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April 29, 2002

Good rule of thumb: always stay to the left of the Bush administration on any issue. They should put a label on W's ass like some 18-wheelers have on the back of the trailer, warning you to keep away from the right side of the truck (9KB JPEG image).

I shaved my head again. Just because it was getting too long and I didn't want to worry about cutting it again before I get back from Slovenia.

April 27, 2002

I talked to my parents today. My Dad sounded positively chipper. That's kinda encouraging since he usually sounds just plain mellow. He said I had been neglecting my web site, which is good news since that means he's lookin'! So here's an update for all you fans of... me!

I'm cleaning up and throwing stuff out. Clutter sucks. Living in a really expensive city is easier if you have roommates, which we do, but that leads to fewer places to stash your junk. I have a LOT of junk. I hate this and I'm trying to reduce it, by throwing it away, selling it, giving it away, etc. I've been reducing junk for several years but I keep buying different junk... I got rid of the knicknacks and most of the silly keepsakes, but now I just have a ridiculous amount of computer gear. Geek toys are fun, but not when you're tripping over piles of them day after day, and you don't even have time to play with them all. I decided recently (a few weeks ago) that clutter was a major source of stress for me, so I should make a real effort to make it go away, doing whatever it takes to get that done. I've made some progress, but not enough. Trying to sell it all on eBay was a bad idea - too much overhead is involved in each thing, especially for the big items that will cost a ton to ship, have to be packed super-carefully (and FedEx and UPS will still find ways to smash it)... better to dump it on the amazingly awesome Craigslist.

I'm leaving next Friday for 3 weeks in Slovenia, for work. We've spec'd out a new version of our main product, and I'm going over to help the offshore developers who will be building it to come up with a solid design and to adhere to the various processes and standards we've specified for the product's implementation. I'm going to spend a weekend each in London, Venice, Prague, and Paris while I'm there. I still have a lot of planning, preparing, and packing to do, but I'm not stressed. I'm just excited. I've never been to Europe.

I apologize for not having written diddly about Hawaii, or for that matter, Cancun (we went there last September, the same week as the 9/11 terrorist attacks). I have ~20MB of pictures, and notes. Basically, it was a bunch of fun, we kept a busy schedule and did all sorts of active outdoorsy stuff all over Maui. Ray and Vivian's wedding ceremony and reception were lovely, and it was good to see everybody again (hadn't seen Saul for years) and to meet Ray's mom and Vivian's dad.

I've been playing Final Fantasy X for the past few months. I've played about 73 hours so far (I know because the game keeps track, so you can know which saved game is the furthest along). I've downloaded some interesting movies from KaZaA (one of them post-Napster file swapping services) that are basically a bunch of captured video clips from past Final Fantasy games, set to a song that some fan likes, and all spliced together in a sort of celebratory video montage of the game (or several of the games from the series). A disproportionately large number of them are for Final Fantasy VIII, which I think was the worst of the series so far. However it deviated from the cartoony, anime-style character designs in favor of a much more realistic, lifelike style. So I started to wonder, was it a giant seller just because of that... was it more popular because of that decision? Maybe. Then I started to wonder, what are the actual unit sales numbers of a game like this like? I mean, I remember reading that there were something like 100,000,000 Playstations out there, which is a really amazingly large number. In 13 weeks, Final Fantasy VIII (a PS1 game) sold over 1 million units in North America alone.

Here are some more interesting console game sales numbers that I found. Microsoft (the 800-lb gorilla that everybody assumes will destroy every market it enters) recently reduced their Xbox sales projections. They now say they'll sell 3.5-4 million of their Xbox consoles worldwide by June 30, 2002. When Final Fantasy X (only available for the PlayStation 2) was released in Japan, it sold approximately 1.9 million units in four days. The PS2 console itself sold 980,000 units in the first week it was available. By the end of January 2002, Final Fantasy X had sold 4 million copies worldwide. It was released in July, 2001 in Japan. That means that in about the same amount of time (~7 months) one PS2 game outsold the entire Xbox console. Apparently Gord knows what he's talking about when he said (a year ago!) that "This console race was over before it started."

April 20, 2002

Mozilla 1.0 Release Candidate 1's release notes say: "# Our most frequently reported bug has been fixed. Viewing the source of a cgi generated page now works properly." Yay! I noticed. It was a pain in the ass developing with Mozilla given that the view-source output was the "get" results with no parameters. Very hard to work with. Downloading the new release now... done.

April 18, 2002

If you see this sign (22K JPEG image), heed it. Trust me. That upside-down guy in the wave, is me. I'm pretty much OK but I didn't expect the usual disclaimer sign (swim at own risk) to turn out to be serious. Oops.

April 1, 2002

April Fools' day has been abused this year by various online pubs, so I will refrain from prankish humor today. You're welcome.

Still biking to work. Go me. V tired when I get home from biking uphill. Stupid hill.

Still playing Final Fantasy X. Got Spirit Lance. Go me! V confused as to what to do with it. I'm trying not to use the walkthroughs and hint guides that are out there for the game, but it's hard to resist. I don't have the patience to just wander around for hours and hours on each side quest.

Business software development is frustrating. The "requirements change" stuff that you read about in the verious OOAD and software project management books is true, and that has a big effect on how you should design the application, and how you should run the overall process through the whole software development life cycle. Another important fact that is less well documented is that when you're doing the analysis, there is no magic domain expert gnome hiding in the company you're building the app for. Analysis is supposed to be about getting analysts to talk to customers and capture requirements.

Well, that would be nice, but in the real world, the company executives have no freaking clue how their business actually works - they just know what the divisions are, what the products are, and who's in charge of each division. The "line of business" folks who actually do the work on a daily basis all do it in a different way. Get five of them in a room and you will spend all your time listening to them argue about what their workflow is, and what the business rules are. The recent movement of user-centered design is nice, but the users don't actually know what they want. One user knows what he or she wants, but 10 users all want different, conflicting things. This has nothing to do with what programming language you're using, or whether you use OO or not, or whether you use RUP or XP or what. If the requirements are never understood, and all the users disagree strongly with the completed system, you're screwed. I'm ready to go back to being a lowly coder, taking a 50% pay cut, and just banging out what the spec tells me to. Oops, all those jobs have moved offshore in the last few years, and the pay cut is more like 90%.

I wonder, am I stuck being an analyst/designer for apps that will be implemented offshore for scarcely more than US minimum wage? I hope not. I think there is some value in OOAD expertise, and being a guru at design and implementation. There is a hell of a lot of inefficiency in the implementation and maintenance phases, and a lot of room to add value if you can figure out how to boost productivity in those phases. That could mean process best practices (like insisting on formal requirements before design, or insisting on a proper design phase before implementation begins), tools best practices (making sure you're using branches in your source control repository, and that you're using the right SCM tool), or building frameworks or custom tools to support your efforts.