Archive for July, 2007

Fake Steve Jobs on Windows Vs. Linux

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Do any of you read the Fake Steve Jobs blog? Today he had me rolling with this post. Most of the time he blasts Microsoft. But I do love it when he goes off on Linux people. Highly amusing.

Secrets of Success

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

I have long been a believer that the three secrets to success are:
• Courage
• Brains
• Hard work

Pretty much in that order. Oh to be sure luck helps. Sometimes luck helps a lot. But courage, brains and hard work combined make a lot of what looks like luck. I credit my success of having a thirty year marriage to those three things. Although to be sure there is some question as to who showed the greater courage – me for asking Mrs. T (she’d turned others down) or her for accepting. Maintaining a good marriage takes a lot of hard work. And quite frankly stupid people are not good at recognizing when they need to put the effort in and how they have to do so.

In my professional career I’ve been more timid. At times that has held me back. I like to think I’ve brains enough. And that I am capable of putting in the effort. But I’ve been careful to avoid risk, seeking out employment in stable, larger companies rather than risking things in startups or smaller companies. As I look back that may not always have been the best way to go. The stability and security of large companies today is largely illusionary. Now I have worked for two of the best. Digital Equipment was an amazing company and when I joined them the future looked bright. But they no longer exist as an independent entity and the mini computers that make them famous are mostly found in museums. Now I work for Microsoft which is a great company that is, in some ways, struggling to keep up with the next big thing in computers. They are trying hard to avoid the mistakes that causes Digital, Wang, Data General and many others fade away as the environment changed. IBM is perhaps the lone example of a company that has always managed to redefine itself in the computer field. But between us friends I worry about them today.
But let me bore you with a little history and show you my track record for failing to bet on what I saw in the future. In 1975 the Altair 8800 came out and I wanted one. But there were two problems. One is that I didn’t really have the money. I was just starting out and had a wife and a son to support. There wasn’t a ton of money available for expensive toys. Now had I figured out a way to make money from it maybe I would have found the money. But I didn’t have the vision or the willingness to risk the money on that investment. Some kid at Harvard had the money and some ideas and more brains then I have. I work for him today although there are several layers of management between us. At least I was starting to think about the possibilities of a personal computer. A lot of my peers wrote it off as a toy with no future.

In 1977 the Commodore Pet came out and sometime in early 1978 (as best as I can recall) I saw one in the depths of The Mill, Digital’s Corporate headquarters. A number of us field people were making a midnight tour, quite unofficial, and wondered if that system was the start of Digital getting into the personal computer business. We all thought it was a great idea. Alas Digital’s management being so much smarter than we were disagreed. Within a year I had a TRS-80 and was writing code for fun. I knew people who actually made money writing games for the early personal computers (pre-IBM PC) but I didn’t. Did I lack the vision? Perhaps. I was working hard on other things and risking working less hard on my day job to spend a lot of time writing code on speculation was just not something I was willing to do.

Also in the late 1970s came the Olivetti P 6060. This was a real commercial personal computer. Not fancy by today’s standards but a real sign of things to come. That should have been a sign to anyone that the PC was the future. Mrs. T who worked for Olivetti for a while got a job working for a company writing custom software for it after our son was born. I often wonder what things would have been like had she stayed there and if I had become a stay at home Dad. But that was not the way to bet – or so we thought. And then the PDT11s came out. Think about a system with a much better OS than MS-DOS, with multiple programming language support, real networking support, simple database support and a multi-billion dollar company behind it. And a full three years before IBM came out with the IBM PC. When I say better OS that MS-DOS I mean better than UNIX in some ways. I don’t mean a little better – I mean way better! I saw it. And I did nothing about it. There is regret there.

Working at Digital I saw PCs creep into the business. The spreadsheet was a killer app like none before. Perhaps like nothing else since with the possible exception of the web browser. The smart thing, the gutsy thing, would have been to invest some time and money and get to a PC start up. Yeah but I took the careful way and stayed with large mini-computers. I fooled myself into believing they had a future. Well smarter people then I made the same mistake. Oh well.

Once I got laid off from Digital I took some risks. I went into teaching and used that as an opportunity to catch up on lost time understanding PCs. I bought a good one on my way out from Digital and picked up a used copy of Visual Basic. I spent a lot of time learning PC programming, applications and system and network management. I took some other risks and invested more time in writing, in public speaking (now there was a buildup in courage) and it paid off in a great job at Microsoft.

So now I find myself looking at the state of the computer industry and trying to decide where the future lies. Where should smart, courageous people put their hard work today? The future is in the cloud. The problem is that several very large companies are going to own most of the cloud. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and perhaps a couple of other companies are building huge datacenters around the world. To some extent that is the platform people are going to be building for. Risky business building for platforms that others control. Perhaps we might have mini-clouds though. I haven’t figured that out yet. But applications are going to live partly in the cloud and partly on local computers.

No I don’t see the desktop application going completely away. The data may be stored somewhere else in the cloud with a local cache but a lot of processing is likely to still be local. How much is still anyone’s guess. Google is betting on “not much.” They would like to control it all with AJAX or similar technology allowing remote processing with nothing more than XML going back and forth. Other companies are betting on the cloud being a combination of some cloud processing, lots of data in the cloud but with some processing happening locally – Software as a Service is one term that comes up. Google applications and Facebook applications are all in the cloud. They work remarkably well. But run the business well? I’m not ready to go there. But remember I’m a coward.

And how do you make money on that stuff? Advertizing? Can you see a company wanting advertizing to pay for the payroll system they use? I don’t think so. So some things will have to be subscription services. The brave people are pressing forward and worrying about where the money will come from later. Some companies are not going to want to rent applications. Nor are they going to trust key data to the cloud. So some local (well, non-public cloud) applications are going to remain. What is the mix going to be? It’s all still fuzzy to me. And then there is this whole thing of smart devices. This is the piece I don’t think the press is really talking about.

What makes an iPhone cool is the software. Not software on the cloud, although the network is hugely important, but the software on the device that handles the user interface. I got a Memento Digital Picture frame the other day. It’s got some great hardware specks and it can grab pictures off the network but it is the local software that makes it work. Cameras, game consoles, media centers, and more are going to run locally even if they grab data from the cloud. And where else might software go? Smarter cars? For sure! Smarter stoves and ovens? About time. Robots? I tell you the future for robots is amazing. Could it be that there is going to be an increasing need for people who can write tight little code for embedded hardware? Yes I think so. Some of it may be based on messages and communication to be sure but they will not be pure cloud applications.

So what would I be looking to learn if I were a smart young technology person? Distributed systems for sure. Anything that uses messages, standard communications APIs, XML, Services Oriented programming and that sort of thing. Heck I might play with Microsoft Robotics Studio just to get more familiar with that stuff with robotics as a bonus. And I’d learn about databases. I’d get a Popfly account (I know someone with invitations) and invest some time creating mashups. I’d get into the Facebook developer program and find a way to create my own Facebook application. If I could figure out a way to make some money from that as well I would be way ahead of the game. Actually that is the big bet I would make today if I had any guts at all. The smart brave people are going to learn amazing lessons by creating Facebook applications. That’s leading edge I tell you.

If I were graduating today I would either create a company or go to work for a startup doing stuff with the cloud. If that company failed I would look for another startup to join. And another for at least the first five to six years of my career. I’d go to work for an established company only if I had a chance to do something really new and break out paradigm changing.

What am I actually going to do? Now at 54 years (in a couple of days) of age? I’m not sure. I love what I am doing and I am not sure about how brave I am. But I am giving it a whole lot of thought these days. A whole lot of thought.

Prius Does 100 MPH

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Who knew a Prius could go as fast as 100 MPH. I thought of them in terms of MPG not MPH. It turns out that tree hugging, energy saving Al Gore has a son who was caught going 100 MPH in a Prius. Oh and yeah he had cocaine in the car as well.

I feel bad for the kid’s parents. I feel bad for the kid as well. (BTW he’s 24 which isn’t that much of a kid. I was a married father by that age. But it sounds like he has some growing up to do.)

It is not easy being the child of famous people. Everyone watching you all the time. People always talking about how great they are, their parents are, and all sorts of stuff like that. It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve seen more than a few kids crack under the pressure. Some decide to embrace the image and live up to it. Some find it too hard and rebel against it. It sounds like All Gore III might be in that later group. His father the once upon a time next President was the type to embrace it.

Well young Al Gore III is going to rehab maybe he’ll smarten up and fly right. I sure hope so.

John Edwards in Londonderry

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

I went to my second John Edwards event today. I have to say I am more and more impressed with him each time. He really wants to shake things up. I’m not sure he can do it but it would be great watching him try. Obama and Clinton just seem too much like candidates of the establishment and the media. I haven’t seen them in person but I just don’t know if I want to. Obama seems like a good person on TV. But he is young and I worry that he will be too much of a mainstream party guy in office. Clinton just never struck me as a good person. I don’t trust her. It’s a gut feeling.

I like the way John Edwards looks people in the eye when he talks. I like the way he respects the people who ask him questions. There was a funny exchange today. A woman asked a good question and John Edwards said “that’s a good question.” The woman replied “I know.” John repeated her comment, laughed and said “welcome to New Hampshire.” He said it in a good way. He said it in a way that gave me the impression he knew that people in New Hampshire thought hard about their questions and would think hard about his answer. It told me he understands what the New Hampshire Primary is about. Retail politics at its best.

John Edwards talked about a candidate’s responsibility to meet with people and take their questions and answer them on the spot. I completely agree with him on that. Campaigning in New Hampshire is all about letting people ask questions face to face. Edwards understands that and is more than willing to do it. Are the other candidates? I don’t know. I have yet to see them in person. But clearly John Edwards is a fearless question taker. I respect that in a candidate.

Who knows, if none of the Republican candidates impress me I may change my registration and vote for him in the primary. Now wouldn’t that shock some people?

What kind of flower is a Canna?

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

“You stand up for what you believe in, even if it gets in the way of what other people think. You are proud of yourself and your accomplishments and you enjoy letting people know that.”

Steve Jobs Publishes Harry Potter

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

This is funny. One publisher’s view of how Apple (or at least Steve Jobs) would have published the Harry Potter book. A great insight into how Apple marketing happens but probably wouldn’t work for anything or anyone else.

What Obama and Clinton Mean to White Males

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Imagine a candidate for president whose supporters kept telling people how good it is for white males that they are running. Think about people saying “it is inspiring” or that it would be helpful to white males to have “one of their own” in the White House. Think about that for a minute. Really think. I’ll wait.

OK now does that sort of thought make you really want to vote for that person? If you were female or minority would those thoughts fill you with hope and excitement about that candidate? Or would you be thinking “that person is being supported by racists and sexists” and fill you with some dread? Be honest now. If you were black and someone said “this candidate is a great step forward for whites in this country” would you be more of less likely to support that candidate? Be honest now.

I suspect that like most people in this country today if a candidate (or his supporters) presented being white or being male as a reason to support them if would turn many people of and would turn off most people who were not white or male. And yet we have Maya Angelou talking about Hillary Clinton and making a big deal of the fact that she is a woman. And lots of people talking about how inspiring it is for African-Americans that Barak Obama is running. I’m not sure why I should think anything other than that many of the supporters of both candidates are racists or sexist.

I really think we need to get beyond the point where gender or race matters. We need to get to the point where gender and race become non-issues. Why is it worth mentioning that a candidate is female but not that one is male? To some extent novelty is involved of course. But really isn’t bring up gender (or race) when it is or at least should be inconsequential actually perpetuating stereotypes? Should we really be expressing surprise that a woman or a racial minority is in such a position? I think not. There are few times indeed when race or gender really matters. Whenever we bring those attributes into a discussion when they should not really matter we perpetuate the exaggerated
importance of these really unimportant differences.

I don’t vote or not vote for a candidate because of their race or gender. I don’t see those things as important. Why do so many people think they are? Why should I care about the color of a candidate’s skin? Why should I care about their gender? And why do so many self-proclaimed liberals constantly bring up race and gender as reasons to vote for or against someone? Conservatives seem so much less racist and sexist to me than liberals. More and less are relative terms of course – both parties have some racist and sexist attributes BTW.

But the more explicit racism and sexism of the Democratic Party is one of those things that constantly turns me away from them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

So did you buy it yet? Mrs. T and I were there at the Water Street Bookstore in Exeter for the special midnight opening. My plan was to take it home and read it right away. I figured that I could get it finished by breakfast. Alas age seems to be catching up with me and by 2:30AM I was tired and having trouble concentrating. I decided it make more sense to finish it after a good night’s sleep. So with dreams related to the story I slept.

Good thing it was Saturday and I have an understanding wife. I read much of the day. And then, alas, I had to put the book down for a while to bring my nieces to a friend’s house. An hour and a half lost. When I returned home I continued to read as I cooked steaks for dinner. And then more after dinner. With 90 pages left I had to put it down again because I had committed to go to a birthday party. Ahhh!

At the party there were more than a few people who were in various stages of reading the book. One person, the main organizer of the party, had purchased the book but made a decision not to start reading it until after the party was done. Probably a good decision on her part as the book would have been a huge draw from the party planning.

And then I was home and an hour later the book was read. A bitter sweet time. I loved the story but it was sad to realize that the series is over. The story of Harry Potter has been told. At least the book was 769 full pages of interesting, well-written story. It seemed like it went fast but it did take time. I hate books that are too short. But what now?

I may read this one again. I don’t often re-read books but I have re-read several of the Harry Potter books. There is so much in them – so many details – so many plot lines – so much to take in.

Well at least there are two more movies to come. It will be interesting to see how they play out. The recent movie was pretty good. But of course there is much to much in the books to include everything. Perhaps I’ll read books five and six again.

The Problem With Vacation

Friday, July 20th, 2007

is coming back to work. I spent two wonderful weeks on vacation, seeing interesting places, doing interesting things, eating new food, sleeping when tired, getting up when rested and now I am back at work. Worse still all that fun activity mixed with different time changes – first four hours off from home and then six hours off – and I am just really tired all the time. I need to win the lottery so I can retire while I am still young enough to enjoy it.

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Next July Is Getting Booked Fast

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

I just made an appointment for a one year follow up with a doctor. So now I have one firm appointment for next July. There is also a conference that starts the end of June and runs into the first week in July that I will probably go to as well. I can think of at least two other events that generally happen in July that I will likely attend. And let’s not talk about the family vacation that pretty much always takes place in one of the latter weeks of July or the first week in August! (First week in August this year BTW IT was booked last November.)

In general I hate planning things too far in advance. One never knows what might come up that would be more fun/interesting/profitable or whatever. But life isn’t like that. Some things have to be planned far in advance. I just wish there were not so many of them.