Archive for Mar 2005


Toward More Sophisticated Intermediation

Jon Udell is talking about an
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Junto Partners

Brent Thompson wrote to tell me of Greg Warnock's Junto Partners, a program for identifying and encouraging young entrepreneurs that seems similar to Paul Graham's Summer Founders Program. Brent participated in Junto Partners and says: Being part of Junto has been invaluable--and not because of any funding potential. The things I would consider most valuable are the networking and mentoring. Additionally, simply being part of something sponsored by a well-known entrepreneur has been great for getting first meetings and a little unsolicited attention.
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Y Combinator

Paul Graham's new venture for ventures has a name: Y Combinator. That's a great choice.
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Berkeley Identity Data Stolen

Yesterday I posted an article at Between the Lines on the recent theft of identity data from UC Berkeley. The theft has several important lessons for anyone who gathers identity information and stores it.
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Brent Ashley on Ajax and Remote Scripting

Brent Ashley "cuts through the crap" and talks about Ajax and remote scripting. AJAX is an acronym for Asynchronous Javascript + XML. Ok, now that I've told you that, forget you ever heard it. Ajax (proper case) has already come to represent a wider concept. The concept is this: Load up and render a webpage, then remain at that page while scripted routines make background trips to the server for data that is used to update the page in place by re-rendering and or hiding/unhiding portions of the page. Now that we've got that settled, let's break the concept
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On the Virtues of a Well-Documented Schema

John McDowall, picking up the riff on the death of SOAP, says: I am not sure REST or SOAP address these issues. A well documented schema and a well written HTML page probably contribute more to message integration than any WSDL or REST URI From Fast Takes: Is it the message or the transportReferenced Mon Mar 28 2005 07:53:38 GMT-0700 (MST) In other words, conveying meaning trumps protocol as a priority for interoperability.
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Neighbornode

Scott Lemon has been thinking about single purpose wi-fi networks for quite a while now. Today he sent me a link to Neighbornode, a special purpose wi-fi network in NY (mostly). A neighbornode is an electronic message board that serves everyone who can see it. In an area with dense housing, it creates a virtual community of the people who live near it. I like that its an example of a special purpose wi-fi network, but I also love that its a way to use technology to bring people in a community together.
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New Uses for Motion Sensors

At the CTO breakfast yesterday, we were talking about the innovative uses people are making of the PowerBook's motion sensor. For example, you could imagine motion sensors in a GPS unit or cell phone that allowed you to navigate menus (and more) by moving the device. The Gillmor Gang session with Dan Bricklin gets into some similar user interface issues.
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On the Death of SOAP

I just put up a post at Between the Lines on the death of SOAP. The challenge for the RESTful crowd is to create a well-thought out transport alternative to SOAP. HTTP is the basis for that transport, but it's not enough. The place to start is with service description and data binding so that RESTful Web services can enjoy the same kind of discovery that possible with SOAP. Paul Prescod made a start with his WRDL proposal, but it hasn't really taken off. From On the death of SOAP | Between the LinesReferenced Fri Mar 25 2005
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Solving Problems with Privacy

I just spent an hour talking to Dan Solove from GWU. Dan is the author of The Digital Person: Technology And Privacy In The Information Age, a great book on privacy. Dan has a recent paper that outlines what specifically should be done to better regulate information privacy. The paper gives 16 specific suggestions. State legislators wondering what they can do to help with the identity theft problem ought to read it carefully. My interview with Dan will appear at IT Conversations in the coming weeks.
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Get a Second Life

If you're into MMRPG's, or even if you're not, you should check out Second Life. If you're not ready to jump in, listen to Cory Ondrejka's talk at Accelerating Change 2004 to get a feel for how Second Life works. Of course, the danger is that you might get sucked in. I barely have time for my first life without another.
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IM Security Threats

The number of IM-based security threats is rising. Add that to the recent buzz about AOL's EULA allowing them to read and otherwise make use of the contents chat sessions. The answer? Use Jabber or encrypt your AIM sessions.
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Graham's Summer Founders Program

Paul Graham is putting his money where his mouth is with the Summer Founders Program. The idea is simple: The first project is to fund a bunch of new startups this summer. Summer is a good time to start a startup. Robert Morris and I started ours then; Robert was still in grad school, and he probably wouldn't have had time for that initial burst of work during the school year. We're going to call this project the Summer Founders Program, and it preserves many of the features of a conventional summer job. You have to move here (Cambridge)
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Using Your PowerBook as an Input Device

If you weren't aware, the new PowerBooks contain motion detectors that are used to shut down the hard drive in the event the machine is suddenly dropped. That's not particularly innovative, but what is is the fact that there is a user accessible interface to the motion sensor. Amit Singh has released software that allows the computer itself to be used as an input device. Check out the movie should someone using their PowerBook to drive Google Maps.
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Yahoo! Buys Flickr

Dick Hardt reports that Yahoo! has acquired Flickr.
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CTO Breakfast on Thursday

I'll host another CTO breakfast this Thursday at Gandolfo's Food Court in Building L at the Canyon Park Technology Center (former Word Perfect campus). Interest in computers and building things is the only entrance requirement. Here's a couple of things I thought we could discuss, but, as usual, anything's fair game. Scott Lemon and I just returned from eTech. I'm sure there are some interesting ideas from there that we'll get into. Listen to this Gillmore Gang with Adam Bosworth. There are some interesting ideas about building large Web sites and data routing that I would love to discuss
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Tactical Deployment and Strategic Planning

My column on Tactical Deployment and Strategic Planning has appeared in the March 2005 issue of Connect Magazine. For this to work, CIOs have to start differentiating strategic planning from strategic deployment. Large monolithic enterprise applications are both strategically planned and strategically deployed. In reality, businesses ought to plan strategically and deploy tactically. Organizations should be able to create strategic plans that don't revolve around a deployment project. Many IT shops use system deployment as their chief organizing principle and that's a mistakeit usually doesn't serve the business. As obvious as it sounds, IT shops need to plan around
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vSpring v|100

I was honored to find that I've been selected for the second year in a row to be in the v|100, a group of individuals considered by their peers most likely to lead a successful tech/biotech venture in the next 5-7 years. The list is an effort by vSpring Capital to identify potential CEOs and CTOs in Utah.
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Sustainability is a Mirage

I was listening to Moira Gunn interview Mary O'Hara-Devereaux about her book Navigating the Badlands : Thriving in the Decade of Radical Transformation. The "badlands" are, in O'Hara-Devereaux's analogy, the rough times of transition in the world's history. She makes a case that we're going through the badlands now. I was struck, however, by what seemed to me a glaring incongruity in some of the things she said. She said (I'm paraphrasing) "strategy disintegrates in the badlands. You need to be flexible and agile." This resonates with my experience. But, through some disconnect, the next topic was sustainable energy.
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Sam Ruby on AJAX

Sam Ruby some constructive comments on AJAX. First, use UTF-8 encoding for data. Second, use GET for what its supposed to be used for: getting. These comments are probably more broadly applicable than simple AJAX.
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Longtail Slides

Chris Anderson has generously made the slides from his presentation on the longtail available for download.
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Google Code

Today Google announced Google Code, Google'splace for open source software. For example, they have functional extensions to Python that they use and have made available to us as well.
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Life Hacks Live

Danny O'Brien and Merlin Mann (click to enlarge) Danny O'Brien offers a recap from last year (as bumper stickers): Hackers love plaintext My other app is in ~/bin: hackers use scripts Super prolific geeks do it in public with complete strangers and like it. That is, they share. These techniques are not just for alpha geeks. The theory is that they can trickle down to the masses. So what does that look like? decent email search (Gmail, Lookout, and Tier Spotlight) easy webscraping (no one's done this yet for the masses...) keyboard macros for Windows/Linux (QuickSilver) filepile for everyone
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Remote Babysitting and Network Remixing

Nikolaj Nyholm, on Remixing the Network, tells the story of using Skype and Remote Desktop Connection to talk to his son while playing a game of Pippi Longstocking with him from thousands of miles away. He said it was a powerful experience. His talk is about how open bandwidth, open standards, and open source are allowing us to change what networking means. Mass commoditization has also helped. A small Wi-Fi box, that costs $70, now has the equivalent processor of a $5000 Indy Workstation from 1995. Networking hardware is cheap and can be remixed in interesting ways. One such
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Chris Anderson on The Long Tail

Joe Kraus and Chris Anderson (click to enlarge) Chris Anderson is talking about the long tail. When you plot a powerlaw on a log-log scale, you get an line with negative slope. When you plot movie revenues, however, you don't get a nice line, you get a line with a drop at about rank 1000. Why? Because if you don't get theater distribution, you don't get money. Traditionally, businesses have ignored this "cut off part," the long tail, because it was considered economically non-viable. Chris goes through the history of the growth of the long tail in various industries
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The Emerging Massive Media

Paula Le Dieu (Cluster Head for Content Management Culture with BBC's central New Media department) is talking about "massive media," as opposed to "mass media." Massive media is blogs, wikis, podcasting, and other technology that are increasingly becoming the places that people get information--the what, where, when, and how. Mass media loses when its content isn't available for other's to use. She points to the leak of the first episode of Dr. Who. Rather than embrace their fans, the BBC is "investigating the leak." Contrast this to Battlestar Galactica that voluntarily pre-releases an episode to get fan feedback. On
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Lessig on Remix

Larry Lessig on Remix (click to enlarge) With the theme of the conference, you have to know that Larry Lessig is going to be one of the keynotes. I've seen Larry speak on this topic a few times in the past and heard him a few more on IT Conversations, but it was still fresh. What's more his style of presentation is just amazing. If you've only just heard him, its not the same as seeing him. Most of the slides have only a few words on them and he synchronizes the slideshow to his talk with precision. It
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Lessons Learned Building Basecamp

San Diego (click to enlarge) I wrote about Basecamp a few days ago. Jason Fried, president of 37Signal, the company behind Basecamp is talking about the lessons he learned building it. Brian would like to get Jason out to Utah to give one of these. The right people. Its not about their skills beyond the basics. It's about finding people who are positive, well rounded, quick learners, trustworthy, and good writers. Well rounded, in this context means that they aren't just an architect, or a DBA. "I'll take someone who is happy and average over a guru who is
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Wikis and Rendezvous in the Classroom

Tom Hoffman and Tim Lauer are talking about using wikis, Rendezvous, and to create an in-classroom writing system for an elementary school. The teacher runs Instiki on a laptop. Students access it with Rendezvous Students write on the wiki and then the teacher can pack it up and take it home. This is a good example of a combination of simple tools. Tim makes the point that there are many low-overhead Web applications that you can write to add value to the classroom, but they always run up against proprietary, closed student information systems (SIS). He developed SchoolTool as
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Please Mr. Carrier, May I Add Some Value?

Clay Shirky talks an imaginary phone (click to enlarge) Clay Shirky, who studies the "recently possible" is speaking on the topic of phone as platform. He's presenting student work from his homebase, ITP. First up is "PacManhattan" a PacMan-like "big game". That is, a game that uses humans moving around an real space. GPS didn't work well because 10-meter accuracy doesn't cut it for urban environments. So, they punted and used a control room that relayed instructions through the phone to players in the field. The second game was ConQwest. The game used two-dimensional bar codes to post information
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Adding to A9

Since A9's extensible, expect all kinds of search engines to make their output available in its extended RSS format. Jon Udell points to a hack that puts his hacked InfoWorld search results into A9. I'd love to know the details of what he did.
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Bits and Atoms

Neil Gershenfeld speaks on Bits and Atoms (click to enlarge) Neil Gershenfeld is the Director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT. He calls for a a digitization of fabrication. He teaches a class called "How to Make (almost) Anything." He brings up the ribosome as an example of state-of-the-art fabrication machine. His lab is working on fab processes that work in the same way: no central control and no feedback mechanism. The final structure is encoded in the order of the tiles that are strung together. His goal is not to build computers that control tools,
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Just Use HTTP

Sam is talking about using HTTP. He reference's Tim Bray's WS-Pagecount article on complexity. The assumption is that HTTP is simple. Its not. There are lots of things to watch out for. Starting with identity: when is "a" an "a"? When the Unicode matches? Everyone pretty much agrees that "A" is x41. This is an "attractive nuisance." That's fine as far as it goes, but some things look the same, but are different. A and Alpha (although they look the same) are not the same (different Unicode encodings). There are four encodings for "i" in unicode with different semantics.
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Nelson Minar at the Google AdWords API

Nelson Minar on the Google AdWords API (click to enlarge) AdWords is the little ads on the side of Google's page and the also show up on third party sites. The traditional way to do campaign management is done by Web application. But, when an advertiser has 1000's of keywords, its hard to manage them through a Web application. There's a hierarchical data model: campaigns contain adwords which contain keywords. The goal of the API is to allow developers to integrate with the AdWords platform. There are a number of applications: typical bid management, ROI optimization, keyword optimization, integrating
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Other ETech Resources

Here are a few other ETech resources: Dave Weinberger is covering the conference in some detail. Flickr photos of ETech Also, today Yahoo! and O'Reilly announced the Buzz Game. Its a market for search term futures. Interesting in its possible applications and fun to play. I'm in.
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Google Labs

Peter Norvig gave a presentation on Google Labs. I'd already seen or played with a lot of what he talked about, like Google Suggest and Google Maps. There were other's however, that I wasn't aware of and thought were pretty cool. For example, Google Personalized let's you set a profile and then move a slider bar to say how much that profile influences the current results. For example, if I search for
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Jeff Bezos Introduces A9.com

Jeff Bezos introduces A9.com (click to enlarge) Jeff Bezos is trying to introduce A9 to the crowd and his PC just asked if he wanted to do an "Automated Update" and he accidentally clicked "yes." People are laughing hard. A9 is about open search. When you search on a term, you can chose to include the Web, images, movies, books, reference, yellow pages, your history, your book marks, and so on. These show up as columns side-by-side (only Web and images are on by default). The platform is open so that others can add categories. They've extended RSS with
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Danny Hillis on Applied Minds

Danny Hillis (click to enlarge) Danny Hillis (who founded Thing Machines, the Long Now, and lots of other cool stuff) is speaking about his current business: Applied Minds, which he calls a "maketank" as opposed to a thinktank. I like that term. That's a good description of what Computer Science labs ought to be like. He's showing videos of robots "not because that's a big part of what we do, but because it makes for a good show" that are really cool. He's showing a picture of an ultimate vehicle hack. He says they do things like that as
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Firefox as a Web Services Platform

Yesterday as I was listening to several conversations, I had the feeling that I ought to drop Safari and move to Firefox as my browser. I love Safari because its slick and fast, but Firefox is becoming a platform. Because of its open architecture, there are thousands of people building things for it. That's a powerful force that Safari will never match unless they also open their platform. Mike Shaver was supposed to speak on Firefox, but he couldn't make it. I didn't catch the name of the guy who filled in for him. He talked about the open
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O'Reilly's Radar: Remix Patterns

Tim O'Reilly delivers O'Reilly's Radar (click to enlarge) Tim's keynote was on patterns for remixing. Patterns consist of three parts: an issue, a prescription, and examples. Here are some of Tim's patterns (I missed much of it): Issue: A successful open source project consists of "small pieces, loosely joined." Therefore: Architect your software or service so as to be used easily as a component of a larger system: keep it modular, document your interfaces and use a license that doesn't hinder the recombinations. Example: missed it Issue: There is great benefit to sharing your development efforts with users Therefore:
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Web Services Mashup

There were several good tutorials yesterday and unfortunately, I couldn't attend them all, but I did run across this great list of Web services APIs from the Web Services Mashup tutorial. I'm listening to Rael's opening keynote on the conference theme, Remix, right now and this list goes along beautifully with that theme. After all, these APIs are about remixing data and services.
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Ta-Da Lists Lead to Basecamp

So, sometimes life just throws coincidences at you. I was just doing a little exploring on AJAX (more on that another time) and ran into Ta-Da List, a web application that uses XmlHttpRequest to its list UI. Here's the coincidence: Ta-Da Lists is from Basecamp, who I'd never heard about until this morning when Brian Sweeting wrote to me about a petition he's got to try to get Basecamp to do a "Building of Basecamp" workshop in Utah. I'm with you Brian--let's get them to Utah. Ta-Da lists seems very cool. Here's a test list I made. The app
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Making Annotated Google Maps

Here's a handy HOWTO on creating annotated Google maps.
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Emerging Technology

I'm at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology conference this week. Today I was in a little early, so I went to Ben Hammersley's tutorial on Atom. My conclusion: Atom seems like a useful evolution of the RSS idea that draws on the experience of RSS 1.0 and 2.0. I also saw some cool car/computer hacks and took pictures.
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UI Design Is Different with XmlHttpRequest

XmlHttpRequest allows information from a Web form to be sent back to the server incrementally. This breaks the very features that make Web forms so obvious: You can clearly see where the input fields are, so you know what you can edit, and what you cannot. It is forgiving. You can explore all you want because nothing is changed until you submit the data. It lets you decide when to "save". It confirms any action taken, since you are redirected to a different page upon completion. From Usable XMLHttpRequest in Practice | Baekdal.comReferenced Mon Mar 14 2005 15:45:27 GMT-0700
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NextPage 1.5 Review

My review of NextPage 1.5 for InfoWorld came out this week. I think the product is a winner. NextPage 1.5 is so easy to use that there's really no more excuse for not managing documents at your organization. If you're a CFO worried about Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, or just a project manager trying to get a handle on who's got what, this product will solve your problems. From InfoWorld: NextPage solves document-management dilemma: March 11, 2005: By Phillip J. WindleyReferenced Mon Mar 14 2005 14:39:06 GMT-0700 What makes it work is that its the first document management system I've seen
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What Became of Excite@Home's Orem Data Center

After Excite@Home bought iMall.com (the ecommerce company I founded and was the CTO of) in 1999, we moved into a new building. We'd been looking to move for a while because we were bursting at the seams. We got space in one of the buildings on the old Word Perfect campus and remodeled it. One of the things we added was a 5000 sq ft data center. The other day, I was moving a server to co-locate with Paul Allen's server and he said "its at UVNet." Lo and behold, UVNet is in the old Excite@Home data center in
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Who Moved My Cheese

Now that HB109 has passed and will be the law of the land (I'm presuming the Governor will sign it), I suspect that there could be a fair demand for Who Moved My Cheese? among members of Utah's various IT departments. I passed copies of this book out to the IT Managers when I was CIO and there were a lot of people who were offended. I didn't mean for it to be offensive. I think there's important lessons in this book that everyone needs to review from time to time. So, find the book I gave you, dust
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Wireless Access at the Capitol

One of the bills that didn't get much air time last session was Senate Bill 100 which gives the Capitol Preservation Board (the group that manages the Capitol Complex) the authority to offer free Wi-Fi to the public at the State Capitol. The bill passed (no Senators and three Representatives dissented) and has been signed by Gov. Huntsman. Of course, the Legislature was doing this unwittingly several years ago. Now, its official! Seriously, I think this is a good thing. I'm not sure the Legislature realizes that this gives everyone sitting in a hearing the ability to google anything
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Blogging on KPCW

I was interviewed by Jonathan Brown of KCPW this afternoon for a show that will air tomorrow at about 10:20AM. They're starting a regular feature that they call "Blogger Friday" on their Midday Edition program. If you're in the SLC area, you can listen on 1010AM, 88.3FM, or 105.3FM. If you're not, they have a live stream.
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XForms Intro

XForms is one of those things I'd heard of, but hadn't really paid much attention to. I've had a chance lately to dive into it a little and there are some very interesting ideas. This tutorial article will tell you a little about it and more about its recalculation algorithm. The summary is that XForms defines a spreadsheet-like calculation capability and cleanly separates data from presentation. It's too early to know whether or not it will ever go mainstream, but I think that its ideas will have impact regardless.
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Technometria on IT Conversations

I've started doing a Technometria podcast with the help of Doug Kaye and IT Conversations. The first one is an interview with Kent Seamons on trust negotiation. Kent's been doing research in how participants from different identity domains can negotiate trust, often automatically. I think you'll enjoy it.
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Browser Statistics for Technometria

58% of visitors used IE. Firefox accounted for 28%. (click to enlarge) As you can see from the chart on the right, the visitors to Technometria do not follow the Internet's standard browser usage patterns. The top browser is, not surprisingly, Internet Explorer with 58%. Even so, that's far below the mid-90s that IE commands on the Internet in general. Second place went to Firefox with almost 28%. Third and fourth went to Safari and Mozilla with 6.6% and 3.4% respectively. The statistics are for the period Jan 1, 2005 through Mar 9, 2005. It probably goes without saying
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Identity Management Specs

IEEE Internet Computing magazine has a piece on IdM specifications and some possible futures. There's some interesting analysis there and different points of view of WS-* proponents and Liberty adherents.
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Debugging mod_ssl Timeouts

This afternoon I was treated to one of those fantastic little debugging sessions that make us all realize why computers are sometimes so utterly exasperating. I have been wanting to get SSL working on the virtual server that I run Movable Type since I switched at the first of the year. With SSL, my MT passwords are protected when I'm out and about and blogging. I was anxious to get it working because I'll be at ETCon next week and using the Wi-Fi to log in. I had installed mod_ssl long ago, but never really configured it, so I
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Hacking the iPod: Clicks Give Away the Code

Showing just how hard it is to protect any data, once it's in digital form and widely distributed, Nils Schneider, a 17-year-old computer science student from Germany, reverse engineered the code to the iPod bootloader by encoding it into a series of audible clicks. Schneider used the piezoelectric component within the iPod to produce the clicks, loaded the results onto another computer, and then proceeded to reverse engineer the bootloader. Clever. Why do this? To get Linux booting on the newest series of iPods, of course.
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InformationWeek on Blogging Executives

InformationWeek has an article in this week's issue on five executive bloggers, including yours truly. The other four are: Michael Pusateri, VP, Disney ABC Cable Networks Group Grady Boochchief scientist, IBM Rational Michael Hyatt, president and chief operating officer, Thomas Nelson Inc. Alan Meckler, CEO, Jupitermedia Corp. Some interesting insights from them on how they use blogs and what corporate, particularly executive bloggers, should and should not do.
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A new PowerBook and online service

I got a new PowerBook today. I posted a bit about it over at Between the Lines. Take a look if you're interested in eCommerce and good customer service.
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RSS on Your Blackberry

As I was reading a piece at eWeek on mobile CRM apps, I wondered "when will RSS readers come standard on the Blackberry and Treo?" There are solutions from others and RIM has a info for developers, but I'm thinking that at some point, it will just be there like calendar and email.
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Capitol Construction Photos

While I was in Salt Lake yesterday, I tool some pictures of the Utah Statehouse under construction from various angles. I'd love to see what they're doing underneath it. The plan is to completely undermine it and install a new foundation.
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Google Picasa

Google has a picture service called Picasa that plays nice with GMail. I agree with Jeremy, the world needs Google Calendar.
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Thomas Barnett

If you're not following Thomas Barnett you should be. He's cataloging the wins and losses in the gap with surprising completeness. I find it a great way to get some perspective after a morning of listening to NPR.
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Selecting a CIO

As Dave Fletcher points out, HB109 has passed and the process of selecting a CIO for Utah has begun. This is a tricky process because the is a huge job. In my opinion, the new CIO has to have a few indispensable characteristics: Most importantly, the new CIO must understand that this is a two year job and then you're out. Don't apply for the job if you want to be the CIO of DTS after the transition. The job skills necessary to transform the organization and the skills necessary to run it are very different and not likely
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Light Reading

I may not be posting much for the next few days. I've got two days of solid meetings in Salt Lake tomorrow and Thursday.
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Business and Technology Expo

The Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the Business and Technology Expo at the McKay Events Center in Orem next week (9th and 10th). I'll probably stop in and tour the booths to see what companies are exhibiting.
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