SpaceShipOne is going for it!#

Burt Rutan has officially filed notice to the Ansari X-Prize folks that he plans to make an attempt with SpaceShipOne.

The first flight will take place September 29th, which means the second must occur by October 13th.

The goal is to fly the same spacecraft twice in two weeks to an altitude of 60 miles with a pilot and two passengers (or equivalent weight) on board.

If they succeed, they win a ten million dollar prize. Admittedly they've spent between 20-30 million on the spacecraft, funded by none other than Paul Allen.

The prize offer expires the end of this year, so things are really down to the wire.

SpaceShipOne has already made a space flight up to 60 miles, although not without some problems, making pilot Mike Melvill the first civilian astronaut in history.

Good luck guys!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 9:11:40 AM (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]  | 


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