11.30.2007

The Capability Immaturity Model

The Capability Immaturity Model was described today in an article by Mike Bohlmann (pictured). In “Best Practices: Are Your Company’s Processes Mature,” he writes,

In the CIMM, there are four levels in which an organization can fail at establishing processes both passively and actively. These may help you in identifying and communicating just what keeps your organization from establishing and following good processes:

* 0: Negligent
* -1: Obstructive
* -2: Contemptuous
* -3: Undermining

And then he goes on to briefly explain the different levels, and how they apply to today's business IT environment. (I should add that Mike didn't invent the CIMM; that was done originally by Capt. Tom Schorsch of the U.S. Air Force, in a software engineering context.)

Mike’s blog, we CAN help IT, is a good read on entrepreneurial IT management.

11.29.2007

The joy of receiving voicemail from PR professionals

As most of my friends and colleagues know, I’m an e-mail person. In the time it takes me to listen to one voicemail message, I can delete dozens of e-mails. Maybe hundreds. When you receive as many messages as I do (and as many people in the media do), efficiency is everything.

The most time-wasting messages are those which do nothing more than ask me to verify that I received an e-mailed press release, and inquire if I’d like to follow up on it.

Believe me, if I wanted to follow up on your press release, I would have initiated the follow-through already. I would not be sitting waiting for your phone call.

If I took time to acknowledge every press release, I’d do nothing every day except acknowledge press releases. That is why I routinely delete such follow-up messages without replying.

Many editors, journalists, reporters and analysts experience the same frustration when dealing with over-enthusiastic PR professionals. From time to time, we share our thoughts on that subject with colleagues. One journalists' list that I follow just had a helpful discussion about how to handle "PR spam."

Sometimes we also share our thoughts with the general public – you, our readers.

To that end, please read a wonderful essay, “Don’t Call Us,” published this week by The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten. I couldn’t have written it better.

If you are a PR professional, I urge you to:

1. Don’t call to follow up on press releases.

2. Don’t use media directories to learn about our publications. Learn about our publications by reading them, and by using the online resources we make available for PR professionals.

3. For example, consult our Web-based editorial calendars before calling about a story. You can find them here for SD Times, Software Test & Performance and our forthcoming Systems Management News.

4. For another example, consult our “how to work with the editors” guidelines before pitching. Here they are from SD Times and ST&P. We’ll have one for SMN next year.

5. Don't call to follow up on press releases.

How could I forget to blog Alexa Weber Morales’ Vagabundeo/Wanderings?

I’m embarrassed that I never wrote about Alexa’s new CD, “Vagabundeo,” which came out over the summer. (I previously blogged her first disc, Jazzm√©rica.)

Here’s the review I wrote for it on Amazon:

This CD is wonderful. Even more than her first CD, Jazzmerica, it shows how comfortable Alexa is singing in a wide variety of styles, and in a variety of languages as well. This is the perfect CD to listen to after a long day at the office, or enjoy during dinner with friends, or if you just feel like dancing.

Also, If you like Pink Martini, you'll love Alexa Weber Morales. If China Forbes (Pink Martini's lead singer) ever leaves, Alexa must take her place.

I love my super-comfy Steelcase Think office chair

I am consistently amazed at how comfortable my Steelcase Think office chair is.

For years, my back had been sore and stiff if I sat in front of my computer for more than an hour or so. In early 2005, I mentioned that to a friend, and he said, duh, buy a better chair. I guess it was time to replace the task chair picked up second-hand 15 years earlier.

My search was exhaustive: I was willing to spend serious money to get something good. After visiting several “real” office furniture stores – places like Office Depot, Staples and Office Max have a lousy selection, imho – I fell in love with the Think.

What I like is that it's essentially a self-adjusting chair. The Think has extremely few adjustments, and the back is made of springy steel rods. Plus the mesh fabric means that my back doesn't get all hot and sweaty on a warm day. (You can read about the ergonomics at the Steelcase site.)

Some even pricier chairs I tested, like the Steelcase Leap and the Herman Miller Aeron, were much more complicated, and much less comfortable. With an Aeron, I literally can't find settings that work. With the Think, it only took a minute to find the right settings, and I haven’t changed them in the past 2 ½ years.

While I can’t claim that the Think is the best premium office chair, I believe that this is the best investment that I’ve ever made in my work environment. I paid about $700 for it in 2005 at an office furniture store in San Francisco. The basic Steelcase Think sells for $719 now from Amazon.

(There are a few different versions available. Mine is the original model with mesh back, cloth seat and adjustable arms. Today, Steelcase also offers leather or vinyl coverings, fixed arms or armless, and optional headrests and lumbar supports. That makes it complicated again! When I got mine, the only option was fabric color. I chose black.)

So, if you sit at your desk/computer for hours at a time, and if you're using a cheap task chair, consider an upgrade.
Try the Think — maybe it'll work for you, maybe it won't. (My wife tried mine out, but didn't care for it.) The important thing is that you get a good chair that fits you well, and is comfortable. If you're sore and stiff, duh, buy a better chair.

Andrew Binstock: The fallacy of 100% code coverage

So, let's start at the foundational level: 100% code coverage is a fallacious goal. Unit testing is designed to provide two principal benefits: 1) validate the operation of code; 2) create sensors that can detect when code operation has changed, thereby identifying unanticipated effects of code changes. There is no point in writing tests that do not fulfill one of the two goals.

So says an exceptional blog post by my good friend and colleague Andrew Binstock. The Fallacy of 100% Code Coverage” is one of the most meaty, yet concise, discussions of code coverage that I’ve encountered. Read it, and read the many comments too.

Did you know that Andrew’s seminal 1995 tome “Practical Algorithms for Programmers” (co-written with John Rex) is still in print? I’ve got to get him to autograph my copy one of these days.

What would you do with a milliom dollears?

A friend received this curious phishing message, reproduced below verbatim.

Subject: END OF YEAR AWARD 2007 PUBLICATION RESULT BONAZAA!

FROM STAATSLOTERIJ INTERNATIONAL B.V AWARD DEPARTMENT. MAARSHOF,3064HA,HILVERSUM,THE NETHERLANDS.

This email is to notify you that your Email Address attached to a Number(106912) has won an Award Sum of $1,000.000.00) (One Milliom Dollears) In an E-mail Sweepstakes program held on the 29TH of NOVEMBER 2007.

Please contact the claim officer through the below given contact information for the Claim STAATLOTERRIJ CLAIM AGENCY.


Mr;:John Smith

Contact
Email : (deleted)
Contact Telephone: (deleted)

WINNING INFORMATIONS Ref Number (42261567)Serial Number 780978907
Lucky Numbers442676509Batch Number EU8909178

Please forward the above stated winning information to your Euro Claim Agent.

Congratulations!!!

Perhaps a doll manufacturer would have good use for a milliom doll ears, but I’m not sure that I would.

11.27.2007

InternetNews’s nice writeup of the Total Eclipse panel at EclipseWorld 2007

Right after EclipseWorld 2007, my newsreader pulled down a story by Darryl K. Taft, a reporter for eWeek, who covered the Total Eclipse panel in a Nov. 7 story. This panel had some great conversation and insights from Eclipse Foundation’s Mike Milinkovich, Object Mentor’s Bob Martin, and CodeGear’s David Intersimone. I blogged Darryl’s story on Nov. 8.

Sadly, I overlooked an equally timely writeup from Jupermedia’s Sean Gallagher (pictured), who covered the conference for InternetNews. My only excuse (and it’s a poor one) for missing it is that I don’t subscribe to the newsfeed from InternetNews. I feel especially guilty because Sean acknowledged my role as the moderator.

Fortunately, my colleague Edward Correia is more on the ball; he cited both stories in last week’s EclipseSource. In “Two Tales of a Panel,” Eddie points out the differences in what Darryl and Sean found to say.

Both Darryl and Sean are top-notch reporters. It’s fascinating how dissimilar their stories are!

Nine things your church or synagogue Web site needs

I was recently asked to advise local lay leaders about the sorts of things that a church or synagogue should have on its Web site. Here’s a short essay written in response. I hope this is interesting for other local-area non-profits as well.

1. Broad buy-in and lots of contributors — not just from techie Webmasters

A Web site that's a passionate activity from one or more "web gurus" but lacks a lot of support from the lay leaders, clergy, professional staff and committee/auxiliary leaders may shine for a while, but then will peter out. The Web site should have broad buy-in, and should have representation and discussion at all levels of church or synagogue life. It's important, by the way, to not oversell what the Web can accomplish. Your Web site can help congregants and community find information. It's not a "push marketing" tool that can replace your monthly newsletter, e-mail newsletters and mailings, postcards, or fliers in your foyer. The Web site augments your other communications efforts — it doesn't eliminate them.

2. Steak AND sizzle — that is, it should be good looking AND filled with useful information

Nobody wants a boring Web site. But nobody wants a site that merely has lots of great photos of your building and clergy, and not much else. Think about why people visit your Web site, and make sure those visits are successful. Chances are people are looking for something. Do you know what your congregants are looking for? Is it there? Can they find it? Can they find it quickly and easily? When they find it, is it complete and up to date?

3. A mix of both timely content and static reference — and a clear separation of the two

Some people are searching your Web site for that's new and timely, like what time worship services are this week, the pictures from last weekend's celebration, the clergy’s most recent sermon, whether a specific club is meetng during the next public-school holiday, or if that meeting is cancelled or postponed. Sometimes they're looking for static information, like permission forms, the main office phone number, MP3 files of familiar blessings, clergy biographies or list of charitable institutions that your church/synagogue supports. A best practice is to lead your site with the timely and changing information. Relegate reference material to deeper pages, but just make sure people can find it.

4. A good editor and a sense of "less is more"

People don't go to the Web site to read War & Peace. They go there to find out if they want to buy the book! Similarly, they probably don't want a long verbose explanation of your worship philosophy, they want to know when your special family worship services will be held this month and if you're serving mac-and-cheese or burgers beforehand. When it comes to timely information, people don't read, they skim. They want answers, they want information, they don’t want novels. What they don't want is a page full of text (like this essay). Be brief! If you're writing the history of your congregation, use single sentences where paragraphs would do. A picture is worth 1000 words. Use the photo, spare the words, and your members will be happier.

5. Interactivity so that congregants can engage your site, not just refer to it

Forms are an important and popular way to involve members with your Web site — forms to register for religious school, for example, or to RSVP for adult education events. You can also set up forums, snap polls, and other resources so that your members can contribute to your Web site, as well as just reading it. Now, bear in mind that if you make a lot of interactive features, they may get low traffic at first. Don't be discouraged!

6. Ways to increase donations — in an appropriate way, of course

Web sites offer tactful and tasteful ways to raise money for your church or synagogue. For example, you can create simple donation forms, which let your members (and other interested people) make donations in honor of memorials, weddings and "just because." If you sell prayer books or ritual objects, you can offer them on your Web site, for the convenience of both your congregation and your local community. You can also make money by setting up an Amazon Associates program, so that congregants can donate every time they buy something — Amazon pays between 4% and 8.5%. You can even sell ads to local businesses that traditionally support your congregation. It's up to you — and to your clergy and lay leadership, of course, to determine what’s right.

7. A bright fresh face — without outdated forms, events and photos

Stores regularly change their window displays. Does your Web site change its window display — that is, the home page? It's tempting to make the top of the home page (the first screen you see without scrolling) a static area, with a picture of your building or clergy, and perhaps your mission statement, but imagine how that looks to a congregant coming back. It looks like nothing has changed. Use this most precious real estate for the most timely information. If you show photos on your home page, consider rotating them through a slide show. Also, remove outdated information right away. Get rid of the flier for a 2005 summer camp, and the 2006-2007 religious school sign-up form. Nothing makes a site seem stale more than welcoming visitors with your Christmas or Chanukah celebration schedule.... the following February.

8. A modern "Web 2.0" look, feel and functionality

Many of your congregants — and not just the young ones! — are very Web savvy. They use Google, they shop online, they spent hours in front of a browser. They are acutely aware of when a Web site is using old technology, and they appreciate the latest advances. There's no reason for your site to look like a holy relic. You can easily incorporate modern features like blogs, RSS feeds (i.e., incorporate external data sources), and even audio & video into your site. Be sure, of course, not to let dazzle overwhelm you. Also make sure that you can continue what you start, as nothing looks worse than a blog that's not updated regularly, or seeing audio feeds of your clergy’s sermons... up to March 2006. However, when used effectively and consistently, Web 2.0 technologies can make your site exciting and compelling, and make your ancient institution seem modern.

9. Search engine optimization so people can find you easily

Some people will find information on your Web site by browsing to your home page, and by navigating through your menus. But many other people will find information by searching through Google, MSN, Yahoo, and other search engines. Think about the type of queries that someone might make to find you, like "religious school miami" or "confirmation classes bay area" or "presbyterian denver" or “bar mitzvah lessons seattle.” Does your Web site come up? You can improve the odds by engaging in search engine optimization. That's a combination of making sure that pages have the right keywords and content, and that you provide the right "hints" to the search engine themselves. It's a bit of work... but it can improve your church or synagogue's Web visibility, and maybe even help new members find you.

11.25.2007

Have you signed up yet for FutureTest 2008?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months since we announced FutureTest 2008. That's our thought-provoking symposium for senior leaders in enterprise test/QA, as well as top executives in test/QA product and service companies.

We have an incredible group of nine keynote speakers:

• Security in an Insecure World, by Gary McGraw
• Analyze the Return on Your Testing Investment, by Rex Black
• Software Testing Is About Software Testers, by Jeff Feldstein
• Test/QA Lessons We Can Learn from Open Source, by Brian Behlendorf
• Testing, Craftsmanship and Professional Ethics, by Robert Martin
• Spolsky on Software Testing, by Joel Spolsky (pictured)
• Building a Center of Test Excellence, by Alan Page
• Just-in-Time Testing, by Rob Sabourin
• The Future of Software Testing, by Tony Wasserman

I’m the Master of Ceremonies at FutureTest 2008 – and I'll be grilling each of the keynotes after their presentations. I’ll also moderate two panels, one on the evolution of test tools, and the other on the evolving role of test within the application life cycle.

If you’d like to join us at FutureTest 2008 – Feb. 26-27 in New York City – you should know that our “eXtreme Early Bird” registration discounts end this upcoming Friday, Nov. 30. (STPCon alumni also qualify for a special discount.)

FutureTest 2008 will be unlike any software testing conference you’ve ever attended. I hope you’ll be there with us.

Intel and Microsoft will clean Negroponte’s clock

I think the One Laptop Per Child nitiative is a great idea. I just hope it survives.

The idea of a $100-or-so laptop for the developing world is important. Nicholas Negroponte is a brilliant visionary. He demonstrated that time and again at the MIT Media Lab, and he demonstrated it against with the OLPC initiative.

My first serious exposure to the OLPC project came at the AMD Global Vision Conference in September 2006, where I had the pleasure of hearing Negroponte talk about the laptop, and then chat with him afterwards. Negroponte was there, of course, because Advanced Micro Devices – not Intel – was supplying the platform for the Linux-powered OLPC laptop.

That was, obviously, a huge public relations coup for AMD, and gave OLPC and Negroponte a highly visible sponsor. However, the choice of AMD as a sole supplier was guaranteed to turn Intel into OLPC’s deadly enemy. And indeed, Intel responded with the Classmate, a straight-on competitor, which is stealing the wind from Negroponte’s sails.

While Negroponte’s choice of AMD made perfectly fine sense, there was no technological reason to make AMD an exclusive supplier. The visionary didn’t see that making an enemy out of the #1 microprocessor supplier was a very bad idea, and might imperil his altruism.

What Negroponte should have done is announced specs for a low-cost, low-power x86 processor, and put it out to bid. When it came to chips, both the AMD and Intel processors cost money. Whoever was assembling the OLPC laptop had to buy chips from someone. It could have been either processor – or both processors.

In practice, there should be no difference between an OLPC laptop running with an AMD chip and another in the same village with an Intel chip. Plus, having a choice might drive down prices. Never forget the power of competition, or the dangers of having a single source for a hardware component.

The other technological choice in the OLPC laptop, of course, is Linux, which turned Microsoft into a mortal enemy of the project as well. That may have been unavoidable. Linux is free, Windows is not free. Worst, neither Windows nor Linux are interoperable with each other without introducing extreme amounts of complexity. It would not be practical to design, build and distribute some OLPC laptops running Linux and others running Windows.

Negroponte had to choose. He chose Linux. That made Microsoft an enemy.

But did he have to create an enemy? What if Negroponte had invited Microsoft to contribute software or services for the OLPC, perhaps a version of Internet Explorer, Windows Media Services or MSN? Then, Microsoft might have been a supporter and a friend.

Would OLPC's cozying up to Intel and Microsoft have been technologically necessary? Of course not. Negroponte and OLPC has demonstrated that they don’t need Intel or Microsoft to build their OLPC laptop. (The Intel Classmate also runs Linux, by the way.)

Would that have been politically necessary? I suggest that it would have been a wise idea. Negroponte’s vision focused solely on the Third World, but he didn’t take into account the business realities of the First World. His OLPC initiative had to make tough choices, yes, but it didn’t need to make enemies out of the industry's top hardware and software suppliers.

I remain a strong supporter of the OLPC initiative, and am happy to do what I can to support it, such as by promoting and taking part in the Give One Get One program. However, that doesn’t mean that I am totally optimistic about the project’s success. Microsoft and Intel are powerful competitors, who wish to crush the project. I don’t see Negroponte with many allies in his camp.

WSJ: Unclear on the meaning of ‘format for printing’

Why would you embed a video in a Web page that’s been reformatted for printing? You need rich text, certainly. Ads and graphics, yes, that makes sense too.

How about an embedded video playback window? That’s just stupid. But that’s what The Wall Street Journal does.

I acme across an interesting article on wsj.com about Wintel’s challenge to Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child initiative. (The OLPC laptop uses AMD chips and runs Linux, so both Intel and Microsoft have an understandably vested interest in derailing the project, such as with the Intel Classmate device.)

As I prefer to do for any article that’s more than a couple of screens long, I decided to print the article so I could read it on my office’s sofa, perhaps with a nice fresh cappuccino.

Like many media sites, wsj.com offers a “Format for Printing” option. Click – and there’s the “A Little Laptop With Big Ambitions” article, nicely reformatted — except for the astonishing video playback box (see screen capture – click to open it full size). The playback window shows up on the printout.

Talk about being unclear on the concept!

11.21.2007

Ultimate Santana’s Game of Love with Tina Turner

I’m a huge Carlos Santana fan, and have nearly all of his albums. So, when Arista Records announced yet another collection – Ultimate Santana – it barely registered on my radar. Why buy a collection when you’ve got the albums?

Tina Turner. That’s why.

One of my favorite recent Santana songs is “The Game of Love,” from his 2002 album Shaman, with vocals by the very talented Michelle Branch. She has a light and lovely voice.

However, the story goes, the song was originally written for Tina Turner, but for various reasons, Santana wasn’t able to use the version they recorded together. So, he re-recorded the song with Michelle Branch for Shaman.

The Ultimate Santana collection contains both versions. I like them both… but this is clearly a Tina Turner song. Her powerful voice is a real treat.

If you like Santana, and if you like Tina Turner, buy this collection.

11.16.2007

Being creative is no excuse for being flaky

I was rather dismayed by a story on CNN.com this week. Mary Lorenz wrote a story in its “career” section that excused flaky employees as free spirits with untapped creativity to contribute.

Well, perhaps I’m too corporate, but that’s new-age nonsense.

The article, “Are you the flaky employee?,” defines flaky people as those who have excessive tardiness, are unable to prioritize or finish a project by its due date, who are unreliable, and who are forgetful.

About them, the author writes, “Oftentimes, these people simply need to find a work environment where they can let their creativity and innovation run free. More often than not, the employee with these traits doesn't have the problem, the company does.”

Hogwash. Every company would have problems with an employee who can’t get his or her job done, and who can't be depended upon. You’re not going to be a success in your job, and in your life, if you’re unreliable or flaky.

In my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of brilliantly creative writers, editors, artists, musicians, software architects, developers. Most of them – the successful ones – aren’t excessively tardy, and generally hit their deadlines.

IMHO, being brilliantly creative is no excuse for being unreliable, consistently late to work, and unable to complete a project.

The author continues, “Creative types may not necessarily conform to a company's culture, but it's that noncomformity and ability to think outside the box that makes them good at what they do.”

More hogwash. If you’re not getting your work done, then in my opinion, you’re not good at what you do, because you're not doing it. Sure, you may have creative potential – but you’re squandering it.

She writes, “If you find that you continually start projects at the last minute, spend more time updating your MySpace page than you do on your upcoming presentation, take a liberal approach to the term 'lunch hour,' or call in sick on a weekly basis, chances are you're wreaking havoc on your boss and the co-workers who have to make up for your flaky behavior.”

I don’t call such behavior merely flaky. I call it slacking. I call it immature. I call it selfish and rude. If you’re that flaky employee, my advice is: Get your act together, and grow up.

End of the month for the giant Western Digital hard drive

According to a spokesperson for Western Digital, the new 2.5-inch 320GB hard drives — which I wrote about on Nov. 2 — will be available the last week of November.

This is a delay from the announcement on Oct. 31, when the company said the drives were available immediately in Western Digital's online store.

>> Update 12/1: The 320GB drive is still not available from WD or retailers.

11.15.2007

Happy birthday, CodeGear

It wasn't the easiest of births, but this week, CodeGear — the tools division of Borland — turned one year old. Borland had been flailing around. One minute their execs were saying that tools were important, the next minute they were irrelevant. One day they were spinning off their tools because they were a distraction, and the next day, they were instead creating a wholly owned subsidiary.

It all settled down on Nov. 14, 2006, when Borland issued a press release discussing their plans, spinning out a subsidiary to be led by Ben Smith. Ben only lasted five months. A few weeks ago I had lunch with his successor, CodeGear CEO Jim Douglas. I think that Jim (pictured) has a very clear idea of what CodeGear needs to do to thrive and survive in today's very competitive IDE market.

My consistent question, of course, is how much can CodeGear do as a wholly owned subsidary of ALM-centric Borland. As long as Borland is dong well, CodeGear will have lots of flexibility for investment and R&D. However, if Borland's ALM business runs into hard times, CodeGear may be squeezed. That wouldn't be good for products like Delphi, which have little synergy with Borland's ALM suites, or with low-margin product lines like CodeGear's 3rdRail tools for Ruby.

Marco Cantu, a noted luminary in the Delphi world, wrote a good blog entry about the first anniversary of CodeGear. I enjoyed his impressions of the progression from Borland to CodeGear.

We're launching a newspaper: Systems Management News!

I'm delighted to announce a major new launch for BZ Media: Systems Management News, which will debut in April 2008.

If you're familiar with BZ Media's SD Times, then you're already familiar with our flavor of management-level news and news analysis.

But where SD Times is written for software development managers, Systems Management News will be for the IT managers who oversee systems administration, data center, mail and messaging, storage, database admin, and so on.

Like SD Times, Systems Management News will be a tabloid-sized publication, available both in print (free of charge to qualified subscribers in the U.S.) and digitally (free of charge to qualified subscribers anywhere). It will also have a weekly newsletter (similar to SD Times News on Monday/Thursday), and a great Web site with breaking news.

Why print? Why not Web-only? Well, philosophically, we believe that print publications give readers a better opportunity to explore what's happening in their industry.

Print does content and context better than a Web page (no matter how well designed it might be) or a cold, impersonal RSS feed.

• The Web is excellent for breaking news, which is why I read the NY Times on the Web.
• The Web is ideal for researching things, which is why I use Google and the MSDN, Oracle Technology Network and IBM developerWorks sites.
• Print is best for reading and understanding what's happening in our world, which is why I read the New Yorker and the Economist — and SD Times and eWeek — in print.

As you might expect, we're all very excited about this new publication, even though planning is still in its early stages.

Our art team, for example, is working hard on the design of Systems Management News. It's inspired by our successes and experience with SD Times but will have a look all its own.

Similarly, our editorial management team is researching the field; over the next few months, we'll be hiring reporters, editors and columnists to staff Systems Management News.

Our Web team has put up a "placeholder" site, at www.sysmannews.com — check it out to learn more about the newspaper. You can apply for a free subscription while you're there.

(You can also read our press release.)

11.14.2007

It’s time to buy and donate an XO laptop

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the “One Laptop Per Child” program has a short-time offer: Donate one of their XO laptops to a needy child, and get one for yourself, for $399.

Normally the devices are intended purely for donation, but for us technical folks, there’s a definite benefit to seeing and touching one.

Also, frankly, it would be good to have an XO so that we can make sure that our Web applications support them. (In my case, however, it’s pure curiosity.)

The “Give One Get One” program runs through November 26. I don’t know if it will be repeated.

If you’re in the United States,there's also $24.95 for shipping, for a total charge of $423.95. According to OLPC, “$200 of your donation is tax-deductible (your $399 donation minus the fair market value of the XO laptop you will be receiving).”

It’s worth it.

Please note that, other than a 30-day return policy, the XO laptop is unsupported for customers of the G1G1 program. If it breaks, it’s broken: “Neither OLPC Foundation nor One Laptop per Child, Inc. has service facilities, a help desk or maintenance personnel in the United States or Canada. Although we believe you will love your XO laptop, you should understand that it is not a commercially available product and, if you want help using it, you will have to seek it from friends, family, and bloggers.”

I'm looking forward to blogging about the XO when mine arrives.

>> Update 11/25/2007: The "Give One Get One" program has been extended to Dec. 31.

11.13.2007

Spammers never cease to amuse

My antivirus software blocked this malware carrier's payload, but I enjoyed reading the message. You think they'd at least run spellcheck.

Dear Bzmedia Member,

We have temporarily suspended your email account.
This might be due to either of the following reasons:

1. A recent change in your personal information (i.e. change of address).


2. Submiting invalid information during the initial sign up process.

3. An innability to accurately verify your selected option of subscription due to an internal error within our processors.

See the details to reactivate your Bzmedia account.


Sincerely,The Bzmedia Support Team

>> Update 11/14: I received another version of this message today:


Dear user feedback,

It has come to our attention that your Bzmedia User Profile ( x ) records are out of date. For further details see the attached document.

Thank you for using Bzmedia!
The Bzmedia Support Team

No, I will not fix your computer!

I bought the black version of the "No, I will not fix your computer" T-shirt from ThinkGeek over the summer, and wore it on my most recent visit to BZ Media's NY headquarters office.

I'm not sure if my point got across, but at least it generated a few laughs.

The shirt's next appearances will be at family gatherings. The most horrible sentence in the English language is, surely, "May I ask you a quick question about my computer?"

The Windows Malware Wars: Viruses 4, Alan 0

I fought the hackers, and the hackers won. Here’s the story: One of our employees had a nice Dell Latitude D610 laptop, and it was totally messed up – running super-slow, lots of crashes, adware popups in the browser, and so-on.

Because this was a huge productivity problem for a key employee, we solved it by buying her a new laptop this past summer.


But what about the old laptop? It ended up on a shelf in my office. It’s a good machine: 1.7GHz Pentium M processor, 1400x1050 14-inch screen, 60GB hard drive, lots of RAM, DVD player, two batteries. Physically, it’s in great shape. It’s a shame not to put that laptop back into service.

It so happened that I currently need a Windows laptop for a specific project. I pulled the Latitude off the shelf yesterday morning, scurried around to find its power supply brick (which was buried) and decided to clean it up. This shouldn’t take long, I thought.

Big mistake, at least in terms of it being easy.

After many hours of scrubbing, uninstalling software (the previous user had installed every free browser toolbar known to humanity) and running Microsoft Update a few dozen times, the machine was working. Sort of. It was still incredibly slow, and the browser still was being hijacked by adware.

I ran an anti-virus check, and it discovered oodles of infestations. Dozens. Most of which the Sophos software could delete. However, there were four that it couldn’t destroy. Two of them were instances of the Virtum-Gen trojan. The other two were spyware, called ClickStream and Virtumondo. As the saying goes, I tried scrubbing, I tried soaking, nothing seemed to help.

To make a long story short, after fighting with the malware last night for several hours, I’d had enough. It’s one thing to have a "project" laptop on my desk, and keep running Microsoft Update and rebooting while I do other work on my own machine. That’s not hard. It’s another to focus intensively on removing spyware and viruses. That takes a lot of time, patience and concentration, none of which this project could justify.

So, this morning I blew away the Latitude's hard drive and installed a clean copy of Windows XP Professional. I hadn’t wanted to do this, since there were applications on the Latitude that I wanted to keep. However, at some point you just have to admit defeat and cut your losses.

The installation process for Win XP Pro itself was interminable. It's been a while since I last did this, and I'd forgotten how long it takes. The installation disc I had was pre-Service Pack level, and it’s taken many hours to install Windows, add the service packs, and apply all the updates and security patches. But now, at least I have a cleanly configured Windows laptop that’s not infected, and runs fast, fast, fast.

I’m glad I don’t fix PCs for a living.

11.09.2007

PR pitches that define my publication - badly

Here's the opening of a public relations pitch that I received a few moments ago:

Hi Alan,

Your publication is dedicated to providing readers with engaging and timely information about technology advances that can increase efficiencies throughout their enterprise and supply chain. I was wondering if you would be interested in the attached press release for further development.


I don't know about you, but I find such messaging to be inappropriate and pretentious.
It's as if the writer is saying, "Hey, buddy, we know what your job is, and your job is to take care of my client."

The attached press release had something to do with the manufacturing and distribution of aluminum building products. Whoops! Misfire!

11.08.2007

Would you like some ANSI Standard sushi?

I can’t let the approval of the National Information Standards Organization’s Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative by the American National Standards Institute pass without playing with the acronyms.

To put it more succinctly, ANSI loves NISO SUSHI.

SUSHI is described as defining “an automated request and response model for the harvesting of electronic resource usage data, utilizing a Web services framework.”

The best news is that this is totally fresh SUSHI. Cornell University’s Adam Chandler said, “We're very proud of the fact that we were able to move SUSHI from inception to trial use in only 14 months.”

If it took much longer, of course, this SUSHI might start to smell really bad.

The technical details, according to NISO:

In the protocol, a transaction begins when a client service running as part of an application developed by a library—or running as part of a usage data consolidation service or ILS/ERM system—identifies itself, identifies the customer whose statistics are being requested, and specifies the desired report to the SUSHI server service running at a data provider. In response, the server provides the report in XML format, along with the requestor and customer information—or an appropriate error message. The SUSHI developers envision a system in which the client system is programmed to retrieve reports automatically for all the COUNTER-compliant vendors with which the library does business.

COUNTER is an XML schema used by libraries and book publishers. And now you know as much as I do.

eWeek’s nice writeup of the Total Eclipse panel at EclipseWorld 2007

Darryl Taft, a reporter for eWeek.com, wrote a very nice summary of the Total Eclipse panel at EclipseWorld 2007.

The panel, which had Eclipse Foundation’s Mike Milinkovich, Object Mentor’s Bob Martin, and CodeGear’s David Intersimone, was on Tuesday evening, Nov. 6.

I have only two minor quibbles with Darryl's otherwise great story.

• Darryl (pictured) failed to name the company that produced EclipseWorld 2007 (BZ Media).

• He also failed to name or quote the fourth member of that panel (yours truly). I was just “the panel’s moderator.”

Those are tiny quibbles. The real point, of course, is that we had a wonderful, open and engaging panel discussion.

Mike, Bob and David are among the most respected voices in the software development community. It was an honor to share the stage with them.

11.06.2007

Eclipse users focus on Java development

Greetings from EclipseWorld 2007. I’m delighted that the conference gets better every year. If you’re here, of course, you know what I’m talking about. If you weren’t able to make it, all I can say is: Bummer. Mark your calendar now for EclipseWorld 2008, Oct. 28-30, in Reston, Va.

Earlier this week, International Data Corp. released a fascinating study of the Eclipse community. The IDC study, completed on Oct. 26, revealed what many of us suspected (and which BZ Research has determined independently): Eclipse is primarily used for Java development.

According to the study, by the three most popular Eclipse projects, after the IDE itself, are the Java Development Tools at 88 percent, followed by the Web Standard Tools at 54 percent, and the Java EE Standard Tools at 44 percent. Nearly 3 out of 4 respondents said they were building server-centric applications.

Interestingly, the study showed that 71 percent of respondents works for an IT solutions providers – a software company, a hardware company, VAR or systems integrator. Only 29 percent were enterprise developers. Why is this? Three obvious possibilities:

1. Eclipse users are predominantly associated with the member companies that most actively support the Foundation, such as IBM.

2. The study is skewed toward employees of companies that have business ties to the Eclipse market.

3. Eclipse users are indeed nearly 3/4 IT solutions providers, and only 1/4 enterprise.

The IDC report says that only a small percentage of respondents were from member companies, so I think the correct answer is #2.

Respondents for the IDC were recruited via links posted on Eclipse.org and on the Eclipse newsgroups. Enterprise developers, one might assume, don’t watch Eclipse.org as closely as the employees of organizations with a profit motive for monitoring the Foundation.

You can read a summary of the study at Eclipse.org. The entire IDC Eclipse Community Study, 92 pages long, is also available for download.

BZ Research conducts an annual Eclipse study, and we’ll be gearing up for it in early December. Our latest findings were reported in SD Times last January.

Don't die in London's Houses of Parliament, or else

The BBC News runs the most wonderful stories. I'd have thought the following to be urban legends, were it not for today's BBC News story "UK chooses 'most ludicrous laws' " where I learned:

• It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
• Only a clerk in a tropical fish store has permission to be topless in public in Liverpool.
• The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King.

The story also details interesting laws in the U.S., Indonesia, Switzerland, France and elsewhere.

What a world!

What I like and don’t like about big hotels

Here I am at EclipseWorld, staying in the Hyatt Regency Reston, just outside Washington, D.C. It’s a giant 15-storey hotel, very posh, very nice. Last week I stayed at two smaller hotels, a Fairfield Inn by Marriott and a Homewood Suites by Hilton.

There are things that I like betters about big, modern hotels, and things like I like about little modern hotels. Overall, I like little hotels better.

Big hotels:

I like the size of the room. The furniture, linens and decorations are often much nicer. There’s often a better desk and office chair. There’s often a good local newspaper. I don’t like the expensive hotel breakfast. I don’t like paying for wireless. I don’t like that they put food in my room (like water bottles and chips) but make me pay for them. I don’t like paying to park my rental car (it's free at this Hyatt). I don’t like turn-down service – staff shouldn’t come into my room in the evening, especially if I'm not there and might have left stuff lying around. At the Hyatt, every time the staff comes into the room, they turn the TV on. The first thing I have to do is turn off the TV.

Little hotels:

I like that I can get to my room faster, without traversing a huge lobby and slow elevator. I like that there’s free breakfast, usually continental, but often more. Sometimes there’s coffee in the lobby all day. I like that there’s free Internet and free parking. I don’t like that they give me USA Today instead of the Washington Post or Wall Street Journal. I don’t that like the rooms are often smaller, and the furniture is often cheaper (but not always). I like that staff don’t enter my room except to clean it, and they only come in once. The small hotels are often more friendly; even if you’re staying for just a few days, you start to feel that you know the desk clerks and other employees. It’s a nice feeling.

11.05.2007

Calling amateur radio operators: Motorola is buying Yaesu

There's a good chance that Yaesu, one of the best manufacturers of amateur ("ham") radio equipment, may be disappearing soon.

I've been a proud owner of many Yaesu tabletop radios, from shortwave receivers to HF transceivers. My favorite HT (handi-talki is the ham version of "walkie-talkie") is a Yaesu VX-5R triple-band. (The VX-5R, pictured, was discontinued in late 2005. The closest current model is the VX-6R.)

It looks like Yaesu, and its parent company Vertex Standard, are going to be swallowed up by mighty Motorola. You can read the full Motorola press release here.

Like Vertex Standard, Motorola is a big player in the two-way radio market. However, Motorola hasn't done anything in the amateur radio market for many years.

The press release briefly mentions Vertex's strengths in amateur, and says that the deal will give Motorola access to new business opportunities. That would be wonderful news, though it would seem unlikely that the giant Motorola would have any real use for the Yaesu niche amateur-radio products. It's not a large market, and it's not growing.

If Motorola is willing to continue investing in Yaesu – and can use its manufacturing and distribution clout to lower prices and add new dealers, that would be great.

Otherwise, the best we can hope for would be that another ham radio player, like Kenwood or Icom, would purchase the Yaesu product line. However, because many of Yaesu amateur radios are derivative of higher-volume Vertex commercial radios, it's not clear how that would work.

I'm not quite ready for Universal Geometic Time

My good friend Larry O'Brien has gone beyond eliminating Daylight Savings Time. If I understand him correctly, he also wants to abolish time zones.

Instead, he would implement
Universal Geometric Time, which is a precise calculation of time at your exact longitude based on the angle of the sun overhead.

UGT can be calculated, with relative ease, by examining the raw data from a Global Position System receiver. You can use your longitude to compute a differential from Universal Time.

While Larry's clearly onto something, it won't be practical until GPS receivers are more pervasive (and become embedded into clocks and wristwatches).

11.04.2007

Let's play the Daylight Savings Time game

As suspected, I had to change the time zone on my BlackBerry 8700g again today.

Last weekend, I had to change the handheld from Eastern Time (GMT-5) to Caracas Time (GMT-4), because it erroneously "auto-adjusted" for Daylight Savings Time on Oct. 28. The device didn't know that the U.S. Congress changed the DST shift date to today, Nov. 4.

I received several letters about my call to repeal Daylight Savings Time. Whatever minimal benefits it might have are offset by the needless confusion of having to adjust clocks twice per year in this anachronistic holdover from an agrarian age. It was bad enough when we could really just adjust clocks. Increasingly, however, the clocks are embedded in software or firmware.

Even were DST a constant, wherein it always changed on the same dates every year, that adds significant complexity (= cost) to any timekeeping algorithm.

With DST being a variable (as demonstrated this year), that complexity explodes tremendously. I'm sure that the cost of having to test software, and issue firmware or software patches, for Congress's DST change was very significant for software makers, hardware makers and customers.

Only one person wrote in favor of keeping DST:

I agree DST can be a pain to work with in technology but the idea of getting rid of DST for this reason just seems silly to me. We should be improving the technology to better support our lifestyles not the other way around.

The person said DST gives him more daylight after work for outdoor activities. I suppose that's a benefit.

>> Update: My wife was talking about DST with a friend this morning. Her friend's car clock adjusts to/from DST automatically — and it was wrong all week, and only "fixed" itself this morning.

11.02.2007

Hard drives keep getting bigger, with a WD 320GB 2.5-inch drive

Two days ago, on Oct. 31, Western Digital announced a 320GB hard drive in the 2.5-inch form factor that’s popular with laptops and notebook PCs. They claim it’s the first such drive.

The previous winner in the 2.5-inch size, best I can tell, is 250GB, meaning that Western Digital has pushed the envelope by about 28 percent.

This is good news. The 200GB drive in my MacBook Pro is nearly full, and it's time for an upgrade. (WD says that these drives are currently available on their online store, but there’s no “add to cart” button yet for the 320GB drive. I have asked WD to clarify.)

It’ll be a nice upgrade, and not only because of the increased capacity.

The new WD Scorpio 320GB drive is a 5400RPM SATA drive with a 4.2ms latency and 2.5 watts max power dissipation. By contrast, the Toshiba MK2035GSS 200GB drive in my MacBook Pro is a 4200RPM drive with a 5.5ms latency and 5.5 watts max power dissipation. The upgrade should help performance and battery life as well.

>> Update 11/2: WD told me that the drives should be on sale in a day or two, and that the MSRP is US$199.99.

>> Update 11/4: They were not yet available to purchase as of today.

>> Update 12/1: Still not available.

One laptop per child, one laptop for you

The “One Laptop Per Child” program, pioneered by Nicholas Negroponte, is breathtaking in its scope and vision.

I had the opportunity to talk to him a year ago, at the AMD Global Vision Conference in Los Angeles, and was impressed that the program focuses not only on the hardware, but pays just as much attention to the practical issues of culture.

OLPC knows it’s not going to be easy to incorporate the computers into an educational and lifestyle experience in developing nations.

Negroponte and the One Laptop Per Child Association realize that the OLPC program is as much about communication and community as it is about technology — and that this technology could potentially be seen as a disruptive influence, causing as many problems as it solves. They’ve put a lot of thought into understanding those issues.

Admittedly, those topics are far outside my experience and expertise, but it seems that they’ve covered all the angles.

From my perspective, however, there are two questions. One, how can I help distribute their XO laptops to where they’re needed most? Two, how can I get my own hands on one? The first part is easy: Much of the OLPC program is based on donations. For $200 you can give one laptop to a needy child, for $400 you can give two, and so-on.

However, Negroponte is a smart guy. He knows that many of us in the U.S. want one of those innovative little laptops ourselves, even though we really don’t need one. So, the OLPC folk came up with an interesting program: Give 1 Get 1. For $399 you can purchase two laptops: one goes to a child in a developing nation, the other goes to you.

The short-term promotional program kicks off Nov. 12. You can sign up to receive an e-mail when OLPC is ready to take orders. I’ve put my name on the list, and look forward to helping a needy child, while also satisfying my own curiosity about the technology. Please join me in supporting OLPC.

About Me

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Co-founder and editorial director of BZ Media, which publishes SD Times, the leading magazine for the software development industry. Founder of SPTechCon: The SharePoint Technology Conference, AnDevCon: The Android Developer Conference, and Big Data TechCon. Also president and principal analyst of Camden Associates, an IT consulting and analyst firm.