Saturday, September 24, 2005

A new era of hurricanes

Admittedly, this isn't the typical high tech computer-related sort of blog that we normally see and post here, nevertheless, it does fall within the realm of scientific study and seemed very interesting in the light of recent severe weather activity in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast. Weather study and prediction has for years been a secondary interest of mine (it affects all of us). If anything is certain, it's that we don't know more than we do know about out planet's weather. So. whaddya think... global warming or not?

Friday, September 23, 2005

BetaNews | New Worm Hijacks Google Requests

"PandaLabs has announced the emergence of a new worm that spreads via peer-to-peer networks including Shareaza and iMesh, which hijacks visits to and redirects users to a spoofed page that inserts third-party advertising. The browser's start page is also modified to show ads."
This was also from Terry

Microsoft's nightmare inches closer to reality | CNET

"As early as May 1995, three months before Netscape Communications' initial public offering sparked the dot-com boom, Microsoft executives were worried that the nascent World Wide Web could one day become a significant threat to the Windows franchise. "
Will Google become the center of the universe and knock out Windows (like Windows did to IBM) or will Microsoft deal with Google like they did Netscape? With Google sitting on 7 BILLION dollars cash and hiring employees from Microsoft the future could see a new king. It would be amazing if a company that just "looks for stuff" knocks off Microsoft.
from Terry Blount

WSJ: Microsoft's Development Process Broke Last Year

In a page 1 right-hand column story, the Wall Street Journal reported today that Microsoft's process for developing the frightfully complex new operating system, Windows Vista, ground to a halt in mid-2004. After a messy internal battle involving chairman Bill Gates, Windows division manager and computer science PhD Jim Allchin and over 5,000 Windows programmers, a new development process was instituted, and the long-unchallenged practice of programming as a art form was thrust aside at Microsoft. The code to-date for Windows Vista PC was scrapped, and replaced with a new code base from Windows Server. The WSJ story explains why Windows Vista has been so long abirth, and offers reasons for why Microsoft has learned a critical lesson. Better late than never...

Microsoft's market problem is self-evident: competitors like Google and Apple are turning out new products or versions every quarter. Microsoft has devolved to a twice-a-decade product delivery cycle, and risks losing credibility and market share to the more nimble competitors.

Microsoft's technology development problem is not so evident to the lay-person. Here's the gist:
  1. Developing a Microsoft OS version like Windows Vista requires more human effort than the entire Apollo man-on-the-moon project. There are between 5,000 and 10,000 technicians working on the Vista generation, which by my count includes 13-15 specific products. Think 50,000 person-years to get the Vista generation out the door. This scope of effort make building the pyramids seem like a child stacking blocks.
  2. Microsoft hires the best and brightest. These folks want to do things their own way, not be rigid automatons with no freedom to innovate. Mistakes are made. Poorly written code is dropped into the day's "build" and doesn't work. Thousands of co-workers the next day cannot see the integration of their own efforts put to work. Project delays build, and a year or two of overtime, nights and weekends becomes de rigor. Burnout occurs fast in this environment.
  3. Windows lacks a solid architecture and certainly not a modular one. Modularity would allow Microsoft to plug-and-replace modules with new features. Modularity would certainly speed time-to-market. It might also make certain technology areas incluing security easier to deal with. Think this was not a problem? The Wall Street Journal says a flowchart of how Windows fits together was 8 feet tall and 11 feet wide.

I am pleased Microsoft has cast off its evil ways because it will be a lot easier to innovate in the future from a shear programming standpoint. But I have to say I told you so. I recall an evening discussion with Jim Alchin in 1997 at Bill Gates' house. We were drinking scotch. As an ex-programmer and systems integration program manager, I asked Alchin how he could manage the 5,000 programmers then cranking away on Windows 2000, whether Win2K would ever get done, and how bug free would it be? I was in awe that it could be done the way Microsoft was going about the effort. He said they were confident the project would complete in 1998 and that the system worked because Microsoft could afford to use brute force. Well, Jim Alchin, whom I deeply respect, was wrong.

As Jim Allchin gets ready to retire next year, he can be sure that the changes begun last year in development methodology and process will be enormously beneficial to the company going forward.

Lesson Learned: Brute Force is Not Scalable or Sustainable.

Apple xServer RAID: Zero to 76 Petabytes in Two Years

In 30 months, Apple's xServe RAID storage has put the company on the map with a well-regarded storage system. At 76,000 terabytes in that period, the company has clearly found a nice kicker to the growing xServer business. The fourth generation of xServe storage products was announced this week.

Apple says 40% of the xServe RAID systems are shipped to customers who have no other Apple computer products. That's a lot of market pull made on word-of-mouth. There are many customers with over 100 TB installed. With system-level pricing at around $1.86 a gigabyte, Apple is seeing rapidly expanded uses of midline pools of storage for disk-disk-tape, local storage redundancy, and remote online backup. I see this trend only accelerating.

Linux Watch: Site for All Linux, All the Time

This new site is the sister to Microsoft Watch. Book mark it if you want to keep up with the rapidly changing world of Linux.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


A peek into my Ipod (figuratively speaking, that is. I use Ipodder lemon and my palm zire 72, but I thought IPod was catchier.)

Today's highlight is ScreenCastsOnline. Its a Video Podcast (vidcast) that runs in QT 7.0. The host, Don captures his screen as he demonstrates various tasks, which have included Internet TV on the Mac, podcast production, RSS feeds and iTunes 5.0. The latest was an application called LaunchBar, which was very kewl. He also provides a discount for LaunchBar, during the podcast. Check it out!

What do you listen to???


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

adfreak: CHP pulls over the Geek Squad

Apparently the California Highway Patrol thinks the paint job on the geek squad cars causes confusion. Tooooo funny.
Do you think its possible? (a blatant attempt to get comments)


Update on commenting

As a result of overwhelming demand (ok, so 6 isn't a good sample, but it was 100% of respondents ;) ), I've enabled comments for registered users, of This is a test, as such it may change at anytime. My hope is that we can escape splogging and have a great 2 way dialog with everybody that reads this weblog.

Results of first test: well... the changes didn't happen, though I know I hit save settings. When I tried to post a comment in IE, it said the commenting was restricted to "team members." I will repeat the steps and see what happens.

Update2: It took amazing persistance, but I finally got the comments working for registered users of

Note to Gail: I tried to put my email in the comment notification and it said "," and ";" were illegal characters, and I was out of options.

Mozilla Firefox 1.0.7 Release Notes

"Firefox 1.0.7 is a security and stability release. We strongly recommend that all users upgrade to this latest version.

This version includes several security and stability fixes, including a fix for a reported buffer overflow vulnerability and a fix for a Linux shell command vulnerability."

I admit that I had a few seconds reservation before downloading, because of my V1.5 Beta experience, BUT, it is beta, and this is a security fix. I'm impressed at how fast firefox fixes are posted.
I tried update through the Options window, after seeing the post at SANS and nothing was detected.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Download Opera for free

Courtesy of Opera's has made their browser free! They gave it away on their 10th anniversary, sometime in the last month, it seems to me, and now they have made it permanently? free?
Kudos to Opera!! I used it several years ago, and I look forward to trying it again.


Microsoft Reorganizes Into Three Divisions

This news is so fresh that there is no Internet commentary to point you to, Dear Reader.

Microsoft Corp. announced a major reorganization designed to better equip the software giant against Google Inc., Linux makers and other companies exploiting the Internet to quickly develop and distribute software.
The Redmond, Wash., company said it would create three major divisions, each run by a single president and reporting to Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, according to a person familiar with the company's plans.

The divisions include Platform Products and Services, which for the next year will be co-headed by Group Vice President Jim Allchin and Kevin Johnson, who most recently served as group vice president in charge of Microsoft's sales division. The division will include Microsoft's Windows group and its MSN online business. Mr. Allchin, who now runs the Windows division, will retire late next year, Microsoft said.

Jeff Raikes, Microsoft's group vice president in charge of its Office software unit, will run a new unit called the Business Division that will house Office and Microsoft's business software, which includes software for handling functions such as accounting at small and medium-sized businesses.

The architect of Microsoft's Xbox videogame business, Robbie Bach, will head a new unit to be called Entertainment and Devices that will combine consumer groups including Microsoft's videogame business and its mobile-phone unit.

Mr. Ballmer said in an interview that he reworked the company's structure to exploit the Internet to create new businesses and to enable "transformation in existing businesses."
The reorganization appears to respond, in part, to the increasing threat of new rivals that are exploiting the Internet to sell software. The Web-based companies' more-agile approach in some cases has allowed companies like Google, and makers of Linux to be quicker to market with software innovations than Microsoft. Microsoft's reorganization could help it counter those new rivals.

Why is Microsoft Re-Organizing? It had become too cumbersome and bureaucratic. Example: there are 1,200 corporate vice presidents, each making $1,000,000 a year salary. The competition and lack of internal innovation are making Microsoft look vulnerable, which if nothing else makes stock options worthless (and investments in MSFT dead money).

Will The Re-Org Make a Difference? Not right away. Every last business has to fit under the three "wings" of the organization. For example, Microsoft Business Solutions (i.e., the Great Plains and Navision apps) are part of the business division. There will be distractions while MBS makes nice with the Office people.

When Will We See the New Go-to-Market Plan? Not until next year. A lot of marketing collateral is gonna get trashed before even seeing the light of day. Lots of midnight oil for the marketing pukes -- who will be sharing Chinese takeout leftovers with the Windows Vista and Office 12 coders. Why? Because the make-or-break 2006-2007 product cycle has to reflect the new divisional structure -- and budgets, personnel, bonus pools, marcom programs, etc. I expect a quiet autumn as Microsoft goes very internal for a while.

What's Missing? Microsoft will never catch up to the vision of Google et al without a whole lot more output from Microsoft's Chief Software Architect, Bill Gates. After 25 years at this job and billions in the bank, you have to soberly ask the question whether Bill still has the focus and stamina to pull a whole new technology vision together, work the concensus internally, and get it programmed. With no programming capacity during the late Office 12 and Windows Vista development cycles, the question kinda answers itself: Microsoft will have no deliverable riposte to Google for literally years. Which makes it sad to see a still great technology company on a trajectory to cede the mantle of visionary leadership to younger, more adept rivals. Sad, but an oft repeated fact of the computer technology industry.

Office 2004 for Mac Service Pack: Macs Fit Better in a Windows/Exchange World

The IT complaint on Apple's Macintosh for a decade has been "poor integration with the mainstream Windows client and server environment." Well, times have changed. Apple's OS X 10.4 (Tiger) looks and acts like a PC on my home network. File and peripheral sharing is seamless. The release of Office 2004 for Mac Service Pack by Microsoft this week makes Macs play much nicer in the oh-so-common Exchange Server e-mail and collaboration environment. As a result of this release, IT managers have even fewer valid concerns about Macs in the office.

With a desktop and laptop OS that works well in a Microsoft-centric LAN environment, the introduction next year of Intel-based Macs will add even more impetus to Apple's re-conquest of the enterprise office. After all, the company had triple its current market share 15 years ago, so stranger things have happened.

64-Bit PCs: The Leading Edge Hits the Tipping Point

ExtremeTech's interesting and thought-provoking article left me with the following analysis and conclusions:
  • The 64-bit hardware from first AMD and then Intel was wasted transistors without a mainstream-compatible operating system, Windows XP 64-Bit Edition, which arrived earlier this year. (Please, no hate mail, Linux lovers). That allowed the leading-edge geeks to trade in a copy of XP Pro for the new OS and have fun playing.
  • But XP 64 alone is a solitary existence. An OS need applications. XP 64 supports 32-bit apps quite well in isolated address spaces, dubbed WOW (Windows on Windows). In the last few months, many software suppliers have begun to offer or beta native 64-bit applications.
  • ExtremeTech benchmarks show a modest (and generally acceptable) hit to performance on some unoptimized 32-bit apps, an improvement in many 32-bit apps (especially on the AMD 64 microprocessor), and a performance win 64-bit-enabled apps. These published findings match the industry and user chit-chat I have been hearing for several months. The situation will only improve as more 64-bit extensions are released in the comping months.
  • Therefore, I conclude that leading-edge users may want to more closely consider a 64-bit desktop environment for not just play but production. The caveats are that peripheral driver support (e.g., those USB things hanging off your PC) is spotty; memory under 1GB is a waste of effort; your mileage will vary; and you won't be getting much if any hand-holding from your name-brand PC supplier. With these caveats met, you may be at your personal tipping point.
  • However, the PC mainstream is still 3-5 years from a 64-bit desktop with 2+GB of memory.

Google to launch Wi-Fi service?

Sometimes I get the feeling that those who whatch every twitch Google makes do so because they can't afford to travel to Area 51. Certainly the rumor value is about the same. Nevertheless; there is more on the web than the one mention on a web site that this ComputerWorld article mention; albeit only a snippet here and there.

I want it. I hope Google does do it. Perhaps they will bring some democracy to broadband access, which is sorely lacking as things stand today.


Build a Better Browser

For those of you who are not willing to peruse long lists of browser plug-ins PC World has a list of what they consider the most serviceable ones for Firefox and Internet Explorer. It's worth a look, as plug-ins, or extensions, can change your browsing experience for the better.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Participatory Blogging?

Currently we only allow members who can post to the blog to comment. Its nice to see so many people reading the blog, but I prefer more of a 2 way communication. I am pondering enabling general comments on the blog, with "word verification." This means that you have to type the word you see, on the webpage to validate that you are a human being, not a spam bot. I realize that this doesn't work for sight impaired people (sorry Riley), and I apologize. I will be trying to stay ahead of spam bots, and if it gets to be an issue, comments will be disabled again.

But, in the interest of spurring some feedback, do you all think we should allow comments?

Should we enable comments?


Free polls from

Thanks for participating!

Symantec on Security

Yes, we have (regularly) discussed Symantec software's inability to keep up with malware, but they do a good assessment twice a year that's worth a look see.

Two points here worth discussing on the next OnComputers radio show:
  1. Macs are gonna be attacked more in the future because they are getting more popular. [You'll find no quibble from me on that].
  2. Firefox had a lot more vulnerabilities reported in the past six months than Microsoft's Windows Explorer. Is Firefox a step "out of the skillet and into the fire"?

Microsoft at Its Apogee

Wow! Being beaten up by Businessweek and Forbes in the same week is tough love -- or whatever the business press administers.

The press moves in cycles, which I put at roughly 18-24 months in duration. You go from nobody to superstar to trash heap in those 24 months. Microsoft, no teenage rock star but distinctly middle age, is at the low point of its press cycle. Trust me, in 18 months they will look more on top in the press -- whether they deserve it or not -- because then they'll be at the perigee.

Symantec: Mozilla browsers more vulnerable than IE | Tech News on ZDNet

"Mozilla Web browsers are potentially more vulnerable to attack than Microsoft's Internet Explorer, according to a Symantec report." The open-source Mozilla Foundation browsers, such as the popular Firefox.
But we all know how well NAV works, However you Mozilla users maybe you need to read this.

Why is it crucial to defrag your drives daily?

Disk fragmentation causes crashes, slowdowns, freeze-ups and even total system failures. The number one reason for performance bottlenecks is fragmentation. Even the best hardware will eventually slow down unless the drive is defragmented daily.

The disk drive is by far the slowest of the three main components of your computer: CPU, memory and disk. If the drive isn't defragmented the fastest CPU in the world won't improve your system's performance, because information from the disk simply can't be delivered fast enough.

Manual defragmentation just isn't practical—who has time to defrag every system, every day? Manual defragmentation is a break-fix situation. Automatic defragmentation with Diskeeper, the Number One Automatic Defragmenter, is the only true defrag solution. Diskeeper 9 uses "Set It and Forget It"® technology to defrag drives as needed, keeping your systems running as fast as they did when they were brand-new.

The various editions of Diskeeper run on the Intel® x86 platform (including the Intel Pentium™ and Pentium-compatible CPUs from other manufacturers) running Microsoft Windows XP (Professional / Home / Tablet PC / Media Center editions), Windows 2000 (all Professional and Server editions), Windows Server 2003 (all editions), Windows NT 4.0 (all Server and Workstation editions), and Windows 95 / 98 / Me. For more information on compatibility read the Microsoft Knowledgebase article about Diskeeper, view our product compatibility list, or select the type of environment your computers run in from the following choices: Home User, Small Business or Corporate/Government. - Apps Launch from USB Drives

"Technology startup U3 is expected to announce Monday the release of USB drives based on its smart computing platform, which lets applications run directly off USB drives, independent of other storage devices. "
This sounds like a great idea for those of us that work away from home sometimes.

Microsoft sues more resellers in piracy battle | CNET

"Information from an antipiracy hotline and 'secret shoppers' has led to eight lawsuits against companies accused of peddling pirated Microsoft software. "

Verizon Wireless may cut high-speed pricing | CNET

"The No. 2 U.S mobile service and the country's first to sell wireless Web links with speeds comparable to some home broadband services, will cut its $80 a month rate plan to about $60 in a bid to stay ahead of rivals such as Sprint Nextel"

Cities join Intel's Wi-Fi program | CNET

"Intel and several corporate partners launched a program on Thursday aimed at helping cities use wireless networks to better serve their citizens--and perhaps make a little cash on the side. "

Don't trust security to techies alone, Gartner says | CNET

"Businesses should no longer let techies dictate how a company secures itself, analyst firm Gartner said this week."

Google Blog: The illuminated continent

National Geographic overlay on Google Earth in Africa, VERY impressive. All kinds of multimedia available, from National Geographic, through google earth (which, requires a speedy computer and broadband).

Sunday, September 18, 2005

OnComputers Radio show Podcast 09-18-05

This is the On Computers Radio show podcast for 09-18-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp. If you find the FTP link doesn't work because of the server problems, please right click on the podcast link above and save as. We will be moving to the new server in the next week.