Joey deVilla is Tucows' Technical Evangelist. He's been very busy getting this weblog up and running, which means that he's been too busy to write a clever bio. Patience, dear reader, patience!
The Blogware Mechanic is a series of articles that covers how to get the most out of your Blogware blog through customization. In this series, we'll look at all sorts of ways to take advantage of the flexibility of the Blogware blogging platform and make your blog better-looking, easier to use, funkier, more highly-ranked by search engines and even help make you a little money! If you have a Blogware blog and want to soup it up like those fancy "A-lister" blogs, then this series is for you.
Every series has to start at the beginning, and that's what I'll do here. I'll begin with a couple of articles on basic customization. If you've been using Blogware for a while, there's a good chance that none of this will be new to you; in fact, you'll find the same information in the Blogware Publisher Guide. However, in the interest of being thorough and for the benefit of new Blogware users, I'm going to go over the basics before diving into the fancy stuff.
This article is the first of two that cover the basics of changing your blog's appearance. I'll cover two things:
- Changing Your Blog's Color Scheme
- Changing Your Blog's Column Layout
The rest of the article is after the jump.
Actually, I know a number of developers who have some sense of what a user interface should be like. But I also know some other developers, who when charged with creating a UI create monstrosities like the one below:
For more on this dialog box, see this entry in the blog Coding Horror.
If you're short on user interface designers, you might do well to follow the advice in this blog entry: Never design what you can steal.
This morning, I attended a Technology Innovators Breakfast session at the Toronto Board of Trade as a guest of Alicia Bulwyk, Project Manager of ICT Toronto. It's a suit-y affair, held at the Toronto Board of Trade's dining room, deep in the heart of suitland: First Canadian Place at the corner of Bay and King Streets, the centre of the Canadian financial universe.
This breakfast gathering is one of a new series in which interested parties can "hear Toronto's industry leaders expound on their own personal success stories - why Toronto is their company's chosen location to expand their business, and what their forecast is for the next wave of technology." Today's speakers were:
- Alizabeth Calder, Executive Vice President, National Accounts for Brainhunter, doing a short preliminary presentation
- Dan Fortin, President and CEO of IBM Canada doing the main presentation.
By my count, the event was attended by about 100 people, with a good number of IBMers in attendance, and the major banks well-represented. I sat at the ICT Toronto table, joined by a number of the ICT Toronto regulars, including my TorCamp brain trust compatriot Jay Goldman.
I found the event useful -- it's good to break out of the nerd world every now and again and see what the suits -- particularly the big players like IBM, Accenture and the major financial institutions -- are up to. After all, tech centres thrive when nerds meet rich people. I'd be more than happy to attend another one of these breakfast sessions and learn more.
I took notes of the presentations; they appear after the jump.
In the age of MoveOn.org and Michelle Malkin, getting good domain name for your political campaign is more important than ever. The Indianapolis Star covers this in an article that looks at how domain name speculators are jumping on campaign-related domain names like "hillary2008.com" (bought back in 1999, when she was only starting her bid to become a senator for the state of New York) and "obama2008.com".
"Nearly every conceivable presidential ticket has been registered," says the article, "including mccaingiuliani2008.com and clintongore2008.com. Even the name hillandbill2008.com is taken."
The article reports that the intentions of the domain buyers vary; some want to make sure that their favorite candidate gets the appropriate domain names, while others are hoping to sell them to candidates for as much as "$30,000-plus".
In case you want to get in on the action, you might want to try out our Duke of URL app to come up with variations on candidates' names...
iMedia Connection gives us brief looks at how General Motors, Sun Microsystems and Wells Fargo are reaching out to their customers using blogs in the article titled 3 Big Brands Reinvent Themselves with Blogs. In addition to showing how these companies are making use of their blogs, the article also provides some useful advice for companies who are thinking of starting their own customer-facing blogs.
We've just activated the latest addition to the OpenSRS API (the API that out partners can use to provision and manage domain names), the
Name Suggest API call. Given a word or phrase, the
Name Suggest API call will generate up to 100 available .com/.net/.org/.info/.biz domain names that are variations on that word or phrase. It's a useful tool if you're brainstorming domain names or if the domain name you want is already taken.
In order to demonstrate the
Name Suggest API call in action, we've created an example application called...
Duke of URL takes a word or phrase that you enter, lets you choose a domain name type (.com, .net, .org, .info or .biz) and provides you with a list of 100 available domain names based on the word or phrase that you provided. The Duke of URL lives at:
Remember that the Duke of URL is demonstrates just one possible app that you can build using the
Name Suggest API call and the OpenSRS API. As such, the Good Duke gives his results in one particular way. Next week, we'll show what else is possible.
We'll also reveal the code behind the Duke of URL and explain how it works next week.
In the meantime, go give the Good Duke a visit!
We at Tucows would like to wish our American friends a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
(I'm in Boston myself, helping my mother-in-law with the Turkey. See you folks on Monday!)
- How did you end up going to India?
- How much do jobs pay in India?
- How can you live with yourself for helping to move American jobs to India?
- What’s the cost of living? / How can people there live on so little?
- Can someone from the US get a job working in India at US wages?
- What’s the visa/tax situation like?
- What’s it like raising your kids in India?
- Aren’t Indian programmers better/worse than US ones?
- Don’t you hate ... in India/Bangalore?
- How long will you stay in India?
If you're look for a job in a place with a long history and a good work environment, may I suggest Tucows? We've got some openings right now, including:
Here's the job description:
Build and maintain company websites and online web applications focusing primarily on the presentation layer using current Internet and scripting languages and Web authoring tools. Develops code using industry best practices for structure, usability and design. Responsible for ensuring code is compatible across current popular browsers. Keeps informed of the latest browser and plug-in technologies. Operates under minimal supervision.
For details, see the page for the web developer position.
Customer Service Manager
Here's the job description:
Manage a team of 9-10 Customer Service personnel responsible for dealing with a variety of Internet related end-customer issues. Support staff work 8am – 8pm seven days a week. The Customer Service Manager develops standards for Tucows technical and customer support; provides technical guidance to the staff; liaises with internal technical and business management personnel to resolve customer issues and escalates to Senior Management accordingly. Able to act as an escalation point for support staff when appropriate. This includes not only resolving issues, but also acting as the end-customer’s advocate, ensuring that the customer has the right product / service to meet their needs and requirements. Accountable for providing leadership and direction in the planning, implementation and administration of quality measurement and evaluation of vendor performance for contracted services to ensure the optimization of resource use and the continual improvement of services from a client perspective. Responsible for alerting appropriate personnel of recurring problems and / or quality deficiencies.
For details, see the page for the customer service manager position.
It's always good to see Doc Searls, and I'm glad I had the chance to hang out with him at the recent ISPCON Fall 2006 conference. He's been a friend of Tucows since he first met us as ISPCON years ago, and he's been up to Toronto for a number of visits since then, the most recent one being last year's Christmas holiday party. In fact, it was a blogger get-together that he had during his visit in early 2003 that led to my getting a job here.
Doc's long time friendship with Tucows and Elliot is probably why their ISPCON opening keynote, Internet Service: The Fifth Utility? was more like a listening in on a casual conversation than attending a panel discussion. In their hour-long chat, Doc and Elliot talked about the internet not as a bonus service offered by telcos, but as a utility on par with things like roads, water, waste treatment and electricity. I attended this keynote and made a recording of their chat, which you can hear by downloading the podcast below.
We'd like to express our thanks to Jon Price, Denise Miller and the rest of the people behind ISPCON Fall 2006 for putting on a great conference, and to Doc for driving up to San Jose to take part in the keynote.
The Internet: The Fifth Utility
|File||Tucows Podcasts - Internet Service -- The Fifth Utility.mp3|
|Length||57 minutes, 54 seconds|
|File size||28.9 MB|
Those of you trying to determine whether to write your next web application using the Django framework or Ruby on Rails might find this article interesting: it's a comparative case study of the development of a web application using Django and Rails.
In the case study, two developers work from the same specification to implement the same application, with one using Django and the other using Rails. The application, Habitual Readers is a book club's public website. It lets viewers see the books that each book club member has read, as well as their comments for each book. Books are categorized using tags, and additional book information is retrieved from Amazon.
The conclusion that the authors of the article reached was that while each framework has its strengths, there is no clear technical benefit for an experienced Rails development team to switch to Django or vice versa and that Ruby developers should use Rails while people more comfortable with Python should use Django. Here's a table that summarizes the aspects of both frameworks that were investigated:
|Support for model and schema evolution||Integrated framework for schema evolution.||Minimal.|
|Internationalization||No support.||Some support.|
|Designer Friendly Templates?||Possible, with disciplined practices or use of third-party library.||Yes.|
|Third Party Plugin Support||Mature plugin architecture, well used by the community.||Some support via the applications mechanism.|
I found this interesting: rather than post it as a web page or a blog entry, the authors of the article are sharing a Google Docs and Spreadsheets document. We'll have to see if more people start sharing documents on the Web this way.
I've finally returned to the office, so expect the return of all sorts of blog posts, including ones from ISPCON as well as my usual postings for web developers.
The trip and conference were pretty good, and I have to say that it's pretty good having the gentlemen pictured below as travelling companions:
That's VP Marketing Ken Schafer on the left and
Iron Chef Product Marketing Adam Eisner on the right.
This afternoon at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (2:00 p.m. Pacific / 2200 hours UTC), Tucows will be holding its quarterly investment community conference call Q3 2006, in which management will discuss the third-quarter financial results after market close.
If you'd like to listen to this conference call, click here to access the webcast site. You'll need Windows Media Player to listen in.
We'll also record the conference call and post it here later as a podacast.
For most of this week, we'll be in Santa Clara, California, where we'll be making our presence known at ISPCON, the premier conference for internet service providers, hosting companies and VOIP providers. We'll be milling about the conferences, manning our booth on the exhibit floor and presenting at three different sessions, one on each day of the conference (which runs from Tuesday, November 7th through Thursday, November 9th).
We'll be blogging from the conference floor, so watch this space for updates!
Where the Conference Is, and How to Get In for Free
As a sponsor of the conference, we've got an unlimited number of free passes to ISPCON for you to download. These passes will admit you to:
- The exhibit hall, where among other things, you'll find our booth. We'll have a number of product managers and our sales team here, who'll be more than happy to demonstrate our internet services.
- Keynotes, including the opening one featuring our very own CEO Elliot Noss and Doc Searls, Internet Service: The Fifth Utility?
- Networking events
- Vendor-sponsored education sessions
If you want a guest pass, click here for the PDF file [816K PDF file]. Print it out and bring it to the conference, where you'll be admitted for free.
In the Exhibit Hall - The Tucows Booth
We've got a booth on the exhibit hall (booth 501), where you can see demonstrations of Tucows' services, talk with us in person, and if you're very lucky, perhaps get your paws on some valuable Tucows swag. Come on down and say hi!
Here's a map of the exhibit hall, showing the location of the Tucows booth:
Tuesday, November 7th, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. - Internet Service: The Fifth Utility?
Tucows CEO Elliot Noss will be one of the speakers at ISPCON's opening keynote, titled Internet Service: The Fifth Utility?. He'll be presenting with Cluetrain Manifesto co-author, Linux Journal editor and popular blogger Doc Searls. Here's the description of the keynote from the conference schedule:
The telco/cableco duopoly continues to see the Net as gravy on their basic services (and are more motivated to get into each other's business than do anything new with the Internet). Meanwhile, communities, competitors and customers are creating their own bypass while treating the Net as a "fifth utility" alongside water, waste treatment, roads and electric services. To make matters even more interesting, giants like Google and Microsoft are building massive computing clouds to support a shift toward on-demand services.
How is this all going to play out? Will the incumbents succeed in efforts to thwart muni networks? Does access even make sense as a utility? Are there benefits to incumbency other than creating scarcities everywhere they have a choke-hold? Who has the advantage or stands to thrive and survive in a this new utility-based infrastructure model? Where will ISPs, Hosts and WISPs fit in all this? Can you line up behind, alongside or in front of the citizens and elected officials or are you on a collision course? Once the service is deployed, what will it be like, who will use it and how?
Doc and Elliot will discuss the range of issues surrounding how this kind of accessibility to the net changes everything and why it matters to you. From changing patterns of use, new applications, shifting adoption and behavioral habits to altering the landscape of competition while favoring different services, unique models for varied applications and insight on how one should build a business around this redefined service relationship.
Wednesday, November 8th, 4:15 - 5:15 p.m. - What the Web 2.0?
Here's my session: I'll be moderating a panel What the Web 2.0? discussion about Web 2.0 from an ISP and hosting service point of view. Although it's at the end of the day, I think the audience will be awake for this one, as we've got a group of interesting panelists in addition to a scintillating moderator. Here's the description of the event:
You can talk all day long about blogs, tags, MySpace and YouTube without putting a single dollar in your pocket. We're going to spend this hour together doing the exact opposite. First we'll cover the "what and why" of the subject through an overview of the direct and indirect value these big trends represent for ISPs, Hosts and customers. Then, we'll address the "how" of providers and customers alike who are leveraging these technologies out in the wild with some best practices. Finally, the "wow" being the business impact it is having, it's potential, overall customer behavior/usage habits, effects on bandwidth, churn, ARPU, adoption and of course how this all translates into real dollars in your pocket, better customer relationships and unique value in the marketplace.
Here's the roster of people on the panel:
- Javier Hall, CCO, Userplane
- Kevin Henrikson, Director of Engineering, Zimbra
- Josh Jones, CJO and Co-Founder, DreamHost
- Ivaylo Lenkov, CTO and Founder, SiteKreator
- Dallas Bethune, Co-Founder / CTO, DreamHost
Thursday, November 9th, 12:45 - 1:45 p.m. - 30 Rapid-fire Website Wins, Guaranteed
Many ISPs and Hosts fail to realize the full potential of their own websites and spend little time updating, let alone optimizing them to achieve key business objectives. What's the desired outcome for your site? Serve as a local community portal, a customer extranet for support or webmail, a place to showcase solutions, convert new leads to customers or just tired brochureware for that snazzy $19.95 dial-up? During this fast-paced "no holds barred" session, Internet best practice expert Ken Schafer will guide you through 30 ways to make your site dramatically better and meet key business objectives. Using dozens of examples, we'll provide eye-opening insights into how these Quick Wins and Big Ideas can shape your site and provide an unfair advantage over your competitors. GUARANTEE: If at the end of the session you don't feel you have at least five techniques that will improve YOUR site, Ken will personally assess your site and give you five ways to improve it!
In addition to the job openings for Sales Engineer and Integration Engineer, we've got a job opening for the position of Business Development Manager - Americas. I've included the copy from our HR department below. If you're interested, email your resume in Word .doc format to email@example.com with the subject line BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER - AMERICAS.
Tucows currently has a challenging opportunity available in our Sales Department. As a Business Development Manager – Americas, you will identify, prospect and close new business opportunities within assigned territory or industry vertical(s). You will create action plans and drive solutions forward to implementation. The successful incumbent will identify and prospect new sales opportunities; sell Tucows services and solutions to new prospects and existing customers; manage and maintain existing account base; as well as manage the administration, including the maintenance, of effective, accurate and complete CRM records.
We’re looking for a self-motivated, driven professional, with a minimum of 5 years proven experience, preferably in a channel or B2B services environment; this includes experience selling to broad audiences, from technical staff to C level executives. You have knowledge of IT-related business operations and solutions sales processes, including experience selling software solutions in an ASP environment; along with the ability to effectively prospect new sales and close new sales opportunities through. Your skills are well rounded by strong analytical, technical and organizational abilities and superior communications including excellent presentation and business writing; as well as the ability to work in a collaborative team environment. An undergraduate degree is desirable, along with previous sales training; in addition. Travel as required (approx 30%). Experience using Salesforce.com or similar CRM applications.
If you're interested in this position, please send a resume in Microsoft Word .doc format to firstname.lastname@example.org with BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER - AMERICAS as the subject line.
Here's another job opening -- this one's for the position of Sales Engineer. I've included the copy from our HR department below. If you're interested, email your resume in Word .doc format to email@example.com with the subject line SALES ENGINEER.
We are currently seeking a Sales Engineer to function as our technical lead in developing new accounts and maintaining existing customers of Tucows services; including web hosting companies, internet service providers, web design firms, domain name resellers, telecommunications service providers and large enterprise customers.
As our Sales Engineer you will work directly with the Sales Team providing technical credibility and support for implementation initiatives including training and consultation; as well as participate in the implementation and support of new products and services.
In addition, you will resolve technical pre-sales issues; communicate technical capabilities, features and benefits of Tucows e-commerce solution; provide consultation and product expertise, resolve technical issues and support resellers through major design initiatives; assist the Training Department in the development, coordination, and delivery of technical training; maintain a high level of technical competency and knowledge across the entire range of our products and services; all while working with our Sales, Product Management, Project Management, Professional Services, Operations and Customer Support business units.
To be considered for this exciting opportunity, applicants must possess:
- A minimum of five years pre-sales, technical support and related e-business experience
- Bachelor's Degree in computer science or related discipline, or equivalent experience
- Fluency in one or more languages in addition to English is preferred
- Demonstrated ability to articulate technical information to both technical and non-technical customer audiences
- Proven experience and capability in the technical sale of complex high technology products and services, including email services
- A sound understanding of operational metrics pertaining to performance, reliability, availability, scalability, and manageability of key business systems from the reseller and end-user perspectives
- Knowledge of Perl scripting and Unix system administration
- Experience creating technical and functional documentation
- The ability to quickly understand, learn and work with new technologies
- Strong self-motivation
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Excellent project management and personal time management skills
- Strong teamwork and interpersonal skills
We've got a job opening for an Integration Engineer here at Tucows. Here's a quick summary of the job position:
The successful candidate will have the challenging opportunity to work on Tucows’ vast and complex high availability system spread across multiple data centers, servers and operating systems. You’ll work with a dynamic team of Integration Engineers to develop, deploy and maintain components of a large scale hosted messaging platform. In addition, you will develop software components for our hosted messaging platform; liaise with third party suppliers in customizing applications for deployment on our high availability production environment; as well as contribute to ongoing process improvement of the SDLC.
If this sounds like the kind of work you can do, there are more details after the jump.
If you've been checking out Global Nerdy, a tech blog I share with my buddy George, I've gotten my hands on a copy of Release Candidate 1 of Microsoft's next version of Windows, Windows Vista. So far, I've made two attempts to install it, both without success.
Here's the short version: yes, I finally got it installed. As with software from Microsoft, the third time's the charm. My trick was the tried-and-true fix that all IT workers know: turn the damned machine off and on again. This trick is so useful that it's been immortalized on t-shirts and in at least one television show, The IT Crowd:
For more, go check out the full story.
There were just 18,000 Web sites when Netcraft, based in Bath, England, began keeping track in August of 1995. It took until May of 2004 to reach the 50 million milestone; then only 30 more months to hit 100 million, late in the month of October 2006.
This calls for a graph! Here's one from Netcraft, which shows both hostnames and "active" sites, from August 1995 to the present day:
That's a lot of pictures of kittens and porn.
Netcraft lists these previous milestones:
- April 1997: 1 million sites
- February 2000: 10 million sites
- September 2000: 20 million sites
- July 2001: 30 million sites
- April 2003: 40 million sites
- May 2004: 50 million sites
- March 2005: 60 million sites
- August 2005: 70 million sites
- April 2006: 80 million sites
- August 2006: 90 million sites
This all means that there’s more and more noise online and it’s only getting “worse.” I’ve been talking about that in the limited context of local. But the general cacophony of new and me-too sites and services only means that brands and habitual behavior become more powerful; people will fall back on what they like, know and trust rather than try new things.
The idea that “our competition is only a click away” only really means something if you’re a no-name site. It’s very different if you’re Google or Yahoo (or even MySpace now).
People talk about “the Internet” in the same way they discuss “the small business market.” There is no “small business market,” there are only 10 or 14 or 17 or 20 million small businesses, with some shared characteristics. Similarly, “the Internet” is not a monolith, but 100 million websites.
Thus those would would “aggregate the tail” (whether eyeballs, publishers/site or marketers) are thus increasingly important to the online ecosystem.
"Island hopping" is the name of the current trend in spamming. Now that anti-spam filters and blacklists are wise to the spam domains in the typical .com, .biz and .info namespaces, they're switching to domains of small island nations such as Sao Tome and Principe (.st) and Tokelau (.tk) to bypass them.
The malware reasearches at McAfee first caught onto this trick after noticing an unusual number of .st domain name registrations. This raised a red flag for them, and further research showed a migration of spammers to domains for small island nations, particularly:
|.cc||Cocos (Keeling) Islands||14||628|
|.im||Isle of Man||572||75,550|
|.st||Sao Tome and Principe||1,001||193,413|
Spam from these domains has been increasing -- here's what an article in EFYTimes has to say:
"This new trend is another example of spammers' relentless quest to spread their abuse of Internet domains far and wide," said Guy Roberts, senior development manager, McAfee anti-spam R&D team. "Some of these islands have dozens of spammed domains per square mile."
CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, reports that the 750,000th registration of a .ca domain name was recorded this week, marking a 50% rise in the number of such registrations in under two years. A snippet from their news release:
"The phenomenal growth of dot-ca registrations is the result of increased awareness of the value of dot-ca and the trust Canadians place in it," says Bernard Turcotte, President and CEO of the Ottawa-based Canadian Internet Registration Authority. "Dot-ca still offers the best opportunity to get the domain name you want when compared with the larger dot-com registry."
"Dot-ca is reserved for Canadians and defines an organization or individual who meets Canadian presence requirements," explains Mr. Turcotte.
According to the press release, when CIRA took over the .ca registry, there were 60,000 names registered there. By 2003, there were 250,000 .ca names registered and in March 2005, that number had doubled to 500,000.
Over at Global Nerdy, I've posted my second attempt at installing Windows Vista onto my Wintel desktop machine at work.
The short version: still no luck.
I do most of my work on a 1.33 gig PowerBook G4, but I'm not going to say no to a company-issued computer with decent specs. Hence the other computer on my desk, a 3.0 gig P4 IBM ThinkCentre with half a gig of RAM, one of the standard issue machines here at Tucows. I use it mostly as a machine for testing sites and web applications in Windows, and occasionally, I'll do a tiny bit of Windows development on it. There aren't any important files on the machine, which made it a suitable subject for today's scary Hallowe'en experiment: installing Windows Vista RC1 (that's Release Candidate 1).
I got a copy of Windows Vista RC1 last night at a gathering held by Microsoft here in Toronto, where they invited a number of Toronto tech bloggers to see Vista in action and hear presentations on deployment and security. I took notes and will post them here later.
Earlier today, I attempted to install Windows Vista on my work machine and my notes from that experience appear in Global Nerdy, a tech blog I write with my friend George Scriban. The experience wasn't as smooth as I'd hoped.
A sizable contingent from Tucows will be making an appearance at ISPCON Fall 2006, the premier conference for internet service providers, wireless providers, VOIP providers and internet businesses. It'll take place from Tuesday, November 7th through Thursday, November 9th, 2006 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. If you're in the neighbourhood, we'd like to see you, which is why we're handing out these free guest passes!
These guest passes get you free admittance to:
- The exhibit hall, where among other things, you'll find our booth. We'll have a number of product managers here, who'll be more than happy to demonstrate our internet services.
- Keynotes, including the opening one featuring our very own CEO Elliot Noss and Doc Searls, In the Hotseat with Doc: A Fireside Chat
- Networking events
- Vendor-sponsored education sessions
The guest passes also entitle you to register for the conference at a great discount.
There's no limit to the number of guest passes we can hand out. If you'd like one (or several) -- simply click here or the image below to download a PDF of the pass [816K PDF file], print it out and bring it to ISPCON. See you there!
Let me take a moment to thank contributing blogger Tris Hussey for doing an excellent job on blogging the Blog Business Summit conference. Tris, you're doing an amazing job -- I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword!
This is a quick note to let you readers know that I've got more posts about the Ajax Experience conference, and that said notes will cover more than just the swag at the conference (cool as it was).
I'd like to thank the organizers for putting on one of the best conferences I've ever attended. I could go on about how good it was, but I thought this photo of a projection visible from the lobby of the conference hotel, the Westin Boston Waterfront, would capture my feelings about the Ajax Experience:
In this article, I continue with my look at the dot-com-bubble-esque swag and prizes being given away by the organizers and vendors at the Ajax Experience conference. If you haven't seen part 1 in this series, it's here.
Helmi, who bill themselves as "the only open source Ajax-based RIA development platform" were giving away the fanciest pens at the conference. The Helmi pens house a green LED, which gives off an eerie glow through their transparent barrels.
Also present in the exhibit hall were Google, whose booth was essentially a recruiting booth. Instead of literature about their APIs or developer-centric events like the Summer of Code, they had half a dozen different pamphlets about job opportunities for Java back-end coders, UI and rich internet application developers and researchers.
Swag-wise, these were their offerings:
- Google gum: Haven't tried it yet.
- Google pen: This one was pretty popular.
- Google key fob: Optimizes searches for your house keys.
- Google post-it notes: Handy for reminders, comes with subtle recruiting ad.
- Google notepad: With lenticular cover that shows a different image depending on your viewing angle.
I asked if they were giving away the heated toilet seats for which their offices are now famous. They would've come handy in the Boston Westin Waterfront's aggressively air-conditioned conference rooms.
Apparently, if you asked really nicely, the folks at the Google booth had some of their coveted long- and short-sleeved t-shirts to give away as well.
Back during the days of the dot-com bubble, the quality and quantity of swag available at conferences was nothing short of amazing; I'd often have to buy a cheap duffel bag in order to haul the promotional booty, which I then gave as gifts to my co-workers. Here at the Ajax Experience, I'm feeling deja vu -- while the "exhibit hall" outside the sessions is occupied by only a handful of vendors, the swag and prizes available from both them and the conference organizers is impressive.
One big surprise is AOL's table. Ever since The September That Never Ended, AOL has had a pretty bad rep among the developer set. In the meantime, other "portal" players -- Google, MSN and Yahoo! as well as portal-like entities such as Amazon and eBay -- have been boosting both traffic and developer love by becoming programmable by providing APIs, through which specialized sites and mash-ups can be built. What, you might ask, is AOL doing here?
It turns out that they're here to woo the developer community and promote their developer site, dev.aol.com and their APIs and encouraging developers to use AOL services for their mash-ups. They've been surprising a lot of developers (myself included) by opening their pitch with "Did you know that MapQuest is an AOL property?"
They realize that they're late to the party, so they've gone to some trouble to make sure that their swag is good. They've created a series of "mash-up" t-shirts, like the "Geek" one I'm showing in the photo below:
There are 6 shirts in the set. They're called "mash-up" shirts because you and your friends can wear different ones and rearrange yourselves -- that's the "mash-up" -- to form cute nerdy catchphrases. They've been very popular; people have been lining up for them here. Here's the set:
Some of these shirts may seem weird out of context: "Garden" will make people think you're into horticulture, and wearing the "unwalled" may convince people that you're either homeless or have poor impulse control.
Also on their table: USB cable extension cords, developer-friendly stickers (I found the Unix-hacker-friendly
chmod 777 aol sticker amusing), quick reference sheets and a postcard announcing a contest for the best mash-up using AOL APIs. They've also included an AOL-branded sprial-bound notebook in the knapsack given to every attendee (I'll cover the knapsack's contents in a later entry).
AOL's going to have a long, tough climb towards respectability, but they seem to be working hard at it.
Maybe I'm getting old, but trying to catch all the interesting stuff at the Ajax Experience conference feels like running a marathon. The conference is packed with sessions and other activities; days 1 and 2 each have 12 or more hours in their schedule. Here's my first report, covering the opening keynote.
After a nice breakfast -- kudos to the organizers for going above and beyond the standard "continental" and throwing in some eggs, sausages, bacon and home fries -- the conference began in earnest with a quick "welcome" keynote by the Ajaxians, Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer.
I imagine that for the organizers of a conference, doing a keynote has got to be physically trying. They usually have had very little sleep the night before, what with the last-minute preparations and things that always arise before the start of a conference. As a result, opening speeches by conference organizers are fairly lackluster -- but this one wasn't! Instead, we got a lively, funny, well-rehearsed start to the conference.
In addition to the typical bits of information about the conference, Ben and Dion gave an Ajax "state of the union address", in which they shared their thoughts about the current state of Ajax.
"Everything old is new again," they said. It's true -- the technical prerequisites for Ajax have been around since Microsoft introduced XHR (that's the popular shorthand for XMLHttpRequest, the browser technology that makes Ajax possible) into Internet Explorer in 1997. Being a browser-specific feature, it wasn't used by many developers. Even when XHR was finally implemented in Mozilla-based browsers in 2002, it wasn't one of the features that was touted inthe press release. We'll have to assign bonus cool points to Brent Ashley, who figured out that there might be some very interesting uses for XHR before the wave of applications like GMail, Google Maps and Oddpost led Jesse James Garrett to coin the buzzword after which this conference is named.
Many user interface specialists have eschewed web development in favour of building so-called "fat clients" because of the severe constraints imposed by working within the browser. These constraints had a silver lining; Ben and Dion pointed to a quote by Marissa Mayer (Google's VP of Search Products and User Experience) in BusinessWeek:
Creativity is often misunderstood. People often think of it in terms of artistic work -- unbridled, unguided effort that leads to beautiful effect. If you look deeper, however, you'll find that some of the most inspiring art forms -- haikus, sonatas, religious paintings -- are fraught with constraints. They're beautiful because creativity triumphed over the rules. Constraints shape and focus problems, and provide clear challenges to overcome as well as inspiration. Creativity, in fact, thrives best when constrained.
As for whether our current constraints will be loosened, Ben and Dion don't think that will happen any time soon. Although IE7 fixes some problems, it runs only on Windows XP and later versions of Windows; Ben and Dion said that "IE6 will always be with us". There are some interesting developments with SVG and Canvas, but these have only been implemented in Firefox and Safari. As for things like Flash or Microsoft's "Flash-killer", WPF/E, time will tell.
Stressing that the Ajax Experience is about the User Experience, Ben and Dion talked about the introduction of a design track to the conference and also encouraged people to attend the accessibility presentations.
It was a well-done opening keynote, and it set the stage for a very busy, very informative day 1 at the Ajax Experience. Well done, guys.
From Sunday afternoon until Wednesday night, I'll be reporting from The Ajax Experience in Boston, the premier gathering of developers interested in building Ajax-ified web applications.
Take a look at the conference schedule. Content-wise, it's pretty meaty (six tracks!) and seems to offer something for Ajax developers of all levels. It's also pretty intense, with Monday's and Tuesday's sessions running until 6:45 and evening panel discussions running until 9 p.m.. I don't think I've seen a schedule this hardcore since the Ruby on Rails conference back in June.
Over the next couple of days, I'll be posting my general impressions and detailed notes and photos from the sessions I attend. I'll also be incorporating my notes into an internal training session at Tucows.
I have to tip my hat to Brent Ashley, local developer and longtime friend of Tucows. He's a presenter at the conference and as such, was entitled to two freebie passes, one of which he gave to me. He'll be doing a talk on alternate transport mechanisms, which I will attend.
After the jump, I've got a table of the sessions I'm considering attending. If you've got any suggestions or recommendations, let me know what you think in the comments.
The next session of DemoCamp -- the Toronto area's show-and-tell for the software development community -- takes place this Monday, October 23rd at the MaRS Centre (101 College Street, right by Queen's Park subway station) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., followed by a social at a nearby pub. There's no admission to attend, and you're encouraged to ask questions!
The rules of DemoCamp are simple: NO POWERPOINT (or any other slideware)! We want to see working applications or prototypes in action, not marketing spiels! We're pretty open about what's demo-able at DemoCamp: desktop software, web applications, embedded software, hardware hacks, hobbyist projects, corporate applications, whatever. As long as you can demonstrate it and be interesting, it's fair game!
This is the 10th DemoCamp, and it'll feature the following presentations:
- Online Grading and Code Review, presented by Jennifer Campbell, Sana Tapal and Andrey Petrov
- BrokenTomb.com, the world's first commercial Smalltalk host
- PBJ-Web 0.1
- The effervescent Sacha Chua presents: Livin' la Vida Emacs!
If you've got something you'd like to demo, there's one slot available! You can sign up to take this slot over at the wiki page for DemoCamp 10.
Bruce Schneier has an essay in Forbes titled Casual Conversation, R.I.P., in which he talks about how ephemeral conversation is disappearing:
Fewer conversations are ephemeral, and we’re losing control over the data. We trust our ISPs, employers and cellphone companies with our privacy, but again and again they’ve proven they can’t be trusted. Identity thieves routinely gain access to these repositories of our information. Paris Hilton and other celebrities have been the victims of hackers breaking into their cellphone providers’ networks. Google reads our Gmail and inserts context-dependent ads.
If you're feeling particularly bold, you can venture over to the Internet Explorer page and download the final release version of Internet Explorer 7, which became available to the general public yesterday afternoon.
Although the Windows machine I have at work is a pretty nice one (developers are assigned machines with the same specs), it's largely relegated to Windows compatibility testing and a teensy bit of .NET development. Since I don't store any crucial files on that machine, I thought it would be the perfect guinea pig on which to test IE7. Over the next few days, I'll report my experiences, complete with screenshots.
Here's a screenshot of IE7 showing the Tucows Blog main page:
The Blog Juice Calculator is an amusing diversion for the curious or those who like to obsess over their blog ranking and pageview counts. Given the URL of a weblog, this web application calculates its "juice" (that's street slang for "credibility", "respect" or "influence" for our non-North American readers) on a scale of 0 to 10. The juice score is based on these factors:
|Bloglines||Approximate number of people on Bloglines subscribed to the given blog. Accounts for 40% of the juice score.|
|Alexa||The Alexa rank for the given blog. Accounts for 15% of the juice score.|
|Technorati||The Technorati rank for the given blog. Accounts for 30% of the juice score.|
|Inbound links||The number of links pointing to the given blog, as reported by Technorati. Accounts for 15% of the juice score.|
As points of comparison, here are the juice ratings for a few well-known blogs:
- Gizmodo: 9.8
- Boing Boing: 9.6
- Daily Kos: 9.2
- Scripting News: 8.8
- GigaOM: 8.5
- Scobleizer: 8.4
- SEOmoz: 7.4
- Gawker: 6.8
- tmz.com: 5.6
In case you were wondering, this blog has a juice rating of 2.2, which isn't bad for the first month. The Global Nerdy blog, which I share with my buddy George, has a rating of 0.2, which means that I'm not going to retire on my AdSense revenues just yet. This blog's predecessor, The Farm, has a 5.1 rating, and my personal blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century, has a 6.8 rating, thanks to its longevity (it's been around since November 2001) and some BoingBoing link love.
- Use descriptive headlines.
- Write in "inverted-pyramid" style (get to the point at the beginning, elaborate in later paragraphs)
- The first link is the one people click on, so make it the main link of your article.
- Reintroduce core ideas in longer posts.
- Use lists, images, tables and anything else that will make your artiles easier to scan.
- Use simple language if you're writing for a global audience.
- Credit your sources.
- Mark updates and changes.
- Spellcheck your posts and re-read them for clarity.
- Note that all these rules have exceptions; know when they apply!
The next month is going to be a busy one for many of us here at Tucows. In additional to the usual work stuff, some of us will be making appearances at the following conferences:
CASCON 2006 (Toronto)
I got a last-minute invitation to IBM's CASCON 2006 conference, which runs from October 16th through 19th, where I'll participate in the Social Computing: Best Practices panel. I'm thinking of catching the "Introduction to AJAX Technologies" workshop on Monday and the "Rails/DB2" workshop on Tuesday afternoon. Note that admission to this conference is free, including the food!
The Ajax Experience (Boston)
Here's a good one -- Brent Ashley, who will lead the Ajax Transport Layer Alternatives session, gave me a complimentary pass to The Ajax Experience, which runs from October 23rd through 25th. This looks to be a very meaty conference for techies and I plan to take copious notes and share them with the developers here at Tucows as well as you, the readers.
ISPCON Fall 2006 (Santa Clara)
ISPCON Fall 2006 is the premier conference for internet service providers, wireless providers, VOIP providers and internet businesses. Tucows people will be all over this one -- on the exhibit floor, doing the opening keynote and leading a couple of sessions! For the full details, check out this entry; to get a free pass to the exhibit floor and the keynote, see this entry.
Rather than use words, let me let the graph below do the talking:
This graph comes from SitePoint's report, The State Of Web Development 2006/2007 -- 53 pages of "results, analysis and commentary on the state of Web Development in 2006/2007" based on a survey of 5,000 web developers. If you can't pony up the $795 single-user fee for the report, there's a free preview of the report as well as an article on the graph shown above.
We're in the last hours of the "landrush period" for .mobi domain names, a period when .mobi domains are available to the general public for a higher-than-normal price; in exchange for paying mor eper domain, you get a better chance of getting the domains you want. Starting tomorrow, October 11th at 10:00 a.m. Eastern (7:00 a.m. Pacific / 1400 hours UTC), the .mobi Registry will drop the price of .mobi names to their standard price.
For more on /mobi, see MidwestBusiness.com's article, Thursday Begins General Ongoing Registration For .mobi Domains and ComputerWorld's article, Why you need to buy a .mobi domain name soon.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, a statutory holiday in Canada, where Tucows' head office is located.
Tucows' head office (located in Toronto) is closed today, but a handful of departments will remain open. For the benefit of our partners, here's a quick listing of their hours:
- The Operations department will still monitor our systems 24 hours a day. (We should send them some turkey.)
- Customer support, Sales and Payments will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern (6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Pacific / 1300 hours to 2100 hours UTC). Customer support will be available via pager for system-wide emergencies.
- The Compliance department will be closed.
All departments of the company will be back to their usual schedule tomorrow, Tuesday, October 10th.
Have a happy and safe Canadian Thanksgiving!
It's on my long weekend reading list: the latest essay posted on Paul Graham's site -- A Student's Guide to Startups, which at first glance looks it an examination of the considerations of whether you should start or join a startup right after graduating, or after having been "seasoned".
Graham's an engaging writer and speaker. If you've got the time, go take a look at another essay of his, The Power of the Marginal, which is derived from his talk at RailsConf 2006 in Chicago, which took place in June. Better yet, if you want to catch his presentation mojo in action, check out the video of his keynote, which was shot by the nice folks at ScribeStudio.
At Cameron Moll's site, Authentic Boredom, he's posted all sorts of media from his presentation, Essential Web Skills, which he made at the Webmaster Jam Session in Dallas, Texas. Among his slides is this gem, which explains 9 skills that separate the good designers from the great ones:
|Good designers...||Great designers...|
|"Less" is more||"Less" and "more" co-exist|
|Inspired by genre||Inspired by total environment|
|Everything at once||Selective iteration|
|Treat text as content||Treat text as UI|
|Use good typefaces||Use good typography|
|Code for one instance||Code for many instances|
We'll have some tech news a little later today, but in the meantime, we'll point you over to another blog of ours, Catmas.com. Since 2003, Ross Rader and Joey deVilla have declared the first Friday of every October as "Post a Picture of a Cat to Your Blog Day", the day in which we partake in that most stereoptypically bloggy of blog activities. This year, we've given it the pithy name "Catmas", and we've finally given it a blog. Go ahead and give it a look!
This should come handy for those of you hoping to make it big in the mobile applications department: FierceDeveloper have put together their list of the five most-anticipated smartphones (pictured to the right). They are:
They've thrown in a bonus list of the 5 silliest phones. My favourites are the Motorola Feng Shui phone (which uses sensors to calculate the amount of Qi -- "energy flow" -- in the current location) and the LG "Sobriety Phone", which has a built-in breathalyzer to stop you from "drunk dialing" certain numbers.
Platypus is Tucows' billing system for web hosting and internet access providers, offering invoicing and billing, customer management and service provisioning. Version 6 is coming out soon, and on this Tucows Blog podcast, I chat about it with Bill Ford, Tucows' Director of Billing Services, who came from the Starkville office last week to visit us up here in Toronto.
The podcast is an MP3 file 10.7 MB in size and is 17 minutes, 16 seconds in length. Click here to play it (or right-click and choose "Save as") to save it to your hard drive.
Update: We've had the interview transcibed; you can find the transcript here.
There are more details about Platypus and how to download a free 30-day evaluation copy after the jump.
- Ajax Programming with Passion!
- J2EE Programming with Passion!
- Java Intro Programming Bootcamp
- Web Services Programming with Passion!
More details after the jump.
Even if you've got a full-time graphic designer at your disposal, going with standardized icons is a good idea. They'll give your designer more time to work on the graphic requirements that are unique to your application. Furthermore, we've established certain conventions that define the "language" of graphical user interfaces over time, so in most cases, it's probably a bad idea to re-invent icons for common elements like documents, folders, users and so on.
Luckily, there are a number of good icon sets for sale, but I'm going to talk about the free ones today. The MaxPower.ca blog maintains a list of sites that offer icon sets that are both "free as in beer" and "free as in speech" (they're public domain or licensed under one of: Creative Commons, GPL or LGPL).
Picture created with the Tombstone Generator.
c|net's article, Taking Passwords to the Grave, looks at an interesting problem: what happens if your loved ones can't recover your data after you're dead because they don't have your passwords?
Their recommendation: include important login information in your estate planning documents. Of course, this means that you'll need to write those up if you don't already have them.
IBM's developerWorks has posted the first article in a series on Ajax and REST. In the article, author Bill Higgins states that as web applications become more "immersive" -- that is, more like traditional desktop applications -- there is an increased tendency to violate the web's architectural style: representational state transfer, a.k.a. REST. He walks through an explanation of what REST is, the dangers of breaking the REST architectural model and how Ajax can be used to build stateful-client/stateless-server applications that are both "immersive" and in harmony with REST.
If you've been meaning to try out IronPython -- the Python implementation that runs on .NET -- since its recent 1.0 release, the blog Learning Python has a tutorial for putting together this simple "Hello, world!" GUI app, where the button text changes to "Hello, world!" when clicked:
One school of thought states that the best way to store users' password information is not to store the passwords themselves, but rather hashes of the passwords. When the user first signs up for an account, your application creates a hash of the password and stores that in the database. When the user logs in, your applocation creates a hash of the password entered by the user when logging in and compares it to the hahs of the password stored in the database.
This approach has the advantage of maintaning user privacy; you wouldn't be able to find out what your users' passwords are without a great deal of work. The downside is that you can't email a password reminder should the user forget his or her password (instead, you email them a link leading to a page that lets them define a new password.)
Here's something I didn't know. C# for .NET 2.0 has the
?? operator, called the "Coalesce" operator. I'll explain what it does after the jump.
The .mobi Registry reports in a press release that people from more than 100 countries have registered over 100,000 .mobi domains in the first four days of the domain's general availability. They state that this demonstrates the great demand for these domains and offered this comparison:
In contrast, it took ten years for the general public to register 100,000 PC-based domain names in the early days of the Internet.
I think that's an apples-and-oranges comparison, but it's an interesting one nonetheless.
The TIOBE Programming Community Index is an attempt to gauge the popularity of programming languages, based on "the world-wide availability of skilled engineers, courses and third party vendors" as well as search engine results. Published monthly, it lists the 50 most popular programming languages. In the September 2006 index. they declare "Ruby and D are the hot languages of today".
More after the jump...
Here's the first of a series of articles that introduces you to the Kiko API and also introduces the Ruby programming language for those of you who've been meaning to learn Ruby but haven't yet started.
Over at Steve Yegge's blog, there's an article titled Good Agile, Bad Agile that's been getting a lot of attention for a couple of reasons. First, there's Steve's assertion that agile methodologies aren't; second, he describes what working at Google is like, and it sounds like a developer's wonderland. Steve's writing style, which I find funny, is a bonus.
WebProNews has an article titled Business Blogs and Customer Connectivity, which looks at the characteristics of sucessful business blogs. It says that many of the best "b-blogs" (business blogs) provide their readers with a look at the:
- Company represented.
- Individual heading that company.
- News that affects the company and its customers.
- Links that may be beneficial to the customers.
- Personality behind the logo.
Following up from yesterday's article on .mobi domains, here's a roundup of .mobi articles from various news sources:
- Buy your piece of the .mobi internet today -- The Register
- 'Dot-Mobi' Domain Name Opens To Public for Wireless Web Sites (Subscription required) -- The Wall Street Journal
- Registration for .mobi now open to the public -- Mobile Magazine
- Mobile Domains Debut for Public -- Red Herring
- Mobi Domain Landrush Begins -- Web Host Industry Review
- What's so hot about the .mobi top-level domain -- Tech Digest
- The .mobi land rush: a mobile web revolution? -- Bigmouthmedia News
- Dotmobi Top-Level Domain Now Ready For The Masses -- Gizmodo
Over at John Battelle's Searchblog, there's an interview with Google's Matt Cutts (whose SEO tips we profiled in this article). In the interview, Cutts -- "the human voice between Google and webmasters/SEOs" -- talks about his role at Google, humans and algorithms at Google and what is considered webspam.
Don Hinchcliffe says the Seven Things Every Software Project Needs to Know About Ajax are:
- The Browser Was Never Meant For Ajax.
- You Won't Need As Many Web Services As You Think.
- Ajax Is More Involved Than Traditional Web Design and Development.
- Ajax Tooling and Components Are Still Emerging and There Is No Clear Leader Today.
- Good Ajax Programmers are Hard to Find.
- One Must Actively Address Ajax's Constraints of the Browser Model.
- Ajax Is Only One Element of a Successful RIA Strategy.
If you resell domain names (or are thinking of getting into the business), you should consider .mobi domains, the domain for mobile devices. We'll explain they whys and hows of .mobi after the jump.
It was sci-fi author Diane Duane who introduced me to Dynamism, a Chicago-based shop that -- as Diane put it -- specializes in computers and gadgets that Japanese vendors have decided was too cool to sell outside their borders. Yes, their stuff is available at premium prices, but that's the cost of getting gear from the future.
Some of the less-expensive items available from Dynamism are their sushi-shaped USB drives. According to Dynamism, these aren't ordinary plastic extrusions, but "hand-made-in-Tokyo", which I suppose is why they're expensive (a 256MB "ebi" -- that's shrimp -- will set you back US$99 and a 1GB "otoro" -- that's fatty tuna -- will cost you US$219).
Google's results are country-specific: that is, the result set you get is "tuned" to the country from which you're Googling, and that country is based on the IP address of the machine on which you're accessing Google. For instance, I'm based in Canada, and my results, whether I go to google.com or google.ca, are always from google.ca. But what if I wanted to see the results that people in America would see? Or the U.K.? Or anywhere else?
Enter oy-oy.eu's Google World Wide Search, which lets you enter Google search terms and a country, so you can see the Google results that people in other countries see.
A common task in programming is determining if a value is equal to one of a set of given values. Normally, this might involve setting up a large