Thursday, May 25, 2006

Off For The Weekend...

Decided at the last minute to go camping with some friends in the San Juan Islands (how cool is the new Windows Live Local traffic feature!). Too much craziness at work lately. Need some playtime.

Tonight I went bar hopping with my roommate and some of his friends from Seattle Works. They were all very cool. Great way to meet people - if you're in Seattle, definitely suggest checking it out (says the guy who just joins in for the bar hopping adventures).

Something that blows my mind: Travelzoo had a promotion where they sent their 10 millionth email list subscriber into space. After a little bit of web searching, apparently a trip into suborbital space runs at around $100K, a trip to the space station runs around $20 mil, and around the moon runs around $100 mil. I think we'll start seeing more of this type of crazy promotion. Kudos to Travelzoo for such early creative thinking (or has anyone seen someone else do this already?).

Crazy crazy world.

Anyhow, I'm off for a few days. Here's to a relaxing Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Open Source Systems Management Unites

Via Doug's blog, I found out yesterday about the new Open Management Consortium.

A handful of companies in the open source systems management business came together to take on the Big Four: HP, CA, BMC, and IBM.

This makes me happy, because I love the idea of open source where viable, and because I love competition (and thus increased innovation) in the marketplace. Staples like Linux, Apache, PHP, MySQL aside, when I was a sys/netadmin I relied on open source systems management software like Nagios (way back when it was NetSaint 5+ years ago) for monitoring, Request Tracker for ticketing, MRTG for bandwidth graphing, and a whole host of other open source tools. I did a brief stint with the Research Systems Unix Group back at the University of Michigan, which develops and uses award winning open source software in this area.

I think that open source really has a fighting chance in systems management - especially in the mid market and hosting/datacenter environments. Also, while Microsoft is generally viewed as the borg and the arch-nemesis of everything open source, I find it funny that in the systems management market, it's IBM, supposed proponent of everything open source, who is one of the 20lb gorillas. Software companies love to embrace open source, until it competes directly with flagship software that brings home the chedder.

But alas, I digress.

So, the new Open Management Consortium lists its objectives as:
1. Create awareness of open source management tools in the market

2. Provide education and resources to help end users make informed decisions regarding open source

3. Establish conventions and standards that enable integration and interoperability

4. Enable collaboration and coordination on common development projects

5. Promote collaborative open source systems management solutions

These are certainly noble goals. Integration, interoperability, collaboration, and coordination, whether between open source and open source, open source and closed source, or closed source and closed source projects, is certainly good for everyone, as is increased competition and better products in the marketplace. So welcome, and best of luck!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

On Blogging and Bug Bashes

Friday morning, I arrived at the lobby of my building at Microsoft to a breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausage, and mimosas being prepared by our Test team.

Our Test team had lost a bet with our Program Management team in which whoever found less new bugs in our last "Bug Bash" would be cooking breakfast for the rest of the group.

Yesterday, my friend Mike, part of the larger division that includes Windows, but not himself part of the immediate Windows product development groups, posted on his blog about an internal contest to find new bugs in Windows (yes, this is now a dead link).

After I read it, I immediately thought to myself "Oh no. This has the potential to be spun the WRONG way by the blogging world and the media. And, it was taken from an internal email."

Exactly that happened. This morning, I woke up to an article on Microsoft Watch, a link on Digg, and a comparison of Brian Valentine to Dilbert's pointy-haired boss (and it seems the number of blogs and sites running with this story is not limited to these 3 either).

All 3 of the above stories are misleading.

These stories imply that because Windows has so many bugs, engineers whose job it already is to find and fix bugs are getting paid extra, by the bug, to fix the problem.

In fact, this is not the case.

The real story is that even though the number of reported, active Windows bugs is already in the 5-figures, in order to raise the quality bar of the product, the Windows team decided to incent thousands of employees outside of the immediate Windows product development groups to find and report more new issues. The incentive was that these individuals, whose daytime job it often is NOT to find or fix Windows bugs (this contests includes marketing folks, folks working on completely different products, etc), would be paid $100 for each critical issue (issues fixed in Beta 2). Note that the individuals who find the bugs do NOT need to fix the bugs, and the individuals fixing the bugs are NOT paid by the bug in this contest.

It's also worth noting that this was a "special" sort of Bug Bash - it wasn't simply a case of not having enough employees dedicated to testing Windows. The ask, which wasn't reported, was that people take home a copy of Windows Vista over the weekend, and try upgrading their home Windows XP machines. The goal is to ensure smooth upgrades across real life home computers, with millions of combinations of conditions (hardware, software, settings) that can't possibly be simulated in a test lab. Now tell me honestly, was this Bug Bash contest REALLY such a bad thing?

This morning I had a chat with an old friend of mine who is a software developer at another software company (the company will rename nameless to protect the innocent, but suffice it to say it competes directly with Microsoft, has a loyal following of fanboys, and is thought of as "cooler"). He confirmed that at his company, they have similar types of Bug Bash contests to incent employees to find and fix bugs. Bug Bash contests seem to be standard practice.

Frankly, in this case, I must admit I don't think money was the best incentive (do you give your friends cash on their birthdays?). The contest probably should have been for something more creative. In my group, we give out pancake breakfasts, Xboxes, and once in awhile gift certificates.

As for the blogging aspect of this, I hope that Mike doesn't get into trouble for posting about this publicly on his blog, though I wish he would've posted an update with more information instead of removing the post altogether. I've been a bit nervous lately after reading stuff like this in Dare's blog:

Last week, I got mail from some exec at Microsoft complaining about my blog.


I'll write here the same thing I wrote to the exec that complained about. My blog is a personal weblog that precedes my time at Microsoft which will likely outlive my time as a Microsoft employee. In it I talk about things that affect my life such as my personal life, work life and interests. Since I work at a technology company and my interests are around technology, I sometimes talk about Microsoft technology and working at Microsoft. Since everything about Microsoft's technology and work life aren't perfect, sometimes these posts are critical.

If you don't like my blog then don't read it. If you think my blog is so bad for Microsoft, then [please] go ahead and complain to my management. They get enough complaints about my blog as it is, I'm sure there must be some threshold where they'll decide that receiving mail about my blog is more work than keeping me around. Then I'm sure you'll get your wish that I work at some competitor. :)

Unlike some of our more prominent blogging colleagues, we don't all capture the attention of the public eye, nor do we all have our management's support. Tread lightly.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bikram Hatha Yoga

Last week I started doing Bikram Yoga. It's one of the most strenuous, amazing things I have ever tried - spending over 90 minutes in a 105 degree heated room pushing my body into positions I didn't even know were physically possible.

Since starting to do it every other day, I've felt the healthiest I've ever felt in my entire life. It's mindblowing what this stuff can do for your body. I've started sleeping better, waking up with more energy, and just generally feeling absolutely amazing, in addition to being better protected against Carpel Tunnel and who knows what else the future might otherwise hold.

Anyhow, I strongly suggest trying it out. It's rather difficult and even frustrating the first few times, but after 3-4 sessions you won't remember how you lived without it.

If you're in Seattle, I'd recommend The SweatBox. They have a 1 week unlimited trial for $15. No sweat, right?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Analysts h8 poorly designed Vista security features

Via an eWeek article:

News Analysis: In a scathing review of the security features built into preview versions of Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system, one analyst contends that the software giant's highly-touted security features are self-defeating and may cause some customers to put off adoption of the OS altogether.

My favorite part:

By forcing end users with such accounts to constantly seek approval from administrators to complete tasks they manipulate freely in today's versions of Windows, and creating headaches for those people charged with handing out such permissions, Jaquith said the features may simply be ignored or shut off by many people.

"The User Account Control feature is like Chatty Kathy, it's always in your face and the danger is that users are going to start treating it like the snooze button on their alarm clock and hitting 'yes' without looking to see why they've been prompted," said Jaquith. "A lot of people, especially home users, will probably turn the feature off so they'll essentially be no better off than before."

Hmm.. I ranted about this and emailed the Vista team 3 weeks ago.

Recently, 2 of the bugs I filed against the new version of Office got punted as "by design". Bottom line: It's a lot harder to fix design bugs than it is code bugs.

I hope this one doesn't slip through the cracks.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Call For Friends!

Once upon a time.. a friend and I had an interesting philosophical discussion.. if you're at home alone having a drink while you're being social online, does it count as "social drinking"?

In any event, rather than enjoying the few beautiful Seattle weekends we get outside in the sun, I've been spending way too much time playing with my new Xbox 360. On that note, I figure I might be able to turn such a bad thing into a good thing by making it a more "social" activity.

So, if anybody out there plays 360 games, I'm looking for friends! My Gamer Card profile is here (my Gamertag is xref). It's kind of empty since I just started playing. So far, I have Kameo, PGR 3, and Call of Duty 2.. but I'll be stocking up on other soon + casual games from the Xbox Live Marketplace.

And while I'm on the 'seeking friends' kick - if you're already a friend of mine, and you use Flickr, drop me a line because I'm looking for friends there too. Subscribing to an RSS feed through Flickr that shows me all my friends' new photos has been a really great fun way to keep up on what's going on with people all over the place.

I'm also trying really hard to get off AOL Instant Messenger. The new version, Triton, is just absolutely horrible. Instead, you can find me on or Windows Live/MSN Messenger or Google Talk.

Anyhoo, off to sleep. I have spec reviews and sign-offs rapidly approaching over the new few weeks - time to be a busy worker bee for a while!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Doesn't get much cooler than 360.

IMAGE_050Okay, so I went a little crazy today and raided the company store... felt like a little kid in a candy store. :-)

I've gotta tell ya.. I'm LOVING the new Xbox. I can't get over how cool this thing is.

Despite watching/playing demos of this puppy for the last 12 months, I didn't really grasp how kickass it really was until I started living with one.

As I'm posting from my laptop on the couch, a photo slideshow is being streamed onto my HDTV wirelessly from the computer under my desk in the other room to a Dave Matthews tune. But I guess that's nothing new to the 4 million of you out there with Windows XP Media Center edition.

After holding out for ages on organizing all my digital media, this thing is just begging me to hook it up to Vista Ultimate (MCE) with a cable card and a monster raid array.