Some images from a week in the Adirondacks

This last week my wife were on vacation in the Blue Mountain Lake area of the New York Adirondack mountains. Here are a few shots of the lake and surrounding mountains taken at different times of the day and in different weather. The bonus flower shot was take at the WILD Center in Tupper Lake, NY.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

Photo from a visit to NY Adirondack mountains in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to NY Adirondack mountains in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to NY Adirondack mountains in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to NY Adirondack mountains in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to NY Adirondack mountains in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to NY Adirondack mountains in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to NY Adirondack mountains in July, 2011

Math Quick Take: Optimizing your garden’s area

I’m on vacation this week and taking it easy, so I thought I would do a post that appealed both to gardeners and math afficionados. Here’s the problem we’re going to solve:

Suppose you buy 100 feet of wire fencing. What’s the largest rectangular area garden you can enclose with it? Forget for the moment that you might want to leave an opening for a gate.

This is the sort of problem that you might get in differential calculus in that you are trying to find the maximum of some function, namely, the area of the garden. We’re going to do it more geometrically however.

Let’s start with what we know:

If we call the width of the garden w and the length l, then the perimeter, or the distance around the garden, is 2 * w + 2 * l and this must equal 100. That is, if you add up the length of the front, back, and two sides of the garden and represent it in feet, then it should be the amount of fence we bought. So we have the equation:

2w + 2l = 100

The area of the garden is the length times the width. So if we call this A, we know that

A = lw

We can represent the first equation in terms of w:

2w + 2l = 100

2l = 100 – 2w

l = (100 – 2w)/2 = 50 – w

So we can now represent the A just in terms of w:

A = lw

A = (50 – w)w = 50ww2

There are a couple of extreme cases we can see from this equation. If the width is zero, or w = 0, we don’t really have a rectanglar garden, we simply have the 100 feet of fence running in a straight line away from us. The area of this is 0.

Similarly, if the width is 50 then the length is 0, and we again have a straight length of fence extending left to right for 100 feet. The area is 0 again.

We’re not allowing the length or width to be negative, so we now know that our answer for optimizing the area will have each of the length and width somewhere between 0 and 50, but not including those values.

Let’s try a few numbers to get a feel for what is going on.

If w = 1, then l = 49 and the area is 49. The lengths are in feet and the area is in square feet.

If w = 5, then l = 45 and the area is 225.

If w = 10, then l = 40 and the area is 400.

If w = 20, then l = 30 and the area is 600.

So far the area is increasing as w gets bigger. However,

if w = 30, then l = 20 and the area is 600 again. Moreover,

if w = 40, then l = 10 and the area is 400 again, which is smaller than 600.

So for a while when w was increasing, the area increased, but then it appeared to top off and start getting smaller again. This happened somewhere between the width being 20 and its being 30. Incidentally,

if w = 25, then l = 25 and the area is 625.

If you try values of w that are slightly smaller or larger than 25, the area will be less than 625 square feet.

Graph of areaYou can see what is happening in the graph to the right, courtesy of The area as a function of the width is a parabola. It reaches its maximum height when the width (and therefore also the length) is 25 feet.

So to answer our question, you should create a square garden with the width and the length being 25 feet. You will then get a garden with area 625 square feet.

Note that w and l are interchangeable and there is nothing special about either one in the sense that we know that one is bigger or smaller than the other. So we have some symmetry to this problem and it should not be a surprise that the rectangle turned out to be a square.

To solve this using calculus, take the derivate of A = 50ww2 with respect to w to get 50 – 2*w. Set this equal to 0 and solve for w to get w = 25, the same as we observed above. You should check that this gives us a maximum value for the area and not a minimum, but otherwise you are done.

What about that gate? Well, you could make your life easier and just make your 25 by 25 garden and have, say, a 3 foot opening for the gate. If you really wanted to maximize the area and use every bit of fencing, just assume that the perimeter is 103 feet instead of 100. That is, you use the 100 feet of fence and allow 3 extra feet for the gate. You still want a rectangular garden, so now you have 2w + 2l = 103, and you maximize the area. That’s left as an exercise for the reader.

Note that I stipulated a rectangular garden. Could we get more area if we had a perfectly circular one? Using our first perimeter value of 100, note that is equal to the circumference. Given a radius r, the circumference of a circle is 2 * π * r where π is approximately 3.1415926. The area of the circle is π * r2. So solving the circumference equation for r we get

100 = 2 * π * r


50 / π = r

The area is then

A = π * r2 = π * (50/π)*2 = 2500/π

So the approximate area for our circular garden is 795.8 square feet, which is quite a bit larger than the rectangular maximum of 625.

Daily links for 07/22/2011

  • “Smartphone adoption will continue to skyrocket with or without HTML5. That said, the most used single app is the browser. As HTML5 support continues to make its way into mobile browsers and HTML5 markup proliferates across the web, the phones themselves will increase in value because they have become an “always on, always connected” doorway into a vast, rich space. The question that most people ask regarding HTML5 on mobile is about the web vs. native debate (i.e., whether consumption of native apps slow in favor of HTML5 apps). I think this is a false dichotomy. I predict that in the distinction between native apps and web apps on mobile will eventually fade away.”

    tags: HTML5 mobile

  • “Van Nest told the judge Thursday that former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz gave a sworn statement this week that he did not object to Android when it was released and that he still views it as a “positive development” for the Java ecosystem.”

    tags: google java license

  • Microsoft‘s perennial money-losing online services unit, which runs the Bing search engine and MSN Internet portal, posted a 16.5 percent increase in sales to $662 million, but its loss widened to $728 million from a loss of $688 million a year ago, as Microsoft continues to pour money into attacking Google. The unit has now lost almost $6.5 billion in the last three fiscal years.”

    tags: microsoft windows

  • “Now, the LibreOffice folks are working on their suite, and, with IBM’s renewed participation, the Apache OpenOffice project (which may or may not end up implementing the Symphony bits, although I hope they do) seems to have some new life as well. under Sun had gotten into a rut — there’s nothing like real competition to get things moving again.”

    tags: openoffice IBM apache

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

Stats for browsers and operating systems accessing

It’s been a while since I last put up some stats about what browsers and operating systems access my website at Traditionally, Firefox did well, followed by Internet Explorer, and then Chrome. The last two are now reversed.

Since much of my blog content has focused on content regarding open standards and open source, it makes sense for Firefox to have consistently led. Here’s the statistical story for the last month, thanks to Google Analytics. I’ve focused on the top 5 in each category.


Position Browser Percentage
1. Firefox 44.37%
2. Chrome 24.60%
3. Internet Explorer 14.95%
4. Safari 9.69%
5. Konqueror 1.64%

Operating Systems

Position Operating System Percentage
1. Windows 54.75%
2. Macintosh 22.07%
3. Linux 12.82%
4. iPhone 2.59%
5. iPhone 2.57%

Browsers and Operating Systems

Position Browser / Operating System Percentage
1. Firefox / Windows 26.17%
2. Internet Explorer / Windows 14.89%
3. Chrome / Windows 12.57%
4. Chrome / Macintosh 9.28%
5. Firefox / Linux 8.07%

My social media operating policy

With the introduction of Google+, I now have yet another social media service by which I can communicate with family, friends, co-workers, industry colleagues, and complete strangers. In addition to this blog, which I’ve had for close to 7 years, I’m fairly active on FaceBook and Twitter.

I don’t schedule dedicated FaceBook or Twitter time. Rather, I usually read or add something during those little interstices during the day. If a call ends 2 minutes early, I’ll take a look. Sometimes I’ll add a thought or a link when it occurs to me. The notion of the stream is very important to me with those services. Most of what I see I see as it is posted. I may scroll down a bit, but I rarely go to someone’s page and read through all their recent entries.

In that way, social media to me through FaceBook and Twitter has very much been like a ticker tape of information that I consume or to which I contribute. It stays in my peripheral vision, sucking up minutes here or there as they become available.

Having these services have definitely decreased the frequency of my blogging. It’s easier to come up with a quick thought and publish it than write a longer piece. I’m trying to work through that, though, because most of my blog entries take 20 minutes or less to write. I try to get to my point and then move on.

I’ve now added Google+ to that mix. A downside is that it is one more service to use up those scarce and widely spaced minutes I have available. It is time consuming to check three services. I know from experience that I don’t do well with more than two.

I had a Plaxo account but now either don’t use it or I cancelled it (that I don’t remember is significant). LinkedIn is fine, but I do not spend more than a few minutes on it in one or two visits a week. I certainly don’t pay for their service. There are social media sites inside IBM and I don’t use them. I let my more public outlets cover anyone inside or outside of the company who might care to read my thoughts.

So I’m not sure how well Google+ will succeed for me but I really want to try to make it work. Over time I think it will replace Twitter but not FaceBook. I think it is great that Google+ and FaceBook will compete with each other. That will drive innovation, and by that I mean sexy, cool features. I’ve set up some circles and spend time in Google+ every day, but I’m not nearly as comfortable in it as I am in FaceBook. I hope to spend some time during an upcoming vacation to kick its tires more and and see how it can improve my life.

Daily links for 07/19/2011

  • “At first, this code wasn’t open-sourced at all, but in 2009, it was discovered that some GPL code was already in Hyper-V’s Linux drivers. So it was that “In a break from the ordinary, Microsoft released 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux community. The code, which includes three Linux device drivers, has been submitted to the Linux kernel community for inclusion in the Linux tree. The drivers will be available to the Linux community and customers alike, and will enhance the performance of the Linux operating system when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V.””

    tags: microsoft linux ZDNet

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

10 things to think about to improve software product descriptions

I’ve been back in a software product area since the beginning of June, and I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at product descriptions and literature. Not just IBM‘s, mind you, but those of our competitors as well. This includes traditional, commercial “proprietary” software and commercial open source software.

Some of the descriptions of products in the industry are quite good, but many are pretty bad. They seem to range from “this is so high level that you have no idea what the product does” to “this has a long list of technical details that we hope impresses you even though you might not know how they could possibly help your business.”

I know, I know, different descriptions for different audiences. What you say to someone in development or the CTO should probably be different from what you say to the CIO and almost certainly different from what you say to the CFO. However, when there is only one, everyone suffers.

You need to know who your audience is (“segmentation”) and then shape what you say. Explicitly address your different audiences. It’s ok to say right at the beginning of each paragraph to whom you are speaking.

Here are a few suggestions, written from the perspective of a customer.

  1. First and foremost, the goal in acquiring software is to accomplish something. Tell me if your product will help me do that. This might be a simple yes or no.
  2. If I am a developer, tell me how easily your product will let me do what I wish and how it will make my life simpler and more productive. This new ease is in comparison to the previous version of your product as well as offerings from your competitors. Don’t overdo it on cute statements like “we make developers happy.”
  3. Match new or improved technical features to business value. “By doubling the amount of memory your application can use, you can now serve 25% more customers in the same amount of time and increase your revenue.”
  4. Regarding business value, stating how your software can help increase revenue (as above), improve security, increase availability, improve customer loyalty, decrease maintenance costs, and simplify integration with other parts of the business are all good things. If your software will help do none of these, why would I possibly install it?
  5. Don’t be overly simplistic about TCO (total cost of ownership) and TCA (total cost of acquisition). I can add up transactional, service, and support costs over 5 years as well as you can.
  6. Do, however, give me a way to compute the real return on investment from your software. Even if your TCA is $0, I may need to pay my people, your people, or a services integrator money to make it work for me. Give me examples based on real customers if possible.
  7. If I read your website and after 5 minutes I still don’t have the vaguest idea what your product does or why I might want to install it, you’ve failed. Start over.
  8. Separate promises of future functionality and value from what you can do right now. I’m interested in your roadmap, but I have problems to solve right now. Do not imply you can do more today than you can.
  9. Use graphics well to convey what your software does and the value it gives me. Don’t think that adding more tiny boxes with tinier print in them improves things. You are educating me about your offerings so I can make an intelligent and well informed decision. You are helping me make the case for acquiring your software within my organization.
  10. For emphasis: tell me how your software will make my organization better, more efficient, and more profitable, and how I can serve my customers better. If it will lead to great personal success for me, so much the better!


Daily links for 07/18/2011

  • “When HP bought Palm last year I was hoping we would see less confusing messages and a more targeted focus for webOS with lots of resources to turn out great products. Instead, we end up with a rather lame tiny smartphone and then a tablet that was put on sale and then “officially launched” almost three weeks later. Yes, in case you didn’t know HP’s official launch for the HP TouchPad webOS tablet was yesterday, 17 July. I guess the 1 July release was just a practice run or something.”

    tags: HP touchpad

  • “The time for good intentions has passed. Android device owners need Google to take control and make things work properly. Keep the platform open where it counts, but lock down the core parts of the OS to make partners toe the line. Customers will thank you.”

    tags: control android

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

Daily links for 07/15/2011

  • “You know the funny thing about technology is that it tends to go in cycles. What hurt the mainframe the most was the market’s move to decentralize and put performance closer to the user. However, the massive switch to the Web and the concept of cloud computing reversed this trend and now the focus is to increasingly provide highly customized experiences on the Web. This shifts from heavy desktop and distributed computing platforms to highly centralized and I/O-intensive offerings. Much of what is being done is less about processing power and more about rapid data access or, in other words, mainframe country.”

    tags: IBM oracle mainframe

  • “SAP has joined the OpenJDK project, an Oracle-led initiative producing an open source implementation of Java that also has gained support of such companies as IBM and Apple in recent months.”

    tags: SAP java openjdk

  • “User response to the new licensing at VMware’s community forum has been decidedly negative. One person commenting on the VMware forum writes: “We just purchased 10 dual-socket servers with 192GB RAM each (enterprise license level), and we’ll need to triple our license count to be able to use all available RAM if allocated by VMs.” Another person claims that his small and medium business will see a 300 percent increase in price as a result of the new model.”

    tags: licensing vmware

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

IBM to donate Symphony code to Apache for consideration

Apache logoSix weeks ago I noted here that Oracle had to decided to offer the codebase for, the open source word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software suite to the Apache Software Foundation. Two weeks after that, Apache voted to accept the proposed project for incubation. Now, one month later, IBM is announcing that it will offer the Symphony source code to the Apache OpenOffice incubator for consideration. Why and what does this mean?

OpenOffice logoFirst of all, note that I said “for consideration.” Members of the OpenOffice “podling” at Apache, including folks who are IBM employees, will get to look at the changes and improvements that IBM made to OpenOffice code when it was incorporated into Symphony. If the podling members decide to use it, great! If they decide to do something else, so be it, that’s the way open source communities work.

Symphony logoThe changes affect areas of usability, performance, and accessibility. IBM’s hope is that this donation can further accelerate the development of OpenOffice as a platform for openness and innovation in the document creation and editing space. OpenOffice and software like Symphony that builds on it continue to help drive use of ODF, the Open Document Format. We’ve learned over the past few years that vendor-controlled or -dictated document formats are just a bad idea. A healthy and vibrant OpenOffice open source development community in Apache will help ensure continued adherence to the open standard as well as a codebase that can be used for desktop, mobile, and even cloud applications.

Work on Symphony will continue with the Apache OpenOffice code an essential part of its core. Just as IBM’s WebSphere Application Server (a product now very close to my heart) uses Apache open source code but has code also written by IBM, so too will Symphony continue to evolve within IBM using code from Apache. Employees of IBM will contribute to OpenOffice as part of the community. IBM will benefit from the work done by others in the community, but so too will we all.

As the core OpenOffice code gets better and better, downstream projects and products like Symphony will benefit because they can focus on the features that distinguish them and add particular value for their users. This other software might have alternative user interfaces, support different devices, or be optimized for particular consumer or enterprise applications.

I believe a strong OpenOffice community within the Apache Software Foundation benefits everyone who cares about standards and innovation for document processing. The community is growing, code is being added, the roadmap is becoming clearer. Please consider participating.

Daily links for 07/14/2011

  • “It’s no secret Google is searching for more patents to add to its portfolio. The search giant recently lost the bid for Nortel’s 6,000 mobile and wireless patents to a consortium of tech companies including Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and Sony. As my colleague MG Siegler wrote at the time, Google controls less than 1,000 patents, which is low compared to some of its competitors. Google currently owns 701 patents in total whereas Microsoft was granted 3,121 patents last year. Unfortunately, because Google doesn’t own a large number of patents, the company will continue to be vulnerable to patent lawsuits.”

    tags: google patent lawyers

  • “OK, enough is enough. While I don’t have any hard facts that anyone from Amazon will officially tell me, here’s what my sources have been telling me to expect. What I’m telling you here is from people both inside Amazon and from Amazon’s partners. Some of it may be wrong. I’m sure though that the broad picture is correct.”

    tags: amazon android tablet

  • “As a Google+ newbie, you might be wondering how to get all of your photos from your previous obsession (Facebook) to the latest spectacle, Google+. Facebook went on the defensive recently when users tried to export their friend lists to Google+ for easy adding. Facebook blocked the service, leaving us users to fend for ourselves. Well, listen, Facebook: you can take my friends, but you can’t take my photos.”

    tags: facebook google photos

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

A July Saturday in Camden, ME

This last weekend my wife Judith and I visited some friends in Maine and we spent a good part of Saturday in, around, and above Camden, Maine. We shopped, we ate, we sailed, we drove to the top of a mountain, and we had great lobster rolls. Here are some photos from the trip.

Some trip data:

Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011 Photo from a visit to Camden, ME, in July, 2011

Daily links for 07/12/2011

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

Daily links for 07/07/2011

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

Daily links for 07/06/2011

  • Apple’s iOS is now the number two smartphone platform in the U.S., according to market research firm comScore. Apple rose to second place during the three-month period ending in May, up 1.4 percentage points to 26.6 percent of total U.S. market share. Android was the only other platform that gained share of smartphone subscribers during the quarter, growing 5.1 percentage points to 38.1 percent of the total pool and retaining its number one spot among mobile operating systems. All other major players besides Android and iOS lost share, with Research in Motion taking the hardest hit with a 4.2 percentage point drop for its BlackBerry OS, while Microsoft and Palm each shed 1.9 and 0.4 percent respectively.”

    tags: RIM apple ios mobile

  • “It’s a strong testament to the power of Linux that HP has chosen WebOS as the platform for many upcoming phones, tablets, printers and PCs. WebOS is, of course, based on Linux, and its official launch on HP’s new TouchPad this week marks its official debut in the tablet space.”

    tags: HP webos tablet

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

Daily links for 07/03/2011

  • “The recently-released OpenAvatar kit for open source avatars could help enterprise users of virtual worlds reduce vendor lock-in and, eventually, lead to significant improvements in the appearance of avatars, VastPark CEO Bruce Joy told Hypergrid Business. VastPark is an Australian immersive environment vendor that has both commercial and open source versions of its virtual environment software. The OpenAvatar kit is designed to add a level of abstraction between the virtual environment server and the avatar itself, and can be adopted by any virtual environment that uses mesh avatars.”

    tags: avatar virtual-world

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

Daily links for 07/02/2011

  • “Last weekend we gave our readers the challenge of picking their single favorite Bruce Springsteen song. It’s not an easy decision. Do you go for an iconic song like “Born To Run,” or a slightly lesser known (but equally brilliant) track like “Backstreets”? Do you pick a rocker like “Rostalita (Come Out Tonight)” or a quiet, acoustic track like “Atlantic City”? Our readers went for all of the above. Click through to see the winners.”

    tags: bruce springsteen music

  • Google Chrome’s rise in popularity has been remarkably fast and it’s just hit a new milestone: more than 20% of all browser usage, according to StatCounter. Chrome rose from only 2.8% in June 2009 to 20.7% worldwide in June 2011, while Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer fell from 59% to 44% in the same time frame. Firefox dropped only slightly in the past two years, from 30% to 28%.”

    tags: google chrome

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

Photos from the garden, end of June, 2011

Yesterday at lunch I wandering outside to see how the various plants were doing in the gardens around the house. Because of the generally cool and wet weather this spring, we are several weeks behind where we would normally be at the end of June / beginning of July here in upstate New York, climate zone 5b. Here are some images of what is blooming and what is almost ready to do so.

Photo from the garden in upstate NY, end of June, 2011 Photo from the garden in upstate NY, end of June, 2011 Photo from the garden in upstate NY, end of June, 2011 Photo from the garden in upstate NY, end of June, 2011 Photo from the garden in upstate NY, end of June, 2011 Photo from the garden in upstate NY, end of June, 2011