Thursday, October 27, 2005

What's New?

Wow, it's been a week since I've posted anything here. What the heck is going on?

I've found that when life gets busy, blog gets deprived. Sad. :-(

Emotionally, I'm in a weird, transient place. Seattle is finally starting to feel like home after almost 6 months. On a high note, there's nowhere I'd rather call home right now. I love this city! On another high note, I've made a cool network of friends I enjoy spending time with outside of work (though a large number of the friends do happen to work for Microsoft with me, which I suppose is to be expected around here). On a low note, I'm still not at the point where I've made close friends with whom I can bare my soul in desperate moments. But I'm getting there. Hopefully. I've also been dating a bit, which is always.. interesting. Dating and I have a love/hate relationship. Nuff said.

Professionally, things are beginning to settle down. Work has become comfortable. I had a hypothetical conversation with a coworker today that went something along the lines of, "If you could work at any company, including this one, on any project, would you make the move today?" We both sort-of shrugged in uncertainty. It'd have to really be something special. I recently met someone who told me his motto in life is "defeat complacency". I like that. My biggest fear is that I'm beginning to feel complacent with work, and I'm finding myself having to challenge that feeling more and more every day.

If you've been watching my moblog, you've probably seen some fun random pics recently. Here's one of my coworker Ben and I after carving a pumpkin for our team. Here's another one of my management wearing togas around our hallways. And there are a bunch more like this one from a team offsite to the go-cart track today. Oh yes, and to top it all off, Margaritas in the office.

In the words of Steve Ballmer, I love this company!

But in all seriousness (i.e. removing the kool-aid filled feeding tube from my throat for just a moment), one thing that's been on my mind is the desire to write a "Six Months at Microsoft: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" post soon -- before I become old, jaded, out of touch with reality, take the cool things for granted, etc. Hmm.. I'll have to ponder further.

I think that's about all for now. I've got a bunch of links I wanted to blog about in a text file at work, but they'll have to wait awhile. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Next Phone?

I'm debating over whether my next phone will be a Tornado or Wizard.

I was pretty sold on the Tornado after playing with one recently, but the Wizard is getting raving reviews.

Life is full of so many difficult decisions... ;-)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Good Engrish

James's friend bought a chair with this tag:

Very :-)

Xbox 360 + MediaCenter = ::drool::

There's an awesome interview up on Channel 9 with a few guys from the Xbox 360 and Media Center teams:

Xbox 360 and Media Center: Living room of the future

I've seen live demos of this stuff, and I'm convinced it will truly revolutionize home entertainment.

I'll definitely be picking up a 360 this holiday season. I'm also due for a new PC sometime soon (current one is a heavily modded 5 year old 1.2Ghz Dell Dimension - OLD!). Did you know Dell PCs for home users ship with Windows XP Media Center Edition by default now? Hmmm!

And the day Media Center supports cable cards is the day I kick my Comcast cable box to the curb. Isn't it fun having customers BEG you to build something they're ready to open their wallet for?

Then all I'll need is a 720p native HDTV, a Dolby surround sound system with optical in, and an 802.11a home network.

Quite the holiday season wishlist, eh? :-)

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Well, it's 10pm Saturday night and I'm RAS'd in to corpnet. Work won out.

I was digging through a corporate intranet site looking for some technical information, and came across a SharePoint web part that was pulling in a feed of top stories from MSNBC (could it be made any easier to get sidetracked??). This headline caught my eye: Tracking cell phones for real-time traffic data.

There have been pilot research projects like this going on for quite some time now, but this one actually looks like it's headed toward production:

In what would be the largest project of its kind, the Missouri Department of Transportation is finalizing a contract to monitor thousands of cell phones, using their movements to map real-time traffic conditions statewide on all 5,500 miles of major roads.

Wow! This is a step in the right direction toward my vision of location awareness in software. It's not quite there yet, since the cell phones themselves still aren't aware of their own locations, but nonetheless, still a cool collaborative application of software that builds on mobility and location information.

That said, I'm a bit concerned about the privacy implications:

Privacy experts also worry that the traffic monitoring could later evolve into other uses — perhaps to catch speeders or fugitives.

That's because each cell phone has a unique serial number, in addition to its call number and a code that indicates its service provider. A cell phone company must always be able to track the location of its phones in order to know where to route a call.

"It's a mission creep issue that would be of most concern to consumers," said Lillie Coney, associate director of Washington, D.C.-based EPIC. "They may start out saying we want to know if there's a traffic problem and then take that information and start using it for different purposes."

The government will now have the ability to track the movement of cell phones in real time. McCarthy would've had a field day with this toy. "Show me the current location of every cell phone that ever entered this building". Yep - it'll be possible.

"Show me the current location of Adam Herscher's cell phone" isn't a far stretch either. Does the PATRIOT Act allow for this? Will future legislation?

What if a hacker gained access to this information? Google Maps mashup, anyone?

Friday, October 14, 2005

So Sleepy.

It's been a long week. Less productive than I set out to be, more exhausted than I've been in quite some time.

For the first time in 3 months, I came home after work and am ready to just crash. I'm weighing options as to whether I wanna spend the weekend relaxing or working, and working is winning out. So much to do, so little time.

I've also got lots on my mind I want to blog about, but can't right now for a multitude of silly reasons. Hopefully soon. The last few months have been such a great learning experience. Microsoft calls it "drinking from a firehose". I feel like Trinity learning to fly the M-109 military helicopter.

More interesting, informative posts to come soon.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Seattle Freeze

So sad yet so true:

Beyond the smiles, the Seattle Freeze is on: Our Social Dis-ease

My favorite quote:

When Seattleites say, "Let's do something sometime," what they really mean is: "Let's never do anything ever."

As a newcomer to Seattle, I can vouch that this article is 100% genuine in every way. Sigh!

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Four days ago I wrote about getting restless.

This weekend, Ping was born.

It'll be vaporware for a little while.

Gates Goes To College

BillG is about to kick off his 2005 college tour. Friends at UM can read more about his campus visit here.

It must be interesting to be a college grad considering working at Microsoft these days. One one hand, you have the semi-official JobsBlog and StevenSi's always-optimistic TechTalk. On the other hand, you've got the candidate-beware Mini-Microsoft and more transparent accounts like Working at Microsoft (via Dare).

The funny thing is that in my somewhat limited four months of experience, I agree with all of the above. I agree with Kevin and shudder at some of the truths in the recent Business Week articles.

I'm gonna hold off on posting my overall account of working at Microsoft as a newgrad for a while longer (mostly because it's Sunday and I've already been staring at the computer screen for 6 hours straight). Could be an interesting account though... soon...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

City Living

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a friend and I met up downtown to get some dinner and see a movie. We were blanking on food ideas, so he whipped out his phone and started browsing a list of restaurants. It wasn't just any list - his phone knew his location, and gave him a list of his friends' favorite nearby restaurants. Browsing through them was easier than browsing through songs on my iPod! We settled on Union Restaurant, and he clicked once or twice to "call ahead" for two.

Dinner was great. As we were finishing up, he whipped out his phone again and got a list of movies playing near the restaurant. We settled on Serenity and he clicked a couple more times to buy two tickets. Before we left the restaurant, he gave the restaurant an 8 out of 10 star rating, and got some driving directions to the movie theater. As we pulled into the parking garage, the navigation system on his phone directed him right into an open spot someone had just pulled out of on the first floor. How perfect!

Serenity rocked my socks, and after the movie, we decided to head down to Belltown and grab a drink. It was good time, but unfortunately he had a meeting early the next morning and decided to take off pretty quickly, leaving me all alone.

It was still early, so I decided I'd stay out a bit longer. I pulled out my phone, and started browsing through profiles and checking out the pictures of other people in the bar, the bar next door, and a few other bars down the street. Profile surfing was as quick and easy as channel surfing on my tv (pre-digital cable lag if you know what I mean).

I came across a few cool people at the bar, and we texted, then decided we'd meet at the bar for a shot. What can I say, I'm a lush! All of a sudden, I got a text from a coworker at the W hotel bar. He must've found me while browsing his friends, or friends-of-friends, or list of people who work at Microsoft - on HIS phone!

I texted him back, then ended up stopping by the W for a bit. But before I headed over, my new drinking buddies and I bookmarked each other and promised to do it again sometime. I set my phone to vibrate if they ever happen to be within a few block radius.

So yeah, by the time I got out of the W I was stumbling around like a silly fool and in no shape to drive. So once again.. I whipped out my phone.. and clicked once to order a cab to my location. After a few minutes of fiddling with the keys, I staggered into my apartment, clapped twice to hit the lights (c'mon, phones can't do EVERYTHING!), and hit the sack.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

How Fast Can You Type?

How fast can YOU type?


I'm getting restless.

I love working at Microsoft, and I'm lucky to have fallen in with an excellent group, but it's a far cry from some of the cool stuff I was working on at the University of Michigan.

I'm passionate about search, social networking, presence and chat, recommender and reputation systems, and most of all location aware software. I love building software that incorporates these concepts, pushes the limits of technology, and will be used and loved by millions of consumers.

Unfortunately, this isn't what I'm doing at Microsoft, despite everything else about my job being great.

So, I've decided it's time to start coding for hobby again. I have some kickass ideas, and it's time to bring them to life.

The plan is to put down the books, lay off the TV and Netflix, and start building something great. I'll still be giving Microsoft 100%, but I'm still young (well, somewhat young), and can afford to resist becoming complacent just yet.

More info to come...

Monday, October 03, 2005


In CSI Miami land IP addresses can start with '359':


Hey CBS! Need a technical advisor?! I'll do it for free!!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Long Tail

The saying goes "you learn something new every day." For me, today was the day of The Long Tail. The term came up recently in a presentation I saw on the future of television. It was glossed over -- thrown into the middle of a sentence. So, truth be told, I didn't really grasp the point that was being made at the time. It would've been like hearing someone talk about something "tipping" without having read The Tipping Point.

Then today, I came across a post on Dare's blog about Web 2.0 companies, which referred to "leveraging the long tail through customer self-service". I quickly MSN Searched (ok, not really) for the term, and came across this Wikipedia entry (whenever Wikipedia's in the top ten, I tend to assume it's a great place to start reading).

Wow. What a cool concept. No, like so many great ideas, it isn't revolutionary. But it's a great formalization of something we might already inherently know, and a great guiding principle.

So, I went on to read the great Wired article that started it all: The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, Editor In Chief of Wired Magazine. Wow! Wow! Wow! Chris has a blog too, which I've now subscribed to.

Chris's book on The Long Tail is due to come out in 2006. I'm looking forward to reading it. To a few of you, The Long Tail concept is old news. To the rest of you, I strongly suggest reading up on it. No doubt this'll be one of the next big (and eventually annoying and played-out) buzzwords of 2006. ;-)


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Jeff's lab

Oh man. My buddy Jeff is video blogging a series he's calling Jeff's lab.

Jeff, you rock. But what the heck are you gonna use that board for??