A Day in the Life

A day in my life. Thoughts on leadership, management, startups, technology, software, concurrent development, etc... Basically the stuff I think about from 10am to 6pm.


Company Leadership: Reflecting on Worldviews...

A few years ago my partner parked her car at the Fruitvale Bart station; I forget where we were going. When we got back we found that someone had broken into the car. They had ransacked the interior and it looked like they had been heading into the trunk area through the backseat. Fortunately they didn’t get into the trunk. There were martial arts weapons back there, not extremely valuable but very pointy. What struck me as so incredibly funny about the situation was:

1. They stole some cheap sunglasses and lost a cell phone battery. So basically they lost money on the deal.

2. They never looked in the ashtray which was full of money.

My guess was the theft was a crime of opportunity. But what is so interesting to me is that the thieves were looking for money and it was right under their noses. I can only assume that in their worldview - ashtrays only hold garbage. But for many people ashtrays hold loose change for meters and tolls.

We all have a framework of rules that we have built up over time through our experiences with the world. We use those rules to help us navigate, stay safe, and get what we want. Because the thieves’ framework did not include the notion that anything valuable could be in the ashtray...they missed out on an opportunity and they failed to meet their objectives.

I can’t help but wonder how many missed opportunities I have everyday because of my framework. And when I see people who want to hate others instead of help them, I can’t help but wonder what experiences force them to passionately pursue their hate. Something happened or they were taught something. It certainly isn’t about Christian values which is what they say it is about. It’s something else. I just wish I knew what.


Information Freak

I am an information freak and I’m proud of it. Unlike some people who seem to narrow in on one thing, I am interested in EVERYTHING! So I was extremely excited to discover that MIT has an Open Courseware Program. On this site you can see over 1000 detailed courses. There seems to be a good deal of information which I was quite surprised about. I’m looking forward to browsing around this site for sometime to come. If anyone runs across other sites like this please let me know.

Busy Week

I hadn’t blogged in awhile because we have been way busy at home. We were caring for a newborn who went to his forever family last night. Adoption is one of those things that can be so full of joy while at the same time so full of pain. As the birth family is saying goodbye and dealing with their loss (which IS very painful), the adoptive family is joyfully welcoming their newest member home. I witnessed this occur last night in my home as the birth mother said her goodbyes. I can’t even imagine what she was feeling, her pain was so palpable. I know she was trying to capture him in her memories. She took a lot of photos and she left him gifts and a letter to his new family. When she was finished saying her goodbyes we called the adoptive family who came right over, even though it was late and the drive was long. I know the excitement of bringing home a child. And last night I saw the adoptive family do the same thing the birth mother did. Take lots of photos. The adoptive family was trying to capture every nuance of the moment because for them it was so full of joy. These two families, one suffering and the other joyful, share that small boy and the incredible amount of love they both have for him. For those who associate adoption with abandonment (for the birth family) and/or distain (for the adoptive family) it’s hard for me to image that those interpretations would survive the moment of transfer.


Last Night’s East Bay IT Group (eBig) Event

Last night I want to a presentation by Scott Stanfield on Ajax and Atlas. The event was organized by eBig which is an organization I absolutely love. If you live in the San Francisco East Bay and you’re a software person you should attend some of their sessions. It was really fun to sit in a class with a bunch of other like minded software professionals and learn about a new technology. Ajax is fascinating and I can certainly see why people are getting excited about it. Atlas looks like it’s going to end up being Ajax’s big brother. Here are some of the links I picked up from the session:

Ajax site: http://www.ajax.net/
Atlas site: http://atlas.asp.net/

I also learned about an HTTP debugging proxy called Fiddler. This looks very useful and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

After I get through the pile of demos already on my build list, I’m going to take a crack at building something using these technologies. If anyone can think of something that would be fun to do with Ajax or Atlas and that would benefit from being grid-enabled please post a comment. Thanks!


Grid Computing and Windows

When I first started working at Digipede I had really hadn’t given much thought to grid computing or parallel processing. I had done a great deal of multithreaded server development but because I’ve been living, for the most part, in a Microsoft world, grid computing just wasn’t on my radar. I mean, no one had a low-cost solution until Digipede came along. Last night I talked to Adam Cogan from SSW, about the Digipede Network, and how I think it would really help the SSW Code Audit customers. SSW Code Audit allows a development team to define their coding standards as rules for Code Audit. Code Audit runs through your code base applying the rules to each module. If you have thousands of files, with hundreds of thousand lines of code. This process could take awhile because the files are processed sequentially. If SSW Digipede-enabled the application, customers with a Digipede Network installed could significantly cut down on the processing time because the processing of the individual files would occur in parallel.

My job is to evangelize the Digipede Products and I realized last night that I also have to evangelize grid computing. My conversation with Adam was the first time I had talked to anyone about our products and it made me realize that I really have to get the grid message across, the Digipede message across, and to really understand which message is the most important at that time. I also realized that I need to practice telling our story because I think I did a really bad job. Sigh.


Grid-enabled Excel Spreadsheets - Part 2

Well, it turns out that my attempts at grid-enabling Excel spreadsheets had one little problem...I was unable to actually launch Excel from a Windows Service. I really don’t know exactly why, I suspect it’s because of Excel’s DDE dependency, but I tried just about everything. I can say that this was a very interesting problem. I was able to finally get everything working, basically as I had expected, by writing a VBScript that creates an Excel.Application object that opens the worker spreadsheet. Whew! The demo code and paper are now published in the Digipede Forums.

There is definitely more to look at in the world of Excel and Grids. And I’m very excited about our next Excel project. I just wrote up the proposal document and I hope to have something working next week.



Interesting Search Explained...

Well, I now know why my Google search on "failure" brought up President Bush's Bio page. Googlebombing. I had never heard of Googlebombing until today when I read an article that explained the "failure" results. Here is the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googlebomb if you’re interested.


eBooks at the Library...

I saw an article in the Oakland Tribune last night that mentioned that eBooks were available at the Oakland Public Library through their website. My first thought was cool but...what kind of books could they possibly have? Well, I went out and looked and I have to say I was impressed. One of my needs is for computer language books. When I’ve gone to the brick and mortar library, the computer books were so out of date they were useless. So I just got into the habit of buying all my books. I have an extremely large library as a result. I’m sure I have well over 1000 books. No, they are not all computer books, being a geek I have many interests. But because I’m a recovering software nerd, I really don’t want to buy any more language books or how-to books. This looks like a great alternative.

The books are provided by NetLibrary and if your local library has joined, you will be able to log in and enjoy. For Oakland folks go to http://www.oaklandlibrary.org/databaselist.htm#ebooks, then use your log in id (which is that really ugly long number on the back of your library card) and your password (which is the last four digits of your phone number).


Interesting Google Search

I haven’t played with Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button so I wasn’t sure what to expect when someone told me to type in “failure” and then press “I’m Feeling Lucky”. I was very surprised to have this link come up: http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/gwbbio.html.

I actually got a little chuckle out of it but now I’m curious as to how that algorithm works. So of course I googled it. Turns out that the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button takes you directly to the top-ranked result for your search. Which doesn’t answer the question of how that page gets the top hit for “failure” when the word is nowhere on the page? Interestingly enough when I do a regular Google search, http://www.michaelmoore.com/ comes in second. I can’t help but feel like someone’s cheating.

Grid-enabled Excel Spreadsheets - Part 1

I’ve been working on building an Excel VBA sample that demonstrates how to grid-enable an Excel spreadsheet. There are a few techniques for this. We already ship a sample.NET/DLL assembly, but I wanted to see how to distribute a VBA-only Excel 2002 spreadsheet using the Digipede COM API. My other criterion was that I needed to solve the problem in a way that would be natural for someone who is only comfortable in Excel. No Visual Studio. Ouch. I’m not an Excel programmer so the first thing I had to do was figure out how Excel applications work. The second thing I had to do was refresh my knowledge of the Excel VBA syntax.

I don’t know if my assumptions are correct but my research leads me to suspect that Excel is often used as a data store. And that many Excel programmers only write in VBA or prefer to stay in that environment. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

So to solve this problem I created a Master.xls file which communicates with the Digipede Network and creates the job. Worker.xls files are created (one for each task) in a shared directory and each Task object launches an instance of Excel with a Worker.xls file as input. Worker.xls executes and stores the generated information on the spreadsheet in a cell. Master.xls opens each Worker.xls file when the Task completes and extracts the information. When the Job completes the final calculations are performed and then results output to the Master.xls.

This exercise will be written up in more detail next week along with debugging tips and tricks I learned. The information will then be posted to the Digipede Forums. I think that the older VSTO models are going to be around for a long time and that folks are going to want solutions that require minimum development impact for them. When I finish this write up I have a few other Excel models I want to build. I’m sure that people will appreciate being able to see something that is similar to what they are already doing.



John H. Johnson On Ebony Cover!

I went to Safeway today to get snacks and saw the October edition of Ebony. John Johnson is on the cover. For those of you who don’t know who he is; he is the founder of both Ebony and Jet magazines. I read his autobiography about a year ago and I was extremely impressed. The story of his struggles to succeed in a ‘world’ that didn’t want him is powerful, insightful and inspiring. I was so impressed with his autobiography that I tried to buy it. Because it was out of print I had to go through a secondary book seller who dropped the ball, so I didn’t get a copy. Today I went to Amazon and the sales price on the book (in some cases) is over $100. Wow! I did notice that the October Ebony had a small ad on page 74U that I can use to order the book. Awesome. If any Ebony folks read this...shame on you for putting the ad on a page that has stuff about Mr. Johnson on the other side! I certainly won’t be cutting out the coupon but I will be ordering the book. Thanks for making that available.

PDC Crew is Coming Home!

Well I hear from the guys that PDC went well. I was unable attend due to the show being sold out. Bummer. I was really hoping to talk to people and find out what kinds of applications and technologies they're using. Everyone will be back tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to getting the scoop.



First Day on the Blogosphere!

My first blog post ever! I've been reading other folk's blogs for a while now and I have decided that it's time for me to create my own. So a little about myself. I'm a recovering software engineer. I am also a recovering Catholic. It doesn't seem like there is much difference between the two. I started developing software in the late 80s and just recently moved in to technical marketing to take a break. Writing sample code is so much less stressful then writing server code!

I am now a product evangelist at Digipede Technologies. Since I am a startup junky it’s a relief to be back with a company that requires and appreciates people with my breadth of experience. So I will be writing about events and information relevant to Grid-computing and Digipede.

I am also a hockey freak - I don’t follow the NHL but I do play and coach, so there will likely be musings about teamwork and such. I have two great kids and we are a family that exists because of adoption and I will likely have things to say about that as well.

So...let the blogging begin!