Category Archives: IT

The significance of cloud computing, as explained by the great Stephen Fry (@stephenfry)

This is a really well done video on the importance of cloud computing. It’s 5 minutes long, and well worth it.

Obviously, I would argue that your best bet for Cloud Computing services is from the company I work for, but otherwise I highly recommend this.

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How to learn github fairly easily

It is easy to feel stupid if you are trying to learn how to use github and you are not a software developer. Many of the github tutorials are aimed at people who are software developers and who have used similar tools. What can seem obvious to them can seem bafflingly to you when you are trying to understand the workings of github. (e.g., if you are not used to source control, then getting your mind around what state your file can be in at any given time in the process can be confusing.)

Despite that, if you are committed to learn how to use Github and git (the basis for Github), I recommend you take the next four steps:

  1. Start with this two part tutorial: GitHub For Beginners: Don’t Get Scared, Get Started – ReadWrite (part 1) and GitHub For Beginners: Commit, Push And Go – ReadWrite. I really liked this series. It assumes that you aren’t a software developer and that you may have tried using github and gave up. I highly recommend you take an hour and walk through both parts of this tutorial. When you are done, you will have feel that you have a good start on being able to use git.
  2. If you still feel like you want some more practice and you want to try some new things with git in a safe environment, try this interactive tutorial: Code School – Try Git. It will also teach you some additional things that you will find useful that you didn’t learn in step 1.
  3. Now that you are more comfortable with git and github, this Git Reference site walks you some of the same material, but goes into detail and explains it more. By the time you go through this, you should be alot more confident about what you are doing with git and github.
  4. Lastly, I like this site:  git – the simple guide – no deep s–t! (It’s where the graphic at the top of this post comes from). It’s a great summary of the things that you’ve learned, and it has an excellent cheat sheet on the top left of the page that you will want to keep handy.

Some additional thoughts: your use of git and github can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You could have a simple repo on github with one or more files that only you use. Later, you could start cloning other people’s repos, making changes, and making them into your own repo. From there you could get into working with teams of people, branching and merging your files as you go. During that time, you are learning as you go. Don’t be afraid to a) make backups and then b) make mistakes. Eventually you will gain mastery of it and be able to use it to your full advantage. Better still, the material you share can be used by others, and that’s a great thing.

 

Why I think Microsoft Office for the iPad is a big deal

Microsoft is providing Office for the iPad, starting today (See this for some of the highlights: Microsoft Office For iPad Launches Today).

This is one of those milestone events in the history of Microsoft and Apple, and the computing industry in general. Back in 1997, after Steve Jobs returned to Apple, there was the big news of Microsoft investing $150 million in Apple (CNET News).  And not just money…

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said today that the software giant will invest $150 million in Apple and will develop and ship future versions of its Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and development tools for the Macintosh

Back in 1997, Microsoft was dominant and Apple was dramatically regrouping. Apple needed Microsoft, especially their software. Now Microsoft is trying to pivot from the PC market (which is rapidly declining) to the future, which is mobile and cloud based. A future where Apple is currently one of the dominant players, and Microsoft is struggling. Microsoft needs Apple’s hardware, just like once Apple needed Microsoft’s software.

It is hard to say if this is going to change things around for Microsoft. I never count them out, ever. In the meantime, this is another sign that their transition is still a work in progress.

If you want to get it, you can get it here: Buy Office 365 Home Premium – Microsoft Store

Negotiating tips: a good story about negotiating with Steve Jobs

Over at Operating Partner, DFJ, Heide Roizen has a great case study of how to negotiate with someone as tough to deal with as Steve Jobs. You may not be in IT, and you may never have to negotiate with someone as demanding and smart as Jobs, but check it out: you can learn something useful and read a great story too.

 

Need a cheap domain? Namecheap.com has some good deals right now

Right now, Namecheap.com has .us domains for $1.10 (Canadian) and .org.uk for $6.41.

I was tempted to get iAmSoFabulo.us, but I may get something just for test purposes. (I am testing using cloud sites, and it is helpful to have a domain name, vs going with the full domain name that some of the cloud sites provide).

If you are Canadian or want a .ca domain, then netfirms.ca is a better choice (NameCheap.com has .ca domains for $13.03, vs $9.99 at netfirms.ca).

Finally, from what I hear, namecheap.com has deals all the time. It is worth visiting them from time to time to see what is available.

Hack: Facebook’s version of PHP, now for everyone (#technical)

It’s not news that Facebook has been running a modified version of PHP for some time. What is news is that now so can you.

You can get a copy of it at this website:Hack. It installs on most OSs (or will, soon), and even runs in the Cloud (on Heroku).

According to this, Facebook Introduces ‘Hack,’ the Programming Language of the Future | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com, what you get is a high performing version of PHP with very little you have to change to get the performance gains.

It will be interesting to see if this helps to drive up usage in PHP. There are lots of new technologies to build web site with these days: this could make PHP a desirable option.

Some thoughts on the infancy of the Web, on it’s 25th birthday

The web is 25 years old, and I have been using it since the very beginning. For those of you that haven’t — and those feeling nostalgic — here are some fun facts about the early days of the World Wide Web:

  • Before the web, there was just the Internet. And the Internet consisted of various services, from e-mail (of course) to Gopher to ftp to WAIS to news groups/Usenet, etc. It was all great, but then the World Wide Web sprung into action and the browser quickly became THE tool for using the Internet (save email). I wonder if anyone under 30 has even heard of any of those other services, let along use any of them?
  • In the beginning, most people couldn’t access the Web or even the Internet. Most people’s PCs had Windows, and Windows didn’t come with software to connect to the Internet. I was using OS/2 at the time – Really! – and OS/2 did provide a “TCP/IP stack” that allowed you to connect. You could buy a Stack and install it on your Windows machine, and eventually Microsoft bundled it with Windows. When that happened, Internet access took off.
  • To access the Internet, everyone had a dial up modem, with U.S. Robotics making some of the finest ones at the time. Web pages had to be designed to be very small, because every byte delivered by modem had to count.
  • The mid to late 90s was an exciting time to be on the Internet. The web, access to the Internet via new software, ISPs, and email all hit most people at about the same time. Things changed so quickly, the notion of a “web year” (3 months) came about.
  • In the early days, there were a range of browsers, from Mosaic to Viola to the one from IBM called Web Explorer. Then came Netscape and then Internet Explorer. It was along time before Firefox and Safari came along to challenge IE.
  • The “www.” part was important at first when you were using the Web. You could type “www.ibm.com” or “ftp.ibm.com” or “some other protocol.ibm.com” and your browser and the server would figure out what you wanted. It wasn’t assumed you were going to a web site Likewise, you could type “ibm.com:80″ to go the web server. Eventually , the only thing that people wanted was their browser to talk to the web server, and the “www.” and the “:80″ became superflous.
  • Server technology was very expensive at first. Netscape’s web server came with nice bells and whistles and cost about $10,000 for some form of that. Then Apache came along with their web server and essentially obliterated the web server software market.
  • Yahoo! was a big thing in the beginning. I actually tried to do a Canadian version of it. FYI: you cannot hand craft your own Yahoo! It’s like an artisanal Google. Needless to say, I abandoned that idea soon and left it to the professionals. I was involved with the early development of IBM’s global presence on the web.
  • Early web pages seem ugly now, but at the time they were amazing. You didn’t have to type in a bunch of commands to access information, like you did with FTP. You could type in one thing and just point and click, and each click brought up new information or played audio files or played video files! All of that was simply amazing.
  • The moment I thought the web was going to be big was when paintings from the Louvre went online. I thought: this isn’t just for technical people: any one can do this.
  • In the early days of the Web, there were two big concerns. One was doing commerce on the web. Companies were cautioned to be very discreet about selling things: otherwise the hard core Internet people would make a big stink and make life difficult for you. The second big concern was that the Internet backbone in the United States would get broken up or underfunded or somehow messed up and that this would inhibit the health of the Internet. This was a really big concern. The Internet has always been in various states of precariousness, and the recent threats to net neutrality are part of an ongoing story.
  • Speaking of net neutrality, there have always been special connections between major sites and major ISPs. In the early days it was from big sites like AOL connecting directly to big ISPs. Now it is Netflix who is making the deals. The more things change… :)

Happy birthday, World Wide Web, you great information superhighway! May you be around for 25 more!

What if life follows Moore’s Law

A fascinating idea: what if life on earth follows Moore’s Law? If it does, as discussed
here, then it could explain why there are no beings in the universe advanced much beyond ours. It could also mean that life on Earth came from somewhere else.

The article in MIT’s Technology Review is well worth a read. It also makes me think that Moore’s Law could be a fundamental way of understanding much more than integrated circuits.

How to text/SMS anyone in the world

You need four things to do this

  1. their phone number
  2. there carrier
  3. this list
  4. email

If you have that, you can send an email to their phone_number@carrier.com with your message and the carrier will send it to them via SMS. The list has the carrier.com information.

Some thoughts on dealing with Evernote problems on my Windows laptop

I recently had problems with Evernote on my Windows laptop, and I want to document my notes here in case you run into a similar issue.

I am not certain what was the cause of the problem, but one day I could not synchronize my Evernote client on my Windows laptop. It kept saying I could not reach the server. This was odd, because I could access the Internet and login to evernote.com and see my notes there.

Now the first thing I should have done is work to resolve this. Instead, I kept adding things to the Evernote that was having a problem. Bad idea. I can’t tell if I lost what I kept at the time. It doesn’t appear that I did, but don’t make this error. Work to fix it right away.

I tried a number of things to fix it. Finally what seem to fix it was uninstalling it, and then installing it using the Advanced install option. Going through the Advanced option, I picked a different directory than the default directory to install it in. When I brought up the Evernote client, I was notified by my security software that Evernote was trying to connect to the Internet. I allowed it and it then the client worked fine.

My theory is that there was something corrupted with the files in the old location where I had Evernote installed. As a result, uninstalling and then reinstalling didn’t correct the problem. Now this is somewhat odd, because when you uninstall Evernote, the file directory seems to go away. That leads to my other theory, and that is that there was something else that was corrupted (e.g. registry? appdata?), and that picking another directory with the Advanced option forced the installer to ignore the old settings and come up with new default settings.

The good news is that the problem is fixed and Evernote is fine and syncing is fine. I just checked and a note I just added an synced on my laptop flowed over to my iPhone.

a nice reminder to backup your files

My computer is toast. Specifically there appears to be a problem with either Windows XP or the file system where Windows resides. Regardless, it is likely going to mean a lot of restoring of files or at least moving them.

Ask yourself; if my computer stopped working right now, do you have a copy of the most important files on my computer? Do I even know which files are important? Have you tested restoring those files and did it work?

If you don’t have a good answer to these questions, look for ways to determine how to answer them today. In the worst case, take your most crucial files and email them to someone or use a service like drop.io as a temporary place to put them while you find a longer term solution.

You don’t need a complex solution. In fact backing up your files should be as easy as brushing your teeth! And just as important.

A new year’s resolution…for your Mac

Come January 1, alot of people will resolve to lose their excess weight and get fit. And what is good for people is also good for …Macs! In this article, Ten ways to turn your Mac into a lean, mean, agile machine…right now (or Jan. 1 :) ), you can learn various ways to slim down your Mac while you wait for Mac OS X v 10.6.

How school is different now

When I went to school, we would write assignments with pen and double spacing was the instruction.

Now my daughter does assignments on my laptop and the instruction is about proper font size. :)

Visio – not just for IT diagrams

As an IT architect, I use Microsoft Visio for some of the diagrams I do. (I do use IBM’s Rational products as well.) Little did I imagine you could use it for non-technical things the way David Salaguinto does to make funny comics like this one:

For more on this, see Office Hours: Drawing a daily comic strip with Visio – Help and How-to – Microsoft Office Online

Free Wi-Fi at Starbucks


According to the nytimes.com blog, Bits ,

Starbucks announced today it will give most any customer two consecutive hours a day of free Wi-Fi access. Specifically, that offer applies to anyone who uses its prepaid Starbucks Card at least once a month. That represents as many as 60 hours of access for the price of one $2 cup of coffee.

It’s interesting to think of Starbucks as a network service provider. It has the potential to open up lots of other business opportunities for them as well. See Bits for more info.

Bill Gates Last Day at Microsoft

When you are Bill Gates, you can get some PRETTY powerful people to show up in a spoof video of you. The video is funny, but the underlying message is: hey, I am Bill Gates, and look who I can get to show up.

Watch and see:

YouTube – Bill Gates’ Last Day at Microsoft – CES 2008

A good introduction to algorithms

If someone has to learn about computer algorithms, a very nice introduction can be found at the well designed site called
DataStructures. This site is

dedicated to students and other who want to learn about programming, data structures, algorithms and how to write efficient code. You will find free e-books as well.

How to defeat Captcha

How can you defeat CAPTCHA? With sophisticated software? Not necessarily. RMG, a company in a legal dispute with Ticketmaster (a big user of CAPTCHA) does this:

“We pay guys in India $2 an hour to type the answers.”

If you want to know how tickets to an event can sell out so fast, read this: Hannah Montana Tickets on Sale! Oops, They’re Gone – New York Times

OLPC ‘Give One Get One’ Program Extended until the end of 2007!

TheCompiler blog from Wired.com has the story. Key information:

The One Laptop Per Child project’s “Give One Get One” offer has been extended through the end of the year, which means there’s still time to pick up an XO laptop for yourself and someone in a developing country.The promotional offer kicked off two weeks ago and was originally scheduled to end yesterday, November 26, but due to the demand it has been extended through the end of the year.

Zoho Gets better and Better

Over at the blog Compiler from Wired.com is a good review of the latest AND greatest features in Zoho Writer. Key quote:

While it isn’t feature complete just yet, Zoho Writer is getting very close to the ideal in online editing with word processing software that works equally well in offline and online modes. With big names like Google Docs, Microsoft Live and even Adobe all vying for your online office loyalty, there’s no doubt that if offline functionality matters to you, Zoho has the lead.

FTP: not just for techies anymore.

The globeandmail.com has this article: U.S. Military documents found unprotected on FTP servers

I think it is a sign of the adoption of technology that the Globe could mention “FTP servers” in a headline: they must assume that people will know what that means.

Of course, there is a good article in there on the lack of security when it comes to such matters, but that is another story. :)

Jokes For Nerds: Schrödinger’s LOLcat

For really hard core nerds, check out


WiReD has the latest on LoLcats. It has to end soon.