Sunday, February 29, 2004

Why Open-Source Usability Tends to Suck

CUPS - Common Unix Printing SystemEric Raymond has a compelling story of an open-source usability disaster.

"I've just gone through the experience of trying to configure CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System. It has proved a textbook lesson in why nontechnical people run screaming from Unix. This is all the more frustrating because the developers of CUPS have obviously tried hard to produce an accessible system — but the best intentions and effort have led to a system which despite its superficial pseudo-friendliness is so undiscoverable that it might as well have been written in ancient Sanskrit...

...CUPS is not alone. This kind of fecklessness is endemic in open-source land. And it's what's keeping Microsoft in business — because by Goddess, they may write crappy insecure overpriced shoddy software, but on this one issue their half-assed semi-competent best is an order of magnitude better than we usually manage.

The Luxury of Ignorance: An Open-Source Horror Story and Why Free Software usability tends to suck

JOS Thread on Offshoring

Offshore Software DevelopmentExcellent thread on JOS regarding outsourcing and the differences between software design... and software development.

"When talking about "offshoring", I often use a different context to add perspective.

For example, John Grisham writes best-selling novels about lawyers. Could he offshore? Say, he plots out the entire novel, sketches out character bios and writes an example chapter or two. Then, he ships the whole package off to thirty Indian writers who each write a chapter in a month or two. Using offshoring, John Grisham could pump out six or so novels a year. Even if the quality impacts sales a bit, he's going to come out way ahead on gross revenues. Right?

No, and it is pretty obvious why.

First, book writing (and software, commercial software, at least) is not really about finding the cheapest way to get the job minimally done. Seemingly minor nits can have a major impact on sales...

JOS Thread: Offshoring

Lest Darkness Fall

Lest Darkness FallFor my bi-annual sci-fi review, the following is my Amazon recap of the L. Sprague de Camp classic, Lest Darkness Fall:

"4 Stars - Creative, Concise and Appealing

Martin Padway, mild-mannered archaeologist, is visiting Rome when he is thrust backwards in time... all the way back to the sixth century A.D. The Roman Empire is fading fast... facing foes on all sides... with the thousand-year blight we now know as the Dark Ages fast approaching. Can a single man -- Padway --change history and prevent the fall of Rome? Nothing less than the 'Age of Enlightenment' hangs in the balance.

The literary descendent of 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court', de Camp lets Padway grapple with raw issues. I found these areas the story's most interesting sections: how to make a living, having arrived with only modern currency in hand... how to avoid the authorities, given their proclivity to brand any new technology 'witchcraft'... how to assemble allies, fend off enemies and stay healthy in an environment not conducive to outsiders.

Because it was written in 1939, there is a level of 'political incorrectness' that is entertainingly fresh. Italian women, Muslims, the French and others are insulted with broad brush-strokes. Nonetheless, it is historically informative, important from a literary standpoint and makes for interesting reading. Despite its age, it is a fluid, fast read. de Camp had a lot of interesting things to say... and said them well.

Amazon - Lest Darkness Fall

25th Hour

25th HourThey should have called it Amnesia. My review of "25th Hour".

"Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) is supposed to be a lovable drug dealer with whom we can sympathize. In a series of flashbacks, we find out how he adopted his dog; how he met his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson); his long-standing friendships with Wall Streeter Frank (Barry Pepper) and Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman); oh, and by the way, how he got busted with mega-dealer quantities of smack and cash.

But the story's foundation, it's reason for being, is the tale of Monty's last day of freedom before reporting to prison. Grappling with issues like: who gave him up to the DEA and stressing about meeting the Russian mob boss who's demanded to see him before he leaves for the can. The trouble is, despite Spike Lee's best efforts and the talented Mr. Norton, we just don't care.

The story could have been compelling, but there are too many things that don't work. Barry Pepper is supposed to be Monty's best friend but is a completely hateful person. Philip Seymour Hoffman's considerable talents are put to no use here, playing a teacher that has all the charisma of a road sign. NFL'er Tony Siragusa (Kostya) is not a professional actor and is out of his depth. Rosaria Dawson is beautiful and talented -- but the story lets us not care about her whatsoever.

The best thing about the flick -- and truly, the only things worth watching -- are two solliloquies: Norton's R-rated rant on New York while facing himself in the mirror... and his Father's beautiful, fictionalized account of now Monty could escape his fate. Those two vignettes, occupying maybe five minutes of screen time total, made the movie for me.

In the end, it all just doesn't compute. I think they should have called this flick "Amnesia". You'll have forgotten the entire story by the next day.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Sweet Science

History of BoxingFANTASTIC fight card coming up on HBO. Baby Joe Mesi --the latest in the long series of GWH's (Great White Hopes) in the heavyweight division -- has been termed 'Buffalo's third professional franchise'. He's a hitter. Powerful, with deceptively fast hands. He's not the greatest athlete among the up-and-coming heavyweights, but he's not the worst either. Not by a long shot.

Funny interview on Mesi's web site: "Q. Sorry, but the question must be asked. Which Rocky was the best movie and why?

A. By far the first movie. It's one of the best sporting movies. Rocky was forced to overcome setbacks. He appeared on the scene from nowhere. How could you not root for the underdog?

Q. Which Rocky opponent would you least want to fight and why?

A. The Russian - Ivan Drago from Rocky 4. Too big and too strong.

"Sugar" Shane Mosley
39-2, 35 KO's


Ronald "Winky" Wright
46-3, 25 KO's
12 Round
Undisputed Super Welterweight Title
March 13, 2004
9:30 PM ET/6:30 PM PT
Mandalay Bay
Las Vegas, NV
Joe Mesi
28-0, 25 KO's


Vassiliy Jirov
33-1, 29 KO's
10 Round
Heavyweight fight
March 13, 2004
9:30 PM ET/6:30 PM PT
Mandalay Bay
Las Vegas, NV

p.s., you have no idea how hard it was to get that table to post correctly in Blogger. ;-)

T on Tivo

TivoMr. T's blog had an excellent discussion of Tivo and the power it puts into the hands of the audience.

"...I can fast-forward through anything that doesn't interest me. I can create my own personal "director's cut" of any show I want. And the thing is, even the shows I love and watch every week have some excess fat that I can trim with the good ol' TiVo remote...

...On "Friends," I've learned that my opinion of a given episode increases dramatically if I race through the Monica/Chandler adoption arc at top speed...

...Bitter "ER" pill Abby Lockhart? Let's just say that on my "ER," there is no Abby Lockhart...

If me and my Tivo ruled the world