If you have tried downloading the blog poster for Mac OS X, you actually got BottomFeeder. You can blame my editing skills for that - I built my build script from the same one I use for Bf, and I didn't make a required change. I've just posted the proper build, and you can grab it here.
Rick Berman, executive-producer of Star Trek: Enterprise, told SCI FI Wire that he believes the decline in ratings that led to the series' cancellation was the result of an oversaturation of the franchise.
Here's a tip Rick: It's shoddy creative control over the series that's a problem. Evidenced by the fact that the very last episode is a Holodeck episode! You want the real problem? Get a mirror...
I've made the BottomFeeder blog poster available as a standalone application. Go here for information, and here to download the application. It's supported on all the same platforms as BottomFeeder - and it's a fully WYSIWYG posting tool. The only posting API of note that it doesn't support is Atom, and I'll get to that fairly soon.
CNet reports that Sun may use a bunch of it's extra cash ($7.5 B) to buy itself out and go private. The supposed plan would be to sell off assets and then go public again with a leaner, meaner profile. It's unclear to me why they don't just sell off the assets now, but maybe there's a bunch of legal stuff that makes it all easier as a privately held firm - I'm not a lawyer :) Anyway, here's the salient bits:
CEO Scott McNealy has explored a plan to take Sun private with private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, a report in Business Week published on Friday said. One of the magazine's stock columnist cited a hedge manager close to McNealy as the source.
The rationale behind the leverage buy-out would be to shrink the size of Sun by selling assets, invest in its stronger product areas, and then go public again, according to the report. The company's substantial cash holding of $7.5 billion makes such a plan feasible.
It'll be fun to watch how this plays out, if the report is accurate
I've finally gotten around to all the ancillary work that's involved in packaging up a separate blog posting client. I'm down to two things now:
- Editing the HTML files
- Uploading the builds
I've got it built, and it should all be ready to go sometime this afternoon. Stay tuned.
RealTechNews reports that the crawl lines, stock sidebars, weather sidebars (etc) that have become prevalent on news channels are overloading viewers:
From Kansas State University: “We discovered that when you have all of this stuff on the screen, people tend to remember about 10 percent fewer facts than when you don’t have it on the screen,” (journalism/mass comm. professor Tom) Grimes said. “Everything you see on the screen — the crawls, the anchor person, sports scores, weather forecast — are conflicting bits of information that don’t hang together semantically. They make it more difficult to attend to what is the central message.”
I don't know though. I find the crawl line useful myself. The rest of it is often distracting, I'll admit. Looks like they did actual research, so my thoughts probably fall into the anecdotal area.
Today's update looks at the work on Pollock - register today so you can hear about it first hand.
Onward to Pollock
presentation Bykov, Vassili: Cincom Systems
Monday 4 pm to 5:30 pm
Abstract: Pollock is the new VisualWorks widget framework. This presentation is based on demos showcasing its strong points and the influence it will have on future VisualWorks tool development. Bio: Vassili Bykov is the VisualWorks Tools project lead, and a VisualWorks user since version 1.0. After joining Cincom in July 2000 he has been responsible for modernizing the look and feel of VisualWorks environment. His interests range from information and graphic design to programming language implementation, and he searches for balance between them in his current position. In the past, Vassili was an object technology instructor with The Object People and a member of TOPLink/Smalltalk development team.
See you in Orlando!
Off and on, in between other things that have come up today, I've added support for del.icio.us to BottomFeeder. In this case, support means that you can post a set of tags for an item to del.icio.us, or change your mind and delete them. There are other aspects of the API that I haven't added; I'll have to think about those (not from a hard to do standpoint, more from a "how does it fit in Bf" standpoint). I should have an update available for the dev stream shortly
Dave Winer thinks we can somehow reject ads in RSS "as an industry". Righhhhht. Advertisers will soon figure out something critically different about RSS (as opposed to stock website) ads - if they annoy us too much, we can simply unsubscribe. Problem solved, no fuss, no muss.
Jon Udell relays an interesting end user interaction with IT story, and draws this conclusion:
We can draw various conclusions from this little parable. Here's the one I want to stress today. Calling people "users" is pernicious. It distances and dehumanizes. We should probably remove that word from the IT vocabulary.
Read the short post to get the full context - he's absolutely correct too.
Here's an article in CIO Insight on guidelines for blogging in a corporate environment - sounds like a good set of tips to me. The most important one (from Sun's guidelines, apparently):
The worst thing that can happen is that a Sun sales pro is in a meeting with a hot prospect, and someone on the customer's side pulls out a printout of your blog and says "This person at Sun says that product sucks." Using your weblog to trash or embarrass the company, our customers, or your co-workers, is not only dangerous but stupid.
This is one of the reasons I wonder about some of Scoble's posts. Plenty of people call him "courageous" for standing up to management at MS - but there's a huge downside as well. The old adage about honey and vinegar applies here.
Wired has a story on the journalism curriculum at NYU, where the profs are asking some questions:
For as far back as anyone can remember, New York University has used introductory courses to drill students on the basics: "ledes," "nut grafs," the "inverted pyramid" and the "five Ws" - who, what, where, when, why (and No. 6: how). But at a time when the vast majority of our students who enter the job market will never work for a newspaper, does it make sense to stick with tradition?
Why would the basics change just because of a move to the web? Do the pixels make things that much different? Here's the reason for the question:
Could it be beneficial to jettison "objectivity" and "balance" in favor of transparent bias, much like bloggers (and online columnists) do? Would it be wise to encourage our students to exchange fact-based narrative for edgy commentary and digital trash talk? And if we were to banish the inverted pyramid to the scrapheap of history, what could we replace it with?
Yep, that's all we bloggers are - a bunch of trash talking opportunists. Has this guy ever heard of the editorial page? Most blogging is a combination of editorial comment and "letters to the editor". Do newspapers that offer an editorial opinion jettison objectivity elsewhere (well, that's another argument. The point is, there's no requirement that they do so).
There's plenty of room on the net for objective reporting and for opinion dispersal. The only thing that's really changed is the ability to hide/ignore errors of fact. Before the rise of blogs, fact checkers had to send a letter to the paper and hope it would get published. Now they can link to the story and have Google push their commentary up. Wired gets this right at the end of the article:
But when all is said and done, I still expect that each student will know how to craft a hard news lede on a tight deadline. Because whether we're talking today or 10 years ago, it's not the medium, it's the reporter.
Doc reports that Neville Hobson is seeing his RSS feeds "hijacked" from a hotel. I suspect that what's happening is that Neville's network usage has expired, and all http requests are being redirected. I've had that happen before.
Yep, I just browsed his post. Look at the url that his feeds got redirected to: "http://soln-sr965.solutionip.com/register/"
I've definitely seen that before. What he got bitten by is a bad implementation of redirect by the hotel's ISP. The redirects should be temporary, but I bet they are all permanent. FeedDemon, like BottomFeeder, sees a permanent redirect on a feed and silently adjusts the properties for the feed in question. Very nasty - at hotels that have network service that I need to resubscribe to daily, I always take BottomFeeder offline when I go to sleep. Time for Neville to look for backups...
By now I'm sure you've seen the IBM announcement on VisualAge Smalltalk, and the Instantiations announcement as well - the latter being a future roadmap for VA from Instantiations. We've been aware of the coming end of life for VA (at IBM) for awhile now, and have been talking to partners about providing a roadmap for interested developers. We don't have anything specific to announce that way today - but we will shortly. Expect to hear something concrete by the time of Smalltalk Solutions 2005 in Orlando.
What should you take from these announcements? First off, you should take a fresh look at Cincom Smalltalk - it's cross platform (including multiple Linux platforms and Windows CE). It's binary portable. It's a full software stack, supporting modern standards like WS*. It includes two premier Smalltalk environments - VisualWorks and ObjectStudio. Cincom is fully committed to Smalltalk - we have the largest staff of developers of any Smalltalk vendor, and have been doing more forward development than any vendor. If you want a stable, secure platform that is under active development by many of the leading luminaries in the Smalltalk world, then you should download our product and have a look.
How do you know that we are committed to our product? We are profitable (both Cincom as a whole, and the Smalltalk business inside it). We are also eating our own dogfood - the main Smalltalk site is a VW ssp driven site, as is this blog server. The various services provided on this server (surveys, downloads, the Wiki) are all Smalltalk powered. We believe in our product enough to use it.
As I said above, we'll have more to say on this shortly - in the meantime, you'll be happy to know that a move to Cincom Smalltalk won't include any so-called "modernization" materials advising you to migrate to less powerful and more expensive technologies. Questions? Feel free to comment, or send email to Suzanne Fortman (our Smalltalk marketing manager), or me.
James Governor points to what could be the beginning of actual watchdogging between analysts and journalists. About time, I'd say :)
BusinessWeek's new blog has gone after Laura DiDio, Yankee's Get The Facts lead. Laura has long been a target of Linux lovers, for her uncompromising defence of the proprietary. But BusinessWeek writer Steve Hamm aims to expose limitations in Yankee's research approach. It will be interesting to see if a story appears in the print edition; it has to be likely. If you want to contact me for the article Steve i would be more than happy to contribute. I tend to pretty vocal on the subject of industry analyst ethics, and RedMonk is doing the best we can to do the right thing.
I've added tentative Atom 1.0 support into the dev stream of updates in BottomFeeder 3.9. I'm not going to promote it to the non-dev stream until one of two things happens:
- The format starts getting used "in the wild" (which happened with 0.3)
- The format gets stamped final
In the meantime, the dev stream only support should be considered tentative - and I'd appreciate any bug reports from people who see it (Atom 1.0) being used.
Register for StS 2005 today - it's coming up fast! Here's today's spotlighted talk:
A Smalltalk-based system for dynamic multi-context information processing experience report
van Os, Adriaan and Westerhof, Eugene: LEI - Wageningen UR
Monday 4:45 pm to 5:30 pm
Abstract: In spite of the dynamic character of information need, software systems should preferably be stable. Software changes are expensive and are a risk to system stability. This is why we want to separate the software engineering process from the information systems development activities. For this purpose LEI developed a Smalltalk-based system for model-based system specification and workflow management. System behavior is dynamically generated from data specifications, constraints, computation models and workflow specifications. In our presentation we will explain the construction of the system and the main principles it is based on. We will demonstrate how context-independence of the data model has been achieved and how the workflow engine schedules the workload.
Bio: Adriaan van Os
- Working with Smalltalk, mainly VisualWorks, at Soops since 1995.
- Main architect/developer of the presented system.
- Involved in some CampSmalltalk projects.
Developer of several subsystems of the presented system.
See you in Orlando!
We asked him what blogging’s role will be in this new Era.
“It’s kerosene on the fire. The Participation Age has been on the Net since email. Moving from there to blogging is like moving from carrier pigeon to phone. The emergence of blogs means we have passed beyond early crude tools and it results in fundamental changes on how everything relates. While a journalist is writing about my blog, I’m blogging about his journalism. This is change,” he told us.
In a very real sense, blogs are the new "letters to the editor" - only the editor has no choice as to whether it gets printed. There's still no guarantee that you'll get more than trivial readership, but it's a far, far better chance than you had with the letter.
Here's an interesting interview with Al Ries, author of "The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR." Cincom's Steve Kayser asked him a few good questions about advertising and PR - I liked this summation of things:
Steve: So when it comes down to bottom-line ROI?
Al: No-brainer. The largest advertised brand in America spent $780 million on advertising last year. Do you know the name of the largest advertised brand? It's not McDonald's, Budweiser or Coca-Cola.
The largest advertised brand in America last year, would you believe, was Chevrolet. Now let me ask you a question, what's a Chevrolet? If I told you I would meet you out front in my Chevrolet, would you be able to recognize my car?
What's a Chevrolet? A large, small, cheap, expensive car … or truck. But you already knew that. $780 million and there probably isn't one thing stuck in your mind that you can connect with Chevrolet. What a waste.
His point is the large scale advertising is often a symptom of trouble (think about companies that went into bankruptcy recently), or a sign that a company hasn't got any good brand recognition - and advertising isn't going to solve that problem. A good ad campaign can complement good PR, but it can't salvage bad or non-existant PR. You need something to build on, first.
Read the whole thing - there's more good stuff there.
It's time for my weekly log scan again. I've gathered up the XML stats, the BottomFeeder download stats, and the general HTTP access stats to see what's what. Here's what's happened since the last look on the 19th (roughly 7 days, given the cutoffs):
The totals? Add it up and we get 2655, or nearly 380 per day in that time span. Not bad - although I have no clue why there are so many HPUX downloads. That's got to be some kind of anomaly :) The Mac 8/9 rates still outpace OS X by nearly a factor of 2, so rumors of that rev of Mac OS' death are greatly exaggerated. Next up: A look at what tools are looking at the RSS and Atom feeds:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||16.4%|
The stats here look mostly the same as they have the last few times I've checked, which is no big surprise. Unless I get some big up or down spike in readership, these percentages aren't likely to shift a lot. last up - the HTTP accesses to the site:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Those are a bit higher for the straight browsers than they were last time. Otherwise, Mozilla based browsers continue to dominate over IE (which is why I figure I get so few MSN searches in my referers).
Sci Fi Wire reports that the brain freeze affecting Star Trek's writers shows no sign of abating:
Star Trek: Enterprise producers Brannon Braga and Rick Berman told SCI FI Wire that they understood the recent disparaging comments made by cast members about the final episode, but stood by their execution of the series finale. "You have to remember, under normal circumstances, most people probably would have thought this was a very cool episode because it has a great concept driving it," Braga said in a conference call with reporters. "But when it's the final episode of a series, emotions are running very high."
Yes, this last season has been much better. In fact, had they had stories like this the rest of the time, the series wouldn't be ending. Having said that, it's kind of a hot tip when your cast is willing to be publically quoted bad mouthing the finale. And well they should - the finale involves Frakes and Sirtis (Next Gen) watching the Federation ceremony via the Holodeck. The Holodeck? Good gosh, that's the place the writers went when they had no ideas left! Berman was facing the end of Trek on TV for the first time in over a decade, and the best he could come up with is a Holodeck episode?
If Paramount wants to revive this franchise, they need to retire Berman. Send him off to wherever George Lucas has been for the last few years, so that they can have bad sci-fi ideas together, and leave the rest of us alone.
Dvorak has been "out standing in his field" for awhile now, but this latest column has an item I just can't pass up:
Power plugs on airlines. Has anyone but me noticed that most of the airlines that have power plugs fitted into the aircraft have stopped using them? A couple of years ago, they were all active, although none of us had the little connectors. Now that we have the connectors, the airlines have shut down most of the outlets. In the past year, I have not been on an airplane that has had these systems running. What happened? Were they blowing up? Catching on fire? This was a DC system, so people couldn't have been electrocuting each other. I have yet to get an explanation for this, except for typical airline apathy.
Hmm - I've flown multiple airlines with power over the last year or two, and I can only recall two things - the power being left off by accident (i.e., the pilot not turning it on, and having that corrected by talking to a flight attendant), and having a faulty power outlet at my seat (only seen that once). And yet here's Dvorak, claiming that no flight he's been on has had working power. Hmm. I suspect a wee bit of exaggeration there. He must live on a different planet...
Yesterday, I had someone ask me if it would be possible to support the private feeds LiveJournal uses. He set up a feed that had password protection so I could test - that's when I started the slow slide into "standards? what standards?" hell. First up - LiveJournal. Could they use Http Auth or Digest Auth for their private feeds? Nope, that would be entirely too simple. Perusing their forms, it looks like they use their bozo equivalent of Digest Auth, but only if you pass through their form and retrieve a cookie. Retrieving the cookie would "just work" if they used Auth, but nooo - they have to be special.
So off I went, to add support for that. Strike two came around the corner shortly thereafter. I couldn't read their cookies, because they use a non-standard format for them. Great - seems the New York Times does the same thing with their cookies, so maybe there's a common content management system out there with bad ideas. One AR later, and a discussion with the VW developer who works with this stuff and I had a fix.
So now, a full day later, I can actually start looking at actually supporting LiveJournal. It's things like this that make me laugh at the "Atom will solve everything" crowd. A new spec won't change the fact that people make mistakes and refuse to follow standards...
Scoble notes the progress towards making PC's "dull" (in the sense that TVs are dull - that they "just work"):
Scott Koon is bored by all the stuff he saw come out of Winhec yesterday. Or, more accurately, he's ambivilent. I can understand that. Sometimes computers seem as exciting as cable TV, electricity, or water.
Well, we aren't there yet. Sadly, we aren't even close. When I visited LA recently, I spent a decent amount of time securing my wife's cousin's PC. I'm on the hook to visit one of her co-workers, so that I can do the same there. The trouble is, most people want to treat a PC the way they treat a TV. That's just not feasible yet. You need anti-virus protection, you need a working firewall (in addition to the NAT protection offered by a router), and you need anti-spam software. My wife was commenting the other day that she couldn't get email while my daughter was present.
Is all of this MS' fault? No, it's not - but they bear a fair bit of the blame for having whistled past the graveyard on security for years. We're going to be paying the price for that decision for years, as we wait for Windows 98/ME to die off.
I should have mentioned that yesterday was Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand. When I visited Australia last year, I visited the war memorial in Sydney (which, sadly, was sealed up - apparently, antiwar protesters kept defacing it. Utter lack of respect, IMHO). I also visited the huge memorial in Canberra, which looks a lot like the mall in Washington (DC) - only with red sand rather than the reflecting pool. So a day late, I'll give a tip of the hat to the memory of all the brave Aussies and New Zealanders who fought and died for their countries.
Scoble stopped patting himself on the back over the anti-discrimination imbrogolio long enough to ask an interesting question:
That gets me back to something else I've been thinking about. How do you rate search engine quality?
But, it is pretty interesting that all three engines have as a #1 result something I wrote on Saturday (although you'll see MSN biases against blogs). I remember the days back in 1996 when I tried for more than a year to get Yahoo to list a site of mine, and even Altavista used to take more than a month to list new information.
He's right about the engines picking stuff up faster, that's for sure. There's been some level of pressure on Google (et. al.) at the bleeding edge from blog specific engines (Feedster, blogdigger, etc.). That's helped push them towards getting new stuff up faster.
I'm still kind of amazed at how few refs I see to msn searches on this server though. My referer lists are full of Google, and always have a few Yahoo requests. There's almost never an MSN request though. Very few of my readers are using MS' search engine, that's for sure. As to why that is, I suspect that it's related to the high usage of Mozilla I see. Firefox comes with a Google search field right in the toolbar, which means that I rarely bother with any other search engine. My guess is that most other Firefox users follow the same usage patterns.
It's amusingly ironic, seeing MS beaten at its own embedding game that way.
Slashdot points to what you have to call Extreme Gaming:
"Wired reports about four skydivers who decided to give the Nintendo DS wireless capabilities a try while they were freefalling. 'The four sky divers proved that an ad hoc network set up using the wireless functions of a Nintendo DS works perfectly at distances of nearly 400 feet while falling 120 miles an hour,' states the article."
Lileks has a fun bleat up today - the part that really struck me was his experiences with a couple of vendors (Best Buy and Marshall Fields, but it could be any large corp.). The trouble he ran into is common to companies where individual employees have no stake in the results - the Dilbert problem of "the pay's the same no matter what I do". Here's the punchline:
Lesson: from Best Buy to Marshall Field’s, it’s the same problem. One day a company is responsive, quick, savvy. Then one day it’s one percent bigger than it was before, and something happens. They’re the IRS. They’re the Pentagon. They’re an organization slowly ground into ruin by a thick busy level of managers, some of whom are in charge of extracting point-of-sale contact info, others who are going to make their bones on a store-wide phone-system overall. Elephants playing patty-cake.
When the people you deal with have no idea why they are asking the questions they ask, it ends up being a problem. Something to consider at acquisition time, I think.
Some folks from Quallaby are putting together a STUG in Boston - check it out, as they meet tonight - Colin Putney put out an announcement:
The Smalltalk group at Quallaby (where I work) is organizing a get-together of Smalltalk folks in a couple of weeks. I'd like to invite all Squeakers to the first meeting of the Boston Area Smalltalk Users' Group. There's no agenda; the first meeting will be to gauge interest, get to know each other and plan further activities.
BASTUG Inaugural Meeting:
Monday, April 25, 2005, 7:30 pm.
Not Your Average Joe's (coffee shop)
1727 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA
If you're in the neighbourhood, drop by and say hello. Feel free to contact me off-list if you need more information.
Here's a headline you don't see every day:
Today's update looks at Software Components in Smalltalk. Register today!
Programming with Software Components: From Globals to URIs, Classes to Interfaces
Staehli, Richard: Simula Research Laboratory
Monday 4 pm to 4:45 pm
Abstract: Component-Based Software Engineering (CBSE) promises to simplify the construction of high-quality applications through composition of off-the shelf components. This is arguably a fulfillment of the original promise of object-oriented programming; that objects may encapsulate arbitrary implementations.
Surprisingly, the Smalltalk community lags behind the industry in advancing CBSE technology. The idea of composing a computing system from components that may encapsulate heterogeneous programming language and runtime environment is at odds with Smalltalk's single image heritage. Further, todays component technology, such as CCM, force a programmer to choose when to use heavyweight components and when to use lightweight local class instances.
Our investigation into a Quality-of-Service (QoS) -aware component architecture suggests a way to improve Smalltalk programming by separating concerns of functional composition from concerns of component implementation. In this presentation I show how Smalltalk source code may be made more robust by replacing a global reference to an implementation class with a Universal Reference Identifier (URI) for a component interface type. This allows the implementation of this component to be determined at compile time, deployment time, or even upgraded dynamically at runtime without violating the semantics of the source code.
Bio: Richard Staehli has worked the past three years architecting and prototyping a Quality-of-Service (QoS) -aware component architecture in Smalltalk for Simula Research Laboratory in Oslo, Norway. He received a Ph.D. in 1996 from The Oregon Graduate Institute of Science & Technology and has since worked on video data types for Informix Software, on a CORBA application server for Oracle Corporation and as a senior technical consultant for the interactive web services firm AGENCY.COM .
See you in Orlando!
For those observing Passover (or like me, married to someone who does) - the Jib-Jab treatment of Matzah is a must-see. Yes Virginia, there certainly is such a thing as too much matzah :)
There's a small bug fix out for the 3.9 release of BottomFeeder available. As it happens, the http code was making an incorrect assumption about getting encoding information from XML documents. It was assuming that every header with encoding information would wrap the encoding in double quotes (as HTTP attributes normally are). A quick perusal of the specs shows that this is a bad assumption - the encoding can be wrapped in single quotes. The latest update for the NetResources library addresses this. The symptom? There are some feeds that weren't being read at all, and others that were being badly decoded (i.e., you would see occasional odd characters).
Jonathan Schwartz hasn't gotten the memo yet - "the network is the computer" was the pitch about 8 years ago. Here he is again though, flogging network computers:
Display over IP. DOIP ("Do IP") is to the PC industry, what VOIP (voice over IP, simplistically, using the internet to make phone calls) is to the telecommunications industry. Phone calls are near to free at this point, and the business model is undergoing radical change. It's inevitable that pervasive and sufficient bandwidth will allow most of what happens on a client to migrate to the network. Why upgrade your PC if you can rely on plentiful bandwidth to have someone centrally deliver it as a service? You don't upgrade your TV set, BBC and News Corp do it for you every evening with fresh content. And you don't buy a new TV to watch it. The same should apply to your PC. DOIP is to a PC as XMRadio is to a CD player.
Sure it is. You come down here and deal with the "DNS? What's DNS?" service that Comcast is becoming known for. A couple weeks of that will wash this bad idea clear out of your head.
And I don't upgrade my TV set? Good gosh, which part of HDTV haven't you heard about? To get improved content, I have to upgrade both my TV (done) and my cable box (not yet) - and my ReplayTV as well. The most irritating part of his post is the way he's trying to wrap a pure marketing ploy (please, buy useless network PC's so that I can sell a ton of expensive Sparc boxes to datacenters) in environmental clothing. Sheesh.
PR Opinions unearths the unseemly practice of paid advocates - the kind that you don't hear about as having been paid:
Appearing on a local TV show in Austin Texas to review toys for kids, Oppenheim promoted a number of different products including a personalized photo album from Eastman Kodak.
The only problem was that Mr. Oppenheim was paid by Kodak.
On a subsequent appearance on NBC's Today show, he once again promoted Kodak's product - though Kodak says it didn't pay for that particular mention. That was obviously Oppenheim's favor to Kodak. And they weren't alone. Of the fifteen products he plugged on NBC, nine were former clients and eight had paid for plugs on local television.
The Oppenheim episode has opened up a big can of worms. It appears that there's a booming industry for TV talking heads promoting products for cash with no disclosure before, during or after their segment.
Infomercials are better than that - at least they don't hide the pitch. It's only a matter of time before this happens in the blogosphere (more likely, before it gets reported as happening). There have been bloggers paid for political mentions (from both sides of the spectrum) - I'd guess that there are bloggers getting paid for product mentions as well. Easy enough to do, actually - a blogger with a passion for something (photography, say) gets offered money to slip in mentions of a particular brand/model. I don't see any obvious way for general readers to find out, either.
Bob Congdon points out that Coke cans do, in fact, have value!
I just finished another one of the histories of WWI that I've been immersing myself in - this one is "The Illusion of Vistory: America in WWI" by Thomas Fleming. It covered a shorter period - just the time from American entry in 1917 through the end of Wilson's presidency. It's a fascinating study of the politics that surrounded American entry into the war, and the attempt by Wilson to get the League of Nations treaty passed. The thing that really struck me was that pride and self righteousness was most of the problem. Wilson was not only sure that he was right - he was convinced that his political opponents were not only wrong - they were evil for disagreeing with him. Needless to say, that made it pretty darn hard to compromise with the senate - and compromise with the senate is the only way for Presidents of the US to get treaties through.
The other thing that I found interesting was the more US focused background on the peace conference. The last book I read - "Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World" - wasn't focused on Wilson and the US delegation. It covered the conference in exhaustive detail, while Fleming's book merely skimmed it. Even so, in covering the interplay between Wilson, his wife, Colonel House, and the other important US players, it filled some interesting gaps. Fleming comes down pretty hard on Wilson - but at this point, with all the reading I've done on the subject - I think Wilson deserves a fair bit of opprobrium.
In any case, "The Illusion of Victory" is a worthwhile addition to any study of WWI - especially if you are interested in the US effort. Next up is Barbara Tuchman's classic, "The Guns of August". After that, I think I'll tackle Nicholson's book on the Congress of Vienna.
Two sedars in two days is a sure-fire way to be fully, totally stuffed. It's like back to back Christmas dinners, only without the dinner rolls. Oof.
One of my readers sent me a link to this article on "duck typing" (i.e., what Smalltalkers have called dynamic typing for eons now). Here's the part I found incoherent:
First of all, let's get a frequently asked question out of the way: if two interfaces have the same methods, are they semantically equivalent? Isn't there a risk to pass an object that is totally wrong for this method, yet will work because it responds to the right methods?
I don't have a clear answer to that, but my experience is that such a thing is very unlikely. This kind of argument is a bit similar to the fear we all felt in the beginning of Java when we realized that containers are not typed: ClassCastExceptions end up being much more rare than we all thought.
Duck Typing is a big time saver when you write code, but is it worth it? Don't you pay this ease of development much later in the development cycle? Isn't there a risk that you might be shipping code that is broken?
The answer is obviously yes.
So the sorts of errors the author fears are virtually non-existant, but they introduce a huge risk of shipping broken code. Excuse me? Is it just me, or is the author arguing with himself here?
One of the things I really like about this mode of argument is that testing isn't sufficient - we need something stronger (enter declarative typing). If that's the case, why do people writing in C++, Java, or C# even need to test? Doesn't the typing obviate the need for it? The point is, you need to test anyway. If a given paradigm - dynamic typing in this case - increases productivity - and if declarative typing doesn't obviate the need for testing (it doesn't) - then what does the typing buy you? Better arithmetic performance, mostly. That's useful for a small range of applications (and, for most of those, we can use a high level language like Smalltalk and mixin lower level languages for the performance critical sections. Plenty of our customers do just that.
The author comes up with a contrived example to show that declarative typing will save you from a potential runtime nightmare. I say contrived because I've written code using the kind of API he talks about many, many times. Want to know how many times I've walked into the minefield he fears? It's a small number, except for the larger values of zero.
The best part of the whole thing is the comments, where some of the responders claim that refactoring tools are "impossible" in languages like Smalltalk. Times like this I wonder how many people realize that all the cool stuff that people think came from Java - like refactoring support and unit testing - were invented in Smalltalk more than a decade ago.
I swear, this entire industry actively engages in amnesia...
Frank Patrick talks about scheduling a delivery, and relates it to a scene in an HBO movie about the Apollo program:
"Schedule Chicken" is one of my favorites. If you've ever seen the HBO Series "From the Earth to the Moon," about the Apollo program, you might remember what was my favorite episode -- the one about the Grumman engineers building the lunar lander. There's a great scene in which everyone goes around the table saying "Sure, my group's on track." until one admits the reality of needing some more time, at which point everyone then backtracks, saying, "Well, since Joe will need more time, we could use it to..." There's other PM wisdom and reality spread out in that episode. Check it out if you get a chance.
I see this every release schedule here. Towards the end, we have release meetings where we go over the high and critical bugs. The idea is, engineers who have a bug that needs fixing prior to release have to get dispensation from the rest of the team - either by explaining that there won't be a regression, or that the bug is so bad that we have no choice - you get the idea.
Towards the very end of that exercise, we start doing candidate builds. When there's something wrong in a candidate build, I see the same reaction Frank mentions: "well, so long as we are cracking the build, can we sneak this in..." - comes up every release cycle.
Sounds to me like this sort of thing is endemic to all engineering work - both hardware and software.
Michael thinks that MS will eventually beat out Google - his reasoning being twofold:
- Word of Mouth is the only advertising gets, whereas MS is all over the air
- With Longhorn, MS will embed search to an extent that people will get driven to their site
That's certainly possible. On the other hand, Longhorn adoption is going to slow. Why? Because XP is, for the most part, good enough. Unlike 95/98/ME, it doesn't crash every time you look sideways at it. Then there's the advertising angle - and if the MS Office "dinosaur" campaign is any indication, I don't think Google needs to quake in their boots yet.
Current search engine use can't be terribly comforting to MS. When I scroll to the bottom of my blog, I find the daily (updated every couple of hours) referers. There's always a ton of hits from Google searches. There's usually one or two from Yahoo. It's a rare day when I see an MSN search result there. Heck, I may see Ask Jeeves more often - possibly even AltaVista.
There's not going to be a free Longhorn based swap-over, I don't think. If MS wants to win in search, they're going to have to do it the old fashioned way - provide a better set of results.
Slashdot reports that Borland is giving JBuilder away on Eclipse now:
"The Register is reporting that Borland has released the base version of JBuilder as open source on Eclipse! Is this just the next company to use open source as part of a marketing tool, akin to Sun, IBM and Oracle's opensource IDE push? Is the future of enterprise IDE open?"
So my question is: What's the revenue model (for Borland) behind this? Too many people look at open source as some sort of good/evil divide - at the end of the day, the more important question is: where the revenue comes from - no revenue, no business...
If you want to see a nice roundup of the method lookup post I did a couple days ago, have a look at the comments - especially the ones Loryn Jenkins put up. Nice set of comparisons there!
Looks like tonight's dinner will be broiled (oven) steak instead of grilled - thunderstorms and rain just aren't conducive to enjoyable grilling. Sigh...
Derek points out some of the weak thinking at the TSA with a personal example. The last time I ravelled, I had something else occur to me in terms of threats - the huge backup in front of the security zone. Think about it - there's the TSA, asking you to remove your shoes, take your laptop out of your bag (and going on breaks in the face of huge lines, but never mind that) - the whole dreary experience. The result is a huge line in front of security, and most airports have reacted to that by putting in theme park style maze lines.
Now look at that situation. If you really do want to commit an act of terror, do you care whether the dead bodies are on the plane or not? What the TSA has unwittingly created is a target rich environment in front of the screening area - a huge mass of compliantly waiting, penned in people with nowhere to go. I can't wait to see what stupidity the TSA comes up with after this gets exploited by a bad actor somewhere.
Steve Rubel points to an excellent piece of marketing by Major League Baseball - they are sponsoring fan blogs:
Major League Baseball is now empowering consumers to launch their own Six Apart-powered blogs. The MLBlogs site is live. Users can sign up for $49.95 per year. Tommy Lasorda's even blogging. The former LA Dodgers manager has comments turned on. Excellent! Let's ask Tommy why they lost the 1978 series.
He mentions the obvious downside - there will be "blood in the streets" on those blogs if we have another strike. However, this is great marketing - MLB has just turned every baseball fanatic with a broadband connection into a potential advocate.
Address CSS consistency problems. Our first and most important goal with our Cascading Style Sheet support is to remove the major inconsistencies so that web developers have a consistent set of functionality on which they can rely. For example, we have already checked in the fixes to the peekaboo and guillotine bugs documented at positioniseverything.net so use of floated elements become more consistent.
That will make our lives simpler, that's for sure...
One of the things I do every day is check the VW Wiki and the Cincom Smalltalk Wiki for spam. On a fairly regular basis, someone hits them with spam. The amusing part is how inept the spammers usually are. Have a look at the history page here - notice how each spam attempt seems to take 3, 4, sometimes 5 or 6 attempts? Not only are these people obnoxious; they're stupid on top of it all
Microsoft has become the old IBM. And I don't mean that in the dominant sense, I mean it in the lethargic, mid 1980's sense. Have a look at the evolve campaign they are using for Office, for instance. In many ways, this has got to be the most insulting campaign I can ever recall seeing. What is MS saying about their current user base? That they are witless dodos, unable to get anything useful done unless they upgrade right now. Just look at the online ad (which is also in this week's PC magazine, right at the front).
The critical guy is in the field, so guess what? No progress - can't possibly move forward. Umm, has MS heard of this new thing called email? I seem to recall collaborating with it as far back as the mid 90's. Is it as good as team tools that can do online linking? No, probably not. On the other hand, if the guy in the field is at a site - hotel or office - with a firewall, what's the liklihood of that firewall allowing Office tool interop outside the LAN? Pretty close to nil, I'd say.
This campaign insults current users, and it's technically illiterate to boot. Looks to me like Scoble has his work cut out for him.
It's a bad idea to outsmart yourself with clever alert messages:
Sysadmin pilot fish gets a wireless-enabled handheld computer with lots of cool features. "I find out how to use a voice recording as the alert tone when I'm paged, and record a message that says, 'Wake up, @#$%!' when I'm paged by the servers," fish reports. "And promptly forget about it. Until I'm in a meeting. And get paged." Red-faced fish can only mumble, "My server is paging me" -- and beat a hasty retreat.
Reminds me of an error message a consultant I worked with once inserted into a general ledger app. He was working late, very frustrated, and had an "account not balanced" error pop a dialog that read "Balance this, a******". That went over well in acceptance testing :)
Cincom's Tom Nies was recently in London, where he was interviewed by the London Times online.
Don Park points out that the end result of "no one pays for anything" is a place we don't really want to arrive at. meanwhile, the RIAA is complicit in this, IMHO - instead of working with new technology and offering a legal path, they want to outlaw progress. Their answer to the futility of that approach is lots of lawsuits. There's a way to make friends and influence people...