Thursday, March 30, 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

What the heck is that stench?

So I decided this last weekend it was finally time to put together at least one of my fish tanks. They had been sitting empty for quite some time now. So I got out the gravel (stored from Michigan) and some ornament and put it all together. The next morning when I work up, there was definitely an odor in the house and it was definitely coming from the tank. I can only guess that the rocks/ornaments/filter have some weird nasty bacteria or fungus creating what can best described and a 1000 sweaty gym socks piled on a warm heater. So now I start attacking the problem and trying to get everyback to stink free, or near enough.

On a less stinky note, I finished a couple of books to free up more time for baby books.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)

Where as the first book seemed to center on the political intrigue, this ones brings in more of the fantasy elements to set up the stage for magic and dragons. Mr. Martin still keeps his elements of pain and torture as in the first book where you many of the characters get disillusioned with life and to suffer through the events that unfold. It feels like he is telling the reader, life is unfair, get used to it.

If you liked the first one, then this one is sure to please. The characters are rich and multidimensional. The plot is deep and twisted. This reader is caught and just can't put it down.

Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software

Domain Driven Design is the perfect compliment to any development shop that has decided to use the agile process of eXtreme Programming. It is centered around iterative coding practices and test driven development but also hints to deeper point where you drive to your user stories in a common language with your consumer. Eric Evans creates a system to drive to a "ubiquitous language", reach deep architectural insight, and create robust systems in a changing environment and he explains all these steps in simple ways.

Where I think this book tends to fall a little flat is that is trying to be everything to everybody. This book is definitely not for the "architect" as these concepts are things that you have learned by fire when fighting the battles against scope creep and communicating with Marketing teams and consumers. This also would be wasted on any fresh developer as many of the things that are discussed have not been experienced yet. I do recommend this book to software developers that have roughly 2 to 4 years of experience as it really does plainly put forth the problem sets and offers a solution that can work in many environments.

Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity

This one is something I am still working on. So far I am liking what I am reading. It does seem to be not against XP, but against many of it's concepts in all but a small set of environments. The part is the writing style is very engaging. Either way, probably will have that done in the middle of next week.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition)

This book should really have a new title called the Encyclopedia of Attachment Parenting. Just started this, and have little time left to read it, but I am trying to hit the needed points and go back through on those upcoming sleepless nights. Maybe I will even read it out loud.
In conclusion

Things are still going well. The baby is due anytime now. Life is good. I am learning to play the piano. I have been posting pictures to flickr. Stud finder is working again. Galactic Civ 2 is better now that it is saving after I updated the video drivers. The Lions are shaking things up at the quarterback position, maybe that can bring the team to life. Ford is in trouble in the auto industry, which may mean the will let the Lions win. Will write something other than reviews shortly. Actually thinking of writing a "This I believe" after NPR and Fort Knight Dispatch, John M Knight's Blog: This I Believe... did one.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Terrible Mistake

Ug.

Although it probably isn't that bad of a mistake, I can't even look in the mirror now. I shaved off my goatee, since I nicked it when I was trimming it. This is the goatee that I have had for about 6 years now without removing it. I sadly miss it. Oh well, it will grow back.

On some reading notes: I am part way through Domain Driven Design. Not too bad, but I think this would useful to any developer about 2 years out of school. It has a lot of ways to look at how you organize and put together software. It also takes a look at the more practical aspects of XP in relationship to iterative development and the use of refactoring.

I also recently finished reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I found this book to be an exercise in what most authors eventually want to do to their characters, which is to torture them relentlessly. I have started to read the sequel, and I think I am starting to notice a pattern. Through the first 200 pages, you have trouble bringing yourself to read another page. It is so painful watching some these characters get punished for living (living?). The rest of the book leads into wondering if the character will somehow extract themselves from these predicaments, knowing most likely they won't, but curious enough to have a hard time putting the book down.

I also read Heading Home with Your Newborn : From Birth to Reality yesterday to start getting prepared for our new arrival. This book was darn good, but at this point, I don't know if will be helpful (as the baby isn't here yet). The writing was very good and lead to couple of chuckles reading which helps break some of the tensions that comes with expecting a first child and realizing you don't know the first thing about taking care of one. The book contains information covering a broad set of topics, but really doesn't get very in-depth about any of them. I actually prefer this as I was able to get a good chunk of basic information in the matter of 3 hours and feel a little bit more prepared. Highly recommended!

Also as noted on St. Patrick's day picture, I bought Galactic Civilizations II at the recommendations of Jefe le Grand. So far I like the game a little bit. My reservations may come from the fact that I have trouble with turn based strategy games (where is my bum rush?) or from the fact that this genre at some point can feel like a job as opposed to a game. But this game has the feature to end all features, the shipyard! It is like have legos and building spaceships all over again. This strategy really sparkles when you build the ships to your design and send them out. The design has little impact, but gives your race a feel of it's own. Noticed a bug so far where I can't load save games (ouch) but hopefully there will be a patch soon.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Geek, I am

gal_civ_guinness

Am I the only that thinks this equals a fun evening?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Review: Component to VGA box

Device Review

So my anguish over high def video gaming is almost over. I recently bought a Progressive-Scan Component VGA Box from Lik-Sang. This device will take component input in 480p, 720p, or 1080i and transform it to VGA for use with up to two monitors. Out of the box, I plugged everything in and it worked like a charm with my archaic KDS VS-195 monitor. There are a number of dip switches on the device that allow for manual settings, but on auto it worked great. One thing that is a little annoying is that it cannot handle non-hi-def signals at all. So when the XBOX is in the OS screen, it will not be displayed. Another thing is that the colors are very washed out. Not very rich or vibrant, but the thing that was important to me, contrast, was spot on and I can now spot my enemy from a great distance away in dark areas with a crispness that is just not available on standard tv.



Other Stuff

Yesterday's reformat was a success. At least so far. I have yet to test hooking up the camcorder to the computer to see if I am able to pull the videos in. That will be on my to be tested today list. Also I need to test hooking up my new 61 key m-audio keyboard (M-Audio Keystation 61es 61-Key Keyboard). Powered and connected via USB for use with both PCs and Macs, which is also why I am not tempted to get a Mac (although I am tempted about once a year). Garageband is a piece of software that has always intrigued me and it would be nice to run it for a spin or to have something similar on the PC. But alas, I now have to figure out what will be in the budget.

Also, yesterday's reformat has identified a problem of mine. I have not organization for the files that I have on my PC and I think that I am going to need to put them in some sort of order. And definitely run a backup. Yup.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Couple quick things

Finally pushed over the edge and need to fix my PC. This is the longest I have ever had a PC without changing it and am starting to feel the pressure to upgrade. But I just continue to try and limp along. Today I am spending some time reformatting so that hopefully I can download my video's from the vidcam. Plus, my TV mode on my video card quit working months ago, and I finally am tired of waiting on that. The one problem I can't seem to fix is the one that bothers me the most. Whenever I reboot, it takes 15 minutes to POST. I unplug the one piece of equipment I installed after purchase (HDD) and it POSTs in less than 15 seconds. This only reinforces the next PC will be build by me. Just a lot more flexible and reliable for what I need it to do.

So, I have a DLP projector that I use for movies and games. It works well for movies, but I was unable to see in most games because they are dark and require a fairly high contrast ratio. So I saw online that you can buy a dongle that will convert hi-def to vga. So now I am using one of my old monitors (19") to play my games on. I will post a full review of it later along with make/model/where you can get one too if you are intrigued.

Well back to reformatting.

(BTW, I have been considering a Mac Mini so that I can do audio stuff on it. Don't tell my wife.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Book Review: The Innovation Superhighway

Without boring about why I am doing this so much later than when I actually read the book, suffice to say, I have decided that this book requires a full review. I had written previously about this book, where I recommended this to my previous employer. I would like to explore why I felt this way and more so why I became disillusioned with the book's message.

First off, when looking for books on innovation, one must know what type of information they are looking for and what information they are going to find in the book that they are going to read. The Innovation Superhighway is a book that starts out presenting the start of a framework using the internet as a means of transmitting information. Early on in the book it is stated that internet and all it's services and facilities are really about innovation, not information. While many innovative activities are occurred because of the information that is made more readily and by the "free wheeling" of early internet companies, the internet is truly about the transfer of knowledge. When much of the book deals with sharing of innovations across some infrastructure sounds wonderful, I have seem little of it in the corporate world, where it may be true in the academic world. In fact I have seen the opposite in the corporate world, where innovation is coveted and hoarded.

In the end, this book will do a couple of good things for you. It provides an excellent look into the ideas of Intellectual Capital, which still has a certain amount of nebulousness about it (although I was looking for something a little deeper here). The book also presents some excellent views into Knowledge and what it can mean to an individual, a company, and even a country. There is a lot of good information in those chapters.

This however only gets us to page 127 out of 349. At this point, the book goes into the story of ENTOVATION which I was unable to find much that I could use in many of my roles of using technology to facilitate communication and parts within a corporation's innovation processes. It becomes the story of how individuals from many roles got together to explore knowledge exchange and sharing for the purpose of innovation. Many of the cases that are put forth rely on companies and individuals seeing the benefit of sharing information and also that all information being shared is of equal value. I have been part of such attempts at sharing only to have them break down due to information having different value to different parties and therefore demanding different returns. The whole knowledge market, although referenced earlier in the book, seems largely ignored. The primary aspects near the end of the book rely on a more idealistic world, where personal gain (thinking selfishly here) is largely ignored and the greater good of society and countries are funded to aid innovation. I have seen little evidence of any working towards that or any chance of these goals coming to fruition. Painting of Exemplar Ken Practitioners through ~40 pages had little value to me in my quest for knowledge and innovation processes.

So, there is value to the book. I felt that the first portion of the book was the most valuable and would love to see more around that, but I was disappointed that after such a strong start, the end left me wanting.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

If only Tequila

I wish it wasn't NyQuil. Tequila (the other Q drink) would be preferable, but somehow I have managed to become sick. Again. Oh well, sick happens.

NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement

Look, wealthy teams, I know that it isn't fair that you should have to give up more of your income to other NFL teams, but perhaps some of your popularity comes from your rivalries to the other teams you help? Both the owners and players make a ton of money in this sport and on all fronts they seem very stingy. I think I would propose some major changes however. First off, I would reduce the pay of the players. Second I would increase the allocation of player money. Third, I would increase the monies that go into the NFL retirement program.

Many of the big name players do their own financing but many don't or don't even do it effectively. So to the first point, reducing pay, I am not talking about a major deal here, but a limitation to a percentage of the salary cap. So for instance, the most any given player can make in a year would be 8% of the salary cap, so this year that would mean that a player could only make 8% of $94.9 million. That is the sum of their prorated signing bonus, incentives and base salary so that there will be no trickery here. Today's $94 million is given all to the players and that accounts for 54% of a teams allocation. I would like to see the difference of what the players want to current placed in a NFL 401(k). Plus the players can contribute some of their money into that as well to create a cushion for them when they are finished.

To do away with the salary cap, and the money sharing in the NFL would destroy everything that I have come to love about the game. We will lose the aspect that on any given Sunday, our team could win. We would lose these battles of equals and the power of groups of heros to emerge. We would lose the aspect of good team management to create forces were all teams start on equal footing. We would lose American Football and they would lose a lot of viewership.

I may build one of these

This one falls into my friggin' awesome category. Something about it just makes me giddy, but what really gets me is that in the end it turns out to be a good looking guitar. I will have to think about what other things I could build into a guitar...

Toilet Seat Guitar

Our Cell Phones suck!

This is probably one of my longest running rants about living in the U.S. Our cell phones really suck. Part of the other things that I have seen on web sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, and Engadget Mobile only whet my appetite for a phone that will provide all the functionality I want in a tiny, sweet looking package. I would love to see better cameras, faster data networks, bigger displays, bluetooth, good processors, applications, coverage, etc. I think the only thing we have right is battery life. Even the general style does not live to the Geek that drives me. Think of the Geek as similar to the Fast, only it has a pocket protector and a more demonic voice. It desires the pinnacle of technology in ones pocket to provide connectivity where ever you are.

But on the plus side, it looks like someone is trying to do just that. I hope that it takes off, and I might even considering using my dollars to purchase into it.

Source of rant: normal life and Engadget Mobile: Wired profiles Sky Dayton and the birth of Helio