Eric Richards' place of techno (as in technology) happiness, rants, and corporate love.

Browsing Posts published in March, 2007

I swear, how do people abuse their NetFlix disks? I’ve had three disk issues in less than a month:

  1. Superman Returns HD-DVD
  2. The Truman Show
  3. Ten Things I Hate About You

For the first two I just plopped the disk in and played. The HD-DVD was fairly new and when it started to hang I confess I don’t know whether it was the disk or the Xbox player because the disk looked pristine. Fortunately, it is a hybrid disk and we were able to resume in the regular DVD player by flipping it over.

For Ten Things I Hate About You I looked at the disk after it arrived and my first thought was, “Oh, this is trouble.” The disk was a birds nest of scratches and circular cleaning. Sure enough, half-way through this great sick-day movie (where I assume the DVD player was shifting to the next layer), it started skipping and pixelating.

This is where I’m going to be much happier to just download the content and know that I don’t have to worry about physical media mishaps. One future experiment for me will be doing my first Xbox 360 HD download of The Departed and see how that goes.

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I keep telling myself I need to try Paint.NET – it’s included in LifeHacker’s most recent Top 10 Free Windows Downloads: LH Top 10: Free Windows Downloads – Lifehacker.

There’s a PDF reader alternate in there, too. Which is good to try because goodness knows Adobe’s PDF Acrobat Reader has become huge, bloated, and slow. I’ve avoided moving beyond Acrobat5 on most of my machines.

Unfortunately, you do start running into compatibility problems with the most recent PDF generation technology (hmm). Foxit Reader doesn’t help with that.

Presentation Zen has an example of going through a recent 90s style presentation deck and giving it some millennial pizzazz: Presentation Zen: Slide design: signal vs. noise (redux) .

One I really like is subtle: putting North America in a different color in some of the bar graphs to help it stand out relative to the other regional bars. Nice touch. And the color scheme is very Tufte.

Notice that the rest of the revamps relies on you having access to some high-quality stock photos to backdrop your message. This takes a good bit of talent to find, collect, and then ensure that the photo matches your message.

I’ve tried going through the freely available stock photos on the web and collect the ones I really like and it’s a way to burn hours very quickly. Not only should the content have some sense of wonder or wow to it, it has to have enough open space for you to float your message in.

I don’t attend a whole lot of presentations, but so far there’s been only one this past year that wasn’t full of bullets and conventional deck-isms. And I’m quite guilty of bad deck design myself: I’ve made a few decks recently and how did they flow with their content? Bullets.

But I’m working on it. A nice before and after example like this helps.

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From Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg:

Windows Photo Gallery is a great solution for photo management, mostly because it lets me work the way I want to work and it’s one of my favorite features in Vista. I love how Vista respects my folder directory structure but also lets me view by date or tags if I choose to. The choice is mine.


So far, Photo Gallery and the Photo Gadget are two of my favorite new Vista features. If you’re into digital photography even in a modest way, this feature alone may be worth the price of admission.

(Source: Michael Gartenberg – Windows Photo Gallery in Vista Shines.)

Goodness, the Microsoft team that delivered that must be awesome! :-) Notice that Jon Udell has been looking at photo features lately, too, mostly delving into XMP.

Digital photos are hot.

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I missed out on the last Ignite Seattle and I have to put Hillel Cooperman’s talk on my to-do video queue. I will do my best to make the next one: Ignite Seattle! » Call for Speakers at Ignite III (4/5).

Bruce LeBan is speaking? Bruce and his brother Roy joined Microsoft shortly after I did and are directly responsible for getting Microsoft’s PuzzleHunt up and going. I believe the PuzzleHunt server was in Bruce’s office for quite sometime. Bruce is at the Goog now and his proposed topic sounds pretty interesting…

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Yes, it does have a tiny bit of a cost. But if you’re at risk of going over your webserver’s quota for space or bandwidth, Amazon’s S3 is a great alternative for the cheap fix that kicks in as needed. What I didn’t realize is that the Amazon data is URL addressable: Coding Horror: Using Amazon S3 as an Image Hosting Service.

That’s fantastic.

Not that I have anything huge to put up in the short-term, but it’s nice to know (since like so many people I’m an Amazon customer and a geek with all sorts of extra Amazon services) I have a place I could quickly upload large data, let it be accessible, and then remove it, and throw Amazon some well deserved coin.

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Andrew Shebanow writes:

Adobe would never try to abuse the dominance of Flash Player because it simply isn’t that kind of company. I’m not saying Adobe has never made mistakes (e.g. Sklyarov), and Adobe certainly has no aversion to making money, but at its core Adobe is the most ethical company I’ve ever worked for, of any size. (Yes, I worked for both Apple and Microsoft previously – there is no comparison.) Holding the Web hostage is something that I believe is completely against Adobe’s values. I realize this leaves me open to charges of naivety, but so be it.

(Source: Shebanation: Why Adobe is NOT the Next Microsoft - wow, Andrew, what a beautiful looking blog site. Very simple. And I love the header graphic. Very now. Very

I hope that Andrew is right and that Adobe is able to take the high-ground here. That would mean not doing to Flash what they’ve done with Acrobat Reader.

My experience comes from working on Microsoft InfoPath, an electronic forms editor. Our two main competitors in this space: IBM and Adobe.

Adobe has taken advantage of their Acrobat Reader ubiquity to start adding features to Reader to bloat it up into a competitive platform that allows new Adobe initiatives.

I don’t blame Adobe. They have a strong beachhead here and are using it as a vector to support growth. And it seems every year Reader is bloating up with new features. Like electronic forms editing coupled to an Adobe Forms Server.

(One of my most treasured setups: an install for Acrobat Reader 5.)

Flash, too, is expanding and being updated at an increasing rate. In fact, after Adobe acquired Flash and Flash started to be rev’d more often, I turned Flash off on most of my machines due to browser stability problems (yeah, I know: “Hey, you! You’re one black kettle!”).

Of course, as great as that was while it lasted, you can’t enjoy the web for too long without Flash, so I compromised and moved to a hosts file that cuts out annoying ad and Flash crap providers so that I could enjoy the occasional good Flash movie (ooo, that reminds me, I have four episodes of Chad Vader to catch up on… oh, no, holy crap, that requires Apple’s QuickTime… grr… I’ll have to watch that on my QuickTime-vector machine).

So I can appreciate Ted’s hesitancy to put blind faith into Adobe – or anyone - here. I can only hope that the Reader / Flash upgrade and bloat train slows down or at least gets componentized into something that makes sense. And I hope that we as a community can come together with a platform to advance creating great features and experiences for all of our users.

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This past week, the Seattle-PI ran an article about the self-absorbed trend of Generation Y / Generation Next / Generation Me:

Twenge, the author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.

The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the “self-esteem movement” that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.

(Source: Think you’re ‘special’? That’s not necessarily a good thing )

Twenge’s website is Generation Me and it has an excerpt from the book.

Reading this article makes me think of two things: The Sibling Society written by Robert Bly and Bob Kegan’s levels of self (yeah, there I go on Kegan again).

One point Bly makes in The Sibling Society is that maturity is being spread out to take longer and longer in our advanced, civilized society. People continue to engage in adolescent behavior well into their thirties (like playing video games and indulging in what feels good) and don’t seem to toughen up. Additionally, it is their peers they look to for support and acceptance, not their elders.

Kegan talks about how teenagers are at the Imperial Stage and basically amoral and anything that gets them what they want is just fine by them. They are elevated to the next level of self, the Interpersonal Stage, when they adopt empathy and can recognize how self-focused they’ve been in the past and inconsiderate towards others.

So, delayed emotional growth in our society results in delayed advancement through the levels of self, resulting in – perhaps – amoral self-centered individuals interacting in the corporation in a large way that society hasn’t seen before.

My interaction with Gen Y so far has been more along the lines of “Whoa! Hold on there, Tex! You do not understand what it takes to ship world class software. You still need mentoring and just plain do not know everything yet.”

And you know, that’s not so bad. I’d rather be reigning in a firebrand of a self-motivated, highly confident individual and directing their growth than to deal with the alternative of a mopey, unsure, low-confident individual that self-doubts their every move, even though they have the talent to perform. You just have to ensure everyone on the team has an understanding of the person’s motivation.

Confidence is great. Linking their own achievement with the product’s success provides clarity around contribution. Well, that’s one small part of the management plan.

We’ll see how it goes in the years ahead. Gen Y has been raised with extreme parental attention that directed growth in strong individual confidence. Perhaps too much parental involvement. At least I haven’t had any parents call me up regarding their son / daughter’s review score and requesting time on my calendar to chat about it.

Fingers crossed.

So, reading through this situation, what would you do if you were on one side of the issue and then on the other side of the issue: Sony Blackballs Kotaku – Kotaku.

Off-hand, I think Sony needs some leadership slaps up and down and all around. You give, you take. This comes on the heals of another Sony story: Sony War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, and PS3s are Selling Quite Well -.

I work for a competitor of Sony’s, so I’m somewhat biased on the outcome here. But I’m fascinated by the stumblings accumulating around the PS3. And it’s not over yet, so you can’t write a story. Where’s it leading? Can Sony turn it around? What would they do to get back on course? Something pretty damn radical at this point, I believe, like giving up on the PS3, PSP, and Blu-Ray and aligning themselves with Microsoft / Nintendo while rebuilding the PS line.

Meanwhile, Nintendo Wii-histles past the graveyard and to the bank.

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A must read for anyone who loves online maps as much as I do: Live Maps / Virtual Earth: Top 10 features you didn’t know about in Live Maps. You’ll feel so much more productive!

I just found out about the ALT + mouse-drag feature this past week. It would be nice if there was elegant, small UI to flip you into this mode, but I have to admit that Live Maps webpage UI is already a crowded (in IE7 with the Live Toolbar I barely get much map when I bring it up on my two-year old ThinkPad – the designers must be prototyping off of 1600×1200 screens).

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