Philip Lippard

Please say it ain't so

IE6 Rebellion ?...You Be The Judge

As a Web Designer/ Software Developer, IE6 is a browser that is difficult to avoid if you have a web site where the world is your audience.   There are so many non-compliance issues with IE6 that it is difficult to maintain a comprehensive list of known problems.  The most annoying problem with IE6 is the non-support of PNG24 images.

In any event, I saw an article in CNN this morning where web designers are starting a movement to get rid of IE6.  I would not expect the demise of IE6 anytime soon, however this can only be good news.

The problems with IE6 can become so overwhelming that I wrote a special ASP.NET custom control for one project that conditionally injects special HTML code where appropriate for IE6.  It works sort of like this...

   1:  <slcms:InjectBrowserHtml runat="server">
   2:      <DefaultTemplate>
   3:          <img src="/Themes/Images/ShipMyLuggage/Your-ticket-to-ease.png" 
   4:              alt="Your ticket to ease of convenience" />
   5:      </DefaultTemplate>
   6:      <IE6Template>
   7:          <div style="filter:progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.AlphaImageLoader(sizingMethod='scale',
   8:                      src='/Themes/Images/ShipMyLuggage/Your-ticket-to-ease.png'); 
   9:                  width: 478px; 
  10:                  height: 149px;">
  11:              &nbsp;
  12:          </div>
  13:      </IE6Template>
  14:  </slcms:InjectBrowserHtml>    

And of course, all over the web are articles about how to fix the most noticeable IE6 problems....such as 10 Fixes That Solve IE6 Problems...

IE6 ?....Good riddance...

No Monthly Fee Outbound Internet Fax Service


I acquired an eFax telephone number several years ago for inbound faxing.  I think the area code for my eFax telephone number is in Utah somewhere, however for inbound faxing, the service has always worked well.  For outbound faxing, eFax has always required a monthly fee.  I have recently discovered www.pamfax.biz for outbound faxing.  One can conduct on-demand outbound faxing without needing to pay a monthly fee.   Pamfax can also use your Skype credits for payment. 

Cost per page is only about 15 cents per page, and Pamfax works well with sending PDF documents.  One simply uploads the documents to be faxed and selects and fills in a fax cover page.

So Who Appointed You King-Maker ?

Interesting how we have all read about the evils of Microsoft over the past decade, starting with the Justice Department's efforts in 1999.  However, when one takes a close look at the behavior of many companies, doing what is necessary to be competitive is common practice.  Take Apple for example.  After the market crash, during the Fall of 2008 Apple shares dropped to $90 per share, and Apple is now at $165 per share and riding high.  On the other hand, Apple is clearly not what one would call an "open company".  The Macintosh product line and the OS X operating system is built on top of Intel based processors, yet don't dare try to run OS X on a Dell Intel based processor, or for that matter an Intel based processor from anyone other than Apple.

When I started iPhone software development I searched the Internet long and hard for a means to run the iPhone SDK and Objective X (XCode, etc) and OS X within a Microsoft Virtual PC (VPC).  I found one hacker who spent hours trying such and was moderately successfully, however no doubt he violated numerous license agreements along the way.

And then there is the Apple iPhone App Store.  My previous blog posts support my view that the iPhone product line is a revolutionary product line, however it is clearly not what one would call an "open product line".   The Apple iPhone App Store places Apple into the role of King-Maker.

Here is an interesting article from this morning's Wall Street Journal that may suggest a reversal may be forthcoming in Apple's behavior.

Text Messages at 30,000 Feet

On a recent flight between Raleigh and Sanibel I could not help but notice the "WI-FI Enabled" logo as I was entering the aircraft.  I figured this would be a good test for my new 13" MacBookPro laptop.  The WI-FI service is powered by www.gogoinflight.com.  After researching GoGoInflight, I learned that it is available on multiple airlines, so evidently some entrepreneur has been quite creative in developing a WI-FI capability that can be airline-neutral and provide a great service.

So...I tried it out and it worked great, and I was flying coach class.  I was able to text message using Google Voice and Skpe.   I was also able to conduct voice calls using Skype.

Technology has come a long way since Charles Lindbergh.

RIA Services - July CTP ==> Great Stuff...

To-date I have been a casual user of Microsoft's Silverlight technology, however that is all changing with Silverlight version 3 and a new companion product called RIA Services. 

With Silverlight version 1, I wrote quite a bit of JavaScript based Silverlight, plenty of animation, etc.  I avoid Silverlight for animation in favor of jQuery where practical, simply because of the browser audience.   jQuery has a wider browser acceptance, and since the introduction of Silverlight version 1, Microsoft has also embraced jQuery.  If the world is my audience, then I avoid Silverlight, although I consider the underlying technology to be great.

I was pleased to see a more business application oriented direction with Silverlight version 2, however data access from the client was still somewhat problematic with the use of WCF or ADO.NET Data Services.  I worked with both, however fast simplified data access had not yet arrived.

Silverlight 3 was released on 10-Jul-2009, and at the same time a RIA Services July CTP was made available.  RIA Services provides an object oriented approach to Silverlight client data access in the form of a RIA Services client proxy accessing a RIA Services Domain Service Class on the server.  The RIA Services Domain Services Class provides many of the same benefits as popular Object Relationship Mapping (ORM) offerings; Sub-Sonic, nHibernate, etc.   Presumably, this is the reason why RIA Services will be shipping as a separate product.  While providing many benefits for Silverlight 3 applications, RIA Services's benefits are not limited to Silverlight.

An extract from the RIA Services introduction...

Microsoft Silverlight provides a strong foundation for building Rich Internet Applications (RIA). Microsoft .NET RIA Services introduced in this document further simplify Line of Business (LoB) RIA development. They complement the existing Data Access Layer and presentation components in the .NET framework and Silverlight. They build on the foundation of ASP.NET and codify, evolve and support some of the common patterns in web applications.

The underlying Server data access layer for RIA Services can be an Entity Framework data model, LinqtoSQL  or a Plain Old CLR Object (POCO).  I prefer using LinqToSQL as my underlying data access layer.

Classic Web Application

Word on the Internet is that we are likely to see a RIA Services release date of late 2009 or early 2010.

There are some excellent reference articles on the Internet:

Nikhil Kothan's BLOG

Brad Abram's BLOG (a NC State graduate)

While I still avoid Silverlight when the world is my audience, I think Silverlight coupled with RIA Services is a great technology to use for Intranet applications, where the browser usage can be controlled.  Silverlight 3 and RIA Services provides a native Windows application look and feel, thus providing many advantages over the traditional web application.

Google Voice - What is it ?

Google Voice is the Internet based phone forwarding service by Google. It was previously known as GrandCentral. Google Voice is free except for international calls.

Google Voice gives you a separate phone number which you can give out as if it is your regular phone number. You can then change your settings to have calls forward to any of your phones.

You can forward to one group of phones during the day and another at night. You can have calls from certain numbers forward differently than calls to other numbers. You can block spamming callers and send some calls straight to voice mail.

You can send yourself an SMS message or an email whenever you get a voice mail message, and you can check your voice mail from the Web or from your phone.

 

The iPhone Apps That Have Changed My World

The iPhone has definitely changed my world, since getting my first in Aug-2008.iPhone   I have gone from using a Motorola RAZR (and having a Windows Mobile PDA in my closet which I never used) to having the iPhone constantly by my side.  I enjoy reading the morning paper on the iPhone rather than the black ink edition of the local newspaper.  It is nice to be able to email news articles to friends over breakfast.  I have also purchased a Mac Pro laptop for iPhone software development purposes.   I have not yet gotten past use of the iPhone simulator, however I am hoping to have more time for iPhone development soon.

So what are my favorite life-style changing iPhone apps ?...not including the built-in apps from Apple ?

  1. Dice - My very 1st 3rd party iPhone app.  Good for a roll of the dice.  Perhaps the Obama Administration should use it when projecting next year's budget deficit.
  2. Linkedin - The iPhone edition of the business oriented Linkedin.com networking web site.
  3. MissingCalc - A scientific and programmers calculator (Octal, Hexadecimal, etc)
  4. Urbanspoon - Restaurant directions based on local GPS coordinates.
  5. Google Earth - Zoom in on your favorite spot on planet Earth.
  6. Google - A number of miscellaneous Google apps, many of which simply redirect you to the iPhone Safari browser.
  7. iTalk - Griffin's voice memo app.
  8. Say Who Lite - A Voice Dialer, which I will dispose of when I get my iPhone 3GS next April.
  9. MiniPiano - Just what it says, yet somewhat amusing.
  10. WikiTap - Not sure where this came from.  Not real sure what it does.
  11. OpenTable - Another Restaurant locator GPS service.
  12. VR+ - Another voice memo facility.  Also popular on the Blackberry.
  13. Light - Lights up the room so one can see.  Some people will think of everything.
  14. Skype - The famous Skype client.  Has been out now since Apr-2009.   Definitely one of my favorites.  Voice over WI-FI works rather well.
  15. LOCiMe - Start this app and you can record your current GPS location at the LOCiMe web service, and then monitor all of your movements via web queries.
  16. Twitterrific - Follows Tweets for nearby Twitter members, based on GPS location.
  17. Stanza - Electronic book reading subscription service.
  18. Currency - Converts International currencies.
  19. Yellow Pages - Do you need to ask ?
  20. Facebook - The iPhone edition of the favorite social networking site.
  21. Zillow - The iPhone edition of the real estate research Zillow web site.
  22. WSJ - Wall Street Journal.
  23. NYTimes - New York Times.
  24. Dictionary - The iPhone edition of the Dictionary.com web site.
  25. AP Mobile - Associated Press News Service.

Have you ever noticed how some people (Palm and Blackberry users) simply will not admit that perhaps... just perhaps... Apple has the best product with the iPhone.  After all, Apple now has over 50,000 applications on the iPhone App Store.  Now this is what I call mobilizing the software development community.

And just think.  In 1980 I was using a used IBM Selectric typewriter as a business productivity tool.

Please let me know of your favorite iPhone apps.

First Automated Teller Machine (ATM) installed on this day in 1967

Now here is an interesting article that hits close to home.   The first modern automated teller machine was installed on this day (27-Jun) in 1967 in Enfield, Middlesex.

The ATM was invented by Scot John Shepherd-Barron. The world's first ATM was installed in a branch of Barclays in the northern London borough of Enfield, Middlesex, in 1967. Inspiration had struck Mr Shepherd-Barron, now 82, while he was in the bath.

RegVarneyATM

Reg Varney (in the photo to the right), is pictured here in 1967 using the first modern ATM.  Who is Reg Varney ?...I have no idea.

So, why do we care ?  Because ATMs were at one time a major part of my life.  I became involved with ATMs in the mid-1970s with the offline Docutel units, in fact initially all ATMs operated in offline mode, offline mode meaning there was no real-time data communications interface to a computer for funds verification purposes.  I became involved with ATMs while providing consulting to First Union National Bank (FUNB) in downtown Charlotte, NC.  The FUNB ATM network was of the online variety using IBM's newly announced IBM 3624 ATM, a first at the time.  The ATM system developed at FUNB would be licensed to Security Pacific National Bank (SPNB) in 1979, and I would also move to Los Angeles along with the product.  SPNB's deployment of the IBM 3624 network would be one of the largest ATM networks in the United States.  The IBM 3624 also became a rather popular ATM for its time, in fact most of the major ATM hardware manufacturers would emulate the IBM 3624 for competitive reasons.

FUNB and Wachovia merged in 2001, regrettably creating the Wachovia as we know it today, which virtually collapsed in Dec-2008 and was then acquired by the Wells Fargo Bank.  SPNB was acquired by the Bank of America in 1992.

I co-founded Nexus Software in June 1985 and moved away from unattended devices such as ATMs, and moved more into software development for attended devices, such as specialized financial industry printers, magnetic stripe readers and other financial industry specific devices typically found in a retail branch.

However, because of Nexus' involvement with the European based International standard called WOSA/XFS and ActiveXFS, Nexus Software was acquired by The Diebold Corporation in Oct-1999.  Diebold was and still is one of the world's largest manufacturers of ATMs.  The other major ATM manufacturers today include Diebold, NCR and Siemens-Nixdorf.

For me, I rarely use an ATM any longer.  In many respects, an ATM is now a relic of the past.  I always use my debit card...