Monday, January 12, 2004

New Weblog:

New RSS Feed:

This radio userland site will probably be taken down in 15 days or so, according to their renewal warnings. The new site is written on CityDesk, and uses the TabletPC. It lives on an ordinary site. My email address won't change, it's The 9000 is an artifact of the fact that egrigg was already taken - imagine! And of course a tribute to the famous drum solo called SnackMaster9000.

Lots has happened since I posted here: new job, new kid on the way, new computer. I sweltered for awhile on how to do a blog. I wanted to do a tablet blog, but I can't blab about my company. Then there was that guy who got fired - really took the steam out of blogging for me. I finally settled on an ink blog that talks about food at microsoft. It's something I care about, has a low common denominator, and won't take but a minute to write about. At some point I'd like to run an experiment to see if there's a way to live off of all the free stuff hanging around exclusively - no restaurants, no grocery stores. We'll see.

Hope you enjoy it. The RSS feed is text which I'm maintaining as a parallel path. The permalinks are "perma-inks" and go to the ink blog which is the main url of the site. It's certainly easier to post via ink - let's see if it's just as easy to read.


comment []8:41:34 AM  trackback []   
 Monday, October 27, 2003

As an aside, a day like today is like getting a new Neal Stephenson novel, the new Harry Potter 6 in addition to season 3 of 24 on the same day, You can't just say "so, what happens?" The answer is too long. There's no way to wrap your brain around all the information that was prohibited to you just yesterday.
comment []2:48:29 PM  trackback []   

Nothing in this article on MSDN by Robert Grimes to contradict the predictions I made a couple of weeks ago. The following questions on WinFS remain:

1) How is all this metadata going to be entered? If entered automatically based on usage, how to make that entry open to all modes of use? For example, a web-based email program cannot be released "for longhorn" and therefore cannot carry the ability to update files with metadata (such as "sent to bob on 2/10").

2) How do the users update the metadata once it's in there? What happens to users who refuse to understand the concept of metadata and won't play along?

3) What does all this look like, when you're "looking at your file system" if there can be such a term?

This entire WinFS effort is just to answer the age-old question of "Where the heck is my file?" This question is asked by users, and answered by the OS. It's far less important that we have lovely "select from where" T-SQL running about. This is just one implementation. I am worried that the cart is before the horse here. Improve the technology, fine, but as a 10th generation product (windows) you have to provide a bridge to the old concepts.

I'll refrain from further criticism until I see some screenshots. (And no, not screenshots of the about box.)

comment []2:45:50 PM  trackback []   
 Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Isn't this the smartest person on earth?

Jonathan Sapir writes about the evolution of IT as he has implemented it through web services. This is a dream-come-true from a vision explained in a Harvard School of Business article from 2001, a pdf which I have misplaced and tried to find many times. The gist is out with the old, custom, local apps, in with the new, synchronized on-line apps and dumb(ish) terminals. Glad to see people following through on the potential.

And if anyone knows which harvard article I am talking about, send me a link! I'm bereft!

comment []11:12:56 AM  trackback []   

This conference (The O'Reilly Emerging Technology) looks like tons of fun, and I hate conferences! What won me over was Russell Beattie, Cory Doctorow, and Andrew Huang (is that you?). In lieu of going, I'll just read all the speaker's books and weblogs. Note to people doing conferences: in-jokes and movie quotes in the seminar title WORK. It's a good idea. Attendees figure the talk will be a fun time if the speaker has the same sense of humor / seen the same movies that they have. Somewhat like a demographic "if you liked this..." filter.

comment []11:02:03 AM  trackback []   

A team of industry-affiliated composers pulled off an acoustic show last night, featuring music written in the classical vein for instrumentation such as string quartet. At the secret waffle party afterwards, I picked up the micronews off of an inviting stack, where the concert was briefly mentioned (yay, Ben!). The point of the SoundCurrents series is that great music is happening right under your nose. Often it gets little or no fanfare, as it's too expensive or awkward to get a run-through much less airplay or other such collective-consciousness embedding maneuvers. Contrast with software, where every little thing gets posted and broadcast for download as long as it barely compiles. Music has one advantage in that it has inherent value even when broken or unfinished. It deserves a listen, because this is the only chance you might get to press F5.

This event was like a "this is your life" for me personally, with friends and associates I've known forever, family, and new friends. I tried my mac joke out on Geoff Ogle (the one where we try to have 20 kids to make sure one is a mac user) which fell flat. Make fun of their market share all you want, the design is solid. I finally met Ben Houge who writes music just like I would if I hadn't gone in to software (luscious, frenetic tonality, adventurous but not cliffhanging). Scott Selfon wins the award for effortlessly sounding most like a movie soundtrack. Also in attendance was Steve Ball (a blogger from before the dotcom boom, if that can be believed), Andrea Wittgens (who I told expressly not to start egosurfing becuase it shows up on the referrer list and makes you look like a chump), and Tim Root (who is the sweetest guy ever, and has a few nasty things to say about "pretty music"). Here's to keeping the concert series going!

comment []9:49:32 AM  trackback []   
 Monday, October 13, 2003

In 2001, I was too busy to catch Po Bronson's apology. And the default song, always in my head, is the sock puppet singing "Please don't go."
comment []4:43:15 PM  trackback []   

Yay, Brad Wilson is building his own blogging tools. The great thing about this is he can put in exactly what he wants, no 80/20 rule or other nonsense for ruling out key features. The problem with 80/20 is that it's a key to mediocre sales. Lots of people get your product, but few will be impressed. Better to hit a home run with only a few customers, build from there.
comment []10:05:59 AM  trackback []   
 Friday, October 10, 2003

Another clue to WinFS: Mazner's article on "why" it's needed. This pretty much gives it away to anyone with any imagination. Here are what the headlines will be (I predict):

1) A flat file system that contains rich, automatically populatable metadata useful for querying. This turns "my pictures" into a query onto your hard drive, and nothing is missed.

2) Strict pattern and behavior tools are in place to keep the metadata accurate. For example, a downloaded image of a spokesperson from a banner ad (Dr Phil) should not show up in my pictures. The OS knows it came from a banner ad, and flags it accordingly.

3) <not that I think this is a good idea, but> Friendly file names different from actual file names. In fact, we may never know what a file is actually called anymore in usage. Friendly file names are like long comments, a "who am i" exposed concurrent with the file itself. A business card. We will never see the actual name.

all this would be wacked if not for 4) A kickin editor that lets people correct the metadata (attributes) of a file. With most metadata being added automatically by the OS, this means that you are effectively rewriting a file's history by editing the metadata.

Oh, why keep us guessing?

comment []4:52:26 PM  trackback []   
 Thursday, October 09, 2003

I'm telling everyone I know who's going to the PDC to keep an ear out for me on one topic and one topic only: WinFS. For some reason I am certain that my next project will have to do with this implementation. My crystal ball says there is going to be much intersection with the new WinFS implementation and metadata, which I have an extensive background in... therefore I will be uniquely poised to exploit those changes. I like being uniquely poised. Of course I could be wrong. Keep your ear out: WinFS WinFS WinFS.
comment []9:22:04 PM  trackback []   
 Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I'm having so much fun looking up zip codes in Claritas. (It's not steretyping, it's right-typing!)
comment []3:06:11 PM  trackback []   
 Monday, October 06, 2003

I'm looking for a great link that describes deployment of the CLR to an installed base. If you're 99% sure you're app is going to be the very first .NET application that your clients download and try to use, what is the user experience for installation? Zip files won't cut it, putting "requres CLR" in the sysreqs won't cut it. I want an integrated experience that wraps up the CLR installation so ordinary folks can get it if they need it. I'm pretty sure Sam Gentile has this information, as it's implied in his famous rant but not actually itemized. Also pretty sure buying a major install app (Wise, InstallShield) would solve this. How to solve this on the cheap then?

Sells had a dynamic checker on his web site to let folks know if they could run his game "wahoo." Handy, (and by the way how did he do this), but only half the battle. His presumption is that users read (I'm the only one who does, which is how I found it). Those who don't read had better understand error dialogs.

comment []2:23:20 PM  trackback []   
 Friday, October 03, 2003

The debate's over, I'm looking for a new code project. My criteria are: 1) It has to incorporate the new buzz from Longhorn, 2) It has to be a short-term development project, and 3) It has to have broad market appeal (e.g. not a code tool).

It would be ideal to find a contest or some place to submit my work once it's done. So many times the last year I've wanted to drop everything and do a contest. Now it seems they're all over and the prizes handed out. Here are the ones I've found that are still open:

.net Framework win forms Be cool like Chris Sells and be a "Code Hero"

a1vbcode Tiny outfit, but they run a contest monthly which gives you more chances.

GotDotNet User Samples This is not a contest, but there is a nifty ratings system. Probably more for code snippet audience anyway.

If you can think of any more sites like this, let me know!

comment []1:07:31 PM  trackback []   
 Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Yesterday I remembered reading a quote from someone on Fast Company that it was sometimes a great act of leadership to cancel a project rather than letting it continue. Don't I know it. When the thought nags at me, such as yesterday, I looked on the FC website for more. Funny how the web is, you have to remember something verbatim or its gone. So, I didn't find the quote or any supporting anecdotes, but I did find a user group for Seattle that has cool talks such as from the guy who started Cranium. I joined the group as an afterthought, then went back to my pondering. (Plucking daisies: should I cancel? should I cancel it not?) (Or remember the image of the wife sitting in bed reading "Should You Get A Divorce" quite blatantly so you-know-who can see? Well, another image of a similar book: me at the office reading "Should You Cancel The Project" Of course no book exists and neither does the office, but you get the idea.)

The group gave me a warm welcome and wants to know all about my question. Ulp. Not sure this is worthy of a newsgroup, it's too anonymous on my part. The answers I want are something along the lines of "here is what I did in the past" and "it was / was not a good decision because...." But I would also want folks to know me, and help me make a decision based on my capabilities. That's beyond a newsgroup. 

The real thing that's nagging at me is when Scoble wrote about win32 programming. He said, "In 10 years Win32 programming will look about the same as shoveling coal into a steam engine." Of course the first time I read it I assumed he was talking about all programming that ran on the win32 platform, but now reading it obviously he means just straight win32 api calls, like you have to do in order to make a horizontal scroll bar in VB. But oh, the momentary terror, the sneaking suspicion that he was right! Sam Gentile's recommendation that we all use the command line compiler rather than VS, that VB and C# are just "syntactic sugar" (I love that!). As programmers, we're making it so easy that we have to admit that we are mere end-users. That certain features of Word are more difficult to use than most of the CLR is to utilize from VS. And we are migrating ourselves out of our identity as programmers and into a mere power-user state. (Against Sam Gentile's recommendation, of course). Talk about shoveling coal.

What happens when tools become too easy is that all that matters is your rolodex. Everyone has awesome ideas. Now, everyone can execute. Who can drive to market? Only the fat rolodex will survive.

So, given all this, does it lean towards me continuing with my project or canceling it?

Long ago my Mom gave me a great tool for decision making. You write the question down in a yes/no way. In the yes column, you list all the good things about choosing that path, and all the bad things. In the no column, you do the same. If it's a really complicated chart you start rating the strength of each of these consequences, but most you can see that the good things pile up (or bad things avoided) by choosing a particular path. That's your answer. Simple, huh?

comment []8:03:36 PM  trackback []   
 Monday, September 29, 2003

Great news. If .NET guy says my RSS feed is fixed, then it's fixed. I would not have been able to get it done without the suggestion from David Phillips (thanks, Dave!) posted on radio userland discussion groups. The clincher was realizing that posts are different from RSS, that you need to edit your post and the RSS feed will follow.

Well, I don't know about great news. Great news would be someone buying me a ticket to PDC.

comment []10:01:56 AM  trackback []   
 Saturday, September 27, 2003

Duh, cutting and pasting in the garbled character as way of explanation breaks the feed the same way.
comment []8:10:42 AM  trackback []   
 Friday, September 26, 2003

More info in my quest to solve the problem with my RSS feed:

Following leads from Disscussion boards on radio userland:

1) "Firebird" says the error is on line 163. There's an XML parsing error, but on the radio userland validator it validates just fine. Perhaps an error in the validator is why it hasn't come up as a bug yet for userland. Thanks, Lisa!

2) Jim says it works in Radio and "FeedDemon." And he has seen fishy stuff like that when people post pictures that are too wide. I always take care to trim my photos down to the bare minimum, often making them unreadable, but I hate it that a wide image reformats my nav column due to html scaling. Perhaps I still have some more work to do on this, perhaps others do too. Thanks, Jim!

3) Tried looking in XML Spy to check for well formdedness for the XML. I had to install a new version. Then, I busted out laughing at this dialog box, which is possibly the worst designed dialog ever. I won't put it in-line because I'm superstitious, but here it is. Har har har. When I have a second, I will redesign this for the poor folks over at Altova. Oh, and it says my XML is well formed, but it doesn't like RSS as a schema. This sounds like a problem with XML Spy learning new schemas, so I won't pursue.

4) Last Chance. On to what's going on for line 163, column 1826:

In XML Spy they have a cute feature where you can seek ahead to exactly 163/1826, which puts the cursor right before the little square. Yum! That's It' I'll delete and see if it's fixed.

Oh, and what possible incentive could people have to check box number three in this dialog?

That's all for now, thanks for everyone's help

comment []3:16:07 PM  trackback []   

Every other day or so, my newsreader (still radio, alas) forgets how to process the br tag. Or something. Small bug, but serious problem in that the news is unreadable. This is what it looks like.
comment []9:49:06 AM  trackback []   
 Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I have never seen a better thought-out job posting than this one. The person who can answer these questions will also be able to give .NET guy the "something different" he seeks in blogging, and will also be able to give Scoble the "killer app" he seeks for longhorn. Here's to asking the right questions. Unfortunately recognizing their importance does not in and of itself qualify me for the position. Darn.

By the way, what's a K-log?

comment []7:52:41 AM  trackback []   

It's very important to know whether your device is primarily multi-user or single-user. This is perhaps the primary design decision, with all other decisions branching out from that. The old 512k Macintoshes (otherwise known as "computers," since ibm boxes had yet to merit the title and were suffering under the weight of FoxPro and WordStar) presumed multi-user from the beginning. This mac did not come with a hard drive, so you carried all your files on a floppy. On shutdown, the computer automatically ejected the floppy. This is to make it available for the new user, who will undoubtedly have their own data or programs to run. Problem is, many of these macs were actually single user machines, contrary to design assumptions, making this flexibility an irritation. So: right design decision, wrong assumptions. Consider the opposite problem with CD players. Their assumption is single-user. The CD is not automatically ejected, and when restarting (your car, for example) the CD picks up where it left off. CD players are wrong about this with the same frequency: it seems there are tons of CD players in a multi-user setting. Windows XP assumes multi-user. An alarm clock assumes single-user. You get the idea.

As designers, what do you do if you just don't know about multi or single usage for your product. Or, if you do know, maybe you're not comfortable having the 60% majority win out and make the experience for the remaining 40% suck. With gobs of money and time, you can build your box and put it in the field, testing key parameters and logging the info. For the Mac, it could test what % of the time on booting was the same floppy inserted as last time. For a CD player, it could test what % the existing CD was ejected on startup. For XP, it could test what % was logged back in as the same user. For the alarm clock, it could test what % was the time set to a different time. This would tell you how to change your design to be more friendly to the realworld setting. But it still doesn't make things pretty if you're usage is tied, or 60/40.

The solution is to make your device be adaptive. Note: adaptive is not a mode switch. Nobody should ever include a single user / multi user switch on the device. No, what I mean by adaptive is testing for the pattern, then not ejecting the disk by default after the pattern is established. Or, ejecting it after the opposite pattern is established. Adaptive in XP is to log the new user in as Elizabeth Grigg automatically, then have a "Not Elizabeth Grigg?" item in the menu to switch. Adaptive in the alarm clock would be to have a magic "other time" button that sets the alarm to the most frequently used alternate setting other than current.

Pretend you have a toddler who wants to hear a CD. He has the CD in his hand, and wants to put it in the player. But you have to eject the old one first. He has no comprehension, thinks he isn't going to get to hear his CD. Destruction of property ensues, followed by a time-out. Why? No adaptability in the device. 

comment []7:36:08 AM  trackback []   
 Monday, September 22, 2003

Patrick Meader has a great article on what it's like to get rid of your land line and use your cell phone as your primary. Funny, but none of his issues intersect mine at all. That means there are a lot of issues! The take-home: you might be using your company's product already, as "dog food." But are you using it exclusively and extensively? Are you in close touch with several people doing so? If Partick and myself were part of a focus group on the topic, an entire department might be reuired to fix the bugs we found. 
comment []3:58:45 PM  trackback []   
 Saturday, September 20, 2003

Thanks to David Pogue's newsletter, I've discovered free virus protection from AVG
comment []7:32:47 PM  trackback []   
 Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I once had a progress report sent to me with the following filename: saga_of_exhilerating_progress.doc

Not so bad, except for the fact that the choice of words misrepresented the contents. Except, perhaps, the word "of." This is how you know you have a process-hostile environment.

comment []3:55:40 PM  trackback []   

Woo hoo! I learned the html for strikeouts. I guess this is the kind of learning curve the open source movement had in mind. Imagine a world where the View menu of any app has a "Source" option. There you can figure out how something was done, and use it for your own purposes. Should programming really be more complicated? (of course, this presumes a world where functionality can be triggered by tags and attributes only. hmmmm)
comment []11:27:26 AM  trackback []   

The famous "Are Ideas Important" question, for those of you wondering.

Yes, ideas are important: This is your edge above the competition. This is the thing that you uniquely have to offer the world. If you ignore your ideas, you become replaceable. An idea is the exact thing that's missing in many many consumer scenarios to fix a previously unfixable problem. Ideas have a spiritual quality. Ideas are self.

No, they're not: The best ideas are those that increase the team's ability to execute and meet business targets. Often these don't take the shape of ideas but are rather an attention to detail in the existing world. Ideas just tease us by indicating that entire businesses and business models could be new or different, when in fact that's the easy part. The hard part is making it happen, and ultimately more useful. No one gained respect or success due to an idea: it is always execution and discipline.

comment []7:34:06 AM  trackback []   

Yes, FC has started a book club. Nice format, including letting you vote for the next book. Voting is fun. Opinions are fun. And why Oprah doesn't do it is probably too depressing of an answer. To vote, go to this link.

Here's my take on the books: 1) Gray Matters, the workplace survival guide by Rosner / Halcrow / Lavin. I dismissed this because its scope was too ordinary. 2) The Map of Innovation by O'Connor / Brown. I'm pretty sure Kevin O'Connor was the guy profiled as a Wired Icon (who also supported charter schools) but I have to check. [Nevermind, that's Reed Hastings] Either way, Kevin's book shines due to its straddling of the famous "Are Ideas Important" question. 3) Take Back Your Time .... by John de Graaf. The inventor of the term Affluenza puts another notch in his belt, but is it a grassroots movement? Introverts, run away. 4) There must be a pony (didn't look at the description, time warner AOL stuff), 5) Why Not? ... by Nalebuff, Ayres. No straddling here, these folks are squareley in the camp of "Ideas ARE Important." This is a toxic attitude for big-picture folks like myself.

And my vote goes to: The Map of Innovation by O'Connor / Brown. 

If I thought this month's book was interesting, I'd join.

On the Books. Fast Company recently launched the FC Book Club, a monthly book discussion group featuring the best and brightest business books selected by our readers -- and our host Charles Decker. October's selection is Authentic Leadership by former Medtronic Inc. CEO... [Fast Company Now]

comment []7:27:42 AM  trackback []   
 Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Are you like me in that you NEVER read your local newspaper? I haven't given it a glance since that awful post they made months back regarding unemployment. I gave them a harsh criticism of their inflammatory and accusatory reporting, and in doing so mentioned the names in that article just to be clear. Unfortunately the funny thing about google is that this weblog, (yes this one that you're reading right now!) which I have only the vaguest attachment to (.NET guy has taken a similar haitus and then returned, full of spit about the tools and bless his heart) this weblog has stellar google placement. Go figure. Perhaps it's because I've had it a year. The thing about google is that it lends significance to your earlier posts too. So if you're a blogger and you mention people you don't know by name, you'll eventually hear from them, as I did today regarding my times article. Hey, surprise, people read your stuff. And hey, surprise, maybe I can pick up the paper again and feel ok about it.

So to complete the symmetry I picked up the paper. Not bad reporting on the Howard Dean flashmob in Seattle. Especially covering the dorky aspects of flashmobbing in general. The trend being dead is lasting longer than the trend itself, becoming more of a meta-trend really. And then there's supposedly a candidate to be hopeful about. Of course, after the president I voted for won and was not sworn in, and the monorail and transit system I keep voting for and winning has yet to put a shovel in the ground, and then there was the time everybody voted no on the stadiums but there they went up anyway, it takes more than Howard Dean to get me excited about politics. I think it would take MLK to come back from the dead and run for office, now that would get me excited.

comment []4:39:56 PM  trackback []   
 Saturday, September 13, 2003

Consider this: My brother just got a job handling cancellation calls for the product/service I used to work on for RealNetworks. When people call in to cancel, it's his job to try to talk them out of it first, then handle the cancellation if they still insist. At the time creating this service, I considered myself passionate about the customer's needs, and took the fact that this was not a free service very seriously. At all times, the team worked towards making the product a value offering for the existing and new customer. But it hit me yesterday: I would not want my brother's job. And why not? If I was so passionate about the product, believed in it and thought it was truly of value - why would I not want to talk people into continuing it? Obviously there was holes in the quality of the product that I was not willing to face unless I took a step back. As a lesson, I will remember this position with all products I work on, and think if I would not want to work the cancellation line for this service, I'd better make some changes.
comment []10:35:16 AM  trackback []   
 Friday, September 12, 2003

I hear you, Scobes. I look forward to stop building infrastructure and start building the content for it. Infrastructure is a great term usually referring to highways, power systems, etc. I like to use it for fundamental things you lay down and don't expect to change all that often: who you're married to, what your career is, where you live. Content is those nuggets of fun or productivity that take advantage of the fact you've got your life together, like little cars driving along that offramp. Although it's not that easy: sometimes having your life together is just another way of being stagnant. This week I was amazed at what I accomplished by ignoring EVERYTHING to a near-criminal level and focussing for an entire day. Glass was breaking, washing machine off kilter and buzzing its head off. Is there some small chance I did better work because it was "in spite" of a hostile ecosystem?

Not sure whether to delete this, I think I'll just indent.

It's interesting to look back at your weblog on historical dates. On 9/11 two years ago I posted a couple of pictures from my son Patrick. Wow how has life changed in just those short two years for me. Car wreck. Divorce. Move. Ship Radio. Grandma died. Lay myself off from UserLand. Get job at NEC. Engagement to Maryam. Wedding. Move. Get job at Microsoft. Move. Whew.

"This is a day I will never forget," my son Patrick said two years ago today. Tell me about it. We all have fit a whole lot of life into two very short years.

[The Scobleizer Weblog]


comment []1:59:01 PM  trackback []   
 Monday, September 08, 2003

Alot of what people forget when using a computer is, well, that it's a computer. This is a machine that performs mathematical operations on numbers and stores the result. Over and over again. It's not inherently a calendar or a file management system or a communications tool. The job of good software is to make these functions feel native, and not like the side effects they really are.

My mother in law just got a computer for the first time, just figured out how to control a mouse and double-click. She would be one of those people stomping on the foot pedal if she didn't have help. Her ramp-up is showing me all those little things we "experts" do that novices would never think of. Like rightclick-open in new window for a link. Like single clicking a link and not double. Like window management in the taksbar. Like if you get a link that is longer than 40 characters, how you need to cut and paste twice into your browser to see what you need to see.

We invited friends to our son's birthday party. Since hardly any of our Portland friends have cars, we're throwing one down there too. When I was a kid, I had my list of friends and their phone numbers, most of which I still have memorized. Now, we're lucky if we have a phone for folks and certainly not a postal address. No worries, we're using evite. Evite works great for things like recurring events and soccer teams. For rare events that require maps, it's not so good. Especially if the fancy html mail is too complicated for the novices. I mention this all to point out that socially, we are at a rollover point where technology has still not quite replaced paper and a stamp, even though we assume it has. We think only having a friend's email address is good enough, even though the quality of the interaction is of lower quality compared to paper and a stamp. (If paper and a stamp gets them to the party, then the quality is higher). The modernization that we have had with computers so far has been "lossy." So, another goal of software is to make this modernization less lossy.

After resolving the issue with my hosting provider kicking me off for abuse of sendmail, I haven't cracked the books again on my SMS project. I've moved into a support role in our family's other deadlines, one of which is a string quartet (Tues Oct 21 2003 at Seattle's Town Hall). We stand to lose almost a thousand bucks on the thing even if we have great attendance. Then there was the solid two weeks of allnighters. String writing is the hardest to accomplish on computer. If you start with a MIDI file, you can't simply print it out. All the bowing and dynamics will be ugly, not to mention notes crashing in to each other and enharmonic spellings mutilated. (Anyone for B#?).

I've started another hobby which is entering a writing contest in conjunction with Hugo House. Each writer gets a deck of cards and does a novel synopsis and a first chapter.

Last week a friend of mine was having a hard time working with a developer who did not have a left brain. She had to repeat herself, overexplain, a lot of time was wasted. Mostly the developer rearchitected the code constantly, probably in an effort to understand the project better. I recommended tape recording the conversations for him so he could listen to it in the car, etc. I've been in situations where I'm "over my head" lots of times, and tape recording has occured to me although I've never done it. I would have loved it if the other party suggested it and provided the equipment. This is not an insult, it's a tool. We shouldn't assume that everyone we work with has an oversized short term memory. These are not always the best coders anyway. But those of us who fit this category should know this about ourselves and use whatever tools we need to contribute at our best.

comment []9:27:34 AM  trackback []   
 Thursday, September 04, 2003

My first experience with mail merge. Only someone getting paid by the hour could have the patience for it.

comment []9:46:35 PM  trackback []   
 Friday, August 29, 2003

Intelligence on file systems

comment []8:36:58 PM  trackback []   

I know it's corporate, but I like this HP site. Here's a comprehensive on moblogging:


comment []8:34:24 PM  trackback []   

Linking to this doc, which describes what UI design should aim for.


comment []8:27:25 PM  trackback []   
 Thursday, August 28, 2003

<This is a cut and paste, my comments are bracketed like this one>

1. From the Desk of David Pogue: Suggestions for Microsoft

This fall, the world will be treated to yet another version
of Microsoft Office, the software suite that towers over the
world like the Jolly Green Giant.

The truth is, Microsoft would still sell millions upon
millions of copies even if it did nothing more than change
the Microsoft Office icon. Two factors assure the new
Office's success: first, the world has settled on the Word,
Excel and PowerPoint file formats for the documents they
exchange every day. Second, Microsoft's new corporate-
purchase program practically forces companies to pay for
Office upgrades up to three years in advance, before they
even know what they'll be getting.

In any case, the last time I griped about Microsoft's abuse
of its power, a few defenders responded. One wrote: "I
worked on Office for nine years, and I can tell you that
there are several hundred very dedicated, very smart
software engineers who wake up every day thinking about how
to make great software and solve real customer problems."

Well, they may wake up thinking about making software great,
but one man's "great" is another's "bloated." To my mind,
great software speeds you up instead of slowing you down. It
reduces steps rather than increasing them. Those aren't
always Microsoft's priorities.

Here are a few examples of what I mean. May these pointers 
-- or at least the principles behind them -- waft their way
into the dreams of those very smart software engineers:

* In Word XP, when you choose New from the File menu, you
don't get a new document, as you'd expect. Instead, you open
a Task Pane at the opposite side of the screen, listing 15
commands. You must then click Blank Document, six commands
from the top. Suggestion: If I click New, I mean New right
now, not two steps later.

<All of Office has the yellow pages problem. You want to rent a car but is it under rentals - cars, or cars - rentals? The solution dujour is task based design, which is a great monniker that gives you the green light to make radical changes in your product. At its worst, the product lists the tasks that you might want to perform and the user selects it. At its best, the functional areas are clearly delineated and widgetized (as in, the toaster is for making toast, here is where the toaster is).>

* When you shut down Windows XP, the "Are you sure?" dialog
box lists only three of the four choices (Shut Down,
Restart, Standby). Inexplicably, the Hibernate button
doesn't appear until you press the Shift key. Millions of
people, as a result, don't even know that it's there.
Suggestion: Don't be shy. Put important features where
people can find them.

<Shut down is waay too complicated and this was a compromise to mitigate that. It is a weak compromise. The product should abstract the concept (how about "goodbye"), and have an intelligent default for laptops (hibernate of course), and do a shut down for all other systems. Control+goodbye would bring up the menu.>

* When you type an Internet address in Word, it turns into a
live, blue, underlined link, unasked. Power users know how
to undo it (promptly use the Undo command), but novices
routinely click the link in hopes of editing it -- and
launch their Web browsers by accident. Suggestion: The
factory setting for this feature should be Off, not On.

<This is not a question of having the link feature off or on. This is a question of how the web should be positioned in an authoring environment like word. This hyperactive linking came out of the desire to make the web at your fingertips, and make it impossible to avoid. Heart in the right place, but implementation not so good. Solution is to bring forward the concept of a "live document" as something different than a regular document, and can span across doc and html formats. If the doc/html you're creating is live, the link feature will be on. If you haven't saved as a live doc, that's ok, use the current mouseover messaging from the html authoring which has cntrl+link to follow link.>

* In Outlook XP, when you search for an e-mail message, a
"No results found" message appears while the search is under
way -- a misleading indicator, to put it mildly. Suggestion:
Don't tell us that no results have been found until the
search is complete.

<Everyone on the team knows about this one guaranteed. This is one of those features that ends up triaged and triaged until it's just too hard to put it in for the release. The real fix is: have a coherent concept of status that has consisent messaging to the user and is tested early in the release cycle. Have team leaders who view breaches of this design criteria for status as showstopper hi prio bugs>

* The Windows XP taskbar automatically consolidates window
buttons: If you have five Word files open, only one Word
button appears on the taskbar. It serves as a pop-up menu
that lists the open windows. That's great, but you're forced
to choose from this menu, once again requiring two clicks
where one used to suffice. Suggestion: Let us click the
taskbar button itself to bring the whole program forward.

<Well, not all programs work that way: this is an outgrowth of a MDI arrangement. Some people will always think in MDI and this reviewer is no exception. With that said, the categorization is clumsy and the solution is to fatten the taskbar so it takes up two lines, with an easy option to consolidate. Also, the consolidation should be smart and do groups based on referring windows, not based on window type. For example, I have one browser window with a bus schedule and notepad for notes about commuting. I also have a browser window open for mail. The first browser and notepad window should be consolidated together. Also, all automatic popups could go to the same grouping! But not of course by default: I say thicken the taskbar pane.>

* Finally, Outlook's anti-spam features are practically non-
existent. They're weaker than Mac OS X's Mail program,
weaker than America Online, even weaker than Microsoft's own
MSN software. Suggestion: Wake up and smell the junk mail.
<Yes, this is a major misstep.>
I can't wait to see what the new Office has in store. I'm
sure it will include buckets' worth of new architectures and
Object-Oriented Whatever. But if Microsoft is truly
interested in "solving real customer problems," here's
hoping that it will put a little thought into polishing up
the little things along the way.


Forum: David Pogue's Columns

Do you think that Microsoft is improving its products or
just adding bloat? Post your thoughts on the feedback board.

comment []1:31:31 PM  trackback []   
 Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Just found my address book after an extensive level-4 search of my car. Embarassed, I instantly digitized it. Only half was valid after 6 months. Boy are people on the move. Myself included.

Want to Innovate? Dump Your Friends II. Today's edition of the newsletter 48 Days, which usually runs more cold than hot, includes an item that resonates strongly with John's recent entry. The average person has 50,000 thoughts a day. Unfortunately, the average person has the same 50,000...

comment []6:59:32 PM  trackback []   
 Monday, August 25, 2003

Lessons learned from my first .pl script: Perl is very powerful, so the need for a staging server or test/confirm cycle is very important. One cannot just dink around with this language and expect mistakes to be ok. Well, you can, but you'd get your account suspended with you hosting provider like I have. Next step is to look around for examples of how to "protect" sendmail from bugs in my own program. After all, it's unrealistic to expect to write bug-free programs.

comment []7:37:34 AM  trackback []   
 Thursday, August 21, 2003

Wow that was exciting. My post with the link to my .pl file was up for three seconds I swear and I got 1000 email messages. Whoops, last time I'll assume human intervention is unnecessary.
comment []2:56:18 PM  trackback []   

A good day coding. I cracked open "Learning Perl" with the tantalizing prospect of making it to page 21. Page 21 is where you get to fool around with mailing folks. Well, I got to page 21 and what do you know, the sample code didn't work. Here's what did:

    $reply_to = "DONOTREPLY\";
    $subject = "testing";
    $to_df = "egrigg9000\";
    $body = "bad news: $somename guessed $someguess\n";
    open (SENDMAIL, "|/usr/sbin/sendmail -t");
    print SENDMAIL "To: $to_df\n";
    print SENDMAIL "From: $reply_to\n";
    print SENDMAIL "Subject: $subject\n";
    print SENDMAIL "Content-type: text/plain\n\n";
    print SENDMAIL "$body";
    close (SENDMAIL);

So, after tons of google searching on things like "perl sendmail @ help basic" and wading through CGI tutorials which overlapped, but not quite, I've found the working code.

The real discovery here is the need for an escape character before the @ sign in the email address variable (mine is called $to_df). This is after loads of witchdoctory thinking I had the headers in the wrong order. By the way, does anyone know how to turn line numbers on in emacs?

<this is where I put the link to the .pl script for three seconds before taking it down>

Of course, it only mails me (not you) anytime there's a false guess, as per the tutorial in the book. So you'll have to take my word that I get the mail. The correct answers for anyone not in the flinstones is "groucho"

comment []2:42:15 PM  trackback []   
 Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Give this guy some link love: Eric Sink. One only gains this sort of knowledge by experience (read: making mistakes and learning from them).

comment []10:35:21 AM  trackback []   

Not one, but two drowned cell phones. one had a swim in a spill from a large coffee, the other went through the washing machine. This is our entire voice connectivity. What to do? Call in desperation for a land line? But that would bring my cable modem setup into question. (Do I really want DSL and all that installation garbage?) Do I find a refurbished phone for sale? They're not available on a small enough scale. There's the short term problem of how to make phone calls today, then the medium term of what should our setup be.

Every cell phone professional should have their cell phone as their main line and cancel any land lines they have as part of a company program. What would they learn?

* Going on hold to get customer service, set up utilities, do banking, purchase tickets, anything - turns into an even worse experience than it was previously if that can be imagined. All those minutes down the drain.

* What happens when you bring over the babysitter and you want to leave your number. What phone will the babysitter use to charge?

* If you don't have pockets, say, in your pajamas like most people don't, you won't hear your phone because it's in your purse or your pants. This means you will miss every call at nighttime. Isn't this what a phone is for, emergencies?

* You're living life on the edge. You're just one toddler+phone+toilet bowl away from lack of connectivity. For gosh sakes, it's just a phone. We should be able to rely on it like electricity and not worry about incidental damage resulting in total blackouts.

I guess at this point I'm questioning the whole thing: are cell phones useful in and of themselves or do we just put up with them. Could they possibly take off as an entertainment medium or is this just wishful thinking. How many cell phone owners have land lines: this greatly affects usage, similar to how many PDA owners still own a computer. All of them do, silly to think they won't.

Speaking of PDA's, my e740 is busted too, 10 days past warranty.

comment []10:33:00 AM  trackback []   
 Sunday, August 17, 2003

Stephen Dulaney is following Buzz's lead (of ActiveWords) in asking bloggers for their opinion. Trouble is, his request has languished in my comments for ages it seems. Will TrackBack help me figure out whether there are new comments to old items?

comment []8:50:33 PM  trackback []   

I just enabled TrackBack. Do I have to make a new post in order for the link to show up? What's that URLs to Ping window anyway?
comment []8:46:25 PM  trackback []   
 Saturday, August 16, 2003

This is Visual Studio Magazine's big foray into architecture (which I translate freely into "program management.") If you read one thing this year, pick up this issue.

I've developed a running commentary on a couple articles to give you a taste:

“Reining in Job Title Inflation (Editorial)” by Patrick Meader

This editorial delivers the information that HP’s Rich Fricchione is working with Microsoft to adopt HP’s architect certification process over there. This would result in stabilization of title inflation, where as Alan Cooper says, “web designers are called programmers, programmers are called architects, and architects never get called.” Ostensibly, this means that architecture is either not being done, or is done with underqualified folks. (In my opinion, the first is a great loss for productivity, the second is a misdemeanor at best.) Meader is supportive but pessimistic about the effects of Fricchione’s deal, saying it should involve more companies and be broader based. This begs the question, what effect would such standardization have on our industry if it were to occur? We all want to be more experienced and more productive at our work. None of us want to be bored, except maybe with regard to a monotonous paycheck coming in. If anything standardizes us, these dynamics do already and with possibly more impact than a shared program defining us by exams or experience. The impulse of such programs is to band together as developers to solve systemic problems that are practically inevitable in our industry. The effect, hopefully, would not be another way to itemize and divide us.


“Architect Your Enterprise” by Paul D. Sheriff


Term “that’s new to me”: n-tier techniques


Fun Quote: “Beginning any new application without a set of reusable objects in hand leads straight to the ‘File | New Project” syndrome. This is what happens when developers start a new project from scratch and have way too much to develop in too little time.” Let’s be clear that you can use this command lots of times during the course of a real project, and even if you do it doesn’t mean you’re not reusing code. This is a cute thing to say but a confusing image. Game developers specifically have problems with using too much of their previous project, which happens accidentally and out of some level of desperation to get something to work again.


Glorious Section on “Become an Architect” – I retype it here, but I replace the word architect for program manager, and IT for product development. Apologies to Sheriff, and hopes that he would take it as a compliment.


“As a program manager, you tackle many roles within the enterprise. You’re responsible for interfacing with both technical people and business people, so you need to wear many hats and perform different day-to-day operations.

“A successful program manager must be able to strategize with business people on future directions for the company, keep the goals of product development and business in sync, set goals for product development, and create its mission statement. Wearing your technical hat, you create standards and processes that support the architecture, create framework designs, enforce standards and processes, apply success metrics to product development – and communicate the results to management.

“The best program managers share a number of traits. They’re technical people who know how to lead an product development team, and they possess great written and oral communication skills, along with technical and general problem-solving creativity. They have an open mind and also a vision of product development success, they can create and enforce good product development processes. At the same time, they have business acumen; they’re plugged in with the business executives and are able to influence the appropriate people in the organization. And unlike many technical people, they can make effective drawings to communicate ideas.

“If you already possess many of these traits, you can probably acquire the rest. Strive to attain as many of these qualities as possible if you want to become a program manager.”

Now that’s news you can use!


I had a bunch of problems with the sidebar on “Map your road to success”. It seemed to copy the waterfall system so denounced in Murphy’s article this issue. It also raised tons of issues later answered in the article, but not in an integrated way. For example, the executive buyoff was not in this diagram, and even though mentioned in the article later it’s hard to figure out where Sheriff meant it to go.


“If you don’t know which way to go when you leave your driveway, chances are your trip will take a lot longer.” Shipping software is not like finding the nearest post office. It’s about delivering something compelling to the marketplace. Sheriff is right that leaving your driveway is a momentous occasion for the project, but he’s not right about why. It’s not the direction you turn, but what’s in the trunk that counts. Imagine you are driving a taco bus. Sheriff might wonder which way to turn out of his driveway in order to sell more tacos. But he’d be wrong: with the right tacos, any direction will do.


Excellent diagram called “Build Generic Components for All Your Applications” I would love to have a book on this topic.


Excellent comments on how to convince execs to spend more time on architecture, and how to overcome resistance among the ground troops.

comment []4:23:12 PM  trackback []   

Does anyone other than HR take the PMP (Project Management Institute Certification) seriously?
comment []8:59:00 AM  trackback []