Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Orthopedic Surgeons

A couple weeks ago, I had an MRI because I’ve had some knee pain.  I had asked for a CD of the MRI to look at on my own and something strange showed up:


I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time because I actually thought it was some kind of artifact from MRI itself.

Today I went to the orthopedic surgeon for a follow-up.  His diagnosis:

  1. It’s not cancer (uhhhh… that’s good, because I hadn’t even thought of that)
  2. It’s a bone bruise.

He said something like:  “How’d you get a bone bruise?  We usually see that in football players.”  Answer:  I have no clue.  I assume it was in a basketball game when I collided with someone else’s knee, which happens every so often.

Anyway, I had never heard of a bone bruise, so I asked him a bunch of questions about it.  For example:  can I play basketball; should I ice it every day; should I do more physical therapy… etc.

The whole time I was asking these questions, he basically wanted to get out of there like a he was on a blind date with Ted Kaczynski.  He offered me no advice other than “just let the pain tell you when to stop” and “take some motrin before you play.”  After all that running around, physical therapy, MRI, etc., it was essentially a useless consult.

I told my wife about this and she’s like “Yeah, a lot of orthopedic surgeons are like that.”  I started thinking about this more and it actually makes a lot of sense.  There are pretty much two options for an orthopedic surgeon:

  1. Standard stuff like painkillers, ice, physical therapy.
  2. Surgery.

And that’s it!  It’s not like a regular doctor where there are all kinds of additional tests they might run, or different drugs they can prescribe to help.  The only drug they can prescribe that makes any sense is a painkiller.  Other than that, it’s the knife.  So if they already know it’s not the knife, they might as well try to get out of there as fast as possible so they can make their tee time.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Windows 7 RC

I installed Windows 7 RC x64 on my second drive and it's pretty solid.  Really solid.   See my last post on the subject for thoughts on running the beta.  The RC is something I might consider running full time.

For one thing, it's faster and installed even less painfully than the beta. The Windows install process has improved a lot since XP (the Vista install was pretty good, albeit slow). Win 7 installs somewhat faster.  The built-in driver support is also spectacular.  My machine was up and running perfectly with no additional drivers (in fact, an Intel driver bug I know of made it into this release).

The OS itself is faster than Vista on the same machine.  Granted, this is a fresh install, though I’ve put a bunch of apps on already and it continues to perform great.  I’m a huge fan of the Windows-key-to-search shortcut in Vista.  I use it for everything. It’s much, much faster than Vista’s, even on a bare install.

I've been very skeptical of the new taskbar, but, I've come around to it because the right-clicking features are really nice.  The addition to right-click features for the control panel is very welcome. They've changed the highlighting so apps that need attention now actually get my attention (this was a problem in the beta). Also there's a little bit better delineation between apps that are open with multiple windows and apps that are closed.

They changed some icons, for the better, I think. Remote Desktop Connection doesn't look like "My Computer" as it did in earlier versions.  The new sound themes are nice.  I’m using the “cityscape” theme.  Maybe I can get used to one of these so the Bank of American ATMs that use old default Windows sounds won’t annoy the crap out of me thinking there are constant errors while I’m getting cash out.

The new Media Center is great. For one thing, you can finally drag the current position on the timeline. This was probably the #1 thing I felt was missing from media center previously. They also made it so you can add your ripped DVDs without having to do some registry hacking to get it to show up. The performance in a window seems better as well. I'm typing this with "Cloverfield" playing (ripped DVD), a few apps open and the machine is having no problems keeping up the playback.

I’m still unclear where Media Center is going though.  It’s pretty much the best software that comes with Windows that no one will use.

HomeGroup seems like a great feature, and you can share media with your homegroup over Windows Live now in the RC.   I’d love to try this feature out more, but I’m not willing to install Windows 7 on multiple machines as of yet.

UAC is less invasive for daily installs and usage. 

Apparently Microsoft is adding a built-in XP virtual machine for Enterprise, Business and Ultimate versions of Windows 7.   This was a secret feature until Paul Thurott revealed it yesterday, and it sounds like a really good move on Microsoft’s part.  Obviously it won’t work for the business that I’m in, which requires DirectX and OpenGL, but I’m sure it will help the business adoption of Windows 7 overall.  It’s a bit like the move that Apple made with Mac OS Classic for MacOS X.  It might be so slow performance wise that it’s unusable, but hey, it will get a lot of people to upgrade who otherwise wouldn’t.

Anyway – Windows 7, I’m running it to type this.  We’ll see if I continue to run it in the days and weeks to come, but I think it’s a given now that I’ll upgrade on day one of the RTM[1]


[1] – For those who know my tendency to early adopt, I did not run the RTM of Vista on my main machine at home for at least 6 months (it was a new machine), and at work for 2 years.  I expect that timeframe to be much, much shorter for both locations for Windows 7.

The lighter side of swine flu

Swine flu seems like a nice ploy to get a Chrysler bankruptcy off the front page. Again, this proves that the news is anything that sells or creates panic, and is not an indication of noteworthiness.

Seriously, 20 infected in the US? 60 dead in Mexico? This is a pandemic? Give me a break. More people die in car crashes every day. More people die of regular flu every day. Hernia killed over a thousand people in 2005.

Get back to me when one of these "pandemics" kills hundreds of thousands, not dozens. Survivors of the black death and spanish flu viruses would be laughing at our media and hysteria.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Resolving billing disputes

Just in case anyone doubts that Verizon Wireless' customer service is about a million times better than AT&T's:

Verizon Wireless: 5 minutes, 1 call
AT&T: 1 hour and counting, 2 calls

These stats don't include time to get someone on the phone in the first place. The AT&T guy "didn't submit it right" the first time -- he took about 45 minutes to get it entered. I've been on the phone 15 minutes so far to try to resolve this again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Unsubscribed from Zune Pass

Of course, my subscription just renewed 2 days ago so that means it goes off in a month.

It's really too bad, because I loved the service. However, I vote with my dollars, and Microsoft's removing all indie labels from Zune Pass is totally unacceptable. I think the third album I hit today that has been "removed from the marketplace" was my tipping point. I might as well be buying these off of iTunes if it's going to be this way.

See Zune Pass content disappearing at a geometric rate for more.


Short list of albums removed:

  • Guitar Wolf -- Jet Generation
  • High Contrast -- Tough Guys Don't Dance
  • Daniel Portman -- Twisted Memories
  • Atari Teenage Riot -- 60 Second Wipeout
  • Band of Horses -- Both albums
  • Swayzak -- Dirty Dancing
  • Gus Gus -- Forever
Like I said, Indie stuff is basically dead on Zune.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's over for aggregators

You know.. aggregators? Like FriendFeed? It's over for them. Windows Live is added Web Activities. They'll probably get more people using it in the first day than FriendFeed has in their entire life.

Now if anyone had a clue what Windows Live actually was, that might be meaningful. But there are a variety of things Windows Live seems to be:
  • Some kind of web portal.
  • A search engine.
  • A bunch of stuff you install on your computer, like an instant messaging app.
  • Some kind of syncing thing ("Mesh"?)
  • A photo album viewer
  • A gaming thing like Xbox Live
  • A blogging thing (WindowsLive Spaces)

Windows Live is essentially so non-branded it just means anything that Microsoft decides to do online at the time. And this week, it's a FriendFeed ripoff.

Apple constantly accuses Microsoft of stealing stuff, but here's one thing they haven't stolen: any kind of decent branding strategy. At least when Apple comes up with some dumb service they give it a slick name, even if it's worse than free alternatives. Microsoft comes up with actually pretty decent services -- often stolen from others' ideas -- then doesn't brand them at all and they end up fading into oblivion.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Zune Pass content disappearing at a geometric rate

You know how Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate, then decides to destroy all humans? Zune Pass is kind of like that, but in the form of a black hole sucking my subscription money.

I'd approximate that no less than 40% of the stuff I've downloaded from Zune Pass is "no longer available on Marketplace for download." So most of my music collection has been invalidated with the flip of a switch over at Microsoft. Hey, thanks guys!

Every day that goes by seems like another opportunity to ditch Zune Pass. I have really enjoyed downloading music to my Zune and the Zune pass, but what's the point if it's going to be like this? I'd rather not find the music in the first place than to have it go away on me and have to buy it on iTunes anyway.

Plus, the new Zune HD is going to be a touchscreen-only device.

Hey, I have one of those--it's called my iPhone--and hate it for playing music. It's too hard to use in the car. Without Zune Pass being worthwhile, and with a new device that seems just like my annoying-to-use-in-the-car iPhone, I wonder how much longer having a Zune is going to be any fun.

Battling a Velociraptor

I could survive for 1 minute, 13 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Don’t let GM go bankrupt!!!111

Because, look, think of all of the people with related businesses.  Auto parts.  Mechanics, dealers. 

Personally, I’ve got about 5,000 of these stickers I have to unload FAST. 


What am I going to do if GM goes bankrupt?!  And what about all of my Calvin-Pissing-On-Ford stickers that I need to unload to Chevy customers?

Hey, while I was looking for this image to put in this post, I found this hilarious suggestion from Google:


You know what I really want?  A Calvin pissing on an Audi logo, or maybe Bentley.  That would be pretty frickin funny.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I missed the news to-day...

I'm giving up on the news[1]. For now.

[1] - Except selected blogs, as you'll see.

Last week, after that little girl went missing in Dublin, CA and was subsequently found in a suitcase, I had had it with the news. I just don't need to hear it anymore. I don't want to hear about cops being shot because they're afraid to draw their guns in a traffic stop. I don't want to hear about the EPA's positioning to tax CO2. I don't want to hear about Obama's raising our taxes (see: CO2) and spending us into oblivion at the same time. I don't want to hear about Rachel Maddow versus so-and-so. If you mention these things in your Blog, Twitter or Facebook feed, I will de-friend you or unsubscribe. Don't take it personally.

Not only does the news itself suck, but every news story has bias these days. I'm sick of it. This clip demonstrates why I'm completely giving up on the news:

So here are the blogs I'll continue to read, which I'm pretty sure are unbiased:
  • Paul Thurott's Windows Supersite
  • Long Zheng's istartedsomething
  • Miguel de Icaza's blog (sorry, I'll have to unsub from your twitter though, since you talk politics there)
  • Zero Hedge
  • Coding Horror
  • Scott Gu's blog.
  • Valleywag

That said, I have a WSJ subscription going to waste. :(

Monday, April 13, 2009

For all of you who worried about Phil Gramm advising McCain...

... because he pushed through the legislation in 2000 that significantly deregulated derivatives (check out Mother Jones article "Foreclosure Phil"). Guess what?! You've got your new guy in the White House who appoints the people who came up with the idea -- Larry Summers (also a Mother Jones article... how's that for even handed linking on my part?)

I used to think Code Pink were nuts. I still think they're nuts, but I find myself agreeing with them more and more. It seems that what they do does not make any difference, but it's still entertaining.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Voice is dead; long live voice

I just made my first call using the Skype app for my iPhone (to a 1-800 number). The quality was noticeably better than I get using GSM at home. After I was done with the call, I turned to my wife and said “Voice, as a business model, is dead.”

The only question is, how to replace it? How can you find a person with the maze of messaging apps that do voice calling? You’ve got Skype, MSN, AOL, Gmail, Google Voice, and so on. With any of these, the easiest thing to do is set up a phone number for people to reach you.

But let’s say you have the Skype phone number for people to call into. How do you handle things like PBX? I called AT&T’s 1-800 number using Skype. That 1-800 number routes calls to hundreds of people sitting in cubes somewhere based on their availability. Can Skype do that? I doubt it. (BTW, this is a good business idea if one was so inclined).

And then there’s the mobile aspect. Someone needs to release a device that uses one of these services, like Skype, on a mobile network. Ok. Assuming that any mobile provider would go along with this, once again you’ll have to buy a phone number if you want most people to reach you. In that case, what was the point? Unless you and receive so many calls that a cell phone is cost-prohibitive, you might as well just get a regular cell phone.

So even though the price of voice calling is dropping to zero—fast—I’m still not sure how to get rid of the telephone system in its current state and migrate to VoIP entirely. Telephone numbers are easy. You have a country code, an area code and a phone number. They’re easy to remember. They work between all of these online services like Skype and MSN. Will we end up in a situation where telephone numbers become the method by which people call over the internet and the regular telephone system?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dear Java and C++ Coders,

You don't need getters and setters in C#. Check out properties. Or just type "prop" into Visual Studio and it will autocomplete the C# property structure for you.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Programming languages are popularized to sell books

Latest case-in-point is Scala.  OMG, Twitter’s using it!  Therefore, it must be awesome!epic_fail_whale

Guess what,  I still notice a lot of fail whales there on that thar Twitter (see image nearby).

Need I remind anyone that Twitter got into this situation by using the last language-of-the-week, namely Ruby.   Only this time, the guy using Scala at Twitter is also writing a book about Scala.  Surprised?  I’m not.

Ruby on Rails was, and is, mostly a vehicle for people to write books and sell classes.  It’s not a vehicle for making serious, high traffic websites.  Those already existed.  They were called Java and PHP.  For serious, serious, high traffic websites, there’s still C++ (see: Google).

And now we have Scala.  This is nothing more than yet another language put on top of the JVM like Groovy or Jython.  Why is that important?  It’s a semantic issue.  Literally.   It’s like taking Boo over C#.  You’ve got the exact same functionality and speed at the VM level, but about 1/10,000th of the potential hiring base as you would with Java or C#.

I’m picking on Ruby on Rails and Scala a bit in this post, but you know where we should have learned our lesson about this?  Java and C++.  Creating languages is a business.  It’s a business to sell development environments, sell server technology, sell books, sell methodologies, to lock you into SDKs and platforms.  The C++ transition was pushed hardest by Microsoft.  That should have told you something, but now we’re all doing it again with Microsoft by picking up C# (kudos again to the Mono team, btw for keeping C# real).

Anyway, people say the most important thing about choosing these languages is speed of iteration.  That’s swell, until you get so many users that the technology you chose to iterate on fails miserably.  I’d rather spend more time on development and get it to work well in deployment than believe in a myth that more servers solve every scaling problem.  Only issues is you can’t sell books that way.  Right guys?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Correction to “U2 Albums Ranked”

Astute readers may remember my post “U2 Albums Ranked”.  I’d like to make a correction.

So I was just messing around in iTunes and ranked the songs of Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree individually using the 1-5 star system in there.  When you do this, iTunes will calculate the average and rank the album for you. 

As it turns out, the average number of stars for Joshua Tree was 4.72 versus Achtung Baby’s 4.25.  Reason:  I don’t particularly like Acrobat and Love is Blindness from Achtung Baby, and gave those 2 stars.  The surprising thing though is that even without those tracks, Joshua Tree still would have won by 0.02. 

Therefore, I have to conclude that Joshua Tree is, in fact, U2’s best album.  I will now leave you with an appropriate picture of Bono.


Obama, Geithner and Bair are committing a crime

Read the law they're breaking here. It mandates that insolvent banks must be taken over by the FDIC unless they can come up with a private plan to restore adequate capitalization.

The best thing about Apple

You know what the best thing about Apple is?  The Apple Store. 

  • The Genius Bar is a really straightforward place to get tech support.  People like being able to see someone in person, not just talk to some guy in India who is following a flowchart for tech support.  This is good for tech people like me, since I want the person to be able to recognize that I know what hell I’m talking about.  And it’s good for novices, because they can take their broken computer there and show it to someone, rather than trying to describe it on the phone.
  • The classes.  What a stroke of genius this was.  Buy a Mac or iPhone, we’ll show you how to use it for free.  My mom’s cousin has been doing these classes for the iPhone at the Burlingame Apple Store and loves it.  What’s great about this is that it appeals to the demographic that doesn’t want to read the manual or try to figure something out for themselves, but would rather have someone show it to them.  Usually this is anyone over the age of 40 who just wants something that works and that they can use and isn’t a gadget freak. 

Pretty cool.   I guess paying more for a Mac subsidizes these services they give to you as a customer.   And this is probably why the Gateway and Dell stores just haven’t done well.   Who cares about going to the store to buy things?  I want the store there for when I have a problem after I’ve bought something.  Otherwise I’d just order it from mail order and be happy with phone support.

It would be wise of Microsoft to follow through on their plans to open Microsoft stores and help people use Windows with free classes like Apple supplies.  But I’m not clear on how they’d have a genius bar.  Would the Windows geniuses simply blame the hardware vendor or the hardware vendor’s drivers?