Joey deVilla is Tucows' Technical Evangelist. He's been very busy getting this weblog up and running, which means that he's been too busy to write a clever bio. Patience, dear reader, patience!
I do most of my work on a 1.33 gig PowerBook G4, but I'm not going to say no to a company-issued computer with decent specs. Hence the other computer on my desk, a 3.0 gig P4 IBM ThinkCentre with half a gig of RAM, one of the standard issue machines here at Tucows. I use it mostly as a machine for testing sites and web applications in Windows, and occasionally, I'll do a tiny bit of Windows development on it. There aren't any important files on the machine, which made it a suitable subject for today's scary Hallowe'en experiment: installing Windows Vista RC1 (that's Release Candidate 1).
I got a copy of Windows Vista RC1 last night at a gathering held by Microsoft here in Toronto, where they invited a number of Toronto tech bloggers to see Vista in action and hear presentations on deployment and security. I took notes and will post them here later.
Earlier today, I attempted to install Windows Vista on my work machine and my notes from that experience appear in Global Nerdy, a tech blog I write with my friend George Scriban. The experience wasn't as smooth as I'd hoped.
A sizable contingent from Tucows will be making an appearance at ISPCON Fall 2006, the premier conference for internet service providers, wireless providers, VOIP providers and internet businesses. It'll take place from Tuesday, November 7th through Thursday, November 9th, 2006 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. If you're in the neighbourhood, we'd like to see you, which is why we're handing out these free guest passes!
These guest passes get you free admittance to:
- The exhibit hall, where among other things, you'll find our booth. We'll have a number of product managers here, who'll be more than happy to demonstrate our internet services.
- Keynotes, including the opening one featuring our very own CEO Elliot Noss and Doc Searls, In the Hotseat with Doc: A Fireside Chat
- Networking events
- Vendor-sponsored education sessions
The guest passes also entitle you to register for the conference at a great discount.
There's no limit to the number of guest passes we can hand out. If you'd like one (or several) -- simply click here or the image below to download a PDF of the pass [816K PDF file], print it out and bring it to ISPCON. See you there!
Let me take a moment to thank contributing blogger Tris Hussey for doing an excellent job on blogging the Blog Business Summit conference. Tris, you're doing an amazing job -- I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword!
This is a quick note to let you readers know that I've got more posts about the Ajax Experience conference, and that said notes will cover more than just the swag at the conference (cool as it was).
I'd like to thank the organizers for putting on one of the best conferences I've ever attended. I could go on about how good it was, but I thought this photo of a projection visible from the lobby of the conference hotel, the Westin Boston Waterfront, would capture my feelings about the Ajax Experience:
In this article, I continue with my look at the dot-com-bubble-esque swag and prizes being given away by the organizers and vendors at the Ajax Experience conference. If you haven't seen part 1 in this series, it's here.
Helmi, who bill themselves as "the only open source Ajax-based RIA development platform" were giving away the fanciest pens at the conference. The Helmi pens house a green LED, which gives off an eerie glow through their transparent barrels.
Also present in the exhibit hall were Google, whose booth was essentially a recruiting booth. Instead of literature about their APIs or developer-centric events like the Summer of Code, they had half a dozen different pamphlets about job opportunities for Java back-end coders, UI and rich internet application developers and researchers.
Swag-wise, these were their offerings:
- Google gum: Haven't tried it yet.
- Google pen: This one was pretty popular.
- Google key fob: Optimizes searches for your house keys.
- Google post-it notes: Handy for reminders, comes with subtle recruiting ad.
- Google notepad: With lenticular cover that shows a different image depending on your viewing angle.
I asked if they were giving away the heated toilet seats for which their offices are now famous. They would've come handy in the Boston Westin Waterfront's aggressively air-conditioned conference rooms.
Apparently, if you asked really nicely, the folks at the Google booth had some of their coveted long- and short-sleeved t-shirts to give away as well.
Back during the days of the dot-com bubble, the quality and quantity of swag available at conferences was nothing short of amazing; I'd often have to buy a cheap duffel bag in order to haul the promotional booty, which I then gave as gifts to my co-workers. Here at the Ajax Experience, I'm feeling deja vu -- while the "exhibit hall" outside the sessions is occupied by only a handful of vendors, the swag and prizes available from both them and the conference organizers is impressive.
One big surprise is AOL's table. Ever since The September That Never Ended, AOL has had a pretty bad rep among the developer set. In the meantime, other "portal" players -- Google, MSN and Yahoo! as well as portal-like entities such as Amazon and eBay -- have been boosting both traffic and developer love by becoming programmable by providing APIs, through which specialized sites and mash-ups can be built. What, you might ask, is AOL doing here?
It turns out that they're here to woo the developer community and promote their developer site, dev.aol.com and their APIs and encouraging developers to use AOL services for their mash-ups. They've been surprising a lot of developers (myself included) by opening their pitch with "Did you know that MapQuest is an AOL property?"
They realize that they're late to the party, so they've gone to some trouble to make sure that their swag is good. They've created a series of "mash-up" t-shirts, like the "Geek" one I'm showing in the photo below:
There are 6 shirts in the set. They're called "mash-up" shirts because you and your friends can wear different ones and rearrange yourselves -- that's the "mash-up" -- to form cute nerdy catchphrases. They've been very popular; people have been lining up for them here. Here's the set:
Some of these shirts may seem weird out of context: "Garden" will make people think you're into horticulture, and wearing the "unwalled" may convince people that you're either homeless or have poor impulse control.
Also on their table: USB cable extension cords, developer-friendly stickers (I found the Unix-hacker-friendly
chmod 777 aol sticker amusing), quick reference sheets and a postcard announcing a contest for the best mash-up using AOL APIs. They've also included an AOL-branded sprial-bound notebook in the knapsack given to every attendee (I'll cover the knapsack's contents in a later entry).
AOL's going to have a long, tough climb towards respectability, but they seem to be working hard at it.
Maybe I'm getting old, but trying to catch all the interesting stuff at the Ajax Experience conference feels like running a marathon. The conference is packed with sessions and other activities; days 1 and 2 each have 12 or more hours in their schedule. Here's my first report, covering the opening keynote.
After a nice breakfast -- kudos to the organizers for going above and beyond the standard "continental" and throwing in some eggs, sausages, bacon and home fries -- the conference began in earnest with a quick "welcome" keynote by the Ajaxians, Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer.
I imagine that for the organizers of a conference, doing a keynote has got to be physically trying. They usually have had very little sleep the night before, what with the last-minute preparations and things that always arise before the start of a conference. As a result, opening speeches by conference organizers are fairly lackluster -- but this one wasn't! Instead, we got a lively, funny, well-rehearsed start to the conference.
In addition to the typical bits of information about the conference, Ben and Dion gave an Ajax "state of the union address", in which they shared their thoughts about the current state of Ajax.
"Everything old is new again," they said. It's true -- the technical prerequisites for Ajax have been around since Microsoft introduced XHR (that's the popular shorthand for XMLHttpRequest, the browser technology that makes Ajax possible) into Internet Explorer in 1997. Being a browser-specific feature, it wasn't used by many developers. Even when XHR was finally implemented in Mozilla-based browsers in 2002, it wasn't one of the features that was touted inthe press release. We'll have to assign bonus cool points to Brent Ashley, who figured out that there might be some very interesting uses for XHR before the wave of applications like GMail, Google Maps and Oddpost led Jesse James Garrett to coin the buzzword after which this conference is named.
Many user interface specialists have eschewed web development in favour of building so-called "fat clients" because of the severe constraints imposed by working within the browser. These constraints had a silver lining; Ben and Dion pointed to a quote by Marissa Mayer (Google's VP of Search Products and User Experience) in BusinessWeek:
Creativity is often misunderstood. People often think of it in terms of artistic work -- unbridled, unguided effort that leads to beautiful effect. If you look deeper, however, you'll find that some of the most inspiring art forms -- haikus, sonatas, religious paintings -- are fraught with constraints. They're beautiful because creativity triumphed over the rules. Constraints shape and focus problems, and provide clear challenges to overcome as well as inspiration. Creativity, in fact, thrives best when constrained.
As for whether our current constraints will be loosened, Ben and Dion don't think that will happen any time soon. Although IE7 fixes some problems, it runs only on Windows XP and later versions of Windows; Ben and Dion said that "IE6 will always be with us". There are some interesting developments with SVG and Canvas, but these have only been implemented in Firefox and Safari. As for things like Flash or Microsoft's "Flash-killer", WPF/E, time will tell.
Stressing that the Ajax Experience is about the User Experience, Ben and Dion talked about the introduction of a design track to the conference and also encouraged people to attend the accessibility presentations.
It was a well-done opening keynote, and it set the stage for a very busy, very informative day 1 at the Ajax Experience. Well done, guys.
From Sunday afternoon until Wednesday night, I'll be reporting from The Ajax Experience in Boston, the premier gathering of developers interested in building Ajax-ified web applications.
Take a look at the conference schedule. Content-wise, it's pretty meaty (six tracks!) and seems to offer something for Ajax developers of all levels. It's also pretty intense, with Monday's and Tuesday's sessions running until 6:45 and evening panel discussions running until 9 p.m.. I don't think I've seen a schedule this hardcore since the Ruby on Rails conference back in June.
Over the next couple of days, I'll be posting my general impressions and detailed notes and photos from the sessions I attend. I'll also be incorporating my notes into an internal training session at Tucows.
I have to tip my hat to Brent Ashley, local developer and longtime friend of Tucows. He's a presenter at the conference and as such, was entitled to two freebie passes, one of which he gave to me. He'll be doing a talk on alternate transport mechanisms, which I will attend.
After the jump, I've got a table of the sessions I'm considering attending. If you've got any suggestions or recommendations, let me know what you think in the comments.
The next session of DemoCamp -- the Toronto area's show-and-tell for the software development community -- takes place this Monday, October 23rd at the MaRS Centre (101 College Street, right by Queen's Park subway station) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., followed by a social at a nearby pub. There's no admission to attend, and you're encouraged to ask questions!
The rules of DemoCamp are simple: NO POWERPOINT (or any other slideware)! We want to see working applications or prototypes in action, not marketing spiels! We're pretty open about what's demo-able at DemoCamp: desktop software, web applications, embedded software, hardware hacks, hobbyist projects, corporate applications, whatever. As long as you can demonstrate it and be interesting, it's fair game!
This is the 10th DemoCamp, and it'll feature the following presentations:
- Online Grading and Code Review, presented by Jennifer Campbell, Sana Tapal and Andrey Petrov
- BrokenTomb.com, the world's first commercial Smalltalk host
- PBJ-Web 0.1
- The effervescent Sacha Chua presents: Livin' la Vida Emacs!
If you've got something you'd like to demo, there's one slot available! You can sign up to take this slot over at the wiki page for DemoCamp 10.
Bruce Schneier has an essay in Forbes titled Casual Conversation, R.I.P., in which he talks about how ephemeral conversation is disappearing:
Fewer conversations are ephemeral, and we’re losing control over the data. We trust our ISPs, employers and cellphone companies with our privacy, but again and again they’ve proven they can’t be trusted. Identity thieves routinely gain access to these repositories of our information. Paris Hilton and other celebrities have been the victims of hackers breaking into their cellphone providers’ networks. Google reads our Gmail and inserts context-dependent ads.
If you're feeling particularly bold, you can venture over to the Internet Explorer page and download the final release version of Internet Explorer 7, which became available to the general public yesterday afternoon.
Although the Windows machine I have at work is a pretty nice one (developers are assigned machines with the same specs), it's largely relegated to Windows compatibility testing and a teensy bit of .NET development. Since I don't store any crucial files on that machine, I thought it would be the perfect guinea pig on which to test IE7. Over the next few days, I'll report my experiences, complete with screenshots.
Here's a screenshot of IE7 showing the Tucows Blog main page:
The Blog Juice Calculator is an amusing diversion for the curious or those who like to obsess over their blog ranking and pageview counts. Given the URL of a weblog, this web application calculates its "juice" (that's street slang for "credibility", "respect" or "influence" for our non-North American readers) on a scale of 0 to 10. The juice score is based on these factors:
|Bloglines||Approximate number of people on Bloglines subscribed to the given blog. Accounts for 40% of the juice score.|
|Alexa||The Alexa rank for the given blog. Accounts for 15% of the juice score.|
|Technorati||The Technorati rank for the given blog. Accounts for 30% of the juice score.|
|Inbound links||The number of links pointing to the given blog, as reported by Technorati. Accounts for 15% of the juice score.|
As points of comparison, here are the juice ratings for a few well-known blogs:
- Gizmodo: 9.8
- Boing Boing: 9.6
- Daily Kos: 9.2
- Scripting News: 8.8
- GigaOM: 8.5
- Scobleizer: 8.4
- SEOmoz: 7.4
- Gawker: 6.8
- tmz.com: 5.6
In case you were wondering, this blog has a juice rating of 2.2, which isn't bad for the first month. The Global Nerdy blog, which I share with my buddy George, has a rating of 0.2, which means that I'm not going to retire on my AdSense revenues just yet. This blog's predecessor, The Farm, has a 5.1 rating, and my personal blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century, has a 6.8 rating, thanks to its longevity (it's been around since November 2001) and some BoingBoing link love.
- Use descriptive headlines.
- Write in "inverted-pyramid" style (get to the point at the beginning, elaborate in later paragraphs)
- The first link is the one people click on, so make it the main link of your article.
- Reintroduce core ideas in longer posts.
- Use lists, images, tables and anything else that will make your artiles easier to scan.
- Use simple language if you're writing for a global audience.
- Credit your sources.
- Mark updates and changes.
- Spellcheck your posts and re-read them for clarity.
- Note that all these rules have exceptions; know when they apply!
The next month is going to be a busy one for many of us here at Tucows. In additional to the usual work stuff, some of us will be making appearances at the following conferences:
CASCON 2006 (Toronto)
I got a last-minute invitation to IBM's CASCON 2006 conference, which runs from October 16th through 19th, where I'll participate in the Social Computing: Best Practices panel. I'm thinking of catching the "Introduction to AJAX Technologies" workshop on Monday and the "Rails/DB2" workshop on Tuesday afternoon. Note that admission to this conference is free, including the food!
The Ajax Experience (Boston)
Here's a good one -- Brent Ashley, who will lead the Ajax Transport Layer Alternatives session, gave me a complimentary pass to The Ajax Experience, which runs from October 23rd through 25th. This looks to be a very meaty conference for techies and I plan to take copious notes and share them with the developers here at Tucows as well as you, the readers.
ISPCON Fall 2006 (Santa Clara)
ISPCON Fall 2006 is the premier conference for internet service providers, wireless providers, VOIP providers and internet businesses. Tucows people will be all over this one -- on the exhibit floor, doing the opening keynote and leading a couple of sessions! For the full details, check out this entry; to get a free pass to the exhibit floor and the keynote, see this entry.
Rather than use words, let me let the graph below do the talking:
This graph comes from SitePoint's report, The State Of Web Development 2006/2007 -- 53 pages of "results, analysis and commentary on the state of Web Development in 2006/2007" based on a survey of 5,000 web developers. If you can't pony up the $795 single-user fee for the report, there's a free preview of the report as well as an article on the graph shown above.
We're in the last hours of the "landrush period" for .mobi domain names, a period when .mobi domains are available to the general public for a higher-than-normal price; in exchange for paying mor eper domain, you get a better chance of getting the domains you want. Starting tomorrow, October 11th at 10:00 a.m. Eastern (7:00 a.m. Pacific / 1400 hours UTC), the .mobi Registry will drop the price of .mobi names to their standard price.
For more on /mobi, see MidwestBusiness.com's article, Thursday Begins General Ongoing Registration For .mobi Domains and ComputerWorld's article, Why you need to buy a .mobi domain name soon.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, a statutory holiday in Canada, where Tucows' head office is located.
Tucows' head office (located in Toronto) is closed today, but a handful of departments will remain open. For the benefit of our partners, here's a quick listing of their hours:
- The Operations department will still monitor our systems 24 hours a day. (We should send them some turkey.)
- Customer support, Sales and Payments will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern (6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Pacific / 1300 hours to 2100 hours UTC). Customer support will be available via pager for system-wide emergencies.
- The Compliance department will be closed.
All departments of the company will be back to their usual schedule tomorrow, Tuesday, October 10th.
Have a happy and safe Canadian Thanksgiving!
It's on my long weekend reading list: the latest essay posted on Paul Graham's site -- A Student's Guide to Startups, which at first glance looks it an examination of the considerations of whether you should start or join a startup right after graduating, or after having been "seasoned".
Graham's an engaging writer and speaker. If you've got the time, go take a look at another essay of his, The Power of the Marginal, which is derived from his talk at RailsConf 2006 in Chicago, which took place in June. Better yet, if you want to catch his presentation mojo in action, check out the video of his keynote, which was shot by the nice folks at ScribeStudio.
At Cameron Moll's site, Authentic Boredom, he's posted all sorts of media from his presentation, Essential Web Skills, which he made at the Webmaster Jam Session in Dallas, Texas. Among his slides is this gem, which explains 9 skills that separate the good designers from the great ones:
|Good designers...||Great designers...|
|"Less" is more||"Less" and "more" co-exist|
|Inspired by genre||Inspired by total environment|
|Everything at once||Selective iteration|
|Treat text as content||Treat text as UI|
|Use good typefaces||Use good typography|
|Code for one instance||Code for many instances|
We'll have some tech news a little later today, but in the meantime, we'll point you over to another blog of ours, Catmas.com. Since 2003, Ross Rader and Joey deVilla have declared the first Friday of every October as "Post a Picture of a Cat to Your Blog Day", the day in which we partake in that most stereoptypically bloggy of blog activities. This year, we've given it the pithy name "Catmas", and we've finally given it a blog. Go ahead and give it a look!
This should come handy for those of you hoping to make it big in the mobile applications department: FierceDeveloper have put together their list of the five most-anticipated smartphones (pictured to the right). They are:
They've thrown in a bonus list of the 5 silliest phones. My favourites are the Motorola Feng Shui phone (which uses sensors to calculate the amount of Qi -- "energy flow" -- in the current location) and the LG "Sobriety Phone", which has a built-in breathalyzer to stop you from "drunk dialing" certain numbers.
Platypus is Tucows' billing system for web hosting and internet access providers, offering invoicing and billing, customer management and service provisioning. Version 6 is coming out soon, and on this Tucows Blog podcast, I chat about it with Bill Ford, Tucows' Director of Billing Services, who came from the Starkville office last week to visit us up here in Toronto.
The podcast is an MP3 file 10.7 MB in size and is 17 minutes, 16 seconds in length. Click here to play it (or right-click and choose "Save as") to save it to your hard drive.
Update: We've had the interview transcibed; you can find the transcript here.
There are more details about Platypus and how to download a free 30-day evaluation copy after the jump.
- Ajax Programming with Passion!
- J2EE Programming with Passion!
- Java Intro Programming Bootcamp
- Web Services Programming with Passion!
More details after the jump.
Even if you've got a full-time graphic designer at your disposal, going with standardized icons is a good idea. They'll give your designer more time to work on the graphic requirements that are unique to your application. Furthermore, we've established certain conventions that define the "language" of graphical user interfaces over time, so in most cases, it's probably a bad idea to re-invent icons for common elements like documents, folders, users and so on.
Luckily, there are a number of good icon sets for sale, but I'm going to talk about the free ones today. The MaxPower.ca blog maintains a list of sites that offer icon sets that are both "free as in beer" and "free as in speech" (they're public domain or licensed under one of: Creative Commons, GPL or LGPL).
Picture created with the Tombstone Generator.
c|net's article, Taking Passwords to the Grave, looks at an interesting problem: what happens if your loved ones can't recover your data after you're dead because they don't have your passwords?
Their recommendation: include important login information in your estate planning documents. Of course, this means that you'll need to write those up if you don't already have them.
IBM's developerWorks has posted the first article in a series on Ajax and REST. In the article, author Bill Higgins states that as web applications become more "immersive" -- that is, more like traditional desktop applications -- there is an increased tendency to violate the web's architectural style: representational state transfer, a.k.a. REST. He walks through an explanation of what REST is, the dangers of breaking the REST architectural model and how Ajax can be used to build stateful-client/stateless-server applications that are both "immersive" and in harmony with REST.
If you've been meaning to try out IronPython -- the Python implementation that runs on .NET -- since its recent 1.0 release, the blog Learning Python has a tutorial for putting together this simple "Hello, world!" GUI app, where the button text changes to "Hello, world!" when clicked:
One school of thought states that the best way to store users' password information is not to store the passwords themselves, but rather hashes of the passwords. When the user first signs up for an account, your application creates a hash of the password and stores that in the database. When the user logs in, your applocation creates a hash of the password entered by the user when logging in and compares it to the hahs of the password stored in the database.
This approach has the advantage of maintaning user privacy; you wouldn't be able to find out what your users' passwords are without a great deal of work. The downside is that you can't email a password reminder should the user forget his or her password (instead, you email them a link leading to a page that lets them define a new password.)
Here's something I didn't know. C# for .NET 2.0 has the
?? operator, called the "Coalesce" operator. I'll explain what it does after the jump.
The .mobi Registry reports in a press release that people from more than 100 countries have registered over 100,000 .mobi domains in the first four days of the domain's general availability. They state that this demonstrates the great demand for these domains and offered this comparison:
In contrast, it took ten years for the general public to register 100,000 PC-based domain names in the early days of the Internet.
I think that's an apples-and-oranges comparison, but it's an interesting one nonetheless.