand, they're good because they've taken LOTS of pictures.  So...  I shall take lots, learn about composition as I go, and one day too I might become good.

It's fun having been at the parks here so many times...  you can start to focus on things you'd otherwise miss in the rush to do everything.  Such as the father carrying his daughter saying "No, we will not buy you everything you want."  :)

Tomorrow, we'll probably go to Disney's Hollywood Studios (note...  it is no longer called Disney/MGM Studios).  It's supposed to potentially be rainy tomorrow, and there we can duck into stores and rides.  The other option would be Animal Kingdom, and as everyone knows from Lotusphere...  AK in the rain SUCKS!

09/06/2008

And if all goes well, the next blog post will be coming to you from the Boardwalk at Walt Disney World!

Category WDW

M-I-C....  See you real soon!

K-E-Y....  Why?  Because I'm too addicted to blogging to take a full week off, that's why!

M...O...U...S...EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

09/06/2008

Book Review - Intellectual Property and Open Source: A Practical Guide to Protecting Code by Van Lindberg

Category Book Review Van Lindberg Intellectual Property and Open Source: A Practical Guide to Protecting Code

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As a software developer, it's almost a certainty that you either participate in or use open source software somewhere in your computing environment.  But even though you may have the source code sitting in front of you, it doesn't mean you can anything you darn well please with it.  Van Lindberg's book Intellectual Property and Open Source: A Practical Guide to Protecting Code does a very good job in presenting the intricacies of open source licensing in a way that won't automatically put a developer to sleep.  Granted, there's still a lot of legal concepts to wade through, but in my opinion he hit the right mix between legalities and practicalities.

Contents: The Economic and Legal Foundations of Intellectual Property; The Patent Document; The Patent System; Copyright; Trademarks; Trade Secrets; Contracts and Licenses; The Economic and Legal Foundations of Open Source Software; So I Have An Idea...; Choosing A License; Accepting Patches and Contributions; Working With The GPL; Reverse Engineering; Incorporating As A Non-Profit
Appendices: Sample Proprietary Information Agreement (PIA); Open Source License List; Free Software License List; Fedora License List and GPL Compatibility; Public Domain Declaration; The Simplified BSD License; The Apache License, Version 2.0; The Mozilla Public License, Version 1.1; The GNU Lesser General Public License, Version 2.1; The GNU Lesser General Public License, Version 3; The GNU General Public License, Version 2, June 1991; The GNU General Public License, Version 3, June 2007; The Open Software License, Version 3.0
Index

Lindberg accomplishes a couple of purposes in this book.  The first few chapters trace the history and general concepts of intellectual property law, such as patents and trade secrets.  This is necessary, in that it lays the groundwork to be able to understand what part of your work may or may not be covered by intellectual property laws.  While there are plenty of legal concepts and examples cited, he doesn't get so far down into the weeds as to make the material irrelevant to the target audience...  technology professionals.  The last half of the book then uses that foundation to talk specifically about open source software, licenses, and legal issues being faced today.  And really, it's more complex than you'd think (but isn't *anything* legal overly complex?)  Each of the licenses he covers has certain advantages and disadvantages that can make a significant impact on how you and others can use your software going forward.  For instance, one license may allow the user to use it in any way they see fit, including using it in their own non-open source software.  Other licenses actually force any software project using the open source code to also be bound by the same license, meaning that your work has to be made available in open source form to others.  Based on what you plan on building and how you want to market it, this could make the difference between a thriving business or a ruinous lawsuit.  And again, the writing is appropriate for the technology professional, not four year law students looking to become a partner and retire by the age of 40.

For anyone involved in creating an open-source project (or what they *think* an open source project should be), this should be essential reading.  And if you've ever downloaded something from Sourceforge to include in one of your own projects, you also need to read this to clearly understand your rights and obligations.  I know we techies would prefer to let other people figure out the legal stuff, but it's not worth it to have your next killer application idea bankrupt you in court...

09/06/2008

I posted my session abstract idea over at IdeaJam...

Category lotusphere2009 ideajam

Why don't you?

09/06/2008

Book Review - The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith

Category Book Review Alexander McCall Smith The Careful Use of Compliments

A picture named M2

I picked up The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith a short time back at the library.  I had read the previous three Isabel Dalhousie novels while on a cruise last year, and although the pace was "leisurely", I was curious as to what Dalhousie's pregnancy would mean to her relationship with Jamie.  I now know, and I don't think I'll be reading any more of the series.  The pace is getting to be a bit too slow, and I have far too many other books I should be reading...

In the last novel of the series, Isabel announces to Jamie (her young lover) that she's pregnant.  This novel starts out with her and the baby living in Isabel's house, and Jamie still maintaining a separate residence.  He proposes to Isabel, but she's not sure she wants him to feel forced into a marriage so soon.  He *does* love the baby and spends a great deal of time at Isabel's place, but Isabel's ever-churning philosophical mind comes up with a thousand reasons why she shouldn't accept the proposal.  The general plot that drives this installment is Isabel's curiosity over whether two paintings by an artist thought to be dead are real or forgeries.  She can't resist her urge to dig into the situation, and ends up battling some philosophical issues when he uncovers the real story.  The secondary plot involves her job as editor for an ethics journal.  She's been ousted from the position by two members of the editorial board, and she's less than thrilled to lose the job in that particular fashion.  The question becomes what will she do about it, and will she be able to ethically reconcile her actions in her own mind.

To be fair, I knew what I'd be getting when I started reading.  The Dalhousie series travels at a very "relaxed" pace, and there are constant interjections of ethics and philosophy over even the smallest things.  If it hadn't been for the straight readthrough of the previous three at one time, I'm not sure I would have kept going to the end.  This installment, read after nearly a year's separation from the first three, tended to drag out more than I liked.  I still like the 44 Scotland Street series, and I'm not soured on Smith as an author.  I just don't think this series is quite my cup of tea...

09/06/2008

Woopra real-time web analytics... REALLY cool!

Category Woopra

About a month ago, I read a blog entry on a new beta web analytics program called Woopra.  They were going by invite only, so you signed up and waited...  and waited...  and waited.  I had nearly forgotten about it until today when I got the acceptance email.  I signed on to the site, got the small JavaScript code snippet (placed it in one of the Blogsphere sidebar sections) and I was done.  

The client is a real feast for the eyes...

A picture named M2

When I hit my blog, about two seconds later the client updates with all the information you see above.  I can imagine the page would look like fireworks went off if you had a high-traffic site like vowe.net or edbrill.com.

I'm looking forward to playing with this more in the next few days to see how it behaves.  But so far, I'm very impressed.

09/04/2008

Book Review - IT Disaster Recovery Planning for Dummies by Peter Gregory

Category Book Review Peter Gregory IT Disaster Recovery Planning for Dummies

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It would be tempting to make all sorts of snide comments about a Dummies book that wants to take a serious look at disaster recovery of your IT area.  But this is a Dummies title that you'll actually go back to a number of times if you're responsible for making sure your organization survives a disaster...  IT Disaster Recovery Planning for Dummies by Peter Gregory.  It's actually the first book on the subject that I found interesting *and* readable to an average computer professional.

Contents:
Part 1 - Getting Started with Disaster Recovery: Understanding Disaster Recovery; Bootstrapping the DR Plan Effort; Developing and Using a Business Impact Analysis
Part 2 - Building Technology Recovery Plans: Mapping Business Functions to Infrastructure; Planning User Recovery; Planning Facilities Protection and Recovery; Planning System and Network Recovery; Planning Data Recovery; Writing the Disaster Recovery Plans
Part 3 - Managing Recovery Plans: Testing the Recovery Plans; Keeping DR Plans and Staff Current; Understanding the Role of Prevention; Planning for Various Disaster Scenarios
Part 4 - The Part of Tens: Ten Disaster Recovery Planning Tools; Eleven Disaster Recovery Planning Web Sites; Ten Essentials for Disaster Planning Success; Ten Benefits of DR Planning
Index

I was prompted to read this when a colleague of mine recently went through a fire at their company location.  For about a week, he lived through a nightmare of recovering data, setting up new workstations and servers, and fending off management who thought they had better ideas than everyone else on how to proceed.  A book like this would have, if taken seriously and methodically, helped him avoid much of the confusion and headache that went with getting things back to a stable condition.  Gregory presents a realistic view of what is needed to start preparing for a disaster that could cause your business to fold.  He doesn't assume that you have millions of dollars and unlimited staff resources at hand.  He advocates getting a basic plan in place along with reviews by the major players.  Once this outline is put down, then you can continue to build on it, going from scenario plan walkthroughs to full-blown hotsite cutovers that test the ability to bring your systems back up using all the processes you have in place.  He also doesn't just confine himself to the physical hardware/software elements.  You may have your system recovered fine in terms of the main computer, but if your users have no place to work or system connectivity is missing, then all your plans are for naught.  You will definitely get the full view of what needs to be taken into account for disaster planning, in a way that is approachable and doable without some expensive or complex methodology.

I would say there's a good chance that if you're part of a large organization, you probably (I hope!) already have DR plans in place.  But if you're a smaller organization, it's likely you've never given much thought to what would happen to your business if the building burned down or a hurricane flooded your office.  Some time spent with this book might well be the difference between emerging from a disaster ready for business or ready to file chapter 7.

09/03/2008

Book Review - Executive Privilege by Phillip Margolin

Category Book Review Phillip Margolin Executive Privilege

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Phillip Margolin is one of my favorite crime novelists, partly due to the fact he lives in my hometown of Portland, Oregon and usually places his stories there.  I had the pleasure of finally getting to the top of the list at the library for his latest book Executive Privilege.  I personally feel this is one of his best novels.  It grabbed my attention and didn't let go until the final page.

The story starts out with private investigator Dana Cutler taking what appears to be a simple job from a high-powered attorney.  All she has to do is follow around a young college student and report on her whereabouts.  But the assignment, though odd, takes on a whole new level of danger when it leads Cutler to the doorsteps of the President in a wooded cabin, apparently the participant in a tryst with her target subject.  That's not the kind of information that keeps you healthy and alive for very long, and she has a past that brings back dark and unpleasant memories of trying to survive.  Meanwhile, Brad Miller, a young attorney just starting out at the bottom rung of a large legal firm, is asked to take a pro bono case for a death row appeal.  It's assumed that he'll go through the formalities and the appeal will be denied, but Miller turns up some evidence that would clear the convict of that particular murder (even though there are still others that the killer did confess to).  The head of the legal firm is not very happy with this turn of events, and tells Miller in no uncertain terms that he is to back off.  When Cutler tracks down Miller and starts comparing notes about their particular cases, the paths converge and appear to lead to murder committed and sanctioned by the highest office of government.  

Everything in this novel just worked for me...  the characters, plot, pacing.  I started reading one evening and had a horrible time trying to find a lull in the action to set it aside.  Needless to say, it was finished before I turned out the light the next evening.  With all the conspiracy theories and muckrakers these days, this seemed to be a plot that wouldn't have been horribly out of place on some websites and alternative media sources.  Bottom line is that it was an enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to his next novel.

09/02/2008

Book Review - Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: And How to Build Them by D. C. Beard

Category Book Review D. C. Beard Shelters Shacks and Shanties: And How to Build Them

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My, how we've changed over the years.  In the classic book Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: And How to Build Them, D. C. Beard covers the wide array of possibilities for building your own dwelling out of nothing but materials provided by nature.  This was originally published in 1914, and I think it's more interesting to observe the changes in culture than anything else.

Daniel Beard became fascinated with cabins and such in 1864 when he exhibited a saddleback cabin scaled down to size for him to carry to the fair.  He sold it for $7.50, which was a major disappointment to him, as he thought it worth much more.  That started him on his journey to sketch, document, and build just about any type of natural dwelling you can think of.  He starts out with how to make a soft sleeping platform using pine boughs.  From there, you have half-cave shelters, fallen tree shelters, and teepee-like structures.  By the end of the book, we're dealing with full-scale houses, obviously beyond the skills of the boy scouts he tends to target in the first half of the book.  But even then, the emphasis is on using logs and axes to accomplish most of the work.

Most of these skills are lost on 99% of Americans, and sending out a group of boys to build even the simplest of these structures would likely turn into a disaster.  But back when this was written, it was pretty much assumed that most boys had basic scouting skills and would be able to build some of these shelters in just a matter of hours, or at most a couple of days.  He even has them building hogan shelters built into the side of a hill and designed to last a considerable time.  These days, we'd likely freak out because the kids had an axe or a shovel in their hands...  And building a shelter covered by sod?  But what if it collapses???  Needless to say, we wouldn't fare well if forced to rely on our own skills to survive without our comfortable houses.

If you're an outdoors-type person and you want to work on survival skills, this would be an interesting way to start out.  Or if you're just looking for how much we've changed (or regressed) in the last 100 years, this'll point out many areas that fall into that category.

09/01/2008

Making a difference in the lives of others... The September Campaign

Category The September Campaign

My good friend Paul Mooney turns another year older today, and instead of gifts he's asked for contributions to this...  The September Campaign.  Imagine what a difference one could make in the lives of others instead of just eating some cake and getting yet another expensive gadget for your birthday...

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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