Pings & Packets from eWEEK Labs-14

FastTrack tames PM complexities ... WordPress 2.0 needs bit of styling ... ID-WSF's social skills in question.

FastTrack Tames PM Complexities

Companies looking for an alternative to Microsofts Project or a way to bring Mac OS users into a Project environment will find AEC Softwares FastTrack Schedule 9 a cost-effective and well-designed option.

I like the way FastTrack Schedule makes project management more approachable for users who arent skilled in that art, while still providing plenty of useful tools for managing project complexities such as costing and dependencies. And, priced at $349 per user for either Windows or Mac OS versions, FastTrack Schedule 9 is considerably more affordable than the $999-per- user cost of Microsofts Project Professional 2003.

FastTrack Schedule allowed me to manage costing information associated with resources, including the ability to define both first-use and rate costs for a given resource. At the presentation layer, the application provides schedule, calendar and resource views. I could see more detail on a given task or resource by placing the cursor over a given element, with additional information available in the hover window through embedded links .

AEC Software also has done a good job of making it easy to share project plan information. Not only does the product work with Project files, but users can also share information through iCalendar and XML file formats—specifically, the Microsoft Project XML file format.

For more information, go to www.aecsoftware.com.

--Michael Caton

WordPress 2.0 Needs Bit of Styling

Change isnt always good. I gave the free, open-source WordPress 1.5 a favorable review last year and even picked it as my best product of the year. But just like when your significant other comes home with a haircut you cant stand, the recently released WordPress 2.0 has left me feeling somewhat disappointed.

There are some good things about the new release, which became available last month: I love the added ability to create a new category directly from the post-writing interface, a feature that should be standard in any blogging system. I like the improved roles system for users, which replaces previous versions bizarro level system. Its a big improvement that the post preview area now actually reflects what posts will look like in the real blog, and the very good DB Backup plug-in has been added to the default installation.

WordPress 2.0 also adds a WYSIWYG editor that works fine and will probably be appreciated by many users. But I had to turn it off because it frustrated me like the aforementioned bad haircut.

An upload option has been added to the posting screen, which seems like a good idea. But the ability to customize the file types that can be uploaded has been removed; the upload now automatically creates new folders for every date, and it doesnt provide easy browsing of previously uploaded files.

Luckily, Version 2.0 of WordPress still being WordPress, its fully customizable. So I turned off the editor and uploaded my favored Image browsing plug-in, and everything is right in the world once again.

To download WordPress 2.0, go to www.wordpress.org.

--Jim Rapoza

ID-WSFs Social Skills in Question

The Liberty Alliance project earlier this month released ID-Web Services Framework 2.0, designed for deploying and managing identity-based Web services.

In addition, the Liberty Alliance (https://www. projectliberty.org) added a new component in ID-WSF 2.0 called People Service, which blazes some new trails for identity management. People Service is supposed to set the stage for businesses and service providers to provide applications that will let users move more freely in the context of their social networks.

While applications for People Service dont yet exist, the Liberty Alliance did provide some examples of what it might offer. For instance, if Im a subscriber to a photo service and want to share pictures of my latest trip with a few friends, a People Service-enabled application would let me do so without forcing my friends to subscribe to the service. In an enterprise, an employee at Company A could share calendars and e-mail lists with employees at Company B and Company C.

That all sounds great, but using People Service in applications at the enterprise level does raise some questions for me. Chief among them: How will all these so-called social connections be managed?

Ill spend some time going over the spec to see what provisions are included for external monitoring and management of data sharing. IT managers should put People Service on their watch list and look for similar developments from the most significant nonmember of the Liberty Alliance, Microsoft.

--Cameron Sturdevant