Thursday, April 29, 2004

A Solution to Getting Messy?

The solution to many seems obvious - don't make the Internet open any more. Lock it down - except for those privileged few (millions) who gain access.

I feel like I'm drawing too many political parallels here but this is an argument for isolationism vs. globality at its core.

If you don't like what other people have to say, close your windows, shut your blinds and go away.

If you DO want to hear it and let others do it, then open your windows and be aware.

Yes, the Internet is getting really messy - so NOW is the time for people to identify how they want to get their information.

Would you walk through the red light district in Amsterdam on a Friday night, if you were offended by sex?

Probably not but would you therefore shut down Amsterdam as a city?

The best way for non-tech people to use the Internet is to belong to a smaller community (like DARPA back in its day) where they really only see those items they want or need to see. Is this censorship for all the other sites? Yes - but it's a necessary one.

If you live in a big city but don't want to see the low income housing, you don't travel there. So don't go there.

The Internet is the same. Six or seven years ago, AOL, MSN, and CompuServe made money on housing these private networks. They allowed external email to some degree but for all intensive purposes they were closed networks. They worked for that precise reason.

If you really want to let people venture out into the "outside" world, then all you can do is prepare them for the junk that's out there.

The solution is for ISPs to get together and say "we will only allow emails from these sources" on a global basis. Spam filter lists and block lists only work so well. When I sign up to an ISP, they should say "Do you want wide open or only valid messages?".

Yes there are tricks that everyone will use to get around this but the solution is to stop it at the source. Eventually, the spammers will get tired but not until everyone else smartens up.

MSN Tech & Gadgets

Going to Robert's House?

Case in point - granted Scoble is pretty much an easy target for anyone looking to find MS Geeks in the public eye.

But any guy who blogs this much and the stuff he's doing shows that MS still has huge geek appeal - it just doesn't appeal to the geeks who want to be anti-authority.

Then again, this is his JOB! But if you can't love what you do...

Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger

Microsoft Needs Geek appeal?

Possibly true - a few months back, I was wearing my MSCD leather jacket with an MS logo on the back and was actually heckled by Linux people in a parking lot.

But I think MS does have geek appeal to many - it's just that in the public eye (i.e stocks, etc), they have become the "big elephant". Everyone wants to shoot the big elephant, everything it does is under a magnifying glass. Kind of like the US government.

When the US screws up, EVERYONE hears about it. And they can't win or lose whatever decision they make afterwards.

Meanwhile, in Canada, we have a scandal that would cause many third-world countries to revolt, no one hears about it.

The same it goes for Microsoft - It's awfully hard to miss when you're aiming for a barn!

Ted's Radio Weblog

More on WinForms Blues - Rick Strahl's WebLog

More on WinForms Blues - Rick Strahl's WebLog

Absolutely right again, Rick!

It just amazes me though that with all their experience in building desktop programming tools, they still released a product that brings back desktop applications back to an older version.

Meanwhile, we're all still waiting for the NEXT BIG user interface which never seems to come out, except in little bits. I'm hoping LongHorn goes a lot further than what the previews have shown.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Burned by a headline

I just received the May 2004 issue of FoxPro Advisor and have to say I was kind of surprised at the choice of headlines given to my review of TurboFox - "The Perfect Framework for Basic Visual FoxPro Development"
 
My original article's title was "TurboFox: A promising start" and in the rush to get the article out, I concentrated on the body of the article and not the headline that was sent back to me for confirmation. Won't make that mistake again...but it's kind of embarasssing being one of the tech editors and having a headline like that go out with my name on it.
 
Since September, I've reviewed a lot of frameworks and they are very good frameworks : some are easier to learn than others and some provide much more flexibility than others. Turbo-Fox is a beginner's framework and it shows great promise but in reading the headline, it says something that is certainly not intended.
 
I'm sure the other framework vendors will understand that and hopefully readers will read beyond the headline and into the body of the article.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Version 1.0 - WinForms Blues

I was wondering how long it might take for these types of comments to start rolling in, if at all.

DotNet is still a very young product, despite all of the experience MS may have gleaned from its other Dev products. One comment on Rick's blog was "pain=opportunity" but this is where developers really have to start getting tougher.

While we're all waiting for the next generation interface, a lot of us still have to build Windows-based applications. If the latest and greatest tools don't make it easier, then the existing tools that have served us well in the past (read VFP for me) will continue to be the tools of choice.

Are they the most current? Maybe not but the ongoing development on these products by MS shows that there is some intelligent reasoning as to why VFP wasn't thrown into the whole DotNet package and why DotNet may not be the only solution to every problem.

Do they still run that "who can build an app the fastest" contest at the conferences? Who has won recently?

Interesting way to look at it but : Latest + Greatest != Fastest+Best

I'm sure they'll get it right (or the third party market will) but it certainly doesn't make for an appetizing reason to make the switch for all existing apps. Best rule is still : find the best tool for the job that will get it done right the first time and allow for changes the next time.

Rick Strahl's WebLog

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Free Software Reduxe

Ted Roche (www.tedroche.com) believed my earlier thoughts on free software were an attack on the Open-source community, confusing free (speech) with free (beer). They aren't and I'm not.
 
It's more about how careless ZDNet is in promoting the idea of more "free software" (web browsers, media players, etc) and it threatens to make the software industry profitable for those who are in it. In fact, even open-source providers (Lindows, for one - what's their new name now?) do request some kind of payment, albeit small.
 
If you use software that people are offering for free, check into it - they may be requesting donations, or a subscription or something along those lines. Good for them. If it works, it's worth whatever you pay into it.
 
Hopefully now, my thoughts have been clarified. Thanks for making sure my typing was following through on my thoughts, Ted.
 

You know you are in the year 2004 when...

You know you are in the year 2004 when...

FoxTalk 2.0

FoxTalk 2.0 (by John Koziol)

Just a while ago, I was hearing about how FoxTalk was going to be out of the picture and it's great to hear it's back in.

That's awesome! Looking forward to seeing articles from all.

As an aside note, great job for MS hiring Koziol who seems to be intent on putting VFP everywhere possible!

Great job John!

Whither VFP? Umm...still right here...

Had an interestingly brief conversation with an MTI (http://www.mtihorizon.com) customer yesterday about Visual FoxPro. They hadn't loaded in the new version of Horizon yet (which is now under VFP 8) and were still running VFP 6 or 7. "Is VFP still around? Didn't MS stop supporting it?"
 
Response: Of course it is. MS has it on its "what we support chart" until 2010 or 2012. They are hard at work on a new version. The product continues to grow and evolve. Yes, it's an older product. Not much products make it past 5 or 6 versions. That says a lot for FoxPro and its team.
 
Question: Why did QUALCOMM switch over to SQL Server?
 
Well, their actual application was still done in FoxPro, for one. (they now offer a web-based version, which obviously doesn't use VFP but it isn't quite as smooth as it could be). But they had grown from having a handful of customers accessing data and wanted to provide a larger centralized database. Enter SQL Server.
 
Sure it's easier to find SQL Server DBAs these days - they're falling off the trees. And VFP's own database strategy has been hurt by all those times when power surges corrupt memo fields, etc. You can't always change bad impressions people get. So is SQL Server the only answer? Of course not, in fact, at one of my other clients, we came across a situation where a typical SQL DELETE completely ruined their database (thank goodness for backups, not DBAs in that case). Put a VFP View in to access the same data and bang! same SQL DELETE - didn't wipe out their data.
 
Herein, I think, lies VFP's biggest challenge. And it always has been. The perception that it is simply a database while its strengths lie in doing so many other things, such as accessing data, building apps, etc. Jim Duffy, I think, does a great job of illustrating this in conferences. He stands up and bashes VFP as a database while promoting SQL Server and MSDE left right and center. But he STILL works with VFP as a tool.
 
How do you switch perception? WIth a product that's almost 9, it's tough, maybe even impossible. But that doesn't stop the people who can make it fly from doing so.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

MSDN Channel 9

Hey - wow - now this is kind of neat.

Discussions and the like with the actual devs (or maybe more to the point the program leads) at MS.

Here are the basic rules. If they sound kind of like a Wiki or the like, I think that's because it is like one. A multi-person Blog with video. And hey, there's Yag in there too. Very cool - check it out.

1. Channel 9 is all about the conversation. Channel 9 should inspire Microsoft and our customers to talk in an honest and human voice. Channel 9 is not a marketing tool, not a PR tool, not a lead generation tool.

2. Be a human being. Channel 9 is a place for us to be ourselves, to share who we are, and for us to learn who our customers are.

3. Learn by listening. When our customers speak, learn from them. Don't get defensive, don't argue for the sake of argument. Listen and take what benefits you to heart.

4. Be smart. Think before you speak, there are some conversations which have no benefit other than to reinforce stereotypes or create negative situations.

5. Marketing has no place on Channel 9. When we spend money on Channel 9 the goal is to surprise and delight, not to promote or preach.

6. Don't shock the system. Lasting change only happens in baby steps.

7. Know when to turn the mic off. There are some topics which will only result in problems when you discuss them. This has nothing to do with censorship, but with working within the reality of the system that exists in our world today. You will not change anything by taking on legal or financial issues, you will only shock the system, spook the passengers, and create a negative situation.

8. Don't be a jerk. Nobody likes mean people.

9. Commit to the conversation. Don't stop listening just because you are busy. Don't stop participating because you don't agree with someone. Relationships are not built in a day, be in it for the long haul and we will all reap the benefits as an industry.

Levy and Griver - Why not complete transparency?

Friday, April 02, 2004

It's software that will almost be free - News - ZDNet

It's software that will almost be free - News - ZDNet

Ok - and I guess that means consultants will rule the world again which will put them in the same bag as lawyers and politicians. (great!)

There is a serious push for everyone to provide free software but there's a hypocrisy there as well: I want a free operating system and a free development system but I want my customers to pay me for something I will build? You can't have it both ways. If you are a consultant and being paid to deliver something, then you are no longer an open-source proponent. You will be making money off of someone else's back.

But the critical factor here is what software should be free? If it's the OS or the Word processor, why not the inventory management system or the customer tracking database?

The biggest problem with low-cost or free software is that customers then expect the support to be the same and that just isn't realistic. This article hits part of the nail - hardware will never be free (it may just seem that way with support and subscription services). But software is in the same boat - the time and energy that goes into software development may not be the same as building a house - but the provider still needs to be paid somewhere along the line.

For every Bill Gates who has made a fortune on software, there are hundreds of smaller developers who have a great idea for a product but are almost pushed into the realm of public domain or freeware by the open-source people. And yet, the constant demand for their time grows, even though they aren't seeing any real money from it.

Sure - it's good for the ego, but it's not good for the pocketbook or life in general. This is similar to the music industry but at least with software, no one is likely to want to download the 1.7GB for a particular package (unless they have that trusty T1 line).

How many people actually registered WinZip? I know I did but I'm amazed at how many people have it who are on their 5675th day of the "free trial" and have used it more than 10,000 times. It's $30. Show some support to the actual people who go out and make these things.

If you don't pay for your software, then you shoudn't expect much. The reverse is also true - if you pay for your software, then you have every right to shout and demand new features and the like. Sounds like democracy, right?

This isn't critizing the open source community - I think building software in the wide open is a great idea - HOWEVER, it should not be the only argument for its benefit. Unless everyone in open source is independently wealthy, its likely that the guy offering up his wares for the world is struggling between a meek consulting practice and trying to build the next great thing.

Free software is not a solution; neither is free hardware. If the trend continues without a change in attitude, we'll all be worse off.