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Ajax Evolution

August 2nd, 2007

Not only are the tools and techniques surrounding Ajax development maturing, the very scope of the Ajax meme continues to expand even now, two years since Jesse spake those immortal words back in 2005.

The latest class of techniques to come under the umbrella of Ajax is offline browser applications. At the Ajax Experience conference in SFO last week, there were a few presentations about the Dojo Offline Toolkit, which provides offline application and synchronization abstractions on top of the Google Gears local storage engine. I spent quite a bit of time with Brad Neuberg and his work on DOT is impressive.

Another topic that got much more coverage this time around was Performance Analysis and the tools you can use. Ryan Breen had a great talk that described some very useful tools and Steve Souders presented his new tool YSlow.

I had a chance to hang around with lots of other great folk while I was there – Douglas, Brendan, Sean, Dylan, the charming but unlinkable Stephanie Trimble, John, Pete and Dori to name a few. And of course, Ben and Dion, congenial hosts as always.

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Why you won’t see me at Ajax World

July 13th, 2007

Although you will indeed see me at the Ajax Experience show in SFO at the end of the month, I’m afraid you won’t find me in Santa Clara in September.

Today I received yet another in a series of communications asking me to be a sponsor for the Ajax World conference hosted by Sys-Con Media.

I first had contact with Sys-Con when Jeremy Geelan asked me to participate in an expert survey in 2005 [addendum: Jeremy is no longer with Sys-Con, having left to found Social Computing Magazine][addendum2: Jeremy is back with Sys-Con - whether he actually left or not is unknown, but it's clear he's not been entirely frank with me]. I freely gave a bit of my time to come up with a series of responses which were quoted and which apparently were helpful in making it a successful article, ostensibly generating interest or revenue for them.

Based on the success of that interaction, Jeremy invited me to speak at Ajax World in Santa Clara, but it soon became clear I was expected to pay my own travel and accomodation and displace 3+travel=4 days of client business, altogether a significant cost to me – greater than $5000. I said that as an independent with no product to pitch, I would require travel, accomodation and compensation. I was told that expenses were my responsibility and all I could expect in return for speaking would be to get into the conference – a $1595 “value” to me.

Some time after declining this “generous” offer, I started receiving emails and even couriered packages filled with glossies and CD media from Carmen Gonzales, Sr. VP of Sales & Marketing, entreating me to pay big bucks to sponsor the show and get myself a speaking slot.

Jeremy later sent me an email inviting me to submit my presentation for the NYC show last fall. I did so, and reminded him of my requirements, wondering aloud whether his position had changed since he was asking me again. I never received a response.

After receiving further unsolicited emails [from Carmen] about sponsorship, I wrote to Carmen, copying Jeremy, to make it clear that not only had I no such interest, but that their continued efforts were beginning to wear on me.

Since that time I have received numerous messages and even packages via courier, entreating me to spend up to multiple tens of thousands of dollars to become a sponsor. It’s apparent that your business model consists of charging people to attend conferences to hear vendor representatives who have bought keynote and speaking slots and other speakers who have paid their own way and given their time for free, all sponsored by other companies who pay you handsomely for the privilege. It’s abundantly clear that any disinclination to budget for speakers has nothing to do with a lack of available funds.

Obviously there are many speakers whose situations differ from mine, and I salute you for your ability to maintain a cash cow with such a lopsided balance sheet, however, I’m not the least bit inclined to spend any of my own time and effort to further enrich your gain with no recompense to me, and your continued misdirected effort is doing nothing but alienating me from any desire to be supportive of your organization in any way.

For what it’s worth, I presented and participated on panels at both of the Ajax Experience shows last year with no such issues and was made to feel that my time and contribution were very much appreciated.

I was nearly knocked over when in response to my email direct to Carmen a customer service rep contacted me and I was offered a Gold Pass Badge to the NYC show.

Brent,

Our apologies for the oversight and mixup. We would love to invite you to AJAXWorld as our guest with a complimentary Gold Pass badge.

SYS-CON Events Customer Services Team

P.S. Jeremy and/or Carmen will reply to your email. Our apologies again!

In order to use this “complimentary” pass of course, I would have to fly from Toronto to NYC, pay for a hotel, taxi, etc, and of course jerk around my clients on short notice to realign my schedule.

I never received an email from either Carmen or Jeremy as promised by the Customer Service rep. I figured whatever, that’s the end of that.

So, today I start receiving the sponsorship emails [from Carmen] again.

Platinum Sponsorship: $30,000:
10×20 Exhibit Space & 50 minute vendor presentation

Gold Sponsorship: $20,000:
10×10 Exhibit Space & 30 minute vendor presentation

Silver Sponsorship: $15,000 8×10 Exhibit Space & power panel spot

Exhibitor Packages: Plus package $10,000 / standard $5,500

The entrance fee for the conference ranges from $1500 to $1900 depending on when you sign up.

It’s too bad they can’t afford to compensate their speakers or even pay their expenses.

It’s also a shame that their disinterest in stopping the mailings and their lack of response (even when promised) would lead me to moan publicly about it.

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JoCo in Toronto

June 7th, 2007

Jonathan Coulton is playing in Toronto, 9pm on Friday night at the Reverb, upstairs at the Big Bop, as part of NXNE. I’ll have to miss it on short notice, but see him if you can!

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Jazz Programmer

May 31st, 2007

I like to think that Ron has me pegged when he describes what he calls a Jazz Programmer.

His post is all the more relevant to me since Jazz plays a not insignificant part in who I am, and the photo he uses is of one of my Jazz heroes, Jimmy Smith

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One practical real-world solution to Secure Mashups

May 14th, 2007

Dion Almaer points us to a recently released paper [pdf] from Collin Jackson and Helen Wang introducing their research into a new method of Secure Cross-Domain Communication for Web Mashups.

The method is designed to provide secure cross-domain scripting using the tools that are available now, so we don’t have to wait for the next generation of browsers to provide purpose-built mechanisms.

Collin and Helen, along with some other Microsoft colleagues, have also authored another paper entitled MashupOS: Operating System Abstractions for Client Mashups [pdf] that is worth reading.

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The path to serenity is via regular backups

May 8th, 2007

Michael O’Connor Clarke’s recent brush with near-data-death had a happy ending, and he credits my backup advice with helping to save the day. I figure now is as good a time as any to make that advice more widely known.

The ONLY successful backup strategy is one that actually gets your system backed up regularly. This means taking it out of the hands of the procrastinator and into the hands of the automator.

In my opinion the only truly workable restore strategy is to have a disk image to restore. If you have to spend untold hours loading your OS and programs, searching for license keys and farting around with settings, passwords, adding users etc etc, just to get to the point where you can restore your backed-up data, you are wasting time and money.

A regularly scheduled disk-image backup will save your otherwise very sorry ass many many times.

I use Acronis True Image to back up my laptop. The Home version suits my needs, but the Workstation and Server products are stellar as well for a business environment.

Acronis makes a compressed image of selected partitions on your hard drive. It does this in the background while you are still using your computer. You can schedule it to happen regularly so you don’t even have to think about it.

With Acronis you can:

  • Make a full image of your drive
    • Make multiple incremental images against a full image
    • Save the image locally or over the network, split to multiple files or CDs/DVDs
  • Access the images for read or restore
    • Mount any full or incremental image to access a snapshot of your drive via a drive letter
    • Restore your machine from any full or incremental state via disk, cd, network
    • Restore your machine from bare metal with a rescue boot CD
  • Schedule backups
    • Automate backups so you don’t have to think about them
    • Define pre and post commands to run

Those are the basics you need. Beyond that you can use the rescue CD to back up and restore non-windows partitions, too – Linux and BSD for instance. There are many other features too.

I have a scheduled task set up to back up my laptop every Monday and Thursday at 2am to my home server. If my laptop is plugged into my network at home at those times, it will save a full disk image to the server. If the target directory already contains a full image, it will build an incremental image.

At the start of each month, I delete the contents of my LastMonth directory and move the current image and incrementals there. I should really write a batch to invoke pre-task to do this automatically, since this is the only thing I still have to remember to do.

I’m pretty serious about my backups. On my server, I have two 250Gb hard drives that I synchronize daily using rsync. I also copy certain critical files off to a NAS device that’s at the other end of the house and take sporadic file backups to a USB drive to take offsite. You don’t have to get that crazy about it, but for the sake of your long-term sanity, by all means set up a regular image backup of your main machines.

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Net Neutrality – sit up and take notice

April 23rd, 2007

If you haven’t yet sat up and taken notice of the Net Neutrality issue, now is the time to start.

Here are some essential posts to bring you up to speed:

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Don’t tell me what you did yesterday…

April 5th, 2007

Recently my friend and business associate Noel was tired of meeting people that day who were content to rest on their laurels but had no vision or drive to do new things. His frustrated cry was:

Don’t tell me what you did yesterday!

I modified his mantra and we both liked the result:

Don’t tell me what you did yesterday unless it was at least two days ahead of its time!