News bits

I get a lot of e-mail. Even worse, I squirrel it all away; right now my indexer says I've got something upwind of half a million e-mail messages filed. Anyhow, among the flood of people pointing out mistakes on my Web pages, publishers wondering where the next chapter I owe them is, and people who want to give me ten million dollars, I do get stuff that's of interest (I hope) to other developers. Today I thought I'd pass along a few bits of news that I intercepted from the flood.

Let's start with VMware, who have just released a new product called VMware ACE. ACE stands for Assured Computing Environment, and it's designed as a way for IT managers to rein in laptops, telecommuter, and contractor computers. The idea is that you can centrally provision a locked-down virtual machine that lets users get on to the corporate intranet without letting them run amok. These VMs can be time-limited and locked down, making them a nice way to extend the notion of a corporate managed desktop to the other side of the firewall. Pricing starts at $995 for the manager and four client licenses, and you can download a trial version.

A couple of features of ACE catch my eye as potentially useful for developers, even outside of the benefits to enterprise IT of central manageability and standardization. First, because ACE virtual machines can be encrypted, it might be nice to use on a laptop to hold everything you're working on out of the office. I've had a laptop stolen myself, and apart from the financial nuisance (which was considerable), there was the worry about my clients' data being in unknown hands. Second, ACE means you can make a group of disparate machines all look like they're running the same hardware - this could be a real plus if you're nursing along a cantankerous collection of hardware (say, my own current test network).

Also doing some interesting work is StrikeIron, whose online tools for working with Web Services I've mentioned before. Basically, they provide a pay-as-you-go infrastructure for working with a variety of commerical Web services in your browser or directly from Excel. Recent additions to their services (which already included things like Dun & Bradstreet listings, Do Not Call lists, and US address verification) include reverse phone lookups updated every 24 hours, financial market indices, and address verification in 240 countries. In addition to the pay-per-use stuff, they also have some free services such as a Web services directory and online analysis of Web services.

Finally, NS BASIC has been making easy-to-use BASIC compilers for the Palm and Windows Mobile platforms for quite a while. Now they've taken that same language and ported it back to the desktop. Despite being a relatively simple language, it includes advanced features like ADO data connectivity and support for sharing data with PocketPC and PalmOS devices. It can talk to COM applications and produces standalone executables. Looks like a good alternative if you like BASIC but aren't thrilled with today's gargantuan industrial-strength VB.NET. Demo download on the site, $149.95 regular price, introductory price of $99.95 until January 31.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.