Don’t Pave Around Your IT Obstacles!

I came across a news story (note the link seems to now be broken) yesterday about a hydro pole in the middle of the road in Quebec. In case the link breaks (they often do on the Canoe.ca site) here is the picture:

Apparently, a contract was put out to widen the road, but no one thought to involve Hydro Quebec. The contractor followed his instructions to the letter, and widened the road, paving right around the hydro pole in the process. In fact, it looks from the picture like they did a fine fine to – it looks very professional. The contractor is quoted as saying:

“Everyone knows it looks crazy,” he told QMI Agency. “But the transport department is our client. You must understand, I was somewhat uncomfortable to criticize them.”

We look at this and ask ourselves “How could anyone be so stupid?”

This is a perfect example of “doing things right”, as opposed to “doing the right things”.

How many times have we watched IT projects do the exact same thing?

How many times have we seen projects which followed the exact statement of the new requirements, without always looking at or understanding the surrounding IT terrain? How many new IT projects attempt to simply “pave around” existing infrastructure? How many times have you heard someone say “well, I thought it was kind of stupid, but that is what my client/boss asked for?”

Even worse, what looks stupid in the physical world is often applauded in the IT world. If you jump through hoops to do a very professional job of “paving around the hydro poles” then you are being resourceful, and “responsive to client needs”.

Sorry, stupid is still stupid!

So the next time you see something stupid about to happen –  ask somebody. Maybe it really is as stupid as it looks! And if they still insist on doing something stupid, show them this picture!

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Space shuttle: What have we learned? Apparently, not the difference between astronomy and astrology!

Space shuttle: What have we learned? – CNN.com

Ok, first off, half of this article is about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords attending the latest launch, not about “Space shuttle: What have we learned?”. Not that it is wrong to write about Giffords, it just does not belong in THIS article.

Secondly, and far, far worse, is

Musser was a high school freshman when the first shuttle mission took place in 1981. He said it fueled (sic) his interest in science and astrology. “The shuttle was the most complicated machine ever built by human beings. It’s an incredible machine,” Musser said.

Astrology???!!???!!! Are you freakin’ serious? Either it is an accurate quote, and Musser is an idiot (which I doubt), or the writer (Steve Kastenbaum) is a complete idiot and misquoted Musser (a far more likely scenario).

Is it any wonder that the public at large has no freaking idea about science, and is incapable of understanding the value of the space programme, when neither they nor the mainstream press understand the difference between “astronomy” and “astrology”.

(Or between “science” and “mythology” – which is the root of the whole evolution versus creationism silliness).

Geocentrism? Seriously? | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

This is too cool!

Yesterday, I came across a link to http://www.galileowaswrong.com/galileowaswrong/, the site for a conference based on the premise that Galileo was wrong, and that the Catholic church was right to convict him of heresy, and the in fact the Earth is the fixed centre of the universe.

While I tweeted about the absurdity of this, and posted it on my Facebook page, I knew that writing a big blog post about it was a waste of time, because well, not too many people read my blog and even fewer read any posts not related to programming (my Of Mosques and Book Burnings post from last week has still yet to get a hit lol).

So I emailed the link to galileowaswrong.com to Phil Plait who writes the Bad Astronomy Blog, and the hopes that he would expose this silliness at a much more visible level than I ever could. Well, today I see the post Geocentrism? Seriously? over at Bad Astronomy.

I am not sure if this was because of my email, but I can always hope!

PS – also nice to see the that GalileoWasWrong.com is down – apparently it exceeded it bandwidth quota lol!

The Wonder Of Apple’s Tablet – washingtonpost.com

The Wonder Of Apple’s Tablet – washingtonpost.com

Well, well, well….yet another “hype” article for the rumoured (though probably real in some form) Apple Tablet. I must admit, that I am of two minds on the the Apple Tablet (what ever it is will be called). On the one hand, I am very interested in seeing what Apple does with the idea. Will it be a real tablet, or will it just be a big iPhone? Will it run the iPhone OS or a real operating system?

I am mostly concerned simply because it comes from Apple. I personally find Apple to be one of the most troubling companies on the planet. Their closed systems and closed attitude towards the rest of the computing world bother me. Even worse are Apple fans. I dread to see the Apple Tablet merely on the grounds that 6 months later all of Apple fandom will be declaring loudly “how brilliant Steve Jobs is – he invented the Tablet!”.

Back to the article in the Washington Post. The author rightfully asks the question “Why would anyone want a tablet computer?” I personally love them. I have been using them for years (remember this for next Christmas kids – APPLE DID/WILL NOT INVENT THE TABLET PC). I have written several other posts about why I like them, and where I would like them to go in the future. Right now I have two Tablets – one is a slate model which I love. The other is the convertible Tablet given out to attendees at Microsoft PDC . This one has a great multi-touch interface running Windows 7. Its only weakness is pour handwriting support due to interference between touch capabilities and handwriting. In the house we also have two HP Touchsmart convertible tablets. These both support multi-touch and handwriting extremely well, and are well priced at just under $1000 (in Canada).

(Note here that MS already has a multitouch interface that supports gestures, handwriting, and runs a real OS, so is useful beyond just being another gadget.)

Now for the stupidest statement in the Washington Post article (possibly the stupidest tech statement made this year):

“The truth is that most of us don’t understand the allure of a tablet computer because they’ve all sucked up until now.”

Ok, the author just revealed himself to either be a moron, woefully uninformed, or just completely lacking in objectivity (perhaps stemming from the Crunchpad association). There are a number of very good tablets out there (and have been for a number of years). Any of the tablets from Motion Computing are great, though they are not consumer oriented (I have been using an LE1600 personally for 4+ years). The HP tablets have been consistently good. I have also heard great things about Toshiba, Fujitsu, and Dell tablets. The one complaint I have about all of them (except maybe the HP Touchsmart) is that the prices are way too high, but that is improving.

I will say I really want more out of a Tablet, as I said in a previous post. But that does not mean that all of the existing devices suck. Such a broad generalization, is well, just stupid.

Here is another statement from the article:

We’ll be living in a future with Minority Report, Star Trek, and Avatar interactive technology

it is interesting to note that the user interface in Minority Report was actually inspired by another non-Apple device – the Microsoft Surface.

The last quote I will take from this article is

Part of it is that Apple has a sterling record with consumer-oriented products.

Well, seems to me that Apple has failed a few more times than the author mentions. Seems the Mac Book Air didn’t do so well. Going back much further, anyone remember Steve Job’s Newton? Going back even further, Apple could be the dominant desktop OS right now if not for Job’s immeasurable ego back in the 80s (has that changed at all?).

My big concern here is how much of the consumer community reads and believes unsubstantiated drivel like this, and so dismisses anything non-Apple without even looking at it.   

A big part of the blame for this has to go to Microsoft, as well, and their atrocious marketing department. Tablet PCs have been around since 2002, and yet I still get stopped everywhere I travel by folks asking what my tablet is. How is that for getting the word out on one of your coolest technologies? It does not help that the press does not like to write about anything Microsoft because it is not “cool” to support MS.

So please folks, remember this – multi-touch, gesture-based computing is real and available today, and it is not from Apple. In addition, it runs an OS that lets you use everything you have been used to using, and does not lock you in to buying everything you ever want through Apple. And, you can even replace your own battery, unlike most Apple devices 🙂

PS – More hype for the “Apple saves the tablet” community is here. Also there is an older article Why Have Tablets Flopped? Here Are Five Reasons referenced. Of the five reasons quoted, only one is valid – price. Note also that the only pictures they use are of the Newton – the only real failure of the bunch. It is really sad that all of the media writing about tablets seems to have drunk the Apple Koolaid.

De-orbiting the ISS in 2016? | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

 De-orbiting the ISS in 2016? | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

This is a perfect example of what I was saying in my post yesterday. Given that any space program is going to be a large scale, multi-year (possibly multi-decade) effort, how do you accomplish anything when it is tied to the constant budgetary and political bullshit that infects our governments? Without the ability to define programs which are immune to political tides, it is virtually impossible, and the ISS is prime example.

As long as we have few if any leaders in the world who have any vision beyond the next election and their own (very well financed) retirements, there is no hope for space exploration.

The only hope lies in non-governmental space exploration. 

Consumerist – Applying For A Job? Great, Give Us Your Google And Facebook Passwords

Have a look at this…

Consumerist – Applying For A Job? Great, Give Us Your Google And Facebook Passwords – Facebook

This redneck town thinks it is ok to invade a person’s privacy if they want a job. By this same logic, it would be ok to tap the person’s phone, open their mail, peek through their windows…

While I can understand the need to perform background checks, this is completely inappropriate.

Fiddling While Rome Burns

I find it amusing (or would if so many real people were not suffering) to watch lawmakers in the United States continue to play the same old partisan games while their country tumbles towards economic disaster (or through economic disaster, more correctly). It would seem that they are all far too interested in their own personal agendas and philosophical obsessions to act in a way that protects the people who elected them (as opposed to the people who pay for them).

And this not just about the current fiasco over the proposed $700 million bailout. It has been obvious for a long time that a collapse like this was inevitable. All of our leaders, however, have been completely obsessed with political manoeuvring in order to gain or retain power. 

(as an aside, I have no better opinion of our government here in Canada – which has acted in such a secretive, cloistered manner that it is really hard to see what, if anything, it has done during its current mandate)

At what point will elected officials in both of our countries realize that they do not work for the lobbyists, corporations, and others who pay them to believe in and vote for what they are told.

They work for us – or should. They are not in office to vote their beliefs. They are not in office to vote the party line. They are not in office to vote their “conscience.” They are there to vote the way their constituents want them to. If they do not do so, they should be thrown the hell out!

(if only there were a viable alternative to the idiots we have now)