Friday, February 27, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Objects

Women, who had always regarded men as commitment objects and pre-med objects, became enraged that men regarded them as sex objects. Men were puzzled. They didn't know what else to regard as sex objects.

-- Fred Reed, Gelded Men And Sexless Women

Quote Of The Day: Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

-- Litany Against Fear, Frank Herbert, Dune

Monday, February 23, 2009

Google Reader Evolution

Let's face it: when you're "sharing" an item in Google Reader, you're not simply "sharing" it. You're making a statement that the item you're sharing is either, you think, probably interesting to the people you're sharing it with, or, that you agree with the point made in the item being shared and want to make it known.

In both cases, one pieces that is currently missing is a feedback. It's quite possible that the people you've shared an item with would like to comment on the item, but alas, currently they have no way to do so (other than "re-share with comment", but that's pretty lame).

All right, suppose they provide this ability. It now links the person that shared the item with the person that commented on the item - but further down, would it be reasonable to propagate the comment to all people the item was originally shared to? What about privacy controls? What about comments and privacy controls on items that were re-shared further? When does the propagation stop, and how far back does it reach?

Non-trivial questions to answer, but I'm sure they will be answered this or that way pretty soon. Mark my words.

UPDATE: As of March 11 2009, Google Reader supports comments on shared items. Less than a month - that's stellar response time :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Blackberry Curve Overheating & Battery Drain: Gone For Good

I see that a lot of traffic to this site is driven by search for "blackberry overheating" and "blackberry battery drain". Just to make things clear, let's state that
  • This problem seems to be gone for good, never seen since;
  • Doubt that it had anything to do with it, but timing was close to OS upgrade from 4.2 to
  • The fact that all third party software on the device (mostly Google stuff) was kept up to date may have played a role, too.
If you're still suffering from this problem, try upgrading the software and see if it helps. You're not going to regret it, either - functionality is noticeably better, though the device is now more sluggish than it was before. Alas, this is the price of progress.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote Of The Day

From Coding Horror: Are You An Expert?:
Being an expert isn't telling other people what you know. It's understanding what questions to ask, and flexibly applying your knowledge to the specific situation at hand. Being an expert means providing sensible, highly contextual direction.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best Practices: Totally Useless

Favorite quotation from this article:
Throwing a book of rules at a terrible programmer just creates a terrible programmer with a bruise on their head where the book bounced off.
This is exactly what happened to me recently.

I was leading a project being executed by a team of cargo cult followers with copy'n'paste being the favorite technique. I've tried to nudge the developers gently into not doing certain things that were making my hair stand on end. Then, I was confronted with the statement saying that I'm being nitpicky, and need to make up my mind and "set expectations" (another beautiful corporatese term). Grudgingly, I put together the list, trimmed it down to a couple of dozen items, and passed it up. Lo and behold, it's been declared that they understand the futility of trimming down (because the "best practices" get lost in the process), and that they will take care of collecting "the words of wisdom".

Next thing I knew, the Holy Writ expanded to over two hundred commandments, and it was declared that the mental capacity of one can never be sufficient to hold that much knowledge.

And indeed, the behavior demonstrated by participants was alike to the way a sponge reacts when it is saturated: all extra water simply drips off, never penetrating the surface.


In this particular case, the only technique that actually worked was - vigilant activity monitoring (post commit, hence, post factum, unfortunately), combined with vigilant followup and correction enforcement (using terms of originally referenced article, "making sure you reach the unreachable"). After several months of this, the developers either finally started to comprehend what was required, or, possibly, got tired of redoing the same stuff fifty times and decided that it would be simpler for them to just follow the directions from the beginning rather than to try to be lazy and cut all corners possible.

The downside is that such an approach is bogging you down and forces to shift the attention to mundane things ("Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and the pig enjoys it"). However, given the situation when "you have to work with the team that you're given" (which is often the case in enterprise, especially now that extreme cost savings are in effect), this may be the only option left.

UPDATE: Fixed typo.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Every Joke Has A Part Of A Joke

Kids, get away from appliances, we're gonna reboot the house!

I wish I could take the credit for this phrase, but I can't. This was said by my friend and colleague Frank Jones. What makes it interesting is that he said in 1997, when the talks of home automation were rudimentary and sounded rather like jokes. In fact, it *was* intended to be a joke. Turned out to be a prophecy.

Jumping back to today - they're going to have App Store for cars. Whereas this idea is somewhat overdue already (just look at the progress of dedicated GPS devices and compare it with the clunky and stone age old GPS in your car, even if it is a few months old, and you'll see what I mean), it is indeed scary. Just take a look at the evolution of G1 software, which is in a perpetual beta house of dreams, and shudder.

I think that was a cue for Microsoft Car jokes to materialize.

Quote Of The Day: Knowledge

Too much knowledge never makes for simple decisions.

Friday, February 13, 2009

One difference between enterprises

  • Smart enterprises: spend efforts on creating automated tools supporting the process, so the human factor is alleviated, and the process is enforced.
  • Stupid enterprises: spend efforts on creating documentation on what processes to follow, so the human factor is confused the hell out of, and more effort is needed to create documentation to explain what the original documentation had in mind, ad nauseum.

Quote Of The Day: Time

The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but behind any use of power over another the ultimate assumption remains: "I feed on your energy".

Another One Bites The Dust, Almost: Contact Search

Items from the wishlist are coming true, one by one. This time, it is the search across all contact fields - already available in GMail, but not yet available on Android.

Android G1: One More Useless Application: Navigation

TeleNav launches GPS navigation for the G1.

I wonder:
  • Have they actually tried to use the G1 GPS hardware?
  • How do they deal with "out of coverage area" situation?
  • How do they plan to deal with hordes of unhappy buyers that will flock back to them, furious, and complain that the whole thing is too slow for anything other than walking down the glorious route, if at all?
  • For added bonus, have they already hired the liability litigation team, or it is hidden deep within the small print?
  • Is it possible to use external (USB or Bluetooth) GPS, powerful enough for real time navigation, with G1, or the driver doesn't yet exist?
In case the sarcasm doesn't penetrate, let me put it this way: I don't think G1 GPS hardware is fast or sensitive enough for this purpose. You're in for a rude awakening if you, even for a second, fall under a delusion that you can use G1 for real time navigation.

In addition, unless TeleNav manages to load the whole map onto your G1, you're in for a nasty surprise when the connectivity blacks out - and that happens more often than one may hope for.

Ask me how I know.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Android Hardware: Just A Bit Closer

Telefonica Dream

I don't think HTC's been reading my wishlist, but, hardware that is coming to Spain will have raised keys on the face.

Nice to know the hardware is evolving.

Pity they haven't done it in the first version.

Oh, by the way, while we're at that - keep in mind that keyboard backlight on white and brown bodies is barely visible (which makes it even worse in any lighting except very dark), whereas on black body it is sharp and distinct.

UPDATE: Yep, raised keys are here to stay, keyboard or not. I wish G1 had this key configuration.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Android G1 RC33 Aftermath

Let's see how RC33 stacks up against the original wishlist and pre-RC33 state:

  • Centralized application update notification: check;
  • No IM interruptions on joining/departing WiFi (somehow omitted in the original list): check;
  • Bonus: spam control in Android Market. Implementation is very strange, though - the comment marked as spam doesn't disappear, from the list, it is not marked in any way, and there is no ability to unmark a comment that was marked as spam by mistake;
  • Bonus: Latitude.
The rest is either not immediately noticeable, or of no interest to me.

Voice recognition still sucks.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Oh Gawd, Not This, Please

There is an idea in the air - send more spam to fight spam. And, lo and behold, the same day I get a message with a subject "From Hackers With Love", which begins with
With Valentine’s Day looming, don't be fooled by one of many online scams!

I don’t know about you but I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been known to get romantic – but I much rather celebrate a day which is special for me and my partner than get caught up in the commercial hype , especially when there is no in between. On the 14th of February you are either in or you’re out.
and then goes on with a longish text about fraud protection, and concludes with
  1. Be wary of any e-mail received from an unknown sender and do not click on any links provided.
  2. Run up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software with behavioural protection – such as Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus.
  3. Ensure your software is up-to-date and run Smart Updates regularly.
  4. Keep the programs running in the background at all times.
  5. Use common sense.

Yep. it's the Good Spam™.

Yeah, it's all good and nice, except for two things:
  • My mailbox already receives about 600 (yes, six hundred) spam mails a day, and that is after it's been rigorously checked with Google Apps engine;
  • New kind of spam does, in fact, not get caught by the spamtrap, because it is, in fact, a different kind of message;
So now not only I have to wade through the spam box (for, unfortunately, there are false positives, more often than I wish there were), but have to read each Good Spam™ message and figure out whether it is Good Spam™ or the usual spam. And I don't think I can afford to mark it as spam - for the reason above, the patterns are different and there is no guarantee that it will not skew the spam engine heuristics, and ALL my mail starts being sent to the spam folder.

I sincerely wish that we don't get into a situation where because of one idiot who tried to set his shoelaces on fire, all of us have to take off the shoes now...

Android G2 Wish List In Motion

Just before the "system update" happens, let's see how the software components listed in the original Android G2 Wish List evolved:

  • Battery life (not quite software, but not quite hardware replacement, either): there are persistent rumors that T-Mobile is sending out a battery upgrade. Unconfirmed;
  • "Escalating" volume setting for ringtones and alarms: Klaxon addresses that. It is a little bit sluggish to start and quirky at times (no 24 hour setting, 12/24 change is somewhat bizarre), but quite usable;
  • Centralized application update notification: there's aTrackDog. Despite some bitching and moaning, mostly works - and if you can't remember the exceptions, you should seek treatment;
  • Web access to Market - Cyrket is there for you.
Not bad, considering the fact that Google didn't lift a finger to make that happen.

Now let's wait a bit and see what update brings.

Google Is Cooking Android Update

Looking at today's Latitude announcement, then further to the Latitude download link, then further to the FAQ:
G1 users in the US will be receiving Maps v3.0 in a system update soon.
Something tells me "soon" is going to be soon, I don't remember them throwing words to the wind. Is it Cupcake or something else? Remains to be seen.

UPDATE: Nope, not Cupcake.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Just Say No: Torin Aluminum Racing Jack 1.5 Ton

Torin Aluminum Racing Jack 1.5 Ton

Two instances of this model were observed doing exactly the same thing: blowing the gasket when the lift height exceeds their design value.

You don't get a warning - it's just the next time you pump the handle to lift the car a bit more, it suddenly goes quite a bit down instead of a little bit up, and you see a puddle of oil on the floor under the jack.

Come on, even my old $19.95 Larin jack has the safety valve, for this price the thing must be tolerant to such a simple condition... Wonder if there was a bad batch, and whether Torin is going to issue a recall.

How To Know If Your Car Is A Classic Or A Junker

More here. While the distribution is quite different (Latvia???), notable is a complete absence of both in Africa (except South Africa) and Middle Asia - but that's rather a sign of absence of Internet rather than absence of these cars there.

By the way, for skeptics that would say that the trends actually reflect the need for repair - nope, they don't, the repair trend is different. Which, by the way, gives me an idea - I'll be looking at this trend to decide whether it is time to dump the junker, or it will live a bit longer.