Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cop this Kopi

Coffee lovers simply must rush and try this variety: Kopi Luwak ... and don't blame me if you become addicted!

And if you're still thirsty after imbibing the Kopi Lambak (or want to wash away its flavor) but don't have a bottle opener with you for your beer, then don't despair -- here's a tip from Denmark: How to open a bottle of beer the Scandanavian way

Be afraid of error logging, be very afraid?

Just in case you have been favoring and even extolling the benefits of error logging (versus putting Print statments or similar in your production code), here in Programming Kung Fu by Martin Ankert is a salutary warning about a possible effect of error logging:
Exception Handling versus Logging
Whether you code in Java, VB, C#, LotusScript, or anything else: What are your experiences with logging?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Web 2.0 - beckoning but undependable?

Supposedly, corporate America is waking up to Web 2.0 according to this article: ... Web 2.0 sews grassroots collaboration

But do they realize that they're heading towards a mire of undependability and lack of accountability, and this could be its greatest weakness? See Time for Web 2.0 to get real (posted by Phil Wainewright at ZDNet) where he talks about:
"... a fundamental flaw in the Web 2.0 era: a complete disregard for accountability to their users among service providers. ... it has to start offering the characteristics that Main St expects: reliability, accountability, consistency."
I for one am certainly not going to recommend anytime soon to my clients in outback Australia (nor for clients in the main Australian cities) that they should toss out their Windows-based word processor, spreadsheet or any other applications and start using some mashup of Web 2.0 applications hosted half way around the world. Would you?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hex-actly the right words?

Being a lover of words -- but not a philologist -- I present you with a few longish ones today. What do you think of this trio:
  • Over at wikipedia, there's Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia

  • Next there's Antidisestablishmentarianism -- an oldie but a goodie (hint: start off by understanding the meaning of "establishmentarianism")

  • Then there's Dibromothymolsulphonphthalein (a.k.a. "Bromthymol Blue", or BTB, because of its intense blue color). Used in chemistry as an indicator. Formula: C27H28Br2O5S ... I've been out of the chemistry profession for over 35 years, so I had to look it up, but its modern chemical name is: 3,3”-Dibromothymolsulphonephthalein
Looking forward to your contributions!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Old Gold" - some free vintage Lotus Notes applications

Far too many people think of Lotus Notes as an "e-mail system that can also do some applications" when it really should be thought of as "a platform for diverse collaboration applications, one of which just happens to be e-mail."

Even some IBM people have a tendency, when a new Notes release is being described, to spend so much time highlighting improvements in the Notes Mail application that it wouldn't bee too difficult to get the impression (quite wrongly, of course) that Lotus Notes is all about e-mail.

Once upon a time -- in the 1990s -- Lotus used to distribute a bundle along with Notes a bundle of quite useful example applications; but alas not any more. I'd strongly recommend to IBM that they start doing this again!

However some of the "oldies but goldies" are available. If you're interested in seeing and getting them, go to either or

Then scroll down a litttle (not very far from the top of the page) to the QUICK LINKS ON THIS PAGE menu, and click on the link Some "trusty old Lotus Notes applications" to be sent to the download links.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I'm normally sane -- or is that "normally sane"?

"Well my friend, they're all crazy people here, except you and me. ... And I'm beginning to have my doubts even about you!"

How can you find out if you're "normal"? Why, by going to a "professional" of course.

But you'll probably change your attitude after you read some of the following:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

KM is not going away

David Gurteen makes a good point in Stop apologising for knowledge management!
"I cringe every time someone who talks or writes about knowledge management (KM) starts by apologising for the name or criticising it in some way. ... I wonder if hey really think that there could ever be a short two or three word phrase that could dequately described this discipline we call knowledge management. ... KM is not going away. Indeed, it is becoming more important than ever."
Drop over to David's site InsideKnowledge and read more.

Monday, June 19, 2006

On the trade-off between feature-laden and usable

I've been buying Nokia digital mobile phones since the earliest days of GSM in Australia (1993), and always regarded them as quite user-friendly. I was very disappointed when I got a new model for Mothers' Day this year, and couldn't readily work out even how to turn it on!

There was no separate and distinct On/Off button that I was used to in earlier Nokia models. This was not good. I had to resort to reading the User Guide -- "RTFM" mode, as some would put indelicately it -- in order to accomplish even this most basic of tasks. Even then, it took me the best part of ten minutes to decode the small, rather inscrutable diagram and discover that it has two concentric rocker switches (a usability challenge in itself) that the bottom right corner of the outer rocker acted as the On/Off switch. A little later, as I got further into its all-too-numerous functions, I was equally frustrated by some of the clumsy navigation: particulary the repetive keying forced upon you when you carry out a function and are then sent back several levels right to the top of the navigation tree, not just to the previous level of the tree.

Altogether, there are far too many functions, not all well laid out or well explained. At least the dialing buttons are big on this Nokia model, on some models (other brands of phone too) the buttons are far too small and close together to accomodate my fat and clumsy "farmer's fingers." But that's another story in itself: Form over function.

Going all-digital with user interfaces isn't necessarily the best choice. In automobiles, for example, there are some functions that are best handled with analog interfaces. In my old but trusty Mitsubishi, for example, the heater's temperature control is an analog roller and so I can easily and accurately adjust the cabin temperature by feel in a second . There's no fiddly digital interface that would require me to take my eyes off the road. New technologies and/or the way they're applied aren't necessarily ideal for all tasks (cheaper perhaps, but sometimes a step or two backwards in terms of convenience and usability).

Over at Human Factors International (one of my favorite Web sites, you should register for their newsletter), there's a new article that immediately struck a chord with me and I'm sure it will with you too: Oh, that kind of better... On the trade-off between feature-laden and usable....
"Does it seem that making phones calls is no longer the primary function of cell phones? ... Do you give consumers what they want now? Or develop products that will increase the lifetime value of customers? This seems to be an interesting conundrum for organizations providing services and products – ranging from mobile phones to software to Internet service to cars – with the unlimited feature potential."
I strive to design and deliver products that are "good enough" and not too feature-laden. A recent example is the Simple Signer which was designed for just one function: to let you select and sign a Lotus Notes database -- "One tool for one task" is not a bad concept. Even this small application took a fair amount of work: to make it easy to understand and operate, to make it look consistent, to carefully craft the test and messages, etc. All for a free tool, but "If it's worth doing it's worth doing well."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Installing Eclipse - under Linux

Some time ago I wrote about installing Eclipse (under Windows), bemoaning the fact that the site strangely seems to not have any articles for Eclipse novices, at least none that I could find at the time:
Perhaps the Eclipse site is a little too too elitest, or too taken up with new releases and advanced topics? Or maybe the really basic material is there, somewhere in a dark corner of the site, or maybe it has been added recently and I haven't noticed it? What I have been trying to locate is a starter page that's absolutely easy to find, and that starts something like: "Never used Eclipse before? Then just follow these simple steps to install and start using Eclipse." (If I'm wrong about this, please let me know and I'll gladly post the relevant URLs here.)

In the meantime, I've just come across a good tutorial at the Novell-hosted Linux University for Developers, a nice introduction to installing and starting to use Eclipse, called Getting Started with the Eclipse IDE

And there's another tutorial called Eclipse Key Features which should be also be good for Eclipse novices.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

E-Prime makes attack on "Web 2.0" -- or maybe it's "Page Views 2.0"

Yesterday I came across the Wikipedia entry on Quantum Psychology which in turn led me to E and E-Prime (an excerpt from Robert Anton Wilson's book Quantum Psychology: How Brain Software Programs You & Your World):

In 1949, D. David Bourland Jr. proposed the abolition of all forms of the words "is" or "to be" and the Bourland proposal (English without "isness") he called E-Prime, or English-Prime. ... It seems likely that persons trained in E-Prime will grow more cautious about their perceptions and not "rush to judgement" in the manner of most of us throughout history.
The pundits writing about "Web 2.0" should start expressing themselves in E-prime. (And the same for commentators in just about any other field that you care to name: politics, religion, sports, advertising, news reporting, the list is endless.)

Let's do away with the endless hype, hallucinatory evangelizing, and paralyzing pontifications! Let's adopt more precise, neutral language wherever possible. Life would be duller, though, and certainly more verbose. More "common sense" and less flair; maybe it would be worth it.

UPDATE - 16 June 2006 11:38AM (Melbourne, Australia time):
Joyfully celebarating the birth of a second grandson less than three hours ago!

Meanwhile, I not that on 11 June in his Read/WriteWeb blog, Richard MacManus opines that it really should be called "Page Views 2.0" because:
"... the fundamental reason why 'Web 2.0' is (dare I say it) in bubble phase right now. It's the exact same reason the Dot Com bubble occured - Page Views... which in this era leads to ads.

Drive as many users to your site as humanly possible - that's the modus operandi of all websites, web 2.0 or not.

These days, 2005-06-onwards, the idea is very much to - you guessed it - gather as many users as possible. Only this time you can monetize them with Google ads, or your own advertisers/sponsors."

So there you have it. They're all in it for the money.

This makes me feel like an altruist -- or perhaps an idiot -- because my web site and weblogs are virtually ad-free and largely non-commercial (except for relatively low-key advertising of my IT consulting services plus NotesTracker product, and the products of my small number of business partners). And I'm silly enough to give away some free Lotus Notes/Domino applications. Oh well, it takes all types doesn't it.

UPDATE -- 08 September 2006:
Just came across this little gem, enabling you to generate your own Web 2.0 hype ... The Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator

See also Fight the Bull (backup link here).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Metrics for Malcontents ... or Manna from Management?

My humble apologies, but the title for this post is just an eyecatcher to get you hooked! I only wanted to point out the following useful checklist for employees everywhere:

Signs you have a great job ... or not (by Jeanne Sahadi, senior writer) - Even when you're having a really bad day, your job may be a lot better than you think. Here's how to tell.

Archived articles in a similar vein from Jeanne Sahadi here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Throw that mouse away

Here's an interesting tidbit, over at DDJ ... Mouses: You've Come a Long Way Mickey

The desktop rodent has come a long way in a couple of decades, from just "plug it in and move it around" to being extolled as "sculpted" and with "stylish color combinations" -- wow!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A safari to the opera?

Here's a must-read article at Musings From Mars: All The Lovely Browsers! To me it was a real eye opener, and you owe it to yourself to examine the findings.

It covers a range of browsers for the Apple and Windows platforms, in terms of their functionality and speediness in carrying out various types of operations. Safari comes out well, as do Firefox and especially the Opera browser. Internet Explorer (IE6 as well as IE7 Beta) stand out -- by being significantly slower in the tests!

I've been running IE7 Beta 2 for a few months now. IE7 has been very stable, but I cannot put tolerate its (to me) quite unusable native layout and lack of tailorability. So instead I use the excellent Avant Browser front end, and this nicely covers nearly all of my functional needs. All the same, regularly I hop over to Firefox to take advantage of various functions that it does better. (TIP: there's a handy Firefox extension that allows IE pages to be launched in Firefox, and vice-versa.)

After reading the Musings From Mars report, I'll certainly be reconsidering use of the Opera browser (and with any luck achieving noticeable time savings every day).

Monday, June 05, 2006

Shades of Armageddon

Earlier in Our tangled web of expertise I mused about the complex global superstructure we have built and the incredible degree of specialization and individual expertise upon which we rely for just about everything that we do.

This general theme is taken up by author Barry C. Lynn in End of the Line : The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation:
"Our corporations have built the most efficient system of production the world has ever seen, perfectly calibrated to a world in which nothing bad ever happens. But that is not the world we live in. Not only is human civilization riven routinely by earthquakes and hurricanes, but so too is it shattered by wars and acts of terror and simple human error. Which means it is only a matter of time until we experience our next industrial crash, perhaps one much worse than any we have yet known."
I must get this book, it seems to have struck a chord with quite a few reviewers. It seems that we've painted ourselves into a corner ...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Visual Studio 400 Differences - Hilarious but Malformed?

Just some light divertisement today ... Now, I have a reasonably beefy laptop PC. It's an AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (2.00 GHz) processor, with 1GB of RAM.

However, when I visited the following Microsoft site my browser started consuming inordinate amounts of processor resource (fluctuating between about 50 to 90 percent):
Visual Studio 400 Differences - The Visual Studio 400 Plus Differences website details more than 400 exciting programmatic and usability differences in Visual Studio .NET 2005 including hilarious videos.
Some hilarity there may be, but whoever put this particular site together really should revisit its design and modify it so that it doesn't chew up such large slabs of processor time!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Comet soars past Ajax?

If you're interested in Web application architectures, you should read Alex Russell's recent article Comet: Low Latency Data for the Browser (he's project lead for The Dojo Toolkit).

It's not AJAX ... He's talking about server-push data streaming with low latency, for which he coined the name "Comet", and he reckons that it's better for users.

Here's an interview with Alex Russell about Dojo (by SYS-CON.TV, at at the Real-World AJAX seminar in San Jose, May 2006).