Thu 25 Mar 2004
The Good (Computer) Books Guide
Category : Commentary/goodbooks.txt
I'm going over the Panther Server, peeking under the hood, but I keep thinking about a couple of books I've read as I'm doing it. I don't know why but, maybe, I'm thinking about what it takes to put all these technologies together.
Tracy Kidder's "The Soul of a New Machine" was probably the book that started the genre - the one that made reading about computers and computer companies fun. Who remembers Data General, or DG, or Damn Good, as their then Singapore-based GM called his company, when he gave a talk to us students, back in 1983? It's twenty years on. From the mini-computer to the workstation, to the iBook. I've worked on them all.
The other hacker classic is - "Hackers" by Steven Levy. In there, you'll meet Richard Stallman, and recursive acronymns, and GNU's not Unix.
If you haven't read them, then you ought to. If they work for you the way they worked for me, then you might also want to read : "Rebel Code", Glyn Moody, about Linux and the Open Source Revolution; Jeremy Campbell's "Grammatical Man"; Downes and Mui's "Killer App"; and Nicholas Negroponte's "Being Digital".
Also, "Open Sources" - Voices from the Open Source Revolution, which is not that good, because it's really a collection of articles of varying quality, but interesting, all the same.
Sun Tech Day
Category : Commentary/suntechday.txt
There's a Sun Tech Day coming up on 20th and 21st of April 2004. We're going to be helping out Leon Chen and EC Tan at Apple's booth and lab session. Besides Apple, Oracle's also present. So we're going to load Oracle on an Xserve, and figure out what we want to show. Leon says that, at the previous show in Beijing, Apple's booth drew a lot of interest from the Java crowd. I think it's going to be fun. Guess which vendor is not going to be there?
iSight - let me count the ways
Category : Commentary/mindset.txt
The local Mac users are a feisty lot and up in arms over the poor product knowledge shown by the people selling Macs in Singapore, as this post shows. You can search the discussion group archives for a lot more of such comments, some of them quite funny.
But, then, it's not all about complaints. More than occasionally, you get gems, like this from a guy called Timmy in reply to an earlier post about the usefulness (or, rather, lack of) of the iSight :
"Well, the iSight is more than just a webcam. you can use it as a digicam too. let's say you're at a press conference or interview. just mount up your iSight, point it in the right direction, and hey, live video recording! can also use it as a mic to record audio of meetings, useful for minutes taking.
"There are also fun apps like iStopMotion, I'm sure you can use iSight to make such movies. And then there is ToySight, can play games using iSight: it detects the motion of your hands to control the game!"
So, you learn so much more about what you can do with the iSight. Timmy would make a super Mac salesman. I think about some of the bicycle shops we have in Singapore, like Treknology and CycleWorx. Macs should be sold like that - by enthusiasts, to other enthusiasts.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Category : Commentary/IT.txt
Singapore is trying to get more people out of the public sector and into the private sector as entrepreneurs. But we've been doing this (dare we call ourselves entrepreneurs) for ten years and wondering, lately, if the smart ones are not the ones who stayed put (on their Herman Miller chairs).
But then I read this article by Robert X. Cringely, "A Lose-Lose Situation - Sometimes IT Integration Just Isn't Worth the Trouble", and I'm reminded of just when and why we decided we wanted no part of that scene, anymore.
Apple has a web page about Macs in business and the stories there pretty much describe where we're heading and what we want to help make happen - e.g., "My decision to go with Mac was based on two key criteria - the quality of the user experience, and reliability. The technology had to be transparent, intuitive, easy to use. So my staff and I would be happy and motivated and productive while using it."
But all you have to do is read one article and you'll realise why Macs are such a hard sell with IT departments - "I'd worked with PCs at prior practices, and I knew they required a lot of IT support. And I didn't want to pay somebody a whole bunch of money to set up and administer a PC network, to worry about constant server patches and updates, port configuration and reconfiguration. With the Mac, I basically did it myself. I don't have an IT support contract, because I just don't need one. The beauty of a Mac network is that it pretty much configures itself! And that saves me thousands of dollars a year easily.
"Finally, I wanted my staff to be as comfortable as possible using the technology. I didn't want to spend a whole lot of time training. With Mac, I trained my entire office staff myself. It took no time at all, because everything's just so intuitive. Click here, click there, and they were all very confident about using the Mac - even my previously technophobic nurse."
I'm wondering how I'm going to make any money, myself.
But, another story. I went with my friend, Ronnie, of Tarawerkz, a longtime Mac consultant and 4th Dimension developer, to the department in charge of Healthcare Computerisation here - he helped a doctor build a 4D-based patient records management system and now another hospital wants to use it. The catch is : he has to get past the IT Department. So, in the meeting, there are a couple of Information Architects (whatever that means), a Database Administrator, a Security "Expert", and a Network "Expert", and they're all grilling him on porting all these to Oracle (the favoured platform), conformance to their IS architecture, producing specifications, schemas, and data flow diagrams. They're doing what is called "due dilligence".
Poor guy. There's very little money in it, and all this work before he's even awarded the job. In the middle of helping him explain how 4D could work with Oracle and Microsoft's Active Directory, my mind drifts and I see that all these guys don't need to care how long this takes because they're all on salary. They're walking all over this one guy's work but that guy is the only one in the whole room who's created anything of value - he's after all the guy who's built something that has worked, and that another hospital wants to use.
It's like in American Idol. If being the judge pays so well, and you get to be nasty and condescending, and get paid well too, then why don't everybody be the judge? Everytime this happens, I'm thinking two words - Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Here's to John Galt and Howard Roark.