Scaling Guidance

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

At WWDC 2009, I stood up in a session on Snow Leopard server and lightly rattled Apple‘s cage about its poor scaling guidance for the product. They were spending a great deal of time talking about the benefits of Wiki Server 2, but there was little to take away from the session on what to tell any prospective customers regarding cost.

I think in the Apple world, there’s this unspoken rule of “whatever’s good enough” to suffice for an environment. That’s fine, but what I’d really like to be able to do is recommend a solution that will do the job.

In the past, Microsoft was very good about providing specific scaling guidance. Around the Dark Ages (which I define as the day SQL Server 2005 came out and every product hence), Microsoft pulled back on several things. Most notably, they stopped providing specific scaling guidance on products and very clear documentation.

The documentation that was offered with each product varied and was mostly vague and notional. Once my Microsoft TAM asked me as part of some kind of survey if I thought that blog content provided by Microsoft developers and whatnot could be considered as official documentation. It seems like some folks within the organization believe this to be so, but Goddess forbid you end up in the India support organization… where only the script in front of them is official documentation.

Back to Apple. They provide documentation and it’s usually quite good. They provide fairly extensive documentation. Sometimes it’s wrong, but it’s still documentation. It’s something to point to and say, “See here, it says this should function this way.” That’s a nice level of comfort. What they do NOT provide is scaling guidance. They will never ever tell you, “It will take x amount of Snow Leopard servers to run Wiki Server 2 for 10,000 users doing y amount of data.” Why not? I suspect it’s because they don’t know.

As Apple becomes more and more relevant in the enterprise, this has to change. If I’m going to propose an Apple-based solution to any of my prospective customers, I have to have something to work from. It cannot be “we’ll just throw some servers in there, watch it, then buy more.” Most customers… at least the government for sure… do not like that approach.

Ironically, I started this post as a complaint against Microsoft for providing not just vague information on this… but a box full of vague smoked up with an opaque fog on the glass.

That sucks, guys. Stop contributing to the failures of the IT industry and fix it.

I’m looking at you too, Apple.

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Migrating RSS feeds to Safari 4.x

Image representing Google Reader as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase

When NetNewsWire went with Google Reader syncing, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  I swore off Google Reader quite some time ago.  Indeed, I was using NNW to avoid Google Reader.  Now I’m being forced back?

It was time to look into splitting up with NNW.

I haven’t used RSS support in OS X since Safari 3, so I decided to give it a new try in Safari 4.  Part of my original problem with RSS support in Safari was no conceivable way to sync the read status across Macs.  Well, turns out they put that support into bookmark sync over MobileMe, they just didn’t notify me.  Thanks, Apple.

Anyway, I was researching how to do this on the net and it looked painful.  Everyone’s steps included loading up Firefox, attaching the Sage plugin to it and importing/exporting yadda yadda… blah, it should NOT be that hard.

So I opened NetNewsWire and just casually dragged a feed title into the bookmark bar in Safari.  I was shocked to discover that Safari took the bookmark just fine.  Once I opened it, it processed the bookmark as a feed and started syncing it.

That was easy.

You still have to open the bookmark one time before it starts syncing it automatically, but just do the “open in tabs” thing and you’ll be fine.  Screw all that Firefox/Sage import/export garbage.  It’s just a drag and drop.  Enjoy.

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WWDC 2009 Music

I’m back from WWDC 2009.  What a wonderful time!  Sorry I didn’t update much about it, I was just too busy with my head buried in all the Apple goodness.  Oh my, do they have some good stuff in the pipe for you.

One of the greatest things about WWDC is the fabulous music they play before each and every session to keep the devs jazzed up.  There was a thread about collecting the songs that were played before each session because Apple wasn’t posting a playlist.  Fortunately, thanks to the iPhone, devs were walking into the sessions with Shazzam running and collecting information on any songs that weren’t recognizable and posting it to the thread.

Well, that thread has now developed into an iMix.  If you were at WWDC 2009 and want to purchase some of the songs you heard before the session, your wishes have been granted.

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When Address Book and MobileMe Fail to Sync a Record

MobileMe
Image via Wikipedia

If you find that there’s an address book card out there that isn’t syncing with MobileMe, your iPhone, or another Mac… check to see if there is an ampersand in the failing record anywhere.  Apparently once a card hits MobileMe, it doesn’t like the ampersand in the vcard and chokes on it.  If MobileMe chokes on it, all of your devices will be unable to find the new card.

Just another tip from yours truly.

I’m in New Orleans this week, working project stuff for the day job.  Lots of fun here.  More later.

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Quick Apple Mail Fix for HTML font size

Hi, just dropping in from raiding the lands of healthy heroes and creamy young virgins to let you in on a quick Apple Mail tip.

Do you use Apple Mail in an environment with Outlook?  In particular, do those Outlook users prefer HTML mail?  Do you receive mail from them with a microscopic font size?

Thanks to the tip I found here you can correct this issue.

  1. Close down Apple Mail (command-Q)
  2. Open the Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal)
  3. Type the following command: “defaults write com.apple.mail MinimumHTMLFontSize 13” (note: without quotes)
  4. Restart Apple Mail
  5. Squint no more.

Hope this helps.  Flying back out to meet up with my sister Vermithrax and raid a few kingdoms today.  Wednesdays are always fun like that.

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Two Weeks in California

Apple WWDC07
Image by tom ferris via Flickr

Apple finally announced the WWDC 2009 dates and they couldn’t have targeted a better week.

It looks like I will become a representative for my agency on the Calconnect standards organization.  They happen to be having a meeting at Oracle in Redwood Shores, CA the week prior to WWDC.  With the wife’s permission, this means two weeks in the wide and crazy world of San Francisco.

I must admit I’m not a huge fan of the San Francisco scene.  Sometimes I feel like I’m too old to really appreciate all the life and culture that goes on out there.  But maybe have a day or two out there by myself with little to do can turn that around.  We shall see.

It seems like I’m getting more traffic to this site, so I’m wondering – do any of you want to see any WWDC-related coverage here, or do you plan on relying on the big boys for that?  If so, maybe I can find some of the little-known stuff to report on.

Let me know.  Even if you don’t care 😉

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iWeb ’09 Publishing to MobileMe == Fail

I was really, really excited to try out iLife ’09, the successor to the really nice iLife ’08 suite.  I run porkbuns.org with iWeb publishing to MobileMe because hey, that’s what that kind of thing is made for.

You can imagine my dismay and disappointment when I discovered that some kind of problem is preventing my site from publishing to MobileMe successfully. I even filed a bug on it.  Lots of posts in the forums about it too, but I don’t see the major Mac blogs taking up the yoke of pressing the issue with Apple.  That’s also disappointing because it’s likely they won’t do much about it until it gets really ugly and public.

Sigh.  So I deleted porkbuns.org for now, until I can get it published.  Please keep your feedreaders subscribed there.  Eventually it’ll come back up.

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Macworld 2009 Thoughts, Impressions, Wrapup

Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time trying to pump out information about Macworld 2009, I thought it would be more appropriate to soak in the entire show and let my brain stew on it a little bit.  I twittered the keynote quite a bit, so that was me trying to play journalist.  For the rest of the week, I intended to take part in the show and ignore the fact that I was collected information to share.

That way, I could let all of the thoughts and information culminate into a wave of thoughts and impressions to share with you while my wife packs for the trip home.  Close your mouth; she likes it that way.  She prefers to be the one that packs and organizes for trips like this and she’s damn good at it.  I asked if I could help and she said no – it was best to stay out of her way.

So, here I sit to write.

The Keynote

I’m not going to bash on the keynote as much as some folks have.  I didn’t come to it with unrealistic expectations.  I knew to expect an update iLife and iWork suite – how the press sites completely missed this clue I’ll never figure out.  The last build of Snow Leopard before the show had all of the iLife apps missing.  How much more of a clue do you need?  I also expected an updated 17″ Macbook Pro.  Steve Jobs had pretty much thrown that secret away with the press event that introduced the unibody Macbooks.  This was an easy one to figure out.

So the keynote was underwhelming to most everyone, but fulfilled my expectations nicely.  I suppose that’s the reward I get for not having outlandish expectations.  I did hope for an updated model of the Apple TV or Mac Mini, but I didn’t have any data to indicate those were in the mix, so I didn’t have my hopes up.

Oh.  And the iTunes announcements were neat.  I’m glad I can use iTunes again without feeling dirty and resorting to Amazon.

Phil Schiller as a speaker was subdued and nervous.  You could hear his voice crackling with pressure.  He knew he wasn’t the front billing and was just hoping for a warm welcome.  He got a warm welcome, but he was nervous nonetheless.  Did this reduce his effectiveness as a speaker?  Perhaps.  I wouldn’t say he delivered a total mess, but it wasn’t a Steve Jobs reality distortion field.

The proclivity to bite his nails caught up with him at the end when he slipped and mentioned “this last Macworld,” when was he meant to say was, “this last Macworld that Apple will be a part of” or something of that nature.  He caught himself – again, you could hear it.  His voice crackled with the “Oh shit”‘s one can expect when you’re not a polished stage presenter.  I’m sure IDG wasn’t thrilled, given the amount of effort they were outputting to pique your interest in next year.

Next Year

So yeah, let’s talk about Macworld 2010, since IDG wants us to remember that Macworld will continue on without Apple next year.  As a matter of fact, IDG is so visibly nervous about interest waning in their show that banners at every corner enticed you to come back next year, even on the first day of the show.  To me, this was the biggest clue that IDG is absolutely terrified.  They should be.  Not just because of Apple’s desire to back away from this show but because the show itself wasn’t all that interesting.  To me, that was the largest death knell.  Everywhere you went you could hear people talking about how this was the last show they will be attending.

I’m jumping ahead here too, but this is relevant.  Five minutes after I arrived back in my hotel room Friday night, I received an email from IDG begging me to go ahead and register for the Expo next year… and if I did, it was free!  Whee!  IDG is terrified folks.

Not to mention the rumors now that Apple wants a booth and presence at CES, which goes against their “we just want to get out of trade shows” press release.  What this tells me is that there was some kind of cost/value dispute over Macworld and Apple ultimately feels like they no longer need to be a specialized entry in the computing world.  They want to play with the big boys now.  They want the computing world to be unified, not split over some terrible operating system preference rift.  Good for them.

Now that IDG has reminded up that there is a Macworld next year, we can move on to the rest of the show.

Powertools and Conference Sessions

I had a platinum pass, so just like every one platinum pass owner I was completely overbooked on sessions.  I sat in on the first session about directory services for the Mac, in particular, the server.  It was a decent session, but the first day managed to cover the topic I was interested in.  I made plans to attend other sessions and do some show floor walking.

Let’s discuss the platinum pass for a moment, since I brought it up.  Why does IDG insist on selling an overpriced pass that completely overbooks you on the conference and sessions?  With this pass you have free an unfettered access to almost any conference topic or session, which is fine… however, if you actually try to attend both powertools sessions and a market symposium, your entire agenda is shot.  You do not even have time to walk the show floor.  That means that eventually you have to skip class just to get out on the floor and see what’s going on with the Expo.  I would think that IDG would give platinum pass goers an extra day or extend the evening Expo hours to give those folks some time to walk the floor.  Maybe someone brought that up in the town hall session.

Anyway, the sessions were interesting.  By far the best talk was Alex Lindsay’s chat on podcasting that lasted most of the day Friday.  (@alexlindsay on Twitter).  For those of you who don’t know who he is – he is one of the founders of Pixel Corps, a guild of filmmakers and new media masterminds.  Alex also works with @leolaporte on the TWiT network producing podcasts like Macbreak and Macbreak Weekly.  His speech was outstanding – but the most valuable part was the fact that he was having an open dialogue with his attendees.  I got lots of information out of that chat and should Alex ever run across this blog for any reason, he should know that this was just awesome.

Outside of that, the conference sessions were ho hum.  There wasn’t much in the way of new information in any of them and the attendance numbers were pretty dull.  The chatter on the floor indicated a dull attitude toward the conference sessions as well, unless you went by the Apple booth.  The Apple booth certainly had garnered a lot of interest with the new iLife and iWork suites.  They had tons of iMacs and Macbooks set up with the new software and one employee at each computer, ready to show you all they had.  Oops, I digress, this section is about the powertools and conference sessions.

As far as feature presentations go, Leo Laporte gave a fantasic speech on the state of new media and why old media is dying.  My coworker went in to the speech completely skeptical, but by the end of the speech he was totally in line with what Leo was talking about.  The turnaround was pretty amazing.  If Leo were here, he’d be happy to see that he converted someone to his point of view.

Hey Leo!

Leo Laporte sat down and geeked out with us over lunch!
Leo Laporte sat down and geeked out with us over lunch!

We kept running into Leo Laporte, oddly enough.  As fans, we instinctively shouted out his name.  At one point, we were sitting at a table and I saw him wander up, looking lost.  He was holding a salad.  I just suddenly shouted, “Hey Leo!”  He spotted us and walked up.  My coworker invited him to sit and eat and to my surprise, he did.  We sat and geeked out with him for about 20 minutes, having some enlightening conversations about Microsoft and Apple.  Leo is a man who gets it.  It’s fun to idolize him because he doesn’t seem to mind much.

We managed to see Leo at least two more times.  Once as we wandered the show floor we spotted him checking out the SMULE booth.  (The Ocarina app is the most incredible application I’ve ever seen, incidentally).  Later in the week, we crossed paths with him in the tunnel connecting north and south Moscone.  I congratulated him on his fantastic speech that morning and he seemed rather appreciative.

Between talking to Leo Laporte and Alex Lindsay, two heroes of mine in the new media space, it was like a dream come true.

iPhone Case World

As far as the show floor went, Apple owned the north hall.  Without their presence next year, Macworld will probably be able to squeeze into a single event hall.  Seriously.  They had a huge contingent of computers and employees there demonstrating iLife and iWork.  Good for them.

A row of iMacs used to demo iWork '09
A row of iMacs used to demo iWork '09

 

The rest of the show floor was really underwhelming.  Everywhere you looked, some new company was coming out with a new case for iPods or the iPhone.  Srsly.  That was about it.  There were some great show buys that I immediately picked up on – a 30% discount on Omni products, a 10% discount on Delicious Library 2, but by and large there were only two stories on the show floor: iPhone/iPod cases and gadgets and the complete surprise of geotagging suddenly becoming important.

That’s right.  Nikon and Canon were completely thrilled about the geotagging support being added to iPhoto.  Not.  Both booths said everyone was now asking for geotagging support in the cameras because of this but they were completely unprepared.  The Canon booth was even worse about this topic – they were downright combative about the subject.  When we asked if any of their cameras supported geotagging, they said, “Why do you ask?”  We looked at them as though they had turkeys on their heads.  The Canon rep continued, “Just because iPhoto has it?  What makes that useful?”  We still stood there, speechless.  Finally, he seemed to relent a little bit.  “No, seriously, Canon would like to know if you want this and how much you’re willing to pay for it.”  Okie, that’s a decent question, but his delivery could use some work.  So it seems Apple is ahead of the game again – no one is ready to do geotagging as part of the full camera gadget just yet.  Buyer beware.

That about covers the show as I saw it.  We’re packing up to head home, but I don’t think I’ll be coming back to another Macworld.  I’ll make an effort for WWDC, but if Apple thinks that CES is the place to go and Macworld isn’t, then I suspect that’s where the flock will go next as well.

IDG blew something.  I’m not sure what it was, but they blew it.  You could feel that evidence everywhere.

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Twittering the Macworld Keynote

For those of you who are interested in the Macworld keynote that will be occurring tomorrow… I have a guaranteed seat to attend and am planning to Twitter the presentation as it occurs.

I said planning. That does not include getting busted by any Apple employees or whatnot.

If you want to follow my Twitter feed for tomorrow morning, my Twitter username is “Vermyndax.” (http://twitter.com/vermyndax)

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Macworld speculation

Apple Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Did anyone catch the memo?  The one that said Apple is done with Macworld after this year because they want to announce products on their own timeline?  Yeah that one.  I thought you saw that one.

People seem to have forgotten it already.  There’s rampant speculation all over the net about products that Phil Schiller will be announcing during the keynote next week.  Hey, I’ll be there (I’ve got a guaranteed seat for the keynote, yay!) but I’m not expecting anything Earth-shattering.  I’m actually expecting not much of anything except some horn tooting and market share numbers.

But should they choose to introduce new products, I won’t complain.

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