1.31.2008

Should Microsoft 'save' Windows XP?

As you can see in Galen Gruman's opinion essay in InfoWorld, "Why XP must be saved," there's certainly a movement afoot to stop Microsoft from discontinuing the product.

Currently, Microsoft says that it will stop selling Windows XP at the end of June. Windows Vista has been out for a year now.

I haven't done a serious evaluation of Windows Vista, although I have installed a version of it onto an old laptop (sadly, one which doesn't support the GUI richness that the software offers). I use it primarily for those rare instances when I need to use Office 2007 to convert a file, view a Web page with "real" Internet Explorer, or test something.

However, while I can honestly say that I know people who espouse that Windows Vista is better than Windows XP, most of them work for Microsoft. The number of "civilians" who have told me that they are using Windows Vista is very small — and only a handful have said that they actually prefer it, mainly because of the UI effects.

At our company, we have decided to stay on Windows XP for as long as we can. New Windows computers purchased, with the exception of two for our .NET developers who wished to work on the new platform, are still purchased with Windows XP. Frankly, we don't see a single business benefit to adopting Windows Vista for our users. That means, there's no ROI. Our IT staff dislikes the idea (and cost) of migrating existing machines to the new operating system. Given that, it makes good sense for us stay on a single platform, as much as possible.

Yet, while I hope that I can keep buying Windows XP for my new hardware, I'm torn by the "Save XP" petitions promoted by Galen and others. Yes, I'm going to sign on. However, the real answer isn't to insist that Microsoft indefinitely maintain two different desktop operating systems. That's just not realistic.

It's also not realistic to expect Microsoft to give up on Windows Vista and keep selling Windows XP until the successor to Windows Vista (aka Windows Seven) ships many years from now. At some point, Windows XP's clock is going to run out.

Instead, I'd rather see Galen — and other vocal Windows Vista critics, like Steven Vaughan-Nichols — come up with a concrete list of things that they want Microsoft to do to fix the software. What would make a new version of Windows suitable for business, and arguably worth migration from Windows XP?

I'm sorry, but a vague "We don't like Windows Vista," or "It was a big mistake," or "It's a huge waste of money," or "We don't like change," isn't enough.

1.30.2008

WD's "essential" external drives are 3mm shorter

I'm sitting here in New York, using my 250GB external Western Digital Passport external hard drive, and a few moments ago, I received a press release touting the company's newest product: "WD My Passport Essential."

You may recall that I bought a 250GB Passport in early December, after giving up on waiting for the delayed 320GB internal drive. Both the 320GB internal and external drives are now shipping.

So, I'm wondering, "What's the difference between a WD Passport and a WD My Passport Essential"? According to the release,

"Redesigned to complement WD's popular My Book family of external drives, the drives introduce a sleek new form that feels good in your hand and fits neatly in a pocket or purse. Available now at select retailers and at WD's online store (http://www.shopwd.com), the new My Passport Essential USB Drives feature a beautiful glossy black finish and put almost a third of a terabyte of digital storage in the palm of your hand."

First off, the WD Passport that I have already has a glossy black finish. So, what else is different? Let's check the specs for the 320GB versions of both.

WD Passport WDXMS3200 (the old one)

Performance Specifications
Serial Bus Transfer Rate (USB 2.0) 480 Mbits/s (Max)

Physical Specifications
Capacity 320 GB
Interface USB 2.0

Physical Dimensions
English
Height 0.590 Inches (Max) • Length 5.110 Inches (Max) • Width 3.14 Inches • Weight 0.23 Pounds
Metric
Height 15 mm (Max) • Length 129.78 mm (Max) • Width 79.78 mm • Weight 0.1048 kg

WD My Passport Essential WDME3200 (the new one)

Performance Specifications
Serial Bus Transfer Rate (USB 2.0) 480 Mbits/s (Max)

Physical Specifications
Capacity 320 GB
Interface USB 2.0

Physical Dimensions
English
Height 0.590 Inches • Length 4.967 Inches • Width 3.130 Inches • Weight 0.231 Pounds
Metric
Height 15 mm • Length 126.15 mm • Width 79.5 mm • Weight 0.1048 kg

So, it's the same hard drive, same interface specs, same bundled software, same shiny black plastic for the case, same thickness, and same weight. However, the case is now 3.6mm shorter and 0.3mm narrower. That, I suppose, is what makes it "essential." Oooh. Aaaah.

Look, ma — no power supply bricks!

Remember the old days of carrying power supplies for cell phones, music players and other portable electronics?

I am delighted that every portable device I travel with can be charged via USB port. I don't carry any AC power supplies any more, beyond the briquette for my Apple MacBook Pro.

What travels with me? On my current trip, I have a Garmin StreetPilot c550, a BlackBerry and an Apple iPod Touch. I don't schlep AC power supplies for any of them.

All three of those devices can charge from a USB 2.0 port. (They can also charge from a powered USB hub, which is handy if you're not carrying your notebook.) I just keep a couple of mini-USB cables in my briefcase, along with a special iPod cable. It's a wonderful thing.

My case is also lighter since I don't carry any computer connectivity cables. It's WiFi for me, my friend, nearly all the time. (My MacBook Pro doesn't even have a modem — and I've never missed it.) In the rare instance where a hotel has cabled Ethernet instead of WiFi, there's always a Cat-5 cable available in the room, or worst case, at the front desk.

Check your briefcase and travel gear. Are you still carrying bricks and cables that you don't need? Lighten the load!

A two-week Microsoft TechEd? Oh, my

Speaking of Microsoft TechEd — I was surprised to learn this morning that Microsoft has split it into two separate events.

That's right, there's a "Developers TechEd 2008" from June 3-6, and an "IT Professionals TechEd 2008" from June 10-13. Both are in Orlando. Bill Gates is keynoting the former, and Bob Muglia is kicking off the latter.

(Okay, this isn't really news: Microsoft revealed this decision in November. Somehow, I missed it. My bad.)

That's a real nuisance, of course, for anyone whose interests span both domains. Microsoft says that there will be some IT stuff at the developer event, and developer stuff at the IT event, to benefit such attendees. Doesn't that make you think about Reese's Peanut Butter Cups?

I had intended to attend TechEd to cover it for both SD Times and our new launch, Systems Management News. But which TechEd? Not both, that's for sure. Two weeks in Orlando is overkill... not only for me, of course, but for companies that sell products and services into the Microsoft ecosystem. However, many in the industry are going to have to spend big $$$ to have a presence at both events.

This year, other must-attend Microsoft developer events include Mix (March 5-7 in Las Vegas) and the Professional Developers Conference (October 27-30 in Los Angeles).

That's a lot for any developer to handle.

Microsoft pushes back SQL Server 2008

According to Microsoft, SQL Server 2008 is delayed to the third or fourth quarter of 2008. That's a disappointment, as SQL Server 2005 is getting long in the tooth, and developers have been looking forward to the new release... and had hoped it might ship in the first or second quarter of this year.

In his TechNet posting, "Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Roadmap Clarification," Microsoft's Francois Ajenstat, director of SQL Server marketing, writes,

"To continue in this spirit of open communication, we want to provide clarification on the roadmap for SQL Server 2008. Over the coming months, customers and partners can look forward to significant product milestones for SQL Server. Microsoft is excited to deliver a feature complete CTP during the Heroes Happen Here launch wave and a release candidate (RC) in Q2 calendar year 2008, with final Release to manufacturing (RTM) of SQL Server 2008 expected in Q3. Our goal is to deliver the highest quality product possible and we simply want to use the time to meet the high bar that you, our customers, expect."

Translation: The software's running late due to quality problems.

"Heroes Happen Here," by the way, doesn't refer to a new computer game. It's the combo launch of Windows Server 2008 ("Longhorn Server"), Visual Studio 2008 ("Orcas") and SQL Server 2008 ("Katmai"), happening on Feb. 27. The fact that the software's not ready has little do with the launch, apparently.

Indeed, as Microsoft's Anthony Carrabino, SQL Server's senior product manager, explains in his blog post, "SQL Server 2008 and Launch,"

We often get questions about our upcoming Launch event in Los Angeles on Feb. 27th, and when SQL Server 2008 will actually ship. The two events are loosely connected but they are not the same. The Launch event in Los Angeles is actually a marketing event designed to tell the world about SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and Windows Server 2008. The Launch event allows the marketing teams for each product to efficiently deliver in-depth product information to our customers, partners and to our own sales field. Since all three Microsoft products are being Released to Manufacturing (RTM) within months of each other, it makes sense for us to create a single event for delivering information about these exciting new releases. As a result, the Launch event provides IT Professionals, Developers and Software Enthusists alike with an exciting and convenient way to have fun learning about all three products in one place. In honor of our customers worldwide, the Launch event is called “Heroes Happen Here”.

It's good news that we'll at least have a real Community Technology Preview in February; the November CTP was incomplete. It seems possible that we'll have the first release candidate by June's TechEd conference.

If you are bemused, as I am, by the Microsoft-speak in these official announcements, you'll enjoy Phil Factor's application of that "technology" to another deadline-driven environment: high school history class.

1.29.2008

Magazine page jumps — just say no

Magazines tend to pile up at my house, so that I can read them during my too-frequent business travel. Jettisoning a well-read magazine mid-trip is truly a pleasure.

It's not a pleasure, though, when a feature story starts in the front of the magazine, and then you must jump to the back of the magazine to finish the story. You return to the front of the magazine to begin the next story, then jump to the back again to finish it, and so-on.

Jumps (where stories run non-linearly) are a "reader disservice" by a magazine's editors and art directors.


As someone who has been in the magazine business for a long time — more than two decades — it's always been my goal to minimize jumps in the publications I work on. Alas, Wired (and I took three recent issues with me to read) just loves jumps. Argh!

In "the old days," jumps were sometimes necessary because only some parts of the magazine were printed with a four-color (4C) process, and other parts were printed in black-and-white (BW). It was common to start stories with opening artwork on 4C pages, and then jump them to the BW back-of-the-book.

Today, very few magazines, at least in the mainstream publishing world, are printed with BW pages. Nearly everything is 4C throughout. So, why still have the jumps?

They're certainly not necessary. Nearly all of my favorite leisure-reading magazines, from The Economist to BusinessWeek to The New Yorker, eschew jumps entirely. BZ Media's own Software Test & Performance also runs without jumps. Granted, ST&P isn't Wired. But there's no reason why Wired has to (continued page 149)

SD Times 100 reader nominations open early

We were supposed to open up reader nominations on February 1 — but everything is ready, so why hold back?

Judged by the editors of SD Times, the SD Times 100 recognizes the top innovators and leaders in software development.

Most companies, projects and individuals will be nominated for the 2008 SD Times 100 by BZ Media's editors, as well as an expert group of writers, conference faculty and analysts.

As in previous years, the readers of SD Times may also nominate companies, projects and individuals.

You can learn more about the SD Times 100 here, or jump to the reader nomination form. There is no charge of any sort for participating in the SD Times 100.

Reader nominations will remain open through March 1.

While you're at it, feel free to offer your nominations for the WORST OF 2007, which is a new award we're working on!

1.28.2008

Not ready for an SLR upgrade yet

So, I'm sitting with a friend, and she's showing off her brand-new digital camera. When the topic came around to my five-year-old Canon EOS 10D digital SLR, she said (not in so many words), "It's time to upgrade that ancient, obsolete device."

I bought the EOS 10D back in 2003, when it was the first Canon digital SLR that could properly replace my Canon EOS A2 film SLR. The 6.3-megapixel resolution was quite adequate, and of course, it used my extensive set of Canon EOS "L" lenses.

However, the EOS 10D was not quite perfect. In particular, there were two features that disappointed:

It lacks the 2.5% spot meter which my EOS A2 film camera had — and that was a tool I used a lot when shooting events, like trade shows. A spot meter lets you accurately expose an image based on a very small area, like a brightly lit industry executive standing on a dimly lit stage in a darkened auditorium.

It has a 22mm light sensor that was much smaller than the 35mm film inside a "real" camera. Because of the small sensor, the camera can only "see" what's in the middle of the field of view, making all standard lenses appear more telephoto by a factor of 1.6x. Thus, a 20mm lens acts like a 36mm lens, a 50mm lens becomes an 80mm lens, and a 200mm lens becomes a 320mm lens. That's bad, if you're trying to do anything wide, work a crowd or do scenery.

Otherwise, the 10D is easy to use, offers the fine-grained control that I wanted, and takes great pictures. I've never had a complaint about it. (There was a third item that annoyed me five years ago, but I can't remember what it was. Obviously, I got over it.)

So, do I want a new camera? Only if it'll solve those problems at a reasonable price. Sadly, none of the affordable models from Canon address the shortcomings of a five-year-old model. Sure, the new SLRs have higher resolution, with most being 10 megapixels. There's a new Canon Rebel XSi coming out in April that has 12 megapixels. But otherwise... nah.

• All the Canon Rebel models (which are much less expensive than the EOS series) use a 22mm image processor. Same old 1.6x multiplier. They also lack a real spot meter. What they offer are really low prices ($592 street for a 10-megapixel Canon Rebel XTi body), an automatic mirror cleaner, and a little better software. The forthcoming 12-megapixel Canon Rebel XSi doesn't do any better; it just adds a few more pixels and more gadgets.

• In the higher-end EOS series, the current model, the 10-megapixel Canon EOS 40D, does have a spot meter. Alas, it still has the 22mm image sensor, so it solves only one of my problems. Sure, it has lots of bells-and-whistles, like a much bigger LCD screen you can use to preview pictures, and tons of custom settings, but it also costs $1,149 street.

• The lowest-cost Canon SLR that actually does what I want is the Canon EOS 5D (their numbering is really screwy). Not only does it have 12.8 megapixels, not only does it have a proper spot meter, but it also has a 35.8mm image sensor. Ahh, finally a digital SLR camera that'll use the entire image from the lens! However, with a street sticker of $2,099... nope.

So, if you see people happily taking pictures at a scenic viewpoint or at a technology conference, I'll be the guy with an obsolescent Canon EOS 10D... and a pocket full of money not spent.

1.24.2008

Am I Mr. Robert? Are you Mr. Robert?

Here's today's great spam message. There's a laugh in every e-mail inbox.

Hi,

I wish you a Happy New Year. I have a very important matter that I wish to discuss with you.

But, first I want to know if you know any Mr. Robert, I am asking you this because his Last Name is the same as your Last Name.

I will give you more details when I get your answer.

Yours sincerely,
Scott.

1.23.2008

The WORST OF 2007

Now is the time of year when the editors of BZ Media’s SD Times begin working on our annual awards program, the SD Times 100. That’s where we recognize the greatest innovators and leaders in the software development industry – companies, organizations and individuals.

In the five years that we’ve been conducting the SD Times 100, the awards have become well established and respected by readers and the industry alike. We’ll be publishing the 6th SD Times 100 in our Jun. 1, 2008, issue. Reader nominations will open on Feb. 1, and will stay open through Mar. 1. (I’ll blog when the reader nominations open, and post a link to the online form.)

However, this year – inspired by comments by senior editor Alex Handy – we’re also going to ask readers to nominate the WORST OF 2007. That is, the anti-leaders and anti-innovators that affected the art of software development (and the software development industry) the most in 2007... the companies and organizations whose behavior and products were so bad that they significantly impacted software development, through tools, practices, platforms, policies, whatever.

The nominations for THAT singular dishonor are open NOW, and will remain open through Mar. 1. We welcome everyone and anyone to submit their nominations for the WORST OF 2007. Please link people to this blog post, so they understand the context (instead of just sending them to the nomination form).

To be honest, I’m not sure how we’ll publicize the winners. Maybe it’ll be part of the SD Times 100 report on Jun. 1, maybe it’ll be something different. We’ll figure that out later. Meanwhile, let the anti-nominations commence!

1.17.2008

Agility Model vs Maturity Model

ZapThink's Ron Schmeltzer makes good points in his essay, "Forget Maturity Models — It's Time for an Agility Model," published today. But not all of his points are on target.

"Too often, companies flock to maturity models, such as the widely-famous (and too-often mimicked) Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), without adequately understanding what they are meant to measure," he writes. That's totally true.

However, he goes on to say, "For many companies, achieving a certain level of maturity has primarily a marketing-only value for the end-users. Other maturity models are positioned primarily to sell vendors' products." I'm not sure that I agree with that. CMMI isn't Six Sigma, after all.

Most of the people that I've talked about about maturity models are definitely looking to compare their development efforts against industry norms, with a genuine goal of identifying weaknesses and improving processes. They want the truth, good, bad or ugly — not just a happy number that they can promote.

I do agree with Ron, though, that agility doesn't lend itself to classic maturity model metrics. "Measuring agility on a scale of 1 to 5 (as almost all maturity models do), is a pointless exercise." True. But then he adds, "simply put, not all Service-oriented projects need to have the same level of agility as others," he says. That's where he goes off the beam.

The CMM (or any software maturity model, like my own Threading Maturity Model) isn't designed to compare one project against other projects. It's designed to measure an organization's overall efficiency and efficacy when developing software. It's a measure of skills, policies, consistency and practices (and lots of other stuff like that) — not a score that rates specific projects.

Given that misstep, Ron's essay is worth reading. He proposes a broader metric, with seven variables, that can be used to measure the appropriate agility of a specific project or initiative. Great. However, his ZapThink Agility Model doesn't replace a SOA Maturity Model for an organization, not at all.

Researching BEA and Oracle market share

In reviewing my blog traffic logs, it's clear that a lot of people are researching the Oracle/BEA deal. In particularly, my entry from last October, "BEA, Oracle market share" was off the chart.

So, if you are looking for stats... there they are.

1.16.2008

MySpace is the Google of social networking

I've tuned out a lot of the chatter about social networks. Sure, I'm involved in some, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and the afterMFI site on Ning. But beyond my personal use of them, social networks just don't captivate my attention.

Even so, I was caught off-guard by an analyst report from Hitwise stating that in December, nearly three-quarters of U.S. social networking traffic was on MySpace. That's huge.

Hitwise calls itself "the leading online competitive intelligence service," and it sends out periodic updates about things like retail traffic, search-engine traffic, and so-on. For example, last week it told me that Google has 65.98% of all U.S. based searches, followed by Yahoo (20.88%), MSN (7.04%) and Ask.com (4.14%).

If Hitwise is to be believed, MySpace's lock on social networking is comparable to Google's lock on search. Here are the numbers for December 2007: MySpace (72.32%), Facebook (16.03%), Bobo (1.09%), and down from there.

I've never even heard of Bobo. Turns out that it's a dating service.

Hitwise also said that while MySpace's traffic declined slightly (by 8%) from December 2006, FaceBook jumped (by 51%). We can attribute that to Facebook's opening up its network to more than students. There are a lot of professionals using the service now, which is starting to resemble LinkedIn, which didn't appear in Hitwise's results.

>> Update: I misread the Hitwise report. The third most popular social networking site is Bebo.com, not Bobo.com. Darn that small type!

Driving a wedge between Sun and Oracle

Today's news: Oracle is eating BEA, while Sun is slurping up MySQL.

The bigger news story is that
Oracle, thwarted last October, finally nabbed BEA Systems. The $7.2 billion deal (it looks like $8.5 billion in the announcement, but I've subtracted BEA's cash reserves) is still a hefty chunk of change, even by Oracle's standards. Still, did anyone doubt that it would happen?

For most of us, this huge acquisition won't make much difference at all. While some BEA products might be subordinated to their Oracle counterparts, Oracle should be to be a good shepherd of BEA’s technology and customers. If anything, Oracle’s deep pockets might push some of BEA’s many initiatives harder.

What about Sun’s purchase of MySQL for about US$1 billion? That might be cause for worry for advocates of the LAMP stack. LAMP, of course, is Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl — and is relied upon by both enterprise and commercial developers who want to avoid the high licensing costs of Oracle DB, DB2 or SQL Server.

Many of the world's biggest Web applications, using lots of things at Google, Facebook and others, are dependent on MySQL. In many ways, MySQL was the strongest pillar of the LAMP stack.

The question is, how well will MySQL fare in Sun’s hands? While Sun is focused on open source software, it likes to go its own way. Certainly, MySQL will see investment, as well as tighter integration with Java, Solaris and NetBeans. When MySQL stops being an independent software maker, integration with Linux, or with competing platforms, will take a back seat. After all, Sun's going to have to find a way to make money from MySQL in order to justify the investment.

Sun's move will drive a wedge between Sun and Oracle. Traditionally allies, they've gotten along so well largely because Sun didn't have an enterprise database of its own.

Because other two databases didn't like Sun (because IBM competed with Sun's hardware, and Microsoft competed with everything at Sun), Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy found many great reasons to play well together. That partnership paid off for many, many years.

But that was long ago, and clearly Jonathan Schwartz sees things differently.

My new old Marantz: The joys of analog audio

On a recent trip back to my parents' house, I went home with my father's old stereo: a Marantz 3200 stereo preamp console and a Marantz 140 power amplifier (pictured), purchased around 1975.

That stereo — fairly high end in that era — always sounded great. However, it had been gathering dust for years, literally, since he bought a cute little bookshelf stereo with digital receiver and CD changer.

Thus, the components came home with me.

I've been listening to music through this system in my office, instead of a much newer (and very nice) Pioneer VSX-D409 audio/video receiver we bought in 2002. The difference is astounding. The sound is so sweet and smooth coming from the 30-year-old all-analog Marantz gear — even when the input source is just an iPod.

Sure, the Marantz gear has limitations. No remote. No 5.1 Dolby surround. No DTS decode. No built-in tuner. It only works with my Yamaha subwoofer by letting the subwoofer's circuitry do all the high pass/low pass filtering.

The old Marantz rig only has 75 watts x 2 channels, compared to the Pioneer's 100 watts x 5 channels. Who cares: It sounds better. Ahhh..... that's what listening to music is all about.

1.15.2008

A different editorial standard

I know that many publications in Europe view the separation between editorial and the industry as — shall we say — less stringent than many publications here in the U.S.

While of course there are exceptions on both sides of the Pond, it's expected for vendors to pick up a European reporter's expenses for visiting conferences, press events, and other junkets, for example. Just about everyone does it.

That creates problems, of course, for European companies trying to work with North American reporters... or for North American companies trying to figure out why European beat reporters are submitting expenses for payment.

With that said of course, I was surprised by the casual coziness expressed in this e-mail, which I received today, from the editor of a U.K. publication called Design Buy Build, which invites vendors to send information to be run, presumably verbatim, within their editorial content. If you'd like to have the editors print a color picture, there's a fee for that.

It's truly a different world.

Coincidentally, it arrived while I was serving as a judge for the Neal Awards, from American Business Media. One of the areas we must evaluate (as best we can) is whether it appears that a magazine or Web site's editorial content is truly independent of industry or advertising pressures, according to ABM's code of editorial ethics. Needless to say, Design Buy Build wouldn't score very highly there.

Here's the e-mail:

To: Public Relations Manager 16/1/08

We are currently setting our editorial feature pages within our Jan/Feb edition, which will be distributed at the end of January to our Unique circulation of over 50,000 key specifiers & purchasers within the whole building & design industry. Including: Architects - House Builders - Developers - Contractors - Interior Designers - Self Builders - Housing Associations - Purchasers within the Hotel & Leisure Industry, Health care, Local Authorities, Public Sector & Private Practices. 5,000 extra copies of this edition will also be distributed from our stands at Ecobuild, Futurebuild, Cityscape & The Natural Stoneshow.

I am hoping you can provide some of the following information, that we may feature within the editorial matter.

Latest Product Innovations, New Literature, or Case Studies
(Copy consists of either a colour image along with 80-100 words of text)

Supported by over fifty of the most respected building & design associations throughout the UK, including editorial feature articles from the NBAT, the leading technical writers within the industry, the publication also features a comprehensive look at the latest design innovations as well as updates in regulations, health & safety, education and C.P.D. amongst others, providing our readers with a publication that pulls together the many different resources available today, giving them an informative read that promotes the best in our profession. The latest issue can be viewed at www.designbuybuild.co.uk

Please email your latest information to (address removed)

Please also confirm if you would be willing to pay the £85 colour seperation charge to feature the image in colour.

I just can't wait for the Tektronix DesignInsite Mobile!

This email came today from a Tektronix sales representative. Feel free to mark your calendar, but you probably won't see me there. I like the graphic embedded in the message.

I just wanted to send you a reminder that the DesignInsight Mobile Expo will be coming to soon!

This is a rare opportunity to spend some "hands-on" time with state-of-the-art measurement tools without having to invest a whole day away from work.


You'll see demonstrations of how our cutting-edge solutions can help with today's most challenging applications, such as:


• Modern Spectrum Analysis Using Live RF
• Next-Gen Serial Compliance and Validation

• Interconnect Analysis and Jitter Measurements
• PCI Express 2.0 Digital Debug
• Spectrum Management and Surveillance

• Serial Bus Troubleshooting for Embedded Systems


I made sure the Mobile Expo would be making a stop at because I believe you and your colleagues will benefit in seeing first hand our latest products and solutions.


I look forward to seeing you there!


When: January 21, 2008
9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Where: Tektronix, Inc.
2368 Walsh Avenue Santa Clara, CA

Leveraging the rotary debugger

Esther Schindler made me hungry! That's what happened when I read her latest CIO blog post, "Is there anything developers won't do for a pizza," posted last Friday.

"It's not that I'm shocked that developers appreciate offerings of food. It's that their desires are satisfied with such a simple answer. A steak dinner? Sure, that'll get anyone's attention. Pizza and cheap beer? Why does that work?" she asks.

Do not read her post before lunch.

(Hmm. Perhaps some developers are 20x more productive than others because they get better pizza.)

1.14.2008

Programmer productivity, or lack thereof

In his posting, "No Silver Programmers," my dear friend (and SD Times columnist) Larry O'Brien takes on the age-old chestnut, "5% of programmers are 20x more productive than the other 95%," recently repeated by Bruce Eckel in his commencement address for Neumont University.

I have the greatest respect for both Larry and Bruce, and therefore, I'll say that I generally agree with both of them. Except that in his post, Larry writes, "the significant thing is not that some professional programmers are awesome, it's that some professional programmers suck."

I would amend that to say, "the significant thing is not that some professional programmers are awesome, it's that most professional programmers suck." Perhaps I'm just jaded.

Read both posts. The discussion is illuminating.

1.11.2008

Are you on a mail server blacklist?

Mail server blacklists are insidious. Just about anyone can submit your e-mail address, domain or even IP address to a DNS blacklist (DNSBL). Once that happens, the chances of your messages getting through to people become pretty lousy. (A DNS blacklist is also known as a blackhole list.)

While certainly mail servers used by spammers should be on blacklists, how do the rest of us get there?

• Perhaps one of your machines been turned into a spambot zombie.
• Perhaps your mail server is configured as an open relay (bad, bad, bad!).
• Perhaps someone else using your ISP is a spammer.
• Perhaps one of your IP addresses was once assigned to a spammer.

What's important is for you to find out if you're on a blacklist. You should do this periodically. If you are on a blacklist, there are various resources available for getting yourself off again. But before you can do that, you need to know if there's a problem.

Most corporate IT people only know if there's a blacklist problem when one of their employees complains that his/her e-mail is blocked. However, you should be more proactive. If you host your own e-mail server, one free resource you can use is Blacklist Check, from MXToolbox, which checks your server's IP address. If you don't know the IP address for the domain's MX records, they have a tool for that too, and another one for server diagnostics.

The company sells services to help you deal resolve mail problems. I'm not endorsing them; I've never even looked at them. However, their blacklist checker and other free tools are very useful.

1.08.2008

Bill Gates' last day at Microsoft

Microsoft makes funny mock videos. At keynotes at TechEd, PDC and others, there are usually hilarious "day in the life" videos starring Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

One of the funniest, from a couple of years ago, involved Bill dropping off a whole bunch of identical sweaters at a dry cleaner... and when he went to pick them up, one was missing. Oddly, the dry-cleaning clerk was wearing a sweater that looked just like Bill's...

Sadly, the company generally doesn't release those videos in electronic form. If you missed the showing, you missed it forever.

At Bill's keynote last Sunday at the Consumer Electronics Show (which I didn't attend), there was a video spoof of his forthcoming "last day at Microsoft." Fortunately, the entire keynote was released on video. You can find it on many sites, including MSN Soapbox, but this one on TweakVista seems the clearest. It's worth spending seven minutes to watch.

Toting the music-playing Taser

I haven't attended the Consumer Electronics Show in more than a decade... and keep forgotting how silly it can be. Fortunately, other journalists are ready to remind me.

David Colker blogged for the Los Angeles Times about the just-announced Taser MPH - the first combination MP3 player and stun gun. "The Taser MPH is not just a gadget, it's a fashion statement," he writes.

The stun gun's holster, which contains the 1GB music player, comes in a fun leopard print pattern, as well as red-hot red and fashion pink.

1.07.2008

Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?

Don't you just adore getting phone calls or e-mail solicitations from vendors that you've never heard of? Don't you want to spent a lot of time talking to the telemarketer? Don't you want to register for their "free white paper offer"?

Nope. Me neither. Yet an amazing number of vendors focus on "lead generation" as the best way to sell their stuff. That means offering you some sort of bait (like a free white paper or a free webinar or a "free demo"). If you take the bait by giving up your contact info, congratulations! You're now a "qualified lead" ready for a sales pitch.

Ted Bahr writes about lead generation on the FolioMag.com blog, "Why Don't You Just Advertise To Me?" As the other owner of BZ Media, I can relate to his pain, since I feel it too: All too often, when I answer the phone, it's someone trying to sell me insurance, investment services, office products, IT support, payroll services, consulting, photocopier paper, you-name-it.

Most of the time, I haven't heard of the vendor, because their lead generation program wasn't proceeded by any sort of brand building or advertising activities. I don't know who they are, I don't know what they do, I don't know what their reputation is, and I don't have the time or inclination to find out. So, I click Junk in Mac Mail, or tell the caller, "I'm not interested."

Think about all those offers for "free white papers." We all know what a white paper is: a pitch. Occasionally it's a subtle pitch, buttressed by solid technical background that's offers an educational benefit. All too often, however, it's pure marketing fluff, not worth the download, and certainly not worth establishing a "relationship" with the vendor.

If the vendor has a good reputation, maybe I'll take the bait. Maybe the white paper's value will outweigh the cost of dealing with the inevitable follow-up e-mails and phone calls. But if I've never heard of the vendor... Not a chance, buddy. Not a chance.

1.06.2008

iPod Touch + Universal Dock = Much Better

If you connect an Apple iPod Touch to your stereo via an Apple Universal Dock, the user interface problems go away.

Not only are you charging the iPod (if you plug it into an AC adapter) and getting better audio using "line out," but the remote control restores the tactile feel to the device. (I wrote about the lack of tactile feel when playing music.)

The Universal Dock that I have is the MA045G/C, purchased in June 2007, since discontinued. Amazon's reviews are negative on the Apple docks, but I've been pleased. I can't speak to any third-party docks.

Chasing baubles

Andrew Binstock has written an excellent (and glowing) review of Kent Beck's new book, "Implementation Patterns."

I've just ordered my own copy, based on Andrew's review, which itself worth reading as an exemplar of what a technical book review should be.

The solution to iPod Touch problems: Reboot

I’m the proud owner of a 16GB Apple iPod Touch, given to me as a Christmas present by a good friend. I’ve been taking many notes about the device – which is an incredible technological marvel – but I can summarize my experiences over the past three weeks as follows:

What it’s great at: Being a WiFi Web browser and movie/video player

What it’s not great at: Being a plain old music player

My biggest beef with the iPod Touch (as a music player) is the lack of tactile response caused by the shift from a control wheel to the large touchscreen:

• With my "regular" iPods, I can change songs, start/stop the music and change volume without looking at the device. That’s great when I’m using it on an airplane or in my car. In my car, for example, my "regular" iPod sits in a cupholder. If I want to change songs or pause the music, I just reach over and push the button without looking.

• With the iPod Touch, you have to be looking at the device in order to manipulate the controls. That’s fine when you’re watching videos or surfing the Web, but it’s really a nuisance when you want to skip to the next song while you're driving.

I am surprised that the flash storage is so slow. Updating its files (to load music playlists or new videos) is painful. It seems at least 3x slower than a conventional disk-based iPod. I’m also disappointed that the “Enable Disk Use” option is not available. (There are third-party hacks that claim to provide that functionality.)

When using the iPod Touch as a Web browser, the hardest part is typing. My hands and fingers aren’t especially large, but gosh, it’s difficult to work the virtual keyboard. The iPod Touch needs a stylus.

The software on the iPod Touch (I’m running version 1.1.2) is buggy. There seems to be a memory leak that causes album cover displays to occasionally get out of sync with the songs that are being played, and sometimes, the device stops plays songs right after you start playing.

For that issue, the solution seems to be to reboot the iPod Touch. You do so by holding down the Sleep/Wake button (that’s the one on the edge) and the Home button (that’s the one on the front) for at least 10 seconds, until the Apple logo appears. After I do that, the unit seems good for about a week until it needs to be rebooted again.

Overall: The iPod Touch is an incredible device, and I'm delighted with it. But it’s clearly a “version 1.0” product.

Are you ready for Wagile software development?

It’s my theory that people like the concept of agile software development more than they like the specific practices.

That’s why, despite the huge number of conversations in the software development industry about agile methodologies like eXtreme Programming or Scrum, many analysts believe that the actual adoption of agile is rather low.

Another reason might be that it just takes time. It would be a mistake to underestimate inertia. However, I still think that while many developers are interested in what agile methodologies have to offer, the majority simply don’t see that it makes sense to adopt those specific practices.

The January 1, 2008, issue of SD Times kicks off a three-part study into the impact of agile development. Written by senior editor Jennifer deJong, we hope that the series shines some light on the realities of agile – both the good and the bad.

One point brought up in the first story, “Agile Principles Are Changing Everything” is that some shops have created an amalgam of traditional waterfall development and agile methodologies. Nicknamed “wagile,” this pragmatic combo may be the future of enterprise software development. What do you think?

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.