Archive for May 2004


.NET at DABC

Dave Fletcher has a report on his blog about some of the technical choices by Utah State IT departments. He reports Brad Brown at ABC is pushing .NET while other departments are moving toward more Linux (which, with the Mono project could still be using .NET, of course). I think this is instructive. Brad runs one of the most heavily retail environments in State government. He's got stores and a warehouse. Most of his infrastructure is built on Windows because the business driver, supporting retail operations, pushed them in that direction. In that environment, it makes perfect sense to
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Do It Yourself IT

Doc is talking, over at his new IT Garage, about Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma and asking how open source fits into the equation. Doc's rif is that open source is an example of demand supplying itself. That's a different model than the traditional "vendor builds and sells products--IT shops buy them" model that we're accustomed to. Doc calls it DIY-IT for "do it yourself IT." Hence the "IT Garage." To get the DIY-IT model, however, you have to understand how its different from rolling your own accounting package, which is something we've mostly, thankfully, moved away from. In the
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METAmorphosis 2004 Report

Steve Fulling was at the META Group's 2004 METAmorphosis conference this week and sent me the following report: If there was a single conference theme it would have been "adaptive IT organizations." As Darwin put it years ago, it will not be the most intelligent nor the strongest, it will be the most adaptive. If your IT org is not adaptive, your business will not survive, period. Your IT org must be able to turn on a dime. In terms of pace of change, in the 90's each year was equal to 3-years of the 80's, and by 2006
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BMC Seminar in Salt Lake

BMC and ExeVision are sponsoring a seminar on Oracle high availability and back-up on June 10 from 8:30 to 11:45 in Salt Lake. I suspect that there will be plenty of opportunities for both companies to make sales, but I've found these types of seminars quite useful in the past for getting detailed introductions to how products work and what they do and BMC is a leader in this space. If you're interested, contact Rodman Likes. If nothing else, you'll get a free 10GB license to SQL BackTrack for Microsoft SQL Server.
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Going Tactical

When human beings are faced with unfamiliar situations, their natural reaction is to revert to things they understand. In business, the unfamiliar causes us to stop thinking strategically and go into a tactical mode. Going tactical is a danger for CIOs who need to think strategically to achieve their objectives. Don't let the unfamiliar force you into tactical thinking. Rather force yourself to stay strategic, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Of course, sometimes self-control alone isn't enough. In a crisis, our "flight or fight" tendencies take over and we sink into the fray. That's when peers need
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Tracking Legislation with RSS

The Utah State Legislature has a bill tracker with an RSS feed. You create a customer list of bills to track and then subscribe to the RSS to get updates in your feed reader. The only thing I'd wish for is some way to browse bills, but this is functional. There's a second application for tracking committee actions. Very cool!
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DG.O 2004: Studying eVoting

Paul Herrnson discusses eVoting Paul Herrnson, from the University of Maryland is speaking on his research into eVoting machines. Paul's work is interesting to me because he is evaluating actual voting machines. In order to get access, he's been pretty careful about his participation in eVoting debates. Electronic voting prevents invalid ballots and provides instant election results. There are also disadvantages: digital divide issues, power failures, and trustworthiness. The most knowledgeable people are the least suspicious. Do we want a paper record? It improves voter confidence, but adds cost and complexity. There are also accessibility issues with paper ballots.
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DG.O 2004: NSF Programs Related to Digital Government

NSF Program Manager Panel This morning's keynote panel was on "New Directions in Digital Government Research." The panelists were Dr. Michael Pazzani, Division Director, IIS, NSF, Dr. Suzanne Iacono, Dr. Sylvia Spengler, and Dr. Miriam Heller. Dr. Pazzani spoke on the NSF structure and how PIs should work with NSF. There is a web site that gives statistics and other information about grants that have been given. Over the last five years the number of proposals to the IIS Division has increased from 2000 per year to over 5000. Not good news for anyone hoping for NSF money. They
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Volunteer Programmers

If you're a Karras supporter and are willing to do a little volunteer programming over the next week, let me know.
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DG.O 2004: BPC in eGovernment

Jochen Scholl discusses business process change in eGovernment and the DG.O 2004 conference. Jochen Scholl from the Univ. of Washington is speaking about his research in Current Practices in eGovernment-induced Business Process Change. The primary question of the research is: How does eGovernment affect government business processes and how do business processes change in government differently from those in business. Layne and Lee framework of eGovernment (PDF). The focus of this study is on vertical and horizontal integration phases of eGovernment, not information cataloges or transactions. The study did a survey of senior public managers in New York State
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Software Quality and Document Management Quickies

I'm getting ready to catch a flight to Seattle for the NSF's Digital Government conference (which I'll be blogging with any kind of luck), but before I leave I wanted to reference a couple of articles that are related to the discussions going on in the Ask Phil Forum. The first related to document management and the second to software quality. The March issue of Baseline has a series of articles on software quality and even recounts instances where people have been killed by software flaws. On the issue of document management, the May issue of CIO Insight discusses
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Bill Gates on Blogs and RSS

Did Bill Gates telling the CEOs in attendence at Microsoft's eighth annual CEO summit about blogging and RSS really chance things? I suspect most of these people had heard about blogs and RSS before. What they hadn't heard was a seeming endorsement by one of the world's leaders of technical change. After all, love him or hate him, you have to acknowledge that Bill has a nose for capitalizing on technical trends. They all heard Gates describe blogs and RSS feeds as tools that "make it very easy to communicate" with customers, suppliers and employees. The result, according to
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Skype's Business Model

There's a good write-up over at Jeff Pulver's blog of Nikolas Zennström's talk on Skype's business model at VON Canada 2004. Jeff has a picture of a slide that shows Skypes cost of adding a news customer as $0.001 while Vonage's cost of adding a new customer is $400. Huge implications in that, of course.
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Marist University Becomes First OSDL Higher-Education Affiliate

OSDL is the Open Source Development Lab, a non-profit organization founded by Computer Associates, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Intel and NEC in 2000 to sponsor Linux initiatives targeting telecommunications and corporate desktop markets. They have three affiliate labs. The newest is Marist University which will make a top-of-the-line IBM mainframe available to Linux developers for testing and developing qualified purposes.
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Utah Java User's Group Talk

I spoke last night at the Utah Java User's Group meeting on service oriented architectures. There was a good crowd there--over 60--and they asked lots of questions. All in all a very nice experience. It sounds like they've got a very interesting upcoming schedule. If you're a Java user in Salt Lake City or surrounding towns, this is meeting worth attending. Here's a copy of my slides.
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Do You Want to Be Responsible for the Code You Write?

Kelly Marshall pointed out this article in eWeek to me and asked what my take was. In the article Richard Clarke (former White House Security czar) is quoted saying that developers should be held responsible for the poor state of security in their applications: To solve the problem, Clarke called on the government to put pressure on the software industry to develop and maintain secure coding practices. "The reason you have people breaking into your software all over the place is because your software sucks," he told conference attendees. "I don't like the idea of 'buyer beware.' It was
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Overstock.com to Test Utah's Anti-Spyware Bill

Utah-based Overstock.com announced today that it will sue Massachusetts-based online retailer SmartBargains, Inc. in the Third District Court in Salt Lake City. OVerstock.com will sue under provisions of the recently enacted Utah Spyware Control Act (HB 323), which went into effect May 3. HB 323 was sponsored by Rep. Steve Urquhart of St. George. Overstock.com President Patrick Byrne said, "Pop-up ads have been to Web browsing what spam is to email. Within the world of affiliate marketing, such software is often called 'parasiteware' on the grounds that the companies which distribute such code and those who advertise through it
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Comcast Internet

Comcast Internet is finally available in my neighborhood. Until now, Wi-Fi has been the only option. The installation guy came today. According to DSL reports, I've got 3425kbs down and 243kbs up. Not bad considering that its 10 times faster than my old Wi-Fi connection and costs the same. I'm loving life.
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ACM WWW2004 Conference

The Thirteenth Internation World Wide Web conference is taking place this week in NYC. The focus this year seems to be on the semantic web.
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Supercomputers from Linux Clusters

Building supercomputers from clusters of Intel-based computers running Linux is quickly becoming the way to build a supercomputer. Linux Networx, from right here in Utah, is one of those firms. These machines cost millions of dollars but are still one-third the cost of supercomputers built using other methods. "The tier-one vendors don't have as much of a handle on this market as other areas," said Douglas Bone, president of Fremont, Calif.-based California Digital, which has also installed large Linux clusters for several Fortune 500 companies. Other small companies are involved in the nascent field as well. Utah's Linux Networx,
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RSS Feeds from Time

Time Magazine has RSS feeds including Top Stories, Most Viewed Stories, Most Emailed Stories, and Top-rated Covers.
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RSS Aggregator for UtahPolitics.org

I run a blog on Utah politics at UtahPolitics.org that has become quite popular here in Utah this political season. I'd love to add an RSS aggregator for other political blogs that cover Utah to the site. I found several tools for displaying a single RSS feed like the feedsplitter tool producing the yellow box on the right from my RSS feed for my discussion forum. What I want however is something more like Dave Winer's http://feeds.scripting.com/. Ideally it would read an OPML file given as an argument and present latest entries from the feeds in the OPML file
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Island at the Center of the World

I've been reading Russell Shorto's book "Island at the Center of the World." The book is a history of Dutch Manhattan and its affect on American history and values. I love American history of all sort and this was one of those rare books that is as exciting as a work of fiction, but is entirely factual. The books is based on recent translations of Dutch colonial records. For anyone reading Neal Stephenson's "The Baroque Cycle," Shorto's book provides rich backdrop into part of the history of the times and many of the events will be recognizable. Some of
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Apple and the Enterprise

Aaron Vegh has written a piece at OSnews.com on Apple and the Enterprise. After talking about the problems that the Sassar worm caused for his employer, he says: This isn't the first time that those widely-publicized Windows security issues have bitten this company. When you think of both man-hours trying to fix the problem, and the combined loss of productivity in a company this size, the cost must be amazing. So the question must be asked: how can this company -- indeed, any large corporation -- rationally choose to support a Windows infrastructure? The answer is complicated, and has
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Utah Java User's Group Talk

I'll be speaking at the Utah Java User's Group meeting this Thursday at 6pm. I'm going to be speaking on service oriented architectures and Web services middleware. I think anyone can go, they just ask that you RSVP to let them know to plan on you. I hope to see you there.
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Connecting Stateful Session Beans and JSPs

One of the most popular desitinations on my weblog from Google is a page I put together last year on Connecting Stateful Session Beans and JSPs. Recently, I've updated the example in some significant ways and wanted to repost it. This time, I'll write an essay so that I can re-edit it without reposting.
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SOAPScope Scrubs Up Web Services

In the world of Web services, SOAP's human-readable interactions are easy to create and debug. But to take advantage of that, you must first find a tool capable of capturing network traffic and another capable of analyzing it. Mindreef's SOAPscope 3.0 does an excellent job at both tasks. In its most basic use, SOAPscope provides a convenient way to view SOAP messages both sent and received. With that information, developers can test and debug Web services to quickly find any potential problems. From InfoWorld: SOAPscope scrubs up Web services: May 14, 2004: By Phillip J. Windley Referenced Mon May
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Backing up OS X

I recently bought a LaCie 500 Gb Fireware drive for use with my TiBook. Then I bought a copy of Synchronize Pro. Synchronize Pro can be set to start up automatically whenever the drive becomes available. That way, every morning when I plug my laptop into the Firewire hub, the back-up kicks off automatically. One of the things I did was partition it so that I had a partition about the same size as the hard drive on my laptop (60Gb in this case). I have Synchronize Pro to mirror my laptop harddrive to the partition as a bootable
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Business Continuity Planning

Yesterday I attended the SIM lunch in Salt Lake. Michael Croy, from Forsythe was the speaker and the topic was disaster recovery and business continuity planning. This is one of the topics that every CIO knows they need to do something about, but no one really wants to discuss. When I was CIO for Utah, I tried to bring up the topic many times with business and IT folks alike and mostly got a cold shoulder. I even wrote a white paper tying it to Homeland Defense after 9/11. Still no interest. The common response was "oh, we did something
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Fund of Funds

Two sessions ago, the Utah Legislature passed HB240 which created a $100 million fund of funds for Utah. Yesterday, after a year of legal wrangling and planning the board of directors was formed for the Utah Capital Investment Corporation, the legal entity formed to manage the fund. They'll soon be raising money. This is good news for Utah's high-tech community. Congratulations to Will West and the others on their appointments.
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Robotics Research

The Globe and Mail has a piece on the fact that more money is flowing into robotics research. I know that's true at BYU, where there are several labs with robotics research of one kind or another going on. Somedays its hard to negotiate the hallways without tripping over a robot of one kind or another. When I was a graduate student, I managed the Robot Lab at UC Davis for two years and really want to do a dissertation in robotics, but there were no CS faculty in the area (just EE control theory types) and I decided
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Going Beyond the Firewall

Eric Knorr has an article called Guard the Application Layer at CIO Magazine. If you read it, beware--its pretty elementary. I wish it weren't necessary to talk down to CIOs about technology, but unfortunately, that's reality. CIO Magazine knows it audience. Nevertheless, there's some good advice there, like using application scanners and application-level firewalls. There's another thing you can do as well: get an XML firewall. Probably the most important thing you can do, however, is to learn how hackers work. For that, I recommend the book How to Own the Box.
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Self-Organizing Motes

I've been fascinated by stories of self-organizing network of miniature sensors. IEEE Spectrum has a story about researchers who use a host of small devices called motes to do research on a bird colony in Maine. The motes are shaped like film canisters: Each cylinder holds a bit of circuitry capable of simple computation and communication, plus a few environmental sensors, a battery, and an antenna. Taken alone, it's nothing special. But scatter around a dozen or a hundred or a thousand of these film-canister-sized cylinders--called motes--and switch them on, and something amazing happens: within seconds, they will organize
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SPF at IETF

The Internet Engineering Task Force has formed a group to create a formal standard around SPF, the Sender Policy Framework, designed to reduce Spam. The group, called MTA Authorization Records in DNS (MARID), will focus only on MTA authorization and only on DNS-based mechanisms. MTA methods are concerned with authenticating the domain that the mail comes from, rather than the sender individually. As a consequence, MTA methods aren't foolproof (Spam frequently does come from domains that can be authenticated), but it cuts off a large source of Spam with no need to even transfer or read the message the
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The Census Tiger Mapping Service

I'm not sure why I didn't know about this sooner, but the US Census Bureau has an online mapping service called Tiger that let's you input coordinates for places of interest as well as other mapping functions (like grids, regions, etc.) The service can map metro areas (here's a map of the Capitol mall the with White House and Capitol marked) or larger areas (here's a region with major cities marked). As they say on the site, this isn't intended to be a production quality Web service, so don't use it like one. But for quick maps of data,
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RMI and EJBs, An Introduction

Alexander Prohorenko has an article at DevX introducing EJBs and RMI. Don't be confused, its not an introduction to EJBs, but rather an introduction to RMI and how its used in EJBs. I just went over this today with my 462 class (Engineering Large Distributed Applications), so it caught my eye.
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Deleting Spam With My Eyes Wide Shut

I've been a long time user of SpamAssassin, but hadn't updated it for some time. About 6 weeks ago, I updated it to the latest version, which includes a Baysian filter. I spent some time making sure I correctly classified Junk and other mail and trained it regularly. For the last three weeks I've been checking my junk folder to ensure it didn't throw things away I wanted and I didn't find anything. Nothing. It lets a few things through, especially when its of a type it hasn't seen before, but after training again, that goes away. So today,
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Elegant Interface Designs in Open Source Software

Steven Garrity at Acts of Volition cites some examples of elegant interface design in open source software: Firefox Gnome and the Spatial Nautilus Hunting for Preferences in Gaim He concludes with a paragraph or two discussing why the myth of the "power-user" and "average-user" is bad for interface design: Rather than adding more and more features for the mythical „power userš, or swing to the other end of the spectrum and dumb-down the interface for the mythical „average userš, smart developers are learning that good defaults and elegant interface design makes software better for everyone to use, regardless of
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The New Hackers of Democracy

For anyone who is interested in eGovernment or eDeomcracy, Doc Searls has a nice piece on the new hackers of democracy over at LinuxJournal. In the article, Tom Adelstien makes a good case for Republican's being the torchbearers of open source in government. Interesting.
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Small Software Firms and OSS

Dan Bricklin, inventor of VisaCalc, has an excellent essay on the small software firms and the use of open source software as a "defensive marketing move."
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Customer Interaction Hubs

Yesterday on Talk of the Nation the lead story was on Medicare's new prescription drug benefit card program. What caught my attention was the way that a government agency in a matter of months was able to put together a very sophisticated customer interaction system from a highly interactive and informative Web site to trained call center agents ready to answer questions. If you haven't heard much about this program, there are over 70 different cards that a senior can choose from and which one is best depends on a number of circumstances including what drugs they take, where they
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Bad News for PDA Makers?

Rich Luhr has an article full of bad news for PDA manufacturers at AlwaysOn. When I no longer had a company to buy my PDA for me, I stopped using one and other than not having something to play with in meetings, I haven't really missed it. My phone has all my contacts and making appointments by email is more convenient anyway. I don't think that the trend to smartphones mentioned in the article means that everyone will soon be carrying around a Treo or some other Palm-powered device. People still want small, convenient phones first and will quickly
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SuSE vs. Redhat in the Enterprise

A review of SuSE 8.0 and Redhat ES 3.0 at DevX finds SuSE the clear winner.
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Philip Greenspun on Open Source Economics

In a recent IT Conversations, Philip Greenspun talks about the economics of open source. Ars Digita, a company he founded, was built around an open source platform. He makes two interesting points about open source: Control of the code base and the ability to add things to the source release is one lever that a company can use to extract money from open source. Companies will pay to have changes incorporated into the code so that it doesn't have to be re-customized each time a new release is made. When your based on open source, you have to keep
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Riding Radio Waves

Baseline has an article on the use of RFID in theme parks. Baseline has learned that Walt Disney Co. is planning to use radio waves to track assets such as laundry, beverages and bus shuttles that ferry visitors around its parks. The Disney pilots are in the early stages--the company in some cases hasn't even selected a tag vendor yet--but the company does plan to use radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging throughout its parks. Disney would not comment, and details about pilots by the company and other theme park operators are sketchy. Oklahoma City-based Six Flags Inc., however, did
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ENUM: Electronic Number Mapping

One of the pieces of infrastructure that makes all kinds of networks work and yet gets very little attention is the directory. Directories are big business. For example, there's directory of telephone numbers run by NeuStar, Inc. NeuStar has annual revenues of $92 million. Now, accoring to Light Reading, AT&T Corp. and MCI Inc., together with unidentified cable companies, telephone companies, and ISPs are preparing to form an LLC that will run a process to define a new company that will run ENUM. The ENUM directory is the infrastructure that will link phone numbers to URLs, and thus IP
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Wavetronics

The Deseret News did a piece today on Wavetronics, a BYU spin-off. Wavetronics makes radar based traffic monitoring systems. I know one of the guys over there pretty well and I've followed them for a while. This is a pretty good business to be in because building roads is expensive and so IT applied to making traffic flow better can have some big pay-offs.
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Online Sex Offender Registries Causing a Stir in California

Online sex offender registries are an interesting eGovernment application because they seem to be the focus of most of the major eGovernment issues. I've written before about transparency and sex offender registries when I was Utah's CIO. The primary reason for eGovernment in my opinion is giving people access to the information they need to be informed participants in government, but there are other uses as well including distributing government services and simply giving the public information that they've paid for with taxes and can use in some way. Its into this latter area the sex offender registries fall.
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FrogPad One-Handed Keypad

FrogPad's one-handed, Bluetooth keyboard FrogPad has come out with a Bluetooth version of their one-handed keyboard. I've been tempted to try this. The FrogPad is one-fifth the size of a conventional keyboard. I've wanted to try one of these and see if I could acclimate to it. This might be better than folding chiclet keyboards for entering lots of data into a PDA or tablet. A one-handed keyboard is also more useful in a wearable situation (i.e. strapped to a wrist or leg).
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Sun's Blogging Policy

Tim Bray has published a blogging policy for Sun. There are some common sense policy positions like "don't tell secrets," but mostly its about why Sun employees should blog and how to be effective when they do.
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