•Thrusday, Dec. 15, 2005
We talk to a real sofware agent
But Ivar Jacobson calls forth respect in many programming quarters, and it is worth hearing him out. There is no question that his interest in working with Microsoft as a VIP, after many years of involvement with Rational Software and, subsequently, IBM Rational, is a bit of a feather in Microsoft's cap. There is more than one way to hear out Ivar, in fact.
He has an informational and entertaining web site on which he and his colleagues have deployed none other than "Cyber Ivar," a software agent, or avatar, to which you can pose questions. Cyber Ivar is sort of a cross between Clippy, Max von Sydow and the Wizard of Oz. One of our intrepid reporters interviewed Cyber Ivar a bit back as he wiled away some Internet time. His results are available for your review in My dinner with Cyber Ivar. Included is a link to Jacobson's site, in case you have your own questions.
Software as a service troubling Microsoft
Product releases as anticipated as SQL Server and Visual Studio 2005 grab big headlines. But, for the last couple of weeks, Microsoft has made front page headlines for different reasons, as memos from Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie about the company's future have been leaked to the Internet.
Both men agree that the era of software as a service is fast approaching. The company, as Gates penned, must act "quickly and decisively" to capitalize on the "services wave" before Microsoft's online competitors speed past them. Ozzie, meanwhile, noted that Microsoft has dropped the ball in a number of areas, among them search technology and Ajax -- which actually came out of Redmond in the late 1990s.
Ajax stands for Asynchronous Java using XML. By making better use of Web browsers and making more efficient calls to Web servers, this blend of development technologies may expand the usefulness of the Web as a light-weight consumer of Web services.
The memos make an interesting read and have been posted, in their entirety, on David Winer's blog.
•Tuesday, Oct 18, 2005
Sound-off on workflow
•Thursday, Oct 6, 2005
Framework book of note
For more, go to
•Friday, Sept 23, 2005
Amazon contest targets .NET developers, or Let's have a mashup
It seems Google with its Web services API, at least according to the Pandoras at Business Week and Forbes, was ready not only to map the world and index its content, but to flat out take over the world as well. Let Google enjoy its youthful glow. Amazon.com was the first big timer to the Web services API battle, and it is much more in the mainstream of electronic commerce – Google, as of this moment, is still just a big advertising company.
To remind people that Amazon and Microsoft are still in the Web API hunt, the companies announced the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005/Amazon Web Services Developer Contest at PDC05.
•Tuesday, Sept 13, 2005/From PDC, Los Angeles
A highlight of Gates' presentation was a humorous video pairing him with actor Jon Heder, from the film Napoleon Dynamite. In the video, Gates dreams he shares a home and job with Napoleon Dynamite, whom he meets at a high school career day. Together they solve problems with Microsoft's new software. In the video, Napoleon's boss asks, incredulously, "Do you guys know how to do this?"
"Yeah," Napoleon responds. "Bill's like 80 years old."
One great moment: Gates and Heder hoofed near the video's in the clunky Napolean Dynamite tradition.
•Tuesday, Sept 6, 2005
Marconi and Tesla
Wireless was widely envisioned and of broad interest after Heinrich Hertz proved that electric signals could travel through open air, as had been predicted by Maxwell and Faraday. The original source of the working wireless radio was an object of patent dispute for many years. Tesla's patented work initially held precedence, but it came into dispute and Marconi's assertions held sway for a long time. Marconi was far more successful in commercializing radio than was Tesla, and his powerful financial colleagues were better able to field legal teams that won for Tesla important court decisions. Yet, in 1943, the year Tesla died, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Tesla the true inventor of the radio.
Tesla is best known in the U.S. for his Tesla coil, patented in 1891, which combined capacitors and coils to create alternating current motors. This approach, expanded and backed by Tesla's then-employer, Westinghouse, came finally to surpass Edison's DC approaches. But Tesla's following work on high-frequency and high-voltage phenomena was just as pioneering as his work on power electrics. Working mostly as a lone inventor, he envisioned extensive follow-on use of the Tesla coil as a means to power high-voltage radio transmission.
In 1896 he filed a basic radio patent. He demonstrated the radio elements at a world's fair. Marconi was aware of Tesla's patent, and improved his initial design with circuits similar to Tesla's. Unlike Marconi, who principally focused on the commercialization of radio, Tesla envisioned very broad use of high-frequency electrics, most of which he was unable to commercialize.
[This piece is largely derived from a reading of "Tesla: Master of Lightning" by Margaret Cheney and Robert Uth, Barnes & Noble Books, 1999. See also http://www.pbs.org/tesla/index.html]
Some Windows Developer Blogs
| •Sunday, Aug 21, 2005
Wireless, RSS, Ajax, Acrylic and PDC
Big technology breakthroughs like .NET don't come every day. But small breakthroughs come at a regular clip, and keep things interesting as the bigger breakthroughs percolate. SearchVB.com has been glad to be able to cover some of these doings of late.
RSS – let's say it stands for 'RDF Site Summary' – seems like one of those smaller steps forward, although RSS could yet turn into a stampede, and change the way the Web is navigated. As writer Mike Gunderloy pointed out earlier this summer in Microsoft joins the RSS party, RSS and information syndication are not all that new. A few of us remember Pointcast, which fed information over the Web to subscribers using proprietary "push" protocols. What is new these days is use of XML standards, which can be applied far and wide. There is no question that Windows developers are being asked to incorporate RSS into applications, and that they want to play with the software ahead of Microsoft's adoption of RSS in next year's Windows Vista client operating system. SearchVB.com Assistant Editor Brian Eastwood last week posted an RSS Learning Guide to our site, so that implementers can get going with RSS.
Wireless technology goes back as far as Marconi. Again, it is nothing new, but integrating e-mail and data entry with wireless devices is gaining momentum, if the Blackberry key pokers we see on the street and the white-smocked Windows CE users we see in hospitals are any measure. Of course, we come to wireless integration development today after a few false steps. One of the big mistakes a few '90s apps made was to insist on total synchronicity between device and home station - something hard to achieve in the real world of dropped signals and underpowered handhelds. If you need to get up-to-speed fast on wireless integration technology, we invite you to visit our newly minted Mobile and Wireless Development Learning Guide, which was created by Brent Sheets, long familiar to SearchVB.com faithful.
Have you heard about Acrylic? It is a new Microsoft software preview that allows user interface designs to be exported to XAML (extensible application markup language) used by the Windows Presentation Foundation. This is a technology in the early stages of development that could bring "software through pictures" back into the mainstream. Read about it in Microsoft Acrylic graphics tool churns out XAML.
Acrylic and AJAX and much more will be on display at PDC. But much at PDC should be viewed as technology previews, not as ready-for-prime-time tools, says our columnist Mike Gunderloy in VB 9.0 and beyond: Tea leaves from PDC agenda. Such advice is welcome, because it is important not to get carried away with the technology, as cool as it is, but, instead, to keep an eye on what is deliverable when.
With that in mind I close out this letter with a note that the long-troubled Denver airport automated bag handling system is going into mothballs. The system has long stood as a warning as to what can go wrong when implementing technology, although the reasons the system failed will long be argued. Such arguments are worth perusing. At the least, they remind us to damper down the hubris and keep and eye on risk when we implement cutting-edge technology.