Thursday, November 08, 2007

Synch This With Gears

So, Microsoft has come out with a Community Technology Preview (CTP - just another fancy name for "beta") of it's new Synch Framework.

This ball of magic and wonder is supposed to allow developers to synchronize anything (contacts, drives, RSS feeds, relational databases, etc) to and between anything and over any protocol for online/offline goodness.

The framework contains a runtime and several pre-built "providers" that allow Windows developers to call Windows APIs to handle synch stuff. It's going to be built-in to Visual Studio 2008 which should go to the duplicators at the end of the month.

Where Google Gears is mainly targeted at developers who want to bring their online applications offline (with data) and then synch them up in the background, the Microsofties are billing the Synch Framework (really just an extension of ADO.Net) as an end-all-be-all answer to synch - covering multiple services and devices.

To be fair, I have not seen the Synch Framework personally. However, whenever I hear the word "runtime" in the same sentence as "Microsoft" - I begin to involuntarily shutter. I can just picture the 15,000 security alerts, patches, and other goodies just waiting to happen. Now picture when "services and devices" have the ability to synch anything to anything over any protocol... can you say Apocalypse?

Not that Gears is any less of a security nightmare waiting to happen, but at least with Gears you can screw yourself cross-platform!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Time Machine - OOPS!

Apple is getting a black eye over it's new Time Machine backup utility unveiled in it's new Leopard release. From the postings on the Apple Support site - the majority of users are wishing they had a time machine of their own - to go back to Panther!

Many are complaining that they are getting 90% done with the backup - only to hit the dreaded "An error occurred" dialog. Others are complaining that certain drives are not even being recognized at all by the Time Machine application.

Apple is pointing the finger at certain drive makers - saying that the user should just re-format the drive before trying to use Time Machine. Helpful.

The Mac fans are also really pissed off at LaCie - as they have been a prominent Mac drive maker for years - and users are having to re-format those drives as well. The other problem with various flavors of LaCie and other drives is that there are some Mac folks on the other end of them that don't really understand what they are doing - and some of them are losing their manually copied backups.

Isn't this the type of user that Time Machine was intended to "help?"

Either way, Apple has taken some of the shine off their terrific app by not making it really, really easy (and bulletproof) to connect and use it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Open (Anti) Social

Social Networking... yawn. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr,, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING and 100 more "networking" sites - *sigh*.

Now Google has plans to "open up" a new single API so that developers can create their own mashup applications built on a bunch of social networking platforms.

The new API thingie is called OpenSocial and Google is pretty excited about it: " The web is more interesting when you can build apps that easily interact with your friends and colleagues."


I always thought that's what IM, email, web forums, wikis, the telephone and (gasp!) Friday nights at the bar were for.

I mean, really! Here's yet ANOTHER way you can avoid face-to-face contact - and now it's even cross platform! Clearly this was invented by geeks for geeks. I mean with all the places (above) you can create "profiles" and link to other people and it's hard enough to update this blog - forget about constantly adding "friends" to link lists and tracking their RSS feeds. Unless you're a predator - who has the time to monitor all this virtual "interaction?"

I barely find the time to do my normal work, my take-home work, keep up with the kids' activities, say hi to the wife every now and then, and work on my "honey-do" list. Do most people really have that kind of time? If you are one of those people who love these social networking sites and keep up with multiple online profiles and subscribe to your friends Twitter RSS feeds - please let me know. I need to get a job like yours.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Haunting Truth of Project Management

Sometimes managing a project can become downright scary. There are times when it seems like all the players have taken on these masks and have just randomly re-mixed themselves - playing the part of others.

If you've been in software development for any amount of time, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. There's a certain point in the development process (normally between 3/4 and 9/10 finished) when people do or say things that just don't match up with what was agreed upon or stated clearly in other meetings.

It's like - they have the face and voice of Tom, but the things they're saying just don't make any sense. They voice objections for issues long resolved or introduce new requirements at the 11th hour. It's like they weren't even in the room when the issues/requirements were agreed upon.

I keep waiting for them to say "Trick or Treat!" or "April Fool's Day!" or something.

But they don't.

They're serious.


I can understand the typical CYA (Cover Your Ass) moves that inevitably crop up as a project comes closer to completion - but there are limits. No one wants to take blame (only credit!) and not only that they start treating the project like a Mission Impossible agent who's fallen into enemy hands: "In the case you're caught or captured we will disavow any knowledge of you or your mission..."

It's like someone has completely deleted the file named "The Project We've Been Working On For Months" from their hard drive. Needless to say this can cause some "friction" between the developers and the other stakeholders in the project.

This goes beyond the traditional " just doesn't work.." from the users and the developers claiming " does too work...". I've found that it's a lack of communication. Next time I run into this situation - I'm going to try this:
  1. Offer them a piece of candy - because surly some alien being is just pretending to be them - OR if that fails;

  2. Offer them a glimpse at the 300+ pages of notes and emails (yes, it's good to print them out and save them!) and see if that refreshes their memory - OR if that fails;

  3. Grab their ears and try to force the damn mask off

Feel free to submit your own tips...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's Better to Look Good

So, all of my Mac buddies are waiting with bated breath for the release of the new OS X Operating System dubbed "Leopard" this coming Friday. Their eyes are wide, their cheeks are flush and they have credit card in hand - just bursting to buy and install this OS update.

Folks - it's NOT the freakin' iPhone... it's an operating system. I didn't see any of my Windows buddies lined up to install a .0 version of Vista. They weren't all a twitter over new features or time-saving doohickeys. They were waiting for the other shoe to drop. In the Windows world there is NO WAY you would ever install an operating system that is at .0 status. You would wait for the first service pack (at least).

Nonetheless, my Mac friends can't wait to get their hands on this product (in most cases they pre-ordered). Never mind the fact that most of the commercial applications will break, or that some 3rd party drivers need to be updated or that there are tons of bug in the Java implementation - frankly, they don't care.

They are drooling over the interesting new features in the OS: Time Machine (automatic backup), Spaces (organized groups of running program windows) and Cover Flow views in the Finder (browse documents like you browse albums on the iPod). There are supposedly loads of more improvements (Apple says over 300+) to Safari, the mail program and others - but those three (Time Machine, Spaces and Cover Flow) are a couple of the most noticeable "WOW" features.

I was watching the video overview and the stuff they've done is pretty cool. I was especially impressed with Time Machine - their new backup program. In typical Apple fashion, they have taken something that used to be relegated to tree lists and scrolling lists of files - and made it a totally visual experience. You can open up a folder and click the button on the dock - and the screen "slides up" and now you see lots of windows that are "stacked" on each other and lines down the right side of the screen.

The lines represent days, and you can click on a day - and the windows will move forward (right at you!) until it comes to the day you selected and will show you a snapshot of the way the folder (or iPhoto album) looked on that date. To "restore" an item - just click it and click "restore" and you are zoomed out to the current view of the window - and that item will appear just where it was before you deleted it.

Same kind of thing with "Spaces". It's really just a way to hide selective windows of running applications - but it's pretty cool. You tell it how many "spaces" you want and then you can have any number of windows open and you can put them into a "space." This lets you have games in one space, browser and text editor in another, etc. You can even drag and drop windows between spaces to re-organize it. Cool.

Finally, there is the Cover Flow view of your documents. It shows previews (on that glossy, reflective surface) just like on the iPod. BUT, you can also click on a document (in the demo it was a slide preso) and you can page through the document while you're in that Cover Flow view.

Cool? You bet!

Life-changing? Not so much.

Worth having a bunch of broken productivity apps and utilities for 3 months? Not hardly.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I love the Mac OS, it's very cool. And now that they're bringing their default OS more in-line with iTunes - they are creating one great (closed and proprietary) franchise. Just like Windows...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Culture Is Not Dead

The ServoyWorld Conference was absolutely wonderful - the best yet - and it was really, really great to see all the new faces as well as all the familiar "fans" as well. I've been in The Netherlands for the past 10 days - and this time around I actually got to actually see the city of Amsterdam.

Sure, I had the usual plate of speaking, organizing, customer meetings, sales meetings, staff meetings, partner meetings, etc. that always goes on - but I actually got a chance to get out of the hotel (not my default mode, if you have ever traveled with me).

In fact, the first day we arrived my wife, Brenda, and I used almost all forms of transportation known to man: walking, car, bus, plane, tram, boat, subway and taxi. I think we only left off biking and skateboarding! Needless to say, we had a blast. In all the times I've been to Holland and the times I've been to Amsterdam, I really had never gone past the "tourist" sections.

This time was very different. We had a wonderful dinner with Marcel Trapman (CEO of IT2Be) and his girlfriend Monique at a very charming restaurant located in the basement of a building. I would have NEVER even known it was there - and forget about ever going there on my own. After dinner we walked to the downtown "Theatre District" and had a couple of drinks at an old bar. It was really, really nice.

Then there was the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The home of the grand master Rembrant - and viewed all the paintings, artwork, porcelain, swords, etc. from the 15th - 17th Century. You could literally stand 2 feet from the stuff - and it was really awesome viewing the famous (and not-so-famous) works of these artists from hundreds of years ago. There were some that were so photo-realistic, that today people would just use Photoshop and give it the "brush look." But these folks were hard-core - they even had to mix their own paints, and would work on single paintings for up to 2-1/2 YEARS. Amazing.

With all the culture, history, architecture (there are buildings leaning at a 15 degree angle - in more than one direction - so much that they have to trim the doors so they will open every few years), atmosphere, shopping and cool stuff - I could STILL pick an American out of the crowd, no problem.

The first tip-off is the white shoes and socks, followed by the volume of their voice and their hurry in getting their check and leaving (not done in Holland - where people love to just hang out and having dinner is a 2+ hour experience). They were always the ones in the coffee houses trying illegal (but tolerated) substances, were the ones at the Red Light District taking up a collection for a buddy to go into one of the "red light" houses (brothel), etc.

I wore non-white shoes, with non-white socks and dressed like everyone else (jeans and nice shirt). If anyone asked - we were from "Canada", eh? The public transportation system is amazing, and the people are very nice - and 99% of them speak very good English (WAY better than my Dutch!).

If you ever get a chance to go there - I would highly recommend it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pick An Office, Any Office

"Psssst... buddy.... you wanna' use our version of Office?" With everyone and their dogs getting into the already-crowded Web/Offline/Open Source Office lately - it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Just in case you haven't updated your scorecard lately - here's some of the offerings:
  • Sun Microsystems - Star Office. $69. This is the granddaddy in terms of "open" productivity software*

  • Open Office Org - Open Office. Free. This is an off-shoot (open source) version of Star Office*

  • IBM - Lotus Symphony. Free. Based on Open Office 1.0 code - supports Microsoft XML as well as Open Office XML and PDF.

    *Share the same file format

On the Web 2.0/SaaS side we have:
  • Google - Google Docs. Free. Basic word processing, spreadsheet, email (gMail) - although a presentation package is rumored

  • Yahoo - Zimbra. Messaging and collaboration, email (Yahoo! Mail) - still hasn't really jumped in yet - but it looks like they are testing the waters with the Zimbra acquisition.

  • Zoho - Zoho Office. Free. Full featured word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, pro jets, collaboration, etc.

  • Thinkfree - Thinkfree Office. Free. Looks a lot like MS Office - includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications.

Most of the online/web solutions allow you to save/upload/import/export into any of the Microsoft formats (which are read by the offline Office versions - more or less). So, you have a bunch of companies who are trying to get you to dump MS Office with free or low cost versions of their open source or hosted software.

Which one will you choose? Personally, I use OpenOffice (as I have said here many times). I just got fed up at paying Microsoft thousands of dollars in licensing for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The results have be generally good - I use the suite on a regular basis, and have hardly any complaints (it's harder to bitch about something if it's free and you're not contributing to making it better).

I must say that the Thinkfree folks absolutely BLOW AWAY Google Docs and Zoho on their implementation - IF you're looking for a free, online replacement - that's where you want to go. It has really, really advanced functionality in the word processing department, and very good support in the spreadsheet arena. The online version is free (for now), they have a desktop version for $49 and a mobile edition for playing slides shows on iPods as well as the full suite for a Windows Mobile device. Thinkfree also has a Premium edition that will allow online/offline synch of documents.

If you don't already have a Microsoft Office bias - any of the tools - including any Open Office variant - will be fine - as they have all the stuff you really need (although the feature sets vary). The best idea is to download one or two of them and compare them with their online cousins and find the one that's best for you.

Hey, let's face it. In today's world - 85% of people just need a simple word processor with spell checker, a basic spreadsheet, and a decent slide presentation application. For years I've used notepad (and BBEdit on the Mac) to write HTML and create database-driven websites.

I used to manually type stuff on a typewriter and then use call outs to specify the font, size, leading, and kerning so a typesetter could set the type, so that I could WAX it to a board and shoot negatives so I could then have it published.

If you need more than what the free/online tools offer above - shouldn't someone else be fidgeting with that stuff so you can concentrate on the business?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sort Attention Span Theatre

I think Americans are coming down with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). For years, all the news clips on TV and the Internet have been 15-30 seconds (max). Don't believe me? Time them yourself tonight when you get home.

USA Today has become the #2 newspaper in the US by trimming out all the "yucky journalism" stuff in regular, longer articles in favor of short pieces with lots of pictures - oh yeah, and that really relevant and "cool" graph on the front page!

Don't even get me started on the YouTube generation. Useless clips of people doing truly stupid things for one or two minutes - the max that people seem to watch (unless some no-talent freak is doing a lip synch to a song they like).

I found a product the other day that will now enable more and more people to put up useless crap for all the world to see.... introducing the new Flip Video Ultra personal camcorder - with editing and upload software built in.

This $149 device (8GM with a $119 4MB cousin) is available from big box retailer and online. The camera is by Pure Digital Technologies, the makers of those "disposable" cameras and has OK specs for such an inexpensive item.

The camera features 2x digital zoom, 1.5-inch display on-camera playback and delete, one-click video e-mailing or video “greeting cards,” custom editing of movie mixes, capture of still frames from video, and DVD processing at more than 9,400 labs nationwide.

The picture quality - if the online videos on their site can be trusted - looks pretty good. It's a helluva lot better than trying to capture stuff with your cell phone. It's got a built-in USB 2.0 thingie that will connect right up to your computer, and built-in software that will let you upload directly to YouTube, AOL Video, as well as other sites.

For more "upscale", but still cheap video - I came across the Aiptek A-HD 720P camcorder. It shoots in HD at 30fps, had an expandable memory slot, 4x zoom with auto-focus, 2.4" reversable LCD viewfinder, red eye reduction, HDTV component output, night shot feature, 8 mega pixel still camera, and records directly to the QuickTime format (.mov). Price? $170. Really.

The Flip Video Ultra looks like a very interesting product, and if you're just into sharing some video online with your family, or the world via YouTube, then it might be a good option. I'm sure it doesn't have the video quality of more "upscale" recorders - but hey, do you really need that for the 475 x 350 format of most online videos? Probably not.

The Aiptek camera seems like it's getting closer to a "real" camera - although I must admit that I haven't personally tested either model - so I can't attest to the image quality (or lack thereof).

However, if I ever get my mom a video camera - it'll be the Flip Video Ultra... then it will only take me 4 hours to explain how to find the USB port on her computer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shock and Awe

I was working at home on the computer early in the morning when my friend from the UK sent me an IM message saying "i'm so sorry, mate." I wrote back - "...ummm, it's OK... sorry about what?"

"plane just hit the twin towers"

"ha ha ha :-)"

"no, really - turn on the tele"

So I did. Lots of smoke and fire. Obviously lots of people dead, and you could almost see people jumping out of the windows (or what looked like it - and later was confirmed that's what it was). I was really shocked.

Then - I watched on live television as the second plane hit the second tower. My mind simply couldn't contain what it was seeing. It was like I was watching a movie with really terrific special effects.

It was no movie. It was real.

As the drama unfolded - I was glued to the TV as was most of America (and indeeed, most of the world). Then the really unthinkable the #$%@* building just collapsed! Then the other one!

Then the rubble. Standing like a bombed-out cathedral circa 1945. Thousands of innocent lives lost. Dozens of firefighters lost.

Absolutely unbelievable.



Here's to all of the innocent people, courageous first responders, and the thousands of family members who will never the same again. Along with you - we will never forget. God Bless You All.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Is That A Web Browser In Your Pocket?

So the latest interesting vapor-hardware from Apple is the iPod Touch. This $299 (8GB - $399 for 16GB) device that's based on the iPhone (minus the phone) - looks pretty interesting.

The thing isn't even shipping until later this month - and already I can hear all the non-early-adopters ripping plastic from their wallets in anticipation. It's a pretty interesting idea - take the iPhone - take out the proprietary AT&T part that doesn't work in Europe and pisses everyone off here, then add WiFi connectivity - and shebang - you have a wireless mobile platform.

Apple realizes now that it really blew it by going exclusive with AT&T with the iPhone (for "visual voicemail" capabilities) - as the many recent splashes about "unlocking" the iPhone can attest. However, the real interesting bit is having a web browser in your pocket.

What in the hell would you do with such a device? Well, it's pretty interesting to have a device that allows you to check web mail, view/edit your Google calendar and docs, get directions, and have a data-entry device (not to mention music player) all-in-one.

Not to mention that you're not tied to the crappy Edge network - but you get the full benefit of b/g WiFi at much better throughput and way less latency - and the device is about 1/2 as thick as the iPhone. There is even rumored to be a Bluetooth chip in there - although Apple has not activated it. This could, in theory, lead to Skype-like telephony applications - which I'm sure is part of the reason why it's turned off (AT&T must be sh**ting bricks at the though of free calls on an Apple device!).

I will be interesting to see what happens with the iPod Touch - hopefully it will turn into more than just an under-capacity iPod.

NOTE TO WHINY EARLY ADOPTERS: The capacity will increase and the Bluetooth chip will be turned on in future versions! So if you can't deal with it - DO NOT BUY IT yet. If you DO buy it - DO NOT WHINE when it's cheaper, better and faster in 6 months.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Earlier Adopter Tax: $100

So you bought an iPhone at the top of the hype -- or you even stood in line to get one of the first ones? Well, that'll cost you $100.

Seems that since Apple dropped the price of the iPhone by $200 yesterday (the 8GB version) - people have been ... um... really pissed off. So, Apple said that anyone that ponied up the full amount up to 14 days ago can get $200 back in Apple credit.

Not good enough for the hard-core Mac/iPhone folks - they still put up so much of a stink that Steve Jobs himself apologized and agreed to give everyone who bought an iPhone $100 in Apple credit. OK, good PR move - and they still have to buy Apple stuff with the credit (probably iTunes stuff, no doubt).

Apple credit costs Apple a whole lot less than the venerable "real" buck that was spent by the early adopters - but hey, it's better than nothing.

And to the early adopters - what the hell did you think would happen? That there would never be a price decrease? Never be newer/better/cheaper versions of the iPhone?

OK, I'll give you the fact that it's only been 9 weeks since the introduction of the iPhone - but did you really think that Apple wouldn't try to capitalize on the early holiday season rush? I'll also wager that the early adopters of the iPhone (read: fans) - are the same type of people that bought the original iPod, the original iMac and probably the original MacBook. All of which are smaller, cheaper, more powerful and "better" than the originals.

So, folks, stop the bitching and either: A) take a pill and actually WAIT for the 2.x or 3.x version of a device - or B) shut the hell up and write off the $100 (roughly $2.40 per day - or the Starbucks equivalent of a grande drip) as the tax for being an early adopter.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Copyrights or CopyWRONGS?

So the guys that have unlocked the iPhone have (as expected) received a "friendly" call from O'Melveny & Myers LLP, an international law firm representing AT&T - giving them some "friendly advice" about the fact that their software contained copyrighted Apple property.

Funny, since they don't even have a copy of it - how can they know what it contains.

Also interesting is that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has an explicit exception for individuals who unlock cell phones for personal use. In fact, the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress even issued a statement to that effect last year. However, the US District court in Orlando found that the DMCA exception did not apply to folks unlocking a phone and then making a buck off it.

So, this could go either way. It could be argued that the software - if given away for free - would be tool that could enable people to lawfully unlock their phones for personal use.

It's going to be interesting to watch where this one comes down.

On another "too scary to be true but it is" note - Christopher Knight apparently had a run-in with the copyright nazis at YouTube. They pulled a clip that he posted showing a clip from VHS's "Web Junk 2.0". That's nothing new - YouTube pulls thousands of clips a day at the request of various companies - including Viacom that owns the show.

Here's the rub: the clip on the show was a video that VIACOM SNATCHED off of YouTube. It happened to be Christopher Knight's clip! Not kidding. It seems that Viacom downloaded the YouTube video created by Mr. Knight (of course without notice or permission) and then used it on their for-profit show, and then they had the balls to bitch at YouTube that Mr. Knight was violating THEIR copyright.

Um, yeah. Gotta' love the selfish bastards running American Entertainment companies!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sucks to be AT&T

According to an Engadget exclusive - a group of twenty-somethings has successfully unlocked the iPhone, allowing people to use non-AT&T SIM cards in them.

I bet Apple is miffed and I bet AT&T is totally pissed off.

Apparently these guys made it their personal mission to unlock the phone, and have been working non-stop since the release in late June to make it happen. At first, they had a hardware hack that allowed people to unlock the phone, but then today released (only to Engadget) the SOFTWARE version that does the same thing.

Of course the "visual voicemail" feature doesn't work on the unlocked phones as it's still an AT&T exclusive feature - but I think more carriers will add this type of feature (if they haven't already started working on it). Apparently, rather than visual voicemail, users of the unlocked phone will get the dial tone into their voicemail (like the rest of us) so they can still check it, just not visually.

People have been bitching at Apple for giving the exclusive contract to AT&T for the iPhone since before the iPhone was even out. If Apple's deal with AT&T is anything like the ones they are signing with European companies - Apple gets 10% of all the revenue derived from iPhone activity on the AT&T network.

Now that the phone is hacked and people can use any old SIM from any carrier - they lose that revenue - as does AT&T (which must go up their ass a mile!).

The authors claim that the software is immune from being disabled by performing a restore or update of the Apple software (for now, anyway).

What's Apple to do? How about AT&T? I'm betting that a fleet of lawyers is right now working on a way to call/write/FedEx those guys as I'm typing.

If I were Apple or AT&T I would just throw some money at these guys and hire em!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

YouTube Ads - The Sky is Falling!

From the 226 comments (at the time of this post) to YouTube's blog entry asking for feedback, most users don't want the new pop-up ads that YouTube debuted yesterday in select videos. The little ads pop-up after a few seconds at the bottom of the window (where the black bar is - with the YouTube logo) and will cycle through once - then will close.

The user can also manually close the ad - and if they click on the ad (which is the whole point, after all) - the video will pause and the ad will show in the same space (which the user can also stop or close) after which the video will resume.

Personally, I think it's a fairly unobtrusive way for YouTube to make some revenue and, in theory, will allow advertisers to target viewers with relevant ads based on the content of the video rather than just target by the overall demographic of the site. This is WAY better than the "pre-roll" ads on other content and much more targeted than Google AdSense above or next to a video.

However, based on the posts to the blog - I'm in the minority.

People are screaming and bitching - threatening to take their videos elsewhere (PLEASE DO!). I'll let you troll the comments yourself - but here's a snippet:

"Remember the Golden Days of television when the program was paramount and inviolable and advertising had to wait till the commercial break? Art today is treated like a disposable diaper, and both the artist and his audience are disrespected if not outright insulted by this onslaught of intrusive advertising. It says much about our culture that we meekly accept it." (onlyed87)

"That really sucks! i don't want my artistic masterpiece to be filled up with cheesy unrelated ads. The site will become less attractive." (irabnut)

ART? YouTube? Riiiight.

Then there's the 15 year old who just learned what the f* word means (posted 50 times):


Not all posts are from the "I want something for nothing forever free" club. There are a number of others that realize that here in the real world host and servers and offices and admins and customer service people cost money:

"I can see the logic behind the new ads, but I still don't like it. I would gladly pay a subscription fee to be able to view YT videos without ads." (typeloki)

Of course there are the entrepreneurial folks out there that want revenue sharing (good idea) - like rival VideoEgg. At least those people have a sense of humor - they have a huge banner at the top of their site saying "Welcome, YouTube. Seriously. We invented the video overlay ad about a year ago. We are delighted that the market is finally catching on to a vital new approach to video advertising."

Keeping in mind that:
  • There are lots of places for "artists" to post videos for free
  • Google paid 1.25 billion for YouTube
  • The ad feature also includes ratings and digg features
  • The user can close the ad at any time
  • Google is making $20 per thousand views

What's the problem? You don't like the ads - visit another video site with funny, cool videos that everyone posts to. Oh, wait, that's right - there ARE NONE (yet).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This Storm's For You

The "Storm" Trojan malware worm is on the loose - and it can affect you - or someone you know. The thing that makes this little gem so different from the "normal" malware crap - is that it can change and morph by itself.

The latest junk mails almost always pose as confirmation messages for an account that you have supposedly already created. The sites are for stuff like "CoolPics", "Joke-A-Day", "Web Players" or more than 15 other names.

The email "confirms" your sign up with an account number and "temporary password" - then encourages you to go to a web site to change the password. BE AWARE: The website is always a numbered IP address and not a real domain (e.g. rather than

As a general rule - even when a "real" domain is displayed - check the roll over link (usually in the bottom right of your email client) to make sure you're going to the actual site displayed - or better yet - set your preferences to receive mail in text only format rather than HTML.

The scammers/spammers apparently have tired of using an e-card come-on and have now switched to the aforementioned account confirmation or the tried-and-true offer of nude pictures and pornography. All the spam tries to get the user to download an application called "applet.exe" for download - supposedly a "secure sign in" application - and that's where the fun begins.

Because this worm morphs - it's difficult for anti-virus companies to get a jump on it. Just when they update their definitions to block a certain signature, the thing morphs into something else.

Since back-to-school is just around the corner - my guess is that they're getting geared up for the unsuspecting semi-computer-literate/drunk-with-nothing-to-do crowd to take the bait. Once a system is infected, it's very difficult to get it clean again.

This worm affects Windows (shocker!) - but can also infect Windows Virtual PC, Mac OS X systems running Parallels - and it can even VMware.

It detects VMware by looking for a particular number supported in VMware's I/O port (something that can be easily changed) and it detects Virtual PC by running illegal instruction opcodes, which generates errors only if the software is running on a physical system and not a virtual machine.

Yet another reason to email your mom, grandparents and/or grads heading off to college...

UPDATE: Here's an actual message I received about 5 minutes go (I changed the URL in the link from a numeric IP address - but notice how it was masked):

Dear Member,

Thank You for Joining Wine Lovers.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Free is Not Forever

In the wild west of Web 2.0 services-we-didn't-know-we-needed - another player called Grand Central that promised "one phone number you can keep for life" has told 434 users that they must change their number.


The service was acquired by Google - and they had a nice little nifty "beta" in their logo - so I guess everything is good. Right? Tell that to the 434 people who had to change their one number.

Roy Schnider posted the email he got from Google as did Judi Sohn - both of them were justifiably pissed off. Basically, Google said in the email "oops, my bad - but it's beta software so shut the hell up - oh, and we're really sorry."

The moral of the story is: It's FREE SOFTWARE PEOPLE - don't have business cards printed and don't rely on this stuff for real! You still can't get something for nothing and expect it to work 100% of the time all the time (e.g. Skype).

You should have local backup copies of your documents on GoogleDocs (or Zoho or, you should keep a backup of your IM logs if you use a free IM client...

Please - use some common sense. This is the new tech bubble - and all these services that you come to rely on may get gobbled up in a minute's notice - so don't get caught with your digital pants around your knees.

Repeat after me - "Free is not forever, Free is not forever, Free is not forever..."

Skype This! - Redux

Whatever you do - don't restart your Windows PC after a huge "patch Tuesday" - and then log into Skype.

Skype has said that the big service problem from last week was due to the fact that a whole lot of people rebooted their Windows machines after a push of patches from Windows Update.

Skype spokesman Villu Arak said the high number of restarts in a short time period clogged Skype's network, causing a flood of log-in requests. These, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, "prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact."

OOPS. Arak also said that the outage revealed a software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm that prevented the self-healing function from properly working.

A bug, huh? Really.

While a bug like this can be lurking in any software (who tests for 3 million people rebooting at once!), it could be some time before Skype's reputation is restored - not to mention the time it will take for people to get less jittery about P2P solutions in general.

Meanwhile, I'm sure that the non-P2P players in VOIP (Vonage, Verizon and AT&T) are laughing all the way to the bank.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Skype This!

Hmmmm.... first the outage at and now the outage at Skype. Two different causes - same effect: people are pissed off worldwide - and good companies that have spent a lot of time and money cultivating customer goodwill and buzz are hearing the collective cry of dissatisfied customers, angry bloggers, and freaked-out media folks.

If you take a look at the Skype blog - you'll see the kind of people that use it - and it's interesting to see the wide range of reactions. Everything from "...Russian hackers did it..." to " wife is in Shanghai and she's getting really pissed..." and really the heart of the matter: "Two years of great service can not be forgotten for one major glitch."

At least they are communicating to some degree with their customers. I'm an occasional Skype user so it' s not that big of a deal to me. However, there are loads of people that bought special Skype phones and some businesses that have tossed their land lines in favor of 100% Skype.


It's more than just a "my bad" moment - they have millions of customers worldwide - many of whom absolutely rely on the service. The same can be said or almost any SaaS (Software as a Service) application - once people are hooked - they're hooked. And, they're 100% screwed if the P2P (shorthand for Peer-to-Peer) network goes down, the server farm takes a dump, or some lunkhead accidentally digs up a fiber line.

I think it's like most kinds of "disaster" things - until something actually happens, no one (from a customer point of view) really thinks about it.

I mean really - do YOU do faithful backups? Probably not. Even though you KNOW your hard drive will absolutely, 100% fail one day. It's tomorrow's problem until it happens today.

Welcome to SaaS where the focus on Service (and the expectation of 100% uptime). It's these kinds of glitches that make businesses wary of relying on an outside service to run their business. People expect their Internet service (and services provided by IP/Internet) to be like their telephone - it should "just work."

As everyone should know - sometimes life happens. There is nothing that's 100% reliable. In the case of Skype - people should stop bitching and actually pick up the damn phone (cellular or otherwise) and - GASP! - pay for the phone call if it's critical.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The New Mobility

So - we were in the office this morning and about 1/2 hour after we started working the power went out. For the whole building.

After the initial mill-about-the-hallway with the other tenants, and after exhausting all the coffee in the office - we decided it was time for plan B.

We all have laptops in the office - so besides our couple of internal servers on UPS, no work was lost - but it's hard to run a software company without power. So, we did the next best thing - we went to our local coffee shop that has free WiFi (in fact, that's where I am now).

Yes, I know the horror stories of compromised WiFi spots that I previously reported - but we needed to get a couple of important things done.

So we grabbed our laptops, cell phones and power adapters and packed into a couple of cars (mine is "trapped" in the underground garage) and headed down the block to Coffee 'n Dreams. By the time our coffees were ready, we were all online and on the phone - just like in the office.

We switched our internal phone system to a virtual PBX a few months ago - so all we had to do was go to a web page and re-direct the calls to our cell phones and customers can still call us just like "normal."

We could access our web mail servers, surf, blog, and even access our own Servoy-based internal system - just like in the office. It's pretty cool, actually.

Thank God we chose Servoy for our internal system! It's got a SSL connection between the server and the client - so even over a public WiFi all of our data is automatically encrypted and we can work at the same access speed we're used to (fast!).

Even 3 years ago what we're doing now would have been pretty advanced. I guess most people do this kind of mobile work on a routine basis. I know for me - it's one of the first times that I've had to rely on a plan B implementation for getting work done. It's nice to know that our Business Continuation Plan really, actually, works.

Maybe I should just ditch the office altogether.

I gotta' go - we just got a call that the power is back on...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

AppleWorks - R.I.P.

Well, Apple has finally laid to rest a classic - AppleWorks. In its heyday AppleWorks was industry's best-selling piece of software, beating even Lotus 1-2-3 on the PC. The all-in-one suite of tools was 23 years old.

AppleWorks started life back in the "good old days" of 1984 for the Apple II and was one of the first of what would be known as "integrated applications". It consisted of a word processor, spreadsheet and database that all interoperated on a fairly integrated basis.

Long about 1991 it morphed into ClarisWorks and got a boost with communications and graphics tools - but retained its ease-of-use and integrated tool set. It remained a Mac-only product until the debut of the Windows version in 1993.

It was marketed by Claris, Apple's wholly owned application software development/marketing arm that also was responsible for FileMaker Pro and some other great, but short-lived titles like Claris Emailer, Claris Impact, Claris Paint (from the old "MacPaint") and Claris Draw (from the old "MacDraw").

Claris then went on to focus solely on the FileMaker product (which it acquired from Nashoba Systems in 1988), and re-named itself FileMaker, Inc. At that point, ClarisWorks was returned to Apple and re-named AppleWorks.

AppleWorks was upated for Mac OS X and they even had a very basic presentation piece (the pre-cursor to Keynote) but it never was updated as a Universal application for MacIntel.

Then the beginning of the end came. In 2005 Apple brought out iWorks which at that time only included a word processor and presentation software (Keynote). I think at that point - everyone thought that iWorks would morph into into the new AppleWorks. Hard to do if you don't have a spreadsheet.

Well, last week - Apple added "Numbers", it's new iSomething spreadsheet to it's new lineup in iWork '08 - and it even includes a filter to import AppleWorks files. As the final death throes of AppleWorks came near - Apple even changed the URL to redirect to the iWorks '08 suite.

I worked with ClarisWorks for quite a while - as no doubt countless thousands will continue to do for the foreseeable future. Still, it's the end of an era - ClarisWorks, rest in peace!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Do No Evil -- Please?

So, Google owns the world of search (and more) - and keeps a lot of "identifiable" information on everyone every time they perform a search. They track the IP address, search string, and timestamp for every search for 18 months.

They claim it's to help them better optimize the search engine performance and relevance. Given their history as a geek-inspired company, I can believe that. There are a lot of other people that have their panties in a bunch because they are really, really concerned with their privacy. On the web. In a browser.

My knee-jerk reaction would be to tell those Prius-driving-Berkenstock-wearing-tree-huggers to just get over it and go back to mailing letters and using an encyclopedia. Then I got to thinking about how much I use Google tools.

Of course I use search - so they track what I search by, my IP and time stamp.

I use Google Desktop - so in theory they know everything about all my emails (non-gMail), music, chat histories and browser details.

I use Google mail occasionally - and they store all emails indefinitely.

I use Google talk sometimes - so they have a record of what I say and to whom as well as when.

I would be dead without my Google Calendar - so now they know what I'm doing and when - and also whom I know because of whom I chosen to share my calendar with (and all of their details as well).

I also use Google Documents to share and collaborate on (sometimes proprietary) documents rather than sending everything around via email.

I'll admit that I occasionally view You Tube - so they know what I view and what I post.

Hmmmm. Sounds like the NSA's wet dream, if you ask me.

I'm sure they could (I don't know for a fact they do) add one more piece of data to each of those tables - like my Google login ID - and then they would have a pretty picture of me as an individual. Not that I give a rat's ass, mind you.

Yes, there are other search engines - AOL, Yahoo, Alta Vista,, etc. and all of them also collect the same kind of information.

BUT, the others don't have the any other cool applications to use - so they really only have a view of surfing habits, while Google has a potentially vast data store on many, many individuals (at least on the IP level).

Like I said earlier, I believe that they are storing all the search stuff for 18 months so they can improve search accuracy, etc, etc. But I hope that an over-inflated stock price and market dominance won't tempt them to do any evil things with all that data...

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Dangers of "Free" WiFi

I just came across this blog describing how easy it was for a guy at the Black Hat Hacking Conference in Las Vegas to hijack some poor schmo's gMail account. For extra measure, the guy, Robert Graham (CEO Errata Security) has helpfully given the two tools (Ferret and Hamster) away so that now scores of teenages with nothing better to do can now hijack your identity when you're at the local Starbucks or in an airport lounge.

There are, of course, things you can do to protect yourself - at least as far as email security goes. But, the technology that old Bob showed off can be used to sniff all packets and all cookies that emanate from your wireless device (yes, even your beloved iPhone or Treo or gawd-aweful HP Windows brick).

It's sort of a sign of the times, I guess. We've finally crawled out of the primordial ooze in terms of technology and widely available (and sometimes free or low cost) WiFi - no sooner to be forced back by folks with nothing better to do all day than come up with ways to screw things up.

Yes, packet sniffing is nothing new and people have been doing it for years. Yes, any moron who uses a public WiFi hotspot shouldn't login to their unencrypted email account or expect that everything they do is not being watched/monitored/recorded/hijacked.

I'm all for making the airwaves safer for everyone, and I'm all for public WiFi, and for Web 2.0 applications that "function like a desktop application." I'm just not very happy that every time we turn around there is some joker who justs wants to blow it up. I guess it's just the American way.

I'm sure glad I use Servoy Smart Client applications and use the Servoy Web Client over the public WiFi - now I have one LESS thing to worry about.

P.S. It's my birthday today - thanks to my parents - I know it hasn't always been an easy ride, but I love you both very much. And thanks to my wife, Brenda. She should get a medal for putting up with me as we start our 18th year together! And finally, somewhere in the world there is someone that was courageous enough to carry my ass around for 9 months and then give me up for adoption. Back in the 60's. Where ever you are today - thanks.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Get a (Second) Life

I'm not a huge fan of online, "virtual" worlds. Yes, it's cool to make an avatar of yourself. Yes, it's cool to "teleport" to different lands, and "meet" new people. And go to the Gap and buy clothes. And have a Coke. And, wait for it... do online searches at the Yahoo Pavilion.

People have even made some serious (real world) money by buying "real estate", then "developing" it and renting it out to others or flipping it to another owner for a profit.

You can pimp your avatar with designer clothes, and modify your look and feel, and even go to a nude beach and engage in virtual sex with complete strangers. I have a feeling that this is what 95% of people do in virtual worlds.

Just like the "real" world - there are cottage industries of people creating bling, clothes, accessories and more that they offer for sale to others. It's a little like having a mini eBay inside.

Which is JUST what we need - since the "real" eBay isn't annoying enough...

Then there are the corporate sponsors. Since the article in BusinessWeek they have been setting up shops, kiosks, even entire islands of corporate-branded goodness. Do people really go into these shops. Probably. Are they making any money on it. Nope.

I think that corporate folks are scared sh**less because they don't want to "miss out" on the "next big thing" like they (probably) did on the MySpace phenomenon - so it's easier to throw a few hundred grand at a service provider to setup a "presence."

Corporate Folks HOT TIP: spend your money on your own site instead. The whole reason that virtual worlds work is because people are fed up with the "real" world and want to go somewhere to engage in their fantasies and having a Burger King there reminds them too much of the "real" world - so they'll avoid it like the plague.

OK - I know that there are a lot of people out there that have LOADS of time and have nothing better to do than sit inside, at their computer, and then linger in online "virtual" worlds.

Virtual World User HOT TIP: turn off the f**cking computer, open the door, and get out in the REAL world. Meet some "real" people, drink "real" soft drinks, go to a "real" hotel or island, buy some "real" real estate, have some "real" sex - it's a lot more fun than "virtual" anything.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Lately there have been great strides made in the MSO (MicroSoft Office) format to ODF (Open Document Format) plug-in. The good news is that it works. The bad news is - it works (mostly, sort of).

Don't get me wrong - the amount of effort going into the project is tremendous - and fantastic strides have been made - the thing DOES work. It's yet another "nail in the coffin" to the end of Office domination in the workplace. But it hasn't exactly been a bed of roses.

Office is still the #1 money-maker for Microsoft. It's estimated that over 90% of all computers have MS Office on it. According to Information Week, even at the first week of launch it was 106.1% more than the same shipment of Office 2003, and the Q1 2007 sales of the Business division (which is also responsible for ERP sales as well as Office) was $4.83 BILLION. For the QUARTER.

That brings us back to the MSO -> ODF question. Can it, will it ever seamlessly work? I would bet not.

Microsoft's proprietary binary format is their cash cow. If there is some kind of translator that ever really works seamlessly - then who the hell needs Office (at $399 MSRP)? NO ONE.

They could use (like I do) OpenOffice, or the ever-better Google applications - or I would bet there would be a flood of others in the marketplace if there was a translator between proprietary and open source anything.

It's just the way of the world. Things are getting more open and transparent - not more closed off and proprietary. That is good news if you're trying to change the world - but maybe not such good news if you're trying to retain your title as the biggest software company in the world...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's Revolutionary

This morning I thought that CNN's arm would break off from patting itself on the back for the "revolutionary" CNN/YouTube debate last night.

REVOLUTIONARY because they got "real questions from real people" - get this - "...from the Internet"!!

WOW! But hey, not email, but people asked questions via - wait for it - VIDEO! Revolutionary!

Technology is really amazing - and the Democratic candidates are no idiots - they are right on the technology curve and getting these "important questions" (well, at least 32 of the 3,500+ asked!) and participating in this revolutionary new medium - VIDEO on the Internet!

Did I mention it was revolutionary?

What a load of crap. If you've watched CNN at all - you've seen some of the idiotic (and some serious and good) questions that were submitted. There were some really, really, really scary people doing the most idiotic things ever conceived.

People dressed up, doing weird songs, animated icons asking questions - jeez, are there that many people with absolutely nothing to do all day? If I was a CNN screener that had to watch all that crap - I would stick a finger in my eye until my brains leaked out.

The good news is that you have plenty of time to prepare YOUR entry for the next REVOLUTIONARY event - the same crap but this time - wait for it - the REPUBLICANS are getting into the act at the end of September!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Vista Cluster = Mac + Linux Adoption

Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot by forcing users to adopt Vista. Beyond the software costs, the updated hardware requirements (and thus, additional costs) and just the general cluster in migrating older systems to Vista, not to mention the training involved - a lot of businesses are taking a second look at the Mac OS as well as Ubuntu Linux installations.

I know what you're thinking - iBob has robbed my brain of any rational thought.


There was a recent article in ComputerWorld that features a case story of a large parts manufacturer dumping windows. Of course the story is filled with caveats - like they have to re-write their own in-house Windows-only application on the Mac, and they will use Parallels for some stuff during the transition, but they are making the switch.

Wether or not this is the start of something bigger - only time will tell.

Personally, I think that Apple has a HUGE opportunity here - to finally unbundle their OS with their hardware. We all know how anal Steve Jobs can be when it comes to controlling the entire computing (or music or phone) service from end-to-end - but I think it's a mistake to be so close-minded.

If Apple doesn't do it - Ubuntu Linux will. Dell has started shipping Ubuntu as a pre-installed option on their computers. Wouldn't it be great if they could also offer the Mac OS? That would really shake things up in the PC world - and maybe, just maybe allow Apple to gain more traction at this critical juncture.

If they wait too long, however, it will be a missed opportunity. The hardware will get faster, IT shops will refresh their hardware with Vista installed, and we'll all be subject to WinBlows forever...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Surprise! Microsoft Pisses Off Salesforce

Microsoft announced this week that it was going to move their Dynamics product online at a price that's below that of rival Here's a big surprise - is pissed off that Microsoft is going to undercut them on price. Well, duh!

The company that has been chanting "No Software, no software!" for years is now bumping up against the biggest software company in the world whose motto is "Embrace and extend" - translated in the marketplace as "Rip off and dominate." CEO Marc Benioff said in an e-mail to eWeek that Microsoft's pricing won't make up for an "inferior product." While that may be true, Netscape was a MUCH better than Mosiac (that Microsoft licensed and turned into Internet Explorer) - and we know how that turned out. Lotus 1-2-3 was the market leader when Excel was written - and we also know how that turned out.

Microsoft bought Dynamics from Great Plains and then after the success of decided it would be a good idea to go into the on demand business as well. In looking at the huge success of Salesforce's AppExchange - SURPRISE! - Microsoft will also include "partner content" as well. In fact, they are goosing their large developer community to support the new offering.

However, also like Microsoft - it's all vaporware. Launch isn't until 2008.

No, really. 2008. Well, "first half" of 2008. No, really.

Although the details of the offering are still sketchy - the pricing is not. The first offerings will be called "Dynamics LIve CRM" in two flavors: Professional and Enterprise. Rather than limiting the offering to browser based clients only - users will be able to also access it via Outlook.

There is also rumored to be customizable workflow services powered by Windows Workflow Foundation and the ability to use a yet-as-unnamed technology to extend built-in functionality.

The "Professional" service will cost $44 a user per month - with a "get it now!" promotional price of $39 per user per month during 2008. The "Enterprise" service is the same as the "Professional" service with offline data synch thrown in at a price of $59 per user per month.

It just so happens that ALSO has a "Professional" and "Enterprise" version. Huh! Freaky. But they charge a lot more: $65 and $125 a user a month, respectively. They also offer a "Group Edition" at $10 per user per month.

So who has the better mousetrap? I don't know - but I'm betting on After all - do you own a Zune or an iPod?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

FileMaker 9 SQL Link... ish

All data below is based on the public technical brief entitled "Introduction to External SQL Sources" on FileMaker's Support Website. You can view it

FileMaker Pro 9.0 now allows users to connect to external SQL data sources - which is great news for FileMaker Pro developers - and very useful in limited situations.

If you're going to include a few fields from a SQL source - and that source is MS SQL Server 2000 or 2005; Oracle 9g or 10g; or MySQL 5.0 Community Edition - AND you're on Mac or Windows - AND you can install ODBC drivers on to every client (or you're using FMP Advanced Server and only need UP TO 100 connections) - then it's great.

It would be also helpful if you didn't have to do large searches or sorts on the SQL data.

And it would be good if two people didn't update the same record at the same time. And...

  • No data-broadcasting of ESS datasources...just "periodic refreshes" which can result in inconsistent data.
    Reference: Pg 24
    "FileMaker Pro 9 periodically refreshes its view of SQL data, but there are times when the data visible in FileMaker Pro may be out of step with the most current SQL data."

  • No Record Locking When a user saves a record that has been altered since a refresh, they are given an option to overwrite the data, but the user has no idea what has changed. The only option is to overwrite another user's changes, or lose their own changes.
    Reference: Pg 24
    "Two users may edit an ESS record simultaneously. Whichever user submits the record first will be able to send their changes to the database. If the second user submits their copy of the record, they will see a warning like this one: "

  • It doesn't scale past 250 users (or 100 ODBC/JDBC remote connections using FileMaker Server Advanced). Using old ODBC technology - and is limited to using specific ODBC drivers for specific SQL databases.
    Reference: Pg 4
    "ESS is not designed as a means to allow a FileMaker Pro solution to scale beyond the limits of a purely FileMaker Pro based solution"

    UPDATE: The 100 connection limit is for INCOMING connections (FMP as a datasource). The limits on the new ODBC connection is not spelled out anywhere.

  • It isn't a SQL front end Because of this, changes to columns and tables can be out-of-sync. FileMaker uses "Shadow Tables" and "Shadow Fields"
    Reference: Pg 4
    "The emphasis with ESS should be on integration. The ESS feature set is not intended to allow FileMaker Pro to act as a 'front end' to SQL data sources."

  • You can't run manual SQL queries with ESS You must rely on FileMaker to generate all the SQL queries for you. A custom SQL query is not an option.
    Reference: Pg 4
    "ESS does not allow a FileMaker Pro developer to compose their own SQL queries and pass them to the server"

  • Compatibility Issues Because ODBC drivers are being used Mac users and Windows users need different drivers and the ODBC setup is completely different for each platform. Mac ODBC drivers are limited, so FileMaker has worked with Actual Technologies to create drivers for the Mac, but these are brand new ODBC driver that haven't gone through much testing certainly have some bugs. Also, they are 3rd-party drivers, not the drivers written by the database vendor. This means you also have to purchase the ODBC drivers separately for the Mac. Also, when there is a problem with ESS connectivity, there will now be a bunch of finger-pointing...Is it FileMaker, Actual Technologies, or the DB Vendor's problem?


  • No guarantee of proper data-type mapping FileMaker doesn't support all of the different data-types. For example, all SQL databases store integer and floating point numbers differently, but FileMaker handles them the same.
    Reference: Pg 23
    "SQL data sources, in general, support a greater number of data types than does FileMaker Pro. Often these data types are more specific than FileMaker Pro data types"..."FileMaker Pro will do its best to impose validation on the shadow fields that will enforce these limits"

  • Some Slow Searches FileMaker doesn't fully utilize SQL to all of its searches because some of the types of finds you can do in FileMaker aren't fully supported in SQL. Also, FileMaker users were previously used to being able to search any field, and FileMaker would create an index for it. This no longer works with ESS.
    Reference: Pg 28
    "Certain searches may not be fully supported in SQL, in which case FileMaker Pro will 'finish' the query processing itself"
    "You may want use FileMaker Pro’s layout features to inhibit users from entering non-indexed ESS fields while in Find mode."

  • Slow Sorts FileMaker doesn't utilize the SQL database for sorting. Instead it retrieves all the rows in the data set and does the sort itself, which is very ineffecient on medium to large data sets.
    Reference: Pg 28
    "All sorting of ESS data is performed within FileMaker Pro itself. Because of the way FileMaker Pro queries for ESS data, sorting a large ESS data set is likely to be inefficient, and should be avoided."

  • Can't update the SQL schema You can't alter the SQL schema - only the "shadow tables" that FileMaker is importing data into.
    Reference: Pg 25
    "It’s been mentioned several times, but bears repeating: the ESS features do not afford FileMaker Pro developers any means to edit the schema of an SQL-based table or database."
There are other things to be aware of - but these are the highlights. It's all about using the right tool for the job. If you need only a couple of fields or have "light" needs to view data in SQL tables - use FileMaker. For a true "front end" to SQL - or more advanced needs like data broadcasting, locking, fast performance, scalability, reliability, and/or you don't want to have custom ODBC drivers installed and maintained- then you owe it to yourself to download and try Servoy.

LEGAL NOTE: Servoy and the Servoy logo are trademarks of Servoy, Inc. registered in the U.S. and other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Too Rich or Too Thin?

If you've been involved for technology for any length of time - you've seen enough "new paradigms" to know that everything "new" is really old - with a new twist.

Starting off with "dumb" terminals - where the user was connected to a mainframe and used a thin terminal with no internal storage - to access files and programs. All the storage, databases, and applications were maintained by infamously smug Information Technology "gods" who had a healthy distain for sharing information and a loathing of mere "users" who were viewed as parasites to "their" data and systems.

Then came the Personal Computer revolution. Where users could (GASP!) control their own files, download their own applications and take control over their computing tasks. This drove the IT priesthood nuts. They "lost" power to the individual (dare I say - "user"!). Power to the people - death to mainframes and "dumb" terminals.

After that we had (have) the Age of the Internet. Where people with PC's could all attach to a giant server managed by IT gurus that also stored the content and had the databases.... hey, wait! It's really the same stuffas before - but users can now clog their own drive with viruses and worms.

The "next" big thing is "offline" applications. Sort of like the stuff we had before the Internet...

The point of this whole post is this: Browser-based applications are not going away. Client/Server applications are not going away. The technology you choose for your product should be able to do BOTH and also be build on a platform that will be adaptable (in terms of platform and form-factor [e.g. mobile devices]) to handle it.

Otherwise, you may find yourself behind the technology curve and therefore vulnerable to other companies with similar offerings who are on the technology curve.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

People With No iLife Hack iPhones

Some people must really have absolutely nothing to do all day, and have loads of money just sitting around so they can afford to just sit around and do nothing all day.

That's the only conclusion I can come to about all the blogs and articles over the past week that have highlighted what's inside the iPhone. They really went and spent $500 and then proceeded to rip the thing apart (taking photos all the way) to see what was inside it. Then they claim that it only costs Apple $250 to make the thing (adding up the value of the parts).

They buy the thing to take it apart. No really. Here's an example. And they can't wait to be the first one on the block to do it. What a BRILLIANT idea!

Then, there's the story of the Norwegian hacker that has already figured out how to use the iPhone without activating it (i.e. paying for a phone plan through AT&T). Although the phone part doesn't work, the iPod and wireless networking part does. He's promised to release the hack - on his blog entry called "So Sue Me" (which, I just LOVE!).

Then, there's the story of a rabid Mac fan who camped out to buy two phones - with the intent of selling one on eBay for a tidy profit. He bought the two phones, and then when he realized that he wasn't the only one with the same idea and that phone prices on eBay weren't astronomically high, he actually returned one of the phones. BRILLIANT!

Then there's the stories of the other people intent on finding bugs - who harp about the Safari bugs, people bitching about how crazy Web 2.0 applications don't work, people saying how easy it is to spoof the caller ID and listen to anyone's voicemail, etc.

People, people - please! Get a life! And, if you really have nothing better to do with your $500 than to buy iPhones and bust them open - feel free to PayPal your money to me and I'll pass it on to a worthy charity.

Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhones In Paradise

All the way home on the plane last night I swore to myself that I would be the only person in the world to NOT write about the iPhone today... but I guess - like trying to sleep on a plane surrounded by kids - it's impossible.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's backup for a minute - I just got back (at midnight last night) from a glorious 10 days in Hawaii. It was for my in-law's 50th wedding anniversary, and for the first 6.5 days we had a group of 23 people there - all family. Then Brenda and I, along with our two kids - took another 3.5 days together, alone.

The trip was great - spending long days at the beach and pool, getting sunburned beyond recognition, sleeping in (until 7:00 am, yeah!) - getting our drink on after the kids collapsed into bed. It was really a great time. The resort was really nice, and even with all those family members - everyone got along great.

After the hoards took off - we were able to burn up some of my Marriott Miles at the Waikiki Beach Marriott where we were shoehorned into a tiny room with two roll-away beds and an awesome view of Diamond Head and the beach (30th floor!). We got to ride an outrigger, see the kids slammed head first into the sand by waves ("body surfing"), hang out by the pool, get sunburned beyond recognition, get our drink on after the kids go to bed... you get the idea.

I left my computer at home - and hardly thought about work at all (that's what happens when you have an EXCELLENT group of people working with you!). I only talked to the office for less than 20 minutes the entire time - and each time they had closed another 6 figure deal. NICE!

Anway - back to the object of everyone's obsession - the iPhone...

>sudo command shutdown process iBob...
>command completed successfully

Thank God for command line prompts! Sorry, but old cynical Bob had to shut down that damn iBob before he waxes eloquent about that damn iPhone. OK, we get it. It's a phone. It's an iPod. Who the hell cares? Yes, it's cool, yes, it's nice. But it's also $600! Plus a two year contract that starts at $60/month! For a phone! In 2007!

Whew. That feels better.

And while old iBob got the high points of the vacation, there were some "bumps" along the way. Let's start with ATA (All Together Atrocious) airlines. Even when travel sucks and all airlines treat their customers like crap - this company really rose to the occasion. Their stewardesses were rude, they didn't take CASH on the plane, they had just enough snacks for the first 10 rows, and I think they hand carried each piece of luggage from the plane individually to the baggage claim carousel on the back of a 90 year old donkey.

In general, I'm a fan of the Marriott folks. This facility is only a couple of years old and still in good shape. It's their "Vacation Club" (timeshare) property so you get a whole kitchen, washer/dryer, etc. No maid service (only a once a week "freshen up") - but it worked out great. They also finally got a decent restaurant (Chucks Steakhouse) - if you want to spend $40 per person per meal per day. The best bet is to go into town and buy groceries and grill your own meat and fish (complimentary outdoor barbecues with all utensels included).

BUT If you can ditch the kids for a night out - check out Azul at the JW Marriott in Ko Olina. NICE. Pricey, but very, very nice. Great food - great service - great wines - great times. If you're into sushi and sashimi - you MUST go to Roy's in Ko Olina (across the street from the JW) for lunch (preferably after a spa day at the JW!) at the golf course. The course sucks, but the sushi and sashimi with an ice cold beer is to die for.

Now, after experiencing all these nice places to stay and eat - the service is about what you expect. Pretty good, people are nice, etc. but there was one place that really stood out. Not the Marriott. Not any of the restaurants. The place we got the best service was... Enterprise car rental.

Really. Not kidding.

After driving, parking, shuttle, bag check in, 5 hour flight, 40 minutes gathering bags, 25 minutes waiting for the shuttle - I was in no mood for any typical car rental crap (I had killed off iBob about two hours into the flight).

They must have just done a special Hare Chrishna-esque training program there - because when we got there a guy greeted me, shook my hand, looked me in eyes and really wanted to know how I was doing. There were two people at the counter, I was the only guy in line - so he calls another guy over to help me. They actually found my reservation, with the car I requested (mini van), for the price quoted, didn't bullshit me about the insurances and fuel gouging stuff, then they brought the car around, turned on the air, and even helped schlep our 100 pieces of luggage in. Then, they made sure I knew how to get to the highway (no small task!).

Huh. I have absolutely ZERO to complain about.

Not kidding.

On the return trip, it was the same. The check-in chick was nice, expedient, and even though I kept the car one day longer they didn't gouge me - they printed my receipt, the bus guy again helped schlep the luggage and bam. Done. That was easy.

Then back to the horror of ATA (and the oversold flight, and the rude stewardesses, and the 1 hour wait for bags, etc), etc. etc.

I'm tired from my vacation. I need a break.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Apple Hoses Down Safari for Windows

Steve Jobs is a very smart man, but sometimes he believes his own hype so much that he says really stupid things - like: "...Safari will ship secure..." That's almost like daring every lonely geek in the world to take pot shots at your beta product. Perhaps that was the desired result... but I think not.

So all the hackers in the known universe who are already good at hacking IE and Firefox could not resist this juicy target. In fact, just hours after the announcement and availability of the download, Errata Security researcher David Maynor found two potentially serious security issues and then proceeded to put screen shots up on his blog. Then there were others - like Tom Ferrris a hacker who routinely finds bugs and problems with Safari and OS X and also happens to publish a blog.

Apple's stepping up and trying to fix them - in fact they fixed 3 of them today - and then putting out public beta 3.01. The interesting thing here is that that they are not denying there are bugs and vulnerabilities. On Windows. They are, however, claiming that those vulnerabilities do not exist on Mac OS X.

Ummm... yeah. Right.

What the hell else are they going to say - we're bringing out the iPhone and it leaks like a 1972 Camero with a sunroof? I don't think so.

So, they'll do their best to fix the stuff - and hose off the already crap-filled reputation of yet another browser for Windows. Perhaps they should just buy the Opera folks...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Linspire Licences Soul From Microsoft

It's one of those "aw, too bad" moments in computing history. Linspire announced today that they would be licensing fonts, video codecs and some IM crap from Microsoft for their upcoming Linspire 6 distribution due out in early July.

"Ummmm - who cares?" you're probably saying. In the big scope of things - Linspire will go the way of NEXT and Be OS, it will become a niche player and then will just disappear altogether... BUT - boy, they had some balls back in the old days.

This was the Linux distribution company that first called themselves "Lindows." Nice.

They were getting press like mad, and flipping "good ol' Bill" the bird in the media.

Then in 2004, being the biggest software company in the world, Microsoft grew tired of being poked - and, of course, called in the lawyers. At first, the little Lindows company resisted.

Then, Microsoft, being the biggest software company in the world, did something so EVIL that it finally caused Lindows to change their name and to also get some free MS technology to distribute. The evil that Microsoft pulled out was not red, but green. They agreed to PAY Lindows $20 million.

Being ballsy will only get you so far, apparently.

Now that they're buddies again, Linspire (the fantasic, dynamic new name they came up with - "Hey, it starts with an L!") they had the brilliant idea to include proprietary stuff (MS stuff, drivers, etc) in both their Freespire Linux OS product (open source, community based) and the Linspire Linux OS product (pay for).

Ummmm... I guess that's one way to go. I can't imagine that open source Linux customers are looking for a bastardized, 1/2 Linux 1/2 Microsoft hybrid OS. On the other hand there are many other Linux distributions out there that are MS-free... so maybe there are IT managers who want "open source lite" to appease the big brass and bean counters, but who secretly are Sith Lords.

You never know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The "Real" Plan Behind Safari For Windows

OK, OK, so like the rest of the world - when Safari for Windows was announced - I let out a HUGE yawn. Then I thought "Ummm... safari is crappy on the Mac, why would it be good on Windows?" Followed by "Hmmmm... Steve Jobs is a smart guy - so why waste money and time on a stupid browser for Windows?"

Then two things occurred to me:

  1. iPhone Development. He's trying to get non-Mac companies to build applications for iPhone and since they can only build browser-based applications - they need a way to create and test them without buying a Mac. Smart!

  2. Take over the world. Now, this one is a bit of a stretch - so hang in there - but if Steve made his own browser, and he built his own virtualization software (rumored to be in development) - he could then just ship an OEM version of Windows Vista that was tweaked for the Mac.

The iPhone development thought isn't rocket science - by giving people a Windows version of the browser that's on the iPhone - it will help to ensure that more people develop cool software for it - thus making more people want to buy the thing.

The "take over the world" part - once I got to thinking about it - makes total sense. I would venture to say that at least 50% of people with MacBooks are running Windows on Parallels. This means that they have to buy the virtualization software, buy a copy of Windows, install and configure everything - and then "give away" 1/2 of their system to run it.

Now, if Apple came up with their own virtualization (or licensed one, or used an open source one) - and pre-loaded Vista - they can tweak it however they want. They could replace the default browser with Safari, Windows Media player with iTunes, Windows Movie Maker with iMovie, Windows Photo Gallery with iLife... then they would only need to port Mac Mail and they're all set.

They could even include custom drivers, tweak the settings, add the Apple logo everywhere inside the environment, etc.

That's a machine that I would definitely buy...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Privacy Is Overrated

I saw yet ANOTHER news story with some guys whining about Google Street View as an invasion of privacy.

Really. Not kidding.

It's nice to know that people who have nothing to do all day but bitch about stuff like this (and he was VERY serious) are looking out for the greater good of mankind. Not only that - they have also created some "citizens watchdog group focusing on privacy rights" - and most of them either live in the middle of no where - or they are ex-big city people who now live in the middle of no where.

It doesn't cost a lot to live in the middle of no where - thus these people can:

a) afford to get annoyed at something that is trivial;

b) form an official sounding "watchdog" group to protect others from an imagined evil;

c) keep speed-dialing the media until they either send a reporter or a news crew - depending on how annoying they are on the phone

These people are complaining that because you can see people in windows (gasp!), people walking on the street talking into cell phones (alert!), people in cars (the horror!), people in a public park (for the love of everything holy - NO!)... basically you can see everything you could if you were walking down the street on the day they photographed it.

What's the big deal? You could do the same thing with a cell phone and a flickr account.

So - if you're an anti-social physcho, living in the middle of no where, and you want to help people - there are a lot of other causes you can take up. Get over Google Street Views - there are bigger fish to fry.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gears Flash In the Silverlight of the AIR

I've been reading along with the rest of the world, about all kinds of "new" technology that is being billed as "The Next Big Thing." No, not Web 2.0 applications. Not handheld or mobile applications. Not even iPhone applications.

According to Google, Microsoft and Adobe - the Next Big Thing is - desktop applications.

No, really. Desktop applications.


If you're as old as dirt like I am, you remember these things called "mainframes" that would run "programs" that the user could "interact" with via "dumb" terminals. You know, green screen and yellow screen applications. This provided the IT guys with total control over the data so there would be a minimum of SUD (Stupid User Detected). And all was well in the land.

Until the next Next Big Thing: personal computing. Now the everyday slaves could free themselves of the IT taskmasters and they could store their own documents on their own hard drives - completely separate from IT control. They used "desktop" applications rather than shared application (that only ran on the server) - and thus they were the masters of their own destiny.

Until the next Next Big Thing: the Internet. The pendulum swung back the other way: big-ass servers and data that was saved "virtually" - so the user wouldn't have to worry about silly things like back-ups, viruses, etc. and they could share or collaborate with a single click.

And that brings us back to the new Next Big Thing: desktop applications. While we all love web applications (, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, etc.) - there's only one thing wrong: it's that pesky "having to be connected" thing.

So, although nothing has actually shipped from any of these vendors - they all have really, really spiffy names for their new technologies:

Silverlight by Microsoft - This gem is said to be a "Flash killer" and basically it looking to dethrone Flash like C# tried to rip off Java. It's made for interactive web applications - but will require a plug-in (just like Flash). It's expected sometime in the summer (of 2007 - or at least it will be the summer of 2007 when they announce it will be delayed to mid-2008).

Gears by Google - Allows you to run web-based applications (in a browser) while you're not connected to the Internet. The theory here is that you will have an open-source database (SQLite) on your machine and the web application will run connected to this database and will "silently" synchronize with the "main" back end database when you're connected. This technology will require that developers enhance (and in some cases re-tool) their existing web applications to take advantage of Gears. ETA: Later in 2007.

Flash and AIR (formerly "Apollo") by Adobe - Flash, we all get. AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime - nee, "Apollo") is like Gears in the sense that you can write offline applications with a local SQL database (also SQLite) - but you don't have to be limited to using a browser. You will have your own interface space (like Flex, OpenLazlo or Flash) and can connect the to web (or not) and store data locally for offline access (or not). AIR was just released in BETA today.

Well, there you have it - the Next Big Thing - desktop applications that let you work, GASP!, without being connected to the almighty Internet! Wow. Great idea... again.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Problem With Paradigms

I've worked with a lot of different software tools and operating systems in my time. I started with the Apple II (that just turned 30 years old - OUCH!) and AppleBasic then moved on to typesetting software, various green (and yellow) screen applications, MacPaint, HyperCard, SuperCard, FileMaker, BBEdit, Lasso, Oracle Forms & Reports, ColdFusion, ASP, JSP, Dreamweaver, GoLive, RealBasic, Servoy, Windows 3.0, Macintosh, Linux, Mac OS X, Vista, etc.

Each time I've tried a new tool, I've had a challenge in that each new tool has it's strengths and weaknesses. And, depending on how much time I spent in the previous environment, the new environment invariably "sucked" at something.

Well, at least it sucked from my perspective. It was only different the way that I viewed the new/different/changed/enhanced functionality - as compared with what I was used to - in other words, my paradigm.

Whether or not the feature/bug/way of doing things actually sucked - is open for debate. All I know is that from my perspective, at the time (usually the first time I try to do something and it's not obvious - or not obvious to me) - it does really suck.

Over time, I usually have found a way - usually by reading the manual (there were no online "forums" at that time), looking online for examples/code and finally by just trying stuff until it worked.

Those were the "old days." The days before "open source" and "free" software. The days where RTFM (Read The Fu**king Manual) was the default.

Ah, how times have changed.

Some people who have grown up in Internet time have a whole different paradigm as to what software is, how it "should" work and the fact that everything (especially their pet feature) "should be" included at no charge.

While I can understand their sentiment; I have spent many, many, many extremely frustrating hours figuring something out that over time (and blood, sweat and tears) became obvious once I understood the software better.

To me, that's part of the fun of learning - and once I've mastered that task/feature/bug I have an intimate knowledge on how the software works. For others, it's just a reason to bitch.

I found this post that my wife, Brenda, posted on a forum just today. I think it sums up the problem with paradigms:

"I would like SOMEONE out there to fix my mini van. It does not look or act anything like a Dodge Viper. I USED to drive a Dodge Viper (before I had children) and I switched to my Dodge minivan because it was a better tool for my current life/job -- but it does NOT run nearly as fast, nor does it look as COOL as my previous tool. Also, I do want to keep the roominess of my minivan and the ability to haul around 50+ children at the same time (plus soccer balls and dance clothes) - but it should be sleek looking and have a 400HP engine. I do not want to pay for any upgrades and it MUST BE FIXED NOW by someone.

I would also like to point out that it should be open source. Its ridiculous that I have to pay for a car in this day and age. Its all about corporate greed and those damn Americans. (Forget about my greed, hey, I NEED to keep MY money)."

DAMN! You go, girl! [sorry, that was oldBob 8.0]

iBob 1.0 Alpha Bugs

Now I know what it must feel like to be a MacBook Pro running Windows in Parallels.

Right in the midst of my iBob 1.0 re-programming, I find that from time-to-time I'm still getting the blue screen of death (oldBob 8.0). The good news is that now, my iBob side can just shut down that process and keep humming along...

...until some know-nothing, Prius-driving, Whole-Foods-shopping, fair-trade-coffee-drinking, mac-user calls and starts giving me crap about something they know nothing about - and I just want to tell them to go fu*k themselves....

[blue screen of death]

Sorry folks. That was - according to the blue screen - an "assertion error 504 - Bob is melting down about nothing" error.

Luckily the iBob process was able to shut the old behavior down before it got out of hand.

There's still some bugs - but at least the overall shell is pretty much working.

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 04, 2007


Those of you who know me know that I've always been sort of a "glass half empty" kind of guy. Well, I've decided that those days are all over.

I'm going to re-invent myself. I'm going to become a kinder, gentler, new-and-improved me. I'm going to become huggie, squishy, lighter, and more well-rounded.

In short, I'm going to become iBob.

Since we already have everything else in the world that starts with "i" - I thought I would just brand myself as an iBob.

I'm ready to dump the old interface, wipe the hard drive, and start over. I will now be the ideal fashion accessory in addition to being the source of all useful information.

In fact, I've already lost weight, am going to the gym, have (basically) stopped smoking, I drink water (mostly) after dinner, I'm in bed (in general) at a decent hour all to prepare myself for iBob 1.0.

I'm going to test out iBob - before the public unveiling. I'm going on vacation in a couple of weeks to Hawaii with my extended in-laws and family to celebrate my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. If I don't crash (1 in 956,211) then I will officially roll out the iBob for public consumption.

Watch this space...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Returning To My Vomit

No, it's not what you think. Although, as happens at many trade shows, I was over SERVED a couple of times I'm not talking (this time) about "riding the porcelain bus." What I mean is: "As a dog returns to his vomit - so have I returned to MacWorld."

Ah, MacWorld - it's one of THE most "interesting" people watching shows I've attended. It's also one of the only places in the US you can see people using a computer while wearing a kilt.

A leather kilt.

With a talking sign belt buckle.

Not kidding.

Welcome to MacWorld - take your fan and leave! The show itself was OK. There was new technology and software, and some of the same old crap with a new version number.

To say the attendees were all in a titter about the iPhone would be an understatement. That thing does do a great demo. But it doesn't exist. You can't buy it. You can't touch it. In fact, Apple only had ONE in a circular glass case that you could look at. Even then there was about 150-250 people around that display at any one given time.

I didn't understand that until I went to the web site and it says: "This device has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained." Hmmmm.... interesting.

I tried to track down the product marketing manager, and lead developer - to ask them if the phone would have a JVM (Java Virtual Machine) - because if it did - and the phone really WAS a "full version" of OS X - that would mean that Servoy would run natively on it.

Which would be cool - to say the least. The answer: "No comment." When asked if it is really a "full version" of OS X they said "As far as I know... probably... no comment." You have to keep in mind these guys probably:
  • Haven't slept in 4 days
  • Have had the same questions asked 4,000 times
  • Have been told to keep their mouth shut
  • Have been told to not speculate on non-shipping hardware
  • ETC
We'll just have to wait and see on the iPhone. I may just buy one when they come out - you never know.

The next big thing - besides iAnywhere bringing out SQL Anywhere 10 for MacIntel - was the Apple TV appliance. OK, so it's a Mac Mini with wireless that lets you stream stuff to your TV. Nice, but something that only a true hard-core Mac person would love. I liked it, not loved it. There won't be one in my house any time soon.

The BEST part of MacWorld was hanging out with the iAnywhere guys - and going to the Backbeat Media party in style. It was, well... ummm... no comment.

Thought For Today: What happens in San Francisco, stays in San Francisco... and Brenda, that Henna tatoo will wear off in a few days...
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