Stories by Jon Udell

Opinion: Tales from the data entry trenches

When a family member underwent a series of minor medical procedures recently, I got a telling glimpse of the hospital's data-entry systems. As I'm sure is true elsewhere, it isn't a pretty picture.

On-demand apps demand a richer browser

Can the browser meet the demands of on-demand? On-demand apps are by definition Web apps. That won't come as a shock to enterprises because most of the latest internally deployed enterprise apps -- besides a few client/server holdouts -- already rely on the browser to deliver user experience.

Opinion: Dictate and "see" the master's voice

I've spent some time this week with the latest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a dictation program that I've tried from time to time over the years. In the past, despite chronic trouble with RSI (repetitive strain injury), I could never convince myself to make dictation part of my routine working life. But with each generation of hardware and with each version of the program, the gap between desire and reality has narrowed. Now dictation technology may finally have crossed the threshold of practicality for me.

The state of rich Web apps

I recently argued that Gmail's aggressive use of DHTML qualifies it as a kind of RIA (rich Internet application). As e-mail correspondents and bloggers pointed out, the technique has a fairly long history. Many wonder why it remains on the fringe. The reason, I think, is partly a weakness common to all RIA technologies. Whether it's based on DHTML, Java, Flash, .Net, or just a standard GUI, an RIA has a client/server architecture. Unlike a Web application that manages state information almost entirely on the server, an RIA achieves a more balanced distribution of that information between server and client. The benefits that flow from this arrangement can include responsiveness, context preservation, and offline capability.

Opinion: Under Gmail's hood

I'd been experimenting for a few months with Gmail, Google's Web mail system, without really taking it seriously. But this week I decided to take the plunge and try using Gmail not only as a mail search engine, but as a replacement for Outlook (on Windows) and Mail (on OS X). Now I'm ready to join the chorus singing the praises of GMail's user-interface technology. Its combination of HTML, JavaScript, and the DOM makes the browser do some remarkable tricks.

Access control, monoculture, and accountability

Two years ago I bumped into a powerful idea that I knew I'd be hearing about again. In a blog entry about ACLs (access control lists), I cited a speech given by Dan Geer to the Security Industries Middleware Council. Geer was then CTO of @Stake, a security consultancy that fired him last year for co-writing a much-publicized Computer and Communications Industry Association report asserting that a software "monoculture" -- such as Microsoft's dominance has created -- is an inherent security risk.

The rewards of open source

Several weeks ago, at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, Michael Tiemann -- formerly Red Hat's CTO and now vice president of open source affairs -- spoke about the role of Fedora, Red Hat's free Linux distribution. To refute the claim that Fedora represents a fork of its core product, Tiemann appealed to a notion that is best summed up in a phrase popularized by Tim O'Reilly: "the architecture of participation."

Interview: Longhorn through the open-source lens

We asked two open source leaders -- Brendan Eich, chief architect of Mozilla, and Miguel de Icaza, CTO of Novell's Ximian services business unit -- for their perspectives on Longhorn's Avalon presentation subsystem.

The long view on Longhorn

In its first preview at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference last year, Windows XP successor Longhorn was shown running a 20-year-old copy of Visicalc. Ancient DOS software won't be the lone occupant of the Longhorn compatibility box. Win32, the Web, and even WinForms -- the .Net era's first GUI framework -- are all legacy APIs from Longhorn's perspective. Their replacements, Microsoft says, will jointly deliver "the best of Windows and the best of the Web."

Ending e-mail forgery

All the experts interviewed for this article agree: fixing e-mail hinges on positive identification of the sender. And there are practical solutions on the horizon to drastically reduce forgeries that characterize some of the worst e-mail abuses.

The social enterprise

We are social animals for whom networked software is creating a new kind of habitat. Social software can be defined as whatever supports our actual human interaction as we colonize the virtual realm. The category includes familiar things such as groupware and knowledge management, and extends to the new breed of relationship power tools that have brought the venture capitalists out of hibernation.

Microsoft .Net report card

Determining exactly what .Net is may be the hardest part of measuring its success. The confusion goes way back to June 2000, when Bill Gates framed the .Net initiative in consumerish terms as an Internet "platform" to support all sorts of devices. As it turned out, .Net mainly manifested itself as a collection of technologies for developers, and that's how we have chosen to evaluate it.

A frank discussion with Microsoft's David Treadwell

We asked David Treadwell, Microsoft's general manager of the .Net Platform Developer Division, to comment on key issues that arose while researching .Net's performance. Treadwell's answers were surprisingly frank and shed light on Microsoft's Longhorn future.