Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A sign of age?

Would going on holiday for Christmas and coming back home for New Year qualify as a sign of age?

Anyway, I'm leaving tomorrow for a week here.

See you soon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I have nothing to add to all the praise Google gets. I don't think it's worth our valuable time to post here praising google, simply because you all know already how good it is. So, instead, I'll try to explain why you do not want to use Google for your company, and why you would fare much better with a different approach.

It's no secret that Internet & Intranet are different worlds. Indexing the Internet, apart from a capacity problem, is easy. Don't run away yet. What Google cracked is how to index the Internet rapidly and reliably with some cost-effectiveness (plus all those fantastic applications), and keeping it simple for us.

But that does not mean it will work out for you inside your company.

If you're not familiar with Google's page ranking algorithm, please read this before (or this one for the patented Pigeon Ranking TM).

The reasons why you will not be "breaking through" by implementing a full-text search engine (even if it is Google) in your company can be broken down as follows:

Page Ranking

Google's page ranking is built for a distributed network made of thousands of independent sites. And it's exactly the way Google's page rank works that will make it fail in your company. In a typical company search, you need to find the documents and knowledge that is hidden from you. You know most of the times quite a lot about what type of document(s) you're searching for, you know who could have created it, you know to which project it applies, and you don't want to have press releases on your results.

Intranets do not have links to documents, except for those you already read because, well, there's a link to it on the Intranet... Unless you're working for IBM, where there will be about 3000 unofficial Intranet web pages running on old desktops hidden under tables and DEMO AIX servers. ;-)

Security Constraints

Implementing a search engine within an organisation is not simple (trust me, this is the voice of experience), and very seldom will the problems lie within the search application. Most of the time the problem is deciding how much knowledge do you want to give to your users. Knowledge-based companies, as is the case for a pharma company where we ran a pilot for search technology, just want to share everything.

That's nice you might say.

Well, think again. When they want to share everything, including their own mail boxes, things start to get shady and politics come into play.

Others want to index all their systems, including their ultra-confidential HR system. Then security policies come into play, because you must make sure to respect the access controls of the "hosting" application.

This basically means that you have to:
  1. Authenticate your user before he searches
  2. Use a proxy to search the index(es) and/or
  3. Hide results that he should not have access to
  4. Show the result list
Easier said than done.

Format constraints

You know your network better than me, I must assume. So, you'll know that knowledge is not only in word, excel and powerpoint. It's in Exchange public folders, Notes databases, Oracle databases, Peoplesoft, text files, home-grown applications, MS-Access, web sites (internal & external), PDF, zip files, xml files, SAP, Siebel, Domino.doc, Documentum, Tridion, whatever-that-freeware-was-called-again, etc, etc, etc...

Try tapping into that with Google. Well, it will work for the most of them.

Language constraints

And then, the major blocking issue: Language. No self-respected european organization will have documents in one language only. No way, that would be too simple. And you, as a self-respected european will also not be able to read one language only. Yet, you must search in one language at the time if you're using a simple text search engine (even if is Google).

So, in other words, if you're looking for a search engine solution for your Intranet, don't settle for Google. But don't look at Retrievalware either, it's too bloated and expensive for what you probably need.

If you need a search engine that can:
  • Support multiple languages
  • Respect distributed authentication
  • Link to multiple data sources using an open plugin or plugin-like architecture
  • Do hierarchical and non-hierarchical search (search within specific domains or in general)
  • Categorize and intelligently group documents, subjects and authors
  • Does not cost too much to implement (eh eh)
Well, your only solution is to look around and maybe settle for a smaller, but stable, player. Retrievalware might be what you need, it does respect the list I show above (except for the last point), but there are other players in the market.

So, I went and searched for them. Here's the ones I settled with, they do show good promise:


As a personal opinion, I preferred the attitude of the Sinequa people, they seem to have a more "can-do" approach to projects, which is always nice. Technically both systems seem to be as effective.

Data Mining

Intellixir is very impressive on the data mining field. Definitely worth taking a look at.

And that's it for today. Still couldn't finish my report though... ;-)


Friday, December 10, 2004

Hail Cesar

This guy is Football's Michael Schumacher. Thank god he can't coach multiple teams on multiple leagues/countries or it would just be no fun at all anymore.

Congratulations José Mourinho. Keep it up lad.


Thursday, December 09, 2004


Why can't we store inspiration for a later use? Just yesterday I had this brilliant idea to put on a report I'm currently writing but - of course - had no way to register this idea.

And now I have to finish the report and just can't remember what was so brilliant about yesterday's idea.

And have you noticed how important the work environment is for inspiration to come your way? Now that I think of it, most of my "brilliant" documents from the past 3 years were all written at the same place, the same table - and possibly at around the same time. Must be the plants and the sunshine the living room gets.

As a kid I used to write crazy texts and dream one day I would publish them and get a bazillion bucks for it. Of course, this is not to happen - all those papers were inevitably promoted to the category of rubbish and got sent down what we call "Archive 13" or plain "Recycle Bin" to use some Windows jargon.

Getting back to inspiration, as a kid I was much more inspired writing whenever I was heart-broken or in love. In that age between 11 and 17 it's extremely easy to get in love and even easier to get heart-broken. So, I would be in my room deciding which would be the next girl I would fall in love with just for the sake of feeling inspired to write some text questioning the existence of god or the reason why the wheel was ineffective and the presence of Portugal in the world (now you know why I threw all those papers away).

This being said, I now must find a way as effective as that one to get my inspiration. I can't just go around and fall in love with people, or ask my friends to treat me bad so that I get heart-broken, just for the sake of inspiration, can I?
Working from home is currently not an option, so that won't work either. THC-induced inspiration is too unstable and unreliable, not to mention that I can't drive nor speak correctly afterwards. And I would probably just start some Football management game on my PC and wonder at the excitement of watching computer-generated football matches.

No, the inspiration for those like me, in their too-late-twenties, must come from somewhere else. I'll tell you when I find it...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Wednesday Round-Up

A few interesting stories that I just need to comment:

Porto 2 - 1 Chelsea
Brilliant Porto goes through Top of the Tops Chelsea and Moaninho gets his first Champions League defeat after 16 unbeaten matches. I'm glad, but they were very lucky...

IBM PC Business sold
I guess this means my next Thinkpad (if I do get one) will have better support for Chinese characters... I'm still a bit puzzled around all this affair.
I understand IBM's policy and why they want to get out of one business where price is key, and where they just can't beat DELL for as much as they would try. But I would really not like to see the Thinkpad line go down the drain. Let's wait and see.

This might also be all part of a plot to launch the POWER architecture to the PC market, since China is a very Linux-friendly environment, and, as you certainly know, Linux does not need an Intel processor to run...
Again, wait and see.

Following the same principles as Wikipedia, but applied to news. Currently still in beta, but it might work.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Why did I quit?

Well, first I have to admit that this is the second time I'm writing this post, because my beloved Firefox failed on me. And it hurts. Especially because the reason why it failed is so stupid, it couldn't even qualify as a worthy excuse-for-not-getting-your-work-done: it stopped responding. Just like that, frozen on screen, with me trying to salvage what already was written, but couldn't even select the text to copy it.

Damn it. So, now I'm using notepad to write this down first. And I'll be saving regularly.

Back to our business. The reason why I'm writing this post is because I'm fed up with writing superficial posts, about anything or nothing, instead of writing fascinating texts about myself. Here's something I think is worth reading: the reasons why I quit my previous (real) jobs. I ommitted some smaller, temp jobs I did before, which obviously I didn't quit, they were finished...

Starting from the begginning:

TMME - Toyota Motor Europe Marketing and Engineering
Having worked my way from 'the guy that fixes printers and patches cables' to 'the guy that manages NT servers, e-mail, Intranet web servers, FTP servers, the Firewall (and Firewall logs!) and on top of that wrote and maintains the helpdesk and IT inventory application & database' I did enjoy my job at TMME. The Professional challenge was excellent, but my pay and recognition weren't.

After receiving an offer to work for an IT services company, I felt it was time to go. A long discussion later, I changed my mind. After all, I was going to get some added responsibilites, a 3 grade rise and a 25% salary raise, so I had very good reasons to change my mind.

Loitering about the day after (or was it 2 days later, not sure?) I ran against the HR director, who, very confident, told me he was happy my situation was solved and guaranteed that in the coming 3 or 4 months "we'll work out what can be done about your position and salary".

I resigned that same day. To add insult to injury, my boss was proposed to get 2 secretaries to replace me...

EMD - E-MailWare Development (Part I)
Working for EMD must have been one of the most interesting things I've done in my career. We got to do anything, just to keep our customer happy - but mostly we did it to fulfill our own ego. Small company of incredibly motivated people, the sky was the limit. No challenge was too big, no project unfulfilled. We did absolutely everything there was to be done in IT. Me alone, during those 2 years, I remember doing migrations from every possible mail system to any other of your choice, installing and configuring AS/400's, flying to Saudi Arabia to connect 2 mail servers (yes, it could have been done remotely, but it was '99, remember?), deploying Voice-Over-IP, voice recognition software, Solaris, AIX, Novell Netware, NT file servers, fax software, OCR, security audits, whatever. You name it, I'm sure we've done it.

Then, our director decided to byte the hand that fed him for 5 years and hires the complete Lotus Professional Services division in Holland. A new director, a few policy changes and one-too-many "weird economics" theory applied and I was ripe to leave this company. And so I did by joining Lotus.

Lotus Development Corporation
Working for Lotus was amazing. Big, but with very down-to-earth management, Lotus felt like a family of close friends. Again, that feeling that we can do anything was strong in the air, and again I did a bit of everything. After a year I was the only one to get a raise in Lotus Portugal - mostly because I brought profit while the others didn't. Added responsibilities, very challenging work, and a crystal clear career path in front of me. A dream job, I thought at times.

Technical leader for French Speaking Africa, all projects in that region went through me. I advised technically on all of them and intervened physically on a few (Gabon, Algeria). While not in Africa, was toiling away in Paris or Antwerp. Great, great job.

Then IBM took over Lotus. Then my office car-park access got cancelled. Then my contract (should have been) changed for a more IBM-esque one (lower salary if willing to accept, no car and some other stuff - but hey! you would be an IBM employee!! duh). Then my direct boss left to Microsoft (!!! HORROR !!!). Then my French Speaking Africa position was made redundant. Then the biggest snob in the Lisbon office was appointed my boss. Then my PC! had to be re-fitted with IBM standard software and installation procedures (MY GAMES!! MY PORN!!) - of course, this DID NOT happen, though I had to revert to threats of physical injury to avoid disaster. Then, in a swing that could be fit for Machiavelli himself, me - the one person that generated 50% of Lotus Portugal income for the first half of that year - was "politely" accused of having accepted a customer bribe (!!) and, if I was not to quit myself, IBM would take care of it. What?

So, I resigned. Didn't want to work there anyway. See, in your face IBM!

EMD - E-MailWare Development (Part II)
Heart-broken, directionless and utterly under-motivated, I asked EMD for job. An easy-going, not too much demanding job where I could cure my heart. And, surprise, surprise: I got one. Not a bad job, I must admit, but EMD was not what it used to be. Years of plundering and weird economics took their toll, as the company went from its 120-employee hey-days to 45 and not sure if it could keep it that way.
And now, they didn't want me to do everything any more. No, they wanted me to focus on the stuff they couldn't do themselves and work out a strategy to be undermined at will by them. I remember I started very motivated and wrote plenty of roadmaps, business plans, training paths, career paths. And had never feedback from management. Never ever.

Soon realised that whatever I did was not important. The company was in trouble and I had to be at customers. Generate money is the key. Who cares if it's not that challenging? No one else can do it, so we send Nuno. And Nuno went and did. And sometimes Nuno failed, because Nuno had no backup. Because if Nuno couldn't do it, no one else could. Because the entrepreneurship that created that company was drained out from the people - and the good ones left. The ones that stayed behind did it for the money, not to fulfill their egos.

After two years of this, I left to create my own company. That was an utter disaster, because of very personal reasons, and I am now working on getting myself out of it, closing down the company and moving forward. I'm changing countries in the process, so this will certainly be a good moment to do some soul-searching and finding back the drive to fulfill my ego.

I'm sad now, I shouldn't have written it...

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Season's rantings

What's up IBM? I've been trying to download Notes 7 Beta 2 Admin/Designer for the past 2 days and just can't get it. From it's nearly 200MB I can get a max of 52 before the download shamelessly stops. I just don't understand.

And what about the story with HP's (ex-Compaq, ex-DEC) Tru64? Not only have they not ported any of that codebase's superior UNIX features to their own crappy version of HP-UX, as they have now decided to finally pull out the plug on development.

I know a few customers that will not be buying new HP hardware this Christmas...