QueTwo's Blog

thouoghts on telecommunications, programming, education and technology

Monthly Archives: May 2008

Speaking at the ColdFusion Meetup group on Thursday

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I am going to be speaking at the ColdFusion Online Meetup Group on
Thursday, June 5 at noon EDT.  I will be presenting my ‘5-Minute CRUD’ presentation, which is an hour-long presentation about how to quickly create CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete from a Database) based Flex applications using ColdFusion, LiveCycle and of course, Flex.  The meeting is free, and during your lunch hour, so you should stop by!  This meeting will be recorded with any luck for those who don’t like to interact.

** Editor’s Note: I normally do this talk in two hours, so I will be pruning some of the examples I normally give, but the most important ones will stay.  I eventually will be recording the 2 hour version one of these days.

"0-Day" Flash Exploit Update

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Flash Player LogoIt turns out that the “0-Day Exploit” that was touted by the media about the Adobe Flash Player really wasn’t.  The latest Flash Player (9,0,124,0) was NOT effected by this exploit.  This was related to a previous security bulletin that was announced before 124 was released, and was therefore fixed. 

Please update your Flash Player to the latest version to avoid the nastiness that may occur with this exploit. Don’t install “FlashBlock” or any of those program; you will miss some of the best content on the net.

More of the same from Microsoft…

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As I perused the morning blog feeds, I had the feeling that I lost all hope in Microsoft.  I used to like them, I really did.  Back in the 90’s they truly were an inventive, innovative, leader in the industry. Products like Windows 95 brought computing to the average consumer, and finally made computing fun and easy to use.  Sure Apple was around with MacOS, but at the time they were really spinning their wheels with an expensive product that really didn’t have the power that Microsoft and their software partners offered.

Innovations kept rolling off the shelves, such as Microsoft Office 95, Microsoft Bob (hey, I didn’t say there were all good), Encarta, etc.  Microsoft really seemed to know what they were doing, and really made products that people wanted and needed. Sure some of the products weren’t the first of their kind, but they were all leaders in the industry for good reasons.  Even Microsoft’s landing into the ISP world was greeted as something different (although they were late to the game, and never really got the market share that they needed).

Then something happened.  I can’t put a date on it; I think it started happening over time.  Microsoft just started becoming less innovative, less exciting, and more of a ‘me too’ company.  A lot of their products starting to arrive on the scene after the turn of the century had less and less of the innovative, fresh smell to them, and more of the ‘You will like this because it’s a Microsoft product’. 

Active Directory was the first ‘feature’ that I noticed this mentality with. Microsoft saw the inroads that Novell was making with their NDS (now eDirectory) system, and they wanted it too.  They threw together a half-baked system and served it up. The first AD systems out there were buggy, slow, hard to use, and most important of all, hard to manage.  But, if you were a Microsoft shop, you had to use it, because, well, it was Microsoft.

Product after product, it seemed like MS was caring less about their customers, and more about customer lock-in. Microsoft CRM, which required BizTalk, which required MS-SQL, which only ran on Microsoft Server. Oh, and you had to buy them all from a Microsoft Certified Implantation Company.  Most of these mediocre products, but again, if you were a Microsoft shop, you HAD to run them. By this time, the world had changed to the ‘You can’t get fired for buying Microsoft’.

Now we are in 2008. Analysts, and others that don’t drink the Kool-aid are starting to see the overall problem.  Microsoft is trying to blaze their way into fields that are already charted, but unknown to them. Microsoft OCS (Office Communication System), if a funny one… Microsoft decided that they wanted to create their own voicemail / PBX system that runs on top of Exchange.  They don’t have the know-how, or experience in the field, so they are making the same mistakes that Cisco, Avaya, Nortel and Siemens made 10 years ago.  They don’t care, because the industry loves them.  They are trying to re-invent the wheel with Silverlight and replace an already stable and popular product.  They feel that now they have people addicted and invested in their products that they can simply make so-so products and people will love them.

And now, I have to bring up the news story that made me write this post. Windows Vista, a consumer operating system (because business still won’t touch it after a year and a half) is a horrible mess.  I hear more stories (including my own) of people switching FROM Vista than people switching TO Vista.  People are installing XP or getting Macs in droves.  They are REFUSING to get locked into this product any further. 

Simple things like asking the user if they want to really perform this action over and over again.  Things like forcing the user to index their hard-drive to do simple searches.  Things like making the computer harder to use by making it ‘too easy’.  This was not a product that was innovative, as Microsoft would like you to think; it is a product that looked at the landscape, and tried to be just a hair better. 

Today came the first official previews of "Windows 7", which will be the successor to Windows Vista. Earlier press releases mentioned lots of innovation that will be going into this product to make it better than Vista.  We heard nothing for almost half a year.  So, what is innovative?

  • Windows 7 will not be using the new MinWin kernel Microsoft touted as the replacement of the Vista kernel.  Whoopsie
  • WinFS is no more.  The revolutionary file-system that was going to change computing will never see the light of day.
  • Windows 7 is already delayed. All were were told we had to wait was until 2009. Current timelines put it at late 2010. 
  • We will see Windows support Multi-Touch.  This is about as good as Microsoft Windows running my HTPC. This is such a minor feature, I personally wouldn’t even put it on the box.

That’s it.  Mind you this is still 2 years out, so more may be included, but you think Microsoft would have grander plans than this. 

But, you can’t be fired for running Microsoft.  Well, not yet at least.

Flash Player 10

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Just a quick note:  Adobe Flash Player 10 beta has been posted to Adobe Labs.  This beta of the next-generation of web media includes some great features such as native 3D support, and a brand-new text engine. Download is free.

Ben Stucki at the Michigan Flex User’s Group

I’m very excited to announce that Ben Stucki will be presenting at the May meeting (May 8th) of the Michigan Flex User’s Group.  Ben will be speaking on Graphics and Visualizations in Flex (and will likely talk about OpenFlux and Papervision3D).

Room 155 Communication Arts and Sciences Building, on the Campus of Michigan State University.  Bring a friend!  If you can’t make it into East Lansing, you can join our session via Breeze. Email nick@theflexgroup.org by 5pm if you are interested.

Innovation in Education

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This post is inspired by the MSU IT Conference Keynote by
Gerry McCartney.

The education sector in this day and age has really fallen behind
in its traditional role of innovation in the IT field.  Lets take a look at some history first:

Back in the 60’s and 70’s there were two camps as far as IT :  IBM/Bell and the Universities/Government.  Sure, there was some other small groups out there, such as Xerox, but for the most part ‘new’ things really came from those two places.  The big businesses were focused on deploying their technologies to other big businesses and selling their mainframes, etc Universities were focused on research, and actually creating these technologies. 

The most popular programming languages, C, C++, COBOL, PASCAL, PERL, etc. were all developed in the education sector. The TCP/IP stack, Email, HTTP browsing, etc were also a direct result of the education world. These are all things that essentially shaped where we have gone in the past 20 years.  A few more examples are in the hardware that we use — sure today’s PCs are based on IBM’s, Apple’s, et all’s designs, but a lot of the research from computing projects such as the
Atanasoff–Berry Computer (ABC), MIT TX-0, and the MISTIC resulted in advances such as vector processing, clustered memory access, and RAID.

Sure, the big boys of the time had their innovations too, but the universities were for the most part. apart of the leading edge.

So, where is the innovation today?  Gerry asked this question to the group and it really struck a chord with me.  Why didn’t universities pioneer the Search Engine?  The DVD-RW?  The latest wireless standard? 

Universities are most focused on the things that make them the most money — cures for cancer (yes, this is important), research on how to improve the process of making ethanol into fuel more efficiently, and better ways to finger print a person by their DNA. Bio-medicial stuff. If I were to ask which universities were doing research on, lets say, a new email protocol that wasn’t susceptible to spam, nobody would be raising their hands.

Why are the colleges of the USA forced to purchase anti-spam, anti-virus, email servers, directory servers, web servers, desktops, file servers, network gear, etc. from one of the largest companies in the world?  Why are better versions of what we can buy today not developed (or at least experimented with) in house?  Sure Linux is out there, but it has become a commercial enterprise.. There is very little left of Linux that was developed without the help of Novell, Corel, Red Hat or IBM (yes, this is a gross overstatement, but the point is to be made). 

Universities are currently teaching old, tried-and-true technologies to their students.  Students are learning Microsoft Office 2003, on Windows XP.  They are being taught Microsoft C#, and Sun Java.  Companies are paying for computer labs to give the students skills to do the basic knowledge to to jobs in the workforce.  Sure, that’s great.  But where is the innovation.  Why is it that students no longer come to their first job and say "When I was at xyz-U, I helped with research on a solid-state memory chip that could read and write in less than 1ns!"  Today they come to their first job and say "I know how to write a Visual Basic application that can say ‘Hello World’ on the screen." 

As our society transitions to a mode where remedial labor is cheap and intelligence is what sets us apart from the other countries that we sub outsource our work to, the colleges and universities need to grab the bull by the horn and find out what made us the place to be in the days of yore.  What possessed us to hand-build a super-computer in our labs?  What caused us to have our students work on an operating system that was unique just to us?  Why have these things gone on the way-side and left the void to be filled by the major corporations?

MSU IT Conference, etc.

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Well, the MSU IT conference is long and gone, so I’d figure I would write some sort of review of it.

All in all, it was a very well run and organized conference.  A conference consisting only of the people that you work with seems weird to people who work in small to medium sized companies, but when there are over 1,000 IT staff in a place that has 10,000+ workers (and 50,000+ people all together), you tend to build silos, and not communicate between them.  This conference was designed from the ground up to break these silos.  Things like assigned seating during meals with people you typically don’t know really helps with this.

Breakfast and the keynote speaker were great. 
Gerry McCartney, the Purdue CIO had an excellent speech about innovation within the education scope.  It made a couple things click in my mind, and really raised some questions within our own community.  I got to talk to him a bit after the keynote, and got to talk about the same innovation topic a bit. 

The sessions were good as usual. I got to sit in on Jeff Utter and Jeff Goke-Smith’s presentation on network security.  Both really know their stuff, so they made it difficult for me to give them a hard time.  Their presentation really should have been about two hours, but they did really well with the time they had.

After a brief lunch I had my session on VoIP technologies.  I had a packed room, with people standing by the door, and only two chairs left in the entire place. I talked about our department, what VoIP was, what were the pros and cons of using VoIP on your data network, and of course the demos. 

I had some great questions from the group, so the time I had for demos got greatly compressed, but that’s ok.  I showed :

  • EC-500
  • Unified Messaging
  • Avaya 4610 VPNremote Phone
  • Avaya  9640 IP Phone (with Calendaring and synced Contacts)
  • Avaya IP Softphone
  • Avaya 3645 WiFi Portable IP Telephone (with paging)
  • MSUtv (IPTV).

It was great to finally show some of these projects we have been working on.  I ran over by about 10 minutes, but just about everybody stuck around!

The final presentation I went to was proper techniques for deploying web applications.  It centered around PHP, and lots of OSS stuff, so it was neat to see another point of view.  A lot of the problems they were trying to solve were never really problems with ColdFusion, and the ones that were I’ve been implementing for quite a while already (by using SVN and things like that).

Finally, the conference wrapped up with a Q&A session with the guy who runs a majority of the IT on campus.  Lots of good questions, and really helped people figure out where our campus is going in the future.

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