Lyle Schofield

News about me. Stuff that matters.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Apple Developing 2-Button Mouse

AppleInsider | Sources: Apple developing updated AirPorts, two-button mouse. Just when I was starting to believe in the 1 button mouse....

Monday, March 14, 2005

Flat Panels: Good

So while walking through Mikwaukee airport I came across two different forms of flat displays right near each other. This is the good one.

This is a display of arriving and departing flights, using flat panel technology (plasma or LCD, specific tech is unknown) mounted directly on a hallway. The metal frames offer some protection from movement in the hallway, although the screens seemed pretty heavy duty. The "box" below the screens enclosed in the small part of the frame is the electronic guts of the display. I could see power supplies and what seemed to be processors, although whether this was some standard PC based component or a specific video driver product was unknown.

The displays obviously received updated information from a networked source, and refresh. They were easy to read, and the same technology could obviously be used for a variety of display purposes, including entertainment or advertising.

Good implementation and use of flat panel technology. See above for bad.

Posted by Hello

Flat Panels: Dumb

This is someone's cheap idea of how to give the "flat panel experience" without actually using flat panels.

This is a sign at Milwaukee Airport near another display discussed below. It is essentially a sign lit from behind using fluorescent tubes, with a translucent screen in front. While a common type of sign, this one actually contains two different displays mounted on a roller device. Every few seconds (about 10 or 15) the rollers rotate to move the sign from the back to the front. Then, they roll back the other way to show you the original sign.

I suppose this creates a lot of movement which catches your attention. The problem is you quickly figure out what is going on and think "wow, what a complicated way to display two signs". Especially since a better idea is sitting right next to it.

This sign has all the mechanics to roll the signs around, probably occasionally gets jammed or suffers some mechanical breakdown. Someone needs to come in periodically and change the signs, by threading a new screen onto the rollers. All of this is obviously very custom stuff, or low volume stuff, which makes a very expensive way to handle this kind of display. All for two signs.

See below for a better method. Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Bridge Builder

While thumbing through mail from my college fraternity I saw they printed the poem The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole. This poem has been part of the lore of my fraternity for a long time.

Curiously, a Google search shows that it seems to be something of importance to many others as well.

Markl's Thoughts: Shipping Software

A Ziff Davis' link sent me to a blog posting Markl's Thoughts: Shipping Software. Mark Lucovsky is a former Microsoft "Distinquished Engineer" who had worked on the Windows NT kernel, and previously for DEC (presumably on the wonderful VMS operating system HP is in the process of killing). Mark has recently left to work for Google.

He writes in this entry about how Microsoft "used to know how to ship software", and he seems to be in Email overload right now over this. The haters probably wanting to chime in with their own Microsoft war stories. The fan boys probably wanting to chastise him for saying anything negative about the empire. Mark's comments are interesting and first person, and they remind me of a joke (probably old, so forgive me) I heard at a developer's conference last week:

A developer was confronted by an angry manager about the constantly slipping ship date for a software project. "You know, its taking you months to get this code out the door. God built the entire world in 6 days.", the manager said. The engineer replied, "Yes, but he didn't have an installed base to deal with."

This was told by John McCormick of InterSystems while explaining the challenges of the new security model for Cache 5.1.

Microsoft, of course, has the world's largest installed base. They need to deal with not upsetting that apple cart, while positioning to lock out other innovators and maintain their Windows/Office cash cow that keeps the whole house of cards up. All the while wondering what India and China and other emerging markets are going to do. It's no wonder it takes years for a specific line of code to get out the door. Others obviously have the same issue. Intuit, Lotus Notes, Oracle, etc. all certainly deal with trying to get product to customers that are cautious about the amount of work it takes to upgrade the existing data.

The pure new net-centric business models allow for instant publishing of changes. This is also the advantage of the start-up looking at existing product but getting to develop from scratch on new development tools. It seems normal for us to have a leapfrog effect of dominant product getting replaced by new dominant product over time. Microsoft has had a great run of it, as the control of the platform let's them control the pace of advancement. But Java, Linux, HTTP, emerging markets not wanting to be locked into US companies, and other pressures seem to be setting the stage for a more fundamental shift from the Intel/Windows centric computing we've become accustomed to.