Frank's Blog

Unevitable Bugs 

Now that I'm using my Mac for writing anything regarding to my thesis (my personal "notebook"), I also have a more demanding use for Keynote. Before I only used it for short presentations, say 15 slides, like the one I gave at the BPM2005 in Nancy, France. The last couple of weeks, however, I'm busily preparing some 90 minute lectures about my current research. Together they contain around 150 slides split into three Keynote files. Each Keynote file includes around 100 formulas dropped as PDFs from Equation Editor. And now there is this bug after working for some time with such (big) presentations: Used from Microsoft Powerpoint under Windows where the slide previews turned very coarse just before the software gave up, Keynote presented me the spinning beach ball each time I wanted to change the slide. Even worser, the text inside my PDFs suddenly turned crazy looking! Finally, the only things I saw in Keynote was that beach ball!

However, what I wanted to say is that either 1) Keynote and Powerpoint share virtually the same code or 2) writing a working presentation program is indeed an NP-complete problem. Have I talked about OpenOffice Impress 1.x yet? No? This software even has unsolvable problems with time and switching to the next slide while actually giving the presentation! Maybe it all gets better with the 2.0 release coming next week.
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Scientific Writing & Mac 

This time I came across some nice links regarding scientific writing with the Mac. Typically, scientific people use LaTeX for typesetting their notes, papers, articles, thesis, etc. However, sometimes you just might want a simple page, maybe a letter or slide, with a nice formula within. Then you can use software like Equation Editor. This little piece of software accepts a LaTeX math formula and creates a nice looking PDF containing the rendered formula. This formula can then be drag-and-dropped to its target location - Pages, Keynote, OmniGraffle, whatever program supports PDF (Microsoft Word works very ugly, it converts the vector graphics to a low resolution bitmap). Another nice solution is Equation Service that works the same way like Equation Editor but adds an entry to your Macs service menu. If you use an application that is integrated with this Mac-special-feature you can simply type your LaTeX equation and convert it with some keystrokes to an embedded PDF. You just need to fire up you text editor, e.g. Pages, type in your LaTeX formula, e.g. \Sum_{i=1}^x di press Alt+Shift+Left (to select the formula), and then press Option+\ to invoke the service. More useful hints about scientific writing at the Mac can be found here.
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French Cuisine 

Last week I stayed in Nancy, France for a conference on Business Process Management. While the city is a nice location to hang out long into the night (45.000 students from about 300.000 citizens), half of the restaurants are indeed italian-style. As far as I tried it out, the Pizza is very well in several locations at the old town. But what about the world-famous French cuisine? After paying the lump-sum of 500 euros for the conference I was waiting for outré lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, all we got all day long looked like this:

The nice thing about the "gala-dinner" on Wednesday was the location: The hotel de ville! Still they served the same raw meats...

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Holiday Impressions 

With a little delay I'm back again with some impressions from the last two weeks. Our holidays started with some nice looking clouds and warm breezes:

The sky returned the same every once a while, however in between heavy cloudbursts appeared. Of course we were on vacation by tent:

That made us finally gave in and we returned home. Then we had some time to explore our capital Berlin. Here is a nice little picture from somewhere in the center for you to guess what it is about:

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State of Workflow Part II: The Shifting Environment 

Still out there? Are you ready to continue the theoretical discussions? This time I want to talk about the State of Workflow Part II: The Shifting Environment.

While in the good old days the environment in which a workflow was enacted was quite static and manageable (e.g. a department, a single company) one can easily recognize a shift this time. All major players praying the support for change today. Some even sell you change! (If you don't believe take a closer look at SAP. They sell you a product called SAP NetWeaver that is "Providing the Foundation to Enable and Manage Change". An ever closer look reveals: "Can your company adapt quickly enough to respond to new challenges or seize new opportunities? With SAP NetWeaver, it can.". Wow!)

But where does the need for change arise from (besides making money)? One major point is a shift from closed to open environments. This requires the fast adaption of workflows, or nowadays called "service orchestrations". In a service orchestration, tasks are executed by services and the routing between the services is then called orchestration. In my observation there are four major shifts in the environment that lead to this situation:

  1. The environment is shifting from an accessible to an inaccessible one. In an inaccessible environment, there is no complete, accurate and up-to-date information available. If we expand the environment to the whole internet, there is much to be left in the dark which could be useful for our business, however we are simply unable to find and incorporate it.
  2. Executing a task in an open environment is more uncertain then in a closed one. There are way more possibilities to foresee and handle. However, if the environment is complex enough you can't enforce everything.
  3. Open environment tend to be constantly changing, in large parts regardless of our actions. However, our actions depend on some states of the environment.
  4. Furthermore, the number of services which can be invoked to perform a certain task is rising fast as the environment opens to the world. Even the decisions on which we base the selection of a certain service have way more input data to compute.

Think a bit about closed environments - your department, a workflow inside a company - and then about open environments. Interactions between several companies in the real world. Interactions between companies in the virtual world of the internet. Interactions between virtual companies in a virtual world?
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