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 Salesforce.com. Here's a big surprise - Salesforce.com 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."

Salesforce.com 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 Salesforce.com 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 Salesforce.com 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 Salesforce.com. 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 http://www.filemaker.com/downloads/pdf/public_techbrief_ess_en.pdf.

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?

    Reference: http://www.filemaker.com/support/technologies/sql.html

  • 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.
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