July 4th, 2008

Techblogging in other places

Here's another round-up of links to our blog over at IT Pro (now with a nice shiny redesign). We tend to put a couple of pieces up there a week, and if you want to read them as soon as they're published, it's also syndicated on LJ as itpro_sandm.

Click on the titles to see the full posts, and please make any comments over there. Oh, and rate the posts too, please!

Green if but for the licenses
Getting IT folk to agree is like herding squirrels, but there’s one thing we do seem to agree on, and that’s that virtualisation is a good thing. It saves money, it saves space, and above all, it saves energy. Throw in a bunch of offload processing for complex applications (a Tesla box or some Azul hardware) and you’re well on the way to a shiny green data centre.

With so many companies investing so much in virtualisation you’d think that software companies would be falling over themselves to develop licensing tools to support dynamic, flexible IT infrastructures. It’s surprising then to see that not only are they singularly failing to do so, but they’re also making it hard to justify installing software on a virtualised server. Microsoft has tried to appear to be a poster child for virtualisation licensing, but once you start drilling down into just what you can and can’t do with Hyper-V and the Windows Server 2008 Enterprise edition you’re in for an unpleasant surprise. Unless you’re ready to lock yourself into an Oracle-style site license there’s just no way to run your internal IT as a utility.
Intel predicts an all IA future, consigns CUDA to the footnotes
With Intel’s 40th birthday on the horizon (and with it the 40th anniversary of the microprocessor), Intel’s Pat Gelsinger took a few minutes yesterday to ruminate on the past, present and future - and to take a few questions.

Beginning with a look back to the i386, and the shift from 16 to 32-bit computing, Gelsinger pointed to a time of technical and industry transition, much like today. It was the point where Compaq moved ahead of IBM, and Windows and Microsoft began to shape the software industry. We’re in the middle of another shift at the moment, what Gelsinger called the “third era of Moore’s Law”.
O2: business iPhone 3G will sync to Exchange without iTunes
But you’ll still need iTunes on every desktop to install applications. Would you put that in your organization?
We spent Friday with Telefonica at their new headquarters in Madrid, a campus laid out around a lake to deal with the climate; solar panels, vanes that push the heat up, a tower in each corner and wide roofs to add shade plus wireless antenna sprouting in the flowerbeds like candelabra. Telefonica has technology plans for the networks it runs as well, which includes O2.

Even Telefonica can’t actually show off the new iPhone yet: O2’s Steve Alder kept his in his pocket and described it instead. What he did show off was the price: free if you pay £45 or £75 a month for the tariff or £99 if you want the cheapest £30 a month plan. Existing iPhone owners get the same deal, although you have to sign up for the full 18 month contract again. None of the plans let you use the iPhone as a modem with your laptop and the price for international roaming is a hefty £50 for 50MB of data.
Beyond the valley of the CPU
The white heat of technology in the 1980s was focussed on the BBC Micro. Not only was it the heftiest 8-bit machines around, its open bus made it possible to add more processing power. With everything from music machines to Z-80s running CP/M, the BBC Micro could share its keyboard with many different CPUs.

Those days are on their way back.
A nation of snoops and gossips
You have no privacy, Larry Ellison said a few years ago; get over it. Is that because of governments and security agencies keeping track of you - or because of how much personal information you hand out yourself? If you want to break into someone’s bank account, most of the ’secret questions’ used for security are probably answered on their Facebook account. And how about the information you give away when you sign up for a special offer or fill in a survey?

If you don’t remember to go tick the box to say it can’t go to third parties, some marketing companies will happily pass along anything they know about your religious beliefs (one in ten), ethnic background (one in seven) and sexual orientation (one in fourteen). And your mobile phone number and marital status… And if you don’t care who knows that, are you happy that one in four pass along your credit card details? Only 3% would hand over your national ID number if they had it - and they would keep secret your job performance, your biometrics - and possibly in light of the Facebook Beacon debacle, what movies you’ve rented.
The case of the disappearing disk space
Where has 32GB of disk space gone and how do I make Vista give it back, or there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

When we’re on the road at conferences I take a fair few photographs, and I copy a lot of PowerPoints and PDFs onto my notebook, not to mention photographing products I’m reviewing, and then there’s recordings of interviews… It all takes up space, so when I got an 8 megapixel camera the day we drove into Death Valley I did wonder if disk space on my notebook might be a problem.
Join the (beta) community
TechEd is Microsoft’s instant university, a place where developers and IT pros go to get information about the current state of all things Microsoft. It’s not really a place for big announcements - though the odd one sneaks out.

Most of the news from this year’s event has been about software moving from one stage of beta to the next. Whether it’s a new beta (like Silverlight 2) or a long running upgrade saga finally getting close to release (like SQL Server 2008) it’s not like a new release of Windows or a new Visual Studio. If anything we’re quickly moving into a world where the big bang launch is a thing of the past. Apple may be still spinning its “one more thing”, but even Snow Leopard will just be an evolutionary move. Instead public betas and community previews will become the way things get done, and the Web 2.0 perpetual beta will be the way of the rest of the IT business works.
Behind the scenes with the BallmerBot
The BallmerBot joined Bill Gates on stage at his last public keynote here at TechEd 2008 Developers in Orlando earlier this week. Waving an XBox Live lifetime subscription (Bill’s leaving gift from a grateful Microsoft, according to the latest version of the “Bill’s Last Day” video Microsoft first showed at CES), the robot waddled out of the wings looking like a cross between Johnny 5 and a Segway.

U-Bot 5’s new name may not be what the developers expected, but underneath the humour and the hype is a fascinating story of how PC technology and modern developer tools have simplified the development of what until recently would have been a very complex and very expensive piece of hardware.
In and out of the browser - how Microsoft and Google think differently
For years, I’ve been saying that Google would be mad to build its own operating system. It should leave the thankless task to Microsoft and Apple and Linux distributions; you can debate how good a job they do, turn and turn about, but the scale of what a desktop OS needs to do and the range of devices it needs to support is far broader than what you need to do in a browser or on a smartphone. I still don’t think Google has any plans to create its own OS, but it’s pushing beyond the browser as a development platform with Gears and App Engine and the like. Microsoft has a whole range of platforms in the browser, out of the browser and around the browser, from Windows and WPF to Silverlight to SharePoint to Office to SQL Server – to name just a few of the platforms Bill Gates touched on in his last ever keynote at Microsoft TechEd this morning.

Useful gadget of the day

I've just ordered one of these beasties to use with any spare SATA drives that I come across. You just drop in a SATA drive (it works with both 3.5" and 2.5" drives), and the drive's ready to test, or you can use it to quickly extract the data you're looking for...

Nice and cheap, too.

It does make me think of more than one TV crime show, though. You could just see Sebastian Stark or Brenda Leigh Johnson sanctioning the use of one to get the data they need to put away the bad guys. And I'm sure Garcia has one or two of them in her office in Quantico...