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In Hollywood, the man-child is king
Two new movies this week are the latest that star men suffering from arrested development.


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Flight To The Kremlin

MoscowI have learned a lot during the last two weeks while visiting six countries. One of the most interesting days began with a flight from Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg to Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. The Russian airports could use some upgrading of services, shopping facilities, and direction signs in English, but they are said to be quite safe. Boarding the Ilyushin-86 aircraft was an experience. Like many European airports, the first step is to ride on a bus across the tarmac to the plane. What was different was the entry -- it started by going up steps into the belly of the plane where luggage is stored. From the storage area a stairway led to the main cabin where there were approximately 350 seats arranged in three sets of three per row.

The Il-86 development was announced at the 1971 Paris Airshow and the wide-body entered service in late 1980. This particular IL-86 was showing it's age and may easily have been twenty-five years old. The interior of the plane and the uniforms of the flight attendants were outdated but the service was efficient and friendly. The four Kuznetsov NK86 turbofan jet engines lifted the plane to cruising altitude very quickly for the one hour trip. The flight to Moscow and the return to St. Petersburg both left on time and arrived at the destination on time.

The afternoon at the Kremlin far exceeded my expectations. Kremlin means "fortress" in Russian and generally refers to any major fortified central complex in Russian cities. The one we visited is the best known one, the Moscow Kremlin, where the Russian government is based and where the President of Russia lives.

Red SquareStanding in the center of Red Square was a real treat with spectacular sights in every direction. Saint Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin towers are majestic and incredibly colorful. The Red square separates the Kremlin from an historic merchant quarter and the major streets of Moscow radiate from the square in all directions. The square is steeped in centuries of history. I don't recall the famous events that took place there in 1941 and 1945 nor the establishment of Lenin's Mausoleum, but I do remember when a German pilot named Mathias Rust landed a rented Cessna 172 on Vasilevski Spusk next to the Red Square in 1987. On the eastern side of the square is the spectacular GUM department store which in addition to shops offering all the top retailing brands of the world had dedicated the first floor of huge open ceiling building to the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci. It would have been easy to spend a whole day there.

Following a one-hour tour of the Kremlin art galleries -- which rival the Vatican Library in Rome -- we had a traditional Russian dinner, complete with vodka, and then a return flight to St. Petersburg. We got back to the ship after midnight. It was a day I will never forget.More on the rest of the trip to follow.


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Troll's View

Opera Software ASA logoThe overnight flight to Oslo was uneventful and the weather on arrival Monday morning was as rainy as it was leaving New England -- Norway is 59 degrees north latitude (and ten degrees east longitude) so it is not too far north of home. Opera Software is a short cab ride after taking the clean and comfortable train from the airport to central Oslo.

After the board proceedings a some follow-on meetings, it was time for a taxi ride to the Holmenkollen Park Hotel where a special dinner would be held for my friend and Opera chairman Christian Thommessen who will be leaving the board to take on an important position as a diplomat at the United Nations Development Program at U.N. Plaza in New York. I am sorry we will be losing him from the board but am happy that he will be putting his time and energy into some really important work and also that he and his family will be close enough for more frequent visits.

TrollsDuring my last trip to Oslo in February, I was determined to find the "Troll's View" geocache which is hidden across the street from the world famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The first jumps at the "Holmenkollrennet" took place in January 1892. The world's skiing elite meets at Holmenkollen every year and 50,000 spectators watch the jumps from the 180 feet high spectacle. The view of Oslo and the fjord below is breathtaking. The cache is in the woods near the famous Kollen Troll but it was so cold and there was so much snow and I was not dressed for the hunt. I finally had to give up.

Troll View geocacheYesterday when I got to Holmenkollen, the rain had stopped and the weather was perfect. I remembered where to have the taxi stop to wait for me. It did not take too long to follow the needle into the woods and find a blue bag hanging in a tree exactly at the latitude and longitude where it was supposed to be. I signed the logbook and headed back to the taxi and on to the hotel. It was a late but delightful evening with my colleagues from Opera Software. Results for the first quarter were posted during the day.


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Healthcare and IBM

HealthcareThe Intellectual Property briefing by IBM on May 2 in Greenwich was extremely interesting and I hated to leave a bit early but there was an overlap with another briefing down the road in Stamford, Connecticut -- this one about healthcare. IBM's healthcare and life sciences business is huge with 4,000 employees and revenues in the U.S. alone that would put it well into the Fortune 500. The company counts as customers 8 of the top 12 hospitals and all of the top 30 pharmaceutical companies. What has really put IBM on the healthcare map is last year's acquisition of Healthlink, which brought with it 400 top healthcare consultants. The insight of the consultants plus the smorgasbord of IBM technology has put the company on a mission -- to be a major factor in creating "Transformed Healthcare".

IBM's vision is significant -- to build patient-centric information systems, shared health and wellness management systems, and integrated networks to pull it all together among the payers, the providers, and the patients. Many of the benefits are obvious but some are more subtle. Payer insurance companies may be transformed from claims processors to wellness concierges. Smoother workflow and process optimization due to better integration and access to information can lead to improved quality, fewer errors and lower healthcare costs.

IBM has a vested interest in becoming the leader at these things because it has a half-million employees and retirees. Their Global Health and Wellness program is a partner in developing solutions for clients and may itself become a model. The company not only has a wealth of information at the intranet web portal but also enables an electronic health record into which employees enter their personal information which is then supplemented by automatic updating from claim and pharmacy data. The company also provides incentives to exercise and stay healthy. As a result, IBM's labor cost is significantly lower than industry averages.

The conference was attended by several dozen healthcare software vendors and various industry experts, including more than a half-dozen physicians. Most of the discussions revolved around the notion of "Patient centric" -- connecting healthcare information about patients with insurers and healthcare providers for the benefit of the patient. The key to make all this work is standards and they will evolve through Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIO) and a National Health Information Network (NHIN). The RHIO includes consumers, hospitals, labs, pharmacies, payers, public health offices, and physicians. Progress is being made. A presentation was made by John Blair, MD, who is CEO of Taconic Healthcare Information Network, a RHIO just west of the Hudson River. They have connected practices, hospitals, labs and payers and have developed standardized electronic health records, e-mail access to physicians, and e-prescriptions. The NHIN has asked four IT companies to work on interconnection of the RHIO's. Part of IBM's NHIN architecture will be based on royalty-free health care information systems patents (discussed in the IP meeting earlier that day) which give priority access to requests for patient information coming from emergency rooms vs. routine office requests.

From a purely heath point of view, the biggest transformation will come from information based medicine that bridges healthcare and life sciences. Molecular level understanding of disease is being made possible, in part by supercomputers such as BlueGene, and the result will be the development of targeted drugs. In other words, based on a DNA sample and genomic analysis, a diagnosis and treatment can be based on our individual medical history and genetic predispositions. Whole new fields are opening up including pre-emptive medicine, pharmacogenomics and clinical decision intelligence. A small device the size of a cell phone can take a sample of your  blood and determine your rate of metabolism which in turn affects how much of a drug you need to provide optimal results. It will soon be possible to predict the likelihood of a person getting something deadly but yet preventable.

Advanced analytics are beginning to provide the ability to run complex algorithms to answer complex questions. For example, there is a 100 page document that provides guidelines on how to perform a particular surgical procedure. It is based on the "average" person. Nobody is average so would it be nice to be able to have a system which can provide specific recommendations based on many variables that are particular to an individual -- providing the surgeon with a "how to" guide unique to each patient.

Molecular Profiling Institute is creating tools for genomic and proteomic profiling and treatment of cancers. Seventy of our 40,000 genes can predict breast cancer accurately. Dr. Robert Penny showed incredible examples. A particular gene that is missing or not working can tell the cause of a particular disease and a drug that can attack that specific gene can fix it and the patient can be cured. This is called "jumping diseases" -- using a cure for disease xyz to treat disease abc. Dr. Penny showed before and after images of a dying cancer patient. After the application of a drug that attacked the targeted gene, the cancer disappeared. It gave the audience a lump in their throats.

There are many new issues arising along with the breakthroughs. For example, being able to know you have high odds of getting xyz disease for which there is no prevention and no cure after getting it, is questionable. The trend from physician centric to payer centric to patient centric is accelerating. It is likely that what will be accomplished in the next ten years will be vastly more than what has been accomplished in the last one hundred.

Related links
bullet Other patrickWeb healthcare related stories

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Engineering

EngineerFor many of us, leaving our alma maters was a relief or even a good riddance -- what a joy to graduate and move on. Over the years the primary connection to the campus may have been sports related without much thought about academic roots. As time goes on that feeling changes and in fact some of us not only began to recall our college days but actually go back to visit in a more serious way and even get involved. Financial support of alumni is critical but involvement and sharing of experience is even more valuable.

At the engineering advisory board meeting today at Lehigh University, I was quite impressed with my colleagues' intense interest in what is going on at the university. In addition to getting an update from Dean Wu, there was a lot of discussion about future directions and how the extended family of alumni could collaborate to help out.

In the 1960's, Lehigh was primarily an engineering school and it was 100% male. Today engineering is a third of the university and women represent more than 40% of the nearly 7,000 students. When I graduated 39 years ago, there were no women at Lehigh (although there were many nearby, including my wife at St. Luke's School of Nursing), and last week Dr. Alice P. Gast, a world-renowned researcher with a passion for teaching, was named Lehigh University’s 13th president.

One area of focus for the college of engineering is to provide degree programs in which students can develop horizontally as well as vertically. Over time, a top student can be an ultimate techie but can also be outstanding as a business or arts student. This will mean they will be able to move from their undergrad experience to enter law school or medical school or join the ranks of business management or consulting with an edge because of their broader perspective. An engineer uses creativity, technology, and scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. What about communicating the solution to the problem and working with global multi-disciplinary colleagues to implement the solution? That is where Lehigh's thrust toward integrated programs comes in.

The Integrated Business & Engineering degree (IBE) is an innovative example of the potential of more diverse education. The program prepares students to assume leadership roles in industrial research and development, entrepreneurial initiatives, management consulting, high-tech ventures, and innovative technology. I have no doubt that this integrated approach to engineering will produce some future leaders for the world's top businesses.


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Intellectual Property

Cactus

On Monday and Tuesday of this week a number of analysts and consultants gathered with IBM at an intellectual property briefing in Greenwich, Connecticut. Not as glamorous as the meeting in Rome but exceptionally interesting. The term intellectual property reflects the idea that the subject matter is a product of the mind and that legal rights to the "IP" are protected in the same way as any other form of property. IP is a vital issue for many companies but probably no company has as much influence in this area as IBM. IP is a broad and deep subject but one of the key elements is patents.

The United States granted the first patent to Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont in 1790. Mr. Hopkin's idea had to do with making potash which in turn was used in making glass and in various industrial processes.Two other major patents granted the same year were related to making candles and milling flour. Earlier this year the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that for the thirteenth consecutive year, IBM received more patents than any other private sector organization in America. No company, other than IBM, has yet been granted 2,000 patents in any year while IBM exceeded 3,000 four years in a row and last year had 1,100 more than anybody else. IBM has a portfolio of more than 40,000 patents globally and has another 21,000 U.S. patent applications pending. Potentially more significant than IBM's leadership in creating inventions is the fact that it is giving away thousands of patents. See Patent Commons (January 2005).

The industrial age focused on proprietary innovation and patents became the key differentiator for technology companies such as IBM. In the 1970's and 1980's there was a lot of cross-licensing to provide freedom of action; e.g. IBM cross-licensed with many other technology companies so that it could be able to ship it's products without any concerns about patent infringement. Since IBM's inventiveness created a lot more patent licensing income than licensing expense, the IP business became a major source of income -- to the tune of a $1 billion per year and mostly profit. Now that the industrial age has given over to a knowledge economy based on collaborative innovation, IBM has begun to re-evaluate it's IP strategy and begin to leverage IP as a new source of business growth.

Since IBM has a very large group of engineers and scientists who are prolific inventors, the patent portfolio is sure to grow and the income from it will be significant for quite some time. The company has more than 1,000 active licenses whereby companies pay IBM to use it's patents -- that represents about a third of IBM's IP income. Another third comes from joint development; e.g. with Sony, Toshiba, and Samsung where the companies work together on a project and then share the results. A prominent example was the development of the Cell processor which is used in the new Sony PS3 game console. A final third of IBM's IP income is from the assignment of patents for things that IBM invented but does not want to pursue on it's own -- digital cameras, liquid crystal displays, the laser used in eye surgery, setup boxes, and many other things.

Technologists working in healthcare and education cheered the move by IBM to allow them royalty-free access to its patent portfolio for the development and implementation of selected open healthcare and education software standards built around web services, electronic forms and open document formats. If new application software is developed in these key industries, society is better off and IBM will get it's fair share of the hardware, software and services opportunity. Very smart. To leverage internal ideas, IBM has created ThinkPlace -- a next generation suggestion program where employees don't just submit an idea and hope to get an award but where they tee up an idea and enable others to build upon the idea and collaborate to take it to the next level. IBM is also leveraging it's IP by using it to solve problems for it's clients through services engagements. For example, a group of PhD's from IBM Research helped a limousine company optimize the routes of it's cars to minimize wait time and fuel costs

The world of patents has become ever more complex across the spectrum of collaboration and competition as the world has moved from proprietary to open -- as the world has gotten flat. Patents issued have skyrocketed in the past dozen years -- more than 150,000 patents issued in 2000, and so have patent suits. The thousands of suits are taking a huge economic toll and in many cases are stifling innovation. Patent reform has become urgent. IBM is not waiting on the sidelines. It is taking a leadership role and encouraging progressive changes. For example, it has launched initiatives to improve the quality of patents by developing and proposing an index to evaluate if a patent meets the standards of patentability -- in other words, to test if the patent is really legitimate. These efforts are not just for IBM but for the entire economy. Hopefully the politicians, many of whom have links to trial lawyer associations, won't kill the pending patent reform legislation.  

Related links
bullet Other patrickWeb patent related stories

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The Big Picture From Rome

RomeThe final afternoon of the Business Leadership Forum focused on the big picture -- of both global political factors and technology. A panel included Karl-Heinz Grasser, Federal Minister of Finance for the Republic of Austria. He spoke about how governments can not only avoid being an obstacle to innovation and growth but also encourage competition thereby creating more jobs. The panel was bullish about how the information revolution -- ushered in by the microprocessor in the early 1970's and the Internet of the 1990's -- has led to an explosion of new products and new business models, However, there was a consensus that retaliation from poor economies and over-regulation by some countries could stymie the growth. 

Mario Monti, President of Bocconi University and commissioner in the European Union for ten years, was quite optimistic about the EU -- a market of 480 million people -- and said that the EU itself is an innovation. He said that Europe is much more like the U.S. than it was. It is now a single market, has a single currency, and has been expanding market reach around the world. The shortcoming is that Europe, unlike America, does not yet have a constitution. This results in an economic disadvantage because the European community can not make a decision for the total. The European economy is not innovating quickly enough and in fact some countries are protecting the past at the expense of the future. Mario says it is time for "naming and shaming" the laggards through peer reviews. Then he got more specific -- "Germany, France, and Italy are behind on liberalization of service markets and have resisted initiatives to increase competition". These three countries will have a negative impact on the Euro which in turn will hurt the rest of Europe. Mr. Monti's presentation was sobering but hopeful. He said the EU has a lot of good features, that it can protect intellectual property but also move against monopolies such as Microsoft. The key to get innovation going in Europe is for the EU to innovate itself by completing it's constitution.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger kicked off the final segment of the forum, which focused on the future. IBM supports Linux because it is a great operating system for computers. Irving introduced Linus Torvalds the developer of Linux which he published as a student in 1991. Don Tapscott, a widely acclaimed author, who invented the term "paradigm shift", then moderated the final panel which included Linus, Nick Donofrio, executive vice president for innovation and technology at IBM, and Ann Mettler, executive director and co-founder of The Lisbon Council. It was a wide-ranging discussion. Linus is an incredibly humble guy. He said he has no vision, just looks 5 cm ahead before each step, and loves to solve technical problems. Linux is successful, he says, because both the development and the decision making are distributed -- a "built-in meritocracy". Don asked why volunteers worked on Linux for no economic return. Linus said, "if you were all engineers, you would not be asking that question". Open source software is viable in most all software areas, with the only exception being niche markets which are too small to get adequate collaboration. "Open source will take over most all infrastructure".

Ann said there is a huge gap between businesses which are moving ahead rapidly and societies which feel left behind. The key problem is that the economy is 70% services but the regulations and governance are still based on an industrial model. She believes that government should learn how to innovate from businesses. "Politicians are clueless about the discussion of the past day and a half". She says that businesses need to share their leanings with society. The labor market in Europe is flat because companies do not want to hire and that is because the laws are so onerous. "You can hire but you can't fire". Labor reform is needed desperately.

Nick says' It' s all about change". IBM is doing a balancing act by supporting both open things and proprietary things. The company is generating a lot of patents but also giving away a lot of patents to move the ball forward in key markets such as healthcare and education. "The world can move ahead faster if the OS is Linux -- it is good enough and a "blow for freedom". A California venture capitalist asked about business ethics and Nick was very aggressive in his response saying it was not optional for companies to be totally and completely ethical in every respect. (Having been at IBM for 38 years, I can say I never ever had a  concern about ethics at the company). Nick summarized that anyone can innovate if they are willing to change. "If nothing changes, nothing changes". Sam wrapped up the conference by saying corporations need to be transparent. Their ultimate responsibility is to create value for the constituencies: stockholders, customers, employees. He walks the talk.  

Related links
bullet Intro to Roman Rendezvous Stories
bullet Index to Roman Rendezvous stories


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New Redcliffe CD - British String Quartets (No. 3)

The Alan Bush Music Trust are raising £3000 for the issue by Redcliffe Recordings of a CD of British music written for string quartets, in their series British Musical Heritage. The CD includes Alan Bush's Suite of Six for String Quartet Op. 81 (1975) and works by William Byrd and Frank Bridge.

The artists are the Bochmann String Quartet with Michael Bochmann (violin), Mark Messenger (violin), Helen Roberts (viola) and Paul Adams (cello).They performed Bush's Dialectic on Redcliffe Recording's 1997 CD, British String Quartets, and at the Centenary Concert at the Wigmore Hall in November 2000.

Alan Bush's work was commissioned by the BBC and given its first performance by the Chilingirian Quartet at St. John's Smith Square, London on 15th December 1975 at a BBC Lunchtime Recital.Its first concert performance took place at the 75th Birthday Concert given by the Workers' Music Association for Alan Bush at the Wigmore Hall on 11th January 1976. Writing about the broadcast performance, the Daily Telegraph, 16th December 1975 wrote:"Alan Bush celebrates his 75th birthday this month and the B.B.C. have marked the occasion by commissioning a new work, 'Suite of Six'...This, the composer's fourth work for quartet, confirms his faith in the principles of structural argument initiated by 'Dialectic' over 40 years ago. The new piece is more relaxed in its succession of eight short movements than the earlier taut structured masterpiece, but the forms are still braced by concentrated development. The fourth movement, for instance, moves quickly from exposition into a paragraph of considerable contrapuntal and motivic tension and then closes without a backward glance."

It is appropriate that Alan Bush's composition should be included on the CD with a work by Frank Bridge, because of the link between the two composers.They got to know one another in about 1929 and corresponded between 1929 and 1933. Alan and Nancy Bush also visited Frank Bridge at his home on more than one occasion. Bridge was very encouraging to Alan Bush, who at that time was a very young composer. Alan Bush was very touched that Frank Bridge took a "kind interest" in his work, in particular, his piano work, Relinquishment. Alan Bush, himself, went out of his way to promote Frank Bridge's work when he was in Germany and performed two piano pieces by Frank Bridge at a recital in Berlin, on 29th January 1931. At this concert he also played his own work Relinquishment.

The full CD listing is:
String Quartet No.4 by Frank Bridge
Suite of Six for String Quartet (Op.81) by Alan Bush
Fantasias for Strings by William Byrd

The Trust is raising money to fund the CD, which will be issued in June 2003. For a minimum subscription of at least £13 we will send you a copy of the C.D. upon its release. All donations should be sent to:
Dr. Rachel O'Higgins
Hon. Secretary
Alan Bush Music Trust
7 Harding Way
Histon
Cambridge CB2 3DA


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Connecting Sony Ericsson K700i to the Internet through my PC

Opera Mini display on Sony Ericsson K700i screenI was recently stumped with CSS over handheld devices. I was using Sony Ericsson J200i, an entry level nice hand phone from Sony Ericsson to access WAP pages over GPRS. Now I need to test run my web sites development and CSS on handheld devices. In a quick impulse shopping I got myself a mid entry level Sony Ericsson K700i for RM850. The phone was selected for its price and features. The guy was nice enough to throw me a free gift in the form of quite nice canvas bag. So if you are shopping for Sony Ericsson, just try your luck but don't forget to be nice to the salesperson. I also bought a DiGi prepaid, activated the GPRS account and surf away with K700i.


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Web Development Team

When a web site is online, someone, somewhere must have been responsible for its creation.

You may be thinking about setting up your own web site and have done much research to find your perfect or rather agreeable company base on price, features, their proven works etc., this article introduces you to the people behind a typical web development project.


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Web Design & Development>

Overview

Web development incorporates all areas of creating a Web site for the World Wide Web. This includes Web design (graphic design, XHTML, CSS, usability and semantics), programming, content management, marketing, testing and deployment. The term can also specifically be used to refer to the "back end", that is, programming and server administration.

ref: Wikipedia: Web Development


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Web Standards Group: About Web Standards
An overview, including the key benefits, of using Web standards in your development projects. The "Ten Questions" series is very informative, and the site also has a resource directory, an email discussion list, job announcements and more.
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The Weekly Standards
There are plenty of Web design and development sites out there, both personal and professional, with clean, structured markup and standards-based designs. But how often do you see corporate sites doing this? This site showcases a few each month.
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Digital Web: Standards
Contributed articles by many recognized design and development professionals.
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Web Accessibility Tools
A collection of tools for the development of accessible Web content, from a collaboration of some of the world's leading accessibility practitioners. Founded by Accessible Information Solutions, Infoaxia, the Paciello Group, Wrong HTML, and Juicy Studio.
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I've finally settled into my new position on the Internet Explorer team...

Wow, 7 months since my last post! Well, there is definitely a good reason for the lengthy delays. Back in February a became a full-time member of the Internet Explorer team starting work on IE7 and continuing support for previous versions of the browser. Needless to say, joining any team of this size there is a lot of information to consume before you can start making decent contribution so all of my free time has been spent brining myself up to speed. Hopefully I'll be able to leverage some of this knowledge and focus some postings on web development and scripting, in addition to my previous topics.

This is still my personal blog where I'll be posting about all of the interesting things that I'm working on or feel like talking about, so try to keep the browser flames to a minimum. For obvious reasons there will be comments that I won't be able to respond so if you don't hear back from me, I'm probably ignoring you, but in a good way.

Well, good to be back, make sure you stick around and look for further posts.

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The obligatory Halo 2 partial review and thumbs up.

I learned my lesson with Fable, so I'll try desperately not to start a flame war of any sort here. Up front, I'm giving the game a definite thumbs up. If you are the kind of person that likes to flame, then leave now knowing that I've given your favorite thing my personal approval.

Let's start with the good. The campaign and story is pretty nice. The cinematic effect is definitely there, something I don't approve of in games most of the time. In this case the cinematics were rather short and they appear to have answered all of the questions from the first Halo, about what in the hell is actually going on in this universe. Don't expect a major story though, in all there is about 30 minutes of video (maybe someone will time that eventually). It appears in most cases that the actual game engine was used to produce cinematic sequences. I'm a huge advocate of this process, since it generally reduces the size of the game even if it doesn't allow for as much eye candy through complex, non real-time, shaders.

Playing from both sides of the story is another great feature even if the movement features are identical between the arbiter and the master chief. Of course you get to use all of the weapons no matter which side you are. A couple of the new weapons are even pretty nice and if you add dual wielding then you can really do some drastic damage. Getting used to the new weapons is a short process, but for the most part, just realize everything is going to take a good amount of shots in order to take down. Nearly every enemy has energy shields now, so making use of a good pairing of weapons is almost always required (for a good run-down of the weapons, head over to GameFAQs where someone has posted a huge review of all of the weapons, relative damage, recommended threat ranges, etc...)

Movement has been speed up a bit from a basic land speed metric. The jump has been increased as well. Most of the same movement considerations from the first Halo are in place and the game still has the same feel, while at the same time having an increased level of agility. I noticed that my look sensitivity 10 from Halo one has been dropped to 8, and the new 10 is fairly insane. I've managed to work my way back up to 10 and I have to say it is much closer to the look sensitivity in UT now. Thats definitely a good thing since I'm tired of getting punked in the back by a lamer while I'm trying to turn around. Now my more precise shooting abilities will take them out while they wing half their shots by my head.

We'll do 3 good paragraphs and 3 bad ;-) Not all of these are bad, just things I'm not all that happy with. While all of the new weapons are great they feel drastically underpowered most of the time. I think this was a balancing issue and I definitely agree that some weapons in Halo were far too powerful in multiplayer. Losing my pistol is hard though since that was definitely my primary weapon. I loved picking off people with that weapon. It is now a closer quarters weapon and a few weapons have stepped in to take it's place. They didn't add any more grenade types, something that would have been extremely nice. The usage of the flashlight has been minimized drastically and it now lasts indefinitely. I'm not sure why they kept it in, if for nothing more than to add a parity feature with the temporary invisibility you get as the arbiter.

I think the explanation of the story is great, but I'm not all that happy with the wrap-up. Halo in itself was an epic FPS which is something I'm not getting from Halo 2. Maybe this is the curse of the sequel. More importantly, most of Halo's intrigue after the initial month was driven by its multiplayer. I haven't gotten a good chance to play a few thousand hours of multiplayer yet, so I can't judge whether or not this game is equivalently interesting. The epic value may still be there, especially as the tournaments and ladders start to form. All in all, the basic campaign was a bit of a let-down for me.

Now for the flat-out bugs. The physics engine is better, but in many cases broken. There are cases where the environment is moving and in turn the movement drastically impairs your ability to aim and fire. I'm not sure if that was meant to be or a side effect of a real physics engine in play without the proper controls to ensure realism. In general though, only accelerating bodies would apply forces that might throw off your aim. All of the moving platforms in Halo 2 are massive enough and travel at constant speed, that the aim issues shouldn't come into play. Even more odd is that it only happened to me in one location. In general, I think many of the vehicles fall prey to some poor physics as well. Apparently getting run over by a ghost now just pushes you out of the way, many of the flying vehicles are cumbersome even with the new boost tricks.

One more good paragraph. I've written quite a bit on AI, and I have to say that the AI in this game is pretty good. The allied unit code works well most of the time, something you don't see in many games, even if they do shoot you in the back. I'm supposed to run in damnit, I'm the master chief, so quit shooting me in the back! The mission guys should get shot in a few instances where they provide challenges that are nearly impossible if you've lost most of your allied group. In some cases the allies just disappear or fail to follow you, something else that I think could dearly be fixed. The path-finding, beast aggro, cross side fighting, and tactics make up for everything wrong with the allies. I'm still thinking about what the best way would be to handle the battle between the brutes and elites where the two hunters come out. I played just that spot 8 times beating it different ways and trying to work out the appropriate weapons to minimize my ammo usage and leaving me with the least number of enemies to fight when the battle was over.

All in all the game is a graphical beauty, definitely a tribute to the amount of time it took in production (this is how a 4 year development process SHOULD end). I have some goodies to go along with it. I managed to produce a series of custom controls that mimic portions of the Halo 2 UI. I'll try and get them up on Project Distributor. I know that I made a Form, ListBox, and GroupBox, but I'm not sure if I finished any others. They don't allow much customization, so I'm adding the ability to change colors and simplifying the asset production code (I currently precompute the images used by the controls and need to change that over to dynamic creation at run-time based on properties). Give me a heads up if this type of control is interesting to you.

Enjoy your Halo 2 and feel free to invite me over to any gaming parties. Address and telephone number are in the resume link ;-)

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Language parsing and compiler design doesn't have to be hard, but boy this book really sucks!

How'd you like that for an opening title? Did it grab your attention? Hell, your reading this far so I guess it did. The book I'm focusing on here is Build Your Own .NET Language and Compiler and please, don't click the link and then go buy it. I don't care about the 50 cents worth of referral money I'll get if you do. I wouldn't even recommend the book if I got 50 bucks of referral money (well, money talks, so maybe I would).

The book starts out with the basics of parsing and regular expressions and all that jazz. But the extent of the code is a bunch of screen shots. We are writing a parser/compiler dang it, we aren't WYSIWYGing our way through life at this point, you have to show some real frigin code. What you end up with is a bunch of screen shots of many tools for writing a compiler, but not really the code, unless of course you go grab the CD and break through all of the code without a lick of explanation from the book. God I hope the code is well documented with comments, or you just bought an issue of Compiler's Illustrated and this isn't the Swimsuit edition. I'll include some of my own links at the bottom, where I give actual code for many of these processes.

OK, so you get to see a bunch of tools, and what do you get? Well, you get a bunch of half-assed tools (sorry for the language if your kid is reading my highly technical blog... In fact, if he/she is I could use some interns, must type 50+ WPM and be proficient at C, C++, or C#). A mathematical expression evaluator is the first. I think it is always the first. People always trivialize math. So make sure you look at all the pretty pictures and try to glean some wisdom from the text. I have a mathematical expression evaluator by the way, it's called calc.exe and from what I can tell it has shipped since 16-bit windows. He also makes an attempt at a regular expression workbench. You can't have enough of those (actually I'm not being sarcastic here, I always appreciate a new regex tool), but then he never writes anything or demonstrates compiler technology that uses regular expressions. Does he go into NFA/DFA technology? Well, he does talk about it for a few sentences. BNF format? Again a few sentences here and there. But wait, another tool is what you get and this time it is a picture of a drop-down menu with all sorts of really tantalizing names (convert from BNF to XML, display a BNF parse tree, display formatted docs, etc...). At this point use one of the pages to catch the drool coming off your lip, because that is as close as you'll get in this book to anything cool.

OK, so forget the tools. At some point he actually starts talking about real compiler technology. I think around chapter 7 maybe? I really should dig up the TOC on Amazon, but I'm only going to waste enough time on this book to finish this posting. Anyway, they start talking about the various parsing techniques. Recursive descent (RD), Top-Down, Bottom-Up... I think there are some other odd names they throw in there to mystify the reader. After reading all of the major compiler design books I shouldn't be mystified by something that could classify as a 4 Dummies book (unless it is something like Cross Dressing 4 Dummies, I could probably use that after my Halloween party)...  Anyway, they really don't do the entire process justice, and I think at some point some more tools are used, Yacc might be mentioned, and bam, back to the pictures.

At this point I want to identify the worst problem I found throughout the entire book. Apparently the author didn't have time to finish the code so they left a bunch of exercises for the reader. Nah, nah... You don't leave the compiler as an exercise in a book on how to write a compiler. You leave bits and pieces, but not the important stuff. Going through my Knuth books, I'm actually surprised when he leaves problems as exercises that require more know-how than what has been provided in the chapter. I don't mind exercises for the reader, but there is a limit people. Imagine getting back from Home Depot with a 300 page picture book on building a house, that had a bunch of pictures of completed homes, and some text offering that the building of the house will be left as an exercise for the reader. Doh!

At the end of the book, it is apparent I'm not going to get anything of use and then it starts talking about code generation. Oooh, something with some meat. In reality, they've been naming their nodes for the calculator in such a way that the name of the node was pretty much the name of the op code that was going to be called. They may have some Quick Basic implementation code spits as well, but I'm confused at this point (and mystified) because I've been thumbing this book for an hour. In reality the act of spitting IL is probably worth an entire book of it's own (oh wait it is Inside Microsoft .NET IL Assembler and you really should buy this one so I get 50 cents). That isn't fair because that book is actually how IL functions and not how to spit it. But I'd think one does precede the other since eventually your going to run out of node names to match to IL op-codes and when opComplexOperation isn't mirrored by OpCodes.ComplexOperation I just don't know what you'll do.

How fair of a review is this? Well, I've read actual compiler books, quite a few of them. I've implemented my own parsers and compilers many times for many different circumstances. I don't think it is a hard process and I think extending the process to a more general development audience is important. There should be a relatively accessible book on writing your own .NET languages, but this book is certainly not it. I'll keep looking around, I hear there is another book focused on .NET language generation and I'll have to search it out. Maybe an O'Reilly publication? Can you get an accurate review from something in about an hour's time? Well, I read fast, the words were quite large, most of the content was entirely familiar and only about 30% of the page material was text, so I'd hope so. Take this for what it is worth, but if I see any referral money for that book, I'll know someone is going to be laughing hysterically when they get that book in a 2-3 days from Amazon. PS: I didn't and won't buy the book. I spent a couple of hours at Borders today running through two books that caught my eye when I was really looking for a great .NET Localization book. I need to dig up Michael Kaplan, since I'm sure he has written something somewhere.

Lexer/Parser/Compiler  Code and articles for different types of parsers
Lexer, Parser, Compiler, Oh My!  Postings, with code, on even more lexer/parser stuff
ftp://ftp.cs.vu.nl/pub/dick/PTAPG/BookBody.pdf A more hard-core text on parser technologies

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Designers: Use the scrollbar

Here’s a common design problem: You have a long list of data, far too long to fit on one screen.

Sound familiar? You might be tempted to paginate the results, using something like this or this to help users navigate through the list.

Why not use the scrollbar?

The scrollbar was invented as a way of helping users navigate a long list of data through a limited viewport. It’s still relevant and useful — though often overlooked — today.

I’m a big fan of the scrollbar. Implementing it requires no extra development work (it’s built in to the browser), and the popularity of scroll-wheel mice means scrolling is no longer a pain in the neck. Scrollbars also offer some usability benefits — browsing, comparing and place-finding is easier than with a paged list.

One challenge is extremely large lists. Some datasets are so large that loading them all on one page is just too slow. (We have this problem with some long email subscriber lists.)

But the rest of the time, scrollbars work — better than you’d think.

I’m officially pro-scollbar. Mark me down.


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Enough about me

I just added a new piece of FeedFlare to my feed (if you’re not subscribed, get to it!) called “Take My Survey.”

What? Why?

Like you may have guessed, clicking this link will take you to a survey (hosted by the lovely SurveyMonkey) containing some questions about you, my much-appreciated reader.

There are really no good reasons I’m doing this, other than “I could” and “it would be interesting to know a little bit about my readers.”

Usually, this kind of survey is used to gather information useful to potential advertisers — and that’s why Rick created it (see below). But I don’t have any advertisers (or any potential advertisers, that I know of) so this is just for fun.

The cool thing

Anyway, the cool thing about this FeedFlare add-on is that Rick Klau — our VP of Business Development; not an engineer — created it from scratch with (almost) no help. The FeedFlare platform allows anyone (yes, even Rick *wink*) to create something truly useful and valuable — something that isn’t just “neat” but actually informative from a business point of view.

And if that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.


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Living the Google Life

screenshot of camino with gmail, google calendar, google finance and google weather

Starting right now (imagine a finger-snapping sound) I am beginning a week-long experiment to see if Google can successfully run my email, calendar, stocks, weather and other personal information needs.

Here’s the plan, tool by tool. Wish me luck.

Camino

Google doesn’t make it, but it’s integral to this experiment. Since Safari is only half-supported by Google, and I can’t stand Firefox for anything but web development and debugging, Camino’s a great choice. It’s my dedicated “Google Browser,” chrome-free and tabbed-up as you can see here.

Gmail

I’ve been forwarding my mail through Gmail for a long time, but only recently have I considered using it as my primary mail client. (Matt Haughey inspired me to give it a try.) I’m finding it easy to explain away old excuses and relearn shortcuts and techniques. If this experiment is successful, I’ll switch completely — ending a four-year love affair with Mail.app. Possible? We’ll see.

Google Calendar

My dissatisfaction with calendars goes way back. A month ago, I jumped the iCal ship and boarded 30boxes. I love 30boxes — it’s just about perfect — but Google’s offering matches 30boxes feature-by-feature, provides a draggable events interface, and is integrated with other services I use all the time. And since it’s hosted by Google, Calendar is almost always up and it’s very speedy.

Google Finance

Stock quotes are not as important as email or calendaring, but I spend a lot of time here and it warrants a spot in my personal G-Suite. I love just about everything about Google Finance — the super-clean portfolio view, the interactive charts and the time-aligned news.

Google Search (for everything else)

Did you know Google does weather? And movie times? And local listings? And a million other things? As I learn about new Google functionality, I find myself relying more and more on the search engine (remember when Google was just a search engine?) for all kinds of day-to-day needs.

See you in a week

Time permitting, I’ll post the verdict in a week. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.


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TCeurope Helps to Develop European Guideline
TCeurope, the umbrella organization of European associations for technical communication, is helping with the development of a European guideline on user education for mobile terminals and e-services. Ritter, Corinna
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IBM Servlet-Based Content Creation Framework
A compact, servlet-based, content creation framework that facilitates Web-based application development. Pawlitzek, Rene
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Introducing Hamlets
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Shifting the Burden - Whose Monkey Is It? By Donald E. Gray
A new installment in the developer.* Systems and Software series, exploring the connections between general systems thinking, cybernetics, and software development. Author Don Gray applies systems thinking principles--including "balancing loops," symptomatic and systemic solutions, and "shifting the burden"--to a recurring situation with one of his clients.
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Stunted Growth: Subsidies and Stagnation in the Software Tools Market By Steve Benz
On the face of it, there should be a great deal of money in the software tools business, but, surprisingly, the money really isnā??t there for small businesses. This article will show that the ultimate cause of the deficiency is the fact that most of the large development tools are subsidized by the sales of Operating Systems and hardware. These subsidies have the effect of diminishing the profit potential of any pure software development tool vendor and thus remove the incentive to create.
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Automating Software Development Processes By Tim Kitchens
Automating repetitive procedures can provide real value to software development projects. In this article, we will explore the value of and barriers to automation and provide some guidance for automating aspects of the development process.
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The Global Development Interview Series: Scotland, with Craig Murphy By Donna L. Davis
It's going to take us awhile to get all the way around the world, but here we are at stop #3, with Scottish software developer Craig Murphy, who shares his experience of software development life in Scotland with interviewer Donna L. Davis.
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Improving Developer Productivity With Domain-Specific Modeling Languages By Steven Kelly, PhD
What is DSM? How is it different from UML and MDA? Can DSM languages produce significant programming productivity gains? Can software development be truly model-driven?
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Microsoft Sets Its Sights on Robotics
Company releases a software development kit for the robotics market.
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Triathlon: Blue Competition Cycles Supports USA Triathlon Athlete Development
"This is a very generous offer by Blue to take their sponsorship of USA Triathlon to the next level..." - USAT Sport Performance Director Scott Schnitzspahn.
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Athletics: Indiana Invaders Host Third Edition of ''Distance Development Summit''
The Distance Development Summit was first initiated and hosted by Zap Fitness in the fall of 2004 at their training facility in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
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Model 1 JSP as fast as RoR/PHP for rapid web development.
I'm tired of seeing J2EE being labeled as a poor choice for rapid web application development as compared to Ruby on Rails or PHP. <br><br>I wanted


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Achieving Quality
Technology: Can You Automate Software Quality? "A lot of the debate has been focused on testing. Total Quality, however, would suggest that although testing is necessary, it's not sufficient. Testing focuses on inspection, not on prevention. To over-simplify, you test in hopes of demonstrating that the software has no defects (because you have a good high-quality development process), not to detect the defects that are present, but should not be there (because you don't have a good high quality development process). After several years of significant effort, the code my client was developing (and testing) still isn't of the high quality they are looking for. So we decided to go back, start from some basics, and look again at the issue of software quality."

Goes through the processes to ensure quality software: code quality (using TDD), functional quality (giving the customer what they want), non-functional quality (security, privacy, compliance, etc), deployment and production quality, and maintenance.

"This probably seems like a lot of additional work for the development organization. And it is. But the costs of defective code in the production environment (both direct, in terms of sustaining engineering, and indirect, in terms of lost revenue and reputation) was becoming significant. Management felt it had no choice but to focus on improved quality, and turn to the productivity issues later. So far, despite the added burden of all these quality?related activities (many of which already took place, but simply weren't very effective) we have not seen a slowdown in software availability. Some teams are actually moving faster than before, despite the new work they have to perform, because they spend much less time and effort on remediation and last-minute adjustments to code to fix issues that only show up as the code is transitioned to production."
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Finding a Way
Leaders and residents offer possible cures for the American Brewery neighborhood

In recent decades, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in Baltimore redevelopment, and those investments - combined with positive economic trends - have sparked a wave of privately financed revitalization in neighborhoods across the city. From Locust Point to Charles Village and Hampden to Highlandtown, housing prices have soared and commercial development has followed.
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Linux key to robot development
ZDNet UK Jul 17 2006 9:04AM GMT
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Linux: ext4 Filesystem

Theodore Ts'o offered an insightful summary of issues affecting future development on the ext3 filesystem, "it is clear that many people feel they have a stake in the future development plans of the ext2/ext3 filesystem, as it [is] one of the most popular and commonly used filesystems, particular amongst the kernel development community. For this reason, the stakes are higher than it would be for other filesystems." He listed the three main concerns for future development as stability, compatibility confusion, and code complexity, "unfortunately, these various concerns were sometimes mixed together in the discussion two months ago, and so it was hard to make progress. Linus's concern seems to have been primarily the first point, with perhaps a minor consideration of the 3rd. Others dwelled very heavily on the second point."

Theodore went on to say, "to address these issues, after discussing the matter amongst ourselves, the ext2/3 developers would like to propose the following path forward." He listed a four step plan beginning with the creation of a new ext4 filesystem registered with the kernel temporarily as 'ext3dev', "this will be explicitly marked as an CONFIG_EXPERIMENTAL filesystem, and will in affect be a 'development fork' of ext3. A similar split of the fs/jbd will be made in order to support 64-bit jbd, which will be used by fs/ext4 and future versions of ocfs2." Theodore explained that new features will go into the ext3dev tree, with only bugfixes making their way back to the stable ext3 tree. He noted that it will remain important that the ext4 code base can mount ext3 filesystems, "this is necessary to ensure a future smooth upgrade path from ext3 to ext4 users." Finally, "probably in 6-9 months when we are satisified with the set of features that have been added to fs/ext4, and confident that the filesystem format has stablized, we will submit a patch which causes the fs/ext4 code to register itself as the ext4 filesystem." He further noted that once ext4 is deemed fully stable, it may completely replace ext3 in the source tree.


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Gadgetopia Interviews Big Medium Developer Josh Clark
Josh sits down with tech blogger Deane Barker to discuss the past and future of Big Medium, the challenges of running a small code shop, and the connection between modern art and web development.
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Sailfish Point offers residents a slice of paradise between sand and sea
Since 1980, the 532-acre development isolated at the southern tip of Martin County's Hutchinson Island has offered those who seek the good life a little something extra.
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SOAP's Alive: Try the New Native SOAP Extensions for PHP
With PHP5, Web services and everybody's favorite open source Web development language are now native pals.
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Can web service adoption usher-in a collaborative development process?
Service Oriented Mass Customization (SOMC) asks us to stop thinking of an application as an isolated island lacking a semantic bridge to the rest of the user's world. Instead allow users to build bridges by explicitly mapping elements from your application domain to others available in their burgeoning Service oriented architecture (SOA). Once these bridges are built, users can take your application to strange and exotic places.
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Elements of a web site
Sample chapter from the book XSLT 2.0 Web Development
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Five-Star Basketball Camp Returns to New York City at Fordham University June 25-29
For four decades, Five-Star Basketball Camp has been synonymous with the development of many of the great players and coaches in basketball history. Highlighting the camp activities tomorrow is an evening clinic by NJ Nets Head Coach Lawrence Frank. Coach Frank is a former Five-Star staff member and has been affiliated with the camp since his junior year in high school. (PRWEB Jun 26, 2006) Trackback URI: http://www.prweb.com/zingpr.php/UGlnZy1GYWx1LVRoaXItQ291cC1JbnNlLVplcm8=
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Fort Lauderdale Graphic Design Firm Gains Event Marketing and Meeting Management Firm as Client
S.MARK Graphics Florida Inc. has been awarded the graphic design account of American Meetings, Inc. (AMI) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The work includes the development of on-going services including logo identities, invitations, signage, web site development and maintenance as well as marketing campaigns and advertising. (PRWEB Jul 5, 2006) Trackback URI: http://www.prweb.com/zingpr.php/SG9yci1Db3VwLUluc2UtUGlnZy1JbnNlLVplcm8=
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TheraVitae Presents Stem Cell Research Innovations at Toronto Stem Cell Conference
A poster presentation outlining the latest advances in its ongoing research into blood-borne stem cell biology and its clinical applications was given by Dr. Yael Porat, Vice-President of Research & Development, TheraVitae Ltd., at the 4th International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) meeting in Toronto, Canada. (PRWEB Jul 11, 2006) Trackback URI: http://www.prweb.com/zingpr.php/U2luZy1NYWduLVN1bW0tUGlnZy1JbnNlLVplcm8=
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Practice Partner Completes SureScripts&reg; Certification Process to Connect Thousands of Physicians and Pharmacies
Practice Partner, a leader in the development of electronic health records (EHR) and practice management software, announced today that it has completed the SureScripts certification process and is now a SureScripts Certified Solutions Provider™. (PRWEB Jun 30, 2006) Trackback URI: http://www.prweb.com/zingpr.php/UHJvZi1UaGlyLVNpbmctUGlnZy1JbnNlLVplcm8=
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