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Archive for January, 2010

Memory Versus Facts

According to an old in-house version management tool, I started my first JSPWiki instance on a desktop PC at my employers premises in December 2001 or January 2002 (I just found a blog post about that starting point). In my case, the first documented and archived version was based on JSPWiki 1.6.11beta; the configuration file was dated January 29th, 2002. How fast memory fades: a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t recall an exact date, and I told Bruno it was probably somewhere in 2004 that JSPWiki entered my life…

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Not For Me, No

I held back from publishing my thoughts about Apple’s brand-new iPad last night, because I was very disappointed. But thinking it over made no difference, so here’s my official point of view: the iPad is just a blown-up iPhone. It looks great, is probably well constructed, but it’s missing features that I find essential, like a memory card slot, a (fast) USB connector, a Flash player, multi-tasking, and massive amounts of memory. What’s worse, all those missing items are ways of opening up the machine to the rest of the world, which is what I want: I want to choose where I go find movies and books and pictures and applications, and not be dependent on the whims of a single company that controls the hard- and software in my hands. So that means: no iPad for me, no – I’ll wait for the competition to do better (can you say Android?). If you want  more views on the iPad, start with “Insanely great? Ars reacts to the Apple iPad” over at Ars Technica.

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Now here’s an interesting discussion: The Real Reason Outsourcing Continues To Fail. In the words of the author: “it’s arguable that PDI (ie. the Power Distance Index) differential is the one, single, leading cause that relates to how providers and buyers have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye during the outsourcing process“. It is well known that cultural differences are an important risk factor in the outsourcing business (like in many other human ventures, of course). I suppose many “western” companies have had bad experiences with outsourcing in the last two decades – my employer certainly did! I do wonder though: how long will it take for the PDI’s in different parts of the world to approach each other to such a degree that te PDI factor effectively looses its significance? Or will local cultures be strong enough to resist such a nivellation?

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A few days ago, Dave Winer wrote about the future of Radio and Manila, and that story explains a small part what has been going on at Userland. I must admit that I hadn’t thought of going through the discussion forums at the Userland sites to get more info about the situation over there – to be clear: that’s not where I expect to find company news. Anyway, it seems that the connection troubles were (are?) being caused by a virus… not a good sign for a healthy company that tries to make a living of hosting Internet sites. The final result isn’t too comfortable, if you ask me. I’m missing a lot of details, and that means I’m having more than a few unanswered questions:

  • is Userland – the company – still alive?
  • what’s happening with Manila? From Dave’s piece I gather that it will be open-sourced – or is it not?
  • what will be happening to the EditThisPage.com sites? Will they go the way of Radio Userland, or will they stay where they are?

In my view – and please do note that I really appreciated what Userland has done in the past – there are too many unknowns to stay at EditThisPage.com, which is the reason you’re reading this on a WordPress site, of course.

There is good news in this context as well: Dave Winer has picked up his involvement in the development of Frontier, the kernel of tools like Manila, Radio Userland and the OPML Editor. Now if Manila goes the open source way, and if find the time to refresh my Frontier skills… well, at least I would not have to create my own WCMS from scratch ;-)

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Mockingbird | Wireframes on the fly is an online tool for webdesigners, allowing them to mock up the structure and layout of webpages and websites. The way it works reminds me of the beginning days of PageMaker and other DTP tools of the previous century: laying out different types of “containers” on a paper page isn’t that different from webpage layout when you see (do) it on the same screen. Mockingbird handles text, images, forms and even links between pages, allowing you to to click your way through your mock-up as if it were already a site. The tool is currently in beta and free, and you don’t even have to sign up if you’re just trying it out. Remarkedly, Mockingbird isn’t built with Flex or Flash, it’s just Javascript. For a more extensive evaluation, read this recent Sitepoint Design View column on the subject.

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No More Doubts

Today, just like a a few other times during the last weeks, the EditThisPage.com server is “too busy” or “dropping connections”; to put it in human terms: the server (and all the sites hosted on it) are unavailable”. Not that I needed confirmation, but it proves that I have made the right decision to move to another blog hoster, in casu WordPress.com. I am making more frequent backups as well, which is pretty easy in WordPress using the “Export” function. Too bad that this backup does not include the images I have uploaded…

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Questions…

Here’s a good question: “Why is the news media comfortable with lying about science?“. Let me add my own question: “why would other subjects be treated differently?” As long as “making money” is more important than “bringing news”, there’s little hope for objectivity, thruth, and professional reporting.

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Good!

Says Googles Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer: “We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all…” Of course, it’s hard to know what has prompted Google to review (and overturn!) its China policy. But since China is normally and globally considered to be an exceptional business opportunity, Google is basing its decision on something else (at least partly), and as far as I can see that is ethics. It’s good to see that ethics can still play a role in an increasingly ‘neoliberal’ world! Human rights, free speech, privacy: all that is worth more than money.

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Wordprocessing Woes

I have been juggling with wordprocessing tools for a couple of days. You see, I’m co-authoring this document, but my friends work on a PC and are unfamiliar with the available online collaboration tools (believe me, I tried to get them into a Wiki ;-). So we used the universal DOC format and email.

Being adventurous, I started the document with Bean. Bean is a great little wordprocessing tool on the Mac, capable of saving documents in a few different formats, including Word97. My friends could read and update the document, and send it back. So far, so good, and the ‘va et vient‘ of documents went reasonably well – until last week, when suddenly the document I had saved in Bean became something other than a Word97 document. MS Word on a PC wouldn’t open it, and NeoOffice, which I have installed on my Mac for those few cases when Bean doesn’t cut it, wouldn’t open it either. An update of Bean brought no relieve.

I tried to update NeoOffice to the latest 3.0.1 release, but although I tried a few times the application simply wouldn’t start up anymore! Luckily, there’s the old faithfull OpenOffice. I had to settle for a German version in order to get the latest release on a PowerPC Mac, but that’s not a problem for me… In the end, however, I lost a lot of time – not just by having to install and re-install three wordprocessors, but also by having to correct little formatting errors while going from one tool to another. In the end, I settled upon RTF as the final format for the document; that way, I’m certain to find another tool to help me out when I have more trouble with it! And I have decided to stay with OpenOffice as my official heavyweight WP tool – could somebody please create an english 3.1 version for PowerPC please?

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Last year (of course ;-) I tried to install an unsigned Symbian application on my Nokia E63. Since that system requires signed applications only, I went over to the SymbianSigned website and followed the instructions for the personal online signing process. But several attempts later I did not get any further than an error message saying that there was something wrong with the certificate… End of the story, I thought. Just by accident, a few days later, I read in some forum post that it might be necessary to wait at least one day before trying to install a self-signed application. No real explanation was given, but since I still had the mail message containing the required link I had noting to lose but the the few seconds needed to click to the URL on the E63. And lo and behold: the application installed cleanly and without complaints from S60! It would be nice to see that required delay mentioned on the SymbianSigned website, but in the meantime I’ll write it down here (and hope that I remember to check this blog if I’m ever stuck again)…

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