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.
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.
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 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.
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 :)
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.
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
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.
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.
Blaine returns to the land of square brackets:
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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%|
This week is "Skype ate my podcast" week. As I mentioned earlier, Michael and I spoke to Avi Bryant - but the audio got all munged. So... I did a solo cast once things calmed down around here. Product direction is the theme this week, followed by the jobs report. If anything from the other audio can be recovered, I'll get it posted.
Grab the download here.
Via Instapundit, Amazon reviews for the PS3 from some of the (small number of) people who got one. It sounds like the early heat problems that the XBox 360 had are also an issue for the PS3. With how late this was, and with how small the launch volume of units was, wouldn't it have been better for Sony to be really sure about Q/A issues?
Here's a question: Has Sony done anything right with this launch? They had the XBox 360 launch to learn from, and it looks like they failed.
This is one of the things that drives me nuts about the IT sector: for way too many people, things aren't real unless they've been blessed by the "right" analysts:
What if all of us enterprisey folks were wrong to think that Ruby on Rails isn't ready for the enterprise and we decided to ignore lack of industry analyst coverage, lack of any quantity of knowledge in large consulting firms or even lack of a single hint that there is a single Fortune 100 enterprise whose primary business model isn't technology and how they have used it to develop a mission-critical enterprise application?
Would it be so hard to find a non-critical need, and try a pilot project? Why take someone else's word for the "enterprise readiness" of a solution when you could learn the truth for yourself?
I think I should get myself a USB mic and switch over to the Mac for my podcasts. Last night's recording got mangled. I originally thought it was the skype out line, and that still might be it. However, this morning I came downstairs and Windows was in a weird state, having rebooted after some (probably unneeded) update. The cursor was showing a flashing CD. I rebooted, and Windows got stuck. I rebooted again, and things seem to be fine.
Looking at the event log, partway through my call last night (and I remember the drive spinning up and the HD going full bore), Windows decided that it needed to read the CD drive. Why, I don't know - the same CD has been there for weeks. It's this kind of incremental bit rot that makes me more and more interested in moving over to the Mac.
Well, Michael, Avi Bryant and I had a great conversation this evening - it would have made for a great podcast. Unfortunately, the recording software I use only recorded part of it, and mangled that. So... we are going to try and reschedule, for a time when we can all be on skype. My assumption (based on 9 good calls so far) is that the skype out call just didn't merge well with the skype network call and the recording software. It sounded fine in the headphones, but it got mangled on the way out.
I may put together a short solo podcast tomorrow, on product direction - we'll see how my day goes.
But what is most telling is the item that lies in the number six spot, two places ahead of Zune. That honor goes to the SanDisk Sansa e250, the 2GB version of SanDisk's best player. SanDisk may have been the second best selling DAP brand prior to Zune's appearance, but that company certainly does not have anywhere near the advertising visibility Microsoft is committing to Zune. Zune's third place showing among MP3 brands has to be a little disappointing for Microsoft. But then again Microsoft did leap ahead of Creative, iRiver, Archos, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony on its first try and that is a clear accomplishment.
A middle of the pack showing is ok, but getting out of the gate behind the SanDisk is kind of underwhelming. I think they'll need to go back to the drawing board for the next rev.
Nintendo demonstrates what a product launch should look like:
We're hanging out at Toys "R" Us Times Square this evening, getting all ready for a bazillion people to get their respective Wii on. As of 9PM the line is already mind boggling, but the word is Toys "R" Us is stocked with 5,000 of the dang things for the launch, so there are going to be a lot of people going home happy this evening. Keep watching this space for more of the action as it unfolds, and make sure to peep the pics after the break.
Maybe Sony should study...
If everything goes right tonight, we'll have a podcast with Avi Bryant - where we'll talk about DabbleDB, Seaside, and the recent "Ruby on Smalltalk" thing he's been writing about and hacking on. My schedule is a little insane this weekend - we have a family event in 2 hours, and a party for my in-laws tomorrow - so I may not get the podcast edited and online until Monday.
Scoble explains how the console business works:
First year, you’ll lose $200 per machine (Sony is supposedly losing $300 on PlayStation 3).
Second year, you’ll lose $150.
Third year, you’ll lose $100 (although price will probably drop too).
Fourth year, you’ll lose $25 to $50, or if market conditions are good, you might even break even.
Then later asks what we think. I think Nintendo is laughing all the way to the bank. They may have the smallest (about 15%) share of the console market, but they apparently make money on the consoles themselves from the start. Seems like a more rational approach to me.
The MPAA has had another attack of the stupids - they are suing a business that rips a DVD that you've bought to an iPod that you've also bought:
According to the suit, Load 'N Go sells both DVDs and iPods and loads the former onto the latter for customers who purchase both. The company then sends the iPod and the original DVDs to the customer. So the customer has purchased every DVD, and Load 'N Go just saves them the trouble of ripping the DVD. The movie studios' suit claims that this is illegal, because ripping a DVD (i.e., decrypting it and making a copy) is illegal under the DMCA. The suit also claims that this constitutes copyright infringement.
So if that's a copyright infringement, then so is any movie or music individuals rip. The sheer lunacy of this is obvious to everyone but the MPAA - do they seriously think that a separate fee for the "right" to copy to a media player is reasonable?
I sure hope they recover from the rectal-cranial inversion soon.
Technorati Tags: stupidity
Looks like the severe shortage of PS3 units (something lie 150,000 - 200,000 were shipped to the US) is creating an auction feeding frenzy:
The Sony units were being advertised on the San Francisco Bay Area Craigslist with asking prices ranging from $1,500 and $4,000. But the blogosphere was agog Friday morning with reports of a single 60GB system receiving a bid of $9,000. No, that's not a typo, it really does say $9,000 is being offered for a video game unit originally sold for $600. But something seems, well, not quite right. The bidding jumped from $3,500, which seems to be about the standard selling price right now, straight to $8,000. You do the math.
Never mind $9000 - what kind of nut job is willing to pay $3500 for a game system? Here's a tip for all you fanboys - the XBox 360 is in stock, for a lot less. Sheesh.
This can't be a good omen for the launch of Vista:
Last night, a crane flew through the sixth floor windows of Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft's main public relations agency. The metal contraption--and no bird--crashed into offices for the team responsible for Windows PR.
Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Technorati Tags: news
Sometimes you wake up, look in your aggregator, and find that half the conversations are about inside baseball. To with: the little tempest in a teapot over techmeme and the A-Listers.
If you're caught up in that, it's worth pausing and asking yourself a simple question: why do you blog? Personally, I'm engaged in product evangelism, with some commentary on industry trends tossed in as I see fit. Showing up on a site like Techmeme is cool, but it's not what I'm doing this for.
Is part of the Novell deal a slow motion SCO replay? Here's Ballmer:
"Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered," Ballmer said. This "is important to us, because [otherwise] we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability."
Meanwhile, a statement on Novell's site after the deal said, in part:
the agreement had nothing to do with any known infringement.
Color me skeptical.