December 2010 Archives

Wrong Kind Of Snow Or Wrong Kind Of Web Browser?

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Prior to leaving Andorra on yet more travels (timing!) 10 days ago, had a very interesting ex-pats discussion in El Moli in Andorra over the difference between the snow in Andorra and the UK. We reckon it's all down to the snow quality - in the UK it goes slushy, then slush turns to ice, turns to black ice. In Andorra it's fluffy and then hard, but hard snow, not ice...

Anyway - I digress. Working onsite this week in London (never seen it quieter - lovely...) with AppDNA wot develops software that advises on compatibility between different OSs and browsers for your apps etc. They are currently running a beta test program for their IE8 compatibility app and I'm pre-testing the product, concept, everything basically. So, if you're interested keep checking this blog and talk to me about your own experiences.

I'm starting with our own website - basically it's designed for any web apps, not simply websites but it's a nice starting point. Currently capturing data for analysis, will let you know what it makes of www.broadband-testing.co.uk - update soon and more on this over the next 48 hours; just 72 compatibility checking hours til Christmas...

How To Beat The Snow: Brussels To Andorra In 30 Milliseconds

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London to Brussels to Andorra in under 30ms - not bad eh?

Even the Bugatti Veyron can't achieve that (though with permanent four-wheel drive you'd think it would be ideal for British winter conditions, yet you barely ever see one, strange!) but... Vidyo can.

I first saw these guys' vid conf technology almost two winters ago at a Netevents and was impressed then with the "before and after" application of Vidyo tech, but yesterday we did a full three/then four-way vid conf call, sound and all, plus presentations, using the Vidyo tech and it has a) moved on some and b) is more relevant than ever. We're talking HD image, supporting four different resolutions on four different client platforms/screens (software download only for the clients), different 'net feeds at each site, but with sync'd sound and almost zero glitches in 40 mins of conferencing for all of us.

Not bad, eh? It's alll about that low, low latency, don't you know. Even better - Eric (no, not my dad!) of Vidyo in Brussels, hooked up an additional client, iPad type device, and then showed me the image on that (conferenced in) via his other clients' webcam, and the image on the pad was HD clear and in sync too - nice test.

Anyway, we're looking to get a proper, full-on test of the Vidyo tech done in the new year - it is good... very much like the guys at aforementioned (in CW and this blog) Voipex take VoIP and go way beyond what standard WAN acceleration/optimisation tech can do with it, so Vidyo does with, er, video... maybe there's a clue in both of those names?

Heading to "ash-pay" next week (HP France) to check out its Converged Infrastructure solution, then onto London to App-DNA to tests its OS/Browser migration/compatibility analysis software, with daily blogs, so watcheth this space.

More Christwas wine tips coming too (of course). Priorities, priorities... Interested to hear from anyone who managed to buy one of Heston's "special" christmas puds that sold out in hours in Waitrose, despite being a gazillion quid each... I can recommend a wine for that too, so long as I get to share the pud.



When Technology Goes T**s Up!

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Quickie from Andorra - keeping you abreast of the chicken acquisitions in this part of el mondo.

So what's this got to do with IT? Simply, that, whereas there was once a manual over-ride option, nowadays there seems to be none. Here we are talking retail - supermarket, buying a chicken. A chicken, I should add, that had a price sticker on it, as well as a bar code.

Yes, it had only recently been put on the shelves (sometimes the smaller Andorran supermarkets are a bit like Eastern Europe once was. Stuff appears randomly and you buy it when you can; if my old biz partner and mate Bob Walder reads this he'll guess I'm talking about "Compra Be") but they have had a computerised system in place since before I started shopping there four years ago, so you assumed it was "in the system".

Except that it wasn't. So, after many fruitless and foul attempts at passing said chicken under the bar code scanner the hassled till woman called on the local IT experto (not me in this situ) who shook his head for a good 60 seconds before attempting any new techniques.

By this time, the queue was quite long and everyone was looking at ME. So, the guy starts to key in various codes to no avail; chicken gets taken away, brought back (probably off by now, but I was determined to get my €3.43 chicken), taken away, brought back... In the end - and we are talking some time now, they put it on the scales, calculated the weight against some ficticious per kilo price, then deducted the necessary amount to get it down to the sticker price (all explained to me beautifully in Catalan - I attempted to nod at the right times) and I had my chicken at last. The wonders of technology...

Footnote: when I got back and checked my bill, I found they'd over-charged me 23 cents on my green beans (or haricot verts for restauranteurs). And I only bought those TWO items...

Advert: Come back to my blog tomorrow for a very relevant mini-review, given the current snow-chaos in the UK

Mergers Emerging and Demerging And Christmas Wine Tips Emerging For Networking Types

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2010 (that's pronounced "two-thousand and ten" by the way - saying "twenty-ten" is as bad as the French saying "four twenties, ten" for 90) might have been a good year for acquisitions and mergers to date, but now we have an instance where a "demerger" is also a good thing.

The company in question is a client of mine, App-DNA, with whom I am by chance about to do some more testing with. Born out of the Camwood services group with a mission to solve migration and compatibility issues in the software world (I think we all know what those are), here we have a situation where, instead of a bright young thing being sucked INTO a giant corporation and being suffocated, instead it has been spat OUT into the big wide world, itself a predecessor of the world wide web, and still considerably larger.

App-DNA pioneered the use of heuristic algorithms to best determine the success of running applications in multi-enterprise environments. When we started working with them, App-DNA had FOUR employees, based in Central London. Now it has a rapidly growing team based in 11 cities across the US, UK, France and Australia - Space Stations next, followed by Mars, possibly...

By being better than Microsoft at ensuring compatibility between applications and MS OSs, App-DNA was recently selected by Microsoft to provide app compatibility licenses to MS enterprises undertaking pilot and proof of concept engagements in the Microsoft Jumpstart program.

Now, for our next testing with them we are discussing focusing on IE application compatibility. IE8 has thrown up lots of compatibility issues (happy to receive examples of these from readers - just go onto our www.broadband-testing.co.uk website and contact us via that, or CW) and IE9 is currently undergoing testing with the W3C.

And here's another issue. With so many companies still in IE7 mode (and I'm not forgetting the existence of Firefox, Chrome etc here), we have a Windows-esque scenario again of the actual users (and ISVs) being left one or two generations behind as changes happen too quickly. And, of course, the real irony here is that the browser was introduced partly to simplify the whole migration process and minimise change.

It's a funny old world, Saint... (whatever happened to Jimmy Greaves?)

Winey Footnote: Been drinking a wine in Spain that is surely a must for anyone brought up on Novell (RIP), Banyan Vines, Microsoft LAN Manager (don't make me laugh...) and the whole Local Area Networking era. It's a Rioja called LAN (kid you not) and it's a perfectly ok wine (especially if you prefer the modern lighter style of Rioja) while hardly a world-beater, but worth trying for the fun of photographing the label.





SaaS Is Snow-Go? Surely A Solution For Snowbound Scenarios...

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There's been plenty of talk in the IT press recently about the issue of SaaS pricing models and its ability to really deliver profitable services.

Our testing of virtual data centres - see Broadband-Testing website - has proved that any cost benefits of "going virtual" can be adopted without fears about the technology itself not standing up. On that point, watch this space for a report in the New Year on HPs Converged Infrastructure solution - looks very promising at this stage from an efficiency: high availability perspective.

But back to the aforementioned issue: can companies afford to offer you SaaS? Is there any dosh in it? If it's about delivering that service across as many different communications platforms as possible, then someone like BroadSoft, which launched BroadCloud, a cloud-based, hosted infrastructure to serve as the foundation for the company's Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) communications capabilities, needs a bit of an audience here. Let's face it; if I am someone with "Broad" in both my name and the company I run, then I really ought to be liaising with IT companies with "Broad" in their name. And, let's face it; "Broadhard" doesn't really have the right connotations does it...

So, back to BroadSoft, where the focus is on Unified Communications (UC) - that key element of delivery to everybody and anybody - enabling fixed-line, mobile and cable service providers to extend their communications services to include UC services. After all, why shouldn't an application be available via whatever route is feasible?

Look outside? Is it snowing? If so, are you working from home? If not, why not? If someone like NTL/Virgin can deliver (however well or badly) TV, Internet and voice services, then why not enterprise applications too?  Granted, they would have to improve their support a tad... But the serious point is that SaaS has to be available anywhere, anytime, via any connection, in order to make sense.

Back to my old mates at Thingamy, still THE true upstart of enterprise software, designed from day one (back in Victorian times) as a SaaS product. We've successfully run Thingamy apps over a 64Kbps connection for gawds sake. Swapping notes with Thingamy CEO, Sig Rinde, recently, Sig noted that the adoption rate is not only increasing (for SaaS) but the model is changing, with companies looking to splash big bucks (not that fine long-distance hurdler of Paul Nicholls') from day one, rather than the extended "toe in the water" approach.

With BroadCloud, BroadSoft is also looking to speed up the whole time-to-market model, so these guys are singing from the same Christmas carol sheet, albeit coming from very different directions. Very complimentary though - maybe they should be talking to each other. And I've already earmarked that fine ViBE VoIP enhancement tech from my mates at Voipex as looking ideal for BroadSoft.

From a Service Provider perspective, all of the aforementioned technologies provides that "value add" that ISPs so strove for, often failing spectacularly in the process - WorldCom anyone? - so there are NO excuses any longer. The world has truly moved beyond SAP and Oracle's mainframe-oriented view of the universe and paying pure lip-service to Internet-enabled delivery mechanisms.

Time for the world to wake up...

Footnote: As I type this, the UK appears to be officially "closed" because of especially cold precipitation. Apparently it's sub-zero in places! Any poor old Alaskan tourists over there must be freezing to death. Here, in Andorra, where we've had a foot or more of snow this week (just took the side route back from the shops - on foot- to check the depth)), absolutely NOTHING is closed - everyone is going to work, the kids to school, roads (often near vertical) are completely cleared of snow, all the bus services are running (as would the trains were there a railway in Andorra, but that would require a LOT of tunnels). And Andorra is run by a set of guys who probably don't even know where London is. Still - all the more reason to get SaaS sorted and working from home as a de-facto standard. Combine that with children actually WALKING to their schools and it might actually be worth driving (conditions allowing...) in the UK again.