Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I got an "A" at Appalachian State University

Last week, I had the privilege of driving up to Appalachian State University to announce the winner of the national Juicy Ideas Competition.  We really had a fun time with this and made it a good surprise for the winning team.  DigitalChalk sponsored the contest along with AdvantageWest and Google.  This is how it happened...  Pam Lewis, Dale Carroll and Scott Hamilton from AdvantageWest and myself, representing DigitalChalk, met with Chancellor Ken Peacock of ASU before the students arrived at the Chancellors office.  The students were told that they were being presented with their regional winning prizes, a sweatshirt and video camera from Google because they won the Western North Carolina region.  When the students arrived at Chancellor Peacocks office, the prizes where handed out and pictures were taken.  After about 15 minutes, the Chancellor was told that he had a phone call and everyone was asked to move to the board room across the hall.  In the board room, I had a video chat, using Google video chat, started with Mary Radomile, a program manager at Google.  She was able to address the students and congratulate them on their success at the regional level.  Then, she proceeded to tell them that they had also won the national competition.  It was great!  I will be accompanying the students on a trip to Google headquarters in Feburary and will be discussing the details for the competition next year.  We hope to make it bigger and better.  Congratulations to Ryan Klinger, Andrew Drake, Spencer Price, and Justin Henry the Juicy Ideas Competition national champions.  You can read this press release on the competition.

Oh yea, how I got an "A"...  When we were posing for pictures, I had worn my black shirt for the occasion, but I didn't have any gold on.  Chancellor Peacock gave me the Appalachian State University pin right off of his coat.  I wore it with pride.  Thank you Chancellor Peacock!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Amazon SimpleDB for FREE

Have you wanted to dive in and try some parts of the cloud, but you just were not willing to pony up any cash? Amazon is giving you that chance with their latest announcement for web services. Yesterday they opened up SimpleDB into a public beta. SimpleDB allows you to store, retrieve and query data similar to a database. The difference is scalability. SimpleDB is great for storing simple data relationships that you need to be able scale and have the ability to handle large volumes. As of yesterday, Amazon is offering 25 machine hours, 1 GB of data transfer and 1 GB of data storage for free for at least the first six months. That is more than enough runway to test out an application or to help anyone prove out a concept. It should let the average user execute over 2 million requests against SimpleDB without paying a dime. We are currently using SimpleDB for some of our prepping and internal work at DigitalChalk and it has been working very well. Here is your chance... jump on in and let me know if you need any help learning to swim.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I have so much to be thankful for this year. A handsome 3 month old son, a beautiful and loving wife, a great family, and an awesome team of people that I get to work with everyday. Today was spent with friends and family and enjoying wonderful temperatures outside. It is very humbling to sit back at the end of the day today and think of how fortunate we are in this country with all of the amenties and comforts that we have. I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and weekend! This picture was taken this week at the Grove Park Inn on my iPhone walking from my car. Looks like they were spared.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I HAVE to get one of these!

Photography is one of my favorite hobbies as many of you know.  I have actually been asked to combine some of my talks around Cloud Computing with some of my photography.  Today, I have that chance.  I saw a video today that has inspired me to post something here.  You know how those stabilization lenses can be very very expensive, well, nature has the answer in a much more advanced and cheaper form.  All you have to do is figure out how to attach your particular camera.  Take a look at the future of image stabilization.

Too bad it isn't a Turkey for Thanksgiving.  Maybe they have the same abilities!  Anyone know?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Amazon CDN CloudFront

That was fast!  It was just a couple of months ago that Amazon told us that they were working on a CDN.  Yesterday they took another step and told the world that it has arrived.  The new service is called CloudFront and it works in conjunction with S3.  To get started, you simply need to have content that you have placed into a publicly accessible bucket on S3 and a couple of API calls later, you have content that accessible from the cloud in CDN style.  Your S3 content is served from the closest location to the requester and is stored there for a period of time so that subsequent calls can be served quickly from that location.  The great thing is that it is not limited to the Seattle or DC locations for serving the content.  There are many other datacenters across the US (and the world) that are capable of serving the content helping to ensure speedy access.  I can only imagine that this will have other CDN providers very nervous.  They are already dropping their prices dramatically and this will squeeze them even further.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Google Voice Search on iPhone

Well, it is finally in the AppStore. The Google application now includes voice search. It took a little persistence to get it, but I was able to download it to my phone. When I did this last night, iTunes was not showing an update was available, but when I searched for the application and downloaded it again, it came with voice search. So, if it isn't there today for you, try just downloading the application again. My first search was on Cloud Computing. It did rather well I must admit.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Microsoft's Azure Sky

Well, I have waited for a while now to post on Microsoft's new cloud computing platform because I was waiting for something, well, of substance.  Does anyone else but me find it humourous that they have named their cloud computing effort Azure?  Makes me think of a cloudless day ironically.  I have said in the past that Microsoft is late to the game, and it looks like they are going to be even later.  Seems as if everything that they have to offer is still in preview mode and I have seen very few examples of working applications on the Live Services or Azure platform.  I do have the need to run some applications on Windows technology right now, and I was looking forward to Microsofts entry into cloud computing to see what I might be able to make use of, but with Amazon now offering Windows 2003 servers as AMIs I am wondering if the Azure platform will even be necessary.  Will Microsoft be able to compete with Amazon on price?  I think I will wait and see what the price model will be and how much they really intend to support the "Coming Soon" application languages and platforms such as Eclipse and PHP.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

EC2 News More Than Expected

Wow, I was not expecting all of the announcements that happened today. I knew that EC2 was coming out of beta, that has been talked about for some time now, and we all knew that EC2 Windows boxes would be available this Fall, but I can't say that I was expecting the other news. It is exciting though for companies like DigitalChalk that rely on excellent services around cloud computing.

You can see everything that was announced today on the Amazon Web Services Blog. While I am excited about EC2 being out of beta and playing around with the new Windows instances starting at 12.5 cents per hour, the other news is even more interesting.

  • Amazon released an SLA for EC2
  • Amazon plans to release an AWS management console
  • Amazon is planning to release load balancing, auto scaling and cloud monitoring services
That is a lot of WOW factor for one day. I am particularly interested in seeing what is possible with the management console and the load balancing, scaling and monitoring tools. This could be as simple as EC2 images preconfigured with HAProxy, Hyperic and other tools, or it could go as far as what RightScale offers with their tools.

There is much to look forward to!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Microsoft in the Cloud

Well, we knew it was coming... Microsoft has been working on a cloud computing initiative and today... Oops! Amazon beat them to the punch. Amazon announced today that they will be putting Windows on EC2 before the end of the year. This has to be a bummer for Balmer and company over at Microsoft who have been working on an initiative that should be announced next month. I am very interested to see how Amazon is pricing this and how they deal with Microsoft licensing. I really hope that they keep to the same model where they charge by the hour instead of throwing extra requirements for a valid license key for each server you stand up. That would defeat the purpose of "infinite" scalability. I haven't seen any talk about the model yet other than a mention of the same "pay as you go pricing", but I am sure interested in the nitty gritty details. I can't say for certain that we will be using Windows on Amazon at DigitalChalk, but I will be playing around on it you can be sure just to see how it performs.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chase and Dad on a walk

While Mom spends the day giving a baby shower for another friend, I get to spend some time with my best bud Chase. He really likes walks with Dad. :).

Posted by email from tolle's posterous

Friday, September 19, 2008

Amazon S3 as a CDN?

It is coming... Amazon announced today that they are currently working with a small group of private beta customers on a edge network solution that will allow users of S3 to deliver the content to their users with low latency and high speed making use of what they call a "global network of edge locations on three continents to deliver your content from the most appropriate location". It is well known that they are currently serving their content from data centers in Washington DC, Seattle, and in the EU. I am wondering where their other locations are to make up the global network. That will be interesting to see. We are currently serving customers around the globe and have seen good performance most of the time, even to our customers in Australia. I am hoping that this will make our service that much more effective. The press statements talks about using public buckets for the service. I am hoping that this will also be available for private buckets as well!  If Amazon can keep the costs way down, they will really start to disrupt the CDN market.  We are getting several vendors calling us from CDNs and the prices all seem to go lower with each call.  Let's see what this does.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Future - Delicious?

I am not sure I get it... at all. Maybe it was done just so people would scratch their heads and guess and cause some buzz. If you understand the latest ad from Microsoft, please share your wisdom. Of course, it is appropriate that Jerry Seinfeld accompanies Bill Gates in this apparent "ad about nothing", but what is the message, the hook, the call to action here?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Carolina Connect 2008

This year, the Carolina Connect conference will be held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville and if you an entrepreneur in Western North Carolina, you should attend.  Carolina Connect is the premier conference for fostering entrepreneurial growth of businesses of all sizes and stages in WNC.  I am excited to let you know that DigitalChalk will be there in several ways.  We will be participating in the sales and technology converstation tables of the conference.  I will also be talking some about the Creative Juice Competition and we will be annoucing the secret item there!  There was a story on Carolina Connect released by the Asheville Hub today that actually featured Infinity Learning Solutions.  You can read the article in the press release.  The champion behind the conference is Pam Lewis at Avantage West and she has also written a description of the conference posted at SwampFox.  The conference will be informative and worth your while to attend for such a steal of a registration fee of only $50.00.  I hope to see you there!  Come say hello to me when you get there.

Creative Juice Off to the Races!

With over 60 people registered already in Western North Carolina, the Creative Juice Competition is off to the races.  Who will be the team to claim the top prize in the reigon and will they have what it takes to go up against the rest of the regions for the grand prize trip to Google headquarters?  It is very exciting to see the schools in the region start to really think about what they will be doing.  I have recieved emails almost everyday this week from contestants and potential contestants about the competition and there have been several news articles and postings about it already.  Check out the article in the Asheville Citizen-Times that ran today at :  I am anticipating even a couple of great business ideas to be born out of the competition.  With professors even going as far as making the competition a required project for some classes, I can only imagine that we will see some fantastic ideas.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chase David Tolle

Chase was born this afternoon, August 25th 2008 at 2:59pm. I wanted to get up a couple of photos quickly so people could see him before I try to get a wink or two of sleep. Enjoy these:

This is Chase at 5 seconds old!

Ready to be weighed in
First Bath

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Amazon Web Services adds Elastic Block Store

We have known about it for months, but very few have been able to play with it until now. Several months ago Amazon started talking about "Persistant Storage" becoming available on their platform and today it is available to everyone. It is labeled as Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS). At DigitalChalk we have been looking forward to this for several reasons. The most immediate benefit that I see getting from this is the ability to have a block of storage that we can put the data store on for our databases. Right now we have very frequent and bandwidth intensive backup solutions in place that snapshot our data and put it into S3. With ESB we will be able to allocate a block of storage up to a TB in size and then simply attach that to any running EC2 instance, essentially making it a SAN in the clouds. Amazon states that "each storage volume is automatically replicated within the same availability zone" helping with the backup scenerios and reliability of data. It doesn't seem to have it across data centers, but this is at least going to help prevent failure due to a single piece of hardware. They have also included the ability to create a "point-in-time snapshot of volumes" which will be extremely useful for the movement of data and quickly standing up a duplicate instance for testing of any sort. This is also going to be helpful as we continue to consult and help companies move their infrastructure to the clouds. We are finding that many we help have a hard time mentally moving from the physical box where they can just add hard drive capacity and rely on a file system. This will allow us to gradually and easily move their applications "as is" to the clouds without having to introduce S3 from the start for reliable storage. I am looking forward to using this service to improve our process at DigitalChalk. The next on the list to come out of the private beta is SimpleDB for me. We have already architected some solutions for SimpleDB and and just itching for its release.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hyperic AppEngine CloudStatus

Apparently Hyperic is going to be launching Google AppEngine support very very soon. I received an email from Hyperic this evening that states
...we wanted you to be the first to know that we have expanded our CloudStatus service to include Google App Engine support this morning. Additionally, we have also created the first Cloud Service Plugin to include personalized application- and cloud-specific monitoring and management using Hyperic HQ. Finally, we have also provided a few key updates to the CloudStatus website and improved some of our Amazon Web Services monitoring reporting
I view this as great news that a monitoring tool vendor has taken the charge to provide "status" for multiple cloud platforms.  I can only hope that they continue to grow their base of infrastructures that they can monitor.
Just finishing up the Creative Juice Competition site on Googles AppEngine I am really interested in how monitoring could help me.  Having complete control of Amazon's EC2 instances has made monitoring with Hyperic very simple watching everything from AWS to CPU and memory.  It appears that CloudStatus for AppEngine will allow you to monitor the service itself as a whole, Datastore metrics, Memcache and URLFetch services. Hyperic is also releasing a plugin that will allow you to monitor your application inside and outside the cloud.  I will make use of this as soon as it becomes available for download and see what I think.  You can check it all out for yourself tomorrow morning at  Enjoy!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Creative Juice Competition

Creative Juice Competition

I know, shame on me. I haven't posted anything for a month now. But today, I do have something worth writing about. I have been busy in the ether of cloud computing this past month. Obviously working on DigitalChalk which resides on the AWS cloud but I have also been working many long nights with Google's AppEngine and have released a site today which runs almost exclsively on it. The site can be found at . Creative Juice is a competition that DigitalChalk is helping sponsor that challenges students to create "value" out of a throw-away object. The contest is designed to help foster imagination, creativity, team work and entreprenuership skills. There are 5 regions across the US competing and the throw away object for each region is secret and will be revealed on the launch date for the region. I am excited about seeing what these students can come up with as value. We are still furiously working out some final details and prizes which I will soon be blogging about. Trust me, there are some really really cool prizes we are working on!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Moodle and DigitalChalk

As you can imagine, being an online delivery and publishing site for training through video and audio, we do a good bit of work for educational institutions.  This week we have announced that we are now providing single signon between Moodle and DigitalChalk as well as Moodle hosting.  Moodle is a widely used system for Course Management and creating online learning communities.  It seemed very natural for us to use our expertise in cloud computing, SaaS and education to create an offering that would allow for dynamic multimedia lessons to be delivered within the education community.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

DigitalChalk on Cloud Computing Podcast

It is always fun to hear a someone in a "sales" role talk technical.  There are always a couple of fun laughs to be had by all, but I have to hand it to our VP of sales, Tony McCune as he did a good job today on a podcast in which he was on the hotseat.
Tony was interviewed today by John Willis in his Cloud Computing podcast.  It isn't extremely technical, but it does explain some of how we are using Amazon Web Services to accomplish the architecture that we have for the DigitalChalk products.  It was great to listen in on and I have to give great props to Tony for doing a good job explaining some of the technologies we are using.  Check it out for yourself at .  On a side note, John Willis has since signed up as an instructor and you will be able to take his courses soon!  As soon as he gets the first ones posted I will let you know.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Baby Class and a Cesarean Section

Well, tonight was certainly a different one at our pregnancy class.  We got to role play a Cesarean Section taking place.  It was certainly entertaining and educational at the same time.  I highly encourage taking these classes before your first child as there is so much that I did not know to expect.  Carleen, our teacher, has been great taking us through all of the paces.  I would highly recommend looking for a class that she is teaching.  Here are some comical pictures from tonight I thought I would share.  Laura took these as I was assisting with the "delivery".

Monday, June 23, 2008

How is the Health of Amazon Web Services

I have been spending a large amount of my time lately consulting and talking about cloud computing and specifically Amazon Web Services. This is mainly because of our infrastructure sitting completely in the cloud. One of the questions that always comes up is "How do you know everything is going ok?". Let me start with saying that it does not matter if you house your application in the cloud, in a co-location facility, in the closet or on the desk next to you... it is important that if you are supporting a production application that you know what is going on with its health. This will allow you to make informed decisions with any action you need to take BEFORE (hopefully) your customers are impacted. We have several tools that we have been using on DigitalChalk to help in the monitoring of our applications. One of our core components for monitoring is Hyperic. We have customized the Hyperic tools to allow us to monitor all of our servers soup to nuts. We have spent alot of time configuring Hyperic solutions on our EC2 instances to help us have some visibility into the AWS platform and our application. The good news is that Hyperic has just released CloudStatus into beta.

For quick updates on how AWS is performing, we have been using the RSS feeds from Amazon at . With CloudStatus, we really have a better view of the historical data of the services. I am looking forward to another tool in the toolbelt and I hope it will really help to improve our monitoring capabilities and streamline our diagnosis. I am really interested to see if Hyperic will come out with a dashboard that will specifically target a single AWS account's health. That would be really nice because we have seen before that even when AWS is having trouble in some areas, others are fine.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Google Health

Most anyone that has talked for any length of time knows that I am quite the advocate of cloud computing. Storing files, sharing documents, allocating computing power, running websites, retrieving email, communicating with friends... I do all of this "in the cloud" right now using either our own software or Software as a Service. However, I wanted to know what you think about another type of application that has been released by Google now: Google Health.

If you choose, you can post your medical information with Google. Why?... Well, they believe that
you own your medical records and should have easy access to them. The way we see it, it's your information; why shouldn't you control it?
The question for me is how will the doctors, pharmacists, hospitals and other health care providers view this. Will they truly take your records that you post onto Google Health and share information back with you there? I hope that this does take off and that adoption is fast and furious, but I have my doubts. Hospitals and medical offices complain over and over again as it is just in the move to electronic medical records from their paper ones. I think that this might taint their view of yet another step in the process. However, the solution might be other service providers that would interface the record systems with Google Health. Another issue is security... I know how I feel about my records being out there in the cloud, but I am wondering how the general public feels.

Here is what Google says about their security:

We believe that your health information belongs to you, and you should decide how much you share and whom you share it with. We will never sell your data. We store your information securely and privately. Check out our privacy policy to learn more.

You are in control — you choose what you want to share and what you want to keep private.

I encourage you to go and check it out and let me know what you think! I know that there are not many providers right now that integrate, but when they come on board, will you? I have my account and am waiting for the providers in Western North Carolina to get on board. Check out About Google Health and tell me what your plans are in the comments and take the poll to the right.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gartner’s top 10 disruptive technologies 2008-2012

2008-2012? Isn't that seem like an odd span of time? With 5 years so close, why choose 4? I guess it doesn't really matter, it just struck me as odd. Technology does change quickly, I understand... but... ok ok, I will stop.

At the end of May, Gartner released their top 10 disruptive technologies for the next couple of years. This list is as follows:
  • Multicore and hybrid processors
  • Virtualisation and fabric computing
  • Social networks and social software
  • Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms
  • Web mashups
  • User Interface
  • Ubiquitous computing
  • Contextual computing
  • Augmented reality
  • Semantics
Some of the usual buzz words of course have hit the list that have been flying around for the past couple of years. As expected, cloud computing was in there. I did notice though that a term that I haven't seen a lot of press about did appear near the top: Fabric Computing. I am surprised that this did not just get pulled under the umbrella of Cloud Computing. Maybe it is because I use Amazon Web Services, and the line is really blurry between getting to pick and choose your various components and the platform as a whole. Granted it isn't as granular as what a true fabric might offer, but with Amazon's announcement this weekend of new High-CPU Instances on their EC2 platform, we are moving rapidly that way. I guess that I really like the fact that I can define my platform and pick and choose at the level that Amazon is offering. I look forward to the persistent storage coming soon! So many different definitions of the cloud are out there? Anyone else think that Fabric Computing and Cloud Computing are at least close cousins? Should they be called out separately?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cloud Computing and our Borders

I don't know what it is about our society, but it seems that instilling fear and doubt into people about any advance in technology is in vogue. If you read the recent article published by the BBC, "Storm warning for cloud computing", written by Bill Thompson, you would get the idea that cloud computing is popular, but highly unreliable, insecure and makes all your actions visible to the US government. I have to disagree in several places with Bill. One of the sections of his article is subtitled "Constant Outages". I am not sure what types of IT infrastructure that Bill has worked with but I would venture to say that he must be used to a utopia that I have not been able to experience where there are no bad hard drives, old memory chips, power outages, the occasional bad router or network issue. Some of these reasons are why I would move my infrastructure to the cloud where keeping up with all of the intricacies of operating such large systems are the business of the vendors providing the service. I have been very impressed with Amazon's ability to respond to issues and I can say that we have only experienced about 1 hour of down time in the entire year and a half we have been sitting on the "cloud". That is a far cry from the "Constant Outages" that Bill mentions. He also brings up Twitter as an example here. I use Twitter, and I think it provides a fun service, but Twitter is NOT the cloud. Just because Twitter goes down constantly does not mean the cloud is unreliable, it means Twitter is unreliable. Blame Twitter's architecture, not cloud computing or the platform.
I would also disagree that the cloud is insecure. It is as secure as you want it to be. Choose wisely what you store in the cloud and what you run in the cloud. Encryption does work, contrary to what Bill would have you believe. You do not have to publish your private keys or even perform the encryption in the cloud. You can encrypt locally and store. Again, this comes down to design and architecture. Be smart about what you store and how you store it.
Finally on the issue of the Patriot Act and the US government knowing everything about your or your business... Are you a terrorist? The Patriot Act is designed to allow the US government to protect its citizens from terrorist activity. If there is not a reason for them to suspect terrorist activity or need the information for prosecution, then you should be ok. That being said, it still comes down to making informed decisions about who your cloud computing providers are. I am not going to be signing up with anyone having a data center in Iran, Syria or North Korea... Just seems like the smart move to me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

EMC is a Slow Start to a Fast Race

With Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft (kind of) in the Cloud Computing space, EMC should step up the pace. We are already rounding out May with a recent keynote speech delivered at EMC World from CEO Joe Tucci with hardly a mention of their strategy for moving into this space. I am confused at that. It would seem that this would be of great importance and would carry alot of excitement for a company that has all of the tools in the toolbox. Here is a company with massive infrastructure, storage expertise, services capabilities, security, VM Ware and all that was said was that it is an area in which they will continue to invest. Tucci said "We are very much going to play in this cloud computing, infrastructure and services business...". And that was about it. EMC formed its Cloud Infrastructure and Services Division 3 months ago when they "aquired" former Microsoft VP Paul Maritz. I was hoping that at least a little bit of a vision would have been shared with the masses. Was bringing a veteran Microsoft guy on board to lead the charge a mistake for something so different from Microsoft's traditional market?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cloud Computing & HP with EDS?

Wow, I read it over and over again in the blogosphere that cloud computing is just the buzz phrase of the year and that it will quickly fade. I quickly dismiss comments like that, not because I don't think it is a buzz phrase, but because I know that it will not fade. It just makes sense. Today, was one of the times that I saw the "buzz" around cloud computing used to explain something that seems to be unrelated to me. HP is acquiring EDS for 13.9 billion, which is great for both and could prove to be a profitable move, but I disagree with Om Malik that it is about the "Cloud". HP could jump into the cloud game without EDS. EDS is a company that mainly deals in services and outsourcing. I see this more as a strategic move to boost profits and grow HP in the services arena. HP has the resources in hardware, data centers, and software development already to create a great offering for cloud computing without EDS. If I am completely out in left field on this one, then HP is certainly going to be very late to the game. It will take years to integrate these two organizations and get them on the same page. This is not just a couple hundred people, it is a couple hundred thousand people with completely different corporate cultures. I would gladly and warmly welcome more players in the cloud computing space, so HP, if you are joining the party... welcome, share your ideas, I am all ears. However, I really think this is about growing the business in the services arena. If so, congratulations all around as well. You have been able to do more than Microsoft and Yahoo! lately.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Reach Concert for David Gaines

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It is truly amazing what the youth are doing. Tonight was a wonderful night of music at BBC put on by two different bands. The purpose of the night was to raise money for three different causes. One of those causes really hits home with me and was very touching to be a part of. A wonderful man, father, and pastor, David Gaines, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis about a year ago. David is one of the greatest musicians that I have had the pleasure of knowing and has touched the lives of so many. That was evidenced by the benefit tonight completely organized by the youth in our community to help raise money for a lung transplant for him. He gives selflessly of his time and talents for the benefit of others and tonight, the youth wanted to show him and his family how much they cared. A love offering was taken and a portion of the money will be going to help in a small way for the expensive operation. There was a moment of the night that I could hardly hold back the tears as I watched his daughters at the concert. Amanda, the oldest sang for the audience a song that she sang on tour with the group which is special to her father. As I looked out into the crowd I saw Ashley, the youngest, holding the phone up so that her father and mother could hear. They are several hours away staying close to the hospital where the transplant will take place.

You can visit his Caring Bridge site and send him a note. I am also setting up a donation area here so that if you were unable to contribute tonight, you can donate by clicking the button below and I will make sure that 100% of the donations go to David Gaines and the family.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

IBM and DigitalChalk work to make training more accessible

Earlier this week, DigitalChalk, IBM and Hunter College announced that we are working together to make video based training more accessible for the hearing impaired. Looking ahead to our Fall Release is very exciting because of this ability. Instructors will have the ability to send the videos off for transcription and automatically include the result as Closed Captioning with the click of a button. Instead of having to mail off videos for a text transcript and then manually typing it into the system, this will be taken care of by DigitalChalk. We want to continually move forward with the goal of providing a product that is accessible to everyone.

OpenSolaris on EC2

It is going to be available, but only to a few right now. Amazon is hand picking the developers that will be able to participate in the beta service right now running OpenSolaris. If you just can't stand to wait, then you can go ahead and download a distribution that will run on x86 boxes from their download site. Sun is offering paid support for about $50 per call. I am not sure how this will work out with Amazon's own SLA. This is an area where Cloud Computing is really going to have some challenges for those who are desperate for support at all levels. You might have to buy support from Amazon and Sun to meet your needs just for the server. For companies who cannot provide the expertise that is needed to ensure the technical details of their application from top to bottom, it might start to get costly on a monthly basis. I think it is obvious that Sun is going to try to meet the needs of the enterprise customers in some ways in the cloud. When Amazon and Sun open it up to the community at large, I will certainly be interested in profiling OpenSolaris against some of the Linux flavors.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sun and Amazon... Could Be

I have always wanted to attend JavaOne having been a Java developer and architect now for more than 12 years and after seeing the hints that are flying around what might be announced tomorrow at the dinner before the conference makes me want to be there even more. Looks like Sun's CEO Jonathan Schwartz is going to make some interesting news for the blogosphere. David Berlind is attending Startup Camp for the conference and has talked about what might be happening in his blog David Berlind's Tech Radar. He says that Schwartz hinted at an Amazon with ZFS announcement for tomorrow night. This would be a great addition in many ways for the Amazon Cloud.
As it stand right now, Amazon is running an Intel based platform. I will be interested to see if the announcement involves offering some Solaris Operating System AMIs or even taking the open source codebase for ZFS and offering some of the same features on the Amazon EC2 infrastructure. This last option would be somewhat challenging without Sun's help but they have stated on their Solaris 10 Knowledge Base for ZFS site that they are looking at porting ZFS to linux. With ZFS on Amazon, we could really some amazing performance gains, virtually unlimited scalability on the file system, and much more reliable data integrity. We have had no problems with any of these so far (knock on wood) but having that extra assurance would always be welcome.
Om Malik interviewed Schwartz and asked about the availability of Amazon and Cloud Computing helping startups and what Jonathan's take was. He replied: “Do you think it would make sense for us to partner with Amazon to offer free info on the cloud? ... Then you’ll be paying attention to the announcement we make tomorrow with what we’ll be doing with Amazon.”
All of this build-up, let's see what happens! I will be very interested in seeing how this will impact Amazon EC2 and of course DigitalChalk!

Meeting a past President

Well, I guess I can't really say that I met him, but I did get a smile and a nod. Last year I met Fred Thompson at the airport in DC and said that he could be the next President.. He ran, but obviously didn't get the party nomination. Today, a true President was there with us this morning at Biltmore Baptist Church. It is always a humbling experience no matter which party you are with to meet a President. I just happened to have my camera today because of a need to take pictures of some of the volunteers. I am glad that I did! What fun.

Congressman Heath Shuler and President Bill Clinton

Standing for Worship

Carl Setterlind and Danny Edwards leading worship with President Clinton in attendance

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Snapshot of Cloud Computing, SaaS and PaaS

Peter Laird, managing architect for the WebLogic Portal, and Kent Dickson, Vice President of Strategy and Product Management at BEA, have just recently posted a good overview of the Cloud Computing, SaaS and Paas markets. Well done guys! While they do not attempt to cover everyone in the space, as that would be next to impossible, they do hit most of the major players and paint a clear picture of where these technologies sit. They have also provided a list of links that is a great reference and good fodder for research on each of the services. This is the graph they have published.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Big Blue and Google hanging out in the Clouds

Undoubtedly two of the most respected software companies in the world are teaming up. The granddaddy of software and the young whipper snapper discussed their relationship on Thursday at an IBM conference in Los Angeles, CA. I find it almost comical when I read so many blog comments on how the cloud is a fad and will fall by the wayside very quickly. With IBM throwing their hat in the ring with Google, I am not sure how many more will have to start swinging to make others believers. Schmitt is quoted as saying "It's the story of our lifetime." I am not sure if it is that big as I am hoping for the cure for cancer, but it is certainly fun! These two can provide the next wave of innovation in hardware and software that will enable the masses in cloud computing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Java 6 on Mac!

It has been a long time coming, but finally Apple has released Java 6 for the Mac. The download is 57MB, takes 127MB of space to install and works on OS X 10.5.2 or later. It was a simple install and after adding 1.6 to the Execution Environments for Eclipse, I am off to the races. Everything at first blush seems to be operating as expected. This should really please the Java development community after the backlash against Apple for not keeping a reasonable release cycle after Sun's releases. Whether you agree that it is Apple's responsibility or not to keep Java going on their operating systems, this comes as a welcomed release for Java developers. Thank you Apple! I hope with the OpenJDK initiative that Java 7 will not be a 2 year lag behind on Mac. The largest motivating factor that moved me to start using the Mac was that with the MacBook Pro I could run OS X, Windows, and Linux (choose your flavor) all on the same box. This allows me to more easily test our software on various platforms. This Java issue was one of the biggest disappointments I had when I made the move. I am glad that it is resolved.... for now. Happy Coding!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cloud Computing SLA

A funny coincidence happened to me last week. Reading a ZDNet article on Cloud Computing, I felt compelled to comment and in my comment I forecasted that we will soon have SLAs in the space. The next day Amazon announced their premium support for customers on their infrastructure. With their agreements they offer "business day technical support" with their Silver level and 24x7 support with their Gold level. Amazon continues to lead in this space and it will be a long hard road for anyone to catch up. More and more applications will move to Cloud Computing because of the price point, scalability, and the ability to only pay for what you use. SaaS has been talked about and touted for several years now, but I believe we are really just starting to see it take off.

Friday, April 11, 2008

AB Tech and Heath Shuler

Today was a big day for Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College (AB Tech) and the Small Business Center that is on their campus. Our US Congressman for the 11th District in North Carolina, Heath Shuler, came to present a check for $354,240.00 to Russ Yelton and Dr. Betty Young. This money was given to be used to help deliver and innovate clean energy technologies and also to help educate people around the globe. Representative Shuler talked about the importance of the beautiful environment that we live in and our natural resources that we have. He encourages the growth of "Green" technologies coming out of the Small Business Center and Western North Carolina. We are excited that DigitalChalk software will be providing the educational arm of this grant by delivering lessons, lectures and discussons on the clean energy initiatives.
Congressman Heath Shuler

Heath Shuler, Russ Yelton, Dr. Betty Young

Russ Yelton... Lights, Camera, ACTION

Monday, March 31, 2008

Fun at InnoVenture 2008

We had a great time at InnoVenture 2008 last week. The only regret that I have right now is that I forgot to take my camera! Those of you that know me well know that I think that is a major crime. While I don't have anything to show you now, I have been promised by Pam Lewis at AdvantageWest that I would get a couple of them from her. As soon as I do, I will put them up here. UPDATE... Thanks Pam for the photos!

Our booth

Tony at the booth... "Cheese!"

Phil Yanov has posted some of his pictures on flickr here. I presented our ideas for the future of learning on Tuesday morning to an audience of Entrepreneurs, Investors, Venture Capitalist and Educators. It was an exciting time for DigitalChalk as we were able to push our ideas out to a larger audience and see them very well recieved. There were several people attending the conference that signed up to teach and share their ideas when they came by our booth! It really has been a crazy couple of days follow the conference. Thanks to SwampFox, AB Tech and AdvantageWest for a fun time and all the introductions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Browser Wars Continue

The battle for the best web browser is alive and well. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 is in beta as well as Firefox 3.0 (beta 4) and Safari has released 3.1 today. What does this mean for the Software as a Service provider who delivers their content purely through the browser to their customers like we do at DigitalChalk?
I can tell you that I am torn. I love the standards that Microsoft claims they are committed to delivering on this time (haven't we heard that before?), Safari boasts to support, and Firefox has always been the best at delivering on. However, I can tell you that it is a major effort to ensure that your application looks and acts the same on all of these platforms. We spent countless hours making sure that our pages render in IE6, IE7, Firefox 2.0 and Safari 3.0. Now, we are faced again with another round of browsers. We can all cross our fingers and just hope that we see HTML/CSS/JavaScript work the same in all of them, but unfortunately I am a pessimist here.
The trends are also that users of Firefox upgrade quickly to the latest and greatest, while the users of Internet Explorer really lag behind. We are still seeing a mass of users, especially in the corporations, lagging behind and using Internet Explorer 6. I imagine that while Microsoft is boasting about their HTML5 and CSS 2.1 standards compliance that the world will shrug "so what" for another 2 years. There are some great features that they boast, that many developers will enjoy, such as the Developer Tools for CSS and an integrated JavaScript debugger, but it will not do much good if the user base is still on IE6. I did see an "Emulate IE7" button, which may prove handy and gives me some hope.
I love seeing software evolve and become better, but it certainly can be painful. I have a feeling that instead of just moving forward, we are going to just have to cast a bigger net in the SaaS delivery supporting IE6, IE7, IE8, Firefox 2.0, Firefox 3.0, Safari 3.0/3.1.,
So, I guess that I am still torn... If the browsers from Microsoft and Apple deliver on what they have promised, then a Thank You is in order... I just wish they would have listened and done the right thing 5 years ago.
What platforms do you plan on supporting in the near future?

Friday, February 29, 2008

InnoVenture 2008 Announces DigitalChalk as Presenter

I am excited to report that we have been selected to present our product, DigitalChalk, at InnoVenture 2008. "InnoVenture is an annual conference of innovators and entrepreneurs building personal relationships to enhance products sold to existing customers, improve the productivity of existing processes, or create new markets." We will presenting at 11:20am on March 25th at the Carolina First Center in Greenville, SC. We will also be at a booth and would love to meet you if you are attending. Feel free to drop me a message and let me know if you will be there.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Amazon Web Services

One of the best things that we have done at DigitalChalk is to make use of Amazon Web Services. Take a look at this story that was posted today by Amazon about DigitalChalks use of their web services. Using Amazon's services has helped us in many ways. Not only has it provided a very cost effective method for delivering to our customers, but it has also given us a known, reliable backbone that we can depend upon. Knowing that we are running on the same infrastructure that Amazon is running on gives me great confidence in our reliability and uptime. The services have proven to be easy to use with a very active forum and user community. So much so, that I tell everyone that I know about the technologies we are using that Amazon provides. Right now, Amazon provides server virtualization through EC2, file, data storage and backup through S3 and a messaging service through SQS which help keep DigitalChalk running around the clock. I would highly encourage you to sign up and start playing around with the services for yourself. Amazon is taking Software as a Service to a new level providing these services to anyone that wants to use them. If you have any questions at all about how you can use them as well or need help, send me a note. I would be happy to talk about how it has helped us and how it can help you or even help you get started.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Our Move to Flash

The latest release of DigitalChalk includes many new features. Some of the most important focus on our media player. Accomplishing our technical goals and delivering to you exactly what you have been asking for has been a ton of fun for us. We started on RealPlayer over a year ago now because it was able to handle many different formats and provided support of the SMIL standard for media. The problems soon outweighed the advantages. RealPlayer caused a barrier to entry for our customers because they had to download and install software into their browser. I spoke with RealPlayer because it really did provide exactly what we wanted in a solution that did not corrupt the video stream. They were unwilling to help or change the way that they deliver, so we moved on... I am glad that we did! We have now released our own Flash end to end solution which has been very exciting. The new DigitalChalk Flash Player and DigitalChalk Streaming Server has been a blessing. Our customers can use DigitalChalk without going through a cumbersome install process because 98.8% of internet users already have it installed, and those that don't have it barely notice as it installs for them in most cases. Being forced to write our own Streaming Server technology has been a blessing as well. The ideas coming just from the team and exercise in doing that have been too numerous to count. Users can now upload a video or audio file of almost any format to DigitalChalk and it will be converted to Flash and pushed out to their students. We can dynamically scale to meet demand, do two way communication instead of just push and prepare for some really cool features we are working on right now. One of those features is being able to stream closed captioning of the video and audio files to the students if they choose to see them. The doors have been flung open with this move to Flash and we want to know what you want to see next? What technologies or features would you like to see us incorporate into the flash player or into the learning experience? Who knows, it could open up whole new ways of learning!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Got Video? Training Just Got Easy has just been updated to its Winter 2008 release. This has been a release that we have been working on for more than 9 months. The underlying architecture has been improved as well as the interface. There are many more features for the instructor and student. I will detail some of these this week in other updates. For now, you can see the press release that was picked up by here

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Memorial Mission and Lighten Up For Life

The local hospital here in Asheville is helping sponsor a competition between area businesses encouraging a healthier lifestyle. The program is called Lighten up for Life and can be read about at . Why do I write about this today... Well, my wife was on the front page of the paper and was quoted from the talk she gave to some of the participants yesterday. She is the dietitian at Mission Hospital helping with this event and gave some encouraging words and tips to the people participating. You can read about it here: Mission Kicks off Lighten Up . I am proud of her and her passion for helping others. She has been such an encouragement to me and supporting me in my efforts with DigitalChalk and everything that i do and I know that she is an encouragement to others in reaching their goals with their health and eating. She teaches classes several times a week at the hospital and I am hoping to soon feature some of her tips on DigitalChalk. Good luck to all that are participating in this. I wish you all the best and I know that Laura is certainly in your corner.