First look at Office 2010

As a writer, I spend most of my life in Microsoft Office. Love it or hate it, Office has become the gold standard for business productivity software. So when the good folks at InfoWorld gave me the opportunity to take the upcoming version for a test drive, I jumped at the chance. My first impressions are largely favorable. Microsoft keeps making steady improvements here and there, and the suite is more polished and consistent than ever. On the downside, each new release seems to tie Office ever closer to back-office products like SharePoint and Exchange, which means customers will be locked in to Microsoft software more than ever. Click on over to InfoWorld for the rest of my thoughts.

InfoWorld launches bold new site design

If you’ve followed my work for InfoWorld, you may have already seen the site’s brand-new design, which launched over the weekend. (If you haven’t seen my work, you can see an RSS feed in the right-hand column of this blog.) Personally, I couldn’t be happier with the relaunch.

The new version of the site brings more than just a sleek, modern new look. Beneath the hood it’s a complete rebuild. Out went the earlier, proprietary content-management system, replaced by Drupal, an open source CMS platform. The Online Publishing Group at IDG, in tandem with an outside Web development firm, created a fully customized Drupal installation that — for once — means InfoWorld has a technology platform that matches its content. Better yet, while the competition is still nervously worrying about the future of the publishing industry, InfoWorld is moving forward, better than ever.

I encourage everybody to check out the new site — and, especially, to jump in and participate. There are dozens of online discussion forums just waiting for your input, questions, feedback, and casual chat. This is a great opportunity to build an unprecedented online community focused on enterprise IT. Do me a favor, register on the site, and kick off new discussion topics of your own. I and the other InfoWorld editors and contributors will be checking in and joining the discussion as often as we’re able.

Congratulations to everyone at InfoWorld on a successful relaunch, and I’m looking forward to all our collaborations in the new era.

Test your Web trivia knowledge

InfoWorld has posted the next in our ongoing series of fun quizzes to test your knowledge of all things tech. This time around, the topic is the Web itself. It’s hard to believe that it’s only about 17 years since the Web’s inception, yet we’ve come a long way from those humble beginnings. This week’s quiz tries to reflect the full breadth of topics throughout that storied history.

From browsers to the HTTP protocol, JavaScript to the history of e-commerce, there’s something here to test everyone’s knowledge of history and technical nitty-gritty. Don’t feel bad if you miss some of the answers — that’s part of the fun. There are a lot of unexpected details hidden in this one, so if you bear with it you might learn a few fun factoids for your next LAN party.

BTW, if you enjoy this one, check out our earlier IQ tests on programming and the Linux OS.

Linux IQ quiz

Tux, the Linux PenguinAnother one from the “just for fun” file — this week, InfoWorld is running a quick quiz to see just how much you really know about Linux.

I always get a certain amount of hate mail when we put together one of these things, so let’s clear up a few points right off. No, getting some of the questions wrong doesn’t mean you’re dumb, or that you’re bad at your job as a Linux admin. It’s for fun. See?

Anyhow, check it out, and if you feel like bragging about your score — or calling me an idiot — post ’em here or on the InfoWorld site.

Fatal Exception rated “Great” at

This just in: Fatal Exception, my InfoWorld blog, has received a rating of 8.0 at the blog rating site, qualifying it for a score of “Great.” Just six other InfoWorld blogs have been reviewed by the site. Tom Yager rates a little higher than I do, as does Zack Urlocker and Savio Rodrigues’ Open Sources blog, but I daresay I can deal with “Great.” Drop on by the site and leave a review of Fatal Exception, if you’re so moved.

20 (more) IT mistakes to avoid

Think you know something about how to manage IT? Care to learn a thing or two about how not to do it?

My latest article for InfoWorld revisits an old theme, originally covered in 2004 by Chad Dickerson, InfoWorld’s then-CTO: the top IT mistakes to avoid. We all fall prey to bad ideas once in a while. Presented here are twenty doozies for you to observe and evade.

And lest you think you’ve heard it all before, rest assured that this year’s list doesn’t overlap much with the original 20. Some of the topics are related, but I’ve tried to present a new twist or an opposite angle. Taken together, the two articles form a pretty formidable list of “worst practices.” So click on over and let me know what you think.

Inside Google’s Chrome browser

Chromium logo

For the truly geeky among you: In the latest post to my Fatal Exception blog over at InfoWorld, I’m taking a look under the hood of Chrome, Google’s new Web browser. A lot of articles make mention of how Chrome is open source. I actually put it to the test, by building a custom copy of it myself.

Along the way I found out a lot of interesting information about Chrome’s internals and how Google built it. On the plus side, it’s very clean, well-organized code. On the minus side, it looks like it’s going to be Windows-only for a good while, yet.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun doing this piece (it’s been a long time since I had a legitimate excuse to pull out a compiler on Windows), so if you have the hobbyist spirit, drop on over and join the discussion.

Developers: Test your geek cred

Check out InfoWorld today for some more fun. In keeping with some other, recent features, the editors there had me come up with twenty questions to test your app dev savvy. If you have some experience with programming, run through them and see how you score.

This isn’t a test like you took in college. You don’t need specific experience with any one technology or platform, but you should be well-grounded in a variety of development terms and procedures. It’s equal parts history and know-how. You don’t have to program in assembly language, for example, but you do need to know what it is. Think of it as Trivial Pursuit for the hacker set.

My favorite part about this feature was that I got to write a question that involves Forth, a language for which I will always have a soft spot. But that’s the only hint you’ll get from me! Now, off you go.

Turning points in technology

Every industry has crucial events that have changed the course of history. My feature article for InfoWorld this week looks at some of the most prominent ones for the tech industry.

Whether it’s Louis Gerstner’s famed turnaround of IBM or Apple ditching the PowerPC for Intel chips, each of the 15 turning points I cover has helped to craft the computing world we know and love today. There are probably countless more that I’ve missed, too, so if you think there’s an area that I’ve failed to cover, sound off about it here or on the InfoWorld message boards.

What’s happening to the browser?

InfoWorld posted my latest feature this morning. This one is a look at some of the new technologies that are now appearing on the market aimed at developers of so-called rich Internet applications (RIAs), including Adobe AIR, Mozilla Prism, and Google Gears.

The title they chose to go with was “Is the browser going nowhere?” (or “Do new Web tools spell doom for the browser?”). I guess sensationalism is always a useful way to sell articles, but the actual article isn’t quite so melodramatic. The idea is that the traditional browser experience might not be ideal for every application on today’s Web, and that a number of companies are addressing the need for new tools. What tomorrow’s browser might look like — or to what extent it might disappear altogether — remains up in the air.

Check it out and let me know what you think.