Where Were You When The Web Was Born?

So, my little coffee detox experiment ended yesterday morning. In a moment of weakness I purchased a 20 oz. cup of Pike’s Place brewed to perfection by a local barista. Consequently, I slept less than soundly last night and might seem a little loopy this morning.

I had some questions about Steve Jobs so I looked up his Wikipedia article – I forgot how young he had achieved his first success. He and Gates really were contemporaries in that sense. He was only 21 when he and Woz founded Apple Computers. Anyway, I’d also forgotten his involvement with NeXT Computer.

I remember how unimpressive the second generation of Macs were compared to the first. The first real PC I could call entirely my own was a Macintosh II, the first instance of the Macintosh II series. I remember the day my dad brought it home; I think I was in seventh grade. It had 1 MB of RAM (I later upgraded to 4 MB), a 20 MB internal hard drive, and color video with a color monitor! I know!!!

When I told my friends they didn’t talk to me for a week.

It also came with an external 20 MB SCSI drive. The thing was awesome. I still tell my friends about it. The AST 2000 was about the size of a laptop and sounded like a Prius when it was running.

Anyway, the story goes that when Jobs left Apple Computers he had two other projects to keep himself busy. In 1983 George and Marcia Lucas began divorce proceedings. In 1986, in an effort to raise capital for the settlement, George Lucas sold off the the computer graphics division of his Lucasfilm production company. The $5 million raised by the sale was provided by a young Silicon Valley entrepreneur by the name of – wait for it – Steve Jobs. This little computer graphics company was later renamed Pixar.

The other project was a new computer company, appropriately named NeXT Computer. The NeXT was not a device for the masses. It was a high-end purpose-built performance computer. It was really expensive. There was very little software for it. But, it was way ahead of its time in a lot of ways. It had a built in network connectivity, a DSP chip, and its operating system looks like what we would today call a flavor of Linux.

The computer was amazing, but its exposure was almost entirely limited to the academic and research communities. One notable exception to this was its use in the development of some early and popular 2.5D first person shooter video games like Doom and Quake.

Right around the time I got that Macintosh II – I was probably 15 years old – my parents sent me on a tour of the CalTech campus, probably in the hopes that I would one day attend that school. On this tour we were taken through a computer lab – in a glass walled room I was a table upon which sat two all black personal computers – even the monitors were black. There was no such thing back then. This was before case modding. Everything, every PC clone, every Mac, every other PC from would be start up computer makers, was that beige puke color pioneered by IBM’s original PC back in 1981. So a computer with a black case really stood out.

And I knew what it was right away. My dad had told me about the NeXT. No hard drive. Magneto-optical removable storage media. Built in networking. And the $5,500 price tag. The year was 1991. And right around this time, in Switzerland, a guy named Tim was working on his own personal project using a NeXT computer.

There Are Those That Call Him, “Sir Tim”
Sorry, I think this guy still deserves special recognition. And so it was that on August 6, 1991 an American physicist at the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire by the name of Tim Berners-Lee powered up the world’s first website on his NeXT.

Exchange ActiveSync for Dummies II

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat. ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,” said the Cat. ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

I’d earlier commented briefly on the framework of Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync DirectPush technology. I’d hoped to create something of a digest that would – to as many people possible – shed light on the subject and illustrate what an amazing shift in mobile collaboration and messaging this architecture represented. I think I got tired after twelve paragraphs and wrapped it up without meeting my goal.

To recap, Exchange Server 2003 SP1 introduced a couple new whiz-bang features; when it was released, I was most excited to try out Exchange ActiveSync, which was going to introduce a new technology MS was pushing: DirectPush.

To a systems architect, this is the equivalent of a centerfold pullout:

This was what we had been waiting for. I’d been using Windows Mobile since it was called PocketPC 2002. While it was a robust client for interacting with the messaging and collaboration features of the Exchange server, you were still tethered to the desktop cradle to sync your device with the outside world. PDA as an intermittent data island = silly.

I’d had some small experience with messaging and collaboration over cellular networks. A good example was the RIM handheld, but I wasn’t willing to spring for the BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) license. Furthermore, I didn’t really want to install any (as yet unproven) third-party middleware on our sole production Exchange server.

So I called up my Nextel Rep and ordered the Motorola’s first Windows Mobile and my last iDEN phone: the Nextel i930. It was a bittersweet end to my love / hate affair with Nextel Communications. It was my first Windows Mobile 5.0 device. I’d had opportunities through work to employ PDAs, but I’d never seen the point of having one that had to be cradled. The money architecture was going to be when the device had an always-on data plan that synched over the air. Since we had no plan with Verizon, Sprint (they hadn’t bought Nextel yet), or AT&T (it was still Cingular back then), I had to wait until Nextel came out with a SmartPhone. That was the i930.

It was a good example of how something could suck and be awesome at the same time. I could still operate on our company network using the Push To Talk functionality that Nextel had pioneered. Carrier characteristics aside, the device itself worked really well. Its design limitations were simply being limited to a twelve digit key pad. Had I no need to compose messages, it would not have been a problem.

It was a treat to not be tethered to my desktop for e-mail. As for the contacts on my cell phone, well, having to update that in addition to the contacts in my Outlook addressbook had always been quite a chore. Keeping them synched at best required a good twenty minutes or so. At best it was an annoyance. Someone less well-equipped, doing it without the data cable for instance, would have to do it with their thumbs. Not fun.

ActiveSync fixed all of that. When it came to my contacts, I had one master repository of data and that sat on the server. If I got a call on my cell phone from a new number and I wanted to save that I just do it on the phone and ActiveSync took care of the rest. When I go to look for the number in Outlook, there it is. No cradling, data cable, manual push, et cetera. It’s all taken care of for me, hassle free.

I hope to someday be an important executive; important enough to have someone manage my schedule for me. If that ever happens, they will be delighted to know that they will rarely, if ever, have to hand me a printed schedule, or call me to remind me of an appointment. That’s because with ActiveSync my assistant can make changes to my Calendar in Outlook and the revised schedules are automatically pushed to the device, reminders included.

I keep thinking about how great this technology is for business, and I really want to proselytize on behalf of Microsoft for this phenomenal extension of the Exchange server architecture. The fact of the matter is, you have to use it to really appreciate how great it is.

Hopefully, now that Apple has licensed the technology for use in their iPhone device, more people will get to know their Exchange server in a whole new way.

Better recognize.