Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gabe & Max's Internet Thing

Want to get rich? Consider this product from Gabe and Max:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jake Brown's Fall

I went snowboarding at Mount Snow in Vermont this weekend. It was the first time I've gone since dislocating my kneecap last summer so I was a bit nervous. Luckily the knee held up and I had a blast. Whenever I can walk off the mountain on my own two feet I consider it a success.

Snowboarding weekends inevitably lead to talk of crazy stunts and hard falls. The worst fall I ever saw was at last year's X Games. Jake Brown fell 50 feet (that is 5 stories!) while skate boarding and survived it. Check it out here:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Demetri Martin's Comedy Special

The other night I night I caught Demetri Martin's comedy special, Person, on Comedy Central. It was very unique and hilarious. He used a mix of pure stand-up, music, song, graphs, and sketches. As soon as it ended I immediately re-watched it with my DVR. Check it out if you get the chance.

Here is a 6 minute clip (The first few seconds are blacked out) :

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sign Your Work And Mine

I recently participated in a code review of a co-worker's new module. His work was great and mostly self contained but it did require a few minor updates to some existing source files that I had originally authored. Before he made his checkins I insisted that he add his name to the top of all files (new and modified) even if the changes were minor.

He was uncomfortable doing this. Some of the changes were quite small and he didn't think it warranted "taking credit" and didn't want others to view him as trying to take credit. I wanted him to though and it wasn't about credit as much as it was about team pride, team responsibility, and team ownership.

A few years ago I took the advice of a friend and read the The Pragmatic Programmer. It is a wonderful book that offers practical tips and guidance to programmers. It did more to shape my philosophy and approach toward programming than any other book I have read or class I have taken. I think it should be required reading for all programmers.

The last tip of the book says "Sign Your Work - Craftsman of an earlier age were proud to sign their work. You should be too". They explain "People should see your name on a piece of code and expect it to be solid, well written, tested, and documented."

Since then I always make sure that my code is "proudly signed" with full name and email address. I had one very bad experience with this however. At a former job I worked for a large company with lots of small projects and it was common to switch among them every few months. I knew many of the people at the company but it was impossible to know everyone.

One day I got a call from a co-worker and friend who recently joined a project that I had worked on a year earlier. He was tracking down a difficult bug which led him to some source code with my name on it. He asked me if I could spare some time to help him understand and debug it.

I walked across the building and into his office. He looked at me nervously and moved his monitor to show me the file he was looking at. I could see immediately that the code was a mess. It was not well formatted, comments didn't exist, variables with names like a1 and a2 were used and the logic was simply impossible to follow. There was no doubt that this code had numerous bugs. And right at the top of the file was my sole name and email address.

Using version control we were able to see that the file was completely changed by a contractor who had since been fired. All that was left of my original work was the header with my name in it. He didn't bother to remove my name or even add his.

I was furious. Had the reader not been a friend of mine, he probably would not have called me and would have forever associated my name with this crappy code.

It was clear that the project was not being well managed. They no longer performed code reviews and bad / buggy code was getting checked in. Moral was dropping and the developers no longer cared and no longer wanted to take credit. No one was signing their code! The project was in a complete tail spin and my name was one of the only ones that could be found in the source.

This caused me to take unprecedented action. For the first and only time in my career I went back to a former project and actually removed my name from all the source files! It was very disappointing and depressing.

So if I could amend the Pragmatic Programmer tip it would read as "Sign Your Work And Mine". If you edit my code, even in minor ways, do it right and sign it. The code is community work so if any of us get lazy it is all of our reputations that are at stake.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has posted some pictures from the upcoming Indiana Jones 4 movie (Due out in May).

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Human Tetris Game Show

My buddy Rob sent me a link to this video of a ridiculous game show.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How to [Almost] Read a Book for Free on Amazon

Yesterday the Tiltboys blog wrote a hilarious article that describes how you can read a full book on Amazon for free.

I gave it a try tonight but it looks to me like Amazon has already closed the loop-hole as the screen shot above shows.

The post is still worth reading for the humor value.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Neonode N2

The Neonode N2 is a small and stylish touch screen phone that supports gestures in a similar way as the iPhone. It is based on Windows CE and will be coming to the U.S. this year.

Check out the video demo.

Why I Hate Frameworks

Any programmer who has been frustrated by an overly complex software framework will get a good laugh from this writeup called "Why I Hate Frameworks".

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Zeemote Funding Announced

Lots of outlets have been reporting on the news that my company Zeemote, Inc. has received $6.9 million dollars of investment.

Here are just a few of them:

Receiving funding is a significant milestone for us, as it is for any start-up, but it is just one step in the direction of our goals. Stay tuned for more in the coming months.

[Note: The company name was recently changed from Zeetoo and the website, email, and other literature have not yet been fully updated]

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Virtual Reality Display

A co-worker just sent me a link to this amazing video.

It demonstrates a hardware / software demo that tracks one's head movement to create a 3D viewing experience on a monitor. The speaker calls it a "Virtual Reality Display".

(Go to 2:00 if you want to skip the setup)

Andrew Olmsted

Andrew Olmsted was a soldier and blogger who was killed in Iraq on Thursday.

His friend just posted his final blog which he wrote in the event that he was killed.

What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed in my life. So if you're up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw 'Freedom Isn't Free' from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can't laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.

Friday, January 4, 2008

60 Minutes Story on the Winter Hill Gang

This Sunday (January 6th) a former hitman for the Winter Hill Gang, John Martorano, will be interviewed on 60 minutes.

From this article on

Martorano and "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft visit the Marshall Street garage in Somerville where the Winter Hill Gang was once headquartered.

This garage is just a block and a half away from where I lived for several years when I first moved to Massachusetts.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Amazon Kindle Hacking

Turns out the Amazon Kindle runs Linux. A developer named Igor Skochinsky figured out how to get root shell access and has uncovered a number of interesting hidden features.

A good summary can be read in this posting.

It includes:

a basic photo viewer, a minesweeper game, and most interesting, location technology that uses the Kindle's CDMA networking to pinpoint its position. There also are some basic location-based services that call up a Google Maps view to show where you are and nearby gas stations and restaurants

Igor has three posting describes how and what he did here:
Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

very cool.