Monday, November 29, 2004

Tech on the Potomac

When people think of technology they think of Silicon Valley, Massachusetts Route 128, or North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Few think of Greater Washington, yet the original Univac was developed for the Census Bureau. The miniaturization necessary for the modern laptop came out of NASA. The Internet came out of the Department of Defense APRA net.

Part of the purpose of this blog is to chronicle the technology scene of greater Washington and give readers a chance to learn about the important work that is done here. Here is a review of Technoflak’s reporting on local technology events:

Federal XML Work Group:

Government XML Community of Practice (not Technoflak’s reporting)

Federal XML Work Group, July 21st meeting

Federal XML work group (from the minutes)

XML Work Group, May 18 Meeting


Tony Byrne of CMS Watch at NCC AIIM

Timothy Sprehe explains Technical Report 48

Mark Mandel’s take of AIIM 2004

AIIM 2004 Show Wrap

DC XML Users Group:

July Meeting of DC XML Users Group

March Meeting of the DC XML Users Group

Northern Virginia Java Users Group:



Everybody is a Public Figure

Independent PR Alliance:

Useful Communication Technologies


Process Improvement Basics

Model Driven Architecture: From Theory to Practice, From Promise to Profit

Security changes everything

Developing Secure Software

Six Sigma & Process Improvement

Yorktown High School Libre Users Group:

Richard Stallman

MIT Enterprise Forum:

Where Will the Money be Spent?

MIT Enterprise Forum

Mid Atlantic TAWPI:

In memory of Herbert Schantz

How to Design a Form for Effective Automatic Character Recognition (from the minutes)

Northern Virginia IEEE:

Dr. Gary McGraw on exploiting software (not technoflak’s reporting)


The Spectacled Bear goes to the DC XML Forum (not Technoflak’s reporting)

Civil service IT humor (not Technoflak’s reporting)

Tech Tuesday: Computer Guys Live at FOSE

Colonial Williamsburg

I spent Thanksgiving weekend touring Colonial Williamsburg. It is an enchantingly beautiful and fascinating place. If there had been time I would have gone to Yorktown battlefield park and Jamestown, which are both nearby.

Their presentation has changed since I was a child; they now acknowledge the presence of slavery and its role in our history.

George Wythe lived just two houses away from the Governor’s Palace. You can only wonder what it must have been like for poor Governor Dunmore to look out his window, only to see Jefferson’s horse outside of Wythe’s house and imagine what sort of plotting was taking place there.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Bigger is not better

Benefits system hit by IT chaos

Pension and benefit payments face disruption after what is being described as the biggest computer crash in government history left as many as 80,000 civil servants staring at blank screens and reverting to writing out giro cheques by hand in the latest blow to a hi-tech Whitehall revolution.

A week-long crisis in the giant Department for Work and Pensions created a backlog of unprocessed claims with up to 80% of the ministry's 100,000 desk machines disrupted or knocked out by a blunder during maintenance.

Engineers battling to fix the problem last night claimed 95% were functioning fully again as they prepared to reboot the entire network after offices closed to the public.

Alan Johnson, the work and pensions secretary, has ordered an internal inquiry into the role of Microsoft and the American contractors EDS, who run the ministry's network as part of a £2bn information technology deal.

The disruption is the latest in a line of government technology failures and follows last week's resignation of the head of the Child Support Agency, part of Mr Johnson's empire, after the disastrous introduction of an EDS system contributed to only one in eight parents receiving the correct amount.

How many of these disasters are we going to read about before we learn that you don’t need a big company to handle a big job? Small companies can often do a better job at a lower price.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving

We gather together

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Can you make money on free software?

Linux server sales top $1 billion in Q3
Year-over-year revenue from Linux server sales is up 42.6%

Apparently so.

The Media Drop’s stuggle with comment spam

Hello, those who have been redirected. In case you're wondering, I've been unable to publish since about noon Eastern time on Tuesday, November 23 due to a *ahem* problem with my webhost, who has "removed" my Movable Type installation due to the problems with my site being a target for comment spamming.

The web host can thank their lucky stars The Media Drop hasn’t named them.

In praise of dial-up

Jim Horton can’t believe that most of us are still on dial up. Technoflak prefers the superior security of dial-up. The dynamic IP address combined with the ability to turn off access makes dial-up inherently more secure.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Call for Award Nominees: Peripheral Concepts' 2005 Network Storage Product Awards

The Industry Analyst Reporter

Peripheral Concepts' Network Storage Conference is accepting nominations for its 2005 awards program. The awards program recognizes outstanding achievements made by pioneering companies within the network storage industry. Any company, whether exhibiting at the NSC 2005 or not, meeting basic entry criteria may submit products for consideration. The submission deadline is December 15, 2004.

Best wishes to Dan, I rather liked him

(CBS) Dan Rather announced Tuesday that he will step down as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News in March, 24 years after his first broadcast in that position.


They should replace him with Mika Brzezinski, that would give us a cheery face to look at each evening.

Singing the spywaye uninstall blues

From Slashdot:

Anti-Spyware Test (Guide)

If any lessons or conclusions can be drawn from these tests at all, they are quite general:

* Spyware and adware can prove quite difficult to remove, even for dedicated anti-spyware scanners.

In the second and third group of tests, for example, one of the installed programs prevented the anti-spyware scanners from running on reboot, a common method used by anti-spyware scanners to remove stubborn spyware and adware that is currently in memory on a PC. As a result, some spyware and adware was not removed by the anti-spyware scanners during reboot that otherwise might have.

* No single anti-spyware scanner removes everything. (1) Even the best-performing anti-spyware scanner in these tests missed fully one quarter of the "critical" files and Registry entries.

* It is better to use two or more anti-spyware scanners in combination, as one will often detect and remove things that others do not.

* Where possible, users should become familiar with the use of HijackThis! in order to remove stubborn spyware and adware that standard anti-spyware scanners fail to remove. Less experienced users should know how to get help from the expert volunteers who provide free HijackThis! log advice and analysis at major anti-spyware forums.

* Prevention is always preferable to scanning and removal, and users should securely configure their PCs and install anti-malware protection to prevent the installation of spyware and adware in the first place.

* Moreover, users should learn to practice safe computing habits, which include avoiding web sites and programs of unknown or dubious provenance and carefully reading End User License Agreements and Privacy Policies.

Why isn’t spyware illegal?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ask and ye shall receive

Spoken search engine results

The struggle for the National Science Foundation

NSF FY 2005 Appropriations Update

Conflicting rumors abound regarding the outlook for NSF in the FY 05 appropriations process. As House and Senate negotiators attempt to put the finishing touches on an omnibus appropriations bill by Friday or Saturday, word comes that NSF will likely not fare well in the bill. reports that a bit of rule-bending employed by the Senate to "find" an additional $1.2 billion in funding in their version of the VA-HUD-Independent agencies appropriation bill, which includes funding for NSF, isn't acceptable to the House leadership or the White House budget office. So in order to stay within the budget cap, appropriators will have offset any increase in spending with funding from elsewhere in the bill.

In order to fund the President's lunar/Mars initiative at NASA, it appears other agencies in the bill will bear the brunt. reports that NSF is slated for a $60 million cut overall compared to the agency's FY 2004 funding level, but that "research funding" -- presumably the agency's Research and Related Activities account, which contains funding for NSF CISE -- will "remain frozen" at FY 2004 levels.

So much of our future, economic and otherwise, is dependent on good science that failure to invest now is a great loss to the nation.

Great presentation titles

Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Email, text vs. HTML

Recently, a volunteer organization that Technoflak participates in sent out an HTML mass-email via the organization’s email client. Only the email would not go through, and after much discussion it transpired that there was something in the HTML that kept getting caught in the organization’s spam filter. After much tweaking it finally went through. Apparently it never occurred to anyone to put the email into text and send it through. Advanced registrations for the annual seminar were jeopardized by the delay.

The Ad-Marketing list is currently debating the merits of sending out email in text vs. HTML. Someone suggested doing a test, sending out half in plain text and half in HTML and comparing the response. This strikes Technoflak as an excellent suggestion. If, as she suspects, the HTML is not producing better response rates it can be abandoned.

Technoflak only sends plain text email and rarely sends attachments. With so many people retrieving email on mobile devices, it is critical to respect bandwidth. Moreover, HTML is bait for spam filters. A well crafted text message will lure the reader to your web site where you can show off all your fancy HTML.

What is wrong with sending HTML or MIME messages?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Kevin Sites, a hero for our time

Posts on conservative website advocate violence against journalist

The discussion board at, a prominent right-wing online forum, contains numerous posts from members advocating violence against NBC News correspondent Kevin Sites, who recorded and reported the close-range shooting by a U.S. Marine of an unarmed and wounded Iraqi insurgent.

Comments about Sites on Free Republic include:

* "Turn Sites over to the terrorist."
* "Fragamundo."
* "No need for anything overt. Unfortunate things happen in combat zones, and if the reporter fails to hear someone yell 'Sniper!!', well, c'est la guerre" [French for "that is war"].
* [In response to a post suggesting Sites's "life is in danger being around the Marines"]: "I would certainly hope so."
* "I hope the Marines advance and leave Sites behind...alone in Fallujah with his terrorist buddies."
* "I don't want the punk killed, I'd just like to see his hair mussed. Jaws wired shut for a few months, food through a straw, that kind of thing."
* "It's Kevin Sites who deserves to be held in contempt and who deserves the losing end of a bar fight."
* "I don't give a flying you-know-what about his safety."

Nobody ever hurt America with the truth, nobody ever helped America with a lie.

Why journalism matters, the International Federation of Journalists

More Than 100 Journalists Killed This Year

BRUSSELS, Belgium - More than 100 journalists have been killed since January, making 2004 the most deadly year for journalists in a decade, an international media rights group said.

The slayings of three journalists in recent days in Ivory Coast, Nicaragua and the Philippines pushed this year's total to 101, the International Federation of Journalists said Friday.

"2004 is turning out to be one of the most bloody years on record," said Aidan White, the federation's general secretary. "The crisis of news safety has reached an intolerable level and must be addressed urgently."

The organization recorded 83 killings of media staff in 2003 and 70 in 2002. The most deadly year for journalists since the organization began compiling annual reports in 1988 was 1994, when 115 were killed, including 48 during the genocide in Rwanda.

This year's latest victim was Gene Boyd R. Lumawag, photo editor for the independent Filipino news agency MindaNews, shot in the head Friday by an unknown gunman while on his way to take a picture of the sunset in the southern town of Jolo.

Fellow flacks, without an independent and credible press our work is meaningless. We have a vested interest in protecting journalists. Let us support the work of organizations that protect journalists.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Why Dan Gillmor is a great journalist

Remembering Comdex

But I want to recall the better part of Comdex. For years it was the place where companies showed off new technology, or at least bragged about what they were planning to sell. It was a place where industry luminaries showed up not just to flog products but also to roam the cavernous convention floors, looking at all the cool new stuff people were inventing.

I will miss a ritual I later adopted at the Consumer Electronics Show, which for many of us replaced Comdex as the most important show of the year. I'd walk the most distant parts of the show floor in the most remote pavilion, far away from where gigantic companies like Microsoft, Intel and others held forth, looking for interesting technology that the small fry -- unable to afford prime show-floor real estate -- had wanted us to see. I'd see genuine entrepreneurship in action, and always learned something.

Attention editors and reporters, the exciting work in technology is almost always done by the little guys. If you are not telling their stories your readers will not be able to follow the industry.

(emphasis Technoflak)

What is a rubber ducky type antenna?


The most popular type of portable antenna, is assembled by radiation elements, usually coaxial cable or copper coil, with injection-molded sleeve, typical material for the sleeve is polyurethane. The overall construction provides flexibility, durability, and style. Our portable rubber ducky antennas models operate from VHF/UHF Land Mobil frequency band up to 6 GHz.

Now you know.

Monday, November 15, 2004

DARPA wants info about war ideas

Federal Computer Week:

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency officials want ideas on using computational techniques to disrupt enemy leaders' decision-making processes.

DARPA officials want papers on the topic by Dec. 10. They will choose the best ones and ask the authors attend a meeting in late January 2005, according to a Nov. 10 notice on the Government Business Opportunities Web site.

Sounds like some really cool stuff.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Goliath vs. Goliath

IBM set to back open-source proposals

IBM is expected to add its weight to the debate on open computing standards on Monday, backing European Commission proposals that all word processing and other office software used by governments across Europe be standardised and interoperable.

The move will put additional pressure on Microsoft to open up its proprietary Office software suite, or risk being excluded from orders by government departments across Europe.

The Commission has been pushing to ensure that all EU citizens can access public sector documents without being tied to a particular company or software system.

Making transparency your enemy

Never be arbitrary in your dealings with the public. A case study in the importance of maintaining transparency is now unfolding across lefty blogosphere.

Alabama Medicaid has notified the mother of a disabled child that her child’s case no longer meets the criteria for the program. According to WPMI News, no elaboration was made on why this child’s situation failed to meet the criteria.

By refusing to explain the decision to the child’s mother or WPMI, Dr. Mary McIntyre has focused attention on herself rather than the Medicaid program. One of the many reasons for transparency is that it focuses attention on the issue at hand rather than the personalities. So now Dr. McIntrye has been cast in the role of the heartless beauracrat by the local TV news.

But that is just the beginning of her problems. In a post dated 9:22 PM last night Atrios, the blogger who played such an important role in bringing down Trent Lott, promised his readers that they would take action the following morning. This morning he posted Dr. McIntyre’s office telephone number and email address, encouraging his readers to make inquiries. Bloggers Oliver Willis and Steve Gilliard have both taken up the cause. By now Dr. McIntyre’s phone is jumping off the hook with unpleasant inquiries and her in box is jammed with similar messages.

How could this have been avoided? Had she explained the basis of her decision, Dr. McIntyre would still be unpopular, but Medicaid would be focus of attention, rather than those who administer it.

Railing at irresponsible bloggers will do no good. Blogosphere, for better or worse, is not going anywhere. As I have written before, those who fail to make transparency their friend will find it a formidable enemy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

2005 Federal 100 award

The Federal 100 recognizes individuals from government, industry and academia who significantly influenced how the federal government buys, uses or manages information technology. Federal 100 winners are recognized for their risk-taking, vision and pioneering spirit in the federal IT community.

The best PR advice Technoflak can possibly offer is to nominate your customer. If your customer looks good, you look good.

The deadline for nominations is Dec. 17, 2004.

International Association of Online Communicators


Very interesting material, check it out.

Why journalism matters, Dilip Mohapatra has the story about the murder of Dilip Mohapatra, editor of India's Aji Kagaj newspaper.

In memory of Herbert Schantz

Herbert Schantz died of cancer this past Sunday. He was president of the local TAWPI chapter.

Schantz was one of a select group of consultants who shape the local technology industry. He was a member of NCC AIIM and wrote regular articles for our newsletter.

Much of how we process banking transactions and how we process forms was influenced by Schantz’s work, both as a consultant and his work for TAWPI.

His wake is tonight at Adams Green in Herndon and the funeral is at St. Catharine’s off of Georgetown Pike on Thursday morning.

This is one of his many articles:

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

New to sidebar

Capital Area .Net Users Group

Quick view of corporate blogging

Elizabeth Albrycht points to this very concise guide to corporate blogging.

NewComm Forum Americas West 2005

NewComm Forum Americas West, Napa, CA, January 26-27, 2005
NewComm Forum Europe 2005 will be held in early February in Paris, France

New Communications Forum: Blog University is not a traditional conference. Rather, it is an interactive, international forum, comprising an extended, meaningful conversation and the sharing of ideas and theories about the future of marketing communications. The forum will also include an online component, beginning two months prior to the events, and continuing afterwards, giving attendees the ability to start learning immediately via the website, blog and wiki.

Technoflak is very excited to be participating. Also nervous.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Security watch

We do need passports with more data," says computer security expert Bruce Schneier. "But they chose a chip that can be queried remotely and surreptitiously. I can't think of any reason why the government would do that, other than that they want surreptitious access."

For those foolish enough to imagine we should just trust our government, devices that can be remotely accessed by our government can be remotely accessed by any government, or any organiation with the budget and motivation to do so. Does that make you feel more secure?

Libel legal jurisdiction blues

Jim Horton points to this most important article on the international libel lawsuit trend.

We are going to have to reconcile the issues of free speech, the individual’s right of redress when they have been libeled and national soverignty.

Partnering with IT: the Key to RIM Success

ARMA NOVA Seminar 2004
Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Northern Virginia Chapter of ARMA, Intl. welcomes you to a one-day seminar designed to help you Partner with Information Technology Professionals in your organization to ensure your success and the success of your RIM Program.

Join Charles Dollar, Ph.D. as he helps us understand the implications of the Forrester Report recently released by ARMA, International and what we need to know about Information Technology to forge partnerships with the IT Professionals to manage electronic records and information.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Cease fire in the OS wars?

Microsoft .Net and J2EE coexist nicely

In the so-called “platform wars,” Microsoft .Net and Java 2 Enterprise Edition have roughly equal market share and will continue to coexist, said Brian Lyons, chief technology officer of Number Six Software Inc. of Arlington, Va. “I was really surprised by how split the marketplace is,” he said.

Lyons contrasted the two Web services platforms yesterday at a conference sponsored by the National Capital Chapter of the Association for Information and Image Management.

The Office of Management and Budget has recommended that agencies choose one of the two for their e-government business initiatives and technology reference models.

Friday, November 05, 2004

e-Gov goes to war

Navy puts warfighting first

The war in the Middle east is squeezing the Navy’s electronic government efforts, deputy Navy Department CIO Robert J. Carey said today at an Arlington, Va., conference sponsored by the National Capital Chapter of the Association for Information and Image Management.

Carey said the Navy’s seed-funding of e-business initiatives through an office in the Naval Supply Systems Command is “morphing under the huge bill for the fleet in the Persian Gulf. We recognize the need to seed things, nevertheless—to carve out money to advance corporate change.” He said the e-business office has returned $7 in savings for every dollar invested.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Monday, November 01, 2004

A republic, if you can keept it.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

New to blog roll


Small is accountable

Dominic of Epicycle explains:

The overall problem, as I see it (and this is where, when talking to my friend, I started waving my arms a lot) is that the government is using the wrong sort of IT company to design and build these systems: they are fixated on the idea that when you need a large scale IT project, only a large scale IT company can possibly do the job. This leads them inexorably to the UK's big name consultancies - the likes of Anderson (or whatever they are calling themselves since the Enron embarrassment), Ernst & Young, Siemens Business Services, KPMG, Cap Gemini, or indeed my old nemesis Sema.

I'm convinced that this isn't necessarily the case, though. There are some extremely keen and talented analysts and programmers working for small IT companies in the UK, and these little firms are sleek, nimble and hungry... Unlike the big boys they don't expect £100,000 just to turn up to the first consultancy meeting, and with a complete lack of giant glass-walled office buildings and squadrons of overpaid managers in Mercedes, their idea of an outrageous fee is many orders of magnitude less than anything their more bloated cousins would ever contemplate. Furthermore, their staff usually take a far greater pride in their work than the faceless contract clones who end up employed by the big consultancies, and really care about delivering what they have promised, on time and in budget. Contract staff can leave behind their mistakes when they move to other projects or other companies - but if a small company is going to survive at all, it simply can't afford to make those sorts of mistakes in the first place, and this almost always shows in the overall quality of the systems that they produce.

Why do buyers think that bigger companies are better? Because they have heard of them, simply a matter of publicity. That is why I founded Presto Vivace, Inc. Simply getting a good feature story will give a small company the high profile they need to compete. Better copy for readers, better stories for reporters, better value for taxpayers, everybody wins.