Google’s “cruft” on my desktop

On my (apart from this, great [1]) new Lenovo ThinkPad T60p business notebook, several Google “tools” are pre-installed which neither make sense for me nor likely for anybody else who uses his notebook for serious work (I thought “business” actually implies “serious work”, doesn’t it? ;). These apps are either bothersome attention seekers (like that message center displaying nag pop-ups with latest world news headlines every couple of minutes), unnecessary battery killers and hard disk fragmenters (like the desktop search tool) or otherwise useless tools like an image management app or an IE toolbar (I need to keep IE as authentic as possible. For my daily work, I use Firefox). Now I need to uninstall these apps manually piece-by-piece.

Lenovo: Please refrain from pre-installing such silly software toys on your business notebooks. Be assured that business users tend to know exactly what software they need and want to be most productive. Thanks.

[1] Of course I deactivated the “integrated security chip” and the finger print reader

Linksys WRT300N Wireless-N Broadband Router and the “AP Isolation” option

If you have a Linksys WRT300N Wireless-N Broadband Router and wonder why Windows file sharing (SMB/CIFS/Samba) between different wireless clients doesn’t work, find out that you can’t even ping other WLAN clients, then you’ll probably need to disable the checkbox cryptically labelled “AP isolation” in the tab “Wireless -> Advanced Wireless Settings” of your access point.

Dear Linksys engineers:

  1. Please don’t set a default that an estimated 95% of all buyers/users of the product will need to change.
  2. If you set a default that most likely will need to be changed by almost any user, please don’t hide the according checkbox in a submenu labelled “Advanced Wireless Settings”, targeted at advanced users.
  3. If you decide to hide a checkbox for a setting which most likely will need to be changed, please don’t label it misleadingly “AP isolation” whereas the setting should rather be called “wireless client isolation”.
  4. Fine. So you decided to label the checkbox wrongly. Why be so cryptic about it then? Can’t you at least label it “Access point isolation” instead of just “AP isolation”? Do you believe the latter will make life easier for joe average or experts?
  5. Last but not least: Why isn’t the “AP isolation” feature/setting mentioned at all in the pop-up help of the according tab?


Firefox getting fat

I’m not pleased with the changes introduced with Firefox 2.0

  • Instead of getting better, Firefox just got fatter and slower (more and more reminding of a fat, dumb Mozilla than an agile and smart fox)
  • The new default theme mimics the silly Windows Vista look with all the glares, the blurry “Web 2.0” (sic!) edges, borders and icons.
  • Although a good thing from a didactic point of view, having “close” buttons on each tab is very unhandy: It takes too much valuable horizontal space, it’s more likely that one accidentally closes a tab instead of selecting it, it doesn’t improve usability as one could always close a tab by clicking on it with the middle mouse button, the very handy button on the right of the tab bar is now missing.

I’ve downgraded to Firefox 1.5 again.

Web 2.0: How to close the gap between consumer and business expectations by using JSF and AJAX

The following online presentation/demo about Exadel‘s new Ajax4jsf component library sums up nicely why you shouldn’t try hacking your own AJAX code but use an AJAX enabled JSF component library (like Ajax4jsf and others) instead:

Ajax4jsf: Rich Internet Applications with JSF and AJAX

In short: It’s all about ensuring good maintainability and hence transparency (in the sense of encapsulation and information hiding) while delivering a rich user experience nonetheless. Handcrafted, customized AJAX pages quickly tend to get complex and confusing and hardly ever follow important software architecture principles like modularization, abstraction, loose coupling, information hiding and encapsulation. The result is a piece of code that meets the consumer expectations at best (interactivity, responsiveness, etc.) but is very difficult to maintain (as server- and client-side code, customized and “standardized” code are wildly mixed). Using an AJAX enabled JSF components framework instead transparently hides the AJAX part of the code from the programmer by encapsulating it in JSF components. It’s thus possible to provide rich AJAX functionality by writing JSF server-side code as usual without needing to care about the internals of AJAX at all. If none of the existing components deliver AJAX-wise what customers expect, simply extend and customize the best matching component or write your own highly customized JSF component from scratch. JSF’s flexibility and sophisticated architecture makes this possible. Doing customization like this won’t clutter up your server-side code and will thus keep it maintainable and scalable.

While I haven’t tried this particular AJAX enabled JSF component framework yet and can’t comment on its implementation at this point (here’s a nice architectural overview of the different approaches how to combine AJAX and JSF from a framework developer’s view), the sprouting of AJAXified JSF component frameworks is a clear indication that more and more developers are becoming aware of the maintainability issues inherent to plain AJAX hacking.

For more information, here’s an interview with Max Katz, senior engineer with Exadel and Ajax4jsf committer and here’s the Ajax4jsf whitepaper.

Linux World Conference & Expo ’06

Yesterday, I’ve been visiting the Linux World Conference & Expo 2006 in San Francisco for the first time. Astonishingly, the event wasn’t as big as I imagined it to be.. the booths are all located on the ground floor of Moscone Center North – which is in area comparable to one of the many floors of the Orbit/iEX in Zurich and much much smaller than the CeBIT in Hannover. I wonder whether this is really the largest Linux exposition in the world?
The number of exhibitors and presentators met my expectations however as most of the players in the Linux ecosystem were there [Update: big names missing are RedHat and Sun]. The focus of Linux World is clearly on the commercial apects of Linux, dominated by big companies such as AMD, Intel, HP, IBM, Oracle and Novell (my current employer). Apart from talking to representatives of many companies I particularly enjoyed the chance to meet with some Gentoo fellows in the .Org pavilion. Note that a usable Gentoo Linux Installer (including graphical front-end) is part of the Gentoo LiveCD for quite a while. This is a great opportunity for less experienced users to install (and hence productively use) Gentoo too, so don’t hesitate to give it a whirl! :)

Some “Web 2.0” news from “Web Montag” in Palo Alto

Thanks to the short notice of Johanna I could attend an inspiring little gathering called “Web Montag” (web monday) in the premises of Socialtext in Palo Alto. Unfortunately, I arrived a bit late as I was traveling by public transport (which was not such a good idea, will rent a car starting tomorrow ;). Also, I was quite in a hurry making it back to Berkeley on time. Nonetheless I learned about some interesting new things brewing in the “Web 2.0” space.
Gernot Poetsch is currently developing a MacOS “Leopard” based rich client aggregator which is capable of handling multimedia feeds (anticipated release is in early 2007).
Eugene Eric Kim presented HyperScope, a project that builds on the ideas behind Doug Engelbert’s first hypertext system (NLS/Augment) and promises to enable better deep linking in hypertext documents (among others). Mark Wubben quickly demoed Plazes and how it could leverage RFID (synergies to Christof Roduner‘s research in the area of ubiquitous computing?). I missed the presentation about mnemomap, but from what I can judge this looks like a very interesting project too. Note that some of the projects are looking for contributors!

Read more about the event in the summary by Peter Kaminski and Mark Wubben.

[Update: Germans interested in the “Web 2.0” might also be interested in attending the “Web 2.0 – the next generation” conference at the University of St.Gallen on Oct 4, 2006. As a side note, I can’t help feeling that “Web 2.0”, as usual with “technologies” (it’s more of a buzzword than a specific technology, actually) entering the hype curve, are highly overrated in the short run (i.e. right now), but probably underrated regarding long term implications]

ScatterChat – secure, anonymous instant messaging

ScatterChat is a HACKTIVIST WEAPON designed to allow non-technical human rights activists and political dissidents to communicate securely and anonymously while operating in hostile territory. It is also useful in corporate settings, or in other situations where privacy is desired.
It is a secure instant messaging client (based upon the Gaim software) that provides end-to-end encryption, integrated onion-routing with Tor, secure file transfers, and easy-to-read documentation.
Its security features include resiliency against partial compromise through perfect forward secrecy, immunity from replay attacks, and limited resistance to traffic analysis… all reinforced through a pro-actively secure design.

Will evaluate it ASAP