The smidgens and dabs became double-fisted squeezes and dripping spoonfuls. The table was not fully set until the squeeze bottle was centrally placed between the salt and pepper shakers. I carried breath mints in my bag to mask the telltale scent of garlic on my breath. Any savory item at all hours of the day was a candidate for a squirt of sauce.
I knew I had crossed the line when one day I found myself squirting a little red sauce on dark chocolate. I looked in the mirror and took a deep breath as I wiped a trail of red sauce dribbling from my mouth. At that moment, I realized I had transformed from a sriracha-ignorant food snob into a full-blown rooster addict. Hello, my name is Lynda and I am addicted to sriracha. There: I said it.
The whole fracas over the USPS losing money has been overwhelming lately with the predictable arguments from the Right citing it as another example of Government Failure and a system that is better served by fully private corporations -- not this funky implicitly government backed entity.
Let's forget all of the other details for now like the decline in mail volume and the odd requirement that the USPS fully fund its pension plan. Forget the odd restrictions that Congress has placed around the USPS and how it runs its ship.
Forget all of that for a moment. It occurred to me a while back when sifting through the tons of junk mail that I get, the USPS is a business subsidy.
Yes. Those credit card offers? Those coupon mailers? Flyers and ads? Brochures? Would it be possible for small businesses (and big businesses) to afford these services if the USPS charged a fee that actually covered the costs of running a profit at the USPS? In that sense, the USPS is important as a small business subsidy as physical addresses are easily enumerated whereas email addresses are much more "ethereal". Not everyone watches TV. Not everyone listens to radio. Not everyone has Internet access. But every person has a physical address that can be targeted for advertising.
I mean, of the volume of mail that I receive, I would guess that over 80% of it would be what we consider "spam" in this digital age. But it's different from "spam" in that the coupons and ads are typically much more relevant. I've used many local service providers (plumbers, gutter cleaners, driveway sealers, landscapers), visited local merchants, and patronized local restaurants based on coupons and promotions I've received in the mail.
I conclude that proposing that the USPS curtail services or charge higher rates is tantamount to proposing placing a tax on businesses which will especially impact small/local businesses.
Ask Apple CEO Steve Jobs about it, and he'll tell you an instructive little story. Call it the Parable of the Concept Car. "Here's what you find at a lot of companies," he says, kicking back in a conference room at Apple's gleaming white Silicon Valley headquarters, which looks something like a cross between an Ivy League university and an iPod. "You know how you see a show car, and it's really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory!
"What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, 'Nah, we can't do that. That's impossible.' And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, 'We can't build that!' And it gets a lot worse."
In the Michelle-Bachmann-I'll-eat-your-brains-stare issue of Newsweek (8/15), there's a great interview with Alan Simpson, a former Republican Senator from Wyoming:
You and Cheney represent an old tradition of Western conservatism. What happened to those views?
I say clearly, abortion is a terrible, terrible thing, but it's a deeply intimate and personal decision, and I don't think men legislators should even vote on it. Now, that takes you immediately from a conservative to a commie. Now I also think that we all have someone we love who's gay or lesbian. There should be no special prejudices, no special penalties, no special privileges. And so that'll knock you into the commie box, too.
One would like to think that Simpson is speaking in hyperbole, but it's the sad truth of the current state of "conservative" politics.
I'm not sure, but I don't want to find out either.
I'm currently tasked with recommending a new source control platform and a new defect tracking platform as well.
I'm late to this post from March 2010, but Martin Fowler posted an internal ThoughtWorks survey of version control tools:
I conducted the survey from February 23 2010 until March 3 2010 on the ThoughtWorks software development mailing list. I got 99 replies. In the survey I asked everyone to rate a number of version control tools...
...there's a clear cluster around Subversion, git, and Mercurial with high approval and a large amount of responses. It's also clear that there's a big divide in approval between those three, together with Bazaar and Perforce, versus the rest.
The biggest offender? TFS with a 0% (yes, z-e-r-o) approval from the ThoughtWorks staff. Scary.
Team Foundation Server advocates claim it’s unfair to compare TFS to other source control tools, since it’s not just source control, but an integrated end-to-end application lifecycle management solution. Comparing TFS to, say, Subversion, is like comparing Microsoft Office to Notepad, so they say.
Now where have I heard something like that before? Oh yes, Lotus Notes:
The main focus for frustration is Notes’s odd way with email, and its unintuitive interface. But to complain about that is to miss the point, says Ben Rose, founder and leader of the UK Notes User Group (www.lnug.org.uk). He’s a Notes administrator, for “a large automotive group”.
It’s regarded by many as an email program, but it’s actually groupware,” Rose explains. “It does do email, and calendaring, but can host discussion forums, and the collaboration can extend to long-distance reporting. It will integrate at the back end with huge systems. It’s extremely powerful.”
The thing is, it wasn’t the detractors who were missing the point. It was the Lotus Notes guys. You see, e-mail is right at the heart of any groupware application. It’s the part of the application that users interact with the most. It’s where usability matters the most. And it’s what Notes got wrong the most.
Is TFS really that bad? I haven't used it or recommended it (mostly out of concern for cost), but 0% approval?
On a related note, I've been digging into Redmine the last few days to try to examine its suitability for a project that I'm taking over and new products that I'll be bringing online. I've been really impressed with it, even compared to the excellent Trac. Compared to Trac, Redmine just feels more well put thought out (i.e. native support for multiple types of source control systems, native sub-projects, so on) and the UI is a bit cleaner and easier to use. I expect to be blogging about it frequently in the coming months.
Straight talk about the problems that the US is facing and the straightforward solutions that are being defeated by politics and ideology instead of pragmatism.
No better way to spend 45 minutes today.
Quite possibly one of the funniest slides I've ever seen:
I guess one cannot simply Hadoop their way out of that type of mess.
Lev Grossman has an article in Time this week (not available on Time.com) that pretty much hits it on the mark -- at least in my book -- with regards to The Cloud. I look kind of befuddled when people tell me we should do this or that on The Cloud or how their product is a Cloud solution.
Grossman lays into this in his opening paragraphs:
The best thing about cloud computing is that word: cloud. Telling consumers that their data is in the cloud is like telling a kid his dog has gone to doggie heaven. There is no doggie heaven, and your data isn't in a cloud. It's in a windowless, fortress-like data center somewhere in the rural U.S.
Cloud computing is just a buzzword companies use to describe what they're doing when they move data and processing tasks you're used to hosting on your personal computer onto their servers, which you can access via the Internet. It isn't new; far from it. It's at least as old as webmail services like Hotmail. It just didn't have a cool name back then.
Of course, The Cloud has its merits and convenience (for consumer applications) is surely one of those merits as is scalability (for enterprises and businesses); however -- as Grossman argues -- one of the biggest pitfalls of The Cloud is the lack of control over you data. Grossman continues:
But in some ways, the cloud is a step backward. It harks back to computing's primordial past, when everything was cloud computing -- dumb terminals connected to central mainframes.
The thing is, I'm not sure I want my computer to be just a device. Cloud computing goes hand in hand with another trend: the netbookization and iPadization of the PC, with its transformation into a beautifully designed but lobotomized device that relies on an Internet umbilical cord to do most of its actual computing.
As for me, from a development perspective I'm not too caught up in The Cloud hype. For most purposes, unless you really know that you have a hit on your hands, you can host your applications much, much cheaper on shared hosting for about $10/mo. which is still probably the best way for a small business to get started. And when you need to scale, well, hopefully, you'll have tons of investment capital at that point, too and you can just port your app to The Cloud.
Okay, so there's lots of things wrong with Pakistan these days, but there was an interesting bit in an editorial in Newsweek by A.Q. Khan -- Pakistan's notorious nuclear architect:
On Dec. 10, 1984, I informed Gen. Zia-ul-Haq that we could explode a device at a week’s notice, whenever he so desired. We achieved credible nuclear capacity by the second half of the ’80s, and the delivery system was perfected in the early ’90s. For a country that couldn’t produce bicycle chains to have become a nuclear and missile power within a short span—and in the teeth of Western opposition—was quite a feat.
I have to wonder: how would Pakistan have turned out if, instead of focusing its resources on building up its nuclear program, it invested in the factories, the foundries, the workers, the mining operations, the transportation networks, and so on for manufacturing, distributing, and selling bicycle chains (for example) instead. I think the world -- and Pakistan -- would have been a better place for it.
Perhaps they would have turned out more like South Korea or Taiwan instead of remaining a dangerous, unstable, largely third-world country with little prospect for economic and industrial progress.
It's sad that a guy who could figure out the intricacies and complexities of constructing a nuclear weapon has lost all perspective on what really would have advanced Pakistan and would have been a far more worthy investment of Pakistan's resources: creating gainful employment opportunities, building industry and commerce, and creating hope for their people.
I've used it in various capacities for putting together apps to stream recorded webcasts using CamStudio and splicing video and audio clips together in Windows Live Movie Maker (plenty adequate for my simple usage). You can see an example of this on the home page for zaanglabs.
The input video was a 720p .wmv file output from Movie Maker that comes in at 13.7MB. The output is a 3MB h.264 encoded .flv that is almost as good as the original.
For anyone doing webcasts using open source tools (or you just need to encode whatever you output from Movie Maker), this is what you'll need to pull it all together:
FFMPEG -i input.wmv -ar 44100 -qscale 9 -vcodec libx264 output.flv
The input is the file saved from Movie Maker and the output is a file that can be streamed using Flowplayer. That seems to be the secret sauce after playing around with various settings and different configuration options. This yields an output video that should be nearly indistinguishable from the original for webcasting purposes. I'm sure you'll have to adjust the value if you have more action in your frames.