About a month ago, I came across Eric Sink’s Weblog, which contains some excellent articles for business-minded programmers, including several pieces collected under the heading Marketing for Geeks. I have also found his articles on the Business of Software to be enlightening, showing some of the hazards and pitfalls of starting and running a software product business.
Month: December 2004
I gave Mandy and myself a new computer for Christmas, an eMachines T3065. I’m reasonably happy with it so far — it sure beats the 300MHz Celeron that it replaced — but there have been some annoyances.
For starters, the machine comes preloaded with all sorts of useless cruft: software for getting started with AOL or Compuserve; AOL Instant Messenger; the Bigfix Patch Manager, a glorified version of the Windows Update service; and Norton Antivirus, which technically isn’t useless, but I prefer Grisoft’s free version of AVG. This in itself is not so annoying. One would expect to be able to repave the PC, installing only the software that one needs. The annoying part is that the people at eMachines don’t provide the software in separately installable disks. Instead, the software comes packaged as a Norton Ghost disk image, leaving people like me with an all-or-nothing proposition when repaving the machine.
One of my first tasks, when setting up the machine, was eliminating the cruft, which, in typical Windows fashion, involved many remove-reboot cycles. Once I acheived a reasonable value-to-cruft ratio, I ran the windows update service to fix up the OS, including the installation of SP2. After the associated install-reboot cycles, I also installed some essential software: vim, cygwin, and Firefox.
Finally, I created user accounts for Mandy and myself; limited accounts to minimize security risk. When I logged in with either of these accounts, I was greeted with an untitled message box, the text of which read “fAIL”. What a nusance!
For a while I couldn’t figure out the origin of this mysterious message box, probably a debugging aid for a developer who failed to test all the corner cases of his software. It wasn’t until I tried to log off while the message box was displayed that I found the clue that would help me determine its source. Thanks to the “This program is not responding” message box, I learned that the name of the application was Sunkist. With some searching through the registry, I soon discovered the culprit: the memory card reader software from Alcor Micro, shwicon2k.exe.
I still don’ know how to resolve the problem, but I have submitted a request to eMachines’ tech support. I’ll post when I have a solution.
Dancing off the turkey
A while ago I came across a news story about Dance Dance Revolution, a video game where players dance to music, following steps prescribed by the game on a dance pad, a game controller in the form of a mat, where buttons are activated completely by one’s feet. The story told how the DDR line of games is becoming a popular way, not only to have fun, but also to get fit and lose weight. I forwarded the the story to my wife, Mandy, and ever since she has been looking for the game.
She has been looking without success. It seems that Konami refuses to publish enough copies of the games to meet demand for reasons beyond my understanding. None of the regular retailers from whom somebody might expect to buy the game in Canada, such as Future Shop, Best Buy, or even Amazon, carry it. Even the big American retailers don’t have it.
Thankfully there is at least one retailer that I found through the Amazon Marketplace who can get new copies and is willing to ship them to Canada: gamesquest_direct. I ordered a copy of DDR Max 2: Dance Dance Revolution as a Christmas gift for Mandy.
I played it for the first time this morning. Having read the reviews on Amazon, I was expecting the game to offer a mild aerobic workout, but what I got was far from mild. It was intense! After a few minutes of play, I was sweating harder than I usually do at the gym. And this was at the beginner level!
For anybody looking for a relatively cheap and fun workout solution, compared to the likes of $1000 elliptical trainers and $40/month gym memberships, I can’t recommend DDR highly enough, if you can find it.
The Golden Rule is Broken
I recently finished reading John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. By Gray’s account, one of the most common problems that couples have is in recognizing and appreciating gender differences.
Men mistakenly expect women to think, communicate, and react the way men do; women mistakenly expect men to feel, communicate, and respond the way women do. We have forgotten that men and women are supposed to be different. As a result our relationships are filled with unnecessary friction and conflict.
I am reminded of an anecdote in Gerald Weinberg’s Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach where a husband and wife purchase a dual-section electric blanket in the hopes of keeping the wife, who is usually too cool, warmer and the husband, who is usually too warm, cool. After one night of use they are both completely dissatisfied with the blanket. The husband was too hot; the wife too cold. They return to the store the next day demanding a refund. The wise, old clerk at the store refuses to take it back, saying “I think I know what’s going on here: you had your controls crossed. You”, he said to the husband, “had the dial that controlled her side of the blanket, and you”, turning to the wife, “had the one for his. When you felt cool, you turned up your dial, causing his side of the blanket to get warmer. He naturally turned down his dial, causing your side of the blanket to become cooler. The cycle repeated until his side was as hot as possible and your side was as cool as possible.”
What’s the point? As I a child I was indoctrinated with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In light of the preceding examples, I have to question its validity. In both examples, the participants are treating their counterpart as they would like to be treated, but with an undesirable end result. If nothing else, it shows that the Golden Rule is not universal. There are times that it fails. And according to Gray, it fails quite often.
The Golden Rule is broken. It fails to take into account the needs and wants of others. It assumes that everybody wants the same thing.
What can we do about it? Is there any way to fix it? Not that I can see. Instead, I propose a new rule to take its place: Understand what others need and want, and treat them accordingly.
For months now, I have detested the design of the template that I was using for this blog. So here’s a change. I think it is a slight improvement, but it is still far from ideal. Some day I will ditch these canned designs and make something really smart; something good enough to be displayed in the css Zen Garden. Of course I’m dreaming.
Much more than the design of the template, the name of the blog, Ken Dyck’s Weblog: Links to Stuff, has also been bothering me. While it is an accurate title, it lacks a certain punch. After many agonizing seconds, I finally settled on Within our Ken, because of its poetic dual meaning. If the duality is not apparent, I refer you to the definition of ken.
You’ll notice that the tag line is still blank. This one requires more than a few seconds of thought. I gradually lost interest in this blog after I decided to limit myself to short posts consisting mainly of links. Over time, I started to feel like a lackey for Google, but with my mostly non-existant readership not a very effective one.
Anyway, over the next little while, I intend to do some thinking about narrowing the focus of this blog, and coming up with tag line to match. Until then, enjoy the links to stuff.
Networking on the Network
Phil Agre has some of the best career advice I have ever come across in Networking on the Network: A Guide to Professional Skills for PhD Students. As the title suggests, it is directed towards those pursuing an academic career, but much of his advice applies more generally to other pursuits.