Monday, January 29, 2007

Geek Covers

The subject matter of this book appeals to me. We have a complex build environment here that has a lot of evolution ahead of it. Real-world examples will be helpful.

But what's *really* exciting about this book is the image on the cover. The build master is obviously a tough guy. Geek out.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Hopefully, if you're reading this, you're already subscribed to John Hodgman's blog. If not, here is a link from his blog to an interview with Hodgman which will get you caught up quickly.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Steve Ballmer isn't afraid of the iPhone

This article points to Steve Ballmer's comments on the iPhone. It is stupid to assert that the iPhone will flop because other devices "already have the same features." The iPod brought no new features to the market, and neither does the latest generation of Macintosh computers. But they're selling like hotcakes for other reasons. Hmmm.. Wonder what those are?

The iPhone could be a pretty big disaster for Apple. But it's way too early to say. There's no telling what that 20 something crowd will buy. The market is going to decide if the iPhone is a big hit. With the iPod and the cleaned up line of Macintosh computers, Steve Job's got a pretty good record going for him..

Friday, January 19, 2007

Think Fast

Find a reference to what ISO-9000 says about using a wiki for documentation in your ISO-9000 company.

Fun with "base six"

From the comment (by John Cowan) to this post on the Daily WTF. I'm not sure how this is in context, but still interesting. :)
It's not possible to predict "the" name of a base-6 system, as the existing and well-established names reflect multiple Latin and Greek derivations.

"Decimal" is from the Latin adjective for "a tenth part of", and if we had stuck to that, we'd have "dimidial" for base 2. Instead, we went with "binary", from the Latin for "in two parts". That would lead us to "octonary" for base 8, or if we stuck with the pattern of "decimal" we'd get "octonal", but no, we have "octal", apparently from a lame analogy with "decimal". "Ternary" is more often seen now for base 3, in strict analogy to "binary", but "trinary" is perfectly good Latin too.

As for "hexadecimal", it's half Greek half Latin, and was probably imposed by higher-ups at IBM for the engineers' original "sexadecimal" (though "sextidecimal" would have been better Latin all around).

So use "senary" or "sextenary", or "sexal" if you must, or replace the "s" with "h" in any of these if you feel you have to. Or do something else. Or say "base six" in plain English; it's short.
Personally, I'm with the IBM Engineers. Us nerds would have earned the world's respect decades earlier if they'd gone with "sexadecimal" instead of "hexidecimal" (that or our profession would have been overrun by frat boys, and we'd all be programming in BASIC).

Sometimes you got to dig for the good stuff. Geek out.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Still Standing

Earlier I commented on the daily stand-up meeting. Here, via Martin Fowler's blog, is some more discussion.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Psychology Tests

Here's a cool site of psychology tests via Kathy Sierra's blog. I'd be particularly interested in what Monica thinks of this one..

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I've decided to coin a new word:

Antisimplicity -- The force that conspires against a simple solution to a complex problem.

I've felt this force for many years. It's troublesome that it doesn't have a name. The big moment came recently when I was once again confronted by an annoying thought:

Aren't complex solutions necessary for complex problems?

No. Complex solutions, user interfaces, business processes, systems designs, procedures, etc, are not always necessary to address complex problems. And if the answer to that question is really "no", then the opposite of simplicity is not complexity. Rather, it's something else: antisimplicity.

Like gravity, antisimplicity is everywhere. In our business it's propagated not only by the complexities of the domain in which we operate, but by our own overly analytical and technical engineering senses. We sit down with customers wallowing in complex problems, and attack the issue with more complexity. That's the force at work.

Some examples:
  • Antisimplicity eventually killed EJB, and hobbled J2EE for life.
  • The United States Federal Tax Code.
  • Antisimplicity causes business people to implement corporate policy within their IT systems.
  • Antisimplicity was responsible for X.400 (rather than SMTP). Likewise OSI vs TCP/IP, WAIS/Gopher vs HTTP, etc.
  • Rube Goldburg (who said antisimplicity couldn't be entertaining)
  • Antisimplicity causes me to interfere when my kids are arguing over their toys, rather than leaving them alone to work it out.
  • Antisimplicity is responsible for the NFL's instant replay rule.

Please feel free to provide your own examples. :)

Postscript: Sean Reese has a great example of antisimplicity at work via The Complicator's Gloves.

The Ruby Lisp Mashup

See the discussion on a Ruby Lisp mashup. Via Slashdot. Geek out.

(Now I can't remember why I turned on my computer this morning..)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Scott Adams

I'm going to propose that Scott Adams come provide the entertainment at our next company Christmas event. Our company is a model of about 90% of his strips.

Multics Chicks are Hot!

In a few years I'll be working with people who are half my age. It's going to be great. I'll say, "hey, I'm twice your age!" I'm not sure what they'll think about that.

I'm pretty sure they'll be inventing things that have already been invented before. As evidence, there's the entire history of computing. There's also this Multics web site.

Thirty-odd years ago a bunch of smart (young) people were working on operating systems and applications not unlike the ones we're working on now. It would be a shame if their hard-earned lessons are lost in the mist of time.

Less Talk, More Monkey!

Christmas shopping just got a whole lot more interesting this year.


I lost my cell phone in the woods while camping. Later, when I realized it was missing, I tried to call it to see if it was nearby. I eventually searched my camp site and found the phone. Question: did it make a sound?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Slashdot. The real news here is that Slashdot now has a tag "metric" for discussion of stories related to the system. Geek out.


I don't think I've coveted an electronic device as much as I do the Apple iPhone since my first Macintosh was on back-order ca. 1984.

I was honestly expecting something more middle-of-the-road than this. I'm floored at their nerve. The software in these screen shots say a lot of people put in some long hours to make this work.

If the touch screen thing is really usable, Apple might have a hit that's bigger than the iPod on their hands. And if the original Macintosh is a model, they might have just changed the world again.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Yes Virginia, Goats Do Climb Trees

Having wrangled goats for many years during my youth, I can say that goats are enterprising enough, agile enough, and persistent enough for this to be entirely likely behavior in the right environment. Great pics. Our goats would climb anything any time. Trees with low flung branches were a common target.

Dark Cloud Over Good Works of Gates Foundation

Via Slashdot:

By comparing these investments with information from for-profit services that analyze corporate behavior for mutual funds, pension managers, government agencies and other foundations, The Times found that the Gates Foundation has holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices.

Sounds like Bill's got some more work to do. :) I wonder if he'll change course of his investments to avoid this kind of situation.

The most important lesson in James Kim's death is..

..when lost, stay put.

I applaud James Kim's mother's attempt to optimize the ability to located stranded motorists, but the fact remains, if James had stayed with his car, he'd be alive today. The number one rule is to stay put and work on getting yourself rescued. Especially when you're so poorly prepared to trek through the wilderness as James was. James tried this, but gave up hope a day or two too soon.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Funny guys

I got this from Monica yesterday:

2:44 PM Monica:
2:49 PM ain't no party like my nana's tea party...heeey.....hooooo.
hahaha that si so funny to me.

I swear that's Richard Caetano on the left.


Monica has finally seen the light and abandoned LiveJournal for a real blog at La Vida de la Familia Mitchell.

Russian Casino Surveillance

Who would have thought of a web site dedicated to Russian casino surveillance? Now you know.

This also illustrates how distributed the web is as the oracle of all knowledge. Search google for "shill definition" and you might find that Google's semi-official definition of the word comes from this web site.

It's all about me

Another fantastic post by Kathy Sierra, this time about what your customers should be saying about themselves when they think they're talking about you.

I've been thinking a lot about use cases recently--trying to accelerate the discussion about what this or that system should be doing straight to the use cases so we can be clear about what we're really trying to build.

This article reminds me to not just think about what I want the customer to say my system does, but what I want the customer to say about themselves as a result of it. This is the opportunity to create excited users. When I deliver a system to a user, and they say things like "I did this or that" as a result of it--then I know I'm on the right track.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Do you aspire to be a SCRUM master?

Cross Link: brent auernheimer: Do you aspire to be a Scrum Master? Good stuff. I love slide decks from these sorts of conferences. :)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Daily Standup, or Morning Meeting

I was just looking up references for Rudy Giuliani's take on the "morning meeting" as per his principles of leadership from his book, Leadership, which I like a lot, despite his politics. I came across this article on the morning meeting as a tool for leadership, and in particular, this gem:

In contrast, two qualities characterize high-functioning leadership teams: (1) hard conversations happen—difficult issues move quickly from people's heads to the conference table; (2) accountability is shared—individuals on the top team feel a responsibility to the organization as a whole, not just for their piece of the action.

When I attempt to explain to people what a daily stand-up should be all about, I like the SCRUM approach of three questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What will I do today?
  3. What is blocking me from working efficiently towards our [goal]?

Here's a nice reference overview of SCRUM.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Visualization of the blogsphere

Ancient History

A nice summary of the life and times of Oak Grove. I left in 2001.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Crossing the desert

Dealing with the Crossing the Desert Syndrome is the true test of a software lead. It strikes at the worst possible time:

  • The group is probably running a bit behind and it takes a *lot* of courage to back off and/or replan
  • The group leader is pretty exhausted, and it's difficult to keep up morale.
  • It's *really* easy to let things fall farther behind and defer the technical debt from this point in the project towards the end--when it will get really expensive.

BTW, I have Behind Closed Doors, but didn't think much of it. I can't warm up to the story telling writing style.

Software Development Project Management Books

Speaking of software project management books, here's a list that our team came up with. This is what they've collectively read on the topic.

It's a pretty good list. And reminds me that the guys are smart and well read. New Years resolution #2, delegate more and ask the guys what they think.

My favorites, or others I'd add are:

  • The Pragmatic Programmer -- Should be required reading for all CSci students in preparation for "the real world."
  • Agile and Iterative Development: A Manager's Guide -- A fantastic survey with practical applications of a bunch of the lightweight/agile/iterative methodologies. A great source from which to harvest methodology patterns.
  • Lean Software Development -- A pragmatic take on the entire "agile" thing.

One book I have on my Amazon wishlist but haven't got around to yet is Applied Software Project Management. You can get Chapter 3 here, which talks about software estimation using wideband delphi. Delphi seems like one of the most practical of the more rigorous estimation techniques I've seen.

Also note that you can make your own version of the infamous "tire swing" project management cartoon and let your cynicism shine at The Project Cartoon web site. (Thanks, Emil).

Monday, January 01, 2007

Blogging girls

I don't get it.. What's the infatuation with "hot" blogging babes? I guess knowing what they look like makes their blog better for the really bored/lonely readers out there..

As far as I'm concerned the hottest blogging babe out there is Amy Hoy. Her writing is fantastic. And her subject matter is dear to my heart. :)

New Years Resolutions

I'm getting geared up for 40. It's going to be great. :) But along with great wisdom, stylish graying hair, and an increasingly younger workforce surrounding me, I'm forced to admit my body's going to decay in place if I don't give it the duct tape and bailing wire it needs to keep running.

Possibly writing down some resolutions for better health and prosperity will help?

  1. I'm going to get to 10,000 on my pedometer every day. I've had a pedometer for about a week now and I've noticed there's an incredible inconsistency in my pedestrian mileage each day. On days when I have just a few meetings around Pelco's campus, I can easy walk thousands of steps while at work. On one day I walked 10,000 steps just from meetings. On other days I can literally sit in my chair for 8 hours and rack up a sedentary 1500 steps.
  2. There once was a time I could drink a bunch of beers and feel fine the next morning. Not any more. Now 2 beers leaves me feeling pasty the next day. It's sad but true. I have too much stuff to do on the weekends to spend it being lethargic. Will have to cut back even further--and save the 2 beer hangovers for work days. :)
  3. I'm going to catch up on the books I've orded, but not read yet. I believe in the princple that every book has its time.. So I don't mind buying books I don't have time to read, then let them sit on the shelf for years before the time is right. But the backlog is getting to be pretty big.. Oh, and I'll listen to more audiobooks during drive time.
  4. Will aggregate all my old retirement funds into my current 401(k). Sigh. Will also put more into my DRIPs each quarter.
  5. I'm going to get my new truck stuck in the mud/snow (or maybe sand). I figure this is a good measure of how much it's getting used in its macho destiny. Related: will renew my ham license (so I can call somebody when I get that truck stuck). Oh, and I will catch a fish with the boys.