Le temps de l'Informatique Adulte

Dans la lignée de mon précédent post sur le sujet, je voudrais citer Gérard Philippot, Président d'Unilog:

La dernière idée à la mode dans nos métiers est que nous traverserions une crise identique à celle de 1993... Je crois que cette comparaison est erronée : l'atonie actuelle du marché est d'une nature différente ; en outre, si c'était vraiment le cas, il suffirait d'attendre pour que tout reparte. Mon avis est que notre marché prend conscience de certaines réalités : il ne suffit pas de concevoir des solutions ".com" pour qu'elles créent de la valeur. La qualité d'un système d'information résulte de trois facteurs bien plus essentiels : une fiabilité permanente, la disponibilité des infrastructures techniques et l'appropriation effective des nouveaux systèmes par les utilisateurs. Après l'euphorie du "tout-internet" vient le temps de l'Informatique Adulte, qui repose sur certains pré-requis.


Le second porte sur la nécessaire industrialisation partielle de notre activité. Partielle, parce qu'aucun ERP*, aucun logiciel spécialisé ne peut s'adapter suffisamment à un client donné, sauf à enfermer celui-ci dans un fonctionnement tellement standardisé qu'il en perdra toute originalité sur son propre marché.

Forcément, je suis d'accord. ;)

(I don't believe in) Web Standards (no more... but I wish I still had faith!)

"Web Standards"... that definitely sounds cooler than it really is...

At first we had HTML and Mosaic... Then came Netscape and Microsoft with their proprietary extensions... and so came the need for standards. We got several versions of standardized HTML, but still varying implementations (IMG align anyone?).

Then came some "really really" standard method to iron out rendering differences: Cascading Style Sheets! Well... another failed attempt: people tweak them even more than standard HTML and the rendering differences get even worse. So now, we have a collection of dirty tricks to apply different CSS to different browsers.

Okay, forget that; we have an even newer standard now: XSL. You just send pure and clean XML to the browser. Then you let the browser reformat it with an XSLT template. PLEASE! XSLT implementation differences are just as problematic as with CSS... and finally no more than with plain HTML! And regarding IE, it's definitely too slow to be really useful! >:XX

So today, I really wonder why we go through all this pain... Sending different presentations in plain HTML (okay, let's say XHTML+CSS for bandwidth and maintainability optimization) was faster than desperately trying to find the "compatibility spot" in a single "standard compliant version"! :|

Not to mention there are still old browsers that do not support a lot of standards out there... and there are more and more alternative browsers (on either desktops, appliances or mobile devices...) that all support standards in their very own way! :(

What can we do? I mean pragmatically! Apart from condemning everyone that doesn't comply 100% to the standards (just a few millions anyway...).

I think we need to remember those "best practices" we had a few years ago and get back to something like this:

  1. Identify most common targets (browsers/devices) and provide them with a specific+optimized presentation (CSS/Flash/whatever). The more targets you can handle with compatible web standards, the better. But don't forget to test all those targets! You'll undoubtly encounter nasty surprises on some of them... Note: contrary to popular belief, most common targets and their "market share" largely depend on your audience!
  2. Provide at least one "safe" presentation. One that is guaranteed to be readable by almost anyone. Alternatives would be good here: maybe one text only (HTML 2.0) and one with basic CSS and images that makes it just a little more attractive (but still avoiding any CSS/Flash showing off!)
  3. Provide a manual switch between version for the times when the user uses a browser that can do more or less than we had expected. (It would be wise to always bet on less, but you'll inevitably make false assumptions at some point.)

Okay, so what's new here? Those of you running corporate sites might think they already do that. You may want to check again: are you sure you didn't stop at step 1? :?:

Now, for personal sites... I completely realize that providing multiple versions will sound like crazy to many of you. How can I expect you to update content concurrently in several files? Well... I don't! Any hosting provider nowadays will let you use dynamic page generation (one content, several presentations). I'll get back to this topic later...

File sync

Just got myself a new laptop. I had managed to live without for a couple of years but lately, I've been moving accross country too often and for long enough periods that I can't stand the ~`webdesktop'~ solution no longer. My PalmV doesn't quite cut it either... :-/

So here I am, learning to cope with duplicate filesystems again... trying to find the best ways to synchronize all kinds of things between my laptop and desktop. Email, documents, mp3 collection...

Synchronizing can be a pain in the ass, that's for sure, but on the other hand, it also serves as a pretty efficient backup strategy.

Actually, the only new challenge since my previous laptop is my 15 GB mp3 collection. (It took me weeks to rip all my CDs and tag the files... and I actually gave up halfway :P) I am of course not backing these up on CDs... (I already have the original CDs). But I surely wouldn't want to loose the rips and have to go through the whole process again! U-(

I pulled a few utilities from download.com and so far the best one I installed seems to be "Advanced Directory Comparison and Synchronization". First advantage: it is *not* written in VB. Second: it does not rely on the windows shell to copy the files... and thus it doesn't pathetically hang after a few minutes of copying thousands of files...

It did a relatively fast analysis of differences between the "music" directory structures of the laptop and the desktop, found the already matching files (copied by previous tests) and is now proceeding with the sync. There is a real progress indicator (current file and overall).

Sync in progress...
This is all running over WiFi (that's another story :-/) and the best thing is that if I break the connection (which always happens sometimes when a sync lasts for hours), the software asks me to retry, skip, skip all etc... The nice thing is: "retry" actually works! ;)

Maybe the interface is a little bit complicated, but I guess I'll learn to appreciate it when I start to add and remove mp3s on both sides before I sync again!

However, if you guys know of an absolute kick-ass tool for that kind of sync, I'll sure want to give it a try! :D

Sendo X unveiled

Sendo X

Sendo has unveiled more of its Sendo X in a press conference today. Let's tell it as it is: that smartphone totally rocks! It's even better than what we could expect from previous announcements.

Of course, in this industry, product cycles are very short, so it's only going to be a matter of months before someone (Nokia?) comes out with something better (I mean a better smartphone, not an experimental device like the 7700! :>>).

The Sendo X should be priced around 500 € (unsubsidized) and actually includes pretty much everything you could wish from a smarphone: compact, true phone form factor, normal keyboard, color display (176*220*16), integrated camera with flash, recording and playback of video (15 fps), sound, music, support of standard formats (mp3, mpeg...)

And of course, it runs on Symbian + Series 60 with Java/MIDP support.

One thing I was pretty unsure of until now, was if it was possible to connect a stereo headset for mp3 playback as an alternative to the built in accoustic system. Not only is it possible, but the headset is provided in the box! B)

The other good news is that the device supports SD cards up to a 1GB capacity and beyond. That's exactly what you need to store the mp3s you want to listen to and all those sound/video recordings you're going to make. Even better: the SD cards are hot swappable! B)

Actually, the only drawback I could find so far is the lack of support for SD/IO.

Also, I had written before that many pocket devices were going to converge soon and this time has definitely arrived (it only lacks an emebedded GPS! :> ) However, I stated that we'd still want PDAs with larger screens and a pen interface to take notes.

Well... the fact is you don't need to take notes no more! Just record or picture the info! You'll process it later anyway. ;) Moreover, when you really need to enter text (for email for example) you can always use T9. (That is for western countries with limited alphabets... :>>) However, for massive emailing, you'll probably want to get the external keyboard accessory. Plus, stylus technologies aren't so reliable anyway!

I am glad I managed to wait that long to replace my aging PDA and phone, because the SendoX is definitely going to replace them both at the same time, with increased efficiency on all my previous plans! ;D

Can't wait! Gotta check availability in France. :)

Interop suite: wireless security

Corollaire du tout wireless évoqué avant hier, la securité des communications wireless est l'autre grand sujet de société (du moins dans le hangar n°2 du parc des expos de la pte de Versailles :P)

Disons le tout net: tout le monde s'accorde à dire qu'à ce jour, la seule solution est de fonctionner en VPN pour tous les terminaux Wi-Fi, même si celà est totalement surdimensionné. 8| Pas vraiment d'évolution sur ce point depuis l'année dernière donc...

A l'opposé de ce discours, l'idée la plus originale est celle avancée par Nicolas Pioch (AOL/CNAM) qui regrette qu'on se focalise autant sur le sans-fil radio alors que la technologie infrarouge a cet avantage intrinsèque de ne pas traverser les murs! Un moyen élégant de s'affranchir de la problématique du war driving... ;)

Maintenant, de manière pragmatique, le problème n°1 ce n'est pas la faiblesse du cryptage WEP/WiFi mais plutôt le fait que la plupart des produits réseaux sont aujourd'hui livrés avec toutes les options de sécurité désactivées par défaut. Ceci est vrai non seulement pour les matériels réseau mais aussi pour Windows... Microsoft a promis (une fois de plus :>> ) de faire des efforts...

Finalement, on peut noter que IPv6 est toujours aussi techniquement au point mais toujours aussi peu adopté en entreprise. Pourtant une meilleure sécurité intégrée fait partie des bénéfices apportés par IPv6.

En réalité, le problème n°1 c'est plutôt les utilisateurs, la plupart desquels ne se préoccuppant de sécurité qu'une fois qu'ils ont subit des dommages...