Tom The Architect

Technology and other Interesting Stuff

Category: Reviews

Live from my MacBook Pro

I have finally joined the Mac user community. For Fathers day I received, from my wonderful girls, a 15″ MacBook Pro. My first impression is WOW what a wonderful piece of hardware. The key board is excellent with key breaks similar to my favorite Thinkpad. The finish is awesome in many ways this laptop is a work of art. I will have to get used to different commands but that is a small price to pay. I first started programming on a TRS-80 when I was 11 years old. I moved to an Apple II when I was 13. At that time I thought the Apple II was incredible, sadly I only had access to the Apple II when I was in computer lab in school. I would spend the next 22 years working on PCs, Oh what have missed.

Charter Cable Stupid Questions and Crappy Customer Service

I had recently had Charter Cable and internet installed. At the time I didn’t have a television to check the install, but the internet worked just fine. This past week I finally got a Television and hooked it all up. At to my surprise the cable did not work. So I called the customer service number. (Oh and buy the way the documentation the installer left with me didn’t have the customer service number. I assume that in the land of Charter the everything goes right the first time and who would think the customer might need support.)

So I select cable support on the IVR.
Then I get the mother of all IVR’s. It proceeds to take me through an automated diagnostics and trouble shooting process. The problem was that some of the steps were wrong. At one point the IVR states that I will know the cable box has resynchronized when the box displays the time or channel number. Well lets see My cable box doesn’t have a display other than a yellow and red light. Hmmm! If I was an average user I might have waited for a long time for that re-sync to complete.

So after saying CONTINUE about 1000 times the IVR runs our of stupid things for me to do and finally directs me to an agent. So after going through an identification process just short of submitting DNA (didn’t know cable was such a high security service) I explain my problem. All my channels except infomercials and CSPAN are disabled. The agent then asks me if I have tried to resolve the problem previously, Yeah about 40 minutes with the IVR, which transfered me to you. So the agent determines that I need a technician. The agent informs me that I would have to be home between 8 and 12. Yeah But I work sorry not possible, so the agent says the technician will check the connection from the outside. The agent seems to think that the installer failed to properly set up the connection at the outside box.

So I figure we are done, but no there is one more stupid question. “Would you like to upgrade to Digital cable?”

A bad script gone wrong, or really dumb agent. My extended basic cable doesn’t even work, why would I want to add on to something that doesn’t work.

Please just make work what I originally paid for and forget the up sell until you do something right.

The Midtail and Backwards Gangs

I have been trying to listen to my back log of podcasts over the past few weeks. I just got up to date on the Gillmor Gang. I have to say the last two Gillmor Gangs have been great listening. I really enjoy when Jason Calacanis is on the show. His direct and unbridled participation in the show is refreshing. The Midtail and Backwards Gangs could almost be called the Calacanis Therapy Gangs. He talks about being a golden collar at AOL, describing the challenges that come with his role, and the conflicts for him as an entrepreneur.

In the the backwards Gang he talks about doing some good for some kids in Brooklyn. The sad thing was the position that Dana Gardener took on Jason’s idea to help some Brooklyn students. Dana think that Jason is selfish for helping the kids outside of the system. I guess Dana needs to read a bit more about effecting change. I’m with Jason help whomever you can when ever you can and I hope his idea is a giant success.

Google Reader Updated

I have in the past written about Google Reader. It has received a needed update that has taken it to a whole new level. I have been of late getting tired of the river of news format, and have secretly hoped Google would do something about it. I tried tags and reading a feed at a time, but Reader was just to cumbersome. Now post redesign all I can say is Nice, and I won’t be going anywhere else to read my feeds anytime soon.

Well done Google.

An interesting article on Gopher

Six Apart has a great interview with Paul Lindner one of the creators of Gopher. It is an interesting exploration into Internet history. I also like the “we’re Hiring” plug at the end. Working with interesting and talented people is always a plus. It you are into software development check out the “worse is better” link, it’s an article by Richard Gabriel titled The Rise of “Worse is Better”.

So check it out it’s all worth reading.

Links Summary:
Six Apart interview with Paul Lindner

The Rise of “Worse is Better” by Richard Gabriel

Cognitive Economy: A Great Podcast

Verna Allee gave a presentation at MeshForum 2006 on Value Networks. I think this is a great presentation. She describes:

“A value network is a way at looking at any purposeful organization, company, or network. It is any web of relationships that creates value through complex, dynamic exchanges of tangible and intangible value.”

She makes the case that the economic theory for the new economy is still undefined. She also details how companies have no good way to measure the value of intangible assets. She says the traditional measures are tied to the the creation of tangible assets, which is then reinforced by current economic theory and practice. My favorite part comes at 36:07 minutes into the podcast, she makes a case for using Living systems as a way to think about the new economy (built on intangible assets like Information, talent, capability). At this point she describes why living systems are so great, because the are capable of renewal and are intelligent (an Autopoietic system). Living system’s are Autopoietic because of two types of exchanges; the first type is an exchange of matter and energy, the second type is an exchange of Intelligence (a.k.a. cognitive exchanges). I think she is on to something.

The cognitive economy is really about exchanges of intelligence. If you have not really followed my posts on the Cognitive economy listen to this presentation.

Steve Gillmor if you haven’t heard this presentation yet, you should listen to it. Ed Batista you will also find this presentation interesting. I will have to listen to this one again, I know I’m not doing the presentation justice.

Check it out.

Link Summary:
MeshForum 2006
Verna Allee presentation Value Networks at MeshForum 2006 via IT Conversations
IT Conversations RSS feed
More from Verna Allee
More on Autopoiesis via Wikipedia

Attended BarCamp Chicago (Saturday)

So what did I think of BarCamp Chicago? First, I want to thank the organizers (I think Jason Rexilius was one) for putting the event together. I really enjoyed the cleversafe presentation. Cleversafe is a distributed storage company and uses Information distribution algorithms (Commonly used to secure private keys) to create a highly available secure storage grid. Very cool. The presentation by Sean Johnson titled “How not to Burn Your Business to the Ground” was interesting and insightful. There was definitely an interesting mix of people and points of view. So I enjoyed it. All conferences have issues and Bar Camp was no different but for the price I’m not going to complain.

Links:
Barcamp.org
BarCampChicago

Cleversafe

My adventures with Ubuntu

I recently moved from Fedora Core 5 to Ubuntu Desktop for my laptop. This was due to the fact that Fedora Core 5 would freeze every now and then. So after having to do my development work on my desktop, I figured it was time to try a new Distribution. So as some background I have previously run Suse 9.x and Fedora Core 3 and 4 and Redhat. So I had read and heard that Ubuntu was polished and just worked.

So my mind was made up, I did the back-up dance and began to load Ubuntu 5.x loaded fine and everything worked, NICE! I did find a few issues, like the fact that the packaged version of FireFox was ancient (Similar to Suse 9.x) and the package manager used to add new software was passable at best. So I began setting up everything and just before I began using the laptop for current work, Ubuntu 6.x was released. So I did the online upgrade, and it went well, though it took a few hours.

So after the reboot everything looked great except no Wifi. Ugh… Now the funny thing is my wireless card is old, a Lucent Orinoco Gold only supports WEP, just plain old. It has been the only card that I could count on working with any Distribution, but not on Dapper Drake. So, I checked to see if the device was being identified, checked the driver etc…. No luck. So I fashioned myself an aluminum foil hat and dove into the forums. Plenty of ideas and support, I just haven’t had time to try all of them.

Recently people like Tim Bray and Nicholas Carr have recently written about how Linux popularity, as Nicholas puts it, with the “PC elite” is growing. Now Tim Bray cites the fact that Apple uses proprietary formats to store his data and is less open to community innovation / bug fixing. Now, I agree with Tim Bray, increased openness would benefit Apple and help to sustain its more advanced users. The reality is until it just works, the cost of my attention to fix something that should just work, is just to high.

So the bottom line is, my next laptop is going to be a Mac, because as the Angry Penguin put it “It just works”. I will worry about open later, that’s why I have Google.

Links:

Tim Bray’s RSS Feed
Time to Switch

Nicholas Carr’s RSS Feed

The Angry Penguin’s RSS Feed
The Lab Adds A Mac

Testing Gmail for my Domain

I was granted access to the Gmail for Domains beta. The set up was extremely simple, but I still don’t think that a non geek will know what their MX record is. Adding accounts is a snap and the calendar integration is wonderful. I am now wondering how much it will cost for multiple domains. I have multiple domains and would like to manage all my email account for my whole family via Gmail without setting up forwarding. Google definitely has the email interface down. It works great and I love the way email threads are handled. If Google can provide a few more tools, there will be no reason to buy office. Google will have a completely integrated set of office web applications that are completely portable. I won’t have to worry about backing up anything or getting updates and security patches.

Corporations would be well served by a tool like Gmail for domains. Corporations have to get around and over the control issues, if they do Gmail is a no brainer. For companies with large field operations again it’s a no brainer. It’s only a matter of time.

I give Gmail for Domains 5 out of 5 Stars.

Links:
Gmail for your domain

The Passion of the early Police

I have long been a fan of the Police. I have listened to every album and I enjoy almost every song. The album I enjoy most is The Police Live. I enjoy this album for 2 reasons:

  1. Disc 1 is infused with passion and angst.
  2. Disc 2 provides a point of comparison that makes the passion on disc 1 so obvious.

Disc 2 shows how the band had lost its fire and passion at the end. This comparison is hard to make on studio albums, but is made simple with the 2 disc set. So buy the album and do the following:

  1. Listen to both discs in order.
  2. Hide disc 2 and hope never to hear it again
  3. Enjoy Disc 1 and the passion of the Police as it should be remembered