TomsTechBlog.com

It's hard to say these days

MVC Framework explosion

clock November 20, 2007 22:08 by author Tom

Though I’ve watched all the MVC blog posts from inside Microsoft with great interest I have to wonder if the developers are doing the right thing by evangelizing the subject right now.  For those who don’t know the MVC (Model-View-Controller) Framework would allow ASP.NET developers to do a better job at separating different parts of their programs which in turn would make the programs easier to test and update because they would be distinct components that could be changed without upsetting all the other distinct components. 

 

For those who would care and want to know more you should check out Scott Guthrie’s Fantastic post on the subject (just be sure to set aside some time as it is 33 pages printed out)

 

Back to the point, the MVC Framework is not available yet.  So while I am very interested in the blog posts outlining how to do stuff in the MVC Framework I can’t “follow along on my own”.  I’m all for one post explaining the basics of the Framework but beyond that you’re just taunting your future user base and giving them information that they can’t at all use. 

 

I understand the people involved here are (rightfully) enthusiastic and want to share that with the world but if I were them I’d show a little restraint and embargo all these articles until there is at least a CTP for us developers.

 

P.S.  Only slightly related but just for the record, I’ve yet to actually start using my brand new Visual Studio 2008.  I’m dying to try it out but I like to ease into each new version with a good book on the topic and my Apress books (Beginner and Pro) shipped on the same day as the RTM so they won’t get here until tomorrow.



Quickie: Visual Studio 2008 RTM

clock November 19, 2007 13:36 by author Tom

 

In what I think is far more important news (at least for this blog) my Internet connection is now straining to download Visual Studio 2008 from the MSDN site (actually I suspect its their servers that are under the strain right now).  Say what you will about Microsoft platforms the Visual Studio team always delivers an exciting release and this is no exception. 

Though I'm really curious about Linq I think the thing I'm most excited about right now is the CSS features (which don't get mentioned nearly as much as they should).  I love ASP.NET and I think they made some great strides in the appearance arena with the last release but the platform still has a weird mis-mash of themes and CSS.  Hopefully this will do a lot to alleviate that. 

Anyway, given the download speed I'm getting I don't plan on getting any interaction any time soon but it seems like a fun way to spend the long weekend. 

Addendum: Scott Guthrie has a nice post about the changes in Visual Studio 2008



Amazon's Kindle

clock November 19, 2007 13:32 by author Tom

Leave it to the blogosphere to bash a device before its even been announced but that is what's happening to the poor Amazon Kindle e-book reader. 

Jeremy Toeman asks "Is the market today "in crisis" when it comes to books?" and then supplies the answer "No".  I would disagree in that I personally would do anything to have my library of computer books with me both at work and at home but carrying three bookshelves isn't plausible.  I don't think I'm a niche in this either.  To me Jeremy saying there is no crisis here sounds a lot like the people who asked "why would I want to carry all my music around with me?" when the iPod first arrived.

Jeremy does go on to make some decent points about e-book readers but since his post was contingent on there being no great advantage to the e-book reader the remaining points fall pretty flat for me. 

I found myself agreeing with Rex Hammock who says the iPod Touch is a  much better model for an e-book reader but I'm not sure that automatically makes the Kindle a bad product.  The iPhone/iPod Touch model is revolutionary and its going to put almost any other handheld device to shame as far as things like navigation are concerned.  But that's no reason to necessarily dismiss a product that has other advantages (Such as allowing you to wirelessly purchase e-books from anywhere and have access to them that instant). 

Plus, my understanding is that the Kindle does a good job of replicating paper with its screen and that shouldn't be overlooked.  Whether you realize it or not looking at a computer screen is hard on the eyes and a decent e-paper solution is worth a lot in the battle to replace the printed book. 

All that said, I haven't quite formed an opinion on the kindle yet.  There are certainly points that I like (mostly the wireless download) and things I don't (high price, appearance) but it really is too early to tell.  If I had to guess right now I'd bet against it but I also would have bet against the original Palm Pilot and look how that turned out. 

One last note, the thing looks really ugly which doesn't help.  I can't help but think Amazon would have been better off had they made something that looked a little more like this. 



Learning to be an Apple User

clock November 18, 2007 19:00 by author Tom

I have to say that one of the most interesting things about owning an iPhone has been seeing first hand how Apple treats its customers.  Honestly, I’m not impressed.

 

Take today, my iPhone just updated itself to firmware version 1.1.2 and after looking around on the web for about 10 minutes I still have no idea exactly what was done to my iPhone.  There’s certainly no official announcement so the best I have is picking up random discoveries from other users.

 

Now, say what you will about Microsoft they would NEVER get away with this.  I doubt they’d even try.  This experience just points back to that age old truth that Apple PCs and support really aren’t that great they just have rabid fans who will love them no matter what. 

 

(All that said, I still love my iPhone)



Christmas Time is here (For me anyway)

clock November 17, 2007 19:16 by author Tom
 

So the season is upon me…

 

Here in the Los Angeles area we have a station (KOST 103.5) who traditionally plays nothing but Christmas music for the month leading up to Christmas and they switched over yesterday.  This seems a bit early to me but this year hasn’t been the easiest of  years and I’ve decided I’m ready to settle into the season a little early (On the station’s part I’m sure the early switch has something to do with the fact that their ratings almost double during this time period every year)

 

So what does this have to do with technology?  Well, I’ve been saving this very educational commercial until the beginning of the season and I decided to post it today…

 

The trick is that the above is actually user generated.  Now take a look at the original.

 
 

Now for most, the first one is preferable and that is a fact that Coca Cola came to terms with when they (half way through the 2006 season) switched to a version resembling the user generated one.   I’m not one to appreciate user generated content as much as others in the blogosphere in that I think most of it isn’t worth my time but occasionally you see just how beneficial it can be and I like to point out when that is.  I don't think User Generated Content is t hat useful to the user but I think it can be invaluable to the corporation.



One of those obscure random thoughts

clock November 16, 2007 18:58 by author Tom

I ran across this post on something called plusplusbot today.  Basically, it is a way to assign points to people/things on twitter by using ++ or --.  So to take the example from the quoted post...

  1. Make sure you have a Twitter account
  2. Follow plusplusbot
  3. If you love something add ++ after it like this:
coffee++ because it keeps me alert

Now I couldn't be less interested in the functionality of this program but what does interest me is the use of the incrementor. 

(for those who don’t know, in most programming languages “++” increments and “—“ does the opposite.  So if you have a variable called NumOfVisits and it holds a 5 putting “NumOfVisits++” would make a six)

I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if we could find some way to sneak programming syntax into everyday life.  It would seem to me that kids who used plusplusbot above would instinctively understand how to increment if you tried to teach them C#.  So I wonder if we could make a generation of kids primed to learn programming by sneaking the concepts into their day to day life at an early age.  Anyway, that is my random thought for the day. 



E-Mail is dead, again, for like the 200th time

clock November 15, 2007 21:05 by author Tom

There’s been a lot of talk about e-mail in the last couple of days first with the news that Yahoo is looking to turn its mail program into some kind of hybrid Social Network and then today where Slate declares “The Death of E-Mail” (at least in title, the actual article is a bit more balanced) 

One of the things I don’t think people realize is how prevalent the e-mail system is in the mind of an IT manager like me.  My systems run almost every function on my campus but if any of those systems were to go down for an hour I doubt anyone would be all that upset (not that I’m planning to let that happen).  But if the exchange server is down for more than 5 minutes I have at least 3 people telling me about it.   

E-Mail is still the life’s blood of just about every modern company.   

So now that I’ve given you a brief understanding of where I’m coming from I’d like to quickly address two aspects of the e-mail discussion that have been brought up in the various blog posts I’ve read.   

Point #1: Slate says that e-mail is dead because kids don’t use it and businesses usually end up adopting what the kids do rather than the other way around.  To that, I say hogwash (though half of that is just because I don’t get to use the word “hogwash” anywhere near as much as I’d like).   

Here’s the thing, I’m in my late 20s and when I was a kid I didn’t use e-mail.  People seem to forget that IM has been around since the 70s and in some popular form for the last 12+ years (I used Compuserve, ICQ and eventually AIM when I was in high school).  So why isn’t e-mail already dead?   

Two reasons, One teenagers only talk to who they want to talk to where as adults have to deal with people they (a) don’t know and (b) don’t like.  When you are an adult dealing with one of those two scenarios it helps to have e-mail.  Two, adults sometimes need to document their conversations where teenagers do not.  At work I e-mail as much as possible because I want to be able to trace the day I said a certain thing or prove that someone was told something they claim they never knew.  Bottom line, e-mail will get adopted by today’s teenagers because it is the best tool for the jobs they will face as adults.   

Point #2: E-Mail needs to die because it doesn’t work.  I agree that e-mail doesn’t work as well as it should but rather than kill it I’d like to address0 how it can be fixed.  The reality is that modern day e-mail doesn’t work very well because of the mountain of Spam that most people get.   2/3rds of the e-mail that we get through our mail server is spam (and those are only the ones the filter is catching).   

The reality is that e-mail isn’t going anywhere so we have to look at a way to fix it and that is going to mean that the industry has to get together and adopt one of the many secure e-mail proposals out there.  Everyone hates spam but I some times wonder if people realize how easy it would be to fix if vendors just cooperated with each other and defined some kind of trust standard at the server level.   

Sometimes in our modern arrogance we forget that time tested ways of doing things are still the best.  Letter writing and its successor E-Mail are still the best way to convey a lot of information and I think we’d all be better off trying to save it than we are pretending its about to die. 



Microsoft declares Vista ready for primetime, and no one cares

clock November 15, 2007 01:57 by author Tom
Courtesy of Mary Jo Foley we have an interview with Microsoft’s Corporate VP of Windows Product Management Mike Nash.  From the article…
Microsoft’s main message in its communications with press and bloggers this week is that they should take another look at Vista. The Softies acknowledge now that the product got off to a rough start, in terms of missing drivers, application compatibility and overall performance and reliability. But as a result of numerous Vista updates pushed out over Windows Update, as well as changes that ISVs and hardware makers have made to their products, Vista is now running a lot more smoothly and reliably than it did a year ago, Nash said.“A lot of the first imressions that enterprise users were having with Vista were at home,” Nash said. Initially, those experiences may not have been as solid as Microsoft and its users were hoping. “But now that experience is changing,” Nash said.

As has been the case with Vista for a while now, Microsoft misses the point here.  The real issue isn’t that Vista had problems out of the gate; every OS has problems out of the gate.  The issue with Vista is that to this day I can find no earthly reason to upgrade my companies’ PCs to it.

The advantages between it and XP Service Pack 2 are minimal at best and in many ways (such as with the new UI) it makes more sense to stay with XP.  I really don’t need fancy looking windows on my corporate computers particularly when they take up tons of processing power.   As far as security is concerned the reality is that I’m doing just fine.  The combination of XP SP2, a decent firewall and virus/malware protection has served me quite well.  It has been over 3 years since my last real security problem (though now that I’ve said that I’m sure I can expect one shortly) 

Microsoft needs to accept that Vista is a disaster and just move on.  Even putting aside my corporate needs as an IT manager Vista is the first Microsoft OS since ’95 that I didn’t rush to upgrade to (I was an OS/2 guy back then).  I just have no interest and I’m not the only one.  So Microsoft, if you have any sense, cut your losses here.  Split the upcoming Windows 7 into two releases and implement half the features by the end of 2008 rather than 2010.  Give yourself a fighting chance. 

Because honestly, I’m the head of a Windows IT shop that programs using .Net and I for the first time am considering a Mac for my next notebook.  That’s very bad for you (especially since the thing holding me back is the fact that I won’t have Visual Studio, a concern most of your users don’t share). 



Attention to detail and why it's important

clock November 14, 2007 15:19 by author Tom

There’s a nice overview of the proposed APML standard over at masternewmedia.org.  Though the article did very little to change my generally negative view of the standard I have to give them credit for creating the best “laymen” explanation that I’ve seen thus far. 

 

For those who don’t know APML is a standard that attempts to capture and harness your attention data between sites.  So in theory it should be able to see you searched for Kelly Clarkson music on Amazon and then use that to suggest Kelly Clarkson music to you when you open iTunes.  This is something I’ll probably cover in depth at some point so I’m not going to go through a point by point analysis of what I think is wrong with the standard but I would like to quickly throw out my top 3 objections…

 

There’s no vendor advantage and a significant vendor penalty: When you get right down to it a standard like APML is going to have to rely on websites supporting it to work in any realistic way.   This in turn means that sites will have to freely give this attention data away in order for it to work.  The problem there is that attention data is the most valuable thing most sites have and they’re being asked to give it away with nothing in return. 

 

The APML supporters seem to think they can get users to demand support from individual web sites but I simply don’t think that is going to happen.  If you look at the current supporters you’ll see that the companies supporting this standard thus far are all companies with virtually nothing to lose (Feed reading companies which already allow export through opml and new companies whose business model focuses on APML) 

 

Until they come up with a way to sell this to sites themselves I don’t see it ever getting off the ground.

 

It’s too simplistic:  This is probably my biggest complaint in that finding a way to harness attention data is a fantastically complicated task and the APML standard is built around applying an extremely simplistic method of solving this problem.  So if I’m looking at a book on .Net does that increment my interest rating for C# and VB.NET or is that a separate thing?  If I’m interested in football will I then start getting soccer info from U.K. based sites?  If I search for Eminem does that raise my interest in him personally, rap, hip hop, or all three?  These issues go on and on (the one’s I brought up here are just the simple problems) 

 

There’s a lot more to say here but the bottom line is that the idea of arbitrary categorization and equally arbitrary ranking makes APML an extremely flawed system.

 

No set build process: To a certain extent this point should be included in the above paragraph but this is something that is so clearly outlined that I thought I deserved its own treatment.  To quote from the blog post linked to above…

Likewise, as for "private browsing activities", such as pornography, the services that implement APML can be set to ignore certain browsing habits.

“can” being the operative word there.  A standard that can be implemented in several different ways isn’t really a standard.  Imagine RSS feeds in which the feeds listed weren’t the most recent feeds but just feeds chosen at random.  It would be useless.  Same applies here. 

I could go on and as I said before I’ve actually spent some time on this and someday plan to post my issues with the actual format itself (as opposed to the theoretical problems listed above) but that will be for another day.  For now lets just say I admire what the APML folks are trying to do I just don’t think they are doing it in a way that will create any positive change. 



Marvel Comics go online (pt. 2)

clock November 13, 2007 22:03 by author Tom

Just a quick follow up on this because it got more attention than I would have thought (I really didn't expect mainstream tech bloggers to take notice but it ended up making techmeme)

Response has been mostly negative following along the same lines as this forbes blog entry by David Ewalt.  To quote the article...

And as colleague Klaus Kneale points out:  A vast majority of comic book fans are net-savvy enough to download scans of the comics for free from file sharing sites.  Marvel needs to make it as easy as possible for readers to stay honest, and requiring a monthly fee will only keep people away.

That seems to be where most people are falling on this though Slashdot readers took it even further by theorizing ways to steal the content from Marvel's new service. 

I'm not sure how fair it is to compare and ultimately judge a service unworthy because it "isn't as good as the way I steal the content now" but such is the world.   I personally still think a lot of this will be decided by interface in that the stolen copies are straight .pdf scans and that is not an optimal viewing experience.  If Marvel releases its material regularly (rather than picking and choosing what to release) and makes a high quality viewer they could still beat out the theives. 



About Me

Not really relevant right now. This blog is on hiatus. I really haven't decided if it is an indefinite hiatus yet

For the record if you've tried to e-mail me over the last 4 to 6 months I didn't mean to ignore you. The e-mail forwarding isn't working and I didn't realize that until months worth of e-mails had been deleted on forward. The tom@tomstechblog.com address still won't forward to the postmaster account and I don't know why because it's provided by the webhost. But if you're one of my old blog pen pals I would always welcome an e-mail from you at the postmaster@tomstechblog.com address

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