OK, this seems a little sad... Soon after Microsoft announced Silverlight, their "Adobe Flash Killer", now Sun is in full-blown-gonzo-desperate-me-too-mode, and announced JavaFX at JavaOne today. In theory, its a scriptable Java interface, which allows Flash-like behavior in the web browser.
As usual, Sun was very vague about the details, and had no SDK or decent samples to speak of... According to Jonathan Schwart's blog, JavaFX will run on Java Standard Edition as well as embedded Java... and it will be 100% open sourced. This is opposed to Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, which are only partially open sourced. He's also still banging that "write once, run anywhere" drum... but insists that he really means it this time!
Forgive me if I don't hold my breath...
In an odd twist, they appear to have ripped off the name! JavaFX is clearly derivative of an unused name for Microsoft Silverlight: .Net FX. Interestingly enough, Sun also ripped off an idea from Microsoft at a JavaOne conference almost 7 years ago: Active Server Pages. Sun servers were losing market share because they couldn't run ASPs, so in a panicked rush they unleashed JSPs on the public. Not a horrible idea, but it was a full 2 years before anybody had a halfway decent framework so JSPs wouldn't suck.
In a nutshell, this is good news. Suffice it to say, now that Sun and Microsoft are muscling in on Adobe's turf, this might mean that Rich Internet Applications may actually have a future. AJAX led people to believe in rich web user interfaces, but AJAX simply can't do what Flash does... as long as this doesn't lead to a format war, this competition can only mean that web UIs will get much nicer, much faster.
Ahhh... now this is convenient...
Oracle finally has a download page for their universal content management suite, formerly the Stellent Universal Content Management suite... I had been looking for this download page every once in a while since 10gr3 was released.
The download is free, but you need an Oracle login first to access it. It comes with document management, web content management, digital asset management, and records management. You can even get the Verity integration as a separate download.
I'm a little surprised that they are making Verity available... Oracle typically doesn't like to resell other people's software. That decision probably had something to do with the sheer volume of customers who are still using the Verity search engine. I was chatting with a few other ECM vendors -- like the folks from DAY software -- at the last AIIM conference. Very few people seem to be using Verity these days, its all about FAST for the search engine.
Stellent made a FAST integration a long time ago, but very few folks made the switch... I wonder why?
Oh well, enjoy the downloads...
At MinneBar last weekend (a Minneapolis based geek mini-conference), a few of the guys were interested in something they called Coworking... which in their minds was a group of small businesses or independent developers all sharing the same office space.
The goal is simple: it looks much more professional to bring clients to a real office building, instead of a coffee shop, or your home office. You also get nice big conference rooms... Plus, having so many techies about would help each member boost their knowledge and productivity.
I thought about it for a while, then my friend Michael told me about The Apiary, which is precisely what these guys were looking for! Three buildings, in downtown Minneapolis, that rent out small units for small business.
Not too many spots open at the moment... but if the Apiary can make it work, its probably a good model for the Coworking movement to follow.
Slate Magazine has a pretty good list of the top 5 brain-related news stories of 2007. I'd say that's a bit premature, since its only May, but I'm not in the magazine business... They are, in order:
- Software that can use a MRI to read your mind 71% of the time,
- You can change what people think is moral by altering their brain chemistry,
- The ability to genetically predict sexual orientation in mammals,
- The sedative Ambien wakes people up from a vegetative coma,
- Generally significant progress in artificial intelligence.
Yikes on the mind reading one...
I like number 5... but the full article missed one of my favorite examples: cognitive researchers at IBM have reproduced 10% of a mouse brain in a computer! They created simple software that behaved like neurons, and painstakingly connected them together in a massively parallel application. They've gotten it to behave like 10% of a mouse for about 10 seconds.
However, if these mouse guys succeeded, it makes the Chinese Room Argument in cognitive science a tiny bit problematic... John Searl argued that by definition a computer cannot have human consciousness, since a computer can only do symbol manipulation. A human who knows Chinese know the meaning of the question 怎么样您, which is "how are you?" Whereas a computer would just see the Chinese symbols, and reply with other symbols like 我很好, which would mean "I am well."
In a computational machine there is no context, therefore no true knowledge, therefore no true consciousness.
But... a neural network of computers might not suffer from this limitation. The binary ones and zeros are just the building blocks upon which neurons are created... and the structure of the digital neurons grant context, and perhaps consciousness. I see this as analogous to how physical neurons are composed of atoms and molecules, and consciousness is just an emergent property.
Of course, we could all just be fooling ourselves, and conscious might not really exist... its merely an illusion of an extremely complex system. Philosophers call this reductionism, and the thought makes most people uncomfortable... but that doesn't make it wrong!
No surprises there... but at least now I can talk about it!
Oracle has released its first new version of the old Stellent product suite today, and labeled it Universal Content Management 10g Release 3. Its got a few nifty features that you wouldn't find in version 7.5.2...
My wife Michelle has been working long hours the past week on media briefings, and she was quoted on several big sites... including a post on CIO.com:
Users now have more choice about how they store their content, according to Michelle Huff, principal product manager for Oracle Content Management, who was formerly with Stellent.
Yep! That's my Michelle! I'd recognize her flair anywhere...
Engadget is reporting on a new proposal for wind turbines on freeways... and boy does it look freaky.
The thought of big spinning blades above my car is a little unsettling... in particular because I drive a convertible. Although if these became common practice, it would add another dimension of danger to those high speed chase scenes in movies. Imagine the cops chasing a bad guy on a motorcycle through hilly San Francisco: Whoosh! Boom! Splat!
Alternative designs involve rotating blades on the sides of the freeway. Again... trouble. Imagine hitting one of those instead of the guardrail. Yikes.
I'm all for green energy... but I'm confident we can get there without turning our daily commute into a scene from Indiana Jones.
Well, I had my first two official posts on this blog about one year ago today, April 29th, 2006... the first was the itty bitty welcome to bexhuff.com article, and the second was one about the limitations of RSS feeds.
Since then, I've published a book, my old company was purchased by Oracle, and I started my new company, Bezzotech. My site crashed, I thwarted a hacker, I read a lot of books, had lots of half-baked ideas, and rambled on about technology.
Lots of crazy stuff has happened in the world in the past year... holy crap has a lot of stuff happened. But I try to remain apolitical on this blog, and just focus on technology, lifehacks, and liquor. I must be doing something right, because I'm nearing my 10,000th visitor...
Thanks for reading!
Speaking of marketing... I can't think of a better ad for getting new people to join your company than this:
For the Flash-impaired, this is Lip Dub, the soundtrack is Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger. It was thrown together in one take by a group of folks who work at Vimeo, CollegeHumor, Busted Tees, and Defunker.
So I got a call out of the blue from Derrick Shields 2 weeks ago... he was preparing a presentation on Marketing a Small Tech Business for MinneBar 2007, and was interested in collaborating on it. Maybe I had something to add?
I thought, "sure, sounds like fun!" After I left Stellent I read four books on the subject, and had put some of it into practice, so I felt like sharing what I had learned. Derrick knows a lot about search engine marketing, I spoke mostly about networking, and leveraging word-of-mouth.
We gave the presentation last Saturday, and it was a big hit. We had to switch rooms because ours was overflowing! That meant we had to start 10 minutes late, and didn't cover all of the material... So we placed our notes online for future reference. We thought we'd polish it up a bit more, and maybe submit it to Digg after we pretty up the prose.
Please forgive the spelling errors! Derrick is on vacation at the moment, and the report is hosted on his site... so the errors will stay as they are for a while...
BJ Novak, from The Office, on Conan O'Brien, is mad at the Cadbury creme egg people...
I'm sure John And Jacob are likewise ticked...
For those who don't know, Flex is an application released by Adobe that allows people to create Adobe Flash animations on the fly. It is based on ActionScript, CSS, and a flavor of XML called MXML. There were quite a few fans of this technology at the MinneBar conference last week...
Anyway, Adobe has just issued a press release that Flex is going to be released as open source!
The boys over at ZDNet are jazzed, because they think this will make Flex the de facto standard for rich internet applications. No more mucking about with broken DHTML libraries, AJAX, or all that jazz...
This might be a preemptive strike against the launch of Silverlight, which is a Microsoft alternative to Adobe Flash. The only advantage that Silverlight could possibly offer is their claim to be indexable and searchable... but with techniques like FAUST from Space 150, you can make Flash data googleable as well.
So its hard to imagine why anybody would use Silverlight at all...
Just in case, if I were Adobe, I'd start immediately writing a cheap or free Flex plug-in to Visual Studio .NET to capture the Microsoft developer market.
Wired science is reporting about the discovery of a habitable planet outside of our solar system! The star is called Gilese 581, which is in the Libra constellation... and it has 2 known planets. One looks like a big version of Earth! Its about 5 times the mass, and 1.5 times the diameter of our little home.
The details are sketchy at the moment, but our best estimates are that the temperature ranges between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which means liquid water is a possibility! Its orbiting a Red Dwarf, which is typically a lot colder, older, and more stable than our sun. Some theorize that Red Drawfs were made when the universe was very young, like 15-20 billion years ago. In contrast, our sun is only 4.6 billion years old.
If other elements that support life are on the planet -- oxygen, minerals, an ozone layer, perhaps magnetic poles -- odds are that they've been evolving for a lot longer than we have... That doesn't mean that higher life forms exist on the planet, but its certainly a fun possibility!
Unfortunately, its 20 light years away... its one of our 100 closest neighbors, but still too far away for us to visit anytime soon. Although, we sure can point our SETI antennae at it, and see if we can hear anything.
Just thought you'd like to know...
And the annual interest rate is 100% deductible against past and future sins. So be sure to max out your card on God while on your deathbed!
hat tip success warrior
Made To Stick is an interesting and practical book on how to make your ideas catch on... how to take a dull concept laden with boring statistics, and turn it into something that people will remember, and tell their friends.
Its not academic, rather its a down to earth how-to manual. Its a good companion to The Tipping Point, which popularized the concept of stickiness... which is the tendency for a person to remember and pass on an idea. They analyzed marketing campaigns, public service messages, and urban legends to determine what sticky ideas have in common. They came up with this basic framework:
- Simplicity: the idea must be stripped to its core, and the most important concepts should jump out.
- Unexpectedness: the idea must destroy preconceived notions about something. This forces people to stop, think, and remember.
- Concreteness: avoid statistics, use real-world analogies to help people understand complex ideas.
- Credibility: if people don't trust you, they'll ignore you. In some cases, they will be openly hostile, which means they'll actively try to dispute your message!
- Emotional: information makes people think, but emotion makes them act. Appeal to emotional needs, sometimes even way up on Maslow's hierarchy.
- Stores: telling a story tricks people into paying closer attention, and feeling more connected. Remember the Jared Subway commercials?
The book gives some great examples, and even has some brief homework assignments so you can test how to make a message more sticky. This book isn't just for marketing types... I'd recommend it to anybody who communicates with the public at all.
Its a fun idea... but I doubt many people have the freezer space for more than a few of these. They might be better for either a very small party, or for a very big party... or for those people with 3 freezers who don't know what to do with them all.
Either way, watch out for these things! After holding one for a few seconds, your hands get numb and slippery. If these were tapered so they were wider at the top, this would be less of an issue. Gloves are probably in order if you offer your guests refills.
Unfortunately, the reseller is out of them at the moment... hopefully they'll get more in stock before Cinco de Mayo!
Unusual news from the USDA this week... apparently mixing a bit of booze in with your fruit boosts the number of healthy chemicals in it!
I will repeat that:
- Strawberries are healthy,
- Strawberries margaritas are better
They discovered this information rather unexpectedly... they were experimenting with how different types of preservatives affect the nutritional value of foods. By some bizarre accident, adding alcohol to berries increased the amount of anti-oxidants in the food... these chemicals help people fight cancer, and the effects of aging.
No word on if the alcohol breaks down some of the other healthy chemicals... such as vitamins or amino acids. I guess I'll just have to risk it.
Bruce Schneier has a rather depressing article in Wired this month, about why bad security products drive good ones out of the market.
In essence, in a market where the seller knows a lot more about the buyer, and there are many options, the buyer bases their purchase decisions on the average product price. The high-end stuff -- which is the only secure option -- is just too expensive to justify. Pretty soon, nobody buys the good stuff, and we're all left with the lemons.
In a used car market, you can use economic signals to correct this market behavior, and drive people to make wise purchases... for example, an independent mechanics can spot a lemon rather quickly. Employ one to help you out, and you can purchase a good cars amongst the lemons.
Unfortunately, those independent experts are incredibly expensive in the software security field... and even they don't instantly know which products are the lemons. It takes weeks or months of intense analysis. Who has the money or time for that?
Other signals, like as encryption standards and company reputation, are useful... but they also are no guarantee. So crappy security products will always get to the market faster and sell better than effective security products.
So very depressed...
I'm not presenting (for once), but I will be doing mostly shmoozing... looking for vendors who have integrations with EMC/IBM/Microsoft, but perhaps not Oracle/Stellent.
Most of the sessions were pretty high-level. I'd rather get that info by skimming a blog than by sitting still for 50 minutes... I believe I'm not alone, otherwise Content Management software wouldn't exist!
The keynotes on Tuesday were OK. The first spent a lot of time talking about print-on-demand, which isn't exactly what makes my blood race. The next keynote was from the CEO of ING Direct. Interesting talk, and I liked hearing about his business model, but there was very little content management sprinkled in it.
The third keynote was from the VP of the Sharepoint team at Microsoft. That was pretty OK. I chatted with quite a few third party solution providers out here about it. They all said Sharepoint makes a good demo, but there just isn't enough technology under the hood to do anything enterprise-scale with it... but the guy did have 3 good points:
- There are many industries -- oil exploration in particular -- where knowledge management is critical. These industries have been on a hiring freeze for so long, that all the 50-60 year olds who know everything will soon retire, and take all knowledge with them.
- The newest generation of workers have never known a world without the internet.
- If you don't have an infrastructure that contains best-of-breed collaboration tools (blogs, wikis, instant messaging, social bookmarking, maybe even Twitter) that the young workers expect, then you will neither attract nor retain high quality talent.
There, I just saved you a trip to Boston!
The third point I think is the most salient... not having good collaboration and content management tools today, is like not having email 10 years ago. People expect to be able to search and find content on their intranet from one single source... they expect to keep in touch through blogs... they expect informal collaboration on wikis... and they've gotten good with these tools. If you can't deliver what they need to feel productive, then you won't attract the best and brightest young workers.
The corollary to that point is that, in my humble opinion, there is no such thing as good collaboration software. There are plenty of tools that streamline collaboration bottlenecks, the most useful being email... but the concept that you can install software that makes all your people/project/change management problems evaporate is beyond ludicrous. You can never replace a good manager, or a small team with a shared vision for success. Dunbar's rule of 150 will also rear its ugly head... unless your collaboration software vendor knows what the heck I'm talking about, keep shopping.
Based on my Tuesday experience, I decided to skip the Wednesday keynote by the CEO of Business Objects...
Well, I finally had some extra time to put together the official website for Bezzotech, my new company. Go visit it! Tell me what you think! As you may have guessed, I'm a big fan of astrolabes.
I felt really guilty about having that silly icon page up there for so long... but it took me a while to settle on a brand, a logo, a message, and make the time to write all the CSS and HTML.
In the library page, you'll find Oracle/Stellent based resources that you can download. These include presentations I gave, and some sample code I put together. Hopefully, Oracle/Stellent customers will find them useful. I'll be adding more as time goes on.
I some day also put up a section for industry news... or maybe I'll just keep everything over here on my blog. I guess you'll need to check both sites regularly to know for sure...
Oh yeah, I also got a chance to rebrand this blog as well... Its back to the green that we all know and love. Well... at least I love it.
Well, this is interesting... Salman Ullah, Google's director of corporate development, is looking for really crazy ideas when it comes to making acquisitions of new companies.
They apparently have $11 billion in cash, and are looking for new and interesting ways to waste their money. They claim that they respond to 100% of all email inquiries about possible aquisitions.
The catch seems to be that they are still banging the drum about traffic. Any application that drives users to a web site will be considered. As long as Google can put their banner ads down the right sidebar, they're happy.
The first moral of this story is that it doesn't matter how awesome your idea is... if you can't pitch it so it drives traffic to Google, odds are they'll pass.
The second moral is that if you want your cool idea to be gobbled up by Google, maybe those venture capitalists you wooed aren't going to help much. They might dumb down your idea to the point where its no longer crazy... at which point Google won't care. Then their much touted "connections at Google" wont be worth squat.