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Archive for Apr 2007


Yum Hangs

I have an instance of Fedora Core 6 in VMWare that would hang every time I ran yum, the auto-updater. The only way to kill it at that point was with a SIGKILL. Yesterday I got to the point where I really wanted it to work, so I dug around a little and found a solution. The bottom line is that it's waiting for a lock to clear that never will. Doing this (after killing yum): rm -f /var/lib/rpm/__db.* solves the problem. Apparently this has been a problem since Redhat 9. I can't remember quite how I debugged these
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Adobe Open-sources Flex

Yawn... I'm not sure what the excitement is all about.
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Jeannette Wing on Computational Thinking

Tonight is Jeannette Wing's general interest talk as part of her Organick Memorial Lecture at the University of Utah. The talk is on computational thinking. Here's an article she wrote for ACM Communications. These slides are close to the ones she used tonight. Computational thinking will be a fundamental skill, like reading, writing, and arithmetic, in the 21st century. Computational thinking enables what one person cannot do alone. There are two components: abstraction and automation. CT involves thinking at more than one layer of abstraction at a time. Automation mechanizes the abstraction layers and their relationship. These allow the
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Building Emacs

I was building Emacs on a virtual machine today and realized that I've been building Emacs on various machines for nigh on twenty years. The first machine I built Emacs for was an IBM RT running AIX 2.1. That was a tough build--no one had done it before that I could find. This was before the standardized configure scripts that figured everything out for you. I learned a lot. Things have gotten considerably easier. I find that building Emacs is easier than trying to find the right thing pre-built and isn't that hard. Here's what you do. Use the
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Mikko Hypponen on Emergent Virus Threats

F-Secure is one of the leading companies devoted to the study and prevention of computer viruses, spam, and other types of malware. Last week we were lucky enough to get Mikko Hypponen, the company's Director of Anti-Virus Research, to join Scott and I in a discussion of the current status of the virus problem. Mikko first reviews his background and how he became involved in the study and prevention of malware. He discusses some of his experiences with both worms and early viruses and reviews some of the problems trying to prevent spam. He talks about how spammers are
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Virtual Screensavers

I've never been a big fan of screensavers, but on a virtual machine they seem to be a particularly bad idea. Virtual screens don't need saving, they move and are thus distracting, and they waste CPU cycles.
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Speeding Up Crypt::DH

I was installing Crypt::DH, the Perl Diffie-Hellman library today. The tests took 20 minutes on a Macbook Pro. Then I noticed a comment on an OpenID forum about "making sure the GMP Perl bindings were enabled" to speed things up. Specifically this means install Math::BigInt::GMP, as I found out, after some searching. The same tests ran in less than 10 seconds using the GMP library. That's impressive.
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Welcome Sploggers!

Chuck Knutson accidentally put out the welcome mat for sploggers and got a lot of unwelcome visitors. The first big problem was that we had installed the multi-user version of WordPress. Why did we do that? I teach a class called Computers and Society, and I have students deliver their thoughts and reactions as short posts on actual blogs in the actual blogosphere. It's an interesting experience for students to submit their homework to the world where the instructor and TA are two of a potentially larger number of random readers (including the entire class). Strangely it tends to
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Feedback for the News (and Podcasts)

Over at Scripting News, Dave is positing a system for giving feedback to the media about what stories you want to see and which you don't. This in an effort to get more personalization in the news stories we see. I've had similar thoughts about podcasting (as has Dave and others). At IT Conversations, there is a feedback mechanism. Relatively speaking, no one uses it. Part of the problem is that when you're listening to podcasts you're probably not at your computer. Part of the problem is that people don't understand the benefit. We have a recommendations engine that
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Macbook Pro Memory Woes

Sunday my Macbook Pro (Core 2 Duo) downloaded a software update and wanted to reboot, so I said "OK." When it started back up, I got three beeps and then the power light flashed. Obviously it didn't boot--it had failed the power on self test with a RAM error. Not good. I tried reseating the memory, no joy. Finally, I discovered that I could put either SIMM into the top slot and it would boot, but putting anything in the bottom slot failed. So, I booted with just the 2Gb card and made a clone of the machine to
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Q and A With Mac Hacker

At last week's CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Dino Dai Zovi (DDZ) successfully hacked into a 15 inch Mac Book Pro in response to a challenge to find exploits on the machine. Ryan Naraine has published a Q and A interview with DDZ. Interesting stuff.
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License Plates as Identity

Finding cars online(click to enlarge) The other day I was walking through the Novell parking lot and came upon the car pictured at the right. If you look at the larger image, you'll notice that the bumper sticker on the car says "Use my license plate to find me on the Internet" with the large URL: license-plate.com. Maybe it's just my bias, but I thought that this was a Web site that allowed license plates to be used as general purpose identifiers, allowing license plates to be linked to email and Web addresses. I wasn't sure what use that
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CTO Breakfast Report for April 2007

Today was bring your child to CTO Breakfast day. Not officially, but with today being Spring Break, there were a few here. I brought my son so he could visit a friend who lives south. Scott Lemon just got back from Web 2.0. The first thing he talked about was Instructables, a step-by-step collaboration site. There are all kinds of plans for creating guns with K'Nex. There are also other things, of course. You can get the slides from the talk here. He was also pretty juiced about Joost, the P2P video application from the creators of Skype. I
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The Perfect Business

Scoble has a video showing one man's implementation of the perfect business. What's the perfect business? Simple: No inventory. No employees. No marginal cost of production. No rent. No business cards. It's all online and almost run itself.
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CTO Breakfast This Friday

Our monthly CTO breakfast will be held this Friday at 8am in the Novell Cafeteria, Building G, Provo Campus. Check the CTO Breakfast page for directions and future dates. What's been on my mind lately is Seth Godin's hopeful visit to Utah in May, virtualization, and Twitter. Bring whatever topic's been gnawing at you and we'll have a good conversation. We always do. Remember, the event is free (you pay for your own breakfast) and anyone interested in high-tech companies and products is invited. You don't have to be a CTO. If you're hesitant to drive all the way
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Harnessing Decentralized Resources in Disasters

By now we know that the gunman responsible for yesterday's carnage at Virginia Tech was a South Korean student. A video-game crazed South Korean student, if you believe the other Dr. Phil. It's not too early to think about what we could do differently in the future, however. Yesterday, I received an email from David Stephenson, who's blog is still broken with some of his ideas of the role Web 2.0 technologies could play. I'm sure he won't mind me giving them broader exposure here and commenting. David said: There's NO PLACE in our society that should have been
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Technometria on Virtualization

This week's Technometria podcast is an interview with Bogomil Balkansky on virtualization. Bogomil is director of product marketing at VMWare. We had a good discussion of who's adopting virtualization now and why. We talked about virtualization in the datacenter and the desktop. I enjoyed the conversation.
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Barnett from PopTech!

I just finished watching Thomas Barnett's talk from PopTech! I like reading Barnett, but watching him is another thing altogether. He's a very good presenter and very entertaining. If you want a gentle introduction, watch the video. I don't think the audio would do this talk justice. There are some other talks on that page that look pretty interesting. Friedman is always good--I had breakfast with him one day at the Governor's mansion when I was Utah's CIO. I heard Juan Enriquez at the Governor's mansion during the Olympics and read his then new book, As the Future Catches
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Alan Kay's Early History of Smalltalk

If you're interested in programming language design, this history of Smalltalk by Alan Kay from the 1993 HOPL conference is worth reading. That was the second HOPL conference. The third is happening June 9-10 in San Diego. I'd go if it wasn't on a weekend. I refuse to do weekend conferences. Still, it looks like a great program.
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Pravda on Imus

I really hadn't intended to write any more about Imus, but then I saw a pointer to a Pravda story on Doc's blog. You'll remember that Pravda was the feared organ of state propaganda under the Soviets. Now, it appears (by the links that surround the story) that it's becoming Russia's version of Weekly World News. But, to the US War Leaders, Don Imus represented the most serious threat, to date, of the growing assault against them by America's media personalities threatening to expose the truths behind the events of September 11, 2001 and the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars; and to
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PodCorps.org

Doug Kaye, the man behind IT Conversations is launching PodCorps.org. Th goal is to create a network of podcasting stringers and event producers who can record and publish important spoken-word events anywhere in the world. One of the goals is to cover events related to the 2008 election in the US. Right now, PodCorps.org is recruiting stringers. Later, event producers will be able to tap into that pool of talent to get their events recorded. See and FAQ for more details. If you have the ability to record events and your willing to volunteer your time, take a minute
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New York to Paris, Google Style

Google can give you directions to help you get from new York to Paris. On second thought, maybe there not as much help as I originally thought. Check out line 23.
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Imus and Speech

Today on NPR, Juan Williams was dissecting the Don Imus imbroglio, including his firing, and the discussion turned to why Black rappers can get away with saying things Imus can't. Lots of pop-psychology, history, race relations, and the like were discussed, but I think it all makes this much more complicated than it is. The issue is very simple. The topic of free speech is moot in this case. This isn't a free speech issue; it's a commercial speech issue. Imus' customers (also called advertisers) are no longer willing to pay to hear him say what he did and
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Finding Seth Godin in Utah

Phil Burns wants to bring Seth Godin to Utah to speak. That would be cool. Seth's promoting his new book, The Dip. Here's the deal (from Seth's blog): In each city I'm able to get to, if you buy 5 books (in advance), you get to come hear me give a speech for free. OR, if you prefer to think of it differently, if you pay $50 to hear me speak, you get five books for free. From The Dip by Seth Godin: The Dip TourReferenced Fri Apr 13 2007 10:47:38 GMT-0600 (MDT) The catch is that before he'll
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Install the Parallels Tools!

Yesterday I did something in Parallels that I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't done before--it made a huge difference. I installed the Parallels tools in some guest OS's and compressed and defragmented their disks. The guest OS tools allow the guest OS to play better with the host. The biggest difference you'll notice is that the mouse "rolls" from the guest to the host OS without the need to push funny key combinations to "release the mouse." Not only that, drag and drop and cut and past work. Hurrah! Compressing my disk images cut them in half (6Gb to
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Is Your API Too Fat?

Kode Vicious offers a nice, short tutorial on API design in this month's ACM Queue. Getting the right balance is never easy. I face this question all the time with students in my large scale distributed computing class. KV holds up the UNIX API set for file manipulation as the classic example of good API design: The classic, and perhaps now cliché, example of a good API is the Unix open, close, read, write, ioctl set of system calls for performing file I/O. Unix cheated, in a way, by saying that all files were just streams of bytes without
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2.9 Million Georgians at Risk for Identity Theft

ZDNet news reports that "A CD containing personal information on Georgia residents has gone missing, according to the Georgia Department of Community The CD was lost by Affiliated Computer Services, a Dallas company handling claims for the health care programs, the statement said. The disc holds information on 2.9 million Georgia residents, said Lisa Marie Shekell, a Department of Community Health representative." When I was Utah's CIO, identity theft on this kind of grand scale didn't make the news as much as it does now. If I were in that position today, I'd be very scared. It's not so
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John Hagel on IT Conversations

Last month, at ETech, Doug Kaye introduced me to John Hagel. At the time, I happened to be reading a paper he and John Seely Brown had written called From Push to Pull- Emerging Models for Mobilizing Resources because it had been recommended by Werner Vogels. We had a delightful conversation over lunch. This morning I was looking at John Hagel and John Seely Brown's latest book (2005) The Only Sustainable Edge. One of the concepts is "dynamic specialization." When I googled dynamic specialization, the number two link was an IT Conversations presentation by John Seely Brown from Supernova
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Twittering Leads to Connectedness

I've been playing with Twitter since the last CTO breakfast. Interesting to go back and look at that post and realize it was before Kathy Sierra stopped blogging. Since then I've had a number of people ask me about Twitter, what it is, why it's useful, and so on. Right now, I think Twitter is more useful as an example than a tool. I've learned something about how networked applications can create a sense of presence that goes well beyond IM. The group of people who are my friends on Twitter right now are all people I know (I
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The World's Largest Particle Accelerator

I heard a two part show on NPR yesterday about a new $8 billion particle accelerator that will go into operation this November at CERN. I love this kind of thing--always have. When I was a kid, I grew up next to the National Reactor Testing Station (now the INEEL) in Idaho. There are over 60 nuclear reactors there (only a few are still operational). Names like the Experimental Breeder Reactor were common in my childhood and I just grew up being fascinated by all of it. The new accelerator is simply amazing. Of course, the US doesn't do
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Miguel on Mono

In this week's Technometria podcast, Scott, Ben, and I talk with Miguel de Icaza, the founder and force behind the Mono project. We had a great discussion about the project's history, purpose, and architecture. We also got into some discussion of programming languages in general. I think you'll enjoy it. One program note: Matt Asay, who has been a co-host on Technometria for many months has had to pull back on his involvement. Ben Galbraith, a good friend and great technologist, has joined Scott and I in our weekly show.
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TechNation Audio Mixup

The audio for last week's TechNation and BioTech nation shows were identical due to a naming problem. That problems been corrected, so if you're a fan of either program, I encourage you to download them again and make sure you've got the right shows: Kim Stanley Robinson - Global Warming BioTech Nation - Stem Cells & the BioBank My apologies for the trouble.
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Barnett's Grand Unifying Theory

Thomas Barnett, who I interviewed on IT Conversations 18 months ago is in Alaska and writing some very good stuff. I love to see his spin on the news--of course that's because I agree with him so often! The very definition of genius. Just read a few of the postings from April 4th. For example: Those who protest Nixon's trip to China... Plant the flag and give 'em the vector Economic freedom trumps political freedom As I've said before (I think) Barnett's work provides a backdrop on which you can pin a ton of seemingly unrelated global events and
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Cloning Machines and Race Conditions

While I've been playing with VMWare Fusion, I've simultaneously been doing some testing of NextPage's Document Retention product for an InfoWorld review. I needed two machines, so naturally, I used virtual machines (in Parallels, as it turns out). Being lazy, I did as much set up on one machine as I could before I cloned it. I recognized that I needed different identities on these machines for my test, so I got two different activations from NextPage, but if I hadn't, would the software have worked, seemed like it worked, or failed completely? I'm not talking about "work" in
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VMWare Fusion Beta 3 Released

I downloaded the 3rd beta release of VMWare Fusion today and spent some time playing with it. Fusion is the desktop virtualization application from VMWare for OS X. You can download it here and try it out for yourself for free, it you like. I wrote up my thoughts about VMWare Fusion and posted them at Between the Lines, if you're interested.
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Provo Second on Forbes List

Forbes magazine lists Provo Utah as second on their list of Best Places For Business And Careers. Raleigh, NC was number one and Boise, ID was third. That's good company. After listening to Richard Florida on IT Conversations a few years back, I bought his book The Rise of the Creative Class. Provo gets a mention there as well as a good place for doing business. Florida talks a great deal about what metropolitan areas can do to become magnets for creative people. Forbes is capturing a lot of that in their list; here are the components: Colleges -
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Top Ten IT Conversations Shows for March 2007

Here's the top ten shows on IT Conversations (by total number of downloads) for March 2007. The ratings are included as well. Robert Sutton - Tech Nation (Rating: 3.67) Outsourcing BioTech Panel - Tech Nation Peter Barth, Francis Chan - Tech Nation (Rating: 3.33) John Voelcker, Glenn Zorpette - Tech Cars Roundtable (Rating: 3.17) Doc Searls - Technometria: The Giant Zero (Rating: 3.83) Ken Majer - Productivity and Profitability Lonn Johnston - Technometria: High Tech PR (Rating: 3.71) David Lawrence - Instantly Irresistible and Perfectly Passionate (Rating: 4.25) Dr. Richard Ho & Randy Scott - BioTech Nation (Rating: 3.71)
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2007 Organick Lecture: Jeannette Wing

This year's Organick Lecture at the University of Utah will be delivered by Jeannette Wing, President's Professor of Computer Science and Head of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. In keeping with tradition, the lecture consists of two parts, a general interest lecture and a research lecture. The general interest lecture, entitled "Computational Thinking" will be on Wed April 25, 2007 at 7:30 p.m. in the 220 Aline Wilmot Skaggs Biology Research Building on the University of Utah campus. The research lecture will be on "Automatic Generation and Analysis of Attack Graphs" and will be given on Thursday, April
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Squinting at Your Browser

Dave and I are about the same age. Maybe that's why his post wishing for per-site text-size options in browsers struck a nerve. We're both at the point where small type just looks like too much work. The answer seems to be the minimum font size option in Firefox. Set it in preferences under Content -> Fonts & Colors -> Advanced. Following Dave's lead, I set it to 13 and life is better.
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My Backup Script on OS X

It's sysadmin script day on Technometria. Earlier, I posted and explained by script for cleaning up unwanted files in Linux. Later this afternoon Kelly Flanagan asked me how I did backups, so I decided to clean up my backup script and post it for all to see. First, let me explain that my goal here is to produce a copy of my files. I'm not trying to do imcrementals. This protects me from disk failure, but not my own stupidity. I used to use Synchronize! Pro for backups. It had a few really nice advantages. First if created an
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Java and IP Addresses

A few weeks ago, I cut over my blog and several other Web sites to a new, much fast server. I don't know that it's made much difference in how fast people retrieve my blog since it's mostly static, but it's made a great deal of difference to me in posting speed and other back office functions. What's been curious to me is that the old server continues to get a few hits. I did a little exploring today and discovered a few interesting things. First, all of the hits are for RSS feeds of one kind of another.
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Drummond Reed on XRI and Identity

This week on the Technometria podcast, Scott and I talk with Drummond Reed about XRI, the eXtensible Resource Identifier. With respect to the podcast, Drummond says: Last week I had a long talk about XRI with Phil Windley and Scott Lemon that they just posted as an IT Conversations podcast. If you ever wanted to know the full XRI story from start to finish (verbally, at least), this is the podcast for you. Phil tends to draw out the details from me, so there's quite a bit of "verbal whiteboarding" (I live for whiteboards), but altogether it amounts the
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Open Source Conversations

After an experiment of almost a year, Gigavox Media has decided to fold Open Source Conversations back in IT Conversations. Frankly this is a decision I've hoped for for some time. At the time Open Source Conversations was created, there was a lot of open source shows coming to IT Conversations and Gigavox was anxious to create sister channels for IT Conversations. I like not splitting things up, but I also recognize that as more and more material is published on IT Conversations, listeners have a tough time figuring out what to listen to. I didn't want to lose
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Defrag Conference

Eric Nolin, who helped organize and build Digital Identity World with Phil Becker is starting a new conference with Phil and Brad Feld (of Mobius VC) called "Defrag." From the "About" page: Defrag is the first conference focused solely on the internet-based tools that transform loads of information into layers of knowledge, and accelerate the "aha" moment. Defrag is about the space that lives in between knowledge management, "social" networking, collaboration and business intelligence. Defrag is not a version number. Rather it's a gathering place for the growing community of implementers, users, builders and thinkers that are working on
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Cleaning Up Unwanted Files in Linux

One of my grad students just went to remove some unwanted, automatically created files in his directory and accidentally deleted some things he wanted. I use a script to do clean ups to prevent these kinds of silly errors (which we're all prone to). Here's the script: #!/bin/bash if [ ! -e $HOME/.rmd ] then mkdir $HOME/.rmd fi find $HOME \\( -name '.rmd' -prune \\) -o \\ \\( -name '*~' \\ -o -name ',*' \\ -o -name '#*#' \\ -o -name '*.bak'\\ -o -name '*.backup' -atime +5\\ -o -name 'core'\\ \\) \\ -print -exec mv -f {} $HOME/.rmd \\;
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Kathy Sierra, Chris Locke, and Due Process

The post I made about Kathy Sierra's harassment at the hands of trolls continues to see considerable traffic from Google. Over the week end, Kathy and Chris Locke (who was linked to the harassing posts in Kathy's original post, but never shown to be directly involved) published a coordinated statement prior to a joint appearance on CNN today. I haven't found the CNN piece--it was probably pre-empted by the tsunami news--but will update this post with a link when it airs. Here's Kathy's statement about the statement. Alan Herrell was also linked by Kathy to the incidents. As this
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Interview with Innovators with Jon Udell

Jon Udell's been doing his Friday Podcast for some time now. For almost as long, I've been trying to get him to do it on IT Conversations. He was willing, but there were some hurdles. I'm happy to report that the last hurdle was cleared a few weeks ago and last Friday I published Jon's first show, an interview with Phil Libin, in a new series on IT Conversations. Jon won't be a stranger to longtime IT Conversations listeners who will remember him as regular member of the original Gillmor Gang. Jon also appeared recently on Technometria with Scott
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