Driving a UHaul from upstate NY to Chicago

Several weeks ago my daughter Katie needed to move into an apartment in Chicago and we needed to help her furnish said apartment with a couch, chair, tables, bed, and various other possessions. Unlike our trips carting her things back and forth from upstate New York to Chicago, we needed something bigger than an SUV. It was time to consider UHaul.

Many years ago, probably about 25, I rented a UHaul trailer to get from somewhere to somewhere else. Therefore, having set a precedent, I reserved a UHaul trailer via the very handy online website. It’s good they have such a good website because, as I learned later, it’s almost impossible to get to central UHaul “traffic” control by phone.

Map of the trip from upstate NY to Chicago

The day before I was to pick up the trailer, I got a call from a UHaul franchise, but not the one I expected. While there is a UHaul place about 7 miles south and another 10 miles north, they decided I needed to pick up the trailer 25 miles west. After I expressed surprise about this, I casually asked if they had trailer hitches.

In my previous towing experience in the distant past, they had given me some sort of temporary hitch that went on the bumper. The woman at the end of the phone sounded confused and I quickly realized why: bumpers today are not designed for such hitches. I had reserved a trailer with no way to tow it. Mea culpa.

Now many UHaul franchises are just small efforts associated with self-storage or auto-repair businesses. I needed something more serious, and I needed it fast. The 800 number was never answered when I called. I live near Rochester, NY, and I quickly discovered by making a few local phone calls that the place to go was the UHaul Center on Jefferson Road in Henrietta. This probably means nothing to most of you, but the point is that I needed a place that did nothing but UHauls and did a lot of them. I called them and the amazingly helpful woman switched me from a trailer to a 10 foot truck.

This was better, but it did make the trip more difficult. Instead of the four of us driving out in the SUV pulling the trailer, my son William and I would take the truck and my wife and daughter would drive our car. Other combinations were possible, but no one voted for them. We would drop the truck off at a UHaul in Chicago and then the family (minus my daughter) would drive the car home.

Just because we had switched the trailer to a truck did not mean I was all set. I needed to wait for my official call from some UHaul franchise telling where to pick up the truck. I was hoping it was Henrietta, but I had no guarantee. While I waited, I kept an eye on the website and my 10 foot truck somehow morphed to a 14 foot truck. I wasn’t concerned because I knew that I would only have to pay for the size truck I reserved.

When I finally got my call I was indeed pleased that it was from the Henrietta store. They also told me that I could get my 17 foot truck first thing in the morning.

Now I’ve driven trucks before, including my brother-in-law Jay’s dump truck with a really bad clutch when I was a teenager, so I wasn’t too worried about it getting bigger by the minute. Nevertheless, I made them assure me that the truck would be in excellent condition and it wouldn’t stretch yet again into something 35 feet long, or multiple trailers, or anything like that.

The next day I picked up the truck and all was fine. I paid for the maximum amount of insurance since, well, it seemed smart for such a long journey (almost 600 miles) in an unfamiliar vehicle. I also needed to buy a lock for the back of the truck. The truck was a 2009 model and had 13,000 miles on it. It was in good shape. I had no problem getting it home, though I did take back roads to get familiar with it.

It did not accelerate quickly, but it would mostly stay at a speed, plus or minus a couple of mph, once I got it going. The controls were minimal, such as wind up windows and no cruise control. The radio was basic as well. It was a truck. It drove like one, but it met expectations.

We set off Friday morning in our mini caravan to the Midwest. Initially my wife took the lead but eventually I did since it was easier for her to match my varying speed while trailing me. My son was a great companion and it was really a just-guys experience. We talked, he read, and he stayed awake for the entire trip.

There were no issues as we headed west toward Buffalo, passed down through Erie, PA, and then set across Ohio. I know there are bigger states, but it seems to take forever to drive across Ohio on Route 80. As we approached the Indiana border, the sky got very dark. I was debating about whether to soldier on for another hour, but then all hell broke loose weather-wise with lightning and heavy winds and rain. We quickly bailed off the highway near Fremont, Indiana.

The next morning the sun was shining and though things seemed a bit wet, nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. We made our way to Chicago in about 3 hours. One odd thing was that right as we got to Chicago we saw that some of the traffic lights were out. Not all of them, and not even consecutive ones, but some were dark. In case you don’t know, you treat an intersection with a dead traffic light as a four-way stop. I observed that this was not common knowledge.

I was anticipating problems unloading the truck, but I double parked it on the street in front of the apartment, put on the blinkers and we unloaded everything in 30 minutes. (Let me again thank my daughter’s friend Peter whose young back and legs really made the job go faster and better.)

William and I then drove the truck to a UHaul place about a mile and a half away, eventually found the guy who ran it, and finalized the paperwork. (Let me again thank my son for stopping me from backing up and running over the UHaul guy while he was inspecting the truck.) We walked back the apartment sans truck and happier for it.

Something was odd. My daughter’s apartment was not quite without electricity, but was probably at about 25% voltage. This was enough to feebly light a few fixtures but not enough to power the refrigerator. We hurried to do everything necessary before it got dark.

After dinner we left our daughter to her friends and we set off to drive a few of the dozen hours it would take us to get home. My plan was to get to Elkhart, Indiana, RV capital of the world and home of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum. We weren’t planning to go to the museum, but there are a lot of hotels and restaurants near the interstate.

Oddly enough, though, there weren’t any rooms. Evidently the storms of the previous evening had caused widespread power outages not just in Chicago, but across northern Indiana. The hotels were filled with people who had no electricity at home.

I filled the tank with gas, as that seemed like a good precaution, and we hit the road again. Eventually we tried another exit and there the signs were even worse: perhaps 10 electrical repair trucks were backed up to pay the toll on the exit ramp. More repair trucks were visible in the hotel parking lots.

We got back on the highway and drove into Ohio, eventually settling in to a Holiday Inn Express around 1:15 AM. The rest of the trip was easy.

As a side effect of this trip, I got a towing hitch installed on our SUV yesterday, so I’ll be ready if I ever need to pull something in the future. It might be a rented trailer or, who knows, maybe a boat. Have hitch, will haul.

Daily links for 06/30/2010

  • “Did you know that WordPress supports multiple tag queries?”

    tags: wordpress, category, tag, multiple

  • “I GARDENED WITH THE DEER FOR NEARLY A DECADE, and then I said no more. I’d sprayed, sachet-ed, blood-mealed and Milorganite-d myself into a meltdown; I just couldn’t wrap or pen or hang aluminum pie-plate mobiles or otherwise defend individual plants any longer. After all, the deer would just eat whatever wasn’t “protected,” indiscriminate feeders who were happy to move on to the next course as the previous runs out. So I finally fenced.”

    tags: garden, deer

  • “After scouring through tens of pages of dictionaries in the app store from foreign languages, slang, and bibles to medical, law, and pranks (yes, pranks), I’ve decided that the app store is in no dictionary shortage crisis at the moment. Let this AppGuide lead you in the right direction as to what English language dictionary will serve you, your situation, and your iDevice the best.”

    tags: ipad, apps, dictionary

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/29/2010

  • “Add-ons empower millions of Firefox users to personalize their browser’s form and function. Why not show off your smarts by creating an add-on the whole world can use? Tools and tutorials you find here make it simple. So take a look and put your ingenuity in motion.”

    tags: firefox, addon

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/28/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Update on my Firefox extensions

It used to be that I tried a new Firefox extension every day. Since the Firefox browser from Mozilla became a standard tool for how I do business and generally access the web, I’ve focused less on trying new things and more on tuning the environment I have. I then replicated that environment across the various computers I use with the various operating systems on them.

I don’t use Firefox exclusively. I’m a software guy and I love to try new things, so I certainly have Chrome, and on the iPhone and iPad I use Apple‘s Safari browser. I’ve played with Opera but never stuck with it. Firefox is the browser I use when I need to know that things will work and look right.

I’ve decided that I am going to spend a little time each day for a few days and check out what’s been going on in the Firefox extension world. Before I do that, however, I want to list the extensions I do use now to establish the baseline.

My Firefox extensions

  • Adblock Plus: I’ve tried to live with website ads, especially when I experimented with them here, but they were just too annoying. This addon removes most of them and there are subscriptions to keep your blocked list up to date.
  • ColorfulTabs: This makes my tabs appear in different pretty colors. Not essential, but it really improves the user interface experience.
  • Diigo: I use Diigo to save and publish the daily links that appear in my blog, and this is their official addon to make it easy to capture those bookmarks.
  • Firebug: This addon is a great too for debugging web pages when things go wrong. I mostly use it for figuring out why CSS isn’t doing what I thought it should.
  • OptimizeGoogle: This cleans up some behavior in various Google apps, makes some more secure, and gets rid of even more ads.
  • Xmarks: This synchronizes my bookmarks across multiple browser types across multiple computers and devices.

Daily links for 06/25/2010

A Smarter Planet logo

  • “Editor’s Note: Following is an essay co-authored by Bob Sutor, vice president of open source and Linux for IBM, and Jean Staten Healy, director of cross-IBM Linux strategy for IBM. It describes the central place Linux plays in building a smarter planet, and builds on a presentation about the role of Linux in Smarter Systems, which the two IBM executives gave at the recent Red Hat Summit.”

    tags: linux, smarter-planet

  • “One of the better open source-focused posts I’ve seen recently was “Linux as a catalyst for a smarter planet,” which included Jean Staten Healy and Bob Sutor of IBM discussing social challenges going on around the globe, and how Linux is being applied to solve problems. Filled with interesting data about how social change will make a place for Linux in the future, it reminded me of some of the many posts on open source tools for humanitarian and social causes that we’ve done. Here, you can find many of these, and some thoughts on Sutor’s and Healy’s presentation.”

    tags: smarter-planet, linux, open-source

  • “If there ever was an overhyped product, it’s… well, actually, it’s the iPad, though the iPhone 4 is close on its heels. But even after all the hoopla — from the speculation and rumors to the “lost” iPhone 4 incident and police action — the arrival of the iPhone 4 is no letdown. The iPhone 4 really is all that was promised and more — except for a potential reception problem.”

    tags: iphone, apple, ipad

  • “Free defined the Microsoft Store opening. Free T-Shirts. Free skateboards. Free concert. Free celebrity meetups. Free money, as in donations to San Diego charities and the Girl Scouts. Several of the teen girls I spoke to admitted they came just for the freebees. But they also boasted about using Windows, and most of them Windows 7 at that.

    By comparison, Apple Store drew a very different kind of crowd: People anxious to give up money. They were desperate to hand Apple $200-$300 (before tax) to get an iPhone 4. One group got paid in freebees for showing up. The other group lined up — with the promise of hours waiting — for the privilege of giving up money. In response to my earlier tweet on the topic, Altimeter analyst Michael Gartenberg rightly asked: “Which is the better business model?””

    tags: microsoft, apple

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/24/2010

  • “Linden Lab®, creator of 3D virtual world Second Life®, announced today that company founder Philip Rosedale has been named interim CEO, and CFO Bob Komin has assumed the additional role of COO.  Linden Lab also announced that Mark Kingdon is stepping down as CEO.”

    tags: second-life

  • Red Hat, Inc. (RHT 30.91, -0.45, -1.44%) , the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced the next step in the integration of its enterprise-grade server and desktop virtualization portfolio with the general availability of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 2.2. In addition to providing the first release of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Desktops, the 2.2 update includes new scalability capabilities, migration tools and features to expand the performance and security of the solution.”

    tags: red-hat

  • Firefox logo“Mozilla is rolling out an update of its Firefox Web browser that adds support for plugin isolation. Version 3.6.4, which includes the new feature, was officially released on Tuesday and will be deployed soon through the browser’s automated update system.

    It is unusual for Mozilla to deploy a major new feature in a minor point update, but the plugin isolation capability is a worthy exception to the rule, since it will significantly improve the browser’s stability. In the new version of Firefox, plugin components like Flash and Silverlight will run in external processes. When these plugins crash, the browser itself will not be terminated.”

    tags: firefox, flash

  • “The Eclipse project has announced the Helios release train, a major update of the open source Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE) and many of its key components.

    Due to the modularity of the software and the diversity of its community, Eclipse is developed like a platform. There are a multitude of independently-developed components that supply specific kinds of functionality. The most widely-used components are collected into a set of standard Eclipse packages that are targeted towards specific kinds of development.”

    tags: eclipse, open-source

  • “The Fedex delivery man pulled up at 10:30 this morning with an iPhone 4 in his hand — there were 15 more on his truck. The packaging is elegant and simple to open. After syncing the iPhone 3GS and Stainless Shuffle to be sure iTunes was up to date, I connected the iPhone 4. The first screen to appear showed my mobile phone number and asked me to enter my zip code and last four of the social for authentication. After agreeing to the Apple and AT&T terms and conditions the phone was activated and the copying of apps plus thousands of songs and music began. I went out for an errand and when I got back the iPhone 4 was loaded with my data. The next step was to set up the Google accounts for over-the-air syncing of my 1,500 contacts plus all the calendar entries and gmail. Minutes later I was good to go. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.”

    tags: iphone

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What happens when I go to a conference

I’m spending a few days this week in Boston attending the Red Hat Summit in Boston, a large and very professionally done conference about their Linux, virtualization, and middleware offerings. Earlier today, IBM‘s Jean Staten Healy and I gave a talk called “Linux as a catalyst for a smarter planet.” I also attended a talk about Fedora, which was unusual.

Fedora, of course, is not unusual, it was that I found the time to go to a talk at a conference. While I usually do manage to get to some of the keynotes, the individual sessions are sometimes hard to get to because I spend my days in meetings with folks. It could be the host of the conference, in this case Red Hat, or partners, or customers. Conferences provide a great way to get people together and, well, talk.

In some cases these are people to whom I speak on a regular on a regular basis, but in others it’s much more of a “hey, you should chat with these guys” and then you do. So between the scheduled meetings, the talks that I give, the impromptu meetings and the hallway discussions, there isn’t much time to attend the sessions.

That’s ok, because the intensity of the days together with my industry colleagues is really invigorating. It’s an opportunity to update each other on our strategies, make business plans, and find out what friends are up to.

I’m about to head down to the exhibit area and although it’s a happy hour, I don’t plan to drink. I have a business dinner later this evening. I may nosh a bit if I can find some suitably low carb and relatively healthy food, though conference food usually plays havoc with my diet (though it’s not the only culprit).

Speaking of exhibits, now that my children are older I make less of an effort collecting giveaways at the booths. Note that I am still a sucker for cool looking pens and squeezable penguins, but if I’m really not going to do business with you or use your software, I’ll let you save your logoed items for people who might. There are exceptions, of course, but I don’t want to waste your time or money.

Daily links for 06/23/2010

  • “In this morning’s Red Hat Summit sessions, Jean Staten Healy and Bob Sutor of IBM presented on the solutions that communities around the world are implementing using Linux as a catalyst for a smarter planet.”

    tags: linux, red-hat, smarter-planet

  • WordPress became popular by making it as simple as possible to publish a personal blog. Along the way, the project has become a hit not only with personal bloggers, but with publishers as well. WordPress 3.0 comes to terms with its new audience by adding features that are better suited to content management systems than personal Weblogs. The question for most users is whether WordPress 3.0 can scale to handle the big dogs while still retaining the simplicity for single-user blogs that has fueled WordPress growth since its inception in 2003.”

    tags: wordpress, blog

  • “The company’s results have held up well in recent quarters, thanks to the bulk of its revenue being either recurring or subscription-based. Red Hat’s core Linux product is free, but the company makes its money on providing maintenance and support to corporations and large organizations who use it to operate computers.

    Chief Executive Officer Jim Whitehurst said Tuesday that the company had a strong start the year, highlighting its growth in organic revenue and income. He said that the number of large deals booked was up significantly from the year-earlier period, including several with an initial consulting component that the company sees as an indicator of new project spending and future subscription billings.”

    tags: red-hat, linux

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/22/2010

  • “It’s the first day of summer, and if you’re planning on exploring the world, you should start thinking about your wireless phone options now. You can get help from two sources: the Federal Communications Commission and CTIA – The Wireless Association. The FCC has declared this “Wireless World Travel Week” and has launched a World Travel page which will offer lots of tips and advice over the next few days for the estimated 60 million Americans who make international trips each year.”

    tags: travel

  • “Meanwhile, Whitehurst says Red Hat will continue to develop and support its desktop Linux offering but the company has no plans to make a major desktop Linux push. The reason: Whitehurst sees plenty of demand for desktop Linux but he has no idea why customers would actually pay for desktop Linux.

    Also, Whitehurst says the age of the PC is over. Red Hat’s goal is to ensure server and cloud connectivity to a range of devices, including the growing wave of mobile devices.”

    tags: red-hat, smb

  • “We’ll say up front that we like the update. For iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 3G users (as well as second- and third-generation iPod touch users), iOS 4 will add useful functionality that will make your device more useable than ever. There are, however, some obvious downsides, and we’ll address those in this review.”

    tags: ios, apple, iphone

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A day with iOS 4

Yesterday around 1 PM ET, Apple released their latest operating system for the iPhone, iOS 4. Though I was about to head out to the Red Hat Summit, I decided to go ahead and install the new operating system, thinking that if it blew up I would at least have my work BlackBerry for communications.

Ars technica has a very good comprehensive review of iOS 4, but I want to share my impressions of the new operating system. I installed it on my iPhone 3GS; it will not be available for the iPad until later this year.

First off, I’m glad that folders are finally available for apps. I was up to 8 or 9 screens of apps and I seemed to spend too much time sorting applications so I could find them easily. Folders are limited to 12 apps, which is a little small. For example, I have many travel apps. My solution was to create two folders, both called Travel, and one call Navigation. The latter has Maps, gps, guides for various subway systems, and so on. Note that more than one folder can have the same name.

By using folders I’ve been able to reduce clutter and get down to two screens. The second screen is just folders, and I have mostly single apps on the first screen. On that first screen I do have folders for news and social networking. Undoubtably, I’ll be tweaking these more. Having folders means that I’ll probably install more apps, so that’s good for app developers if others do as I do.

UI-wise, it’s nice to separately set the background image for the home and the lock screens. You can get some free beautiful backgrounds suitable for Apple devices at InterfaceLIFT.

Having a 5x digital zoom with the camera is nice, though I usually crop photos before I publish them. Remember that digital zoom does not give you sharper photos as you move in on a subject. You just can frame the image better though at a lower resolution.

I’ve not had much of a chance to take advantage of the limited multitasking. It was a deficiency that Apple did not provide true multitasking at the beginning and while I understand the argument about saving battery life, I don’t really buy it. Anything less than full, real multitasking is just a bug to me.

I’ll have more to say as I get a chance to play with it but I can see that iOS 4 is good enough that the iPad now seems a little old fashioned software-wise.

Daily links for 06/21/2010

  • “So which Linux music app is the best? Well, that’s up to you. There is no such thing as the best piece of software, just the one that’s most suited for your needs.
    When it comes to music players, Linux doesn’t just stack up well against the competition, it’s actually well ahead of it, offering features you won’t find on other platforms.”

    tags: ubuntu, itunes, music

  • “VMware and Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT), two rival virtualization technology providers with little love between them, are now publicly feuding over what VMware’s decision to offer an OEM version of Novell (NSDQ:NOVL)’s SUSE Linux means.
    The latest spat between the two stems from a June 9 announcement that VMware will distribute and support Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server operating system with its vSphere technology, and will standardize its virtual appliance-based product offerings on that operating system, known also as SLES.”

    tags: vmware, novell, microsoft

  • “The Gnome Developer Training sessions at GUADEC are designed to give experienced software developers the tools that they need to get the most out of developing free software in an open community.

    Improve the productivity of your development team with this two day course, which includes a hands-on practical session and an in-depth overview of the social aspect of community development. Learn how to reduce maintenance costs, get your work upstream and influence the direction of upstream projects. Covering common Linux development tools, the GNOME and FreeDesktop.org development platforms, this course will put extra tools into your developer’s toolbox.”

    tags: gnome, developer, training, open-source

  • “Adopting Chrome OS would be a wound for Microsoft. Dell already uses Ubuntu Linux on a handful of netbooks, but the new platform would give it a higher-profile OS and one that could help further reduce the price of a Mini netbook. Chrome OS needs SSD storage but, as it has a very small footprint and depends on web apps, can use drives that are cheaper than conventional hard drives. Similarly, it uses less memory as nearly every task occurs within just one app.”

    tags: dell, chrome, google, ubuntu, microsoft

  • “Meanwhile, Lucid Lynx is running nicely in a “virtual machine” on my MacBook Pro. I’ve been testing a variety of applications that could replace the Mac software I’ve come to rely on, though in some cases I can’t easily find adequate replacements (such as the blog-posting software I’m using to create this post).

    I’m planning to make this transition slow and systematic. And I’ll be blogging periodically about the process. These postings won’t be aimed at geeky folks, but rather at others like me who believe in true freedom of choice in a world where powerful institutions are trying to lure us — or force us — into their walled gardens.”

    tags: mac, linux

  • “One of the common complaints about Linux is that there are too many different editions (or “distributions”) to choose from, and only a hardcore nerd can tell them apart.

    Well, it’s true, but you can safely ignore 99 per cent of them. Welcome to The Register’s guaranteed impartiality-free guide. Tomorrow, we’ll tell you how to get them, burn them and set them up to dual-boot with Windows and on Wednesday there will be a guide to tweaking your new setup and getting it ready for use.”

    tags: linux

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/18/2010

  • “Normally this is where I’d say we’re about to start work on 3.1, but we’re actually not. We’re going to take a release cycle off to focus on all of the things around WordPress. The growth of the community has been breathtaking, including over 10.3 million downloads of version 2.9, but so much of our effort has been focused on the core software it hasn’t left much time for anything else. Over the next three months we’re going to split into ninja/pirate teams focused on different areas of the around-WordPress experience, including the showcase, Codex, forums, profiles, update and compatibility APIs, theme directory, plugin directory, mailing lists, core plugins, wordcamp.org… the possibilities are endless.”

    tags: wordpress, blog

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

10 ideas about integrating open source into your IT infrastructure

At the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) this year I did a presentation called “Asking the hard questions about open source software.” I’ve been expanding on some of the areas I mentioned and have previously posted the blog entries “10 elements of open source governance in your organization” and “10 considerations for maintaining open source in your organization.”

Today I want to talk about integrating open source software into your IT infrastructure. Here’s the slide I used at OSBC:

How easy is it to integrate the software with your data or other software you already use?

  • Does your software use recognized industry standards or does it have its own way of formatting data?
  • Are the developers of the software involved in creating the standards that will allow interoperability?
  • If you adopt the software, who will do the integration tasks?
  • Is the software certified for use on the operating system and hardware platform you plan to use?

Integration means having your software systems and services talk to each other, wherever they may be located, in ways that implement the processes by which you run your company or organization. Integration failures can cause unhappy clients or customers, lost productivity and revenue, and sometimes legal problems.

  1. A certain vendor who shall remain nameless used to tell its customers “Integration and interoperability are easy, just buy everything from us.” They usually skipped the next part which would have said “and then you’ll be locked into our products and it will be very expensive and time-consuming to change that. Ha, ha, ha.” Most customers with whom I speak have a combination of traditional software from multiple vendors, open source from several providers, and various combinations of bespoke code. Your IT world is heterogeneous, probably, whether you are using open source or not.
  2. Newer technologies like Service Oriented Architecture and Cloud Computing can change and improve the way you implement your business processes. As you look across your IT landscape, ask yourself where open source software might or might not fit and where it will improve or possibly make worse what you are doing now. I say “open source software” in that last sentence, but you could substitute “any software I am considering using.” Remember that open source software is software, after all.
  3. Whatever the price of the software you are considering integrating into your IT infrastructure, you need to know if it will exchange information with full fidelity with your other installed software or that which you are using as a service, perhaps in the cloud. That is, does the open source software fully and correctly implement the open standards and protocols to allow it to drop into your infrastructure? Again, and for the last time here, you should ask this of any software, not just open source software.
  4. It is not sufficient to say “I have the code for the open source software, I can see how it does things, so I don’t care if it implements open standards for interoperability.” Code changes while standards define interfaces that are meant to be stable, at least for a while. By all means, ensure that the open source software implements open standards.
  5. Customers routinely test software vendors to see how well they implement standards. Expect them to do the same with open source software providers. Further expect to have to document each and every standard that it is used for interoperability, along with the versions implemented, and extent of implementation.
  6. Customers often ask traditional software vendors to join standards organizations. Expect them to do the same with open source software providers. You’ll need to figure out exactly what this means if the open source provider is a widely diverse community of people from many organizations. If a vendor who is a member of an open source community joins a standards organization because of a customer request, you’ll need to know explicitly whether the vendor is representing itself or the community.
  7. Vendors often take on the task of integrating software for customers, and there are system integrators who can do the same. Who will do this for the open source software you are planning to use? Sometimes there are open source companies like Red Hat or Novell, or services and integration companies like IBM or Accenture whom you can pay to do the integration. You might even be considering installing, integrating, and maintaining the software yourself. Make sure you have someone who knows the open source technology and can integrate it correctly with the rest of your infrastructure.
  8. Depending on your organization and its rules about what software can be used, you may need to check off that the open source software is certified for your hardware. Learn whether that is done by the software or hardware provider. Depending on where your open source code is coming from, you may need to reconsider any ironclad rule about certification, if you decide use of the code is critical. Your internal process for such an exception will need to be adjusted accordingly.
  9. Once that open source software is sitting in your infrastructure, how are you going to manage it? Does the systems management software you are using now support the open source code? Does the open source software need to be extended in order to support management standards? Does the systems management software itself need to be augmented?
  10. If you are using no open source code strategically in your organization but you think you should consider using it, start with Linux. There are many highly motivated people, organizations, and companies that can help you integrate Linux into your IT world. Furthermore, it is mature technology with several first class distributions.

The Whole Series

Daily links for 06/17/2010

  • “Let me be blunt: If you’re not using Linux on the desktop in call center and other fixed-purpose computing environments, you’re doing your company a disservice.

    It never fails to amaze me when I see environments with hundreds of Windows XP systems running TN3270 sessions to an AS/400, with a headset-equipped person staring at the green screen and talking to a customer. Even if there were a need for Web browsing and email for those users, why would you pay for Windows on that system in this day and age?”

    tags: desktop, linux

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/16/2010

  • “The world does need an Apple tablet — and perhaps others — contrary to what I asserted in late January. Gloaters will circle my admission like vultures pecking a carcass, but that’s the penalty for being wrong. Yes, I was wrong. I admit it.”

    tags: ipad, apple

  • “To compete, the biggest PC makers are looking beyond Windows. Dell, the third-largest manufacturer, is turning to Google Inc.’s Android operating system and ARM Holdings-designed chips for one of its tablets. Hewlett-Packard, the industry’s leader, acquired Palm Inc. to gain its own operating system for portable devices.

    Demand for the Windows tablets currently sold by Hewlett-Packard and Dell has been lackluster, according to IDC. Before the iPad went on sale this year, the researcher had been forecasting that sales of tablets would decline to less than 1 percent of the overall PC market in the United States. IDC has predicted total shipments of just 523,000 tablets.”

    tags: tablet, ipad, windows, microsoft

  • “Flying across the world like a virtual Superman just got a little more portable and touchable, as Google has updated Google Earth in the App Store with an iPad version.”

    tags: google, earth, ipad

  • “If you’re actively searching for an alternative to Microsoft Office lock-in, however, don’t be distracted by the Office Web Apps. If you can deal with their primitive feature set, they may save you the cost of a desktop Office 2010 installation, but they do nothing to address the real issues at stake.”

    tags: microsoft, office, web

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/14/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/10/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

10 considerations for maintaining open source in your organization

At the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) this year I did a presentation called “Asking the hard questions about open source software.” Last week I expanded on one of the areas and discussed it in the blog entry “10 elements of open source governance in your organization.”

Today I want to talk about maintaining open source once you’ve brought it into your IT infrastructure. Here’s the slide I used at OSBC:

Who will maintain your installation of the software?

  • If you are planning for your IT staff to install and maintain your software, make sure it doesn’t get orphaned when you have personnel turnover.
  • When software updates come along, you will need a plan to decide which ones to install and when, especially if major releases come along every six months or so.
  • If you customize open source code for your organization, are you prepared to propagate those changes into newer versions of the code?

So you’ve decided to use some open source code in your organization, company, or enterprise. What’s the same or different about maintaining open source versus traditional software. Here are ten things to consider:

  1. The term “maintenance” can be considered one component of “subscription, support, and maintenance” or it can be used more generally to mean “now that’ve I’ve installed this software, how do I make it do what I want, patched, and updated?”.
  2. When you outsource your datacenter, you pay to have others manage and maintain your hardware, software, data, network, and so forth. When you do it yourself, obviously you are responsible for keeping everything running correctly. You need to ensure that your staff has the skills and the resources to keep your systems going 24/7 or at least as much as you need them. For open source, they need the skills to keep the software running and they need to know where to look or who to call when there is something they cannot handle.
  3. You probably use more open source software than you realize. Many software products from IBM, for example, include open source code from Apache, Eclipse, and other projects. Your maintenance plan for this software can therefore come from your software vendor, if that is your common practice. It’s business as usual.
  4. Similarly, if you have obtained a “pure” open source “product” from a commercial company such as Red Hat, Novell, or SugarCRM, you can purchase a subscription, support, and maintenance contract from them. Partners of such open source companies may also distribute and provide first or second line support. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting and from whom.
  5. “Open source software” is often too simple a phrase to describe the range of what it means. For example, it is much easier to maintain a straightforward 1000 line piece of open source code than a multimillion line project with many installation options and configuration settings. Therefore you need to understand the quality and complexity of the code you are thinking of maintaining for your organization. It might be trivial or it might be impossible for you to do it yourself. The word “impossible” should not be used near the phrase “mission critical.”
  6. If you bring software into your organization and then make significant changes to it, do you expect someone else to be able to fix it when something goes wrong? I discussed this earlier in the blog entry “On highly customizing that open source code.” Let me summarize by saying you should either 1) not make massive changes, or 2) if you do, contribute them back to the community so that your modifications (presumably improvements?) get incorporated into the project. It will make it easier for you to use newer versions and others will benefit from your work, just as you benefited from theirs.
  7. Be honest about your organization’s ability to maintain the code yourself. If you have the right people with the right skills, it could be a real win for you. If you don’t, or your people don’t have the ability to fix everything necessary, it could be a disaster.
  8. Your people may have the skills today, but will those people work for you tomorrow? Invest in training and pay attention to ensuring continuity of your ability to maintain the software.
  9. For some software, many questions about installation and maintenance can be resolved with a good search engine. Before you install the software, try some searches to learn of others’ experience with it and how easily they got problems resolved.
  10. Look at the forums at the websites from which you are obtaining the software. Are they vibrant? Do questions get answered or is most of the time spent in flaming “noobs”? It’s a bad sign if relatively simple questions just sit there with no one responding to them. Conversely, if the community is really driven to help people start and keep using the software, the project has great documentation, and, most important, the software is well architected and mostly bug-free, your comfort level in maintaining it yourself should be higher.

Let me summarize: know the scale and complexity of the open source software you plan to use; don’t get in over your head on maintaining mission critical, enterprise software; your least expensive option may be to pay for a maintenance contract from someone who deals with the software all day long, every day; and only maintain software yourself when it comes from helpful, dynamic communities that produce great code.


The Whole Series

Daily links for 06/09/2010

  • “Your study found that it would cost $1.4 billion for a company to build the Linux kernel from scratch today, and $10.8 billion to build an entire Linux distribution similar to Fedora 9. Can you explain how you reached those figures?”

    tags: linux, cost, fedora

  • “Due to an early emphasis on getting the right architecture for its Azure cloud platform, which went live in February, Microsoft‘s cloud service is still missing key features that are available in the company’s standalone products, said Microsoft executives at the company’s 2010 Tech Ed conference, being held this week in New Orleans.”

    tags: microsoft, azure, cloud

  • “Last week Laurent Bounin of Savoir Faire Linux in Quebec wrote in with good news.

    A Canadian court ruled the provincial government broke the law in 2006 when it upgraded Windows on 800 workstations and excluded open source from the bid.

    It wasn’t a complete victory. The decision was not reversed. But Savoir Faire got its court costs, and the government is on notice.”

    tags: open-source, canda

  • “A key finding was the continued growth of Linux as a developer desktop. “Close to one-third of developers (33 percent) now use Linux as their primary development operating system; this is up from 20 percent in 2007,” the report said.

    “In parallel, Microsoft Windows has dropped from 74 percent in 2007 to 58 percent in 2010,” Eclipse said in the report.”

    tags: eclipse

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/08/2010

IBM System z

  • “In recognition of the 10 year anniversary of Linux* on IBM System z*, Novell today announced customer adoption, open source product innovation and ISV and partner support of SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server for IBM* System z. As the market leader for Linux on System z, Novell is the only operating system vendor to support Linux on IBM mainframe servers for its entire 10 year history and continues to capture market share with new customers and channel partners. Since 2000, when SUSE Linux Enterprise Server became the first commercially-available enterprise Linux distribution for IBM System z mainframes, Novell has delivered Linux-based mainframe solutions that customers across all industries can deploy to expand their critical applications and workloads.”

    tags: novell, linux, ibm, suse

  • “Free coffee is Barnes & Noble’s latest means of inducing customers to use its BN e-reader software in various devices, including the retailer’s own Nook, while inside its stores.

    During the limited promotion period, customers who show a Barnes & Noble cafe server an open e-book on any device running the BN software can get one free tall cup of coffee. The eligible devices include the Nook along with iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, BlackBerries or HTC HD2 devices and portable Mac or Windows computers.”

    tags: ebook, coffee

  • “Tony Hsieh built his online shoe retailer into an e-commerce powerhouse. But with credit tightening and investors eyeing the exits, Hsieh was forced to ask: Was selling Zappos really the only way to save it?”

    tags: zappos, retail, amazon

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A month with an iPad

I’ve now had my Apple iPad for a bit more than a month, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on what I think of it and how my perception of it has changed during that time. I’ve written before about my experience after almost two weeks, but now I’ve had more time to kick the tires.

  • I’m glad I opted for 3G. While I do use the iPad at home quite a bit, bringing it along with me when I travel or even run around town is extra convenient because I have Internet access. While coverage is not 100%, I usually don’t have to think about whether I can get onto the Web.
  • I’m glad I opted for 64Gb. While this did push the price up, I already have more than 32Gb of material on the device, and it’s been nice not to have to edit down my music collection.
  • When I first got the iPad, it brought in all the apps I had installed on my iPhone. I then deleted most of the apps that weren’t necessary, but I’ve gotten much more aggressive lately about either deleting the iPhone apps or looking for bigger, or “HD,” versions. I typically have my iPhone with me when I have the iPad, so there’s no need to be redundant other than convenience.
  • One annoyance is that similar iPad apps are usually more expensive than their iPhone counterparts. I also suspect some of the iPhone app developers have gone away because some iPhone apps that would have reasonable iPad editions have still not materialized.
  • I’ve managed to keep to one screen of apps that are especially good when I travel, though the mix has changed.
  • Similarly, I have a screen’s worth of games, though I delete them if 1) I don’t play them and 2) I didn’t pay for them. I am willing to keep around games that my son plays. Scrabble and, of course, Solitaire are excellent time killers.
  • My most recent new screen of apps is devoted to music especially, for some reason, guitar tuners. The coolest new one I’ve found is PolyTune. This allows you to tune all six guitar strings at one time.
  • I’ve become much more comfortable with using the iPad as an ebook reader. I have several nonfiction books and I’m reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I recommend that a good way to get adjusted to reading a book on a device is to get a book you really want to read, a real page-turner. This may seem obvious, but otherwise you’ll just collect ebooks that you want to have versus want to read.
  • I simply don’t miss Adobe Flash on the device. Sure, I’ve run into a few websites that use it, but I’ve always been able to find alternatives to getting the information I wanted. This is not a comment on the Apple/Adobe debate, just an observation.

Daily links for 06/04/2010

  • “It was a standard Ballmer-and-Microsoft defensive play on the PC’s place in the future of technology, a defense that conflates the idea of the computer with machines that run Windows.

    And when it comes to tablets, Microsoft tried and failed under co-founder Bill Gates to rally OEMs on new devices running Windows. Tablets running Windows saw limited uptake, and only in vertical sectors. The iPad is going where Windows failed: into general consumer and business users’ hands.”

    tags: windows, ipad, ballmer, apple

  • “Much as blogs have bitten into the news business and YouTube has challenged television, digital self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that’s threatening the traditional industry. Once derided as “vanity” titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.”

    tags: publishing, ebook

  • “This collection of Drupal modules powers the website of the New York State Senate and is available as-is for use and adaptation by anyone who wishes to build a public-facing website for government or other agencies.”

    tags: drupal, politics

  • “CiviCRM is a free, libre and open source software constituent relationship management solution. CiviCRM is web-based, internationalized, and designed specifically to meet the needs of advocacy, non-profit and non-governmental groups. Integration with both Drupal and Joomla! content management systems gives you the tools to connect, communicate and activate your supporters and constituents.”

    tags: opensource, crm, drupal, cms, civicrm

  • “So let’s try to tally the score. There’s no guarantee that anyone’s app will be accepted, but as near as I can tell, here are a few things you can do to get you booted off the App Store”

    tags: apple, iphone

  • “Software development for Apple‘s mobile platforms is hot hot hot. With more than 50 million iPhones sold, along with 35 million iPod touch devices and hundreds of thousands of iPads, there are opportunities for every developer, every marketer, every entrepreneur, every ISV and every enterprise IT professional.

    Come to iPhone/iPad DevCon to learn how to succeed with your mobile apps development, deployment and marketing.”

    tags: iphonedevcon, iphone, ipad, apple, conference

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/03/2010

  • “With ODFToEPub everyone can write an e-book with full control over how it will look. All you need is a word processor that can produce a document in a format suitable for OpenOffice.”

    tags: odf, ePub

  • “It was a good run, Digg.com. You certainly had a great idea and funneled plenty of Web traffic to opportunitstic and manipulative publishers.

    Alas, the run is over. And it’s not coming back.”

    tags: digg

  • “The iPad from Apple is the latest member of a new, multi-use generation of technology. It’s a book, it’s e-mail, it’s your social network or your office, it’s your music and your photos plus the apps for all of that.
    And the more ways we can use a device, the more we’ll want to take a look at how using it affects those around us.”

    tags: ipad, apple

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/02/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

10 elements of open source governance in your organization

At the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) this year I did a presentation called “Asking the hard questions about open source software.” One of the areas I touched upon was open source governance:

Do you have proper legal controls and business processes in place to deal with open source software?

  • That is, what is your open source governance strategy?
  • Five years ago, it was not uncommon for that strategy to be defined as “you shall use no open source software.”
  • You need to understand the legal risks and responsibilities for any software you use, and weigh those against the business value.
  • Work out a plan that specifies what business and legal controls are in place to approve use of open source in your organization or in your products, and make sure you have a well defined escalation path.

Open source governance means how you control the flow of open source code into and out of your organization; how it is used in your products and services; how it is used to run your business; and the business and legal processes around all of this.

Here are some elements you need to know and understand to have good open source governance.

  1. All projects to which your employees or organizational members contribute, the free and open source licenses being used, and the intellectual property commitments those contributions make upon your company or organization.
  2. All use of open source code within internal processes, product development, and services engagements.
  3. All open source code that goes into your hardware products, software products, web-delivered services, or are given to your customers as part of consulting and services engagements.
  4. The location of all open source code repositories used in development, with strict rules about what code with which licenses can be combined (or not).
  5. Uniform cross-organizational rules and policies about the use of open source, with the ability to audit adherence.
  6. Tools to determine code provenance (from which original bodies of open source code did your current codebase derive?).
  7. Balanced policies to weigh the business and legal benefits and risks in using open source code.
  8. Education for all employees, with special sections appropriate for users, contributors, developers, and distributors of open source code.
  9. Clear processes defining when decisions about open source can be made locally and when they must be made centrally, with paths for escalating decision making up both the executive and legal chains.
  10. An aggressive policy for contributing to the various open source communities from which you benefit in your company or organization.

The Whole Series

Daily links for 06/01/2010

  • “In spite of its weak security, poor performance, and woeful standards compliance, a lot of people are still using Internet Explorer 6 as their Web browser of choice. A large part of this user base seems to be made up of corporate users. According to Stuart Strathdee, Chief Security Adviser at Microsoft Australia, one of the reasons for this continued usage is that companies have found a virtue in one of the browser’s biggest flaws: it doesn’t work properly with social networking sites like Facebook.”

    tags: ie6, browser

  • “Old-school icon designers and retro game houses alike will be delighted by the release of Sprite Something from Terrible Games. Whether you remember the days of creating icons in ResEdit, or prefer creating RPG characters with pixels instead of polygons, Sprite Something for the iPad will be right up your alley. Admittedly, the audience is small, but the nostalgia factor is too great for it to be ignored.”

    tags: ipad, sprite, graphics

  • “Of the 187 new entrants, all but one are running some variant of Linux and in fact 470 of the Top 500 run Linux, 25 some other Unix (mostly AIX) and the remaining 5 run Windows HPC 2008.”

    tags: linux, supercomputer

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.