Monday, March 31, 2008

Sun Microsystems Acquires Parallels For $205M???

Just saw the story over at Virtualization.com.

I hope for the sake of the Parallels folks that this is an April Fool’s joke.

Parallels would be able to build a company valued much higher than the reported price. And, we all know what the Sun stock has been doing: Pretty much flat over the last 5 years.

A heck of a deal for Sun, however, if it’s true.

Tags: Sun, Sun Microsystems, Parallels, SUNW, M&A, Acquisition, Merger, Brian Berliner,brianberliner

New LinkedIn Feeds Work For Me

I must admit that I’m finding some clear networking value in the newly releasedLinkedIn RSS feeds.

You can get Public feeds from LinkedIn Answers (which I don’t care about), or a Personal feed of your Network Updates (which I very much care about). Here’s the announcement.

From the Home page while logged in to LinkedIn, click on the subscribe link next to the Network Updates.

Then, read it with your favorite news/feed reader. Mine’s Google Reader.

Makes it easy to snoop keep up with the connections happening in your network of friends & associates.

Enjoy!

Tags: LinkedIn, RSS, Feeds, Google Reader, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

Scalr - Open Source Framework For Scalable EC2 Deployments

I’ve written quite a few stories about Amazon Web Services, including their EC2 and S3 offerings. They are heading in the right direction toward utility computing in the cloud. I’m definitely a fan.

My most recent article highlighted how Amazon now allows you to use Static IP addresses with your hosted services - a clear step toward true, secure hosting in the cloud.

Of course, it’s still the wild west out there, and you do have to roll your own EC2 management and deployment services. Amazon gives you API’s to do this, but it’s still work and testing.

Enter Scalr:

Scalr is a fully redundant, self-curing and self-scaling hosting environment utilizing Amazon’s EC2.

It allows you to create server farms through a web-based interface using prebuilt AMI’s for load balancers (pound or nginx), app servers (apache, others), databases (mysql master-slave, others), and a generic AMI to build on top of.

Very cool. The project is very young yet, but they are going in the right direction (building easily scalable application tiers).

This project appears to be supported by Intridea.

Tags: Open Source, Scalr, Amazon, EC2, S3, Utility Computing, Scalability, Intridea, GPL, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Golf Quote Of The Day

My wife and I went out for a 10-mile hike today near beautiful Pacifica Beach (stopped at Rockaway Beach). We joined up with the I.N.C.H. (Intrepid Northern California Hikers) group. They do some seriously hard hikes here in the Bay Area. This one was rated a Level 2 hike (out of 5).

The hike was a loop of pieces of Sweeney Ridge Trail, Baquiano Trail, and Mori Ridge Trail

Anyway, while on Mori Ridge Trail, I made a comment about the Sharp Park Golf Course, which you can see from the trail (we had some beautiful views today - a bit too much wind for my liking, but the views were great). A delightful woman we were hiking with, who shall remain nameless, said:

I don’t think I’ll ever golf.
It’s like playing fetch with yourself.

I Loved It!

However, the way I play, it’s often more like an Easter Egg Hunt while I search for my ball in the rough.

Tags: Golf, INCH, I.N.C.H., Hiking, Golfing, Hike, Pacifica, Trail, Sweeney, Baquiano, Mori,Quotation, Quote, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sony Vaio UX Running Mac OS X At The Hockey Game!

So, I’m at the Sharks hockey game last night, and I notice a guy a couple rows in front of me using a Sony Vaio UX Micro PC. Hey, it’s the Bay Area. People bring high-tech gadgets to hockey games. That’s just how we roll out here.

No big deal, right?

Well, I look a bit closer, and the device appears to be running Mac OS X! WTF?

Furthermore, the Dock appears to be a Leopard Dock, not a Tiger Dock, so I think the device is running Mac OS X 10.5, even…

Geeks.

Sheesh.

Of course, then I get a pang of jealousy.

After all, it is a 1.2 pound device running Leopard…

Geeks (including me).

Sheesh.

Poking around on Google, I find an old article about getting Mac OS X (which they call Mac OSuX for this device) on the Sony Vaio UX. Lots of scary stuff in there. Just get a Macbook Air. The picture above is from jkOnTheRun (i.e., is not a picture of the guy a couple rows in front of me).

So, you know what this means?

It means that you can develop iPhone applications on your mobile phone!

Only in the Bay Area…

Tags: Sony, Vaio, Sony Vaio UX, Micro PC, Apple, Mac OS X, Leopard, Tiger, Mac OS, iPhone SDK, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

All Joe Thornton, All The Time


Photo courtesy of David M*

My wife and I love the San Jose Sharks. We share season tickets with a set of family and friends. The Sharks fans really know how to support their team and make every game a fun event.

We attended last night’s game against the Dallas Stars. And won in overtime. I’ve gotta say. The overtime victories, where you come from behind to tie it and force the overtime, then go on to win it decisively in overtime, are the best!

The San Jose Mercury News covers it well. The first period was a sleeper, with the Sharks looking like they were on Spring Break, but the final two periods (and the ever-so-brief overtime) was hockey bliss.

My favorite player, the one on my Sharks jersey, is Joe Thornton. The man is an assist machine. Last night, he:


  • Took a great pass from Grier to score the tying goal that kicked it into overtime

  • Saved us from Dallas getting an easy winning goal (by mere inches)

  • Set up a perfect pass to Marleau for the overtime win


Thornton is worth every penny.

This was a key victory.

Go Sharks!

Tags: Sharks, San Jose, San Jose Sharks, Hockey, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Shark Tank,Brian Berliner, brianberliner

Thursday, March 27, 2008

iPhone SDK: Now With Interface Builder Goodness

That was much faster than I had anticipated.

I wrote about the Apple iPhone SDK and how I thought it was going to revolutionize the mobile application market.

At that time, Apple released the first Beta of the iPhone SDK, which was very functional, but did not include a working Interface Builder application. That meant that you would have to roll your own User Interface elements using Cocoa Touch. No big deal for now, but it sure would be much nicer to have IB available.

And, now it is.

Kudos to Apple for moving quickly to get this out.

I am extremely impressed by Apple’s execution of their iPhone strategy and developer program. There will be a shitload of high-quality and reasonably priced applications for this device.

Thanks to Ars Technica for catching the announcement for me.

Tags: Apple, iPhone, iPhone SDK, SDK, Software Development Kit, Mobile, Platform,Programming, Interface Builder, IB, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

Taking A Wii

OK.

We broke down.

We got a Wii.

I’m not a big gamer. I do own a PSP, but I rarely play. I don’t own any other consoles, though my daughter did have a Playstation 2 for a while, and I spent way too many hours playing Grand Theft Auto. Oh, and I used to playDoom when it first came out on the PC. Mostly deathmatch with my co-workers at Sun Microsystems. Sun had a great (internal) multiplayer Doom system back in the mid-1990’s - it even ran on Solaris! I even had short bouts with Quake and Descent. Yeah, I’m old.

OK, so maybe I’m a bit of a gamer.

I am Male, after all.

But, I never really liked the current game controllers. The controller interface to the games is way too complicated and unnatural. Yeah, we’re back to that "old" thing…

So, my evil strategy for getting a Wii was to wait for my wife to decide that we really needed it. And, a couple of weeks back, the Sunday Best Buy ad said that each store had 15 in stock, so we pounced and got it!

And, the results are in.

The Wii is incredibly accessible to kids of all ages.

I went to Oregon to visit with my folks. They are in their 70’s. We had a blast playing golf and bowling, with an occasional tennis match thrown in. But nobody wanted to box against me. Tons of good laughs. Well worth the price.

And, since the Wii is such a small package, it was very easy to tote along with us. It’s my new, favorite, mobile gaming platform!

Recommended.

Tags: Nintendo, Wii, Nintendo Wii, Mobile, Gaming, Wii Sports, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

Universal Parallel Computing Research Center

 

My good friend and advisor, Dave Patterson, has been selected to lead the Universal Parallel Computing Research Center at UC Berkeley.

Patterson has been an advisor for three of the startup companies that I have founded. He’s a great guy and has a brilliant mind. He has a knack for doing research with immensely practical applications. He gets ahead of problems in Computer Science, and addresses them with the end result in mind. I just can’t say enough nice things about him. Brilliant.

The UPCRC is a joint venture between UC Berkeley and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, funded by Intel and Microsoft. These two universities will spend the next 5 years trying to figure out how we build computing systems that can fully utilize the coming wave of multicore and manycore systems.

This is absolutely critical stuff.

Take a look at some of the coverage:

This is a very interesting project to me, and I will be writing more about it later. Why? Well:

  • I know David Patterson well, and have always admired his work
  • I am a graduate of the UIUC Computer Science department
  • Much of my career has been spent on HPC and supercomputer systems
  • Multicore and manycore systems are coming. You can’t stop it or deny it. There’s a solid reason why Intel and Microsoft are sponsoring this research.
  • I’ve been thinking about this topic of late.

You will absolutely hear more from me about this.

Tags: UPCRC, David Patterson, University of Illinois, UIUC, UC Berkeley, Intel, Microsoft, HPC,Parallel, Multicore, Manycore, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

BeInSync Synchronizes With Phoenix Technologies

image In the last couple of weeks, I've talked about the file synchronization market. Products and companies like FolderShare, Dropbox, Syncplicity, and Sharpcast.

In a timely moment, BeInSync has been acquired by Phoenix Technologies for $25M. TechCrunch covers it well.

BeInSync looks to be most similar to Sharpcast's SugarSync product in terms of functionality. Sharpcast has support for Mobile devices, while BeInSync does not. BeInSync may only work on Windows (no Mac) in fact. BeInSync charges $39.95 for 50GB of storage per year, while SugarSync charges $199.99 for 60GB of storage per year. BeInSync certainly has the more attractive price!

I must admit that I don't fully get why Phoenix Technologies was interested, except that Woody Hobbs, current President/CEO and previous President/CEO of IntelliSync, clearly knows what he's looking for.

And, the $25M price tag can't be sitting well with the Sharpcast folks, since they've already taken down $16.5M in VC money. Sharpcast would need a significantly higher exit for an acquisition to make financial sense.

Amazon EC2 Gets It Right

I’ve written a couple of articles about the Amazon EC2 service. It’s the Elastic Compute Cloud that lets you build very scalable (and, reliable) web sites "in the cloud", using Web Services created and operated by Amazon.

It’s amazingly good.

And, just got significantly better.

Amazon just announced two significant improvements to the service:

Elastic IP Addresses:
Elastic IP Addresses are static IP addresses designed for dynamic cloud computing, and now make it easy to host web sites, web services and other online applications in Amazon EC2. Elastic IP addresses are associated with your AWS account, not with your instances, and can be programmatically mapped to any of your instances. This allows you to easily recover from instance and other failures while presenting your users with a static IP address.

Availability Zones:
Availability Zones give you the ability to easily and inexpensively operate a highly available internet application. Each Amazon EC2 Availability Zone is a distinct location that is engineered to be insulated from failures in other Availability Zones. Previously, only very large companies had the scale to be able to distribute an application across multiple locations, but now it is as easy as changing a parameter in an API call. You can choose to run your application across multiple Availability Zones to be prepared for unexpected events such as power failures or network connectivity issues, or you can place instances in the same Availability Zone to take advantage of free data transfer and the lowest latency communication.

These two capabilities answer the primary complaints that I have heard about the EC2 service, and I suspect will allow for significant customer adoption in the next 18 months. Static IP Addresses, combined with serving up the proper certificates, should allow for fully secure computing under Amazon EC2.

The guys at RightScale have described Setting up a fault-tolerant site using Amazon’s Availability Zones.

Amazon also announced User Selectable Kernels:
Amazon EC2 now allows developers to use kernels other than the default Amazon EC2 kernels with their instances.

Including:

This release makes the following new AMIs and AKIs (Kernel IDs) available:
AMI: Fedora Core 6 - 32 bit - a stock FC6 release with matching kernel and RAM disk
AMI: Fedora 8 - 32 bit - a stock F8 release with matching kernel and RAM disk
AMI: Fedora 8 - 64 bit - a stock F8 release with matching kernel and RAM disk
AKI: 2.6.18 Kernel - 32 bit - a stock 2.6.18 kernel (can be used with 32 bit AMIs)
AKI: 2.6.18 Kernel - 64 bit - a stock 2.6.18 kernel (can be used with 64 bit AMIs)

Tags: Amazon, EC2, Cloud Computing, Web Services, Static IP, Failover, Redundancy, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sharpcast Puts $16.5M To Good Use: Releases SugarSync

Sharpcast, founded in 2004 and funded in 2006, has just announced the launch of their SugarSync product (formerly known as Project Hummingbird).

Similar to the products I talked about last week in the article, "FolderShare, Dropbox, Syncplicity, Oh My…", SugarSync is a tool that keeps your files synchronized across multiple computers (PC & Mac today, maybe Linux as well someday), including mobile devices.

One of the things that sets Sharpcast apart from the others is the support for many mobile platforms. They support Brew, J2ME, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian (coming soon). I don’t really think that the mobile aspect of this is where the market is right now, but I could be wrong. And, Sharpcast certainly has enough VC money to address the perceived needs of the mobile users. In any case, Sharpcast certainly has a big enough market with just the Universal Sync service.

Sharpcast charges $9.99/month or $99.99/year for their basic plan, which includes 30GB of storage in the cloud. I have 40GB of music, 30GB of photos, and 50GB of documents, so for me to use the service for just that (not counting my 450GB of camcorder video), I would need the Business Plan, which runs $499.99 yearly and covers 250GB of storage in the cloud.

Yikes! That’s pricey.

For data protection, I think I’ll just buy another Time Machine drive.

A Note About Sharpcast Photos:

Sharpcast has had a product in the market for a couple years now known as Sharpcast Photos. Focused on synchronizing just your photos between your computers and mobile devices. A subset of what SugarSync provides, to be sure. However, it does not appear that Sharpcast Photos has gained many subscribers. The site https://www.sharpcastphotos.com/ doesn’t even register traffic on Quantcast or Compete.com. Does anyone have any paid subscriber data for Sharpcast Photos?

When Sharpcast Photos was first released, my feeling was that they had priced themselves out of the market. The cost is $5.99/month or $64.99/year, which is a bit steep for just photo protection - especially since the sharing part was limited to their photo sharing service. Perhaps the limited subscriber base backs that up. Anyone?

Tags: Sharpcast, Photos, Sharpcast Photos, SugarSync, Dropbox, FolderShare, Syncplicity,Synchronization, Sync, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

VirtualBox Corrupts My VMware VMDK Files!

I hate it when I’m stupid.virtualbox-logo-1

I started blogging again, and wrote about how I am now using Windows Live Writer as my blog editor. Problem is, that I use Mac computers exclusively, so I needed to run WLW under VMware Fusion (inside a Windows Virtual Machine).

That works pretty well, for the most part, but VMware Fusion does not do copy/paste of images between the virtual machines (yet). And, since I like to include an image with every post, it’s kind of a pain to save the image to a file under Mac OS X only to turn right around and load the image into Windows Live Writer. For me, the writing process is enhanced when friction is removed from the process.

So, I thought, naively, that perhaps the free VirtualBox tool might have this capability. Download the product and install it on my Mac OS X Leopard Server and give it a go. The VirtualBox site says that you can use your existing VMware VMDK (Hard disk image) files with VirtualBox. There is evena video showing you that it works great. The VirtualBox User manual says:

Starting with version 1.4, VirtualBox also supports the popular and open VMDK container format that is now supported by a large number of virtualization products. This means you can import your existing VMDK files by way of the Virtual Disk Manager just like existing VDI images; see chapter 3.5, The Virtual Disk Manager, page 34. While VirtualBox fully supports using VMDK files in most situations, the more advanced features of virtual hard disks are presently not supported.

After trying, and failing, to import my VMDK files into VirtualBox, I found, much to my dismay, that my VMDK files were trashed by the VirtualBox import and no longer readable by VMware Fusion. The term "import" usually implies that it is non-destructive. Nope.

I blamed the Fusion failure on the Apple Security Update that I had just installed. Silly me.

After quite a few hours of reading VirtualBox code and poking around with the VMware VMDK on-disk formats, I was able to "patch" my VMDK files into something that Fusion would once again read. Take a look at the VMware Community Forum article for detailed history.

In the corrupted VMDK that was mucked with by VirtualBox, mine looked like the following:

# Disk DescriptorFile
version=1
CID=4c06b51e
parentCID=f6d5af3d
createType="monolithicSparse"
parentFileNameHint="AmyOffice.vmdk"

# Extent description
RW 41963828 SPARSE "AmyOffice-000001.vmdk"

# The Disk Data Base
#DDB

ddb.toolsVersion = "7362"
ddb.virtualHWVersion = "6"
ddb.uuid.image="309b24ab-4acf-4b11-cbbe-f6935882d848"
ddb.uuid.modification="12ff42d5-f691-4ba3-7abb-6686efa6d59f"
ddb.uuid.parent="00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000"
ddb.geometry.cylinders"0"
ddb.geometry.heads"16"
ddb.geometry.sectors"63"
ddb.geometry.cylinders="0"
ddb.geometry.heads="16"
ddb.geometry.sectors="63"

And, it was padded by NULL characters. I extracted it from the VMDK using "dd":

# dd if=AmyOffice-000001.vmdk bs=512 skip=1 count=2 > out

I didn’t like the look of the entries: Note that there is no equals sign between the cylinders/heads/sectors section at the bottom and the values. That did not sit well with me at all. Nor did I like the value of the cylinders was 0 and the heads/sectors did not match the binary values in the first data structure after the MAGIC KMDV in the VMDK file.

Badness.

Comparing this text header info with a very old backup of my VMDK file, it appeared that I could drastically simplify this section.

So, I did.

I edited the "out" file, and made the following changes:

  • Changed the CID to 613506eb
  • Deleted everything after this line (but keep it in): ddb.toolsVersion = "7362"
  • Extended the NULL padding at the end to get the file back up to 1024 bytes exactly.

Then, I patched the VMDK with the following command:

# dd conv=notrunc if=out of=AmyOffice-000001.vmdk bs=512 oseek=1 count=2

Don’t forget the "conv=notrunc", or your VMDK file will be truncated (which I did, and had to copy over from backup again, sigh).

And, guess what? The VMware Virtual Machine booted up with no problem!

I promptly uninstalled VirtualBox. You get what you pay for sometimes.

Now, if I could just get Time Machine to efficiently backup my 30GB Windows VM…

Tags: VirtualBox, VMware Fusion, VMware, Fusion, Virtualization, Open Source, Brian Berliner,brianberliner

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brain Fitness Program and VMware Fusion

    

My wife and I listen to National Public Radio almost exclusively when in the car these days. And, living in the Bay Area, you are in the car a lot. Trust me.

So, we make sure to donate to KQED, our local station, every year. And, with that donation, you often get a gift in return.This year, we received Brain Fitness Program Classic.

That’s a fantastic gift, and one that we were certainly looking forward to receiving. Because, hey, we all need to keep our brains sharp, right? We can’t just rely on blogging to do it, can we? No. I didn’t think so.

The product arrived today!

Installation into Windows was a snap, but it wouldn’t run:

The error message is: "Protected program can not be run under virtual machine!"

Now, why would they do that?

So, the problem is that we run our Windows system under VMware Fusion on our Apple iMac computer. Works great and saves electricity (two computers and only one plug in the wall).

However, the fine folks at PositScience that created the Brain Fitness Program seem to specifically check if their application is running on a virtual machine, and refuses to start!

That’s ridiculous.

I now have no way to run the program.

Ridiculous.

Harumpf.

Tags: NPR, KQED, Public Radio, National Public Radio, Charity, VMware, VMware Fusion VMware,Fusion, Windows, Mac OS X, Brian Berliner, brianberliner

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 Years In Iraq By The Numbers

Sobering.

Lindsay Campbell and the MobLogic.tv team have done an excellent job putting this summary together. Click here for the video, if the embed below does not work.

Bug Labs at EclipseCon 2008

bug_labs I enjoyed the presentation done by Bug Labs at EclipseCon 2008, titled BUG: A Customizable Hardware and Software Platform using Linux, Java, and OSGi. If you haven't seen the BUG device, you should check out their Products page.

It's Geek Candy.

And, it's entirely built with Open Source goodness - both software AND hardware. Bug Labs gets it!

Start with a BUGbase (which is a full-fledged Linux box on an ARM processor), combine it with a variety of BUGmodules to add various hardware capabilities (like LCD screens, video cameras, GPS devices, accelerometers and the like), and snap it all together to do something interesting. Or, make your own hardware to their spec, and use their software stack. Or, run a different software stack on their hardware. Or, create your own BUGmodule hardware. It's all open. Knock yourself out.

While I find the hardware interesting, I think the truly exciting part of the business is the software components and the dynamic nature that binds it all together.

Yes, it's got OSGi at it's core, including a version of the Concierge runtime!

I think that was a very smart, and bold move. This company may be doing some of the most practical and interesting work in the OSGi space.

This will be a fun company to watch.

spark-capital They are good guys.

Bug Labs is a Spark Capital portfolio company (shout out to Bijan Sabet!).

Microsoft Open Source Software Lab at EclipseCon 2008

521 At EclipseCon 2008, Sam Ramji of Microsoft Open Source Lab presented the Keynote on Day 2. Check out Port 25 for more about the Microsoft OSS Lab.

The slides showed Sam's title as "Director, Platform Technology Strategy"

I have to say that the Keynote was not very good. Of course, to be fair to Sam, he did not have a lot to work with. It's clear that Microsoft is not spending what they should spend on interacting with the Open Source community. Their budget is only $5M annually for his group (see below).

I liked Sam. He's gotta be frustrated at Microsoft. Again, to be fair, Sam has been at this for the last 3 years, so he has had adequate time to effect change. And, I think he has. But, still, my take away was that Microsoft is really only giving Open Source a passing glance. As we suspected. Now well confirmed.

Sam outlined some of the current projects and ways that Microsoft is interacting with the OSS community:

  • Linux hypervisor (Xen) interoperability with Microsoft hypervisor (HyperV)
  • WS-Management collaboration
  • Mozilla - Open Source Firefox plugin for Windows Media Player 11
  • Apache Software Foundation - Tuning apache on Windows Server
  • Helping CollabNET with Subversion on Windows.
  • Getting MySQL to run better on Windows Server
  • Getting PHP to run better on Windows Server
  • Samba - Providing support and license modifications to enable Samba development
  • Higgins & CardSpace work
  • SWT on Windows Presentation Framework (for native Windows Vista controls written in Java).

A couple of the Q&A Questions:

  • When will Microsoft become a member of the Eclipse Foundation? Response was, literally, a joke: "I thought we were doing that when we acquired you"? Ha. Ha. Ha. (Ugh). Nothing more added.
  • What other Eclipse projects look good? Response was perhaps something where Eclipse could author Silverlight apps. There are others, but not willing to discuss them with us.
  • Will Microsoft have Eclipse committers to do the SWT/WPF integration? Response is no. Microsoft would work with the committers and provide support and resources.
  • I asked a question about the Microsoft OSS Lab budget now, and how it will grow in the future (given that Microsoft revenue is currently $50B). Response was that the Lab alone has a budget of $5M, but they work across the company to assess the strategy and work with the OSS organizations. So, the Microsoft OSS Lab is a change agent. Sam followed up with a shameless plug. The Lab's resources will increase if we tell Microsoft that their work is valuable.
  • Why did Microsoft define new Open Source licenses instead of using current ones, like EPL? Response was that Microsoft is positive on Open Source. Made that clear with their Codeplex initiative (which nobody in the audience knew about). Microsoft wanted explicit treatment of how patents and intellectual property is handled.

There was very little "strategy" discussed in the keynote presentation. Lots of words, not much action. Nothing at all in the way of a Roadmap for the future. I think Sam missed an opportunity here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

FolderShare, Dropbox, Syncplicity, Oh My...

foldershareI've been a user of FolderShare on my multiple Mac computers for quite a few months now. FolderShare is a FREE application that is provided by Microsoft (they acquired the FolderShare company in November, 2005). It does run on a Mac, but the Mac version is very old (not a Universal Binary, so it has to run in PowerPC emulation mode), and showing its age a bit.

OK, it's really called Windows Liver FolderShare (beta).

FolderShare mostly works, though. And, when it works, it works very well. It's a peer-to-peer way to synchronize your folders across multiple computers. What that means is that Microsoft never owns a copy of your files - they flow directly between your own computers, using 256-bit AES encryption (good enough). They limit each "share" to 10,000 files, which is a limit that I have absolutely run into. And it was not pretty unraveling the mess that was made by blasting through it (likely user error, but it was not entirely obvious how to recover from it).

I am bold enough to use FolderShare to even synchronize the active source code that I am editing across my desktop and laptop. This is a bit scary, but all my stuff is backed up by Subversion and Time Machine, so it's all good.

dropbox Enter Dropbox.

Dropbox is still in Beta and, unfortunately, I don't have an invite yet. However, the video demonstration looks very slick. It's different from FolderShare in that it does store your files "in the cloud". By storing your files centrally, it also adds the ability to version your files - basically providing a backup service along with a synchronizing service.

It appears that you have to place files within a "Dropbox" folder in order for the product to work. That's different than FolderShare, as FolderShare can work in whatever existing folder you specify. Since Dropbox is in Beta, and I really haven't seen it, who knows how it actually works. Stay tuned for more later (when I get my Dropbox invite, that is).

Dropbox has received a ton of press coverage, including articles in TechCrunch and the GigaOm Network.

SyncplicityLogo Enter Syncplicity.

Also in Beta, and currently only available for Windows, I haven't had a chance to kick the tires on Syncplicity either. But I know the founder well, and have had numerous long talks with him about the product, the product philosophy, the target customer, the market, the competition, and where Syncplicity wants to go.

At this point, Syncplicity feels like the perfect combination of FolderShare and Dropbox. Like FolderShare, Syncplicity allows you to work within any folder - you don't have to specify a side folder to do your backup/synchronization. Like Dropbox, Syncplicity integrates tightly with the Explorer/Finder to work the way you want to work, and also provides a cloud-based, secured version of your  files (and the requisite benefits of having that).

I look forward to watching how these products evolve. There is a definite need for something like this, and I do think the need goes way beyond the tech crowd.

Google Summer of Code 2008

logo_gsoc

Now is the time to nominate projects for the Google Summer of Code 2008. In particular, what SOC projects would be great for Eclipse? Basically, anything that you would like a student to work on for 3 months in and around Eclipse toolset.

You can volunteer as a mentor to help your project through (or not). But mentoring is a very lightweight way to help facilitate the project this summer. Also, Google graciously pays for all the development cost (and supports the Open Source community).

If your project gets selected, it will be assigned the resource. Brainstorm session during the conference included such ideas as:

  • XQuery Editor
  • Custom display of classes in CDT Debugger
  • Support for J2SE Security Editors for Policy Files (integrated with OSGi model instead of Sun security model)
  • RELAX NG Compact Form Editor
  • Better code obfuscation configurator
  • Support for Maven

There is a wiki here. Edit away!

Fake Steve at EclipseCon 2008

  

Dan Lyons, aka Fake Steve Jobs, won the keynote slot at EclipseCon and, as expected, gave a very entertaining keynote address. Excellent choice. Refreshingly irreverent.

Dan takes no prisoners. Every big tech company is fair game, and he calls it like he sees it. Something that he cannot do at Forbes. The Fake Steve blog now generates a nice 1 Million pageviews per month.

Some snippets that caught my funny bone:

  • "Mainstream media is like the COBOL programmers..."
  • "I'm a Mac fan. Here with my MacBook Air, that's didn't work - that's why I love Apple. But, it's so beautiful... and only 3 pounds!"
  • Dan likens Apple to a cult rather than a product company. He says, "If the Church of Scientology made computer products, they would be Apple."
  • "You look up narcissist in the dictionary and there he (Steve Jobs) is."
  • Great photos of Uncle Ballster and Dr. Stevil (which I can't find to link to right now).
  • Lots of Sun and Jonathan Schwartz bashing (I spent 7 years at Sun Microsystems, so I could certainly relate). Such as, "There's always some new line of bullshit from Sun."
  • On IBM: "They're the worst company in the world to deal with as a reporter."

Anyway. Tune into his blog for more laughs.

At EclipseCon 2008 - Look Me Up!

eclipseCon2008 Just like last year, I'm back at EclipseCon 2008 this year!

The Eclipse Foundation puts on one heck of a good conference. The sponsors are top-notch and the breadth and depth of the conference is always quite impressive. If you are heavily invested in Open Source and Java-based tools in your enterprise (and which enterprise is not?), then EclipseCon is the place to be.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Will Price Moves On: VC Industry Now Less Smart

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Will Price announced last week that he will be leaving Hummer Winblad to join one of their portfolio companies, Widgetbox, as CEO. Techcrunch has the story.

I don't know Will personally. But I have read his stuff. It's good. Very good.

While every VC you will meet is generally pretty darn smart, Will is both smart and articulate. His blog articles are always well thought out, well constructed, and thought provoking. And, yes, I usually agree with him.

Anyway, the VC industry average IQ just dropped a few notches with Will's departure. It's unfortunate news for Hummer Winblad in particular.

As it turns out, if you're really interested in making money (and like to be somewhat in control), you have to be an entrepreneur and build a successful company. Sure, you can increment your way to a very nice retirement as a Venture Capitalist, but very few VC's can extract the kind of returns that a CEO will bring home from building a successful start-up.

So, Will has made Widgetbox one to seriously watch. I wish him all the success in his new gig.

Fring: Decent IM for Symbian Phones

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Not sure how I missed this one... But, I had been looking for a good, FREE, application for my Nokia E61 to do Instant Messaging on Yahoo! Messenger. And, I found one, and much more, in Fring.

From GigaOm on 10 Apps To Have For Your Symbian S60 Phone:
Fring — A multi-protocol IM client that currently supports AIM, Skype, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk and Twitter, and features a SIP client. Fring seamlessly uses your data connection to allow you to IM or call contacts if they are on Google Talk or Skype. Fring also recently launched a feature that allows you to send files over Wi-Fi and 3G connection to your contacts. Very cool.

I just need the Yahoo IM connection, but I also tried Fring through my Skype account calling a landline, and it worked just fine (voice quality was about what you would expect - not great, but certainly understandable).

Damnit - I'm Beholden to a(nother) Windows Application

WriterSplash So, I'm finally getting back to blogging. I had a very long hiatus. Sorry about that.

It seems that life got in the way (if you call getting married and starting up a new company "life" - I know I do).

Anyway, back to the same old blogging tools on the Mac OS X platform. Nothing really satisfied my needs. I had previously been using Qumana, and wrote some positive articles on it before. It's unchanged in the last year, and still pretty good, but it did leave me wanting more and something that felt a bit more "solid".

Best likely candidate would be MarsEdit. I love what Daniel Jalkut is doing with this application. Great stuff. But, I am one of those types that wants a WYSIWYG-like experience. I'm quite good at flinging around markup, I just don't want to have to do it while I'm writing - it's just too distracting from the task at hand. MarsEdit does have some excellent image integration, and I feel that at some point it WILL be my blogging tool of choice. I'm continuing to watch.

Last year, I tried Adobe Contribute 4, and even participated in the Adobe Contribute CS3 Beta test. While it is WYSIWYG, it's just not for me. The team made significant progress in the CS3 edition, but the tool still had lots of little problems that distracted from the writing experience and the application itself was quite the resource hog.

If you are seeing a theme here, it's all about reducing distraction; reducing friction in the writing process.

OK, so I decide that my new wife needs to blog about what we learned while planning our wedding. She's a Windows user. So, I set her up on her own Wordpress blog and find her a blogging tool to use. I chose Windows Live Writer.

And, you know what?

Windows Live Writer rocks!

Every bit of it is very well done. And, it's FREE. I do hate to say it, but you have to give Microsoft props when they get it right. Well done WLW team!

So, for now, I will be blogging with Windows Live Writer running from my VMware Fusion based version of Windows XP executing on my MacBook Pro (when on the road) or my iMac (when at home). Now, that's a mouthful.

iPhone SDK: Awesome or Dead On Arrival?

index_promofooter_sdkWell, Apple finally released the iPhone SDK, or at least a Beta version.

Apple took quite a beating when they released the iPhone without an SDK back in June 2007. What were they thinking? Back then, they released a set of guidelines for building web-based applications that, when run through Mobile Safari, would sorta, kinda look like an iPhone application. That's not gonna fly...

Then, they released the iPhone SDK (Beta). I downloaded it immediately and built my first test application.

Holy crap.

The wait was definitely worth it.

They knocked the ball out of the park!

They exceeded my expectations in almost every dimension.

Yeah, sure. There are plenty of things not to like about this first version of the iPhone SDK, and many have already ripped the failings to shred:

  • Third-party applications must be distributed through the Apple iPhone Store. You cannot just build an application and run it on the iPhone. It has to be signed by Apple. Some see this as too restrictive.

  • iPhone applications cannot run in the background. This rules out a whole host of interesting applications and certainly does make the iPhone less attractive as a truly useful mobile platform. Some say this makes the platform a non-starter for them.

  • Apple takes 30% of all software sales for handling the distribution and update of approved iPhone applications. Some think that's a bit much, and would rather keep that 30% for themselves, handling the marketing, installation and upgrade of their applications directly.

  • Apple gets to say "yes" or "no" on whether your particular application gets to run (is signed by them). Some think that Apple will deny competitive applications or applications that may encourage illegal downloading, say. Some say Apple has too much power as application gatekeeper.

  • Apple will not allow a VoIP application to be built that operates over the GPRS/EDGE (soon to be 3G/HSDPA) data network. They will allow VoIP applications to run over WiFi, however. Given the hassle of finding a WiFi hotspot, some feel that this is an unfair restriction.

  • You can't build applications with Interface Builder yet. Some think that makes iPhone app development a complete non-starter, at least until IB is made available.

  • Apple claims that the third-party developers get to use "the same API calls used by the Apple developers to build their own iPhone applications" (like Mobile Mail and Mobile Safari). However, given all the restrictions, this is clearly not true.

  • Apple does not allow you to build an application that executes other applications, either using plug-ins, or interpreted code. Which means that you cannot have a Java Virtual Machine on the iPhone. Hey, wait a minute. That sounds like a good restriction after all, given all the junk J2ME applications out there...


But, they're missing the bigger picture. They are lost in the details.

Here's some of what is absolutely great about the Apple Mobile Platform:

  • It's a controlled environment for developers. The development tools (Xcode, Interface Builder, debugger, performance monitors) are exceptionally good. Anyone that knows Objective-C and Cocoa certainly have a head start, but this is a great toolchain. No other mobile platform has such a great and robust development environment.

  • Running only Apple-signed applications means that it will be very hard to get ill-behaved malware on the device. And, if you do, it will be very easy to identify it and remove it. Apple has done a great job on the security aspects of the mobile platform.

  • Apple nailed the Enterprise requirements for the iPhone. Nailed them. They are listening. And responding. Very refreshing to see a big company get it right. So often.

  • I love the 70%/30% split between developers and Apple. I think it is more than fair to the developers. Apple has taken a game-console style revenue sharing model here. Apple defines, markets, and distributes a great hardware console (the iPhone) and publishes the API for creating structured (and signed) applications. For that, they take 30%. Extremely fair. I think it's great that product updates will be easily delivered to customers. Much better than forcing every application to have a slightly different way of updating itself. Very nice for the end-user experience.

  • I'm OK with the other restrictions. Yes, the platform will be less extensible, but it will surely be beautiful, consistent, and solid. Disallowing background applications will not be as bad as people think - I'm with John Gruber on this point. Remember: Apple is developing this "for the rest of us". I.e., it is not a phone that only geeks will own. It's a phone that my Mom would own. And, she just wants it to work.


I own a Nokia E61. It runs Symbian. Until last week, Symbian was the best thing going for Mobile OS development. Not anymore. And don't even get me started about Windows Mobile... Ugh.

The iPhone, and this oh so restrictive SDK, will be THE mobile platform for the mass market (and the enterprise).

Jason Fried said it best:
What we saw today was the beginning of two-decades of mobile domination by Apple. What Microsoft and Windows was to the desktop, Apple and Touch will be to mobile.

I completely agree.

And have doubled-down on my AAPL stock.

Stay tuned for more. We'll get to Android later.