Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Between Theory & Practice

Today I found back an old article I had written for a few friends of mine a few years ago while working as R&D software programmer and wanted to share the story again as it remains pretty much true and applies to other fields of IT as well.. Do not worry; you do not need to have a master in advanced telecom technologies to understand what is written below.

Back then my job consisted to design and implement a communication bus (SMBus); in other words think telephone line as it is easier to understand. This digital bus was composed of 2 wires: the clock wire and the data wire. The following devices were connected on the bus: a PC, a laptop battery (yes, you can talk to a battery, the very same battery you have inside your laptop and believe me it will answer you), and a power supply control card with a microcontroller (MCU) and a small memory chip on it. All these 4 devices had their own bus address (think phone number), and they were able to call each other in order to send and receive data (like talking on the phone or sending a fax). Last detail, all these components were grounded (linked to the ground) for electrical security reason. The theoretical schematic of the bus looked like this.

Didn't it look so nice on paper ?

In order to check the data transmissions and receptions (ie, monitor the communication), I had also connected an oscilloscope on the bus.

Now, the reality was slightly different and the result I obtained looked rather like this:

Tell me you got scared by reality.

But don't trust Murphy's Law on this one as it actually worked. This being said, I am confident you will feel reassured by knowing that similar busses are present inside your computers, your car, the trains or the planes you take, and so on.

Friday, September 19, 2008

CMS Watch SharePoint Report 2008

We purchased it and I just finished reading it: The excellent SharePoint Report 2008 from CMS Watch.
Is it useful ?
Definitively yes.

If you have only played partially with SharePoint like only using some WSS features or only used it for a specific and limited task or for a limited number of users then CMS Watch's report will provide you with the insight to go (or not go) further with SharePoint.

The main advantage and strong aspect of this report is the detailed analysis provided on a "per feature" basis. Eight different Business Services in SharePoint are reviewed, discussed, and analyzed: collaboration, Enterprise Content Management, Web Content Management, Portal Services, Business Intelligence Platform, Forms Processing, Enterprise Search, and Application Platform.

For each of these services, pros and cons are reviewed and discussed into much detail while providing insight as to better use (or not) SharePoint in a small or large enterprise environment.

The report also contains a nice section about evaluating customization and additional development which provides excellent hints about what should be taken into consideration.

All in all, this 195-pages long report is a kind of a must-read that can spare you days of consultancy just to arrive to the same conclusions for a higher price. Of course this report will not decide for you but it will make you understand why you decide for or against SharePoint (MOSS).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finally Office 2007

Finally, I got it: the full version of Office 2007, including Visio, MS Project, OneNote ... The migration(or update) was needed in order to test some fortchoming software integration (Share Point, Exchange).

Some cool features I discovered and start using immediately:
- Under Outlook 2007, importing mail server certificates has become so much easier. As under Outlook 2003, you are first prompted to accept or decline the certificate but now you can also view them and copy them in order to easily install them.
- The task integration between Outlook and OneNote is cool.
- MS Project has a nicer look & feel.
- The dynamic toolbar from Office is simply great. As opposed to many people I liked it at first glance and from first use. It is nice, handy, and not too different. To me it is intuitive.

The main problem so far is speed. I work on a Lenovo T61 with 2GB RAM and Windows XP and most common operations seem to take more time: open, save, print ...

You can expect more reviews about Office 2007 in the coming weeks.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Google Chrome Review

Like everyone these days I downloaded, installed, and started testing Google Chrome browser.

So first things first, my very first experience with the brand new Google Chrome browser has been ... a bug !

Funny, as this is the last thing as I expected as first experience with the new Google browser.

Now except this minor annoyance that vanished upon a simple click, the test was rather positive in the beginning. Google Chrome is fast upon displaying the pages, light to load but still eating quite some memory. So what are my first negative impressions ?

- Google Chrome does not support activeX meaning you cannot use it to connect to some corporate VPNs.
- Google Chrome uses Internet Explorer's proxy settings. No progress there.
- Google Chrome seems to load and process the web pages before displaying them all at once. This can result in disturbing waiting times where nothing seems to happen until your requested page suddenly appears.

I will check and test this browser further as it can impact the development of the Star Wars Combine.

This post has been written with 100% recyclable electrons under Google Chrome.