Daily Archive: July 25, 2004

Open Source, the real beginning.

In this article I use Open Source in its broadest sense, (i.e. not consistent with the specific licensing defined by opensource.org), but meaning my experience in using other peoples source or developing source for others to use.   In particular I wanted to give examples of where the concept of Open Source had it been so visible then, would have suited some of my projects.

 

My computing true home has, and always will, be VMS.  As a VMS systems integrator I learned rapidly to admire the power, elegance and consistency of the system, its ‘conceptual integrity’ if you will.   It’s this history of VMS that made it so difficult to admire Unix, which by contrast has always seemed lacking in that same ‘conceptual integrity’, to stretch a point, always seeming to have been assembled rather than architected.

 

It’s also that history of VMS that first attracted me to Windows NT, (the development of VMS was led by a team from Digital who worked extensively on VMS).  Having been repelled by DOS and Windows, I was excited by the prospect of NT but ended up being left gaping at the lost opportunity, (still not realised today).  I was truly …

Open Source, the beginning

This is the first real post in the Open Source category of my blog, but one of many in the blog as a whole, and one of many to come on Open Source.  If you have read my blog from the beginning you will know that much of my recent experience is with Enterprise Infrastructures, and that has to a large extent involved software from IBM/LOTUS and Microsoft.  Integration with Unix systems being through well defined and mature interfaces like NFS, X-Windows and DNS.  This means that I have a lot of familiarity with Microsoft and I am open about the fact that there are things to admire about Microsoft, (and many things to not admire of course), however I have a long held low tolerance for Zealotry which I have talked about previously, but want to expand on here.

 

When I say I dislike Zealotry, I am not talking about passion, I am talking about taking a stance for or against something that can not be defended by rational argument.  This causes me a problem, because as an enterprise architect, I spend my life having to defend the decisions I take with rational argument, and for me, ‘I …

Diagram of my home network

I described my Office in a previous post.  In this post I thought I would provide a bit on insight into my home network.  The following diagram should give you the basic idea.

  1. The hub of the network is a little 4 port 100MB switch.  All three servers and one laptop are plugged into this

  2. There are two dedicated servers on the network

    1. Server 1 is a dedicated application server.  It only runs Windows 2003 Server and GSX Server 3.1.  All application servers and some test desktops run on top of GSX server.

    2. Server 2 is a dedicated management server, and Active Directory domain controller.  This server runs the MOM Express 2005, and acts as a backup of my main file server, using Windows 2003 Volume Shadow Copy.

  3. My desktop PC also happens to run Windows 2003 server, as this allows me the flexibility to access it via Windows Terminal Services from anyhwere in the house, mirror my data files, and also runs as AD domain controller for resiliance.  It also runs VMWare Workstaton.

  4. When I need access to my company network, I run up a corporate standard PC in a VM on my Desktop Server and VPN from there, …

This is just so cool!

Microsoft research have come up with some really cool tools for capturing and manipulating whiteboard contents captured using low quality web cams.  My whiteboard is right behind me, (so my web cam points right at it, so it would work just great, but the downloads are MS only.  The best trick is it removes the person writing on the board from the image.  Here are some of the key points:

Other systems use expensive cameras or dedicated electronic whiteboards. The Live Whiteboard system, developed at Microsoft Research by Zhengyou Zhang and Li-wei He, uses whatever whiteboard you already have. It only needs an inexpensive Web cam and some clever software.

Live Whiteboard doesn’t just deliver a video stream of the whiteboard. The software takes out all the shadows and uneven surfaces that come through on a Web cam, and turns the whiteboard into an image that allows viewers to see the whiteboard notes. Through a series of image processing procedures, the originally captured image is first transformed into a rectangular bitmap to correct perspective distortion, and then color-enhanced to increase contrast, saturation, and to provide a clean uniform white background.

In addition, if the remote viewer wants to focus his …

Microsoft and integration

I have thought for a long time that Microsoft don’t make much use of their own software to build pre-integrated solutions for their customers, (unlike Oracle for example).  They seem to have caught onto the idea at last, (not from listening to me though :-)).  Anyway a few months ago they started to talk about solution accelerators, which are solutions built from sets of MS products with associated processes, procedures and best practices as well as custom systems integration.  These solve particular business problems, like for example, the process of hiring new employees.  There is also evidence that Microsoft is doing the same at the infrastructure level where the range of tools available to them is even richer, SQL Server, BizTalk, SharePoint etc.  This is a good example:

Microsoft also plans to make available to enterprise partners a “zero touch provisioning” accelerator that will enable end users to self-service tasks such as requesting the installation of an application or resetting a network password.

“We built in a rules-based engine based on BizTalk that can automate requests, get approved by a manager, and install a new application,” Hassall said. “And the opportunity is not just for desktop deployment but add-ons for server …

Office news

Office news. 

A new version of open office is available.  The main improvements are:

Enhancements to the open-source productivity suite include support for PDF and XHTML exports and improved compatibility with Microsoft Office, according to the OpenOffice Web site. The new release, for example, will support forms conversion within Word documents and import text document layouts with more fidelity. OpenOffice 1.1 also boasts enhanced support for mobile device formats such as Palm’s AportisDoc, Pocket Word and Pocket Excel.

IBM has ideas of its own, taking a thinner approach with its WorkPlace products

A wild card in the Office wars is IBM, which plans to offer server-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation functionality to buyers of its WebSphere portal. At the very least, that could allow large customers to negotiate better Microsoft Office pricing/licensing, observers said. (See IBM Plans Sneak Attack On Microsoft Office.)

The MS Office team are majoring on quality for their next release, does this imply major changes, requiring major testing, or just good practice?

Software development, especially for a product as feature-rich as Office, is a repetitive process comprising what can seem to be endless feedback loops and rework.

“We’re trying to reduce the iteration of …

Getting things done

Atlantic published an article about the tools and techniques promoted by David Allen the author of the book Getting things done, which I read a few months back.  I liked the book and gave it a quick review here.  However for a better introduction its a good idea to read the article.  I have repeated a small snipit of it here to get you started.

The doctrine that inspires this devotion starts with the idea that the difference between done and undone tasks is more stress-inducing than most people recognize. In earlier times, Allen says, work was more physically exhausting than it is today. But it produced less anxiety; because people could easily tell what they had to do and whether it had been completed. Either the wood was chopped or it was not. The typical modern day, he says, is a fog of constantly accumulating open-ended obligations, with little barrier between the personal and the professional and few dear signals that you are actually “done.” E-mail pours in. Hallway conversations end with ‘I’ll get back to you.” The cell phone rings. The newspaper tells you about movies you’d like to see, recipes you’d like to try, places …

Architecture Lifecycle

HP have posted a short article on the role of the Architect throughout the IT project lifecycle.  I like the perspecitive as often the dominant role of the Architect is the “design” role, and this is the one that is most repeatable and easy to capture in methodology.  The following...

Some progress in server infrastructure for processing XML documents.

Its interesting to see the slow but sure emergence of middleware to exploit XML documents.  Microsoft have WSS which can manipulate Infopath docuemnts stored in its document libraries for example.  InfoWorld report on a mor ambitious tool from IBM, code named Project Cinnamon, you can get the full details here, but here is the real content:

Cinnamon was born in IBM’s Almaden Research Center and is a tool designed to automatically create mappings among different forms of data. By allowing users to define how an XML document gets mapped into a database such as DB2, the technology makes it easier to store those documents and to manage their content.

The upcoming utility hopes to address one of the thornier problems associated with XML-based development. Although XML serves as a clear standard for how content in a document is defined, the schema or definition of that content can be markedly different from document to document. This makes it impractical to place thousands of different documents in even a single data source and be able to retrieve certain data using a single search engine, an IBM representative said.

InfoWorld also says:

Some analysts think the upcoming technology can play a central …

The five top objections to open-source

Computer World has an article on this topic, most of which has already been debated many times with simillar answers to the ones that CW gives.  However I repeat the list here, because item 5 on the list is actually new to me:

  1. Support availability

  2. Functional limitations of the software

  3. Software license terms

  4. Rapid software release cycles

  5. Package road maps or future plans

Items 1 to 4 are answered pretty well, and I don’t think are a major concern now for most companies and the service offerings are developing at a rapid rate.  However here is the answer to item 5:

Package road maps or future plans are important to most companies. Major vendors tend to heavily promote their road maps, even to the extent of publicizing future capabilities years in advance. Of course, there is no promise that any advertised feature will ever see the light of your computer display. Not all vendors publish such road maps, and some share them only with strategic accounts under nondisclosure agreements.

Some open-source groups publish road maps, and some do not. At times, the stated goal is to mimic the functionality of a commercial package, though when any particular feature will appear …