We announced the new SD Times Job Board two weeks ago. When the service initially went it up, it had just over 600 jobs. Early this week, I got a report saying that it was up to 1,100 positions.

When I checked this morning, it was up to 1,230 posted jobs.

Wow! You’ve gotta check it out.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Huntington, N.Y., is the World Headquarters of BZ Media LLC. The Long Island suburb also has the Inter-Media Art Center, a terrific non-profit performing art theatre. It’s only a block away from our offices.

I’m impressed with the quality of the performers appearing at the IMAC Theater. Last night, for example, Suzanne Vega was there launching her new road tour (read all about it on her blog). Wish I’d been there!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Yesterday, we learned that Solstice Software, a well-regarded maker of automated software testing tools, was purchased by a London-based SOA testing company, Green Hat Consulting. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

I’d never heard of Green Hat before, and my first thought was, “What an original name.”

Green Hat Consulting was formed in 1996. The biggest colorful cap-monickered software company, Red Hat, was founded in 1993. Who else is out there?

There’s a software company called BigBlueHat, which does Web site design from its offices in Greenville, S.C.

Orange Hat Software Consulting, Watertown, Conn., is a small IT company that specializes in computer tune-ups, custom code development and document management.

Know of any others?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

According to today’s edition of Windows Secrets, the well-regarded newsletter from Brian Livingston, there are issues with Windows XP Service Pack 3.

In particular, his Patch Watch columnist, Susan Bradley, cites registry fixes needed to make SP3 work with Norton AntiVirus, and never-ending reboots when you install SP3 onto PCs with AMD processors.

Susan’s column explains that this latter problem has to do with SP3 installing Intel drivers onto AMD machines (oops), and she tells you how to fix it.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

This week’s Google I/O developer conference was medium interesting. There were solid technical classes on AppEngine, and neat demonstrations of the Android mobile-phone software stack. There were lots of discussions about social networks, and the virtuous cycle between compelling new applications, new users and advertising, which in turn funds new applications.

What was missing from Google I/O was a compelling vision, beyond “more of the same.” I came away informed, but not inspired, by Google’s three-fold mission: make the cloud more accessible, keep connectivity pervasive, and make the client more powerful. In all of these, Google is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

That’s not to discount the impact that Google’s entry into cloud computing will have. At the conference, Google unleashed the tiger, making its App Engine generally available to its customers. The pricing model – free for up to about 5 million pageviews/month – is compelling for trying out ideas. The technology appears solid. The APIs are very approachable. And as with Amazon’s programmable platform, anyone can use the applications that you build. (Salesforce.com’s hosting model is geared at providing third-party applications for their paying CRM customers.)

Google’s App Engine is going to get traffic, of that there’s absolutely no doubt. That is going to be a catalyst for seriously considering the cloud as a deployment platform for enterprise applications of all kinds. Even when a company has a full-featured Internet data center, some apps may lend themselves better to Google’s hosted platform. Thanks to Amazon and Google, the cloud is now a genuine platform that bears serious consideration for new projects.

By the way, the totally coolest thing at Google I/O was a demonstration of Google Maps for Mobile running on an Android phone prototype. The demo combined Street View with the device’s built-in compass and accelerometer to show you an annotated picture of whatever you pointed the phone at.

One bit of trivia is that Google says it will drop its name from Google Gears. That’s the set of Windows, Mac and Linux downloadable client code that can accelerate specially-built Web apps. No timeframe was given for when the rebranding as just “Gears” will take place. It hasn’t happened yet.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Here’s the latest in the flood of domain scams (see my comments from earlier this month here and here). Unlike the earlier ones I’ve posted, these guys admit that there will be “relevant costs.”

I post these, by the way, so that if people get them and search for them, they’ll find out that these are scams.

Dear manager:

We are Century Net Group Stocks Limited in China, which is a domain registration organization authorised by Chinese Industrial and Commercial Department.We engage in chinese and international domain names registration as well as settling the international disputes for domains registration.We also offer English and Chinese web solution.

Last week,we received an application from a company asking to register “bzmedia” their internet keyword and domain names.We have confirmed that it belong to you via our registration system.It is our duty to inform you of this issue.You know that this will confuse and mislead consumers.

You have the preferential right to register and protect.If you wanna register them by yourself,please contact us asap.We will communicate with each other about the protection procedure and relevant cost.

If we did not receive any response from you in our examination and verification period,we would take the formal registration process for that applicant according to chinese and international domain registration regulations.

Anyway,this is an urgent email.We hope you can pay much attention to this issue.We will appreciate that you response for us by phone or email asap no matter you want to register them or not.

sincerely yours,

Registration Dept
Century Net Group Stock Limited

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Yesterday, our new Sony Playstation 3 arrived. Our son took about 0.7 minutes to unpack the box, disconnect the old upconverting DVD player from our television and hook in the Playstation, sync up the Bluetooth controller and Blu-ray disc remote, tie the device into our home WiFi network and start watching a movie.

Aren’t teenagers amazing?

The decision to purchase a Playstation 3 was driven by a confluence of several factors.

1. We like to watch movies, and having seen how good a Blu-ray movie looks, we wanted it. Bad.

2. Netflix offers Blu-ray movies, at no additional price over regular ones. There aren’t many available now, but the number’s only going to increase.

3. Our flat-panel LCD TV is already at the optimal resolution, 1080p, for Blu-ray.

4. With the “format wars” between HD-DVD and Blu-ray over, we were willing to commit.

5. Our son had been hinting.

The clincher? Economics.

6. A bare-bones Blu-ray player costs about $399 today. Sony subsidizes the hardware on its game machines, so a Playstation 3 with 40MB hard drive and built-in Blu-ray player also costs about $399. Even after you add $20 for the remote, it’s a no-brainer: If you go this route, you’re buying a Blu-ray player and getting a game machine for free.

Interestingly, the Playstation 3 also acts as a Web browser. You can even plug a keyboard into one of its USB ports. However, it is a terrible Web browser. Simply terrible. Cross that application of the device off our list.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

One never fails to get a laugh from incoming phishing attempts. Here’s one that came to one of our info@ email addresses today. It looks like they forgot to ask for my bank routing and account numbers, but surely that will come along soon, along with instructions to wire some “fees” to expedite delivery of the passport and the million-dollar grant.

United Nations Humanitarian Assistance & Services.
National Secretariat
P.O.BOX TN 2014,
Teshie – Nungua
Accra Ghana

Dear Friend.


Please be informed that your continues interest in helping helpless families all over the world is now going to produce other International benefit to you. We indeed expect appreciations and thanks from you on these benefits from the United Nations humanitarian assistance and services.

As a recognition of this great Humanitarian Assistance and Services. The United Nations has decided that we should obtain individuals data who is interested to receive the bellow benefits. Should we be contacted back by you. This generous benefits package of issuing you a diplomatic passport which we co-ordinate with additional (USD$1000.000.00) one million United States dollars credit will be issued to you immediately.

However, we wish more on this as initiatives for creating and extending opportunities to ordinary people in the world.

The benefit of this diplomatic passport has great advantages as you can use it to enter any country of your choice and do any transaction without restrictions. And be informed that this credit of $1000.000.00 to you through our nominated bank, The International Commercial Bank Ltd for your convenience.

Send the below information to us through email together with your bellow required data.

Recent passport photo:-
Full names:-
Nationality: –
Date of birth:-
Place of birth: –
Residence: –
Phone/fax #

In your reply do send to us your address where we shall post your diplomatic passport to you via any available Currier services as soon as it is done.

Thank you once again,


Managing Director
United Nations Humanitarian
Assistance and Services.
Accra Ghana .

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

An obsolescent Apple iBook G3 notebook makes a wonderful digital picture frame.

Here’s the story: I started out shopping for digital picture frames, but became disheartened after reading reviews that said that the units are hard to use and have compatibility issues. Also, the focus of the current crop of picture frames is on multimedia (sound and motion), and I just wanted to show still photographs.

So, I started to repurpose Tabby, an old Fujitsu T4010 TabletPC, into a digital picture frame. It should work fine, but Tabby was being balky and I didn’t feel like fussing with it.

Then I remembered Senshu, my son’s 2003-era 12-inch iBook. It’s a nice machine, and never given us a bit of trouble. It’s in good shape, with a 30GB hard drive, 900MHz G3 processor, 384MB RAM, built-in 802.11b WiFi, and Mac OS X 10.4.11 “Tiger.”

After my son got a MacBook, we tried making Senshu into a Web terminal, but its slow processor and limited memory does a poor job with Firefox and Safari. So, the poor little iBook just sat in my closet waiting for the perfect application.

Being a digital picture frame is that application.

I created a limited user account called Photoframe on the machine, and configured that account to launch the photo screensaver after three minutes. (You get to it via System Preferences -> Desktop & Screen Saver -> Screen Saver -> Pictures Folder.) The directory for the photos is shared over the network, so that I can change the photos from my desktop. Energy Saver is configured to never let display or computer sleep.

As I type this, Senshu is sitting on a table next to my desk, acting like a perfect digital picture frame. I like how the screen saver zooms, moves and fades the pictures dynamically. The whole presentation is very attractive. Success!

Next steps:

• Experiment with an old low-resolution 15-inch flat-panel display, to see if it would be better than Senshu’s 12-inch display (which has a relatively modest viewing angle). The monitor may be more attractive as a picture frame than a laptop (which I’d then hide under the table).

• Play with the Energy Saver schedule settings, to put the notebook to sleep when I know that I won’t be in the office, and then wake it up automatically.

• Fix the Fujitsu tablet and turn it into a second digital picture frame.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

My son just returned from two weeks in southern Japan, and brought home hundreds of beautiful photos. We’re enjoying looking at them and sharing his trip memories.

However, we got the biggest laugh out of this unlikely juxtaposition on the shrine island of Miyajima: a Medtronic Lifepak defibrillator next to a cigarette vending machine.

Intentional, do you think, or coincidental? (click the picture to enlarge)

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

My feelings about Richard Dawkins are mixed. On one hand, the British evolutionary biologist is a brilliant scientist, and is credited with popularizing all sorts of concepts from selfish genes to memes. His books on science rank right up there with those from the late Stephen Jay Gould in breadth, scope and readability.

On the other hand, Dawkins’ strident, evangelical atheism detracts from his science. I have no problem with Dawkins being an atheist. However, his religious fervor to angrily preach the anti-religion message doesn’t help his other mission, to explain Darwinian evolutionary biology.

I’ve read Dawkins’ writings about atheism, most recently the best-selling The God Delusion, and I find them muddle-heading and unconvincing. Richard, stick to what you know — biology.

Thus, back to biology. I just finished rereading Dawkins’ great masterpiece, an evolutionary biology tour-de-force: The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution. Working backwards from humans, he traces evolution back through common ancestors (which he calls “concestors”).

If humans and chimpanzees are related, what might our most recent common ancestor have looked like? What about the common ancestor of all mammals? Of all animals? The common ancestors to animals and plants? You get the idea. It’s brilliantly researched and engagingly written. Sure, parts are slow going, particularly when Dawkins takes rambling sides trips into philosophy, but given the quality of the science, that’s forgiven.

The Ancestor’s Tale is best read one chapter at a time. That makes it a wonderful bed-side book or for taking on trips.

Also recommended from Richard Dawkins:

The Selfish Gene
The Extended Phenotype
Climbing Mount Improbable

I’ve read most of his other books, and the ones above are the best.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Oh, this poor person! It’s a good thing that he/she didn’t lose his/her mobile phone or laptop as well. Otherwise, how could he/she send me this heart-rending cry for help?

Fortunately, I know that Adobe’s HR department will take this as seriously as I do. Let’s hope the Hotel doesn’t seize his/her bag before someone pays the bill! Maybe we should hook this person up with the widow of a deposed dictator or someone like that.

If for some reason this request for money sounds plausible, try to contact your friend via phone. Alternatively verify with other friends that he/she is indeed overseas. If the situation can’t be verified, don’t reply to the message; simply delete it.

From: “adobe staff”
Date: May 21, 2008 6:18:15 PM PDT
To: email hidden; JavaScript is required

How are you doing today? I am sorry i didn’t inform you about my traveling to Africa for a program ,the program is taking place in three major countries in Africa which is Ghana , South Africa and Nigeria . It has been a very sad and bad moment for me, the present condition that i found myself is very hard for me to explain.

I am really stranded in Nigeria because I forgot my little bag in the Taxi where my money, passport, documents and other valuable things were kept on my way to the Hotel am staying, I am facing a hard time here because i have no money on me. I am now owning a hotel bill of $1550 and they wanted me to pay the bill soon else they will have to seize my bag and hand me over to the Hotel Management.

I need this help from you urgently to help me back home, I need you to help me with the hotel bill and i will also need $1600 to feed and help myself back home so please can you help me with a sum of $3,500 to sort out my problems here? I need this help so much and on time because i am in a terrible and tight situation here, I don’t even have money to feed myself for a day which means i had been starving so please understand how urgent i needed your help.

In the domain scam, someone claims to be a domain registrar, warning you that someone is trying to register one of your trademarks overseas, and giving you the “opportunity” to contest it.

If you respond, the scammer will either register the domain and then try to sell it to you, or will tell you that there’s a fee of some sort to protect your domain and brand name. I wrote about one version of this scam last week.

In another version, you’re warned that a guy named Karl Fischer is trying to register your trademarks. I’ve received this identical scam about several unrelated domains a few times this past week. That Fischer guy gets around! Here’s one of them. Don’t fall for it.

Dear Manager,

Asia Network is the company of internet services that the domain registration is one of the major online style of our service range. Now we have something need to confirm with you. We hope you to cooperate with us. On May/22 2008, we received an application from one person named “Karl Fischer” who wants to register some domains(list of domains)and internet brand(brand). According to our investigation, we found that domain names have relevance to your company’s name and trademark, so we send this email for you to confirm it. We are dealing with this affair in these days, so we wish to get the confirmation and the assent of your company. If Karl Fischer doesn’t belong to your company and you don’t authorize him to register these domains, Pls contact with me asap in order to prevent some guy from abusing your trademarks and the company names. In addition, I must state that we have time limited for one person or one company’s registration. It is just 15 days. If your company files doesn’t resent within the time limited. We will unconditionally authorized the application of Karl Fischer. Thank you for your cooperate.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Alan’s informal Most Creative Class Titles award goes to … drum roll please … Robin Goldsmith!

Robin is a very creative thinker, as well as a top test/QA expert. He’s teaching a full-day tutorial at STPCon (Sept. 24-26 in Boston), as well as six one-hour technical classes. Okay, the title of the Wednesday tutorial is rather bland, “Measuring and Improving Your Test Processes.” But look at the full roster!

I like classes #401 and #505 particularly! Maybe some of my team should take #401…

#T-2 Measuring and Improving Your Test Processes
#104 Overcoming Requirements-Based Testing’s Hidden Pitfalls
#205 How to Test the Untestable
#307 Exploratory Testing: Not Just Parlor Tricks
#401 Help Your Boss Avoid Being an Idiot
#505 I Went to This Conference and All they Talked About Was Requirements
#606 Software Process Improvement’s Dirty Little Secret

Registration for STPCon is now open — sign up early to get the “eXtreme Early Bird” discount!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Earlier this week, I wrote that United is experimenting with credit-card-only services on their flights between San Francisco and New York.

My colleague Andrew Binstock commented that American Airlines plays that game too. “American Airlines did the credit-card only thing last month, as a trial. This month, I noticed, they took cash and credit cards. So, it’s not a United-only thing. I suspect it has to do with the expense and hassle of dealing with cash,” he wrote.

Today, American Airlines started charging customers to check baggage. Forget “one bag free,” like United now offers — American will ding budget travelers for checking even a single suitcase. Today, $15. Tomorrow… $25? $50?

At least American is honest, and calls it an “additional revenue growth effort” in their news release:

Today, American introduced a $15 fee for the first checked bag, given the increasing costs of transporting checked baggage. This fee, which is effective for tickets purchased on or after June 15, does not apply to: American’s AAdvantage program members who have achieved AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum and AAdvantage Executive Platinum level; those who have purchased full-fare tickets in the Economy, Business and First Class cabins; and those with international itineraries (except to and from Canada and U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

American also said today that it has increased its fees for certain other services, ranging from reservation service fees to pet and oversized bag fees. The increases mostly range from $5 to $50 per service. The company estimates that new and increased fees announced this month will generate several hundred million dollars in incremental annual revenue.

Check out the American release. The details are fascinating, and for those of us not in the air transportation business, it’s a glance inside a different world.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The feeding frenzy is in progress, as Parasoft joins Instantiations in offering a migration plan for Agitar users. Two is a crowd, so this will be the last of these marketing programs I’ll blog about.

Last week, we discussed Instantiations’ offer of a free license for all Agitar customers. Here’s what Parasoft’s amnesty program offers:

Parasoft now offers all Agitar customers a special program to expand from Agitar’s unit testing tool into Parasoft’s Application Development Quality Solution, which establishes a continuous quality process that ensures software verification methods are ingrained into the workflow across every stage of the SDLC. Agitar users will be able to trade-up their current licenses for the Parasoft Application Quality Solution. This program begins May 20, 2008 and ends on August 15, 2008.

Parasoft is noteworthy for throwing a huge birthday bash at JavaOne, to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary. It was great party, but unfortunately Adam Kolawa, the founder, chief executive and visionary leader of Parasoft, didn’t attend.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Yesterday afternoon, we received word from Agitar’s Jerry Rudisin. Although he’s still listed on the company’s management-team page as CEO and president, he identified himself as the former CEO. He told us,

The management team decided in March not to pursue additional venture financing, and as a result decided with the Board to wind down the company and sell the assets… we had some great successes worthy of celebration but ultimately concluded that the market we served was just not big enough to support the kind of valuable business we wanted to build.

We reported that Agitar is winding down its operations last Monday, May 12, on SDTimes.com.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

One of the best historical references is Colin McEvedy’s “Atlas of Recent History (Europe since 1815).” The current 2003 edition has a boring cover, but my 1982 first edition edition has a cover showing part of a fascinating historical map.

The map is called “Angling in Troubled Waters,” drawn in 1899 by Fred W. Rose. It’s referred to as “A Serio-Comic Map of Europe.” It’s absolutely delightful. Not only is it beautifully drawn, but the countries are depicted as characters with references to what was going on in Europe at the end of the 19th century.

For many years, I’ve been searching for quality print, suitable for hanging. No luck so far. However, I found a nice graphic of the entire “Angling in Trouble Waters” on the Catholicgauze blog. The link brings you to a larger version. Enjoy.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

A few posts ago, I commented that United stopped using the slogan, “Fly the friendly skies,” which first appeared in 1965.

The new slogan, “It’s time to fly,” was introduced in 2004. According to the company, it “alludes to the obstacles business travelers face and United’s commitment to helping in the pursuit of personal and work-life success.”

That’s reminiscent of beer commercials that you see during the World Series or Superbowl. When you discuss them with your friends, nobody recalls which beer was being advertised. “It’s time to fly” is so bland, so vague, that there’s no particular reason to associate it with United Airlines or any other carrier.

With “Fly the friendly skies,” the marketers were claiming that United Airlines is friendly, and perhaps implying that its competitors aren’t. Wouldn’t you prefer to fly with a friend? Of course. But what does “It’s time to fly” mean? Is United saying that if you’re on American or British Airways, it isn’t time to fly? I don’t get it.

Like the other big carriers, United periodically changes its brand identity, including logos and aircraft livery. Aerosite has an interesting page about United’s brand evolution.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Why do stick with United? Good question. It’s clear that I’m not happy with the airline, as you can see from my recent posts about their credit-card-only flights, changed frequent flier rules and new baggage limitations. Why do I stay there?

It’s not a loyalty thing. I only fly United if the schedule is right and if the fare is competitive. Frequently, you’ll see me on American Airlines and Southwest, and occasionally on Continental or Delta. For the most part, those other carriers aren’t any better than United.

That said, I fly United more often than any other carrier. Three reasons:

1. Their flight schedule out of my home airport, San Francisco International, offers a lot of flexibility, as SFO is a major United hub. Particularly, they have oodles of non-stops.

2. Their fares are often the lowest for the flights I want.

3. I’ve accumulated so many points in their Mileage Plus frequent flier program that I get superior service as a Premiere Executive flier. That includes upgrades to Business Class, priority status for standbys, and at SFO at least, a very short security-clearance line.

Do I wish United was better? Certainly, and when a better choice presents itself, I take it.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I was asked, “How can I get the Time Machine volume off my Leopard desktop?” Since it’s recommended to dedicate that external hard drive to Time Machine, there’s no good reason to keep it on your desktop. It’s a distraction.

I don’t know of any way to remove only the Time Machine volume from your desktop, but you can easily tell the Mac to hide all external hard drives.

1. From the Finder, select Finder -> Preferences…
2. Under the General tab, uncheck “External disks”

On my own Macs, I have unchecked all four items, “Hard disks,” “External disks,” “CDs, DVDs, and iPods” and “Connected servers.” Since I usually mount quite a few hard disks, external drives and network shares, this keeps the desktop less cluttered.

How can you access those items if you need them, if they’re not on your desktop? Through a Finder window’s Sidebar. Get to the sidebar by clicking on the smiley-faced Finder icon in the Dock (by default, the left-most item), or by opening any Finder folder. The Sidebar is on the left.

You can control what information appears in the Sidebar by opening Finder Preferences, and selecting the Sidebar tab. I perfer to show the hard disks, external disk, iDisk and CDs in the Sidebar. You can see all of my Sidebar preferences in the graphic.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I’m sitting here at San Francisco International, getting ready to catch this morning’s United Airline non-stop to New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.

There was just an announcement:

From May 15 to June 15, on flights between San Francisco and the New York area, United is running a test. You can only use credit cards to buy things inflight. That includes the $5 snack boxes, alcoholic drinks, and so-on. No cash will be accepted inflight, just credit cards.

What lame-brained idiot thought of that? I’m sure that when United rolls this stupidity out nationwide, the airline will claim it’s “for the convenience of our customers” or “to improve the quality of our service.”

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

A story came from WebMD explains that “Too many choices exhaust the brain.” According to the story,

Study author Kathleen D. Vohs, PhD, of the University of Minnesota’s marketing department, and researchers from several other universities have determined that making choices, as opposed to just thinking about options, can be mentally draining. Those with too many choices — good or bad — have trouble remembering to take their medicine and staying focused on everyday tasks.

I can attest to the frustration of having too many choices. My family knows that shopping is difficult for me. If there are just a few choices, all goes well: the purchase is quick, and there’s little buyer’s remorse. But if there are too many, the fear that “I’m going to make the wrong choice and regret it later” becomes overwhelming.

Once upon a time, shopping decisions would be so stressful that I’d frequently walk out of stores empty-handed. Today, my strategy is to intentionally (and sometimes arbitrarily) limit my choices to make the process manageable. Two personal examples:

1. In January, my son wanted to buy a buffed-up Windows PC for gaming. After browsing several manufacturers’ sites, we arbitrarily decided to shop only for a Dell PC, and not try to do comparisons against multiple companies. Even there, however, the number of Dell desktop models was overwhelming, and we both found it hard to know whether we should get a Dell XPS or a Dell Inspiron. The company’s textual description doesn’t help:

XPS: Dell’s premier consumer desktops feature the latest technology and incredible value. Sleek and distinctive styling sets XPS PCs apart. Every XPS PC is designed to perform and built to last with premium components and materials. XPS Owners receive first class service and support.

Inspiron: Matching technology to your needs, powering your lifestyle today and tomorrow. These customizable desktops are a smart choice, balancing rich functionality, contemporary style, reliability and the value you’ve come to expect from Dell.

Gosh, do I want “latest technology and incredible value” or “matching technology to my needs”? Tough choice!

Even within those lines, there are so many choices. Do I want the XPS 210? 420? 630? 720? 730? Inspiron 530? 530S? And to balance value against great gaming, do we want the Intel Core 2 Extreme, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Duo, Pentium Dual-Core or Celeron? Argh!

We ended up with a Dell XPS 420, with a Core 2 Quad processor, because it sounded good.

2. For a recent trip, we needed a new suitcase, slightly larger than a 22-inch rollaboard. I went to the Macy’s store at Union Square in San Francisco, which had a good selection… a too-good selection, in fact. So, again, the decision was made to arbitrarily limit my choices to one particular brand with a good reputation (Tumi), vs. trying to compare hundreds of bags from dozens of brands. But even there, there were so many choices and sizes, making a decision took ages. The final choice was the 24″ Tumi T-Tech Pulse.

To quote from the WebMD story again,

The study provides evidence that it is the act of making a choice, not weighing your options, that is mentally exhausting. “There is a significant shift in the mental programming that is made at the time of choosing, whether the person acts on it at that time or sometime in the future. Therefore, simply the act of choosing can cause mental fatigue,” Vohs says in a news release. “Making choices can be difficult and taxing, and there is a personal price to choosing.”

Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice” has really helped me handle choices better. I now realize that the cost of attempting to make the absolute best decisions is often too great. Better to relax and settle for making “good enough” choices (like get a fine desktop PC or a nice piece of luggage), instead of agonizing over making an optimal decision. It’s a wonderful book, and is highly recommended.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Chances are that more than one-sixth of all the e-mail that you want to receive is being captured by anti-spam filters, whether by the ISP, at the server, or the desktop client.

That’s according to Lyris, the company behind ListManager, a popular tool for organizations who manage “opt-in” mailing lists. A study from Lyris says that about 18% of all invited e-mail ends up in junk-mail folders.

The company’s ISP Delivery Report Card makes fascinating reading. Two key takeaways:

• People consider any unwanted email to be spam or not — whether or not they used to want that e-mail, or correspond with your company in other ways. To quote from the report’s author, Stefan Pollard,

The definition of spam has moved beyond the legal requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act to include any message that is unrecognized, unexpected or unwanted. With the spam button, ISPs have given recipients control over who’s considered a spammer and who isn’t. This puts the onus on senders to overcome those hurdles with every recipient – to make their messages recognized, expected and wanted. Until they do, invited email will continue to be delivered to the bulk or spam folder.”

• In many cases, it should be easy to fix your messages, whether you’re sending out a newsletter or writing to your cousin in Des Moines. The study continues,

Lyris also ran 1,716 unique emails from the sample through a content score application using the Spam Assassin rule set to see how they measure against ISP spam filters. The top three most frequently triggered “red fl ags” were emails containing images with little to no text, a “from” name that isn’t real and messages that are 60 percent or more HTML.

“Several of the triggers stem from poor HTML coding and design, and can be easily corrected to improve inbox delivery,” said Pollard. “Message content doesn’t carry the same weight as sender reputation in determining where a message is delivered, but there’s still value in doing everything you can to tip the scales in your direction.”

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The state of New York now says that if an Internet retailer has an affiliate in New York, the Internet retailer must pay New York sales tax on all its sales in that state.

By “affiliate,” New York means having anyone who is able to sell products through your Web site. Companies like Amazon, eBay and Overstock have lots of local affiliates throughout the country, and indeed the world.

Legal and technology analyst Lisa Morgan (pictured), blogs that “New York Tax Law Angers Retailers, Hurts Affiliates.” She says that,

New York’s recent action is already resulting in a chain reaction on both business and legal fronts, and quite frankly the debate is necessary. It’s not the broad federal tax Internet purists have been fighting for years; however, it is a bold step in a very controversial direction.

This type of unilateral action by New York is exactly why the Federal government is constitutionally mandated to regulate interstate commerce. Let’s hope the Feds manage to overturn this New York law… and do so quickly.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I am a huge fan of Dunkin’ Donuts. The worst thing about moving from the East Coast to the Bay Area is losing access to my favorite coffee chain. Starbucks and Peets don’t measure up, imho, to Dunkin’ Donuts. (Thanks to mail-order beans, we serve Dunkin’ Donuts coffee exclusively here at BZ Media West.)

Dunkin’ Donuts used to be in the Bay Area, of course. 20 years ago, I remember visiting a couple of locations in San Jose. There were franchises in places like Sacramento, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Now, they’re all gone.

However, Dunkin’ Donuts, under its new owners — Bain Capital, the Carlyle Group and Thomas Lee Patners — is getting more aggressive with partnerships and promoting the brand. The most recent is a partnership with Yahoo, described as:

Through this partnership, Yahoo! will create two new Dunkin’ Donuts-branded video programs, as well as a Dunkin’ Donuts community web site. The first program from this partnership is the “Yahoo! Sports Minute,” a daily video summary of the biggest sports stories, and is now available to users. “Good Morning Yahoo!,” a unique morning video news program, and the “Dunkin’ Lounge” social community will launch later this spring. The agreement represents the first time Yahoo! has worked with an advertising partner to develop original content initiatives in multiple categories.

Now, how about they open a franchise next to Yahoo’s headquarters in Sunnyvale? It’s worth the trip!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The special report in the May 15, 2008, issue of SD Times is entitled “Virtualization 3.0: Forget server consolidation; virtualization has the buzz and new benefits for developers and QA teams.”

Virtualization 3.0 is a brand-new buzzword that we use at SD Times to indicate, naturally enough, a third wave of virtualization.

The first wave was niche tools for the desktop. As you may recall, one of the first uses of VMware Workstation (which came out in 1999) was to help developers create test-bed UIs which contained specific toolsets, or which could be designed to replicate particular clients’ runtime environments. Virtualization 1.0 also appeared in forms like Connectix’s Virtual PC, which let Macs run Windows, albeit slowly. (Microsoft acquired Virtual PC later on, and it was bundled with Office 2004 Professional for the Mac.)

This first wave focused on letting desktop operating systems do things that they couldn’t do otherwise. Originally, most virtualization programs of this sort ran super-slowly; they consumed many CPU cycles, and sucked up too much memory, and in a single-threaded hardware environment, they were painful to use. However, if you really needed to emulate a specific environment for software testing, or if you really needed to run Outlook on a Mac, it worked.

The second wave of virtualization was driven by servers, with the big payoff being server consolidation. That’s where the big boom came in. Forget improving end-user productivity: here, the goal was to save money on servers and power. The second wave is behind nearly all of today’s popular interest in virtualization by CTOs, CIOs and data center managers, and for good reason: it can save companies a huge amount of money.

What about the third wave? Our special report, written by Andrew Binstock, explored the premise that virtualization is returning to the desktop in a new way. It’s not just for personal productivity or for enabling Macs to run Windows better (as you can do with Parallels, for example). The rise of multi-core machines, and improvement in hypervisor technology, is turning virtualization into the newest secret weapon for developers and testers. Read the special report, and you’ll see what we mean.

In summary:

Virtualization 1.0: Emulation to let software run on incompatible desktop operating systems, or to create special-purpose test environments. Ran slowly, but got the job done.

Virtualization 2.0: Server consolidation. Saved money by improving utilization of CPUs and memory, and therefore requiring less hardware. Also eased deployment of software in the data center.

Virtualization 3.0: Improving software quality by giving developers and testers access to multiple virtual machines running at fast speeds, thanks to multicore.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Nominations are open for the fifth annual Testers Choice Awards, given out by Software Test & Performance Magazine.

The award comprises categories encompassing the range of tools designed to improve software quality.

The arbiters of excellence are Software Test & Performance subscribers, who vote on products in specific categories. The Testers Choice awards will consist of a winner and two finalists from each category as well as the year’s Grand Prize winner.

Here’s how the process works:

• Nominations opened on May 5, and close on June 13. There are no limits to the number of products that may be nominated, or on the number of categories into which a product may be nominated. There will be a processing fee for each nomination.

• Online voting opens on July 1, close on July 30. Only qualified subscribers to Software Test & Performance may vote.

• Winners will be announced at the Software Test & Performance Conference Fall 2008, Sept. 24-26, 2008, in Boston.

• The winners will be published in the Nov. 2008 issue of Software Test & Performance.

The Testers Choice Awards are the most trusted awards in software testing, performance management and software quality assurance. Submit your nominations today!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

As reported on Monday, it appears like Agitar is winding down their business. At least, that’s what their message to creditors states.

One company’s misfortune is another’s opportunity. Instantiations is the first test-tool maker I’ve seen to directly address the uncertainty that Agitar’s customers must be feeling, and so today they’re offering a trade-in program.

According to Instantiations president Mike Taylor, Agitar customers can exchange a license of AgitarOne for a license for his company’s CodePro AnalytiX software for only the cost of CodePro’s annual maintenance.

More about the offer is on the Instantiations Web site.

Note that Agitar still has not acknowledged any of this on its own Web site, where it looks like business as usual. The company also has not responded to our calls.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I’m delighted to unveil the SD Times Job Board, the newest feature of SDTimes.com.

• It’s difficult for companies to locate the right software developers and development managers.

• It’s hard for job-seekers to find the best opportunity to use their talents while leveraging their experience.

The new SD Times Job Board connects employers and potential employees to find the right career fit.

The SD Times Job Board includes a Job Alert system that notifies job seekers by e-mail of new job opportunities that match their search criteria and an Anonymous Resume Bank that lets job seekers list their experience and qualifications in a protected environment.

By giving both active and passive job seekers the ability to anonymously post their resumes, this service allows job seekers to stay connected to the employment market while maintaining full control of their confidential information. In return, employers have the option to pay only for the resumes that are a good fit for their job opportunity with the Pay-Per-Resume feature.

Check it out!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick