Entries Tagged 'Miscellaneous' ↓

The Character of People

Many years ago I learned of this pearl of wisdom shown below. I don’t know when or where I learned of it or who might have been known to say it, I don’t remember if I read it or was told of it by someone else, and I don’t remember it’s exact wording either.

But I do remember its essence. And I have found its essence to be a rather consistent evaluator of the character of people, so I’m paraphrasing it here for your consideration:

Notable people talk about ideas.
Regular people talk about events.
Trivial people talk about – other people.

Beware AppleCare!

I ordered a MacBook Pro last April, the first Apple laptop I’ve ever owned. 

I remember when because I ordered it on my birthday. I ordered it after happily using Windows for decades. I did so because I was weary, weary of listening to friends I otherwise respect admonish my use of Windows whenever I’d ask simple questions  like "What’s a good Windows apps for taking screenshots" and "How do I use TortiseSVN?" They’d tell me if only I were to use a Mac the angels would bless me and ensure I’d never experience a bad day, ever, from the day forward owning a Mac. They promised continued sunshine where ever I went, and that the temperate would never dip below 72 degrees. (None of that ever happened, but I do digress…)

Of course I didn’t believe them but like Patty Hurst back in the 70s I had lost perspective on what was real and what was hyperbole. I was fatigued. I wanted to be able to ask a question and get a suggestion without all of the bravado and bluster. I just wanted it to stop. So I caved. I spent about $2500 on a MacBook Pro instead of waiting a few months to spend the saner $1250 for a Dell running Windows 7.  And like any good new cult member would have, I pruchased AppleCare to go along with it.  A full $350 worth of AppleCare.  Hey, I had purchased Dell’s 3 year extended service, why wouldn’t I purchase AppleCare?

So my new MacBook Pro arrived and I decided I would give it my all. It was frustrating at first (the Mac is designed for people who don’t want to use the keyboard; it’s all about click, click, click. But once again, I digress.)  After almost a year I’ve gotten around most of it’s annoyances (software like Cinch and TotalFinder have made a real difference, but there’s still lots missing.)

Of course I dropped my Mac about a month after getting it thanks to the magnetic "MagSafe" power cord snagging and caused me loose my grip on the computer (I "quoted" MagSafe for a reason…) It fell about a foot. Didn’t actually cause the computer a problem, gotta give it that. The screen was fine. The hard disk continues to run fine to this day. I was impressed even though I’d easily dropped my Dell similarly several times of which I never experienced agailer. But dropping that Unibody did put a kink, literally, in the (evidently) butter-firm aluminum case. And evidently I’m not alone in my sturdiness test results, either. Ouch, just like your first dent in your new car, and so early in my ownership. Ah well.

Fast forward to today. In less than one (1) year my battery was failing (took 1.5 years for my Dell) and my Enter key "broke." The little pin-sized flinger on the back so small I can’t take a clear picture of it, that’s what broke.  No problem, I’ll head to the Apple store where they’ll take care of me and my keyboard and if I’m lucky they’ll give me another battery for having proven my loyal Appleistsa credentials since I bought AppleCare for my less than 1 year old objet du désir. Little did I know what was waiting for me at the Apple store…

As a quick aside, I came to love my Dell during my 2+ years with her runing Windows Vista as my primary computer.  She gave me about 7 hours of battery life between charges on 2 batteries. I would go places and rarely ever bring a power supply. It was awesome.  (With my Mac I’m always painfully cognizant of being battery powered cause I know it ain’t gonna last…) Once my Dell she had a bad battery which they happily replaced, no questions asked. Twice I had her mouse key break yet Dell sent me a new case for free each time (they didn’t sell the mouse key separately. Silly, but hey, they replacde it!)  Still, time marches on in ‘puterland ahd she was getting weighted down with too many files in too little of a hard disk. And her processor just wasn’t as captivating as those of the younger models. It was time for a new relationship. That’s when I succumbed to the siren song of the cult of Mac.

Back at the Apple store they took my Mac and did unmentionable things with it in the back, I’m sure, only to return after a long stay to tell me how they would going to replace my battery as a favor (viola!) However, because of my MagSafe mishap they decided to void my AppleCare, that which hadn’t even started! And that meant they were not going to replace my broken enter key "Because the dent might have caused the Enter key to break!" (he didn’t say that, but he implied that by saying "We can’t know what problems your dent caused.")  Give me an f-ing break; the dent didn’t cause the Enter key to break.  So there you go; my 11 month old Mac with AppleCare purchased but Apple won’t replace the keyboard that broke due to faulty design (they admitted the new MacBooks have different Enter keys; might there be a reason there, eh?)

"Of course you can send it back to be recertified and that will restore your AppleCare" he said. "How much?" I asked? "Between ~$600 and ~$1200." WHAAAAAT?  "You mean I have to pay 1/2 as much as I paid for the entire computer one year ago just to recertify my warranty?  Are you serious?!?" And he replied "Yes" with a straight face. So let’s see, I can buy a brand new 15" Dell with a faster processor, the same memory and a larger hard disk for $499, but it’s gonna take 150% or 300% of that for Apple to fix my case dent and reinstate the warranty I already paid for, even though there is no other sign of damage to the computer?

"So what are my other options?" I asked. He said he’d be happy to replace the Enter key if I could come back to the store and periodically ask if they have a late-2008 DOA that they could cannablize.  I asked "Can you just keep track and let me know?" "Oh no, the Apple Store at Lenox is too busy for that." He suggested I drop by the Perimeter store. I said I’d just call ahead and he said "Oh no, the people answering the phone won’t have to time to help you with that." Great, my option is to drive around town to stores wasting time and gas to just ask if they have an older model that can be cannibablized so I can get my g-d Enter key fixed? And hell, they don’t even sell those Enter keys sans full keyboard notwithstanding the fact that in my certified opinion they are clearly of faulty design. Hello?

In frustration I told my Apple attendance I’d just get a keyboard off of eBay to which my Apple "Genius" countered: "Oh no, if you open the computer Apple technicians will know and they will tag my computer’s serial number as unservicable!" I couldn’t believe this. This is the company that has people stanpay outrageous prices, and then rave about them? Are Apple cult members mad? Or are Mac zealots always just in a Stockholm state of mind?

Now some members of the cult of Mac will admonish me saying "DON’T DROP YOUR LAPTOP" but they are missing the point. I didn’t ask Apple to replace my dented case, I asked them to fix my keyboard. The Enter key did not break because of the dent in the case; any fool can tell that. And I’d be fine with a caveat that if something failed that could reasonably have been caused by the dent then I’d be okay if I had to pay for repairs. BUT TO VOID THE ENTIRE WARRANTY?!?  They didn’t even offer to refund of the $350 I paid for AppleCare given I haven’t even gotten past my first year of ownership where the standard warranty should still apply! 

Apple, you suck.

Hell, turns out I’m not alone in having my AppleCare voided willy-nilly. Seems that Apple looks for many reasons to void AppleCare (hey I’m a militant non-smoker but my enemy’s enemy is my friend.) Steve’s gotta keep those profits up. Guess the iPod alone’s not enough to keep Wall Street happy.  Sheesh.

Lesson Learned? You can’t trust Apple.  Skip the Mac, buy a Dell; you’ll thank me for it.

P.S. Yes I know there are some alternate solutions which I will pursue, but I paid a premium price for a premium product and I paid extra for extended warranty and it got me treated by Apple like a Saturday night drunk at a Waffle House.  Not what I expected, not when I deserve.

P.P.S. Though admittedly not as bad, this scenario is starting to remind me of the time American Airlines lost my reservation and then had the manager’s manager call me a liar.  My $500 AA ticket turned into an $1150 ticket, but USAir sold me one for $850 instead. So American’s custom dis-service cost me $350 in 1990 and I was called a liar. And over a million frequent flyer miles later I’ve avoided flying AA whenever possible and probably told this story 500 times over.

P.P.S. Want to turn this around Apple?  Do the right thing. Just reinstate my warranty.

Intense Debate Error Message

Gotta love this error message I got when trying to set a password that was "too long" on Intense Debate:

WordPress, Finally!

It’s been a really long time since I last blogged, and it’s all because I got totally fed up with my old blog software and vowed never again to blog until I replaced it with WordPress. Well as you can guess getting around to replacing it took far longer than I planned, but now it is finally here! I’ve still have other non-blog related things that were housed at my domain I still need to fix such as this but now that the domain is switched over to WordPress I’ll have a bit more urgency to get those fixed. I look forward to rejoining to ranks of the blogging community. 

What’s more, a lot has happened since I last blogged so I have lots of things to blog about in the coming weeks and months. Of course I have plenty of billable work that needs to get done so for all those of you who are waiting with baited breath for me to blog (LOL!), future blog posts won’t be coming as fast and furious as I’d like but at least with the new blog they can start to trickle out.

GTFK

After 20+ years on Microsoft operating systems, I’m finally considering moving over to the dark side (or *away* from the dark side, depending on who you ask, LOL!). Yes, I’m considering buying a Mac. Actually a MacBook.

I decided to get a Dell 1405 because of it’s purported great battery life and I placed my order Friday night (and I got a 25% coupon, sweet!). Then two things happened on the same day; Dell held my order waiting for me to call to verify it, and I got a MacMall catalog in the mail and decided to read it. Hmmm.

I blogged about the Mac when I first heard of Parallels, and a friend of mine has a MacBook Pro that he runs Windows on so I’ve been considering it for a while. Well, yesterday I went to the store to check it out and it was pretty nice (except for lack of a right mouse button, doh!) but the guy at CompUSA couldn’t tell me about battery life.

No problem, I have another friend with a MacBook and I emailed him to ask about battery life. To which he replied:

I just googled for “mac book pro extended battery” and it
returned plenty of results…

Ouch, Busted! He did go on to relay his experiences, but point taken. :)

Anyway, though I still haven’t decided which laptop to get, I christen thee a new meme in my friends honor while I pay homage to that soon-to-be bygone era where a few people actually did read the manual:

GTFK: Google The F***in’ Keywords

Just to be explicit, there is a proper context for using GTFK. When someone asks you a question that requires a long explanation that they could have easily answered themselves, it is perfectly appropriate to simple tell them:

GTFK!

From this I’m sure they will get the message. ;-)

P.S. I know I don’t have to tell you what the *** stands for.

Windows Home Server; I guess Microsoft listened!

Windows Home Server from Hewlett-Packard
In October 2005 I blogged about the need for a Server for End Users. I guess Microsoft was listening. ;-)

From Larry Dignan over on ZDNet.

Windows Home Server Logo

Conventional Wisdom, Assumptions, and Pot Roast

Pot Roast

Conventional wisdom is filled with assumptions. One of the things that makes conventional wisdom right most of the time is that those assumptions are usually valid. But sometimes they are not. One of my favorite little anecdotes that illustrates this is the tale of the pot roast:

A newly-wed husband noticed that every time his wife cooked a pot roast she would first cut an inch off either end before putting it in the oven. When he asked why, she said “Because that’s how you are supposed to cook pot roast.” Unsatisfied with her answer he pushed until she admitted that she learned it from her mother.

Waiting until a visit with his wife’s mother, the husband asked “Your daughter tells me you taught her to cook pot roast by first cutting an inch off each end?” to which the mother replied “Well of course, that’s how pot roast is cooked.” But the husband was not to be deterred, and after pressing his mother-in-law on the subject she finally admitted that she’d learned if from *her* mother.

This meant the husband had to ask the wife’s grandmother. When he finally got his chance he asked: “Your granddaughter’s mother told me you taught her to cut an inch off each end of a pot roast before cooking. She swore it was a requirement, but I’m dying to know why? Is there any sane reason to throw away two inches of perfectly good meat in order to cook a pot roast?!?”

Laughing, the grandmother said “Oh, heaven’s no! You see in those days we were very poor and didn’t own much cookware. I cut the ends off the pot roast so it would fit in my only pan!”

And so ends the story…

To me the moral here is that whenever someone starts quoting dogma you really should try and explore its origins. You may find that those firmly-held beliefs are based on mostly unconscious and invalid assumptions.

Fixing the Vote, the right way…

Dumbold Voting Machine for The Sims

For many reasons I’ve not previously blogged about politics, nor do I intend to make it a habit. But in this case I want to address a burning issue that I believe should not be partisan-in-nature, and further that I believe the evolving processes in the tech community can uniquely solve. I am of course referring to the crisis in confidence regarding the vote counting process in the United State and open-source solutions development, respectively.

Rather than rehash the issues related to the voting crisis, let me simply reference numerous articles written by others who are much more eloquent:

Clearly if the problem is not fixed and confidence is not restored in our voting process, it could cause the entire foundation of our democracy to fail. This is an incredibly important issue, and no one but a fool would argue that ensure out election process is accountable is essential.

However, given the events of the past decade,I don’t believe the public will soon trust either politicians or corporations to solve this problem. Frankly, I think that it can only be solved by the public. And by that I mean voting machines developed with the community via an open-source process on commodity standardized hardware.

Counting votes reliability and without the potential for fraud is a thorny technical issue but I believe that the tech community has probably tackled and beat far more complex challenges. I believe an open-source voting system could be designed and developed that would make it effectively impossible to tamper with the vote, and I personally think it would be great to be involved in designing the architecture for such systems.

With that, I would like to issue a challenge to the tech and business community. Let’s:

  • Take back our democracy!
  • Pull together a group of qualified people and create an open voting machine,
  • Design and develop voting software that is 100% auditable and verifyable,
  • Design an inexpensive hardware reference platform using off-the-shelf components,
  • License the hardware and software via an open-source license so they can be widely manufactured,
  • Find people to fund a foundation, if possible, to make this thing official (though let’s not make funding a requirement), and
  • Let’s put an end to voting machine tampering and help minimize voter fraud (worldwide.)

If both software and inexpensive hardware were made available to all democratic jurisdictions and municipalities that any local company could install and service and the public is made aware of these machines so as to put pressure on elected officials to adopt them, I see little reason why the machines wouldn’t be widely adopted in relatively short order. That is except to perpetuate the ability to perpetrate election fraud.

Having open voting machines would also teach a lesson to those companies such as Diebold that did not proactively ensure we could be confident in the results of our elections. Plus it would allow jurisdictions (the world over) the ability to guarantee the integrity the vote.

With that in mind I registered the following domain and I will donate it to this initiative assuming I can find other like minded people to make open voting machines a reality:

www.openvotingmachines.org

Note that www.openvotingmachines.org just redirects to this blog post at the moment.

If you find this idea compelling, even if you don’t have the time to participate, please pass it on to your friends, relatives, and/or colleagues that you think might be interested, as applicable. And if you happen to know someone who might be interested in funding a foundation to make this happen, or provide fund for such a foundation, all the better; please forward this post on to them too.

Now I don’t know if this post will gain any traction. Maybe it will and maybe it won’t but I sure hope it does because there are few other things that could be as potentially devastating as loss of confidence in our elections. Post a comment if you want to become actively part of this initiative, and let’s get the ball rolling!

P.S. I didn’t see this post until after I had conceived of mine, but it sounds like this guy had similar thoughts although he has not made any call to action. Maybe those commenting on his post could be some of the first to join this initiative? I unfortunately don’t have the time to drive this initiative as I need to focus on generating revenue or I would pursue these people, but I wanted to put this call-to-action out into cyberspace in hopes that enough people who do have the spare time will be inspired to pursue it (OTOH, if this initiative were funded by someone, maybe I could be active in driving it?)

The Hanselminutes Podcast: Very Shiny!

Hanselminutes.com Since I left Xtras several months back, I’ve finally had time to spend learning once again. I’ve focused my attentions in two primary areas:

  1. That which can be called Web 2.0 technologies (especially related to RSS and Mashups), and
  2. Things related to .NET development.

One of the true gems I’ve come across in the latter area has been Scott Hanselman’s blog, but even better has been his weekly podcast hosted by Carl Franklin entitled Hanselminutes which you can find at http://www.hanselminutes.com.

I met Scott several years back early on in his blogging career at a .NET-related conference and thought he was a great guy but honestly had no idea how incredibly bright the guy is! Listening to his postcasts and reading through his blog I’ve been amazed at how prolific Scott has become on .NET and related subjects, and how he has been able to learn as much about so many technologies and use them all, it’s just amazing! What’s more, as someone who has focused most of his career on knowing the third-party development tools market I especially appreciate Scott’s deep knowledge of both commercial and open-source components and tools.

So if you are into .NET development and have not come across Scott’s Hanselminutes podcasts, it’s worth buying1 yourself an MP3 player even if you don’t have one just to be able to listen to them during your commute or other downtime. Check ‘em out: Very Shiny2!


1I actually did finally break down and buy an MP3 player just so I could listen to Scott’s podcast. But I couldn’t manage to make it an iPod; too expensive, too "Apple", and iPods don’t play WMA files…
2If you don’t know the reference, you’ll just have to listen to Scott’s podcasts and/or read his blog to get it. :)

About “One Laptop per Child”

If you’ve not heard of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) you should listen to this presentation Nicholas Negroponte gave about his $100 laptop at the February 2006 T.E.D. conference which I found over at the T.E.D. Blog.

I learned of the T.E.D. blog by reading If your idea is worth spreading, then presentation matters over at Garr Reynold’s blog Presentation Zen, which I learned about by reading A few more Presentation How To’s at Kathy Sierra’s blog Creating Passionate Users whose RSS feed I subscribed to at the time.

Anyway, Nicholas is the former director of the MIT Media Lab and he stepped down from running the lab to found this non-profit organization and focus the rest of his life on OLPC’s goal of ensuring that every child in developing nations has access to a laptop for educational purposes. While some people have fixated on the "$100" price tag or the "laptop" aspect of his project, Nicholas explains that they are missing the point:

"This is an education project, not a laptop project"

OLPC plans to sell laptops to education ministries of nation-states and have those ministries distribute the laptops on the basis of one per child (ages 6-18). Evidently Brazil, Argentina, and Thailand each have ordered 1 million. The OLPC website claims they are also in discussions with China, India, Egypt, and Nigeria (although this article claims India has begged out, which is a shame.) As someone who strongly believes in education’s ability to transform a society’s circumstances, I find this endeavor truly inspiring! While watching it also occurred to me just how many times the course of human history has been changed because of the dogged perseverance of a single individual. I really hope to see Nicholas achieve his goal.