Putting Twitter’s World to Use

There was an interesting piece in yesterday’s New York Times about “Finding Utility in the Jumble of Tweeted Thoughts”.

By tapping into the world’s collective brain, researchers of all kinds have found that if they make the effort to dig through the mundane comments, the live conversations offer an early glimpse into public sentiment — and even help them shape it.

There are some interesting anecdotes about how companies like Amazon, Dell and Starbucks use information extracted from Twitter to respond to and shape their respective markets.

Perhaps SAP BusinessObjects will package a solution using their text analytics software optimized for Twitter. What would they call it? RapidTweet?

A sad short walk in the Jurassic Park

Yesterday (April fools day) was a sad day as SGI (formerly Silicon Graphics) was acquired for a mere $25 million dollars. During it’s heyday, SGI generated billions in revenue by making high-powered workstations and servers that were used in ground breaking visualization applications, such as rendering the special effects in the movie Jurassic Park. SGI technology was also at the heart of the popular Nintendo 64 gaming console.

In the early 1990’s, I used Silicon Graphics workstations during graduate school while interning at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Air Force used SGI hardware for cockpit visualization and simulation. Silicon Graphic’s reputation was based on their fast MIPS processors, their OpenGL graphics hardware, a slick UNIX implementation (IRIX), and funky colorful industrial design with machines like the Indigo, Crimson, and Onyx. SGI had a coolness factor that made it the Apple of the UNIX workstation market. Of course, Apple is still the maker of cool hardware – even making UNIX the foundation of its MacOS X.

A sad reminder that nothing remains the same. Nothing.

Trip It, Trip It Good

I’m a huge fan of TripIt.

Apologies to Devo. I couldn’t resist.

As a LinkedIn user, I’ve been taking a casual look at their new applications, ala Facebook. One of them, TripIt, allows you to organize your travel and share with other LinkedIn users. Of course, you don’t need to be a LinkedIn user to use TripIt.

TripIt allows you to make travel arrangements on just about any web site you currently use. Simply forward the e-mail confirmation from the travel web site and TripIt will create an integrated itinerary that you can share with friends and coworkers. TripIt will add weather and other useful travel tips based on your destination.

For my first use, I forwarded the e-mail confirmations from an upcoming trip to teach BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 administration: an airline reservation made on Travelocity, a car rental reservation made on Avis, and a hotel reservation made on Priority Club (Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, etc.). Within a few seconds, I received e-mail confirmation that TripIt had assembled my itinerary.

When accessed from LinkedIn, you can see who in your network is traveling or which contacts are in the destination city during the dates of your business trip. TripIt can also be accessed via mobile phone, but I don’t have a great phone for testing that feature. Yet.

I’m impressed with the functionality although I shudder to think about the Perl scripting or other parsing required to extract data from all the different e-mail formats. Frequent travelers should give TripIt a spin. Get straight. Go forward. Move ahead. It’s not too late.

Fifty Years of Computing at the University of Cincinnati

50 years of computing at my alma mater.

My alma mater, the University of Cincinnati College of Applied Science, is hosting a special event “celebrating UC’s innovation, achievement, and leadership in computing” on November 10 & 11, 2008. To see the agenda and list of speakers, visit the University of Cincinnati’s Computing History blog.

The first computer at the University of Cincinnati was an IBM-650, acquired in 1958. My first computer at the University of Cincinnati was an Intel 80286 with 1 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard drive running Microsoft MS-DOS. It had 2 5 1/4 inch floppy drives: a low-capacity 360 KB floppy drive as well as a high-capacity 1.2 MB floppy drive. Oh, and let’s not forget the 1200 baud modem so I could telnet into the University of Cincinnati DEC VAX and DEC Ultrix (Unix) systems and write Fortran and SAS code. It’s pretty humbling that twenty years later my old college PC is severely underpowered compared to the Apple iPhone that fits into a shirt pocket. I can’t even imagine what pocket-sized computing power my daughters will take to college.

Fortunately, I am composing this post on a Dell Precision M4300 with 4 GB of RAM (that Microsoft Windows XP cannot fully use, but I digress).

Unexpected Hazards of Working from Home

Hurricane Ike visits Ohio

For the past few months, I’ve been working from my home in southwest Ohio for a client in east Texas over a VPN line. Who knew that Hurricane Ike‘s reach would extend from its initial landfall in Galveston, Texas all the way to southwest Ohio? But on Sunday, the storm moved northward into Canada. Although the precipitation moved through Indiana to the west, strong wind gusts knocked out electrical power in large portions of northern Kentucky and southwest Ohio. Although our power was restored on Monday morning, as of Tuesday afternoon I’m still without Internet service in my home.

There are downed trees and power outages everywhere. Traffic is difficult with so many non-functioning traffic lights. And the few gas stations and grocery stores that are open are beginning to run out of supplies. Here’s the view from my neighborhood. And you can read more about the wider devastation from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Region struggling with life in the dark | Cincinnati Enquirer | Cincinnati.Com
Posted using ShareThis

Most of my hometown of Oxford, Ohio, including the local Starbucks, is without power and therefore Wi-Fi access. With nothing to do and no easy access to alcohol, students at the Miami University campus decided to protest the fact that classes were not cancelled on Tuesday even though the power remained out. (see related Miami Student article, Students Finally Show They Care by Demonstrating)

I’m typing this on Tuesday from the Lane public library in nearby Hamilton, Ohio, which isn’t the most ideal location. Twenty-first century libraries are no longer the bastions of peace and quiet that I remember from my childhood. There are lots of out-of-school teens hanging out on the internet.

With any luck, I’ll be able to get back to work tomorrow. I’m half-way through getting some Data Integrator jobs running on my client’s servers.

Let’s Rock?

This week, Apple held its annual iPod launch event. The big news was the new iPod nano, in nine eye-popping colors, the iPod Shuffle in similar colors, and a revamped iPod Touch. As the “funnest” iPod ever, the iPod Touch appears to be repositioned more as a gaming device and less as a music player. Should Nintendo be worried?

Quietly slipped into the iPod lineup was a revised 120 GB iPod Classic at $249, replacing the former 80 GB model at that price point. No products were introduced to replace the $349 160 GB iPod classic, a reflection that iPods simply aren’t commanding the pricing they did several years ago. For example, in 2004 I paid $399 for a 20 GB black and white iPod 3G.

I was disappointed by Apple’s anemic update to the iPod Classic. I have hundreds of CDs in my collection. I am also an avid downloader of podcasts and vodcasts (the latter which won’t play on my current iPod model – only on iTunes). A 32 GB flash-based player simply isn’t a big enough leap in capacity from my current 20 GB iPod to justify a new purchase. With Western Digital Passport drives currently pricing on Amazon.com at $74 for 160 GB and $115 for 320 GB, it seems like $249 should purchase a much larger capacity player.

Obviously, the iPod Classic isn’t commanding the market share of the Shuffle and Nano. But given the long delay since the last product refresh to their hard drive-based iPods, I was really hoping that Apple would retire the existing Classic platform in favor of an iPod Touch HD – an iPod Touch with a large capacity hard drive instead of flash memory.

Is such a device still in the product development pipeline? Who knows. But with the lack of a compelling high-capacity model combined with iPhone 3G launch issues, I’ll continue to nurse along my 20 GB iPod. Maybe next year…

Pete Collett completes Atlantic Solo Challenge

Pete Collett’s solo Atlantic challenge

Pete Collett, a Business Objects sales consultant in Australia, completed his solo Atlantic challenge on Saturday, February 16, 2008. He was part of a live chat at the BusinessObjects field sales kickoff meeting and partner summit.

You can read more about his experience at:


Looking for Microsoft SQL Server metadata?

Most of my database experience is with Oracle; however, I’m currently helping a client that uses SQL Server 2005. I’m used to obtaining metadata by querying ALL_TABLES and ALL_TAB_COLUMNS (or USER_TABLES/USER_TAB_COLUMNS or DBA_TABLES/DBA_TAB_COLUMNS). How can similar information be obtained from SQL Server using similar techniques to ALL_TABLES/ALL_TAB_COLUMNS in Oracle?


Microsoft SQL Server Information SchemaMetadata can be queried in SQL Server using the INFORMATION_SCHEMA. For example, the following query identifies columns in one table that do not exist in another (actually, a view based on the table).

— INFORMATION_SCHEMA query to identify columns missing in database view but present in source table.SELECT source.TABLE_CATALOG, source.TABLE_SCHEMA, source.TABLE_NAME, source.COLUMN_NAME, source.ORDINAL_POSITION, SOURCE.data_type
source.TABLE_SCHEMA =‘dbo’
missing.TABLE_SCHEMA =‘dbo’
missing.COLUMN_NAME = source.COLUMN_NAME

This is just one application of using database metadata. Visit MSDN, the Microsoft Developer’s Network, for more information about the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

Welcome to my blog!

My first blog post, written on October 29, 2007.

OK, here goes. My first blog post. I began working with Business Objects 5.x in 2003. It’s hard to believe that in almost five years, I’ve seen four major releases, grown from novice to certified trainer, and presented breakouts at two Business Objects user conferences. My goal with this blog is to periodically post tips and tricks for working with various aspects of Business Objects Enterprise.