Three hundred blog entries! Not bad, considering I started the blog almost exactly a year ago: Sept. 22, 2006. The 100th entry was on Jan. 10, 2007.

I’ve learned a lot since then. Here are some lessons that have come to mind:

• Writing about SCO gets lots of traffic
• Writing about Apple gets lots of traffic
• Writing about Microsoft gets lots of traffic
• Writing about threading gets lots of traffic
• Readers like my chatty voice, the wide range of topics and the graphics

The blog is time-consuming to write, but rewarding on its own merits. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for reading.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I’m delighted to announce FutureTest 2008, an exciting new conference from BZ Media.

We’re big on software testing and quality assurance. We launched Software Test & Performance (ST&P) in 2004, and it’s now the leading monthly magazine for software test/QA professionals. Our Software Test & Performance Conference (STPCon) has also been a huge success, and the Fall 2007 conference is actually going on this week.

FutureTest 2008, February 26-27 in New York City, is very different from STPCon. It’s designed to a mind-expanding, thought-provoking symposium for senior leaders in enterprise test/QA, as well as top executives in test/QA product and service companies.

This conference will have a plenary session format, with nine keynote speakers and two panel discussions, all designed to help our attendees map out a vision for where they want to take their own organizations’ test/QA initiatives and projects over the next few years – and beyond. (More details are in the official launch announcement.)

FutureTest 2008 is different, very different, than the classroom training-oriented STPCon, which is focused more on test/QA professionals and managers, as well as development managers who have a responsibility for QA or post-deployment operations.

We’re already signed up seven of our nine keynotes, and will announce the final two shortly:

• Brian Behlendorf, Apache & CollabNet
• Rex Black, RBCS
• Jeff Feldstein, Cisco Systems
• Robert Martin, Object Mentor
• Gary McGraw, Cigital
• Alan Page, Microsoft
• Tony Wasserman, Carnegie Mellon University

If you’re interested in FutureTest 2008, sign up for our notification list. Registration will be open soon.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

BZ Media’s Software Test & Performance Conference is our largest and most popular technical conference. In case you didn’t know, it’s coming up next week, at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Mass., just across the Charles River from Boston.

At each year’s STPCon, we assemble a tremendous faculty with experts on everything from test design to test automation, team-building to requirements management. They teach excellent tutorials and in-depth technical classes. Every year, testers and developers who attend STPCon report that they get a huge amount of value from the technical sessions, and we’re very proud of that.

However, that’s not what I like best about STPCon. What makes a great technical conference, for me, is the opportunity to engage in conversations with people at different companies, and to gain insight from their different perspectives. We don’t get those kind of mind-expanding insights sitting at our desks, or hanging around our company lunchroom. We don’t engage in meaningful conversations by Googling specific problems, or even by reading timely articles in SD Times or Software Test & Performance magazine. Of course, we get tons of useful information from publications, and from our favorite blogs, wikis and online forums. But even at its most interactive, the Internet doesn’t replace a real conversation.

If you’re attending STPCon next week, pay close attention to our faculty. They’re tops. But also pay close attention to your fellow attendees. When you get a break between classes, or during lunch, don’t run back to your room to check e-mail. Compare notes with someone who just came out of the same classroom—you’ll both gain a new perspective. Share observations over coffee, and your daily triumphs and challenges over lunch. Open up. Talk. Listen. That’s how I gain the most value from a professional technology conference like STPCon, and I suspect you will too.

If you haven’t signed up for STPCon, by the way, there’s still time. Although the official conference hotels are all sold out, we still have seats in some of the classes.

Are you based in the greater Boston area? Stop by and check out the Demonstration Hall. There’s no charge to hang out there, you’ll get some free food, and the conversation and camaraderie are priceless.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Apple makes some excellent products, specifically the Macintosh hardware/software and the iPod. But not everything that Apple makes is great, and not everything that Apple does is wise.

Specifically, Apple has laid two noteworthy product eggs recently: the Apple TV and the iPod Hi-Fi. In fact, a quick search for the Apple iPod Hi-Fi (pictured) at the online Apple Store was unsuccessful. Perhaps it’s been quietly discontinued, and so we’ll say not more about it. As far as Apple TV, I’ll refer you to “The iFlop,” a well-written article by Forbes’ Scott Woolley.

However, that’s peanuts compared to the big mistake. As Apple reinvents itself more as a consumer-electronics company every day, it’s missing a tremendous opportunity to sell computers to enterprises, and take market share away from Microsoft.

I hang out with software developers, IT professionals, business owners and managers. Because of what I do for a living, even in non-business conversations we start talking about computers.
Many people I meet express frustration with their desktop and notebook PCs – especially with Windows Vista. If they see me with my MacBook Pro, a very significant percentage of them express envy, and either admit sadness that they’re not allowed to switch to a Mac, or ask me how viable such a move would be.

The number of computer professionals and “civilians” who talk about a virus problems, crashes and so-on, and then say, “But you wouldn’t know about that, since you use a Mac,” grows all the time.

You would think that, given the massive industry pushback against Microsoft, specifically around Windows Vista, that Apple would be out there touting the Mac.

• You’d see them talk about how well the Mac works in a heterogeneous business – especially with the advent of Web 2.0-based browser apps, the classic issue of application availability is much less of an impediment to adoption.

• You’d see them trying to get small business VARs and service providers certified on on the Mac. Trying to find consultants who can help with Mac business issues is incredibly difficult.

• You’d see them talk about the Xserve sometime, maybe.

• You’d see them talk about how well their Mail application works with Exchange, or the Microsoft Office interoperability features of the iWork suite.

• You’d see them tout total-cost-of-ownership studies from Gartner or Forrester.

• You’d see Apple’s PR department chatting up business-technology reporters, not just consumer tech and entertainment writers.

• You’d see big ad campaigns in business publications promoting the Mac as the business platform of the future. It’d cost a fraction of what Apple spends on TV advertising for iPod and iPhone.

• Closer to my own area, you’d see the folks from Apple talking about their development tools to us at SD Times, and to others in the development press.

Yes, Apple does have a business message. But they don’t say it very often, or very loudly. What a missed opportunity. Even there, they focus exclusively on small business. What about the enterprise market? Lawyers carrying MacBooks are great. How about Fortune 1000 desktops?

It astonishes me. We hear from Microsoft and the PC makers about their enterprise platforms all the time. If I see something from Apple, it’s almost certainly about the iPod, or iTunes, or iPhone. (I did receive a press release from Apple recently about the Mac — about how there are some new EA games now available.) When the latest iMacs were released, there wasn’t a single word about they’d fit into an enterprise computing environment, or why IT professionals should consider them instead of Windows Vista boxes.

Certainly there’s progress. Apple cites a study from AMI:

According to the latest study from Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, Inc., Apple’s year-over-year market share jumped over 100% for desktop PCs and notebooks. In the medium business segment (100-999 employees), Apple’s desktop PC market share soared from 13% to 27%, while notebook PC shares grew from 8% to 18% in the medium business segment (100-999 employees). Similarly, in the small business (1 to 99 employees) market, Apple grew its desktop PC market share from 7% to 12%, and expanded its share of the notebook PC market from 5% to 8%.

Imagine what results they might have if they actually pushed the business message, and really capitalized on all that Microsoft pushback.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I was fascinated to receive an e-mail newsletter from Michael Desmond, editor-in-chief of Redmond Developer News, admitting that even Microsoft-centric IT professionals thought that Microsoft did a bad job in its failed attempt to fast-track Office Open XML through the ISO.

Redmond Developer News, published by 1105 Media, is a publication for developers focused on the Microsoft technology stack, such as Windows, SQL Server, Visual Studio, .NET, and so-on. Michael had blogged on Sept. 9th about the ISO thumbs-down vote, and had asked for comments. (You can read my own posting on the ISO vote here.)

Evidently, he received comments — but not the ones he expected.

In today’s edition of his Redmond Developer Newsletter (which comes via e-mail), Michael had an excellent essay on the subject. I’m going to reproduce it in its entirety, because I can’t find it online to link to.

The OOXML Odyssey: Reader Outrage Edition

I like to think of myself as a fair-minded guy who’s open to both sides of an argument. So when I wrote about the recent no-vote for the Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML) spec by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), I was a bit astonished by the
nature of the response. Read the original blog post here:

To wit: Not one person wrote in to say they supported Microsoft or the OOXML specification. Not one.

Instead, what I read was a parade of impassioned protest. Readers railed against what they found to be a sloppy, complex and potentially dangerous XML-based technical specification. Several wrote to express concern about Microsoft strong-arming the ISO process, stacking national ISO voting bodies in an effort to win approval. And to a man (or woman), the writers condemned OOXML on its technical merits.

What surprises me about this response is that these are people reading Redmond Developer News — you know, a publication for developers and managers working with the Microsoft technology stack. You’d think this audience would have a lot invested in Microsoft tools
and skill sets, and that they’d be at least somewhat likely to have a favorable opinion of OOXML.

But they don’t.

What does it say about Microsoft and its current OOXML push that our readers — essentially, the home field for Microsoft in this contest — are so clearly opposed to the Redmond-sponsored technology?

You tell me. Because I really want to hear it. E-mail me at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Good essay, Michael. I hope Microsoft is reading it.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Here’s an idea: What if commercial and enterprise development teams were organized and managed like open-source teams? That is, individual architects, developers and testers could choose which projects to join up with, based on projects anywhere in the company. The members of each team would be organized as a self-selected meritocracy, using a set of operating policies and structures like you find at Apache or Eclipse, or even at the Wikipedia.

In this scenario, each project’s meritocracy – not IT management – would decide who its project leaders were, elect/appoint committers, and so-on… and also be able to “vote developers off the island” if they did shoddy work, missed deadlines or failed to make significant contributions.

With salaried software developers, as long as they are contributing to teams in a meaningful way, they stay on the payroll. There might be even some sort of meritocratic way to set pay levels (i.e., Johnny was just voted a promotion to Tester III, and Sharon to Developer VI). However, if Johnny was not making a significant contribution to projects, he might not be promoted, and ultimately he might lose his job. Contractors would depend on votes, or other meritocratic analytics, to keep their contracts.

Some open source projects, such as the ones mentioned above, use a meritocratic system to become incredibly efficient at managing large, diverse projects. These projects bring together developers with many different skill sets, different interests and even different corporate cultures — and deliver great software without “corporate” management or overhead.

Enterprise and commercial dev teams have learned a lot from open source communities about agile methodologies. Perhaps there are lessons for commercial dev managers in open source community organizational structures. What do you think?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

In their bid to recapture momentum from Google, the Yahooligans are behaving very, very badly.

On Monday morning, I received an automated e-mail from Alexander Falk, founder of Altova, saying that he was changing his e-mail address:

I have a brand-spanking-new Yahoo! Mail address.

Hello, I have switched my e-mail address from email hidden; JavaScript is required to email hidden; JavaScript is required. Please be sure to update your address book and send messages to my new Yahoo! Mail address from now on.

Thank You!
email hidden; JavaScript is required

Interested too? Go check out Yahoo! Mail

I did what you probably would have done: Added the address to Alexander’s listing in my address book and deleted the gmail address.

However, I received a follow-up message a few hours later with the subject line, “Please disregard FAKE e-mail switched from GMail to Yahoo notice!” Alexander wrote:

Dear friends:

I am mortified! I don’t know what to say!! I’ve been “had” by a rather evil marketing ploy from Yahoo and you had to suffer as a result of that…

I am very sorry about the confusion and about the FALSE new e-mail address announcement that was sent out by Yahoo Mail Beta this morning claiming to be on my behalf. I was in the process of testing the new Yahoo Mail Beta service and imported my GMail address book using the “Import contacts…” function – and without any prompt or warning the Yahoo system suddenly decided to SPAM all 1,500 of my contacts with a message claiming that I had “switched” from GMail to Yahoo Mail.

That’s incredibly unprofessional of Yahoo, and makes me totally uninterested in testing their Yahoo Mail service – or any of their other services.

Alexander also blogged about this, see his post.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

In April 2005, my colleague I.B. Phoolen wrote a humor piece predicting that The SCO Group would sue itself.

Two-and-a-half years later, it’s still funny… and possible.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

As a former fan of the New England Patriots (I stopped following them after moving to California in 1990), I was appalled to read last week’s story that the Patriots were using a video camera to steal signals from the New York Jets. However, I wasn’t surprised: Sports is rampant with cheating.

The NFL was appalled too. The New England coach, Bill Belichick, was fined $500,000, the team was fined $250,000, and the team was also penalized by losing a draft pick next season.

However, Belichick (pictured) isn’t contrite at all. On Friday, he held a press conference where he reiterated his refusal to apologize to the Jets and insisted, “It doesn’t really make any difference. Right now, everything that has happened is in the past. It’s been ruled on. It’s over and I’m moving forward.”

You should read the transcript of his incredible press conference. What arrogance! I certainly wouldn’t want someone like that working for me, no matter how good a coach he is.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

When my wife — a classical pianist — stumbled across a CD by a group called the 5 Browns, she was impressed by the concept of five siblings playing ten-handed arrangements. The CD contained short arrangements and medleys using pieces like Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Copland’s Simple Gifts and Dvořák’s Symphony #9 in E Minor, “From the New World.” Worth a shot, eh?

It was definitely worth a shot, and the album, “No Boundaries,” which came out in April 2006, is a real treat. The young people are tremendous musicians. If you like piano music, and particularly, piano arrangements of classical symphonic works, you’ll enjoy this. (The CD has a DVD flip side with music videos of the Browns playing. Unfortunately, the arrangements on the music video are very abridged, but it’s still nice to watch them at work.)

While discussing these particular works, I’ll mention some preferred versions.

• For “Rhapsody in Blue,” my hands-down favorite is a piano solo version from “Gershwin Plays Gershwin: The Piano Rolls,” which came out in 1993. After hearing this “unplugged” rendition, all the symphonic versions seem pale by comparison.

• For the full “From the New World,” only a small bit of which was used in “No Boundaries,” I recommend Eugene Ormandy’s recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The SCO Group filed Chapter 11 today. Here’s the full official release:

The SCO Group Files Chapter 11 to Protect Assets as It Addresses Potential Financial and Legal Challenges

Reorganization ensures business as usual and that assets remain for continued support of customers and channel partners

LINDON, Utah, Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — The SCO Group, Inc. (“SCO”) (Nasdaq: SCOX), a leading provider of UNIX(R) software technology and mobile services, today announced that it filed a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. SCO’s subsidiary, SCO Operations, Inc., has also filed a petition for reorganization. The Board of Directors of The SCO Group have unanimously determined that Chapter 11 reorganization is in the best long-term interest of SCO and its subsidiaries, as well as its customers, shareholders, and employees.

The SCO Group intends to maintain all normal business operations throughout the bankruptcy proceedings. Subject to court approval, SCO and its subsidiaries will use the cash flow from their consolidated operations to meet their capital needs during the reorganization process.

“We want to assure our customers and partners that they can continue to rely on SCO products, support and services for their business critical operations,” said Darl McBride, President and CEO, The SCO Group. “Chapter 11 reorganization provides the Company with an opportunity to protect its assets during this time while focusing on building our future plans.”

The SCO Group has filed a series of first day motions in the Bankruptcy Court to ensure that it will not have any interruption in maintaining and honoring all of its commitments to its customers. The motions also address SCO’s continued ability to pay its vendors, the retention of various professional advisors, and other matters.

It’s about time. I hope their executive managers are fired, their current investors lose every penny, and that new owners take good care of their employees and customers.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Speaking of unwanted spam, sometimes they’re at least good for a chuckle. Here’s phishing e-mail, received this morning, purporting to be from Citizens Bank:

Good day dear clients,

We are sorry to inform that the fraudulents with the accounts of our bank have recently increased. That is why our bank changes the security system, which will provide maximum security to our clients if the accounts are used by frauds. You will receive a special program to your e-mail this week, as well as the instruction how to use it. With its help you will have an opportunity to make payments. Without this program no one will be able to transfer money from your account. If you lose the program, you will have to pay $4,99 and we will send you the copy of it.

To confirm the registration of this anti-fraud program visit this web-site and complete the necessary forms: [link deleted]

We appreciate your business and hope to keep you as a customer for life.
Citizens Bank Money Manager GPS Online is so easy, no wonder it’s number 1 !

Citizens Bank Online Billing Services Team

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The marketing folks at Hewlett-Packard are very, very polite.

As a matter of practice, I’m fairly aggressive about unsubscribing from unwanted e-mails, when I know that they come from legitimate sources. (By contrast, I delete and block true spam, such as messages from unknown sources.)

I get on a lot of mailing lists, and since my inbox is always overflowing, getting rid of the unwanted mess does help. (I wrote in April about my total inability to unsubscribe one of my e-mail addresses from Microsoft’s lists, so I had to block their messages instead.)

The HP folks are cut from a different cloth. First and foremost, they make it easy to unsubscribe from their unwanted marketing mailings (such as a faux “newsletter” from their HP Home and Home Office Store). But that’s not all: More impressively, they thank you for taking yourself off their mailing list (click on the picture and read the fine print). Now, that is service.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Is 9/11 just another day? Should it be just another day? Do the terrorists win if we commemorate the day, reliving the horror? Do the terrorists lose if we remember those horrible events on our terms?

Those are big questions, and although I sometimes fancy myself a philosopher, those questions are too big for me, at least right now. I don’t know the right words or thoughts, even six years later.

My colleague Edward Correia, editor of Software Test & Performance, found the right words, which he expressed at the beginning of today’s Test & QA Report newsletter. Thanks, Eddie.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

When reading one of the cover stories in the Sept. 1 issue of SD Times, I was struck by a comment from Ashok Reddy, a manager at IBM Rational. In “Negative View of Security Standing in Way of SaaS,” he was discussing how willing people were to put critical data out on hosted CRM services, such as, and how that compared to the slower acceptance of software development on hosted platforms.

Reddy told SD Times senior editor Jennifer deJong, “Source code is intellectual property, and it is perceived as more strategic to the company [than customer data].”

That comment stopped me in my tracks… not because it’s not true, but because of the implications. Think about big news stories about data loss. It’s of criminals steal credit card numbers, social-security numbers, customer databases, secret documents, and the like. Data. When was the last time you heard in a news story that someone stole a laptop with a company’s source code database?

Of course, one reason that we hear so much about database theft is because victims might be forced to disclose such crimes, so that people can change their credit-card numbers, and be alert to potential identity theft. By contrast, if someone steals some source code from your company, there’s no external requirement (as far as I know) to disclose that to the local newspaper.

Another reason is that, for most criminals, source code isn’t very valuable. Any laptop filled with credit card numbers is surely going to appeal to many criminals, who can use that data or sell it. But how many buyers are there for second-hand source code? So, the incentive to steal such data, except for specific cases of industrial espionage, is pretty low.

That’s from the criminal’s perspective. But what about from your company’s perspective? If someone steals your source code, what they going to do with it? They could study it for exploits (like embedded passwords), or clone your product’s secret features, or reverse-engineer a critical algorithm or protocol. Those would be bad… but you think those would be less bad than, say, having someone steal your customer database. Or, if they have read/write access, they could modify the code to embed bugs or create a back door.

(All this assumes that your source code is proprietary. If you’re using only open source, then in theory stealing your source code would have absolutely zero impact whatsoever.)

Is having someone steal (or have unfettered access) to your source code a bigger risk, or a smaller risk, than of having someone steal (or have unfettered access to) your customer database? What do you think?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I’ve been honored by Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus by an invitation to talk about media relations.

The talk is called, “Press relations: Telling the world about your better mousetrap,” and it’s a part of CMU’s exciting new Masters in Software Management program.

The talk is described thus:

If you build a better mousetrap, the world might beat a path to your door – but only if the world knows about it. The best way for the world to know about your better mousetrap is to have reporters cover it for trusted print and online sources. That means press relations (PR). Alan Zeichick, a Bay Area technology analyst, journalist, writer and publisher, will discuss the role of PR for software companies. The foundation of his talk will be a practical primer that Mr. Zeichick gives to software entrepreneurs, executives and marketers about how to do PR. This presentation covers news, product reviews, appointments, conferences & trade shows, and complex editorial relationship between publications and the companies that they cover. After the presentation, Mr. Zeichick will engage in a dynamic Q&A – just about every topic regarding publishing (print, online, business-to-business, business-to-consumer, general interest, editorial, advertising, circulation) is fair game!

The talk is on Tuesday, Sept. 25, starting at 8:15pm. Note that admission is free to the general public, alumni and students.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Robin “roblimo” Miller has done it again. Robin is one of the most thoughtful and gratuitously humorous people I’ve ever met. Yes, that’s a compliment. I’ve never been bored reading anything that he has written, from blog posts to technical articles — even if the subject matter wasn’t of particular interest, Robin’s writing style making everything credible and compelling.

One topic that both Robin and I find interesting is the future of publishing. That makes sense, since we’re both writers and editors (he’s editor-in-chief of OSTG, an collaborative publishing venture focused on open source technology).

The reason why I’m currently heaping praise on Robin (pictured) is his article published today, called “How I saved hundreds of newspapers… and won $2000,” in USC Annenberg’s Online Journalism Review. He lays out, with perfect 20/20 foresight, what the newspaper of the future is going to look like. Who else could predict,

“Armed with this knowledge, a smart newspaper will want to have at least two or three certified gerontological orgasmentarianists on staff by the end of this year, in anticipation of this employment trend, instead of waiting for it to happen. Some of the more forward-looking newspapers will probably have entire sections devoted to orgasmentarianism before long, complete with online video instructions in full color made both by staff professionals and volunteer readers with their webcams and camcorders.”

But you’ll have to read the rest for yourself.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Sometimes the old methods are the best methods.

The BBC reported today that Royal Nepal Airlines, faced with persistent electrical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft, decided to address the root cause… and sacrificed a goat to the Hindu god of sky protection.

If the solution works, I’m going to suggest to my colleague Edward Correia, editor of Software Test & Performance, that this is an excellent topic for us to explore in the magazine, and at STPCon.

It’s easy to make light of other cultures’ differences, but we should strive to maintain an open mind and be willing to try new approaches. I wonder which animal one should sacrifice to resolve a buffer overflow?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Nearly every room in my home and office has a decent stereo system playing in the background. Just about any time of the day or night, you’ll hear Classical 102.1 KDFC in our home’s dining and living rooms, and the conference room at BZ West. (We never turn them off.)

Meanwhile, my office’s stereo (a Pioneer VSX-D409 with two speakers and 12″ subwoofer) is connected to a dedicated iPod with an Apple dock and charger. I use the iPod instead of my laptop for playing music because it reduces my MacBook Pro’s CPU load and disk utilization, and frankly, the iPod has a better user interface for casual music listening than iTunes. Plus, the dock works with the MacBook Pro’s remote, which is handy when I want to skip a song or pause when the phone rings.

Every so often, however, I want to play iPod music elsewhere, such as our dining room or living room at home, or the conference room. Until now, the connection has been a standard cable with a stereo 3.5mm jack on one side, and two RCA connectors on the other. For convenience. there’s one of these cables permanently attached to each stereo’s “CD” or “AUX” line input.

Because this cable connects to the iPod’s headphone jack, sound quality is suboptimal. Why? The headphone jack is run through the iPod’s internal amplifier before it’s processed again by the stereo’s amplifier. Feeding an amplified signal into a line-in jack leads to distortion and poor sound.

This struck me last week, when I moved my iPod from my office (where it was connected via line out) to the conference room (where it was connected via headphone jack). Even though the conference room has a similar stereo and speakers, the sound was clearly inferior. Was it the connection? I moved the dock to the conference room. The iPod sounded better. Line-in makes all the difference.

But hmm, buying a lot of $40 docks seemed like overkill. Then I found the solution: a cable that has two RCA plugs on one side, and an iPod dock plug on the other. Instant line out! There are a number of these cables available; the one I purchased as a test was from Cables To Go (pictured), and it cost under $10 from Amazon.

If you currently use a 3.5mm-to-RCA cable to connect your iPod to a stereo, buy a line-out cable that uses the dock connector. You’ll be delighted with the improvement in audio quality.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

See Ian Skerrett’s follow-up to the previous post. I wonder if there will be a .NET version?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Palm has canceled the Foleo, its Linux-based quasi-laptop device that was designed to be a mobile companion for smart phones (that is, Palm’s smart phones).

According to a blog post from Ed Colligan, CEO of Palm Inc., the company instead will be focusing all its efforts on creating a next-generation development platform and UI for all Palm smartphone devices. He wrote,

“Because we were nearly at the point for shipping Foleo, this was a very tough decision. Yet I am convinced this is the right thing to do. Foleo is based on second platform and a separate development environment, and we need to focus our efforts on one platform. Our own evaluation and early market feedback were telling us that we still have a number of improvements to make Foleo a world-class product, and we can not afford to make those improvements on a platform that is not central to our core focus. That would not be right for our customers or for our developer community.

Frankly, I can’t shed a tear for the Foleo. I spent some time with one at LinuxWorld (there wasn’t much else to do there), and was underwhelmed with the Foleo itself — and with the concept. The idea that a business user would want a 2.5-pound $600 subnotebook “companion,” instead of a real notebook PC, to carry in addition to a smartphone didn’t make sense.

According to the company’s description of the Foleo development platform, posted just about a month ago, here are the apps that were to be installed on the device:

Full list of 3rd party applications:

-Astraware Limited provides two games for the new Foleo – Sudoku and Solitaire – with additional games to follow.

-Avvenu has created the Avvenu Access ‘n Share service for the Foleo so users can access, enabling users to share digital content stored on their work or home PCs, untethered and over-the-air.

-Bluefire provides Foleo customers security for mobile data-in-transit. The VPN software client easily fits in with existing network infastructures and configurations, and functions across Wi-Fi, LAN and cellular networks.

-DataViz is providing the latest addition of Documents To Go, giving Foleo customers the ability to create, view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint compatible files on their Foleo mobile companion.

-LogMeIn is bringing remote PC access capability to the Foleo, providing instant, secure connections between remote PCs over the web – enabling easy desktop remote control, data backup and file sharing.

-MotionApps’ mDayscape Personal Information Manager applications lets Foleo customers manage calendar, contacts and tasks on their devices and synchronizes with a Treo smartphone.

-Opera provides Foleo customers with the user-friendly Opera web browser, offering intelligent navigation features and support for advanced Web 2.0 applications using Ajax.

-SixApart gives Foleo users access to SixApart’s wide range of blogging services including Vox, LiveJournal, Typepad and MoveableType.

-TealPoint offers Foleo customers a full suite of new security, entertainment and productivity applications including TealSafe, TealPaint, TealDiet, SudokuAddict and ShortCircuit, with more applications to follow.

Foleo wasn’t compelling. If you saw the device, I’m sure you agree.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Despite rosy spin by its PR department, Microsoft has suffered a setback in its attempt to ram OOXML through the standards process. We should all celebrate (even Microsoft people should celebrate) that there’s still some amount of credibility in organizations like the ISO.

Microsoft’s Office Open XML specification – a 6,039-page document – has been denied fast-track approval from the ISO. OOXML was rubber-stamped by Ecma, a vendor-influenced body that unfortunately is taken seriously by the ISO. Microsoft has been lobbying hard to get the ISO to approve OOXML, because increasingly national governments (and also U.S. state governments like Massachusetts) are insisting that official documents must be stored in an open standard format, not a proprietary format that only a single vendor supports.

Here’s the history: Faced with two open standard formats for documents – the Portable Document Format (PDF/A-1) and the Oasis Open Document Format (ODF) – Microsoft created OOXML, which although being XML-based, is so incredibly complex that nobody but Microsoft could ever implement it in an interoperable way. Heck, even Microsoft hasn’t been able to completely implement OOXML in anything but Microsoft Office 2007. That’s why there’s no still way to write OOXML from Office 2004 for the Mac or from previous versions of Office for Windows.

Microsoft won easy approval of OOXML from Ecma late last year, where it is designated ECMA-376. Microsoft now only needs a sign-off from ISO to have it declared an open standard. (It is currently designated as draft ISO/IEC DIS 29500.)

Microsoft could then be free to pressure governments to store their documents in OOXML (using Microsoft Office) instead of PDF/A-1 or ODF because, then, this truly proprietary format would be allowable under the letter of the law as an open standard. Thus, ISO standardization would boost Microsoft’s Office monopoly by locking out competitors.

At the preliminary vote at the ISO, many countries voted no, despite significant lobbying by Microsoft. Microsoft is spinning this as a victory, predicting success at a later vote expected in March 2008. (Read SD Times’ coverage.)

By all accounts, this has been a shady business. With the ISO, votes for approval/disapproval of a standard are cast by the national standards bodies of participating countries. The process used to determine how each country votes varies from country by country, but in many cases companies are allowed to join their nation’s standards body… and then influence their country’s ISO vote on the standard.

As reported by ZDNet UK, the Free Software Foundation is accusing Microsoft of stuffing the national ballot boxes – by encouraging its resellers and partners to join standards bodies to vote for OOXML. The story says, “The attempt to influence the Swedish vote was publicised by the open-source community when a leaked memo emerged that gave the impression that not only had Microsoft asked partners to influence the vote but had also offered to pay them to do so.”

According to ZDNet UK, Microsoft has admitted that the memo was genuine – but insists that it was the action of a rogue employee, and goes against company policy.

Even giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here, we should all be happy that the ISO members have stood firm. Official standards approval should only be given to specifications that are truly open – and for whom passage of the standard is in the public interest. In the case of OOXML, we’re at the brink of having a formal technology standard that is not open, and which isn’t in the public interest. The only entities that will benefit from ISO approval of OOXML are Microsoft and its partners.

If OOXML passes in March 2008 (and I’m worried that it will pass), it will set a precedent for ISO becoming just like Ecma: an organization that helps companies gain competitive advantage by manipulating the standards process. This can work against any company; while it works for Microsoft with OOXML, it can work against Microsoft in the future. There are plenty of big companies with deep pockets who might seek to subvert the standards process.

I hope that ISO firmly rejects OOXML next time around… and further, I urge it to tighten up its rules (such as to deny fast-track approval processes to specifications passed up by vendor groups like Ecma) to prevent anything like this from happening again.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

My Glaswegian wife is a follower of all things Gaelic (at least, of the Scottish dialect of Gaelic, as opposed to the Irish one). Although she’s a Mac user, Carole was delighted to learn from the BBC about a forthcoming version of Windows Vista being translated into Gaelic.

Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language popular on the western side of Scotland, the Western Isles and the Highlands. It’s closely related to Irish Gaelic; the linguistic family also includes Welsh, Cornish and Breton.

According to BBC Scotland, Opera and OpenOffice already have Gaelic language support, but this is the first time that Windows will be translated into that language.

You can learn more about Gaelic from the Bòrd na Gàidhlig (Gaelic Board), a organization working with the Scottish Executive seeking to promote the language for the approximately 58,000 people who speak it today, and to preserve it for the future.

By the way, tá an ríomhaire tar éis cliseadh means “the computer is down,” according to this convenient Gaelic/English dictionary of computer terms.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick