Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Happy Birthday Pong!

Ok, so I'm a day late. Yesterday was Pong's 34th birthday.

Holy shit - I'm older than Pong...

Rapid transit

The Region of Waterloo is thinking about creating a light rail rapid transit system. Great idea. I live in Elmira, twenty minutes north of Waterloo, and the thought of taking the train to work is very attractive. Especially on the snowy days, when everyone seems to lose their mind as they get to the intersection of Sawmill Road and Arthur Street. That intersection will be rebuilt with a roundabout next year, so maybe things will improve.

All we need to do is make sure we don't build a monorail.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


There's a 50% chance this will surprise you. Next thing you know, it'll be patented. That's fair, I guess.

If Nintendo can patent insanity, why not patent surprise?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pick a port, any port

There's an idea floating around that says porn should go through a port other than 80. Well, there's a perfect solution, no? I vote port 69. Who's with me?

Ah, crap. It's taken!


From this week's News of the Weird. Good to know where my tax dollars are going.

"Cow-tipping" (the legendary prank of sneaking up on a dozing cow and pushing her over) was exposed as a near-impossibility by researchers at the University of British Columbia, according to a November report in The Times of London. Calculating the newtons of force required to topple an average cow (estimating the angles between left hooves, right hooves and the point of push; and the resistance of the cow to downward pressure), Dr. Margo Lillie found that two people could exert the required force only if the cow made no reaction at all to the initial touch, but that more than likely, a successful tipping would require at least five people.
[The Times (London), 11-5-05]

First Quake II was ported to the .NET framework, to run as a managed C++ application. Now it's been ported to Java.

I'm sure this is another sign of the apocalypse.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Shot of the year?

This is a few weeks old now, but I'm finally getting around to it. Kevin Martin made a shot in the 10th end of a game against John Morris, at the last WCT Grand Slam. There is no video of the shot, but there is a diagram that shows just how good it was.

How's that for a shot to win the game?

Monday, November 21, 2005

How To Write Unmaintainable Code

An oldie but a goodie. Some helpful tips for keeping yourself employed in the software business.

Advertising that works

The MathWorks company has an advertisement that gets you thinking. It's an ad for their Matlab software and Model-Based Design. The Mars Rover engineering team used this to simulate the final descent of the Mars Rovers. The slogan in the ad is "320,000,000 miles, 380,000 simulations, and zero test flights later."

This makes me think about how much differently we would approach software development if we only had one chance to get it right. Would you design it differently? How would you test? How and when would you know you were done? Would you put your name on it? You only get one chance. You don't get a do-over.

Too often we try to do things faster, instead of better. We accept that there will be bugs in the shipping version, but this doesn't bother us very much. We can fix it later. There's always time to fix it later, and how much damage could it really do? The next time you're cramming in a new feature in record time, ask yourself, "what if I only get one chance to make this work?"

Search becomes No. 2 Web activity

Using a search engine is now the No. 2 activity for Web users, research has found. What's the number one web activity? Jerking off, er, pleasuring oneself? Oh, no - wait. It's email.

Today's new rules

Here are today's new rules.

The Top 20 Geek Novels

The Guardian has a list of the top 20 geek novels. Here's the list:

1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell
3. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip K Dick
5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson
6. Dune -- Frank Herbert
7. I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov
8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov
9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett
10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson
12. Watchmen -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick
17. American Gods -- Neil Gaiman
18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham

I'll agree with the top four for sure (my Profile does list Blade Runner as my second favourite movie, after all). Dune was ok. I read quite a bit of Heinlein a long time ago - I'd put something of his in the top 20. Not a bad list, overall. I am a bit surprised to see the Lord of the Rings missing, though.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Google thinks small

Sounds like Google is having some success thinking small.

Small is the new big, after all.

The Monkey is back

I have missed the Monkey.

Another curling season gets underway

Guinness World Record holder Camille Villeneuve is visiting as many curling clubs as he can. He's well over 500 now, and back on the road for another season. Last year he stopped by the Elmira Curling Club, and gave the Thursday night curlers quite a show. Not only did he skip his team to a convincing win, he brought his collection of pins into the club. This guy has been around the block in the curling world. If he comes to your neighbourhood, make sure you meet the guy.

Forced Ranking: Making Performance Management Work

Forgive me for reading something from Harvard, but here's an excerpt from a new book on stack ranking.

It's interesting to note that "firing poor (i.e., low-ranked) performers was the quickest route to improvement, and that reducing voluntary turnover soon became important as well."

I think that implementing a rank and yank system will increase your voluntary turnover, and it's not the bottom 10% you're going to be losing. The question that needs to be asked is why you're stack ranking. Are you doing it to honestly push out the bottom 10%, and hire top performers to replace them? Or are you doing it to scare everyone else into performing better or leaving on their own?

IT workers dubbed 'worst dressed'

What are you wearing? I'm nattily dressed in a pair of jeans, sneakers, and an Elmira Community Nursery School T-Shirt. Maybe I need to be metrosexualized. Or not.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Good Old Days

I spent many, many evenings playing StarBlazer and Robotron on my Apple ][ clone when I was in high school. I thought those days were long behind me, when all of a sudden I stumble across this:

Last night I realized that, although I still remember the keyboard layout for Robotron, I need to practice a bit. And my old Apple joystick was much better for StarBlazer than the Wingman Extreme I have now.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Nude curling calendar - the story that won't die

If you've made it to the bottom of the blog home page, you may have noticed the SiteMeter counter. One of the neat things SiteMeter does is track which pages are viewed, and how the viewer got here. Don't panic - it doesn't tell me who you are, but it often tells me why you're here. If I put a link to a post in a newsgroup, for example, I'll see hits that go to that specific topic. If someone finds me from a search engine, I'll see the search terms. Top search terms these days? Nude curling. I hope this is from people looking for the calendar, not people wanting to try nude curling. I saw a guy curl in a Speedo once (and once was MORE than enough), but I can imaging nude curling would be somewhat, ah, painful. Let's just say there had better be shrinkage from the cold, or things would be dangling on the ice that should not be dangling on the ice.

Have I scared y'all away from nude curling yet? :)

How do you create happy programmers?

Scoble asks the question. Read the comments - there are some good ones.

Most seem to be along the lines of good leadership, a challenge, and a good work environment. Sounds about right.

Could You Pass 8th Grade Math?

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Vision and Leadership

Say what you want about the guy, but Bill Gates has vision and leadership. He also gets some help along the way.

From what I've seen of Windows Live so far, the vision isn't a good one, but at least it's there. You can't blame the guy for trying.

Learning from mistakes

Scott Berkun has a recent topic on the worst bugs in history. He suggests that as software professionals we should learn from our mistakes, to avoid repeating them. Interesting idea. Even a cow learns to avoid an electric fence, right?

A company I know is trying to get over taking two and a half years to release something. Some estimates that have been tossed around say that it should have taken at least a year less time, had it been done right. Ignoring for the moment the "should have" and "could have" and "why didn't we" questions, how are these guys going to learn from this? They are claiming this won't happen again, but that's been said a few times in the past.

For the sake of argument, let's say this time they mean it. How can this be avoided again?

1. Throw the bums out. Get rid of anyone responsible for the poor (or missing) decisions, the lack of planning, the crappy design, the non-existent architecture. Well, some have left on their own. Some have been encouraged to leave. Some have been promoted. This solution is probably a no-go.

2. Think first, act second. No more "ready, fire, aim". No more backfilling design documents. Are the auditors looking for a piece of paper, or are they concerned with seeing sound software development process in place? If recognizing that there's a problem with the process, or with the lack of process, or not following the process, is the first step to making things better, then taking the time to plan things first is a good second step.

3. Take smaller bites. Don't sell something you can't build in a reasonable amount of time. Be upfront with what you can deliver, and when you can deliver it. Don't promise miracles, and if your developers tell you it will take eighteen months, don't coerce them into dropping process and design to cram it into nine months. It will end up taking twenty-four months.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ottawa garage doors

If you live in the Ottawa area, put on your tinfoil hat. Someone, or something, is bombarding the area with radio waves. These have knocked out garage doors, embassy doors, etc. in a wide swath of Ottawa.

The U.S. embassy claims to know nothing of it, although similar situations have played out in some U.S. cities where the military has switched to a different frequency, one that is close to the frequency used by garage door openers.

Makes me wonder how secure the military is these days. What if I went up to an aircraft carrier and started thumbing my garage door opener?

Maybe I shouldn't try that. I hear Guantanamo Bay is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I, for one, welcome our new garage door overlords.

Making magic

Predictions are for the Waterloo Region population to swell from today's approximately 500,000 to 750,000+ in the coming years. I guess this is why - we're making magic here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Windows Live

I just took a peek at Windows Live. In Internet Explorer, of course, since Firefox doesn't seem to like it. I have to side with Firefox on this one. Windows Live looks like something a high school intern might come up with, given a few days. I realize it's a beta, but come on.

The Googlers must be laughing their asses off at this.

Nude curling calendar?

First we had that nasty drug scandal. Now we've got a nude calendar. How could this not boost club memberships?