Blog Spam... Sigh.#

Wasted a good hour cleaning all the blog spam out of my blog.

Upgraded to the latest version of dasBlog as well to keep the crap out.

What is wrong with these people?

Drivel | Spam
Thursday, June 16, 2005 12:56:55 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [2]  | 


Dustin' Off the Ole Blog...#

Been a long while since I've posted to the blog - and no, I still haven't finished the Kili picture site. I will one of these days.

So here's a recap of the fun post-Kili:

Back in November I got together with all the DotNetRocks folks for a little party and we invited along some friends - about thirty people showed up in Las Vegas for some laughs and a first screening of DotNetRocks: The Movie. It was about that time that DNR reorganized, cutting back to one hour and focusing on a more serious interview approach to the show. The silly stuff (which includes me as the ToyBoy) moved over to a new show called Mondays - What Sunday Threw Up.

Also in November my buddy Joel Semeniuk dropped into Vancouver to do a presentation on Smart Client Development to the local users groups. Which was helpful for me, because I'd do the same presentation to the Victoria .NET Users Group the following week.

This year Christmas and New Years were low key events - last year the fam went to Costa Rica, which was good fun, but not exactly winter time any more. My favorite goodie for Christmas was a new set of chef's knives. Yeah I know, its weird, not a tech toy at all, but I already got lots of 'em, and everyone has given up trying to buy them for me, I'm too particular. But a good Heckel knife, well, that's a great gift.

So what's coming up? Well, DNR's 100th show is coming and I've been invited to reminisce with Carl and the gang. There's a new tour on Interoperability coming too. And I've got a whole bunch of crazy new hardware to set up. And then there's some really important stuff (see next post).

Sunday, January 23, 2005 8:00:10 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Home and Kili-Bagged...#

In case you haven't heard, yes, I did summit Kilimanjaro with my friends (some old and some new).

Here's a shot of me at the top, there's lots more to sort out, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004 9:44:43 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Last weekend before Kilimanjaro...#

Its a busy weekend for me, making sure I have all my gear ready to climb Kilimanjaro.

There are twelve people going in all, including my friends Steve Forte, Adam Cogan, Paul Sheriff (and his wife Anne).

I've gotten awfully lazy as a traveller over the years, used to being able to buy whatever I'm missing when I get where I'm going... not so in Tanzania. So, unlike my usual behavior of packing a couple of hours before leaving, now I'm inventorying and test packing everything five days before I go. Weird.

I've decided not to bring a laptop along on the trip, but I do have my digital camera and picture dumper, so I'll be able to take lots of photos. I guess I'm going to have to bring a notebook and pen too, and write stuff down by hand along the way... at least the battery life of paper is good.

Saturday, October 2, 2004 1:01:35 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [4]  | 


Touring Toys...#

Kim Tripp, Clemens Vasters, Goksin Bakir, Christain Weyer and I all went out yesterday (Tuesday) to take a look around Seattle. The weather was just plain nasty, so we went for indoor type things.

In the end, we went to the Museum of Flight and did a tour of the Boeing 747 factory in Everett.

Kim Tripp, the Gadget Girl herself, has this groovy navigation system in her SUV... the discussion turned to making a business out of improved voice communication for navigation.

Clemens is an advocate of the sexy female approach, so that when you miss a turn, the system says “Don't worry baby, I know you'll get us back on track.”

Kim is on the mother-in-law side of things... “You idiot! Turn around right now! I'm not calculating another route for you!”

Methinks this week's ToyBoy spot on DNR is going to be over the top...

Drivel | Toys | Travel
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 10:20:00 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [2]  | 


Toy Boy hangs with Gadget Girl...#

I'm down in Redmond hanging with Kim Tripp, aka The Gadget Girl.

Microsoft is throwing an evangelism party, and all us crazy evangelistic RDs are invited, along with lots of Microsoft folks.

Kim was nice enough to invite a few folks out for a day before the show started, and offer to put me up for the night... since I'm only a couple of hours drive away, I didn't have to fly, which is always good.

Apparently I'm not the only one that's toy crazy. We're having fun comparing our various gadgets.

More to come, I'm sure.

Drivel | Toys
Monday, August 23, 2004 10:51:27 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


A Toshiba Tablet Give Away on DotNetRocks!#

Well, Carl's really gone and done it this time.

Microsoft is providing a Toshiba M200 Tablet PC as a prize to be given away sweepstakes style live on the DotNetRock's show August 26th.

All you gotta do is fill in a form. Find out the particular's at the DotNetRocks web site.

The prize draw is now less than a month away! Woohoo!

And don't worry, I'll still be on every week near the end of the show to talk about a cool new toy, and a not so cool toy.

Drivel | Toys
Tuesday, July 27, 2004 10:49:46 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [3]  | 


ReelFast Film Festival...#

My friend Kent Alstad talked me into joining his team for the ReelFast Film Festival. The idea is for a team of up to ten people to write, shoot and edit a film of ten minutes or less in 48 hours using an “inspiration package.”

The concept is elegantly simple and very cool. To enter, you fill in an application form, cough up $250 and create an inspiration package. The inspiration package contains:

  • a sound bite
  • a photograph
  • a location idea
  • a surprise (typically a prop)
  • a food donation for ten people

So the contest starts on Friday, August 13th at 5pm. You pick up your package and then you have 48 hours to return a completed film. Our general plan is to write the script Friday night, shoot all Saturday and edit all Sunday.

So Kent, being the brilliant and wise project manager that he is, pulled the team together this weekend for a dry run. He's collected lots of advice from experienced film folks as well as ReelFast veterans. The idea was to do an end-to-end test of our system, using a script that has a few scenes, shooting them and editing them into a rough cut, just to see how long things take and how difficult they are. We learned a ton of stuff.

Kent went out and picked up a second-hand Steadicam Jr. off of EBay, which makes a world of difference in the quality of the filming. Handheld cameras are too jerky, and tripod mounted cameras offer too many limits for shots... being able to walk beside an actor as they walk without jerking all over the place is amazing. For a few hundred dollars, it sure changes the look of your home movies.

Drivel | Toys
Sunday, July 25, 2004 10:22:50 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [3]  | 


Why Outsourcing is Good for the Software Development Industry#

There's been plenty of kafuffle lately over how development jobs are getting outsourced to other countries... but I see no downside to this, no matter which way it goes.

The reality of development, even now, is that the majority of software development projects fail. Back in 1994, the Standish Group wrote The Chaos Report, which was an evaluation of 365 groups of people covering 8,380 applications. Of those projects, 31.3% of them were cancelled before completion. 52.7% of the projects went more than 189% of their original cost estimates. Only 16.2% of projects were completed on-time and on-budget. So depending on how you measure failure, you can choose between 30% and 80% of software projects being considered a failure.

Now that was ten years ago, and the Standish Group continues to publish the Chaos Report, they just charge a bundle for it. But some folks that have paid the money say that in ten years, things have improved. Outright failures (project cancellations) have dropped to 15%. Still, its not a trivial failure rate. And there are plenty of other reports to reflect the on-going problems with building software.

These reports all say the same thing. Project don't fail because of inadequate technology, or even inadequate programmers - they fail from bad planning. Lousy requirements, poor tracking methods, weak quality assurance, and so on... in the end, its all bad project management problems. Computers can do the work, and programmers can (usually) write half decent code, but getting them to write the right things is problematic.

This issue only gets amplified when you go to offshore development. If you don't have a plan to handle the logistics of the project, you're going to have just as a big failure offshore as you did on. Maybe it'll cost you less, but its still a failure.

Some folks talk about the need for architects, but I think the local role in an offshore project is bigger than that - the requirements gathering, project progress tracking and quality assurance evaluation represent a ton of work. And, as with all projects, as soon as something is built, it needs to be changed, so there's more work in dealing with the changes. And if these things aren't being handled well, you're going to fail.

But suppose (and this is a big supposition) that you do get your application successfully built using outsourced developers. In fact, suppose (and this is REALLY a big supposition) that all these applications get built perfectly. What then? Well, there's still plenty of work building better apps. Its not like there's any shortage of software to be built. Most companies I know are only willing to talk about the one application they need right now because its so hard to get anything finished. But when you drill deep into their plans, you see dozens of prospective applications.

Reducing the cost and increasing the speed in which applications can be built can only be good for our industry - it means MORE work, not less.

So, regardless of how the outsourcing movement works out, it can only be good - if it fails, we're back where we started, still trying to build applications because its hard. And if it succeeds, we're going to build more, better applications.

Of course, this is all roses and sunshine as long as you aren't the programmer getting laid off because your company is outsourcing development. There aren't any easy answers for you... including blaming the loss of your job on outsourcing. This isn't the first time jobs have been shuffled, and its not the last. And as for that “of course its easy for you, you're not the one being laid off” argument... grow up. I'm not being laid off because I work for myself, and I stay focused on having an effective return on investment for my customers. If you did the same, you'd be fine too - self-employed or working for someone else. Valuable people stay busy - there's always more work than time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 3:43:20 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [4]  | 


Bringing Major Players to Bear Against Spam...#

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is finally wading in on the spam situation, holding meetings in Geneva about countering spam. Not heard of the ITU? If you've made a long distance call from one country to another, you've benefitted from their work.

The power of the ITU comes from its international nature - that an agreement between members of the ITU essentially means agreements between all countries. This essentially eliminates the ability of spammers to hide in offshore servers: there are no offshore servers as far as the ITU is concerned.

This is only the first meeting, but considering the players, I'm expecting real moves to be made world wide against spam. Its gotta stop. Even the ITU says that 85% of all email is spam. The epidemic has spread to cell phones too - in Japan the majority of spam is now cell phone text messages.

I survive spam with a combination of Outlook 2003 with its Junk Mail settings turned on High and Qurb. I get a couple of hundred “pure” spam a day, plus 30 or so Qurb mail. So I'm surviving. Near as I can tell, the regular mortals in this world are abandoning email addresses on a regular basis to escape the scourge. In reality, I see email slowly dying under the weight of spam... people are turning to alternatives like instant messaging rather than bother with the cesspool that their inboxes have become.

Its time that the experts came to bear against spam.

Drivel | Spam
Tuesday, July 6, 2004 3:13:33 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [1]  | 


Why sometimes intolerance is a virtue...#

So a few weeks ago I bought a new laptop, one of the Dell XPS tanks. Its a monster, but the performance is untouchable. And I can stand all the teasing by my fellow RDs, they just wish theirs was so big.

But it had this weird little foible... some web pages rendered really poorly. The fonts were all jagged, and sometimes it painted incredibly slowly. In some cases, web pages were just plain messed up. And I just put up with it - it wasn't that important to me to fix.

So then a friend of mine bought a Dell, partly on my recommendation. No, he didn't buy the XPS, it bought something a bit more moderate. In fact, the only thing his machine has in common with mine is that they're both Dells. Different processor, video card, etc, etc... but he has the exact same screen rendering problem!

However, not as patient as I, he insisted there must be an answer. I figured since we both have the problem, it had to be something in the default Dell configuration. Its a reasonable assumption, but finding out what could be almost impossible. I suggested that we could just blow the drives and do scratch installs of XP (something I'm prone to doing anyway, just to be sure), expecting that the problem would go away.

Maybe a half hour later, he IMs me - in the Advanced display settings there's an option for Large fonts. It increases the default font sizes of everything on your machine by 25%. And for Dell laptops with high resolution screens (like this awesome 1920x1200 screen), its set to large by default. Setting it back to normal got rid of the problem, and the fonts are really small on the screen. However, more importantly, everything is rendering normally, and nice and fast.

Why put up with tech not just the way you want it?

Drivel | Toys
Wednesday, June 2, 2004 1:07:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [3]  | 


9/11 Commission...#

Steve Forte is a bit upset at the 9/11 Commission over its criticism of the rescue workers at the World Trade Center (and I say that with typical Canadian understatement). I can certainly appreciate why he's angry, I think its a bit too close and personal for him.

On one hand, you have to admit that there's no point in putting together a commission to say “hey, we handled this brilliantly“... the idea is to learn how things could have been handled better. But I would debate whether there is any way to handle people crashing 767s into buildings more effectively. In fact, I would debate that there is even a need to figure out a better way.

For starters, until 9/11, hijackings were pretty darn survivable. With few exceptions, passengers on the hijacked airliner usually walk away unscathed. So it was in the passengers best interest to just sit back, wait it out, and stay low. But once these nutballs starting using the aircraft as a weapon, all bets are off - you're gonna die anyway, why not take 'em with you? I suspect that hijacking is pretty much obsolete now, no one is going to attempt it when you can virtually guarantee that the entire aircraft will go after you.

So no one had done such a thing before, and no one is likely to ever do such a thing again, so what possibility is there in trying to improve on handling it?

What surprised me more than anything was the gallery folks angry with Giuliani. What could he have done differently? What could he possibly do about it now? It shocks me that 30 months after losing their loved ones, people are still angry. As someone who has lost immediate family on more than one occasion, you only get to grieve properly once you get past the anger. If these folks are still that focused on the deaths, they've basically been frozen in time for two and a half years. Is this what these people died for? So that you can stay angry?

The best way to remember a loved one you've lost is to live, and live well.

Thursday, May 20, 2004 11:19:31 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [1]  | 


Surrendering to the inevitable...#
Yeah, I'm caving in to peer pressure, I admit it.
Saturday, May 15, 2004 6:46:13 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


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