Sunday, March 13, 2005

Hi again! I finally decided to revive my blog. :) If you'd like to have the latest net & tech updates, please visit my new blog here.

Friday, October 04, 2002

INFO: A good information site for consultants

Saturday, September 14, 2002

INFO: BSquare's Power Handheld
BSquare is in the business of providing technology--including reference designs--to other vendors, and the company is currently in negotiations with cellular carriers and others who might actually bring what it calls the "Power Handheld" to market.
More Info

Monday, September 09, 2002

INFO: WinMorph - FREE software for Morphing & Warping your images and creating Animations
- Warp & distort images.
- Create simple animations like a car moving along a road, or zooming into a picture.
- Create complex morphing movies in which one image morphs to another image.
- Combine many separate morphing sequences into a single movie, with special effects like moving morphs, or transparent morphs.
- Create cool videos by combining many WinMorph projects, individual bitmaps and existing videos. Apply special effects like transparency and motion tracks to each of these elements.
- Input formats: BMP, JPEG, AVI
- Output formats: BMP, JPEG, AVI, MPEG
Download | About

Thursday, July 25, 2002

INFO: License Fees vs. Linux Hype: and the Winner is...
by Gary Lawrence Murphy

Don't Believe the FUD ... or the Hype. While Microsoft spreads fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over free software, the advocates often oversell community software on pure enthusiasm; there are truths on both sides. You can't blame the geeks who laboured years without recognition, budgets or marketing: By their ideas alone, whole governments are now choosing their work over wares honed by the world's richest vendors! Between the FUD and the hype, there are community alternatives for most business needs, but there are also rough edges.

Capability is not Usefulness
Evaluating community alternatives can easily get mired in hype. Voicemail is a one example: apologists offer "mgetty" for voicemail and fax, and mgetty is a very good voicemail/fax/modem driver, but it is only a driver. We are left to evaluate the control programs by fetching, installing and testing each one, only to discover even a partial solution requires a delicate interleave of all of them. Hours of fun for the after-work tinkerer, tedious and expensive when you're paying by the hour.

Opensource on the Desktop
Unlike server administrators who will face completely alien consoles migrating from NT, an MsOffice and MSIE user will easily slip into StarOffice and Mozilla; the dominant Linux desktops are very similar to Windows. It's pretty easy.

StarOffice provides an office suite which also emulates MsAccess, but there are pits. StarOffice does not really operate on Office files, it /imports/ them. Conversions can occasionally lose format information; editing and saving MsOffice files actually saves new files filtered through two nearly-perfect conversions. Also, while you can create /equivalent/ complex documents, you cannot trade macros or embedded features with MsOffice users. This is not unique to StarOffice, and it's no worse than Corel Office.

The Browser Wars: Episode II
The new Mozilla does truly rock. Mozilla provides your browser and email, and even proprietary plug-ins like Quicktime and Director will play if you purchase the CodeWeaver adapter. That's the good news.

The bad news verges on conspiracy. Because the protocols are proprietary, Mozilla email cannot use your Exchange server; you need the Bynari client for that. Mozilla javascript is also not completely compatible with MSIE; many web pages reject non-Microsoft browsers and while these hooks may be side-effects of site construction tools, many webmasters are unwilling to fix them. If you use a web browser, be prepared for rejections.

The Fuzzy Fringes of the Desktop
Most Linux distributions already include Mozilla and the free StarOffice from Most business users will probably download newer revisions of Mozilla, and the $75 StarOffice bundle from Sun will include more format converters, fonts, printer drivers and other essential bits. That covers your mainstream use.

Our Linux desktops mostly fail on multimedia and device support. You can still write articles while listening to Mahler, but that's about as far as it goes. MP3s mysteriously stop, MIDI requires tweaking and although esound can mix sound sources, popular programs like RealPlayer do not use it. There is limited support for many PDAs and MP3 players, digital cameras and webcams, printers, scanners and DVD, and many web object formats require the proprietary CodeWeaver adaptor. The list goes on.

Many problems are fixable and advocates will offer lists of alternate software, but this is only useful if you have the time, patience and inclination. Linux distributors too often include unfinished software to fill out the package, and are too keen to feature-list hot keyword capabilities. Even when advertised on the box and installed by default, the bundled software is not necessarily "best of breed" ... or even functional.

There is no "Linux"
Some problems arise because there is no real "Linux" O/S in the same sense as "Windows" or "OS/X": Each kit is a compendium of independent projects culled from the Internet, bound only by the Linux kernel and the Free Software Foundation libraries.

This diversity is attractive, but leads to conflicts. The same happens in Windows too, but since Microsoft starts with a minimal configuration created in-house, and since most of us install little or no third-party software, we rarely encounter conflicts. In Linux, almost all software is "third-party".

Despite this, Linux works, surprisingly well, all things considered. Quality assurance teams, mostly customers volunteers, work hard to resolve rogue conflicts, but its an ever-shifting landscape. When we stay within basic applications, these conflicts are not a problem --- discouraging employee distractions may even be a feature! --- but if you use external devices, sound or video, be prepared for some tweaking.

Security by Transparency ... and by Ennui
Linux is virus-free, but there is nothing intrinsically virus-resistant about Unix. While even Microsoft admits sourcecode transparency exposes security problems, virus writers do not attack for two reasons: a Unix virus requires more technical skill, and Unix and its vendors make boring targets because damage is limited.

Changing the Support Paradigm
Whether you switch or just replace servers and office tools, you will need support and here's where you will find the most culture shock: We do not /buy/ free software support, we _participate_ in it.

Participation is essential. You can, of course, /buy/ traditional support contracts, and IBM, Caldera, MandrakeSoft and RedHat and even our own make a lucrative business selling support, but delegating this away to a consultant trashes your investment because you make no strategic friends, and you lose control.

Welcome to Community Software
Community software needs your participation. This is how it works. We're too accustomed to letting faceless experts craft our tools, then sit back and complain how it was not made the way we wanted, or the manual is obtuse, or the behaviour is not quite right. With community software, the blame can only go on ourselves.

Everyone can contribute. All software needs training, documenting, tests and samples, and these are tasks any user can do. Your time is not wasted because you are directly shaping the tools you depend upon every day. Proprietary products only let us influence by "voting with our feet"; in community software, we are all voting shareholders.

The Crossroads
While community effects may be abstract, Microsoft's licensing puts tangible cash value on staying put versus walking over to the community software camp. Two influential papers on these cost comparisons are the US Army MITRE report and the Cybersource report. Both show us how community software can provide equivalent service for less cost. You have to love that sort of cost/benefit result.

Cost comparisons are good, but they are still only for the mainstream case. Evaluating community software for specialized needs can be tedious and wrought with misinformation, broken pieces, parallel universes, near-fits and wishful thinking. I'm sure someone will someday deliver a complete community desktop alternative, and Lindows and MandrakeLinux are promising upstarts, but for practical purposes, Apple's OS/X may have temporarily derailed Linux for the home and office desktop by providing many of the benefits while retaining compatibility with the old Mac.

A community and proprietary mix with Linux servers and Windows or OS/X desktops using StarOffice and Mozilla is the prudent compromise. This misses some community benefits on the desktop and adds costs for multi-platform support, but this hybrid can be rolled out incrementally with the fewest heart-aches. As for the pure-Linux office, to paraphrase Tim O'Leary, "I can't endorse the use of free software, but I can say that it worked for me."


Author, consultant, husband, father and sometime folksinger, Gary Lawrence Murphy is president and principle consultant for Teledynamics Communications Inc ( a community software and Internet professional services nanocorp based in the Lake Huron shoreline forests of Sauble Beach Ontario.

Friday, July 19, 2002

INFO: See where emerging technologies stand in 2002

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

INFO: Freelance Hiring-Tactics for Success
by Charlene Rashkow

Assume you were faced with the task of hiring a new group of talented individuals to handle a huge account you just landed. Are you up for the task? When you consider the process of linking a business with talented professionals it can be quite daunting, leaving a business owner or manager with a major challenge. Searching for just the right individuals means putting forth a lot of time and energy that could very well be used more efficiently in other directions. Additionally, the interviewing process can be long and tedious and may not bring the anticipated match. A new wave in hiring has begun taking hold and the focus is on using freelancers.

In the past you would generally commission a freelancer specifically for writing activities or more artistic endeavors but in today's marketplace it's becoming more common to find companies using freelancers in every capacity. The host of industry specialists range from web designers and graphic people all the way to human resource specialists, managers, trainers, financial experts and any other skilled professional. The advantages to an employer or owner of a company are many and can alleviate concerns that may not have been taken into account.

While some employers still think that the old way of hiring permanent employees is superior, there are many forward thinking businesspeople who are discovering the innumerable benefits of working with freelance professionals. Companies and individuals are always seeking ways to keep costs down and productivity up and when choosing the freelance route, you are assured that great pains are taken towards completing a project on time, within budget and with great skill. Because a freelancer is eager to develop his own business, he or she will work more diligently than staff employees. Working with a freelancer means you don't have to worry about training, insurance or supplies. You merely pay for the work delivered and when the project is complete, the freelancer simply goes away.