Monthly Archives: September 2005

OneNote 12 – Working as a team with shared notebooks

OneNote 12 – Working as a team with shared notebooks.

lot of people view OneNote as a single-user application designed for
personal notes. This is a pretty narrow view of an application we have
much grander ambitions for. Of course it is not as narrow as the “it
only works on TabletPC” myth  (grr), but it's still pretty narrow.

As we started planning OneNote 12 in
the summer of 2004, for kicks we dusted off our original vision for it.
Right there in black and white in the original vision doc from early
2001 there is a sentence I wrote at the urging of my dev manager to
specify what we were NOT going to do in the first release as a guide to
the team. It states, “Scribbler [OneNote] will be a single-user
application for personal use. Although we intend to make it a
multi-user application in the future, our first release will focus on
the single user scenario to make sure we get it right”.

Our dev team was actually very excited
to design into OneNote from the very beginning the ability to treat
every page and every little bit of content on a page as a node on a
graph that can be modified by any number of user agents. They did not
want to make any assumptions in the architecture or the code that
required a single user to be doing the modifications to this graph in a
particular sequence. So we had to put in a little explicit “Down Boy!”
to make sure we stayed focused for the first release.

When we had a chance to do SP1 with a
load of features, we enabled real-time multi-user editing of pages. We
had already found OneNote a compelling way to enhance meetings – it
would be even better if we could all use it together – including people
attending by phone. We hooked ourselves up to a convenient peer-to-peer
sharing technology that was in every version of Windows we supported:
DirectPlay. This is used for multi-player games on LANs, but it also
works for note taking apps that work using the same principle of
passing changes to the other members in the “game'. I wrote more about
this here.

The upshot was that we had a
non-trivial multi-user editing surface which could be used in
real-time. Multi-user editing of a document is one of those hard
problems in computer science. It's been done for simple documents such
as text files or pixel-drawing whiteboards, but to do it for something
tricky and complex like a OneNote page was novel. I am not aware of any
non-research application out there that does this to the degree we do
(where any user can edit at once in an unstructured way). There were a
few limitations to this approach – namely it was really focused on
synchronous multi-user editing (i.e. you are all working together in
real-time), so it was not a good candidate for collaboration that
lasted more than a few hours.

Another thing we added in SP1 was the
ability to open a folder on a file share. We had some customers early
on (even before we shipped the final code for the original release) who
immediately saw that OneNote was a great place to keep the notes for a
team (of, say, lawyers and paralegals) for one or more projects. They
had a problem today where only one person could read and access notes
and documents at one time with their existing tools, and they needed to
move faster. They were quite motivated to make it so each user could
see and add to or annotate a shared set of information, such as the
case file for a client. It's sort of interesting to have a PDF file in
a shared location such as a file share or document management system.
More interesting is if you can see the other lawyers' opinions of the
various clauses in that contract or brief – written in ink or typed
beside the pages, or highlighted passages.

OK, still with me? Here's where OneNote 12 comes in.  OneNote
12 allows something we are tentatively calling “shared notebooks”.
Other working titles include “Nirvana and you”, or “Happiness on a
stick”. [:)  [Chris_Pratley's OneNote WebLog]

Dan Chudnov “more librarians need to be coders”

Dan Chudnov “more librarians need to be coders”.

been meaning to link to some of Dan Chudnov’s essays for a while now.
He’s a librarian programmer, or a programmer with an MLIS, who works on
some pretty interesting tools. Unlike many other people who can
codeswitch between high-tech and low-tech aspects of the profession, he
hasn’t eschewed one for the other. In fact, he spends an awful lot of
time trying to bridge the gaps that exist. His work log should be on everyone’s rss feed list. The latest entry is about library development, not fundraising, but coding. Dan codes, for a library. Dan thinks more of us should learn to code. I’ll let him tell it.

There seem to be two levels operating here of relevance
to library types: First, you cannot afford to be slow, so whatever it
takes to learn how to do things faster and better. Second, don’t be
stupid about being faster and better – the means exist today to design
scalable platforms on top of scalable platforms, and tools on top of
tools. So you’d better know what you’re doing, and you’d better be good
at it. Or, you’d better know whom to emulate and take every possible
advantage of their good work when it can get you up your own curve.

kind of message needs to be broadcast profession-wide – at the TLA
meeting this past April several audience members challenged my
assertion that “more of us need to be coders.” My response was, and
remains, that in the aggregate, our profession is borderline
incompetent w/r/to software development, and the more people we can get
who understand this stuff, the more likely our chances of basic
survival as an industry.


Falling Behind

Falling Behind

Why can't we get this (now available in the UK):

For £24 a month customers of broadband provider Be are
being offered a download speed of up to 24 megabits, three times that
available from closest rivals UK Online, Bulldog and Homechoice and 12
times that on offer from BT and Wannadoo. The bandwidth offered by the
new service will be enough to allow consumers to stream two high
definition TV channels through their computer simultaneously, while
they surf their internet or make voice calls.

This isn't even on the horizon for US consumers. It's amazing how badly
deregulation has worked in the US. From the airlines to
telecommunications, we continually get less for more. Where is our Ryanair
with flights less than $50 (for example: London to Hamburg for 24 GBP)?
Where is bandwidth of even 8 megabits let alone 24 megabits?   [John Robb's Weblog]

Civil War in Iraq?

Civil War in Iraq?

Will Iraq move towards civil war if the US withdraws. Probably not.
This would require a radical reversal in 5th generation global
guerrilla operations (states vs. autonomous fragmented non-state forces
as opposed to 4th generation states vs. non-state proxies or Maoist
revolutionary movements) from its current equilibrium point
back towards conventional methods. This is unlikely to happen. A more
likely outcome: a Colombian scenario with groups funded by oil instead
of cocaine. The paramilitary divisions in Basra demonstrate the
inability of Shiites to act as a unit. Each group will stake out a
territory (including the government as the biggest gang of all) and
exact “taxes” on oil production. This rough stability (controlled
chaos) can exist for decades.  [John Robb's Weblog]

Tutorial: Ubuntu for servers (26 Sep 2005)

Tutorial: Ubuntu for servers (26 Sep 2005).
Ubuntu is primarily known as one of the most popular desktop
distributions. But you can also use it for servers! This guide shows
how to set up a web, mail, and ftp server with Ubuntu 5.4 “The Hoary
Hedgehog” and demonstrates the details with the help of 21 screenshots.
The installation is easy as 1-2-3 and allows even complete Linux
newbies to dive into the world of Linux servers.The tutorial covers the
installation of Apache + SSL + PHP, Postfix with SMTP-AUTH and TLS,
BIND9, Courier-IMAP… [Meerkat: An Open Wire Service]

The Impact of 4GW on the US

The Impact of 4GW on the US

Lind points out the potential impact of 4GW on the US:

That is just what Fourth Generation opponents strive
for, a systemic breakdown in their state adversary. The danger sign in
America is not a hot national debate over the war in Iraq and its
course, but precisely the absence of such a debate — which, as former
Senator Gary Hart has pointed out, is largely due to a lack of courage
on the part of the Democrats. Far from ensuring a united nation, what
such a lack of debate and absence of alternatives makes probable is a
bitter fracturing of the American body politic once the loss of the war
becomes evident to the public. The public will feel itself betrayed,
not merely by one political party, but by the whole political system.

The primum mobile of Fourth Generation war is a crisis of legitimacy
of the state. If the absence of a loyal opposition and alternative
courses of action further delegitimizes the American state in the eye
of the public, the forces of the Fourth Generation will have won a
victory of far greater proportions than anything that could happen on
the ground in Iraq. The Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan played a
central role in the collapse of the Soviet state. Could the American
defeat in Iraq have similar consequences here? The chance is far
greater than Washington elites can imagine.

[John Robb's Weblog]