Thursday, February 1, 2007

epc: prescient to know something will happen but not smart enough to do anything about it

Yesterday I wrote a post on the new timezone changes for the U.S. coming up in March over here: Changing Times at my "work" blog. It's also covered in today's Washington Post: Clocks' Early Spring Forward May Bring About a Few Falls.

Net: in 2005 the U.S. Congress shifted the start and end of Daylight Savings Time by four weeks (starting three weeks earlier on the second Sunday of March, and ending a week later on the first Sunday of November). When the law passed I said: Self, that will be trouble and promptly filed the thought away in the warren of notes to myself. One would think that a year or more is plenty of lead time to update all of the software to accommodate a shift in the time zones, one would be wrong to do so.

This is the first nation-wide change of time zones since the mid-1980s, the first to occur since computers and computer technology became pervasive in U.S. households (this affects Canada as well since their Parliament opted to sync up with the U.S.). In theory software rely upon a database of timezone data since they do change, in practice a lot of this stuff gets hard coded (think of all of your non-network attached technologies which may have some sense of standard time v.s. daylight time which can't be easily updated).

I predict that there will be lots of missed meetings due to the problem of what do you do with a meeting schedule for 1:00 p.m. EST on March 12, 2007? Should it be moved to 1:00 p.m. EDT? Or Should it remain at 1:00 p.m. EST?

Luckily the dogs do not care so long as I walk them some time between 2:00 p.m. dog standard time and 5:00.

e.p.c. posted this at 20:14 GMT on 1-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Superbowl XLI Wiki

A pointer to the Superbowl XLI Wiki where Charlie O'Donnell is trying to raise money for charity by getting 100 bloggers or blog readers (really: anybody) to claim a box and donate US$10.00 (plus some Paypal surcharges). I've signed up box 67 and chosen Literacy Inc., a group I've started working with here in NYC.

e.p.c. posted this at 15:43 GMT on 2-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn,NY.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Da Bears, teh suck

Spent the weekend cleaning up our front bedroom which has become a sort of depository of last resort for all things of crap we wish to dispose of yet cannot find the energy to walk downstairs.

Also did some work rewriting some code which should have worked on Microsoft Internet Explorer, but instead caused bits of HTML to explode in bits and pieces all over a finely crafted application.

Last night we had a delicious chinese-thai-faux-asian dinner at Kelly and Ping on Greene in SoHo.

Tonight we had a delicious lamb shank dinner with Richard and Regina, while the Bears proved their inability to hold onto wet pigskin in High Definition. This was the first Superbowl I've watched end-to-end in maybe nine years. I think it will be ten years before I waste that much time in front of the boob tube again (can we actually call it that when it's really just a matrix of LEDs?).

And now, while it's blowing a 20 mph wind outside in the -6°C weather (apologies for the mixed units there), I am going to walk the dogs after a nice brace of a Macallan 18.

e.p.c. posted this at 03:39 GMT on 5-Feb-2007 .

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Ccccccccold

So cold, the dogs curled up under blankets:

Cold Dogs, originally uploaded by epc.

Sailor and Frisket react to the temperature by bundling up in cashmere and chenille

I don't know if it's something in the air, or the lack of humidity, or just the cold, or a cold, but my eyes have been itchy, scratchy, and tearing up constantly for the past couple days. Makes it difficult to read anything.

I've been learning a lot about the various drafts in the house. We have many. They float and waft around, and when you try to actually track down the source the wind dies down. I've taped plastic insulating sheets over various windows which has managed to cut down, but not eliminate the source of a number of drafts. Very frustrating, I thought I'd finished doing that when I left the run-down slum I lived in in college.

Sailor and Frisket are getting along, mostly. There's occasional bouts over who gets to show me a toy. Frisket has lost a few toys due to random beheadings or eviscerations of squeakies. But I think they're getting along, and they are adorable on the couch when they curl up and warm my feet.

e.p.c. posted this at 20:39 GMT on 6-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A new level of misery has been attained

I had thought that misery was having a dog with diarrhea.

Frisket has a delicate stomach and I've gotten used to this about once a year, frequent walks as she works things out of her system. It could have been the stick she picked up on the promenade, the rag she chewed a bit on the street, the unidentified food substance she picked up near the subway station. All lead to the same thing.

But no, true misery is the same dog, with diarrhea, on one of the coldest nights of the year. Every twenty-thirty minutes, all night, with a very brief 90 minutes of sleep between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

When it is not deathly cold outside, I usually just sit on the stoop with her to avoid the walking-up-the-stairs-and-down-the-stairs routine, especially since one of my knees has been regularly informing me of its age and the after effects of that bicycle stunt in 1978.

But with it this cold, I couldn't stay outside that long, and I don't know how good it was/is for her to walk this frequently in this type of cold (at least it is not wet outside). I tried to hang out on our internal stairs but found, while warm, it just isn't very comfortable.

For bonus points: our standard routine is to starve Frisket for 24 hours (on our vet's advice). This is more challenging when there's a second dog in the house who is perfectly fine (I'm not complaining) and thus needs to be fed. Frisket is doubly unhappy.

I have not really slept since Monday night, so if you're reading this and thinking of contacting me about anything today, wait until tomorrow.

Unless Sailor also gets sick, then you may just want to send out the troops to look for a guy wandering the streets of Brooklyn Heights with two sick goldens.

e.p.c. posted this at 16:22 GMT on 7-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Sailor over Frisket


Sailor over Frisket, originally uploaded by epc.

Frisket is dozing away on the couch. Lisa is offscreen to the right working from home on a sick day. Sailor is determined to doze on the couch as well, carefully climbs through the space between Frisket and Lisa's feet and curls up on top of the cushion behind Frisket.

I thought they were dogs, not cats.

See also: Sailor over Frisket II

flickr posted this at 18:21 GMT on 8-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Social House Las Vegas: did you really want to make a reservation?

I'm heading to Las Vegas at the end of March to tag around the IA Summit before heading to San Diego for the 2007 etech conference. I'd heard about a new restaurant, Social House, designed by the people behind Public in New York, with an executive chef who came up through the Nobu chain of restaurants.

Some months ago I found their web site and was thrilled to see I could book a reservation online and did so.

And heard nothing, no email acknowledgment back, no phone call, nada.

Today I called the phone number listed on the website to book reservations. After a 30 second message I learn that you're actually supposed to call another number instead, which I did.

Eventually I got the confirmation I was looking for, after 8 minutes of going on hold/off hold, etc.

e.p.c. posted this at 20:32 GMT on 8-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dozing dogs


Dozing dogs, originally uploaded by epc.

Sailor and Frisket hold down the couch to prevent it from levitating.

flickr posted this at 17:21 GMT on 12-Feb-2007 .

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

When Goldens Attack

When Goldens Attack II
Frisket expresses an opinion

e.p.c. posted this at 20:34 GMT on 13-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Miscellany for 14 February 2007

We had a delicious Valentine's Day dinner at Five Front in DUMBO under the Brooklyn Bridge. I won't rest until I've dragged all eleven readers of this site there. I think I'm up to about five out of eleven.

Only misfire at dinner was an Australian sparkling Shiraz. Maybe it was too cold or too sweet but it didn't do the trick for me.

I walked the dogs in the sleet this morning and the sludge left over this afternoon. They enjoyed the snow (finally!) but the downside of snow is that the kiddies get to take over the dog run for sledding. When I was a kid we sledded on the slope of a nearby farm. I'm not sure that were I a parent I'd want my kid sledding 1) in a dog run and 2) breathing in the healthy fumes of the BQE.

Earlier today I had lunch with a couple of guys who are pursuing a startup. This grew out of a combination flame and offer on the NextNY mailing list a couple of weeks back where I offered my services as an advisor to anyone who'd ask. This was the second meeting I've had with founders (or potential founders) and both were a lot of fun. I utterly failed as a consultant (who wants to hire a one-person consultancy when you can hire IBM for ten times the price?) so I don't feel like I'm losing anything by giving away advice for free. There's a lot of good stuff going on in NYC in the tech world. It may be a bit under the covers but I'm seeing and hearing a lot of innovative ideas and doing what I can to help them along.

We are spending the weekend in Amagansett, followed by a quick return then dropoff at Newark for a business trip to Phoenix for Lisa. I'll stay home, tend to the dogs, and host a friend coming in from Austin for the week.

I am getting a lot of comment spam on this site. None of it is getting published as far as I know since I block close to 1000 words ("viagra", "phentermine", "cialis" seem to be the top terms this week). Given the rarity of a comment on this site I may just turn comments off entirely.

e.p.c. posted this at 01:25 GMT on 15-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY. , Comments [1]

Snow dogs


Snow dogs, originally uploaded by epc.

flickr posted this at 23:07 GMT on 15-Feb-2007 .

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Backseat drivers


Backseat drivers, originally uploaded by epc.

flickr posted this at 02:11 GMT on 17-Feb-2007 .

Sundogs


Sundogs, originally uploaded by epc.

Took the dogs to Indian Wells Beach this afternoon for a brief frolic. Need to work a bit on Sailor's understanding of commands (like STOP!) before returning to the beach. More pictures on my flickr account.

flickr posted this at 22:20 GMT on 17-Feb-2007 .

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Is Vista Microsoft's OS/2?

Many years ago, I spent countless nights downloading disk images over the internal SNA network, burning the images to actual 3.5 inch floppy disks, and installing the latest build of OS/2 2.0. It was exciting to be part of something which seemed to be a genuine jump forward in technology. Windows had stagnated at 3.1, Apple had released System 7 in 1990–1991, compared to these OS/2 seemed to be a major jump forward. A lot of time (both on the clock and off) and money was poured into OS/2 above and beyond anything that IBM officially tracked.

At the same time that OS/2 2.0 was coming together, the corporation was melting down. We had AdStar, Eduquest, Pennant, Lexmark, Axciom, Advantis. Some of these divisions actually split off into separate companies, others operated financially separate but never formally left IBM (until years later in the case of AdStar). A very destructive environment ensued where divisions billed each other market rates for services. Morale dropped through the floor. There was the AMSROUND discussion (think of it as a free–wheeling blog in 1991 era IBM without the comment spam), there were various side discussions in the hallways at Myers Corners Lab, Kingston, Raleigh, and elsewhere.

Putting a hard price on internal resources changed the focus of development efforts and management away from customer facing to internal concerns. We'd bicker about how much it cost to host forums (IBM's internal discussion boards), or to transfer files (finding it theoretically cheaper to fly two guys to Boulder in first class than to ship the MVS distribution via RSCS over SNA, and faster too).

We lost focus as company, and posted stunning losses in 1992–1993 as a result.

And as I read the discussions at Mini–Microsoft I can't help but wonder if we're seeing a similar meltdown at Microsoft. IBM's problem then, and I think Micrsoft's problem today, is the sense that they had to compete at the same level of intensity, support, marketing, profit across a very wide product set. When I joined IBM in 1990 it manufactured all sorts of computer hardware from PCs through mainframes, desktop printers through high–end high–speed printers, networking equipment, cash registers and point–of–sale terminals, various peripherals to support all of these pieces of equipment; plus software to drive, manage, and connect all of these disparate services together. It was not only an internal expectation, but external through customers and the media that anything that came from IBM would have the same level of security, service, support, etc. as anything else that they'd purchased from IBM.

It meant there was very little margin for error, products took years to be developed and introduced and were frequently killed off before introduction because whatever revenues they were forecast to earn would not recoup the development, marketing and service cost (even if the development cost had already been incurred).

I remember this era as I watch Microsoft struggle with Windows Vista and other products. Vista may well have some revolutionary features, but everything I have read about it makes me think twice about upgrading to it. I held out for close to two years before switching from OS/2 to Windows '95 (because as IBM's webmaster it was getting embarrassing that I could not easily check out our web site given the lack of decent browsers on OS/2). But I've now gotten to a stable point with Windows XP SP2 and I really can't see changing simply for the sake of changing. I don't see any value to me in upgrading to Vista.

And that is a similar judgement that I heard from many people in the pre–Windows '95 era when OS/2 had a couple of years' headstart on what Windows '95 would introduce. The penalty for switching to OS/2 seemed to be too high for people to accept, it seemed to be more than whatever benefits people would gain from switching (in the pre–browser, pre–widespread email era did you really need to run more than one complex application at a time?).

OS/2 2.0 launched with some fanfare, nothing like the Windows '95 launch three years later. Various updates came out, Workplace Shell was added, a decent TCP/IP stack was bundled in, but between the perceived cost of switching and the perceived cost of developing software for it, OS/2 just never took off. Personally, I think the death knell was Web Explorer for OS/2, its presence killed off any incentive for anyone else to develop a browser for OS/2, and its early orphaning also killed off any value of OS/2 as platform for web surfing.

Microsoft now have multiple operating systems across multiple hardware platforms. It builds some hardware, not much. It has worldwide operations, commitments, requirements. It has embraced and extended its organization across the most popular areas of technology today, covering video games, internet operations and applications, operating systems and various desktop and server applications. And I wonder if Microsoft, like the IBM of 1992, are simply too big, too complex to manage all the interconnections and interdependencies effectively.

We have different expectations of technology conglomerates than other conglomerates. No one expects interoperability between GE turbine engines and GE clock radios. Perhaps quality, support, but not interoperability. We can accept GE as a brand that describes disparate products, but we don't accept Microsoft or IBM (or, I wonder, open source) as brands describing products. We expect something more, interoperability, interconnections, infinite scalability.

When I was at IBM I questioned the wisdom of bundling a bunch of disparate products together under the WebSphere brand. In retrospect I think it may have been a smart move, though for reasons that I doubt IBM Software marketing would appreciate: it lowered the footprint of expectations from all of IBM Software and technology to just WebSphere.

So I wonder if the solution to Microsoft's malaise, if there is such a thing, is not to break up the company but break up the brand footprint. Lower the expectations, you can't manage them as it is across the company, but lessing the span or breadth of expectations they might make it easier to control projects, market products, and improve their image in the eyes of their customers.

And keep Windows XP around for a while longer than planned. There is no reason to kill a good, stable product (I know, I also got 18 security patches last week, so stable may not be a great adjective to use; but the APIs, driver dependencies, system requirements are pretty stable).

e.p.c. posted this at 19:11 GMT on 18-Feb-2007 from Amagansett, NY. Source,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dog Run Dogs


20022007, originally uploaded by epc.

flickr posted this at 16:05 GMT on 20-Feb-2007 .

Looking past each other


Looking past each other, originally uploaded by epc.

I like how I managed to get the tower in between the dogs while holding the camera in such a way that I thought I was likely taking a picture of the snow.

flickr posted this at 21:14 GMT on 20-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sunset 21/02/2007


Sunset 21/02/2007, originally uploaded by epc.

flickr posted this at 22:35 GMT on 21-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Armillary Dogs


DSC06924, originally uploaded by epc.

flickr posted this at 16:01 GMT on 23-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

24 Hours Without a Computer?

Could you shut down your computer for 24 hours? Could you shut down all of your technology gadgets for that long?

Shutdown Day: 24 March 2007

I will try, it will somewhat easy as I'll be in Las Vegas that weekend (though if I'm truly participating I guess I can't play the slot machines, I'll have to make my donations via the craps and blackjack tables).

e.p.c. posted this at 18:58 GMT on 23-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY. Source,

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Don't Call it a Comeback


Don't Call it a Comeback, originally uploaded by epc.

Apparently Silicon Alley is making a comeback. Frisket takes the news in stride.

flickr posted this at 14:57 GMT on 27-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

LinkedIn Tip: Break Out Your Jobs

My use of LinkedIn waxes and wanes, though it seems to be on the upswing the past few weeks. I have gotten a couple of interesting leads, connected with a number of past colleagues, friends and acquaintances and with one exception have no serious complaints. I even pay for one of the "pro" levels of service though I'm not quite sure which one I'm on.

A bit of advice to anyone who's getting started with LinkedIn or has a renewed interest due to the routine spring time cleaning that occurs in Corporate America: do not just list the companies you've worked at, list the distinct individual roles.

My reasoning is this: by listing individual jobs you've had you increase the weight of your profile. There will be more words which can get indexed by a search on LinkedIn, you will appear to have more experience (it's just perception), and it give more opportunities to request and receive endorsements.

LinkedIn do not offer a lot of space for an endorsement, only a few sentences worth, maybe 500 characters at the most (but I think that's high, it may be as low as 255 characters for some VARCHAR(255) reason).

If I've worked with you at multiple distinct roles, I'd want to write separate endorsements for each role, especially since you may have different skills or experiences to highlight with each role.

Keep the roles within reason, if you've worked somewhere for five years and list ten jobs you may give the wrong impression. List major roles, roles which resulted in or from a promotion, which you received an award for, or which you received some public recognition for.

So if you have a LinkedIn profile, break up your experience at Incredibly Böring Manatees or wherever you work and then ask people you've worked with for endorsements.

That Silver Chalice award you received for most consecutive 25 hour days only has meaning inside the cube farm (and even there you'll find it has little value).

e.p.c. posted this at 21:18 GMT on 27-Feb-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Slightly acerbic and eccentric dog walker who masquerades as a web developer and occasional CTO.

Spent five years running the technology side of the circus known as www.ibm.com.

More about me here.

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