Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Masks?

Today is Halloween in the United States. It's a day that we basically celebrate Satan and the undead, and to make it more appealing to children - we throw in some candy. Really.

People get dressed up in crazy costumes, put on makeup and are able to act like someone else - albeit only for a few hours. Everyone can get their own personality makeover and act in ways they wouldn't normally act.

I went to a Halloween party this past weekend - to a party where I knew maybe 8 people out of the 40 that were there (I was dressed as a soccer referee). Within 3 beers (and 2 vodka jello shots), everyone was instant "friends." Complete strangers were chumming around like they had been friends for years, girls were "dirty dancing" with each other, and people were just generally having, well, a party (Chuck and Stephanie - you guys ROCK!).

I got to thinking - was it really just the alcohol - or were we all just acting out and doing things that we "wouldn't really do" in "real life?"

Now the interesting thing is that the host and hostess had put together a slide show that contained pictures from previous years parties. This was playing on the plasma screen in the main room where the party was held, so I actually sat down and watched it. Even though I didn't know all the people there - I recognized them in past pictures, all in different costumes - but all the pictures had something in common - they were "real." Real people. Real emotions. Real drunk. Real happy. Real silly.

Does wearing a costume or mask or outfit give us the permission we need to really just be ourselves? If so, what the hell happens to that part of us the rest of time?

Thought for today: Live a little - be who you really are and try it out others.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Do Not Migrate to Servoy If You Use FMP

I'm always getting questions from FileMaker Pro users - "Should I migrate to Servoy if I'm using FileMaker?"

In general: I tell them "NO!"


FileMaker and Servoy are two completely different animals - and they really have very little in common - other than they are tools to create interfaces to a database.

Having said that: If you have a FileMaker database that is 1+ GB in size, or you have more than 500,000 data records, or you have 25 or more users, or you want to roll out new revisions of your solution NOT after 5:00pm (or on weekends!) because you have to import your data), or you have run into stability and scalability problems (which you will if you meet either of the other criteria) - then YES, you SHOULD migrate.

You will be able to apply about 60%-80% of your FileMaker knowledge directly to Servoy (click to create a form, click to add fields, CTRL+F for finds, CTRL+N for new record, etc). The hardest part about taking on a migration are:

  • Documenting what your current solution does
  • Forgetting about the "Workaround Pro" ways of doing things
  • Trying to make things more difficult than they are (in Servoy)
  • Coming up with a migration plan

Let's take a look at each of the issues in a little more depth:

Documenting what your solution does

In order to migrate out of FileMaker to anything else - whether it is Servoy or not - you need to have a good grasp on just what it is that your current FileMaker solution is doing. This means that you need to print out all the screens you want to migrate (in both Layout and Browse Modes) and then look at each screen to determine the fields you need to do data entry on, the fields that are calculated, and what each of the buttons does. You will also need to go through and write down all the validation rules (unique, auto-enter, lookup, etc) that you have.

Once you've done this - you will have a better idea on what you will need to migrate and how big of a job it is going to be. If you're like most FileMaker developers - your solution has grown "organically" over the years (READ: no spec, no documentation, worked on by 15 different people - all with different levels of skill). If this description fits - then it is ESPECIALLY critical that you go through the documentation stage! If you don't you'll be sorry. Trust me.

Forgetting about the "Workaround Pro" ways of doing things

Because FileMaker doesn't have any events, and you can only trigger actions based on buttons - you have get *really* "creative" with scripts, calcs, container fields, etc. to make your interface "look like" it's interactive. Let me just ask you this: How many global repeating container fields with a calc and self-join do you have in order to make a "button" appeared to be dimmed out? If you know what I'm talking about - then you will have a *harder* time migrating to Servoy than someone who doesn't.


Well, that means that you're a "workaround expert" - and you have trained your mind at trying to look at the most convoluted way possible to achieve what SHOULD BE "easy" tasks. This "thinking" is probably going to be the biggest change for you in working with Servoy. In Servoy, you can just say: elements.myButton.enabled = false. This will make a button appear to be "dimmed". Likewise: elements.myButton.enabled = true. This makes a button appear to be active.

No global repeating containers. No "pictures" of buttons. No relations and calc needed.

Trying to make things more difficult than they are (in Servoy)

In Servoy you can sort related data by saying: relationshipName.sort("field1, field2, field3"). You simply pass the function a list of fields to sort by - and you're done. You can build the list dynamically, store it in a variable (like a "global" field, but it's not a column in your table!) - and then use that. You can really "show" and "hide" objects, portals, fields, labels, tab panels, etc. You can dynamically change the location of all those objects, programmatically at runtime. You don't have to use tricks. You don't need to make a "constant" self-join to show all records. You don't need to remember what the hell "table occurrence" to use, or what "context" you have to use to run calculations in, you don't have to buy a plotter to print out your relationship "graph", etc.

In short, you're your own worst enemy. Servoy does things in a simple, straight-forward way. Sometimes learning that causes frustration because the way you're "used to" doing things simply won't work in Servoy. Easy = good. Simple = good. Servoy = good.

Coming up with a migration plan

Once you have your documentation of your existing solution done (DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!) - you can then create a reasonable plan for creating a data model; planning what screens and reports will "make it" into the new solution; looking at all the value lists, relationships and fields to make a list of "common" elements; decide on an overall look and feel for the application; etc.

Once you're at this point - then you need to BUILD A SCREEN OR TWO in Servoy. Get used to the tool so you have a better idea of how it works. You'll discover because you have events in Servoy, and very power control over all your interface objects - you can build the type of application that you can only "dream" about using anything else.

PLUS, you data will be in SQL. Any SQL database you want. No more being "slow." No more waiting. No more coffee cup icons. No more importing into clones. No more recovery. In short - no more bullshit.

I'm working on a new white paper that will go into more details. If you would be interested in getting a copy when it's done - drop me an email with you name, company and email address with the subject line beginning with: [WHITEPAPER]. I'll email it to you when I'm done.

Thought for the day: Migration may be painful, but staying with a f**ked up system is WORSE!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bubble 2.0

I've been hearing and reading a lot about "Web 2.0" - and "Life 2.0" and all the hype about SaaS (Software as a Service), SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) etc. The more I look at it - the more it sounds like the same old concepts with a slightly new twist.

SaaS - used to be called ASP (Application Service Provider), SOA used to be called "web services", and Web 2.0 used to be called... ummm... web applications.

So what the hell?

I would submit that we're in a time that is much like the previous "dot com" bubble of 1999-2001. I'll call this "Bubble 2.0" - for lack of a better term.

This Bubble 2.0 claims to be the new and improved bubble - it's got a new name, and it's been cleaned up a little since 2000 - but it still has most of the cool features of the previous version: companies paying crazy prices for questionable businesses with no real profits (eBay purchase of Skype for $2.5 Billion, Google purchase of YouTube for $1.6 billion), companies with huge valuations compared with profits (Google at $425 per share, MySpace valuation at $10 billion), crazy sites popping up like mushrooms trying to be the "next big thing", etc.

Ahhhhh the good old days.

I mean "Web 2.0".... I mean "New Economy".... I mean "Web Economy"... I mean "same crap different year"...

This time the technology is a little better (Ajax is very cool - if you like being tied to a browser), the companies at least have some plans to be profitable at some point, but really, other than that - the concepts that are being floated are actually going BACKWARD.

I'm reading these "cutting edge" articles on how everywhere always connected lifestyles mean that we should have a "virtual" computer that would store our apps and data online so we can access it from any computer (or handheld, or watch phone, or iPod, or whatever).

I've seen this movie before. It's called "mainframes and dumb terminals."

The good news is - since everything old is becoming new again - I will make my own bold prediction: people will eschew the complexity of a graphical user interface, and will prefer a much easier method of input: typing. This will solve lots of problem - as people of all ages can be taught how to type, and without a pesky mouse or icons or windows - people won't get confused. There are 12 function keys - so there can only be 12 choices at once.

Now if I can only find my 5.5 inch, 125kb diskette with Apple Basic on it...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sometimes Customers SUCK

I've been in the software consulting and packed programs business for over 20 years now - and sometimes it still just pisses me off to no end when I have to cross paths with pathetic "people" that happen to buy my services/software.

Let me be clear - in the main - I generally LOVE customers. They keep business going, most of them are downright pleasant, and some are really just a pleasure to know as people. Then there are the very few (thankfully!) that are just a waste of space. I call them the "consumers."

These are people that, no matter what, expect the world and every product and service, every computer, every OS, every piece of software, every phone system - basically everything - to work exactly the way THEY think it should.

100% of the time. No exceptions.

These people make gross assumptions (and LOUDLY) based on their ignorance - usually in very public ways. They take a position that is totally un-informed or just plain stupid and then bitch about it. They rarely bother to experiment, try things, or even worse - RTFM (Read The Fu**ing Manual).

They are experts at using inflammatory and sarcastic language and usually always blame the software or hardware or OS or the dev team or _________ (fill in the blank) for things that they don't understand. 99% of the time it is their own fault something doesn't work, or didn't work - but they are the first ones to flame lists, report "terrible bugs" in the underlying software (or software solution).

Then, when someone helps them - and fixes their problem, or points out where to look in the manual, or gives them sample code - they STILL BITCH ABOUT IT. Rather than saying "Thanks for your help" - they say things like "...well, the program shouldn't allow me to make that mistake..." or "...I don't know how ANYONE would be think of that...", etc.

But it doesn't stop there. These are also the same exact people who will try to "grind" you on price, expect instant answering of all email, get pissed off when they can't reach someone on the phone the instant they call, and often have their credit cards declined (or are slow to pay).

Sometimes they go even further - and will kindly send an email notifying you of the 26 misplaced semi-colons and passive verbs in your documentation - and they will always find 5-10 tiny, tiny inconsistencies in manual screen shots or online tutorials and then will proceed to say that a company is "unprofessional" for "serious omissions in functionality", etc. etc.

Luckily, I have dealt with this type of person enough in my career to recognize that for these people change is painful. So, I gently remind them that any kind of change can be difficult and learning new things takes time and effort and a bit of frustration. If that doesn't work - I to do one of three things:

  1. If they are a profitable customer - let someone else assist them - someone with a lot higher sh*t tolerance than I do; OR
  2. Suggest they continue to use whatever it is they are currently using - since making the change to something new is obviously too difficult for them; OR
  3. "Fire" them as a customer.

Sometimes just saying "Sorry, we really don't want your business" is the best way to go. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I can usually feel my blood pressure drop and my urge to go home, kick the dog and drink heavily magically disappears.

OK, so maybe not the drinking part...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Gates 2.0

So Bill Gates is leaving Microsoft in July 2008... is the sky falling? What do you think?

Bill has had his share of battles - and wins: IBM in the 80's, Sun and Netscape in 90's, and now it's the Linux and Open Source crowd. While the MS jury is still out on the Linux and Open Source crowd - Bill already has Steve Ballmer to be the front man on that battleground.

If I were the richest man on earth - what would I want to do... hmmmm... let's see:

a) The same crap I've been doing for the last 30 years and being vilified for "embracing and extending" others' technology

b) Giving away billions of dollars to the poor, being "bullet proof" from snarky criticism, and being loved and appreciated by millions

I don't know about you - but I'm picking B for sure. Now that he's 50, maybe he's thinking about "Bill 2.0" and what type of legacy he wants to leave rather than just creating (or "embracing and extending") the "next big thing." I've got to imagine it's got a certain amount of "been there, done that" to it. I would imagine that trying to decide where to dole out hundreds of millions in interest (their foundation is endowed with over $29 BILLION) has got to be a whole lot more fun.

Whether you love him, hate him, or don't care - you gotta' admit - it's really hard to criticize and dislike someone who give away money. LOTS of money.

I, for one say - GOOD ON YA, Bill!

P.S. If you like this blog - I would be happy to take some of that filthy money off your hands...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's All About "Better"

Google's "PayPal killer" buying system, Microsoft's "iPod killer" and Parallels "Boot Camp Killer"

Google is releasing a payments and certification service named GBuy on June 28. Merchants enrolled in the program would receive free payment processing during the beta period after that they will be charged between 1.5% to 2%. In addition, each merchant who drinks the multi-colored KoolAid will be designated by Google (on the search results) as a "trusted GBuy merchant." I'm sure the thought here is that if the average joe search user sees this - they will be more likely to click on the link - and perhaps even buy from that merchant. Although not explicitly stated - don't you think that GBuy-certified merchants will appear higher in the rankings? Nah! After all, Google's motto is "don't be evil"...

Once Google has this setup, and has a boatload of merchants - do you honestly think they won't go after consumer-to-consumer payments? If I were PayPal, I'd start to grease up...

Microsoft's vaporware PR machine has been blowing steam about a new music store and handheld device that will rival Apple's iPod/iTunes combo. Of course the "announcement" was very vague, with no specific features listed, no prices, no timeframe for launch... but hey, those are just annoying minor details. I don't know where Microsoft comes up with all their brilliant ideas. An online music store? A handheld MP3 player that will play the songs you buy and download from an online music store? REVOLUTIONARY!

It's just another lame-ass attempt at the MIcrosoft mantra: "Embrace and extend" - which translated another way is: "Rip off and make proprietary". It's something they're very, very good at. Here's just a few examples:

  • Windows (based on Mac OS)
  • SQL Server (originally licensed from Sybase)
  • Excel (based on VisiCalc)
  • Word (based on WordPerfect)
  • Mobile OS (based on Palm Pilot)
  • Internet Explorer (based on Netscape)
  • X-Box (based on Sony PSP)
  • Visual Basic (based on Basic)
  • C# (based on Java)
  • Vista "eye candy" (based on Mac OS)
  • Vista desktop search (based on Mac OS/Google)
  • MSN advertiser-sponsored search (based on Google)
  • Windows Media Player (based on RealPlayer)

Ummmmm... you get the idea. I think they'll do what they did with the X-Box, and eat most of the cost and offer it for a really reduced price to gain market share. Hey, why not? They've got over $34 billion in cash just sitting around...

Finally, there is one of my new favorite companies - Parallels, Inc. and their virtualization software by the same name. Is it a Boot Camp killer? Yes. Boot Camp is beta software from Apple that lets you set the boot OS (Mac OS or Windows). Once you've booted up in that OS, you have to effectively shut down that OS to start the other one. Yeah, I know it's lame! With Parallels, you can have your Mac OS AND run Windows (see my previous column) at the same time. This is the promise of "Virtual PC" - fulfilled! There are some rumors that the next version of Mac OS (Leopard - due later this year) MIGHT contain that same functionality... but Apple is being mute about features in Leopard until their World Wide Developers Conference in August (the opposite strategy of Microsoft!).

Monday, October 23, 2006

I'm A Mac and I'm A PC

I don't know whether you've seen the new Apple ads (if you haven't - you've been in a cave somewhere - or at least not watching any prime time TV) - but they feature two guys - one that's a Mac ("I'm a Mac") and another guy (in a suit) - "I'm a PC."

I'll leave you to view the ads yourself - but the basic gist is that the Mac guy (twenty something in jeans - who apparently is unable to grow real facial hair) is politely disrespecting the PC guy. For example, in one ad the PC guy stops mid-sentence (he had to "restart") and the punch line is the Mac guy saying "...I'm going to get IT - keep an eye on him..."

Gotta' love Chiat-Day!

It's funny that Apple is still poking fun at Windows - given the fact that once they ported iTunes to the PC (announced with an ad campaign with the headline "Hell Froze Over") - they finally gained the market share that has allowed them dominance in the downloaded music market. Until then, they weren't able to break the 10 million mark in downloads (now at over 1/2 BILLION downloads).

Then, they scrapped the PowerPC chip - in favor of the dual core processor made by... wait for it... INTEL (I guess since hell was already frozen over - it didn't matter).

NOW, they have even released a beta of a piece of software called BootCamp. BootCamp will allow Mac users with the new Intel chip "dual boot" their computers. That means they can startup their Mac and run Windows as the operating system! There are even hackers out there that are working on free software that will allow a triple boot - adding the ability to boot Linux as well.

There's even a company who makes PC virtualization software (Parallels) - that allows Mac users to boot up in OS X and then open a separate process to run Windows. In fact, Servoy's CEO, Jan Aleman used this in demos last week - and it works! It works so well, that he was able to create a Servoy solution on the "Mac side" and deploy it in a client on the "PC side" - on a single machine.

Now THAT's cool!

I've had a love-like-hate-like-hate relationship with the Mac since it first came out in 1984. I've had many Macs (ONLY Macs in the early days) and more recently, many PCs. I've used "Virtual PC" in the old days (when a 1GB hard drive and 2MB of RAM was the upper limits of computing); I've used 386, 486, Pentium PCs; I've used Newtons, Palm Pilots, etc.

At the end of the day, the best technology is the one that works the best for you. Or, in my case, the hardware/OS combination that most of my customers use - and that's PC/Windows by FAR.

Although, I must admit, having the ability to run BOTH OSes on a single box is really, really appealing. As long as it really WORKS. In this case, that seems to be the case.

I'm torn between loving the Mac (UI, seamless connection, ease-of-use) and hating it (constant OS updates, crappy Java VM, limited software titles) and loving my Windows machine (most customers use it, loads of current software, great Java VM) and hating it (constant virus updates and OS patches, hit-and-miss peripheral integration, "registry hell").

I guess I'm a little bit Mac and a little bit PC at heart.

Maybe my next notebook will be a MacBook...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Why Invent? Just SUE!

With the latest news about yet another company trying to sue RIM (makers of the BlackBerry handheld) - I've just about had it.

Just as RIM (Research In Motion) settled with NPT (a patent holding company that has no products other than lawsuits) for more than $600 million (yep - over 1/2 BILLION dollars!) on patents that the US Patent & Copyright Office had invalidate (or was just about to) - up steps a company called Visto.

You see - Visto just successfully sued another company called Seven Networks and won a $3.6 million verdict in Texas - for violations of intellectual property on some patents they own having to do with wireless email.

Hell, Visto even filed against Microsoft on December 15, alleging that Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system also infringed on its patents! Nice. Suing Microsoft. Good idea. I'm "sure" you'll win. No problem.

Even if they don't win - just the thought of RIM going through yet another lawsuit ordeal - has some corporate users searching for alternatives.

And, it just so happens, that Nokia is coming out with it's own wireless device with a keyboard that does what the BlackBerry does. Hmmmmm.... make you think.

What I find even more crazy - is the fact that NTP holds a stake in Visto as well! Talk about double-dipping! Gotta' just love the "hey, if it worked once, it can work again" mentality of lawsuits. This is literally their business model.

Hijacking for dollars. God, it's GREAT to be an American!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Rich Internet App - My Ass!

There's been quite a number of stories in the past week about RIA's - their definition and why people should/should not use them. For those of you that aren't "hip" to all the crazy acronyms floating around these days - RIA stands for Rich Internet Applications.

RIA is an acronym that Macromedia (now owned by Abobe) came up with in 2003 as a way to basically sell Flash as a way to create "highly interactive" web-based applications. They later developed Flex - an application framework (based on the concept of remote flash), and have added a bunch of connectors to databases, and even a very basic IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that is a plug-in to the venerable Eclipse development environment.

Flex is an XML-based language and application server that are used (allegedly) to create scalable business application on web sites. The way it works is you write a bunch of XML files that contain code (with or without the IDE) - save it as a .swf (Flash) file, and upload it to the server. Then, on your page - you make reference to the .swf file - and when the page loads, the Flash plug-in the browser takes over and renders everything.

Flash itself is a very "sexy", graphics-based technology that allows developers to build "pretty" interfaces that run in a web browser. Flash has cool effects like wipes, dissolves , etc. Traditionally, Flash has been used for web site animations, banner animations, etc. because it is very compact (files are small), and the installation of the Flash plug-in into a browser is very straight forward and easy.

The problem, in my view - is that there are LOTS of moving parts involved. There are LOTS of physical files that make up a final solution. There isn't any automatic data binding - in fact, there's very little "automatic" anything! Just for fun - check out this "simple" application of showing contact records from a database.

YIKES! I can build AND DEPLOY that solution in 15 seconds in Servoy - with ZERO code.

Besides being difficult to develop (and maintain) code - and the fact you have to have connectors and a messaging server, installing and configuring a J2EE application server (JRun, IBM Websphere, or BEA Weblogic) and all the rest of the requirements (at least deployment isn't that hard) - there are a few other points that are a bit disconcerting:

  • Data connections to back end databases? Ummm... yeah, but licensed separately - and good luck figuring out the messaging model.
  • Mac Version? Ummm... yeah, sure, sometime.
  • Cost? $1,000 per developer + Data Services (price TBD)
  • 1 GB of memory (Flex Builder)
  • Your application’s compiled SWF file is in the same domain as the remote data source. OR, if you use a proxy and your SWF is on the same server as the proxy.
  • Loads, and loads and LOADS of code! In little files. LOTS of little files - all over the place.

Yeah, but is Servoy a "true" Rich Internet Application tool? In a word: YES. You can launch via a browser a 2K .jnlp file (Java WebStart config file - auto-generated by Servoy for you). Everything else happens outside the browser, but across the Internet (or LAN or WAN or VPN). Compiled methods are executed on the client. Data access, data connections, data change broadcasting, finding data, editing data, creating new rows, duplicating data, embedded JavaBeans, embedded JavaApplets, enhanced plug-in functions (get/post http; platform-specific dialogs, UDP calls, pop/smtp email, etc) are handled automatically by the Servoy application server (servlet) and Smart Client.

Servoy will do virtually all the same stuff (except the pretty transition effects) BUT:

With NO coding to setup all the "plumbing" behind the scenes.
With NO code to make data connections.
With NO code to bind data objects to "grids" for display.
With NO code to create relationships between tables.
With NO code to query the correct columns.
With NO code to query tables across different databases.
With NO code to broadcast data changes to other clients.
With NO need to "compile"/run to test changes to functionality.
With NO need to replace HTML code to roll out newer versions.

Servoy is THE easy way to a truly Rich Internet Application.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Be Very Afraid

The big news a couple of months ago was Apple's announcement that it would ship a program (currently in beta) called "Boot Camp" that would allow users of the MacBook (with the new Intel dual core processor) dual boot between Mac OS X and Windows. I guess hell really did freeze over.

Maybe Steve & Company finally realized that they really do only have about 4% of the OS market. I guess they figured if people run Windows on Apple Hardware, then they would also finally be exposed to the "computing for the rest of us" - the elegant way that computer interfaces should be.

I guess they're hoping Windows users will wonder at the seamless way that a Mac will recognize peripherals, wireless networks, and other goodies that often require untold downloads and installs of various service packs, driver updates, "have CD" installs and all the other crap that is standard procedure on any Windows box.

If I were Microsoft, I would be "concerned."

Microsoft is busy missing shipping deadlines for Vista (their next version of the Windows operating system); heavily promoting "studies" (that they funded) slamming Linux as a server OS; and also readying a new update to Office; and Exchange; and SQL Server; and .NET; and Visual Studio; and... and... and... oh, never mind. Let's just say they're updating everything under the sun - in order to stay relevant. To keep their OS dominance in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, the world is a changing. Sun released their Solaris OS as open source. Open Office is gaining steam in new versions as a viable alternative to the Office suite. Red Hat just bought middleware maker JBoss (also open source) to beef up their Linux server platform. Oracle is buying up open source companies like they were going out of style.

If I were Microsoft, I would be "very concerned."

The cash cows of Microsoft have traditionally been it's Server operating system, Office productivity suite, and SQL Server database. With Linux (server operating system), Open Office (and cousin Star Office from Sun - productivity suite), and MySQL costing a small fraction of the price with 80%+ of the functionality - and all being open-source - the Microsoft cash cows are starting to look like hamburger.

Then, while surfing this week, I came across something - yet another open source, reasonably priced piece of software. It's called Zimbra. This app is delivered via a browser and uses AJAX. It comes with a "collaboration server" - and the web-based UI is optional. You can just as easily use Thunderbird or even Outlook. The AJAX-based UI is very cool and has drag/drop capabilities, a "reading pane" for emails, a collaborative calendar, supports an API that would allow developers to create "Zimlets" that would - for example - get information on a FedEx package when the cursor is rolled over it, etc.

Oh, and they also just announced they would be adding a word processing and spreadsheet to the suite as well. Cost? "Small Business Edition" at $1,450 per year for up to 50 users, or the "Standard Edition" at $28 per user/year (min 500 - then in blocks of 50). Included is access to their knowledge base, email, phone and 24x7 crisis support.

Can you say "Exchange killer?" Unlike Google's disjointed offerings and Microsoft's own LAME "Live Office" offering - this is looking very interesting. And cheap. And open-source. And browser-based. And cheap.

If one of the "big boys" (Google, Yahoo, etc.) picked up on this technology and were able to push it through their already huge network of users - well... it could be the beginning of the end of the Microsoft-dominated software era.

If I were Microsoft, I would be "afraid." Very afraid.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I Gotta' Have More Cowbell!

During a late-night break from programming this week - I caught an old episode of Saturday Night Live that cracked me up - and inspired me to ask this question:

The Mac OS is cooler than Windows because:

a) It's built on Linux

b) Steve Jobs can do do wrong

c) It's got more cowbell

Answer: C - more cowbell.

"More cowbell" is the punch line to a five year old skit that featured Christopher Walken and was a spoof of VH1's "Behind the Music." The "show" takes a "behind-the-scenes" look at what might have happened when the 1970s band Blue Oyster Cult (BOC) went into the studio to record "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" - one of the bands most recognized songs.

Those of you who are old enough to know what a "record" is (hint - has nothing to do with databases) - you know that "Don't Fear The Reaper" features a prominent cowbell during the entire song.

I won't ruin the fun by explaining the skit - but Walken steals the show with "I gotta' have more cowbell!" - as he pleads with the band members who are annoyed with Gene Frenkle's (played by Will Farrell) incessant cowbell beating.

That got me to thinking about what "I gotta' have more cowbell" really means. On the surface, it's just a silly saying really only aprapose in the context of the skit. On a deeper level (stay with me here) it's actually got some meaning beyond the context of a "cute" skit.

To me, it's a battle cry for accentuating the positive - and calling for more of "it." "It" in this case is whatever "it" is that makes a product or service go beyond just acceptable and brings it into the realm of "gotta' have it."

Some examples:

  • The Ritz Carlton's High Tea
  • Riding a BMW R1200 RT over a winding mountain road
  • Servoy
  • Zillow.com
  • Wired Magazine
  • Nordstrom's

It's not often that I have a "cowbell moment" - but when I do - I'm generally hooked. I look forward to having that moment again and again. Even more than that - I EXPECT it. It raises the bar for not only that product or service - but my baseline expectation is that of excellence - everytime. That's not necessarily a bad thing - until the inevitable happens - the human factor.

Someone drops the ball.

Some invoice gets lost.

Some phone call gets missed.

Some website goes down.

Basically - life happens. No matter how hard you try, or how well the planning goes - there are those times when everything goes to hell in a handbasket and there is little or nothing you can do about it.

So how does that affect the "cowbell" experience? If you've already had the "cowbell" experience, and you're a "fan", then it's probably not that big of a deal. I mean, everyone (person and company) has a bad hair day occasionally.

However, If you're not already a "fan" - then it can sometimes make the difference between becoming one and not. Or at least your expectation is set lower than the reality - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. This just means, in the case of a really great company, you'll be delighted (if you give them a second chance) and then hopefully, you'll have your own "cowbell" moment.

Thought for today: "Guess what? I've got a fever. And the only prescription is more cowbell!"

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Down Side of "Instant"

God, I'm getting old.

At dinner the other night somehow the discussion turned to technology - or, specifically - the lack of technology when my wife and I were growing up.

As I sat there an recited a list of all the things that weren't invented when I was a kid - computers, video camera, "digital" anything, microwaves, VCR (forget about DVDs), fax machines, cell phones, pagers, PDA's, video games (well, OK, "Pong" came out when I was 10), cable television, copiers, printers, ATMs, phone machines, super glue, voicemail, coffee makers...

"...and did you have stone dishes and cook over a fire, Daddy?" (true question from my 6 year old daughter)

Well, I'm not THAT old. Don't get me wrong we had our "cool" technology of the time: 8 track tapes, CB radios, Super 8 movie cameras, IBM Selectric typewriters (VERY advanced "business machines"), fondue machines, Tupperware, Tang, 3 TV stations (with a 25 foot antenna on the roof), Christmas lights with individual "screw-in" bulbs...

Even without the technological advances of today, people still managed to get stuff done.

We would use carbon paper pressed against a second piece of paper when we typed up a letter so we would have a copy. We did things like write and letter, put a stamp on it, and {gasp!) MAIL it. We went into a bank branch to make a deposit or withdrawl, transfer money, or do anything else with money. You would call people on the phone if you wanted to "instantly" communicate with them - or better yet - just drop by their house or office.

We would play with "boring" toys like blocks, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets. We would play games like Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders and Candyland. When a new Disney movie came out either we would go to the drive-in as a family or see it in the theatres. Once. Ever.

Then, things got "faster." We had one hour photo developing, a "fax" machine - for "instant" communications (at 600 baud!), "instant" soup, "instant" copies.

Fast forward to today.

We have "instant" messaging, "email" (instant" communications), Blackberrys (when email is just too slow), every Disney movie made on VHS and DVD (and probably even Beta!) for the "instant" Disney experience, satellite TV and radio with 200+ stations (to "instantly" suck up all your free time and rot your brain), TiVO (will "instantly" record 2 shows at once), iPods ("instant" music anywhere), cell phones ("instant" communication), PDF documents rather than faxes ("instant" archives), 1GB USB hard drives ("instant" storage), "lunchables" ("instant" kid lunches), two way walkie talkies built into phones (when dialing is not "instant" enough), broadband ("instant" downloads when compared to dial-up)...

We place 5 million cell phone calls, send over 10 BILLION instant messages and 3 million SMS messages PER DAY. With all this technology that lets us "instantly" connect and get our work done, and with all the other "instant" technologies we have today - we should have a 3 hour work week.

But, of course, we don't.

We now work (on average) more than 40 hours per week, take less vacations, and when we DO take a vacation - we tend to pack the Blackberry, cell phone, laptop and iPod and look for hotels that sport free wireless Internet connections.

We're turning into a society that has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). And yet, we're still dreaming of a time when things are MORE "instant." We want things to go faster, take less time and effort so we can... ummmm... well, spend even MORE time working, and less time interacting with our friends, families, churches, organizations and clubs.

I don't know about you - but I'm still waiting for the "instant" meal pills, flying cars that fold into a briefcase ("instant" transportation) - or at the least my own rocket pack. I want an "instant" dog walker attached to my house floating in the sky, a personal robot to "instantly" cater to my every whim, a computer that recoginizes speech and can anticipate my needs... Ok, so I watched too many "Jetsons" growing up - but I still want them.

If ONLY I had those things... THEN I would take time to smell the roses. THEN I could find the time to attend my kids' games. THEN I could donate my time to others. THEN I could _____________ (fill in the blank).

Technology has come a long way since I was a kid. I marvel at what humankind has been able to accomplish in such a short time. I wonder what the future will hold. I wonder what it will be like when my kids are my age.

Now if only I had an "instant" time travel machine...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Software Can Be A Trip

My wife and I have been on some wonderful vacations together. We have enjoyed many different cities, states and even countries together.

I recently had the opportunity to go with her and the kids on a getaway for a long weekend. Those of you who have children can attest to one thing: when you're traveling with your children - there is no such thing as a "vacation" - it's a "trip."

There is a vast difference between a vacation and a trip.

A vacation is a chance to unwind and re-charge your batteries.
A trip is something you do to get out of the house.

On a vacation, you "splurge" for a nice room with a view - in a 4 star hotel.
On a trip - you map out the route based on "super saver specials" and refer to the Motel6 website for inspiration.

On a vacation you enjoy intimate meals and private moments.
On a trip - you scarf McDonalds and install earplugs for the mind-numbing screams in the indoor play area.

On a vacation your time is your own - you can sleep in, read, get a massage and take long walks hand-in-hand.
On a trip - you can get up at 6:30am to watch Dora the Explorer, grab breakfast at 8:00am and be totally exhausted by lunch.

On vacation you can read the morning paper over coffee, hop in the car to explore new areas, and dine al fresco.
On a trip - you can read page one of the paper on the toilet (if you're lucky), spend 25 minutes getting ready to go on the day's outing (complete with 1/2 the luggage you brought "just in case"), and dine in any "kid friendly" hash joint you choose.

On a vacation you stroll the Champ-Elysees and have a meal at a quaint French sidewalk cafe overlooking Notre Dame.
On a trip - you go to Buffalo Bill's in Primm Nevada ("the hotel with the rollercoaster, Daddy!") and endure a bland all-you-can-eat buffet.

On a vacation you shuss down slopes of white powder followed by a Hot Toddy in front of a roaring fire in the lodge.
On a trip - you put the kids in "ski school"and shuss down slopes of white powder followed by a Hot Toddy in front of a roaring fire in the lodge (hey, I'm not STUPID!).

On a vacation you escape to a local hotel - even just overnight - for an evening of quality time and romance in a room with a comfortable oversized bed and fluffy down pillows.
On a trip - you "get as many miles behind you" as possible - hoping the kids will not fall asleep too early so you can collapse into a rock-hard bed with foam pillows.

You get the idea. Now, don't get me wrong - I love to travel with my family. We go interesting places, and half the fun is to watch the kids enjoying themselves and see them learn and experience things for the first time. I get a chance to experience things that I probably wouldn't normally "choose" to do if the kids weren't there. Plus, there are plenty of bright spots during a trip - otherwise I wouldn't go on them anymore.

It's just... well... a vacation is totally different. I really look forward to them because I don't take them often. I relish "catching up" with my wife and having the luxury of being completely selfish with our quality time together. I don't have to worry about schedules, email, phone calls, potty breaks every 30 minutes (at the most inappropriate times), etc.

Software can be the same way. For me, using Servoy is like going on a vacation. Other software I use is simply a trip.

Thought for today: If you're tired of your "trippy" software - give Servoy a look-see. http://www.servoy.com

Friday, October 13, 2006

Choices, Choices

I've been in the market for a different car. There are lots of choices out there... too many!

There is a LOT of competition out there for things that do basically the same thing - with basically the same purpose: to get you from one place to another.

They all even have the same basic parts: chassis, body, doors, windows, engine, wheels, seats, steering wheel, lights, etc.

So - from a purely practical point of view - they all do the same thing - and they all have the same basic features (at the core). Why, then, are there so many different manufacturers and so many model types within those different brands?

I think it all comes down to this: Different strokes for different folks with different budgets and needs.

Car manufacturers are very, very good at creating different models that appeal to different types of drivers. Once they identify a wide niche (or a best-selling trend by a competitor) - they create a full-fledged vehicle to try to appeal to that demographic. This is a huge investment. Often in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It often takes anywhere between 18 months and 36 months to bring those cars into production (if they ever see the light of day in the first place).

When they sit down to design a car for a particular segment of driver - they make sure that everything about the design will appeal to that segment. For example, If you pick a brand and model - say "BMW 760Li" that car is designed for a very specific buyer/driver and that is much different than a "Toyota Corolla". Both do the same thing. Both are made from basically the same parts. One is $118,000 - the other is $14,000.

In the end it depends on what you need, what you want, and what you can afford.

If you're driving a old, beat-up '69 bug that you bought new, and is still "good transportation" and you're happy with it - then there's no need to change. On the other hand, if you just bought a new Toyota Corolla and it's not meeting your needs - it's not like they come with 30 day money back guarantee. You would have to trade in that car to get a new one - and you would find out that it has lost value based on the number of miles, etc. so you won't get what you paid for it. Of course, this varies by model and how desirable it is, and how many people want to buy it used. The dealer of the new car would take your old (new) car, figure out what they could sell it for (plus a profit) and credit that against the price of the car (or truck) you "really" want.

There is a period of transition as you get "used to" the new (new) car. Things work differently. You have re-input all your favorite radio stations. You have to set up the automatic garage door opener. You have to set up the seat adjustment, the mirror positions to fit you. You probably will want to customize it in some way - personalized license plates, an evergreen deodorizer, custom wheels, etc.

It's the same will ALL cars. Same with trucks. Same with SUV's.

Same with software.

There are lots of choices for storing and retrieving your data. There are desktop databases that are inexpensive and easy-to-use, there are high-end RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) systems, and Open-Source databases, and free databases, and proprietary databases. There are also many, many different tools for getting your information in and out of those databases - client software, HTML-based CGI programs, dumb terminal software, etc.

Once you get software you think you want, you have to configure it and customize it for your own needs. Once you have it customized and working - chances are good that it will continue to work well (with regular maintenance) for a long time.

NOTHING lasts forever.

At some point, you'll have to upgrade your car, I mean database. There are different circumstances - but it really all comes down to the same issues that you have when you're thinking about trading in your car: reliability, fitness for purpose and scalability.

Reliability - are you spending more time and money "fixing" and "patching" what you have than you are actually using it?

Fitness For Purpose - have you "outgrown" it. A two-seater convertible was awesome when you were single - but does it meet the needs of your growing family?

Scalability - does it meet not only your needs - but your anticipated needs. After all, if you're going to get a new car (or software) - it should not only meet your current needs but your needs for the next few years (at least) as well.

If you're using some stone-age 4GL and you're in a place where you have 50 or more users - and you're "old clunker" of a system is ready for a replacement - then check out Servoy - you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Oracle - Unbreakable "ish"

For years Oracle has been running its "Unbreakable" ad campaign - touting how Oracle is hacker-proof - especially on Linux.

Well, it turns out that they are not quite "unbreakable" - as they just released a security patch that fixes 83 "critical" security flaws. I guess they have a good excuse - beyond just the normal "Ooops, my bad" - that seems to be going around.

After all, they have been on a $19 Billion buying spree over the last two years. They had such a hard-on to "slaughter" SAP in the CRM space and after finally buying PeopleSoft (and JD Edwards as a result) - they've been really "busy" with the whole "integration thing."

So who could notice that... ummm... by the way - your database, the main product for Oracle, the "thingie" that hundreds of thousands of businesses use to store mission-critical, personal customer information in is... well... sorta' broken.

More than a little disturbing? That would be a "yes." Because at the end of the day - "unbreakable" is just a marketing campaign - right? Wrong.

Hackers are the ones that take the "unbreakable" tag line to heart - and they aren't exactly the ones coming forward with sample code for exploits they find. Rather, they're the ones that keep silent and just steal a coupla' million rows worth of personal or confidential data. Confident that their victims are all warm and snug in their beds - 100% secure in the fact that their prized information is totally safe in an "unbreakable" repository.

Never let it be said that Larry Ellison would let the facts get in the way of a great tag line.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Don't Do Sports (Normally)

Normally, I don't "do" sports.

I have no time.

Normally, I have no interest.

I do, however, watch the SuperBowl. Well, that's not true. I TiVo the SuperBowl - that way I can fast forward through all the absolute crap that the armchair quaterbacks (the announcers) have to say - and I can skip all the completely useless stats that they feel compelled to share every 20 seconds or so.

Plus, I have twin 5-1/2 year olds - who will never sit through one episode of Spongebob - forget about a 4-1/2 hour game of grown men trying to beat the hell out of each other.

I could really care less about who was playing (I didn't even KNOW who was playing until it started), or where they were playing (Detroit - but only because Mick Jagger said so at halftime).

I was there for the halftime show.

I figured there would be little chance of seeing any more breasts flying around - but there was something equally as funny: Keith Richards still alive.

I mean, really! The Rolling Stones could all qualify for Social Security - and here they are prancing around "singing." Mick - I saw you in Vegas and you were great - next time they ask you to do a halftime show - try to actually hit ANY note and try to remember the words to your own damn song!

Oh, and lose Keith Richards. At least he didn't sing (as he did in Vegas) - but don't let him walk around and try to "play guitar" at the same time. Not gonna' work. Not enough brain cells left. He can't chew gum and walk either. Trust me.

Was it as good as a "costume malfunction?" Nope. Was it worth injuring my "fast forward" finger to get to the halftime show. Sort of. Would have been much better to see Keith in his natural habitat with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, drunk, weaving dangerously close to the edge of that massive stage...

But hey, what do you want for a free show?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

When Less Is More

I am sick to death of bloatware.

I was trying to explain to a novice user how to use Microsoft Word for creating tables of contents and indexes. To create a table of contents - it's fairly simple - just assign styles to your headings (using the styles "Heading 1", "Heading 2", etc) and then click to generate a table of contents. Easy, right?


If you use styles, there are approximately 15,000 settings you can use to control every single aspect of the paragraph, hot keys, leading, kerning, borders, shading flow control, bullets and numbering, alignment, space before, space after, line spacing, hanging indents, font, size, character spacing, text effects, indents, outline level, line breaks, page breaks, widow control, hypenation, languages, spell checking, dictionaries to use, and about 80 other settings - PER STYLE.

To a novice user - this is... hmmmm... overwhelming at best. To someone that is a professional writer, author or has to format loads of documents in a consistent way - it's really a godsend. To everyone else (98%?) - it's just plain overkill. The "average" user (myself included) will probably use about 5% - 10% of that functionality (on a really complex document). The rest is a waste of programming, documentation and adds un-needed complexity to an already-complex piece of software.

This is why people use Notepad and WordPad. A lot.

I think you can say the same thing about most of the software and hardware you buy today. I bought a cheap digital watch for my son the other day, and there was a 12 PAGE instruction booklet on how to set the date, time and use the chronograph functions. Talk about convoluted! There are only 4 buttons on the damn thing and to get anything done I had to do a virtual ballet of pressing, holding, tapping and pushing to work through all the various settings. I mean it's a damn WATCH for goodness sake!

All those extra features are nice, mind you - but I'm just trying to see what time it is. I'm not programming an Altair!

All this from someone that uses technology for a living. I mean, I'm fairly comfortable with software, hardware, gadgets, etc. and STILL most things are such a hassle, I don't bother with them. God forbid if I ever lose the instructions on how to setup that watch!

Thankfully, there are some pieces of software and hardware in my life that are so easy to use AND useful, that I can't imagine my life without them. They solve a real problem without being cumbersome. They have a function and do one thing really well. They are easy to setup and use, and that makes me want to use them more.

A couple of examples are the iPod, my DVR (Digital Video Recorder), my text editor, and my... gulp... iMac.

Two out of the four are from a single company. Apple.

They "get it" (most of the time). They have pretty, simple, easy-to-use products and the marketing budget to make them "cool." The iPod player is not the most full-featured MP3 player on the market, the iMac still uses a PowerPC chip (until the dual cores start shipping soon) that isn't as fast as the Intel chips in my Dell, iTunes isn't the biggest online music source (or the least expensive). It's all about the simplicity. The attention to detail.

The text editor I use is TextPad. It's like Notepad, but with a spell checker. It has basic text entry, word count, good search/replace features and it's inexpensive. I use it a lot. In fact, most of the time. Like now, writing this Bob's World column.

But if I had to pick a single product that is the one that I use the most - I would have to say it's my Digital Video Recorder (DVR). Gone are the days of clunky programming with a remote, flashing "12:00" timestamps, forgetting to put in a VHS tape or taping over the twin's birthday party with an episode of Lost.

Point, click, record. Choose to record a series with two clicks. Set and forget. Done.

Watch two shows while recording another - check. Block content so if the kids get up early they aren't "accidentally" watching the latest Chris Rock special on HBO? Check. Record movies from HBO that are on in the middle of the night? Check. Browse by show category or title - so I can record a special show while on the road? Check.

Most of the time - I think more features isn't better, it's worse. People are just trying to get their damn work done so they can call it quits and go home. Period. Less is more - especially when it comes to "everyday" hardware and software.

If less is MORE, why don't more companies do it? Two reasons: Easy is hard; and adding 1,000 features has always been the way (in the marketer's mind) to get people to upgrade/switch/buy.

Easy is good because people are less confused. People who are less confused have a better experience with the product and are able to more quickly get something accomplished - which is what they were hoping for when they bought the product in the first place. Engineering "easy" is hard. Executing "easy" on a consistent basis and remaning "flexible" is hard. Making "easy" look good is hard. Convincing engineers not to add complexity while increasing functionality is hard.

Hard but possible.

Hard but necessary.

Customers vote with dollars. When it comes to useability and getting something done - easy is better.

Note to self: May I help to do for software what the iPod did for music.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

When $450 Million Just Isn't Enough

SO.... you've probably heard that the Canadian company RIM (makers of the Blackberry - better known as the "Crackberry" because you're never away from email) - got sued by a little company called NTP - alleging that RIM is using one of their patents without payment.

In an "oops, my bad" moment - RIM offered to pay NTP over $450 MILLION dollars for the right to LICENSE their patent. NTP politely took a pass, then sued their ass in US court. RIM has been trying everything short of phoning a friend trying to get their patents thrown out.

They've even appealed to the US Supreme Court - saying that the "good bits" of their technology runs in Canada, eh, so they are exempt. Well, today, the US Supreme court denied their request.

The good folks over at NTP have asked the court to shut down RIM sales and service in the US.

Hmmmm... that would be a bad thing.

NTP, in short, has RIM by the short hairs and they're giving a good old squeeze. Well, good for them - that's good ol' American capitalism at it's glorious worst. I guess they feel they can do better than the $450 mil.

Maybe they are smoking the drapes? That's almost half a BILLION dollars.

To make matters even more interesting - looks like the USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office) is going to deem the NTP patents invalid.

Yeah, invalid. As in, "ooops, we bad. We should have never allowed it in the first place."

If I were the greedy gophers at NTP - I'd run out and buys some old Steve Miller CD's (better - dig out the old vinyl albums), start singing "Take the money and run", get a six pack, suck it up and settle for the measly 1/2 billion bucks RIM is offering.

NOTE TO SELF: Get patent on the word "the."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Hate The Phone

Well, that's not really 100% true. I love the phone when I'm trying to get a hold of someone, but then I go back to hating it when I have leave a message.

OK, so I'm sticking by my original statement: I hate the phone.

The problem with a phone call is that it's the same thing as randomly driving by someone's house to see if they're home. Sometimes they are, most of the time they're not.

So, then you leave a message. They call back. You're not home. They leave a message. You call back. They're not home, so you leave a message. And on, and on, and on, and on, and on it goes until finally, you both happen to be at there at the same moment, they are not screening calls, they don't have another call on hold, and you can actually talk.

Then you have nothing to say after 5 minutes.

So, you've wasted about 15-20 minutes playing phone tag - for a 5 minute conversation. Not terribly efficient.

But it gets worse.

At work, I'm usually multi-tasking and in deep concentration for most of the day. That is - until - you guessed it - someone calls. The thing that sucks about getting a call when you're trying to get something done - is the sheer immediacy of it. You must stop to answer the phone, then you have switch you mind completely out of what you're doing to focus on the questions/problems/suggestions of the person on the line. Then, after the call - no matter how short, you have to spend time trying to "get back into" whatever it was that you were doing before the call.

As soon as you're back "in the groove"... you get a call. I hate the phone.

You can't get away from the evil effects of the phone once you leave home or leave the office. This is why the evil corporations that rule the world have devised mobile phones. Now you can be annoyed 24/7 no matter where you are on earth. There IS such thing as an "off" switch on a mobile phone - and I use it often. BUT, just by carrying it (because after all, I may need to get a hold of someone NOW!) - I'm "quilted" into turning it on every now and then to see if have messages.

If I have no messages - I start to wonder why people don't call me more.

It's a sick plan by telcos to drive you slowly insane and whose next plan is undoubtedly a mobile phone chip implanted into your skull.

But it doesn't even stop there. You can become an innocent victim of the phone at your favorite retail establishment. Have you ever gone to the checkout at a department store (of COURSE there is only one person working and of COURSE there is a line of 10 people waiting) - when the $6 per hour, 19 year old, couldn't-grow-a-beard-if-he-had-to "associate" gets a phone call from a customer wanting to know if they have a certain piece of clothing in a certain size and certain color. What do they do? They leave the register and check!

Screwed by the phone yet again!

I hate the phone.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Phonebooks! What the hell?

The phone company - or some of their undoubtedly under-paid minions - dropped off a load of phonebooks this morning. One for each phone line we have. 6 books. 5 inches and 20 pounds each.

There are enough dead trees in there to create 500 reams of "real" paper - not to mention the fact that now I have to find something to do with them (yes, I AM too damn lazy to just throw them out). Recycle? Nah, I'm not exactly a tree-hugger.

Hmmmm.. what to do? What do do? Inspiration!

Top 10 Things You Can Do With Phonebooks:
  1. Toss them over your balcony and listen for that sweet-sounding "thud" as it strikes an unwary pedestrian.

  2. Put them in front of your neighbor's door and let them deal with it.

  3. Place one each in the men's bathroom - there will always be something "new" to read.

  4. Give your shredder a REALLY good beating.

  5. Rip out random pages and broadcast fax to 100 of your closest friends.

  6. Tear out random white pages so you have some good phone numbers when you're drunk dialing.

  7. Take them with you when you go to the grocery store and leave them in the cart as a parting gift.

  8. Auction them on eBay.

  9. Makes a perfect "Arbor Day" gift.

  10. Rip out all the coupons and trade them for coupons you REALLY want (then put a gun in your mouth and kill yourself - you have no life)
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