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November 26, 2003

The Desolate Wilderness and the Fair Land

This article was originally published on CTDATA.com on November 23, 2000.

Dave Aiello wrote, "There is no doubt in my mind that of all American holidays, Thanksgiving is the greatest. I often wonder how a holiday like this has survived through the constant change that is our nation's history. Yet, all Americans, regardless of our beliefs, take the time to be with friends and family, and to thank God for the blessings that He has bestowed upon us."

"Each year, The Wall Street Journal publishes two articles on its Editorial page on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I want to thank them for making these articles available on their free Web Site, OpinionJournal.com. Reading them is one of my favorite moments of the season."

The Desolate Wilderness, taken from Nathaniel Morton's New England's Memorial:

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they
knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to
Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits....

And the Fair Land written by Vermont Royster, 1949:

.... We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth....

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from everyone at CTDATA.

November 25, 2003

Operation Gadget Gets Press in U.S. 1 Newspaper

The U.S. 1 Newspaper, a business-oriented weekly for the Princeton area, is publishing an article about Operation Gadget in its November 26 edition. The article, called Click Through Business Plan, discusses CTDATA's expertise in delivering Amazon Web Services-enabled applications. According to the article:

Dave Aiello, president of CTData (Chatham Township Data Corporation), has found the "killer app," the perfect demonstration of his technology. His website, Operation Gadget (www.operationgadget.com), is part of his overall business plan to help third parties build interfaces to the website at Amazon.com.

The website offers news and reviews of high technology products. If the product is available through Amazon or one of its retail partners, the reader can click on a "buy box," with a picture and the current price and a click-through to the Amazon site....

This is the first article about Operation Gadget to appear in a print publication.

November 24, 2003

Jeff Jarvis: First Hand Account of Riding the PATH into the Rebuilt World Trade Center Station

Dave Aiello wrote, "Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine.com published an account of his first ride on the PATH into the rebuilt World Trade Center station. He describes the scene as only a PATH-commuting veteran could:"

I kept telling myself, It's just a train ride.

The last time I rode these tracks, as many of you know, was on the last PATH train into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Today, I returned. And I didn't know how I'd react. I often feel as I live with a webcam pointed at my psyche, always watching, always recording the reaction to anything 9/11: today sunken, tomorrow angry, the next day tired, the next day numb, someday hopeful. So what will it be today?

Well, the first, best indication of my own reaction came when the train pulled into Jersey City and the conductor droned, "World Trade Center." And I smiled. Relief. Even a touch of victory.

The midmorning train wasn't crowded. One grizzly guy sat by the front window; a tourist/pilgrim with camera sat a few feet away. I kept my camera in my pocket; I dislike turning tragedy into tourism.
As we went under the river, a guy in a PATH reconstruction jacket came up to the front window to look. So did the rest of us. The tunnel -- where rowboats navigated after the attacks -- looked new and clean. And up ahead, we saw daylight. That, alone was shocking; this station always seemed as if it were a mile underground. Now, of course, there is nothing above.

The train halted just at the entrance, as if to let us get ready. The grizzly guy muttered, "Graveyard." The rest stared ahead. I felt a clutch coming but then stopped.

It's just a train ride....

Dave Aiello continued, "Read the rest of the article, it's brilliant."

"I haven't ridden the PATH since 10 days before 9/11, when I finished my last consulting project at J.P. Morgan Chase. I'm planning to ride the PATH into the World Trade Center as soon as I can. I think I'll feel as anxious as Jeff Jarvis did. Because I wasn't there that day, I'll try not to focus on my reaction-- I'll be remembering the people I knew who never came home."

A List Apart Shows What It Takes to Do a CSS Makeover on Slashdot

A List Apart has begun a two-part series called Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards. This is an attempt to redesign Slashdot to use Cascading Style Sheets. Not only is this an interesting exercise, but it illustrates the issues we touched on in the article CSS is to In-Line Markup as American Sign Language is to English, 10 days ago.

Much of the work discussed in the first part of the series consists of breaking down the components of a Slashdot index page into entities that can be modeled in <DIV> tags. Too bad the author didn't go into more of an explantion of what these tags represent.

We have a number of Slash-based sites, therefore, this article is very instructive to us. It would have helped with the design of Operation Gadget because it would have allowed us to see a page we recognized recast into CSS compliance.

This article is highly recommended for anyone who is writing HTML entirely with in-line markup today. It's also extremely useful to people who have spent a majority of their time running Slash-based sites.

November 17, 2003

Introducing Operation Gadget

Dave Aiello wrote, "I'm pleased to announce that Operation Gadget went live today at 11:28am Eastern Time. Operation Gadget is CTDATA's new weblog about electronic gadgets, software, and related products."

"Operation Gadget is CTDATA's first major new web development project on since July 2002, when we relaunched AAHArefs.org as a Slash-based site. It's CTDATA's first Movable Type-based website. It's also CTDATA's first site that demonstrates our programming skill with Amazon Web Services."

"This project was implemented in two weeks of intense work. Looking back on my notes, I wonder how this was even possible. I want to thank my wife, Kathleen, members of my family, and a few friends who provided assistance at critical times during this period: particularly John Cloninger, Martin O'Donnell, Sandeep Nandy, Phil Lurie, and Michael Weinberger."

November 14, 2003

CSS is to In-Line Markup as American Sign Language is to English

Dave Aiello, "I've spent the last week learning the nuances of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS is a mechanism for centralizing the styling of the pages of a website in a single (or a small set of) descriptive documents. CSS is probably the state-of-the-art mechanism for separating form from content on the web."

"If you know anything about the Slash content management system, you know that use of CSS is the antithesis of the kind of markup used to produce a site like CTDATA. With Slash, there's almost no separation between form and content. In thinking about writing this piece, the analogy I came up with was between English and American Sign Language: you can say the same things, but zealots will tell you that there are big enough differences for each to be considered separate languages."

"Just like when I first implemented Slash, progress during my first encounter with CSS was slow and painful. I had to press on because the value of Movable Type (a web publishing platform which uses CSS) for my application justified suffering through the pain of learning a new method of styling web pages."

"I began working with CSS by taking an existing site style and modifying it so that the website I am working on doesn't look like a blatant stylistic rip-off of any other site. Later on, I extended the modified style sheet so that it would accomodate a type of content that wasn't present on the site where the style sheet originated. This process was pretty easy, and demonstrated to me that CSS is very extensible."

"I'm happy to report that the design of my new site is done, and the deployment should be occurring soon. So, if you are interested in seeing the site that caused me such difficultly, you don't have long to wait."

November 7, 2003

Doc Searls/SuitWatch: Novell eats SuSE. Now What?

Dave Aiello wrote, "In the latest edition of the Linux Journal newsletter called SuitWatch, Doc Searls reports on the acquisition of SuSE by Novell and what it means for the IT industry and the Linux community. A number of leading Linux business people and market analysts are quoted, including Craig Burton, Phil Windley, Ian Murdock, and Dave Aiello (that's me)."

"Here's the portion of the newsletter where I'm quoted:"

Dave Aiello, president of CTDATA: http://ctdata.com/ (a Linux-savvy company that builds database-driven Web sites for companies in the New York Metro area) sees the buy as an Open Source community play:
I think you have to look at the SuSE acquisition in the same light as the release by IBM of Eclipse as a free product. A network effects calculation is being done here. I think IBM looked at Eclipse and said, this product has greater value to us if it's in the hands of [the] Open Source community than if we keep selling it. If we keep total control of it, we have to enhance it, market it, and provide for the development of ancillary products from our own resources.

If the product is backed by an Open Source community, the founders
get the benefit of free labor, free product enhancement ideas, and
ancillary product branches that they don't have to support unless
the company has an overwhelming interest.

I think this is what's happened with Netscape->Mozilla and
WebSphere Studio App Developer -> Eclipse. It is what Red Hat hopes
will happen with Fedora, and ultimately, what IBM is hoping for
with SuSE. I think IBM's ultimate interest is in having a credible
alternative to Red Hat that they have substantial influence over,
without having the overhead of developing internally.

This is more about addressing customer CIO level concerns about not
repeating the Wintel single source market than about the fact that
IBM doesn't like Red Hat's Enterprise Linux strategy, per se.

Dave Aiello continued, "If this doesn't make complete sense to you, I'll provide a little background. When he was writing the piece, Doc asked me what I thought and told me that he needed a response ASAP. So, he got a stream of consciousness. In a followup email to him, I said:"

I think it's interesting that most people {that you quoted in your SuitWatch piece} were talking about Novell's reason for doing the deal and not really addressing IBM's reasons. Maybe I assumed too much in the community's knowlegde of IBM's interest in SuSE. Correct me if I'm wrong, but, wasn't SuSE the first distribution that supported some IBM hardware platforms? I know Red Hat Enterprise Server supports the IBM midrange servers and mainframes now, as does SuSE. But, wasn't SuSE the only distribution that ran on the IBM iSeries and pSeries for a long time? These are the midrange machines that otherwise run AS/400 applications. This is a really valuable segment of IBM's hardware business, even if the machines are part of legacy architectures, more or less.

Dave Aiello continued, "So, I'm saying that the support that the SuSE distributions give to certain IBM hardware architectures is worth more to IBM than the $50 million that IBM just invested in convertible preferred stock in Novell."

"Back to the newsletter. Doc has done an excellent job of pulling together wide-ranging opinions. He's weaved them together with some personal insights and given us a good idea where he stands on the issues that are apparent in this acquisition."

"The jury's going to be out on this transaction for a long time, partly because it's so complicated. Wasn't it great, back in the old days when Allied Nut Company bought United Bolt? That was when deals were clean and you could truly measure the outcome a little way down the road."

November 4, 2003

Sometimes Bloggers are on the Same Wavelength, Without Knowing It

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier today, Doc Searls talked about a discussion that he had with his son while riding somewhere in the car. Doc's memory of that discussion was prompted by his reading of Self-Reliance, an essay written in 1841 by Ralph Waldo Emerson."

"By conincidence, I picked up a copy of the 1967 edition of Self-Reliance published by The Peter Pauper Press when I attended the Friends of the Princeton Public Library used book sale a couple of weeks ago. I finally started reading it last night as my wife and I were going to bed. I remember saying to her that this book was too difficult to read without devoting my complete attention to it, because the vocabulary Emerson uses is difficult for my non-liberal-arts-trained mind."

"I find it interesting that an Emerson meme has made it around the weblog world this summer, finally ending up on CTDATA almost by accident. Chris Lydon delivered a spoken essay singing Emerson's praises in honor of his 200th birthday. Dave Winer pointed to Lydon's essay, bringing it to the attention of many in the weblog community. Doc Searls talked about the predecessors of weblogs possibly being the works of Benjamin Franklin and Emerson, and Searls mentions Emerson again today."

"I sometimes wonder about my own emotional maturity, stumbling as I do into the works of authors like Emerson or even Lance Armstrong. Their writings should begin with some sort of disclaimer: 'Don't start reading this unless you have the depth of character to adopt our principles.' But, I see titles like
and Every Second Counts, and I say to myself, 'Yea, that's for me. That's the kind of person I am.' More accurately, that's the kind of person I want to be."

"I see why the weblog community has adopted Emerson as a sort of patron saint. Everyone who does this sort of writing has their own purposes in mind. Some are more successful than others. Most are talking to a world-wide audience, offering strongly-held opinions, and trying to make the world a better place. That's certainly the case with many of the things that I write."

"But, I'll go on wondering why I skimmed the writings of Lydon, Winer, Searls, and other webloggers this summer, never bothering to dig into what they were writing about. I'll puzzle over how I managed to buy a near fine copy of Self-Reliance for 50 cents as a used book sale was closing-- it having been picked over and left by far more literate people than me. And, I'll marvel at the fact that a prominent weblogger mentioned this specific Emerson essay again on the morning after I started reading the book."

"Maybe this is what they meant when they coined the term synchronicity."

Red Hat Details End of Life for Consumer-oriented Linux Distributions

Dave Aiello wrote, "CTDATA has chosen to subscribe to the Red Hat Network, a semi-automated software update service, in order to keep our Linux servers relatively current on patches. Red Hat sent a single email to me trying to convey most of the information about the business decision to stop producing a consumer distribution, and the options they offer to customers like me who are subscribed to the update service."

The email reads, in part:

Thank you for being a Red Hat Network customer.

This e-mail provides you with important information about the upcoming
discontinuation of Red Hat Linux, and resources to assist you with your
migration to another Red Hat solution.

As previously communicated, Red Hat will discontinue maintenance and
errata support for Red Hat Linux 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 and 8.0 as of December
31, 2003. Red Hat will discontinue maintenance and errata support for
Red Hat Linux 9 as of April 30, 2004. Red Hat does not plan to release
another product in the Red Hat Linux line.

With the recent announcement of Red Hat Enterprise Linux v.3, you'll
find migrating to Enterprise Linux appealing. We understand
that transitioning to another Red Hat solution requires careful planning
and implementation. We have created a migration plan for Red Hat Network
customers to help make the transition as simple and seamless as

"This message was written to encourage CTDATA to move its servers from the original Red Hat Linux product line to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. But upon first reading, I did not think that the email (in itself) provided enough information about the upgrade process. I felt more concerned than informed."

"I had to spend close to half an hour in the Red Hat Migration Resource Center of the Red Hat website in order to understand the new product line and what our options are."

"I have no doubt that this migration is the right thing for Red Hat's business. But, I question whether this is going to confuse the entry level Linux implementer who has sold his boss on moving pieces of a small business' IT infrastructure from Windows to Linux. A customer like this is the low end of the target market for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but probably doesn't do enough business with Red Hat to justify attention from their sales force."

"Although we are probably a member of that group of Red Hat customers, CTDATA doesn't need that sort of hand-holding. But, I'd guess that a number of customers at this level really need it. Has Red Hat realized this, and if not, will it hurt Linux's overall momentum?"

November 2, 2003

Amazon.com to Enlist Celebrities in Holiday Promotions

CNET News.com is reporting that Amazon.com will enlist celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Bruce Springstein to promote exclusive content available on Amazon's web site during the holiday season. Undoubtedly, a campaign like this will give a boost to sales taking place through Amazon.com. Most analysts expect their sales to be very strong this season, resulting in the first annual profit for the company.

Spidering Hacks: a Book for Developers Who Want More than Google Can Give Them

Dave Aiello wrote, "Yesterday was the publication date of
Spidering Hacks
, the latest book in the O'Reilly & Associates hacks series. This book represents 100 good ideas for building screen scraping tools that can make research jobs easier. Lots of code examples that leverage Perl and the LWP Perl module."

"I'm looking forward to getting a copy of this book because it could help me in my latest sideline project. I have an almost insatiable desire for RSS feeds lately. More on this later, maybe."