Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I'm getting nervous about Parallels if this is what things are looking like. What are the alternatives out there? I guess it's time to find out.
Has anyone else tried to avail themselves of Parallels customer service lately?
My account on their website was messed up somehow (error messages) so I tried to call. I stayed on hold on a toll call for 15 minutes despite being told I was "first in line".
Personally, that's making me really nervous about buying any further licenses/upgrades from them.
When I contacted them regarding the fact that they hadn't sent me my upgrade licence for v3, and that I had already opened one of my vms in v3, making it impossible to go back, I got two nonsensical emails, the a pause of a month (!), after which they sent me a new licence.
For what must be a small organisation, they sure are disorganised, because I had already received the licence I was due from another part of the company.
I wasn't very impressed with QA for v3 either. I've bought Fusion.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Even if you don't know him from Adam, I highly recommend you check it out and perchance subscribe. His one about Darwin and bonobos had me laughing out loud.
He has chosen a Wordpress site set up by my bro. Bully for him, as long as he's posting, is what I say. He's been busy too, more than ten posts in the last few days. Can't hold him back!
I think if you look at open source as only about collaboration, then yes, you can draw these kinds of conclusions, and you may think, hey, maybe having open source code is not that important.
But as I have mentioned before, I think this misses a crucial point about open source. Open source is not just about collaboration. That may be cool for open source developers, but for users of open source, it's much more than that. It's about freedom. It's about not placing heavy dependencies on a single vendor. Open source and an open community gives you the assurance that the technology you are depending on is not going to be discontinued or put into "maintenance mode," it won't be acquired by someone who you would rather not do business with, and it won't be used as leverage against you to extract money or modify your behavior.
As a representative of Oracle at OSCON, I'm not surprised by Mike taking this perspective. I think we can all agree that open source databases are a threat, to some degree, to Oracle's key source of income. If I were at Oracle, I would be paying close attention to open source databases, and I would be trying to find ways to reduce the panache of open source without coming right out and saying "we hate open source and wish it would go away," which really wouldn't go over well. It's similar to how Sun behaved towards Linux a while back.
That said, MySQL, as the most popular open source database, is I believe less of a threat to Oracle than the other ones. Why? Because it does not have an open community -- it is controlled by a single vendor. This means it's an even playing field. Oracle can compete with MySQL by showing they have better features, or by offering a free version (which they have done), or even, if necessary, by acquiring MySQL or technologies it depends on (which they have done (twice)).
But this tack won't work so well with open source databases that are built in an independent open community. PostgreSQL, by being an open community, provides the additional value of freedom from the tyranny of a single vendor. And you can't "buy" the company that makes PostgreSQL, as there is no company to buy. There's nothing Oracle can do to respond to this, barring opening up their source code to an independent community (shyea, right).
So if PostgreSQL can provide competetive, "good enough" database features and performance (and things are looking good in that arena), and if you can even get support for PostgreSQL, then if I were at Oracle I would start getting a little worried, and just hope that not too many people notice that "other" open source database over there in the corner.
 Note that's what Sun did in response to Linux.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Some of you may remember that the original Reference Implementation of Java EE that Sun shipped included a copy of Cloudscape. I remember using it at a previous job and really enjoying the simple yet powerful database that came with the RI.
Then IBM bought Informix, who had bought Cloudscape. Now, we're all friends here, but let's be honest, Sun and IBM are competitors. I wasn't involved in the decision, but I suspect that Sun was uncomfortable licensing some pretty key technology like this from IBM.
So Sun found Pointbase, a tiny little company with a nice little Java database, negotiated a license, and replaced all uses of Cloudscape with Pointbase. Sun also started shipping Pointbase in their tools products.
Some years later, Sun decided to invest in Apache Derby. For those of you who aren't keeping score, Apache Derby got it's start when IBM contributed of Cloudscape to open source.
Well, having a database that you can use free of charge, open source, and which you are actually investing engineering resources in, is clearly better than one you need to license. So Sun decided to replace its uses of Pointbase with Java DB (Sun's supported distribution of Apache Derby). In other words, we put the same database back in that we had pulled out years before. Sigh...
And now, if that weren't ironic enough, IBM has acquired DataMirror, which owns Pointbase. My my, this does sound familiar :) But this time, Sun was not caught off guard, and we are not in a position of yet again licensing a key component of our software solution from IBM.
And this leads me to the moral of the story. When you depend on software from a single company, you run the risk (actually, I think a pretty high risk) of that software ending up being owned by a competitor.
If what you are licensing is a key part of your product, you may find yourself over a barrel. The competitor may discover that they have their hands on some pretty nice puppet strings, and they may choose to start yanking them. Oh, did you want that Very Important Feature? Oooh, that's going to cost you... I'm not saying that IBM would ever do such a thing, nor Sun, of course! But it sure is an uncomfortable feeling to find yourself in this position.
Even if the company you are licensing from is never acquired, the existing company may recognize that it is deeply embedded in your product portfolio, and start asking for more money. Ask anyone who is invested in and committed to Oracle or Microsoft, and you'll likely hear an earful about ever-increasing license costs.
These rules still apply in the Web 2.0 world. If you're building a mashup solution that depends on technologies solely owned and controlled by a single company (even if they swear they Do No Evil), you are putting yourself at risk. This is especially true if you're placing your data under their control.
This issue is a very real concern for governments. A lot of governments don't like the feeling of licensing or otherwise depending upon key components of their solutions from companies that are situated in (and governed by the laws of) countries they are not fully comfortable with. This is one of the key reasons why so many governments are mandating the use of open source software.
But you have to be careful what kind of open source you are using. As an example, a lot of companies rely heavily on MySQL. MySQL is open source, but you must be a MySQL employee to commit to the code base, and you have to purchase a license from MySQL if you want to redistribute it. At some point somebody could acquire MySQL (note that Oracle acquired InnoDB, a key component of MySQL), and you may find yourself in the uncomfortable position of licensing your database engine (and if that's not key technology, I don't know what is) from your competitor. Alternately, MySQL may decide to start increasing license costs more and more over time, and you'll have no choice but to grumble as you pull out your wallet.
On the other hand, Apache is an independent non-profit organization that is not up for sale. Apache projects are required to have committers from at least three independent organizations before they can exit incubation, so no one company can exercise absolute control over an Apache project. Apache projects also go through a very strict inspection during incubation to make sure there are no legal encumbrances on the code.
Similarly, PostgreSQL is managed by a non-profit organization and has committers from many different companies and independent developers.
For these reasons, if at all possible, I would much rather base my product on Apache Derby or PostgreSQL than on a product owned by a single vendor like Microsoft, Oracle, DB2, or even MySQL, even though MySQL is an open source product.
So, think carefully when licensing key software from a third party, and take a good hard look at open source/open community alternatives, even if they aren't as perfect a fit. Sometimes it is the right choice to purchase a license, but you should walk into the deal with your eyes wide open to the potential consequences.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I just read this article at Popular Mechanics about the new Toshiba Portege R500. I just recently switched to Mac, but this laptop, with its crisp, ultra-thin LED screen that uses the sun's light to brighten itself outside, 10 hours of battery life, 1.7 pound weight, and, in one model, a pure solid state 64GB disk drive to reduce power usage and improve speed, make me more than a little jealous. Innovation happens everywhere, and there is a definite downside to depending on one and only one supplier.
Some folks ask, will this replace the mouse? I don't think so. A mouse has much finer granularity than a finger. But it will definitely supplement it, and I think it will be used in very creative ways, especially for design and artistic applications.
Monday, July 23, 2007
I recently got an email on the NetBeans announce alias from Darin Reick at Sun, and it looks like Sun has made some changes to make it more palatable.
New Contributor Agreement for the NetBeans Community
An updated version of the Contributor Agreement (v1.4) has been posted on http://www.sun.com/software
- Specifically, the Contributor Agreement v. 1.4:
- Added a promise to make contributions available under open source license (last sentence of Section 2).
- Added a backup copyright license to Sun in the event the joint assignment to Sun is invalid for some reason (3rd sentence of Section 2).
- Cleaned up some language.
Note that it's the same agreement as is used for all other Sun-sponsored open source products, like Open Solaris, OpenJDK, and Glassfish. This means you only need to sign the agreement once, and you're free to contribute to all these projects. Pretty cool.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I am now formally seeking a replacement for Finder. The one that appears to be quite popular is PathFinder from CocoaTech. The reviews are strong, and I tell you, if people like it, then it must be better from Finder, which to me is just as brain-dead as it gets. How can Mac get so many things right and get this basic thing so wrong?
And please, don't ask me what specifically I don't like about it. I get so confused I can't even tell you. I just know that if I'm getting frustrated at my file browser, over and over again, then it's time to find a replacement.
So, it turns out you can record a VNC session as a Flash video  but it takes some work.
The first step is to install X11 and the X11 SDK on your Mac. This actually was harder than I thought it would be. The Mac pages say it's "on your Tiger DVD". Hm. That's kind of like saying the Indian restaurant you want to go to is "in New York City."
So, after a lot of Googling and poking and false starts, I figured out how to do it without having to reinstall Mac OSX completely (I balked when it said it wanted to reboot my machine and start the install process).
- Put DVD 1 of Mac OSX Tiger into your DVD drive
- The contents of the DVD should pop up in Finder
- Double-click on "Optional Installs.pkg"
- Skip past the Introduction, the license agreement, and select a location. Don't worry, it won't start installing
- You will see the "Installation Type" dialog
- Open the Applications node, and check X11
- Click Install
You also need the SDK. That's somewhere else entirely, but on the same DVD
- Open "Xcode tools"
- Double-click on "Packages"
- Double-click "X11SDK.pkg"
 I could not get this approach to work for me. The performance was godawful slow. What I have done instead is I got the recommended screen recording tool, Snapz Pro. This seems to be working great, although the movie size is a concern. Once I get this all working, where I can record a telephone conversation combined with a VNC session, I'll let you know how I did it.
You now have your own blog. I decided (on the advice of my dear brother) to separate these two audiences so those of you who want to hear about Java, databases, technology, and so on, don't have to sit through my gushing about my kids.
And those of you who want gushing and more gushing, don't have to troll through my dry missives about technology gossip, coding examples, and so on.
Just got a note from a friend that IBM has bought DataMirror. Given that DataMirror bought Pointbase a while back, this puts IBM in the awkward position of being invested in two small-footprint, 100% Java databases - Pointbase and Apache Derby.
Given that from what I understand there are a lot of IBM products that rely on Derby/Cloudscape, I don't think this bodes well for the future of Pointbase. I suspect it will hang on in deployments and uses where it is already in place, but I would be surprised if, for instance, IBM start replacing all its uses of Derby with Pointbase. Especially since Derby is a better product (disclaimer: I am highly biased :))
One nice thing is Pointbase owns some fairly good synchronization technology, and maybe IBM will be inspired to incorporate this into Apache Derby. That would be cool.
Trivia note: did you know that the mobile version of Pointbase, Pointbase Micro, was written by Thomas Mueller, the same guy who wrote HSQL and H2. Thomas, you get around! :)
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
He also has some stinging political commentary, straight from the left, so if he gets worked up about something he's read in the New York Times, you may be in for a treat.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
All of these are legitimate websites - go ahead, click on the URL - that didn't spend quite enough time considering how their net names might read at first glance.
- "Who Represents" finds the name of celebrity agents at the aptly named http://www.whorepresents.com/
- Experts Exchange is a knowledge base for programmers at http://www.expertsexchange.com/
- Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at http://www.penisland.net/
- Then there's the Italian Power Generator company at http://www.powergenitalia.com/
- If you're looking for IP software, follow your nose to http://www.ipanywhere.com/
- The First Methodist Church down in Cumming, Georgia, has seen a big upsurge in attendance after opening their website at http://www.cummingfirst.com/
- And finally, the designers at Speed of Art await you with bated breath at their wacky Website, http://www.speedofart.com/
Being a technologist, I often think of technological solutions before I think of an actual use case. I know from past experience with both my own ideas and others that this Doesn't Work.
My latest flash is the idea of having a community of peers be able to securely share a relational database, creating an opportunity for collaboration and dialog, without having to put the data on a central server. My motivation for this is that as soon as you put data on a central server, that central server becomes key. It puts a particular location in a situation of greater power, and that changes the entire dynamics of the model: socially, economically, politically.
I would like to see communities created where only the peers in the community are involved, and each is an equal: nobody holds a "lock" on the data and the community and is thus tempted to exercise control in various ways.
Examples of this that are out there already which seem to fit into this architecture are BitTorrent and Mercurial. But BitTorrent works with binary data, and Mercurial works with text files (for the most part). Neither of these work with structured, relational data, and the advantages a relational database provides.
There are technical challenges. If you open yourself up to accepting connections, you open yourself to all sorts of trolls, worms, ogres and various evil creatures of the Dark Internet. So I don't like doing this, and neither should you (as a standard, regular Internet user). But how do you do peer-to-peer without doing this? You need to implement some very strong security, and strong security can easily mean a big, oafish, burdensome user interface to let someone join a community, which generally is a killer.
But that's not the only problem. The other problem is: who cares? Why would we want peer-to-peer database sharing among communities? What value does it provide? What is the "killer app?" Does anyone have any ideas? I'd rather test this idea out by building an actual useful solution rather than just building it because it's a "cool idea." Cool ideas don't amount to much if nobody cares and it doesn't do anything useful.
So, if you have thoughts, tell me, or point me to what others are doing. And if you think this is not useful, tell me why. I want to know.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I went there on July 4 with Ariel, and it was just stunning. You have to sign a piece of paper when you come in saying you will never in any way sue Berkeley for what happens in this place, and it's obvious why. Children can check out a can of paint and a paintbrush, or a hammer and some nails, and go to the structures (all built with wood) and paint to their heart's delight. You can slide down a 20-foot-long rope on a wheel and smash into a pile of sand. Here's the video of Ariel doing it if you don't believe me:
You can get into a barrell and roll down a hill. Here's the video:
You can play in a huge pile of dirt. You can put an old plastic boat at the top of an incline and "surf" it down the hill.
There is old netting. There are bits of old piano lying around ready to be painted. The place is an insane heaven of chaos and play. It is like the alter-ego of the nice, brightly colored plastic playgrounds where a slide is just a slide and steps are just steps and you can not in any way hurt yourself if you tried. I don't know if you've noticed, but newer playgrounds don't have merry-go-rounds or see-saws, staples of my childhood play. Why? Because you could hurt yourself.
So some parents are willing to sign the paper, take a little risk, and let their kids have a little fun. And believe it or not, you can even drop your kids off to play there, and the volunteers will watch over them. Wow.
Here's a full slide show of the pictures I took there. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you definitely have to come over and see it for yourself.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The PostgreSQL team has just published their first official performance benchmark, SpecJAppServer, running on Solaris with Niagara hardware, and it rocks, delivering 780 JOPs!
Josh Berkus of the PostgreSQL core team shares:
This publication shows that a properly tuned PostgreSQL is not only as fast or faster than MySQL, but almost as fast as Oracle (since the hardware platforms are different, it's hard to compare directly). This is something we've been saying for the last 2 years, and now we can prove it.
Max Mortazavi provides some more background on this, and Jignesh Shah and Tom Daly give some details.
If you didn't catch this, this is a free and open source database (with an open community) that has competitive performance with Oracle, and with full enterprise-grade support available from Sun. It's free to use however you like. No restrictions, no dual licensing. That means price / performance = infinity :).
If you haven't been looking at PostgreSQL for your enterprise applications, maybe it's time. And if you think x86/Linux is the best place to run a database, maybe you should think again, and take a serious look at Solaris and Niagara.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Ariel has been asking me for a while to take her to an A's game. She even has the cutest pink A's baseball cap (see above). So I finally found a good time, and we headed off to the game on BART this Saturday.
She was so excited, and grabbed my hand and smiled as we walked into the stadium. She was stunned at the view.
The first thing she asked me was "can we buy some junk food now?"
I worked at telling her the difference between balls and strikes, foul ball versus home run, what it meant to have bases loaded and why the A's pitcher was really doing a terrible job by walking so many runners and then allowing a home run.
She was very polite and tried to listen, but generally had this vague look of Not Quite Getting It (and not really caring). Mostly she had fun watching the cute elephant mascot do antics, and really really wanted some cotton candy. I checked in with her a couple of times, telling her if she was bored we could go, but she definitely did not want to go.
It really touched my heart. She just loved doing this, and doing it with me. That was all that really counted.
We bought a baseball, and she carries it around with her in the house and won't let Michael touch it.
Later when Linda asked her about the game, what she remembered most was the guy who swung so hard he fell down on his butt, and the guy who broke his bat. That, and the cotton candy, of course.
Then Linda said "I wonder..." and took off his pants. She had put both his legs into the same hole of his diaper wrap. Whoops :)
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Speaking of iPods, on the bus today I saw that even an iPod is a multi-functional device, not just the iPhone. A teenage girl across the way from me was using the back of her iPod (while listening to music) to see her face while she did her makeup. Now is that cool or what? :)
Monday, July 02, 2007
I live in a great town, in a great state, in a great country (yes, can you believe I'm saying that?). I just finished reading a wonderful biography of Abraham Lincoln, and the dedication he and the American people had -- that they were willing to fight and give their lives to save the only country whose government was a democracy -- was quite moving and inspiring:
that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. -- Gettysburg Address.
As I read about the sacrifices made to preserve the union, I realized how valuable and precious a democracy for all people is; I am thankful for it, and I am all the more committed to preserving it.
I love California and the Bay Area because of the beautiful weather and because it is a place of innovation and creativity.
I love Berkeley because it's not a city, and it's not a suburb, but something comfortably in between. I also love it because people here generally are dedicated to a healthy lifestyle mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. You can't walk a block without bumping into a therapist, a health practitioner, a yoga studio, an organic grocery, restaurants with delicious fresh, organic food, a book store, and so on.
Sun Microsystems is a great company to work for, and one of the things I think they get right is being flexible about where you work. If I had to commute to Silicon Valley every day, I would be miserable. If it was the only way to make money, I'd do it, but I'd be miserable.
But as it is, I am able to work from home, or take a quick bike ride up to one of the many nice coffee houses up on Shattuck that have free wireless. I can drink a latte, listen to some good music, feel a bit connected rather than just sitting in my house, and get some good work done. If I need to run an errand, there is a post office, grocery store, book store, deli, and a great alternative pharmacy all nearby. I recently hurt my back and there is a yoga studio a block from my main coffee house. There is a wide choice of chiropractors and acupuncturists, and generally I can bike from one place to the other without feeling I'm in a war zone.
And because I work at home or a five minute ride from home, I get to see my wife and family, and they get to see me. I am a familiar face. I am woven into my children's life rather than someone who pops in late at night to kiss them goodnight when they're already in bed.
So, there's a lot to be grateful for. I didn't cover the half of it. But this is what is on my mind tonight.