Puakma: Under the hood

I'm Brendon Upson, jack-of-all-trades, master of one or two. I'm talking about life running a small ISV tackling business issues and leaping technology hurdles in a single bound.

webWise Network Consultants is based in Sydney, Australia and develops the groundbreaking Tornado Server technology.

Carrot Dangling

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-31

Over the last few years I have become more and more aware of this phenomenon. It's not, i think, that is becoming more prevalent, just I can now see "carrot danglers" coming a mile off.

Let me explain. A "Carrot Dangler" is someone who promises something if you perform certain task or do something they need. That promise is of course never kept. I call them Carrot Danglers because of the following picture of a carrot dangling in front a person. No matter how much you try to get the carrot it remains a foot away from you. Always.

Carrot Danglers typically reveal themselves on the second dangle. That is, when you achieve your end of the bargain, a second carrot is dangled and the first promise is never made good. My advice at this point is: a) run or b) do no more until the first promise is made good.

In the IT industry you sometimes need to take a punt on a project, incurring an upfront cost with a potential larger payback down the track. This conforms to the old adage of low risk low return, high risk high return. These speculative projects have a high risk (you are working for a promise) and should therefore have a high return. If the Carrot Dangler's first promise is not made good, the risk has risen at an exponential rate (close approaching impossible). Continuing to pour money into the project is as good as throwing good money after bad.

More name and shame

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-27

Today I received a letter in the post from "Direct Share Purchasing Corporation Pty Ltd". They are kindly offering to buy my (paltry) parcel of 400 IAG shares for a price of 3 dollars per share. Wahoo! That'll make me 1200 dollars the richer.

Hmmm. but wait, market value of the shares is 5.68 dollars! I could be 2272 dollars better off...

This is a complete scam preying on people don't really know the value of their portfolio. It has been in the news a few times in the past but so far the government bods have been unable to shut down this blatant exploitation. The company targets "mum and dad" investors who have (usually) been given shares in companies for free, such as when Telstra was privatised and IAG (in this particular case) was publicly floated.

Here's some links to previous stories on the same scam:

Sydney Morning Herald

IAG website

Will your new Mac run Windows?

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-25

From zdnet.com.au

You've got to be joking! You buy your shiny new Mac, you get OS X preinstalled for free, then you buy (no one pirates software, ok?) a copy of Windows XP to install on it. I can only ask: WHY? OS X is far superior to Win XP in so many ways it's not funny. It's a little like buying a Ferrari and replacing the engine with that of a Trabant. You can do it and show your friends what a complete smart ass you are but WHY?

I fully appreciate that in some cases you need to use software that only comes in a Windows flavour (Lotus Notes Designer anyone?). Get yourself some VMWare and fire XP up in a virtual space, then you get the best of both worlds - OS X and Windows when you need it. Then when Windows BSODs kill the virtual space and restart it.

On how things change

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-24

We have a local computer market near here which runs each Sunday. It's full of little stalls selling blank CDs, motherboards, hard drives, graphics cards, memory etc. I realised the other week how pervasive this computer thing is now. At this market are all manner of people, not just the pizza eating coke swilling geeks of yester year. I see grand-dads buying video cards and hard disks - obviously to install themselves. Couples discuss the relative merits of ink jet printing.

This shows that computers are now appliances, in the mainstream. Once as we would work on the car on the weekend, we now view the humble computer the same way. Upgrade it, fix it, tweak it.

Society now thinks you may be a bit freakish if you don't have email. The uptake of email has been amazing. 1995 only a few had it, 2006 everyone has it. Perhaps only mobile phones have enjoyed such a fast take-up rate.

How not to stay in business

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-18

Today my blood boiled. We're in the process of moving premises and are looking for new office space. I called a real estate agent on the weekend and he picked the day and time to show me some properties. As is usual for me (grandson of a bus driver) I arrive 10 minutes early. I'm told to take a seat and he'll be out shortly. 20 minutes goes by so I ask if he knows I'm here. A few more minutes pass then the receptionist goes to find him and tells him I'm here. She returns and explains he'll be delayed by about 10 minutes. I decide to go for a walk so give the receptionist my business card and to give me a call when he's free and I'll come back.

By now I was seriously p_ssed. He organised the time that suited him best and yet was still unable to make it or show he respected my time at all. I went for a walk around and found a couple of other real estate companies and looked at some offices (one I think I will take). By now about an hour had gone past - still no call. So I go back to work.

FOUR HOURS LATER I GET A CALL!!! Unbelievable! I decided to not let him off the hook and really ripped into him. So if you're ever looking for real estate in Parramatta, stay well clear of Peter Hutchison at Laing and Simmons (insert lawsuit here). All he could say was "but I said I was sorry". I told him not to bother contacting me as I wasn't interested inworking with someone who doesn't value my time - he said he'll call me tomorrow "when I'm feeling better". Must be a slow learner as he'll be getting another dose of the same. 

In the crumbling Australian realestate market (or any business) I'm guessing this is not the way to treat your potential customers! 

The things we do

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-17

It jsut dawned on me today that I write a huge amount of code to do things that people never see and certainly take for granted. This week's chore is data exporting and importing. I developed a few weeks ago the ability to export an dimport Tornado server data. That means you can export from mysql and import into SQL Server. Mmmmm cross platform data movement. This hasn't been without its hurdles though. v1 had been in and working fine for some weeks. This week I had the job of moving some customer data from postgreSQL 8.0 to postgreSQL 7.4, yes, dear readers - backwards. The postgres tools really annoy the crap out of me, and in this case weren't happy about going backwards in time to an older version! No prob I thought, I'll just use the Tornado data exports and import them.

Things were going great until I tried to import a 3.8MB file and the server ran out of memory. Upon closer examination the 3.8MB .pdx file (compressed XML) expanded out to 158MB and 49,000 records (over 3 million lines of XML!!). The XML parser I was sugin in the code tried to load the entire XML document into memory before processing it. Ouch.

So the last two days have been converting the code over to use the SAX parser and ensure the data integrity remains. Not a lot of fun, but by the time you guys get the code, it'll just work like you expect ;-)

/start firefox rant

I've been using firefox on the Mac (oh yeah I LOVE my powerbook!) for well over a year, upgrading with each version. ff1.5 is very much a let down. The developers have changed some of the basic behaviour like non-movable alert/confirm boxes at the top of the screen and clicking in the address bar does not
 highlight the address so you can just type over it. I was amazed at how much these two "little" changes peeved me. 1.5 also breaks the in browser rich text editor (which I am using right now to write this). CSS that was working fine before now floods the firefox error log with messages. Bring on 1.51...

/end rant 

Kickin' new puakma.net site

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-13

As you may have noticed the new puakma.net website is now live. This has been a few months in the brewing as we tried to distil the very "puakma essence" into a simple and easy to use site. I think we have gone a long way toward that but will still continue to refine it over the coming weeks.

The biggest change is that we are now no longer using our "Cannibal" content management software. Simply put, the new Vortex IDE really performs that job quite well and gives us more flexibility than a CMS ever could. 

Enjoy the new look site and please send through any comments (good or bad) so we can continue to improve your web experience. 

Like a dog

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-12

I have been working soooooo hard these last two weeks. Last week we finally sorted out the WebSphere single sign-on product - we can now create WebSphere-style ltpa tokens to enable users to access WebSphere, Domino (and any other server platform) without entering a password. This is the culmination of around seven months work and I can assure you all I'm glad it's finally completed!

We're busy now putting the finishing touches to the new website which will go live in the next week. All that remains is to make a tweak or two to the download management app.

Bruce Elgort contacted me today about an interview for "Taking Notes". I'm really excited! If anyone has anything they'd particularly like to know about me or any of the Puakma products, leave a comment or email me and I'll see what I can do.

Henry (new dog) has been keeping me real busy cleaning up poop and dealing with his every whim. I swear I'm wanna be reincarnated as a dog...

Things are shaping up to be a brilliant year. Hold on and enjoy the ride! 

Happy New Year: WNC goes to the dogs

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-01-03

As predicted, the gap between christmas and new year vanished in a blur. The major change in that period was a new addition at WNC: Henry the Magnificent. Henry is a Pekingese/Shih-Tzu cross or furball. New Year was a little quiet as Henry got sick and decided to not eat, fall into what looked like a coma and vomit with monotonous regularity. Henry spent the New Year having a sleepover at the Vet's. I now know why the smart kids from school studied Vet Science. Those guys really know how to charge!

Henry the Magnificent

Over the next week or two we expect the office productivity to plummet as Henry commands our attention ;-) I know he has great taste in computers as he's already tried to consume the mouse on my Powerbook.

Good news for all those following our progress on developing a single sign-on solution for WebSphere, we can now reliably encode and decode WebSphere Ltpa tokens. Expect to see "Web Booster Enterprise SSO for IBM servers" shortly. 2006 is shaping up to be a great year for WNC!