Thursday, May 31, 2007

Palm Has Lost Its Mind, Or At Least Its Way

Also from D 2007, Palm's Jeff Hawkins introducted the Palm Foleo. Story and video clip on the D5 site here, and recap and lots of pics on the Engadget site here.

What the bloody h*ll are they thinking? It looks all the world like a small, underpowered laptop. Why would I want one of those? Why in the world would I want yet another device, this one physically in-between my smartphone and my laptop? For five hundred bucks? You gotta be kidding me!

Palm has losts its mind.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at D 2007

Engadget has posted a video clip of the first 15-minutes of the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates discussion from last night on stage at the D 2007 conference. I was completely enthralled, particularly listening to Bill talk about betting on the paradigm shift from character-cell to graphical user interfaces. That part of the conversation is a good reminder of just how young the software design field is yet, and of the kinds of things we were struggling with just a little more than 20 years ago. I highly recommend watching the clip.

Videos of the entire discussion are archived on the D conference site, although I haven't watched them all yet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Microsoft Surface

Oh, and if you haven't checked out the Microsoft Surface vision videos yet, you should.

Google Maps Street View - Good or Evil?

Holy crap! Google Map's new Street View is at once both fascinating and exciting, and utterly frightening for its privacy implications (or lack thereof, actually).

For the fascinating and exciting, the very first thing I did was find this view of the Golden Gate Bridge. What fun! How about the view from Coit Tower? Or maybe the crooked part of Lombard Street?

Hoo boy, I can see myself wasting hours and hours.

But wait. An article in Boing Boing gets you thinking. First it starts with this guy's cat. But then the number of car license plates you can read starts to get you to thinking - and it is very easy to find a ton of 'em. Or, does the owner of this beautiful Ferrari really want its picture so available? Or these girls catching some sun? How would you feel if it was you taking out the trash? Or crossing the street? Or were in front of a strip joint?

But then again, we're going to have so much fun exploring New York, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, and, of course, San Francisco and the Bay area. I can't wait till they add Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, ...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Not This Day. Not This Course.

Ever since I ran 20:05 in last October's United Against Domestic Violence 5K I have been thinking about those 6 seconds between my finish time and the satisfaction of running a "sub 20." I know that on the right day, on the right course, I have a sub 20 in me. I keep telling myself I just want one, then I'll be satisfied.

Today I ran the Russell M. Durgin Memorial 5K in Henniker, NH. Sub 20? Not this day. Not this course. I should have known the course would be a significant factor, just based on its starting point - at the parking lot entrance to the Pat's Peak Ski Area. No, the course didn't go up the slopes, but the roads in the area aren't exactly flat. It was an out-and-back course, and there was a nasty hill in the third mile that just killed my time. I ran a 21:31, which was good for 23rd overall (out of 245 finishers listed in the race results) and 8th out of 33 in my division (M40-49).

Bragging rights go to my work running partner, Dan, who finished with a strong 20:33 - 16th overall and 6th out of the 33 in our uber-competitive division. He pulled away from me toward the end of the first mile, and I just didn't have it in me today. Go Dan.

You think I'm kidding about our division being uber-competitive? Five of the top 6 finishers (all but 3rd place) were guys in the M40-49 division. A full one third of the top 30 finishers were from the M40-49 division. And every race is like that. Every once in a while I think I'll be glad when I hit the M50-59 division (which is now a LOT closer than it used to be), except that all these guys are getting older at the same rate as me!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It Shouldn't Be This Hard

I have used Palm devices since the very first Pilot. I love the Palm OS. I love my Treo 650. I'm trying really hard to stay in love, but the BlackBerry Pearl keeps singing that siren song, pulling my thoughts again and again toward going CrackBerry.

Today didn't help.

One of brilliant successes of the Palm OS, in my opinion, has always been the ease and simplicity of HotSync. From the very start, it was brilliant and it just plain worked. Pop your Palm device into its cradle, press the HotSync button, and magic happens. It's always been wonderful magic. And it seamlessly updated my data from the Pilot, to the Palm III, to the Palm V (oh how I loved the sleek design of the Palm V - IDEO design really shined on that one), to the Treo 300, to my current Treo 650. That's 11 years of data transfer across 5 devices.

But lately Hotsync has been a nightmare for me. I sync at work on my work laptop. We use Outlook, and I could never get the Palm Outlook conduit to work, so I have been using the Intellisync conduit with a completely acceptable level of success. Well, at least until I started getting that cryptic error message every time Hotsync started. And then there were the syncs that never ended (until I used Task Manager to kill the process). Oh, and the random Hotsync crashes too.

I never lost any data, but each and every sync was turning into a "hold your breath" moment.

So today I had enough. It took nearly two hours (with the normal office interruptions) to:

  • Stop both Intellisync and Hotsync, uninstall them, delete their folders from the disk, and manually remove all traces of them in the registry.
  • Download and install Hotsync (Palm Desktop Manager, really).
  • Download and install Intellisync.
  • Call Intellisync tech support and get them to reactivate my serial number, as it seems the uninstall didn't correctly notify their license tracking system.
  • Finish activating Intellisync.
  • Download and install the latest Intellisync patch updates (at the suggestion of the very helpful tech support person).
  • Uninstall and remove all traces of Hotsync and Palm Desktop again, as I was once again getting some mysterious DLL error, and my address book and memos were certainly not syncing correctly.
  • Reinstall Palm Desktop again.
  • Install the Intellisync patch update again, partly out of superstitious behavior, but also to get the Hotsync software to know about the Intellisync conduit.

And now finally I am able to sync seamlessly and painlessly again. Ugh. It shouldn't be this hard.

Friday, May 11, 2007

In Command and Out of Control

Maybe I don't get out much, but I just ran across the phrase "in command and out of control" for the first time while reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. I was immediately struck at how well that describes my idea of good management, and the style of management to which I aspire. Here's the paragraph from the book:

Van Riper carried this lesson with him when he took over the helm of the Red Team. "The first thing I told our staff is that we would be in command and out of control," Van Riper says, echoing the words of the management guru Kevin Kelly. "By that I mean that the overall guidance and the intent were provided by me and the senior leadership, but the forces in the field wouldn't depend on intricate orders coming from the top. They were to use their own initiative and be innovative as they went forward. Almost every day, the commander of the Red air forces came up with different ideas of how he was going to pull this together, using these general techniques of trying to overwhelm Blue Team from different directions. But he never got specific guidance from me of how to do it. Just the intent.

From Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, 2005, page 118

This is clearly a military example, and Van Riper is Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, United States Marine Corps, retired. But even though "command and control", or in the case "in command and out of control" may have military roots, I still find it compelling and highly applicable beyond that context. The phrase fits well with my own mental image of my management style, in which I try to point out where we need to end up, but leave it up to the individuals in my group to chart their own path to the objective.

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that the management guru is this Kevin Kelly.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Five Essential Design Skills

Last week was CHI 2007 in San Jose, CA. The opening plenary address on Monday was given by Bill Moggridge, one of the founders of IDEO. Bill is also widely known as the industrial designer of the world's first laptop computer (circa 1979).

Much of Bill's talk centered around a list of 5 essential design skills. Bill said the list emerged through several conversations he had with Chris Conley (bio, blog) of the IIT Institute of Design. Here they are (all transcription errors are my own):

  1. To frame or reframe the problem or objective.

  2. To create and envision alternatives.

  3. To select from these alternatives, knowing intuitively how to choose the best approach.

  4. To visualize and prototype the intended solution.

  5. To synthesize a solution from all of the relevant constraints, understanding everything that will make a difference to the result.

Bill used video clips from the DVD included in his new book, Designing Interactions, to illustrate each point. Brilliant. I have the book (a post on that topic sometime soon, I promise), but probably would never have cracked open the DVD if not for seeing these snips. Hearing Larry Tesler describe the night that Bill Atkinson invented pull-down menus during the development of the Lisa is alone worth the price of admission.