Port Ellen – 19 year old McGibbons Provenance Bottling

I picked this bottle up some time ago at (I think) the whisky shop at Heathrow. It was distilled in spring 1982 and bottled in spring 2002 as ‘over 19 years old’. Now this is a special whisky; Port Ellen closed in 1984 and is now partly demolished. The maltings survive, supplying malted barley to the remaining Islay distilleries, but the stills are gone forever.
Pale gold in colour, with a slightly salty, slightly sweet nose, this is not a heavyweight Islay malt in the style of Ardbeg or Laphroiag. Smooth and sweet on the palate, the finish is long and strong – smoky, salty with a hint of that seaside iodine tang. I could drink a lot of this one…

Federated Single Sign-On Shifts GM into High Gear

eWeek is featuring a great article covering General Motors’ ‘MySocrates’ employee portal and its pilot Liberty implementation. GM are using Sun Java System Access Manager as their Liberty identity provider, deploying federated single sign-on to 70,000 of its US-based employees. The pilot implementation provided SSO to GM’s 401(k) provider; GM is now looking at enabling further services using Liberty.
A very telling quote: “While [GM’s director of software technology, John] Jackson estimated the technology should take no longer than two months to deploy, he said legal and business issues may cause the project to take as much as one year to complete.”

Mmmm – VMware

You just have to love VMware… I’m now syncing the Clie via USB to Palm Desktop on Windows XP, running on VMware, running on Java Desktop System.
Now, logically, these are all just layers of software, and it should all just work, but I’m still pretty amazed when it does!

Sony Clie PEG-TH55

Writing this on my new (well, factory reconditioned from ebay) Sony Clie TH55. Loving it. Wifi is great! So far, the only downer is Graffiti 2. Why did they mess with something that worked!!??

Linksys WRT54GP2 VOIP/Wireless/Broadband Router

Following up to my recent post on Lingo VOIP, Tom’s Networking has an interesting review of the Linksys WRT54GP2 VOIP/wireless/broadband router. I’ve been a happy user of the WRT54G for a couple of years now, so this box looks very interesting – it can prioritize VOIP traffic over data traffic just like the standard Lingo adapter, solving my only issue with Lingo.
All I have to do now is persuade Lingo to support it.

Book Review – Joel on Software

I just finished Joel Spolsky’s Joel on Software (subtitled ‘And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity‘). Joel started out as a paratrooper in the Israeli defence forces, before working on the Excel team at Microsoft, at Juno, and finally starting his own software house – Fog Creek Software.

Joel is perhaps best known in the blogging community as the author of Joel on Software – his commentary on software development, design, project management and more. The book is basically a compendium of entries from his blog, but worth buying all the same. There is some additional commentary that is exclusive to the book, but the real value is that you can read the book on the plane, in the bath, in bed, wherever. And it is well worth the read. Joel passes on his experience from each stage of his career (including the paratrooper bit) with wit and style. He lists the 12 essential questions that every software development team must ask themselves, how to effect change from the most lowly level of the team, and why bloatware isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be.

Here’s my favourite quote – on the subject of backward compatibility:

Jon Ross, who wrote the original version of SimCity for Windows 3.x, told me that he accidentally left a bug in SimCity where he read memory that he had just freed. Yep. It worked fine on Windows 3.x, because the memory never went anywhere. Here’s the amazing part: On beta versions of Windows 95, SimCity wasn’t working in testing. Microsoft tracked down the bug and added specific code to Windows 95 that looks for SimCity. If it finds SimCity running, it runs the memory allocator in a special mode that doesn’t free memory right away. That’s the kind of obsession with backward compatibility that made people willing to upgrade to Windows 95. From ‘Strategy Letter II: Chicken and Egg Problems

If this grabs your interest, then buy the book (or at least, spend some time on his site).

The Laws Of Identity

Kim Cameron of Microsoft has written a fascinating piece on ‘The Laws of Identity’. Kim lays out an initial 6 laws (sample: ‘1. The Law of Control: Technical identity systems MUST only reveal information identifying a user with the user’s consent‘) and explores a scenario (originally suggested by Eric Norlin from Ping Identity) where a Polycom conference phone requests your music preferences from your Bluetooth phone. As Eric points out, this is technically possible via the Liberty specifications.

I just discovered Kim’s blog, so I need to do a bit of reading before commenting much more, but, for now, I’ll just point out that Liberty WSF’s interaction service provides the mechanism by which your phone would beep and request your consent before handing over personal data to the Polycom, thus obeying Kim’s first law.

Lingo VOIP

Not sure if Lingo counts as a toy, but it’s certainly a gadget. For $19.95 a month you get unlimited calls to the USA, Canada and Western Europe. For Brits Abroad in the US this is a great deal. I got Lingo in November and it’s working out just fine. Basically, you get a box. This box has two ethernet sockets, a phone socket and a power socket. You connect the box to your cable/DSL modem on one of the ethernet sockets, your PC on the other ethernet socket, plug in a phone and plug in the power. Wait about 30 seconds as the box comes up and the lights flash. When you see the VOIP light, you can pick up the phone and you have dial tone.

Of course, with a nerd score of 97, I couldn’t possibly settle for the default config, now, could I? I have mine configured with a static IP, sitting on an ethernet switch, which is connected to a wifi bridge, which is talking to my wifi router, which in turn is connected to the cable modem. And it still ‘just works’. I’ve been using it as my home office phone for three months now and the only problem I’ve had is when I’m sending large email attachments, the PC steals all the upstream bandwidth, and the person on the other end of the call can’t hear me. However, that’s a ‘feature’ of my particular setup – if you go with the default, the Lingo box is able to prioritise voice traffic over data and you won’t get this problem.

Bottom line – if you’re paying more than $20 a month for long distance/Western European calls, you need one of these. And if you write a comment with your email address, I can refer you to Lingo and we both get $25 off our bills. Can’t say fairer than that, now, can you?

Get it while it’s hot – Sun Java Enterprise System 2005Q1

Fresh on www.sun.com – the third iteration of Sun’s JavaTM Enterprise System – 2005Q1. Includes the latest, greatest Sun Java System Access Manager. New features in Access Manager 6 2005Q1 (aka 6.3) include:

and much, much more – see the docs.