Thursday, November 20, 2003

Mozilla on the move
My company has a rather handy extranet for our dealer channel. A dealer can do pretty much all their business through this web application. Yes, you read that right, web application, which means you need a web browser to use the application. (Please don't let word of this get out to Microsoft or Macromedia. ) We have a number of our dealers that use Macs to access our extranet. Our developers mainly target Internet Explorer 6 on Windows. Do you see the problem I'm about to describe? Yep, Mac users hate our extranet. They can barely use it. So, the guy who heads up customer support for our extranet came to me and asked what we can do to alleviate this problem. I told him about Mozilla. He downloaded it, installed it and was browsing within minutes. He liked how our extranet appeared to run so much faster on Mozilla versus IE 6 on Windows. He asked me why it was so fast and I smiled and said, “Maybe because the Mozilla team cares about the browser and Microsoft is trying to kill it as fast as they possibly can.” Smart aleck answer, I know, but nonetheless true. He's so impressed with Mozilla that he's urging our extranet development team to fix some of the IE 6 only Javascript they've been using so that we can start moving customers to Mozilla. He's not only going to recommend Mozilla to those on Macs, but he's also going to recommend it to the many customers who call with complaints about rather serious issues with Internet Explorer. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how a complete underdog in the software realm can start to make small strides in gaining market share.

So, does Microsoft care that at least one company is going to start recommending its customers use a different web browser? And, does Microsoft care that the web browser being recommended runs well on Windows, Macs and Linux? Probably not, but I think it should keep its eye open on this one. Longhorn is a long way off. The web browser is being used for applications today, not just vaporware available sometime in the future. Microsoft's move to halt development on IE as a stand alone application may come back to bite them.
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Open wide and let me just tear up your mouth sir
My dentist visit went well as can be expected. Why does it always feel like they're taking a pick axe to my mouth? And you just gotta love that sound of their metal instruments of torment scraping your teeth. Oh yeah!

The fuss I made earlier about their form asking for everything but your favorite pair of underwear turned out to be nothing much at all. They didn't care that I didn't fill out the form completely and they also showed me their HIPAA required privacy policy. That's all I can ask for.
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Great quotes from Bill Joy

Below are some quotes that stuck out to me from Bill Joy doing a Wired interview:

I've always said that all successful systems were small systems initially. Great, world-changing things - Java, for instance - always start small. The ideal project is one where people don't have meetings, they have lunch. The size of the team should be the size of the lunch table.

We're just lucky that no one has sent around a virus that erases people's disk drives. I sure hope that doesn't happen, but it's not exactly hard to imagine someone doing it. And hope is a lousy defense.

Suddenly the dentist needs to know your drivers license number and more to work on your teeth
I'm about to go to the dentist and last night I was filling out their three atrociously long (and often redundant) forms. On the main form they ask for the normal stuff, your name, address, insurance info, etc. OK, fine. Then I get to the part of the form where they start asking for my drivers license number, my position with my employer, how long I've had my job, etc. The form also asks for the same info about my wife. Why on earth do they need this info?!!!

This is absurd and I refuse to do it. Also, I'm going to ask for a privacy policy on this info because who knows where else this could wind up. I'm not a privacy freak either. I'm typically pretty good about giving up info about myself, but this is where I draw the line. When I see someone asking for information that seems completely unrelated, then I'm going to get suspicious and maybe even a wee bit perturbed. Yeah, this is going to be a real fun dentist visit, I can just feel it.
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PostgreSQL 7.4 and MySQL MaxDB both released on the same day
I missed this one earlier. PostgreSQL released version 7.4 on Monday, which has been in the works for about a year now. On the same day, MySQL released their SAPDB based database, MaxDB.

I'm curious to see how MySQL uses MaxDB. Are they going to eventually use MaxDB as their core database? Will they continue to develop two rather separate databases? Or, will they combine the best of both? It looks like MaxDB will be getting some MySQL replication features as well as some MySQL client compatibility early next year. One of the biggest complaints about MySQL is that it is not a complete RDBMS, not even close. To counter that, I argue that MySQL meets a lot of needs that other databases are overkill for. Do you really want to require Oracle, DB2 or SQL Server for your small non-critical web apps? $5k and up per processor is a lot to pay for a database that handles applications like that. Either way, MySQL seems to see the need to address its detractors by licensing SAPDB and enhancing MySQL to include things like stored procedures, views, triggers, etc. I'm interested to see what MySQL does over the next year or so with both of their database products.

On the other side of things is PostgreSQL. I like PostgreSQL. My two biggest gripes about PostgreSQL has been the lack of Windows support and the complexity in keeping it purring like a kitten. My first gripe is related to the fact that I often don't have a *nix environment at my disposal. I'm often stuck on Windows and only have access to Windows servers that I can play with. It sounds like within 6-9 months PostgreSQL will have full Windows support. My second gripe is partially addressed by improvements made by the PostgreSQL team over the past two years or so and by offering some more complete admin tools in pgAdmin and pgManage.

Both MySQL and PostgreSQL are nice databases; each serving different needs. With MaxDB, MySQL is offering a pretty complete RDBMS that puts it more on a level playing field with PostgreSQL. The progress being made with PostgreSQL is quite impressive. While PostgreSQL often gets little PR compared to MySQL, PostgreSQL is the Open Source database most likely to work for a company that is looking to replace part of or all of its applications built around commercial databases like DB2, Oracle, SQL Server and Sybase.

Now my own dilemma is which database to start using within the next two months for my company's intranet and consumer web site needs. It's a tough call. I'd like to go with PostgreSQL, but without a Windows port (not a commercial only one or a Cygwin based one), I can't run it for our intranet, which is Windows based (yuck!) The likely scenario is going to be to go with MySQL intially and then go with PostgreSQL once the Windows port is ready. Converting a MySQL based web app to a PostgreSQL based one isn't bad, so I guess that's the route we'll likely take unless something rather dramatic changes.
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The Colonel