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A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What's Next? 

If you've been pondering what I've been pondering lately (what will be the next big development on the web?) you might find this interesting.

Patrick Cox has posted an article on TCS Daily titled The Next Big Thing in which he discusses how the release of Netscape Navigator was instrumental in creating the open Internet we use today, and how the virtual reality of Lawnmower Man has given way to the 3D online environments of Everquest and Second Life.

"Imagine how much more useful your computer experience would be if you were able to design a virtual office as large or complex as you needed, and reach anything in it without leaving your chair. Voice over IP will be integrated, naturally. Your avatar will be your real image, photographed live and enhanced if you don't want to deal with hair or clothing, and you will be able to meet friends and business associates in VW, your places or theirs, as easily as making a phone call. Blogs and punditry will involve virtual talk show and other environments and, with some planning and enough cameras, audiences will be able to visit any place on the globe, from a Baghdad battlefield to a Broadway stage."
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Monday, October 23, 2006

ASCII-O-Matic 

Who's this handsome chap created by typorganism?




~zhzs+<<((((((((((~~~((~~((~~~~~~~~~~~~----~(<=s=<++<(~. . .
~hhz=+<<((((((((((~~~((((((~~~~~~~~~~~~-------(=s+<<+(~'. .
-hzzs+<<((((((((((~~~(((~(~~~~~~~~~~~~~~-------+s=<<+(~('
-hzss+<(((((((((((~~~~((~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~-------(ss+<+(~<~ .
'zzzs+<(((((((((((~~~~(((~~~~~~~~(((((((~------~=s=<<<(<(.
.=zzs+<((((((((((((~~(((~~~~~~~~~(<<+=+++((~----<ss<<<~<(.
.=hzs+<((((((((((((~~(((~~~~~~~(<+===ss==+<(----(==+<(~(<' .
.+hz=+<<(((((((((((~~(((~~~~((<=sss====+((((~~--~+==(~~(<-
+hz+<<(((((((((((((~(((~~((+=szss=<<<<((~~(~~---<=+(~~((-
<hz+<<<<<<(((((((((((((((<=ssss==+=s===+(~((~---<=+<((~(-
(hz+<++++===+++<<<<((((<<<======ssszsss=+(((~---~++((<(~-
(hz++=sssssszzzs==<<(((<<+++++==+=s==<(((((~~~~--<<~~((~-
'=zz+=zzzss=ssszsss=+<(((<<<<+===<=+<((~~~~~~~---~((--(<(-
'szs+szzs+++==s======<(~(((<+===++<((((((~~-~~~---((~-(<(~
.+zs+==++=sszzss====+((~~~((<+<<<<(((((<((~~~---~-(<~((((-
~ss++++=hz+=sss====+(~~~~(((<<<<<(((<<((~~~~~~--~(<(((~~-.-
'=z+<++===+==+++++++(~~~(~~((((<<<<<(((~~~~----~-~<<(~-~-(<
~~+z+<<+++<<<((<+<++<((~((~~~~(((((((((~~~~~------~<<~~~~-(<
<<<s=<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<(((((((~~~(((((((~~~~~-------~(~-~~(~~<
<<(+=<<(((<<<<<<<((<<<(<((((~((((~~~~--~~~~~----------~((~(<
<<<+=<(<<(<<<<<((((<<<<<<(((((<<<<((~---~~~~~--~-----~~((((<
<<<+=+<<((<((((((((<<<<<(((((<<<<<<<((~~((((~--------~((((<<
<<<<++<<<(((((((~(<++<<<((((((((<<<<<((((((((~---~---~<<<<<<
<++<+++<<(((((~((<<=<<<((((~~(((<<<<<<<<(((((~~~~~-~-~<<<<<<
++<+<+++<((((((<<=+<<<((~~((((<<<<((<<<<<<<((~~~~~~--(=+<<<<
++++++++<((((((<<+<<<<<((((<+==++<<<<<+=<<<(((~~~~~~-<hz+<<+
++++++=+<(((((<<<<++==+<<<+===+<<<<<<<+<<<<<(~~(~~~~-(hhz=+<
++++<<=+<<<((<<<<<==ss==+++=+<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<((~((~~~~<hhhh=~
+++++<==<<<<<<<<<<+=======+<<<<<<<<<<<<+<<(((((((~~~~+hhhhh=
+++++<+=++<<<<+++++====+++<<<<<(((((<===+<(((((((~~(~=hzzhhh
+++++++==++<<+++++++++++<<<<(((<<<+==s=++<(((((((((~~<hhzzhh
++++++++=++++++===++++<<(((((<+=+++sss<<<<((((((((((((hhzzhh
++++++++=++++++====+++++<<<+++<(-~=s=<(<<<(((((((((((~zhhzzh
+++++++++=+<<<<+=ssss===++<<'-~~(<s=<((<<<(((((((((<(-zhhzzz
+++++++++=+<((<<<=szh=(((~~<~(+==+<<<(((<<<(((((((<<~-=hhhzz
++++++++++=<(((<+<==ss===+======<((((((<(<(((((((<<<~-=hhhzz
++++++++++++<((<<<<===s====+<<<(((((((((((((((((<<<(~-+hhhzz
+++++++++++=+(((<<<+=+<<<<<<((((((((((((((((((<<<+<(~~+hhhhz
+++++++++++++<((<<<++=<<<<<(<((((<<(((((((((((<<<<(~~~+hhhhz
++++++++++++++<(<<<++++<<<<<<<<<<<<(((((((((<(<<<<(~~~+hhhhz
+++++++++++++++<<++<++++++<<<<<<<((((((((((((<<<<(((~(+hhhhz
++++++++++++===+<<++<<++++<<<<<<<(((((((((<(<<+<<(((((=hhhhz
+++++++++++++===+<+++<<<<<<<<<<<(((((((((<<<<+<<<((~((=zhhhz
++++++++++++++===++++<<<<<<<<(((<(((((((<<<+++<<<((~((=zhhhh
+++++++++++++++=====++<<<<<<(((((((((((<+<<++<<<<((((<=zhhhh
++++++++++++++++=====+++++<<((((((((<<+++++++<<<<((((<+zhhhh
++++++++++++++++++ss=+++<<<<(<((((<<+++++==++<<<(((((<=hhhhh
++++++++++++++++<+hzs==++<<<<<<<<<+========++<<(((((<<=hhhhh
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<(+hhhzs==+<<<<<<++=s======++<<<(((((<<=hhhhh
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<+hhhhhzs==++========s===+++<<(((((((<shhhhh


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Friday, October 20, 2006

searchmash 

Google's AJAXy search testbed.

You read it here first.
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At last IE 7 makes it to our desktops 

IE 7 was finally released to the masses. Albeit not by auto-update, you must go to their site and download it. It will make it to the auto-update site in November.

This is the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I have to say it is quite impressive. I’ve had one crash thus far which was according to the pop-up flash 9.

I’ve also installed a couple of the IE add-ons. The first WebMon is good, it alerts you to updated pages. Something which I feel has been lacking for sometime. I’m using it at the moment to track updates to some homepages and it’s working out well. Also looks like you can set it to build a feed to then track… The only other one I’ve used is fiddler which allows you to see the http traffic. It seems good. Whilst they are ‘add-ons’ they’re actually run as stand-alone programs from the start menu which I find odd…

It is nice having multiple homepages, meaning you get tabs immediately. This is pretty nifty. As is the built in feed system. Although my favourite has to be the search. With the ability to learn and ad in new search systems this is useful, I’ve now got one for Economist.com which is rather nice. Does mean there is a knock on to developers though not to change the URL system, which is of considerable concern.
But I think the clear type fonts which come down with it are possibly the best feature.

Recommend you give it a shot…

-- Rob

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Vista - ambient noise edition 

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

dISABLE cAPS lOCK AND BECOME MORE PRODUCTIVE 

I finally did something about the pain in the arse that is the Caps Lock key. It's position on the keyboard - right next to the A key and above the Shift key - bears no relation to its importance or use. Has anyone used the key intentionally more than once?

If you answered yes to that, then I'll make a mental note not to get involved in a flame war with you!

There are several ways to prevent the unintentional entering of text in uppercase characters.

I've been using StickyKeys for ages and it's ok, but it doesn't prevent the problem.

John Haller tells you how to disable the Caps Lock key via a Registry key (funny that).

However, I have a simpler method.

It works for all versions of Windows (including Vista), Mac OS and even Linux.

You'll need a screwdriver, spoon, knife or similar implement
  1. Insert the flat end of your implement of choice between the Caps Lock key and the keyboard surround
  2. Gently bring your implement towards a horizontal position, prising out the offending key
  3. Presto! The Caps Lock key will pop out and can be discarded.
If you have any other suggestions for useless keys on the keyboard, do please let me know.
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

They would say that, wouldn't they ! 

Found on the always excellent Lifehacker, here's an Apple-sponsored report that concludes, unsurprisingly that switching to one of their 30-inch Cinema displays can massively boost your productivity.

I will volunteer to test their research findings on behalf of the company if anyone has a few thousand dollars to buy me one of these screens.

Here is the original report in full if you want more convincing before rushing out to the Apple Store with your credit card.
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Know your customer 

Stew put me onto this article by Eric Sink (worked on Mosaic) about pro-active sales people.

Well I just had a call from someone from Interoute about our plans for an MPLS service. She sounded very eager and was certainly proactive, but when she pronounced Reuters (one of their clients) routers (the British way) I knew it was all bullshit.
Comments:
After spending a few days in the company of many Sales Guys, this article is especially funny. What I think is funny are (1) the companies where there is no sales guy, and the engineer/developer you end up dealing with is doing his best impression of a sales guy (they're just so darn cute trying to play hardball), or (2) the ones that actually *are* sales guys masquerading as earnest do-gooders with your best interests at heart (not as cute, but can be equally entertaining).
 
There's a third (and probably more...):

the sales person that's just been on a negotiating/active listening /whatever course.

One of our DartMail account managers was a really nice guy (that's not to say your're not Matt, if you're reading this). In fact he was so nice that he told me he'd recently got back from a negotiating course just as we were about to start contract negotiations.
 
Humpf, as a sales person I take affront at these things. Luckily I've just on on a course to teach me to empathise, so I do understand what you're saying. ;-)

Tom
 
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Coghead vs. Salesforce 




Not a fair comaprison, but Coghead, which is still in beta looks very promising for smaller simpler apps. It's really a platform that allows custom apps to be built. It's USP is its simple interface that allows building or customisation of applications using drag and drop.

There are some neat built in apps - staff directory, issue tracking system.....
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dreamforce report - Develop on Demand? 

I'm in San Francisco now attending the annual Salesforce.com customer conference. These people really know how to drum up the excitement. Attendance is about 5000, which includes executives and professionals from sales, marketing, and customer support; IT managers and developers; and of course admins from a variety backgrounds. It's exciting to be around all of these people going through similar challenges and victories and hearing about how they do things in their organizations.

The big news from the keynotes:
- Last year SFDC released AppExchange, which allows anyone to create a add-on tools/applications and make them available to the public. So far there are about 400 apps individuals and companies have added. Some are for sale, some are free.

- Now, SFDC wants to expand on that idea. They are making their Apex development language and platform open-source. Developers can also use their servers to host the code. Of course this allows SFDC to utilise other's work and make customers happy without actually creating the code and including it on the road map themselves. Genius. Someone else's notes on Benioff's keynote:
http://blog.sforce.com/sforce/2006/10/dreamforce_firs.html
Article in eWeek about the announcement:
http://ct.enews.eweek.com/rd/cts?d=186-4603-13-93-119073-533361-0-0-0-1

- Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke for an hour this morning. What a phenomenal speaker! What does Powell have to do with SFDC you might ask? I think we all wondered that. Well, the (long) intro Benioff gave him talked about how Powell had inspired him years ago in the realm of corporate philanthropy. (Another theme at this conference is all of the philathropy SFDC does and how they are trying to influence others to do the same and spotlight organizations that are also doing a lot.) Anyway, Powell's speech covered areas on leadership, philathropy, the current state of foreign affairs between the US and the rest of the world. He also threw in a bunch of little funnies about missing his old job, the current administration, and adjusting to his new life. Can't say I agreed with everything he did while he worked as SoS, but I have a lot of repect for the man.

The sessions I've attended have been pretty interesting so far, including:
- Integration Strategies in a SaaS (software as a service) environment
- Redefining Integration: The End of the Black Box (making ERP integrations more transparent)
- How to Make Change Manangement a Reality
- The Path to Achieving 100% Adoption
- Territory Management Made Simple
- Global Deployment Case Study

I've also spent a good amount of times talking to vendors at the expo and looking at what they have to offer. Some cool tools out there!

Gotta run to the next session. If there is any more exciting news from the conference, I'll post again.
Comments:
Hey Audra, hope you're enjoying San Francisco. Any chance of finding out when the Jot Spot app will be ready for Salesforce? I'd really love to get some wiki action going.

Have a good time,

Tom
 
I looked out for the wiki stuff and really did not see it at dreamforce. Kind of surprising. There were some bloggers there, but not really any mention of wiki as a collaboration tool. there are several vendors that have really cool document sharing/collaboration tools (ShareNow and DreamFactory being the ones I was most impressed with). I wonder if any of these types of tools would serve the same goals you have?
 
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Monday, October 09, 2006

THIS MAN IS A GENIUS 

Hi,

He basically invented the laptop, the mouse, the GUI and smalltalk

He is Alan Kay
Comments:
I think you should cite your sources!
 
erm I was reading about how bad the current ruby implementation is and I always thought Smalltalk was a fast dynamically typed language so I wondered why Ruby couldn't handle it. I found this post Ruby and Strongtalk StrongTalk is a Virtual machine for smalltalk and basically gets dynamically typed stuff right. ColdFusion gets it right now in ColdFusion MX as well but it didn't in ColdFusion 5.

LISP is often seen as one of the best languages ever written but it never got massive community support even though it was a great way to introduce kids to computing, by programming turtles through LOGO! I already know about Seymour Papert and his role in getting kids into computing so I got sidetracked thinking about social networks and redstripe which got me reading about Alan Kay, I went on to read about PARC, which is perhaps the greatest IT team ever to work together, including Digital Media.

But essentially I read wikipedia and posted about him/it. HE IS STILL A GENIUS
 
Alan Kay is also involved in the $100 dollar laptop. If only by the effect of his work
 
I suppose I should have been more explicit....

I don't think that he invented all those things. Question four from my (in)famous Henley quiz was:

Q. Which of the graphical user interface, the laser printer, the mouse and Ethernet was not invented at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre?

A. The mouse, which was invented by Douglas Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center at the Stanford Research Institute.
 
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Not eco or blog or IT 

but changes.

The video can't be embedded here, so watch it at youtube....... Changes

Yes I know it's stolen off the telly.
Comments:
Good one Stew. Time Trumpet is funny - I downloaded it from UKNova
 
On the topic of politics, this performance by Cherie Blair at the Labour Party conference is up there with The Office. As much as you want to look away, you just can't. Thanks to the Guardian.
 
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