Yesterday I gave a presentation on the state of calendaring software at our institution. I titled the presentation “Peering Through The Mist” because I think the view is anything but clear – what we really want are some widely supported interoperable standards, and that’s exactly what we don’t have in the calendaring space right now.
Archive for October, 2003
Though he doesn’t get written up in the trade rags, my colleague Terry Gray has been one of the true heroes of Internet engineering for many years, and when Terry speaks you can always expect well-reasoned deep thinking about the evolution of technology.
Yesterday Terry gave a wonderful but totally depressing talk titled “The new state of the network – how security issues are reshaping our world” (truth in advertising – I suggested the title to him).
Terry recapped how the basic tenet of designing the Internet was always to place the least impedance possible to the flow of packets from one end point to another, and to assume that all other details will be handled at the edges in the computers at the ends.
But now, driven largely by the huge failures of Microsoft to provide security at those very end points, we are being forced to put up devices to specifically get in the way of that free flow of packets – firewalls, private address routers, etc. And then we end up inventing new ways of getting packets to flow through those blocks (VPNs, for example).
Terry noted that while networking is about connection, security is about isolation, and that insecurity equals liability, and liability will trump innovation.
I hope we can have one hell of a wake…
After my WinXP laptop hard disk melted down this summer, I never got around to reinstalling MS Office on it. Most of my needs for editing can be met with a plain text editor (I use the freeware Crimson Editor on Windows), and I seldom actually need to use spreadsheets when I’m not at my office desk.
But I do have to create and give presentations, and I’ve been struggling with the best approaches. It seems to me that there ought to be an easy way to create standards-compliant html presentations, but I’ll be darned if I’ve found it. I’ve created html presentations by hand editing them, but that’s rather a pain.
The save-to-html in PowerPoint has actually gotten worse since Office 98 – it really wants to make presentations that only work in IE, and it seems impossible to get presentations on the web looking like I want.
Last week I downloaded and installed Open Office and was delighted to see an export to html option on the File menu in the Presentation software. But using proved another disappointment: it created two versions of my presentation, one which converted all of the slides into images, including the text, and one which contained nothing but text, rendering none of the images.
If anybody has any good html-based presentation authoring tools, please let me know!
misbehaving.net is an interesting new blog about women in technology:
“It’s a celebration of women’s contributions to computing; a place to spotlight women’s contributions as well point out new opportunities and challenges for women in the computing field.”
Looks like it will be well worth following. Thanks to Cory Doctorow for pointing this out.
Computerworld has a good article on how many businesses are starting to offer wireless Internet access for free, as a competetive tactic to attract customers. Seems likely that this will be a growing trend, eventually leading towards ubiquitous wireless access around many cities and towns. Thanks to Cory Doctorow for pointing this out in Boing Boing.
“Panera Bread Co., based in Richmond Heights, Mo., has also embraced free Wi-Fi as a marketing tool and plans to offer the service in 130 of its 600 bakery cafes by year’s end, eventually extending the service chainwide. Ron Shaich, the company’s chairman and CEO, says he views free Wi-Fi as an amenity that has already started to attract and retain customers at what he calls a “minimal cost.”
In fact, Shaich considers free Wi-Fi to be such an essential marketing tool that he dismisses any discussion of ROI. “What is the ROI on a bathroom?” asked Shaich, pointing out that the day of pay restrooms in restaurants has long since passed. “
Am I the only one who finds that blinking ads on web pages completely overwhelms the content of the page? I went to read an online article in Computerworkd this morning and couldn’t finish it, despite my interest in the subject. This particular page had ads that were constantly changing images on both sides and the top border….sheesh… I don’t mind advertising, but puhleeez… at least keep ‘em static!
I am not by any means a Unix geek, but I’m reading The Art of Unix Programming, by Eric Raymond. Eric wrote The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which is one of those influential books I always meant to read.
This is a wonderful read, primarily about the design decisions and the philosphy that have made unix such an influential and widespread technology base that has lasted over thirty years. As Eric says:
“… the book doesn’t focus so much on ‘what’ as on ‘why’, showing the connection between Unix philosophy and practice through case studies in widely available open-source software.”
I love the fact that the book is available both on printed paper and online. The online version is free and made available under a Creative Commons license. I started reading it online, but am going to pick up the paper version to finish…hmmm, sounds suspiciously like a succesful business model…
I was struck by this passage, from the section Basics of the Unix Philosophy, expressed 25 years ago (!!) by Doug McIlroy, the inventor of Unix pipes and one of the founders of the Unix tradition:
(i) Make each program do one thing well. To do a new job, build afresh rather than complicate old programs by adding new features.
(ii) Expect the output of every program to become the input to another, as yet unknown, program. Don’t clutter output with extraneous information. Avoid stringently columnar or binary input formats. Don’t insist on interactive input.
(iii) Design and build software, even operating systems, to be tried early, ideally within weeks. Don’t hesitate to throw away the clumsy parts and rebuild them.
(iv) Use tools in preference to unskilled help to lighten a programming task, even if you have to detour to build the tools and expect to throw some of them out after you’ve finished using them.
Thinking more about individual file sharing versus online music stores, best epitomized by Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Steve Jobs was quoted in a Wired News article as saying “We’re going to fight illegal downloading by competing with it,” said Jobs. “We’re not going to sue it. We’re not going to ignore it. We’re going to compete with it.”
My experience using the p2p file sharing services is that they are usually far from satisfactory as a strict consumer experience, all questions of legality and morality aside. Even when you find something you want, the encoding is likely to be poor and full of bleeps and burps (“artifacts”), the transfer speed connection to the peer is usually poor at best, the peer may disconnect or become unreachable before your transfer is over…and when you finally get the file, it may be something entirely different than what it was labelled – my favorite example of this was getting what claimed to be a version of Bye Bye Blackbird by Ray Charles, and it turned out to be Joe Cocker singing that song! I’m sure Joe would be flattered by the mistake, but Brother Ray would most likely be gravely insulted!
It’s good to remember that the p2p file sharing services and protocols grew up as a response to the legal pressure brought by the entertainment industry. Initially the first wave of online music file distribution was done by individuals making songs available via ftp sites. The evolution of p2p was a case of an evolutionary adaptation to unnatural social pressures. After all, it’s not like blogging, where you’re actively seeking the individual input and viewpoint of the peer you’re getting the data from.
So who wouldn’t rather have the songs they want available from large, fast, reliable online servers that are centralized and professionally managed, with high quality encoding and reliable metadata? Hmmmm….sounds a lot like what the Apple store is reaching for.
And I find myself increasingly going to the Apple store first when looking for music – though it’s not as complete as I’d like to see it. But, as a working professional, I perhaps have a degree of disposable income that much of the file sharing audience does not – for me paying $10 for an album is frequently worth it for the reliability and speed of the service, though I think it is still a higher price than I’d really like to see. I think the eventual price point for this kind of service remains to be seen, especially if the real aim of the service is not to make money by itself, but in conjunction with selling hardware (see Thursday’s post).
just ask a musician
In an article by Ina Fried in CNET news, Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller says “The iPod makes money. The iTunes Music Store doesn’t.”
Now it seems like Sony could use that business model too…doesn’t it?
I got an automated note from our mail system admininstration today saying that my use of the IMAP server was excessive. Upon investigation it looks like I had bursts of hundreds of IMAP connections to the server within a couple of minutes.
It turns out that the OS X mail app likes to poll all of the folders on the server for the count of unread messages in each, and it makes a separate IMAP connection for each folder. That seems like mighty unsocial behavior, especially given that I have over 200 folders on our IMAP server, and I can’t find any way in the preferences to override it.
I only care about unread messages in the handful of folders that actually receive incoming mail – my inbox, of course, and a few folders that receive server-filtered mail from some mailing lists I’m on.
Pine lets me specify certain folders as being “incoming” folders – it would be nice if the mail app had something like that and only checked the unread count in those.
I wonder if this gets fixed in the upcoming Panther version of mail?