9.26.2008

Going social with the SD Times Readers group on Facebook

Got Facebook? If so, join our new social group, SD Times Readers. We'd love to have you!

Social networking is an interesting phenomenon. Some social networks that I belong to are super useful. Some are completely worthless. Some work great using low-tech solutions like e-mail lists. Others are thriving thanks to the latest technology. We're in a period that combines extreme experimentation with high-speed evolution. It's fascinating to watch, but even better to participate in. Social networking is one sport that doesn't play well from the sidelines.

We're dipping our toes into the water with our Facebook group. What's it going to look like a month from now, or a year from now? I have no idea. We might have 100 members. We might have 1,000 members. We might have 100,000 members, bringing together subscribers to SD Times and its newsletters, as well as everyone who visits SDTimes.com. There's no way to predict.

What's going to happen in the SD Times Readers group? Again, it's hard to know. We might have technical discussions about multithreaded development. We might have in-depth discussions about the best Java application server, or the best .NET grid control. We might have software development managers sharing their family photos. With your help, we'll have all the above.

So, what are you waiting for? Come join the SD Times Readers group and take part in the fascinating social networking revolution.

9.25.2008

Why can't you get light cream in the Bay Area?

Coffee in California, or at least in the Bay Area, doesn't taste right. One reason, of course, is because when I'm on the East Coast, I frequent delicious Dunkin' Donuts coffee shops. But even when I make Dunkin' Donuts coffee at home (we order the beans online), it doesn't taste as good as it should.

Why? Because when you're on the East Coast, if you ask for cream in your coffee, you really get cream in your coffee. Not half-and-half. Light cream, aka coffee cream. Here in the Bay Area, the best you can put into your coffee is half-and-half.

Half-and-half is about 10-18% fat.
Light cream is from 18-30% fat.

Coffee tastes very different with light cream than it does with half-and-half, just like it tastes different with half-and-half than it does with milk.

For example, Oakhurst Dairy, in Portland, Maine, offers both half-and-half and light cream for putting into coffee.

You might think that light cream is bad for you, with too much fat. It's not, because you don't have to pour much into your coffee to make it yummy. Compare Oakhurst's light cream against its half-and-half:

Light cream (serving size 15mL, or one tablespoon):

Calories: 30
Calories from fat: 25
Total fat: 2.5 grams

Half-and-half (serving size 30mL, or two tablespoons):

Calories: 40
Calories from fat: 30
Total fat: 3.0 grams

So, while light cream is indeed richer than half-and-half, it has less fat and fewer calories per serving, because you use less. Plus, it tastes better!

New malware phishing: Amazon Marketplace scam

This email just came in... it's a scam.

The message contains a link that looks like it's from amazon.co.uk, but actually goes to to a doramail.com Web server that mimics the Amazon.co.uk login page. Don't be fooled!

From: "Amazon.co.uk"
Subject: Amazon Marketplace Items Canceled

Dear member,

Per your request,your listings for the following items in the Amazon Marketplace have been canceled. You were assessed no fees.


(link is here)

Your items no longer appear in the Amazon catalog, and cannot be purchased. You can review the details of your cancelled listings, including the price, condition, and seller comments for each individual listing.

9.24.2008

The HP Oracle Database Machine

In a keynote address to nearly 43,000 OpenWorld attendees, Oracle Chief Executive Officer, Larry Ellison unveiled the HP Oracle Database Machine, a system designed for extreme performance data warehouses...

Thus begins a press release from Oracle. I had thought about writing a blog entry that makes fun of the name, "the HP Oracle Database Machine," but that would be too easy, far beneath my dignity.

Instead, I'll just sit here in front of my Dell Liquid Crystal Display Machine, which is connected to my Apple Notebook Computing Machine, while listening to songs playing on my Apple Portable Music Playing Machine, and think about something else to write about.

Kidding aside, HP and Oracle have come up with a pretty impressive system. The Database Machine is a full 42U rack filled with with eight HP ProLiant DL360 servers running Oracle Database 11g, along with 14 HP ProLiant DL180 servers (aka "Oracle Exabyte Storage Servers"). Total capacity: 168 terabytes.

Here's a "supporting quote" helpfully supplied by Orcle's media relations team:

“For the first time, customers can get smart performance storage designed for Oracle data warehouses, that is ten times faster,” said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Essay"

I'm a big fan of singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega. That meant a major disappointment last May, when she came to the IMAC Theater, within walking distance of our Huntington, N.Y., headquarters office, to kick off her most recent tour... but on a date when I couldn't be in New York. Dang!

"Tom's Essay," Suzanne's blog post in today's New York Times, describes the history of her song "Tom's Diner." It also discusses how that song may be the driving impetus for the creation of the MP3 audio standard. Fascinating!

"Tom's Diner" is the lead song from Suzanne's 1987 album, "Solitude Standing." She wrote a blog post about "Luka," the other big hit single from that album, for the New York Times back in June.

9.23.2008

Everything you need to know about the Large Hadron Collider

Elation when the Large Hadron Collider went online. Sadness when a major glitch caused a helium leak, because now the system won't be back online until the spring.

The LHC is huge. I mean, I've toured the Stanford Linear Accelerator, which is an impresive 2 miles long. The LHC has a circumference of 17 miles. That's seriously big.

Wondering what the LHC is all about? Want to know why smashing counter-rotating streams of hadrons (large subatomic particles made up of quarks) into each other at temperatures colder than outer space is important to physics?

Just watch this five-minute video. It's Educational! It's Science! It's the Large Hadron Rap! (It was written and produced by Kate McAlpine, aka Alpinekat, a researcher on the ATLAS project at the LHC.)

The heroes who triumphed over tyranny

My friend Phil Spiegel has written a wonderful book, entitled "Triumph Over Tyranny: The Heroic Campaigns That Saved 2,000,000 Soviet Jews."

The hardcover will come out on Oct. 10. You can pre-order the book from Amazon.com right now. In the meantime, you can check out Phil's Web site for the book. As he writes,

Shalom Chaverim,

My book, TRIUMPH OVER TYRANNY: The Heroic Campaigns that Saved 2,000,000 Soviet Jews, is now being printed and will be released by Devora Publishing of Jerusalem and New York on October 10, 2008. I invite you all to visit the book's new website, www.triumphovertyranny.com.

The site will enable you to:

• See the book's cover and a list of its chapters
• Read an overview of the book, my bio, and Natan Sharansky's foreword
• Check out reviews of the book
• Find out where and when I'm doing book signing events
• Order signed copies of the book
• Link to websites from organizations who support Jews from the FSU
• Learn about the "Unsung Hero of the Month"

Please join me in supporting Phil's diligent scholarship. "Triumph of Tyranny" has been years in the making, and I hope you'll agree that he has done a tremendous job of documenting important history and genuine heroism.

Some more about Phil:

Philip Spiegel and his wife, Carolyn Kommel Spiegel, traveled to the Soviet Union in 1985 and 1987 as participants in the Moscow Marathon. They also visited and befriended refuseniks in Russia,Armenia and Azerbaijan. When they returned to California the Spiegels gave numerous talks about their findings in the Soviet Union and organized letter writing campaigns supporting resfuseniks and prisoners of conscience.

From 1985 to 1995 the Spiegels served on the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews. During this time the author was chairman of the Social Action Committee of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto and represented the congregation on the local Jewish Community Relations Council.

During his professional career in the electronics industry Spiegel authored technical papers, marketing materials and training courses. In 2000 he wrote and published Remembering Ottynia, a 64-page book about his parents’ hometown in Ukraine. Copies of the book were donated to several Holocaust museums in the United States and Israel and the book was accepted by Yad Vashem as a Yizkor (memorial) book.

Since 2002, Spiegel has researched the history of the international Soviet Jewry movement and interviewed over 200 activists, political leaders, former refuseniks and prisoners of conscience. He has presented several lectures on his research and in 2006 he developed and taught “The Journey of Soviet Jewry,” a five-session course for Lehrhaus Judaiaca, the Adult School for Jewish Studies in the San Francisco Bay Area.

9.21.2008

United's crazy computer does wacky automated rebooking

You'd think that when an airline makes a change to your itinerary, the change would make sense. But no! Sometimes it doesn't.

Later this year, I'm making a quick trip from San Francisco to Tampa. My return flights were as follows:

1. United #1531, departs Tampa at 11:00am, arrives Denver at 1:00pm

2. United #98, departs Denver at 4:30pm, arrives San Francisco at 6:10pm

But today, were told that the flights were automatically rescheduled by United. Apparently, the Tampa-Denver flight was canceled. Here's what United put me on:

1. United #1581, departs Tampa at 11:20am, arrives Chicago at 2:51pm

2. United #679, departs Chicago at 3:42pm, arrives San Diego at 6:06pm

3. United #746, departs San Diego at 7:00pm, arrives San Francisco at 8:35pm

What type of crazy algorithm is that? Why did United's automated system route me from Chicago to San Francisco via San Diego? That makes no sense.

A quick call to United straightened it out. The agent said, "Oh, no, that's not good," and quickly rebooked me onto:

1. United #1581, departs Tampa at 11:20am, arrives Chicago at 2:51pm

2. United #149, departs Chicago at 3:42pm, arrives San Francisco at 5:46pm

I'm happy: This is an even better itinerary (later departure, earlier arrival) than my original flights via Denver. But what in the world was United thinking?

9.20.2008

IP Man - Cute comic strip, but poor implementation

The Adventures of IP Man is the new comic strip put out by Broadvox, a VoIP company. Designed, of course, to promote the benefits of Voice over Internet Protocol Technology, the strip is cutely drawn, but shallow and unsubtle.

Our superhero, IP Man, and his simian sidekick, Metoo, take on the evil Mr. Bellhead — a Darth Vader lookalike who loves circuit-switched networks — and his minions, Noise and Jitter. The strip has a few jokes, breaks the fourth wall (as Mr. Bellhead appeals to "Mr. Comicwriter Man" for an army of clones), and a 100% male cast.

Sadly, Broadvox made the implementation of the IP Man site far too complicated. It's very "flashy," which makes it slow and tedious to read the comic. Frankly, just displaying each comic book episode as a series of multi-strip HTML pages would be far more friendly. Oh, lose the cheesy background music, okay?

9.19.2008

Registration is OPEN for SharePoint TechCon

Our conference chairman, David Rubinstein, has finished moving all the classes around, and that means that we can open registration. Hurray!

SPTechCon, the SharePoint Technology Conference, will be held January 27-29, 2009, at the Hyatt Regency SFO, in Burlingame, Calif.:

For three exciting days in January, you'll be eating, drinking, sleeping, talking and living Microsoft Office SharePoint Server and Windows SharePoint Services. The first day at SPTechCon is filled with intense half-day workshops, half in the morning, half in the afternoon. The next two days contain dozens of 75-minute concurrent classes that you won't want to miss.

Are you an IT professional? Business manager or analyst? Systems administrator? Developer? If you said "yes," then SPTechCon is for you.

Are you new to SharePoint? Have some experience, but are looking for more? An expert looking for advanced skills? If you said "yes," then SPTechCon is for you.

We have eXtreme Early Bird rates through Friday, Oct. 17. It's a huge discount — $600 off the full price for the three-day conference. Check out the conference site, or jump right into the registration system to sign up.

9.18.2008

Microsoft wants students to steal Office Ultimate 2007

I think that's what Microsoft wants. In any case, they are running a big promotion selling Office Ultimate 2007 for $59.95. The promotion is called "The Ultimate Steal." The company says you can save 91% off the estimated retail price.

Isn't Microsoft against stealing software? The company goes to tremendous lengths to stop Windows XP and Windows Vista from being stolen. The Genuine Advantage program, for example, has been known to arbitrarily decide that legally licensed versions of Windows are pirated, and it's up to you, Mr. or Ms. Consumer, to convince Microsoft otherwise.

The Ultimate Steal is only for the Windows version of Office Ultimate 2007. There's no comparable program for Office 2008 for Macintosh.

It's also only for college or university students. "You must have a valid e-mail address at an educational institution ending with the domain suffix .EDU," or attend one of a group of listed schools that don't use the .EDU domain.

There's a lot of stuff in Office Ultimate 2007. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Groove, Publisher, Access, InfoPath and even Accounting Express. It's quite a "steal"!

9.17.2008

Microsoft revs Zune software with Genius-like features

Microsoft built some great features into its Zune music player. Not enough, apparently, to break Apple's lock on the market with the iPod product family, it's true. However, if someone just compares the specs of current Zune hardware and software against that of the Zune, the Zune ain't so bad.

Yes, I mean the FM radio. That's the one "killer" feature that Apple doesn't include with the iPod. With most iPod models, you can add an external FM tuner, either from Apple or from third-party providers. Even so, I really wish that Apple had included a radio.

The other big plus is the Zune Pass subscription, which gives full access to the Zune store for $14.99/month. Says Microsoft:

For the price of just one CD a month, you can download and listen to millions of tracks from Zune Marketplace* whenever you want. The songs are yours to keep as long as you keep your Zune Pass valid.

Just get a Zune Pass that's good for either one or three months at a time. Charge it directly to your credit card, or enter a code from a prepaid card.

Songs you get with a Zune Pass can be copied to up to three computers and three Zune players, but they can't be burned to CD. If you want to do that, buy those songs with Microsoft Points.

On Sept. 16, Microsoft released a major upgrade to the Zune software. Version 3.0 is focused on making it easier for customers to buy software online. The biggest news is that customers can now download software "over the air" from the Zune Marketplace store.

The Zune 3.0 software also provides a feature similar to Apple's new Genius. The "Your Picks" software suggests songs in the Zune Marketplace that are similar to those that are already loaded into your music collection, while "Channels" generates dynamic playlists based on your taste. However, Microsoft goes farther: You can also download dynamic playlists based on suggestions from radio stations and magazines.

Very clever. Will it be enough to boost the Zune? Probably not; Apple has too much of a head start, and the extra Zune features only appeal to those who are shopping by doing a feature comparison. I doubt that many new iPod buyers even look at competing technology, and once you're into the ecosystem, the switching costs are high.

9.15.2008

Possible clickjacking security flaws in Adobe software

I received this email — sent to a "bcc" distribution list — from Tom Brennan, organizer of the OWASP 2008 conference next week in New York. OWASP is the Open Web Application Security Project.

The contents of the email are interesting and provocative enough to share them verbatim. (I'm not associated with the conference.) You can read more about clickjacking on Jeremiah's blog.

----------

Subject: Microsoft/Adobe Researcher Talk @ OWASP

Below is a email from Robert Hansen concerning himself and Jeremiah Grossman of WhiteHat Security, being suppressed from speaking about a critical information security flaw that has been discovered and they had planned to uncover and discuss at the OWASP Security Conference event on 9/24.

As the OWASP event organizer, this critical issue does deserve your attention. I am sure if your browser, video and microphone was taken over by someone who wanted to conduct surveillance, industrial espionage or hack your system and use the vulnerability against you and millions of users you would want to fully understand the threat. Well this is in fact the situation described below and I believe that a information security conference with industry peers from around the world IS the place to discuss/debate topics such as these and they should NOT be suppressed by anyone.

Read below from the security researchers and speakers, you can contact me or the researchers below for more information.

BTW — This is not the only security person that will be providing breaking research, however this is the 1st that has been told not to talk about it thus far.

Brennan

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Hansen
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:07 PM
To: Tom Brennan
Cc: Jeremiah Grossman
Subject: Clickjacking speech

Hello, Tom. I'm sorry to say, Jeremiah and I will have to pull our talk from the World OWASP conference. It turns out that the issue Jeremiah and I found expands over many different browsers and different vendors. Although clickjacking in some way or another has been known for a while as a possible attack vector, it was poorly documented and poorly researched. Not until recently did we begin doing research into other things it allows, and only then did we figure out exactly how dangerous it potentially was. Unfortunately we found this information out only days ago.

Even initially Jeremiah and I had a visceral reaction to our findings — and not much makes security guys cringe, which made us think it was a talk worth giving. Being concerned researchers, we contacted Adobe to warn them about one issue that affected them and their users. Although we didn't believe it was their fault, they felt obliged to issue a patch, rather than rely on browser vendors. Only later did we realize we had found a separate flaw in their software. Successively we found other flaws in other software as a result of that research. It was a snowball effect.

Adobe asked us for more time, and we obliged. It's good news for them, but unfortunately it means we won't be able to do our speech. It was never our intention to harm any one vendor, but rather to show a problem in browser architecture as it stands today. So although Adobe's request was unexpected, given our initial tenant, we feel obliged to honor it. We've been in contact with two browser vendors (Microsoft and Mozilla) and explained the problem. There may be small short term patches that will mitigate parts of the problem, but a better solution is probably not in the cards for the near future given the complexity of the issues involved.

During our communications with browser vendors it was initially thought to be a stand-alone problem that only affected Adobe, but after further analysis everyone concluded it is a more generic attack that may break some security measures put in place by websites. Users who want to protect themselves from the immediate issue need to disable scripting and plugins within the browsers, but because most users won't know how to do this, we had to give Adobe some time to issue a patch. While that's not a great solution, it's the best we can offer at the moment. While the exploits we found are not the end of the internet, we felt it was best to work with the vendors and give them time to issue patches before releasing our speech to the security community.

We are obviously disappointed that we can't deliver our speech, but we thought a neutered speech that left out critical details would diminish the message. And the message is — it's pretty bad. If you or any of the other conference organizers have any additional questions feel free to contact either Jeremiah or I. Adobe's PSIRT team also said that they would field questions at psirt@adobe.com. I'm truly sorry!

Robert Hansen, CISSP
CEO — SecTheory LLC

9.13.2008

Apple gets it right with iPod touch 2.0

With its iPod touch 2.0, released this past week, Apple got it right. The company kept the features that worked really well with the original iPod touch, and added in some of the advances that appeared in the iPhone 3G.

The major changes to the iPod touch in the second generation are:

• It's a little bit thinner
• It has speakers
• It has an external volume control
• The price is lower

Of course, the rumor mill had been flying. Some people predicted that Apple would add a GPS. Others said that it would have a built-in camera. or a microphone input that would work with VoIP. Nope... those remain iPhone-only features.

As the happy owner of both a first-generation iPod touch and an iPhone 3G, I think that Apple chose the right feature set. The speakers in the iPhone aren't audiophile quality, but they're perfect for when you don't want to use headphones. I use the speakers, for example, when watching a movie in a hotel room.

The external volume control is a big plus. Changing volume with the standard iPod touch is a pain in the button, especially when you're listening to music. You have to unlock the display, in many cases, and then make a number of presses and swiping motions. Now, you can just toggle the volume-control rocker switch.

The new lowered pricing is welcome:

• 8GB for $229 (down from $299)
• 16GB for $299 (down from $399)
• 32GB for $399 (down from $499)

Both my iPod touch and iPhone 3G are 16GB models, and that's a good sweet spot. 8GB is too small to hold a decent selection of music and movies.

Want a bargain? If you're not interested in the new features, Amazon is selling out a limited supply of first-generation iPod touches, at pretty good prices:

• 8GB for $197
• 16GB for $264
• 32GB for $359

Frankly, though, I think the new features are worth the price difference.

9.12.2008

Don't miss the EclipseWorld hotel discounts!

EclipseWorld has secured special rates with the Hyatt Regency Reston.

Single occupancy: $239 per night
Double occupancy: $264 per night

To make your reservations online, use this link.

You can also call the hotel directly at +1-703-709-1234. Be sure to identify yourself as an EclipseWorld attendee to receive the group rate!

Note that this rate will expire when we use up our room block or on October 8 — whichever comes first. There aren't many rooms left in the block, so book the room early so you don't miss out.

The 9 hottest classes at EclipseWorld


I've checked out the EclipseWorld registration database, and here are the 9 hottest classes — they're going to fill up fast!

W-2: Building Commercial-Quality Eclipse Plugins
By Eric Clayberg and Dan Rubel

103: Let Eclipse Generate Your Java System Tests
By James Hanlon

203: Become a Graphical Editing Framework Master!
By Koen Aers

306: RAP or GWT: Which Java-Based AJAX Technology Is for You?
By Dan Rubel and Mark Russell

401: Model-Driven Java Development Using Eclipse
By Bruce Trask and Angel Roman

507: Looking Good! Polishing Rich Client Applications
By Annas "Andy" Maleh

603: I've Just Inherited 1,000,000 Lines of Java Code—NOW WHAT?
By Michael Rozlog

701: Creating Secure Java Web Applications
By Joe Basirico

801: Plugin Best Practices for Rich Client Applications
By Patrick Paulin

We have a new "behind the scenes" blog for EclipseWorld — check it out!

Also be sure to check out the Early Bird registration discounts, which expire Sept. 26. They're a great deal. For example, the full three-day conference full price is $1,625 — but it's only $1,325 if you register before the Early Bird expires.

EclipseWorld 2008 is from Oct. 28-30 in Reston, Va., a hop, skip or jump from Dulles Airport.

9.11.2008

Microsoft accepts UML, joins the OMG

Yesterday, Microsoft finally gave in, accepting the Unified Modeling Language and joining the Object Management Group.

Microsoft wasn't the only tools company that avoided UML, but it became the highest profile one. The modeling tools that debuted a few years ago in Visual Studio Team System used Microsoft's own modeling system, as the compan claimed that UML was simply too complicated.

Microsoft was not wrong. UML is large and cumbersome, and it's often overkill for applications design and development, particularly in the smaller and mid-sized companies that make up the bulk of the Microsoft customer base.

By contrast, the highest-profile proponent of UML has been IBM Rational. Rational (before IBM bought it) not only was the original backer of UML, but its customers are huge financial and aerospace companies that take formal modeling very very very seriously. Microsoft's "we'll have it out way" approach was arguably the best for its developers.

Microsoft has finally jumped onto that large, slow-moving bandwagon. In its press release, the company said:

Microsoft Corp. today outlined its approach for taking modeling into mainstream industry use and announced its membership in the standards body Object Management Group. Modeling is a core focus of Microsoft's Dynamic IT strategy, the company's long-term approach to provide customers with technology, services and best practices to enable IT and development organizations to be more strategic to the business.

Modeling often has been heralded as a means to break down technology and role silos in application development to assist IT departments in delivering more effective business strategies. However, although the promise of modeling has existed for decades, it has failed to have a mainstream impact on the way organizations develop and manage their core applications. Microsoft believes that models must evolve to be more than static diagrams defining a software system; they are a core part of daily business discussions, from organizational charts to cash flow diagrams.

Implementing models as part of the design, deployment and management process would give organizations a deeper way to define and communicate across all participants and aspects involved in the application life cycle.

To make model-driven development a reality, Microsoft is focused on providing a model-driven platform and visual modeling tools that make it easy for all "mainstream" users, including information workers, developers, database architects, software architects, business analysts and IT professionals, to collaborate throughout the application development life cycle. By putting model-driven innovation directly into the Microsoft .NET platform, organizations will gain visibility and control over applications from end to end, ensuring that they are building systems based on the right requirements, simplifying iterative development and re-use, and resolving potential issues at a high level before they start committing resources.

"We're building modeling in as a core part of the platform," said Bob Muglia, senior vice president, Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. "This enables IT pros to specify their business needs and build applications that work directly from those specifications. It also brings together the different stages of the IT life cycle — connecting business analysts, who specify requirements, with system architects, who design the solution, with developers, who build the applications, and with operations experts, who deploy and maintain the applications. Ultimately, this means IT pros can innovate and respond faster to the needs of their business."

OMG has been an international, open-membership, not-for-profit computer industry consortium since 1989. OMG's modeling standards include the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and Business Process Management Notation (BPMN). In addition to joining the organization, Microsoft will take an active role in numerous OMG working groups to help contribute to the open industry dialogue and assist with evolution of the standards to meet mainstream customer needs. For example, Microsoft is already working with the finance working group on information models for insurance business functions related to the property and casualty industry, and will eventually look to expand those models so that they can be applied to P&C, life and reinsurance. Another early focus will be on developing specifications for converting messages across the various payments messaging standards.

"Microsoft has always been one of the driving forces in the development industry, helping to make innovation possible but also simplifying many of the most challenging aspects of the application development process," said Dr. Richard Mark Soley, CEO at OMG. "In less than 10 years, OMG's UML, a cornerstone of the Model Driven Architecture initiative, has been adopted by the majority of development organizations, making OMG the seminal modeling organization and supporting a broad array of vertical market standards efforts in healthcare, finance, manufacturing, government and other areas. Microsoft's broad expertise and impact will make its membership in OMG beneficial to everyone involved."

Developers can begin to implement model-driven approaches today through innovations such as Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) — the declarative model that underlies Windows Presentation Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation — and ASP.NET MVC, which deeply integrates model-driven development into the .NET Framework and makes it easy to implement the model-view-controller (MVC) pattern for Web applications. Both XAML and MVC are examples of models that drive the actual runtime behavior of .NET applications. These are part of Microsoft's broader companywide efforts to deliver a connected platform modeling, which includes technologies being delivered across both "Oslo" and Visual Studio "Rosario" initiatives.

9.10.2008

Easy as ABC: Listen to Alan, Bola and Clive

Your humble blogger was a guest on a podcast hosted by Bola Rotibi, principle analyst for software delivery at MWD Advisors. Here's how they describe this fascinating, must-listen program:

In this 33'06" podcast episode Bola discusses a series of questions focused on the issue of making the right technology choices. Her guests are Alan Zeichick (Editorial Director at SD Times) and Clive Howard (Founding Partner of Howard/Baines, a web development consultancy).

In an environment where software is everywhere and increasingly business critical, but where new technologies and approaches appear on the horizon at an alarming rate - when organisations look to carry out projects, are the right technology choices being made, and if not, why not? And who's to blame? What can organisations do to help them make better technology choices?

You can download the audio here or alternatively you can subscribe to the podcast feed to make sure you catch this and all future podcasts!

As with all the episodes in this podcast series, we've also published a companion report which summarises the discussion and "key takeaways". You can find it here, and it's free to download for all MWD's Guest Pass research subscribers (joining is free).

9.09.2008

Do I have a good scence of humor?

I'm not sure what Helen is looking for.... what do you think?

From: "helen kumba"
Date: September 9, 2008 6:41:47 AM PDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Hello,

Hello,

My name is Helen; I am 25 years in search of a man who understands love as trust and faith rather seeing it as a way of fun always but a matured man with scence of humor. So I derive special interest on you so contact me with this email address I believe we can start from here. Waiting to hear from you soon so I can send photo for more introductions.

Kisses

Helen

9.08.2008

The black-and-yellow screen of death

It's funny to see kiosks and other devices with behind-the-scenes error messages.

• In-store displays that have a press-any-key-to-continue prompt (and no pointing device)

• Airport flight monitors that are locked into a boot sequence

• Point-of-sale systems with a Blue Screen of Death

• Highway signs carrying an error message.

Yesterday, the external informational display at the Jericho, N.Y., fire station was locked in a setup pattern. (I pulled over to take this photo. Click to make it larger.) It was frozen that way for at least two hours. Whoops!

Generally, those errors are the result of lousy programming in an application, but it's also sometimes caused by using an inappropriate software platform to run quasi-embedded applications.

I can't speak to the fire department display, but with kiosks, you often have desktop operating systems (frequently, it's Windows 98 running on an ancient PC) that are left running 24x7 with buggy apps that have poor memory management. Leave it alone long enough, and down it goes.

The case for commercial software components

The case for commercial reusable software components is a strong one. Reusable components hit a real sweet spot: They solve genuine problems, whether it’s connectivity, GUI input or output controls, AJAX plumbing, reporting, data conversion, connectivity – tasks are that bread-and-butter necessities for modern applications.

Sure, developers can and do write one-off code to handle the drawing of a pie chart or the parsing of a file format – but that code take a long time to make and test. Even worse, you end up with something that’s brittle, hard to change, hard to maintain and nearly impossible to reuse.

Given how very inexpensive most software components are, there’s just no reason not to employ them. The question of whether to use or not use reusable components from commercial suppliers is easy, and the answer is, “yes.” But there’s nothing new there.

The hard question is, from which commercial suppliers should you obtain those components? Too few developers put enough thought into researching that question, using a simple heuristic (“the first I find that’ll do the job at a decent price”) vs. finding an optimal solution.

It’s not like buying a pair of tennis shoes, where buy whatever’s on sale, and if doesn’t work out, you’ll be buying another pair in a few months anyway. Unlike tools like IDES or compilers, software components actually end up being built into your application. They’re in the bits you push out to your server, discs you ship out to your customers. You’re not just using a component to solve today’s little problem to save a couple of your developers a few days’ labor. Instead, you’re outsourcing your software development.

Sadly, too many developers don’t realize this. They see an immediate need (“Dang! I need a 3D pie chart, stat!”), do a quick Google search, and download the first cheap component that touts the right buzzwords. Problem solved. Right?

Wrong. When a company chooses a component, it’s choosing a long-term partner in the component supplier, not a short-term fix — even if they don’t realize it. The component supplier is a company to whom you’ve outsourced part of your software development. What does that require? Trust. Stability. Credentials. References. A solid architecture. A solid business. Real support that you can count on next week, or next year.

Don’t choose components based on the number of bullets on a feature list, and don’t delegate the vendor-selection process to a coder. That’s not how your company should choose a long-term partner, someone whose code you’re going to insert into your own shipping products as if it is your own. Choose component suppliers based on a strategic partnership — that is, companies that you want to be in business with. That’s the way to leverage the value of component reuse within your organization.

jetBlue: It's worth the trip!

Yesterday, for the first time, I flew jetBlue on my regular route between San Francisco and New York's JFK airport. I'm probably the last business traveler in America to try jetBlue. I will fly it again.

My default airline has long been United. As a Premier Executive traveler with United, I've been immune to many of their little inconveniences, such as extra fees for extra-legroom seats, or for checking two bags. However, on this New York trip, United's fares were unconscionable, and jetBlue was literally half the price.

What did I find? A flight-reservation Web site that's far easier to use than United's. When I got to the airport, jetBlue had a much better waiting area, in SFO's International Terminal, instead of the beat-up Terminal 3. (When Terminal 2 reopens after its major renovation, I expect jetBlue to move.)

Onboard, jetBlue had a nice clean Airbus A320, with comfortable coach-class seats. Lots of audio and video entertainment channels, which I didn't watch. Delicious Dunkin' Donuts coffee, instead of Starbucks, which is a huge plus for this East Coast native. Yummy snacks — animal crackers are better than trail mix. A friendly crew.

Frequent flier miles have a habit of becoming golden handcuffs, and can be a hard habit to break. As a United frequent flier with elite status, I get a special toll-free number with shorter queues, and a better change of getting an upgrade or catching an earlier flight. At SFO, Premier fliers have a shorter line to get through security. I get to board the flight earlier, which means there's a better chance that I'll get good overhead baggage compartment space. And of course, there are business class upgrades.

Given the price of air travel, it's time to throw off the golden shackles. That's not to say that I won't fly United any more, or that I won't still choose United if the cost is the same. However, jetBlue gets two thumbs up.

9.06.2008

First impressions of Google Chrome, courtesy of Offspring

Son Michael has been working with the beta of Google's new Chrome browser for Windows. Sadly, his ancient father is waiting for the Mac version to come out (there's a sign-up box for notifications).

Here's what Offspring has to say about it:

Today is the first beta release for the all-new web browser, Google Chrome. Unfortunately the beta release is not available to Mac or Linux users.

Currently being run on my Windows Vista Premium machine, the new browser is much faster and smoother than Microsoft's beta release of Internet Explorer 8.

Unlike Internet Explorer and Safari, Chrome doesn't shove the maker's name in your face. All it says is Google in small text by the minimize button. It's not 'Chrome: brought to you by Google.'

On startup it looks like almost any other Windows-based web browser, except it opens with a visual history of the pages you've visited most often and most recently. The trapezoid browsing tabs offer a more aesthetically pleasing browsing experience than the standard rectangular ones. It also doesn't have a million toolbars cluttering up the URL address bar, just your bookmarks and a link to sites you might enjoy based on your browsing history (Google is smart).

All it takes is a little Flash Player plug-in, some preference tweaks and you are ready to go with one of the best web browsers available.

9.05.2008

Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld advertise shoes

The first Microsoft commercial with Jerry Seinfeld debuted today. It featured the comedian meeting up with Bill Gates at a shoe store, where they eat churros, try on shoes, and otherwise pal it up.

Yes, Seinfeld is the new pitchman for Microsoft. For a reported $10 million, he's charged with restoring the Redmond software giant's luster, tarnished after the Windows Vista launch, and somehow not polished by the Mojave Project.

You can watch the commercial on Microsoft's Web site, or by clicking the embedded YouTube video below.

In the ad, Seinfeld helps Gates buy a pair of shoes, while Gates demonstrates that he's quite frugal. The shoes are a metaphor, of course.

A theme of the ad is that the shoes he's trying on are known to be uncomfortable, but if you take the time to break them in, you'll grow to love them. Presumably, that's a reference to Windows Vista: It doesn't seem right at first, but after a while you'll get used to it.

The shoe store is "Shoe Circus: Quality Shoes at Discount Prices. Why Pay More?" That's a clear reference to Apple. You learn that Gates has been shopping at Shoe Circus for many years.

The shoes that Gates buys are named "Conquistador." Is that a not-too-subtle reference to Windows' still-dominant market position? At one point, onlooking shoppers ask in Spanish, "Is that The Conquistador?" It's not immediately obvious if they mean the famously tight shoes, or if they mean the former CEO of Microsoft, the wealthiest man in the world.


9.04.2008

Cast your nominations for the ACM Turing Award

A public service announcement to my fellow computer scientists, techies and other interested parties, on behalf of the Association for Computing Machinery:

ACM Bulletin Service Today's Topic: ACM Awards Call for Nominations September 4, 2008

Each year, ACM recognizes technical and professional achievements within the computing and information technology community through its celebrated Awards Program. And annually, ACM's award committees evaluate the contributions of candidates for various awards that span a spectrum of professional and technological accomplishments.

You and your colleagues are invited to nominate candidates for ACM awards, including:

Awards with November 30, 2008 nomination deadlines

A.M. Turing Award
ACM - Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences
ACM/AAAI Allen Newell Award
Software System Award
Grace Murray Hopper Award
Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award
Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award
Distinguished Service Award
ACM - IEEE CS Eckert-Mauchly Award
Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award

Awards with September 30, 2008 nomination deadlines

The SIAM/ACM Prize in Computational Science and Engineering
Doctoral Dissertation Award

Please take a moment to consider those individuals in your community who may be suitable for nomination, and feel free to share this information with your colleagues and peers.

Read a letter from ACM's Award Co-chairs on the importance of ACM Award Nominations

Learn more about ACM Award Nominations


Visit the ACM Awards site

Penn Jillette for President?

As Penn Jillette, the magician, musician and now political commentator writes for CNN,

I don't want anyone as president who promises to take care of me. I may be stupid, but I want a chance to try to be a grown-up and take care of my family. Freedom means the freedom to be stupid, and that's what I want. I don't want anyone to feel my pain or tell me to ask what we can do for our country, or give us all money and take care of us.

Penn makes some good points, and he appeals to the widely held perspective that people should be allowed to make mistakes, and often the most valuable freedom is the freedom to be left alone.

Read his whole essay, "Last thing we need now is a great leader."

9.03.2008

Will a big price cut boost the Xbox 360's fortunes?

Microsoft today slashed the price of the Xbox 360 game console, which beginning on Friday will cost as little as $199. The system comes in three versions:

• Xbox 360 Arcade, $199.99 — includes the console and one wireless controller, and a tiny 256MB of of flash-based storage. No headset, no network cable, no HD audio/video cable, and no backwards compatibility with older Xbox games. Get this only if you're super-cheap, or are buying a birthday present for someone you don't like very much. Was $279.99.

• Xbox 360 "Plain," $299.99 — includes the console and one wireless controller, headset and network cable. Also has a 60GB hard drive and an HD audio/video cable. It's compatible with the older Xbox games, too. This is the one to get. Was $349.99.

• Xbox 360 Elite, $399.99 — has everything that the plain Xbox 360 has, but it has a 120GB hard drive, and includes an HDMI cable. If you're a serious gamer, it's probably worth the extra $100 for the storage and cable. Oh, it's black instead of white, like the Xbox 360 plain and Arcade. Was $449.99.

With this price cut, Microsoft is trumpeting the sub-$200 price point, of course:

“We are thrilled to be the first next-generation console on the market to reach $199, a price that invites everyone to enjoy Xbox 360,” said Don Mattrick, senior vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “Xbox 360 delivers amazing performance at an extraordinary value with the leading online service and best lineup of games, downloadable movies and TV shows available from a console. The majority of consumers make the decision to buy consoles once the price falls to this mark, making this an important milestone for consumers and the industry.”

However, with only 256MB of storage and no high drive, and no reverse compatibility, the Xbox 360 Arcade ain't a good deal. Get the plain edition for $299.99.

9.02.2008

Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër?

The consulate general of Sweden kindly invited me to this seminar, but I can't make it. Perhaps you'll want to attend? They did say that it was okay to forward this invitation.

INVITATION


The Consulate General of Sweden and NASDAQ OMX invite you to attend the seminar

How to Tackle A Financial Crisis: The Case of Sweden in the 1990s

Tuesday, September 9
3:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Scandinavia House
58 Park Avenue at 38th Street
New York City

The current financial crisis in the United States seems to bear important resemblance to the crisis of Sweden in the 1990s, which stemmed largely from credit expansion and a boom in housing. Both cases share the same central challenge: managing the credit problem and guaranteeing the stability of the financial system without jeopardizing the functioning of market mechanisms. Experiences and lessons learned from the successful policy response of Sweden may be very relevant to the emerging new financial landscape in the United States.

The Consulate General of Sweden and NASDAQ OMX present a seminar on September 9 to discuss government policy response to financial crises. Some key persons involved in resolving the Swedish crisis of the 1990s will share their experiences and, together with financial market experts from New York, attempt to shed light on options for policy action in the United States today. The confirmed keynote speaker will be Mr. Bo Lundgren, then Minister of Fiscal and Financial Affairs in the Swedish Government.

View the seminar program at www.swedennewyork.com/financialseminar (check back for updates).

What the frak! Battlestar Galactica meme takes off

It came from the original Battlestar Galactica television show in the 1970s, but "frak," as a generic swear word, is all over the delightfully reimagined series, which debuted in 2003.

And according to this story on CNN, "The curse word 'Battlestar Galactica' created," it's all over everything else. As the story says,

"Dilbert" creator Scott Adams calls the word "pure genius." "At first I thought 'frak' was too contrived and it bothered me to hear it," Adams said. "Over time it merged in my mind with its coarser cousin and totally worked. The creators ingeniously found a way to make viewers curse in their own heads — you tend to translate the word — and yet the show is not profane."

While I haven't yet begun saying "frak" or "what the frak," maybe I should. What the heck, eh?

If you haven't been following the new BSG (as fans call it), the place to start is with the 2003 miniseries.

9.01.2008

I love the Lotus Esprit, and so do Daily Telegraph readers

Last week, I mentioned a story in the Daily Telegraph, which presented the 100 ugliest cars based on a reader poll.

It turns out the the British newspaper had already done its list of "the 100 most beautiful cars of all time: Beauties and beasts" in March.
On the whole, I'm pleased with their readers' taste.

My favorite car, the Lotus Esprit, was placed quite well on the list. I fell in love with the flat-windscreen sportscar in the early 1980s, when I spent many months in Glasgow, Scotland. There was a Lotus dealer just down the street. I must have left a lot of marks on their plate-glass windows whenever we walked by.

Check out the list! It's a good read, even if the Telegraph's page navigation system is suboptimal.

Cheney waits until last minute to buy Sept. 11 gifts

This blog doesn't normally do political topics, or share political humor... but this story from The Onion is just too delicious to pass up.

I got Condoleezza [Rice] a beautiful blue blazer, and for my wife [Lynne] I bought a diamond necklace, a new winter coat, and this neat little motorized airplane ornament to hang on the 9/11 towers," Cheney told reporters while perusing the windows of New York's famed Park Avenue shops.


The story, "Cheney Waits Until Last Minute Again To Buy Sept. 11 Gifts," came out today. The Onion's new atlas is due out next month, can't wait for it.

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.