Archive for Jul 2004


OSCON 2004: Open Source GIS with GRASS

When I was the CIO of Utah, I used to quip that every data record I cared about had a SSN or latlong coordinates. There's lots of things that are geographically categorizable, but commercial GIS software is expensive and consequently, geographic Internet applications are few and far between. Even things like MapQuest don't really do much besides give you directions. Why can't I annotate them, for example? GRASS is an open source GIS system that provides raster, topological vector, image processing, and graphics production functionality. I went to a talk today by Schuyler Erle and Rich Gibson on using GRASS. Here's
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Poor Man's Streaming

I reported on Dana Moore's talk about using Jabber in highly available agent networks for DARPA a few days ago. I wasn't able to go to his and Rich Kilmer's talk yesterday on using Ruby as the control language, but Jon Udell did and offers a video interview of Dana and Rick after the talk. The interview itself is interesting in its own right, but the meta-story is interesting as well. Jon did the interview with an iSight and his TiBook. He then just uploaded the Quicktime file to a server. No streaming infrastructure needed. Most players start playing
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OSCON 2004: David Rumsey on Online Digital Libraries

This morning's keynote was David Rumsey, President of Cartography Associates. Rumsey's website is called he David Rumsey Map Collection and what a collection. The physical collection consists of over 150,000 maps, mainly from the 18th and 19th century. The online collection is no less phenomenal and is more than just a collections of GIFs or PDFs. The maps and other art is all interrelated and interactive. Its almost impossible to describe in words how incredible all this is. You literally have to see it to believe it. To get a feel, they have a Flash tour of the collection.
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OSCON 2004: Dan Gillmor on We the Media

I wanted to go to Dan Gollmor's talk yesterday, but I there were 3 or 4 good talks going on then. I was glad to see Jeremy Zawadny's notes. This is the topic of Dan's new book, We the Media.
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OSCON 2004: Ben Galbraith on Publishing a Medical Textbook with Apache FOP and XSL-FO

Here's the challenge: Entirely new kind of textbook. Structured content, not prose Extensive pictures Books generated on demand Reuse content in other forms The first attempt was the Microsoft tool approach using Word with special templates as an authoring tool, Word VBA to convert Word to HTML-ish format, access used to store content, and then VB and Framemaker macros would generate content. A whole generation of books was developed with this technology, but it was a mess and the content was not reusable. The second attempt used a Java Swing-based editing tool (modified JTree with Word-like editing features and an
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OSCON 2004: Freeman and George Dyson

This morning's key note was Freeman and George Dyson. Esther was supposed to be here as well, but she's stuck in Dallas. No wonder, I heard on CNN this morning that Dallas got 12 inches of rain in 3 hours. Yikes! The format was Tim O'Reilly moderating and asking questions of Freeman and George. Here are a few things that struck me as interesting: With regards to possibly dangerous technical advances (specifically the topic was bioengineering), Freeman says there are three questions to ask: Is it possible to put a stop to is? Is is desirable to put a
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OSCON 2004: Groovy

Maybe the coolest thing I heard about today is a language called Groovy. Groovy is a dynamic scripting language that compiles to JVM bytecode. The result is that it can use the entire J2SE/J2EE API. That's leverage. Groovy would be a good candidate for a scripting language for integrating lots of Java code. The code is dense and fairly elegant.
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OSCON 2004: Dana Moore on Jabber Messaging

Jabber is not just for IM anymore. Conversational interfaces are less structured, more flexible and can be ambiguous. They can support S2S (system to system) as well as they support P2P (person to person). Applications need presence, fault-tolerance, identity, and mobility the same way people do. XMPP is the eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, the basis for Jabber. Jabber streams XML messages. Conversations open and close with <stream> tags. The server works as a switch and doesn't maintain much state on users. Pervasive services follow you wherever you go. The service knows that you're subscribed to them. Dana builds sensor
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OSCON 2004: Paul Graham on Great Hackers

What follows are some thoughts from Paul Graham's talk last night. Variation in wealth is a sign of variation in productivity. Low-tech societies don't have variations in connectivity. We need to understand especially productive people. How do you recognize them? How do you become one? How do you get them to come to work for you? Like all craftsmen, hackers like good tools. They refuse to work on projects that use the "wrong" tools. When you decide what infrastructure to use on a project, you're not just making a technical decision. You're making a social decision. The quality of the
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Exploding the Enterprise Panel Audio Available

Doug Kaye has posted the audio for the Exploding the Enterprise panel from Supernova 2004 on IT Conversations that I moderated.
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Dave Weinberger on Blogging's Rubicon

Dave Weinberger is one of the convention bloggers at the DNC this week. He believes that blogging the convention has changed how blogging is viewed in some fundamental ways. He writes: The credentialed bloggers are sitting in the section of the bleachers designated "Blogger Boulevard." Want to know exactly where it is? Easy: It's on the other side of the Rubicon. This event marks the day that blogging became something else. Exactly what isn't clear yet, and the culture clash is resulting in public functions that, because there is no single culture of blogging, are Dostoyevskian in their awkwardness.
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Arrived at OSCON2004

I arrived in Portland a few hours ago for OSCON 2004. Today is all tutorials and I'm not signed up for any of them, but tonight is Larry Wall's famous State of the Onion talk and a talk by Paul Graham on his new book Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age. I've got considerable respect for Paul's ideas and his accomplishments. I bought the book earlier this afternoon and I'm looking forward to the talk. Here's a link to his IT Conversation talk with Doug Kaye.
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City Manager and Police Chief Blogs

Dave Fletcher points to the weblogs of Eden Prarie, MN's chief of police and city manager. Reading through the first few entries, I feel like these folks are friendly and ready to help me. Thhe photos of various events and city employees are great. I think this is a fantastic use of weblogging in the public arena.
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Jon Udell Moves to Bloglines

Jon Udell has switched to Bloglines for his news reading. His note on the switch talks about several of the features he likes, several of the features he wants, and concludes with some interesting speculation on what Google is building and a reference to BEA's alchemy
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Google Affected By Today's Virus Storm

I'm getting slammed today by virus-containing emails sent by the latest version of MyDoom. Most of the emails pretend to be from the system administrator of the recipients email service saying, in essence, "you've been sending out virus containing emails. Open tthe attachment to fix your computer." Apparently, I'm not the only one. Google was affected as well. Apparently the latest version uses Google to search for valid email addresses within domains found on infected computers.
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Convention Blogging

Those of us who spend our days in blogs have been seeing this develop for weeks, but many people are not aware that there's going to be some interesting happenings at next week's Democratic National Convention in Boston. Here's a few: Dave Winer and others have been credentialed to attend the convention and cover it in their blogs. Technorati will be providing real-time analysis of the political blogosphere at next week's Democratic National Convention in partnership with CNN. Britt Blaser, Donovan Janus and Rhesa Rozendaal have come uo with a convinient system for bloggers to post photos of the
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Chris Warner and Amber Alerts

Chris Warner, who I've written about before with respect to Earths911.org has launched a new project for doing Amber Alerts. He launched it at this month's meeting of the National Governor Association. I saw it (and Chris) on ABC's Good Morning America yesterday. This is a very important and interesting project. The potential goes well beyond Amber Alerts to all kinds of alerting from government. I put together a presentation on the use of event notificationin Homeland Security over a year ago. Earth911.org's stock in trade has been connecting local government providers of information with local people who need
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TA Needed for CS462

I'm looking for a TA for CS462 for the Fall. I prefer students who've had the class for obvious reasons, but familiarity with Linux is key. The class will be run on a UML environment and I need someone to sort that out starting sooner rather than later, so if you're available this Summer for a few weeks, that would be helpful too.
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RSS Growing Pains

Both Nathan Stocks and Wade Billings took time to send me a link to Chad Dickerson's article on RSS growing pains. Chad's point: RSS as currently architected doesn't scale. RSS scalability has a few things going for it, most notably it's built on to of the Web which has shown to be hugely scalable. The problem has more to do with client implementations that don't always issue conditional GET requests or respect the resulting 304 Not Modified responses. Also, as Chad points out, many clients are set by default to check for changes at the top of the hour
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Responding to Utah's eVoting RFP

I joined with some other people to draft a response (PDF) to Utah's eVoting RFP. There are a number of problems with the RFP, including the fact that it does not require a voter verifiable paper audit trail and does not allow sufficient time for the State and others to adequately review vendor proposals. The response was the subject of a short article in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning. If after reading the response, you feel like you agree and support it, send me an email with your full name, address and other contact information and I'll see
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First eVoting Lawsuit by a Candidate

Linda Soubirous lost the March 2004 race for a seat on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors by 45 votes. She requested a recount and asked for 44 pieces of information pertaining to the recount, including the audit logs, the redundant memory stored in the machines, the results of "logic and accuracy" tests, and the chain-of-custody records for the system components. The Riverside Registrar of Voters, Mischelle Townsend refused to give the additional information saying it was "irrelevant." Now Soubirous is suing Townsend. I hope the Utah Voting Equipment Selection Committee is paying attention. I think that this suit
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Quantum Cryptography Network Debuts

Until now, quantum cryptography has been a strictly point-to-point affair. Technology Research News announced today that a 6-node network connecting Harvard, Boston University, and BBN has been successfully deployed. Quantum cryptography uses the quantum state of photons to transmit one-time pads to a correspondent. Reading the state changes it. The benefit is that quantum-based cryptographic methods can be shown to be strongly secure without having to base those arguments on the intractability of certain mathematical problems as standard cryptography does. (read a tutorial).
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A Few New Mac Tools

I found a couple of new tools for my Mac this week that I like pretty well: iClip and BluePhoneMenu The first is a handy clipboard tool called iClip. I frequently copy multiple items that I want to paste back into another document. With a multi-bin clipboard, you can do all of your cutting at once and then paste them in in another document without flipping back and forth. I was using Copy-Paste-X, but it has some funny behavior in menus that I didn't like. iClip is also a little more visual. I like how it works. (Cost: $19.95)
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Building Models

I was writing my monthly column for Connect Magazine today and as part of that effort reread several times my recent post on Alan Kaye. As I thought about his statements about the real power of computing being their ability to do simulations, I started thinking about Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science and his theory that real world processes are, essentially, just computations. One of the things I need to add to my list of things programming teaches you is "modeling." People who learn to program learn to build models.
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Rock Regan Resigns

Rock Regan has resigned as Connecticut CIO effective Aug 1 due to "an administration change." Rock's a great guy and was a good CIO. He was CT's CIO for seven years. I wish him well.
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Cert Says Stop Using IE

A recent CERT advisory has recommended that users stop using IE as their browser. Use a different web browser There are a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to the IE domain/zone security model, the DHTML object model, MIME type determination, and ActiveX. It is possible to reduce exposure to these vulnerabilities by using a different web browser, especially when browsing untrusted sites. Such a decision may, however, reduce the functionality of sites that require IE-specific features such as DHTML, VBScript, and ActiveX. Note that using a different web browser will not remove IE from a Windows system,
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iSync Problems

I recently got a new phone, a Sony Ericsson T637. The phone is small, has some good features, including a crappy camera and, most importantly, Bluetooth. It had been a few months since I'd had a phone with Bluetooth, so I hadn't used iSync to sync my phone and Address Book contacts for a while. I added the phone as an iSync device and clicked "Sync Now" but I couldn't get syncing to work. It had worked flawlessly on my old T68i. Now it would sometimes sync "All Contacts" and sometimes not and it would never sync a group.
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Blogging as Open Source Intelligence

This afternoon on All Things Considered, I heard a piece on Open Source Intelligence, a project at New Mexico State University. The idea is to use publicly available information and student "analysts" to create meaningful intelligence information. I got to thinking as I heard the piece that in many ways, that's the power of blogging. People use publicly available information and critical thinking to produce useful aggregations of information from sources that interest them. Some of that is better quality and more useful than others, but the idea is there.
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Google Says the New York Times Is Irrelevant

No, Eric Schmidt hasn't been dissing the New York Times, but his search engine has. According to a Wired article, the New York Times, and other mainstream media outlets, never ranks very high in searches about various timely news topics. If you've been following along for the last several years, you know why: the pay curtain. Of course, like many things about the business operations of a traditional publisher that has ventured online, the reasons are simple but the solutions complicated. The New York Times requires that its users register, which makes it difficult for search engines to spider
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Utah Driving Records Available Online (Almost!)

Utah driving records are now available over the Internet. Unfortunately, its not free ($7.25) and its only available for your own record. Driver records accessed online contain the following information: Driver's name and date of birth License number, type, and status Original license issue and expiration dates Commercial status and license endorsements Moving citations (citations issued for three years for non-alcohol and 10 years for alcohol-related violations) Arrests (all DUI arrests received in the past 10 years) Department actions When I tried it, the system happily took my credit card data and then said: An error has occurred. If
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Tracking Mexico's Attorney General and Japanese School Children

Mexico's Attorney General now has a non-removable microchip implanted in his arm to give him access to the countries crime database and track his movements. The device will be deactivated after he leaves office. I guess if someone kidnaps him now they'll be forced to cut off his arm to keep from being tracked. In a similar move, although for different reasons, Japanese authorities in Osaka have decided to use RFID devices to tag school children. In this case, the devices will just be attached to uniforms and backpacks. I have to admit, I'd be willing to put them
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The Value Proposition of Software Assurance

eWeek has a story relating that volume licensees are pushing back on Microsoft's Software Assurance program. When I was CIO for Utah, Microsoft pitched us on this and we refused to bite. Here was how I saw the value proposition: "We need money from you every year to keep our stock price up. We've been really clever at squeezing money out of you every year. So, let's save both of us a lot of hassle and you just agree to send a bushel basket of money to Redmond once a year." When sales tactics didn't float the deal, they
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How to Start a Blog

I'm sure there's a million of these on the net, but I get asked occasionally by friends how to start a blog, so here's a collection of tips that I wrote to a friend recently. Now they're written down somewhere...
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VisaProcess, Meta-Mail, and Virtual Networks of Demand

On a note related to the article on Alan Kaye I just posted, I just was reading Esther Dyson's abstract for this month's Release 1.0 on what the spreadsheet did for data, freeing users from models built on the mainframe and why we don't have a similar tool for processes. She says: First story: My inbox is overflowing. I have 3158 messages in it, dating back to the last general cleanup, January 2004. I also have a folder called Memorial Day, which contains 1825 messages dating back to spring of 2002 and before: These are all the messages I
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Alan Kaye and Modeling

Fortune has an article on Alan Kaye. Alan decries the current uses of computing and says: "We're running on fumes technologically today," he says. "The sad truth is that 20 years or so of commercialization have almost completely missed the point of what personal computing is about." From Fortune.com - Fast Forward - A PC Pioneer Decries the State of ComputingReferenced Tue Jul 13 2004 11:28:46 GMT-0600 His chief complaint with regard to business use of computing is that its more or less simply used as a replacement for pen and paper. What he'd like to see more of
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Utah's Electonic Voting RFP

An editorial in today's Deseret News urges the state to proceed slowly with a move to electronic voting. The Voting Equipment Selection Committee (VESC) released an RFP last week. You can read the press release (PDF), the executive summary (PDF) or the full RFP (PDF) for yourself. I loved this quote from the press release: „Members of the Voting Equipment Selection Committee have worked diligently to develop an RFP that addresses both the needs of Utah voters and the requirements of federal and state law,š said Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie. „By leaving the door open for numerous systems including
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Bluetooth Enabled Luggage Tags

This is just a concept, mind you, but its a good one. In response to an industrial design contest at IDFuel, Nathan Lynch and Lea Miller had proposed a Bluetooth enabled luggage tag that lights up when the cell phone its paired with is nearby and sends the phone a message. The tag also contains contact information for the owner of the luggage. Essentially, this is presence for physical objects and there are all sorts of applications that spring to mind.
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The Fools are Fools

The Motley Fool has an article on the INDUCE act and in reference to people claiming that the new bill would kill the iPOD, they say "Don't you believe it." Here's the quote: Don't you believe it. While I'm normally not a fan of legislative remedies to technical problems -- and I've got the public ranting to prove it -- this bill doesn't seem all that unreasonable to me. Of course, I don't steal -- I mean, file-share. From Fool.com: Will Congress Kill the iPod? [Motley Fool Take] July 8, 2004Referenced Fri Jul 09 2004 09:34:36 GMT-0400 This whole
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Learning PHP

Dan Olsen links to some Web-based tutorials, documentation, and books he's found useful in learning PHP. Also, Jeremy Zawodny is arguing against abstraction layers in PHP, something that seems right to me. When I first read the title, I thought of Hibernate and other object-to-relational mapping tools. I'd argue that those abstraction layers are heaven sent. I don't think Jeremy would disagree since ultimately his argument comes down to the fact that PHP data abstraction layers don't really offer meaningful or useful abstractions--something that's not true of object-to-relational mapping layers.
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Doc Gives Lessons in PR Writing

Doc Searls has written an excellent rant about PR email releases over at IT Garage, including tips on how to write this kind of tripe. Since I started writing for InfoWorld a year ago or so, I've started to get these too. They are just short of SPAM. The example Doc quotes is not unusual or rare. There are a lot of companies who pay good money to PR firms to generate these and send them out to people who are subsequently annoyed by them. Go figure.
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Take Control of Your Airport Network

If you're setting up a wireless network for your Macs, Glenn Fleishman's new eBook may be what you're looking for. You can't go wrong with Glenn's expertise and the book's inexpensive price. Also, Apple has put up an article about creating an extended Wi-Fi network using AirPort Extreme and Express base stations. I got a couple of the new Express units on order and am anxious for them to make their way to my inbox.
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Tom Malone Speaks on the Future of Work

Doug has posted Tom Malone's Talk about the future of work at IT Conversations along with a transcript. If you can't read the book, then listen to or read the talk. I think this is important perspective on technology's impact on the business.
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The Pentagon's Messy Backoffice

The Pentagon has backoffice problems. Over the last decade, the Pentagon has spent $19B dollars in creating numerous systems to help manage accounting and logistics at the Dept. of Defense and things are still broken. Some outside analysts see the inefficiency as an unfortunate but necessary consequence of the Pentagon's enormous commitments and largely successful track record. But others think the Defense Department could handle its operations a whole lot better. "If you ran your business this way, you'd be in jail," said Christopher Hellman, an analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. From Wired News: Data
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Computer Science Isn't Programming

Jim Morris, who is a professor of computer science and dean of Carnegie Mellon University's West Coast campus has an article on Computer Science education in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He says: the vocational nature of computer science reduces its appeal to many students. Contrast what computer careers seem to offer with the promise of the traditional sciences that offer intellectual grandeur and the opportunity for a rewarding career that helps humanity. Since 1990, the number of undergraduate degrees awarded in the biological sciences has increased 70 percent. During the same period, the number of computer science degrees awarded each
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Gartner's Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Eric Nolin links to the Gartner reporton the iPOD and other firewire/USB storage devices. Eric's point is that this is one of the issues driving Web (or NET) 2.0. I agree. I think, however, that CIOs need more help than just saying "ban firewire/USB storage devices." This is the standard perimeter approach to protecting corporate data. The problem with that approach is that its not feasible and getting less so all the time. I've got at least five devices in my laptop bag that could be used, potentially, to carry data out of a secure perimeter. Are you really
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Rounding Up Web Services Intermediaries

As vendors fine-tune their products, add features, and improve usability, WSI options are getting better. Over the last few months, several new versions of WSI products have popped up: Actional Looking Glass 5.0, AmberPoint SLM (Service Level Manager) 2004, Grand Central BSN (Business Services Network) 4.0, and Infravio Ensemble 4.1 (the component I tested is now known as X-Broker). Each of these products differs significantly in their approach to intermediating Web services, but a cursory review of their feature sets doesn't readily reveal that difference. The significant contrast is in the metaphors they use for management and the presentation
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ListGarden for Creating RSS Feeds

Creating RSS is usually the province of content management systems (such as blogging software) that not only creates an HTML page, but also generates an RSS feed as well for the same content. Sometimes, however, you just want the RSS. I've done that using Radio. I just create a category that generates only RSS and post to it. That's how I create my newsletter, for example. Easy enough. Dan Bricklin (of VisaCalc fame) has created a little tool called ListGarden that does the same thing, is written in Perl, and freely available. I tried it out and here's what
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Scaling Programming Projects

Patrick Logan comments on my post about the lack of modern compiled languages for optimized performance by pointing to an excellent article by Dan Friedman and asks "Why not take the road less travelled?" The Friedman article contains a story by Jonathan Sobel where he relates "winning" a class competition for writing the fastest program by using Scheme as the design language, performing correctness preserving transformations on it, and then finally translating the result into C. I've no doubt that you can do this because I've done it myself. I've taught Scheme for almost 20 years and my Ph.D.
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No Digital Ink for PDFs

About a month ago I bought a Tablet PC (HP T1100). Mostly I wanted to see how it worked, play with the form factor and so on. Tuesday I'm flying to DC for and NSF Review panel. I have about 15 proposals to comment on before I get there and they're in PDF format. I thought "The tablet is the perfect form factor for working on an airplane, especially since all I have to do is read and comment on the documents." How natural it would be to view the PDF document and write notes on it. Unfortunately, it
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Web Services Disproportionately Benefit Small Business

Esther Dyson says that small businesses have a higher surface to volume ratio than large businesses. What she means is that small businesses are much more dependent on interacting with the outside world than large business are. Does this mean that small businesses will disproportionately benefit from Web services and easier integration? I think that's just another way of looking at what's happening to large businesses as they outsource more and more of their support structure. They're becoming "smaller" and increasing their surface to volume ratio. There's a tie-in to what Tom Malone was saying at Supernova last week.
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Marketecture

I heard the word "marketecture" used in an interesting way today. Traditionally, its been used as a synonym for slideware but my friend, who's the CEO of a software applications company, used it in connection with situations where he goes on a sales call to a large company and they'll only accept his product if it meets their preconceived notions about architectural purity. He called J2EE his marketecture since his architectural decisions are being driven, in part, by what his customer want to hear.
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VMs as the Dominant Software Platform

Jon Udell describes how virtual machines have become the dominant software platform and some of its implications: At that point something clicked in my head, and I proposed a software taxonomy based entirely on virtual machines -- the VB runtime, the CLR, the JVM, the Perl and Python VMs. Some of these are bound more tightly to operating systems than others, some are bound more tightly to programming languages than others, but they all share a set of common characteristics. The definition of a modern "software platform," I would say, is a VM and its associated class libraries. And a
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Computer Repairs by UPS

This Business 2.0 article reports that Toshiba and UPS have entered a deal whereby UPS will provide computer repair services for Toshiba computers under warranty. This is an interesting idea by itself, but think of the extension of this. We typically think of retail being about lots of specialty shops providing their service with the logistics infrastructure bringing their goods to them. This turns that inside out so that there's just one shop that takes to goods to the service providers.
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Mono 1 is Released

Novell's Mono project, the open source C#/CLR runtime, has released verion 1.0.
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Bye, Bye Mr. CIO Guy

Scoble points to one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time: Pat Helland singing Bye, Bye Mr. CIO Guy with Don Box on guitar and David Chappell on piano. There's six verses!. Here's a sample: And the men that I admire least, The MBAs trained in the East Made sure their salaries were increased The day that IT died So Bye, Bye Mr. CIO Guy Gonna outsource every resource till the business goes dry And MBAs watch the beans flowing by Singing "this will make the P-E go high!" "this will make the P-E go high!"
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