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Three Perfect Tools · We live in a world of things that have Product Managers and Design Teams and Documentation Architecture and often vast ambition. And yet, so many of them are so bad. And worse, some which are good then become bad for no good reason. There is a particular joy in a product that just does what you need done, in about the way you expect or (thrillingly) better, and isn’t hard to figure out, and doesn’t change unnecessarily. Here are three to learn from ...
5G Skeptic · When I was working at AWS, around 2017 we started getting excited pitches from companies who wanted to be part of the 5G build-out, saying that obviously there’d be lots of opportunities for public-cloud providers. But I never walked away convinced. Either I didn’t believe the supposed customers really needed what 5G offered, or I didn’t believe the opportunity was anywhere near big enough to justify the trillion-dollar build-out investment. Six years later, I still don’t. This is a report on a little online survey I ran, looking for actual real-world 5G impact to see if I was wrong ...
Get Computer Glasses · Let me guess: You spend a lot of time in front of a computer, to which is attached a large high-resolution outboard screen, and you’re over 40, and you have glasses on your face. A lot of you will already know this, but if you don’t, run not walk to the nearest optometrist, get your eyes checked, and order a set of “computer glasses”. Trust me on this ...
When You Know · I’m a person who knows a lot about how computers and software work, is generally curious, and reads fast. I’ve been wrong about lots of things over the years. But there have a been a few times when a combination of technology-literacy and just paying attention to the world have made me 100% sure that I was seeing something coming that many others weren’t. Here are a few of those stories. The reason I’m telling them is that I’m in another of those moments, seeing something obvious that not enough other people have, and I want to offer credentials before I share it. Also, some of the stories are entertaining ...
Google Antitrust Notes · I just read the US antitrust “Complaint” against Google. This is obviously just the first chapter of a very long story, but here are early observations ...
Jag Diary 3: What We Know · Between June 4th, when the first wave of reviews of the New Jag hit (offically the I-PACE, what a dumb name) and the time the salesman called me saying “Time to sign the order if you want to be in the first wave”, I had to decide whether to spend a lot of money on a car I’d never seen or touched. So I paid damn close attention to those reviews. I’m a critical reader, and suspicious about the motives of product reviewers, and I think the picture that emerges is pretty clear. This post is to enumerate what I think it’s possible to know for sure about the car without having owned or even driven one. [Updated based on hands-on experience.] ...
Jag Diary 4: Marketing Tour · What happened was, Lauren and I played hookey from work and took in Jaguar/Land Rover’s Art of Performance tour, and it was a total blast, a couple hours of pure fun. This is just a recommendation for the show plus a few things I’ve learned about the car (which remains super interesting) since the last Jag-Diary entry ...
Jag Diary 2: “T-K” · Apparently Jaguar committed to developing a serious electric car back in 2014, which was a brave move at that point. Obviously, this wouldn’t have happened, nor would the upcoming Audi, Porsche, and Mercedes BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles), if Tesla hadn’t proved that these things can be built and people want to buy them. Now, suppose you had the job of marketing this new thing to the world; how would you start? ...
Jaguar Diary · On Wednesday, I signed an order for a 2019 Jaguar I-PACE, to be delivered in the late autumn. For those who don’t follow the electric-car scene, this is a brand-new no-petroleum product with range and performance in the same range as a Tesla S or X. Since electric cars interest geeks and greens — both over-represented in my readership — and since the Jag is a new thing and contains a lot of technology, I thought I’d do a diary-and-notes series on the car and the experience of getting into the electric-driving space ...
Whiteboard Interviews · The other day, I joined a semi-viral tweet chain with I’ve been coding since 1979 and I still have to look up java.lang.String methods all the time. There were a bunch of programmers doing this and I thought it constituted amusing humility while also making a useful point: Remembering the details of any particular API or algorithm is irrelevant. Turns out I was part of a trend, see TheOutline: Programmers Are Confessing Their Coding Sins to Protest a Broken Job Interview Process. Except for, that’s bullshit; I still do whiteboards at interviews, and I don’t think the idea is broken. (Also, they’re not sins.) ...
Big-Show Tech · I’m all stressed out getting ready for re:Invent, Nov 28th through Dec 2nd this year, in Vegas. I’m attending, and may even be speaking if certain pieces fall into place. I’ve seen this movie before ...
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Home Computer? · We’ve got this big old Mac Pro in the living room, a 2008 model; I call it “the family mainframe”. I’m thinking it might get replaced with a Windows box ...
Mobile Counter-theses · This is in response to 16 mobile theses by Benedict Evans of Andreesen Horowitz, a firm that’s central to Bay Area VC culture. The theses are about half wrong, which isn’t too bad ...
Nautical-maintenance Mac · There are three silver Mac laptops in our household and sometimes it’s not obvious which is which. Also, while at Google I got used to the notion that laptops shouldn’t be left naked. So I shopped around online and ordered a cover from DecalGirl. This is the picture I used ...
Moving the Gender Needle · I’ve been moaning for years, in public forums and on this blog, about the horrible gender imbalance in the software tribe: the women are missing. I’m depressed because, numerically, things haven’t gotten any better. But there are grounds for optimism, just maybe ...
Winterlong Tab Sweep · Really long, I mean. But the organization is beyond criticism because there isn’t any ...
Old-World Week · I spent most of last week in Antwerp at Devoxx 2012, probably the biggest developer event in Europe. The European context was front-of-mind since, for recreation, the week before I’d been occasionally reading US right-wingers introspecting on why they’d lost the election and where America is going. A repeating theme is how the US is at grave danger of becoming like Europe; they’re convinced that that’s Barack’s hidden agenda. And Europe, you see, is a terrible place ...
Don’t Change Your Hair For Me · For the first time since 2003 I’m seriously thinking about switching to Ubuntu. It feels like, since Snow Leopard, more things have been subtracted from than added to my Mac. This syndrome infects product-management groups everywhere not just in Cupertino; “We know better; the experience for the average user will be better without that.” But there ain’t no such thing as an average user, and it’s almost always a bad idea to subtract a shipping feature ...
Help Me Buy a Computer · I mean with advice, not money. Dear LazyWeb: I’m about to replace the MacBook Pro that I’m typing this on, and not sure what to get. The problem is the pictures. I’m actually seriously thinking about buying a Windows (!) box ...
Computer Longevity · We have a lot of computers around the house, but the main family living-room workhorse is a 2008 Mac Pro. Everyone knows that computers have short working lives, but I’m thinking this one could be with us for a while ...
Local Uncertainty Maximum · Welcome to the end of the year. As I look forward into 2012, I foresee, uh... almost nothing. In fact I can’t recall a time when the uncertainty was so pervasive. Here is a small compendium of prognosticational impotence ...
Tab Sweep — Tech · Clearly the art of the Tab Sweep has declined in the age of Twitter, and is apt to decline still further under the influence of Google+. But I think there’s still a place for it ...
Steve’s Legacy · What were the Really Big Things? ...
Autumn Leaves · Rain on the roof awoke me this September morning. Out and about later, I watched the leaves: green and working still, but starting to fall in waves and (we all know) not here for long. I thought of printed books and magazines. And silver disks. And cash.
Sufficiencies · I carry around, in various combinations, two cameras, one computer, and two or more Android devices. They have some important things in common ...
How To Get There · This is just a fan letter about the maps-and-directions software that I guess has been in GPS products for years and is now on every Internet-capable phone ...
The Difference Engine · At the Computer History Museum they call it The Babbage Engine, but “Difference” was the word Babbage used (as in the result of a subtraction) and I like it better. During a boring part of the Cloud Interop event, I snuck out and took some pictures, because I found it very beautiful ...
Multi-Inflection-Point Alert · I was up late on IM with a much-younger computer programmer and he asked “Damn, there’s a lot going on. Is it always like this?” Well, no, it hasn’t been. But in the future, it may be ...
Adoption · I don’t often devote a whole post here to just one link, but I think Simon Phipps’ The Adoption-Led Market deserves it. If you’re in the business of technology you probably need to read it. Especially the “Consequences” section.
Good Tech Writing · Two of my browser tabs contain pieces that are related in that they are very well-written, and about technology ...
Tech Days Talent · I’m here in Shanghai attending Sun Tech Days. This is a soup-to-nuts show, everything from the operating system up to Web Tier Orchestration. I am definitely playing the wild-eyed-crazy role in this production; my messages of radical openness and Web 2.0 inside-out information flows and doing not necessarily Java-based Web development are a little outside for this crowd, I think. But they have something we don’t have at most of our New World tech shows: a talent contest! ...
Prognostication · It seems to be in the air. Sam Ruby plants a stake in the ground, and isn’t too shy to point at his track record. My turn ...
Tab Sweep — Tech · Ouf, it’s been a while, is my browser ever fat ...
Tab Sweep—Tech · Let’s start with Python. First of all, Guido’s lengthy Python 3000 Status Update (Long!). A little bird tells me they’re going to use UTF-16 internally. I’m horrified, that seems egregiously wrong, but Guido’s no fool. Also from Pythonia: Django status update: June 26. Just because the world is breathing all heavy over Ruby these days doesn’t mean Python’s less interesting. If Ruby vanished tomorrow I could transfer my world to Python with fairly little pain. And my code would run faster too ...
Ordinary Technology · Our friends here in Australia are by and large not Internet Visionaries or Serial Entrepreneurs or Multimedia Wizards; they’re ordinary people with ordinary jobs; not only are they good people and good company, but for me educational since I’m getting a civilian’s-eye view of the technosphere ...
Aussie Snaps · Herewith two pictures of CSIRAC, claimed to be the fourth digital computer ever built, and the oldest still in existence ...
Hot Job Market · It seems that everybody I’ve talked to in the last little while has found a way to work it into the conversation: “Oh, and I’m hiring; know any good developers?” Plus, the pace of calls from head-hunters has picked up. It’s about as hot as I can remember it being, ever, including the bubble.
Electricity · Two Carr-provoked posts in a row today; check out Avatars consume as much electricity as Brazilians, and then the quantitative comment from our own enviroguru Dave Douglas. Suppose you wanted to know for sure how many watts your databoxes are sucking? Well, our server people have come up with a clever little marketing gimmick, the Try and Buy Power Meter Program; pick up a T1000 or T2000 through T&B and they’ll send along an actual power meter. Kind of symbolic since they only cost about $30, but still, I bet this motivates a few people to have a look who wouldn’t have, otherwise; which has to be a good thing.
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Kedrosky · I suspect that anyone who likes ongoing and isn’t already reading Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed ought to start. He’s really got a gift for the medium; it’s a rare day when he doesn’t run something that makes me want to write. Here are a few samples from this month: The New Venture Rules, Part XXIV: Get Big Cheap, Supreme Court Today on Patent Obviousness, and Comparing Reach Across Mobile and PC for Popular Sites. [Disclosure: Paul and I are both investors in Dabble DB.]
Startup Camp · I spent Thursday and Friday at Startup Camp, at the Computer History Museum. This event was sort of originally my idea, but smart Sun people retained the good parts—make it an unConference, involve David Berlind—and discarded my silly theming notions; the “Startup Camp” pitch obviously touched a nerve, because the place was packed ...
Starting Up! · Yow, I just looked at the Startup Camp sign-up sheet and if you want to go, you better get on the list PDQ. Of the names that are there, I recognize almost none; which is exactly the idea. I asked David Berlind why people who are coming wouldn’t want their names to show, and he says two reasons: stealth-mode startups, and people with jobs who are looking for another one.
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InfoQ · There’s this new tech-news site, InfoQ; they say they’re tracking the “enterprise software development community”. Somewhat along the same lines as TheServerSide; but along with Java, InfoQ covers .NET, Ruby, SOA, and Agile. They’re currently running an interview with me that Obie Fernandez taped way back in April at that Canada on Rails conference. It’s immensely long; I took a look but my attention wandered after ten minutes or so; I’m not sure even my Mom would last through the whole thing. As to InfoQ, they’re addressing a pretty big space, and now that traditional technology journalism has been blown up, I’m 100% in favor of anyone who’s trying to make new models work. At InfoQ today, I found the stuff in the central “Community” column more interesting than the “exclusive” talking heads (for example, me) in the right column; have a look and make up your own mind.
Upcoming Gig: Startup Camp · This should be serious fun; I was in on the initial discussions, but the people at Sun went out and got David Berlind to help and now there’s going to be a Startup Camp Nov. 2-3 in Mountain View, and I’m going. Come along and pitch in!
Trash Your Computer · I was talking with a woman today, a professional writer who works mostly in the health-care technology space. She said “These days, I want to stuff my Dell in the nearest trash compactor and do everything on my Blackberry. The computer, it’s real work to manage, and I can read whatever anyone sends me on the Blackberry, almost.” Is this the future?
On Innovation · I really owe Nicholas Carr a vote of thanks; I believe no other single individual has provoked so many ongoing entries of the form “A is right about X” or “A is wrong about X”. Today, Nick is wrong about innovation. To be fair, this is something that has driven management practitioners and theorists crazy forever; the people running a company tend to know pretty well where some innovation would be useful; adding product value to give some price leverage; revamping manufacturing operations to tie up less capital; it depends on the company’s pain point. And that kind of works, but only for the little innovations. Maybe the best-known example is Kaizen, as applied in the Toyota Production System; which explicitly acknowledges that it’s chasing small, incremental, steps forward. But fortunes are made, and industry titans are built, where management isn’t really looking, almost always. The big pieces of innovation come out of garages and low-rent offices in lousy locations, and they’re produced by small groups without much management backing. It can be done at big companies (the business personal computer at IBM, Java at Sun) but then it’s always in an off-the-mainstream skunkworks. Nobody—I repeat, nobody—is smart enough to predict where the next big strategic innovation is going to come from. So if you “narrow your innovation focus”, you’re almost guaranteed to miss it. The best approach, I think, is a combination of conscious focused incremental innovation—kaizen—combined with a structure that’s loose enough that when someone wants to hide in a corner and try something crazy, you don’t get in the way too much.
BTL · I always have a big input queue of things I’d like to write about, but never enough writing time to drain it. So I try to spend that time on things where I’m in new territory or making an original point, rather than pointing to something out there, however excellent; because anything that’s worthy of linkage will have picked up some, even if it’s not from me. In recent months, I’ve noticed that an unreasonable number of things I’d like to have linked to have been from the BTL blog over at ZDNet; Farber and Berlind do a remarkable job of digging out industry trends and events, and then adding value by saying smart things about them. And this matters; for a couple of years there I thought the computer trade press might self-destruct completely. To be sure, it’s a pathetic shadow of its former self, but I sure hope the remaining few points of light are self-sustaining; because our business needs its professional storytellers. Along with BTL, I rely most heavily on Jon Udell and, these days, ars technica.
Innovation Happens Elsewhere · Tantek Çelik writes, on the subject of work by Scott Reynen: “Companies take note - on the internet, there will always be smarter, more clever people building on each other's work than your secret internal committees, your architecture councils, your internal discussion forums — no matter how many supergeniuses you think you may have hired away and locked up with golden shackles in your labs. Either play open or expect your proprietary formats and protocols to be obsolete before they've even seen the light of day.” [Update: It’s been pointed out to me that some might not recognize the title, which was originally uttered by Bill Joy and is also the title of a book by Goldman and Gabriel.]
Set My Data Free · This title is stolen from a wonderful piece by Jon Udell, to which I can only say “amen”. And shake my head in awe, I mean PDF2XLS, that’s deeply sick.
ETech — Good Pitches · This is just a potpourri of pitches, specifically the ones that were good and memorable. Includes rare complimentary remarks about Microsoft technology ...
ETech — San Diego Trolley · It’s a nice enough town, but it’s out of the way and, in my experience, not that easy to get around in. The hotel was sold out when I tried to get in a couple weeks ago (but some last-minute arrivals got in fine, hrumph). Anyhow, I ended up at a Doubletree at a place called “Hazard Center” which is bit of a ways out, but when I was driving the rental in I noticed something that looked like a train station across the street. Sure enough, the San Diego Trolley will take you from there to the convention hotel in about 20 minutes for $1.50, which beats struggling through the traffic in the car and paying at least ten times that for parking. Oddly, the people on the train were few in number, and they all seemed well-dressed, well-fed, and well-rested; a typical-California ethnic mashup, and most were reading books. This isn’t like public transport in other places. On the other hand, when you want to go home after ten at night, the trains run less often, and many of the people are neither well-dressed, well-fed, nor well-rested (you can tell because they’re asleep). But the trains aren’t crowded then either. All in all, it seems to be a fine system.
ETech — On Attention · The conference blurb said “It’s time to build The Attention Economy”. What’s that, I wonder? The shindig was certainly equipped with lots of people holding forth on the subject, so this was my chance to find out. I took to accosting total strangers in the hallways saying “What do you think about this whole ‘Attention’ thing?” ...
ETech 2006 — Generalities · I’ve been here at ETech since suppertime Monday, and I thought I’d just let my report grow as I went along, which is dumb, because it flies in the face of the medium, and the piece grew tumerously to a really unreasonable size. So I’ll break it up into a bunch of focused fragments. This one is on the conference itself, and whether you’d want to come to it ...
The Analysts and the Elephant · In recent weeks there’s been a lot of talk about the role of analyst firms. Let’s be honest; the way the business works, pretty much nobody likes these organizations, but many (including me) think they’re necessary, and since Gartner is closing in on a billion dollars a year of revenue, they’re obviously selling something that people will buy. Herewith a survey of the discussion, some personal anecdotes about the relationships between vendors and analysts, and some thoughts on the future ...
6,000,000,000 Cycles/Second · Holy cow, IBM says they can run the Power6 at 6GHz. Hey, I still think lower-clock-rate/more-cores is the way to go, maybe because I’m primarily a Web Guy; for example, see Paul Murphy on SPECWeb2005. But still, you gotta be impressed, that’s one $@*&!# hot chip. I’m thinking of OS X running on one of these... Oops, too late.
On Intel · I was reading the big Business Week story on Intel, and it quoted CEO Paul Otellini: “He lays particular emphasis on marketing expertise because he thinks the only way Intel can succeed in new markets is by communicating more clearly what the technology can do for customers. ‘To sell technology now, you have to do it in a way where it’s much more simple,’ says Otellini. ‘You can’t talk about the bits and the bytes.’” This seems deeply wrong to me on a whole bunch of levels. People already know what computers and game consoles and telephones and all the other things with CPUs in them can do for them, and if they don’t, it’s not Intel’s job to explain, that belongs to the people who build the boxes that the consumers slap down their plastic for. Once the buyers understand, they care mostly about price, except for bleeding-edge gamers and other CPU hogs, who perforce do care about bits and bytes. Intel’s real customers are Apple and Intel and Dell and HP and IBM, and I guarantee those guys care about bits and bytes (and wattage), and even more about dollars per unit. So it looks to me like Intel’s charging off in the wrong direction with Viiv and Core and so on. Having said that, I suspect the Intel engineering tribe is maniacally focused on catching and beating AMD, and I wouldn’t want to bet against them in the long term; so they’ll probably do OK.
My Cut-and-Paste Tech Year · This meme’s been sloshing around since early December, which seems too early to me. Herewith my year in 12 cut-and-paste sentences, all about technology. (For the rest of life, see here.)
January: What am I doing categories for? What is anybody doing categories for? What is everybody doing categories for? February: Chat and wikis are not exactly what the collaborative-future visionaries of past years had in mind. But they seem to hit an awfully-big 80/20 point. March: Java is boring. April: This discussion is too important to be left to the batshit license loonies. May: Whether or not you really think Harmony is worth doing, you have to like people who are hurling themselves at big tough problems, and not in the interests of getting rich. June: It’s a lot cheaper and more tractable (and power-efficient) to double the number of threads than to double the clock rate. July: The kinds of people who want to put stupid, irrelevant, badly-written junk in the Wikipedia in my experience are easily discouraged. August: All the software fashion slaves will tell you: down on the plantation, Massa’s new missus is a far-Eastern belle named Ruby. September: Those who know what curl is are probably snickering now. October: “We’re doin’ our best, Cap’n... Aaaaaaaaagh!November: 8. There is no Step 8. That’s all there is to it. December: Software of the future will be Open Source, will have a sophisticated and smart user interface, will take responsibility for making sure it’s up to date, and will meet essential human needs.

Greg on Gordon · Go check out Greg Papadopoulos’ latest, Don’t Become Moore Confused, who covers the same Moore’s-law-is-over-no-it-sn’t territory that’s been getting a lot of heat, but does so in lots more detail with actual real numbers; then branches off into predictions for what this means. It’ll help you to know that the plural of “die” is “dice”. Oh, and of course Greg skips over the software angle, but maybe that’s been covered enough.
Cars and Office Suites · Sam Hiser wrote up some of the punchier bits from last week’s Berkman Center ODF meeting, and they brought the car analogy back to mind; it had only come to me on the spot there in the room. The problem is that there hasn’t been a significantly useful new feature in any office suite that I’ve bought in the last decade. I just sat here and stared blankly, and honestly can’t think of a word-processor or spreadsheet feature I use today that wasn’t there in 1995. So, is office software essentially, complete, done; is the era of innovation over? I don’t think so; consider another technology that’s over 100 years old: the automobile. In that same decade, we’ve bought three; the upgrade cycles for cars and office software are about the same. Each of those cars had clever, useful, new gadgets and features that I would never have been smart enough to think of. Imagine that: A compass in the rear-view mirror! A volume control on the steering wheel! A little slide-out doohickey for your cellphone! A sixth gear! A special defrost-the-windshield-and-mirrors control! What’s the difference between cars and office software? Well, every time I go shopping for a car I look at a bunch of different vendors who are trying really hard to get ahead of each other and earn my business. And since everything about a car (and the roads they drive on) is standards-based, there’s absolutely no penalty whatsoever for switching vendors.
What People Want to Learn · I mentioned that while I was in Tokyo I had a talk with Pina Hirano of Infoteria, and that he’d shown me a remarkable “skill map” graph. Here it is in English; scroll down to see his Fig. 2. I haven’t quite worked out what it means, but it bears thinking about.
Hey, Big Blue! · Let’s close out Friday in a mood of industry bonhomie, by saying nice things about an esteemed competitor, IBM. First of all, their Jim Stallings made some eminently-sensible remarks on the problems with software patents. Secondly, Sam Ruby not only pointed out this, he offered a really insightful response to the challenge. I’m going to print this out and stick it up on my wall: “Operational definition of simplicity: Zero Training”
47 Ways To Say “Broken” ·  Ballsed up. Banjaxed. Blown up. Bollixed. Borked. Bricked. Broked. Buggered (up). Bunged. Busted. Busticated. Casters-up mode. Clapped out. Crapped out. Cocked up. DOA. Done in. Down. Frapped out. Fried. Fucked (up). Fubar. Garfed. Gone pear-shaped. Goobered. Gronked. Horked. Hosed. Kaput. Knackered. NFG. Off the rails. On the blink. On the fritz. Pooched. Roached. Screwed. Shagged. Shot. Snafu. Stuffed. Tits up. Toast. U/S. Wedged. Wonky. Zorched. Note once again the vitality of English, with contributions from engineering and military jargon interbreeding organically, and in one case cheerful borrowing from our German cousins. I’d prefer not to dwell on the logical inference that engineers regard any system that’s actually working as a temporary anomaly. [Update: This was published in August 2004, but just now I ran across a dusty, neglected email folder labeled “words for broken” with late suggestions. This fragment is now closed, further suggestions will be rudely ignored.] ...
Groupware · This is provoked by a typically funny, nasty, and excellent piece by JWZ about why Everything You Know About Groupware Is Wrong. Sun is a highly-distributed company and thus you’d think we need all sorts of highly-advanced collaboration tools. Herewith the inside story ...
Bye, NCD · Via the Reg, I see NCD is going away. Kind of sad; I feel I have a personal relationship with the company. I saw their first product at a 1989 Usenix and liked it enough to buy it and posted a review which generated storms of email and Usenet traffic and many thank-yous from NCD and, I immodestly think, significantly helped get them launched. Obviously, our Sun Ray is a direct descendant of the original NCD idea, and the people here who use ’em generally love ’em. I think it’s the nifty Java Card trick that makes them fly; go anywhere, plug in the card, and there’s your desktop. The notion, in an enterprise of any size, that you should have independently managed standalone computers, one per person, is obviously nuts. There are some job functions and personality types that call for a real computer of one’s own, but to the extent we can avoid that, business is going to run smoother.
It’s Just Messages · I’m beginning to wonder if everything is turning into a stream of messages ...
The Colorado Software Summit · This is a thirteen-year-old conference. At one point it was OS/2-centric and there are still a lot of IBM people here, but Java is the real center of gravity. Herewith some notes and pictures ...
Foo Camp 2004 · Major thanks to Tim O’Reilly, Sara Winge, and the rest of the O’Reillians for doing this another year. They’re doing the community and the world a major favor and if they weren’t so smart I’d worry there won’t be enough coming back from the community to make it worth their while. Last year’s notes here, here, and especially here apply, but one or two more things are worth saying ...
Now Is The Time · This week my kid’s going off to school for the first time and while it’s been a long time since I last went off to school, there’s something that lingers about the end of summer, start of fall, back to school season, a feeling that it’s time to buckle down and be a little less laid back and get some serious work done. Fortunately, right now is a wonderful time to be at work in our profession, and I just can’t wait for the pace to pick up again ...
Sellsing Out · This October I’ll be attending and speaking at a conference that everyone calls “The Sells Thing” because it’s run by Chris Sells. Hmm, on the web page the big letters at the top say Applied XML Developers Conference 5 but in the browser title bar it says Web Services DevCon; I’m fine with “Sells Thing.” The reason I accepted Chris’ invitation is that this conference has historically been regarded as Microsoft territory and is populated by a whole universe of people who do markup-related stuff for a living that I know nothing about, so giving a speech is just the excuse, I’m really going there as a tourist. I’m supposed to talk about the usual blogging&syndication stuff, but I suspect they’ll be OK if I wander afield into some general-purpose XML ranting.
The Back Door · There are only two ways into the technology market, the front door and the back door. Some examples that came in through the front door: ERP, mainframes, and Lotus Notes. Back-door arrivals: personal computers, Unix, and Dynamic Languages (Perl, Python, and so on). You can build a business both ways. And, now that I’ve been here at Sun for almost six months, I wonder: Which door should we be knocking on? ...
Wild & Crazy CPU Ideas · Well, nobody could call this anything but far-fetched, but it makes for good late-Friday relief: Paul Murphy thinks Apple should switch over to SPARC processors. Hey, I’m down with that, think of the employee discounts.
The Glass is Half Empty · I was bitching about bad technology to a senior person without a soapbox for this kind of thing, who wrote back: “That's how I feel about my life in general. I get in a car to go to work. Dumb, and filthy. I use horrible cellular technologies that drop 5 times on my way to work. I use airplanes that are 30 year old technology to fly, for God's sake, to do a keynote where most people can't see me, and to do 10 customer meetings I'd rather do with a very high quality video conference. And then I use a laptop whose UI hasn't advanced in, oh, 14 years.” I’m a bit more cheery than my correspondent about user interfaces, but is that an excellent wake-up call or what?
Supernova Notes · I’m spending the day at the Supernova 2004 conference; the main reason being a plenary panel on syndication with Dave Sifry, Kevin Marks, and Scott Rosenberg. Some notes on the conference, and on conferences ...
Staying On Topic · A deceptively simple little one-pager by Geoff Arnold; if you’re not spending part of your time thinking in the way that Geoff suggests, you’re probably part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Happy · These are good times. Ten weeks of not working (three weeks in Oz) was great, ramping into a new-job honeymoon is great, plus, happiest of all, I’ve got a Big Idea and with luck, I’m going to get the cycles to build it out. For those of us with engineering bones, afflicted by insomnia and the creative itch, few things feel as good as the early days of a Big Idea, as the implications and explanations fall into place. Of course, people like me shouldn’t be allowed to drive cars at this phase, and spouses suffer unreasonably as our listening ability becomes intermittent. And of course we all know that as the Big Idea eventually morphs into actual icky buggy code running on actual icky real-world infrastructure, we’re in for a lot of pain; and not all my Big Ideas have been good ones. Still, it’s something to live by: What might be, but is not.
Whose Medium? · Recently Jon Udell ran some video clips from BloggerCon in which three different people, among them Amy Wohl, complained powerfully that online publishing is too hard, and that worst of all, it requires programming, which ordinary people can’t be expected to do. Since then, Dylan Evans argued more or less the opposite position in The Guardian: that being unafraid of code is increasingly going to be essential to anyone who wants to be considered part of the intelligentsia. So who’s right? ...
Foo Camp Notes · Random notes from the Friends of O’Reilly camp ...
Standards and Applications · There was this glowing story in Infoworld this morning about Bill Gates making nice with some IBM luminary to talk up the glorious future of Web Services; the lead para closed with a resounding phrase about “Key Web services standards and the resulting applications.” I was going to write a cynical note here about the yawning gulf between standards (particularly in Web services) and applications, then I got busy and lost that browser window. But, a bit of luck, and the magic of newsfeed technology, allow me to bring you the low-down, check it out ...
Microsoft Claims... · I quote directly from a CNN article: “Microsoft contends that setting standards could stifle innovation”. They're talking about product-liability standards in this piece, and in general I am not a member of the church of anti-Microsoft (reality is just more nuanced than that), but if the position is as stated, it is shallow, stupid, and untruthful. Enough said.
Responsive Software Development · This is a wonderful time. Safari and NetNewsWire, two pieces of software that I use all the time, are under active development. Hyatt is blogging his Safari progress in real time while Brent updates NNW progress regularly. Hyatt responds to trackbacks and Brent responds to emails. If you live in the world of Microsoft (or actually of pretty well any mainstream software development, let's not beat up on Redmond however popular that may be), this doesn't happen, won't happen, can't happen ...
Half a Billion Bibles · I spent the day in meetings with a maker of storage technology; it seems quite possible that Visual Net will find a handy application with these folks. My mind is just now unboggling, because these guys deal with disk subsystems measured in tens of terabytes. One customer, they said, is managing three petabytes up and down the East Coast. At this point in the meeting, I got real quiet for a while while a hamster in the back of my head got stuck on the treadmill of all those zeroes. Um er 3,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. We seriously need some perspective ...
The 3D Web? · I am spending the day at an all-day meeting in snowy Calgary, Alberta (-19° C. and windy). At the meetings are representatives from four big Canadian universities (Simon Fraser, the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, and the University of Toronto). The subject is "The 3D Web", a prospective research grant of something over a million Canadian dollars from Canadian Heritage. Years after the brief arc and soggy thud of Virtual Reality in general and VRML in particular, the Web is still a pretty flat place. What do we need to do to add a dimension? ...
Word Hell · Today I'm in Word Hell; I have to write a two-thousand-word piece for a trade magazine about Business Intelligence, and I have to throw an edit on a big White Paper that a real bright salesperson here wrote. Which means, in effect, that I'm spending the day locked in the embrace of Microsoft Word. Hell Day not because it's Word, but because it's marketing verbiage, pretty well all day. Word, in fact, is actually right up there with Emacs as a tool for heads-down grind-out-the-paragraphs industrial authoring ...
The Great Reconfiguration · This technology stuff is more work than it ought to be. Over the past weekend, we tossed out an obsolete computer and reconfigured everything, and everything works a little better now, but it cost us, all told two full days' work, and the application of a lot of expertise ...
Asynchronous Threaded Execution · This parking meter exhibits some pretty fancy software technology, but with perhaps unintended consequences in the user interface department ...
Writing and Programming · ongoing is a project simultaneously in writing and programming; I write the entries and in parallel fiddle with the software that publishes it. This is a pretty involving experience and there aren't that many of us in the world who get to enjoy it ...
Electrocardiogram Phonewhistling · The doctor came by my place to give me a physical in support of an insurance policy my company is taking out on me (I'm now probably worth more to them dead) ...
Where Next for RSS? · People who hang around with bloggers all know what RSS is (if you don't, I'll introduce it.) RSS is headed for some interesting times as regards client software, traffic management, and business model, and it would be reasonable to expect some breakage along the way ...
RSS to NetNewsWire to World Press Review · This is a technology success story. Due to my status as an XML maven, I got sucked into a long-running debate over an XML news syndication format called RSS (I could provide a link, but you'd do better typing "RSS" into a search engine). The subject was how to use namespaces, but the result was that I got interested enough to go looking for an "RSS Aggregator Program" for my own use ...
Good Technology · I've been earning my living doing technology since 1981. By and large it's been a good time. Like everybody else in the wealthier parts of the world, I'm also a heavy every-day user of technology, and I like using it as much as I do creating it ...
VMS NewsGroup · (Originally posted in Usenet's net.general. This is here only because it appears to represent my first set of electronic tracks on the network landscape.) ...
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