Thursday, August 24, 2006

So long Sony...?

This has not been Sony's year…

It all stared with the iPod. The Walkman used to be the king of portable audio. When was the last time you saw one. I mean one being used, not in a museum or a picture or something. Take your time…

It all stared with the DRM/Root Kit shit storm of 2005. While the lawsuits and investigations still continue, the public at large (meaning the non-techie crowd) had largely forgotten it and the stain of embarrassment was starting to fade.

Enter Playstation 3 and Blu-Ray. Or “a gaming system that no one can afford that supports a standard that no one gives a fat rat’s ass about.” I’m not a gamer, but even if I were I can’t imagine spending $600 and a gaming system. Especially when the 360, which has a whole “mess’o” games slated to come out, and the Wii (which looks like a much cooler console) are it’s competition. And as for Blu-Ray? Oh Sony, did you learn nothing from the Betamax?

Yesterday, Dell announced its recall of laptops with Sony batteries. Not bad enough? Well, how bad does it make it now that airlines are now making an examples of your consumers?

Now it’s Apples turn to ruin Sony’s day.

So I’m wondering; how much can Sony take? Their sales of consumer electronics are down. They are still facing lawsuits and investigations from “Root Kit-gate.” They have sunk a butt-load of money into a console and standard that many people say is DOA. And now their laptop batteries are potential explosive devices, which in some case are being deployed near a very “personal” (not to mention tender) area of peoples bodies. The first “my laptop ruined my life” lawsuit is in the works already.

A lot of people say “Sony’s a big company. They have a ton of money, they aren’t going anywhere.”


I would like you to think about some other companies that had lots of money;

Pan Am
Eastern Airlines
Builders Square
Montgomery Ward
Big Bear

Seems to me it can happen to anyone…

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Microsoft Virual Labs; a review redux...

VL Guy (from Microsoft???) made some comments on this thread, but since it's kind of old, and probably not being closely followed anymore, I thought I would just post to let everyone know that (per VL Guy)...

Also, the VL team is trying a new format - part Webcast/part Virtual Lab - on Architecting with Team Foundation Server. It's a one shot deal on Wed, Aug 30th, 12:00pm PST. Check it out:

If the 1st run is successful, they may run more of these and make them viewable on-demand.


Also, check out the new format the team is piloting on Architecting with Team Foundation Server It's part Webcast and part Virtual Lab but it's a one shot deal on Wednesday, Aug 30th, 12:00PM PST.

If it goes well they may run more down the road.

Very good!

Unfortunatly, being at a client site I will not be able to partake of the August 30th lab. Unless.... [cough, cough] uh... I think I feel a cold coming on. Uh, yeah... I have a feeling it's going to hit me the middle of next week... [cough, cough]... ;)

Friday, August 18, 2006

The end is nigh!

I'm convinced that humanity as a race is doomed. And we're doing it to ourselves.


Because too many of us are too lazy to do anything creative or positive, and are instead content to capitalize on the stupidity of others. What's not helping this is that nowadays trouble-making douche-bags seem to be rewarded for their trouble-making douche-baggery as opposed to being punished

Both points are proven by the list of "winners" of the 2006 "Stella Awards."

What are the "Stella Awards?" From their website:

The Stella Awards were inspired by Stella Liebeck. In 1992, Stella, then 79, spilled a cup of McDonald's coffee onto her lap, burning herself. A New Mexico jury awarded her $2.9 million in damages, but that's not the whole story. Ever since, the name "Stella Award" has been applied to any wild, outrageous, or ridiculous lawsuits -- including bogus cases!

And this years crop do not disappoint. That is assuming you don't give a fat rats ass about the future of civilization. If you do care, well... you're pretty much screwed.

Couple of my favories:

October 1998: Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pa., was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up, because the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation. Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found in the garage and a large bag of dry dog food. Mr. Dickson sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of a half million dollars.

It’s a sad day when you a probably better off shooting a person who breaks into your house then calling the cops. And it really looks like that’s where this is heading; people aren’t going to stand for this insult added to injury. How long till life looks like a scene from "Mad Max"?

January 2000: Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle, tripping over a toddler who was running amuck inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering that the misbehaving little fellow was Ms. Robertson's son.

So, it's not bad enough we have these children of lousy parents running around being generally annoying, now the parents get to sue when they are unable to control their children? Greaaat. I'll just stick to dogs; they are easier to train, and usually much more grateful for what you give them.

Speaking of dogs...

October 1999: Jerry Williams of Little Rock Arkansas was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor's beagle. The dog was on a chain in its owner's fenced-in yard at the time. Mr. Williams was also in the fenced-in yard. The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog may have been provoked by Mr. Williams who, at the time, was repeatedly shooting it with a pellet gun.

First of all, where's PETA in all of this? I guess they only care about animals that are trendy or can get them press coverage.

Secondly, anyone who would shoot a dog, a smaller breed none the less, when it is on a chain is seriously messed up in the head. I bet you this idiot now holds some kind of "grudge" against the dog. Well, it's clearly the dogs fault; after all if it didn't want to be shot it shouldn't have been sitting there on a chain behind a fence!

Pick on Dan Quayle as much as you like, he got one thing right on; we need to do something about these lawsuits!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take my Rolodex and meet with my lawyer. I'm sure there is someone in there I have a case against!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

WHEW! That was a close one!

In a follow up to my previous post about "Hells Kitchen" it with great relief that I get to post about Heather winning the contest. Mostly because I posted her odds at 2:1, which makes me look pretty smart! :)

I had her pegged as “the bitch” early on, and while she can be demanding, I think that label was a little off. Especially given the crap she had to take from Sarah the whole way! She did a good job leading her team and she deserved to win. Good for her!

Virginia is a nice girl, but in my opinion her running a major resturant would have been a complete disaster! Yeah, she has a great… uh, palette, but she had no leadership and did nothing to motivate her team. For example, starting your “pep talk” by telling your team “I picked weak people on purpose so I could see what you can do” doesn’t really inspire greatness. And frankly, it was stupid. The final service to determine if you are going to win the whole thing is not the time to vindicate the dead-wood. And Virginia paid for it, big time. In my opinion, her agreeing to pay her guys if she won was the harbinger of doom. Heather had the strongest team because besides being good in the kitchen, they (well, maybe not Sarah so much) wanted to see her win. Virginia’s team didn’t give a shit. Yeah, money motivates but only to a certain degree.

Oh, and running out of food is kind of a bad thing for a fine dining restaurant too apparently. Who knew?

I don’t think Virginia’s team really liked her. I think they were all pretty bitter (especially Kevin) that she made it to the final two. I think most people didn’t think she deserved to be there. She was on the “chopping block” constantly through the series because of several little mistakes each time. Luckily for her, someone made a much bigger mistake each time that got them bumped (Chicken Tartare anyone?) She always had a way of escaping certain doom it seemed, which caused me to realize as the finale started Monday night “Shit, she could win this!”

I’ll be going “home” to Vegas this year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m going to try to get into Heathers place at Red Rock resort. If I’m successful, I’ll be sure to post a review of it here. The way the show was making a “big deal” about her sea bass, I hope it’s on the menu….

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Democracy inaction!

In the spirit of another round of meaningless (unless you're Joe Lieberman) primary elections, I am asking for opinions.

In a first (and probably only) for my blog, I'm putting something up to a vote.

When I hastily created this blog, I needed a name. At the time, "Bender's Blog" was the only thing I could think of. And it was good, but not great.

Recently, one of my co-workers suggested the name "The Bender Blender" as a nod to the technical interviews I occasionally give to candidates at my company.

I think this is a great idea! But, if I were to do that (within the blogspot system) if would be a bit of work for me what with the creating of a new blog and the linking to the new blog and the.... uh..... OK, it wouldn't be that much work, but it would cut into either my "hanging out" or "just kickin' it" time (Sorry, no pie chart).

So let me know what you think! Use the comments section.

Now, there are some rules. First of all, this is not "Chicago Style" which means one vote per person please. Also, votes from anonymous cowards will not be counted.

See you all at the polls!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Microsoft Virtual Labs; a review

I've had some free time the past few weeks, and always looking to find ways to expand and sharpen my technical skills, I've been working with the Microsoft Virtual Labs. Actually, I promised a young lady at the Microsoft booth at Tech Ed that I would, so this was also a way for me to stay good to my word. Oh, the things I'll do for a free T-shirt!

For those of you who haven't tried them, Virtual Labs are basically remote controlled Virtual PC's that Microsoft hosts with pre-built components and software installations geared toward teaching you a specific task. Each lab comes with a PDF lab manual, which gives you very specific instructions to complete the lab.

The Good
Everything you need to complete the lab, including starter projects and server installations are already setup for you in the virtual environment, which is no small thing when you are interested in learning something like BizTalk. The lab directions are (for the most part) very clear about the steps and the expected outcomes. The labs are designed to be "bite size" meaning you should not require more than 90 minutes to complete one, which is good because...

The Bad have a 90 minute time limit for each lab. Then, you are unceremoniously kicked out, and you environment resets for the next go around. I understand that Microsoft does not want people sitting in these all day as I'm sure they tie up a lot of resources. But the rigid nature of the experience and the time limit does not give you much opportunity to experiment beyond the lab directions. I don't know how feasible this is, but I would prefer having Virtual PC images available to run locally. Microsoft would not have to worry about creating a time limit, and users would have more freedom to go off the script and explore on their own. The only drawback I could see from Microsoft’s point of view is people attempting to use the images to cheat on getting a "real" license somehow, but there are ways around that. Another "ding" is that the lab manuals are a bit inconsistent, which is a given since they are developed by different people in different groups. My biggest gripe with them is that a lot of them just have the "Do this. Now do this. Now do this." style of instruction, without explaining to you why you are doing this. This is big reason why these labs in no way compare to good solid work experience. Don't do all the BizTalk labs and expect to be an expert, you will find you are still very much a novice.

The Ugly
These are virtual PC's. Over the internet. Guess how fast they are? That’s right, they are S L O W. At times, almost painfully so. There were a couple of times where I was really worried about finishing in the allotted 90 minutes. Some of this may depend on your bandwidth. I for one only have the medium diameter tubes coming into my home, so if you have access to something faster, you may have better luck. The other really ugly aspect is that for several of the labs I found, the manuals were just plain wrong. Pre-made solutions, projects and files were not where they were supposed to be. Code was wrong (in some cases, it didn't even compile) and properties were not where the manuals said they would be. I don't know if some of these weren't QA'ed really well, or if the image was changed after the manual was produced, but it does make for a very frustrating experience.

So, after doing these labs I can say that I am more familiar with several .NET technologies... in the same way the watching the "Star Wars" saga has made me familiar with using the force, or watching "Top Gun" has prepared me to climb into an F-14 and engage a couple of MiG's in a dogfight. I feel comfortable discussing and speaking to the power, limitations and abilities of these products and technologies, and can suggest to a client when and where it would be appropriate to use them in a solution, but I might not be able to implement all the details myself.

I mentioned BizTalk a lot here, but they have several other products that have virtual labs available. However, I feel the selection is a little thin. I was disappointed by the utter lack of Team Foundation Server labs, especially considering the “push” Microsoft was giving this at Tech Ed (not to mention the hefty price tag), I would think a “try before you buy” approach would get more development and IT staff on the band wagon. But, I imagine (hope) that as more people take interest and start using these labs, Microsoft will see that the development community is interested, and devote more resources to them.

Code on...