Archive for Jun 2008

                          Panniers for Laptops

                          For the last three weeks I've been riding my bike to work when occasion permits. Unfortunately, that usually only works out to a few times per week. I live in Lindon and work at Thanksgiving Point, about 17 miles one way. One of the first things I discovered was that I needed a good way to carry my laptop. I have a backpack and a messenger bag. I immediately dispensed with the backpack since it's up high and made me too hot. The messenger bag keeps the weight low, but after 17 miles, it's a boat anchor around you
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                          Shopper Experience and Competitive Advantage

                          When I was at Internet Retailer in Chicago a few weeks ago, I heard at least three speakers give as story that, abstracted, went something like this: We started off building our own ecommerce platform, then we switched to a vendor supported product. After we almost went broke, we went back to building our own ecommerce platform. Your reaction to that might be like mine was: "why would a retailer want to spend money building their own platform?" After all, shouldn't they concentrate on their core competence--retailing--and leave software development to the experts? Here's what it comes down to:
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                          Utah.LEG Anyone?

                          When I proposed (PDF) that the State of Utah move from the state.ut.us domain they'd been using to the more easily branded utah.gov, Al Mansel, the President of the Utah Senate asked me why he couldn't have utah.leg since "gov" meant governor (don't ask). Now, he can. Opening up TLDs and allowing other than ASCII characters is, as they say, a huge step. I hope it's not one into the abyss.
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                          Velocity 08: Puppet In-Depth and Hands-On

                          The final talk of the day (hope I make my flight) was by Luke Kanies of Reductive Labs on Puppet. Most automation tools are based on SSH and as a result, they suck. The problem is that the intersection of administrator and developers is very small. Luke wanted Puppet to be so good it was like bringing a gun to a knife fight. The goal: manage lots of machines with very little effort. Luke makes an analogy about the transition from assembly to C and moving from commands and files to "resources." Resources are abstract and portable. Abstraction is
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                          Velocity 08: Even Faster Web Sites

                          Steve Souders of Google is speaking on Even Faster Web Sites. I've read Steve's book and loved it. It's the kind of book you read in the morning, use to make changes to your site in the afternoon and at the end of the day, you've made a huge difference. Usually, a small percentage of the time (10%) a browser spends putting a page in front of the user is spent downloading the HTML document. Making the Web server faster might save compute time or storage, but it doesn't do much for the user's perceived response time. 80-90% of
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                          Velocity 08: Storage at Scale

                          Google's reliability strategy is to buy cheap hardware with no reliability features and create reliable clusters from them because no problem Google wants to solve fits on a single machine anyway. The Google File System (GFS) is a cluster file system with a familiar interface, but not POSIX compliant. Bigtable is a distributed database system. This has a custom interface, not SQL. There are 100's of instances of each of these cells scaling in to 1000's of servers and petabytes of data. in the GFS, a master manages metadata. Data is broken into chunks (64Mb) and multiple copies (typically
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                          CTO Breakfast on Friday

                          The CTO Breakfast be this friday from 8:00 until about 10:00. We'll be at the Novell cafeteria (Building G). I'm spending the first part of this week at Velocity so I'm sure I'll want to talk a little about that. If you've seen something fun or cool in the last month, come and talk about it. Here are the times for future meetings. Put them on your calendar now! July 18 (Friday) No breakfast in August Sept 26 (Friday) Oct 30 (Thursday) Or, just subscribe to the Google Calendar.
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                          Velocity 08: Some Tools for Improving Web Performance

                          HTTPWatch is an HTTP traffic viewer for Internet Explorer. There's a free basic edition, but the professional edition is almost $300! Whew! Firebug for Firefox, of course, remains free. Fiddler is a Web debugging proxy that runs on a local port on your PC. It registers itself as a system proxy so it should work with most browsers (Firefox needs special configuration apparently). You can also point a browser on another machine at the proxy running on your PC. Wonder if you could do this in Fusion? It would probably work fine. You can also use it to monitor
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                          EUCALYPTUS - Elastic Utility Computing Architecture for Linking Your Programs To Useful Systems

                          Rich Wolski from University of California, Santa Barbara is speaking about an open source implementation of cloud computing that has an interface compatible with Amazon's EC2 called Eucalyptus. Rich does research on grid computing. He's been looking for the "open source" cloud. He mentions Numbus (Univ. of Chicago) and Enomalism. But nothing came close to what they wanted: Linux image hosting ala Amazon. By choosing to make their interface compatible with EC2, they take advantage of all the client side tools that work with EC2 to manage machines in Eucalyptus. They want one-button install of their system on top
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                          Velocity 08: High Performance AJAX Applications

                          Julien Lecomte from Yahoo! is speaking about creating performant AJAX applications. The most important point: plan for performance from day 1. Interestingly many of his initial points are about telling the developer to work with the product manager and not just say "no." Julien references an Web Site Optimization: 13 Simple Steps by Stoyan Stefanov. Here's some tips: Less is more. Don't do unnecessary things. Break rules. Make compromises and break best practices when needed. For example, you might decide to forgo CSS. Especially CSS expressions. Work on improving perceived performance. Cheat by making users think things are done
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                          Velocity 08: Actionable Logs

                          Mandi Walls from AOL is talking about creating actionable logs. Actionable logs are logs that provide data that can be used to fix problems. There are a few rules to start with: No nonsense logging Concise, easy to understand Express symptoms of productions issues Any that makes the log needs to be somethings that can be fixed (better signal to noise ratio) Everytime you write to a log file, you're expending resources. The point of logging in production is diagnosing issues. You need to be able to understand the logs at 4am in the morning. The primary goal is
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                          Velocity 08: Energy Efficient Operations

                          Luiz Barroso from Google is speaking about Energy Efficient Operations. Computing has a great track record of having a positive impact on society. The world needs more computing. But more computing means more energy (usually). World energy use of servers is around 1% of total electricity consumption. Making efficient computers is harder than making efficient refrigerators. Efficiency is computing speed divided by power usage. But that's too simple. For a server, you have to take into account the efficiency of the compute efficiency, server efficiency, and data center efficiency. These get multiplied together. Ugh. Data centers are underutilized which
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                          Velocity 08: Jiffy: Instrumenting and Measuring Web Performance

                          Scott Ruthfield from WhitePages.com is announcing a new open-source projects called Jiffy, a tool for measuring the end-to-end performance of Web sites (PDF slides). Jiffy provides real data about performance that is more complete and more fine grained than what you might get from Keynote or Gomez. Jiffy has four goals: Real data at scale - track 100% of page views Measure anything - pre load data access, each add, brand, when the form is ready, and so on Real-time reporting No impact on page performance Jiffy comprises a JavaScript library that instruments the pages, an Apache proxy, a
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                          Velocity Keynote: IT Operations are Unsustainable

                          Bill Coleman (the "B" in BEA) is giving the opening keynote titled Green Data Centers, but it's really about sustainable operations. He begins by saying that the current way we operate data centers is unsustainable. Operations costs are growing at twice the rate of IT in general. This is the unintended consequence of the success of networked operations. Scale and complexity have grown dramatically. Bill claims 5 orders of magnitude. In some organizations it can take 6 months to get a new server into the data center. If you do it faster than that, good for you. Virtualization is
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                          Government Data: the Good and the Bad

                          While I'm at Velocity, Personal Democracy Forum is happening on the other side of the US. David Stephenson was kind enough to send me a slide share of the talk he'll be giving there on government data feeds and visualization. I couldn't help comparing his vision with the reality that Jason Snell writes about in Alameda County: court documents as individually scanned TIFF documents served up in some crappy Java applet. Heh. Some places have a long way to go.
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                          Dinner at Velocity?

                          I'm at the Velocity Conference in Burlingame, CA today and tomorrow. I was planning on dinner at Kincaids tonight. If you're interested in coming, drop me a note or direct me on Twitter and I'll include you in the reservation.
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                          At Velocity Next Week: Automating Infrastructure

                          I'm going to be at O'Reilly Velocity conference next Monday and Tuesday. Scott Lemon and I talked with Jesse Robbins (conference chair) and Adam Jacob (presenter) for a Technometria podcast a few weeks ago and got a lot out of it. I decided the conference was something I needed to be at.
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                          Tracking Time? Try Chronosx

                          A good friend of mine, Nathan Sandland, has written a time tracking applications for the Mac called ChronosX. He says: I came up with the idea for the project when I switched from being a PC user to a Mac user last year. The one application on the PC I couldn't find a good replacement for on the Mac was my time tracking app. There are many such apps out there for OS X, but none of them was as convenient to use as the one I had on the PC. This new app solves that problem, and also
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                          Follow the Elections on '08 Conversations

                          Doug Kaye has turned the resources of the Conversations Network on the 2008 election with '08 Conversations. The idea is to team with the Public Radio Exchange to publish stories about the election you might not otherwise here. Joel Tscherne, who has been a great help to me as th Series Producer for the Technometria podcast, the Executive Producer for '08 Conversations. Right now the shows are coming out about once per week. As the election approaches that rate will increase. Here's a few shows that have been on 08Conversations recently: McCain's Train Wreck Jules Witcover - The Longest
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                          Building Personas

                          The floor(click to enlarge) I attended a few sessions on personas. I didn't get it all, but I did have some thoughts that I tried to record. Here are some questions to ask: Who is the shopper? Examples include First time buyer Repeat customer with specific frequency Loyalty program member What task is the shopper trying to accomplish? Examples include Replenish - buy a product they've bought before Accessorize - buy products related to what they've bought before Research - find information on specific product Browse - just killing time Leave - didn't intend to get here) You should
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                          Web 2.0 and Ecommerce: David Friedman

                          David Friedman of Avenue A | Razorfish is talking about Web 2.0 technogies and ecommerce. The title was "Web 2.0: A reality check" and I was kind of expecting a cautionary tale, but it was more a tale that went something like "if you're not doing this, then you're dead." The Web has always been a great place for surgical shopping. When you know what you want, you can go get it and the experience is largely good. Web 2.0 technologies give us the opportunity to put more of the fun of a traditional shopping experience into the Web.
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                          Social Networking and Retail

                          Some ideas from the social networking and retail panel: Engage communities that share our passions, partner with leaders in the this space Use caution or mistrust will erode the audience Switching barriers are low Enable fans to act as advocates Social network will become a primary channel for targeted marketing.
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                          New Levels of Competitiveness in E-retailing: Robert Antall

                          Robert Antall, CEO, Lake West Group is speaking on the new level of competitiveness in e-retailing. His slides are busy, but he's saying quite a few good things. I'm just writing down some ideas. Today's innovation is tomorrow expectation Customer loyalty isn't about getting people to buy more stuff from you, it's about turning them into advocates. He uses Hertz as an example. They use customer information to understand what customers want, not send lame emails. The emerging competitor is "globally integrated:" multi-channel, international, vertically integrated, agnostic supply chain, integrated technology, and multi-brand. He cites Costco, Staples, Gucci, AutoZone,
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                          Internet Retailer Conference 2008: Keynote by Mike Boylson

                          I'm at the Internet Retailer this week at the McCormick Center in Chicago. I haven't been to an industry conference like this since 2000. The opening by Jack Love was, frankly, a throw away. Nothing like a Phil Becker welcome at Digital Identity World. Jack spent his 15 minutes telling us why his conference was so important ("this show is full of content") and saying things about ecommerce that anyone who's been paying attention since 1997 probably know ("ecommerce works as well for small merchants as large merchants"). Instead, he should have introduced a theme and set out the
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                          Starting a High Tech Business: Speed Pitching

                          I’m starting a new business called Kynetx. As I go through some of the things I do, I’m planning to blog them. The whole series will be here. This is the fourteenth installment. You may find my efforts instructive. Or you may know a better way—if so, please let me know! Most days lately, I've been getting dressed up and talking to people about Kynetx. I'd rather be in jeans writing code, but when you're raising money you're going to dress up more and code less. Raising money is a distraction from running a business and so should be
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                          Happy Birthday IT Conversations!

                          IT Conversations is five years old today! Doug started ITC before the word "podcasting" was even a word. Doug mentions these milestones on his blog: published 1,743 audio programs (89 currently in production) trained 152 members of TeamITC who produce our programs created four channels based on the IT Conversations model created PodCorps.org (now 640+ stringers) released The Levelator (more than 83,500 downloads) I was one of Doug's first interviews and now I'm the Executive Producer. It's been a fun ride and I've enjoyed my association with Doug and the other members of TeamITC very much.
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                          Welcoming Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood to IT Conversations!

                          Joel Spolsky, of Joel on Software and Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror have been doing a podcast called StackOverflow for a couple of months. I've been a regular listener for since the first episode and have loved it. Since the first episode, I thought "this would be a great show for IT Conversations." Today I'm very happy to announce that my wish has come true and the debut episode of StackOverflow on IT Conversation went live today! Take a listen and be sure to let us know what you think with a comment or by leaving a rating. One
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                          My Blog is Six Years Old

                          Last week, my blog passed it's six year anniversary. My inaugural post (besides what amounted to a "hello world" test post) was on asset management. I didn't post again until the 10th of June. Like many bloggers I got off to a slow start. But June 2002 was a good month with a number of posts that indicate what was on my mind then. People often ask me how to get their traffic up on their blog. Unfortunately, my experience was atypical. I started early and was one of the first CIOs to blog (I was the CIO for
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                          Top Ten IT Conversations Shows for May 2008

                          Here are the top ten IT Conversations shows for May 2008: Michio Kaku - Physics of the Impossible (Rating: 3.89)Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and author of "Physics of the Impossible" about the improbable, and the very likely in the near future: phasers, force fields and time travel. Arthur Benjamin - Secrets of Mental Math (Rating: 3.62)Mathematician, magician and lightening fast human calculator Arthur Benjamin delights and amazes the Etech crowd with some stunning numerical acrobatics. In an interactive, high energy performance, he demonstrates and explains the secrets of rapid mental calculation, providing a fascinating
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