Aug 26

Microsoft Forefront -A New Roadblock For Google Apps E-mail Conversions

I recently converted a 45 seat company from hosted Exchange to Google Apps. All was working well. Then.....

A few weeks later when we deactivated Exchange, I began to get a few complaints that some people sending us e-mails were receiving bounce messages. A quick glance at the messages seemed to indicate that the senders were somehow still sending the messages to the old host. So, I felt that the rejections were exactly as they should be, and I advised the senders to determine why they were not updating their MX records, as the vast majority was working fine.

That got me nowhere and the complaints escalated with more companies reporting the same issue. Finally, one of our affiliate law firms with the issue worked through it with Microsoft, although I could not believe the solution at first.

Apparently, our former host also subscribed to Forefront (from Microsoft) which provides some security and policy enforcement. It also nails down the IP address of the mail server for ALL users across Forefront. So, no matter what the MX record says mail will be routed by IP for all Forefront users. This occurs even if the MX record is changed and the old Exchange server is removed.

The solution is to remove the domain from Forefront which must be done by request to the Forefront service by the Forefront/Old Exchange client.

Now all mail from all external companies is flowing correctly to Google Apps.

I have not found ANY mention of this issue on the web or in Google Apps documentation.

This impacted our receipt of mail from several banks, law firms and public authorities (all Forefront users).

By: Tom Brander Google +:
Aug 02

Mid Year Alabama Real Estate Update

This was presented to the Alabama Center For Real Estate Advisory Board on August 2, 2012.

By: Tom Brander
Jul 26

Real Estate And the Net, Reference

Updated as of 10/25/2012

The slide show below is the class reference material for the course which serves as an overview of how to use the Internet to effectively market your company and yourself, There are numerous links with additional reference material. A lot of additional material is covered in the verbal presentation but I think you will find some useful stuff here, no matter what your current level of expertise.

Many thanks to the fine people, Particularly Grayson Glaze, the director at the Alabama Center for Real Estate for Sponsoring me to develop and present the course

Market review material is here:" target="_blank">Market Review

Jul 10

Real Estate And The Net, Course

The Birmingham Commercial REALTORS Council (BCRC) announces that Tom Brander, a distinguished IT & real estate expert, will provide a new technology course for the real estate industry on Thursday, July 26th, at the office of Burr Forman atop the Wells Fargo Tower in downtown Birmingham. Mr. Brander, an ACRE real estate instructor, brings his knowledge-based solutions to BCRC's new educational summer series entitled Transformation Track to Excellence. The Track is designed to bring quality, best-in-class and "new" commercial related educational and training course offerings to Birmingham.

About the Course: "Real Estate and The Net"

Tom Brander.jpgTom Brander, IT & real estate expert, will instruct a new technology course for BCRC's Transformation Track to Excellence on July 26th.
Tom Brander and ACRE (Alabama Center for Real Estate) have collaborated to provide an up to date course on how to maximize the “Internet for Real Estate Professionals”. The course has been approved for three hours of continuing education (CE) by the Alabama Real Estate Commission.

In this fast paced course attendees will be exposed to the “best practices” in internet marketing, including web site use, mobile marketing, personal branding, social networking and much more. The course will also explain by example how to get the most out of various Google services going way beyond the basics of Gmail and Google Docs (now known as Drive). 

What is the “Cloud” and how can it help me? There are many cloud based services available for real estate marketing use at low or no cost. Many, but not all of these tools are provided by Google.

No matter what your level of knowledge, attendees will come away from the course with an array of new tools which can be used both within your firm and with your clients and prospects. This course is intentionally fast paced in order to introduce a number of options and references which will allow attendees to explore further areas of interest to you and your company after the class. In short, if you are an advanced user of technology, you will be exposed to new and different ways of using tools, and if you are just trying to get aboard the technology bandwagon this course will provide a great guided introduction.

Online registration is now open here for all courses including those instructed by Tom Brander.

Click here for registration form that you can fax to BAR.

BCRC would like to recognize and thank the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) for its invaluable support with the Track's conception and delivery.  

About the Instructor. Tom Brander’s experience includes 10 years at BBVA Compass as the Head of Information Technology  and 10 years with Citigroup in various locations, including 2 years in Sydney, Australia implementing the technology  for Citibank’s entry into the Australian marketplace. He is an early adopter of all things technology related and loves to keep up with and explore the next new thing. His company, OSWCO, LLC (Open SoftWare Company) Is an authorized Google Reseller and can be located at He produces The Rudulph/Brander Monthly Real Estate Report in three markets: Birmingham, Huntsville, and Baldwin County, a summary of which appears monthly at Tom also co-produces the ACRE quarterly Real Estate Sentiment Index and report in conjunction with ACRE and provided the programming for the ACRE datacenter gadget which can be seen on the ACRE home page  He is a senior member of the ACRE Leadership Council and member of the speaker selection committee for the Python software conference and the OSCON conference. Tom has attended the last two years of the worldwide Google IO developers conferences.

Google +:

About BCRC. The BCRC was founded in 2005 by a group of professionals committed to building an organization much like BAR; one which serves the specific needs, concerns and interests of commercial real estate practitioners. Today, BCRC strives to enhance communication among the many organizations representing the commercial real estate community. In the process, it's our goal to help increase the number, and the quality, of professional opportunities for all our members.  

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our statewide ACRE Partners.

Jun 25

Google IO, My Live stream

Well, they made it available so I thought I'd give it a try.. Stay tuned!!

Jun 21

Core Python Applications Programming, Third Ed. Book Review

Book Review: Core Python Applications Programming, Third Edition, Wesley J. Chun, March 2012, isbn 0-13-267620-9

Do you have a good friend who can help guide you through learning many of the technologies that you can apply Python to? This book may help!

Core Python

Learning Python is at its most basic level pretty simple but learning the ecco system of Python and its associated technologies is a vast undertaking. There are a huge number of resources on the web and in books for learning the environment. The “Core Python” series from Wesley Chun stands out for its thorough explanation of the environment into which the Python language is being used on a practical level. His books go beyond the language of Python and provide very useful explanation of the underlying technologies.

For example when he introduces Python for Web programming he takes you on a gentle tour of how the web and web servers work and the role of web development. Only then does he begin to show code examples which illustrate the use of the underlying components. If you already really understand all this you will find these explanations useful review or perhaps annoying. I find it very useful.

This book is aimed at the intermediate level programmer who already has a good understanding of basic Python syntax and the operating environment. No installation instructions here!

This Third edition, leaves out all of the basic language description from the earlier work (part 1 of the earlier edition some 400 pages). So if you need references for basic language constructs you will need to refer to the earlier book or alternatively the Python Documentation or one of the many other excellent reference book on the topic.

This book is entitled: “Third Edition” and the 1st section of the book is practically identical with the same chapters from part 2 of the Second Edition. Part one covers:

  1. Regular expressions
  2. Network Programming
  3. Internet client Programming
  4. Multithreaded Programming
  5. GUI Programming
  6. Database Programming
  7. Programming Microsoft Office
  8. Extending Python

The Third edition, leaves out all of the basic language description for the earlier work (part 1 of the earlier edition some 400 pages).

The all new section 2 is particularly helpful in providing “from the ground up” description of the theory and actual code of how the web works. While it is possible to gain this material from other documents, the style and level presented here is very clear and helpful in explaining the fundamentals in such a way as that can be built upon with ease.

I found the Django explanations particularly well done. Each of the major components of Django is clearly spelled out and there is plenty of explanatory code.

The Third edition also adds an all new part 2 which covers:

  1. Web Clients and Servers
  2. Web Programming: CGI and WSGI
  3. Web Frameworks:Django
  4. Cloud Computing:Google App Engine
  5. Web Services

The web topics above serve as an excellent primer on all things web. In particular the author does not assume you come from a PHP or other web background so nothing is taken for granted. This section would well serve anyone who is just beginning their career in web programming.

And then Part 3

  1. Text Processing
  2. Miscellaneous

As a personal note I was slightly disappointed to see very little emphasis placed on testing and debugging. I have been slowly picking up knowledge in this area, but find that although the Python community strongly supports built in testing for code, few teaching resources include it in their course material. Similarly, the course material generally assumes that if you follow the code examples you won’t need to see debugging or stack traces, so again this material is not generally included in most teaching material. Maybe that is a set of topics for the fourth edition?

Still all in all the material and topic selection is very well done. I learned a great deal and now just need to code more!

The publisher provided me with a review copy, Thank you!

I highly recommend the book.

Apr 22

Google for Entrepreneurs, Nashville

By Tom Brander

The Google for Entrepreneurs One Day Conference held in Nashville on April 19, 2012 was very well done. Even though I follow Google closely, I still learned quite a bit as well as cementing past knowledge. The conference page and schedule, along with speaker bios, follows:

Update: the below site now has a nice summary and links to some of the presentation material.

Google provided the following top notch lineup of speakers from Google:

      Most of the speakers indicated that they would make the presentation materials available, however so far I have not seen where or how.

      The volunteer organizers from the people of FLO {thinkery} did a great job and I’m sorry I did not get a chance to get to know them and thank them in person.

      The presentations were of uniformly high quality.

      The audience was surprisingly diverse with a healthy percentage being from the music/entertainment industry, which of course makes sense given the impact that the internet is having on that industry, and the role it plays in the Nashville community.

      Unfortunately, I was dragged away a few times by phone calls from a client about an uppity router, and a newspaper phone interview which caused me to miss some key parts of a few talks. As is so often the case with Google, the information density of the talks was very high.

      Mary kicked things off by noting that this event was the first time that Google had gone out to smaller markets with a group to provide 1st hand information in person. She indicated that next week the team would be in Minneapolis. I later spoke to her about getting Birmingham on their radar for a future event, but we will have some work to do to achieve this.

      Mary also highlighted many projects which Google has sparked around the world including crowdsourced mapping in underdeveloped areas andcommunications in politically sensitive countries.

      Bridgett reviewed a number of lesser known tools for understanding your markets, including Google Correlate, Public Data Explorer, and Fusion Tables.

      Carl gave a helpful presentation on using search and ad placement and tools. Of all the presentations, I found his two to be the most helpful to me since I do not use these features as much. While I am generally familiar with the area, the detailed explanations which he provided will enable me to be considerably more helpful and effective for my clients. I was able to spend some time with Carl after lunch and ask some specific questions about Real Estate Marketing, which as he had pointed out was a crowded market and therefore more challenging to breakthrough. He laughed and mentioned that he is a part time Real Estate Agent, as well as helping out some friends in that area, in San Francisco, a highly competitive market. He provided me with some very helpful hints which I doubt I would have ever figured out on my own.. And no I’m not giving them away here! (feel free to call though!)

      Steve and Timothy gave a very insightful talk on how to effectively use G+ for business. Now Google + is still very new but it has already gotten significant traction in many dimensions. Perhaps the most significant is the G+ button.. To the extent that this is used by your circle to highlight your pages it will influence search results for people in your circle. I have found this quite helpful. People I know tend to have somewhat similar interests and tastes, they often find things before I do, so I am more likely to click on something that they have indicated is useful. There are many other aspects of G+ that are still emerging such as Hangouts..

      Margaret gave a great presentation on “Monetizing Your Content”. It was rife with examples of great success stories of people making substantial incomes off of Youtube and G+. One highlighted success story is . She provided excellent suggestions on how to get started. The takeaway message was: Get started now! It is still a ground floor opportunity.

      Carl and Bridgette provided a deep dive into analytics and website optimizer which I missed most of due to those phone calls.

      Timothy showed how to put up a basic App-engine app using Python, then showed off some of the Google api playground, followed by material on G+ api interaction.

      There was an open floor Question and Answer session where the audience attempted to get as much undisclosed information from the Google staff as possible, and the Google staff did their best to provide what information they could without violating company confidentiality.

      Alex Curtis presented material on the Creators Freedom Project which included a panel from the Nashville music industry. They discussed the issues and opportunities presented by the new internet technologies and distribution channels and the question of how the industry and artists can make money in the new environment.

      Margaret gave another talk about getting on with content creation with Youtube.

      Derek Slater gave some insight on the regulatory process and the need for all of us to have our voices heard in addition to the Google effort.

      Drinks and snacks followed, and I saw that dancing was on the schedule, but I had to leave for the 3 hour drive home.

      I’m looking forward to seeing some of the Google faces at Google IO in June, although with over 5,500 expected, finding anyone in the crowd will be hard if not impossible!

    Apr 22

    Mobile Webapps Using Google as Datasource

    See the notes below for how this is done.. The above gadget provided to the University of Alabama uses Google spreadsheets as the datasource so that non-technical users can update the data without having a complicated user interface. The code is well commented, you can use the view source to see how it works.
    Jan 05

    How to be more productive in 2012

    How to be more productive in 2012 or why don’t I get more stuff done?

    As I looked back at 2011 I decided to analyze my productivity:

    I get the rote stuff done:

    1. Monthly reports on (residential real estate performance in Alabama) and the longer form that I produce for subscribers.
    2. Quarterly Real Estate Surveys and reports for The Alabama Center for Real Estate
    3. Two Revisions to the Real Estate Gadget for The Alabama Center for Real Estate
    4. Additional specialized reports on real estate which provide detailed market analysis to guide investment decisions for clients
    5. Developed a basic theory for forecasting local real estate markets, tested, and did initial implementations. (more to come)
    6. Redid my wife’s real estate site using Google sites. Developed another draft site on Google sites for a friend (pending).
    7. Posted several reviews on my tech site
    8. Completed the Stamford Artificial Intelligence class (abysmal grade, but I learned a ton)
    9. Attended Pycon 2011, Oscon 2011, (participated extensively in the program committee for both) and Google IO 2011.

    So It is pretty easy to get the rote stuff above done with the tools I know well, and for the jobs that pay!

    I have a lot more difficulty expanding my toolset.

    As I look around I have an excessive amount of uncompleted work lying around:

    1. A version of Flask, a micro site building framework up and running on Python 2.7 for app-engine (dev only at the moment)
    2. A version of All Buttons Pressed (Django), a big site building framework, up and running on Python 2.7 for app-engine (dev only at the moment)
    3. Compass/Sass/Susy/320 & Up (with a few other bits and pieces required, like Ruby) up and running to develop responsive front ends (development only at the moment)
    4. Basic operations up and running with Pandas, a remarkable analysis library for Python (requires numpy, sypy, Ipython and a few other libraries) (development only at the moment)
    5. I have switched to only VIM (and I-python) for development

    I  realized that I have been approaching Python without a proper commitment. I have been using the tools but avoiding really leaning the programming. So that will be my focus going forward. Getting into the code, writing code and debugging code, rather than spending so much time looking for pre-done solutions that I can modify. It is with this in mind that I am concentration on Flask, All buttons Pressed, and Pandas as they each provide useful starting points for being able to look at good code and modify it to produce useful work using Python.

    I have spent too much time getting distracted by every new feature or program that comes along, and that is easy to do because so many people are creating such great stuff. So I want to continue to track it but just constrain the amount of time I spend doing that.

    While it seems that all that stuff above is sort of random and overwhelming it represents my current best thoughts about good toolsets  for great, responsive, and powerful applications development. It is clear that I have to buckle down and push some samples out the door with the above tools. It seems that every-time I turn around there is major evolution with the tools and I’m just not comfortable and fluent enough to really keep up. ie. App-engine moving to Python 2.7 and many other evolutions. Further, each set requires differential thinking, the front-end stuff which is driven by the back end. But a compete product requires the creative use and blending of all.

    I’d like to redesign/re-implement the Oswco site in a completely responsive manner. Remains to be seem on what back-end, maybe just modify/enhance and change Mingus, the current back-end?

    More things that will help with the above, run, and do some resistance exercise daily, listen to more music, and meditate. Part of the “Sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey recommends.

    This last sentence added gratuitously by my Wonderful Wife...”Oh, and quit spending so much time on Facebook and Twitter!!!!”

    Sep 06

    The Python Standard Library By Example - Review

    The Python Standard Library by Example, Author:Doug Hellmann, 1344 pages, Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition cover Price $59.99 (June 11, 2011), ISBN-13: 978-0321767349

    The Python Standard Library By Example1

    I cannot imagine the effort it has taken to produce this book which is huge, detailed, and authoritative. It contains excellent descriptions, code examples and discussions applicable to the main modules contained in the Python Standard Library. The audience for this book is the intermediate Python programmer.

    Learning Python, or any reasonably current language i.e. Java, .net, perl, php, is a lot more than just learning the syntax. To be effective and productive you also need a reasonable knowledge of the libraries and functions that support the ecosystem of that language. There is little point in re-coding common functions that have been solved and debugged, in many cases by programmers way better than yourself. So each ecosystem has its own, usually massive library of so called "standard functions". In Python the basic or core functions are encompassed by the "Standard Library". As language libraries go the Python Standard library seems to me to be particularly well documented. Yet this book also has a lot to contribute. It is huge (did I mention that?), 1300 printed pages and 600 +pdf pages.

    I read the PDF version on a new Android Tablet and the experience was quite good. For me, reading books such as this are an important part of the learning process. I'm sure not going to remember everything and I do skim a fair amount. The result however is that I have a nodding acquaintance with a broader set of capabilities and usually have a dim recollection of where and how to look things up when I finally run into the use case.

    Compared with the Standard Library Documentation itself which weighs in at about 17 mb in PDF form, vs. this book which weighs in at about 10mb in pdf form, what is the difference? Other than 7mb?

    According to the author, in several messages in response to me, he stayed away from the platform-specific stuff, and things like audio formats. He also didn't cover Tkinter, because there's a whole book on that by Grayson (688 pages by the way). Other omissions were a matter of having time to finish.

    This book tends to include more discussion about use cases and alternative approaches and libraries than that contained in the Standard Documentation itself, more of the "why". Source code examples are presented with discussion, and a few cases include line-by-line explanations. It also contains many more cross-references to even more documentation in the standard documentation as well as in other on-line resources. In spite of the author's warning that some of the libraries and functions require knowledge of the subject area, particularly for some of the technical network libraries, I found that they presented the topics in reasonable detail for me with my limited understanding of the topic. That is very helpful for those needing deeper understanding of what for many of us is pretty arcane subject matter.

    I received the e-version of the book as part of the Dzone review team, and the promise of a hardcopy when I get the review done!

    This book is and will be a key resource for many serious Python programmers and provides a resource for understanding and using many of the Standard Library capabilities. It will be in a handy space on my bookshelf and is highly recommended.

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