<CharlieDigital/> Programming, Politics, and uhh…pineapples

31Jul/06Off

Eye Opening Al Gore Video

Posted by Charles Chen

One has to wonder, what would the world by like if he had won the presidency?

I pondered this as I was laying down to sleep last night, after viewing these two videos which I came across in a thread on Fark.  I think the world would be a very, very, very different place had Gore won the presidency in 2000.

An incredibly revealing set of videos made by Spike Jonze (of Adaptation and Being John Malkovich fame) shows a very personable, humorous, incredibly intelligent, and passionate Al Gore.  His vision is not just about global warming and the environment (although he does bring it up in the video).  He has a genuine conviction to making America a better place for the lower and middle class in America through education, fostering our competitive advantages in industry, and ensuring that American's are ready for the coming (this was shot in 1999) information age.

I think that seeing his interaction with his family and especially his daughters in these videos actually reveals a great deal about him and the values he brings to the table as compared to Bush, who also happens to have two daughters.

Part 1 and Part 2.

And if there was any doubt that the election was stolen: "How Bush Defeated Gore--The Real Story"...watch how Clayton Roberts, director of the Florida Division of Elections, squirms.

26Jul/06Off

NDoc 2 is Officially Dead

Posted by Charles Chen

So this afternoon, I received an email from Kevin Downs (as I'm on his mailing list), the developer of NDoc with the following:


I have decided to discontinue work on NDoc 2.0 and no longer participate in any open-source development work.


The development and release of NDoc 1.3 was a huge amount of work, and by all accounts widely appreciated. Unfortunately, despite the almost ubiquitous use of NDoc, there has been no support for the project from the .Net developer community either financially or by development contributions. Since 1.3 was released, there have been the grand total of eleven donations to the project. In fact, were it not for Oleg Tkachenko’s kind donation of a MS MVP MSDN subscription, I would not even have a copy of VS2005 to work with!


To put this into perspective, if only roughly 1-in-10 of the those who downloaded NDoc had donated the minimum allowable amount of $5 then I could have worked on NDoc 2.0 full-time and it could have been released months ago! Now, I am not suggesting that this should have occurred, or that anyone owes me anything for the work I have done, rather I am trying to demonstrate that if the community values open-source projects then it should do *something* to support them. MS has for years acknowledged community contributions via the MVP program but there is absolutely no support for community projects.


Once ‘Sandcastle’ is released, it is my belief that it will become the de-facto standard and that NDoc will slowly become a stagnant side-water. This will happen regardless of technical considerations, even if Sandcastle were to be less feature-complete. It's just an inevitable result of MS's 'not-invented-here' mentality, one only has to look at Nant and NUnit to see the effects of MS 'competition'.


This is not, however, my only reason for stopping development work - I have a big enough ego to think I could still produce a better product than them :-)


As some of you are aware, there are some in the community who believe that a .Net 2.0 compatible release was theirs by-right and that I should be moving faster – despite the fact that I am but one man working in his spare time...


This came to head in the last week; I have been subjected to an automated mail-bomb attack on both my public mail addresses and the ndoc2 mailing list address. These mails have been extremely offensive and resulted in my ISP temporarily suspending my account because of the traffic volume. This incident has been reported to the local authorities, although I am highly doubtful they will be able to do anything about it.


This has was the ‘last-straw’ and has convinced me that I should withdraw from the community; I’m not prepared to have myself and my family threatened by some lunatic!


Kevin


P.S. If anyone wants to take over as admin on the SourceForge NDoc project - contact me. If not, I'll be removing myself in 14 days
.

It's kind of upsetting how this has panned out as I can certainly understand Kevin's displeasure at how he was treated by a few members of the community.  But at the same time, I'm curious as to why the project, while surely utilized by many .Net developers world wide, never picked up more developers to help share the load.

While it is quite disappointing as I really liked NDoc's simplicity and ease of use, I had felt that this would be the likely end once I started reading about Microsoft's Sandcastle project.

As for the individual(s) who perpetrated the email bombs, all I can say is WTF?  That's a terrible and childish way to get what you want.

Filed under: .Net 14 Comments
12Jul/06Off

To Be at a Crossroad…

Posted by Charles Chen

The way our lives flow through time and the repitition that each of us encounter, day after day, tends to blur the multitude of crossroads that we reach and the different decisions that we make at each of these crossroads.

In a sense, this is what it's like to walk around a crowded city like New York City.  There are turns everywhere and roads and alleys which lead to every nook of the city.  But by design, it's never difficult to get back to where you were in case you do make the wrong choice and turn down the wrong road...these decisions come in passing and perhaps you don't even think about it.

But in every life, there are milestones that approach and crossroads that split into two clearly defined paths with no readily apparent way back to where you started. Looking down either road at this intersection, we imagine ourselves in the future and what it would be like to take either path.  Will we be fortunate and meet success or will it come to be that our decision haunt us in our dreams?  The decision is never easy as unlike a city street, it may be miles before we reach the U-turn.

I've felt this rarely in my near 25 years of life.  Even marriage was an easy and natural decision for me.  And now such a decision weighs on me with a paralyzing force; I just don't know what to do.  I am comfortable, but not completely satisfied.  My sensible side tells me to continue on the path that I have taken.  The dreamer in me tells me to ditch the map and head into the unknown.

Ah, to be at a crossroad in life, to be at once filled with hope and fear as well.

Filed under: Life No Comments
10Jul/06Off

Zerg Rush! Kekeke! ^_^

Posted by Charles Chen

Wow...talk about extraordinary craftsmanship:

http://www.starcraft.org/fanart/reallife3dart/1104

Filed under: Awesome 2 Comments
6Jul/06Off

Big Changes Around the Corner

Posted by Charles Chen

C# 2.0 has barely been with us and already, the 3.0 spec is shaping up.  While the change from 1.0 to 2.0 was dramatic in the way that it simplified what used to be quite laborious tasks in C#, the change to 3.0 is perhaps too bold of a jump, bringing the C# language close to the territory usually reserved to academia and research divisions.

Perhaps at the heart of this is the introduction of LINQ (Language INtegrated Query) to the C# specification.  Several changes and additions to the C# language were necessary to make this possible and make it "user friendly".  One of these is the introduction of Lambda Expressions to the C# language, giving C# a feel closer to that of....JavaScript.  Yup, good ol' JavaScript (one of my favorate languages).

Daniel Cazzulino touches upon some of the interesting "side effects" of this change in the language while Abhinaba believes that while the new language features are certainly welcome and useful to a set of users, for most, it will only add to the "surface area" of the C# language and frustrate/confuse users.

C# has originally developed from C++ /Java and is (was :^) ) a strongly
typed object-oriented language. The new features being introduced like
closure, continuation (yes, yes very limited continuation) in C#2.0 and
now type inference, lambda expressions are de-generating the language.
Even though there are people go gaga about continuation and lexical closures these
are fundamentally functional language features and should be left to
that. Introduction of bits and pieces of functional language features
are not going to add value to C# and at the same time the surface area
of C# is growing beyond what most developer can grasp.

I tend to agree with this view.  Having spent most of my career as a consultant and dealing with many developers who did not come from a math, engineering, or computer science background, I can say with 50.01% accuracy that 87.96% of .Net developers will a) be confused and befuddled by the new language features, b) never use the features and never even know that they are there, or c) change professions :P

Okay, maybe option c is more of a pipe dream.  But regardless, the surface area of C# is becoming quite large and perhaps even a bit, how shall I put it, unwieldy?  Whereas developers used to have disagreements over implementation and architecture details, will we now see disagreement over language feature usage and constructs?  One thing is for sure, I'm certain that a lot of developers will be left in the dust.

Most of the mid-career Microsoft developers I've met got their start doing VB6 and VBScript with ASP.  In the transition to .Net, I've discovered that many have not really transitioned so much as adapted; kind of like they're still writing VBScript...except it's called VB.Net now.  This isn't the territory of VB developers only, however; I've met many C# developers who just have no clue and continue to do silly things like concatenating huge (I mean HUGE) strings.

Well, in any case, enough ranting I guess.  If you're interested, take a look at the language specs over at MSDN (already got 'em printed and stapled).

Filed under: .Net, Rants No Comments
5Jul/06Off

Modern Day History

Posted by Charles Chen

The USA has been around for a little more than a mere two centuries. Admittedly, there isn't much history to be had in such a short span of time, at least relative to Old World countries in Europe or the empires in the East which have millennia of history.

But none-the-less, in these two-plus centuries, I'd like to think we've made a name for ourselves, particularly in the fronts of industrial and technical innovation and engineering.

The light bulb, controlled nuclear reactions, mass produced automobiles, microwave ovens, the telephone, and the cell phone to name a few, are all innovations that came out of the US. These are historical advances in the course of mankind that will have a lasting impact for decades to come.

Should we not, then, protect the sites where such innovations originated? Then  should we not place a value on these sites as a sort of historical monument to ingenuity and weave them into the fabric of our history?  These are our Colosseums, our Leaning Towers, our Pyramids; these are historical monuments at  their birth.  Protecting these sites is the logical thing to do as, indeed, the history of the US is one of industrial and technical achievement.

So it is quite sad to find out that the legendary Bell Labs Holmdel facility (right in my backyard) is going to be razed for a new office complex.

If such a legendary landmark is razed for new office complexes, it would be quite a shame as it has indeed generated an enormous wealth of technologies and innovations in the 5 or so decades it was in operation.

4Jul/06Off

The Lowest Common Denominator

Posted by Charles Chen

Came across a great line by Scott Storch, one of the mega-producers in the music industry today while I was flipping through Rolling Stone:

"It's a chore for me to hold back my mind to do this simple shit...People want something they can understand, something they can break down in their head and understand the rhythms.  There's more money in those little songs."

In reading about how Storch got started in the music industry and then reading the ads for the music and films schools in the back of the magazine, I wonder if these schools do more harm for artistic talent and skill than they do good. Part of becoming great at doing these kinds of things is the experience of working with what you've got. Working with a simple palette is at once limiting and also expansive in that it stretches one's creative ability and skill to get the most out of limited resources; it forces one to develop unique techniques and workarounds that would otherwise not be necessary. It's kind of a "whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" philosophy.

I can certainly understand where Storch is coming from in that line, though. Often, on projects, I have these badass ideas on revolutionary (relatively speaking) changes to an existing application or UI that would simply blow people's minds. Instead, I often encounter a resistance to these types of ideas as clients tend to have a limited imagination or are constrained by the limited imaginations of their users, which is quite sad for me.

I call this: "developing for the lowest common denominator". It's a sad way for creative minds to work when one must contort ideas and visions to satisfy the simpler minds and those that have no imagination.

Take BumpTop, for example. It is far too revolutionary (as compared to the classic Windows folder paradigm) for its own good. Users have limited imaginations to be able to envision how such things would benefit them (or perhaps it may not benefit them).