Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Daughter will never drive... but I'm sure I'll have other problems...

My daughter will never drive... I've been debating this idea with my wife for a while.  You see, I don't think my daughter will ever drive a car, because I think we will have self driving cars by the time she is old enough.  I'm always an optimist when it comes to technology.   An history is littered with lots of technology optimists who lived through a lot of disappointment, as they discovered the world just doesn't move as fast as you think in will.  

Do I think I will be disappointed?  I'm not sure.  You look around and you see Volvo's "No one will die in a volvo by 2020" campaign.  There were multiple teams who won the Darpa Urban Challenge in 2007, and that challenge was everything you need to actually have autonomous cars.  (going on 4 years ago)   There are now numerous similar challenges going on in China(didn't a chinese company just buy Volvo?) now and most other companies are saying they will be in the autonomous market by the 2020's.   So we have the technology to make it work, and the cost of that technology will fall to something reasonable within 3 rev's of moore's law, but the problem is that it just takes time to engineer and test a commercial grade solution.  I'm guessing that's easily 10 years.  Throw on another 5 years to get through the public mindset change and get some basic laws in place.  Which means there is a pretty good chance my daughter won't drive.  

Now if cars really can drive themselves by then, I'm sure as a father I'll have an entirely different set of problems.    Lets cross one bridge at a time.   

So there you have it wifey... in writing... self driving cars by 2026.   If I'm wrong you get to teach her how to drive... if I'm right I'll teach her how to hack the software safety locks.  Deal?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Mac Setup

I became a Mac convert a few years ago.  I won't go into the reasons why, but lets just say I was a hardcore windows developer before, so for me to have been drawn to the dark side there had to be a hell of a reason.  There was, there is, if you don't get it then don't bother to read any further.

If you have recently converted, or are simply interested in how other people use their macs then read on.  I work with lots of business people so my Mac has to be capable of doing everything a Windows pc can do.  I'm also a coder and a gamer so I have additional requirements.

For Business I use:
  • Office 2008 - Probably the best version of office, as it doesn't have the annoying ribbon.
  • Codeweavers Crossover for Mac -  This lets me run a lot of windows software natively on my mac (eg, no vmware/no boot camp neccessary)  It supports Microsoft Visio/Project and Internet Explorer.  
  • OmniGraffle / OmniPlan - These are Mac equivalents for Visio & Project.  They are better than the Microsoft versions in my opinion.  
  • VMWare Fusion - It's great, seems more stable than Parallel's Deskop product.  I have a boot camp partition which fusion can start from inside Mac OSx.  I haven't actually needed to use this in more than a year. (thats how good Codeweavers and the rest of the software I mentioned is)
  • Skype - Skype calls are great for when your iphone can't hold a voice channel.  Ichat video is actually a lot better than skype video, but more people have skype accounts. 
  • Yojimbo - Simple note taking.  Stores media & license keys as well.  Supports encryption. 
  • VLC - VLC is free and it is far better than both windows media player and the native mac apps.  Far Far better.  It supports more codecs, and it won't crash the system if you feed it corrupted or incomplete files.  Even if you are a windows user you should install this.  
  • Google Chrome & Firefox - I use both.  They are both good for different reasons. Firefox has more plugins, but chrome is faster and more stable.
  • TunnelBlick - VPN software. Free, and works with most VPNs that aren't java applet based.
  • Camtasia - For making screen-casts. It rocks.  
  • Email - I'm lucky enough to work at a company that has google apps for email/calendaring/etc.  I also use google apps for my personal domains, so I don't really need any software for this.  The apple mail app works with both, but I personally prefer the google interface as I use search quite heavily.  If you work in a corporate setting and can use Microsoft Outlook then the CodeWeavers Crossover software I mentioned above will let you run it natively.  If you have to use Lotus Notes, then you should quit your job.  (I actually have a policy that forbids me from working anywhere they use lotus notes, that software is so bad that I would lose my mind if forced to use it.  Its actually a competitive disadvantage for companies that use it.  If you support lotus notes take comfort that your job will be gone in 5 years as all those companies wake up and switch to google apps or some equivalent.) 
For coding:
  • Xcode - Free development IDE from Apple.  
  • Eclipse - Personally I hate eclipe, but its the least common denominator for java/open source coding. 
  • TextMate - Great simple text editor.  Support regular expressions, buffering of huge text files, syntax recognition and scripting. 
  • MonoDevelop - C# rocks, what else can I say.  If you write iphone apps and hate objective-c then  Monotouch is a must have as well. 
  • WireShark - Packet Sniffer.  Must have for debugging. 
  • SoapUI - Another must have for debugging webservice apps.
  • VMWare Fusion - Yeah, I mention it twice, but I mostly use it for running developer images of software I'm working on. 
  • GIMP - Because its better to have a GIMP than be a GIMP. 
 For Gaming:
  • Codeweavers Crossover Games for Mac - I don't really use this anymore, but for a lot of games it makes life simpler than having to restart in a bootcamp partition. 
  • BOOTCAMP - because nothing competes with baremetal windows for games.  Can we say Supreme Commander 40km x 40km maps with 7 insane AIs?  Ok, probably only half that spec... my water cooled uberCore multi graphics card desktop can barely handle those settings. 
  • I wish I had more to write here, but until Jordan is old enough to play games against her old man I don't really have time to really play games.  
That's about it.  Feel free to make recommendations if you think I missed something.  I'm always trying new things.


    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Gaming, and the lessons you learn...

    I installed MAME(a game console emulator) recently on my iphone.  One of the first games I put on it was called “Solar Warrior”  It’s always the first game I play anytime I install MAME on a machine.  It takes me back to some of the best times of my life. 

    My father used to run a large trucking company, and every day or so he would slip out of the office for an hour just to get away from the stress.  Typically he would ride to town, grab a coke at the local store, say hello to everyone he met and then ride back to work.   Around 5th grade my father began to “drag” me along with him.  At the time, I could never understand why he wanted to drag me all the way to town just to turn around and go back.

    So one day we go to the store and there is this new game there called “Solar Warrior”.  My father gave me a few quarters and shortly thereafter an addiction was born.  I’d look forward to anytime I could sneak away with the old man to play this damn game.  The funny thing is my father got addicted as well.  You see it was a really hard game and he really really wanted me to beat it.  We used to play for hours trying one strategy after another.  Probably the best strategy was a co-operative one with  my father hitting the “fire” button as fast as he could,  while I managed they joystick and the “jump” button.  Try as we might I just couldn't get very far in this game.

    Then one night after I graduated 5th grade my father pulls me aside and we go for our regular gaming session.  My father gives me $20 in quarters, a lot more than usual,  and off we go… As I’m nearing the end of the money I look at my father and I say. “Dad, we just can’t do it… this game is just too hard.”  

    “Oh yeah?  Wait right here just a minute…” and off he goes.

    About 5 minutes later he comes back with $100 in quarters and we start playing.  Now that was an obscene amount of money for a game machine back them.   Heck, with that you could buy an Nintendo gaming system, which was all the rage among my peers.

    Two and a half hours later we beat that game.  It was a great day, and my father and I were really pleased with ourselves.   I never met anyone else who beat that game, and frankly I don’t think the developers even expected anyone would.  You could see the later levels were missing graphical elements and looked thrown together.   

    Now I learned a really important lesson that day.  That lesson is that when you can’t beat something with skill you can almost always beat it with brute force.  I’ve found this to be true regardless of whether I am writing computer algorithms, competing in the business arena, or repairing a computer.  (yes, I do realize this isn’t always true… but understanding any rule and knowing when to apply it is half the trick)

    I also learned another important lesson that day, though I didn’t realize it until just recently.  It’s that the most important part of being a parent is just showing up.  So thanks dad… for all the quarters… and for taking the time to show up.

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Learn Baby Learn!

           My daughter has started to read.  I find this absolutely amazing.  It’s amazing because she is 19 months old.  We had been working with her for a while using the “Teach your child to read” set of videos and cards, and while there are lots of children out there who can do it at her age or even quite a bit younger, I still can’t help but be blown away. 
           I guess I find it so amazing because I didn’t learn to read till I was in 1st grade.  (~7 years old)   What’s even crazier is that my daughter is learning to read before she learns all her letters.  Basically she learns to recognize the word, the letters it turns out aren’t all that important.   I didn’t actually learn that skill till 5th grade., and I only learned it then because I didn’t know how to use the scroll buffer in the Qmodem term program and I had to teach my self to quickly read the words that streamed in from the 2400bps modem I was using to surf BBS’s. (pre-commonly available internet)  As you might imagine once I learned to read words without seeing the letters my reading speed increased dramatically.  I can typically put down a couple of meaty books on a flight from NYC to LA. I can only imagine what Jordan’s reading speed will be.
           Anyway, I’m just fascinated by my daughter.  You should have seen the look on my face when I saw her read the first word a few weeks ago.  Of course my wife and I were sure it was a lucky guess the first time we saw it happen, so we show her another word and she nails that one too.  It starting to come faster now, more words, more letters, and she is even beginning to count.  All things I have to say I simply didn’t do till the K-1 timeframe.
           It’s also cool to see how her mind works.  We used to laugh when she was learning to talk because I would ask her to say “Daddy” and she would immediately reply “Papa”, and vice versa.  It’s like I would say a word and she would say the first thing that popped to mind.  Well the funny thing is this happens in reading to.  We wrote “DOG” on the board and she immediately replied “Puppies!”  Hmm...

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Keas has launched!

    Keas, the start-up I was previously working at is starting to make headlines. (warning Fox news link :-)  Check it out, its a great tool for managing your health.

    Dell is on fire... not in a good way...

            Dell’s service quality is spiraling from bad to worse. I bought one of those uber high-end water-cooled dell desktops about 24 months ago. Now having bought dell gear in the past I know that it never makes it to 3 years without a serious hardware failure, so I do the smart thing and I get the 3 year next day on-site service.
           As expected I had multiple failures of the hardware in the last month with the onboard network card failing, USB flaking out, and finally one of the hard drives dying. I call dell to open a support ticket and I’m told,
    “We can’t offer support this week, we are upgrading our support system.”
    WTF?!? Multiple calls, online chat with support rep, bitter complaints about how I have a next day support contract and I’m finally able to track down someone agrees to open a ticket for me. Halfway through it becomes apparent that they are really just taking notes on paper and are going to open a ticket at some time in the future. (3 Days later and I still haven’t gotten the ticket email yet)
           But get this, once the ticket is opened they tell me it’ll still be at least two days before the tech will get the hardware and then he will call to schedule a time to come out. In no way does that qualify to me as next day on site support. I’m sure if I look in my contract there is probably a lot of hedges about availability of parts, etc. But, it’s just a bad experience. At a minimum I feel it’s false advertising.
          It’s kinda too bad really. I had been thinking of buying some more gear recently from Dell, cause they have good prices, but knowing the life time of the kit, and seeing the kind of service you get I think its not nearly as good a deal as it looks on paper. The reason apple seems to be winning these days all boils down to high quality gear and good support.

    Update: Four days later I get a call from the tech,  he wants to know if he can drop by.  A hour later I have a new motherboard and a new drive.    So all in all, while I didn't get the speedy service I expected, the problem did get solved.  To be entirely fair if you go back 10 years ago I would have either had to ship the thing off or been completely our of warrant/servicing, so I don't really have a right to complain.

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    What happened to my battery life on Iphone OS 3.1? You'd think apple took a stake in an aftermarket secondary battery company.

    My iphone 3.1 battery life is just atrocious.  I noticed about 2 days after upgrading that I couldn’t make it through a whole day without having to recharge it.  A quick search of the newsgroups reveals a host of theories and recommended things to try.  I did all the basic ones, turning off push notifications, Bluetooth, etc.   In the end the only thing I have found that seems to work is putting the phone in “airplane mode” when I don’t need it.  

    Everyone I talk to has a slightly different experience, and there are a few 3.1 users who aren't having an issue.  My personal conspiracy theory is that AT&T enabled a new section of spectrum around the same time apple released the 3.1 upgrade and some combiniation of the two has resulted in half-lifeing my battery.

    The 3.1 release is probably a pass, it has it has a number of bugs, my data connection always thinks its working when I have no signal, they disabled my tethering ability (which I live by), and they broke exchange support.   Sadly like all apple upgrades there is no way to downgrade.

    The sad thing, I still LOVE my iphone.  I feel like such a techno-lush.