Ubuntu for newbies

Ubuntu LogoA few weeks ago, PC World published an excellent guide to setting up your PC with a brand-new installation of Ubuntu Linux. Now they’ve let me do the follow-up.

Available now on PC World’s site, check out “Don’t Fear the Penguin: A Newbie’s Guide to Linux.” It’s your quick-start tour of your Ubuntu installation, including application highlights, configuration options, and how to work cross-platform with Windows and Mac OS X. Best of all, it’s chock full of screenshots, so you can make sense of it even if you haven’t taken the plunge and installed Ubuntu yet yourself. » More... »

How eBay built a global platform

I have a new article in the current edition of Multilingual magazine, which I co-wrote with Nelson Ng of eBay. It’s about how eBay re-engineered its back-end systems to support Unicode, the universal character-encoding standard.

Unfortunately, this one is subscription-only for now. But the gist is that eBay needed to convert all of its database tables, applications, and HTML to Unicode in order to expand into Asian markets while maintaining maximum compatibility across all its global sites. Considering the scope of eBay’s operations, it was no easy task. In fact, it took years to complete.

It’s a fascinating case study, so if you’re interested in multilingual computing I encourage you to check it out. Multilingual is a print publication, but digital subscriptions give you access to the current issue online immediately.

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.

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.

Welcome, Slashdot readers

Posts from my Fatal Exception blog at InfoWorld have been linked on Slashdot a lot lately. This morning it was my editorial “Was JavaScript a mistake?”, which asks whether we’re spending entirely too much effort trying to standardize a single language for client-side Web programming. Other recent posts to receive the royal Slashdot treatment include “The Web development skills crisis” and “Java is free at last. Now what?”, among others.

Naturally I’m pleased as punch with the attention. The so-called Slashdot effect is well known, and while visitors from Slashdot have yet to bring InfoWorld’s servers to their knees, the mention is always a surefire way to bring in a lot more traffic. It’s especially great in this case, because the Slashdot audience is pretty much exactly who I had in mind when I launched the blog. I’m a longtime Slashdot junkie myself — and in fact, long before you saw any of my editorials linked on the site, you’ve probably seen my posts in the comments. » More... »

Taking netbooks through their paces

Asus Eee PC 901A new category of low-cost, ultra-lightweight laptops has appeared recently. It began with the Asus Eee PC and spawned a slew of imitators, including the Acer Aspire ONE, the HP Mini-Note, and the MSI Wind — not to mention a somewhat-confusing array of Eee PC models to follow the original.

HP 2133 Mini-Note

These devices have mostly been marketed to students and home users, with Web browsing and light computing tasks in mind. I wanted to see whether they might also be attractive to business users. So I packed up an HP Mini-Note and Asus’s latest Eee PC 901 and headed off to the airport, with the plan to test each of them in real-world field conditions. My review for InfoWorld, published today, details the results of my trials. » More... »

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.

Linux for the business desktop

I’m proud of my latest article, available now at InfoWorld.com. It seems like every few months that somebody publishes another article asking, “Is Linux ready for the desktop?” We’ve seen the same thing so many times now that it’s become almost a joke. (Is it “the year of desktop Linux” this year, again?)

My article is along a similar theme, but it skips all the familiar hand-wringing and prognosticating. Instead, I look at how a company that has decided to replace some of its Windows desktops with Linux can stop hemming and hawing, start making plans, and actually get down to business. » More... »

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.