Don’t miss these dynamic keynote speakers at EclipseWorld 2008

Wednesday, October 29
8:30 am – 9:15 am
Mike Milinkovich

Mike Milinkovich is the Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation. In the past, he has held key management positions with Oracle, WebGain, The Object People, and Object Technology International Inc. (which subsequently became a wholly-owned subsidiary of IBM), assuming responsibility for development, product management, marketing, strategic planning, finance and business development.

Wednesday, October 29
4:45 pm – 5:30 pm
Ivar Jacobson

Dr. Ivar Jacobson (pictured) is a father of components and component architecture, use cases, aspect-oriented software development, the Unified Modeling Language and the Rational Unified Process. Lately he has focused his work on practice-based software development, now increasing in popularity around the world. He is the principal author of six influential and best-selling books.

EclipseWorld 2008 is October 28-30 in Reston, Va.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The second installment in the SD Times exclusive on on Midori, Microsoft’s next-generation operating system, has just been published.

Part 2, aka “Microsoft maps out migration from Windows,” by David Worthington, will be followed shortly by an exploration of the security aspects of Midori.

You can also read the first installment, “Microsoft’s plans for post-Windows OS revealed.”

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Dunkin’ Donuts, my favorite coffee chain, offers cards that you can use to buy coffee, donuts and other tasty treats. The company promises, “Auto-Recharge and never run out of funds.” They’re lying, and yesterday I canceled the the auto-recharge on my own card.

Like Starbucks, you can tie your Dunkin’ Donuts card to a credit card. But unlike Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts implements its auto-recharge feature in a very stupid way.

Twice now, in the past month, a Dunkin’ Donuts store has told me that there wasn’t a large enough balance on my auto-recharge-enabled card to cover the purchase, and has me pay the difference in cash.

If you have to carry cash because the card won’t get the job done, then what’s the point? Why promise, “Auto-Recharge and never run out of funds” if that’s not how it works?

In yesterday’s transaction in New York, the tab for coffee (for two people) and some donuts came to about $5. Evidently, there was about $2 left on the card, so I had to pay $3 in cash. Good thing I had it.

This is the customer-hostile algorithm that Dunkin’ Donuts apparently uses, even for auto-recharge cards:

IF (purchase price

A few hours after that unhappy transaction, I received an email from telling me that my card had been recharged. Fat lot of good that did me while I was in the store, guys. Stupid, stupid.

Having now canceled my Dunkin’ Donuts auto-recharge, I’ll use up the remaining balance one final time, and then discard the card. If I have to ensure that I have enough cash for the transaction, why bother carrying it?

By contrast, I’ve been using a Starbucks card a lot longer than I’ve been using the Dunkin’ Donuts card, and it gets a lot more transactions. It has never, ever failed to cover a purchase in full. Here’s the customer-friendly algorithm that Starbucks apparently uses:

IF (purchase price

That’s why I’m keeping my well-worn Starbucks card, but tossing the newer Dunkin’ Donuts card once it’s empty. Dunkin’ Donuts: great coffee, lousy software.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The Wikipedia contains a fascinating article, “Features removed from Windows Vista,” describing things that were in Windows XP that aren’t in its successor.

The long list of removed features is broken up into 15 main categories:

1 Windows Shell
2 Windows Explorer
3 Internet Explorer
4 User account rights and logon
5 Win32 console
6 Networking
7 Multimedia
8 File system, drivers and memory
9 Boot, shutdown, power management
10 Windows applications and features
11 Legacy applications and features
12 Graphics, DirectX and video
13 Installation and servicing
14 Kernel
15 Other minor changes

As someone who uses Window XP and Windows Vista only occasionally these days, I haven’t noticed many of these things myself. Regular Windows user may know most of this stuff.

It is noteworthy that Microsoft removed Services for Macintosh, which provided file and print sharing via the obsolete Appletalk protocol. This could affect Windows Vista users on a network that has old Appletalk file servers and printers.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

July 29, 2008 — Microsoft is incubating a componentized non-Windows operating system known as Midori, which is being architected from the ground up to tackle challenges that Redmond has determined cannot be met by simply evolving its existing technology.

So begins the story “Microsoft’s plans for post-Windows operating system revealed,” which has just been posted to For that, we can thank senior editor David Worthington, who has the exclusive on Microsoft’s plans.

The lengthy, detailed report continues:

SD Times has viewed internal Microsoft documents that outline Midori’s proposed design, which is Internet-centric and predicated on the prevalence of connected systems.

Midori is an offshoot of Microsoft Research’s Singularity operating system, the tools and libraries of which are completely managed code. Midori is designed to run directly on native hardware (x86, x64 and ARM), be hosted on the Windows Hyper-V hypervisor, or even be hosted by a Windows process.

Read the entire article on Stay tuned for two follow-up stories to be posted in the next few days, “Microsoft maps out migration from Windows” and “Midori created with heightened security.”

Much about Midori is reminiscent of my calls, in March 2006, for Microsoft to create a new minimalist version of Windows that focuses on a smaller, tighter set of APIs — and delivers compatibility with legacy applications via compatibility boxes, vs. native APIs. You can read my comments about that in “Break with the past.”

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

According to Alex Neihaus, VP of marketing for Active Endpoints, “US companies have become too caught up in the complexity of their current systems.” Why? Because you haven’t download a trial version of his company’s business process management software — and companies in Asia have.

As Alex wrote to me, “Since we shifted in March from focusing on OEM sales of our visual orchestration system to marketing it directly to end users, downloads have been dominated by emerging economies like India and China. Informal conversations with my colleagues with similar models confirm the pattern is industry-wide. We’re not trying to be jingoistic. Instead, we think, as we said in the message below, that this should be a wake-up call to the US development community that change is risky, but stasis is fatal.”

He sent me an “open letter” that Active Endpoints is sending to 30,000 U.S. developers. Here it is, unaltered. What do you think of his admittedly self-interested message?

Dear Developer,

We are emailing you because we are concerned about you. We’ve learned something about the state of middleware technology in the US, its impact on outsourcing and US business competitiveness that we felt strongly we should share with you.

Since early March, we have been offering downloads of our new ActiveVOS visual orchestration system at With ActiveVOS, you can automate, control, adapt and manage your services-based applications in ways you never dreamed were possible. And, you do it in a 100%-standards based environment, at breakthrough pricing.

As you might imagine, we watch our download statistics very carefully… sometime hourly. We expected to have downloads from all over the world, but the shocking truth is that a majority of our downloads are coming from outside the US, especially from India and China. A conversation I had with a marketing director at a major open-source ESB provider confirmed that company is seeing fully half of its downloads from India and China.

At first, we couldn’t believe it. And we were surprised, because the US market for app dev products is several orders of magnitude larger than in these developing markets. Then, we started asking ourselves questions like “Why is this so pronounced a trend?” And “what do these developers, business analysts and companies know that US enterprises don’t?”

The answers are clear. US companies have become too caught up in the complexity of their current systems… too content to be dictated to by proprietary middleware vendors… too comfortable with their status quo. Meanwhile, companies without legacy issues – and without the temptation to use those issues as inertia – adopt the most effective and modern middleware technologies rapidly.

Is it any wonder, then, that US developers are increasingly frustrated by the slow pace of change, the threat to their jobs, and the technical and political paralysis created by so-called enterprise architectures?

Clearly, we hope you will be the agent for change in your company and download ActiveVOS at We hope you will take advantage of our education center to update your skills. We hope you will join the hundreds of developers who have watched the replay of webinar we hosted called “BPEL for Java Developers.” (You can find it on our blog at or in our podcast feed in the iTunes Store; search for “VOSibilities.”)

But mostly, we hope you will carefully consider the fact that the status quo in application development in your company is a very dangerous proposition. No matter how daunting change may seem, it’s better than the alternative: a world in which your company and you personally have been eclipsed by external competitors.

Thank you.

Alex Neihaus
VP Marketing
Active Endpoints, Inc.
email hidden; JavaScript is required

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was officially formed on July 29, 1958. The U.S. agency was cobbled together in a frantic response to Sputnik. The little golden orb went beep-beep-beep on October 4, 1957. American prestige was on the line, and the country threw itself into the future.

Like many young boys, I was crazy about space exploration and space travel. We were children of the Space Age, and dreamed about becoming astronauts, of living on a moonbase, of walking on Mars, of visiting the rings of Saturn. Every rocket launch seemed right out of science fiction. Astronauts, not pop singers, were the real American Idols.

Indeed, I was thrilled to have dinner with John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and a childhood hero, during his 1984 presidential run.

My parents were just as space-crazy as I was. A few days before the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, my father came home with a brand-new television set. He didn’t trust our cranky old TV for such an important occasion.

It was amazing what NASA accomplished in such a short period of time. From the launch of the space agency until the Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was only 11 years.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Should we buy new home movies in the high-resolution Blu-ray format, or in the lower-res, but more widely accessible, standard DVD format? That, Detective, is the right question.

When we rent movies from Netflix, we get them in Blu-ray format if they’re available. That’s best for movies that we’re going to watch as a family, since our big LCD TV is hooked up to a Sony Playstation 3. We purchased that player in May specifically to watch Blu-ray movies. (See “Say Hello to Playstation 3.”)

There are some movies coming out that we’d like to purchase. But in which format?

• On one hand, we ought to buy movies in the highest resolution possible, and that means Blu-ray. However, we can only watch Blu-ray discs on the big TV hooked up to the Playstation 3. We can’t watch them on any other television. We can’t watch them using our portable DVD player. We also can’t watch them using any of our current personal computers, including laptops while traveling.

• On the other hand, we should buy movies as DVDs, which will play everywhere, and which are also cheaper. However, they won’t look as good on the big TV, and perhaps some day we’ll be kicking ourselves for not taking a longer-term view of the question.

In five years, I’ll bet, this won’t be an issue, when Blu-ray players become less expensive and more pervasive. What should we do until then? Your opinion, please:

1. Think long-term, buy Blu-ray movie discs now.
2. Focus on the immediately practical, buy DVDs.
3. Stop buying discs, and just rent from Netflix.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Today, I received my first instance of malware using YouSendIt. I don’t blame the service, any more than you should blame carriers for regular email spam.

I’m a major fan of the YouSendIt service, which is an FTP replacement. You use the service to upload a file, either via a browser or their Express client for Mac/Windows. The file can be huge — up to 100MB with a free account, or up to 2GB for paid accounts. After the file is uploaded, YouSendIt sends an email notification to the recipient(s), and they can retrieve it at their leisure via HTTP download.

I use YouSendIt all the time to send large digital files, including photographs, to my colleagues. (You can read my comments about the Express client here.)

In the case of today’s phishing spam, the email I received was a valid file notification sent via YouSendIt. The problem is that the sender was a spammer, and the payload was a Word document that was a phishing attempt.

The particulars:

• The subject line, as entered by the spammer: Emergency From Mrs. Aisha Al-obeid ( Iraq Woman Read It Well)
The return address given by the spammer: email hidden; JavaScript is required
The name of the Word document: Attn from iraq woman.doc
The message body: Dear please download the file and read my mail, I want to invest in your country from Iraq woman

The Word doc contained was the usual type of phishing message. You’ve seen them hundreds of times.

If you get a message like that, don’t just put it into your junk/spam folder, or block the sender (which really is email hidden; JavaScript is required). Otherwise you might not get future legitimate, file notifications sent by YouSendIt. Just delete the message.

It’s a shame that the YouSendIt service is being abused this way. I hope YouSendIt finds a way to filter out such messages in the future, perhaps by disabling the sending of anonymous or non-verified messages.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

If you’re looking for AgitarOne, you can get it from McCabe Software.

Agitar essentially went out of business in May, as has been discussed in a couple of previous posts, “Agitar is having a going-out-of-business sale” (May 12) and “Agitar: The market’s not big enough” (May 20).

Several of Agitar’s competitors, beginning with Instantiations and Parasoft, jumped in to offer a migration strategy for nervous Agitar customers. That was a good opportunity for both those companies and those wondering whether their unit-test tools would survive.

However, as reported earlier this month in SD Times, McCabe Software has acquired Agitar’s assets. As reporter David Worthington wrote,

McCabe announced the acquisition yesterday and vowed to provide a smooth transition, with Agitar customers receiving uninterrupted customer service and product support… McCabe’s flagship products are McCabe IQ and McCabe CM, solutions that, on one hand, report on code complexity and quality, and on the other, manage and track the application life cycle.

This is good news for Agitar customers. McCabe’s press release said,

McCabe Software announced today that they have acquired substantially all of the assets of Mountain View, CA based Agitar Software, Inc., makers of award-winning software test automation solutions. McCabe’s and Agitar’s tools are used by sophisticated developers and testers at Fortune 500 companies, and by leading defense, aerospace, and technology companies around the globe.

“Agitar has won a multitude of industry and technology awards over the years and the company has a passionate following in the marketplace, particularly in agile development circles,” says David Belhumeur, McCabe’s CEO. “McCabe has always kept on eye on Agitar because our products are complementary and we have many customers in common. With our 30+ year track record, McCabe is the perfect home for Agitar, whose customers will continue to enjoy uninterrupted product support, customer service, and innovative engineering, enhanced by the resources that McCabe Software brings to the table.”

“Agitar’s and McCabe’s customers have a strong need to develop bug free software and a thirst for world class tools to reduce costs and improve quality”, says Ken Pereira, McCabe’s President, “and there is a consensus in the industry that the Agitar technology successfully delivers on those goals in both the traditional and agile software development arenas.”

The Agitar technology is the result of over $35 million of investment by the previous owners who decided in April to place Agitar in a trust so that a transaction such as this acquisition could be consummated to drive the company forward in a non venture-funded environment.

“We have the good fortune of acquiring not only industry-leading, cutting edge technology but also acquiring the experience and expertise of existing Agitar personnel. They know the market quite well, have an exhaustive understanding of the technology, and an unmatched ability to support it,” says Dale Brenneman, McCabe’s VP of Technology.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Here’s a new phishing scam — or at least, this is the first time I’ve seen it.

The e-mail message comes in from an account named “localhost.” It looks like a message from Red Hat, complete with forged headers. Here’s the message:

Subj: Someone tried to access your personal root server.

Someone with ip address tried to access your personal root server.

Please click the link below and enter your root server information to confirm that you are not currently away. Also we will make you an update for your system.

Click here to confirm your account information.

The link goes off to what looks like a Red Hat Linux login page. It’s not. It’s someone trying to steal your login and password. Don’t go there.

>> Follow-up: This post is getting a lot of hits from people who received this phishing message and are searching for info about it on Google. I’m glad that you’re researching it! If you can leave a comment, I’m curious whether all the spams reference the same IP address, or if the spammer is varying them. Thanks! (PS: Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy it. Look around, stay a while!)

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Here’s a new picture of Juno, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, already world famous from the video, “Juno found the dog bones.”

What a clever dog! But where does he shows up on SD Times’ BPA audit statement?

>> Correction: That’s not Juno, and it’s not a new picture either. That’s Juno’s “nephew,” Mr. Big, dreaming about what he wants to do when he grows up. The photo was taken when Mr. Big was eight weeks old. I thought he seemed a bit small to be Juno!

>> I’m told that this would appear in the audit statement on line K-9.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I tallied how many people called my office phone yesterday, but did not reach me because I was out, in meetings, at lunch, etc.

The number of “missed calls” was at least 19. This is probably undercounted because it doesn’t count calls missed because I was on the phone. Since I don’t have Call Waiting, my Caller ID wouldn’t know there was a missed call.

The number of voicemail messages left: 3.

The breakdown of missed calls were:

• BZ Media’s New York office: 3
• BZ Media folk not in the NY office: 4
• Other calls with Caller ID info: 7
• No Caller ID info or “out of area”: 6

At least five of the seven missed calls were from public relations agencies, according to Caller ID. Four calls were from the same PR agency. One call was from another PR agency. One call was from a business partner. The last number I couldn’t identify.

None of the PR people left voicemail messages. Many PR agencies, as a matter of policy, do not leave voicemail messages when they’re pitching stories. Instead, their standard practice is to engage in “telephone stalking,” where they keep dialing reporters/editors over and over again in the hopes of catching them at their desks.

The calls with no Caller ID info were probably telemarketers, but might have been PR agencies.

Isn’t Caller ID wonderful? Every business phone should have it.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

My son — still depressed that I learned about Potter Puppet Pals — has decided that he needs a new guitar, and sent me this link.

It’s not like he doesn’t have enough instruments, but what do you think, should I get him one?

If the Swiss Army had a guitar, this would be the one. And at £749, it’s a good deal.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Cloud computing took a big hit this week amid two significant service outages.

The biggest one, at least as it affects enterprise computing, is the eight-hour failure of Amazon’s Simple Storage Service. Check out the Amazon Web Services service health dashboard, and then select Amazon S3 in the United States for July 20. You’ll see that problems began at 9:05 am Pacific Time with “elevated error rates,” and that service wasn’t reported as being fully restored until 5:00 pm.

About the error, Amazon said,

We wanted to share a brief note about what we observed during yesterday’s event and where we are at this stage. As a distributed system, the different components of Amazon S3 need to be aware of the state of each other. For example, this awareness makes it possible for the system to decide to which redundant physical storage server to route a request. In order to share this state information across the system, we use a gossip protocol. Yesterday, we experienced a problem related to gossiping our internal state information, leaving the system components unable to interact properly and causing customers’ requests to Amazon S3 to fail. After exploring several alternatives, we determined that we had to temporarily take the service offline so that we could clear all gossipped state and restart gossip to rebuild the state.

These are sophisticated systems and it generally takes a while to get to root cause in such a situation. We’re working very hard to do this and will be providing more information here when we’ve fully investigated the incident. We also wanted to let you know that for this particular event, we’ll be waiving our standard SLA process and applying the appropriate service credit to all affected customers for the July billing period. Customers will not need to send us an e-mail to request their credits, as these will be automatically applied. This transaction will be reflected in our customers’ August billing statements.

Kudos to Amazon for issuing a billing adjustment. However, as we all know, the business cost of a service failure like this vastly exceeds the cost you pay for the service. If your applications were offline for eight hours because Amazon S3 was malfunctioning, that really hurts your bottom line. This wasn’t their first service failure, either: Amazon S3 went down in February as well.

Less significant to enterprises, but just as annoying to those concerned, involved hosted e-mail accounts hosted on Apple’s MobileMe service. MobileMe is the new name of the .Mac service, and the service was updated in mid-July along with the launch of the iPhone 3G. Unfortunately, not everything worked right. As you can see from Apple’s dashboard, some subscribers can’t access their email. Currently, this is affects about 1% of their subscribers — but it’s been like that since last Friday.

According to Apple,

We understand this is a serious issue and apologize for this service interruption. We are working hard to restore your service.

This reminds me of the poem from that great Maine writer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
And when she was good
She was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

Disk defragmenting is generally good thing. However, some would argue that depending on the file system and disk access patterns on your rotating media, any performance improvements aren’t worth the effort.

Take the Macintosh, for example. In “Defragmenting your Mac’s hard disk,” updated just yesterday. Apple says that

The file system used on Macintosh computers is designed to work with a certain degree of fragmentation. This is normal and does not significantly affect performance for the majority of users. You should not need to frequently defragment the computer’s hard disk.

In reality, however, the nature of the files, the nature of the work you are doing, the nature of random-access disk mechanisms, and the exact order in which the files are segmented can all have a bearing on the resulting performance. In general, there is not significant degradation of performance from normal use of your computer.

If you create and delete a large number of files, your hard disk may become fragmented to the point that you may see a slight slow-down of file system performance.

I defrag my Macs’ hard drives about every six months or so, or after a major system update (like going from Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger to 10.5 Leopard). The defrag tool that I use is iDefrag, a $34.95 utility from Coriolis Systems.

What about solid-state disks, like the ones in the MacBook Air, or increasingly, in servers? Is defragmenting a good idea? Or is it worthless? Worse, could the intense I/O (and heat) associated with defragging cause undue wear to an SSD?

That’s the topic of a story by Alex Handy, “Do Solid State Disks Need Defragging,” published in the July 15 issue of Systems Management News. Frankly, I’d not thought about the topic before hearing that Alex was working on the piece. I believe you’ll find it interesting to read the discussion and the conclusion.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

To my son’s everlasting dismay, I stumbled across the Potter Puppet Pals videos on YouTube over the weekend.

He’s embarrassed because I think think these videos are cute, particularly the episode, “The Mysterious Ticking Noise.” The tune is catchy!

Watch it a) if you have speakers and b) if you have 2:06 to waste.

Neil Cicieraga has done a wonderful job with these. I wish I’d found them sooner! My son wishes I’d never found them at all…

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

My family really enjoyed The Dark Knight, which we saw at 10:00 am on Saturday. The movie deserved all of its many accolades.

We prepared for the film by re-watching Batman Begins the week before. However, if you truly want to get into the mood for the latest Batman movie, you should watch Bat Thumb, a half-hour film made by Steve Oedekerk in 2001.

You can buy Bat Thumb on its own, or you can get All Thumbs: The Complete Collection. That’s what we have. (All are available from Netflix.)

The best of the series is Thumb Wars. You’ll love the zany adventures of Luke Groundrunner, Princess Bunhead, Oobedoob Scoobydooby Benubi, Black Helmet Man, Gabba the Butt, and of course the mischevious astro-droid Beep-Boop-Beep.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I love this press release headline: “Q2 Search Engine Performance Report: Google gets $1.10 of Every New Search Dollar. How can someone get more than 100% of the money spent? Has Google reinvented statistics? Is this gMath?

The press release came from Efficient Frontier, a search engine marketing company. While the headline is weird, it was derived from data that said, “Google took more than its fair share of the overall increase in search spending: for every new dollar spent on search in Q2 2008 versus Q2 2007, $1.10 went to Google. Yahoo lost $0.09, and Microsoft lost $0.01. In other words, advertisers are putting all of their new search dollars into Google, and pulling money out of Yahoo Search and Microsoft Live Search.”

When you read farther down, you learn that “Google maintained its 77.4% share of US search marketing dollars, while Yahoo captured 17.8% of spending and Microsoft Live Search maintained its 4.8% share.”

It would have been more accurate, and understandable, to state that Google gets $0.77 of each search dollar. That wouldn’t make an attention-getting headline, though — and don’t forget, Efficient Frontier is a marketing company.

You can download the entire ten-page “Search Engine Performance Report Q2 2008.” It’s free, but you have to register with Efficient Frontier.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The new songs from Journey on their 2008 album, Revelation, are a delight. Okay, I’ve never left the 1970s and 1980s — queue up Bowling for Soup’s catchy song, 1985.

Even so, it was with some trepidation that we ordered Revelation, the new disc by Journey. Would the band sound like Journey, or like a bunch of has-beens trying to recapture their former glory?

Fear not: It’s the same old Journey. (You can read about my adventures in ordering the album in, “Great job, Walmart, with digital downloads. Not.“)

Revelation is a three-disc set.

The first disc consists of new songs, mainly written by Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, with vocals by the wonderful Filipino singer Arnel Pineda. If you like the classic Journey hits, you’ll be delighted with many or most of these, which are in that same style. The very first track, “Never Walk Away,” brings you right back to the height of Journey’s popularity in the early 1980s.

If someone handed you disc 1, and said it was a long-lost Journey album from 1982, you’d believe it.

Skip disc 2. The band re-recorded many of its greatest hits with Pineda’s vocals: Wheel in the Sky, Don’t Stop Believin’, Only the Young, Separate Way, Open Arms, Who’s Crying Now, and so-on. But you know what? It sounds like a cover band. Those songs were definitively sung by Journey’s former lead vocalist, Steve Perry. Pineda (pictured) uncannily imitates Perry, but adds nothing to those songs.

All the songs from disc 1 are now on my iPod. None of the songs from disc 2 are going there.

The third disc is a DVD. We haven’t watched it yet.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

How long does a Sunbeam Mixmaster last? Based on three data points, the answer is, “Twenty five years.”

Today, our trusty Mixmaster’s motor died. My wife and I purchased it right after we got married, 25 years ago. It was sad to see it go away. So many memories, so many cakes!

When we got married, there was no question that we’d get a Sunbeam Mixmaster. My mother had the classic Sunbeam Mixmaster model 12 (manufactured from 1957-1967), which she got right after she got married. It wore out when it was 26 years old. The model 12 looked exactly like the one in picture.

My mother-in-law had an identical Mixmaster model 12, which also lasted about 25 years.

My lovely bride and I agreed when we set up our household: No kitchen would be right without a Mixmaster. That’s what we still think 25 years later.

We replaced the tired old Mixmaster with a new Sunbeam, of course. We got the 450-watt “Sunbeam Heritage Series Dual Motor Stand Mixer, Silver, Model 2347.”

I suggested that we mark the family calendar for July 2033, when we’ll have to buy another Mixmaster.

So long, and thanks for all the cookies!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Microsoft has very quietly pushed back the date when it will discontinue its support for Windows XP. The new cutoff date is August 4, 2014.

The decision came without fanfare; you won’t find an official announcement. But on a page called “Windows XP: The facts about the future,” Microsoft now says that “After careful consultation with our customers and industry partners, we’ve decided to proceed with our plan to phase out Windows XP in June. It’ll be a long goodbye. We plan to provide support for Windows XP until 2014.”

Until recently, support for Windows XP was scheduled to end in 2011. Microsoft has extended this deadline several times, most recently to 2014. The company stopped selling retail (shrink-wrap) licenses of Windows XP on June 30, 2008. Some hardware makers can preinstall Windows XP through January 31, 2009.

For a bit more detail about the support, here’s a mini FAQ from Microsoft:

Q: My business relies on Windows XP. What’ll happen after June 30 if I have technical problems?

A: We understand some of our customers aren’t ready to upgrade their PCs to Windows Vista. Although Windows XP will disappear from stores, we’ll continue to offer Extended Support for the operating system for six more years, until April 2014. Your PC maker can also provide technical support for your PC. Please contact them for more information. For more details, see the Microsoft Support Lifecycle.

Q: I’ve heard about two types of Windows XP support—”mainstream” and “extended.” What’s the difference?

A: Mainstream support delivers complimentary as well as paid support, free security updates and bug fixes to all Windows customers who purchase a retail copy of Windows XP (i.e. a shrink-wrapped, not pre-installed, copy). Mainstream support for Windows XP will continue through April 2009. Extended support delivers free security updates to all Windows customers. Customers can also pay for support on a per-incident basis. Extended support for Windows XP will continue until April 2014. New bug fixes require the Extended Hotfix Support program.

The comments about support applying only to shrink-wrap copies is not new. Pre-installed OEM versions of Windows and other Microsoft applications are supported by the hardware manufacturer. I.e., if you purchased you purchased a computer with Windows XP preinstalled from HP, then it’s HP’s responsiblity to provide Windows support. Policies on providing support for Windows vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. That’s something to consider when you’re buying a new PC.

Microsoft Support Lifecycle page shows a wealth of details about which versions of Windows XP are supported – in short, all of them. Not supported, however, are service packs 1, 1A and 2.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Submarines are fascinating — well, I’ve always enjoyed studying big naval vessels like submarines, aircraft carriers and battleships. Touring museum ships like the USS Missouri, USS Massachusetts, USS Intrepid, USS Hornet, HMS Belfast, SS Jeremiah O’Brien, USS Pampanito, USS Constitution, and many other ships have created powerful memories. Of course, the monument to the USS Arizona is the most moving of them all.

What about active-duty ships? I’ve visited a few, but never a nuclear attack submarine. Last I checked, it’s hard to get a guided tour. But you can come close with the wonderful Web site about the USS New Hampshire, SSN-778, which will be commissioned on October 25.

According to the the publicist for the USSNH site,

The USS New Hampshire, a 337-foot, 7,800-ton Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, is the fourth ship of the United States Navy to be named for the Granite State, thanks largely to a letter writing campaign by Dover, NH, third graders. The Secretary of the Navy selected Portsmouth over two other competing sites for the commissioning ceremony. “Not only is it logical that the Navy’s gold standard ‘New Hampshire’ shipyard have the honor – but it is thanks to Dover school children that this submarine – the 5th in the Navy’s new Virginia Class Submarine fleet – is the new Navy ship to bear the ‘New Hampshire’ name,” according to the Commissioning Committee.

The Commissioning ceremony is a high-profile, tradition-laden event for the Navy. It will attract senior Navy officers, Congressional representatives, the Governor, special invited guests and thousands of visitors including the crew’s families.

As a fellow New Englander, I encourage you to virtually visit the USSNH. It’s worth the trip. And as a proud Mainer, I must point out that Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is in Kittery, Maine, not in Portsmouth, N.H.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I was a lot younger on July 18, 1968. We all were – and many of you weren’t even born when the company that changed the world was founded.

Intel has become a powerhouse since Gordon Moore (of Moore’s Law fame) and Robert Noyce created the company.

Starting out manufacturing RAM chips, the company – whose name is a portmanteau of Integrated Electronics — originally lived in the shadows of giants like Fairchild Semiconductor. That all changed when the company brought out its 4004 microprocessor in 1971. It was followed by the eight-bit 8008 and the general-purpose 8080.

Intel burst into the IT scene in 1981, when Big Blue chose the 8088 processor for the IBM Personal Computer. Intel’s chip wasn’t the obvious choice, and arguably wasn’t the best choice; Motorola’s 6800-series processors were arguably better. But Motorola was an IBM competitor, and so IBM chose Intel. Thus, the first member of of “Wintel” was ready for world domination. The rest, as we say, is history. Even computers from Apple and Sun use Intel chips these days.

That’s not to say that Intel’s path has been a smooth one. The company had many missteps, as with the 80186 chip and famously brain-dead 80286 processor. Let’s not even talk about the Itanium, shall we?

Intel also flirted with monopolistic practices, including many scandals where it was said that Intel wrote aggressive sales contracts to stop customers from buying competing chips from AMD, Cyrix and other manufacturers.

AMD has been a perennial thorn in Intel’s side. For years, the company released clones of Intel’s processors, but the roles were reversed in 2003, when AMD debuted the 32/64-bit Opteron processor, and then dual-core chips in a year later. It was Intel who was forced to play catchup – in the face of damning lawsuits, no less.

But Intel has overcome its challenges, and today is stronger than ever. Part of that is due to incredible missteps by AMD’s executives, who took their eyes off the prize by an ill-fated acquisition of graphics chipmaker ATI in 2006. With AMD’s brass distracted, and finances tanking, a reinvigorated Intel blew past them with its Core 2 processors, and then by releasing quad-core processors long before AMD.

That makes it ironic that yesterday, Intel might have received its best birthday present ever, as AMD whacked its CEO, Hector Ruiz, after announcing yet another terrible quarter, with US$1.19 billion loss and a stock price that has dropped from its 52-week high of $16.19 to only $4.90.

Happy Birthday, Intel!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

What the heck does ‘teh fail’ mean?

A technical writer, who I think is in her mid-20s, mentioning in passing that she was teh FAIL at something.

My immediate thought, of course, is that she made a typo, and meant to write “the fail.” But that didn’t make sense in context. So, I did what any right-thinking person would do, and googled the expression ‘teh fail.’

Results were inconclusive. Google returned 9,630 results, and my browsing of the first few made it clear that ‘teh FAIL’ was not a typo. Rather, it’s some sort of modern urban expression. But what does it mean?

What am I to make of statements like “Vista: The Wow is teh FAIL”? or “this chick + honestly = teh FAIL.” Clearly, it’s critical and negative.

After more research, I’ve concluded that ‘teh FAIL’ means, basically, sucks or is crap. The Wikipedia helped a bit. There is a page about ‘Teh,’ which confirmed that ‘teh’ has turned into Internet slang. It explains that ‘teh’ can be used as a modifier for unmodified adjectives. An example they give is ‘that is teh lame,’ which means ‘that is the lamest.’ Based on that, ‘I am teh fail,’ means ‘I am the biggest fail[ure].’

That sounds good, but why is ‘FAIL’ often written in all caps? I did what any editor would do: queried the copy desk.

One of our copy experts wrote back,

Boy, I’m seeing a lot of references to that online but none that adequately explains it. One seems to define it as “useless blabber.” but I’m not sure that’s it… It’s just one of those things that makes me feel like part of the “out generation.”

Another replied,

“Teh” is an Internet meme, it literally means “the” but it’s used to make fun of dumb people who make typos like “teh.”

Fail is another meme that’s gained a lot of traction recently. It’s being used as a noun here (as a substitute for “failure”) and it means something that went terribly and/or hilariously wrong (for example: New Coke was concentrated fail). Usually used in conjunction with “epic” for “epic fail.”

So whoever wrote you that is throwing together two memes. “Teh” is cliché right now and “fail” is on its way to it. At least that’s my reckoning.

Share your theories about ‘teh FAIL,’ and where it comes from.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Remember SCO? Judge Dale Kimball does. And so does Novell.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about SCO. But my last entry on the subject, “The SCO Group files Chapter 11,” didn’t mean that the case was closed. Au contraire.

Yesterday (July 16), Judge Kimball issued a ruling that covered a wide range of agreements between Novell and The Santa Cruz Operation, between Sun and SCO, and involving Microsoft. I urge you to read the 43-page ruling but here are some interesting highlights, copied verbatim from the document:

• The Court concludes that SCO breached its fiduciary duties to Novell by failing to notify Novell and account for and remit the revenue it received from Sun as a result of modifying the confidentiality provisions of Sun’s SVRX buy-out agreement with Novell. (page 38)

• Novell held equitable title to the SVRX Royalties under the APA. SCO’s failure to pass through to Novell the SVRX Royalties due under the Sun Agreement was a wrongful act inconsistent with Novell’s rights. The Court concludes that Novell has established SCO’s conversion of the revenues due under the 2003 Sun Agreement (page 38)

• SCO was unjustly enriched by retention of the revenue under the Sun Agreement and Novell is entitled to restitution. (page 38)

• The Court has considered SCO’s equitable defenses and finds them without merit. (page 39)

• SCO has not shown any conduct by Novell that was in bad faith or wrongful. The Court thus concludes that these affirmative equitable defenses do not preclude Novell from receiving equitable relief. (page 41)

Here’s the money part (pages 41 and 42):

The court, therefore, concludes that Novell is entitled to the revenues paid by Sun under the 2003 Sun Agreement attributable to the release of the SVRX confidentiality provision in the 1994 Agreement. While the parties debated the value of this provision at trial, neither established a specific value for this particular provision. Nonetheless, the court believes it is appropriate and equitable to grant monetary relief in favor of Novell.

SCO contended that, for a variety of reasons, Novell is not entitled to both monetary and declaratory relief. The Court was not persuaded by any of these arguments with respect to the 2003 Sun Agreement.

Under the 2003 Sun Agreement, SCO received from Sun a total amount of $9,143,451. The court concludes that the release provision in Section 12 of the Sun Agreement is worth an equivalent amount to the similar release provision in the Microsoft Agreement, or $1.5 million. The remaining portions of the Agreement is divided between the UnixWare license, the associated UnixWare and OpenServer drivers, and the release of the confidentiality provisions contained in the 1994 Agreement. Because SCO bears the burden of allocation on this issue and the law recognizes that the court is to resolve every doubt against the agent and in favor of the principal, the court divides the remaining portions of the Agreement equally. Therefore, Novell is entitled to one-third of $7,643,451, or $2,547,817 as revenues paid by Sun under the 2003 Sun Agreement attributable to the release of the SVRX confidentiality provision in the 1994 Agreement.

And the judge’s order:

After considering all of the evidence and the law as it applies to this case, the court awards Defendant and Counterclaimant Novell $2,547,817 on its Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Claims for Unjust Enrichment, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and Conversion.

SCO naturally disagrees, and posted on its site a response:

We are reviewing today’s ruling by Judge Dale Kimball with our counsel and will be assessing the next steps over the coming days and weeks. This ruling is an important step in our ability to pursue the appeals to try to get all of our claims heard by a jury as soon as possible. We are pleased, however, that the court agreed that Novell is not entitled to anywhere near the more than $20 million dollars it was seeking.

Importantly, the court ruled that Novell has no right to any royalties from UnixWare or OpenServer sales by SCO, which is where the bulk of SCO’s revenue is earned. This is also an important step forward in the capitalization and reorganization plan for SCO that will allow us to emerge from Chapter 11. We continue to disagree with the premise of this trial and believe that Novell is not owed anything, but that they have interfered with SCO’s UNIX rights.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

My friend sent me this wonderful video of her dogs discovering, destroying and devouring a box of dog bones… Even if you’re not a dog person, you’ve got to admit, they’re adorable.

That is, if you can consider huge Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs to be adorable!

See that only one of the dogs (Juno) is actually involved in this adventure, while the other three watch. When I commented that the others were accomplices, my friend said, “No, they are too dumb.”

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

This badly written faux story came in a couple of months ago from a company that sells writing software. It looks like news, but it’s a company-issued press release.

Below is a straight copy/paste. I left in the numerous grammatical and punctuation errors. How many can you find? This really makes you wonder about the company’s “turbocharged writing engine.”

(Incidentally, an electronics hobbyist magazine called Nuts and Volts ran a slightly different version of the faux story verbatim, and without attribution, in its June 2008 issue. The version below is not from Nuts and Volts, but from the press release I received from WhiteSmoke.)

Cellphones Blamed for Poor Spelling, Survey Says

WhiteSmoke study: adults cannot spell everyday words and charge their cellphones

Cellphones have been blamed for car crashes, cancer, and boorish behavior.

People now blame cellphones for their poor spelling.

A recent survey by WhiteSmoke, Inc. revealed that most adults can’t spell everyday words. When asked why, 68% of the 2,500 randomly-selected participants claimed technology was to blame — particularly mobile phone predictive spelling and text speak abbreviations.

Apparently using CUL8TR for see you later, contributed to 38% of people forgetting how to spell definitely and accommodate. Likewise, 40% could not spell questionnaire and nearly a third were stumped by liaison. This is according to the research conducted by WhiteSmoke, Inc. developers of a turbocharged writing engine that relies on patented language processing to check spelling, grammar and punctuation in context (

Despite dismal spelling skills, the survey revealed that only 59% of adults age 18-60 bother to use their spellchecker before hitting their email send button. “Surprisingly,” noted Amit Greener, vice president of sales and marketing for WhiteSmoke said, ”A third of adults questioned regard their spelling skills as excellent and another 46% claimed their spelling was good.”

Even receive was misspelled by 15% of respondents who likely forgot the lesson covering, “I before E except after C.” and calendar left 19 % of the participants scratching their heads, according to the English language grammar and writing software firm headquartered in Wilmington, DE whose product enhances writing by suggesting synonyms, adjectives and adverbs. The product also includes writing templates for a wide range of business and professional applications

Test your spelling against the WhiteSmoke Survey Participants with Spelling Quiz here or online at

Correct answers and percentage of errors appear below.

1. Calendar Calender Calandar
2. Embarrass Embaress Embarass
3. Necassary Necessary Neccessary
4. Accomodate Accommodate Acommodate
5. Separete Separate Seperate
6. Occured Occurred Ocurred
7. Existance Existence Existance
8. Liaision Liason Liaison
9. Definitely Difinately Definitly
10. Ocurence Ocurrence Occurrence
11. Questionairre Questionaire Questionnaire
12. Referring Refering Refferring

1- a (19%) , 2 – a (24%), 3 – b ( 3.5%) , 4 – b (38%), 5 – b (27%), 6 – b(27%), 7 – b (30%), 8 – c (31%), 9 – a, 10 – c(29%), 11 – c (40%), 12 – a (28%)

0 Wrong – You are a champion speller
1 – 4 Wrong – Average – Use spellchecker and proofread carefully
5 – 8 Wrong – Use spellchecker, proofread carefully and learn one new word a week
9 – 12 Wrong – Use spellchecker, get someone else to proofread and learn one new word a week

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Gizmodo, the irreverent gadget site, did a great job with this one.

The story, “Apple Cancels All iPhone 3G Orders, Releases iBrick 3G,” starts:

Cupertino, California (Agencies). In a surprising move that is set to stun consumers all over the world, Apple has cancelled all orders for the iPhone 3G today. People who already bought the phones will get them replaced by Apple’s new wonderproduct, the iBrick 3G. “We think it’s the best thing we can do for our customers worldwide,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs declared in a conference call with analysts, “I mean, they won’t really notice the difference after trying to activate their iPhone 3G for the billionth time, would they? WOULD THEY?”

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Walmart needs to pay more attention to its Web site.

My wife and I wanted to purchase the new Journey CD, Revelation, which is currently only available at Walmart. Last week, while in Las Vegas, we stopped at a Walmart store looking for the CD, but it was out of stock. No problem, we decided: We’ll order it online. That’s what we went to do today.

When we got to the appropriate Web page, we were told that the album was also available as a “Revelation MP3 digital album.” Digital is fine, especially if it’s less expensive. But clicking on the MP3 album link revealed this surprising message:

We’re sorry, your operating system is incompatible. To provide the best download experience, we can no longer support Windows 98, ME or NT. Please visit again after you upgrade to Windows 2000 or XP. Visit our Help section for complete system requirements information.

Huh? We’re using Mac OS X 10.5.4 “Leopard” running Firefox 3, not Windows 98. (The same error message appeared with Safari.)

It’s one thing to not support the Mac, folks. That’s your business decision to make.

But it’s just plain stupid to write bad platform-sniffer code for your e-commerce site.

(We did get a chuckle that Walmart recommends upgrades to Windows 2000 or Windows XP, but not to Windows Vista.)

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick