12.21.2007

Enterprise Web hosting split fairly evenly between data centers and shared hosted servers

According to BZ Research, 42.0% of enterprise Web sites are hosted within their internal data centers, while 40.6% are hosted externally using shared servers owned by the Web hosting company.

Those were by far the dominant findings in our first-ever Web Hosting Study, completed in October.

Those numbers swamped the use of Web servers hosted on departmental servers outside the data center (22.0%), hosted externally using dedicated server owned by the host (20.8%), and those hosted externally using company-owned servers in colocation facilities (13.0%).

The last number was the most surprising to me. Frankly, I expected colo-based Web hosting to be more popular.

The complete study, which digs more deeply into the topic, is available from BZ Research.

12.20.2007

Comments on "Apple Should Be Ashamed"

Some comments on my post about movies on iPods suggest that I should blame Hollywood and Washington for the inability to load DVDs into iTunes and an iPod, not Apple. I believe it's fair to include the movie industry and the U.S. government, certainly.

However, it's Apple that markets the iPod as a movie player, Apple that sells the iPod in tremendous numbers, Apple that runs the iTunes store, and Apple that makes the profit. It's also Apple that doesn't make it clear, when you purchase an "iPod with Video" which can play movies, that the device is crippled so that it won't play the movies you already own.

If you go to the "Movies" feature page for the iPod classic, for example, Apple tells you that you can "
Buy movies from the iTunes Store and you can sync them to your iPod classic to watch anywhere, anytime." That's fine and accurate, but doesn't tell the whole story. It would be better if Apple said, explicitly, that this is the only legal way to load movies onto the device. I'm sure their marketing copywriters could find an unambuous way to say this without killing sales of the iPod.

Ditto if you go to the "Tech Specs" page, which gives consumers techno-gobbledygook about video formats, but doesn't explain that there are deliberately imposed limitations on importing video which don't exist for importing audio.

If you search the iPod/iTunes support database, you'll find a FAQ that says, "Can I transfer my DVDs into iTunes and sync to my iPod?" The response is a terse, "iTunes and QuickTime Pro do not support importing content from DVD videos."

Apple doesn't say why it's not supported. Apple doesn't say whether the limitations are technical or non-technical. Apple doesn't say that it wishes to provide that capability, but is regretfully unable to do so because of the law (Washington) or big-studio contracts (Hollywood). They just say "not supported."

So, tell me again why I shouldn't direct my consumer ire toward Apple?

12.19.2007

Three reasons why video on iPods will always be unsuccessful

Analysts say that Apple has been less than successful with selling video content – including television shows and movies – than it has been with selling music on its iTunes Store. It’s easy to see why (and this is independent of the inability to load the DVDs you already own onto the iPod).

There are three other reasons why music will always be successful on portable players, and video content never will be.

1. Music is a background function, while video requires foreground processing. I can listen to music everywhere, especially when I’m multitasking. In fact, music can help me concentrate on my work, or make a long drive more enjoyable. Video requires focus, and distracts you from your work, from driving, or from other activities.

2. Music is acceptable at work, but movies aren’t. If I see an employee listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack while working, that’s great. Howard Shore wrote wonderful instrumental music that's perfect for background listening. At BZ Media, we have some employees who routinely listen to their iPods or other music players while they're programming, writing e-mails, editing documents. I do that myself; if I'm not on the phone, music's playing. But I don’t want to see an employee watching the movie itself when he/she is supposed to be working.

3. Music you listen to over and over again, while movies you watch rarely. Except for kids with their favorite Barney video, when you buy a new movie, you watch it once. Even if you loved it, you'll then put it on the shelf, perhaps for months. By contrast, when you buy a new album, you listen to it over and over again for the first week or two – and then throw some tracks into a “favorites” list and shuffle them all the time. You get tons more mileage out of music.

Music and personal players were made for each other. Personal movies, well, they’re just not going to have the appeal of music, no matter what Apple or any of its competitors do. When you couple that with the inability to reuse your DVD library, the idea will never expand out of a narrow niche: watching TV episodes that you buy and toss.

Why “video” players, like the iPod, are crippled, and why Apple should be ashamed

So, we’re getting ready to head off on a vacation. My son says to me, “How can I load Hunt from Red October onto my iPod?”

“You can’t,” I reply. “Apple won’t let you.”

My son’s 30GB iPod with Video – the previous generation device – is a marvelous music player. But as a video player, it’s a tremendous disappointment. It’s not the technology that’s flawed – it’s attitude from Apple, Washington and Hollywood. Presumably, competing video players have the same intentionally crippling limitation.

When it comes to music, it’s easy to populate the iTunes software, and by extension, the iPod. (This applies equally to other music software and devices.) There are three ways you can proceed:

• You can load, one disc at a time, your CD-based music collection into the software, and from there onto the device. This is time-consuming, not just for the “ripping,” but also for organization. It’s something that I did a little bit at a time, over many months.

• The second way to put music onto the device is to purchase it in digital form, such as from the iTunes Store (which I won’t do) or from another legal source like Amazon.com (which I sometimes do).

• The third way is to obtain music illegally through peer-to-peer sharing networks (which I won’t do).

When it comes to movies, the first option is closed to you. Perhaps you already have an extensive DVD library; my family does, and it contains all my favorite movies – the ones that I’m most likely to want to watch on an iPod. If you have young kids, there are certain movies that your children want to see over and over again… and you already own them.

However, “thanks” to digital rights management paranoia, Apple and the other software companies do not permit you to insert a DVD into your Mac or Windows PC and “rip” the DVD into iTunes or any other commercial media-management application. Could they allow it? Sure. Will they? No way.

So, while there exist several shareware/freeware hacks that will let you painfully extract the audio and video from a DVD, transform then with the right codecs, and construct an MPEG4 video that can be loaded into iTunes and onto an iPod, they are indeed hacks. They’re simply not useful for the mass market.

The solution, says Apple is easy: Buy the movie in the proper format from the iTunes Store. In other words, they want you to buy the movie a second time. That, to me, is simply unacceptable.

I paid good money for Hunt for Red October (actually, $11.99 from Amazon.com) on DVD, which my son can watch in our home theatre, in his bedroom using his PlayStation 2 as a DVD player, and even on his MacBook notebook using its DVD-ROM drive. However, Apple won’t let him load the movie into iTunes, and so he can’t watch it on his Apple iPod with Video.

There’s no way I’m going to let my son spend another $9.99 to buy that same movie again from the iTunes Store – when all he’s wants it to watch it once on the iPod’s 2.5-inch screen on a flight to the East Coast.

What a rip-off. Apple hides behind Hollywood and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to cripple a video player so consumers can't watch the movies they've legally purchased.

Apple should be ashamed of itself.

Update 12/20: I responded to some comments in a separate post.

Toast & Co. is not a diner

Confidential to Ted Bahr: I enjoyed our lunch today at Toast & Co., one of Huntington’s newest restaurants.

However, despite your claims to the contrary, it is not a diner.

It’s time again for the Eclipse Community Awards

For the third year, the Eclipse Foundation is sponsoring its Eclipse Community Awards. Nominations have just opened, and the awards themselves will be presented on Mar. 17 at EclipseCon 2008.

Deadline for nominations is January 25, 2008. Individual Awards are given to the Top Committer and the Top Ambassador. You can submit your nominations by using the Foundations’s Bugzilla server, using the links above. Winners are chosen by vote of the community.

There’s a new category this year: Most Prolific Newcomer Evangelist. That’s for the individual who answer the most questions on the eclipse.org.newcomer newsgroup.

As in previous years, there are awards for development tools and RCP-based applications, plus two new categories for Equinox applications. Here, you e-mail your nominations to awards@eclipse.org. The winners of these awards are determined by a panel of judges. (I am a judge again this year.)

The categories for technology awards are:

• Best Open Source Eclipse-Based Developer Tool
• Best Open Source RCP Application
• Best Open Source Equinox Application

• Best Commercial Eclipse-Based Developer Tool
• Best Commercial RCP Application
• Best Commercial Equinox Application

Good luck, everyone!

How social networking destroyed one person-year of productivity in a mere two days

One of the best places I’ve ever worked was Miller Freeman. I joined the company in 1990, and left in 1998. The warmth at Miller Freeman – an 90-year-old company – was extraordinary, and that’s where I made some of my dearest friends, including BZ Media co-founder Ted Bahr.

Miller Freeman’s swan song began in mid-1999 when its owner, United News & Media, purchased rival publisher CMP Media. UNM (now called United Business Media) merged the two together, keeping the CMP name – and the CMP management team. By 2000, MFI was gone.

Miller Freeman was gone, but not forgotten. While many MFI employees now work for CMP, most have scattered to the four winds. Some are still in publishing, others have moved on. Some keep together, however, with annual reunions, which were fueled by a mailing list that one former employee kept, and with an “alumni” Web site that I maintained for many years. Of the thousands of people who passed through MFI’s doors, about 200-250 were on our lists.

After our most recent reunion – a holiday cocktail party in San Francisco – I decided to replace the old static “where are they now” Web site with an interactive social network. For a platform, the choice was Ning, a free service. My inspiration, in part, for the “afterMillerFreeman” social network came from similar ones for other major publishers, including two I belong to, “afterIDG” and "afterCMP." There's also an "afterZiffDavis," which I'm not a member of. The credit for suggesting the construction of afterMillerFreeman goes to former MFIer Kathy Bruin, who suggested it to me on Oct. 30, 2007.

The site, which launched on Dec. 2, succeeded far beyond our wildest dreams. After setting up the network and sending invites out to our small mailing list, a few people joined. Then a few more. Then the floodgates opened.

We blew past 100 members in two days, and people were already commenting (on the social network and in bemused emails) that none of the participants were getting any work done. They were busy leaving messages for old friends, uploading photos, sharing stories, setting up special interest groups for various departments and offices — and logging into “afterMillerFreeman” every few minutes to see who else had joined. It was tremendous.

The site really exploded when a group of former senior executives came into the network – as well as a few people who always were social catalysts at Miller Freeman. Within a week, we’d passed 200 members, and to put the icing on the cake, members were inviting other members.

Now, less than three weeks later, at least 10-15 new members sign up each day. The message traffic on the social network is incredible. We have over 350 members, and there are more than 200 invitations pending – invitations that new members were sending alone. As physicists would say, we’ve achieved critical mass.

I belong to quite a few social networks, but none of them has the vibrant energy of “afterMillerFreeman.” That says something about this community and its people, and the fact that an online community works best when it’s based on a real community – not just a few people with a common interest, but people who genuinely like each other, and who want to share their personal stories.

Our next face-to-face reunion is going to be huge, drawing folks that have never attended those events. That will be the best social network success of all.

12.18.2007

Three of the most intriguing STPCon classes

Registration is now open for STPCon Spring 2008. When I look through the class schedule, the Software Test & Performance Conference keeps getting better. A big shout-out for Edward Correia, who spearheaded the effort!

Of the more than 70 technical sessions, three of the jumped out at me, mainly because of their great titles. However, they demonstrate the breadth and depth at STPCon, which will be April 15-17 in San Mateo, Calif.

Wednesday, April 16, 11:15 am - 12:15 pm
Class #203: So You’re Doomed: How to Deliver a Six-Week Project in Two
By Matt Heusser

If you've been in software development for long, you’ve probably seen this scenario: The development team needs six more weeks, the project is due in two, and the unhappy customer “needs” three more features before he’ll sign off.

This is not a presentation on what you should have done six months ago, or how agile techniques would un-doom you if you were only doing all of them right now. This is a directed discussion of practical things to do now to revive the project, de-stress your life, and please even your management.

Leave with specific techniques to use for:
• Understanding — and Enforcing — Risk Management
• Overall Project Schedules
• Defeating Test Estimation Games
• Communicating and Clarifying Project Requirements
• Setting Reasonable Boundaries

Wednesday, April 16, 3:45 pm - 4:45 pm
Class #405: Performance-Testing ‘Obnoxious’ Protocols
By Mark Lustig

While performance-testing tools and techniques have reached a relative state of maturity, dealing with non-standard, complex and emerging protocols is beginning to demand evasive action. Not all systems are developed using Web HTTP-based protocols, including J2EE and .NET. In Web-based UIs, challenges abound to accurately simulate obnoxious protocols such as compressed XML, Java Swing, Flash and AJAX.

You’ll learn about specific techniques and a mature methodology for working with challenging protocols. Specific topics discussed will include performance-testing tool add-ins and integration points, and custom load generation suites. We’ll also address complementary techniques for workload characterization, data generation and test data management.

Thursday, April 17, 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Class #909: Bugs on Bugs! What Looney Tunes Taught Me About Testing
By Robert Sabourin

Characters from the Looney Tunes gang — Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Michigan J. Frog, and others — provide wonderful metaphors for the challenges of testing. From Bugs we learn about personas and the risks of taking the wrong turn in Albuquerque. Michigan J. Frog teaches valuable lessons about bug isolation and how ambiguous pronouns can dramatically change the meaning of our requirements. The Tasmanian Devil not only teaches us about the risks of following standard procedures but also shows us practical approaches to stress and robustness testing. And, of course, we learn about boundary conditions and challenging physics from Yosemite Sam.

Bugs teach lessons for the young at heart — novice and experienced alike. Robert shares some powerful heuristic models that you can apply right away.

• The value of modeling personas for test design
• How metaphors can help us understand and communicate
• Heuristic models are not only useful — they're fun

It’s going to be a wonderful conference. I hope you can make it!

12.12.2007

The price tag for writing secure code

At the Embedded Software Summit, held in Santa Barbara, Calif., this week, the consensus is that it costs, on average, between $100 and $1000 per line to write truly secure code.

The Embedded Software Summit is an annual press-and-analyst schmoozefest by Green Hills Software, which is based in this beautiful resort town. The company uses the summit to fĂȘte press and analysts, while pushing its latest initiatives and trashing its competitors.

For the past couple of years, GHS has been touting that its INTEGRITY separation kernel has been accepted into a EAL6+-level certification program. (The evaluation has been underway since late 2005, and should be completed soon.) By contrast, Windows and Linux are certified no higher than EAL4+. Thus, the summit now focuses on the security of Green Hills' products, almost to the exclusion of everything else the company offers.

Dan O’Dowd, the competitive-minded founder and CEO of GHS, pointed out that EAL4 is defined as "only appropriate for an assumed non-hostile, well managed user community requiring protection against threats of inadvertent or casual attempts to breach system security." That level of certification is not appropriate when "protection is required against determined attempts by hostile and well-funded attackers."

So, during the summit (I stayed for the first day of the 1 1/2-day event), O’Dowd and his colleagues, such as CTO David Kleidermacker, frequently referred to Windows and Linux as “certified hackable.” (“How do you make systems more secure? Stop using Windows and Linux, that’s easy,” Kleidermacker said at one point.)

Indeed, O’Dowd’s kickoff address was very similar to his talk last year, when GHS introduced its platform for secure computing. At that time, O’Dowd (pictured) pointed out several well-publicized security hacks covered by the media. The problem, he said over and over again, is that the hacked systems were running Windows or Linux. (Read my comments about the 2006 Green Hills Software Embedded Software Summit.)

This year, O’Dowd was a bit more creative, and illustrated his talk with video clips from the movie “Live Free or Die Hard” (read my review of the credibility of that movie). For each of the hacks shown in the movie, he also cited a similar real-world hack. The reason for the hack? In each case, because the systems were using the “certified hackable” Window and Linux.

Oh, wait, there was one exception. In Die Hard 4, the bad guys hack into an F-35’s fighter's communication system to steal its “go codes.” That wouldn’t be possible, O’Dowd bashfully admitted, because the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter uses software from Green Hills.

Two of the highlights of the conference (well, of the first day, at least) were a talk by Rob Dobry from the National Security Agency, and a panel on security moderated by Patriot Scientific’s Jim Turley.

The NSA guy, who was involved with the creation of security standards like Common Criteria and the Orange Book, was an incredible speaker. He didn’t provide much information – as you’d expect – but his anecdotes and off-hand comments about government security initiatives were fascinating. Sadly, I lost much of what he said; Dobry held up something, there was a bright flash, and my notes were gone.

The security panel didn’t reveal a whole lot of new information either until the Q&A portion. One analyst in the audience asked what it costs to write truly secure code – that is, code that’s designed and tested to meet quality standards comparable to what the aviation industry uses when it writes software for, say, the Airbus A380 or the F-35 fighter.

The panelists agreed that secure code is about an order of magnitude more expensive than writing “typical” software. The price tag is several hundreds of dollars per line of code – definitely under $1,000, said panelist Jess Irwin from Northrup Grumman, but definitely more than $100, said Green Hill’s O’Dowd. Everyone nodded. A useful data point indeed.

This year’s big announcement from Green Hills was a “padded cell” secure hypervisor for virtualization. It looks interesting.

Jack Bauer doesn't know time management

There’s a lot Jack Bauer doesn’t know about time management. If he did, the star character of the Fox TV series 24 might have been able to give himself a little more time to save the planet from last season’s band of nuke-toting terrorists.

So begins the lead feature in yesterday's edition of Test & QA Report, a weekly newsletter from BZ Media's Software Test & Performance magazine. Hat's off to Edward Correia, editor of ST&P and the newsletter, on a very enjoyable and practical article.

Tip #3 is a particularly difficult one for me to handle — but I know that I need to. Tip #12, well, I don't think so.

Cars should include interior thermometers

It’s amazing to me that cars don’t tell you the inside temperature. Just about every car I drive has an exterior thermometer. But where’s the interior one?

An exterior thermometer appears to be the new standard feature. My Mazda3 hatchback has one, as does my wife’s Acura TSX. My wife’s previous car, a 1999 BMW 528i (aka, “the piece of junk that spent all its time in the shop”) had an exterior thermometer, too.

The BMW would even chime if the outside temperature dropped enough to present a danger of road ice, which was handy if you were driving from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe in the winter.

But no inside thermometer.

Now, the cars know what temperature it is inside. The BMW, the Acura and my little Mazda all have digital climate-control systems, where you set the temperature and the car holds it. The computer has to know the temperature in order for that to work.

The displays will therefore show you two piece of data:

1. What the outdoor temperature is (which the Mazda calls the “ambient temperature”).

2. What temperature you have set the climate control system for.

However, they will not show you the inside temperature. Even the super-sophisticated computer in the Acura TSX won’t divulge this secret, though it tells you just about everything else.

Thus, when you step into the car, you don’t know if the interior is 130 degrees (sitting in the sun with all the windows closed), -10 degrees (sitting all night at Lake Tahoe), or a slightly warm 85 degrees.

Why not? It’s a mystery. (And I know that there are some cars that do tell you the indoor temperature. I’ve rented a few of them. However, the overwhelming majority do not display the interior temperature.)

The solution? Go to the local auto-parts store and pick up a cheap digital or analog thermometer and stick it somewhere on the dashboard where it’s not going to be in direct sunlight most of the time. Pictured is the model that we purchased for each car; it costs nine bucks from Amazon. Isn’t it bizarre that carmakers leave this out?

12.10.2007

Rob Sabourin to keynote STPCon Spring 2008

I'm delighted to announce that the Software Test & Performance Conference opening keynote speaker is Robert Sabourin. Rob is not only one of the best-rated faculty at STPCon, but he's also one of the top celebrities of the software test community. Plus, he's a really engaging speaker.

Rob's keynote is entitled, "Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire," and focuses on the unique challenges, opportunities and paradigms used by the Scrum agile methodology. The description reads, in part,

This keynote highlights significant challenges and critical thinking required to get things done and transition organizations to Scrum. Robert Sabourin has helped several important organizations adapt their development life cycle models to this system. This talk is based on the three Rs — real, recent and relevant experience — that describe his many examples and case studies in this chronicle of his experiences in moving companies to Scrum.

STPCon Spring 2008 will be April 15-17 at the San Mateo Marriott, San Mateo, Calif. That's close to San Francisco International Airport, and at the northern end of Silicon Valley.

12.08.2007

Which GPS does Alan recommend? Garmin StreetPilot c550

Let me start by saying that I am not a GPS expert (though I have owned quite a few of them). I have not done an exhaustive study of all the consumer-grade Global Positioning Systems currently available this holiday season.

In fact, I have a greater understanding of the radio and math behind GPS than I do of the state-of-the-art specs of modern-day automobile guidance systems.

With that said, an incredible number of people – coworkers, friends, casual acquaintances – ask me, “Which GPS should I buy for myself / spouse / child”? Perhaps it’s because I was an early GPS adopter. Perhaps it’s because I’m friendly. Perhaps it’s because I’m a geek. I’m used to it! At least they’re not asking me to fix their computer.

The answer is: The model I have, and recommend (because I’m happy with it) is the Garmin StreetPilot c550. I like it because:

• It has a nice big, bright, 3.5-inch screen
• The maps and directions cover the entire U.S. and Canada
• It gives good, clear voice directions
• It has a great database of restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc.
• It get real-time traffic data, and routes you intelligently around delays
• It has a Bluetooth speakerphone that works with my BlackBerry
• You can update the firmware and database from both Windows and Mac PCs

The “suggested retail price” for the c550 is $482.13, but you can get it a lot cheaper. Currently, it's $346 from Amazon.com.

I know there are many cheaper GPSes out there – not only from Garmin, but from Magellan, TomTom and others. Is this model better? I don’t know. However, the c550 has all the features that I want, it works very well, and I’m very pleased with it.

Now, when people ask me to recommend a GPS, I can refer them to this blog posting, and save myself a lot of e-mail typing.

12.07.2007

OS/2 users of the world: It’s time to pack it up and go home

Some things never go away. One of them is the fervent desire that IBM will release its moribund OS/2 operating system as open source software.

It’s time to give it up, folks. And I say that affectionately as the founding-and-only editor of OS/2 Magazine, published by Miller Freeman from 1994 through 1997.

OS/2 is over, OS/2 is done, OS/2 is obsolete, OS/2 is obsolescent, OS/2 is dead.

This harsh commentary is sparked is a blog post by my dear, dear friend Esther Schindler. Esther, aka “The OS/2 Goddess,” was a frequent contributor to OS/2 Magazine. One of my few regrets about that publication was not giving Esther the regular monthly column she deserved.

Esther’s posting on CIO.com resurrects an old chestnut: “Should IBM’s OS/2 Be Open-Sourced?She correctly and accurately acknowledges the two main obstacles:

• Why in the world would IBM want to do that?
• And even if they wanted to, it’s not clear that they have the IP rights to do so.

Fantasize for a moment that some executive at IBM says, “Let’s go ahead and open source OS/2.” Think about the time and money it would take to validate the intellectual property rights. Who knows how much of that code was originally co-written with other companies, contractors and so-on? Maybe IBM knows. Maybe not. Certainly OS/2 was written without any thought to open-sourcing it, and so the IP records may not be clear.

In any case, it would take significant due diligence and expensive legal work. Where’s IBM’s return on investment for doing so?

Esther writes that “the committed OS/2 community sent a petition to IBM two years ago, with 11,613 signatures, asking the company to release the OS/2 source code (or whatever part IBM owns) under an open source license.” She says that IBM ignored the petition. I don’t blame them. And now, she says, there's another petition in the works.

Esther, of course, wants this effort to succeed. But she’s a realist, too. “Do I want OS/2 to be open-sourced? Absolutely. Do I think it's going to happen? Sadly, I don't even think that IBM will respond to the users' petition.”

My heartfelt advice to Esther and her compatriots in the OS/2 community: It's not going to happen. Move on. It’s over.

They’re not going to move on, of course. But that’s what makes lost causes like OS/2 still blog-worthy, after all these years.

Presenting the winners of the 2007 Testers Choice Awards

Today, we posted the winners of the Software Test & Performance Testers Choice Awards 2007 onto the ST&P Web site. We hope you enjoy reading them!

They had been previously announced at STPCon Fall 2007, and published in the December issue of ST&P.

For 2007, the winners were divided into the following categories:

Data Test/Performance
Functional Test
Static/Dynamic Code Analysis
Test/QA Management
Defect/Issue Management
Load/Performance Test
SOA/Web Services Test
Security Test
Test Automation
Embedded/Mobile Test/Performance
SCM/Build Management
.NET Test/Performance
Java Test/Performance
Integrated Test/Performance Suite
Commercial Test/Performance Under $500/Seat
Free Test/Performance
Best Solution from a New Player

Every category had three top vote-getters. In most categories, this translated into one winner and two finalists. However, in the Defect/Issue Management category, we had a tie at the top, so there were two winners and one finalist.

We also had a Grand Prize Winner, recognizing the product that had the highest score within a single category.

Next year, the Testers Choice Awards will be published in the November 2008 issue. Nominations will open on May 1.

Microsoft PDC 2008: October in Los Angeles

Microsoft has announced the dates for its Professional Developer Conference (PDC) in 2008: October 27-30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

You may recall that Microsoft had planned a PDC this year, scheduled for October 4-8, 2007, in Los Angeles. The company pushed it back last May, saying that it was merely postponed: “We are currently in the process of rescheduling this fall’s Professional Developer Conference. As the PDC is the definitive developer event focused on the future of the Microsoft platform, we try to align it to be in front of major platform milestones.”

Microsoft never did reschedule PDC 2007. Instead, they moved directly onto PDC 2008, held at its usual season.

Sadly, Microsoft didn’t consult BZ Media before scheduling PDC 2008. The dates overlap EclipseWorld 2008, which will be Oct. 28-30 in Reston, Va. But somehow, I don’t think that this will affect attendance of either event. There probably isn't much crossover.

The bummer is that this will preclude my attendance at PDC 2008, which is a shame, as I haven’t missed one for years. It’s one of the best-run tech conferences, and is one of my favorites.

But that does explain why Steve Ballmer wasn’t available to keynote EclipseWorld 2008.

>> Update 12/07: A colleague pointed out that, by odd coincidence, I'm wearing a "PDC 05" t-shirt today. I hadn't even noticed.

What’s with Thoof, Raketu, Etolos and Zoogmo?

I can completely relate to David Pogue’s latest column on NYTimes.com, where he rails against the latest moronically named Web sites, like Zoogmo, "Your Online Backup Community."

Pogue doesn't address the curious question of whether I want my online backups to be part of a community... it's just the name he targets. What does Zoogmo mean as a brand?

“Could it possibly be true? Has all wit and cleverness already dried up in the naming of Web sites, less than 15 years after the Internet was opened to the public?” he asks in “The Dr. Seuss Jumble,” published on Thursday, Dec. 6. In the attempt to launch the next Yahoo or Google, he says, “These days, startups take the lazy way out: they choose goofy-sounding nonsense words. They think they're being clever by being unclever.”

Pogue cites some new Web sites: Doostang. Wufoo. Bliin. Thoof. Bebo. Meebo. Meemo. Kudit. Raketu. Etelos. Iyogi. Oyogi. Qoop. Fark. Kijiji. Zixxo. Zoogmo.

Those Web sites, at least as far as I’m concerned, are instantly forgettable. In fact, I’ve forgotten them already.

‘Tis the season to buy tech books

(My Zeichick's Take from Thursday, Dec. 6.)

Are you looking for some great gifts this holiday season? Of course you are! And do you want to buy technology books? Of course you do! Here are three that I recommend, either for you or for your development team.

“Automated Defect Prevention: Best Practices in Software Management”

In this authoritative new book, Dorota Huizinga and Adam Kolawa have done an admirable job defining a realistic methodology for implementing infrastructure that automatically prevents defects from getting into software. Is it simple? No, of course not. There’s no silver bullet. But when the software industry is ready to journey toward zero-defect applications, the road will look like what Huizinga and Kolawa are talking about.

“Exploiting Online Games: Cheating Massively Distributed Systems”

I’m not a gamer—haven’t been for 20 years. So, I don’t have any experience with today’s massive network games. However, as a software engineer with a networking background, I’m fascinated by the technological challenges they pose… not only to infrastructure and performance, but also in the sense of human dynamics. Gary McGraw and Greg Hoglund have written an incredible book that you’ll enjoy reading.

“The Art of Agile Development”

I’m getting tired of books about agile software development. Too many say the same things over and over and over again. Here, James Shore and Shane Warden take a different approach. It’s very practical in how it categorizes agile thinking and agile methodologies. The only weakness is that the book is very tightly tied to Extreme Programming, so it’s hard to tell what are general agile practices and what are XP practices. Even so, it’s highly recommended.

I’d also like to refer you to “Take a Look in a Book,” the Special Report published in the Sept. 1 issue of SD Times. You’ll find many great holiday gift ideas for you, and for your friends and colleagues.

12.06.2007

Who's in the Magic Quadrant: Bill Gates, Albus Dumbledore or Richard Nixon?

Back in August, Nate Orenstam wrote a blog post on Valley of the Geeks which answered the question: What if the Gartner Magic Quadrants were, indeed, covering magic, and ranked Albus Dumbledore and Gandalf?

Well, despite the inclusion of non-magical creatures like Bill Gates and Richard Nixon, I think Nate captured the essential spirit of the Magic Quadrant ranking system.

Which MP3 player would you like: a Zune, a Zen or an iPod?

When we do research studies at BZ Media, we often offer an incentive to people who take part in the study. If they choose, they may be entered into a drawing for a small prize.

We’ve offered several prizes, including gift cards, but the one that seems to interest the most people is an iPod. (Some people do not wish to enter the drawing, perhaps because they work for someplace where this prohibited, such as the military or the government.)

I’ve lost track of how many iPods we’ve given away.

With that in mind, we wondered: is the iPod still a great prize? On our most recent BZ Research study, we gave respondents a choice, written as follows:

Would you like to be entered into a drawing to win a 4GB Microsoft Zune (US$149 retail value), a 4GB Apple iPod nano (US$149 value), or a 4GB Creative Zen V+ (US$179 value)?

We chose those particular models so as to ensure we picked relatively comparable prizes, in terms of price and specifications.

To make a long story short, the results we as follows:

Yes, I want the iPod: 51.7%
Yes, I want the Zen: 20.6%
Yes, I want the Zune: 15.5%
No, thank you: 12.5%

Looking at it another way, of those who said that they’d like to enter the drawing, the results were:

Yes, I want the iPod: 58.8%
Yes, I want the Zen: 23.5%
Yes, I want the Zune: 17.7%

Clearly, the iPod was the most popular prize.

To validate the responses, we put a poll up on SDTimes.com last week, asking people, “If you could choose to receive one of these three MP3 music players as a gift, which would you want?” The results were:

4GB Apple iPod nano: 68%
4GB Microsoft Zune: 16%
4GB Creative Zen V+: 15%

The answers were even more heavily weighted in terms of the iPod, with the Zune and Zen coming in nearly neck and neck — a statistical tie. Still, the answer is clear: Most people in our sample demographic – software development managers – want iPods, not the alternatives.

Is Software-as-a-Service as big a deal as everyone predicted?

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a success, but it’s the IT revolution that many pundits proclaimed.

This was supposed to the Year of SaaS. Between Google and Salesforce.com, the buzz was all about hosted applications. When you mashed SaaS with service oriented architectures and with outsourcing/offshoring, it looks like the future of IT would be centered for hosted applications.

Yet, in my experience, it hasn’t turned out that way. Take the most visible SaaS application, Salesforce.com. Sure, lots of companies use Salesforce. My own company does; our salespeople stopped using Act! (a Windows sales force management application) and migrated to Salesforce this past summer. To cite the other big application, yet, lots of organizations use Google Applications, especially for hosting their e-mail.

However, when I talk to my industry experts, the consensus is that hosted applications are being deployed tactically as point solutions, not as part of a specific SaaS strategy. Companies are using Salesforce.com because it’s a good sales force automation system for distributed teams, not because it’s SaaS. Companies are using Google Applications because it solves specific problems, not because it’s SaaS.

What about mashups? Perhaps we’re too early, but in every case that I’ve seen, a company’s SaaS solutions are just as siloed as their other enterprise applications. The concept of a grand unifying Service Oriented Architecture encompassing multiple enterprise applications and multiple SaaS providers has not materialized.

Was 2007 the Year of SaaS? If you go by the chatter, yes. Many buckets of ink were spilled on the topic, and many pixels were posted to blogs and online forums touting SaaS as the Next Big Thing. However, when you look at real deployments, it hasn’t happened. Sure, Salesforce.com has a million-odd end users. That means it’s a good sales force automation tool – not that we’re reached a SaaS tipping point.

12.05.2007

Why can’t I pencil an appointment into my digital calendar?

When I used a paper Day-Timer organizer – which I did for nearly 20 years – I clearly understood the difference between writing something into my appointment calendar, and penciling something into my appointment calendar.

When you write something into your calendar, the assumption is that it’s a commitment.

Sure, you might erase or change it, but if you wrote in “Lunch next Tuesday, 1:00pm, Red Robin, with Bob,” the assumption is that unless you hear otherwise, you’re going to show up at 1:00pm and expect to find Bob there.

By contrast, penciling something in means that you’re putting a hold on the date.

If you pencil it in, it’s clearly not confirmed that you’re having lunch with Bob, or that it’ll be on Tuesday at 1:00pm. You’re just making a notation in your calendar so that you’ll be reminded to follow up later.

Why is it that calendar software doesn’t understand the difference between a confirmed appointment and a tentative one? Sure, you can add in descriptive text: “Lunch with Bob – tbc” is what I usually type, with "tbc" meaning “to be confirmed.” However, that entry in iCal or Google Calendar, or on my BlackBerry, looks exactly the same, whether it’s a tbc or not.

In other words, I can’t see at a glance which appointments in my calendar are definite vs. penciled. I have to read the text and look for that “tbc.” I can't easily see an actionable list of unconfirmed events, unless I do a text search. Nor am I prompted by the software to confirm tentative appointments: the software doesn’t understand the concept.

What would I like? Perhaps a check box for “tentative” in the calendar software. Perhaps two buttons for when you create or edit an appointment, one marked “ink” and the other “pencil.” Definitely we need a visual cue that tell me, at a glance, that while I have some stuff set up for next Tuesday, some is confirmed and some is not. And yes, programmatic pop-ups or other prompts that remind me that I need to confirm things, and make it easier to confirm something other than editing the description to remove the "tbc" text.

C’mon – there’s a reason why we say, “Okay, Bob, I’ll pencil you in for Tuesday.” Let’s get the calendar metaphor right.

>> Update 12/6: Another point is that the difference between confirmed and tentative events should be clear when viewing events on a graphical page, like week-at-a-glance.

12.04.2007

Now’s the time to build up your Bruce Schneier library

Over the past week, I’ve been thinking about which new books to recommend for holiday buyers – either for themselves, or their technology teams. Three recommendations will come out in SD Times News on Thursday this week. (I’ll repost them here afterwards.)

While you’re waiting, I urge you to check out a tremendous article by SD Times’ Jeff Feinman. Published in the Sept. 1, 2007, issue of SD Times, Jeff asked a number of top techies which books they’d recommend. In “Take a Look in a Book,” you’ll get reading ideas from people like Peter Coffee, Jeff Duntemann, Bernard Golden, Lori McVittie, Andy Hunt, Andrew Binstock, Miko Matsumura, Tony Wasserman and Scott Barber.

If I counted correctly, there are thoughtful recommendations for 45 books. I’m sure there are some books in Jeff’s article that are already your favorites.

One book recommended by Jeff Duntemann was Bruce Schneier’s Applied Cryptography. In October, Bruce released a 1664-page paperback called Schneier’s Cryptographic Classics Library, containing three books: Applied Cryptography, Secrets and Lies, and Practical Cryptography (co-authored with Niels Ferguson).

Since I already have all three of those books, I don’t need this combo volume. However, if you don’t have them, this is a great way to get (or give) all three.

12.03.2007

Team Alpha Super Awesome Cool Dynamite Wolf Squadron

Wouldn't a t-shirt (perhaps with a camo pattern) saying "Team Alpha Super Awesome Cool Dynamite Wolf Squadron" be neat?

That's, of course, from the Dreamworks movie "Shrek the Third," where some of the magical creatures are plotting:

Donkey: Alright people, let's do this thing. Go Team Dynamite!

Pinocchio: But I thought we agreed we'd go by the name Team Super Cool.

Gingerbread Man: As I recall, it was Team Awesome.

Wolf: I voted for Team Alpha Wolf Squadron.

Donkey: Alright, alright, alright. From henceforth, we're all to be known as Team Alpha Super Awesome Cool Dynamite Wolf Squadron.

Alas, I don't see such a shirt for sale anywhere.

Another good shirt would say, "Not my gumdrop buttons!"

12.01.2007

Schedule for the 2008 SD Times 100

I’ve received several inquires about the deadlines for the 2008 SD Times 100. That’s the newspaper's annual recognition of the top innovators and leaders in the software development industry.

Winners of the SD Times 100 can include commercial companies, open-source projects and individuals.

Leadership doesn’t just mean market share, though that is certainly is an obvious indication of industry leadership. We also look for buzz – the companies, projects and people who are having a broad influence on the software development practices.

The winners of the 6th annual SD Times 100 will be published in the June 1, 2008, issue of the newspaper.

In 2008, most of the nominations will come from BZ Media’s editors, as well as our columnists, regular contributing writers, conference faculty, and a small group of analysts that we trust and respect. Judging is by the editors of SD Times.

As in previous years, readers may submit nominations as well. This ensures that we don’t miss anything (or anyone). Our editors take reader-submitted nominations seriously. Reader-submitted nominations will be accepted during the month of February. There is no fee of any kind for reader nominations.

We’ll announce the opening of reader-submitting nominations in SD Times and in our News on Monday e-newsletter. You can also watch the SD Times 100 nomination site, which is where we’ll post the link to the form on or before Feb. 1.

You can read the results of the 2007 SD Times 100 online, or in the June 1, 2007, issue of SD Times.

Maybe branding isn’t dead, Ted Bahr says

Maybe we're ready to move beyond the "Revenge of the Sock Puppet" phase of anti-branding.

That’s what Ted Bahr, the “B” of BZ Media, writes in his new blog on Foliomag.com.
In “Maybe Branding Isn’t Dead,” Ted ponders a possible backlash against the it-must-generate-sales-leads, it-must-be-digital, it-must-be-measurable obsession of Internet advertising. How are you supposed to generate sales leads if nobody knows who or what you are?

Lead-generation campaigns don’t build awareness, and they don’t create demand. Yes, lead generation is a key part of a sales-and-marketing program. But it’s the sales part. It’s not the marketing part.

Folio Magazine, published by Red 7 Media, is the magazine for the magazine publishing industry. I’m personally delighted that they’ve invited my business partner to blog as part of the Folio Magazine Web site relaunch. It was a great choice.

Although Ted's role on BZ Media is on the sales/publishing side, not editorial, he's a heck of a good writer, and his knowledge of the publishing industry is second to nobody.

Gave up waiting for Western Digital’s 320GB drive – went external instead

Why settle for 320GB sometime in the indeterminate future, when you can have 450GB right now?

Western Digital has repeatedly pushed back shipment of its 320GB 2.5-inch notebook hard drive. When the company announced the WD3200BEVT drive a month ago, they said it was shipping immediately. Then it would be shipping in a week, and then by the end of November. It is still not shipping.

Could I keep waiting? Well, yes – but the 200GB hard drive in my MacBook Pro is full. I’ve had to move "everyday" data onto a desktop external drive, and December and January are heavy travel months for me. That gave the upgrade some urgency.

To make a long story short, I’ve abandoned my plan to buy and install the new Western Digital internal 320GB drive, at least for now. I had been looking forward not only to increasing the capacity, but also improving battery life (the new drive draws less current than my current one) and increasing I/O performance (the new drive spins faster too).

Instead, I’ll try a two-spindle solution, with an external USB-powered Western Digital 250GB Passport drive.

The pros: Total capacity will be a raw 450GB, instead of 320GB, so I can carry even more “stuff.” Plus, I can use it not only to store important data, but also to backup data while I’m traveling. Also, by not swapping the internal hard drive, I'm not potentially harming my MacBook Pro's warranty.

The cons: External drives are a nuisance. If I use it while running on batteries, run time will be reduced. Throughput on USB external drives is significantly slower than those connected to internal SATA buses.

Will I regret this decision? Possibly. Who knows, I might still upgrade to the 320GB internal drive in the future. Since the Passport only costs $149, it’s not a huge gamble either way.

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.