Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Little Bragging on My Two Oldest Sons at VT

Both John and Michael are at VT this year.  John is a Senior and Michael is a Freshman.  BOTH made the VT Honor Roll.

Julie and I could not be more proud of our oldest two sons....

Friday, January 29, 2010

After Almost 23 Years, My Last Day At Sun Microsystems.....

I sent this note out today to Sun's employees after almost 23 years at Sun Microsystems....

-->From Fri Jan 29 10:19:15 2010
-->Subject: Thanks and Farewell

I received notice yesterday that Oracle and Dave Edstrom are going their separate ways and today is my last day at Sun/Oracle.

Let me just say right up front that after watching the five hour Oracle/Sun Roadmap presentation on Thursday, I could not be more impressed with Oracle's leadership team.  Oracle is very focused, they clearly know how to integrate companies.  Both Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy have genuine leadership qualities that one can only have by choosing their parents wisely aka you are born with it.   I sat in the back of the McLean, VA conference room watching the broadcast and it was great to see so many Sun employees nodding their heads in approval on Oracle's decisions.  It was even better watching all the Sun employees laugh when Larry Ellison was going after the competition.  Oracle will give Sun back its swagger.  I am 100% convinced that Oracle and Sun are going to kick butt and have fun!  I truly wish everyone the best.

Words can not express how grateful I am for having had the opportunity to have worked at Sun Microsystems for almost 23 years.  I have had more fun, learned more than anyone thought possible, and made a ton of lifetime friends.  My wife and I have been to 7 SunRises and were able to see parts of the world we never would have seen without Sun.  My oldest son, John, became Sun's Campus Ambassador at Virginia Tech and had a blast doing that for Sun.
I have been asked many times over the years (especially during the tough times at Sun):

       "Why do you stay at Sun?"

My response has always been the same:

       "Scott McNealy and Sun's employees."
When they would ask me to expand, I would tell them about all the things that were/are so great about Sun - the people, the mission, the products, the integrity of the company, and it all starts with Scott.  Scott will always be a hero to Dave Edstrom.

Personally, the biggest regret I have today is that I will no longer be working for James Hollingshead.  James is the best leader that I have ever worked for and IMO, the best leader at Sun.

I know that I was VERY fortunate to be work at Sun and I am extremely thankful for it.  It was PRICELESS to be paid for something that you LOVED doing.

I am going to miss the Sun employees the most.  Sun employees were/are the most creative, passionate and absolutely brilliant people on planet earth that would bend over backwards to help anyone.
Thanks so much everyone and please stay in touch - the computer industry is a very small world.

Best Regards,

Dave Edstrom
emp# 3705  :-)
Google Profile:
Personal Blog:  http://PhotonsAndElectrons.BlogSpot.COM/

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rest In Peace Sun Microsystems

Last week James Gosling posted a very creative and touching image that really summarizes how a great many of Sun employees (current and former), Sun Partners, Sun customers and the millions of individuals who were touched by Sun Microsystems.

Note you can order t-shirts, mouse pads, mugs, etc. all with the image on it.

As I have previously stated, I would be a liar if I did NOT state that I am bummed that Sun Microsystems had to end this way.  As the often quoted old poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. (1807–1892) goes:

"Of all sad songs of tongue and and pen, the saddest are these, what might have been....."

OK, time to look forward to new challenges as I stated in my early January blog post with the highlights of my next company below:

               1) I want to work for a great company.
               2) I want to work with creative, smart and passionate employees.
               3) I want to work for a company that is truly making a
               difference in the market place and is growing.

               4) When John Gage coined the term, "The Network is the
in 1984, that phrase summarizes my belief where the
               most interesting opportunities are today and will be tomorrow.
               Cloud Computing is simply the latest manifestation of John's
               5) I want to work for a company that believes in open systems.
               6) Most importantly, I want to make a difference.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oracle and Sun Strategy Event on January 27th, 2010 at Noon Eastern

This is public information that we, Sun employees, were specifically asked to spread the word on:

Oracle announced they will host a live event for customers, partners, press and analysts to unveil the Oracle + Sun Strategy.  The event will take place on Wednesday, January 27, from 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM( Pacific) at Oracle's headquarters in Redwood Shores, California. Larry Ellison, along with executives from Oracle and Sun, will outline the post-close strategy for the combined companies, product roadmaps, and how customers will benefit from having all the components -- hardware, operating system, database, middleware, and applications -- engineered to work together.   The event will be broadcast globally.

Invitations will be sent via email to Oracle customers and partners, and Sun customers and partners,
encouraging them to register for the live event via the website.

There are many individuals looking forward to this event.

Friday, January 22, 2010

2010: 50th Anniversary of the LASER

The Washington Post reported this week that in 1960 the LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) was invented. As the article in The Washington Post states, "In May 1960, Theodore Maiman, a physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories, constructed the first laser that emitted light in the visible range"

The reason I call my blog Photons and Electrons is because of the importance of the relationship between the two in our everyday lives.  I even named one of our labs Photon - much to the dismay of my three sons and wife :-)  What I really like about this article is how clearly it explains the key aspects of electrons moving to and from the different levels or shells (K, L, M, N, O, P, and Q) inside the atom and what the photons are doing as these moves occur.

Below is from the Post article (note that I highlighted the key aspects):
Zap a few atoms with the right amount of energy -- including energy from light itself -- and their electrons will absorb the energy and jump up to excited levels, the original "quantum leap." 

But they won't stay there. That's because, as the parent of any teenager can tell you, it is the natural tendency of things in this universe to preferentially seek the lowest energy condition, which is why water always flows downhill, shoelaces never re-tie themselves and your check is still in the mail. So the excited electrons soon drop back to lower levels; in the process, they spontaneously shed the surplus energy in the form of photons, the smallest individual units, or quanta, of light. The size of the drop determines the wavelength of the emitted photon. That's how light emerges from a flickering campfire, the surface of the sun, the bulb in a lamp or the screen of your TV.

If you google LASER, you will get 126 MILLION hits.  The uses of LASERS are simply amazing and it all comes down to electrons and photons.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

EU Clears Oracle to Buy Sun Microsystems

The Wall Street Journal is reporting:

BRUSSELS—After a drawn out investigation, the European Commission on Thursday unconditionally cleared U.S. software giant Oracle Corp.'s move to take over smaller rival Sun Microsystems Inc. for $7.4 billion.

"I am now satisfied that competition and innovation will be preserved on all the markets concerned," Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said. "Oracle's acquisition of Sun has the potential to revitalize important assets and create new and innovative products," she added.
See the entire story here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Open Source Healthcare Software

I was having a discussion with a customer the other day about open source and the topic of Healthcare software came up that was open source.  Just looking at Wikipedia's entry on open source Healthcare software is quite impressive.

If Congress is able to pass Healthcare, it will be very interesting to watch what happens in this market.

Monday, January 18, 2010

SoftWare Technical Roundtable (SWTR) - Global Technology Weekly Webinar

For almost five years  I have been hosting a weekly technology webinar called the SoftWare Technical Roundtable (SWTR).  The SWTR has evolved from initially Sun only to a global Sun and Sun's Partners Weekly Webinar showcasing Sun's software technologies.  I have really enjoyed this and I know that we have created a tremendous amount of IP over the years.  We would also use the venue to provide organized feedback into Product Management for software product futures.

Last month, the SWTR became part of Sun's Continuous Engineering Conference (SCEC) joining Sun's System and Storage Lines Of Businesses.  These sessions typically run about two hours with the emphasis on hands-on, deep dive technical sessions led by Subject Matter Experts (SME).  We record these sessions for those who might miss the sessions.   Partners can learn more here at onestop4partners (login/password controlled).

If you are a Sun employee or a Sun Partner and would like to join the SWTR, please let me know.  Sun employees and Sun Partners know how to reach me :-)

ZL-1 Corvette Stingray and the Corvette ZR1

I get a number of Corvette magazines and auto magazines each month.  The February 2010 Motor Trend has an article on Spectacular Supercars.  Number eight on the list is the 1969 ZL-1 and at the 20th slot is the 2009 ZR1.  I have never seen a ZL-1 live, but I have seen multiple ZR1s live. 

I did not realize that the ZL1 engine was available on Camaros as well during that time frame.  What is most interesting about the ZL-1 is that there is a widely held belief that there were only two ever manufactured - a yellow one and a white one.  However, the article below points out that there was a ZL1 engine option available for $4,700.   That was a LOT of money in 1969 for a single option on a car, even a Corvette's racing engine option.

If money was no object, I would buy a new ZR1 3ZR (high end option) and use it as my daily driver.  I would go with the Cyber Gray Metallic or Black exterior color option.   I think the ZR1 is the absolute best bang for the buck of any car out there.  The Nissan GT-R owners might argue with me.  I would argue that while the GT-R certainly has impressive numbers, however, if it has four seats, it ain't a sports car :-)

Since it was 48 degrees today, I washed my Corvette and my wife's Mini Cooper S so I guess I am thinking about sports cars....

Information on the ZL-1 Corvette Stingray can be found here.

Information on the ZR1 can be found here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

DARPA States Geek Shortage is National Security Risk - Funding Opportunity

There is an interesting article in's Danger Room regarding a shortage of geeks in the US.  The key point is that:

"fewer American kids are growing up to be bona fide computer geeks. And that poses a serious security risk for the country, according to the Defense Department."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NeuStar To Work on Movie Download Anti-Piracy System

One of the smartest and most interesting companies that I have had the pleasure of every working with is NeuStar.  I think it was around November 2001 that I first met Mark Foster.  Mark was CTO for NeuStar at the time. To this day, Mark is one of the absolute smartest individuals in technology that I have ever met.

In 2001, when Mark explained to me the history of number portability, I was amazed with the elegance of NeuStar's design and implementation.   At that meeting I said that NeuStar should consider joining Project Liberty.  After returning to I called John Gage and said that I would like to introduce John to the NeuStar Executive team.   NeuStar ending up joining Project Liberty and was a key contributor on the Discover Specification.

An article in the Washington Post details NeuStar being selected to implement a movie download anti-piracy system.  As the article by Mike Musgrove brings out:

"The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem announced this month that Neustar, formerly a division of Lockheed Martin, will operate an upcoming "digital rights locker" system, designed to let users who legally purchase movies online view that content on smartphones, laptops or the living room TV.
The DECE technology, which is in the design stage, aims to give consumers more flexibility with the content they purchase while still employing digital rights management tools designed to discourage piracy. "Buy Once, Play Anywhere" is the marketing pitch; a launch date has not been announced."

I love the "Buy Once, Play Anywhere"  Gee, I wonder where they got that idea from? Sounds a lot like Java's "Write Once, Run Anywhere" to me :-)

If any company can tackle this very important and tough challenge, it is the brilliant individuals at NeuStar.

Friday, January 15, 2010

10 Year Anniversary of the Failed AOL/Time Warner Merger

On January 10th it was the 10 year anniversary of the failed AOL and Time Warner merger.  The NY Times has a nice article and detailed time line here.

I was in New York City shortly after the deal was announced.  AOL was a huge Sun customer and Time Warner was also a Sun customer.  What I remember wa the excitement at AOL and the stated reservations at Time Warner.   AOL employees were just giddy about the prospects of being combined with Time Warner.

The telling comment to me was from a number of Time Warner employees who said that the deal would fail because "there are simply too many silos at Time Warner that AOL will never be able to figure out."

That comment proved to be quite prophetic....

AOL's inability to transition from dial-up, where they essentially controlled everything, to broadband was a large contributing factor as well.

My experience with mergers is that they fail for non technical reasons with a culture clash being reason #1.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

WKA: Wireless Knowledge Architecture

On November 25th, 1999 I wrote an article for Sun Microsystems Sun Journal where I coined the term WKA: Wireless Knowledge Architecture.  Since it has been a decade and with so much discussion on new smart phones being introduced, I thought it would be a good time to review my 1999 article to see if anything I wrote still matters :-)

At the time I was the Chief Technologist for the Southern Area at Sun which was a $1 billion a year business for Sun covering commercial and Federal customers as well as partners.

Below is the original article as it I noticed it has somehow dropped from Sun's site.   Please keep in mind I wrote this in 1999 :-)  I was right about a lot of things but wrong about the specifics of Jini taking over :-)

November 25th, 1999 article for Sun Journal:

Many people believe that the wireless Internet market will be the next digital gold rush. According to one estimate, the wireless market will encompass 1 billion subscribers by 2003. Dataquest believes that the market for wireless-data subscribers will be $3 billion by 2003. Growth rates of 35 percent or more are projected by market survey organizations.  The third-generation (3G) wireless devices developed for this market will be more than 38 times faster than today's wireless devices.

A major aspect of the new wireless landscape will be Wireless Knowledge Architecture (WKA). WKA is defined as the people, technology and processes needed to enable, capture, and transform information into knowledge that can be managed in a 3G wireless world where roles at work and home are converging.  Until now, wireless data communications have been an expensive and slow alternative to wired.  However, wireless communications will soon emerge as both cost-effective and capable alternative to wired technologies.

A driving factor behind the 3G wireless market is the obliteration of the work/home boundary.  Tomorrow's knowledge workers will demand cutting-edge high speed wireless devices that provide complete access to all the tools and information they have in the office.  This work from anywhere at anytime atomosphere provides the opportunity to significantly enhance the employee's life by enabling more flexible work and personal scheduling.  WKA will become a significant recruiting factor.  Companies without WKA plans will find it more difficult to recruit and attract the best knowledge workers as well as remaining competitive in their industry.

WKA Technologies

Among the important technologies required to make scenarios such as the one outlined in "A 3G Wireless Device in Action" a reality will be the Java language, the Java platform, Jini, Bluetooth, Mobile IP, Shared Wireless Access Protocol, Service Location Protocols, and smart cards.

A driving force of the WKA will be the Java language and platform.  The leading consortium for the development of 3G wireless systems is the Symbian alliance, created in 1998, with members Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Psion. In March of this year, Sun and Symbian announced a plan to put Sun's Java technology as part of Symbian's standard EPOC platform solution for future smart phones and communicators.  "With the number of mobile phone subscribers forecast to reach one sixth of the world's population in the year 2005, the potential impact of the Sun and Symbian alliance on the wireless market is enormous," said Scott McNealy, Sun's CEO. "The Wireless Information Device is likely to be one of the most influential networked devices to drive customers into the Post-PC era, providing a vast new market for wireless networked services and applications."

A crucial technology for ubiquitous spontaneous 3G PDAs will be Sun's Jini.  In the previous edition of Sun Journal, Bill Joy said that "in the Jini world, the important concepts are objects, mobility of code and spontaneous connections between things." This ability to spontaneously make connections, communicate and move objects between devices that have never "met" whether in a hotel room, in your suppliers conference room or at the park, will represent a radical a shift in how we live and work.  Joy often talks about the change from task-oriented computing to activity-oriented computing.  Activity-oriented computing is a key aspect in WKA. In a task-oriented world, you must initiate your activity. An example of this is printing a document or saving a file.  You initiate this action, then it happens. In a activity-oriented world, the devices spontaneously communicate and take action that is correct in the context of time, location, devices available and importance of the action to extract knowledge from the information available without a human initiating the action. As time progresses, we will continue to rely less on our own memory and more on the memory of the wireless network for personal and business needs.

Equally important to the growth of wireless devices is the continuing growth of the Internet and the number of application services available.  The technology exists for corporations to provide access to their most important systems through Web technology. The marriage of these new wireless devices and the Internet will make any time, anywhere knowledge flow a reality. Application Service Providers (ASP's) will find huge markets for this new generation of wireless devices.

Knowledge workers will be demanding complete autonomy, because the technology will exist to allow it.  Today users consciously need to remember where the current state (most up to date copy of their data) of their mobile devices is in relationship to a docked system, whether it is their home desktop or office servers. This is a source of confusion for many employees. State will becoming floating, and the need to manually sync will go away. With technologies such as Jini, state will live on the network and move to the wireless device the knowledge worker happens to be is using at the time. 

WKA Security Issues

Technology and security will present management challenges.  Determining what level of privacy that is needed will continue to be a taxing issue.  From a security standpoint there will always be difficult balance between providing your employees with all the tools and data they will want in a wireless world and protecting the corporate knowledge treasure chest.  Corporate users are more aware then ever that security must be designed into the business policies and processes as well as into the design of systems and networks. What boundaries there may have been between businesses are dissolving as teams link up and share information electronically. The corporate network is no longer defined by the physical boundaries of specific locations as it is stretched to embrace mobile users and telecommuters across the world.  Businesses created as virtual corporations use partners and contractors who are not employees but who need to share much of the same information as regular employees. Further, businesses use public communications networks shared by thousands, including their competitors. All these situations present security issues.  Balancing the three major aims of security--confidentiality, integrity, and availability--means that security is no longer a single product. Security has become a process to be managed alongside other high-value corporate processes.

WKA and Knowledge Management

Rob Wells, a director at Knowledge Management Solutions International, defines KM as creating an environment in which the flow of information and knowledge interacts efficiently to enhance the growth of corporate competence, revenue, or R&D. The clear challenge with WKA will be the number of and type of wireless devices and the software tools necessary to enable, capture, manage and protect a corporation's knowledge.

As companies bring more information into forms that can be handled electronically, keeping it all meaningfully organized becomes more challenging, and more necessary. Initially WKA will be a driving force in publishing information in critical areas of Knowledge Management (KM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Customer Relationship Planning (CRM).  Up to this point, KM has been tied to the idea of creating Web-based systems, which created a proliferation of Web servers in companies as individuals and small teams seized this new means of publishing information. The result in some corporations has been chaos.  Information is easily available through Internet/intranet, but it is difficult to find, organize, assimilate. WKA involves understanding where information lives, who uses it, why and when it is used.  Today ERP ties together the back office functions of finance, human resources, manufacturing, and supply systems to create a coherent real-time view of the business. The increased number of 3G wireless devices communicating with ERP systems will raise the importance of the servers running ERP applications.

CRM systems combine detailed customer information, channels of contact, and processes that provide a coherent view of customers.  Customers interact with a business through a variety of contacts: personal, telephone, letter, e-mail, and fax. CRM integrates front office functions supporting customer service, marketing, sales, and technical support. CRM enables a complete view of a customer and the customer's dealings with the business. CRM follows the ERP wave of corporate systems.  WKA represents another step toward the goal of enabling users to quickly and easily obtain answers to questions that help them solve business problems. This is also a step forward for managers who want to profile organizational knowledge and leverage corporate memory.  Knowledge workers are seeking full access to their information and tools from anywhere.

The challenge with KM is and will be metrics.
The first set of metrics is the meta information such as how, where, and when wireless devices are used. To a lesser extent, what information is used and why can be quantified. This information can then be used to create better modes of communication among employees as well as to seek out and make improvements to processes. Keeping groups working efficiently drives new systems such as those underpinning the WKA.  Two major design areas exist within the WKA. The first, the systems architecture, covers technical aspects of the systems, while the second, the "people" architecture," covers the organization, its culture, and practices.

Systems Architecture Issues

Application servers must be designed for RAS (Reliability Availability and Serviceability) and scalability of solutions.  Tightly and loosely coupled clustering will be needed to provide true application datatone.  System predictability will need to come from policy based quality of service dynamic resource allocation monitoring.  It will be necessary to consolidate then duplicate systems and applications to streamline and provide the necessary service levels for WKA.   This demand for always available application services is why more corporations are looking at out sourcing and why ISP's understand why they must quickly become ASP's as well.

In reality, many process requirements are either not determined or poorly understood. Systems supporting the WKA provide information on demand from a merge of structured and unstructured data. The underlying issues will be what data is needed, how should it be presented, and where and how are structured and unstructured information merged? This merge could be made at several different levels within an organization.

People Architecture Issues

Two of the most important issues for success of any project are management buy-in and culture. Without management buy-in and a receptive employee culture, WKA will not succeed. Employees must be convinced that the capture of information is not used as an employee measurement tool but rather as an efficiency tool. Surveys must be done on a regular basis with timely summaries to all with dated action item lists. In other words, employees must know that their suggestions will be taken seriously.


The ability to work effectively anywhere at any time will determine quality of life for tomorrow's knowledge workers as well as providing companies a new architecture to improve their competitive advantage. The companies that provide the most current wireless tools and environment will be able to attract and keep the best knowledge workers. The new world of 3G wireless devices will create unheard of productivity improvements both at work and at home but at the same time will produce a greater management and security challenges as companies try to capture and use corporate knowledge. Now is the time to start planning for your WKA.

**************1999 AUTHOR BIO*********************************************

Dave Edstrom has been with Sun since early 1987 and in the computer industry since 1978.  He is a six time Sunrise winner, recipient of the 1996 SE Creativity Award and has been involved with Sun's future products since prior to the release of the 4/260.  He has degrees in Data Processing and Business Administration.  He lives in Ashburn, VA with his wife Julie and his three sons John, Michael and Timothy.


I would like to especially thank Brian Carney for his wisdom and invaluable assistance with this article.  I would also like to thank Rob Wells, Director from Knowledge Management Solutions International, for his many suggestions and guidance with this article.  Rob is an internationally recognized world class expertise in the area of Knowledge Management.  For more information on the various topics referenced in this article, the following urls will provide appropriate entry points.

Harvard Computing Group Knowledge Management Magazine
(Knowledge Management Magazine is an excellent source for KM issues.) Knowledge Management Solutions
Rob Wells, Director

The author would appreciate any comments you have on this topic and can be reached at:

A 3G Wireless Device in Action

You arrive at the airport with your new 3G personal digital assistant (PDA), which incorporates the multiple devices business people used to carry with them, such as cellular phone, limited function PDA, and notebook computer. The 3G PDA makes a wireless spontaneous connection to the airport schedules and directory services. It beeps; you respond, "Hal, talk to me." The 3G-PDA then relays the message "It is 12:25, your flight 962 to Dulles is on time and at gate 78, boarding is in 1 hour and 5 minutes, the flight is 60% booked at this point, the Red Carpet club is located on the main level near gate 72, the movie today is "Toy Story II," there is a Barnes and Noble bookstore located near gate 86, a deli is located on the ground level, weather in Ashburn is 78 degrees and fair skies, your son's baseball game is scheduled for 6:15 at Crittenden." Obviously you could have found all this out by looking at monitors, asking for directions, calling home, looking at the weather page on USA Today--but you didn't. It took 12 seconds for Hal to give you contextually appropriate, timely information that made profile-based decisions and then provided you with the information that you needed at the time. 

The Five Rs of Knowledge Management

As the number of wireless devices increase, it is important for businesses to clean up the information knowledge workers will be demanding. The Harvard Computing Group has written an excellent white paper, "Knowledge Management--Return on Investment," that posits the Five Rs of Knowledge Management.

1.    Recycle--use the same content in many places.
2.    Republish--publish the same content in many forms.
3.    Reduce--create a single source for content.
4.    Remove--utilize a streamlined process for content management.
5.    Relevance--apply standards for content quality and usefulness.

WKA Design Rules

1.    Downtime is not an option.  Use an ASP if your company can not design or support a zero down time solution.  Think clustering.
2.    Use the Java language for everything. In her book customer.COM, Patricia Seybold states that the Java language is the most important language you should be developing in.
3.    Design for "stateless" technology. The days of manually syncing devices is rapidly coming to an end.
4.    Design highly focused customized real-time portals available anywhere on any device at any time.
5.    Capture the meta information of wireless transactions.  Seek out or write software that will provide the infrastructure to capture this information.
6.    Expect most devices to be wireless in 2 to 3 years.   Expect the concept of an office to become obsolete.
7.    Design for simplicity. Wireless devices should use technologies such as Jini and Bluetooth that allow for spontaneous wireless device discovery and communication.
8.    Expect data to be in structure and unstructured formats.  WKA clients will want access to systems and applications that are currently not easily accessible today.
9.    Expect in the next three years to see the demand for multi-level security operating systems to increase dramatically.   The high demand will be triggered by the balance between knowledge flow and security that can only be addressed by compartmentalized virtual private networks. 
10.) Design knowledge management and security into business strategies and application services.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Head First Books: Far and Away the Best Computer Books

I was asked by a friend, whose son is in a school district that has no computer courses, what books I would recommend to learn programming.  Fortunately, this is a very easy question to answer.  Far and away, IMHO, the best written computer books are by Head First books.

These books are written by experts who are able to take very complicated topics and speak to them in a very clear, understandable and sometimes humorous manner.  Please do not confused these books with the "Dummy" or "Idiot" series of books.  Nothing against those books, but the Head First books are absolutely head and shoulders above any other series of books for the depth and breadth of their line up of computer books.  

What these books do a great job of is discussing metacognition at the beginning (thinking about thinking) and giving the reader concrete ways to learn the information and to remember what you have learned.  These Head First books go to 11 :-)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Open Source in Government

I was asked by the folks at Sun's Inner Circle to provide some of the information that I have created over the years regarding open source in the goverment.  I have done a great deal in this area.  Below are some of the key points that an article at Sun's Inner Circle brought out with Bill Vass.  I see lots of information that I personally provided to Sun's Inner Circle on open source.  Below is the first key question and that is:

Q: Why is open source good for government?
A: There are six key reasons why governments are moving to open source. They include:
  1. Security. Open source is statistically shown to increase security in most implementations. This is particularly relevant for intelligence agencies that focus on security.
  2. Procurement time. Government procurements can take up to three years. By moving to open source, agencies can download and deploy software immediately and then go through procurement for support rather than acquisition.
  3. No vendor lock-in or lock-out. Because open source is in the public domain, support is available from multiple vendors. For Solaris, users can get support from HP, Dell, IBM, Sun, Intel, AMD, and a host of others.The same goes for Linux and other open source environments. Additionally, because the APIs are open sourced, they're easier to reverse-engineer to avoid lockout.
  4. Reduced cost. Open source support contracts are usually significantly less expensive than proprietary contracts because there is competition. That's not the case when the code isn't publicly available. We often say that open source gives 90% of the functionality at 10% of the cost. This results in billions of dollars of savings for governments.
  5. Increased quality. There are fewer patch releases with open source, in part because open source code goes through more reviews. During the release process, the code is reviewed by the community, which can be ruthless in its scrutiny. The code then goes through integration review, indemnification review if supported by a vendor, and quality control. That adds up to three times more quality controls than most proprietary products.
  6. Collaborative environment. By engaging with open source, governments can inject unique requirements into the community without having to go through a vendor. This is a huge boon for governments because in the past, vendors often couldn't justify doing unique requirements for a limited number of government seats.
The article is well worth reading and is located here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mike Briggs: The Best Community Builder of All Time

I have had the privilege of knowing Mike Briggs, Principal Field Technologist for Sun Microsystems for about 20 years.   I have never met or heard of anyone that is better than Mike Briggs in terms of building global technical communities on the web.  Far and away the most popular site at Sun Microsystems is onestop.   The name  onestop says it all.  The idea was/is that onestop is the only place you need to go to find technical information on a piece of hardware, software or any technology.

As anyone who has tried to created a global technical community knows, it is easy to have grand goals when starting a global community, then reality sets in.  The reality is that it is extremely hard to create a successful technical community for a variety of reasons.  Mike is very unique in that he has the ability to pull individuals together for a common cause, create the right balance between consistency and freedom, put in a governance mechanism that is very balanced all while having the technical ability to write whatever needs to be created to keep improving the site/experience.

Mike has recently taken on the very important challenge of making Sun's Partners part of onestop   This is very important to Sun's future.

If/when the Oracle acquisition of Sun Microsystems goes through, IMHO, there is no one more important to make sure that transition goes smoothly than Mike Briggs.  Mike is a great guy and it should be pointed out that Mike was personally recruited by Scott McNealy to work at Sun. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

https and TSA: Kabuki Security Theater In A Quantified Framework

There is an analogy between https and TSA security that I have been thinking about lately.  This thinking has been in part, to the great interview of Bruce Schneier in about a year ago title Safe, But Also Sorry where Security expert Bruce Schneier talks about privacy and property in the information state written by Katherine Mangu-Ward on January 16, 2009.

First, let me state what should be obvious about the great job that TSA does for our country.  Let's look at the math.  According to what I can find, there are approximately 28,000 flights per day in the US.  That is 10,220,000 flights per year.  We had one incident on Christmas day in 2009.  That means that the chance of an incident is .0000000978 or .00000978%   That also means that TSA is putting up a 99.99999022% success rate of stopping an incident where no one got hurt.  That is SEVEN NINES of success.  I can not think of any other industry that talks about seven nines of success.

Most users are told to look for the lock icon and make sure that the website they are going to starts with https and not simply http and then they are secure.  The user is secure between their browser and that particular site.  https absolutely does not mean that the customers data is encrypted on that sites back end systems, it does not mean that the site has the proper governance in place, it does not mean anything more than the pipe is encrypted between the browser and that particular site.

When you go through TSA security at any airport, it is analogous to https because you only know what you see as you go through - you do not know what security checks are being done or have been done outside your physical scans of your body and your carryons.

 Bruce Schneier has an interesting analysis in the article listed above:

Reason: You coined the phrase "security theater" and you've been critical of the TSA's choices on priorities and tactics. What has the TSA done wrong that's fixable? What has the TSA done right?

Bruce Schneier: The TSA focuses too much on specific tactics and targets. This makes sense politically, but is a bad use of security resources. Think about the last eight years. We take away guns and knives, and the terrorists use box cutters. We confiscate box cutters and knitting needles, and they put explosives in their shoes. We screen shoes, and they use liquids. We take away liquids, and they'll do something else. This is a dumb game; the TSA should stop playing. Some screening is necessary to stop the crazy and the stupid, but it's not going to stop a professional terrorist attack. We don't need more and better screening; we need less. On the other hand, I like seeing the direction they're heading in terms of behavioral profiling, though we need to be careful. Done wrong, it's nothing more than stereotyping; but done right, it can be very effective. It needs more focus on people and less on objects. We can't manage to keep weapons out of prisons; we'll never keep them out of airports. Oh, and stop the ID checking—the notion that there is this master list of terrorists that we can check people off against is just plain silly.

Reason: What would success look like for the TSA? If you were made King of Airport Security tomorrow and given the entire current budget of the TSA to do whatever you wanted, what kind of system would you design?

Schneier: If I were in charge of the TSA's budget, I'd give most of it back. Politically, I wouldn't be able to, of course, but it would be the best thing to do. Spending money on airport/airplane security only makes sense if the bad guys target airplanes. In general, money spent defending particular targets or tactics only makes sense if we can guess them correctly. If tactics and targets are scarce, defending against specific ones makes us safer. If tactics and targets are plentiful—as they are—it only forces the bad guys to pick new ones. Spending money on intelligence, investigation, and emergency response is effective regardless of the tactic or the target. Airport security is a last line of defense, and not a very good one at that. We need to remember that at budget time.

Here is the challenge in the United States of America.  Most American politicians are not skilled enough or open minded enough to think this situation through to do what is right as opposed to what sounds good in the 22 second sound bite on the local rapid and rabid partisan news shows.   With https, what are the security and privacy policies that a company has?   It is typically very difficult to find out beyond some generic privacy policy that is a cut-n-paste from some lawyer's home directory.  This why I think https and TSA security are similar - they look good on the outside, but the outside is only 5% of the problem and it is important to realize there is much hard work that must be done on the inside as well - and sometimes you just won't see it - but it is important.

UPDATE:   It seems to me that a lot of things have changed for the better in the past few years in terms of airport security and common sense.   I wonder what Bruce Schneier would think today?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Income Advice to Young Workers: RELY

Over the years, I have had the good fortune to speak to countless Universities and Colleges on a variety of technical topics.  Lately, popular topics have included security, open source, cloud computing and Trusted Services Oriented Architectures.  

While I have the attention of these young folks (it helps when you also pay for the pizza and soft drinks as well as bring along some t-shirts that have the school's logo with Sun's technology also on the t-shirt :-) I bring up career advice that I believe is very important.   One of my favorite phrases about Unix was when Neil Groundwater told me that "The design of Unix is elegant in its simplicity." 

RELY is the acronym that I coined to make it easy for young people to remember how to think about your income.

           Emergency Funds
           Living Expenses

Specifically, here are some rough guidelines that have worked for me.

                  Max out your 401k if your employer has a 401k plan.  Do the math on the tax savings.   Check out a Roth IRA and see if that makes sense.  Checkout your companies stock program, but if you decide to do this, BUT have a plan to sell your stock over the years because a concern is having all of your eggs in one basket.  My personal belief is that you should put a quarter away in your retirement fund for every dollar you make.  Yes, it is a chunk of change, but, trust me, it will HUGELY benefit you in the long run.  You will sleep soundly at night, even when the economy is a mess and your job situation is unclear.

           Emergency Funds
                  Starting out, it is too easy to think that your Emergency Funds and your Retirement Funds are the same thing - they're  not.  You need to first know your actual living expenses, be honest and figure that out, then add 20% as a buffer.  For every year of employment, aim to have one month of living expenses (include the 20% buffer).  So, that at five years you have five months of living expenses in your Emergency Funds.  The logic is that as you get older, it takes longer in higher income levels to find new jobs as well as you have more expenses and individuals depending on your income ie kids, dogs,houses, car payments, out of pocket medical expenses, houses that need expensive repairs, ...
           Living Expenses
               This is also called your BUDGET.  You need to sit down with a spreadsheet and put in every single expense you have on a regular basis.  The only way to do this is to start by tracking your every expense for at least three months.  Then you can create your realistic budget.  This is HARD.  This might cause a LOT of difficult conversations with yourself and/or your significant other.  BUT, you must do this step or you will always be in trouble.

                You have to budget for fun.  It is totally unrealistic to not plan and budget for fun.   If you are not having fun, what the hell are you living for?  OK, that might be blunt, but certainly you need to have plans for vacations, sports cars, tools you want but do not need, home theaters, gaming systems, in other words wants and not needs :-)
Below is one of my favorite quotes that you should apply to thinking about your income.

To measure is to know.    
       If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.

In physical science the first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be.

        Lord Kelvin - Sir William Thomson

Finally, go read two books:
  1. Roger Smith's "Advice Written on the Back of a Business Card"   I am quoted in there on multiple pages :-)
  2. The Wealthy Barber book that I discuss in an earlier blog entry.  The most important point I want everyone to understand is the magic of compound interest.  Albert Einstein called compound interest “the eighth wonder of the world” and "the most powerful force in nature."   

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cloud Computing and Roach Motels

If you have not read

"As Eric said in his 2009 strategy memo, "we don't trap users, we make it easy for them to move to our competitors." This policy is sort of like the emergency exits on an airplane — an analogy that our pilot CEO would appreciate. You hope to never use them, but you're glad they're there and would be furious if they weren't.

That's why we have a team — the Data Liberation Front ( — whose job it is to make "checking out" easy. Recent examples of their work include Blogger (people who choose to leave Blogger for another service can easily take their content with them) and Docs (users can now collect all their documents, presos, and spreadsheets in a zip file and download it). Build your products so that the Data Liberation team can work their magic. One way you can do this is by having a good public API that exposes all your users' data. Don't wait for v2 or v3, discuss this early in your product planning meetings and make it a feature of your product from the start."

This will be a critical issue for years and decades to come.  As cloud computing becomes more and more ubiquitous these types of issues will be critical.   The best white  on cloud computing, that brings this issue out, is UCB's "Above The Clouds".

Scott McNealy first brought this concept out prior to Google's existence back in the early 1990s when Scott coined the term "TCE Total Cost to Exit".  TCE is about the ability to move/migrate both software and the data to other hardware and software vendors.

Scott also stated that consumer privacy issues are a "red herring."  Scott also said "You have zero privacy anyway, get over it." 

The challenge will be the balance between privacy and the benefits of sharing information, but the killer issue in all of this is that there is no MASTER DELETE on the Internet.  Wrong information exists and spreads forever on the Internet.  When it comes to negative information on an individual that is incorrect, this is obviously a serious issue.  It will be interesting to watch how Google addresses these very tough issues that Jonathan Rosenberg brought out in his recent, excellent blog entry in the upcoming years.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

iPhone GPRS/Edge/3G/Wifi Speeds

Neil Groundwater and I were discussing the various speeds of the iPhone on our IntraCoastal Waterway trip.  Neil send me these screenshots on his iPhone 3GS which I find very interesting and useful to know.  Neil used the the iPhone speed test site located here.

Above shows GPRS speed.

Above shows 3G speeds.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking Back at 2009, But Most Importantly, Looking Forward to 2010

2009 was an interesting year.   Yes, I know that 99.9999% of the people on planet earth will think of the quote, "may you live in interesting times" and incorrectly attribute it to an ancient quote.  But as I stated back in August of this year:

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson writes a very interesting article almost a year ago dispelling the age old myth about the origins of the phrase"May you live in interesting times"
As Mr. Robinson wrote on November 27th, 2008: "May you live in interesting times" is supposed to be an ancient Chinese curse, but I can't find evidence that the saying is Chinese at all, much less that it's ancient. One of the earliest reliable citations seems to be a 1950 short story by the British science-fiction author Eric Frank Russell, writing under the pen name Duncan H. Munro, who quotes the imprecation and then adds: "It isn't a curse any more. It's a blessing."

Near the top of the list in 2009 was a very interesting year as Oracle announced its intent to purchase Sun.  I have lots of friends at Oracle.  I have long ago accepted that Sun Microsytems will become a very important chapter in the history of computing.  It was a great ride with memories I would not trade for the world.

As Chief Technologist for Sun's Global Systems Engineering Software Line Of Business, I had the great opportunity to work and continue to work for James Hollingshead, VP of GSE SW LOB.  I had the opportunity to work with customers and partners around the globe for Sun.  I also traveled internationally as well in my global role.

In 2010 I am looking forward to many new challenges.  It would have been 23 years with Sun Microsystems on May 4th, 2010 - so a change is probably long over due :-)  The reason I did not look outside of Sun is because it provided everything that anyone could ask for in a job/career.  I had a number of GREAT bosses.
In almost 23 years at Sun I have been in a number of technical leadership positions while working with a broad range of software and hardware technologies.   I worked with both commercial and government markets.
I was the "father" of the Mid Atlantic Area Technology Center for Sun.  This multi-million dollar Center had over 300 customers through it in just over seven years and had posted world class industry leading benchmarks.  The Center won the 1996 World Wide System Engineering Creativity Award.  This was in addition to my "day job" and was an all volunteer group of Systems Engineers that provided support at this Center.  As Scott McNealy would say, "we kicked butt and we had fun".
I was the leader of a group that created the Software Genius University which had over 760 hours of technical content that was created by Sun's field Systems Engineers (SEs) for Sun's SEs and Sun's Partners.
               1) I want to work for a great company.
               2) I want to work with creative, smart and passionate employees.
               3) I want to work for a company that is truly making a
               difference in the market place and is growing.

               4) When John Gage coined the term, "The Network is the
in 1984, that phrase summarizes my belief where the
               most interesting opportunities are today and will be tomorrow.
               Cloud Computing is simply the latest manifestation of John's
               5) I want to work for a company that believes in open systems.
               6) Most importantly, I want to make a difference.