Imagine elevators that group together people going to the same floors.
I ride on a lot of elevators in a variety of buildings, but today I rode on some of the most interesting ones I've ever seen.
The elevator is actually a bank of elevators. Each elevator is pretty typical, but it's the way they work together that's so interesting. The button panel to call the elevator isn't the usual pair of up and down buttons. Rather it's a list of floors, one button per floor--what's normally inside the elevator rather than on the wall outside. You push the button for the floor you want to go to. A display next to the buttons shows a letter and arrow indicating which elevator to go to. Sure enough, each elevator door has a different letter above it; you go to the elevator indicated on the display and wait for the elevator. When the doors open and you get on the elevator, there are no buttons to press to select the floor; rather a display shows the floors the elevator is going to, including yours. It's like the control system for the elevators is turned inside out, with the controls on the outside instead of the inside.
Rather than pressing "up" or "down" in the lobby, and then indicating the destination floor once one has boarded the elevator, one may alternatively key in one's destination floor whilst in the lobby, using a central dispatch panel. The dispatch panel will then tell the passenger which elevator to use.
What's really cool about this approach is this: Since the elevator system knows where everyone's going (not just up or down), it groups people going to the same floor in the same elevator. Rather than getting on an elevator which stops on every floor, yours only goes to a couple of floors. This means the elevators travel less, saving energy, and elevator rides take less time.
Register your destination on a keypad before you enter the elevator.
Advance knowledge of every passenger’s destination before they even reach the elevator.
Reduced passenger journey times.
Elimination of crowding during heavy traffic.
Assurance of a dedicated service for people with special needs.
Greater design flexibility for building core configuration.
I just think this is really neat and wish more large elevators systems (multiple elevator cars, lots of floors) worked this way. BTW, I'm also fortunate that I visited this building with a friend who'd been before and knew how this worked. Otherwise, I probably would've been pretty confused on how to simply use the elevator!
There are three different achievement levels--contributing, professional, and master--which show increasing levels of accomplishment.
If you've published on dW and would like to receive this recognition, About the program explains how to register and how to gain points. This also applies to anyone who would like to become an author and start tracking points for recognition. (Sort of like a frequent flyer program for authors.) When you register, you'll get a welcome package with a tracking tool; this may take a couple of weeks, esp. if you have published several articles because the tool will be prepopulated with that list of contributions. Once you have the tool, you can use it to track your progress and submit it when you achieve a new level.
Also, even if you're "just" a reader of articles, check out the list of recognized authors to see who's been contributing a lot, and then search to find their articles and check them out.
What I found really interesting about this book it the way it challenges conventional wisdom--convenient, comforting, widely-held ideas which are not necessarily, in fact, true. The authors use regression analysis--a tool which economists use to sort through piles of raw data, holding constant every variable except two, to see if and how those two variables are related--in search of a statistical basis for these well-known ideas. The analysis looks for correlation--the degree to which two variables change together--to find relationships in the otherwise random-seeming data. The value of one variable can be an indicator--a specific measure that helps predict a more general condition--of what the other value will tend to be (all else being equal, which is what the regression analysis is trying to control). But as is often said, correlation does not imply causation, causation being that the presence of the first value makes the second value present as well.
So the book is looking for statistical correlation to support or refute conventional wisdom, and probabilistic proof of causation, showing that one characteristic or event causes another. Not too surprisingly, the book examines certain pieces of conventional wisdom that turn out to be wrong; it shows how the data doesn't support any correlation, and finds where there is a correlation, often a surprising one, one that can often be shown to be a cause.
A lot of the book hovers around the motivations--what economists call incentives--for why we do what we do. Of particular interest is a section on why we worry about problems that are rather unlikely--airplane crashes, terrorist attacks, mad-cow disease--yet sometimes don't worry about problems that are much more likely--car crashes, heart disease, E. coli in your own kitchen. A lot of it has to do with suddenness, control, and dread. A terrorist attack happens suddenly, is beyond our control, and seems like a horrifying and needless way to die--thus our fear of terrorism, even though any one of us is very unlikely to die of a terrorist incident. By comparison, heart disease builds up over years, is caused primarily by the diet we choose to consume, and is seen as more of a natural consequence of aging--thus we don't fear heart disease so much even though it's a very common and preventable cause of death.
One consultant on risk communication even has a formula for what motivates us: Risk = hazard + outrage. Because outrage tends to have a greater weight, unlikely hazards can seem very risky if they're shocking enough. Activists try to make an issue seem more outrageous; keepers of the status quo try to downplay outrageousness.
The last two chapters concern what makes a good parent. Surprisingly, the data shows that the eventual success of your child has a lot more to do with who you are as a parent--education, steady job, optimism, etc.--then what you do with your child--read to them, spank them, take them to museums. How well your child will turn out, at least early in their life, mostly has to do with how well you turned out before your child was ever born. So if you made a mistake with your child today, cut yourself some slack, it probably hasn't screwed them up that much after all. [Read More]
A smart electric grid in Houston which can quickly isolate outages for repairs and meanwhile route around them (similar to Smart Gird City)
A food distribution tracking network in Norway which can tell you farm a package of meat came from
What do these problem domains have in common? They can all be modeled a smart networks. A dumb network cannot measure its own effectiveness, whereas a smart network can measure its operating condition, report its status, diagnose problems, and repair itself. A smart network can be autonomic, which a dumb one cannot.
Why are smart networks such a big opportunity? Two industries that are the biggest, most successful users of computer software are the financial and insurance industries. This is because their products are virtual and so can easily be modeled and operated by computers. Another huge user of computers are telephony companies because their product, the phone network (as well as data networks) are, well, networks which can easily be modeled and operated by computers.
The big insight of smart networks is approaches for being able to model more phenomena in life as networks. By putting sensors in the network and tagging the items in the network so that they can be tracked (by sensing them), the network can be modeled; by embedding actuators with the sensors, the network can also be operated by computers.
And being in a business magazine, the article pointed out that IBM is making a fortune doing this.
View the mysterious world of China's Forbidden City as IBM and the Chinese government unveils an exact replica of Beijing's Forbidden City in a fully immersive, totally interactive, web-accessible, virtual world. Visitors will be able to explore, in minute and photo-accurate detail, one of the greatest royal palaces the world has ever known. Discover a fascinating blend of history, technology and human drama.
Business Week has just published an article, "Java? It's So Nineties." It asks: "Can it possibly be that Java--once the hippest of hip software--has become a legacy technology?"
The article talks about competition to Java from LAMP, .NET, and AJAX. It points out that popular sites like Google and Yahoo don't use much Java.
This information may be correct, but it's also missing (a lot of) the point. The question is whether you need business logic in your Web site, or whether your Web site just shows users your database.
The article talks about tasks that don't require much business logic. Google just displays search results, e-mail, and map images. Yahoo is the poster child for portals, aggregating existing info and integrating it on the glass. They both use read-only data that can be highly replicated; users can configure the display. Those tasks require minimal programming logic, so PHP scripting and a simple SQL database be all you need (plus a Web server and OS). Even then, huge sites like Google and Yahoo must be doing much more than just using PHP.
But a lot of sites need more than scripting. Do your users need to: Find airline tickets? Trade stocks? Does your implementation need to: Integrate with EISs? Enforce security? Coordinate multiple users updating the same data concurrently? Good luck with PHP scripts. You're gonna need J2EE or .NET for that. I can tell you that this is what WebSphere (WAS) customers are doing.
This is an old argument. I remember in the early '90s when Smalltalk would compete with tools like PowerBuilder. PB would let you CRUD your data, but not much more. Smalltalk would give you business logic. Which was better? Depends on what you need. If you just need to CRUD your data, PB was easier. For more sophisticated apps, Smalltalk was more sophisticated and capable.
So LAMP may well work if you want open-source everything and just want to display (and CRUD?) your database. But for full-blown applications hosted on the Web, LAMP won't cut it. AJAX is a cool display technology (see Ajax and Java), but it's only a display; you still need a server behind it running something (LAMP, Java, .NET, etc.). .NET is on the same level as J2EE, and c# is very Java-like, so then that comparison is the old Microsoft-only vs. semi-open-standards and write once, run everywhere argument.
The article seems to miss a lot of emerging trends. It fails to distinguish between Java and J2EE (aka Java EE), comparing Java to .NET. It doesn't discuss the biggest trend in IT today, SOA; much less IBM's new SOA programming model, SCA. It seems like Java and J2EE have grown a lot since Peter Yared was an exec at Sun.
So yeah, Java may not be the technology of choice for displaying your database. But hopefully your Web apps are doing a lot more than that. [Read More]
I started my wiki three months ago. Why have a wiki in addition to a blog? Because hopefully the wiki is a better way to browse info I build up over time. Meanwhile, I still announce the major additions and changes on my blog, so you can check them out incrementally, a few minutes each day.
So how is this working? When you see a blog posting that points to a wiki page, do you follow the link and check out the info on the wiki? Do you find it helpful the way that page links to other pages? When a page is especially useful, do you bookmark to return later?
I can keep doing the wiki, or drop it, depending on what people are getting out of it. So if you like it and want to see more, please say so. If you have opinions, positive (supportive) or negative (constructive), please add a comment and let me know. Thanks.[Read More]
Do laypeople understand what scientists mean when they describe an idea as a theory?
A scientific theory is "a hypothesis that is widely accepted by the scientific community." The qualities of a scientific theory include: "A scientific theory must be testable. It must be possible in principle to prove it wrong. Experiments are the sole judge of scientific truth."
In "Why Science Will Triumph Only When Theory Becomes Law," Clive Thompson contends that many people don't understand this. He points out that "in science the word theory means an explanation of how the world works that has stood up to repeated, rigorous testing. ... But for most people, theory means a haphazard guess you've pulled out of your, uh, hat."
We also use "theory" in a way that is far from the everyday usage (where a theory is pretty much a hunch), particularly when we talk of "the theory of . . ."; examples are relativity, electromagnetism, evolution, plate tectonics, the standard model of particle physics. ... These theories are far from guesses; they will survive no matter what new evidence is accumulated. They are complex constructs that incorporate and explain a significant body of evidence. They have demonstrated predictive power as well as descriptive power.
So if laypeople don't understand what a scientific theory is, then what should such a profound understanding be called? Thompson and Quinn propose that, for the purposes of the public at large, scientists should describe such well-established science as "law." People understand laws--like the law of gravity--and understand that they're always true, are not going to change, and are silly to debate. Since that's what scientists mean when they describe these well-tested theories, then they should describe them the way the public will understand, as laws.
So are people really this stupid, that they don't understand what a scientific theory is? If so, how are we supposed to have any sort of intelligent discussion about anything remotely based on science? Guess that explains the kind of public discourse we have these days that passes for "discussion." This really seems like more Idiocracy and Truthiness and the Triumph of Opinion over Expertise. [Read More]
A computer which outsmarts people at games isn't so far fetched. Deep Blue is a computer which not only plays chess but in 1997 was able to beat the reigning World Chess Champion. IBM Research has details.
Whereas the trick to winning chess strategies is largely mathematical, the trick for trivia is sorting through vast amounts of data and drawing inferences, including understanding semantics (the meanings behind words). What does this have to do with business? Watson is part of IBM's smarter planet efforts. As IBM's CEO explains it, "With advanced computing power and deep analytics, we can infuse business and societal systems with intelligence."
There's even a YouTube video introducing the idea:
Google has announced its own open source Web browser, Chrome.
Chrome (home page here?) will be a Web browser from Google to compete with Internet Explorer and Firefox. According to A fresh take on the browser on the Google blog, "We will be launching the beta version of Google Chrome tomorrow [Tuesday] in more than 100 countries." They even have a comic book to explain its virtues.
Search and user experience -- Rather than a browser full of tabs, each tab will be more like its own browser.
Standards -- The browser is open source, the code will be available for other uses, and will include the Google Gears software for offline access of online content. (None of this is truly a standard, but is at least open source.)
Chrome seems to be a key part of a Google plan to develop an Internet-based operating system, where users can use the same applications with the same experience from any computer connected to the Internet.
I suspect that Internet Explorer users who haven't been interested enough to move to Firefox also won't move to Chorme either, at least until they find IE frustrating enough to move to something else. I suspect Firefox fans will be torn on whether to make Chrome their primary browser, depending on how good Chrome really is and on how quickly Firefox improves to compete. If Chrome is a hit, it seems fairly likely to me that it and Firefox will merge, although it's also possible that the Firefox and Chrome development camps could become mortal enemies.
Marquez says, "Despite the total meltdowns of the U.S. and global economies last October, IBM executed flawlessly and handily beat analysts' earnings estimates, expanding both its margins and its profit outlook for 2009." Others have also made positive evaluations of IBM's earnings report, such as "IBM posts earnings rise, sees strong growth in 2009" (MarketWatch), and the stock rose as a result ("IBM shares rise after earnings beat expectations" in MarketWatch). Marquez also says, "The virtue of IBM's model is that it has effectively transformed itself from the cyclical hardware company that gave it its name into a software-and-service-oriented firm that gives it a recurring revenue stream. In addition into this well-thought-out business model that concentrates on high-margin, value-added businesses." Yeah, I think that sounds like us.
Another point Marquez makes is that "the many stimulus plans being implemented around the world will no doubt increase demand in many of IBM’s product-and-service areas." This sounds like a nod to the "Smarter Planet" efforts IBM has been talking about.
Marquez also advises his nephew, who has an internship at IBM, to try to leverage it into a permanent job with the company because "It is a superb global company, with a bullet-proof business model and a balance sheet that gives them a huge sustainable competitive advantage." So, Marquez thinks IBM is a good place to work, too.
IBM CEO Sam Palmisano is giving a talk to the Council on Foreign Relations, "A Smarter Planet."
The gist of the talk is that IBM believes that the world is not only becoming smaller and flatter, it's about to become a lot smarter. Significant trends occurring right now like the newly elected US president, the global financial crisis, and global environmental change create the need and opportunity for us to make our societies around the world work better. In "I.B.M. Has Tech Answer for Woes of Economy," the New York Times describes this proposal as "a technology-fueled economic recovery plan that calls for public and private investment in more efficient systems for utility grids, traffic management, food distribution, water conservation and health care."
When IBM releases the text of the speech, I'll link to it.
Let's hope I'm wrong. More specifically, we should hope that Mike Judge's film Idiocracy isn't prophetic. It is however, a good (not great, but interesting) movie, so check it out.
For me, the term "idiocracy" is now becoming an indictment I use to label any event or trend that seems to be bringing civilized society to ruin. Let's give it a try: Lindsay Lohan gets arrested for DUI again, and it's front page news? That's idiocracy. Try it yourself, it's fun (though depressing, too).
So, bare with us as we learn to blog all over again. In many ways, Roller is better, offers us more editing features that you'll never see but we'll appreciate, and is certainly much more standard than what dW was using before. But like all things worth knowing, there is a learning curve. Should be interesting. [Read More]
"How Apple's iPhone Reshaped the Industry" (Business Week) discusses how the usefulness of cell phones is moving from making calls and sending text messages to running applications. Thus the most important aspect of your phone is shifting from who is your service provider (in the US: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.) to what platform the phone embodies (such as Palm, BlackBerry, or iPhone). This represents a loss of power for the service providers; they're being disintermediated.
Not so fast (it seems to me). You typically (in the US) buy your cell phone from your service provider, and that phone only works on that provider's network. So although AT&T and Sprint sell virtually identical BlackBerry models (to pick an example), a BlackBerry you buy from AT&T won't work on Sprint's network and vice versa. This is partially a technical issue (CDMA vs. GSM, two different standards for cell phone networks and thus the chip in the phone that wirelessly connects the phone to the network), it's also political: The service provides subsidize the cost of the phone when you sign-up for a long-term service agreement and otherwise don't want you using their phone on another network.
Computers don't work this way. If you want a Dell PC, you don't buy it from AOL (to pick an example) and then have a computer that can only connect to the Internet via AOL. No, you buy a computer from your favorite vendor (Dell, Lenovo, Apple, etc.) and then connect via your favorite ISP (AOL, Earthlink, your hotel's wi-fi network, etc.). Any computer works with any Internet provider. Both groups have to constantly compete to provide the best equipment and service to get you to continue to choose them instead of the competition.
The cell phone industry doesn't have this kind of interchangeability, where any phone will work on any service provider's network. Until that's the case, I'd say we're still pretty locked into our service providers. Google was supposedly working towards a cell phone that works with any carrier (see the Open Handset Alliance, such as "Breaking Wireless Wide Open" (Business Week)), but the Google G1 cell phone only works with T-Mobile (in the US); so much for neutrality.
In SOA is going to need mainframe skills and disciplines, his general theme is that mainframe development skills will be helpful for developing SOA apps; perhaps so, perhaps a new career opportunity for some people. I really like this line from the posting: "The last few years have not been about SOA, but JBOWS (just a bunch of web services)." JaBoWS (I like my spelling better); I like that; have to'll keep that in mind.
Most of the postings on that Mainframe blog are about z/OS and IBM. (Gee, I wonder why?!) The postings seem to be by a number of people, not just James.
On his MonkChips blog, James has been blogging a lot about IBM lately:
IBM sees the coming infrastructure boom as a big opportunity.
"Big Blue's big plan" (Fortune Magazine) talks about how CEO Sam Palmisano sees the current financial crisis as "humanity screaming for change" and an opportunity for systemic overhaul to what IBM terms its "Smarter Planet" initiative. IBM envisions embedding sensors into everything--food shipments, water pipes, electrical grids--to detect what's happening, and making sense of it all through data analytics software, so that each system can be treated as and managed as a massive network. This will be used to make these systems run more efficiently, provide better service, and place less strain on the environment.
There's a neat technique for figuring out who's really working with whom in an organization: social network analysis (SNA).
I was reading about SNA in the current issue of BusinessWeek, in the article "The Office Chart That Really Counts" (subscription). As opposed to a hierarchical org chart, an SNA analysis shows who each employee actually interacts with. This shows who's well-connected in the organization and provides a lot of influence. It also reveals people and departments that are isolated, or ones that should be communicating but aren't.
The BW article mentions that IBM has been involved in SNA for a while. "It's Who You Know" is an IBM article on SNA that's about a year or two old.
This all reminds me of my posting on The Structure of Romantic Relations. Those relationships were of a much more intimate nature, but the idea of who-interfaces-with-whom is the same.
Just to add an SOA twist on all this: It seems to me that in a suitably complex SOA, you could use SNA to analyze the relationships between services. You might be surprised to learn what services use and are dependent on each other. [Read More]
Search Google for images of WebSphere and what do you find?
My colleague Matt Rollo points out: If you search for "WebSphere" in Google image search, besides the usual pictures of IBM marketing materials and screen shots, picture #43 (or so) is a person. A familiar looking person. In fact, it's my picture. So, like Matt says, you can call me "Mr. WebSphere."
Whereas so much Hollywood movie-making rehashes the same old ideas, this film is original and innovative. While others are simplistic and superficial, this is intelligent and thought-provoking. Like the Matrix movies, this one is also visually stunning. It's an instant classic I think will provoke much discussion over the coming weeks and still do so for years.
You may feel like completely agreeing with the film or disagreeing completely. You and a friend may both feel strongly that it means very different things and have opposite takes on the moviemakers' biases. In any event, you're likely to feel something about the film, which is more than I can say for most movies today. So if you'd like to see a really interesting movie, probably one of the most interesting this year and perhaps this decade, see this one.
I suggest you not read about the film--discussions of it just spoil the surprises. But after you see the film, you can check out:
Web content providers seem to be losing interest in network neutrality.
"Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web" (Wall Street Journal) reports that Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are partnering with phone and cable companies to create fast lanes on the Internet for their own traffic. This goes against the principle of network neutrality that these companies and others had been supporting, which says that all Web sites and all traffic on the Internet should have equal access to available bandwidth. The counterargument being made by the phone and cable companies is that the content providers should help pay for their network costs. This would also enable companies that control distribution to favor their own content over competitors'.
The article also says that President-elect Obama plans to name as Lawrence Lessig head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Apparently Lessig is loosening his position on network neutrality, saying that content providers should be able to pay for faster service. He compares tiers of Internet service to tiers of postal service, where overnight delivery is available to those willing to pay extra.
What is the fastest growing industrialized nation (population-wise) in the world?
"The United States is the only industrialized nation with significant population growth." The US is the third most populous country, behind China and India. Apparently these countries don't count as industrialized nations. Japan and counties in Europe do, but they're not growing.
And sometime this week, the US population will reach 300 million people. This population growth is being caused not so much by Americans having babies, but primarily by Americans living longer and by people immigrating into America. (The population figures include undocumented residents and other non-citizens.) The environmental impact of so many Americans is cause for concern.
We learn not just from our experiences, but by imagining experiences we then don't need to actually enact.
This is discussed in "Time Travel in the Brain" (by Daniel Gilbert and Randy Buckner, professors of psychology at Harvard), an article in a recent Time Magazine issue on "The Brain." The article says that when we're doing nothing, our idling brain travels through time, reliving past experiences and imagining future possible ones. These future experiences are like simulations our minds run that enable us to learn without actually living the experience. Apparently our minds do this for us automatically when we're not otherwise engaged in conscious thought. It's an ability of conscious that (non-human) animals do not seem to have.
Richard Dawkins discusses a similar observation in The Selfish Gene, published in 1976. (Thanks to Bill for lending me that book.) Computers learn from running simulations, and so do people. It's a key part, Dawkins says, of what has made our species fit to survive.
The Time article says Alzheimer's patients lose this ability--they can't remember the past or imagine the future. I've wondered what humans would be like without imagination, without fictional stories or the ability to generalize. Seems like we'd be a lot different.[Read More]
Technology has a tendency to get over-hyped and then crash (see Dot-com bubble). (A non-technology one in the US is crashing right now; see Real estate bubble.) What with all the hype these days around Web 2.0, social networking, etc., is another tech bubble inflating again?
These guys think so; see "Here Comes Another Bubble" (on YouTube):
No one ever gave me directions like this on a golf course before: "Aim at either Microsoft or IBM." I was standing on the first tee at the KGA Golf Club in downtown Bangalore, in southern India, when my playing partner pointed at two shiny glass-and-steel buildings off in the distance, just behind the first green.
He's talking about the KGA Golf Course, which is just outside the hotel room I'm in right now at the Hotel Royal Orchid. To one side of the golf course is the five star hotel, and on the other side is the Embassy Golf Links, a large business park that contains the buildings described in the book. One of them, the EGL D block, is the IBM building described in the book and the one I've been working in this week.
No golf for me this week, but India is quite a trip (in more ways than one). More on that another time.
The TRS-80, one of the first home computers, has turned 30 years old.
Tandy Corporation introduced the Radio Shack TRS-80 Microcomputer on August 3, 1977, which is thirty years ago last week. It was one of the first personal/home computers; the IBM PC didn't come along until 1982 (Wikipedia says August 12, 1981). Hard to believe now, but the idea that individuals could afford to own their own computer was a big deal. ("Only six electronic digital computers would be required to satisfy the computing needs of the entire United States." (Howard Aiken, 1947))
The first TRS-80 didn't even have a diskette drive; programs loaded off of casette tape, and slowly. I remember my middle school had one and a couple of friends of mine and I would play around with it to try to figure out what it could do. It had BASIC, so you could actually program it yourself; a good thing since there wasn't much software. So BASIC became the first programming language I learned--something else I learned in school that I don't use in work/life! Well, look at me now.[Read More]
In "Why IBM attracts value investors," Money magazine says that IBM stock is undervalued. Short term, "analysts say second-quarter results [to be reported July 18] may be disappointing." But longer term, "analysts project that IBM's earnings can grow at a compound annual rate of around 11 percent over the next five years."
Irving (Bio, Meet the Experts) is IBM's Vice President of Technical Strategy and Innovation, which makes him one of the company's most senior spokespeople on its technical direction. As he says in About me, "I am responsible for identifying emerging technologies and marketplace developments that are critical to the future of the IT industry, and then organizing activities in and outside IBM in order to capitalize on them." He was a big part of getting the whole "e-business on-demand" thing started. So it's cool to hear what he's thinking about.
As you can see, Irving talks more about business issues whereas I usually talk about how WAS works (so you can see why he's a vice president and I'm not). All the same, I think these sorts of business issues are important and should be of interest to a J2EE- and WAS-oriented audience like you. So, check it out.
Bill picked up on Irving's blog as soon as it started. Now that I see some of his discussion tying into some of mine, I think you'd be interested, so I've added to my "blogs I read" list. BTW, you can see the list in the right column of my blog page. [Read More]
Occasionally I write reviews of movies (Revenge of the Sith, Hitchhiker's Guide) that I think will be of interest to J2EE programmers. The movie Batman Begins opened in theaters in the United States this week. It's a great summer movie, a terrific reinvention of the Batman franchise, and one of the best comic book movies ever made.
In 2002, Sam Raimi (of The Evil Dead fame!) brought comic book movies back to life with Spider-Man. Raimi took a lot of grief for casting Tobey Maguire, who doesn't exactly exude action machismo, in the title role. But Maguire is a very good actor who brought depth-of-character to the conflicted Peter Parker, who suddenly has these newfound powers and isn't quite sure what to do with them. The movie focuses around Parker trying to learn what to do with his powers, and Spider-Man 2 around him trying to live with these duel identities.
Now Christopher Nolan--who came to fame with the story-told-backwards movie Memento (staring Guy Pearce)--has built upon Burton's resurrection of the franchise and Raimi's modernization of the comic book genre, and produced the best comic book movie yet. Thanks to writers Nolan and David S. Goyer, this comic book story actually has plot twists, surprises, ambiguous characters, and betrayal. Batman is not so much saving the good guys from the bad guys as he is helping to save Gotham from itself. This story is much more focused on the character of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) becoming Batman, rather than on the villains. There's depth of feeling in the characters and nuanced dialog to express the feelings without explicitly stating them, such as Alfred's (Michael Caine) genuine concern for his young charge. The sets are visually stunning, such as the elevated trains gliding through Gotham, with its multi-layers of office towers and underground slums. The props are awesome, such as the Tumbler--what you'd get if a dune buggy mated with a tank--the precursor to the Batmobile. Whereas many of the scenes of Spider-Man web slinging through the city look computer generated, the Batman movie looks much more real, purportedly because it was filmed with stunts instead of animated using CGI.
Batman Begins borrows good elements from other successful movies. It's quite an action movie, reminiscent of the Die Hard movies (Bruce Willis), with lots of hand-to-hand combat, crashes, and explosions. It builds on Spider-Man's story of a boy/man discovering how to be a superhero. The gadgetry carries on the traditions of James Bond. A father-and-son ruling the world theme harkens back to a little series called Star Wars. I point out these similarities not to disparage the new Batman movie, but to show that the writers (much like the Wachowski brothers) have learned well the lessons of other good movies and applied them here (a talent which many writers don't seem to possess).
Batman Begins is rated PG-13 for action violence and for rather horrendous images caused by psychotropic drugs. Plus the plot is rather complex and some of the dialog intricate, which requires some sophistication to follow. So this isn't a good movie for young children. (The one next to me kept asking his dad (and no, that's not me) what was going on every step of the way.)
Batman Begins is one of the best movies of the summer. This is the thinking man's comic book movie. If you like summer blockbusters, this is one to see. [Read More]
How do the Sametime instant messaging software and the Sametime Unyte meeting software go together?
I talked about the new Lotus Sametime Unyte product, a result of IBM's acquisition of WebDialogs. A reader (Michael Fitzpatrick) asks: "Does the integration with Unyte imply the old Sametime solution is being replaced, or will this be additive?" I have no particular IBM insider info about Sametime Unyte (and if I did, I wouldn't be able to talk about it here!), but here's what I've been able to find out from public sources.
It looks like the current version of Sametime instant messenger, 7.5, and the new Sametime Unyte meeting service from WebDialogs are currently related in name only. However, the plan (and it's only a plan, which can change) is for Sametime 8.0 to expand into a family of products, where one of the family members will include Unyte. I assume this means that you'll have functionality like being able to select several Sametime contacts and start a Unyte meeting with them.
I discuss this all in Truthiness and the Triumph of Opinion over Expertise. My general theme is that experts should be respected as experts, something that seems to be happening less over time or at least less often and to a lesser extent than it should be. As Matt describes, "becoming a genuine expert [is becoming] less attractive." I agree with that concern, and the trend shouldn't be the case.
Who are you listening to? Are they really an expert? Or are they just spouting uninformed opinions?
Remember David Brent, the Regional Manager on the BBC version of The Office? Turns out the actor, Ricky Gervais, created a pair of videos for Microsoft playing the David Brent character.
The videos are Ricky Gervais - Microsoft 1 and Ricky Gervais - Microsoft 2. (Gee, clever titles!) These are fake training videos to teach new employees about the values at Microsoft. As usual, David gets it all wrong, and as usual, it's quite funny (though quite dry). Check it out.
BTW, there's also an American version of The Office on NBC starring Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the US version of David Brent. There's also a bunch of Webisodes, new 5 minute episodes of material not from the broadcast episodes.
Want to be able to perform desktop tasks without the expense of a desktop?
"IBM and Business Partners Introduce a Linux-Based, Virtual Desktop" (press release) describes a Linux-based, server-based system where the server runs the applications and stores the files; all the user needs on his desktop is a simple terminal. The sever-based system will be open standards-based, less expensive to purchase, and easier to maintain.
Microsoft has produced a funny, star-studded video depicting Bill Gates' last day at Microsoft.
Bill Gates has announced that he's stepping down from his day-to-day roll as CTO at Microsoft so that he can focus full time on this philanthropic foundation. Last week at his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2008, he showed a video of what that day will be like. It's pretty funny.
I like watching what's going on at Google because they seem to keep inventing lots of new stuff. They were the first place I saw what we now call Ajax. (Google didn't invent Ajax, but were quick to start using it commercially.)
Basically, Base seems to be a place to post bits of info you don't have anyplace else to post--people without their own Web sites, wikis, blogs, etc., or at least without sites that are appropriate for the info they want to post. To keep all this info from being a complete hodgepodge, you use lots of tags on your posting to help categorize it. So this lets you post classified ads, job postings, stuff you want to sell, etc. I would look for a way to link into existing Web pages, and just categorize the link while the content remains on your own site, but I don't know if you can do that.
SCO is the company suing Linux vendors (such as IBM) for patent infringement. According to this CNet article, SCO lost a lawsuit to Novell a month ago, and another trial "was scheduled to begin Monday to determine how much SCO owed Novell as a result of last month's ruling, according to Groklaw ..."
IBM appears to not have made any comment today. This September 4th article by CBR Online (after the Novell ruling last month but before today's bankruptcy filing) gives lots of details on (reportedly) IBM's stance and its own evaluation of SCO's status. It concludes "... as far as SCO's core claims against Linux are concerned, the game appears to be over."
Ever wonder how currency travels between vendors and consumers?
Where's George? is a site that tracks where money pops up. The site name refers to the way a US $1 bill has a picture of George Washington in the center. I have a doller that I must have gotten as change from some vendor that had a stamp on it: "Track This Bill" and "www.wheresgeorge.com". At the site, I entered the bill's serial number and found that it originated in Sunnyvale, CA before ending up with me. It has now probably seen 2-3 cities, and as many airports, just by virtue of being in my wallet.
To see how much some bills get around, check out the Top 10 Bills Report. For example, one bill has been through Ohio, Tennassee, Florida, Texas, Utah, and now Michigan.
Big premium payments on top of average salaries were being offered for staff who had niche skills, including Tandem, FTP, Oracle Financials, Siebel enterprise resource planning software, ActiveX and Websphere, Campfield said.