Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lego Factory Downtown

I have yet to spend a day or evening working from home. I planned to
do so a couple of weeks ago but just went downtown in the end. It is
far more distracting working in an office. What I miss the most about
the home office are the kids working quietly in the Lego Factory.

Today Jack spent the whole day with me. We took the 8:04AM R5 from
Daylesford. We got a Dunkin Donut and registered at the Comcast
Center. SpongeBob and Jimmy Neutron replaced news on my TV and Jack
met some other children in CIMcity, played PingPong and RockBand and
raided the kitchen for some candy. We managed to get the Xbox360
running.

In the end, what Jack spent hours doing was building a Lego kit on the
floor of my office. I put some news on, dug into some email, and it
was like being back in the Lego Factory even though we were really
downtown.

Monday, October 27, 2008

R5 Paoli Local Never Smelled So Good

It doesn't matter how old and dismal a SEPTA regional rail car is,
when you are riding out on the platform between cars because it's
beyond standing room only there is plenty of fresh air. This morning
the trains were late and screwd up. I heard on KYW 1060 that it was
due to dew on the rails and wet leaves. All I know is that a few
commuters starting at Daylesford were surprised (and unsafely stunned
standing close to the tracks) when the late train from Paoli raced by
and skipped our platform. This evening platform 4B at Suburban station
was jam-packed. The 6:09 Thorndale express was way behind and the 6:12
Malvern local was at least 15 minutes late. THE LAST Phillies World
Series game was coming on soon and everyone wanted to get home. It's
7:20PM and I am halfway home. I left Comcast Center at 6:04PM.

I was almost the last person on the train boarding at Suburban. We
squeezed onto the platform cab. I felt bad for about one second for
the ton of folks at 30th Street Station who didn't stand a chance. One
tenacious lady budged in - she must have been from New York.

At Overbrook, the conductor insisted on dropping the hatch to the
stairs and we had to squeeze in further and then ridevin the air.
After a couple stops the capacity reduced enough to get folks off the
platform cab. And I grabbed a seat and took this shot over my head.

This commute is really going to get old this winter. Lesson learned
though. In this economy you either get a warm seat on SEPTA or you
get cool fresh air - never both.

7:36 ...

That MLB.com iPhone application may earn it's keep yet ...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day in the Life Washington Metro Style

When I get a chance to tag this entry it will be not far from the truth. Right off the early Amtrak into Union Station, I tried to move swiftly through the Metro station. I was heading over to the
Marriott Metro Center to attend Splunk Live! I purchased a One Day Metro Pass with a credit card which immediately f'd me in the turnstyle - "see station manager". Apparently, the "one day pass" only works after 09:30. WTF kind of day epoch is that? Actually, I will need another tag ...

I bought a second $2 Fare Card and finally got along.

How ironic that on my way to a Splunk technology briefing, , on my way to talk with experts who understand time epochs better than most, that a mis-apportioned time epoch screws me out of
eight bucks and 10 minutes.

(if you know what a log file is and you do not know about Splunk it is time to stop using grep and download Splunk - spend some more time with your kids)

There was a day, when I literally wore a bat belt for iPlanet (i.e. two SkyTel text pagers), that I was fed up with the virtual ( ha ha ) slap in the face of operational awareness by the Java VM engineers. If the paucity of information in the GC logging was bad enough, there was no time stamp in the GC log messages. If you system traced the VM more time() system calls would fly by than you could shake a stick at and these guys weren't generous enough to drop a LONG into a printf().

I asked for a timestamp. I bitched for a time stamp. About as much time went by as there were VMs signaled SIGQUIT. One day on my way to gaining weight

"hissss...would you like any fries with that timestamp?...click"

I left the Java DriveThru with my

-XX:+PrintGCTimeStamps

and ... Huh? WTF? These guys don't print a UTC time stamp, they don't print a formatted time value. They print an unconventional duration since the epoch of the VM/GC runtime start. I guess if you live in a virtual world the epoch of the VM start means something (look everyone! The VM ran for 87,000 seconds!). In the real world it is almost worthless. When the rest of the real world treats time as a standard you might as well live in The Black Sun if you devise
your own time epochs.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tape n Scissors

One gauge of our systems is to track web resources (URLs) over the
time domain measuring cache hits, origin hits, response codes,
response time, total hits and total bytes. it all comes from
telemetry. Telemetry represents change in state over change in time.
In simple terms telemetry indicates events. Logs provide telemetry
because logs record an event - the state of a component at a point in
time. A web server access log record HTTP response message
exchange events - the final state of a dispatched HTTP request. At any layer
from browser to data source, telemetry from the logs anchor the
complexity of our architecture in the simplicity of time and
uniformity of web resources identifiers.

I am working on cGauge but took some time today to try and get more
eyes on the data.

There is something more powerful than web server access logs. Try adding an event for the initial state of a dispatched HTTP request!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Picasa 3 beta WebAlbum Syncing Looking Good

I downloaded and installed Picasa v3 beta a couple of weeks ago and was very excited by the features and UI improvements. My long list of issues with Picasa 2 such as lack of display of "keywords" other than through CRTL-K have been addressed. I Googled around for testimony on the Picasa WebAlbums syncing features and found some claims of problems which causes duplicate images/albums. I was little afraid to try on existing folder in Picasa which had already been uploaded to WebAlbums in version 2. I gave it a try today on a small album of some Ground Zero shots I took from PATH station last December.

My starting condition was that Picasa 3 did already have "Uploaded" (green up arrow) badging and the "View Online" link above the thumbnails worked. I would assume that if you don't have that starting condition, then you may be off on the wrong track to syncing. First I clicked on Web Sync Icon and the confirmation dialog confirmed that an existing WebAlbum was in place. I heard some disk activity after selecting OK but I did not have a visual indication of what I accomplished. I assumed that I was synchronized now and proceeded to test some edits. If I added a new keyword to a photo, the new tag appeared on the WebAlbum. (as I type this message I can't recall if I did anything to push the sync - I think it just happened after a delay). I then went to the Web Album and added a caption to an photo and saved it. Well, unless Picasa 3 opens a GMail like comet connection (he he) it really can't get an event from the web now can it. I found an online action menu (scoped to a photo or to an folder) and clicked on "Refresh Online Status". This synchronized the caption from Web Album. I then added a tag to a photo on the Web Album and again "Refresh Online Status" pulled in the web tag to the EXIF keywords.

More testing to come. I fear not finding the necessary "starting condition" described above. I don't see any reconciling features explicitly in the UI yet.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Telemetry Enables Command and Control

It is 48 degrees(F) and falling. I am in a sleeping bag, in a tent, in
my backyard. There is popcorn debris in my sleeping bag. I will have
symptoms of a cold virus by Monday morning because at least one of
these third graders in the tent is hacking up a lung. It is 2:47 in
the morning. I can hear the deer milling around in the woods prior to
their morning muster to devastate any landscaping I have left. I can
hear the bucks scraping their antlers.

My son Jack fashions things out of nothing. Recently he has been seen
carrying all manner of components into the woods where he "has a fort"
and is making stuff. Things have been disappearing from the garage.

Tonight these kids bent a tent pole and I had to make a splint. I had
to wake up Jack and ask him where the duct tape was. Half asleep he
knew exactly what beech tree in the woods he left the tape last.

I had snapped this shot Friday morning after Jack showed me the "Fire
Control Panel" of his latest device. (fiuor is how he spells 'fire') I
still can imagine where he got that minature IBM keyboard.

I am working on something special to help (others) manage the
complexity of a large URI namespace. If you want to get vectors on
how your systems and resources are performing - if you want actionable
information - you must have telemetry. The simpler and more discrete
(on the time domain) the better.

I have been thinking a lot about early lessons learned about
complexity and scale. Jack, who is "John", reminded me of my studies
of Panama Canal construction and how the engineer who finally
conquered the jungle and scale did it.

Thanks Jack! Now I know what I will name the application. cGauge

Jack and I will know what "gauge" really refers to and for everyone else
it will hopefully make sense that we are measuring stuff.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fancast Commercial on Fox News

I haven't worked on web app that was promoted on TV.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

There is a Y in Daylesford

The R5 Paoli Station situation has me aggrevated. I tried to get a
parking pass twice and the substitute sales person was unable to sell
me one. When the regular lady was back to work and I tried a third
time, there were none left. A week of car shuffling had been insane.
Last night I made the 5:41 home and then realized that the family
truckster was off to soccer practice and I was castaway in Paoli. I
strolled over to TJ's and for a cold one and read an ACM Queue article
on the Five Minute Rule applied to Flash. Enough is enough.

The Great Valley Flyer is fast stop to stop but queuing theory
applies. The Flyer is packed and it is the same set of gnomes (of
which I am one) each day. It takes longer to board and exit the train.
It takes a long time to offload at 30th Street and even longer at
Suburban. Worst part is that the trek up and over to the Comcast
Center reminds me of the rat race at 53rd and Lexington in midtown
Manhattan E subway. Is Bear Sterns still around? I can't keep track.

The only thing worse than trying reach the Flyer at 5:08 is trying
making the second leg of my journey down North Valley. You can either
increase your chances of collision getting out of the parking lot at a
reason time or you can wait until the lot drains off.

Now to rationalize. Getting from the lot to the inbound platform you
have to cross North Valley. Frogger. Enough said. Best case scenario
is to line up your crossing with a talented lady and maybe the traffic
will stop - they never stop for me. Once you cross the bridge half the
time you find the breakneck 75 year old iron staircase is closed for a
repair.

I am going to try Daylesford out. The Flyer Gnomes are "in the picture".

I got to my office by 8:15, was alone in the elevator, and could jog
up the stairs into the lobby with dodging people.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fielding On Rails

To distract me from looking at too much production Akamai data, Greg
gave me an Untangled posting on notification architecture. I was
considering a mental picture of what Roy means by "inverse economy of
scale" for PubSub. I assume he is referring to cost function C(n,m) of
consuming clients n and rate of messages m and that cost increases
versus decreases with HTTP REST style architecture along the n and m
domain. I also think that as n increases C inflects at certain points.
I will have just wait for Roys upcoming posting.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Ago Seven Months Ago

Seven months ago today I started at Comcast. It's 11:37PM and I am on
the R5 passing Narbreth. Train is filled with chatty, giddy college
kids, more than a few intoxicated. I hope they get off soon at
Villanova. I guess I was that annoying 20 years ago when first
semester freshman year was a reckless abandon. This evening was
Comcast Interactive Media all hands at The Hub. My boss called out my
name while referring to overall improvements because I have been
looking through logs for errors. I am glad to have a shout-out and he
was a gentleman for making mention. Now if he had only said, "if we
fixed the errors Matt found it would increment the number on the
bottom line"...I may have had a couple of folks wanna meet me
afterwards. I am pretty sure most folks think I enjoy watching grass
grow. No booze was served. Here comes the Paoli stop...and my
Brazillian taxis driver who drives my RSX more than I do. Why she
thinks that shifting constantly is necessary to keep the engine
running ... 12:21AM I will have pretend it's still 9-11 and roll this
posting back a bit. It seems like years ago that started this new job.

Seven years ago I wouldn't have pictured myself working in a
skyscraper. I was working from home, living on West Coast hours on the
JATO engineering team. My sister woke me and had me turn on the TV.
What a terrible day. It seems like it was yesterday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Evito Signum Ter

I didn't initially realize why I found work so tedious today. Then Gmail provided this moment of clarity. I am just bored out of my freakin skull because the novelty wore off 10 years ago to the day. I had not totally forgot that I had been consulting at IBM Interactive Media in the Fall of 1998. Same brittle Java application server issues...different "Interactive Media". If I disposition another fubar Java application server and have to spend more than a minute teaching people how uncomplicated it is . . . I will . . . I W I L L

. . . I will go into work tomorrow and explain it for the 1000th time. I just can't help myself. Java developers are not blissfully ignorant but rather innocently unburdened with what I know could have been.

From NetDynamics

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Missing Vertical Swath on Comcast HD Channels

Starting about a month ago, all HD channels including HD VOD display a green sidebar on the right. Below is an picture taken with iPhone of the right side of Sunrise Earth this morning. I estimate this to be just over 1cm wide on my 52" Sharp AQUOS. There is another issue too

From 2008 Finding Momentum


On the left side of the HD picture there is a 3cm wide sidebar of pixelization which makes it look like a strip of clear packing tape is up and down the whole side of the screen. Seriously, I suspect that anyone with plasma screens would get burn in from this - certainly the green sidebar.

From 2008 Finding Momentum


When I look at it more closely it appears that its not pixelization but a missing vertical swatch of the image...about 1cm long. Perhaps what is happening is that this swatch is clipped and the whole images slides over the left causing this hairline alias 3cm in from the left and green filling in the gap on the right.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Internet Meta Grid

(note: I drafted this entry while attending the Akamai Conference in August 2008. In recent days Tom Leighton published whitepaper concerning A Perspective from the Edge of the Cloud so I thought I would complete this posting after being inspired by hearing the message I was hoping to hear and knew would come)

I need a great big httpd in the sky. I need it cheap. I am building the Media Grid. Well actually I am going to build a few grids but I need to practice on one first.

I was "in the picture" during the CEO Keynote when the Akamai anthology video was played. A highlight was shown of the Philadelphia Live8 stage outward to the city skyline and I could see my svelte figure up on the camera tower. I was also "in the picture" when a still photo was shown of me talking to Akamai engineer Vinay at the Media Technology booth in the science fair.

Akamai does 300Billion requests per day

"I am the Walrus" says the T-shirt of a guy on the streets of Boston in a video who says he won't wait any longer than 4-5 seconds for a page and has cancelled cable and watches all video online now. You are right and wrong dude. Noone will wait more than 4 seconds and most of the time you demand 1 second response time. You may be right that customers will only pay for an IP pipe and video will be satisfied with Internet devices. The Akamai CEO agrees with you. He suggests that given the speed down to the house IP TV will be competitive. Your T-shirt is mistaken though...I am the Walrus - not you.


700 Million page views on CNN in 2004
what will happen in 2008 election (what did happen...?)

10 billion online videos per month

Bill Hensler, Dynamic Media Organization, Adobe
VP of Engineering

12 Billion online videos in May 2008

You don't go to Google to search for toothpaste and snack food. How to have a Brand Conversation with consumers is challenging. 500 billion in advertising is being challenged by the web.

Consumer wants more content and best video experience (novelity is one)
Publisher wants to monetize new and existing content and make it easy to delivery to consumer (how do you make money?)

Internet offers one major change "bi-directional communication". Word!

Suspects it will take 10 more years to understand the Medium of IP TV

Advertiser wants to reach more people and interested in interactivity with the engagement.

Content type, medium and advertising are all symbiotic and shape each other.

Try to think of the general mills - how are they going to sell pop-tarts.

I am hearing Bill talk about metadata to capture the context of the audio/video and I don't know if I agree that the metadata needs to be tightly coupled to the media. I think that the interface can just be on a simple interface based on the time domain. The YouTube video annotations is an example where the metadata and the media resource are connected by ID and discretely connected by time domain.

In the video

Flash 10 h.264 mp4 files switching between video files. Demonstrated that different bit rate flv files being switched with apparently no interuption in experience.

Why would someone want to watch video off axis?

Why would someone want to have bit filters running on the client?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Is Web Measurement Broken

Why can't we spend more money on online advertising?

Time spent online is not equivalent to time spent watching TV.

click thru rate has been both a blessing and a curse

Engagement is so ambiguous. What does it mean anyways?

Metrics that matter most is revenue and yield.

Inability of publishers to use excess inventory.

At the end of the day it's all about revenue and margin

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Two Terabyte Tape Capture

This morning I wrapped up my MiniDV tape capture project. I false
started on Pinnacle Studio prior to 2008 because of the general
instability, poorly scaleable storage strategy, and general lack of
personal satisfaction in being able to do anything with the gigs of
AVIs.

With iPhone, Apple TV, YouTube and 15/15 Mbit pipe and public/private
web resources, wireless...my video is where I want it when I want it.

I restarted my efforts the weekend I installed Mac OS X Leopard in
February on my MacBook Pro Intel 4GB with 17" screen. While I was in
King of Prussia at the Apple Store buying Leopard, I grabbed a 1TB
Western Digital Home Edition drive at Costco. Since then I got a total
of 4 drives, two for backups. The prices started at $279 and came down
to $229. One grand for 4TB of storage, quiet as a mouse, and take up
as much space as a six-pack of beer.

Using Drive Utility on Mac I formatted as Extended Journaled file
system using GUID partition table. I used Drive Utility to make
duplicates.

S5 Video 001
S5 Video 002 (backup)
S5 Video 003
S5 Video 004 (backup)

I kept one drive connected and patched off drive to Sony DCR-TRV900

I used iMovie 2008. It was a champ. Absolutely great program. Along
the way we even took some time to create some YouTube videos

StevensFive.TV

Battle of the Hoth Force
(trailer)

Has 12,000 views in 3 months and is upwards 2.0 on popularity
according to YouTube InSight.

In iMovie we have almost 1000 video events over nine years. I got the
Sony TRV 900 from a video production consultant in Florida on eBay for
$1800 and he only had used it for some cut-ins on one job. I mostly
used it with a high performance wide-angle 52mm lens and sometimes
used the 9m underwater housing sledding, snorkeling and in pools waves
and rain.

During capture something wore out on the camera. I was getting frame
drops and chirps. I had to send it out and it received a new head back
in April. Pretty much okay after that.

The MacBook would get pretty warm, especially during LP 90 minute
captures. I kept a Targus dual cooling fan USB powered pad underneath
and this helped. I had a few SP 90 minute tapes from Panasonic and LP
recordings on those were going beyond two hours and over 25GB. The
MacBook froze on two occasions and iMovie core'd fairly often after
capturing more than three tapes in a row. After the iMovie and Mac
OS updates in May and June I never had problems since.

My strategy for naming events was

YYYY, Description Of Event

It probably takes about 15-20 minutes per hour of video to organize:
splitting events, renaming, cleaning up 1 second clips which often
come from the capture and realize tinestamps of TODAY. The
organization of events in iMovie is very helpful. The is one bear trap
however. You cannot select a disk or year node in the event tree
without causing that entire scope of video thumbnails to display -
kill iMovie wait a long while.

A regretable shortcoming of my technique was lack of cross referencing
back to tape. I should have labelled tapes 001-1xx and kept this
value in the event name.

I am going to turn my attention back to Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 and
what is probably tens of thousands of negatives and slides to scan.
Since Tara and I mistakenly threw away our negative box from 1988-1997
I have a ton of photos to scan on the Epson. I am hunting for my 1080p
HD camera solution.

Hopefully we can knock out some videos each couple of weeks. Here is a
list of some special events I want to get to:

Marrying Tara at Villanova in 1994

Birth of Matthew, Jack and Jillian

Delta Rocket Launch with Jack

MTV Camera Tower at Live 8 Philadelphia

Presenting with James Gosling at JavaOne 2004

My live reaction to watching World Trade Center collapse

Driving in: Big Sur, Bangalore, France, Italy, Switzerland, Russia,
Japan, Czech Republic, mountains, golf carts, bikes, jeeps, auto-
rickshaws, limos, buses, go-carts, dirt roads, autobahn

Disney, Sea World, KeyWest, South Beach, Devon Horse Show, Valley
Forge, Muir Woods, Cape Cod, Central Park

Snorkeling, water slides, sledding, wagon rides, flying, para-sailing,
deep sea fishing, boating, fireworks, air shows, museums, soccer,
baseball, skiing, crabbing, fishing, singing

Subways, Buddist Temples, beaches, parks, zoos, trains, rainbows,
flora, fauna, airplanes, helicopters, Legos, "parachute-airplanes"

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, Ground Zero, Air Force One

Weddings, births, birthdays, baptisms, eating, sleeping, laughing,
crying, partying, cooking, barfing, working, school plays, injury

India Austrailia Test Match (cricket)

Me 30 pounds more than I should be 99-04

NetDynamic, ObjectStrategy, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, Comcast

lots of people...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ongoing Momentum

Comcast Interactive Media had a visitor today. I work with a great team who implements the Comcast.net portal and Fancast. I introduced our visitor to the technical community in a town hall meeting in CIM City.

From CIM People


"In the context of web technology how many folks have heard of TAXI?" (perhaps one person)

"How many people have heard of AJAX?" (everyone)

"A couple of years ago I was working on AJAX application architectures and JavaScript debuggers with another Sun Senior Staff Engnineer, Roberto Chinnici (Java web services lead), and I asked him whether he subscribed to this distributed MVC implementation pattern which was cropping up or a more RESTful decoupled approach. Roberto indicated the latter because his design center was 'TAXI'. He referred me to 2001 article defining TAXI."

"The foundation of strong software/systems engineering is proven architectural patterns and style. However, prior to the arrival of these patterns comes thought leadership."

"If you want to be the best engineer you can be, discover who the thought leaders are. Subscribe to their philosophy (their thinking) and most importantly resemble them. The best way to resemble thought leaders is the know them. Make it a goal to meet him or her, go to a conference or business and get connected. Question them."

"Many of you know that I promote REST style architecture and assert ATOM as our design center for read+Write web resources; I recommend systems like GData as strong examples that our implementations resemble. What you may not know that I try hard to resemble Tim Bray."

"I am happy to introduce Tim Bray, Director of Web Technology at Sun Microsystems. Tim will lead a discussion on current trends in network computing. Welcome Tim!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

LED Matrix in Comcast Center Lobby

This friday is the public grand opening of the Comcast Center. Friday
is also the day my group, Comcast Interactive Media, moves into the
floors adjacent to CIM City.

Starting this week if you visit the Comcast Center you will find a
massive high definition, very high contrast, LED matrix fully covering
the lobby wall above the elevator portals. I am guessing 9-10 meters
tall and assuming 1080p.

The fascinating thing is that one image displayed is a simulated wood
paneling which makes the screen appear to vanish.

I have an affinity to LED matrices because that was the display
platform I used for the Live8 call to action system back three years
ago. I am going to feel good each time I come into work. Perhaps when
I get exasperated at work I can go down to the lobby and listen to
some Linkin Park

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Freaken Hot News Chick

Sitting in her van. Though she looks hot, in Philadelphia, in front of
the PECO building on Market Street, the "news" is literally THAT IT IS
FREAKEN HOT.

Mulling over the impending lawn mowing this evening in 100 degree heat
index, I walked toward 30th Street Station to catch the R5. I caught
sight of Channel 10 news babe hiding out in her air conditioned news
van waiting for the next live spot on the local news. I am getting
used to strange looks from folks getting their picture snapped with my
iPhone. You are "in the picture" now.

Thank God for Insull and vision of grid utilities. Most folks are cool
inside today as load moves across the grid throughout the day. I
wonder if you will ever see an info babe camped out in front of
Akamai, Amazon, Microsoft and Google some day when the fiber gets too
hot. Probably. But she won't be as sweaty as this chick on Market.

The fiber will be heating up the "in the picture" grid - you can count
on it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Wrong Platform

In an attempt to catch the 5:41 R5 Express to Wayne from Suburban
Station Thursday, I ended up going to the wrong platform. Most of the
time the Paoli R5 leaves from 4B platform. The exception is the 5:41
PM express which waits on the far platform 7B. Matthew's game was on
that night and I was trying to get to Immaculata for most of it. I
jogged pretty much from 2000 Market to platform 4B and the train
waiting there was the R7. When I rushed over to 7B, not only did the
closed train doors taunt me, but a few passengers got a good laugh as
they watched me rant and bitch to myself, weezing. What a grind.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Finding CIM City

With the help of an evil canine and a construction elevator CIM City
has been found. I checked out the 15th floor of the Comcast Center
earlier this week. Fantastic. The color reminds me of the orange red
carpets we had in our house in the mid 70s. Ironically, it seems to be
the same color in one of the Sun corporate brands. The can be nothing
more different than 2000 Market CIM floors and the new floors at the
Comcast Center.

Bring your vertical polarizing sun glasses!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Outsourcing Mother's Day

Started month four at Comcast today. I feel like I have been there a
year. The most precious resource I have these days is time. I am sure
that most of this issue is that I am in a very different pace in a
totally new job. In any case I am not finding time to get to all the
things I want to. I would have liked to help the children get
organized for Mother's Day but it was impossible. I enlisted a foreign
national to get this work done. Dani, our nanny, is creative and would
hardly consider it a task or chore to go to the mall. I told to just
take care of it.

Dani did a great job. Jack and Jillian helped pick out a #1 Mom
pendant and they made a T-shirt with handprints and a family cheer.

I did my part and let Tara sleep in a little and we all brought
breakfast up to her in bed. I cook breakfast weekends anyways so this
all worked out well. At this point any Mother's Day is better than
2001 when while retrieving flowers for Tara at Waterloo Gardens
Matthew feel on his face and cut his lip - I believe he screamed
until dinner that day.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

FiOS STB Widget Platform

I was a friends loft in Phoenixville Saturday and he was showing me
the good and bad in the new FiOS TV set top box guide. The negative
was that it was too slow. Latency in the percieved results from a UI
gesture is always bad. Apple defeats these problems on Apple TV with
animations (wipes and fades and the ubiquitous spinner. The good parts
included search feature.

I noticed a top level menu item labelled "Widgets". Clicking this
raised a modal dialog asking for zip code. After submitting zip code a
traffic and weather widget showed up in header carosel. I think it
worked pretty good as STB platforms go. I can't see how this would
scale and hold a candle ever to an open widget platform with a more
capable UI engine, especially anything which is cross platform.

Best Job in Philadelphia

I have been walking to and from 30th Street Station 10 blocks down to
2000 Market each day. There is hardly any people around so its
relaxing and a good time to think. While there is far less hustle and
bustle than there is at Suburban Station, it is a drought as girl
watching goes.

I snapped this picture of the rear wheel man on the ladder truck
cutting a tight turn off Market just before the PECO building. This
fire fighte has to have the best professional job in the city.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Waiting for Greg

Greg Ayre claims to have some great seats for this rare game. There is
a hot breeze and 80 degrees and it is April. We're the ones with three
kids and two little games to coach and yet Tara and I are here, have
beer and Greg and Dana are late. Come on guys!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Google Sites 0-100 Test Drive

A couple of weeks ago I got some email from Google /a folks telling me what I wanted hear for a while. They announced Google Sites. I spent an hour tonight playing with a Test Site on ObjectStrategy.com

(hunny...that logo just happens to look like the dash of the 2005 Acura RSX I picked up in Maryland a couple weeks ago...just looks like it)

Last year as chief engineer in Sun Learning Services I pushed hard (to say it mildly) to lead Sun Services teams away from email world and a human transactive memory platform to Web 2.0. For a variety of reasons we selected Atlassian's Confluence. Confluence is a solid read+Write platform (though lacking in the user experience). We looked at many cloud services providing Enterprise 2.0 collaboration solutions including Ning but Ning's identity integration solution was absent (as I recall) still many features missing at the time. The latest personalized cloud service from Google really ties it all together and this first release is very impressive. Comparing it to Microsoft Sharepoint as some have is a failure to see the forest through the trees. If Google Sites team can deliver iterative improvements like we have seen with Google Docs (including APIs...please please please) I think that organizations may find a threshold of value that cannot be ignored - though GMail and Calendar and Docs should be enough. I say "may" because until Google /a can incorporate a workflow services into the cloud they will not be easing the majority of enterprise pain. I do hope I get an notification from Google /a by early of 2009 that they have a beta cloud service like Jira integrated as slick as Remember The Milk's uber hack of GMail. The Lists content object page type is too simplistic currently.
Both personal StevensFive.net and ObjectStrategy.com have been on Google /a for a while. I tried to remain in the user experience of Google Pages for /a and it really was non-trivial to get something together for StevensFive in time for the Christmas card. While Google Sites does not let you use DHTML directly ("Unsafe HTML Tags") like object and script I still think that there is enough formatting features and sufficient templates so that you can have something looking good without dealing with your own DHTML. If there is something you need you can make your own Google Gadget and get a little farther with that.

In comparing with Confluence I think one of the best features in Google Sites are the Announcement content objects (site pages). This is the News diary/blog format in Confluence. One thing I like better about Google Sites is that you can create any number of Announcement/blog resources within a site. In Confluence you could have one News/blog per Space. Speaking of spaces, the "sites" (pural) in Google Sites is very similar to Spaces in Confluence as Jive's Clearspace. What I think is missing in Google Sites are some of the proven Enterprise Wiki Patterns including personal sites. There should be context reserved for people sites or a way to have sites indicated as being a person site. Dealing with this "who" dimension is essential. Another thing which can be easily improved are more Google Site specific widgets which can deal with intra and inter site aggregation. There are a few like an aggregator for recent announcements - but there cannot be enough of these. The only glaring issue I see is that lack of tagging - unless I totally missed it. Tagging is fundamental to resource metadata, searching and content aggregation. Really weird that tagging is missing.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New and Old

Is it a sign?

I just noticed this morning wait for the 8:04 R5 inbound this
interesting juxtaposition of new and old and it was thought provoking.
Could have been the caffeine too - in either case I think other
commuters thought it a little weird that I was taking a picture of the
tracks.

What this picture shows is the very end of the new track installed by
Amtrak along the Mainline. You look East and you see the modern
concrete railroad ties and to the West you see the old wooden ties.

All day long I can't get the imagery out of my head. It seems like a
stark change yet I didn't notice it for a month. If you are seeing the
ties you see a difference. If you focus on the rail you see just a
uniform feature. I just noticed as I type this that the balast looks
different to the West - stained by preserative on the ties.

The ties are a foundation, an infrastructure to the rails - the rails
an infrastructure to the trains. The rails decouple the trains from
the ties. The rails are the same while the infrastructure has been
changed out. Is the new infrastructure an improvement? Heck yeah! I am
typing this at 100 Km per hour and that was impossible prior to the
investment.

When do you change infrastructure?

When do you change the implemention details?

Can you make the change at one layer while preserving certain existing
function?

What is the cost and value of the infrastructure change?

This like this change I see.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Do not WISH for Apple TV

Surely Apple TV is just using YouTube GData APIs under the covers so
why would this not be working on my home network?

After a few hours with Apple Care support yesterday and an hour in the
insane Apple store in KOP Mall today after Costco grocery shopping, I
spent an hour browsing through the DI-624 and DIR-655 routers to see
WTF was up. I isolated the problem to be the inner subnet on the
DIR-655 (Costco special). During the Apple Care call, to be fair, the
front line guy suggested jacking the Apple TV into the hub with
Ethernet and ruling out the wireless. He was right and I shouldn't
have lazy just because I didn't have a long patch cable handy.

So there is this feature called WISH enabled by default on the
DIR-655. "WISH is short for Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling, a
technology developed to enhance your experience of using a wireless
network by prioritizing the traffic of different application"

Well I WISH the engineers at DLink were a little less aggressive maybe.

Disabled WISH on the DIR-655 and now StevensFive TV and all our Apple
DRM is online.

Apple TV Debugging

This is what didn't work on our Apple TV. Nothing under the YouTube
menu worked. Trying to hit public feeds like Favorites or Most Watched
and even Search failed. Attempting to login to StevensFive YouTube
account failed. While we could browse and preview all of iTunes
stores, we could not authenticate with our Apple IDs. Thus all DRM
music and movies were unavailable after syncing to local iTunes on
Vista box.

Yesterday I was three hours with Apple Care support through to support
engineering.

Right now I am in the Apple Store in KOP Mall and they are trying to
reproduce on the LAN here. Identity is THE hardest nut to crack.
Still, it is quite odd that the public channels on YouTube were
offline especially when Flickr access was fine.

I don't know what will be worse having an explicit bug in Apple TV or
if I have some nuance with home LAN over the FiOS connection.

Walter is back. Seems like its my network problem. Good grief.

What a pain in the ass.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

YouTube Apple TV Hosed

None of the YouTube featured worked initially. Neither could we hit
any of the general feeds nor could we search. The feature to login to
your YouTube account (stevensfive) was also offline.

I will have to trace the HTTP traffic to see what feeds bindings they
are using because the site seemed fine and GData resources were fine
too.

Installing Apple TV

Tara and I setup the 144GB Apple TV that came in the mail today.
Speaking of "in the mail" we started our Netflix experience last night
too. After setting up my queue last night and creating one for Tara, I
was impressed that she ended up spending an hour on NetFlix this
morning rating and filling her queue. I got an email notification that
both of our selections were arriving tomorrow.

Given an existing wireless setup, existing iTunes loaded with all our
stuff , the 52" Aquos Costco special from last years March Madness and
a spare HDMI cable we had StevensFive TV up and running in about five
minutes. Very impressed that while it was syncing from iTunes we could
browse and start to preview HD movies.

Not that I didn't expect it but this is clearly another killer app
within The Convergence.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tough Loss for Nova

When you work in Center City Philadelphia it is real convenient to get
to sporting events. When you have friend who has access to a suite at
the Wachovia Center it is real cool too. Thanks Scott! Mike picked up
Chuck and me and we zipped down 95 in just a few minutes. This was the
first time for me in a box at the Center. Go Cats!

SEPTA R5 Parking

I bought a one month Zone 4 SEPTA trail pass last night. Apparently,
you are not entitled to buy a monthly parking tag unless you purchase
trail pass. I have tried to find numbered parking slots which cost a
dollar each day but they are rare. Yesterday I tried to catch the 8:04
and I figured I would need to come up with some creative parking. As I
came over the bridge in Paoli I saw a spot free - spot #4 right in
front. Odd. Coming home late yesterday night after Villanova's loss at
the Center I realized what a pain in the ass it was to have to hike
around to the inbound side to get car. This morning I tried to buy a
parking tag for March but you need to provide your plate numbers which
I didn't have. Now I fully understand the benefit feature at work that
mails you passes for each month to your house - funded out of pretax.

Matthew I hope you get your cast off today buddy. We have to start
getting that arm loose.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Out of Shape

No such luck parking this morning at Paoli Train Station inbound lot.
There are only a few dozen $1.00 (four quarter) spots. Yesterday was a
holiday (for some) and there were plenty of spots still at 7:15. Even
though I got there by 7:10 to make the 7:21 Great Valley Express, no
spaces were available. I wasn't going to park in larger lot on the
North side (outbound) because I tried that last week and got a $10.00
ticket.

I always wonder about that lot anyways because it is over the old rail
yard that was there when I was a kid - feel the same way I did going
into the Netscape campus in Mountain View in 1999 - who knows what is
buried there. Apparently you can get monthly parking passes if you
also get SEPTA monthly passes. Maybe next month.

Anyways, I left the car at JJ's preschool for Tara to pick up and
hustled across Paoli to try and make the train. My parents would have
fainted if they imagined me "running to catch the R5". They have been
telling me about a guy who had been starting his new job downtown
(this was back in the 70s) and slipped trying to catch a moving (I
think) train and lost his legs. I made the queue boarding the train
okay and safely. However, my chest was heaving and I was sweating my
ass off. I was still sweating walking down Market Street 40 minutes
later. I think I was sweating all day. I have got to get in shape.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Need a Bigger Whiteboard

A whiteboard and smart people coming into 1977 all day scribbling on
it. Finally!

I am not used to sharing my white board though - I think I will need a
bigger one or another one. I wonder if I can pop one onto that blank
wall in the hall?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Pink Boots

When dad is in charge, as he is this weekend, everyone wears their
boots. It is no wonder that these kids go through sneakers so quickly.
If you don't direct them on what to wear they will always grab their
sneakers (I admit they are easy to put on). The kids can play much
harder and not get cold. Today the boys just ran off with their
sneakers and blew me off. Jillian still needs and wants my help so she
got boots. Tara refused to let me have her in the boys hand-me-down
Timberland Wheats so she looks for the pink ones at As They Grow
consignment.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Catching up with Nova EE classmate

I landed my new job at Comcast through networking on LinkedIn. Perhaps
even more rewarding than that, LinkedIn has helped me get back in
touch with folks from years back. I got on LinkedIn very early on but
I had invested about as much time keeping my profile fresh and
contacts complete as I have been networking in general. I realize that
I have been hyperfocused in my Sun efforts and not dedicating enough
to keeping valuable relationships strong across the years. I won't be
killing my momentum like that anymore. Mark Tomcavage (Serac
Solutions) got in touch with me over LinkedIn, I hadn't seen him since
senior year at Villanova - we were in electrical engineering together
and he lived in St. Mary's when I was an RA there (Mark sorry for
breaking up some parties in the ground floor suite). Mark is still a
great guy - clever and mello. We went to the Syracuse game at Wachovia
Center last weekend - Villanova lost but we had a great time and Mark
had Alumni Association passes to the reception in the Lexus Club. As
we left Mark grabbed a photo of me on my iPhone pretending like i was
hosting the postgame show. Cheers Mark!

Thursday, January 31, 2008