April 1, 2008

My favorite April Fool’s web page so far this year

Fun and quick, if you know anything about MMO or even other computer RPGs.

My favorite part is the “Epic Quest Arc“, or maybe:

Much Much More!

Six New Skills!
• Oppressive Yolk
• Hot Wings
• Eggcellent Assault
• Scramble
• Poach
• Batter
New Features!
• New Instrument: Drumstick!
• New Trait: Nuggets of Wisdom
• New Fellowship Skill: A Pox Upon You
• New PvMP Rank: Colonel
• Universal Cook Recipe: “Tastes Like…”
• One-shot Cook Recipe: Yourself!

Note: Chickens are a recurring comedic theme in Magic:The Gathering, and this also isn’t the first time they’ve surfaced in LOTRO.

March 4, 2008

Microsoft also seems to be selling SaaS directly

For a while, I’ve been arguing that SaaS is naturally a direct-sales business, even when sold to small organizations. If people are willing to have their business processes handled over a telecommunication network, they’re probably willing to buy services that way too. Indeed, the very first computer services firm ever was probably Automatic Data Processing. They sort of did SaaS, and they most definitely did direct sales.

What inspires me to bring this up now is the press around Microsoft Sharepoint. Apparently, there’s long been a SaaS version of Sharepoint for big firms, and now Microsoft is rolling it out for everybody. Now, I haven’t read the press releases, which weren’t sent to me by anybody at Waggener-Edstrom and are not easy to find on Microsoft’s web site. But the reporting doesn’t seem to mention partners, except in the negative. I.e., this seems like yet another significant direct-sales SaaS business.

If you follow this logic through, it suggests that a large part of the SaaS market will wind going to large companies with global reach — whether or not the rumors are true that Salesforce.com is currently being shopped around.

February 6, 2008

I retract any recommendation of domain registrar NameCheap

In the past, I have recommended domain registrar NameCheap.com. But after last weekend’s server move, I retract any such recommendation.

I have 20-some odd domains registered, all with NameCheap. When moving servers, it was necessary to change the DNS listings for all of them. There are three ways to do this in the NameCheap interface. For some domains, an option comes up to type or paste DNS entries directly. For some, there’s a different sidebar, but that sidebar gives a “Make Like Another Domain” option. (I have no idea why NameCheap’s UI is inconsistent in that regard.) And there’s also a mass update capability, for a page of results (about 9) on the Manage Domains listing.

I started by changing a single domain (DBMS2.com). Then I noticed the mass change option, and tried it. However, I was told it might take the changes up to an hour go through. (9 freaking transactional updates? An hour?? What are you thinking, NameCheap?) I also found that when I tried the DNS management option, on the sidebars that showed it, I frequently got busy server error messages. (C’mon, NameCheap — just how busy can your core servers be on the weekend? Or do you have such terrible backup practices that they are fatally slowed when being backed up?) Read more

February 3, 2008

We’re having a bit of a rocky server transition

I’m moving servers this morning. The result, I am told by my web host Dimension Servers, should be better response times and more stability. But my domain registrar NameCheap got weird when I retargeted the DNS, which may have contributed to difficulties. Anyhow, various of our sites have been briefly down in whole or part.

dbms2.com email — which is what most of you use — is down at the moment. monash.com email, which is hosted by Google, seems just fine.

I’ll get this all sorted out soon. And then I’ll catch up on some monashadvantage.com access I owe.

January 10, 2008

Richi Jennings changed physics, and I didn’t even notice

While ego-surfing, I found something I let slip by last April. Responding to my views on network neutrality, Richi Jennings pooh-poohed my claim that low latency is important. Specifically, he said:

Here’s the thing… Those of us that live the other side of the Atlantic live with 250ms latency every day, when we connect to services hosted in North America. I dare say the same is true for those on the other side of the Pacific. There’s not much getting around the speed of light.

Now, I’ll confess to not being the greatest of networking mavens, my networking startup and my various relationships with Network World notwithstanding. Truth be told, I dropped out of a physics major when the only uncompleted course was electronics lab. But before I dropped out, I did get the speed of light drilled into me. It’s 186,000 miles/second, aka 3 x 10^10 cm/sec. (“Not just a good idea; it’s the law!”). 186,000 miles, I’m quite convinced, is a lot more than 4 times the difference across the Atlantic Ocean. And the same remains true even when you knock off 50% or so because that light is traveling through glass rather than in a vacuum.

January 4, 2008

Early thoughts on outsourcing to Google Mail

Google doesn’t just offer free email of the form address@gmail.com. You can also outsource your own domain to them (free if you accept incoming ads, $50/year/mailbox if you don’t). I’ve chosen to do this, because:

  1. I need a mail host that can stand up under the kind of mailbomb/DDOS attacks that shut me down twice in the past year.
  2. Similarly, I want to diversify my email addresses among two providers, rather than leaving them all with my general web hosting company.
  3. David Ferris first wrote up Google Mail outsourcing, with a favorable view, last July. And some of his criticisms (e.g., lack of IMAP support) have already been rectified.
  4. What’s more — as I remarked last night, David and his associate Richi Jennings have been voting with their feet, and moving their own email to Google. That’s an impressive endorsement. Ferris Research is a serious rival to Gartner as an analyst firm covering email, and Richi — who evidently LOVES Gmail — has also carved out a non-trivial identity as an expert in his own right.
  5. Free sounds good, compared with the alternatives. Read more
December 19, 2007

Dimension Servers – when smaller is better in a web host

This post is no longer operative, and I am no longer a customer of Dimension Servers.

Anne Truitt Zelenka writes of her need for a web hosting service that cares about its customers. Well, I have one to recommend: Dimension Servers.

Web hosting companies typically go through the following stages:

1. Early days, when the tech-knowledgeable CEO personally takes care of customers’ problems.

2. Healthy growth, in which a small staff watches over customers with almost the same care as the CEO would.

3. Growing pains, when the tech-knowledgeable CEO takes care of a few customers’ problems after the too-new staff botches them.

4. Impersonal success.

Dimension Servers is still very much in Stage 1. So far as I can tell, they only manage two servers (possibly at two different data centers). And the only reliable support comes from CEO Jon McAllister, who also has a day job. But that’s enough. He’s available long hours by IM or cell phone. And when he isn’t, a cell phone page usually snags him.

Best of all, “they” — i.e., Jon — go way above and beyond the call of duty in service. Moving files? Installing software? Repairing a database? It doesn’t matter whose fault the problem is — if I’m in need, he takes care of me. And no doubt he’d do the same for anybody else. Writing this review — without even a paid referral program (sigh) — is really the first favor I’ve ever done him.


December 2, 2007

Oracle is mixing its paradigms

In the past, I’ve drawn a clear distinction between an IBM/Oracle data-centric view of applications and SAP’s long-standing process-centric view. And I pooh-poohed the appearance that IBM was fuzzing things up a bit.

But as it self-identifies ever more as an application vendor, Oracle has also claimed to be more process-centric. And given the size of Oracle’s applications commitment, in this case I think the change, while not absolute, is at least in part pretty real.

November 20, 2007

I repeat — SaaS is not necessarily an indirect-channels business

From Salesforce.com’s latest 10-K:

We market our service to businesses on a subscription basis, primarily through our direct sales efforts and also indirectly through partners.

Looking back, I should have quoted that in support when I wrote:

By the way, I think the assumption SAP needs to sell ByDemand via indirect channels is an erroneous one. (Dennis Howlett seems to be at least partway to recognizing this. He also reports that SAP realizes that this is truly a sales issue.) Hence my stress on SAP’s internal sales management issues.

For 40+ years, application-oriented services have been sold in large part by direct sales forces. That goes back to the other payroll processors, and to time-sharing in general. Why would it change now?

November 19, 2007

Usability engineering is crucial

From a review of the rather powerful Fair Isaac Blaze Advisor, which will surely be far less successful than its functionality deserves:

But employing a usability expert when designing the tools and observing how users interact with them would go a long way toward improving their usefulness.

My mind utterly boggles each time I discover that a large software vendor still doesn’t seem to have realized this. Or maybe Fair Isaac did do usability engineering, but entrusted it to a blithering incompetent. That frankly would be more reassuring than them not having tried at all.

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