Monthly Archives: August 2009

Things I like best in Snow Leopard

There are a heap of things I’m really liking about Snow Leopard so far… even though it turns out that my early 2007 MacBook Pro can’t take advantage of a lot of the under-the-covers enhancements 😦

  1. The new (configurable) Dock behaviour to have application windows minimise into their app icons – combined with the click-hold-Expose feature, this has made the Dock useful for me again. I’ve moved it from autohiding at the side of the screen, to permanent (but 2D) at the bottom.
  2. Safari running Flash as a separate process. Far fewer browser crashes.
  3. Nearly 15Gb of reclaimed disk space. Seriously! Could be the fact that I opted for a custom install and removed most of the language support I didn’t need, too, and also influenced by the fact that Snow Leopard reports disk space differently.
  4. Scrollable, more intelligent grid views in Stacks. The Dock is even more useful.
  5. Seeing the date in the menubar. Bye bye, MagiCal.
  6. Setting Spotlight search to find in the current folder by default (in Finder preferences).
  7. The default screen gamma setting is now 2.2 – at last.

If you want to dig a bit deeper to find some of these things, check out a couple of Macworld articles – I wouldn’t have known about them otherwise! All-in-all then, a minor upgrade with a bunch of welcome changes.

Learn WebSphere Message Broker

A couple of weeks ago I noted that the highly talented Mr Martin Gale is allowing me to absorb his genius by osmosis, or at least by working in the same office. I also mentioned that he’s successfully learned the basics of WebSphere Message Broker, too. This is an enterprise middleware product which I’ve spent around 9 years working with – using the product, consulting with clients, writing Redbooks, and educating newcomers.

When I wrote that blog entry, I missed an ideal opportunity to mention that IBM has a trial version of WebSphere Message Broker which is available for download. It’s a great way to take a look at the product and start to develop your own skills. The Information Center and Samples Gallery (available from the Message Broker Toolkit once the product is installed) are very effective places to start, too.

A couple of additional resources that might be of interest to newcomers are the articles in the WMB Zone on IBM developerWorks (check out the “latest content” section), and an unofficial user forum called MQSeries.net which has an active discussion group about WebSphere Message Broker.

Yammer? Really?

ibm-yammer.pngI noticed a bit of an upsurge in followers on Yammer in the past couple of days. Concurrently, I also noticed that there appears to be a campaign on Facebook at the moment reminding folks of the existence of Yammer. It seems as though the campaign is mining my user profile information to identify a company network to advertise at me.

I’m generally an early adopter, as regular readers of my blog will know. I joined Yammer in the initial landrush… but I’ve barely used it, despite a desktop AIR client and an iPhone app being launched to make access and use of the service a lot easier.

What’s the issue? Well, for me, there are two fundamental problems:

  • it’s a service hosted outside of the corporate firewall, and yet encouraging me to write about “what [I’m] working on”. I do realise that some organisations will not have an issue with this, but in our case, I can’t go posting confidential information to servers outside the company. It’s the same reason that we’ve had internal virtual worlds and social computing guidelines for a long time. Ultimately it’s the same reason why we have homegrown internal microblogging options, although we do also use external services like Twitter where confidential information is not at risk (and my preference is to be open by default, and use internal tools only where necessary).
  • it defines a “company” based on email domain. Mine is a country-specific address, so I’ve ended up part of a Yammer community which is only for the UK section of the company. For a worldwide corporation, this defeats the object. Taking a look at Yammer’s pricing options, it looks like they have Silver and Gold paid plans that offer greater control and multiple domains… but I can’t imagine that we’d end up using those options.

I’m not taking potshots at Yammer for the fun of it… I can see that they do have a number of major clients, and when I’ve been to conferences I’ve met some of those who use the service – they’ve seemed happy with it. For me, it’s just not practical. I’m intrigued to note that even with the rush of new sign-ups which I can only assume are driven by the current Facebook advertising campaign, there’s almost no discussion going on in the community, with some people even redirecting folks back to Twitter or our internal tools in their very first posts…

Trust and empowerment are key

From a great post about the ESPN and USMC social media rules / bans:

You might not expect a corporate juggernaut like IBM to lead the way when it comes to creating effective social media guidelines for its employees, yet here we are: IBM was one of the first enterprise-size companies to not only recognize the need for such a document, but also to deliver an adequate set of guidelines within it that made sense and allowed its culture to spread. IBM recognized that treating its employees like responsible adults rather than dangerous little children might yield pretty good results.

Indeed. I’ve written about IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines before, and I’ve spoken about them at conferences. I’ve also repeatedly opined that blocking access is counterproductive. It’s important to note that the guidelines were written collaboratively, and they are linked to IBM’s existing standards of professional conduct (the Business Conduct Guidelines) which employees agree to annually. Folks at the leading edge of technology continue to inform and educate the rest of the organisation on good practices and behaviours in these online social spaces.

Let’s end with another of the many quotable extracts from Olivier Blanchard’s post today:

The risk here is not the medium, it is the behavior. Ban access to the medium and you solve nothing: The behavior is still there, only now, you are blind to it. Double-fail.

Oh, in case you’re new around here: I’m an IBMer. My opinions may differ from IBM’s official line from time to time, but that’s OK. My employer trusts me, and I appreciate that.

Living with the LG Arena

Thanks to the nice people over at LG, I’ve had the opportunity to play around with one of their devices for the past month – the LG Arena KM900. Let’s get the next bit out of the way straight off the bat…

Disclaimer: LG solicited my feedback on their products and provided me with a free phone for evaluation for one month.

Right, that piece is done 😉

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Bearing in mind that before the iPhone, my previous mobile phone was a pretty old Sony Ericsson T6xx, this was quite a change from the mobile phones I’d handled in the past. Of course, the flipside of that is that I’ve now been using an iPhone 3G and 3GS for more than a year, so the Arena had to cope with many of my prejudices formed on the basis of familiarity of how a touchscreen phone “should” (or, at least, could) work. I wanted to give it a fair chance, though, so I chose to ditch my BlackBerry Pearl 8100 for the period I had the Arena – frankly, not a hard choice, as I’m no fan of the BlackBerry UI, which I’m convinced was designed by someone who hates other people.

The out-of-the-box impression was certainly pretty good. It’s a sleek, shiny, device which feels well-made with a brushed metal and glass front. It’s got a great feature set, too – 5.0MP camera which also records video, Dolby Mobile audio, front and rear-facing cameras, wifi, bluetooth, Java, an FM transmitter, multiformat video playback including DIVX, 3G video calling… the list really goes on. It also has quite an interesting 3D user interface where the screen rotates around a virtual cube as you swipe left and right through the menus. So it scores highly on both the prettiness/style and the features. It’s lighter and smaller than the iPhone, too.

I’ll be honest… I had a mixed experience with with LG Arena. I think it could be a great consumer phone, if you take a step back and forget that the iPhone exists. The camera is great (and has a flash), and the video quality and playback were more than acceptable – very good, actually. I confess I didn’t try the music player much – I guess such things are becoming pretty commoditised and it seemed to be fairly standard. This was the first phone I’ve had with a front-facing camera for video calls, which was a nice feature – but I don’t know anyone who has a video call-capable phone or who uses that, so it was somewhat redundant. The range of stuff available on this handset is great, though. Email and web browsing, check and check… although the browser interface was a little finickity at times.

I had a few issues, the first being, sadly, the screen. Touchscreens are becoming de rigeur and this one looks good… until you try to view it in strong daylight, when the fact that it is highly reflective becomes a huge problem. Plus, it collects fingerprints like crazy. I also found that it wasn’t as responsive as other screens I’ve used, and some aspects of the UI were frustrating (swiping through menu options left-to-right, as well as through lists up and down, for instance). It looks stylish, but it’s not the best experience I’ve had. It does offer a level of haptic feedback, which I switched off straight away – by default, when you touch the screen it buzzes to simulate the experience of having been touched, but in practical terms I found this somewhat annoying.

The next drawback is fairly minor, as it’s mostly a business issue. I wasn’t able to use this on an office network, as the wireless didn’t support either 802.1x certificates or LEAP – disappointing, but not a core feature in a consumer model, I’ll accept. However, there was another problem with the way in which the wireless and networking support worked… it has a fairly complex set of profiles which (I think) are supposed to help to decide which type of network to use at which time, and I found that it kept prompting me to use wifi or GPRS rather than just defaulting to the faster option, which did drive me nuts from time-to-time.

The final complaint I have relates to probably the biggest emerging area in the mobile market… Applications. In theory, this is a Java / J2ME capable device. So, I merrily installed a series of applications, none of which were really suited to the touchscreen, and all of which looked very plain. An SDK is available, but I found it was poorly documented. There’s no centralised way of getting hold of apps, either. LG have a couple of downloadable “widgets” on their website, but having downloaded them to a PC I couldn’t find a way of installing them. All-in-all I felt it was a device that is highly capable, but crying out for an easier way to extend functionality.

Thank you, LG, for giving me the opportunity to take a look. I think it’s a nice handset, got a great combination of hardware features, a nice looking UI – but, in my opinion (and I’ll readily admit I’m an uber-fan of one of the competitors here), it’s let down by the “small touches” and by the software.