Sunday, April 30, 2006
HUNTSVILLE, ONTARIO—Local beaver Dennis Messner is spending an inordinate amount of time and effort in the planning and construction phases of building his dam, according to neighbors close to the project.
In the past four months, Messner, 4, has visited hundreds of other dams and drawn up detailed and extensive blueprints. He has researched topics ranging from advanced dome acoustics to the near-extinction of the North American beaver in the early 20th century, and plans to incorporate much of his research into his design.
Enlarge ImageDennis Messner
"There are two primary schools of thought on dam building: the instinctive school and the adaptive school," Messner said, studying the river's current. "I'm more of an integration-minded postmodernist. I don't believe that form should follow function, like most of my colleagues do. On the other hand, a dam is a celebration of beaver culture, and that is what it should reflect."
"It's a lot to think about," Messner continued.
Despite time constraints dictated by the changing seasons, Messner has spent nearly 400 beaver-hours stripping logs of their bark and foliage, and more than two weeks scouting locations up and down the Muskoka River. "I just want everything to be perfect," he said.
Longtime friend and fellow Beaver Lodge No. 913 brother Tim McManus, who is nearing completion of his own dam, took a more pragmatic approach to construction. "Work-work-work. Gnaw-gnaw-gnaw. Build-build-build. Must hurry," he said.
Messner has already overthought and razed two dams this season alone. He dismissed the proportions of the first as "aesthetically dysfunctional," and the second was built out of cottonwood, which he called "a mistake." But, according to Messner, the latter experience got him thinking about different woods in ways he had never considered.
"What woods are the sturdiest, or the most visually pleasing?" Messner said. "What does a birch dam say? Everyone seems to love sugar maple, but it's such an overfamiliar scrub tree. Would I be making a stronger statement with willow? I don't want this to be one of those generic McDams."
"What do I have to say—as a beaver and as an artist?" he added.
After much thought, Messner decided to reconstruct the anterior section of the dam with poplar wood on Tuesday, after he finished "highly necessary" preparatory work chewing the branches into uniform-sized interlocking sticks. Yet such tasks struck fellow lodge members as excessive.
"Get to work, get to work, build the dam, build the dam," Cyril Kyree said as he dragged a number of logs into the shallow lick of river where the rest of the lodge has built their nests. "Chew-chew-chew. Need a mate. Build the dam."
Enlarge ImageAn incomplete dam aborted over "symmetry issues."
An incomplete dam aborted over "symmetry issues."
Messner rejected the criticism. "Not everyone in this area cares or is even aware of how dam building alters an ecosystem," Messner said. "But I am, and, yes, I do wonder what kind of impact my dam will have on the environment. How can I make this the most positive experience possible, while still minimizing adverse impact on the wetlands? What kind of beaver would I be if I didn't take erosion science into consideration?" To that end, Messner has reached out to the local otter, fish, and waterfowl communities, and has incorporated their input into his design.
Despite some frustration with his efforts, Messner professed faith in the process.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm just treading water," he said. "Then I remember that a beaver near Baysville built a dam that was nearly 12 feet high. There's even one that's almost 200 feet long in Manitoba. I want to build something that I can be proud of."
This marks the third consecutive spring in which Messner has sought to build the perfect dam. Many in the area believe that Messner will fail and resort to burrowing a hole in the muddy ground where he will spend the rest of the season, as he has done the past three years.
The reason this won't turn into a second Bubble is that the IPO market is gone. Venture investors are driven by exit strategies. The reason they were funding all those laughable startups during the late 90s was that they hoped to sell them to gullible retail investors; they hoped to be laughing all the way to the bank. Now that route is closed. Now the default exit strategy is to get bought, and acquirers are less prone to irrational exuberance than IPO investors. The closest you'll get to Bubble valuations is Rupert Murdoch paying $580 million for Myspace. That's only off by a factor of 10 or so.
Does "Web 2.0" mean anything more than the name of a conference yet? I don't like to admit it, but it's starting to. When people say "Web 2.0" now, I have some idea what they mean. And the fact that I both despise the phrase and understand it is the surest proof that it has started to mean something.
As you read this, a whole new generation of software is being written to take advantage of Ajax. There hasn't been such a wave of new applications since microcomputers first appeared. Even Microsoft sees it, but it's too late for them to do anything more than leak "internal" documents designed to give the impression they're on top of this new trend.
In fact the new generation of software is being written way too fast for Microsoft even to channel it, let alone write their own in house. Their only hope now is to buy all the best Ajax startups before Google does. And even that's going to be hard, because Google has as big a head start in buying microstartups as it did in search a few years ago. After all, Google Maps, the canonical Ajax application, was the result of a startup they bought.
So ironically the original description of the Web 2.0 conference turned out to be partially right: web-based applications are a big component of Web 2.0. But I'm convinced they got this right by accident. The Ajax boom didn't start till early 2005, when Google Maps appeared and the term "Ajax" was coined.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
which first held me captivated
where I stood.
to dazzle the sun
and warm every corner of my soul.
like a sparkling mountain stream
which flows into my heart.
and the way your gracefulness
takes my breath away.
about which I dreamed
cascading into my face
as you hover over me.
whose caress I crave
to hold my face
in their tenderness.
I long to have around my neck
as you pull me close
to your warmth.
Most of all
everything you are
changed the way I feel about my life.
I love you.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
IT Commandment: Put thy users first, above all else by ZDNet's Dion Hinchcliffe -- While the concept of IT commandments sounds rigid and inflexible to me, I will admit there are some core truths that should almost never be violated. Fellow ZDNetter Paul Murphy has recently blazed this trail and it's an interesting experiment in seeing what people believe is fundamentallly important in IT if nothing else, and spark useful debates. IT commandments will be part of a ZDNet blog series over the next week or so.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
The client-side technology known as
In the tech world, there are many phenomena in information technology that undergo a rapid increase in visibility, as analyzed by Gartner in the Hype Cycle model. Technology initiatives such as Java, .NET, "push," Web services, Flash and service-oriented architecture (SOA) have all enjoyed a period in the limelight. However, few of these can rival
- It is concrete and conceptually simple. A modest understanding of Web technology is required, but less so than with other, more complex technologies, such as WS-*.
- A little goes a long way. short snippets of
code added to an existing application can produce beneficial, highly visible results. Ajax
- It has a high degree of compatibility with established Web applications.
can be folded into existing applications without re-architecting. Ajax
- No significant investment is required to purchase new tools, servers or infrastructure, in contrast to heavyweight technologies such as Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and .NET.
- It fills a need.
addresses a long-standing complaint among users and developers, who chafe at the stark "plain-vanilla" HTML user interface. (Of course, as stated in other Gartner research, often the real need is for a user-centered design process that has a pragmatic focus on high-usability interaction patterns, rather than technology or tools. Nonetheless, the perception of an overly constrained HTML interface remains.) Ajax
- It provides a wide range of choices. Developers interested in using
can choose from many alternatives among commercial and open-source offerings. Unlike mature categories of software, such as databases, where there are only a handful of choices (both open-source and closed-source), with Ajax there are dozens of choices. Ajax
The potential benefits of using
- Improved user experience (greater responsiveness, reduced latency, preservation of context), which leads to increased user productivity; satisfaction; better adoption and retention; reduction in the number of errors, Web page abandonment and support calls; and less reliance on alternative (more expensive) communication channels (such as in-person visits and phone calls).
- Increased performance as a result of decreased system load (through more compact page representation and caching of elements across page requests).
- Potentially greater maintainability and flexibility, as a result of modularization, code reuse and consistency.
These benefits are by no means guaranteed and have more to do with sound development process and architecture than a particular technology, but they are often cited as part of the rationale for an
Monday, April 24, 2006
supported by a vendor as a service, which is accessed by users via the
Internet, without the need to deploy and maintain an on-premise IT
infrastructure. Whereas some people associate SaaS with ‘pay-as-you-go’
subscription pricing, SaaS is more indicative of the hosted deployment model.
In fact, SaaS can be priced via subscription, annually or perpetually.
SaaS has generated growing industry attention and customer acceptance
because it offers a simpler method to adopt and administer essential
business software applications such as enterprise spend management, ecommerce,
workforce performance management (WPM), and customer
relationship management (CRM). It also makes it easier for end-users to
access and use these applications via the Internet.
SaaS does not require additional IT infrastructure investments in new servers
and databases to store data, or private networks to permit user access.
Instead, companies can leverage the SaaS provider’s hosting facilities and
take advantage of web-based access. The SaaS model also substantially
increases application reliability because vendors perform frequent backups
and utilize redundant hosting facilities to reduce the risk of “down-time”. By
comparison, on-premise software deployments don’t offer this safety net.
These SaaS attributes let companies focus their limited in-house IT resources
on more strategic corporate initiatives rather than reacting to daily application
availability, maintenance and support issues.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
By Mark Gibbs
An example of a contender in the AJAX market that has recognized that the value to enterprises lies in offering more than a tool kit is JackBe with its NQ Suite .
First, let's look at its technology: JackBe provides a complete suite for developing AJAX applications and as the company's architecture diagrams show, JackBe is a bridge between the client-side and the server-side presentation logic (why don't more companies take the time to draw useful architectural diagrams as JackBe has - well done chaps!).
On top of the client-side Core Service sit two service modules, and the JackBe Markup Language ( JBML ).
JBML provides "XML-based, declarative GUI programming" that is created using the JackBe Visual GUI Builder and Integrated Development Environment (IDE) under MSIE in which JackBe applications are created. JackBe-created applications talk either to the JBML subsystem or the JackBe API . The API allows you to program events such as widget instantiation, data population, and property manipulation as well as server communications requests, data validation, and DOM query and manipulation.
On top of the JBML and API layers sit the JackBe Widgets . The Basic Widget library provides the usual components such as buttons, labels, forms, text fields, radio buttons, check boxes, option menus, navigation controls and page layout, while the Advanced Widgets include searchable data tables, calendar controls, drag and drop support, charts and graphs, sliders and spreadsheets.
The final layer in JackBe's architecture is the AJAX application.
JackBe offers a couple of guided demos
and you can check out what its customers have used the system for .
Now the other part of the equation: What JackBe offers above and beyond a toolkit. As the company points out, there are more than 70 major players in the AJAX development market and many of the tools are open source and free. This means that the tools alone are of minimal value but if businesses intend that AJAX-based business applications are going be cost-effective then they need much more than tools.
As a result, JackBe offers a complete solution-oriented service that is based on definable client business projects that combine JackBe's tool kit with consulting and performance goals.
This is one of the more sophisticated approaches to the AJAX market and is much more in line with enterprise goals than the adoption of a tool kit because JackBe recognizes that what is needed isn't just technology but return on development.
Friday, April 21, 2006
ROI: Better user interfaces can result in fewer human errors resulting in time savings, and less overall frustration. Reduced long-term impact of bandwidth requirements.
Looking at a conservative potential time savings of 36 seconds per transaction, if a business performs 50,000 of these transactions per year, and a labor cost of $20/hour, we see a total labor savings of $10,000 per year, or 500 man hours, on this transaction type alone. Given the Microsoft Fiddler predicted time savings of 199.01 seconds per transaction for a remotely hosted application, you see a more aggressive cost reduction of approximately $55,281 per year for this transaction type, or 2,764 man hours.” Measuring the Benefits of
Although the benefits of improved application architecture extend beyond mere time savings, when included with other qualitative factors a quick ROI calculation such as this can strengthen the business case for
User Satisfaction: enables developers to provide new kinds of data visualizations and interactivity that would only have been seen before on the desktop, allowing users to do more with their information assets.
Reduced Total Cost of Ownership when compared to an existing application including the impact of yearly licensing of proprietary desktop software, as well as distribution and support costs.
Reach New Audiences: Forward thinking government agencies have reduced costs by extending intuitive self-service applications to audiences who found earlier web applications too difficult and too slow to use on a regular basis.
Increase Sales: Frustrated by lower than expected on-line sales, large pharmaceuticals companies have improved revenues by replacing their old web-based e-commerce system with an easier to use, interactive purchasing application.
Increased online revenue: Through reduced website abandonment and higher sales conversion rates
Lower support center: costs through a more intuitive, capable, responsive, and flexible user interface that reduces customer calls
Higher customer satisfaction and loyalty: which are critical factors since the Jupiter Group reports that retaining current customers has now become a higher priority for online commerce than gaining new customers
Data Transition Time: Time is money. Over many repetitions, the time employees spend waiting for servers to refresh pages can add up to significant costs. AJAX Data is More Compact
Task completion Time: Increased user interface efficiency can result in more intuitive designs that can save time performing specific tasks. AJAX is Faster
Reduced Bandwidth Consumption: Bandwidth does not increase linearly, but does increase as the company invests in larger-capacity Internet connections and new hardware to accommodate greater server loads. A firm's cost structure for bandwidth depends on the scale of their operation and these capital investment needs. If repetitious tasks consume a lot of bandwidth, these costs can escalate dramatically. AJAX is More Efficient
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
vendors and data publishers within the OGC, not to mention the larger software industry, has confirmed this. The first family of OGC technology specifications, collectively referred to as Simple Features, did not deliver directly in terms of interoperability because the Simple Features APIs for Component Object Model (COM) and the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) were not widely implemented (only one vendor has implemented all these, which does not constitute interoperability). However, the specification of feature geometry and coordinate systems that emerged from the Simple Features specifications has become central to the new generation of Web-based specifications.
The bearer of interoperability must be the data model. The data model must be rich enough and adaptive enough to contain all that is needed by an enterprise GIS software's anticipated clients. It must also be simple enough structurally that it is easily and widely supported by multiple vendors' software. Coarse-grained APIs working with this data model will provide the best performance and most efficient communication and processing of geospatial information among various application clients.
The approach laid out in this paper achieves the following important goals:
! Enterprise GIS systems need interoperability solutions that are scalable across a range of bandwidths from zero to very high connectivity.
! Some GIS users need to be able to work with legacy systems for the foreseeable future, but this should not prevent others from taking advantage of current and future capabilities of information technology as they appear.
! Any API defined for an enterprise GIS should be permissive, rather than prescriptive, in support of differing data requirements for its various client applications. GIS consumers should not be limited to getting only what they can use in their legacy applications today but should be able to pull additional information from the central data store as their applications evolve to handle it (such as commercial GIS can today).
Monday, April 17, 2006
“Currently, GIS is being implemented on the Internet with simple Web mapping technologies. Such recent advances as the Google Earth 3D visualization environment are simply extending map-viewing capabilities in this traditional manner. But as the GIS server architecture takes hold, we will see leveraging of the Web 2.0 environment for integration and the linking of a whole multitude of distributed services, as well as the development of a whole new generation of embedded applications that will make use of these services. This new architecture will support both existing and new workflows that will lead to improvements in how information is integrated and used to support multi-agency/multi-organization collaboration.
To realize the full potential of service-oriented architecture with geoservices, certain procedures and protocols will have to be implemented, including standardization of data models, creation of interoperability procedures (Extract, Transform, and Load and related technology), implementation of GIS portals and collaborative agreements, willingness among public and private entities to collaborate and share information, and the further development of the underlying fundamental technology. This new generation of geoservices will enable a new type of synergistic relationship between groups and agencies with data and services going back and forth between them.
Interoperability is a key aspect of expanded use of spatial information. Interoperability standards will ensure open access to geospatial content and the ability to integrate multiple geoservices and better integrate geoservices with the rest of the IT infrastructure (enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and so on). I am personally very excited about what is about to happen. While political leadership and knowledgeable GIS professionals are essential to make this vision a reality, emerging technology, such as full GIS servers, will be the key to creating the system-of-systems capabilities. Future services will include image processing, maps and visualizations, globe services, geocoding and gazetteer services, real-time tracking services, terrain services, as well as metadata catalog services, which is the key for discovery and portal integration.” Jack Dangermond, President and Founder, ESRI
Sunday, April 16, 2006
to Ajax has also brought attention
to rich Web applications, which will
help vendors using other development
approaches, Garrett said.
According to Norbye, better
browsers, tools, and network performance
will improve Ajax’s capabilities
in the future.
Ajax could find various uses. For
example, vendors could use it to build
Web-based versions of desktop applications.
This way, companies could
make software widely available to
employees via a network and thus
avoid spending the time and money
required to install applications on
every computer. Ajax also could be
useful for the growing number of Web
applications for mobile devices.
However, predicted Root, while Ajax
may prove interesting to developers
now, they may turn to versions of Flash
and other technologies in the future
because, for example, Flash supports
audio, video, advanced vector graphics,
and other capabilities that Ajax
Because they find it useful, companies
will create more Ajax-based
applications in the near future,
predicted Kevin Lynch, Macromedia’s
chief software architect.
“We’re now entering a period of
experimentation,” said Adaptive Path’s
Garrett. “A lot of people in the past
six months became aware of the possibilities
that Ajax opens up for them.
Developers are pushing at the boundaries
of what they can do with it.”
Ajax will do well as long as it is competitive
with other approaches. For
example, Google’s Taylor said, his
company will use Ajax as long as it
likes what the technology offers. He
explained, “We will use whatever technology
platform provides the richest
user experience possible.”
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Sun Exodus Aids JackBe: "To get a head start on the emerging trend of AJAX and SOA integration, JackBe, one of the early AJAX supporters (it had one of the first AJAX tool kits available on the market), has recruited three of Sun's top Java/SOA engineers, including Distinguished Engineer and Chief Java Architect John Crupi.
Crupi, who also was former chief technology officer of Sun's Enterprise Web Services Global Practice, joins JackBe as the company's CTO. Deepak Alur, a Sun principal engineer who led Sun's SOA initiatives and was lead architect for implementing eBay's V3 project, joins as JackBe's vice president of engineering. Dan Malks, also a Sun principal engineer, joins JackBe as vice president of solutions and strategic development.
The trio made up a core team focusing on SOA strategies in Sun's services-focused organization. The loss of these engineers is but another blow to Sun's software world in the wake of the recent departure of John Loiacono, Sun's former executive vice president of software, to Adobe Systems."
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
used Ajax for smaller programs and have developed more important software
with technologies by Microsoft, Macromedia, and Sun Microsystems.
Microsoft is reportedly trying to simplify the development of rich Web applications
via a project code-named Atlas. Atlas will provide tools to be used with
the company’s ASP.NET, which developers use to create Web pages whose elements
are treated as objects.
Microsoft declined to comment for this article.
Greg DeMichillie, lead analyst for Directions on Microsoft, a market research
firm, said there is little information about Atlas except that “it will work by providing
much of the boilerplate code that an Ajax developer would otherwise
have to write, such as determining which browser is being used and adjusting
to write because developers can focus on code specific to their application.”
Macromedia’s Flash is a popular type of Web authoring software that creates
vector-graphics-based animation programs.
According to Kevin Lynch, Macromedia’s chief software architect, Ajax won’t
supplant Flash because the technologies don’t do all the same things. For example,
he noted, unlike Ajax, Flash supports audio and video. Also, he said, Flash
is more widely available.
Java-based applications offer some advantages over Ajax-based programs,
according to Tor Norbye, a senior staff engineer with Sun. For example, he
explained, there are reusable Java components and toolkits, which is not yet the
case for Ajax.
In many cases, Norbye noted, Java supports Ajax, as in the June 2005 release
of Java Studio Creator. And, he contended, “The ideal architecture for Ajax
today is Java on the server, where the interesting processing happens, and
Thus, he concluded, “I think there’s room for both.”
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
more mature, rich applications
user interfaces and interactive
capabilities have become
increasingly popular. The capabilities
represent a way to make programs
easier to use and more functional, thus
enhancing the user experience.
Developers have used a variety of
applications from companies such as
Macromedia, Microsoft, and Sun
Microsystems to add these capabilities
in the past, as discussed in the
“Developing Large-Scale Rich Web
However, Web applications have generally
exhibited problems such as slow
performance and limited interactivity,
particularly when compared to typical
desktop applications, noted Nate Root,
research director for Forrester Research,
a market analysis firm.
Now, developers are going back to
the future by building Web applications
and XML), a set of technologies mostly
developed in the 1990s. A key advantage
of Ajax applications is that they
look and act more like desktop applications,
according to Root.
Proponents argue that Ajax applications
perform better than traditional
Web programs. As an example, Ajax
applications can add or retrieve new
data for a page it is working with and
the page will update immediately without
reloading. For instance, when users
hold down the left mouse button and
slide the cursor over an image on the
Ajax-based Google Maps beta site
(http://maps.google.com) to retrieve a
part of the map not shown on the
screen, the updates occur smoothly
and the image appears to move and
change immediately. With typical Web
applications, users must spend time
waiting for entire pages to reload, even
for small changes.
When companies began working
with the technology several years ago,
before the approach even had the name
Ajax, they used it for smaller, less
important applications. However, as
the component technologies have
improved, Google and a number of
other companies have started using
Ajax for more important enterprise
In addition to its map site, Google
has worked with Ajax to build applications
such as Gmail and Google
Groups, a community and discussion
service, said Bret Taylor, Google Maps
Flickr uses Ajax in some parts of its
Web site, on which users post and
share photographs. For example, Ajax
enables the site to let users add and
view photo annotations. Expedia has
produced features such as pop-up calendars
on its travel site via Ajax.
All major browsers now support the
technology. Thus, Ajax could pose a
threat to Microsoft, Macromedia, and
Sun. However, while some companies
may decide Ajax is particularly useful
for certain kinds of applications, industry
observers say it won’t be suitable
for all types. And in some cases, companies
may use Ajax to complement
other Web-application approaches.
Meanwhile, Ajax still faces several
technical challenges, such as usage
complexity and security.