Thursday, April 29, 2010

The soundbyte generation

I have noticed in the past few years that I am getting more and more flooded by people sending me web-links. Sometimes its just because they find something interesting, often though it seems as if they think I should take it seriously as intellectual discourse.

So its time for my soapbox again:

Forwarding a web link is to intelligent discourse what "Mama, look I found a bug under that rock!" is to biology.

If you are going to cite references and be taken seriously by anyone with any sort of intellectual training, you need to do at least 4 things that are generally never done when people send links around:
  1. Validate the veracity of your source. The most heinous offenders of these are people who send me either press releases or marketing speeches. We used to have a saying at Sun while I was there: the only difference between sales and marketing is that sales *knows* its lying. A source that has something to gain from convincing you what it is saying is true is never, ever a reliable one.
  2. Read the damn article yourself first. I have a friend who just loves to link quote, and more then half the time if you read the article he's quoted fully, it defeats his own argument.
  3. Differentiate statements of fact from statements of opinion. Lots of people believed the world was flat. That didn't make it any more true then if only one person did. Common wisdom is seldom wise and almost always suspect.
  4. Differentiate serious arguments from propaganda. Propaganda is inherently a manipulative form of communication. It is *built* to persuade and not to enlighten. There are standard social and linguistic techniques employed in propaganda, none of which standard up to a serious test of logical correctness.

    In a moment of deliberate irony,l I'm going to give you a URL link to the most complete list of the standard fallacies of propaganda I've come across.
Link-wars are, I suppose, the inevitable result of a sound-byte culture. Its argument by sound-byte. And it has just as much depth of thought.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Winners and Losers in Oracle's Sun Picks

Now that the dust has settled in the Snorcle merger, we can see some of what Oracle has kept and not kept in the Sun portfolio. This is my own set of calls on what were good and bad choices, time will tell if I am right or wrong...

Good Call: Keeping Glassfish 3
There seems to have been little impact on the Glassfish project. It is still open and going strong, Although there have been project management issues in the past (Glassfish2 was buggy and never fixed) in general this is a central enterprise technology in major use. There was some concern that they might suffer from being in competition with Oracle's own database-integrated app server but so far that hasn't seemed to have happened.

Bad Call: Keeping Java FX
Larry, what are you thinking??
The final and ultimate shot in Sun's pointless and already lost battle with Action Script. This is a whole lot like Japan deciding to invest half its GNP in a war effort *after* the bomb fell on Hiroshima. A huge expensive boondoggle that no one but Sun cares about. Even if Sun *could* win this war (which they can't), the entire future of the segment is now under *serious* threat from Apple and Google with HTML5, which basically makes both AS3 AND JavaFX unnecessary.

Good Call: Keeping Sun Labs
Sun Labs is where most of Sun's strength has emanated from. A highly efficient group, they get more done with less man-power then most of Sun.

Bad Call: Screwing with Sun Labs Portfolio
Look at it this way, Larry. Suppose some hairy engineer today had an idea for a brand new, never seen before, language on top of a brand new, never seen before operating environment that he wanted to write for a tiny-device market that didn't exist yet.

What would you say in portfolio review?

That, my friend, was Oak, which later became Java, which you paid HOW much to own???

Think about it.

Bad Call: Screwing with the Sun Culture
I have my ear to the Sun grapevine. You are leaking top talent right now like a rowboat made out of pumice. Why? Because if Sun people wanted to work in an Oracle environment they would've joined Oracle to begin with, not Sun. In case you haven't read yesterdays WSJ, the tech sector is in major hiring mode again. They have lots of options and they are taking them. I suspect you will find them very hard to replace.

Surprise Good Call: Keeping Netbeans
Honestly, I'm on the fence on this one. Two years ago I would've said Eclipse had it beaten dead rights and you should just port whats of value from Netebans to Eclispe plugins and kill it. But Eclipse seems to be running out of steam, weighed down by its own success and a panoply if increasingly incompatible plugins. Meanwhile, Neteabs 6.8 has managed to leapfrog Eclipse to be the better dev environment. It has better support for the most modern language trends and is easier to keep functioning.

Kudos to the Netbeans guys, in any event, for a surprising last-lap come-back.

Good Last Minute Decision Reversal: Keeping Kenai
In a clear last minute reversal of policy, Oracle reversed its position on Sun's competing open source environments, saying they would keep the name but migrate to the Kenai backend.

Good call. OReily's software that runs on has always been a weak player in the field and's greatest weakness. Kenai is a modern hosting site well-integrated with Netbeans. mering the brand and exisiting project base with Kenai's technology is a best-of-both-worlds solution.

Worst Call of All: Buying Sun
I blame this more on the Sun board then on Larry Ellison, honestly. Sun is just not a good culture fit for Oracle and Oracle hasn't learned the IBM lesson that, when you buy a company you are also buying the culture so don't mess with it any more then absolutely necessary.
IBM was a far better culture fit. In the end, the Sun board had a chance with IBM to save all that was good about Sun and threw it away or the sake of 50 cents more a share.

When the dust settles in a few years, oracle will find all they bought was a few by then aging technologies and an aging brand. What was truly valuable about Sun, the holders of future-vision, will have all drifted off to other opportunities.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just got my IPad

Quickie review


great form factor, about the same size as my Clio was. (The Clio was fantastic, well ahead of its time hardware, crippled by crappy microsoft abandoned software.)

Handles books very very well, including PDFs. A nice surprise is that there is a free Amazon reader for it so I can get all my Kindle books on it, too. IBooks + Amazon Kindle + the free Good reader app for PDFs makes a pretty darn complete reading solution.

Video playback is superb... but ti only natively supports MP4 so you'll have to do some laborious converting of other formats to play them from memory. When done however it does a beautifuol job.


Doesn't multi-task. I didn't realize how much id miss this, but it means that, although Pandora is available for the machine, I can't listen to Pandora and read a book at the same time :(
The only exception is their own Ipod app which *will* run in background... figures, huh?

Screen smudging. I tend to have oily hands. I'm going to be wiping this thing down pretty often. That it didn't come with a wiping cloth is mildly annoying.

App limits. Where there are apps, its great, but where there arent, life sucks. I cant play Hulu for instance on this device because Apple hates Flash and wants everyone to use HTML 5 instead. While I appreciate the sentiment, unless/until the world DOES go all HTML5 this will be a real limit on the Ipad's usefulness.

Edit: Discovered one more plus/minus over an ebook reader. Plus, it looks great in the dark. Minus, its pretty much unreadable in direct sunlight.