Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What’s the business plan for computing in the future?

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Back 40+ years ago one of my college professors told me that we would get to the point where software cost more than the computers it was running on. That seemed a stretch back when computers were in the $375,000 and up (way up) price range. But of course he was right. Things change though and software is getting less expensive. A lot of people these days use Free Open Source software for computers.. Even with what I pay for software (Office 365 mostly) the cost of that software is low enough that I probably pay more for the computer. So maybe some people (at least as consumers) pay more for computer hardware than software.
We seem to be at the edge of a new huge drop in hardware prices though. Make magazine recently ran an article comparing sub-$10 dollar computers Of course to make them work as development machines you need to add more money but the real under $100 computer is clearly coming. It sure does sound great.
And then what? Everyone has a cheap computer. No one wants to pay for software. What is the incentive to do more development?
If you can’t make good money selling computers (thin margins, saturated market) who wants to spend money developing smaller cheaper computers? It’s not like you can make money on disposable accessories like ink cartridges which is where printer companies make most of their money. With all most everything you need in software on the Internet local performance becomes almost a complete non-issue so maybe you don’t need a faster computer.
How do you make a living off of giving software away? Support contracts? Those are no different from paid subscriptions which many people object to.
Ah, advertising! That’s been “the answer” for making money on the Internet. Will that work? Oh please no. There is too much of that already. At least for me. Others may disagree.
We’re in a race to make computers and software less expensive. Great for people looking to buy or use either of those items. Possibly not so good for people looking to make money. If there is no money to be made who will make the hardware/software people want?

The Loneliness of the Windows Phone Developer

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Earlier today I wrote an application for my Windows Phone. I posted about it on Facebook and included the comment that it was not generally useful meaning that it was not ready for people other than me to use. My son replied with a comment that it was not generally useful because it was a Windows Phone app. Sadly he has a point.

Several years ago promoting Windows Phone development was part of my job. Back then I would have taken the things I learned writing this app and written a blog post about it. I would have wanted to encourage people to use it with their students. These days no one is paying me to promote Windows or any other sorts of phones. If I thought there were people interested in doing Windows Phone development I’d still write the post to be helpful. But I doubt there are a whole lot of teachers in that state. Few students have Windows Phones. Almost all of my students have smart phones with iPhones being the largest representation. Android is close second. Windows Phones are very rare. So not much point it teaching WP development.

That makes me a little sad. Not because I am a huge Microsoft fan boy (though I sort of am) but because development in Windows Phone is so much easier than iPhone development. Windows Phone is in many ways ideal for teaching because of ease of development and the great Visual Studio IDE. You can do some fun development in App Inventor for Android but that is not quite like higher level programming development. And yet the market demands iPhone and Android development have a much higher priority than Windows Phone development.

I really like the User Interface on the Windows Phone. I am not a fan of the Android and iPhone interfaces. And of course you know how I feel about the development environments. On the other hand I am starting to miss some of the apps that are available for iPhone and Android phones but not for Windows Phone.  My current cell phone provider doesn’t support the Windows Phones I want to buy either. Sooner or later I suppose I’ll have to give up on Windows Phone. That will really make me sad.

Note: I wrote a blog post about writing what I call “programmer’s programs” on my other blog at Programmers vs. Idiots

The Vick Affair

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

So it appears that Michael Vick has signed a new football contract. And not everyone is happy about it. He was convicted of running a dog fighting operation and served his prison time for it. I always thought that technically that was “paying ones debt to society.” It appears that some people want him never to work again. I’m not sure if they don’t want him to work anywhere or just not play football. But it doesn’t seem fair to me.

I’m not excusing what he did but I don’t think we should have unforgivable sins. If people pay their court ordered debt then we should give them a second chance. What’s the alternative? Sentence them to a life of crime or keep anyone in jail for life regardless of crime?

How to pack a dishwasher

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

It always amazes me how poorly so many people pack a dishwasher. There have lots of unused and unusable space left and they still have things that should go in. Here now some advice.

Just because something fits doesn’t mean you should put it there. There are small spaces and large spaces. Small things will fit in small places or large spaces. Unfortunately large things only fit in large spaces. So put the small things in small places.

If there are places for glasses put the glasses in those spaces. Don’t put them in spaces where plates will fit. In fact you’re best off placing the large things in first. Once they are in you will know what spaces you can use for smaller things. Easy yes?

You’d think so but some people use no order at all and place what ever they grab first into what ever space they find first.OK end of rant. I have to go unload the dishwasher.

Jury Duty

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

After 55 years of life I received a jury notice recently. It came from the US District Court in Concord and it said that over a 2 month period I had to call in on Monday afternoons to find out if I had to report the next day. Monday of this week my number came up. Literally. When one calls in the phone message gives a list of juror numbers who have to report and my number was on the list. So I showed up Tuesday morning.

The first thing we did was report in and they scanned the barcodes on our notices. Then we had a briefing about what was going on. Then we walked up to the court room. The plan was to select 32 people from which the attorneys would select 14. Sounds easy but we were first asked a bunch of questions. If we answered “yes” to any of them we were to ask to speak to the judge. The judge would then decide if people should be excused or if they were qualified to serve. AS they called the names and numbers of the 32 people (of the 55 or so who were there) people selected were asked if they needed to talk to the judge.

I would say that almost half the people wanted/needed to talk to the judge. If the judge excused someone a new number was called and that person was asked if they needed to talk to the judge. A lot of people wanted to get out of serving. Some were self employed or part of small companies. Others had people they needed to take care of – small children or elderly parents. Others had medical issues. Some people – about 20 – the judge did excuse but many of them he didn’t. In the end we had 32 people with only 2 or 3 not having been selected or excused.

We had all filled out forms back in February so the attorneys knew something about us all. Once we were a panel of 32 the attorneys started going over their notes from the talks with the judge and I assume notes they had made from the survey results. In fairly short order they agreed on 14 people to stay and the others were excused. At this point I knew I was on a jury. The judge told us the case would take about three days.

The whole process took about two and a half hours. I was expecting the attorneys to question jurors like they do on TV but that never happened. I guess it might happen in some cases but clearly it’s not all like TV. 🙂

Recycling Is An Old Thing

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

One of the things I do at museums is read that signs next to the things on exhibit. Silly I know. But one learns a lot from those little signs. One of the things I have learned over the years is that people have been recycling since before written history. Perhaps they haven’t been doing it quite the same way we think of it all the time but they have been doing it. And this has interesting consequences.

Take for example the coliseum in Rome. Do you know why it is in ruins? over the years the coliseum fell into disuse and was no longer being maintained. So people started recycling. They took stones and bricks from there to build other things. In fact most ancient cities and buildings were built in part with materials recycled from earlier cities and buildings. The only way to avoid that was for a structure to remain in continuous use until more modern times.

And then there is the case of tapestries. Old drafty castles and what not had huge woven tapestries to help keep them warm, decorated and less drafty. Not many of these have survived into the modern era. Why? Well because over time people needed money so they burned the tapestries. This allowed them to recover the gold and silver from the treads that were woven into the material. In fact with gold it is estimated that some percentage of all gold ever mined well into the upper 90 percent is still being used. It has just been recycled time and time again.

Which brings me to a more local example. You may have seen a bowl or other piece of silver worked by Paul Revere. This is not because he was the most prolific or even the most talented colonial era silversmith. Rather it is because he was famous for his Revolutionary War exploits. Most silversmiths of the era had their work melted down and recycled over time. As people run into money shortages or perhaps got tired of a pattern or their needs changed it was quite common to have silver and pewter melted down and reworked into something else. More recycling.

So over the years we have lost many things of potentially great historic value because of recycling. Is that bad? Someone else will have to answer that question. But I think today we think carefully before we turn one things into another. Clearly aluminum cans are not worth saving in any great numbers. Buildings are a more tricky matter. But the fact remains that recycling may be a big thing today but it is by no means a new thing.

Casino Float

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

I’ve been curious about the business of casino operation for a while. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is the float on chips. People buy chips to play games. The chips can be out for a long time before being redeemed.  Chips are redeemed in one of two ways. One is that a customer of the casino returns them to the cashier. The other is that “the house” returns them to circulation. Since the casino has to retain cash to cover the value of outstanding chips they can’t actually benefit from float*. They can count the money as theirs only when the house itself returns the chips to the cashier.

In theory that doesn’t make much difference between the time chips leave the cashier and they time they return is usually pretty short – generally hours.  But sometimes chips stay unredeemed for long periods of time. Some are lost, some are saved as collectables (I have a small collection myself) and some are held in safe deposit boxes (by patrons) for later visits to the casino. In those cases the casino still has to keep cash at the casino to cover the value of chips that are long outstanding. And no float.

What I’ve been seeing lately is casinos bringing in new chips – changing the design, logo, colors, etc – and declaring the old chips no longer valid. They do this with plenty of warning of course. But at some point the chips are no longer redeemable chips in circulation and the casino can take the money that people paid for those chips and use it themselves. This is cheap profit – well as long as the chips cost less to buy than their face value. Since most chips are well less than a dollar to buy (probably much less than a dollar if bought in the bulk that casinos buy them) and a dollar is generally the lowest value chip I think that profit might be pretty good.

I do wonder how much money is involved though. I tend to expect people to turn in chips that are worth more than $5. I’ve sure a lot of $1, $2, $2.50, $3 and $5 chips are never turned in and that they add up to a good number. But how good a number? Is it lost in the noise of total profits or is it a significant number. I figure that casinos have to report this somewhere but I haven’t yet gone looking for it.

Just one more thing that makes casinos more complicated than they appear on the surface.

(*Float being taking advantage of the time between when the customer pays for the chips and the chips are redeemed to invest or earn interest)

Airport Annoyances

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

After a great start in an airport this morning I landed in Detroit later in the day. In many ways this is a nice airport. A single long terminal but there is a nice shuttle and lots of moving walkways. Also more and better food options than some places. But I had to pay for wi-fi and then there is the power situation.

I am sitting at my gate and there are as far as I can tell one pair of power sockets. Someone is laying in front of them while using both of them. She’s got one of those “leave me alone” faces on too. But I have a spare battery so I’m getting some work done anyway. I do wish I was plugged in though.

Airports should have more power outlets. MHT has added some recently BTW. And people who use limited sockets should really either limit themselves to one or use a power strip. I travel with a power strip BTW. If I want to plug in more than one thing in a public place I use it. It seems like the only reasonable thing to so.

Surprisingly few people seem to travel with power strips. They are always surprised when I pull mine out or suggest it as something to do. I would have thought it was an obvious thing to do these days. No?

Airports

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

I spend a lot of time in airports these days. They are all pretty much the same but I am finding some things that differentiate them. Small things but after a while they add up. take comparing Manchester (MHT) and Logan (BOS).

Both are about the same difference in time and miles from my house. Well depending on the time of day. Getting to BOS for a morning flight can take upwards of 2 hours while it never takes more than 45 minutes to get to MHT. Big win MHT.

And wi-fi access? Free at MHT but expensive at BOS. Lots of airports have free wi-fi these days and while it is a small thing I see it as a leading indicator. Airports with free wi-fi seem to generally be more passenger friendly to me. They tend to all be cleaner, newer, have better amenities but also be smaller. Although Orlando airport is huge it does have free wi-fi and lots of other things to recommend it. Yeah I’m a fan.

MHT is smaller than BOS and that cuts both ways. As a plus if means you don’t have to go running around as much. One time I flew out of BOS on Delta and back on Northwest. That meant that the parking lot that was easy when I got there was a long walk when I got back. And heaven help you if you enter the wrong terminal for a flight!

Speaking of parking. MHT is $10 a day for long term parking while BOS is $24 a day. Huge difference and that has to be factored in when you price flights to/from either airport. For a five day trip a fare from BOS must be at least $70 less than MHT if you are going to leave your car at the airport. Yes at MHT you may have to take a shuttle but the shuttles are quick, clean and convenient when compared to a long walk through BOS Central Parking.

BOS has more food choices – they’re very limited at MHT. Sometimes that is a big plus for BOS. BOS also has more airlines and more direct flights. But prices? Usually I don’t find a lot of difference. Sometimes the flights are less expensive from BOS and sometimes from BOS. This is even without figuring in the costs of parking. Since MHT is much easier – physiologically even if the traffic is not an issue – to get to I find it a lot easier to find rides to MHT than to BOS. And honestly traffic is almost always an issue.

So hands down I need a really good reason to fly out of Logan (BOS) if I can also fly out of MHT. No contest.

Note: Written from gate 3 at MHT and posted using the free wi-fi.

How Many Countries Are There?

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

I actually care about the statistics for the blog that is part of my day job. Largely I care because by boss cares but there is a fair amount of ego involved. The latter is why I checked the statistics on visitors by country recently. Since August of 2008 the blog has been visited by people from 173 countries. I didn’t even know there were that many. I thought the number was fewer than 120. But apparently not.

Even still there are a number of countries on the map that still do not register visitors. There are at least a dozen countries in Africa who have not come my way. One in central Asia and North Korea. In some ways the North Korea is a surprise because I would have thought there were a lot of people doing searches for programming and computer science related stuff. On the other hand I know they have serious Internet censorship. But I get visits from Iran all the time. In fact I have visits from all the middle eastern countries. I’m only missing one in Europe – Serbia. No one from Greenland – is there anyone in Greenland? Of course Greenland is technically part of Denmark so perhaps people from there are visiting and showing up under Denmark? Could be.

Any way you look at it I am missing visits from about 18 countries. But I think population wise I’ve hit a good part of the population. Not that it matters much in the grand scheme of things of course.