3.29.2008

Four steps for reinstalling QuarkXPress 6.x for Mac OS X

Quark recommends that modern Mac users run the latest version of QuarkXPress 7.x with Intel-based Macs using Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard." However, it's my experience that you can run Quark 6.52 on those machines with very few problems.

Yes, some features don't work correctly.
However, most do work right. This is good news if you're migrating an existing machine from Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.5.

But what if you need to do a clean install from, say, QuarkXPress 6.0 for the Mac? Perhaps you chose to wipe your hard drive clean before installing Leopard, and now you have to reload your apps. It is necessary to install all three dot-release upgrades to Quark 6.0 in order. If you try to skip one, you'll see cryptic "file not found" error messages during the upgrade process.

So, here's what you have to do. Note that the slowest part is downloading the updaters.

1. Install QuarkXPress 6.0 from your original CD-ROM. Verify that the software runs; you may see error messages. Ignore them. Quark should launch after you get rid of the error messages.

2. Download and install the QuarkXPress 6.1 (from 6.0) upgrade. It's an 80.5MB download. Verify that Quark launches after installing. There should not be any error messages.

3. Download and install the QuarkXPress 6.5 (from 6.1) upgrade. It's a 154MB download. Launch Quark afterwards; there should be no errors.

4. Download and install the QuarkXPress 6.52 (from 6.5) upgrade. It's a 20.7MB download. When it's finished, Quark 6.52 should run properly.

For future installations, burn all three updaters onto a CD-ROM. Keep it with your Quark 6.0 disc. That's what I just did.

3.27.2008

A bunch of miscellaneous Time Machine tips

Here’s a collection of tips for using Time Machine, the backup software built into Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard.” These are random tips, which answer questions that I had, or which people asked me. I found the answers from by trial-and-error, searching Apple’s limited documentation, or finding other stuff on the Internet.

1. When you set up a Time Machine (TM) disk for the time time, be prepared for it to take a long time to do its backup. You can reduce this time considerably by adding the TM disk to Spotlight’s exclusions list using System Preference -> Spotlight -> Privacy

2. You can also speed up the initial backup time by turning off your virus-checking software temporarily. Close all your browser and e-mail software, and turn off the virus checker. Be sure to turn it all back on again when the initial backup is complete.

3. Reduce the amount of space that you’re using for backups by excluding the TM disk from its own backups using System Preferences -> Time Machine -> Options. Mac OS X might do that automatically – but why take a chance?

4. If you use iDisk, and keep a local copy of it on your hard drive, tell Time Machine not to back it up. Otherwise, TM will keep backing the entire disk image up every time there's a single change, which wastes a lot of space. Exclude this directory from your backups: ~/Library/FileSync.

5. If you find that there is some data that you backed up that you wish you hadn’t – perhaps it’s from a directory that you excluded – you can delete it from all TM backups. To do this, first make sure you have the Action icon in your finder window toolbar. Double-click any folder. Do you see a gear at the top of the window? If not, right-click near the top of the window, select Customize Toolbar, and then add the Action item to it.

Once that’s done, here’s how you delete something from a TM backup: Start TM in regular mode (that is, with the Finder selected, not Mail or Address Book). Highlight the item(s) you’d like to delete – they can be folders or files. Then, from the Action menu, select “Delete all backups of xxxx”

6. You can use one large TM disk to backup more than one computer, either over the network or by connecting the TM disk to each computer via USB or Firewire. Each computer’s backups are stored separately, by machine name, within the Backups.bckupd folder. Note that if you rename a machine, Time Machine will not associate its previous backup set with that machine any more.

7. If your TM disk has more than one computer’s backup on it, you can use TM to browse the other machine's backups. Hold down the Alt/Option key and select the TM icon in the menubar. The “Enter Time Machine” menu choice is replaced by “Browse Other Time Machine Disks.” Make sure each computer’s name doesn’t contain non-alphanumeric characters; TM crashes if it does.

8. You can store non-backup data in the Time Machine disk, but be careful. Do not change, move, rename or delete any of the contents of the Backups.backupd folder, or you’ll risk corrupting the backups. Personally, I prefer dedicating an external hard drive to TM.

9. There is a known bug that if you have multiple monitors, on some machines the starry space background for the Time Machine application won’t show up. TM works properly, though. (This one drove me crazy until I figured it out.)

Do you have other TM tips? Please share them!

3.25.2008

The question is, 'What is an Approved CQ'

I had the honor of returning as a judge for this year's Eclipse Community Awards, presented last week at EclipseCon. (I also judged the awards in 2006 and 2007).

This is one of my favorite awards to judge, although it's not easy to determine the winners. The quality of the Eclipse-based tools and technologies gets better every year.

The difference between winner and finalist is razor-thin. You can see the list of winners here.

This year, the Eclipse Foundation continued the tradition of give out the awards during a fun-filled ceremony. We presented during breaks in a fast-paced game of Eclipse Jeopardy, hosted by Bjorn Freeman-Benson.

It's worth mentioning, in case you're ever in a game of Eclipse Jeopardy, that the question for most answers is, "What is an Approved CQ?"

(A CQ is a Contribution Questionnaire, used to document the origin of source code to ensure sure it meets the Eclipse Foundation IP policies.)

While the pace slowed, afterMillerFreeman keeps growing

In early December, we launched a social network for former employees of Miller Freeman. That is, everyone who had worked at Miller Freeman Publications or Miller Freeman Inc. (including companies that merged into it, like Gralla) up through Miller Freeman's absorption into CMP in mid-1999.

Like the universe after the Big Bang, growth was astronomical at first, and then began slowing. Within a week, the afterMillerFreeman social network passed 200 people; after three weeks, it was up to 350. And now, 3 1/2 months later, we've just passed 500 members. (The story can be found in a Dec. 19 post, "How social networking destroyed one person-year of productivity in a mere two days."

If you're a former Miller Freeman employee, and you'd like to join our social network, you can sign up at http://aftermfi.ning.com.

3.22.2008

Some of my favorite Arthur C. Clarke books

It's been a challenge, thinking of the best way to eulogize Arthur C. Clarke. It is doubly difficult because I've never met him, and because so many other sources have done such a tremendous job that there's little to add. (One that you might not have seen is from the International Telecommunications Union.)

Instead, I'll mention a few of my favorite Sir Arthur's books — the ones whose pages are crinkled, and whose spines are cracked. These books have spoken so eloquently over the years, but aren't well known today.

You'll note that many of these are his earliest fiction, which I read as a teenager. (I'm leaving out 2001, 2010 and Rendezvous with Rama, because they're so well known, but they're also excellent.)

Imperial Earth (1976): Introduced us to an Earth colony on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and their society and politices. There was amazing predictions of personal communications technology. This book introduced me to Pentominoes, and after reading the book I wrote a pretty good Pentomino solver in FORTRAN. I wish I had that source code.

Childhood's End (1953): This was the first Clarke novel I read, and the copy I have has my brother's name written inside. I hope he doesn't miss it. The book discusses the next stage in human evolution, and the sad story of how we get there. Very haunting, very moving. (The graphic is the cover art in my 1969 edition.)

Against the Fall of Night (1953) and The City and the Stars (1956): Clarke wrote two versions of this story. Against the Fall of Night was his first novel, telling the tale of Diaspar, the last city on Earth, a billion years in the future. Later on, he changed it substantially. I like both versions. Tales of Diaspar, of Lys, and of Alvin, appear frequently in my dreams.

Tales from the 'White Hart' (1957): Tall tales told by scientists over drinks at the local watering hole. The stories are quick reads, and demonstrate Clarke's easy writing style and sense of humor.

Earthlight (1955): A tale of espionage and intrigue on the Moon, as an accountant tries to stop a war between two Earth factions fighting it out for scarce resources.

A Fall of Moondust (1961): What happens when a lunar tourist bus sinks into a lake filled with moondust? A true adventure story, and very thought-provoking from an engineering perspective.

The Fountains of Paradise (1978): One way to get into orbit is to ride in a rocket. Another is to take the elevator. This is the story of how the elevator was built, and the visionary who pushed it through.

Ahh, I could go on... but of all of Clarke's books, I think these mean the most to me.

3.21.2008

Arvo Pärt's beautiful meditative musical triads

We stumbled across Spiegel im Spiegel a few days ago... we were listening to KDFC, our local classical music station, when this beautiful, repetitive, hypnotic piano-and-violin piece came on.

We were entranced.

It was like listening to the Pachelbel Canon for the first time, only even more relaxing.

That's where KDFC's "What Was That Piece" music search feature is great... knowing the date and time, we could learn that it was Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt, as performed by Malter and Spivakov on the album "Alina."

Pärt is an Estonian composer, who according to Wikipedia is associated with the school of minimalism. This piece certainly fits that description. Wikipedia describes the 1978 composition as:

The piece is in F major in 6/4 time, with the piano playing rising crotchet triads and the second instrument playing slow scales, alternately rising and falling, of increasing length, which all end on the note A (the mediant of F). The piano's left hand also plays notes, syncopated with the violin (or other instrument).

"Spiegel im Spiegel" in German literally can mean both "mirror in the mirror" as well as "mirrors in the mirror," referring to the infinity of images produced by parallel plane mirrors: the tonic triads are endlessly repeated with small variations as if reflected back and forth. Perhaps the best translation of the title is "Parallel mirrors."

Needless to say, an Amazon purchase followed immediately thereafter, and we've been enjoying it ever since.

If you like meditative music to play in the background, or to fall asleep to on an airplane, you'll love this. It's sooooo relaxing.

3.18.2008

Arthur C. Clarke, my childhood hero, passes away

When I was a young kid, an avid science-fiction reader and budding scientist, my superheroes were Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan. I revered their craft and their biographies — all three were genuine scientists as well as brilliant writers.

My initial academic goal, of becoming an astronomer, was largely due to my reverence for Clarke, Asimov and Sagan.

I had the pleasure of meeting Carl Sagan briefly, and always dreamed of meeting Clarke and Asimov. It never happened.

Asimov lived in New York, so it might have happened. Tragically, he passed away in 1992 before the chance ever came up.

Today, Arthur C. Clarke passed away.

Realistically, I never was going to meet him: He lived in Sri Lanka, had been wheelchair-bound for years, and was unlikely ever to visit the U.S. again. And I couldn't think of any reason to visit Colombo.

This is a sad, sad day, and the loss of a great man. Sir Arthur, you stretched my imagination, and gave me delight. Thank you.

View Clarke's farewell message, recorded in December 2007, on Youtube.

Mike Milinkovich's talk at EclipseCon's Member Meeting

Every quarter, the Eclipse Foundation has a Member Meeting. This quarter's meeting took place at EclipseCon on Monday, from 1:30-6:00 pm.

The most eagerly anticipated presentation of the member meeting is the report from the Foundation's director, Mike Milinkovich. As usual, Mike didn't disappoint.

Mike (pictured in photo from anniejay) highlighted the continued growth of the Foundation. it's up to 179 Members (that is, companies that have signed on the bottom line that they'll support Eclipse), of which 21 are Strategic Members (that is, companies that pay big bucks to have more influence). The goal is to end the year with more than 200 members.

Meanwhile, the organization has 942 Committers (that is, active developers who have read/write access to the source code repository).

According to Mike, new growth in membership will come from outside Eclipse's traditional ISV base, through a new group of "Corporate" Members. To that end, the Foundation is shortly going to propose a new membership category for large financial institutions, large healthcare companies, manufacturers and other companies like that.

These non-ISV companies are extremely committed to Eclipse, and wish to participate. However, unlike traditional ISV members, they have no intention of releasing products based on Eclipse, because they don't sell software. (The current bylaws require that members commit to release Eclipse-based products.) Even so, they wish to be "inside the tent," and will contribute to Eclipse's success and code base by participating in projects.

The benefits to those companies for joining the Eclipse Foundation are clear: greater influence, and more opportunity to help leverage Eclipse for their internal software development efforts. Being part of Eclipse will also provide those big companies with frameworks for industry-specific projects, using the Foundation's license and intellectual-property vetting system to foster collaboration.

The benefits to the Foundation are equally clear, said Mike. Bringing those vertical-industry companies into the Foundation will provide more resources for supporting projects. It will, also, increase funding for the Foundation, which will drive new services. It also, he added, help protect the health of the ecosystem, because those new members might be insulated from market conditions that could affect ISVs.

Corporate members will be charged, of course, for participation. Mike suggested that the fee would be $125,000 per annum. If that sounds high, it's not. If a huge bank or insurance company with thousands of developers saved merely the equivalent of two developers-years by leveraging the Eclipse code base or by getting Eclipse projects to better support their requirements, they've more than repaid that investment.

Corporate membership seems like a great idea, and could help offset one of the potential weaknesses of the Eclipse Foundation. Because nearly all its most active members are software companies, new projects tend to be focused on supporting the competitive needs of those same software vendors. By bringing more consumers of Eclipse's technology into the tent, Eclipse's projects may become more democratic, more customer-driven and less vendor-centric. That is unquestionably a Good Thing.

It's the Easter Mouse!

Sometimes a press release is too cute not to share, especially when it comes with an adorable photo. This just in:

Here's an idea for last-minute Easter related coverage. For parents searching for an alternative to the traditional Easter basket, Saitek suggests its version of the Easter basket which includes the colorful Notebook Optical Mouse.

The Notebook Optical Mouse is the perfect size for smaller hands and is available for $19.95 at www.saitekusa.com.

3.14.2008

Playing games with Dr. Dobb's Journal

Think Services — the publishing company that puts out Dr. Dobb's Journal — is taking the magazine to the next level. Last year, DDJ extended into Second Life. Now, it's becoming a video game.

With this new initiative, DDJ is continuing its tight marketing relationship with Microsoft. The game is being done in conjunction with Microsoft's Visual Studio 2008 team.

As they say on the special Web site, "The Dobbs Challenge":

Welcome to the first ever Dobbs Challenge, a special game competition brought to you in association with the world-renowned Dr. Dobb's Journal for software developers and Microsoft.

- Firstly download our specially created "Dr. Dobb's Challenge' games for either Windows and Windows Mobile.

- Then you can win from a prize pool of $10,000 by modifying the games using a trial version of Visual Studio 2008.

The games star the first-ever personification of Dr. Dobbs, alongside the characters from Microsoft's famous 'Defy All Challenges' machinima videos, as you battle to collect Visual Studio icons and complete the levels.

Full source code and art for the games are freely provided for programmers to 'mod' the results and win prizes.

DDJ is doing a great job serving hobbyist/enthusiast programmers. As for me, I'll skip the contest.

3.10.2008

Honesty in subscriber service

Our customer service department shares the comments that they receive from readers. I could appreciate one particular note which asked us to cancel a subscription to Software Test & Performance. Normally we don't like cancellations, but you can't fault this guy's motivation.

The subscriber wrote:

I am fed up with the testing job, so don't send any more.

Should you sell ads on your personal blog?

My Z Trek blog is a "business blog," because it's (sometimes) involved with what I do for a living, and because I (sometimes) do my blogging during working hours.

However, many of my favorite bloggers do so on their own time, to talk about their non-commercial interests. Let's say that their blogs generate a fair amount of traffic. Should they attempt to monetize that through advertising?

According to Eugene Volokh, you might not want to commercialize a personal-interest blog.

In his post, "Don't sell ads on your blog," Eugene writes that, "Many homeowner's insurance policies cover you for libel, invasion of privacy, and the like, including for the costs of defending the lawsuits. But they generally expressly exempt liability that's based on your "business pursuits," which may include even those pursuits on which you make a pittance."

Interesting topic, and one I'd never thought about.

Nobody submitted a nomination for THE WORST OF 2007

I thought we'd see some SCOs, some Microsofts, some Oracles, maybe even an IBM, a Red Hat, a Free Software Foundation, an Apple. Nope.

Not a single nomination in the SD Times' newest award, THE WORST OF 2007. Lots of clicks on the nomination form, but nobody submitted.

What a disappointment!

3.09.2008

I've been through the press release with the customer with no name

Sometimes a press release just makes you scratch your head, like this one from MKS on Friday morning. It's a customer-win press release, which doesn't name the customer.

(Actually, it's not even a customer win: The release talks about an unnamed existing customer who agrees to buy more stuff.) Here's the release:

MKS Announces Enterprise-Wide License Agreement
09:10 EST Friday, March 07, 2008

WATERLOO, ONTARIO—(Marketwire - March 7, 2008) - MKS Inc. (MKS) (TSX:MKX) announced today that it has entered into an enterprise wide license agreement with an existing customer in the automotive industry, pursuant to which MKS will continue to provide MKS Integrity for use in the customer's global embedded systems software engineering operations. Under the terms of the three-year agreement, MKS will expand deployment of its products in the customer's existing installed base. MKS will receive a license fee of approximately USD $5 million together with additional annual maintenance fees over the term of the agreement.

That's all there was: a deal with an unnamed, existing customer, sent to me (as a journalist) in the hopes that SD Times would do a story about it.

Well... not really. Sometimes, press releases are for reporters, sometimes they're for investors, and sometimes they're for lawyers. That's what happened here. (The word "pursuant" should have been a giveaway.) When I queried MKS to ask for the customer name, my contact responded that:

Yes, I know the customer is (yet) unnamed. Because of the size of the deal its considered a material issue/release, and we had to rush out the legal obligation immediately upon contract signing.

Later on that morning, she wrote,

As I said this was a legal obligation that had to be issued the moment the contract was signed.

So: If you wonder why companies put out worthless press releases, it's because their lawyers tell them they have to. What a world!

Rent-a-model for Interop?

In case you're wondering where booth bunnies come from, here's an e-mail I received from "Barbie" at The Élan Agency.

It came because we're exhibiting at the Interop (not "Interopt") conference at the end of April in Las Vegas. Have fun checking out their model search engine: They have men, women and children, all available for your trade-show extravaganza!

Greetings:

The Élan Agency is a top of the line model and talent agency in Las Vegas and - first - want to welcome you to our city, in advance. We would also like to offer the agency’s services to your company while here in Las Vegas. We have some of the most beautiful and professional narrators and models for your trade show needs. We have spokespersons, demonstrators; we even have entertainers and guest speakers for the entire company’s enlightenment, as well as a complete event planning department. We can schedule shows, meals, even your airline tickets.

Please let us know if there is any way we can assist you at Interopt Las Vegas 2008, and have some fun while you’re here.

Thank you,

Barbie

3.08.2008

DreamWorks' Shrek 2 flunks user-interface design

A principle of user interface design is that, as much as possible, the user should be in charge of the user experience.

Menu options, if visible, should work. The user should be able to start or stop actions, or guide the course of actions. The user interface designers should focus on the needs and desires of the user.

A user interface that places the user in control will be successful.

A user interface that makes the user feel helpless leads to frustration and anger.

Take, for example, the DVD of DreamWorks' Shrek 2. This is was a very funny movie; my family enjoyed it in the theater when it came out in 2004, and we were looking forward to watching it tonight... until we became frustrated, and decided to channel our activities into something else.

When you put the DVD into the player, up comes a little animated teaser for DreamWorks Animation, followed by mandatory commercials. There's nothing you can do but watch them, or let them play out.

DreamWorks configured the disc software so that you can't skip over the commercials. You can't fast-forward over them. You can't even get to the disc menu until they've run their course.

Instead, you must watch the trailer for Shark Tale. You must watch the trailer for Madagascar. You must... well, we don't know. We stopped watching at that point, not knowing how many more trailers were going to be forced upon us.

For five minutes, we pushed buttons furiously on the remote. Nothing worked. We stopped the movie and restarted it; with some DVDs, that process bypasses the trailers and brings you to the disc menu.

But no, the DreamWorks' DVD programmers were too smart. The disc started playing the Shark Tale commercial again.

At that point, we hit "eject," put the DVD back in its case, and said, "No thanks."

DreamWorks: It's my movie; I paid for it. It's my DVD player, and my remote. Don't tell me what I'm permitted to do, or that I can't skip over your trailers. Don't mandate that I'm "not allowed" to watch the movie until I've been forced to watch all your commercials. That's not how to satisfy a customer, or design successful software for a system which, after all, was designed to put the user in control of his/her own viewing experience.

Spring Forward: Here we go again with Daylight Savings Time

Are all of your computers, applications and devices ready for tonight's Daylight Savings Time changeover? If you're in the United States, the answer probably is "no."

In its infinite wisdom, the U.S. government changed the rules for Daylight Savings Time in 2005, to take effect in 2007. Most modern software systems have been updated, but not everything has been.

Here are the rules for this year and next, for those U.S. states which observe DST:

Standard Time begins each year at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on the first Sunday of November.

Move your clocks back one hour at the resumption of Standard Time.


In 2008, DST is from 2:00 a.m. (local time) on March 9th until 2:00 a.m. (local time) on November 2nd.

In 2009, DST is from 2:00 a.m. (local time) on March 8th until 2:00 a.m. (local time) on November 1st.

Before the 2005 legislation, DST begin on the first Sunday in April, and ended on the last Sunday in October.
So, there's a good chance that for the next few weeks, your home or office will have some devices or applications that won't pick up the DST change, and thus they'll display the wrong time for nearly a full month, from March 9 through April 6.

Don't forget: Tonight, at 2:00am on Sunday, change all your clocks forward to 3:00am.

Stefan Klein wrote a nice piece about Daylight Savings Time in the New York Times.

SD Times was the fastest-growing IT publication in 2007

Our flagship publication, SD Times, was listed in the February 2008 issue of Media Business Magazine as having increased from 649.8 advertising pages in 2006 to 730.7 in 2007 – the largest increase of any print publication in the information-technology market.

Wa-hoo!!!

The year-on-year increase of +80.9 advertising pages was based on data provided to Media Business Magazine by The Auditor, a service of Toronto-based Inquiry Management Services (IMS).

BZ Media’s SD Times edged out 75 other IT publications, including Vertical Systems (+78.0 pages), Internet Retailer (+55.2 pages), Business Solutions (+53.7 pages) and Animation Magazine (+52.0 pages).

SD Times’ increase in advertising pages stands in sharp contrast to the recent declines across the industry. According to Media Business, only 19 of the IT publications tracked by The Auditor showed ad-page increases from 2006 to 2007.

Some of the well-known titles showing year-on-year declines include Think Services’ Dr. Dobb’s Journal (-9.0 pages), 1105 Media’s Redmond Magazine (-26.5 pages), TechWeb’s InformationWeek (-158.1 pages), IDG’s ComputerWorld (-99.9 pages) and CIO Magazine (-174.7 pages), Everything Channel’s CRN (-351.0 pages) and Ziff-Davis Enterprise’s Baseline (-192.8 pages) and eWeek (-454.0 pages).

Read our press release. Can you tell we're thrilled?

Ziff Davis Enterprise is fine — it's Ziff Davis Media that's gone Chapter 11

I can only imagine the headache that Ziff Davis Media's announcement of bankruptcy is causing for Ziff Davis Enterprise — an entirely different company.

Ziff Davis Media, whose bankruptcy I noted last week, publishes PC Magazine and several other magazines and Web sites. Ziff Davis Media is a subsidiary of Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings, which put Ziff Davis Media into bankruptcy to dump debt.

Ziff Davis Enterprise, which publishes eWeek, Baseline and a whole bunch of other magazines and Web sites, is not bankrupt. This company is not related to Ziff Davis Media, and is owned by Insight Venture Partners.

Confused? A lot of people probably are. That's why Steve Weitzner, CEO of Ziff Davis Enterprise, put out a clarification about this last week. I don't blame him!

3.06.2008

Dell says that Windows Vista had a lot of known problems

I found this story from ComputerWorld, "Dell pointed out Microsoft's Vista mistakes, internal docs show," to be disturbing.

Gregg Keizer's Feb. 29 story said that, "Last-minute changes to Windows Vista broke drivers, forcing key hardware vendors to "limp out with issues" when the operating system launched last year, according to a presentation by Dell Inc. that was made public this week."

This report comes only a week after an AP story, "Suit Against Microsoft Over Vista OK'd." According to the story, a U.S. district judge said that "consumers may go ahead with a class action lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. over the way it advertised computers loaded with Windows XP as capable of running the Vista operating system."

3.05.2008

How many publishing companies have published Dr. Dobb's Journal?

Jon Erickson, editor-in-chief of Dr. Dobb's Journal, totally stumped me yesterday. He asked me how many companies had published DDJ, and I guessed four. The correct answer is five.

Dr. Dobb's was founded by

1. People's Computing Company (PCC)

which sold DDJ to

2. M&T Publishing, the U.S. subsidiary of the German media giant Markt und Technik Verlag AG.

M&T Publishing was then sold to

3. Miller Freeman Inc. (MFI), a subsidiary of United News & Media (now United Business Media).

UBM then merged MFI into another division, the newly purchased

4. CMP Media LLC

which last week split up, retiring the CMP name, with DDJ going into the new business unit called

5. Think Services.

I flat-out forgot about PCC.

Here's a great article on the earliest history of DDJ, which was founded as a newsletter to distribute technical information about Tiny BASIC, a language designed for 1970s-era microcomputers like the MITS Altair.

Over time, and under the editorial leadership of Michael Swaine (1984-1987), Tyler Sperry (1987-1988) and Jon Erickson (1988-), DDJ expanded its coverage to become a beloved hobbyist/enthusiast publication like Byte. CMP Media ceased publishing Byte a decade ago, in 1998. I'm glad that DDJ is still around.

CMP breaks up, Ziff Davis Media goes Chapter 11

It's ironic (but coincidental) that we're making the big shift in our staff to support our major launch of Systems Management News, only a few days after CMP Media broke up into four businesses, and the same week that Ziff Davis Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

On Friday, Feb. 29, United Business Media announced that it's "transforming CMP into four independent media and information services businesses."

As it says on the CMP home page:

Each of the four new businesses will be agile, innovative and highly engaged with the communities it serves.

TechWeb, formerly CMP's Business Technology Group, is the global leader in business technology media connecting more than 10 million technology buyers and sellers worldwide.

Everything Channel, formerly CMP Channel, is the global leader in Channel execution and the one stop shop for the indirect sales channel that drives 75 percent of technology sales throughout the world.

TechInsights, formerly CMP's Electronics Group, is a global media, professional services and marketing services business that serves decision makers in the electronics industry – the Creators of Technology.

Think Services, formerly CMP's Game, Dr. Dobb's and International Customer Management Group, connects specialized communities worldwide using innovative media, educational events, consulting, training and certification. www.think-services.com

Why is UBM doing this? It's hard to know exactly what this means. If you take them at their word, they're making the various business units more nimble by giving them more autonomy. However, the persistent speculative thread is that UBM is breaking CMP up into more attractive chunks for potential buyers.

Meanwhile, Ziff Davis Media decided to enter Chapter 11 to allow it to restructure (i.e., dump debt by shafting its investors and creditors). It's a shame to see the mighty PC Magazine's publishing company go bankrupt. For years, I competed against Ziff, most notably in the late 1980s when I worked for IDG. Under legendary founder Bill Ziff, the ZD brand was something terrifying. Today, after all the divestitures, mergers, acquisitions, reshuffling and who-knows-what, Ziff Davis is bankrupt.

Sad.

Exciting changes at BZ Media's SD Times

Everyone at BZ Media is amped for the launch of Systems Management News, which will debut on April 15.

Systems Management News (SMN) is a newspaper very similar to SD Times in format and appearance. Its will provide timely news and analysis to IT systems managers — your colleagues who manage data centers, database administrators, network administrators, and so-on. You can subscribe online at http://www.sysmannews.com.

As part of the launch effort, several members of SD Times' editorial team are moving over to SMN: David Rubinstein, editor-in-chief; Mara Leonardi, art director; Alex Handy, senior editor; and Jeff Feinman, assistant editor. I'd like to thank them for their tremendous contributions to SD Times. Dave was part of the launch team for SD Times, back in 1999, Mara came on for our third issue in early 2000, Alex joined us in 2005, and and Jeff signed on in 2006.

By the way, you'll still see their contributions in SD Times now and again — we have a lot of joint projects planned.

So, where does that leave the SD Times editorial team? In short, strong. I'm putting the chief editor hat back on; I'd worn it from our launch until handing it over to Dave a few years ago. Erin Broadhurst, with SD Times since 2006, is promoted to art director.

P.J. Connolly remains SD Times' executive editor, and has day-to-day responsibility for writing and reporting. David Worthington, who came to us in 2007 as associate editor, was joined last week by Robert Mullins, our new senior editor. The back-end production of SD Times will continue to be the responsibility of Greg Lupion, managing editor, and Adam LoBelia, associate copy editor.

You know, very few media companies are starting new projects — and even fewer are starting new print publications, like we're doing with Systems Management News. The trend has been to shut down or de-emphasize newspapers and magazines, and focus on Web sites.

While we certainly believe in the Web — we've invested a lot in SDTimes.com — we also believe in the value of hard-copy publications like SD Times, Systems Management News and Software Test & Performance. We know you do too.

Thank you for your support.

'Testers are idiots'

My colleague Edward Correia, editor of Software Test & Performance Magazine, wrote a great report on the FutureTest 2008 conference.

The story, entitled 'Testers are Idiots," talks about the challenges that many professional testers have within their organizations, where developers are often considered to be higher-status than members of the test/QA team.

If you don't receive his weekly e-newsletter, you can subscribe to Test & QA Report at any time. Cost = free.

3.04.2008

The Fifth Element: What an odd movie!

Talk about weird: On the recommendation of a friend, we rented The Fifth Element from Netflix, and watched it last night.

What a bizarre movie! It's a 1997 sci-fi action/comedy, starring Bruce Willis as a 23rd-century flying taxi driver, Gary Oldman as a corrupt businessman, Ian Holm as a priest, Chris Tucker as a talk-show host, and Milla Jovovich as an orange-haired "perfect being."

The non-stop action is a bizarre mixture of Stargate (1994), Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (2002), Die Hard (1988) and Rush Hour (1998). Visually, the movie's New York City seems very similar to George Lucas's Correscant... which appeared five years later.

The Fifth Element's story is hard to follow, and the characters are 100% strange. It's worth renting, if you're in the mood for something different. Very different.

3.03.2008

NetBeans, Oracle make some progress; Eclipse slides a little

"Which development environment do you use?"

That's one of the most eagerly awaited questions in BZ Research's annual study into the use of Java within the enterprise and at ISVs.

The top development environments, according to the December 2007, study are:

Eclipse 62.7%
Sun NetBeans 24.4%
Oracle JDeveloper 20.4%
IBM Rational Application Developer 19.4%
IBM WebSphere Studio Application Developer 18.7%

Macromedia Dreamweaver 14.2%
Sun Java Studio Enterprise 13.6%
Sun Java Studio Creator 10.5%
BEA WebLogic Workshop 9.3%
JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA 9.2%

Emacs or related editor 8.3%
In-house-developed IDE 6.6%
Borland Enterprise Studio for Java 5.3%
SlickEdit Visual SlickEdit 5.0%
Sybase PowerBuilder 4.9%

Borland/TogetherSoft Control Center 3.9%
Apple Xcode 3.2%
CodeGear JBuilder 3.2%
Compuware DevPartner 2.3%
Compuware OptimalJ 1.7%

While Eclipse continues to completely dominate the field, the "pure Eclipse" score did slip back a little from 2006, where it had 69.6%. Given the platform's strong position, and that just about every competitor is gunning for Eclipse, it's not surprising that it took some hits. In fact, that statistic might be a bit misleading.

Why? Companies that use Eclipse as their foundation, like IBM or CodeGear, aggressively market their Eclipse-based JBuilder against "plain old" Eclipse. So, every time one of those products gains another user, it appears to be a blow against Eclipse, but in actual fact, it's either neutral or a net gain for Eclipse.

Meanwhile, we saw some growth in NetBeans (23.3% in 2006) and Oracle JDeveloper (19.0% in 2006). The NetBeans-based Sun Java Studio Enterprise also took a leap (from 9.5% in 2006).

The most surprising change, to me, was the number of people who say they are using an in-house-developed IDE. That jumped up from 2.8% in 2006.

Copies of the full study are available for sale from BZ Research. It contains comparative records back to 2002, as well as data about app servers, Java APIs and a lot more.

3.02.2008

Transforming the software testing organization

FutureTest 2008 was unlike any conference I’ve seen for top software test managers — really dug into ways that we can transform software testing. From my perspective, the conference truly exceeded expectations, not only in the number of participants, but also in the quality of the dialog.

I’d like to share just a few of the many insights that I picked up at FutureTest 2008. In many cases, these were things that we already knew, but the keynotes served as a whack on the side of the head. (I was too busy as “master of ceremonies” to take good notes.)

Test consultant Rex Black presented a comprehensive model for showing the return on investment of different types of testing and for testing at different stages of the application life cycle. Now, analyses of this sort are old hat. They’re not rocket science, and they don’t use any math more complicated than division. But very few test managers take the time to prepare these analyses, based on their own company’s metrics. Rex showed how, in a typical case, the cost of investment is returned nearly 700 percent in savings to the company over the lifespan of a product, factoring in lost business, support costs and remediation costs. Fascinating.

• In an intense panel discussion, voke analyst Theresa Lanowitz said that the most important transformation that test managers can do is change from acting as gatekeepers (or “quality policemen”) to customer advocates. That change might be as simple as altering the name of the test department or rephrasing how issues are reported. It might be as complicated as messing with organizational structure. The perception of test/QA’s role is to be critical in its broad success.

• On the topic of just-in-time testing, McGill lecturer Rob Sabourin (pictured) reiterated that the question isn’t always what to test, but also what not to test. In a hectic, turbulent environment, you can’t test everything. Instead, figure out what you need to test based on the question, “If I find a problem, do I need to fix it?” After all, you don’t need to fix every bug in order to have a successful product. Look at how products will be used and test accordingly.

Top-shelf blogger Joel Spolsky reminded us that software testing means more than ensuring that the software meets the stakeholders’ formal requirements. Our job is to create quality products, successful products, products that customers want to use. Quality means more than many features and a low bug count. It also extends to the aesthetics and emotional feel of a product. If a product makes the user feel that he or she is safe and in control, it will be more successful than a product that just takes the user along for a ride.

It was an amazing conference. We’ll announce the dates and location for FutureTest 2009 shortly.

Y2K redux: Time for F29

Last Friday, I was due to fly back to San Francisco from New York City. FutureTest 2008 was over, I’d spent a day in BZ East (our Huntington, N.Y. headquarters), and it was time to go home.

My flight, United #5, was set to depart at 6:00am, and I arrived at JFK’s Terminal 7 around 4:30am. Since I wasn’t checking any luggage, the first stop was the EasyCheck-in kiosk.

It wasn’t working right. It would let me check in, but wouldn’t print the boarding pass. I tried another kiosk. Same problem.

So, along with a number of other passengers trying the kiosks, I got into the line for an agent, who gave me the boarding pass. When I told her that Easy Check-in wasn't working, she said that someone was already working on it.

I thought nothing of it, until reading Saturday’s San Francisco Chronicle. There I learned that it was a February 29 bug! The AP story’s headline: “Feb. 29 confuses United’s software.”

The “Y2K Effect” strikes again!

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.