Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

Tech News


Tech News19 May 2010 10:03 am

Google VP of Prod Mgmt – HTML 5 is all about giving desktop app power to web apps – access to all local hardware. Demo of MugTug Darkroom using local storage while disconnected from Internet to edit phtoto, very impressive.

Invested $120M in buying On2 to offer an open video format. Believe this is best format for streaming as well. Google just announced they are totally open sourcing VP8 format. YouTube will be supporting. Mozilla Firefox on stage now announcing support. I think it is really great that Google has the Firefox on stage. CEO of Opera now on stage too from Norway. Tag is video 🙂

Adobe now on stage, showing dreamweaver support for html5, and previewing simultaneously for mobile, tablet, and desktop browsers. Announcing flash will play VP8 video. Hinted at a device announcement with google and flash tomorrow! My guess is a ipad competitor, ala the gpad I predicted early this year.

Demoing now the Chrome Webstore. Can add apps to your new tab page in chrome. Can buy apps for browser like iPhone apps. Demoed a star wars Lego game running in a browser based on a gaming platform that allows porting of complex games to HTML5.

Sports Illustrated Editor showing HTML5 prototype of SI. Rearrange your magazine, video and more. Very impressive preview of the future of publishing! The advertising in the magazine is very compelling and immersive.

Chrome being used by 70M users. Google Wave update: wave now open to everyone – making it part of google apps. Any apps domain can now enable Wave! Salesforce is embedding waves into Chatter. Open sourcing their in browser editor today.

Building web apps for work: announcing Google and VMWare:
Cloud Portability based on Spring framework. Bringing together Spring and GWT as an integrated backend and frontend. Power of HTML5 integrated with powerful backend of spring. Very nice demo of a bunch of auto generated spring persistence plus GWT front end generated from the java persistence classes. Eclipse plugin offered of course. Also demoed complete performance tuning with Spring Insight and SpeedTracer. Also demoing GWT 2.1 data presentation widgets working with 20million rows of data across 3 or so tables. Paging thru 5 million records is very fast, and sorting fast as well. Built very quickly an expense report application as a demo.

Mobile ready apps: gwt widgets just demoed also work on mobile apps. Very cool! Demoed on both ipad and android.

Cloud Portability: deploy same app to Google, VMWare vCloud, and VSphere. I wonder if this will work with VMForce?

Just announcing now Appengine for Business – see and manage all apps in your domain, support, SLA, SSL and SQL (bigtable or a standard SQL db). Simple pricing, $8 per user per app per month, max $1000 per month.

Tech News19 May 2010 09:06 am

Sitting here on a bean bag with the laptop waiting for the keynote and I have to say this is the most excited I’ve been to attend a conference since the old days of COMDEX.   There are so many interesting sessions on Google’s Android movbile platform, cloud computing with appengine, HTML5, and more.  This is a great view of all the leading edge technologies that will be common place in a year.

I’ve activated my Andriod phone Google generously sent me ahead of the conference. It auto assigned a number, so now I have a California mobile number.  Oh well, its free for 30days.  I have to say the browser borders on sucking compared to the iPhone.  I’m forever hitting the wrong key, and my first task for it utterly failed – setting my out of office in Outlook webmail.  The Google browser on the Android phone couldn’t pick a radio button in the outlook web interface to set my out of office.  Switched over to my iphone, no problem.  The email client on the android phone is not nearly as easy to use either, and I make many more typing mistakes with the full keyboard than I do with the iphone on screen keyboard.

This is going to be an awesome 2 days, already I’ve picked out sessions on:

  • Open social web
  • Google cloud
  • Developing with HTML5
  • Data migration in appenge
  • High throughput data pipelines
  • Next gen queries
  • And more

One more thing – on the Android phone, you unlock it buy drawing a pattern on the screen.  Cool huh?  But, then the outline of your finger motion is on the screen, so pretty much anyone could see your “password”.  The actual Google phone is probably better than the motorola version I have.  The Google I/O Android App is awesome though – full conference shcedule, maps, build your own agenda, etc.

More to come!

Cloud Computing and Mobile Computing and Tech News24 Apr 2010 06:33 am

driodIt’s been a busy week as usual this time of year, but right in the middle of the week appeared my very own shiny Droid phone.  I’m still just  a little in awe that Google has offered a new Android based phone to everyone at the conference.  Wow, what an impressive display of financial clout.  I feel it is a smart move – to get the people that obviously care most about what Google is doing to get interested in building Android apps.

I’m very interested in any announcements that might be made at the conference.  I feel relatively confident that Google is working on a tablet to compete with iPad as predicted in this blog in January. (Oh, that was my last post.  Like I said it is very busy this time of year!)

Will they follow Apple’s move and push a table based on Android?  Seems like a plausible move.  With the wood they have behind Android application development, this seems the logical course.

I can’t wait to build an app for this phone.  Yep, tech bribery works.  Good job Google.

Tech News31 Jan 2010 09:26 pm

iPad announcement

This week’s announcement of the new iPad seemed to have been lost in all the middle school humor directed at the name and its association with feminine hygiene products.  That’s really too bad because after thinking about whether this is a novelty or really a revolutionary device for a few days, I think I’m on the side of the latter.

Here are a couple of factors why:

  • People are tired of complexity
  • More and more sophisticated applications are available in the browser
  • Most people don’t need a lot more than email and what is built into the iPad

When compared to the netbook category of mini laptops, the iPad seems more performant – and that display is really gorgeous. The UI is a proven winner in the iPhone, and I can only imagine it is going to be awesome in a larger format 7.5×9.5 screen. A netbook’s only really attractive feature is their price. With a slow Atom processor and tiny screens, I think I’d grow old and blind using one. Of course all of this is a little speculative until we can get our hands on an iPad to see how that virtual keyboard works.

The most interesting move to me is that the iPad runs the iPhone OS. (By the way, it seems that A4 chip Jobs is so proud of is not from Apple after all). I mean, Apple could have built a version of MacOS for the iPad. They went with iPhone OS though, I’m speculating mainly to gain simplicity. Millions of people around the world instantly know how to use the iPad because they have an iPhone. Clearly, they give up a lot on the lack of multitasking, but they gain the hand gesture interface and simplicity.

Recall last year, Google announcing the Google OS – a combination of a lightweight Linux and the Google Chrome browser? At that time, they said to expect this to be available in netbooks in 2010.  My guess is that the iPad is no surprise to the bright folks at Google and that they are working on a compelling device.  So, will they follow Apple’s lead and base a iPad like device on their Andriod Phone OS, or the new Google OS?  I think we’ll see a Google answer to the iPad before Christmas. gPad anyone?  What a fun time to be alive!

Tech News24 Jan 2010 09:37 pm

The devastation and human suffering in Haiti is truly overwhelming.  A country and a people with so little had everything taken away in a few moments on January 12th.  The stories of survivors still emerging from the rubble 10 and 11 days after the earthquake are simply amazing.

At this time, I truly feel fortunate I can help in just a small way.  In the software development and other technical fields, you often feel so removed from any substantial positive impact that can come of your efforts.  No so in this crisis.  I feel incredibly privileged to work with the great people of Convio who are working hard through this tragedy to help relief organizations raise money to rescue, aid, and rebuild Haiti.  It is in the most difficult circumstances that greatness often emerges.  I see the greatness in the commitment of our clients, and I am blessed to work with great people everyday.

Please join and help with your support of The Red Cross or  one of these quality relief organizations.

Tech News25 Dec 2009 09:03 am

Originally submitted at O’Reilly

Google and YouTube use Python because it’s highly adaptable, easy to maintain, and allows for rapid development. If you want to write high-quality, efficient code that’s easily integrated with other languages and tools, this hands-on book will help you be productive with Python 3.0 quickly….

Great Book – a comprehensive look at Py

5out of 5

Pros: Easy to understand, Accurate, Helpful examples, Well-written

Best Uses: Intermediate, Novice, Student

I don’t understand other review comments about the book being too big. Too big or incomplete? I’ll take big. Having worked in software development for over 20 years, I’ve learned many languages. This book does a very nice job of covering all the bases for Python. Easy to read, great examples, and I know I’ll be using it as a reference for many years to come. I also appreciate the ability to download the examples from this website.

If you want to learn Python and like doing old school with an actual hardcopy book like I do, this is the book to have.

(legalese)

Tech News18 Nov 2009 10:47 pm

What else could it be named?  Seriously though, this is pretty interesting..  Google is said to be behind this new language that is some super Python, with the performance of C.  I’m really not so sure we need another interpreted language.  Java, Ruby, Python – its like a Jubyathon already.  Truthfully, I’m on my second Python project now and it is growing on me.  My oldest daughter is quite the twitter follower, and about 2 months ago, she was sad that twitter no longer offered sms updates for her feeds.

So I’ve been dabbling in my very little spare time in building out a service to read the feeds of her favorite bands and send them to her via text. I think it will be pretty straightforward to build from my initial progress.  I’m using python because, well, Google App Engine is just too irresistible.   Its free, it works, and its pretty cool.  Python on the other hand is just one of those things you have to deal with to use the App Engine.  Yes, I know they support Java now, but that seems to be more that I need for something as simple as this.  Besides, I like to learn new things.

So, it is with great interest I learned of “Go” via TechCrunch. Go also has its own org site and gopher mascot…

Go Gopher

Go Gopher

My favorite part is the return of POINTERS!  I always loved pointers.  Yes, I debugged many a protection violation with pointers accessing memory outside of their allocated space.  But, I still like the power they gave in capable hands.  Apparently Go allows pointers, but is still type safe and memory safe.  I need to look into this.  I’m also intrigued that this is billed as a systems programming language.  I’m wondering what kind of systems has Google built with this?

Tech News22 Oct 2009 04:32 am

Today is the big day all MSFT shareholders have been waiting for – Windows 7 is released.  I’m imagining the lines out the door of Best Buy for people waiting to but the new OS…

So, I have been truly awaiting this release.  You might have picked up along the way that I’m not exactly a huge Windows fan through these posts, but I really have been looking forward to this.  You see, like it or not, most of us are compelled to use Windows (see recent posts on why this is changing).  So, I have been looking forward to Windows 7.  Vista was such an overwhelming DISASTER, I really do want Microsoft to do better.

Here’s an informative post though that has me shaking my head.  It seems that installing Windows 7 on XP is not possible.  You can upgrade from Vista, (and it deletes the built in productivity apps), but you can’t upgrade from XP.  Since almost everyone is still on XP, including people like myself who was running VIsta and asked our IT group to upgrade me back to XP, this is a huge problem.

I can understand why Microsoft chose to do this – just think of how this simplified the testing effort – but come on!  More research is needed to see if this is completely factual, but I am blown away by the audacity that “people will just by new computers with Windows 7 preinstalled”.   Well guys, I have news for you – this is yet another misstep in your understanding of the market.  Instead of creating the normal tidal wave of hardware upgrades that accompanies a windows release, you’ve just pissed off the majority of people that have ever used your product.

No wonder Apple stock is over $200 a share.

P.S. Here’s another article from the Houston Chronicle.  SERIOUSLY!  Who is going to do this?  I’m blown away by this stupidity.

Agile Software and Effective Software Projects and Everyday Tech and Teams and Tech News17 Oct 2009 06:04 am

Oh, how I love this post by Joel on The Duct Tape Programmer!  This is such a salient point that applies to so much more than the context here.  “You see, everybody else is too afraid of looking stupid because they just can’t keep enough facts in their head at once to make multiple inheritance, or templates, or COM, or multithreading, or any of that stuff work.”

I just ordered my copy of  Coders At Work.

On a total Tangent, I just completed the transfer of my domain name off of Network Solutions to Dreamhost.  Dreamhost is awesome and dirt cheap.  They have one -click installs of just about everything you’d ever want to run on your website and their registrations are almost free they are so inexpensive.  I’ve been hosting with them for over a year and have had zero issues (other than imap email, but that’s another story).  I 100% recommend Dreamhost.

Tech News09 Jul 2009 10:06 pm

The inevitible has finally happened. Determined to put Microsoft 6 feet under, the final nail in the coffin has been pulled out of the box by Google, but not yet driven in Microsoft’s casket with yesterday’s announcement of the Google Chrome-OS. A little over a month ago, Google announced Google Wave. This was a clear frontal attack on the to-date unassailable bastion of Microsoft’s stronghold – corporate messaging and shared calendaring aka the Exchange Server. The Exchange Server is the lynchpin of the MS desktop strategy.

Nothing works as well for group scheduling and communication. Thus, you need Exchange. Since you need Exchange, you need MS Outlook which really is the only thing that works with Exchange. Believe me, I have led teams to build a competing solution and the killer is that even if you can build a competing solution, you have to make it work with Exchange. And really, no MAPI plugin really works – even Apple had to license the Exchange connector for the iPhone. You just can break into that proprietary protocol any other way. 

So, With Google Wave, there will be finally an answer to Exchange. Then, you don’t need Outlook. Oh, I don’t need Outlook? Then – no need to buy Office. There’s already Google Docs that gets better and better all the time, and allow the kind of seamless sharing we working on at my last venture company. So, no Office required, and walaa – Microsoft is no longer printing money.

Not to worry, there’s the Windows operating system. Oops, better worry. Vista was and is an unmitigated disaster for MS – unreliable, incompatible, and a pain to use. Now, Google has announced they intend to extend linux, build on top a new windowing system targeted at netbooks offer an new Operating System. Time to short MSFT.

So, can Google pull it off. Look no farther than MAC OS X.  In March of 2001, Apple released Mac OS X 10.0, in my opinion one of the most daring, risky, and successful operating system projects in history. OS X was a total rewrite, based on bsd unix of the Macintosh operating system – aimed at the intel chip platform as Apple abandoned the RISC processor for their next generation computing platform. An undertaking of this magnitude is difficult to appreciate unless you have been part of such an effort (I’ve had the privilege twice). It almost always fails, but Apple did it and succeeded in remaking their company. Someday, I’d really like to meet someone that led in that project and pick their brain….

So, now Google has embarked on a very similar journey, but one that is much simpler – they are targeting netbooks and don’t have a legacy of applications to worry with. They don’t have a UI paradigm like Apple to bring forward, and they are looking to run all apps through the Google Chrome browser. Sounds like about 1/10 of the effort of OS X. So, I’m prettysure they will pull this off without too much difficulty. And, you can bet the next gen of Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Calendar, and Mail will be available right around the same time. Brilliant. Now, the question is truly: Can anyone stop Google?

Tech News10 May 2009 08:14 pm
Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day

Things were not easy for us when I was a kid.  When my parents split up, it was still a somewhat unusual thing, whereas today, it seems the unusual case is for parents to stay together.  It was just my Mom and I back then, as Dad was stationed on the other side of the globe.  She taught high school during the day, adult ed at night, and worked on her master’s degree during the summer.  At one point, she had 3 different jobs I recall.  This was all fairly transparent to me.  We never had a lot, but we had enough.  I’m sure I wasn’t as appreciative then as I should have been, just as today it escapes my own daughters just how fortunate they are.

When I, like all sixteen year old boys, wanted to get a job to buy a car, she said no.  “You’ll have plenty of time to work in your life”, and told me she wanted me to focus on my grades.  I had friends working at McDonald’s and Bill Miller’s, making money and driving cars – I really wanted the “financial independence” that fast-food job would bring.  Boy, was she ever right about that one.  We filled out endless scholarship applications and the grades / test scores paid off; I basically won a paid ride thru Texas A&M.
To this day, she still works harder than anyone I know.  Now just one job, but still 80-100 hrs a week at Alamo Community College where she is a full professor.  At an age when most people are thinking about retirement, Mom went back to school to start work on her doctorate.  And, about 5 years ago, at 60+ she earned her phD.  Since starting that journey 10 years earlier, she buried two parents, and then unexpectedly a brother.

A hundred times she could have quit through the years.  Through all those long nights of grading papers, writing papers, helping me with my writing and projects, working literally all night more times than I can count just so we could have a normal life.  I doubt I could ever say thank you enough for your sacrifice Mom.  I can say now that I truly appreciate you.  Happy Mother’s Day Mom.

Tech News12 Apr 2009 09:09 pm

Were you worried about the April 1 Conficker worm a few weeks ago? While this virus got plenty of media attention, an attack by cyber terrorists might be much more effective on phone, internet, banking, and maybe even our electric grid with the cut of a few fiber optic cables. The prototype of such an attack may have taken place last Thursday in the SF Bay Area as ten fiber optic cables were cut in 4 places around 4:00 AM.

This could have been a probe of our defenses (non-existent) or perhaps a labor protest by CWA union members who have voted to strike (which they deny).  Either way, Dvorak has it right when he calls into question Obama’s proposal of a “Smart Grid” controlling the nation’s electric distribution.  Terriorist, disgruntled union workers, or otherwise, one thing is certian: these criminals knew exactly what they were doing, exactly what manholes to climb down, and exactly what cables to cut.

Cloud Computing and Tech News02 Apr 2009 10:19 pm

Today, Amazon announced their Amazon Elastic MapReduce cloud web service.  A natural extension to their EC2 cloud services on one hand, and a somewhat startling event on the other.  In a recent post, I spoke of the global implications of the readily available low cost cloud computing infrastructure.  Now, it seems this service has entered the realms of massively parallel computing.

Not clear at this point what the limits of this service are, but the possibilities are staggering.  Not enough computing power in Pyongyang?  No problem, run your nuke simulations right here Mr Kim Jong-il. An extreme case, and perhaps too complex / compute intensive for this offering, but the point is never have resources of this scale been so readily available.  Amazing.

A better fit for tasks like SETI@Home, these distributed networks are useful in solving very large data intensive types of problems like web indexing.  Google even provides a nice tutorial on mapreduce.  This is also a nice class lecture on mapreduce from Cal Berkeley.  Enjoy.

Leadership and Tech News28 Mar 2009 05:50 pm

As you can tell by the frequency of my posts, things have been very busy at work – no complaints though, I know of friends and associates that would like to have such a problem. I wanted to follow up on one of the thoughts in the prior post regarding the global ramifications of effect of freely / very affordable cloud computing services.

With services like google app engine and amazon’s elastic compute cloud offering free and low cost resources that would have previously required investment of at least six zeros, the bar is substantially lowered to take a good idea to market.  To build out an idea, you now really just need a handful of expertise and time – not to mention a lot less time that you once did.

This opens competition up on a global scale never seen before – certainly there are many excellent and bright developers in India, China, Eastern Europe, Russia, Brazil, you get the picture.  The value increases for innovative ideas, domain knowledge, and the ability to market the solution.

I firmly believe America remains the cradle of innovation; it is in the very core of our society and our DNA.  I’ve had the privilege over my career to work with some of the best and brightest, and feel very blessed that I still do every day.  It is heartening to see the innovation coming out of Apple and my own company.  Still it is going to be a very different world when my daughters enter the workforce.   Change is coming and it is coming even faster than we can imagine.

Tech News20 Feb 2009 11:02 pm

Tomorrow I’ll be presenting to the Texas Community College Teachers Association on this post’s subject.  I’ve posted the slides on slideshare for reference.  I’ll be sumarizing a few of the more salient points in an upcoming blog post.

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