This is a little late, but it's time to look at the weekly logs. BottomFeeder downloads were down a bit - but I'm getting a fair number of downloads from download.com now - it balances out. Here's the distribution:
Off to the HTML page accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Looks about normal, with IE capturing more traffic again, probably due to IE7. Let's look at the RSS traffic:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||8.9%|
|Google Feed Fetcher||6.5%|
|RSS 2 Email||1%|
Tim Bray gives more than a few examples of what kind of havoc is likely to erupt from the new kill switch piece of WGA in Windows Vista:
Let’s see, suppose I’m a black-hat profiteer sitting beyond the reach of Western law but with control over a few botnets . If I can get my hands on your Kill Switch, I’ll have a nice little extortion business, as in “Pay up or all your desktops will decide they’re unlicensed and turn off.” It’d work best in a sales-centric business near end-of-quarter. Another potential victim would be any government (or company even) that has a lot of enemies; they don’t want your money, they just want to take you down. So, without thinking too hard, here are some attack vectors I’d consider: If I can subvert your network routing, gotcha! If I can subvert the registry on your desktop machines, gotcha! If I can subvert the NTP protocol (how most computers learn what time it is), gotcha! I’m sure that an actual seasoned network engineer could think up a half-dozen more attack scenarios over a cup of coffee. Finally, never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence; WGA is software and software has bugs and if one of those bugs flipped the Kill Switch on your sales infrastructure offline during the Christmas rush, well, there wouldn’t be any malice involved, but it’d sure be a pity. What prudent businessperson, I wonder, is going to install critical infrastructure that can be turned off remotely, trusting the claims that only the good guys will be able to find the key to the “off” switch?
That last part is instructive - do you want to be manning the help desk at a critical part of the year after Windows decides that it's not genuine?
This time Microsoft holds has leads in too many of the key technologies and markets for anyone to effectively compete. We know how effective they have been in the past when they had far fewer resources than today.
It's not the same world in which MS won those previous battles. Having a web technology that works well in IE, not so well (or at all) in other browsers and on other platforms? It's just not going to fly very well. the MS technologies he listed may well be better, but they aren't enough better.
Does the RIAA have a crazy aunt who lives in Australia. How else to explain this astonishing proposed law:
Section 132AL(2) of the bill provides that a person commits an "indictable offence" if they possess "a device, intending it to be used for making an infringing copy of a work or other subject-matter".
This is the most serious offence for an individual technology user, as it means they've intentionally broken copyright law. It is subject to a penalty of five years in jail, a fine of up to $65,000, or both.
The "device" cited could be an iPod, or any other piece of technology that could be used to infringe copyright, such as any MP3 player, a camera phone, a VCR or a DVD recorder.
Under proposed new copyright laws, loading tracks onto a music player, which have been copied from a CD, would be classified as infringing copyright. This would apply even if that CD was legitimately purchased.
Now, here in the US, the music labels have been pushing for things like that, but it hasn't reached that level of absurdity. I hope this is simply hyperventilation- the Grokster case here added an additional test - a company flogging a potentially infringing service is in trouble if they are using a "wink wink, nudge nudge" approach to stopping copyright violations.
Technorati Tags: copyright
It's not all great reviews for the Wii - the motion sensing controllers sound like they could stand an upgrade:
The Wii Remote is the most advanced motion-sensing device in the history of gaming, but in the interests of accommodating almost unlimited variables, from the size of the TV to the player's physical proportions, the Wii tosses out much of the data that are collected. Depending on what's going on in the game, only a narrow range of your physical input is converted to on-screen action. Which is why I could hit one-handed home runs without winding up or following through.
I still think this is coming to my living room - I've seen very positive reviews of this as well. And, unlike the PS3, the price is right.
Thomas Gagne has some qualms about modifying production Smalltalk images:
Practically speaking, we could probably open a running image, save code, then parcel-out the fixed classes. That would require our production images to be configured to read-in parcels when it starts up. While technically feasibly, it is impractical. We have a distributed application with multiple Smalltalk images running concurrently and each one would have to be re-initialized.
It's simpler than that, IMHO. I modify the running blog server here all the time. I've outlined the steps before, but what the heck - let's go through it again:
- I have a base image that loads all parcels at startup. VW can do that via a command line argument, either with the parcels on the command line or in a config file.
- I have an interface open on the server that allows me to kick it and have it execute specific patches (Smalltalk file-ins)
- I do development on my local Linux box, and export changes in two forms: a file-out of changes, and a new parcel
- I upload the file-out to the patch directory on the server, and the new parcel to the startup directory. I don't worry about saving the image - I just ensure that the latest code is ready to load at startup
- I kick the image so that it loads the patches
That's it. Every major change I've done (including ones that have made shape changes to live objects in the server) has happened on the fly that way. I try not to restart the server, simply to avoid outages.
I don’t own an iPod. I would never wear an iPod… If this is your primary focus in life - the machines… it’s going to have a staggeringly negative effect, all of this, for America… did you ever talk to these computer geeks? I mean, can you carry on a conversation with them?
Never mind that you can download his radio show in podcast form :) Apparently, technology only serves to make us into uninformed trolls. The amusing thing is, his intellectual forbearers railed against the evils of radio and television.
This is of a piece with the astonishing admission from Larry King last week - that he's never been on the internet. Fossils come in all varieties, that's for sure.
Joel Spolsky goes deep on what seems like a simple subject: shutting down a Windows box. It turns out that there are way too many ways to do that:
Every time you want to leave your computer, you have to choose between nine, count them, nine options: two icons and seven menu items. The two icons, I think, are shortcuts to menu items. I'm guessing the lock icon does the same thing as the lock menu item, but I'm not sure which menu item the on/off icon corresponds to.
On many laptops, there are also four FN+Key combinations to power off, hibernate, sleep, etc. That brings us up to 13 choices, and, oh, yeah, there's an on-off button, 14, and you can close the lid, 15. A total of fifteen different ways to shut down a laptop that you're expected to choose from.
This is exactly the kind of problem I'm trying to address in Cincom Smalltalk - the plethora of choices that leads to paralysis by neophytes who just want to get something done (Listen to my last podcast for more). You may not agree with how Joel would cut down on the choices, but he's definitely on the right track.
I just finished " The Middle Ages ", by Morris Bishop. It was written awhile ago (1968) - I really enjoyed the author's conversational style. It was enough to sadden me to realize that he's been dead since 1973 - I get the impression that he would have been a great dinner companion.
Anyway, I highly recommend the book as an overview of the period - it gives a good feel for the progression of life during the period from about 600 AD to 1400 AD in Western Europe. I certainly enjoyed the book. Next up: " The Fall of Rome ". That looks like a good one too.
Smalltalk Solutions 2007 is approaching - next year's show is back in Toronto, with the IT360° show. It's April 30-May 2, and the call for participation is out now. That site mentions December 15 as a deadline - we are going to try to get that extended. You should still get your submissions in ASAP.
Smalltalk Solutions in conjunction withIT360° (formerly LinuxWorld & NetworkWorld Canada) is seeking conference participants. Show dates are April 30, 2007 through May 2, 2007 in Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Smalltalk Solution speakers have the opportunity to reach the broader IT360° audiences. As with previous years, one presenter per accepted session will receive complimentary conference registration. Travel, hotel and all other expenses will be at the presenter’s expense and each additional presenter in a session will also be required to register for the conference in order to enter the conference area.
But a very different, and much more aggressive, Eric Schmidt appears in the Economist's new "World in 2007" issue. Schmidt contributes an article titled "Don't bet against the Internet," in which he makes a striking prediction. Next year, he writes, "we’ll witness the increasing dominance of open internet standards." These standards "will sweep aside the proprietary protocols promoted by individual companies striving for technical monopoly. Today’s desktop software will be overtaken by internet-based services that enable users to choose the document formats, search tools and editing capability that best suit their needs."
The big question to me is this: should you start building to an "always on" model of network connectivity, or to a "usually on" model? Google sounds like they are assuming the former - I tend to believe the latter. What you build will vary based on that question - "full cloud" apps, or "smart clients".
To give an example I'm familiar with, BottomFeeder is a smart client. It lives on the desktop, but is usable (and useful) when there's no network. Google docs, or calendar? Without a net connection, those applications may as well not exist. As a business traveler, I'm not sure I want to fully rely on those kinds of applications yet; on a long flight to Sydney, I'm going to want to access my documents (etc). Based on what I'm reading about connectivity on planes, I don't see that hole closing anytime soon.
Even putting that aside, there are plenty of times that connectivity that should work doesn't. I've certainly been in hotels where the net connection was broken, or completely sub-optimal. If it's the night before a big meeting, I don't want to be bereft of all the productivity applications I might need. Open document formats sounds great, and I'd really like to see that spread. I have far less interest (at least right now) in a fully cloud based model.
Scoble seems a bit confused over the role of reporters:
But, Dave also notes that Valleywag wants to be TechCrunch . I say it can’t do that. Why? Cause TechCrunch is all about building companies and people up while Valleywag is all about tearing companies and people down.
He does state further down that both things are essential, but I'd say that any site exclusively engaged in one or the other isn't doing real reporting.
Technorati Tags: reporting
Blaine returns to the land of square brackets:
Rajesh discovers how to get good information out of a SOAP error: trust the Smalltalk Debugger:
It's enough to simply raise the exception in the method that implements the web service API. ActionWebService takes care of converting this exception into a SOAP fault message.
Five lines of code in the VisualWorks workspace was all it took:
wsdlClient := WsdlClient new loadFrom: 'http://localhost:3000/hello/service.wsdl' asURI. soapRequest := SoapRequest new. soapRequest port: wsdlClient config anyPort. soapRequest smalltalkEntity: (Message selector: #Hello ). soapResponse := soapRequest value.
Executing this snippet produced a Smalltalk exception; step into the debugger, inspect the transportEntity object, and see the SOAP fault message in all its glory.
Having a good debugger and a workspace is an amazing productivity boost.
I just finished "The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization" last night. It's a quick read, less than 200 pages. The author attacks the current notion that Rome was "transformed" by the barbarian invasions - which seems to be some kind of politically correct fantasy of academia at the moment.
Using archeological evidence of former abundance (types of buildings, pottery that was in use, etc), Ward-Perkins shows that many areas of the empire literally fell backwards - and that the areas held by the Eastern Empire into the 6th and 7th century maintained their standard of living.
The end of the book makes a cautionary point as to why some areas on the Empire's periphery - like Britain - fell so far. Rome was an empire of specialized jobs and economics. People did not know how to create common household items (like pottery) themselves, as they could buy high quality, inexpensive goods easily. When the collapse came, the dependent population was left without skills.
The parallels to today's world are obvious. There's a show on TV we watch called "Jericho", which posits a nuclear exchange, complete with an EMP. The show focuses on a small town, so when they get cut off from communications, they have no idea what happened, why it happened, or how widespread the attack was. The writers have covered the difficulties of such a catastrophe to some extent, but I don't think they've really hit it completely. Unlike our 19th century forbearers, we simply don't have the skills necessary to survive without the long, complex supply lines provided by the modern world. It's a chilling thought, and made me sympathize heavily with the people who had to live through the collapse of the Roman world.
Well, here's what I get for deciding on steaks instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey:
We just had a large (20 people) dinner party for my in-laws, with Turkey, this last weekend (and that was after a big event we had catered on Saturday). We have a small holiday gathering today, so we decided to do something different. I guess I can grill in my rain gear :)
Technorati Tags: Thanksgiving
Maybe this is bad reporting, maybe it's a lack of enough context in the selected quotes - I don't know. I was struck by this story out of the UK, where a woman clams that WiFi made her ill:
Ms Figes said: "The day we installed wi-fi two years ago was the day I started to feel ill. At first I could not work out what the problem was. I had no idea why I felt so sick and run-down. But I knew that when I walked through the front door it felt like walking into a cloud of poison.
"Imagine being prodded all over your body by 1,000 fingers. That is what I felt when I walked into the house... Then I started to think it might be the wi-fi, so we scrapped it - and I felt better."
So here's what came to mind first: it's not like the front door stopped the signal - I can get WiFi from my patio. Heck, I can get WiFi from all my neighbors (well, I can see their signals - they mostly use secure connections). I rather expect that many of this woman's neighbors use WiFi as well (routers are dirt cheap, and simpler than pulling CAT5).
Which takes me back to the reporting. Did the reporter check for other WiFi signals now that she's scrapped hers? Did she also remove cordless phones and mobile phones? What about those of her neighbors? Some of the readers chimed in with those questions in the comments, but not the initial reporter.
This doesn't even rise to the level of "junk science" reporting - it's anecdotal conversation at best.
Murphy's law is apparently in full force - there was a brief server outage just now. Of course, it happened on Thanksgiving, when I wasn't paying any attention to the server :)
We had a small Thanksgiving this year - made up for by a big event we had on Saturday, and an anniversary party for my in-laws on Sunday. The good news: virtually no left-overs. Now it's on to the Christmas season, with all the attendant shopping and decorating. I have the users conference to get to in the middle of that, but it looks like it should be a quiet season around here.
I just got two interesting looking books as an early birthday present - my brother in law gave them to me before heading home to Boston:
I've been considering buying the second book (on Tamerlane) for awhile now. I hadn't seen the first one, which covers the Abbasid dynasty - which was to the pre-eminent dynasty of the pre-Ottoman Islamic Empire. I don't really know much about Tamerlane at all - he charted a path of conquest through the Islamic world during the 14th century - about the same time as the Hundred Year's war was raging between England and France.
Technorati Tags: history
We just recorded this week's podcast - david joined late, and Michael had to leave after about 35 minutes, so there's going to be a part 1 and a part 2 this week. Fortunately, it looks like everything recorded fine.
We went long this week, and into two parts. Michael and I spoke about things Smalltalk needs to do better for about 18 minutes before Dave came on - and then Dave and I spoke for another thirty minutes or so after that. That part of the conversation will show up as part two, once I get the audio edited. Enjoy part one, which you can grab here.
It's that time again - another week in the can. First up: BottomFeeder downloads for the week, which went at a rate of 157 per day:
I'm starting to see a decent download rate from download.com, so it's not as easy to summarize - all I get from there in terms of stats is a raw (over time) total. On to the HTML page accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
That looks like last week's distribution. Last up: Syndication tool access:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||8.1%|
|Google Feed Fetcher||6.9%|
|Strategic Board Bot||1.2%|
|RSS 2 Email||1%|
Tool diversity doesn't seem to be dropping much here - but there is a big drop off after BlogLines.
Well, that didn't take long. Gizmodo has step by step instructions for defeating the DRM used by the Zune for wireless sharing of music - use the image hole:
First, you need to enable hard drive mode using the instructions we posted before. Then, rename whatever files -- MP3s, movies, programs -- to have the extension ".jpg" in order to fool the Zune into thinking its an image. This hack works because Zune doesn't apply DRM to images!
Then you just rename them back on the host PC and synch them back to the Zune. I should start an over/under pool for how short an interval it will be before a "critical" update comes out to "fix" this.
I don't often agree with The Register, but this column by Bill Thompson makes an awful lot of sense. In discussing "web 2.0" and asynchronous xmlhttp, people elide the difficulties of distributed development:
I first ran across this issue back in 1995, when PPD introduced VisualWave. Wave was a cool product - you used the normal GUI builder to paint an interface, and then the system would "automagically" html-ify it for you. Marketing touted this as "instant web access" for our customers who wanted to push their apps out to the net.
Well, not so fast. Most applications written for the desktop had a number of baked in limitations - all too common were things like:
- Only one user at a time assumed
- One database connection, with one username/password assumed
- Any cache scheme assumed a single user
And so on. getting a UI on the web was (relatively) simple; getting the application to actually function there wasn't. The intervening decade hasn't really changed that much. Whenever you deal with network resources, you have to be ready to deal with failure gracefully - and I get the distinct impression that most developers tossing around the "web 2.0 mojo" aren't thinking about that. It's going to come back to bite them.
Andres Valloud has posted a video of his presentation to the NYSTUG in September. It's pretty big, and password controlled. Head on over to Andres' blog to get the download info.
Jon Udell notes that we have access to tons of data on the web - but interestingly enough, it's not easily accessible for automated reuse:
If you search the Web for “fortune500.xml, you’ll find an ordered list of the Fortune 500 companies. It’s just what you’d want if you were writing a custom portfolio application. But it didn’t exist until last week when Doug Purdy, a Microsoft program manager, created it while writing his own personal portfolio application. Because he also blogged the list, you can use it, too.
Jon points out that data is mostly presented for passive viewing, not for further analysis. For instance - what if you looked at the typical Fortune 500 list (HTML Table), and wanted to slice and dice the data in a way that the authors didn't? Hello, massive data entry task. It doesn't have to be that way, and there are even tools around that show what should be more easily possible:
That's the kind of analysis that would be more easily possible if data were made available in machine friendly formats as well as in people friendly ones. The Semantic web hasn't arrived yet...
Technorati Tags: semantic web
Scoble is right about this - most people don't have a visceral hatred of MS:
Ryan Stewart notices something that I notice too. Outside of the tech world there isn’t the hatred of Microsoft that exists on some blogs. Normal people don’t care that Vista was two years late. They aren’t like Chris Pirillo and won’t notice that some of the UI isn’t consistent.
They’ll just see the photos on their friend’s Xbox and say “I want that.”
On the other hand, an awful lot of them are like my wife's cousin and my father in law. My father in law is no dummy - he built his own machine. However, every time my brother in law visits, there's a good multi-hour session of "get the spy-ware (etc) off the machine" in store. When I took my daughter to visit her cousin last year, that's what I did with their computer.
It's not like I'm the only one with that experience, either - get a few technically oriented people together, and ask them about their friend's computers - unless they own Macs, you get a universal piss and moan session.
There's worse to come with Vista, too. Let's even posit that it is more secure, and does eliminate most of the last decade's worst bug hunts (a big assumption, I'll admit). Let's say instead that you want to do something simple, like pop a DVD (legally owned) into your computer's drive and watch it on your existing monitor.
Whoops - is that DRM that's telling you you're a thief, and you can't watch your own stuff? Yeah, that'll go over really well with the non-tech crowd. PVP-OPM is going to torque off anyone and everyone who comes into contact with it. Treating your customers like crooks - welcome to the happy MS future, where the dreams of the RIAA and MPAA have become reality.
There's been a new rise of email spam - heavily slanted toward "pump and dump" penny stock schemes. The funny part about this here at Cincom was that the rise coincided with a request by some of us that IT allow more mail through the spam filters, due to fears that some good mail was being lost. I guess we picked the wrong time to ask - eweek notes that the rise in such spam has been astounding:
Internet security researchers and law enforcement authorities have traced the operation to a well-organized hacking gang controlling a 70,000-strong peer-to-peer botnet seeded with the SpamThru Trojan.
According to data from Barracuda Networks, an enterprise security appliance vendor in Mountain View, Calif., there has been a 67 percent increase in overall spam volume and a 500 percent increase in image spam since Aug. 2006.
Some of the folks in our group have been grumbling about the specific spam filtering that IT is using - it looks like that just doesn't matter much - there's just a huge wave crashing down on mail servers everywhere right now.
I found a couple of interesting podcasts devoted to history recently, and I've really been enjoying them. "12 Byzantine Rulers" is a fascinating look at the Eastern Roman Empire and some of their most influential rulers. I've been reading a fair bit about middle eastern history of late, and the Empire played a role in that up until 1453.
Another good one is Dan Carlin's "Hard Core History" - he's got some fascinating topics there. This is one of the best things about the web - those of us with niche interests can usually find other people who share them.
It's not every day that you find the California Highway Patrol on the Autobahn...
Patrick Logan advises you to isolate the enterprisey systems as best as you can:
Having some large software vendor or partner inject SOAP into your data center is no reason to allow it to infect all of *your* work. Push WS-Complexity out to just those edges whose outside forces require it. Stop the enemy at the gates. Make the rest as simple as possible. Always assert your control over your own architecture or you will be a loser.
That's good advice. The WS* stack is a morass of complexity - it's starting to make the CORBA boomlet of the early 90's look simple.
If this isn't evidence that size breeds complexity, I don't know what is. In an explanation of how builds of Windows happen, Moishe Lettvin talks about how long it takes code to migrate from a typical development team at MS up to the central repository (or back down):
In Windows, this model [ed: one master repository used by all] breaks down simply because there are far too many developers to access one central repository -- among other problems, the infrastructure just won't support it. So Windows has a tree of repositories: developers check in to the nodes, and periodically the changes in the nodes are integrated up one level in the hierarchy. At a different periodicity, changes are integrated down the tree from the root to the nodes. In Windows, the node I was working on was 4 levels removed from the root. The periodicity of integration decayed exponentially and unpredictably as you approached the root so it ended up that it took between 1 and 3 months for my code to get to the root node, and some multiple of that for it to reach the other nodes. It should be noted too that the only common ancestor that my team, the shell team, and the kernel team shared was the root.
This explains a lot of the more frustrating bugs in Windows - an awful lot of the code is built based on not completely recent versions of the codebase. Heck, it sounds like no one really works on the "real" codebase - everyone has their own mirror, and all the mirrors reflect reality a little differently. It's kind of amazing that it works at all, actually.
MS continues to get horrible reviews of the Zune; take this one, from the Sun-Times:
The setup process stands among the very worst experiences I've ever had with digital music players. The installer app failed, and an hour into the ordeal, I found myself asking my office goldfish, "Has it really come to this? Am I really about to manually create and install a .dll file?"
"These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it," said Doug Morris, CEO of Universal Music Group. "So it's time to get paid for it."
Well, Morris is just a big, clueless idiot, of course. Do you honestly want morons like him to have power over your music player?
Then go ahead and buy a Zune. You'll find that the Zune Planet orbits the music industry's Bizarro World, where users aren't allowed to do anything that isn't in the industry's direct interests.
That sound you hear is MS allowing the RIAA to dig in their fingernails, holding on to the corpse of their old business model.
Andres Valloud will be speaking at the NY Smalltalk User's Group this Wednesday:
Give me more classes is what Andres Valloud says. He will shows us how more classes can in some cases equate to better Smalltalk performance.
Andres will be providing us with an encore presentation of his recent OOPSLA presentation.
The next meeting will be Wednesday November 29th, 2006. It will be the last for this year since we will be taking a break for the holidays.
Follow the link for more info and directions.
It became obvious to me this afternoon that I'm well into my 40's - a mild pain I'd had in the neighborhood of my hip, left side, stopped me in my tracks while I was out jogging this afternoon. Murphy's law being fully in force, it happened at the furthest point away from my house on my route. Trying to jog became excruciating - the pounding just creates incredible pain. I'm also walking with a distinct limp.
I'm hoping it's just a muscle injury, but I think I'll go have my doctor take a look. The last thing I need is some kind of degenerative problem with my hip.
Technorati Tags: health