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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Kindle 2.0?

It seems that pictures of the new Kindle 2.0 device, the one that Amazon is denying exists, are leaking out across the web. Here's the link on

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sony's New PRS-700 Reader

In case you haven't heard, Sony just introduced their new reader, the PRS-700. The big difference between it and the PRS-505, is a 6 inch touchscreen, faster processor, expanded memory, and a built in side-lighting. The biggest feature that is lacking: no wireless capability. That being said, the touchscreen should be an improvement as it allows for note taking and finger swipping for page turning. It is also still billed as an "open" reader that allows multiple formats. The price tag will be $400

The best news of all, Sony has redesigned their online store. For those of us who've used it, this is definitely good news.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tracking Stolen Laptops

Recently there's been a lot in the news about people recovering their stolen laptops through remote tracking (i.e. NY victim uses remote to nab theft suspect). Several companies provide commercial products for tracking lost laptops including products like Computrace Lojack for Laptops and CyberAngel. There are also open source solutions such as Adeona, created by the University of Washington.

After reading about Adeona in Technology Review, I tested it and am impressed with the results. The software runs on Linux, Windows, and Macs. It uses a cryptographic key and password combination to access information. And, if you have a Macbook, Adeona can use the iSight camera to snap a picture of culprit. When connected to the web, Adeona periodically records information such as internal/external ip, the network access point, and router information. The software sends the encrypted results to the OpenDHT distributed storage service. You retreive the information by installing the Adeona retrieval software on another PC and using the cyrptographic key and password.

Adeona's setup is simple. I've been running it for a few days now and it's working beautifully. If you're looking for a simple solution and don't want to spend a lot of money, check out Adeona.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Head in the Clouds

Here are some articles I forwarded to my team earlier today. The first is an interview with Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer. Mr. Mundie talks about composite computing and how the cloud becomes one aspect of it. The best quote: "People who started out and said, 'Hey, all software should just become a service,' started out with the misconception that the computing model that we know is mature and won't evolve anymore."

The second article is an interview with Richard Stallman, founder of GNU. Stallman has a whole different take on the concept of cloud computing. The best quote: "The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. "

What's the right answer concerning cloud computing? Personally I think it's somewhere in between these two camps. Cloud computing will become one part of the whole computing experience, and it is this season's buzz word for companies who sell technology stuff. The hype around cloud computing will settle and, people will find sensible ways to use it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Just Had to Post This One

The Moron Brothers on YouTube...and no I didn't make up the name. They are self proclaimed morons:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Great Open Source Article on Slashdot

If you haven't seen this article on Slashdot, you should read it: Stanford Teaching MBAs How To Fight Open Source. Maybe B schools should spend more time teaching their MBA's how to embrace open source software instead of proprietary software? My favorite quote: "Glad to see that $48,921 that Stanford MBAs pay being put to good use. Having said that, such research is perhaps a great, market-driven indication that open source is having a serious effect on proprietary technology vendors".

More on the Sony/Target Digital Reader Partnership

Here's some more information on the Sony/Target partnership to sell Reader Digital Book products:

ReThinking the Data Center

Recently there have been some developments in building alternatives to the traditional data center. Google has filed for a patent of its floating data center. Intel is running a proof-of-concept data center using outside air. Now, we learn that Microsoft has been running a rack of servers in a tent outside one of their data centers...something that those of us involved in Boy Scouts can appreciate :). You might be asking, "what's the point of all this?" The point is to get us to rethink the traditional data center from its location to the how we cool and maintain the environment.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sony Reader Sighting

Tonight, after waiting in line at Costco for 30 minutes for gas, my youngest son and I headed to a nearby Target. While wondering around Target, I say a Sony Reader display in electronics. Target is selling the Reader for $299. They also have several accessories, including prepaid eBook cards for the Sony eBook store. I picked up a cover with a built in light for mine.

I think it's very interesting that Sony is now selling their digital reader products in Target. I guess they've finally started to market it. I've had one for almost a year now and enjoy it. It looks cooler than the Kindle. I only have a couple of complaints. First, it doesn't have wireless capabilities like the Kindle does. Second, the desktop software only runs on Windows...though I've been able to find an open source product that runs on the Mac and allows you to manage the device: calibre.

Ok, I do have one additional complaint, there are some publishers that haven't started providing content for the device.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Creating Books "Old School Style"

I thought you might enjoy the following video from the 1940's that shows the process of making a book. Printing a Book, Old School from Armin Vit.

Recent E-Reader/E-Ink Launches

By now you've already seen or at least read about Esquire Magazine's 75th Anniversary cover with flexible e-Ink technology. If you're interested in this technology, here are some other eReader devices you should also be watching:

One of the big differences between these devices and the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader, is that they use flexible polymer screens instead of glass. The screens are also touch sensitive...something that those of us who use an iPhone enjoy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

From dotProject to Mingle

As my development teams move to more toward Agile development methodologies, they found dotProject to be less than adequate. After a some research, they found and started using Mingle, an Agile Project Management tool. So far the reviews have been very positive.

Gibson EM-150 Pickup Rebuild

I was researching my 1969 Gibson EM-150 mandolin on the web and found the following video on YouTube. This video shows Clint Searcy from Searcy String Works rebuilding a Katrina damaged P-90 mandolin pickup that I assume came from an EM-150 since it is the only Gibson that I'm aware of with this kind of pickup. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Just Because I Like the Banjo

You're not a banjo player if you've never had something like this happen to you:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

More to the Mythbusters and RFID Story

Last week I posted a video about a Mythbusters episode on RFID security that was supposedly stopped by corporate attorneys. Here's a follow up to that story Here's a clarification from Adam Savage. No matter what, my sons and I remain faithful Mythbusters watchers.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

MythBusters and RFID

Considering RFID security. Here's a video of MythBusters' Adam Savage discussing some upcoming shows and why they aren't going to do an episode on RFID security.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Information Week Article

Some interesting charts from John Soat's article: How Tomorrow's CIO Can Buck The Trend Of Waning Influence.
The first concerns the most important attributes for a CIO:

The second is about the major obstacles faced by today's CIOs:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Graph on eReader Formats

I found the following graph on eBook dowloads by format:
Downloads by Book Format

The source data comes from

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Becoming A Coaching Leader

I've just finished an excellent book, Becoming a Coaching Leader, by Daniel Harkavy. Daniel is CEO of Building Champions, Inc., a company dedicated to building and improving leadership skills. Daniel's approach to coaching your team for the highest individual and group performance is excellent. I can't wait to start applying the material.

To be fair, I need to let you know that Thomas Nelson, my employer, published this book. We publish a lot of great leadership books, starting with the Bible. I also need to let you know that I have just become a client of Building Champions. Reading the book, researching the website, and talking with Building Champions convinced me that I want to improve my leadership skills, as well as those of my team. So, I signed up.

If you're a leader, you may be like me and are constantly looking for ways to improve and refine your skills, consider adding Becoming a Coaching Leader to your leadership library.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CIO Insights Slide Show on IT Project Failure

CIO Insight recently posted a slideshow titled Why IT Projects Get Killed. They listed 5 major reasons for killing IT projects:

  1. Business needs changed: 30%
  2. Does not deliver as promised: 23%
  3. No longer a priority: 14%
  4. Exceeds budget: 13%
  5. Does not support business strategy: 7%
The data was based on a recent survey of 167 IT executives.

In my career, I've experienced most of these reasons at one time or another, particularly with large projects. Obviously large projects, projects that take a lot of time and resources, run the risk of changes in business needs. They also run the risk of no longer being a priority for an organization. This often occurs when the project sponsor leaves the company or moves to another role. These projects can also fall victim to scope creep which if not managed correctly causes them to exceed budgets. I'm somewhat surprised that it ranked 4th on the list. As far as not supporting business strategy, I've rarely, if ever, seen a project fail for this reason.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Google and the Mac

From c/net Google gets serious about the Mac: "Google has long had a fondness for the Mac, with upwards of 6,000 of its 10,000 20,000 current employees opting to use the Mac over Windows." This is good news for people like me who use a mac as their primary development platform because it translates into more open source tools.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Engadget Interview with Jonathan Schwartz

Just read the Engadget interview with Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's CEO, on porting Java to the Google Android platform, and mobile platforms in general. According to Mr. Schwartz, not only is he using an iPhone, Sun's committed to delivering Java for the device. When asked about Google's Android platform, Schwartz turned attention to the upcoming JavaOne conference. Anyone who's used some of Google's developer products (GWT for example) already knows that Sun is working very closely with Google.

I have an iPhone also. I've been playing with the iPhone SDK, developing a couple of test apps. While I like the phone, I'm less excited about developing applications for the iPhone than I am about it having a Safari browser. I'd much rather use GWT to develop Ajax applications that can be run on IE, Firefox, Safari, Mozilla, and Opera browsers.

Think about it, developing rich client programs for browsers opens up a world of web enabled devices to you.

Friday, May 30, 2008

ComputerWorld Article on Leadership and WoW

I was recently reading a ComputerWorld interview of Byron Reeves, Revenge of the gamers: World of Warcraft is honing tomorrow's leaders. Reeves is the Paul C. Edwards Professor of Communication at Stanford University and a co-founder of Seriosity Inc. The article points to these reasons why business leaders should be playing online games:

I've made similar observations, both as an occasional World of Warcraft player and as a parent of child who plays Runescape Now, I have to admit that when I play World of Warcraft I tend to go it alone as much as possible. I enjoy exploring the worlds, fighting the beasties, piling up loot, and increasing my skill level. I have also joined others on quests, helped those in need, etc.

My son, on the other hand, takes his Runescape playing to another level. He and his classmates often ban together to defeat other clans, build businesses, plunder, and share loot. They also pull pranks on each other and share their accounts to help each other gain the highest level possible. To boast of their conquests and brag on their bank accounts, they post YouTube videos.

As I've talked to my son about what he's learned from Runescape, I can see that, among other things, he's learned how to form teams to complete a common goal, how simple economies work, how to run a small business, and how to deal with risk. He and his friends are learning these skills in an environment where they can safely fail. He's also finding out that there are real economies attached to these MMORPGs; companies and individuals making real money by selling virtual items.

I agree with Mr. Reeves regarding the merits of online games and leadership development. There are plenty of essons in these virtual worlds. From the video game created with the help of Ben Duskin, a boy who had leukemia and used his Make a Wish wish to help other children with cancer, to Byron Reeves company, Seriosity, Inc. that has borrowed some of the concepts of online gaming to approach email productivity, there's no doubt that online (and video) games are having an impact our society.

Monday, March 10, 2008

CIO Dashboard

Recently I read the following InformationWeek article: Hunting the Elusive CIO Dashboard. As I read my heart began to race and I felt some panic. I didn't have a dashboard. Were other technology management professionals leaving me behind? Was there something I was missing? Did I even have any Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)? What was wrong with my leadership that I didn't have a nifty tool to peer into the inner workings of my organization? Then there was this statement "...when the CIO can't get a clear picture of the real-time data that underlies critical applications, infrastructure, and projects, IT too often ends up reacting to issues after users and customers are having problems." Man, that sounded too familiar.

Thus began my hunt for that elusive dashboard. I started with the question: "What are my KPIs?" I compiled a list of the things that keep me up at night namely: financials, resource allocation and workload, and network and systems performance.

My next question was "If these are the most important items to me, how do I track them today?" The truth is, I do track them. While I might not have a really cool dashboard, I do use multiple tools to get the information I need. I pull financial information out of our financial applications, I track resource usage and workload through our request system, and i track network and systems performance through our monitoring systems.

I began to think about how I could consolidate the data into a high level dashboard, and how I might want to organize one. This led me to do some research I'm referring to googling variations of "CIO dashboard." I found several products that I won't list here, including some BI tools that are already in use in my organization. One thing that the majority of these tools require is for the data that feeds the dashboard to be in a database. Not a problem, 99% of the information I look at is pulled from a table.

The more I researched, the more I wanted to find a simple (and hopefully cheap) tool that would provide a front-end with the capability of linking to other applications for drilling into the details. Why reinvent the wheel? I eventually settled on an open source product called MarvelIT. MarvelIT is an Apache Jetspeed portal based product. It provides several cool little portlets that you use for building charts, reports, rss feeds, etc. It's MySQL based and also includes the drivers for Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle. As long as you, or someone on your staff, can create the queries and format some XML, MarvelIT will work for you. I really like that it's browser based a platform independent...translation it runs on Macs, Windows, and Linux machines.

As I mentioned earlier, 99% of the information I need can be pulled from an existing table. For the rest, mostly in the form of capital expenditures and internally developed software costs, I added some tables to the MarvelIT database (I could've created a separate database but I used MarvelIT's for convenience). MarvelIT provides some data entry portlet tools. I tied those into the tables I created so that I can update them from the site.

I organized my dashboard into two sections. The left side contains resource, systems, and network utilization. The right side contains my financial indicators. I set up URLs behind the charts and reports to the applications I'm pulling information from...well, at least those applications that have a web interface. I must admit it's really nice being able to track my KPI's in one place.

It took me less than a week to set up my CIO dashboard. If you're in IT management and you're looking for a dashboard tool without spending lots of money, I recommend MarvelIT. Click here to see a sample of my dashboard...before you ask it's using test data I loaded on my Macbook Pro.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ubuntu/Tomcat 5.5 Issues

I've been running Ubuntu Linux, specifically Feisty Fawn, and Tomcat 5.5 on a server at my house for a few months now. So far I've encountered only one issue: Tomcat5.5 doesn't start properly. In order to start it (once the script has run), I've had to go to the /var/log/tomcat5.5 directory and sudo cat the catalina.out file. Doing so jump starts the tomcat console and messages start displaying. Once the INFO: Server startup message appears, I ctrl-C out of the catalina.out file. While this workaround solves the issue, it causes me some extra steps every time I reboot the server or restart tomcat...not that I have to do that very often. But, it's a pain. Tonight I finally had enough and starting searching the web for a solution. I found an explanation and a solution here on Cefn Hoile's blog. Thanks Cefn! I've listed the solution below for those of you who find my blog first: the first time you startup tomcat you:
  1. cd /var/log/tomcat5.5
  2. sudo mv catalina.out catalina.out.old
  3. sudo touch catalina.out
  4. sudo chown tomcat55:nogroup catalina.out
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