January 28, 2004
@ 10:50 PM

From eBay, we have the  Mike Rowe Official WIPO Book As Seen On TV for sale.The current price is $1,075.0 and you get

This is your chance to own a piece of Internet history. This is the book shown on TV, Internet, magazines and talked about on the radio and seen by millions of people world-wide. I am selling the WIPO book with the 25-page letter I received from Microsoft's lawyers on January 14/2004. I have two copies of these and I will be keeping one for my own personal memoirs. This inch-thick book contains copies of web pages, registrations, trade marks, other WIPO cases, emails between me and Microsoft's lawyers and much more. There are 27 annexes filled with information. This package also comes with the 25-page complaint transmittal coversheet that was sent with the inch-thick book. In this letter you can find policies, rules, supplemental rules, model responses, copy of complaint and much more.

I wonder how high the bidding is going to go for this piece of Internet history.


James Robertson writes

Microsoft wants to move beyond objects:

Box said technologies such as Java's Remote Method Invocation (RMI) and CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) all suffered similar problems. "The metaphor of objects as a primary distribution media is flawed. CORBA started out with wonderful intentions, but by the time they were done, they fell into the same object pit as COM."

The problem with most distributed object technologies, Box said, is that programs require particular class files or .jar files (referring to Java), or .dll files (Microsoft's own dynamic linked libraries). "We didn't have (a) true arms-length relationship between programs," Box said. "We were putting on an appearance that we did, but the programs had far more intimacy with each other than anyone felt comfortable with."

"How do we discourage unwanted intimacy?" he asked. "The metaphor we're going to use for integrating programs (on Indigo) is service orientation. I can only interact by sending and receiving messages. Message-based (communications) gives more flexibility

I guess Don didn't get the memo - OO is all about the messages between the objects, and less about the actual objects themselves. Look at that last sentence - "Message based communications" gives more flexibility? What does he think a OO is about? You know, CORBA can be simple - in VisualWorks, it's amazingly, astoundingly simple. It takes a curly brace language like Java or C# to make it complex (at the developer level - I'm not talking implementation layer here).

James Robertson completely misses the point of Don's comments on distributed computing with objects versus using message passing. An example of a service oriented architecture that uses message passing is HTTP on the World Wide Web. It is flexible, scalable and loosely coupled. No one can say with a straight face that using CORBA, Java RMI or DCOM is as scalable or as loosely coupled unless they're trying to sell you something. What Don and the folks on the Indigo team are trying to do is apply the lessons learned from the Web solving problems traditionally tackled by distributed object systems.

It is just an unfortunate naming collision that some object oriented languages use the term “message passing” to describe invoking methods on objects which I'm sure is what's confused James Robertson given that he is a Smalltalk fan.


Categories: Technology

Robert Scoble, my favorite and most prolific pro-Microsoft blogger is at it again. His latest rant that's drawing a bunch of eyeballs online is his recent post where he tries to argue that iPods are a poorer choice than portable music players that use Microsoft's music formats. Specifically he writes  

OK media consumers, let's look forward to 2006. It's always good to look at where you'll end up when you consider buying into a platform of any kind -- and both Apple and Microsoft want you to look at their offerings as just a piece of their platform offerings. It's sort of like picking a football team -- if you're gonna be locked into a team for a few years, wouldn't you rather pick a Superbowl winner than someone who'll go 1-18?

Over the next three years, it won't be uncommon for many of you to buy 500 songs if you want to buy legitimate music from legitimate sources (translate: official services approved by the recording industry like Napster or iTunes). That'll cost you $300 to $500. It's pretty clear that the world will come down to two or three major "systems." Disclaimer: MSN is rumored to be working on such a system. See, when you buy music from a service like Apple's iTunes or Napster (or MSN), it comes with DRM attached.

When you hear DRM think "lockin." So, when you buy music off of Napster or Apple's iTunes, you're locked into the DRM systems that those applications decided on. Really you are choosing between two competing lockin schemes.

But, not all lockin schemes are alike, I learned on Friday. First, there are two major systems. The first is Apple's AAC/Fairtunes based DRM. The second is Microsoft's WMA

Let's say it's 2006. You have 500 songs you've bought on iTunes for your iPod. But, you are about to buy a car with a digital music player built into it. Oh, but wait, Apple doesn't make a system that plays its AAC format in a car stereo. So, now you can't buy a real digital music player in your car. Why's that? Because if you buy songs off of Apple's iTunes system, they are protected by the AAC/Fairtunes DRM system, and can't be moved to other devices that don't recognize AAC/Fairtunes. Apple has you locked into their system and their devices. (And, vice versa is true, as any Apple fan will gladly point out to you). What does that mean if you buy into Apple's system? You've gotta buy an FM transmitter that transmits songs from your iPod to your car stereo. What does that do? Greatly reduces the quality. How do I know that? Cause the Microsoft side of the fence has FM transmitters too. I saw a few on Friday. But, what we have on our side is a format (WMA) that's already being adopted by car stereo manufacturers. So, now when you buy a new song on Napster, it can play on your car stereo, or on your portable music player. Is the choice to do that important to you? If not, then you can buy an iPod and music off of iTunes.

I'm not going to be too critical about Scoble's post since he's basically doing his job as an evangelist and the last thing I want is yet more hate mail from folks in the B0rg cube who believe that every personal blog by a Microsoft employee should be a mini-pep rally for Microsoft products. But I do want to point out some counter arguments that I believe people on both sides of the debate [especially in the B0rg cube] should pay attention to. The first is Cory Doctorow's rant Protect your investment: buy open . He writes

Well, says Scoble, all of the music that we buy from these legit services is going to have DRM use-restriction technology ("See, when you buy music from a service like Apple's iTunes or Napster (or MSN), it comes with DRM attached."). So the issue becomes "choosing between two competing lockin schemes."

And in that choice, says Scoble, Microsoft wins, because it has more licensees of its proprietary, lock-in format. That means that when you want to play your music in your car, it's more likely that you'll find a car-stereo manufacturer that has paid Microsoft to play Microsoft music than that you'll find one that has coughed up to Apple to play Apple music.

And this is the problem with Scoble's reasoning. We have a world today where we can buy CDs, we can download DRM-music, we can download non-DRM music from legit services, we can download "pirate" music from various services, and we can sometimes defeat DRM using off-the-shelf apps for Linux (which has a CD recovery tool that handily defeats CD DRM), the Mac (with tools like AudioHijack that make it easy to convert DRM music to MP3s or other open formats) and Windows (I assume, since I don't use Windows, but as Scoble points out, there's lots of Windows software out there.).

In this world where we have consumer choices to make, Scoble argues that our best buy is to pick the lock-in company that will have the largest number of licensees

That's just about the worst choice you can make.

If I'm going to protect my investment in digital music, my best choice is clearly to invest in buying music in a format that anyone can make a player for.

I have an iPod and I have to agree with Cory. I don't buy DRMed music but I do buy CDs and sometimes look for remixes of singles not available in stores anymore on Kazaa. I use a tape deck connector to plug my iPod into my car stereo and it often sounds better than CDs. An argument about how many devices can play Microsoft's file formats versus Apple's sounds silly to me given that I'll only ever use one player at a time. Scoble's argument [which I hope isn't a marketing strategy that Microsoft is seriously going to pursue] is that folks will transfer music between multiple players during regular usage which in practice just isn't likely. And even if it was, the best bet for people in such cases would be to use the most widely supported format in which case it would be the MP3 format. Either way an iPod still seems like an attractive buy. Arguing about music file formats for portable music players is like arguing about formats for address books in cell phones and trying to make the fact that you can move your address book easily between two cell phones that run the same OS than others is some sort of selling point that is of interest to regular people.

The saddest part of all this is watching Scoble describe feedback from people pointing out the obvious holes in his sales pitch as hate mail. It isn't his fault, we all act that way once we've been assimilated. :) I just don't see this "more choice" argument convincing many people. Scoble is better off focusing on price points and design aesthetics of competing media players to the iPod than the artificial differences he's trying to construct. I was particularly fond of his statement

It's interesting the religiousness of the debates. Brings me back to when I was a Macintosh fanatic back in the late 1980s. Oh, if only religious support won markets. Course if that were the case, I'd be working for Steve Jobs now in Cupertino, huh?

When last I looked iPod sales had surpassed two million. Looks like religious support does win some markets, huh? ;)


Categories: Ramblings

January 28, 2004
@ 05:34 AM

In a post entitled .NET Reality Check Jon Udell writes

3. Programming language neutrality. Here's a statement, from an early Jeff Richter article about .NET, that provoked oohs and ahhs at the time: "It is possible to create a class in C++ that derives from a class implemented in Visual Basic." Well, does anybody do this now? Is it useful? Meanwhile, the dynamic language support we were going to get, for the likes of Perl and Python, hasn't arrived. Why not?

The primary benefit of programming language neutrality is that library designers can build a library in one language and developers using other languages can use them without having to worry about language differences. The biggest example of this is the .NET Framework's Base Class Library, it is mainly written in C# but this doesn't stop VB.NET developers from writing .NET applications, implementing interfaces or subclassing types from the various System.* namespaces.

Examples closer to home for me are in RSS Bandit which depends on a couple of third party libraries such as Chris Lovett's SgmlReader and Tim Dawson's SandBar. I've personally never had to worry about what language they were written in nor do I care. All I need to know is that they are targetted at the .NET Framework.

On the other hand, when the .NET Framework was first being hyped there were a lot of over enthusiastic evangelists and marketters who tried to sell the programming language neutrality as something that would also allow you to have developers working on a single project use different languages. Although theoretically possible, that always seemed like an idea that would be unwise to implement in practice. I can imagine how problematic it would be if Torsten wrote managed C++ code and I wrote VB.NET code for the different parts of RSS Bandit we worked on. Fixing each others bugs would be a painful experience.


Categories: Technology

January 28, 2004
@ 01:38 AM

Fumiaki Yoshimitu writes

 DOM L3 Validation gets recommended.

We know that XPathDocument2 will have validation (and augmentation) feature, but how about XmlDocument?  Will it support any of the DOM L3 feature?  This is another question related to the rumor that XmlDocument is dead.  Dare?
Actually we've decided to rethink having a Validate() method on the class that is currently called XPathDocument2 because it may lead users down the wrong path. Our worry is that users will end up loading an XML document and then call Validate() on it thus incurring the cost of two passes over the document as opposed to the more efficient approach of loading the document with a validating XmlReader. For this reason we've removed the Validate() method from the class.
Also there is no plan to have XmlDocument support any DOM L3 feature. Moving forward, the primary representation of in-memory XML documents on the .NET Framework will be the class currently called XPathDocument2 and that is where the Microsoft WebData XML team's efforts will be spent.


Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube | XML

Below is the list of the developers who got the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award for the 2004-2005 calendar year in the XML category

These developers have all been outstanding members of Microsoft's peer-to-peer communities.


Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube | XML

January 27, 2004
@ 04:33 PM

As Joshua Allen mentioned in his blog our team recently had a WinFX Review. This is basically a design review with a number of top architects from across the .NET Framework to ensure that the API you are building is consistent with the design guidelines for an API that will be shipping in the next version of Windows (i.e. LongHorn). We got a lot of good feedback which we are in the process of responding to and has caused a few design changes. The good news is that we've come up with a story for XPathNavigator2, XPathEditor  and XPathDocument2 that most people who've heard are happy with.

After the review we were pinged by Anders Hejlsberg who missed the original design review and asked if we could do a mini-review with just him. He gave lots of good feedback, questioned some of our scenarios and was quite amiable. I think he was mostly satisfied with the design decisions we'd made but thought we could do more in making processing XML dead easy as opposed the current situation where the developer needs to know a bit too much about XML and our programming model.  He also talked about the tradeoffs of going to a cursor based model (XPathNavigator2/XPathEditor) from a tree based model (XmlNode) and the disconnects developers may feel once they make the shift. I suspect it will be similar to the disconnect developers initially felt when moving from MSXML & Java which had a push-based model (SAX) for processing XML in a streaming fashion to the .NET Framework which uses a pull-based model (XmlReader). At first it was unfamiliar but once they started using it and saw the benefits they preferred it to the old way.

That said we do need to think some more about how to better benefit the “XML as config file format AKA CSV on steroids” demographic. A large number of developers just see XML as nothing more than a format for configuration and log files in which case a lot of the cruft of XML is meaningless to them such as entities, processing instructions and CDATA sections. 


Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube

January 25, 2004
@ 05:47 PM

From Jamie Zawinski we learn

 Student Caught In Racial Controversy:

OMAHA, Neb. -- Four Westside High School students are suspended for promoting a white student for an African-American award. Flyers featured junior Trevor Richards, a South African native who moved to the United States in 1997.

Trevor said he is as African as anyone else.

This is just ridiculous. The kid is obviously African-American if the words are expected to be taken literally. Of course, like most euphemisms the words aren't meant to be taken literally but instead are supposed to map to a [sometimes unrelated] concept. I hope the kids take the school district to court.



I just registered into Orkut (Google's version of Friendster according to Slashdot), thanks to an invitation from Don Park -- thanks Don. Part of the registration process contained one my pet peeves, a question about ethnicity that had [african american (black)] as one of the options. As if both terms are interchangeable. I almost picked [other] since the designers of the software seemed to think that people of African descent that aren't citizens of the United States weren't a large enough demographic to have their own option in the drop down list. I ended up going with [african american (black)] since I didn't want to confuse people who'd be looking up my profile.

Checking out a couple of people's friend networks it seems the misgivings I had about Friendster which kept me from using it when I first heard about it are accurate if Orkut is anything like it. Online folks seem to have a weird definition of friend. When I think friend, I think of someone you'd give a call and say "Hello, I just killed someone" and after a pause their response is "Shit, so what are we going to do about the body?" That isn't to be taken literally but you get the idea. A friend is someone you'd go to the ends of the Earth for and who'd do the same for you. People with whom my primary interaction involves reading their weblogs and exchanging mail on various mailing lists don't really fall into the "friend" category for me. Lumping those people together with folks I've known all my life who've been with me through thick and thin who've done things like let me hold their bank card with the PIN number to use in case of emergencies when I was broke, trusted me to come up with my share of the rent and bills when I had no job and no prospects because I gave my word, and helped me get out of trouble when I thought I was in over my head just seems wrong to me.  

There are acquaintences, friends and folks I'd die for. Lumping them all into one uber-category called friends just doesn't jibe with me. I'll play with the site some more later today but I doubt I'll be on it for long. I've got some stuff coming in from IKEA this morning.


Categories: Ramblings

January 24, 2004
@ 05:20 PM

Don't you just love temporal searches?


Categories: RSS Bandit