Archive for October, 2006

Blowhard

October 27, 2006

At our company quarterly event today, Representative J.D. Hayworth gave a campaign speech. I’m not in his district so I can’t get the pleasure of not voting for him, but good golly! I’ve never heard such a patronizing, condescending, and phony speaker in my life. He began by administering a “Listening Acuity Test” and repeating it three times even though I’m sure most of the people got it on the first try. He used every rhetorical device in the book (except reading your audience) and concluded with an explicit request for our votes.

I wasn’t a J.D. Hayworth-hater before (I honestly didn’t think of him) but I sure am now.

[UPDATE (11/8/2006): looks like the people of CD5 agreed with my assessment.]

[The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go Daddy Software, Inc.]

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It’s About Canines, Right?

October 26, 2006

This looks to be a pretty cool package for Reservoir Dogs, a movie that I’ve never seen. Apparently, I’m the only one who hasn’t, a fact made painfully clear to me in an awkward interchange with our president. It was like Lord of the Rings all over again.

[UPDATE: In case that last sentence was unclear, I have never seen Lord of the Rings. Every time I’ve ever mentioned that fact I have been met with open-mouth, wide-eyed stares, as if I had just said that cancer survivors should just shut up and move on. (I don’t believe that, it was just an example.) I have never seen It’s a Wonderful Life, Goodfellas, or The Godfather Part II either. I did finally cave in and watch Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction, and The Godfather recently. Sucked, sucked, and ho hum. Sorry.]

[UPDATE 2 (7/5/2007): I did finally see Reservoir Dogs and I have approximately the same opinion of it that I did of Pulp Fiction. I didn’t care for it: there was some egregious violence and the flashback style is so played out. Maybe it was great at the time, which I doubt, but it’s tired now.]

[The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go Daddy Software, Inc.]

Choice Quote

October 24, 2006

“One of the cool things about being an optimist is that quite often I believe I have come up with an idea that will change the world. This is a wonderful feeling that lasts from the moment I think of the idea until the moment I realize I’m full of shit. That’s why I often keep my best ideas to myself. That way I can savor their splendidness longer, free from the brutality of reason and information. But ultimately I must set each idea free, so that it might take wing for about a minute and a half before someone shoots it like skeet and stomps on it with a manure-scented boot.” — Scott Adams

Internet Exploder

October 17, 2006

With the imminent release of Internet Explorer 7 and my MetaWeblog feature in the can, it’s time to start taking care of a few visual glitches in IE7 with my app. I installed it, requiring my first restart in 59.5 days. (Side note: I abhor restarting. I can’t think of a Windows restart that wasn’t a royal pain in the butt and this restart was no exception. Somehow my projects unbound themselves from source control and so I had to wait forever to re-establish the connection. Boy do I hate restarting.)

I was slightly ready for IE7 since I had read its upcoming feature lists since it was announced. I knew that there would be some CSS issues and that the UI had changed to add tabs and such. My first impression? Firefox use is going to skyrocket!

I was at first confused by the blank tab to the right of the normal tab line. I’ve got a malfunctioning extension on my Firefox that makes something like that when you right click in the tab line so I thought it was a glitch. Then I clicked on it. Hoo ah! That blows! I didn’t know what to expect but it wasn’t opening a new tab and retaining that faux tab.

So then I needed to go to our defect tracking system, which I’ve helpfully bookmarked. Umm, where’s the bookmarks? Uhh, where’s the menu? I had to bust out laughing because I can’t believe anyone in their right mind would eliminate the menu bar from a Windows application. There’s UI experimentation and then there’s UI madness. A colleague finally pointed me out to the star under the address bar. Lo and behold, there’s my wayward bookmark.

I’m not sure what it is, but the interface leaves me unsettled. I feel like there’s so much missing or hidden. It’s not just a lack of familiarity because Safari has a very similar, minimalist appearance by default. Oh, but it does have a menu. I think the menu is the biggest factor in my unease.

I consider myself a power user and a browser afficionado. Hell, I have bought browsers because they had neato features. If I had this first impression with IE7 given my context, how are the masses of Windows users going to react when this thing is foisted on them and there’s no easy path back to IE6? I stayed on IE5.5 much longer than anyone I knew because there were some quirks with IE6 I didn’t like. I ended up upgrading because of the constant nagging and pressure to do so. And there was no way to downgrade by that time. People are going to go nuts about this.

Luckily, there’s an excellent alternative just waiting for the forced update.

[UPDATE (10/19/2006): GAAAAH! They released it! Time to step up the fixin’ something awful.]

Blogging Outside Yourself

October 16, 2006

Just finished deploying the latest release of Quick Blog today and boy was it a fun development cycle. My feature was implementing the MetaWeblog API. This API, if you don’t know, allows you to blog from a variety of tools instead of being constrained to the admin interface provided by your blogging engine.

Now, obviously I’m a big fan of my chosen blogging engine but sometimes it’s nice to have options and a change of scenery. The MetaWeblog API, along with the MovableType API, the Blogger API, and the Atom Publishing API, sets a standard around which software developers and blog publishers can collaborate. The collaboration is unavoidable because the API specification is a steaming pile.

Like all specs Winerian, the ambiguity rapidly becomes evident as you get down to work. I first implemented the specification as written. Fire up Ecto and see what happens. XmlRpcFaultException. Lovely. Look at the Logging Console and step through the debugger. Ahh, I took the spec one way and Ecto took it the other. Try another client and see that usage has cemented on Ecto’s way. Nice. Continue with each MetaWeblog endpoint.

In the end, though, it was a lot of fun because now we integrate well with Windows Live Writer, Flickr, and Google Docs. We might implement the other APIs at some point but I don’t know that they give us anything that we don’t already have. I’ve pored over their specs and it’s mostly just more of the same—each implemented slightly differently, varying in names, inputs, or outputs. It really feels like the feed wars all over again; I’ve just never seen a compelling reason to pick one over the other except that the non-Winerian specifications are universally rigorous and easier to implement.

[The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go Daddy Software, Inc.]

Hold Your Nose and Vote

October 16, 2006

I’m filling out my vote by mail ballot this evening and I am once again reminded how far afield from contemporary mores I am. Every race, every candidate requires me to pick the lesser of two evils—the choice that will inch toward my ideals more, or rather, the choice that will recede away from my ideals less. I don’t know if most people have that dread, that lack of identification with any candidate or issue, that I do. How I wish I could find candidates that I wanted to get elected!

The thing I noticed right off the bat in researching candidates was that they all denounce illegal immigration. Every last one of them, though the Republican canidates tend to be more strident about it. Where are the voices defending immigration and attacking the seal-our-borders mentality as un-American? Am I the only one who thinks that we should open our borders to all-comers (providing they’re not criminals, of course)? You’d think that the whole of Mexico was poised at our southern border, just waiting for the border patrol to go on break so they could come here and steal every last one of our jobs, to read some of the “issues” pages on the Web sites.

The other thing I noticed is that the social conservatives have completely usurped the fiscal conservatives’ previous hold on the party platform. Calls for anti-abortion legislation and “definition of marriage” laws abound. Limited government is included seemingly as a sop to the party members who might still be under the misapprehension that the party of Goldwater cares about downsizing the government back to its essential functions. They do, of course, care about paring down government but disagree entirely about what “essential functions” means: the welfare state as it stands is the bar now. The fact that it keeps expanding isn’t troubling, so long as it keeps expanding under the GOP’s wise rule.

If you’re at all interested in how this shift took place, you should read this essay by C. Bradley Thompson immediately. It is very long but very much worth it. In it, Thompson describes the sad state of American conservatism and shows how the slide was inexorable. By conceding the moral upper-hand to the liberals, Goldwater et al. effectively forfeited the fight and were reduced to implementing the liberals’ ends but in a conservative fashion—an utterly deplorable situation, to my mind. I will cover that essay in more detail sometime soon, as I have given it a lot of thought and consideration.

GooTube

October 10, 2006

So Google’s going to buy YouTube for $1.65 billion. This really doesn’t surprise me. Oh sure, there’s thorny copyright issues to overcome and YouTube’s revenue scheme is practically non-existent. But there’s three points that made this is a certainty to me: 1) Google already has Google Video; 2) Google blew it with MySpace; and 3) Google needs ad growth.

The fact that Google has already done Google Video indicates that the company realizes that it needs to be a player in this space. It has gone through several revisions, uncharacteristic of Google’s fire-and-forget product development cycle. They’ve even negotiated exclusive deals with several content providers. This is an area that Google wants to own; my gut tells me that it’s because it was largely wide-open when they got into it. Music was (and is) dominated by Apple, but movies and video is a nascent market.

I remember when News Corporation bought MySpace for $580 million reading that Google was an early suitor for the social networking site. My guess is that Google decided that MySpace just wasn’t worth it at the time—up to that time, by my recollection, all of their acquisitions were pretty small potatoes compared to ones by Yahoo and Microsoft. That passing proved to be a huge and costly mistake for Google since they then ended up paying $900 million to be MySpace’s exclusive search partner later that year. And that’s not even including the revenue they could have kept in-house through advertising sales on MySpace’s notoriously page-inflationary site.

The management at Google probably views YouTube in a much different light because of that blunder. While $1.65 billion might seem dear to us, 100 million videos per day could yield untold amounts of advertising revenue that would be kept within the company. Further, Google could keep YouTube’s search functionality for itself. If Google didn’t buy YouTube, it’s pretty clear that someone else would and the number of companies that could pull off such an acquisition is pretty exclusive. In other words, Google saw another MySpace in the making and acted decisively to stave that possibility off.

The addition of 100 million video-based ads and some smaller number of page views for serving textual ads would rejuvenate Google’s ad growth in a very big way. With Yahoo’s shares tumbling recently on the announcement by its CEO of falling ad revenue, Google could quickly stand out from its peers on that front and watch its stock soar as Wall Street rewards its discovery of a new advertising mine.

It should be interesting to see how Google integrates YouTube into its orbit. I suspect that the press release’s statement that YouTube will remain as it is is the best move Google could make. Why tamper with what’s working? Adopting a ham-handed branding could kill YouTube’s popularity and there are certainly any number of players in this space that could bleed YouTube dry if its fortunes changed. In fact, the distinct corporate identity could allow Google to try different ad variations that it couldn’t readily do under the AdWords or AdSense umbrellas. In due time, these questions will be answered of course.

An Honor

October 6, 2006

Former co-worker Dave pointed out to me that Mike Volodarsky has started a blog using Quick Blog. He’s the Program Manager for Microsoft’s IIS development team. (And apparently unaware of all the Microsoft blogging resources available to him. Shhhh.)

[UPDATE (1/12/2007): He’s moved to Community Server for obvious reasons. But not before writing up a great entry about Quick Blog.]

VoIP Follow Up

October 2, 2006

Last May, I discussed my voice over IP experience. A lot has happened since then. Actually, a lot has happened in the last two weeks.

I finally activated my Packet8 account and promptly started the switch to Vonage. I can’t believe how horrible Packet8 service was. First, you have to dial a 1 before every phone number but the caller ID doesn’t automatically prepend that 1. That makes caller ID as an easy redial impossible. So you instead have to remember the area code plus phone number and then re-enter it in. Nowhere on Packet8’s site does it say anything about that, but Vonage addresses that issue in its FAQ.

Second, there were times when you couldn’t dial any phone number in particular area codes. We live in 480 and my in-laws live in 602. Occasionally, my wife would call her family and it would just ring and ring. No voice mail pick up at all. She didn’t think anything of it until she tried number after number. A quick call on her cell phone revealed that the problem was indeed with Packet8. How the hell is that any kind of service!

All in all, Packet8 made us long for the days of AT&T CallVantage. Sure, you had to reset the telephone adapter almost on a daily basis and there was the occasional dropped call if you didn’t answer call waiting fast enough, but at least you could *always* make calls. I had high hopes for Packet8 since they seemed more technical and hacker-friendly. But I really think that they don’t deliver on that promise and their web site is a joke compared to AT&T’s.

We’ve had Vonage for a little over a week now and I deeply regret ever having listened to the asshole that said I shouldn’t switch to them in the first place. He definitely wasn’t worth the respect I gave him at the time. It has been a joy: the web site is comprehensive and the development seems ongoing. We’ve had no problems with the service and it connected us to 911 perfectly when we needed that recently.