Thursday, October 16, 2008

Opera to Web developers: Come to MAMA

Opera's new Metadata Analysis and Mining Application search engine indexes data about Web site structures

Opera Software on Wednesday revealed a search engine that indexes structural information about Web pages so Web developers and standards bodies can see what technologies are being used to build Web sites and how they are being used.

The Metadata Analysis and Mining Application search engine -- "MAMA" for short -- is being tested by the company and should be released in an invitation-only beta by the end of the year, said Snorre Grimsby, vice president of quality assurance at Opera in Oslo, Norway.

MAMA grew out of tests Opera routinely does to make sure its own browser software products work well with existing Web pages that use the most commonly used Web site-creation technology, he said.

"We realized internally that we needed to be able to find lots of live sites out there that used certain technologies in certain combinations so we could test our browser on them," Grimsby said.

The resulting search engine crawls the Web, but instead of indexing the content of Web sites, as most search engines do, it discards the content and indexes the types of technologies being used on sites, such as CSS, HTML, XHTML, and the like, Grimsby said.

This information is helpful for Web developers, who can use MAMA to identify sites that are using certain kinds of technology and see how other developers have implemented it, he said.

"It's a known fact that Web developers borrow ideas from each other," Grimsby said. If developers are working with a Web application that needs, for example, a new menu system, MAMA can help them find sites that use the technology being considered to build the system to get ideas for their own implementation.

Developers also can use MAMA to see how well sites conform to current World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) specifications for commonly used Web standards, such as CSS, HTML and others. The W3C oversees the creation and maintenance of specs for many of the most prevalent Web-site development technologies.

Grimsby said that in Opera's own use of MAMA, Opera found that the average Web page has 47 discrepancies in how the site renders W3C-maintained technologies and the W3C specifications themselves.

MAMA also can be useful for the W3C and other standards bodies to help them set priorities for developing specifications. For example, if a technology is used a certain way on the majority of Web sites, or not used very much at all, the W3C "can change the spec or take something out of the spec," Grimsby said.

During an interview Wednesday, Grimsby demonstrated MAMA in real time by using it to crawl an International Data Group Web page,, to find out what technologies the site used.

According to the search engine, the site is running on version 2.2.8 of the Apache Web Server on a Windows 32-bit hardware server, has 56 hyperlinks and uses XHTML (Extensible HTML) 1.0 and CSS, he said.

In the next eight weeks Opera expects to publish a series of articles on its developer Web site about its own internal use of MAMA, noting key findings, statistics and trends the search engine discovers, he said.

By the end of the year, the company will invite key people within standards bodies to test the search engine, with a goal of releasing it publicly to developers sometime in the first or second quarter of next year, Grimsby said.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Vista's 'Unqualified Success'

Despite the negative attention it's been subjected to, Vista is a huge success in the eyes of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "It doesn't mean that people aren't still picking on it, but we've sold 180 million copies, something like that, of Vista," he said. Consumer product marketing, however, needs some work, he added.

As chief executive of Microsoft Latest News about Microsoft, Steve Ballmer heads a company that's not just a PC software giant but also a growing presence in the broader consumer electronics industry.

In less than 10 years, Microsoft has become a major player in video games, mobile phones, set-top boxes and Internet search and advertising Learn how you can enhance your email marketing program today. Free Trial - Click Here..

However, the company is nowhere near as dominant in consumer electronics as it is in operating systems. It has spent billions of dollars establishing its various electronics businesses with only limited success.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 Latest News about Xbox 360 has lost its lead to Nintendo's Wii Latest News about Wii and is losing ground to Sony's PlayStation 3 Latest News about PlayStation 3, despite debuting a year earlier than either. Smartphones such as Research In Motion's Latest News about Research In Motion BlackBerry and Apple's Latest News about Apple iPhone are stealing share from Windows Mobile devices. Microsoft's Zune MP3 players are an afterthought in a market dominated by Apple's iPods. In search, the company's MSN Latest News about MSN is a distant third behind Google Latest News about Google and Yahoo Latest News about Yahoo.

During a visit to Silicon Valley late last month, Ballmer talked with the Mercury News about Microsoft's consumer electronics efforts and the challenges it has faced. Here is an edited transcript of his remarks.

Question: How do you assess the state of Microsoft's consumer businesses today?

Answer: We've got various businesses that are in various states. If you needed to have one word that fit all, I think you would say, "very present." Almost everything is entering into kind of a cycle of improvement, which is interesting.

Consumer products are as much about the way they're marketed as the way they're built -- and we have some work to do, I'd say, on the marketing side.

Q: If you look at what they've done in the last year or two, do you view any of your consumer products as unqualified successes?

A: I certainly would say the work that we've done around Xbox is an unqualified success. No question about that.

Q: How so?

A: The product is selling very well. The Xbox is an absolute home run.

Q: But sales of the Xbox have slowed markedly. It's been overtaken by the Wii. The PS3 is starting to catch up. You cut the price on it, which some might say is an indication you have run out of ideas to boost sales.

A: No, that's the craziest thing I've ever heard anybody say. All consoles start at higher prices. They always come down through the long cycle.

Q: The story in July at E3 was that you had many bullets left in your holster that you could use to juice Xbox sales. You had all these great games that were coming out for the fall, and you didn't need to cut price to juice sales -- but now, two months later, you've cut the price.

A: Price is not something you discuss externally. Nobody ever does. So, whether we were planning on cutting price the next day or in six months or a year, we're not going to discuss price changes.

If you ask me, Xbox Live is going gangbusters. The console is selling well.

Q: What else would you say has been an unqualified success of late?

A: Since [we updated it], I'd also refer to Vista as an unqualified success. It doesn't mean that people aren't still picking on it, but we've sold 180 million copies, something like that, of Vista. The quality, the compatibility [and], particularly from the consumer market, the level of acceptance -- I'd call it an unqualified success over the last six months or so.

Our Media Room software for set-top boxes, [Internet protocol]-connected set-top boxes, is certainly an unqualified success amongst those people who have it.

Office 2007. The changes we made in the user interface, the approachability of the product, the ability for people to get deeper -- I would call that an unqualified success.

Q: What are some of the challenges that have faced Microsoft as it has gone from its base in operating systems and productivity software to more consumer-oriented businesses, such as Xbox or Zune?

A: In some senses, what you're seeing is a renewal of our consumer [business]. If you look at where we kind of built the original strength of Windows and the original strength of Word and Excel, it was on the consumer side of the business.

Q: But isn't there a difference between convincing a computer manufacturer to install Windows -- even going over their heads to the consumers -- and directly selling products to consumers?

A: The muscles are all a little different. The muscle around Windows is a little bit different than the muscle around Office and Word and Excel. It's a little bit different than the kind of muscle you need to have around MSN or Live or Search. In the case of Xbox, [it's] a little different because now we've got hardware and promotion, retail display -- and a lot of that stuff becomes more important.

Q: What do you see as challenges for Microsoft in marketing your products to consumers?

A: The way you ask the question implies there's something systemic in Microsoft that is a challenge to doing it. Every one of these things has their own battle.

Another guy's got 70 percent in search and we've got 10. Anytime the other guy's got 70 and you've got 10, you've got challenges.

In the case of Windows Mobile, we had some unique challenges. The [Windows] flag's always there, but people aren't always really thinking, "What I want here is a Windows Mobile" phone.

So, I'd kind of relate them to each battle, more than I'd relate them to anything systemic at our place.

Q: You've said that Microsoft's core competency is software. If that's the case, then why is it necessary for Microsoft to be in such diverse businesses as hardware, Internet search and advertising?

A: When I say our core capability is software, it means developing and commercializing. And sometimes, the best way to commercialize software innovation might be through advertising, through transactions, through hardware, through embedding in other guys' hardware. We have to be open to various delivery models for what are essentially software experiences.

Q: The 10th anniversary of the antitrust case is coming up. How have the restrictions imposed by it affected your ability to compete in the consumer markets you're in?

A: Look, Apple integrates everything. It's not a terrible model. Would we do more integration without the consent decree than we do today? The answer, of course, is yes.

Microsoft Aims to Spread BI Throughout the Enterprise

Microsoft is bolstering business intelligence functionality in SQL Server with the upcoming release of Kilimanjaro, its latest version of the database management system. The goal is to push BI functions across the enterprise through existing applications.

Microsoft News about Microsoft gave audience attendees at the 2nd annual Microsoft Business Intelligence conference a sneak preview of its forthcoming SQL Server this week, code named "Kilimanjaro." It was an appropriate venue for its debut, given its increased emphasis on BI.

New functional areas of emphasis in the server Rackspace is the expert when it comes to delivering Windows and Linux hosting solutions. Click here to learn more. match Microsoft's vision for BI, which is to make it pervasive throughout the enterprise World Class Managed Hosting from PEER 1, Just $299. Click here., Fausto Ibarra, director of product management for SQL Server, told CRM Buyer.

"The goal is to allow more users to have access to BI," he said, pointing to industry figures that show an average of 20 percent of users able to tap this functionality.

For example, consider a CRM application that has embedded BI technology, he said. "Users can get better insight about customer behavior by having scorecards or data mining Latest News about data mining functionality embedded directly in the line of business."

Kilimanjaro Specs

Kilimanjaro, which is scheduled to be generally available some time in 2010, will be embedded with new analysis capabilities that are expected to facilitate managed self-service Latest News about self-service reporting and content sharing, collaboration and management capabilities. This new line of functionality evolved from Microsoft's Project Gemini, an IT managed infrastructure developed to help users develop, produce, use and collaborate on their own BI projects.

Microsoft is also incorporating advanced data warehousing Latest News about data warehousing functionality -- currently under development in a project code-named "Madison" -- with SQL Server. Under this initiative Microsoft will develop an appliance-like product in collaboration with hardware partners Dell, HP, Unisys, Bull Systems and EMC, that will leverage SQL Server to extend scale out into the hundreds of terabytes. It will also be available in 2010.

Growing Demand

Microsoft's product pipeline in this area is a timely one as there is growing demand for BI in workaday applications and hardware, Mark Feverston, general manager of Microsoft Solutions Marketing at Unysis, told CRM Buyer. "Over the last number of years we have more customers asking for assistance in leveraging SQL in analytical applications."

The demand, he said, has dovetailed nicely with Microsoft's growing emphasis on this function. As the Server moved from version 5 to version 8, "we have noticed that BI is becoming more flexible."

OpenOffice 3 Debuts to Server-Crashing Demand

So many people rushed to download the third version of OpenOffice that it overwhelmed the download servers. The new suite adds Mac OS X compatibility and offers extensions that add functions some people might want without weighing down the core suite with extra baggage.

The third full OpenOffice suite is out in the wild and attracting plenty of attention. 3.0 was released Monday -- and already, demand has been high enough to overwhelm the download servers and cause them to crash.

The software suite, designed as an open source Rackspace is the expert when it comes to delivering Windows and Linux hosting solutions. Click here to learn more. Latest News about open source alternative to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Latest News about Microsoft Office, offers everything from word processing and spreadsheet creation to presentation and databasing tools. Added in the 3.0 release is a host of extensions to allow a more customized user experience.

Apple Appeal

The new OpenOffice will have extra appeal for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Latest News about Apple users: In addition to supporting Windows and Linux, the 3.0 release is the first version with native support World Class Managed Hosting from PEER 1, Just $299. Click here. for the Mac OS X platform. Past releases worked only with X11 and required additional tools for OS X use.

"That opens up a whole new market for us," John McCreesh, marketing Learn how you can enhance your email marketing program today. Free Trial - Click Here. project lead for, told LinuxInsider.

The program's look gets a major makeover with its third incarnation as well. The start center, splash screen, and icons are all refreshed with an updated appearance. But it's the features beneath the surface that are the developers' true focus.

What's New

The suite's word processing tool adds a new multi-page display mode that features a slider control. The result? You can zoom in and out while editing. There's also a built-in utility for Web-based wiki document editing and expanded notes options. When it comes to the spreadsheet, 3.0 boosts its capacity to 1,024 columns, adds multi-user collaboration options, and tacks on improved equation solving capabilities. Perhaps most noteworthy of all, though, are all the new features that you can choose -- or choose not -- to get.

"People complain about office suites getting bigger and bloated," McCreesh commented. "With extensions, we allow people to add on bits of functionality that are important to them."

Some of those bits include things like a PDF importing and editing tool, a slide previewing tool for presentations, and multiple language support. The key, the OpenOffice team believes, lies in the choice.

"For people who need [those features], they're absolutely wonderful -- but for people who don't need them, then they're not cluttering up their hard disk," McCreesh pointed out.
The Server Situation

As for availability, is working hard to make sure its servers stay up and running. They're experimenting with a few options to keep the site from buckling under the heavy demand and are hoping users can remain patient.

"It's amazing -- on the one hand, we're delighted that we've gotten such a huge response. On the other hand, we'd much rather all these people were successfully downloading rather than crashing the site," McCreesh said.

In the end, though, the team couldn't be more pleasantly surprised with the interest its open source solution is finally seeing.

"It's an unprecedented response," McCreesh admitted. "We've never seen anything like it."

Mono 2.0 Spreads .Net to Linux and Mac

The Mono Project has unveiled version 2.0 of its development framework, which helps devs migrate .Net-based apps to Linux and Mac OS X. Many developers want to -- or must -- develop in .Net or C#, but they want to deploy on Linux. Mono 2.0 is designed to bridge the gap.

For developers who have fallen in love with .Net/C#, but aren't married to running their applications on Windows Rackspace is the expert when it comes to delivering Windows and Linux hosting solutions. Click here to learn more., the Mono Project aims to let Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Latest News about Microsoft .Net-based apps run on Linux and Mac OS X, among several other platforms. Sponsored by Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL) Latest News about Novell, the Mono Project has released Mono 2.0 of its cross-platform, open source Latest News about open source .Net development framework.

Basically, Mono 2.0 lets users run both client and server applications on Linux, and helps developers figure out which changes they may need to make to their applications for .Net-to-Linux migrations.

"While Mono doesn't have the same wide usage as Java Latest News about Java or Windows-bound .Net, I do come across people who use it often however, like MindTouch, who builds products with Mono because they wanted to develop in .Net/C# but wanted to deploy on Linux," Michael Coté, an industry analyst for RedMonk, told LinuxInsider.

"That scenario is what really appeals to people: Even though Mono is not a complete one-to-one match to .Net, the idea that you can deploy on Linux, Windows, and even Macs appeals to developers," he added. It's a good model for independent software vendors that want to sell on both platforms, he noted.

In addition, Mono 2.0 is great for developers who were trained in .Net programming but who want to extend those skills into organizations that want to leverage other operating systems.

Inside 2.0

While Mono 2.0 increases its compatibility with the .Net framework, bringing it closer to Microsoft's .Net 3.5 than ever before, what's missing is Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation, and Windows Communication Foundation.

On the plus side, Mono 2.0 brings significant performance improvements and an improved C# compiler, among dozens of other tweaks.

Novell's Angle in All This

"Mono was originally started by Miguel de Icaza, currently vice president of development platforms at Novell and maintainer of the Mono project, while he was at Ximian," Joseph Hill, product manager at Novell, told LinuxInsider. "At the time, the primary purpose of Mono was to enable Linux developers to be more productive by bringing C# to the platform. When Novell acquired Ximian, it continued to support World Class Managed Hosting from PEER 1, Just $299. Click here. the project for this reason, and Novell ships many applications on its Linux desktop today that were developed with Mono.

"Beyond promoting development on the Linux desktop, though, Novell's support of Mono enables many customers and ISVs (independent software vendors) with both server and desktop applications that would previously only run on Windows, to choose Suse Linux Enterprise," he added.

Rising Interest

While Mono may appeal to smaller development organizations, it's seeing rising interest in a variety of enterprises and organizations.

"Aside from the great Gtk# applications that are now available on the Linux platform, such as Banshee and GNOME Do, Mono is also seeing wide deployment on the server through ISVs such as MindTouch, which is built on Mono, and sees more than 90 percent of deployments of its Deki collaboration platform on Linux," Hill said.

"Mono is also turning up in many other exciting and unexpected places, too. Recent successful deployments of Mono include Linden Lab's server migration of their own in-house scripting language for their Second Life project (LSL) to Mono, as well as Unity3D's use of Mono in their game engine and tools, which has Mono being deployed in their games on Nintendo Latest News about Nintendo Wii Latest News about Wii and the iPhone, as well as Windows, OS X and soon Linux," he explained.

On the enterprise application development front, Jeffrey Hammond, a senior analyst of application development for Forrester Research, told LinuxInsider that he's seeing interest in Mono, even from large app dev shops that plan to make continued investments in .Net and who would like to maximize that investment.

"I'm also seeing specific interest in Moonlight as a Linux target for Silverlight," he added. "The biggest issue is that .Net is moving pretty fast, and potential adopters are a bit wary, wondering if Mono can keep up with the latest versions of .Net," he said.