Blogbridge, Simply the Best RSS

I’ve been asked by various people how I keep up to date with technology news, research, and the latest reports…mainly because I’m never at a loss for words when discussing something (big mouth much?). Of course, many people haven’t heard of RSS at all and don’t know that one can have a program to read multiple sites in a short amount of time. I previously used Sage reader as an extension in firefox and exported my OPML list (which I kept on a thumbdrive). This allowed me mobility…I could check the news on just about any feedreader or use portable firefox and sage to get things moving. I could edit my OPML list quickly and easily.

Despite the luxury this bought me…I found myself missing out on many big stories. Let’s face it, not everyone knows how to title and tag their blog entries (current company INCLUDED) to correctly reflect what the subject matter is. Since RSS readers only get a small synopsis of the head of an article, it’s difficult to find out if you want to read the article or not. I found myself missing some key phrases that I normally wouldn’t miss (like FOSS, FLOSS, and OSS) mainly because I wouldn’t see those in the third sentence of the synopsis when I was quickly scanning my feedlists. So, I searched for something that was better than those I had used: Pluck, Sage, Owl, Sharpreader, Wiz. I found it. And to my delight, it’s a cross-platform, GPL Licensed, Feed-synchronizing one that delivers unparalleled functionality and options. There’s nothing like it on the planet. If your interest is peaked, you’re in for a real treat if you keep reading.

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Debian Moves in, Servlets, and Usability

I’ve moved the server here at work to Debian Stable with Tomcat Jakarta installed. I’m currently experimenting with servlets from various corners of the web. I have only one problem with many CMS’s though….there is a hugely steep learning curve.

I count myself as pretty experienced when it comes to content management systems. I picked up on Zope/Plone within a few weeks. I picked up joomla! in days. I work pretty well inside wiki’s and have no trouble with forge software. So I find it completely baffling that some content management systems (even the free ones) do things so odd.

One of the CMSs I’m working with currently is Mesh CMS. They’re better than others I’ve looked at (Alfresco, Contenido) but why, oh why, does every single java servlet CMS have to have a directory tree with collapseable trees? This is so annoying! Take this for example…when someone opens ‘My Computer’ in Linux OR Windows…they’re presented with a list of folders. Now unless you set it up to show you the directory tree in your viewing options…you’re seeing folders on the top level. That’s not the way many servlet CMS’s do business. It may be good to see how deep things go and it may be good for admins who control ALL their content…but when you want to setup 10 users with write access and have to train them on how to use the CMS…IT’S NOT GOOD.

Most users have never seen the folder tree style menu and get confused quickly. Perhaps there is a setting that can remedy this that I’m not aware of. Please be advised that I’m taking a high level look at these things and I’m not diving in so deep that I’m examining the code yet…so I could be overlooking something. I just figure that things make more sense if you do things in the comfort zone of the standard user.

It’s odd how software companies, programmers, and coders try to re-invent the wheel on many projects. They toss out simple usability to do things more complex. The problem is that with each successive version of their software, things normally get harder and harder to operate. This is fine for someone who has used the previous version and is comfortable with its operation…but not so fine for new users.

This is often my point when discussing Linux as well. Usability should be key when a distro is popular…and Ubuntu has made VAST strides in making Linux usable for new users…but it’s not the best out there which is a complete mystery to me as to why it is THE most popular on the planet.

All of this talk on usability in software systems puts me in the mind of an article I read a few years ago: Ronco Spray-on Usability. It was a funny article about ESR not being able to configure his printer in Linux…which is kinda laughable when you think about it. But the author brings up a valid point…that is, that Joe Schmoe (referred to in the article as Aunt Tillie or A.T.) who is a common user can’t be the intended target for usable systems until the ESR’s are able to accomplish the task. You can’t spray on Usability with a handy spray can…it has to be reached successively. Not to mention that the UI for a program should be the last part developed after the program is in place…but seldom is. Hence all the usability problems.

Although I don’t agree with EVERYTHING the author of that article states, I do agree with many of the parts on usability. I definately don’t think you have to have proprietary, paid software to have good usability…because usability is an art form as the author states…and if it is, some of the best artwork comes from starving artists right? So money is irrelevant…it matters not. What matters is that not everyone who is a programmer is a UI developer and UI developers can’t always be the best programmers. The idea is to marry both into something. That’s what I’m looking for in a CMS. Something that has usability for standard users and something that can do the whiz bang things I need it to. It’s probably a pipe dream…but its a good dream to have. Not just in CMS software…in all software. Maybe someday right?

Stephen Harpster, Professional Hot Air Balloon and JDS Director…


Sorry Stephen, but Tom Adelstein was right…JDS is a throw away desktop…that’s what you do to old Linux distros that stop their development.

Your response left much to be desired.

Allow me to put this in simple terms. The last release of JDS (2.0) came in May of 2004. Prior to that, JDS had released 6 months before in 2003…that would have been a good model to emulate…6 month release cycles. Perhaps even a published timeline and established release cycle would help…but all of this is dust in the wind and is obviously not on the forefront of Sun’s mind.

Never mind that you guys promised to release JDS 3.0 sometime in the early part of 2005…broken promises don’t matter do they? You can continually take open source code and not give back without the community giving any care at all right?

Wait, stop the presses. JDS 3.0 was previewed at LinuxWorld in Boston earlier this year. Allow me to quote Mr. Jonathan Schwartz from LinuxWorld 2005: “Sun continues to drive leadership in the Linux community with the world’s most popular desktop offering, the Java Desktop System,” said Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of software, Sun Microsystems. “While the competition continues to hire evangelists and call that a Linux strategy, we’re demonstrating commitment by building and shipping indemnified products, safe for corporate deployment, that save millions of dollars each and every day.”

Wow. I’m speechless. That is an outright ridiculous claim. After all, distrowatch.com, which tracks hits per day on Linux distributions doesn’t even have JDS in its top 100. Looks like there is something in the water over at Sun that is influencing people to speak without thinking eh? Did anyone over there happen to invent the question mark? Do people come to work with meat helmets?

JDS is stagnant for Linux no matter what you say or do; no matter the number of press releases. No matter if you combine it with Project Looking Glass (Another stagnant project on Linux)…it’s not going to help things a bit. You can say that development is continuing on all you want…but there hasn’t been a release announced for Linux in over a year and that signifies dead or dying. I’ll give you all at Sun a free piece of advice as I’ve done in the past: Stop reacting to the community and start enacting in the community…not that it will help at this time, JDS on Linux is already too far gone. The community will reject you as you rejected it first. You’ve officially placed “less emphasis” on JDS and Linux right? What do you care?

In closing, if you guys are committed to Linux…find out where the community is and communicate with it. Really, I shouldn’t have to tell you to go to distrowatch and announce new versions. I shouldn’t have to tell you to base your desktop availability model on SuSe and Fedora Core or Mandriva Community Edition. All the other major players in Linux seem to get it. Why don’t you guys? When you place less emphasis on the Linux desktop you shouldn’t turn right around and claim the number one desktop for Linux in the world…you sound like a band of raving lunatics. Since you guys are on shaky ground with the community anyway (as pointed out to the article you link to in your blog), it would be wise to refrain from tirades such as your current blog entry…and if you insist on one, perhaps a more thought out response would be more appreciated.

Regards