May 31, 2002

Sounds like know nothing

A word to the wise, if you want to seem like you know what you are talking about it is ASP (ay - ess - pee) not asp (like the reptile). If somebody is paying big bucks you should at least sound like you know what you are talking about. They did pronouce VB properly, but they were actually talking about VBA (we let that one pass). These were "guys in suits" so they must know what they are talking about. Do you think we should ask for a code review? Thought so.
May 30, 2002

Standard Data Vocabularies Unquestionably Harmful

Must come back to this when my mind is fresh, Standard Data Vocabularies Unquestionably Harmful over at O'Reilly Net. This seems right up the alley for an IA.
May 29, 2002

Domain follies

The move of vanderwal.net off of NetSol (Verisign) seems to have gone over with very few bumps, if any. Verisign sent a nice parting note, which stated they would love to have me back at any point in the future. We shall see over the next few days if the bumps stay away.

In the transition I picked up a couple other domain names, which I will work with in the coming months. One may possibly replace v-biz.net, which I do not have any of the valid contact information for it to tranfer that domain. I may have to say good bye to that one when it expires. One of the others is somethings I wished existed.

May 28, 2002

Competitive Usability

Competitive Usability: How usability will be the key differentiator of tomorrow's Internet. I believe usability separates the favorites from the second class in today's world. Amazon or Barnes and Noble? Who are the people we want to use the site or information application and who actually uses it?

IBM offers taxonomy building for large-scale sites

IBM is offering taxonomy and information structure for large-scale sites. The goal is ease of use so that visitor can get the informaiton they desire on their monitor/handheld/paper from their printer.

ASIS&T content management cancelled

I am much bothered by the ASIS&T content management conference being cancelled. I was looking forward to attending. The cancellation explains why I could not find the information to sign-up this past weekend.

John Mayer found on NPR

This evening on the way home NPR was interviewing John Mayer and I now have a new musician to follow. One does get to feel out of touch when one learns of an enjoyable pop musician from NPR. Oh, well, I consider myself fortunate. It also seems Mayer was the bell of the ball at SXSW 2000.
May 24, 2002

WiFi security

Seven security issues to watch with WiFi networks, a.k.a. 802.11 wireless networks. There are a handful of issues that we have to be aware of to either address or live with. I find the benefits greatly out weigh the downsides.

MS looses to Open Source on security

Microsoft's sales pitch to the Pentagon back-fires as they pitch security of Microsoft as a point to use against Open Sourse solutions. Microsoft only wins that game in their marketing material.

More move to Mac

There are more folks that are moving to Mac. Doc notes Ev and Scoble's moves to Apple and there is a list of folks moving to Apple noted at applelust. (The annotated version of the pro-Mac discussion found on this site was written by Charles W. Moore. )

I have been running this session on my Mac since Friday early afternoon. I finally trust the sleep mode in the laptop, which wakes up instantly, and the on and off the planes and capturing my thoughts throughout the weekend has been wonderful. I have been running MS Word (great on the Mac), OmniOutine, OmniGraffle, BBEdit, and Entourage for these past days and have not had to reboot. I have also opened for periods Adobe Acrobat, IE, Netscape 6.2, Mozilla, and a few other applications. I was missing nothing that could be found only on Windows.

May 20, 2002

Rough travel

Home. Travelling was rough this trip, but worth the break. I have flown on five or six times since September and this was the first one that was just horriffic. It could have been the airline, I just don't know. My trip home I did not miss a flight, which is a good thing, but there was surly flight attendants and negative leg room. I am sure it will be better on my next trip, which will be the end of June.

Short trip to NoCal

I am busy packing and loading docs and needed info on the laptop for a very quick trip to Northern California. I will see some people there and talk about things. I will not have Internet access, but my cell phone should work. I may have access Sunday night, but should be back on Monday to see my wonderful wife and get my broadband fix.

Recentralization information extension

In response to Peter's recentralization essay, part 2 and part 1, Nick Ragouzis discusses what he believes is important in recentralization. Nick points out that consistency of principles is very important and that may be more important than consistency of presentation. This is juicy and dead on.
May 14, 2002

Apple means business

Apple announces Xserve that, as Doc writes it, seems to kick the snot out of Windows servers. Faster, more stable, based on an enterprise proven OS, not a virus friendly OS, not a hack-worthy OS, and less money. You do the math.

Location Manager for OS X

The Location Manager for OS X, looks to be a very helpful app for folks like me. I like the network options that OS X offers in the System Prefs, but one that includes time zones and other helpful info would be great.
May 12, 2002

It was a good weekend. Joy and I babysat this weekend. It was a good step away from the computer and from work (for the most part). The nephews (5 years old twins) asked how I got a bald spot, I told them I sneezed really hard one day and my hair just fell out. They came home and told this to Joy. It seems I am Calvin's dad, oh poor confused children of the future.
May 10, 2002

PHP and MySQL for managing images on the Web

Managing Images With a Web Database Application with PHP and MySQL and nothing up the sleeves. The folks from O'Reilly Net offer this one, which is not in the Web Database Applications with PHP and MySQL. The book is one of my favorite information application development books at the moment for a variety of reasons: ease of coding principles, explaining application development, explaination, then using what is learned and implementing it.

Story of information

Information wants to be found. Somebody created the information to be used (including the coding of an application to extract data to form information). Information (both good and bad) has inherent value. Information that can not be found or used is wasted money and wasted time. Information requires a structure around it to increase its findability. Attempting to make information available with out a usable structure around it is a recipe for failure. Information without a usable structure surrounding it wastes the time of the person (or worse, persons) who created the information, prepared the info for dissemination, and the person/persons/application looking for that information. The waste of time and money by not having a usable information structure or not having any information structure is problematic and, in this day and age, inexcusable waste of vast money, time, and other resources.

The solution lies in working with people who understand information structure. Often these folk are called "information architects". Technology should not be the first step to solving information capturing, storing, structuring, and presentation needs. Human minds are the best first step. Human minds that have training and experience in solving these problems is the best bet. These humans are often called information architects, which:

  • Understand that most often the users of information are not the person in the cube or office next door
  • Know the users of the information often do not know the creator of the information
  • Know the users of the information may not understand the structure of the organization that created the information
  • Know the user wants to find the information
  • Know the user wants read and use the information in a format they can access
  • Know the user will want to consume the information and repurpose that information
  • Know that if the user finds what they are looking for and you are providing it the user will often be interested in finding other related or similar information
  • Know how to work with designers and technical developers to ensure the needs of your information and the user are joined together
  • Know there are many methods of finding information (search, navigation, etc.) and none of these are perfect on their own, but know how to best augment the technologies to provide the best result
  • Know that at the heart of this information transaction is the information and the user, which is where the focus belongs
  • Know how to increase findability and make the attraction between the user and the information stronger
  • Know in the long run their work saves money and time because their experience has proven what they know works

CommArts discusses 37FedEx

CommArts picks up the 37signals mock redesign of the FedEx site. Read the CommArts write-up of 37FedEx. Those of you unfamiliar with 37signals work, they are a Web/Internet development firm that focusses on simplicity of design and ease of use. Their work is clean, fast, and seemingly intuitive.

Strategic usability

Strategic usability: Partnering business, engineering and ease of use, by Scott Berkun, is the May article for UIWeb. The article focuses on incorporating ease of use into our business strategy. This step will help insure, or at least keep us on the right track. These steps are helpful when developing, building, or maintaining any information application (Web site, data mining application, knowledge management, information gathering interfaces, data visualization tools, etc).

If your information application is not useable from the perspective of the user, it will not be used. The user is right and there are steps to take to ensure the user is not only the focus along the way, but also involved in the steps. This will keep from wasting time and money on development of an information application that is not used or perceived as unusable. How many times have we started asking users about a product they have (often developed just for them, but not developed with them, the actual users) and they say they don't use it? More painful is having them say they went back to they way they always have done it, because it works.

May 7, 2002

Mac OS X update announced at WWDC 2002

Yesterday was Apple's Steve Jobs keynote at the WWDC where he held a funeral for OS 9 and announced Mac OS X Jaguar, the next Mac OS X major release (due this summer). Doc points to a MacCentral review of the Jobs WWDC 2002 keynote.
May 6, 2002

Fortyun shot dead

The news of the shooting of Dutch politician Fortyun really is bothersome. One it is in the Netherlands, the home of my ancestors. It is also an open and accepting country, which is often thought of as free from the violence that crops up in American culture. It is also 2002 and Western Europe which is democratic and a place usually associated with peace. Adam offered a broad set of links yesterday (still today in the U.S.) that covered the news. Netherlands Radio provides local shooting news. I usually consider the Netherlands the place to escape, clear my mind, and think about the good things in life.

The Economist this week surveys the Netherlands and one of its articles focuses on politics (registration may be needed) and highlights the complexities of the political landscape and Fortyun himself. This was just odd timing.

May 5, 2002

Functional and design documentation

Functional vs. design in documentation explained in one article. This article explains why these two thoughts should be in two different documents. The article also explains what should be in each of the documents. Do discuss, or I suppose folks are somewhere...

Building a development team like an NFL draft

Build a development team like a NFL draft is a very good approach. This is a common approach and has work well for me in the past. The approach mentioned is along the lines of the build your initial development team with "athletes" and then add position players and specialists. This is just the people, it takes analysis, planning, and structure to get it out the door and get it right.

Good bye Windows

Why have I bought my last Windows-based computer? My problems revolve around the years of headaches of horrible business and technical practices that Microsoft breeds. Their concern is not the customer and their well being, but their pockets. In the 10 years that I have had my own Microsoft OS-based computers (four of them) I have had four complete meltdowns resulting from MS patches or incompatible MS software (not third-party software or hardware problems). I have had software overwrite a shared resource (because MS took a sort cut in their OS and created DLLs). I have bought OS' and software that had to be repeatedly patched for security problems, not just bugs (one of these security patches overwrote an element that controlled my hard drive partition, which resulted in a cleared hard drive). I have provided numerous hours of help to friends and relatives that have had similar problems (many of them have had worse and more frequent problems because they are not computer professionals). I have paid for incremental upgrades or for an actual CD I could boot my computer from, when all MS would offer is an OEM disk that contained an image of the software installed on the system. I had paid for the operating system when I bought my computers, but if I wanted to own the OS, I had to buy the damn thing again (this seems to be Microsoft's understanding of two for one bargains, like many things they do they got it horribly wrong).

I had figured this what I had to deal with to run a monopolist's operating system that everybody else used (the courts proved MS is a monopolist and that has stood the appeal attempts and they remain criminals that are now trying to settle a punishment). My most recent encounter with Microsoft is their practices with their XP OS software. The marketing and technical materials, at the time of their release stated that the home version was all one needed to perform networking at home. The Professional was for advanced enterprise networks. Well it is not the case and MS marketing materials now reflect this statement. They state the Professional version of XP is for "advanced" home networks, which I have found to mean trying network not only another company's operating system (Mac), but its own variants (Win 98), while trying to keep a connection to a DSL router. The configuration requires a static IP. The Home version wants to reorganize your configuration, which knocks out my DSL connection and never let me share files with my Windows 98 machine, nor use its printer. The XP Home will play nicely with other XP Home machines, but that seems to be about all.

Now comes my last straw. You notice on the XP OS software page that the price difference is $100. I am willing to pay that difference to upgrade to Pro from Home. I am not willing to pay for Microsoft's bait-and-switch tactics, which are illegal in every state in the U.S., and pay the $199 upgrade price. MS will not budge. This means I will budge. I have never received an e-mail response from MS regarding how to or where to find information on upgrading from Home to Pro. Like most of MS site internal links, they are broken. I may have missed something in the many months I have spent trying to correct the error in my ways, which was believing MS marketing materials.

What makes it easy make my next purchase something other than a Windows machine. Mac OS X has made this option available to me. My laptop running OS X has been a dream. I don't know that I would call this an operating system as it has been headache free, it has not conflicted with other software, it allows quick software loads (which are also pain free), and things just work. This is unlike any operating system I have ever used. It is not perfect, but it is damn near perfect. I thought I may have problems doing my regular work on the machine, but I can do every thing I ever did on a Windows machine and without the damn headaches. I can markup HTML, write Word documents, code software, connect to and build SQL compliant databases, use and develop Web Services, use the full (with the exception of Access) Microsoft Office suite and easily share and collaborate with others using Office on any OS platform, I could even run Windows OS (with the help of Virtual PC) so to have access to any other needed software (or even run IIS to test ASP, which is not an option on XP Home), run and build Java natively, not have to continually worry about security holes and viruses, network the computer with non-XP Home computers relatively easily, not have to worry about having to rent my operating system, and not having the OS invade my privacy by strongly urging my use of an unsecure Passport.

My future is mine and not Microsoft's. I will take me where I want to go and my OS of choice will help me get there and not stand in my way. I will let the U.S. Federal Trade Commission know of the fraud. I will also continue to providing for support MS applications and environments at work, because that is my job and I get paid for those headaches.

May 4, 2002

Peter Gabriel new site

Peter Gabriel has his own distinct site up. This site is offering previews of his new albulm due out in at least four more moon cycles. Join the full moon club and get previews of the album and news. The scenescapes in the videos are rather comforting.

MS security causes sad day

Life sucks when: You have to pull an e-mail account that you manage from service. Particularly when this account is for your Dad. My Dad can be reached at Tom and I will be keeping Thomas. The TJV account is closed.

Why you ask? The account was hacked with the klez virus. He cleaned his hard drive, as he had no choice it or another virus took the hard drive out. He took another hard drive and put it in that machine and started fresh. This may have also infected his new laptop. Yes, all of these machines run Windows (the swiss cheese security system). My dad is more than computer savvy and Windows is not a consumer OS, as it is nothing more than an e-mail away from destroying everything digital you own (among many other issues, which I spend hours assisting friends and relatives with their continual problems with the MS OS). Microsoft continues to lie about its focus on security and the basic problem is the OS itself, it is not secure and it seems it will never be secure. UNIX has some issues, but has many more years of development under its belt, which is why is far more secure. UNIX variants (Apple Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, etc.) all have the advantage of years of experience and advanced developers working on the OS.

Keeping a MS box secure requires somebody with a lot of experience and they are not cheap. The MS total cost of ownership being lower than UNIX is a myth and unfounded. If you have MS open to the outside world (Internet server, DSL at home, or unfiltered (through virus scanner) e-mail, etc.) you need an MS security expert focussed on ensuring the sanctity of whatever is considered valuable on the MS boxes. This person will cost as much, if not more, than a senior UNIX systems administrator (who are, by and large, veterans in UNIX security also as it comes with the territory).

Too many folks (that are near and dear to me) have had MS servers hacked or been victims of viruses in the past couple of weeks. Granted the MS boxes hacked may not have been watched over by MS security experts, but that is what it takes.

Making choices, as far as what language to develop Internet applications, should keep in mind lock in factors. A UNIX only or a Microsoft only solution that requires the application be only run on a certain type of server has never been a great idea. This becomes even more apparent now. In my opinion this has never been a good option. Fortunately, there are many more options available that run on nearly all OS platforms. These include: Perl, PHP, Java (JSP), Python, ColdFusion, etc. Each of these languages have their own plusses and minuses, but if a certain OS platform becomes an unavailable option the applications can relatively easily be moved to another OS. This is not the case with ASP, and even less so the .Net framework (as noted before. Sure ASP can use ChiliSoft, but that is a very short term solution (as you know if you have ever had to use it, it buys you time to recode everything into a portable application language) and requires double to triple the hardware resources to run it compared to ASP on MS or any other language running natively.

All of this is just the beginning of the reasons why I most likely have bought my last Windows machine. The other reasons fall into the areas of trust and pricing. This explanation may follow soon.

Speaking up on UI

Getting the UI right is tough and our be silent on UI issues is not helpful. We spend a lot of time working hard ot better understand the issues and solutions. Meg does a great job explaining this. This is a must read for developers, clients, and managers.
May 2, 2002

Site architecture of Slate

Jesse provides yet another wonderful backward engineering of the information architecture of a site, the new addition is a Slate site analysis found published in Boxes and Arrows. Jesse uses his own visual vocabulary for the graphic.

Findability explained

Peter Morville finally puts his findability explanation in writing for all to see (in the wonderful site called Boxes and Arrows). The idea of the term and meaning of findability is growing on me. Findability is a solid lead into the problems of information structure. The explanation of how to start fixing the problems and actions needed to help eradicate the problem can reside in the method/model of attraction (an update to the MOA should be available in two or three weeks, extenuating circumstances have slowed the updates and progress).

.Net lock in

Eric (glish) Costello brings Chris Laco's comments about .Net to his own site as Chris' comments reflect Eric's comments. The main issue is lock in and severe lack of choice. No the security issue that plagues Microsoft at every turn did not show up. The speed improvement in .Net over the current ASP/VB/C development is noticed and raved about. With security a growing concern on many folks minds building applications with a system that only will run on one operating system, which has the worst security record hands down, is not a great option. There are other options available.

Removing the www

Jeff Lash writes Removing the Ws from URLs over at Web Word. Jeff has some good reasons behind not needing the "Ws", but you must really understand your user's browser use before removing the Ws. You see some browsers do not respond to "vanderwal.net", they need the "www". Microsoft IE 5 and above and Netscape 6 and above understand that a person is most often trying to find a Website if they type a link into their Web browser. Older browsers do not make this assumption and the user must type the "www" and often also type the "http://" to get to the site. This is much more confusing. The administrator for the site must also ensure their DNS tables that route URLs to the site, do not require the "www". I personally find the lack of the "www" problematic as many browsers now also can handle FTP services and become the default viewer for the file structures when FTPing. This requires typing "ftp" rather than "www" in front of the "www". (I have used my rationing of " marks so I must stop)

Finally a move to centralize organization's Websites is the norm

Peter Merholz wrote The Pendulum Returns: Unifying the Online Presence of Decentralized Organizations for Adaptive Path. Peter points out the needs for organizations to centralize their Web content and visual interface. Consistency helps the users greatly, I have been finding this for years. The "let every flower bloom" is has always been horrible means for organizations Internet and Intranet sites. This is does not provide for central branding and ruins a user's experience when dealing with a the organization. Research, for years, has shown a homogenized brand and information structure will greatly benefit the organization and the users. There are great cost efficiencies to be had as well. For now go read Peter's work.

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