Archive for July, 2007

Software development lessons learned from moving a 300 pound HD TV

July 31, 2007 10:02 pm

I was helping a friend move an older, 300 pound HD TV recently. Here are some things that happened and what I think you can learn from them about collaboration on software projects (or any collaborative project for that matter):

We had a large trailer that was much bigger than needed for the TV. We filled up the space by putting a shelf and a closet on there first. Later we pushed the TV up against those things to stabilize it on the trailer. Lesson: You need to think about a little bit of scaffolding/infrastructure before you start the real work.

We couldn’t find the rope we needed to tie everything down for the drive, so we had to go buy some half way through the process. Lesson: Sometimes you need to take a detour to get all the tools you need to do the job. You may not have all the tools you need when you start out.

There were only two of us to get the TV out of the house and on to the trailer. We had to get across two sets of stairs and lift the thing up onto the trailer by ourselves. Lesson: The beginning of a project can be challenging if you don’t have quite enough people.

We lifted the TV up onto the trailer by ourselves once we had rolled it out from the house. It was only just manageable, but we “lucked out”. We tied everything down with the rope we had bought.

During the drive it looked like the TV was going to roll off the trailer a couple of times, even though it was tied down well. We had to slow down in the curves to make sure nothing went wrong. Lesson: Adjust your strategy as you encounter changes in your project or the terrain you find yourself in. Sometimes you need to slow down in order to “get there”.

When we got to the destination, we realized we wouldn’t be able to lift the TV down from the trailer with just two people (by now our arms were more worn out). Lesson: Stop and re-evaluate your progress and strategy from time to time.

My friend had arranged for another helping hand, who arrived after we did some other jobs of moving things around. After the arrival of the third helper (and a lunch break), we went about discussing how to get the TV down without any of us breaking our backs. Lesson: Be prepared to ask for more help if you find the job too big. There’s no point in working so hard that you can’t work anymore tomorrow. Eat and relax together.

During the discussion of how to get the TV down, we explored several tactics, and changed our plan for lifting several times. Lesson: Get together and talk things over when you’re not sure how to solve the problem.

Our final approach involved lifting half of the TV down and setting the edge down on the ground, leaving one end on the ground and the other on the trailer. It looked a bit like this:

 Trailer with TV

We were pretty sure we’d be unable to lift the other end down, since that would have involved lifting both ends to move the TV clear of the trailer. We were stuck for a while. Then one of us suggested instead of trying to lift both ends and move the TV away from the trailer, that we just lift the end that was still supported by the trailer and roll the trailer out from under it. Then we could lower the other end without having to lift both ends. Lesson: You never know who may contribute an idea that solves a problem the rest of the team can’t figure out, even when the solution is pretty much right in front of them.

Pottermania in Silicon Valley

July 20, 2007 10:03 pm

Here are some pictures from a Barnes & Noble store in San Jose, California.

We went to participate in the costume contest. My younger daughter dressed up as Ginny Weasly, hair colored red and all. Alas, she didn’t win anything. We thought her costume was pretty creative. Nothing store-bought. All materials found around the house.

Anyway. On with the pics:

Line around the corner

Getting the books from storage to behind the counter

Yes, the line goes all the way to the left side of the picture.

People were standing in line for wristbands that gave you a specific time window after midnight to come back in. When we left the wristbands were for a 5 AM slot. We’ll just wait until later in the morning when things will have died down a bit, presumably. Yes, we’re hooked too…

It was a perfect time to check out the AT&T store across the street. No line for the iPhone today… I had plenty of time to really check out the iPhone’s UI and user interaction. I found several things that bugged me after just a little while. But I also found several things that are pretty cool. Not worth $1200 over 2 years cool, though.

We hung around after the costume contest for a bit, and ran into a family sharing Potter Puppet Pals videos from YouTube on their Apple laptop. My daughter had made friends with one of the girls in that family during the costume contest.

My wife said it was one of the more bizarre things she’s experienced. I wouldn’t go that far, but it was certainly interesting.

Shovelware / Crapware / Bloatware

July 18, 2007 8:46 pm

Over the last few months I have read bloggers and journalists complain and complain about the software that you find on PCs you buy from “major” manufacturers.

I’m tired of them. Very, very tired.

Yes, PCs get loaded with software that the “experts” do not want. And they all keep talking about it. Can you say “echo chamber”?

Let’s see. Where else in life do you find things you didn’t ask for but got as part of the deal anyway?

Buying processed foods at the supermarket? Check. No mention of health risks.
Getting a BigMac from McDonald’s? Check. See above.
Getting married? Check. No mention of hard times and fights.
Going to the movies? Check. Advertisements for half an hour before the show.
Watching TV? Check. Commercial breaks every 15 friggin’ minutes.
Credit cards? Check. Rude awakening after three years of paying the minimum payment.
Buying a car? Check. Pushy salespeople and immediate depreciation of what you just bought.
Surfing the web? Check. Google keeps tabs on you.
Listening to the radio? Check. See watching TV.
Driving on the highway? Check. Ugly billboards in your face, rude drivers everywhere.
Sitting home alone quietly reading a book? Check. Telemarketing calls.

Get the picture? It’s everywhere. Things you didn’t ask for. Why complain so much about software on computers when the rest of our lives are so full of crap that we probably don’t want?

Even when you install just the bare Windows operating system you get tons of stuff you probably don’t want. On Vista you have User Account Control prompts, a neverending stream of updates, WordPad, Solitaire, Purble Place and “services” running that you don’t know about. Yes, it gives you the impression of being clean, but then why was there such an outcry over the bundling of Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player way back when?

I don’t have a solution for any of these problems. But I’m tired of the whining and moaning.

There are so many other areas of life that are in more desperate need of fixing.

Start there, please.