Wednesday, October 28, 2009

MOST WANTED: over 70 new features in 2010 Altova product lineup


I'm very excited that Altova has announced version 2010 of our entire product line today. This new release of our most popular XML, Database, UML, and Web Services tools includes over 70 new features that our customers have asked for.
Instead of pushing some proprietary platform or other hidden agenda, we at Altova believe in delivering exactly those features that our users need the most. We’ve listened to your feedback via our discussion forums, support requests, and social networking sites and put together a list of the MOST WANTED features that will help you stay at the cutting edge of technology and deliver the best results.
Several key feature areas are: a totally new design paradigm in StyleVision that makes stylesheet design more productive and enables a whole new generation of electronic forms based on Authentic; WSDL 2.0 support; substantial XBRL enhancements; schema comparison/differencing for XML and databases; SysML support in UModel; JSON support in XMLSpy; and much, much more.
I will be writing more about individual features in the future, but for now I suggest you go to the Altova Blog and read the announcement and also check out the press release.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Get Twitter and Facebook results (and much more) in your search

OK, so the news are abuzz in recent days about Google adding real-time Twitter data to their search results and there is also a lot of blogging going on about Microsoft adding Twitter search to Bing. But the real news has been totally overlooked by the majority of tech blogs and news media until now: earlier this week kikin announced the start of their public beta on their blog by posting “we are live!

KikinLogo I’ve long been following kikin and was lucky enough to be one of their early testers, so I’ve been using the service for several months now – and I wouldn’t know what to do without it anymore. Kikin does one thing that neither a Google nor a Bing native Twitter or Facebook search can do: it gives me personalized and relevant search results from my feeds and my favorite websites right within the standard Google or Bing results and it lets me customize and select those personalized results in a very intuitive manner.

For example, since I shop on Amazon a lot, when I search for “Marblehead” on Bing, kikin will display personalized search results above the normal bing results that are relevant for me – in this case I find a great book by Ulrike Welsch that captures Marblehead in awesome photos:

KikinBingAmazon

As you can see, kikin has added these results above the normal search results, so you don’t have to change your browsing or surfing behavior or use a different search engine. There are several tabs that let you pick from which source you want to see relevant results, for example if I do the same search in Google and click on the Facebook tab in kikin, I see results directly from my Facebook news feed (i.e. only results posted by my friends on Facebook):

KikinGoogleFacebook

And obviously, if I click on Twitter, I can see relevant results only from people whom I follow, or I can even go a step further and only see relevant results that are directly addressed to me on Twitter:

KikinBingTwitter

By default, kikin only takes up very little space, so you still see your natural search results below, but if you want to focus on more results from one of your sources, you can expand the kikin box by clicking on the green plus sign in the lower right corner:

KikinGoogleFacebookLarge

The truly remarkable thing about kikin is that it is non-invasive. If there are no relevant results in any of your feeds or favorite websites, then it won’t interfere and will just display the natural search result. Even if that is the case, kikin still adds tremendous value to that result, because it has a built-in video player enhancement that lets you watch every video you find within the natural search result directly within your result page rather than having to click through to the site:

KikinVideoPlayer

So how does kikin do all of that? Kikin is a free browser plug-in that is currently available for Safari (on the Macintosh), Internet Explorer and FireFox (on WIndows). You can directly download and install the kikin plug-in from their website. Once you’ve installed the plug-in, you can use the Settings page to connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts:

KikinConnect

In all my recent testing I’ve found kikin to be invaluable in unearthing highly relevant content that is otherwise hidden in my social stream: by augmenting every Google or Bing search with results from my social media interactions, I find valuable information that would otherwise remain hidden, or would only be accessible if I repeated my search in three places.

And it is this deeply personalized addition to the search results that makes kikin so valuable. All those newly announced Search partnerships between Twitter and Bing or Google may be great, if you want to search the entire public stream for information (e.g. ski conditions in Colorado), but the results are not going to be as important to you, as results specifically from your actual friends on Facebook or information from people you follow on Twitter or from other websites you frequently visit. That is the true power of kikin: to augment search results with highly relevant and deeply personalized content.

So is kikin perfect? Of course not, it is just the first public beta version and I’m sure that they’ll iron out some minor issues over the next several months as they get reported by users. My only two complaints about kikin at this point in time are (a) that is doesn’t work with Chrome yet (but they’ve already announced that Chrome support will be coming) and (b) that if you use multiple browsers or multiple computers you have to connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts separately for each installation. I would probably have preferred to create one account on the kikin website, connect with my other social media accounts, and then just provided that one account login for each installation.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Altova at Oracle OpenWorld 2009

Today was the first big day at Oracle OpenWorld 2009 in San Francisco and Altova is exhibiting at booth# 3750 in the Moscone West hall this year.

We had great traffic at our booth already on the first day and lots of people were interested in how MapForce can help them to move data into and out of the database and how to transform different data formats quickly and efficiently. Especially the new XBRL and HL7 data formats supported by MapForce 2009 appeared to be exactly what people wanted.
There was also a lot of interest in the database differencing features of DiffDog and DatabaseSpy - it appears that a lot of people are in the process of migrating data between systems, and that is exactly where these tools can add tremendous value.
There is a also a lot of talk about MySQL at the show this year - due to Oracle's acquisition of Sun - and I'm happy to report that all our tools do, of course, work great with both Oracle and MySQL as well as all other major databases.
If you are at the show this year, make sure you visit our booth and say hello. I am usually at the booth every morning...

Using the iPhone to pay at Starbucks

There is no use denying: I've been a big fan of Starbucks' coffees for many years and have had a Starbucks Gold card ever since it came out. But I was intrigued to learn a few weeks ago that Starbucks announced Starbucks Card Mobile - an iPhone app that lets you enter your Starbucks card# on the iPhone and you can then use that app to not only check your card balance, but also to pay at certain select Starbucks locations. These test locations are currently only in the Seattle and Silicon Valley areas, and since I am staying in San Francisco for Oracle World this week and met with some friends in the Valley for brunch yesterday, I headed to a Starbucks in Mountain View before driving back to the city.
The iPhone app has a nicely designed user interface and is extremely easy to use. When you are ready to pay, you start the app, enter a PIN code and hit the "Touch to Pay" button. Then you wave your iPhone in front of the scanner of the register at the checkout while it displays this screen.

Once you are done, you hit the "Touch when done" button and the app returns to the balance screen, where you can immediately see the balance after your payment has been processed.

And you can also get a journal of all recent transactions on your card - both those done via the iPhone app and does that were completed using the regular Gold Card in stores that don't yet accept the iPhone app.

All I can say is that this app makes total sense. No more digging for your wallet and fidgeting with the plastic card. Instead - since I use the iPhone all the time when standing in line - I just open the app and wave my iPhone at the scanner to pay. Very cool. I hope Starbucks rolls this out in stores all across the country soon....