Need a disposable email address so you can sign up for some web site, quick? You’ve already got one, at Paul Tyma’s clever Mailinator. “Just send an email to any address @mailinator.com. Your email address already exists. Get your email sent here, THEN come check mailinator. Your mail will be waiting.” More proof that great UI design is done by taking away, not adding things.


OK. Yesterday’s post about Linux in Munich did, as predicted, cause an awful lot of slashdot-style religious debate, but alert reader Jan Derk went to the trouble of actually reading the report (PDF – in German). Thanks Jan! It seems like the answer to my sweet and innocent question about backwards compatibility is that they’re actually going to install Linux, but on many machines (as many as 80%?) there will be VMWare running a licensed copy of Windows inside. Also the majority of the price tag was for training and consulting, not the software licenses per se.

The surprise of the century is that Gartner actually has a reasonable and concise analysis, headlined “Munich’s Choice Doesn’t Prove Linux OK for General Desktop Use.”

Nobody outside of Redmond is going to be weeping much about the fact that deals like this can put pressure on Microsoft to be more competitive about pricing and more responsive to customers on license terms. If we’re lucky we can get to the point of long distance telephone service in the 1980s when it was first deregulated in the USA: nobody wanted to use Sprint or MCI, because their service was terrible, but we were sure thankful that reliable old AT&T had to lower their prices in response.

Google Holes

Slate has an interesting article on three big problems with Google. It is, indeed, practically impossible to find unbiased professional reviews of consumer products using Google, although I know they must be out there somewhere.


The city of Munich is replacing Windows with Linux on 14,000 desktop computers. For a secretary who has to do email and type simple documents, that will probably be fine.

Here’s my question. What about all the people who need to run software that doesn’t run on Linux? The article said Munich uses 175 custom Windows applications, all of which would need to be ported. And what about major commercial applications for which there’s no equivalent? I guarantee you that somewhere out of those 14,000 desktops there’s someone using Quark to publish an important report. Even if there were an equivalent for Linux, which there isn’t, it wouldn’t be the format that the printers are used to receiving. There are probably a lot of people with custom Access databases. How do they access their data?

I suspect what will really happen is that they’ll roll out Linux everywhere, and then every mid-level bureaucrat will realize they can’t do their job because some application they need just doesn’t run on Linux, and they’ll buy Windows XP at full retail price, burying the costs in expense reports or petty cash or somewhere else. And eventually Munich will buy so much Microsoft software at retail price, without the benefit of a negotiated discount, that Microsoft will make more money and Munich will start to realize that they’re paying twice for software: once for the politically correct shelfware ($2550 per desktop for Linux, so it sort of sounds unbelievable) and once for the software they need to get their jobs done.

Either that or they’ll simply be unable to do their jobs, and, like bureaucrats everywhere, they won’t tell anyone, while the municipality quietly falls apart.


New Stuff day!

Vault 1.1

SourceGear’s new source code control system, Vault, is now shipping version 1.1 — the first source control system with FogBUGZ integration built in. Marc LaFleur writes: “After a few minutes I was impressed, after a few days I am in love with it.”

CityDesk 2.0 (Beta 2.0.7)

CityDesk 2.0 got one step closer to shipping; today we released the fourth version of the beta. For this beta release we’ve been doing a lot of work around the quality of generated HTML; our WYSIWYG editor is now whitespace-preserving and generates valid xhtml.

We decided to release two new versions of CityDesk this year: one now, and one at the end of the year. The 2.0 release is intended to be a “polishing” of 1.0. Our goal was to make CityDesk a much more satisfying product for our current users, people who are happy with 1.0 but could be made even happier with some key enhancements. We’ve fixed literally hundreds of bugs and annoyances. You may not have noticed many of the bugs, most are quite rare, but we have a compulsive need to fix all the little tiny broken things before we create major new areas of functionality.

At the end of the year we will release 3.0 which will have some major architectural enhancements. It will still be the same great CityDesk you’ve come to know and love, but it will include major new features designed to satisfy a much wider range of projects.

But the Playstation is Not Tax Deductible.

For the new office, I ordered a Pioneer PDP-4330HD high-definition, flat-screen plasma TV. I chose this unit because all the electronics and connections are in a separate box which can be 20′ away from the display. The box has a VGA jack in the front so it’s easy to plug in a laptop and project in 1024×768 mode.


Clay Shirky, brilliant as usual: “Now, when I say these are three things you have to accept, I mean you have to accept them. Because if you don’t accept them upfront, they’ll happen to you anyway. And then you’ll end up writing one of those documents that says ‘Oh, we launched this and we tried it, and then the users came along and did all these weird things. And now we’re documenting it so future ages won’t make this mistake.’ Even though you didn’t read the thing that was written in 1978.”


Since it’s so easy to create all kinds of XML feeds with CityDesk, I thought I’d create an experimental Echo feed, in hopes of officially being the first publisher on earth to use the new format, along with all the celebrity and fanfare that should entail. The feed is here. It is generated with off-the-shelf CityDesk (well, the 2.0 beta).

Please be aware that the Echo syntax itself is still changing rapidly and while I will attempt to keep up with those changes, I may not always be able to do so.

Please email me to suggest corrections to the format or if you notice something that doesn’t match the rapidly-evolving spec.