Stories by Mark Hall

Apple conference shows off new OS, and nifty hardware

Apple Computer has stepped up its criticism of Microsoft’s Windows operating system and revealed numerous new features to its planned spring 2007 release of Macintosh OS X 10.5, or Leopard. But it was the hardware shown last week during San Francisco-hosted Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote address by CEO Steve Jobs that got people talking.

IT to Apple: boot me up for A-grade support

Apple Computer’s Boot Camp beta is pregnant with possibilities for IT. Some are good — very good, in fact. But it all comes down to how Apple will ultimately define its support of Windows.

Sun's infinite pricing scheme reaches . . .

Sun's infinite pricing scheme reaches . . . . . . Linux, Windows and even HP-UX for its integrated Java Enterprise System package. The JES components include application, portal, directory, identity, Web and other servers as well as a fistful of Java-based tools for deploying online applications. Currently Sun's "infinite" pricing policy applies only to its Solaris operating system and lets organizations license the array of Java components on an annual subscription basis at US$100 per employee. You can still license software the old-fashioned way, says Stephen Borcich, executive director for Java enterprise technologies at Sun Microsystems Inc. "It's more complex, but it's your choice," he says. By the end of June, Sun will extend its unique pricing model to Linux users and in late 2004 to HP-UX and Windows fans. Companies that use the tools to extend applications to end users on the Internet or throughout their supply chains incur no extra charges. Furthermore, in June, Sun will offer developing nations a similar plan for the JES components at 33 cents per citizen. And in a move to attract more developers, later this year programmers anywhere in the world who buy Java Studio Enterprise will get a free Opteron server. Previously, the giveaway was good only for U.S.-based coders.

Florida revamps IT operations to save children

PALM DESERT, CALIFORNIA (03/10/2004) - Not so long ago, children supposedly under the protection of the Florida Department of Children and Families were being abandoned, abused and murdered.

No-frills VoIP project slashes costs . . .

FRAMINGHAM (11/07/2003) - No-frills VoIP project slashes costs . . . . . . at bottom-line-bleeding Agilent Technologies Inc. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of scientific and engineering test equipment has been hemorrhaging cash since the 2001 downturn of the once-hot telecom market. Word inside the $6 billion company is to cut costs everywhere. For a global company with major operations centers in North America, Europe and Asia, a good place to start was the phone bill, says Pete Kimball, a voice network engineer at Agilent. Unlike an angry parent who yanks a phone out of a teenager's room after seeing the costs rung up by the yakking kid, Agilent's engineers did what engineers do. They conducted a study. Their first discovery, not surprisingly, was that virtually all long-distance intracompany calls took place in locations where IP networks were running. The second discovery was that up to 75 percent of the company's phone conversations were internal conference calls. Those two facts lit up bright-idea bulbs over lots of heads, and the company swung into action in September to add voice-over-IP gateways to private branch exchanges in eight of its nine global centers. The first phase of the deployment will be completed this month. "We've done nothing extraordinary," says Kimball. "It's a straightforward design." Maybe. But the amount of money saved is extraordinary. Agilent will pocket about US$1 million in savings in the first year, hitting ROI in about the same time. The second phase of the VoIP project, which attacks voice over frame-relay operations in places like China and India, will also be rolled out this year, delivering even more savings.

Fujitsu unveils new Sparc chips, systems . . .

FRAMINGHAM (10/14/2003) - Fujitsu unveils new Sparc chips, systems . . . . . . Monday at the Microprocessor Forum in San Jose. The company will announce that it has two more versions of its Sparc V CPU in the pipeline. The new chips are expected to bump processing speed for the RISC microprocessor from the current 1.35 GHz to 2 GHz by 2005. And late that year, Tokyo-based Fujitsu plans to introduce its multithreaded Sparc VI processor running at 2.4 GHz. Sources said the company will need to redesign the system bus for its PrimePower Unix servers, which use Sun's Solaris operating system, to take advantage of the much larger data processing capacity of the new chips. Sparc V chip upgrades can be handled without replacing PrimePower servers, but when you move to the Sparc VI-based systems, "a box swap is required," a source points out. Fujitsu insiders also say that while Sun has been struggling because of its broad line of low-margin systems that compete with Windows and Linux servers, their company has seen record growth in its 16- to 128-processor Unix systems sales. Quarterly sales of PrimePower machines are exceeding the total annual sales of just two years ago. "We're a glass-house player. And that space is buying now," says one source.

MySQL breaks into the data centre

MySQL AB infuriated a janitor one night in the New York headquarters of The Associated Press (AP). Because of a successful adoption of the open-source database, the IT staffers there figured they no longer needed their DB2 manuals. So they dumped them all in the trash.

Keeping users off-line . . .

FRAMINGHAM (10/03/2003) - Keeping users off-line . . . . . . is the way to secureyour network, jokes Stacey Lum of InfoExpress Inc. in Mountain View, Calif. While noting the impracticality of the idea, the CEO of the 10-year-old boutique security vendor does get his hackles up because companies seldom enforce the few security policies for which end users are responsible, such as having remote workers install patches and upgrades to their laptops. "Where's the enforcement?" he wonders. "Good workers don't get fired for not being in compliance with corporate security policies." He says "nagware," those pesky automated messages that urge users to update their software, doesn't work. That means it falls to IT departments to stop end users from contaminating their comrades with viruses and worms. One way to do that is to install technology that can evaluate the compliance of a remote device before permitting it on the network. Another way is to very publicly terminate the next fool who repeatedly lobs the inevitable Blaster equivalent into your environment. More fun, too.

Volunteers Get A Career Boost

FRAMINGHAM (09/18/2003) - IT professionals who do charitable volunteer work get a variety of benefits, including recognition in the workplace, new management skills and a good-looking line on their resumes. But the volunteers say it's really the feeling of doing good that motivates them to contribute their expertise to the less fortunate.

SAP undertakes major NetWeaver overhaul

SAP undertakes major NetWeaver overhaul that will result in the first synchronised release of all the application integration software's components in Q1 2004. Currently, SAP ships its various NetWeaver modules separately. For example, Master Data Management 2.0, which lets you maintain cross-platform data consistency, and XI 3.0, an app integration broker, will hit the street at different times between now and year's end. According to SAP executives speaking sotto voce, the odds are pretty good that the company will also adopt a common versioning approach so that each of NetWeaver's applications will have the same release number when the overhaul is complete.

SAP unveils developer network, 'GUI Machine'

At its TechEd '03 conference Tuesday, SAP launched a new online collaborative environment for developers and demonstrated an unreleased tool to help nontechnical users model applications and generate the Java code to create them. But attendees here said they worried that the tool, code-named GUI Machine, might lead to underperforming applications and cause compatibility problems with existing programs.

The real trial

Let's not speculate about what US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will decide later this year about Microsoft's fate. That's an academic exercise about a ruling that's certain to be appealed. Instead, let's look at how the market is judging the company.