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Archive for March, 2010

Bing sucks

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Microsoft’s new search engine Bing sucks big time compared to Google, one would have thought that with all the fanfare they’d have put out something decent, but now. Search results in most cases, even when you’re searching on MS’s own site are plain irrelevant if your search phrase contains more than one word.

It’s a bit disappointing, after all when MS announced bing for a time it seemed like google’s de-fact monopoly in the online search market could be coming to an end, but now, with such glaring disparity in quality it looks like google is here to stay at least in the foreseeable future. In fact it’s facing tougher competition from local companies in Russia and China than from Microsoft, whose attempts at creating a rival search engine have so far been rather pathetic.

Categories: IT

why best technologies don’t always win

March 23, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s a well known fact that very often in the real world inferior technologies win over their better competitors when it comes to widespread acceptance. These days there are probably few people who can still remember perhaps the first major format war of modern times, the showdown between Betamax and VHS. I wasn’t there but many of those who were claim that Beta was the better technology.
Some people may also point to the on-going Windows versus Apple rivalry, it has to be said however that there were times when Windows offered the better technology of the two.
Anyways, what I’m thinking about here is programming languages. It’s kind of ironic that in this realm it too often is the case that better technologies either never rise to the top or totally fail or are left to rot in obscurity for decades. Supposedly software design is a field dominated by professionals and yet those professionals keep choosing the mediocre but hyped-up over the superior but less known. In essence it’s a variation on the famous example of choosing between two restaurants one of which is full of people and the other is empty. With no prior knowledge about the food they offer, you’re more likely to opt for the one where there’s already lots of people. And thus even though revered Bjarne Straustrup once said he had never intended for C++ to become a poor man’s Smalltalk that was exactly what C++ eventually turned into. Originally intended as a systems programming language taking advantage of the new object oriented paradigm it eventually ended up being used to program financial applications and what not until Java came along.
With Java Sun managed to create so much hype and so much buzz around their new language that people started adopting it like crazy even though its early versions were extremely slow and provided only a fraction of the features that were standard in other languages at the time and it was almost as verbose as COBOL. Even the mighty IBM got so scared of the Java steam roller in the mid 1990’s that they abandoned Smalltalk, which they’d at one time practically made their flagship technology in the Visual Age line of products, and made haste to jump onto the new Java bandwagon. Well, truth be told IBM wasn’t exactly mighty at the time it happened and still I personally believe had they been more aggressive in promoting Visual Age, Smalltalk might have had a very good chance to flush Java down the drain, since in the mid 1990’s it was much better and much more robust technology, which was far better at delivery cross-platform scalable applications than Java. In fact the only weakness Visual Age had compared to Java was its hefty price tag at a time when Java was being offered for free to anyone who cared to download it. Well, there went Smalltalk, it’s still alive and kicking in the form of Squeak and Cincom Smalltalk but their market share is laughable next to that of Java and even C++. It’s kind of ironic that some of the features and approaches that are only now making their way into the main stream curly braces world have been available in Smalltalk, let alone Lisp, for decades.
Ok, now the question why better technologies are often left in the dust by their less capable counterparts. Having recently read a book about social networks, I’m led to conclude that it’s not the quality of a particular technology that determines its success or failure, but rather where and when it originates in our social network and its initial adoption rate. It’s not even about marketing, I supposed that MS will have poured plenty of cash into supporting ASP and IIS but the vast majority of the Internet still runs on Apache and PHP. Sure being offered for free is hard to beat when it comes to how many people will be willing to adopt a new technology. But ruby is also free and so is python and yet neither have been nearly as successful as php. There are other forces at work here obviously. Speaking of free, Squeak and Pharo are both free as is Seaside and yet Seaside is currently showing no signs of becoming the next de facto Internet standard on a par with LAMP. And more often than not our control over these other forces is quite limited. Now we can only pity the people who try something new and fall in love with some cool technology like Smalltalk or Lisp, only to find that there’s not real demand for it. Check out the story of Object Arts to see what I’m talking about. They tried really hard to push Smalltalk into the mainstream with all the enthusiasm and expertise they had for over ten years until finally giving up a few years ago.

wine and the dominance of windows

March 11, 2010 1 comment

After Apple moved to the intel platform it wasn’t long before they rolled out Boot Camp, so mac heads could run Windows on Macs, and then there’s wine, while it may not be an emulator per se, its purposes, to enable linux to run windows applications, speaks volumes about the current situation in the operating systems market. Windows still rules supreme, MS can even afford to have a flop or two. The first version of Vista, prior to being patched by service packs, was essentially a disaster, it was slow, it ate up resources, it irritated the users with endless warnings about each action they were about to take and yet, back then the majority of users frustrated with Vista weren’t switching to Mac OS or Linux, in spite of Apple’s aggressive I’m a mac I’m a pc TV ad campaign, no they were ‘downgrading’ to the good ole Windows XP. And now that Windows 7 is out and it’s a fairly decent OS, those folk who resented Vista are upgrading directly to Windows 7 so MS is still going from strength to strength.
And the existence of frameworks like wine is just another confirmation of the obvious dominance of Windows on our computers. Most decent Linux distros come with hosts of applications that can be downloaded and installed totally free of charge from online repositories and yet there’s still plenty of people out there who essentially want to re-create Windows in Linux. Well, I guess when it comes to winning over the market the trick is in getting as many people as possible to use your product and then inertia will kick in and people will be reluctant to ever try something different. Chances are that these days when the average user hears about Linux, the question they will ask, either out loud or subconsciously is how much is it like Windows and will I be able to run the same apps in it and that’s where wine comes in, yeah you can run the same apps but it still ain’t windows so the comparisons will never be in favor of Linux. There’s no doubt that not other OS can be as good at running Windows apps as Windows is. After all they’re called Windows apps for a reason.
So is wine really such a great thing? Doesn’t it, at the end of the day, sort of defeat the purpose? What’s the point to switching to Linux if all you ever plan to use it for is running the same ole Windows apps you’re so used to you can’t let go of. Plus aren’t the majority of Windows apps sold for money?
With that said, it has to be noted however, that in some situations wine does make a lot of sense. For example in Russia, the most popular accounting system is, for historical reasons, Windows only (they’re working on Linux based solutions now but it’s taking them time), and in recent years the authorities have begun clamping down on illegal software so businesses are being made to ‘legalise’ their software by purchasing licenses, if you have a couple hundred computers and several servers, the cost of going legal can run into millions of roubles, and the worst bit is that you can’t just go and rewrite your whole ERM system from scratch in just a month or so. Then going with Wine on Linux can make a lot of sense and save a million or two. but it’s still a niche market.

Categories: IT Tags: , , ,

Why catholic priests abuse teenagers

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

If you ask me grandfather Freud answered this question a long time ago in his article on child sexuality. In a nutshell Freud’s point was that if a person can’t have normal sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex for whatever reason, their sexual drive will inevitable drive them to look for alternatives, which include but are not limited to intercourse with people of the same sex, masturbation and what not, the imagination is the limit. Again being the revolutionary that he was Freud boldly stated that sex is not just when a man sticks his penis into a woman’s vagina, sex is any activity where you derive sensual pleasure from your body.
Now consider catholic priests, the RC still has the celibacy rule for its priests, in other words catholic priests are not allowed to marry. Imho this rule is totally arcane and unreasonable, and it’s little wonder, that having no natural release for their libido, poor catholic priests end up pouncing on kids. Shame, really, there’s lots of other areas, like science, in which the RC has been able to adapt quite nicely, why they have to carry on torturing their clergy is beyond me.

Printer Hell

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Old HP printers (notably HP Laser Jet 1320) go comatose under MS redirect drivers when they’re sent print jobs from the RDS client running on the computer they’re connected to.  It has to be said that the idea itself, to make it so that local printers become automatically available in an RDS session, is quite noble and MS should be given some kudos for it, it’s just that the actual implementation sort of leaves a lot to be desired, especially when it comes to older printers, office workhorses like HP Laser Jet 1320.  The redirect driver MS provides works with it, technically but print jobs take forever to executive and what’s really interesting is that the amount of time a print job takes depends on the kind of document you’re trying to print out. It looks like it doesn’t like big tables, these can take up to 15 seconds to print it’s ok if you only have to print one occasionally, but if you’ve got about 50 documents with tables to print every day, that can be a problem, especially if each one takes 15 seconds to print even though you sent them all to the printer as one print job.

Well, my earnest hope is that there’s already as solution to this problem out there and that I simply hasn’t been able to find it yet. It goes without saying that as soon as I do, I will post info about it here. Hopefully it will be soon.

Categories: IT

online ERM

These days broadband internet is something that more and more people are taking for granted. The first wave of computerization in companies was about embracing LAN technologies, from peer to peer to client server, well initially it was mainframes and terminals. Now it looks like the next big thing in enterprise resource management is going to be about placing this function in the proverbial ‘cloud’. You no longer need to have a LAN at the office, just broadband internet connectivity on all the computers and/or devices your employees use; and these don’t have to be traditional desktops or laptops, since the whole thing’s in the cloud and you’re accessing it via a web browser, a lowly net book will suffice or even a smart phone.
This approach offers a number of advantages, apart from doing away with the necessity of having a LAN, potentially it also does away with the necessity of having an office. After all if it’s all on line and in the cloud, you just have to make sure your employees have broadband access to the internet, then you just give them the login and password to access your online ERM system and they’re good to go, they can issue invoices, work with customers and what not.
Another advantage of this technology which may be especially appreciated in some countries is that you can store all your information off-shore, i.e. you may be doing business in, say Russia, but physically all your sensitive data will be stored on a server in Germany, which means that the local authorities won’t be able to access them without a ruling by a German court. So they can go and seize all your computers all they want, there will be nothing on them. Pretty neat, isn’t it.
Anyway, some conservative minded people may sill be wary of the technology, after all it means that you’re pretty much at the mercy of your service provider and if its servers shut down your business shuts down and you can’t just chew out the ass of your sysadmin until they get your system up and running again, you’re reduced to having to call your provider’s tech support line and they’ll either put you on hold or transfer your call to some extra-polite help desk professional in India who will simply inform you that everything is being done to bring the system back online and you don’t need to worry.

Categories: IT Tags: ,

EasyPrint

EasyPrint is a new feature of Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2008. The idea is that if your users need to run applications on the server via RDS, you no longer have to install their printers on the server, the RDS client on the user’s machine will see the printers installed and will automatically redirect all print jobs from the application being run remotely on the server to a printer installed on the user’s machine. Note, it doesn’t have to be a local printer, it can be a network printer, it just has to be installed on the user’s machine.
There is one caveat though, reading the official MS docs about this feature may lead you to the conclusion that all you need on the client machine for EasyPrint to work is a Win XP SP2 and an RDS client version 6.1. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in reality the minimum requirements for the client machine are a Win XP SP3, .NET 3.5 and an RDS client version 7. Otherwise your remote app won’t see any of the locally installed printers.
Well, on the whole EasyPrint is a nice feature since you not longer have to install any printers on your server even when your users have to run applications on it via RDS. However, installing SP3 on all Win XP machines can be a major pain in the ass as it takes forever to install. Supposedly easy print should work with no extra software on Windows Vista and Windows 7, if it doesn’t then you should probably install .Net 3.5 and RDS client 7.
The reason I decided to write up this info here is that when I was trying to get EasyPrint to work on my LAN I wasn’t able to find much info on how to go about doing it apart from the official MS documentation, which, as was stated earlier, errs on the optimistic side and it can be kind of frustrating when you follow all the steps suggested in the official manual with zero effect. But take heart the thing really does work, it just takes some extra bells and whistles on your client machines and print jobs sent to network servers take a bit of time, there’s little difference on local printers.