Archive for the 'tech' Category

I’m 100% certain that nothing is certain

August 20, 2007

As Scott Adams has said more than once, human beings (or “moist robots” if you subscribe to that sort of thing) are often absolutely, 100% certain about something only to change their minds later based on either experience or new evidence. If I’m honest, I know that this has happened several times in my own life. And I’ll bet that if you think about it, it’s probably happened in yours, too.

Let’s take a short trip back in time . . . ::cue flashback music and cheesy-but-oh-so-effective screen transition:: June 2007. San Jose, California. The 3rd annual Internet Retailer conference. Along with my boss and one of our web designers, I’m sitting in an auditorium with about 4,000 other websters. There’s a large stage in the front of the room and 5 large screens are spaced evenly along the back wall. On this stage is a panel of “industry experts“*, one of many such panels on display throughout the week (“Oh wow, Morgan. Look at that beautiful panel! And so well-mannered! We’ll have to get one of those for our office!”). This particular panel of guys and gals is covering mobile devices – mainly smart phones and cell phones.

At the podium, a gentleman is explaining that the mobile device platform will increasingly become a key vehicle for retail opportunity. He’s got graphs. He’s got statistics. He’s wearing his most persuasive, gotta-make-the-sale-or-we-don’t-eat suit. Hell, he probably got his hair did for just this event.

There’s just one problem. I’m not buying it.

With all the gusto I can muster, I call BS in no uncertain terms. My main argument is that the form factor for mobile devices is crap.

  1. The screen is too damn small! Why would anyone shop when seeing the picture of the item is nearly impossible?
  2. The input devices suck! Yeah, you can get a “full” QWERTY keyboard on a mobile device, but you wouldn’t use it to shop unless someone was threatening your dog.
  3. The web browsers on mobile devices are altogether unsavory! (Yes, these are the types of exclamations I make on a routine basis) We’re light-years from being able to render the authentic web experience on a mobile device and until we can do that, you won’t see the platform begin to make a dent in traditional web retail.

Of these things, I was certain.

That was June. This is August.

And did I mention that I bought something using my mobile device less than a month after the Internet Retailer conference? No? Well, I navigated to a retail site using my BlackBerry, searched for a product I was interested in, and then. . . (wait for it). . . I bought it.

How could this happen, you ask? “Mark”, you’re screaming as you read this, “you said no one would shop using a mobile device! Did someone threaten your dog?!”. Listen, I really meant those things. I did! What I didn’t realize is that the whole “mobile devices are crap for shopping” argument is squashed handily by the word “mobile”. Yes, you can take them anywhere. So yeah, it may not be as comfy as shopping from home, but, not unlike a Porta-Potty, the convenience far outweighs the interface issues.

So now I’m certain that the mobile device platform will increasingly become a key vehicle for retail opportunity. I don’t have graphs, I don’t have statistics, and I’m not wearing a suit. What I do have is a mobile device and a powerful need to buy stuff.

Got any similar “certainties” you’d like to share? Let me know.

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Land of the lost (or, All computer folks are not equal)

August 16, 2007

Without warning, I’m hit:

“Layer 2 MAC resolution through the ARP cache”

I stagger slightly.

“24-bitted mask with a dotted decimal”

My vision begins to blur.

“A typical situation is where an ARP flood or broadcast storm can cause keepalive or VRID messages from being delivered”

With slight embarrassment, I realize that I’m drooling.

Welcome to my personal reminder of how truly, completely, unfathomably different computer disciplines can be. Much to my mix of amusement and chagrin, the quotes above and many more were used oh-so-casually by my trainer last week while I was in Denver. See, he was (and presumably still is) a diehard networking guy. So was everyone in the class. Well, everyone who wasn’t me, that is.

While I know we all seem alike to the lay-person, there are many different, totally unrelated flavors of computer folk. So that you may be warned, descriptions of a few of them follow.

  • The networker: generally unappealing and slovenly, these sad people work with servers, routing, and (yuck) security. This role is the closest IT professionals can get to manual labor, since they may have to physically run cables and move servers. As a result, they’re nearly all hunchbacked.
  • The database administrator: cross-eyed from hours of staring at execution plans and performance statistics, the database administrator is best avoided at all costs. For entertainment, they’ll appear out of nowhere at your cubicle to discuss query optimization, job scheduling, and clustered indices. Run away quickly if they approach you about “natural joins”.
  • The Windows developer: in my experience, these individuals have as many as 3 teeth. However, 2 of those will be in their pockets. This breed of IT “professional” is particularly inclined to be found in seedy discussion forums known as “newsgroups”. Often still drunk from the previous night’s binge, Windows developers have small, beady eyes from lengthy debugging sessions and are quick to espouse the virtues of “exception handling” and “design”: 2 universally reprehensible concepts. Very unsavory guys and gals.
  • The web developer: by all reports, the saviors of the IT industry. As elegant and graceful as the experiences they create, their reasoning skills are only rivaled by their intelligence. Generally recognized as a boon to productivity, the web developer is highly sought-after in all business circles for his/her robust skill-set and infectious positive attitude. Will often be heard uttering the question and entirely true answer, “You know what sucks about being a web developer? Nothing.”

So next time you’re asking your IT professional buddy why he isn’t smart enough to fix your printer, remember that we’re not all created equal. As illustrated above, some of us are only marginally smarter than that printer and most are less capable.

Sorry, honey. My BlackBerry and I need some space

August 14, 2007

I know this may come as a shock to you, dear. Me and my BlackBerry 8300 Curve (which I nicknamed “Double Bee“) have been spending a lot of time together lately and, well, things just sort of happened.

At first, it was the occasional web browsing session. My BlackBerry isn’t the most robust surfing platform, no, but it’s reasonably fast and pleasing to use for sites that support mobile. Once I set Google Reader as my home page for “Double Bee”‘s browser, there was no going back. I was hooked. (Side note: It just seems wrong somehow to have access to RSS feeds while you’re in the bathroom at work, doesn’t it?)

As time went on, my BlackBerry was able to provide access to my Gmail. Before, I didn’t even realize I needed access to my email 24/7, but now I’ve become very attached. By using filters and labels, it doubles as a task list that I always have with me.

Next came Google Maps. Oh, Google Maps via BlackBerry, where have you been all my directionally-challenged, perpetually-lost in my own hometown life? Take the things you love about Google (intelligent parsing – ever tried just typing in a street name? – and directions/location info, to name 2) and now put them in your pocket. Forget needing your laptop. Forget needing wi-fi.

True story: hungry for some take-out on my way home one evening, I typed in the one-word name of a local pizza joint and nothing else into Google Maps. 10 seconds later, “Double Bee” was showing me a map with the 2 locations for the restaurant. I picked the one closest to my house and pressed the call button. The rest is delicious, pizza-filled history.

When you add in the fact that I got it for -$10, there’s really no comparison, honey. And nothing screams, “I work in IT! Hear me roar! Yes, this is duct tape on my glasses!“, like a BlackBerry in a belt holster.

How could it not be true love?