(a blog)
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
  Burn Notice and House of Love

In case anyone has been racking their brain trying to figure out why the song over the closing credits of Burn Notice seems so familiar, here's the answer: it's from the House of Love song "I Don't Know Why I Love You."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
  Cool Firefox feature

When you're viewing your browsing history via the History menu, or the dropdowns on the forward and back buttons, you can middle-click an entry to open it in a new tab.
  It's good to be handy

Though it's hard to tell in the photo, the clipboards are aluminum. The brand of tools used is key, BTW...
Monday, June 18, 2007
  Changing SCM as a metaphor for organizational change

SCM is a terrible term: officially it stands for "software configuration management," which is not very illuminating. Those with a finer appreciation for semantics prefer "software change management" or "source code management."

Currently I'm evaluating SCM systems for local use. There are a ton of freely available open-source solutions, but so far the ones I've examined miss the mark. At my previous employer, I had the pleasure of using Perforce, albeit a modified version. So I've been reading up about Perforce, and happened upon a whitepaper "Changing how you change" by Peter Jackson of Symbian Ltd. (makers of Symbian OS) and Richard Brooksby of Ravenbrook Limited (a software engineering consultancy.)

On the surface it's about how Symbian changed the internal structure of their SCM system. Omit the technical details, and it reads as a metaphor for organizational change. It contains some real gems. On a light note:

A good thing about consultants is that they can move through an organization asking awkward questions and stepping on toes in a way that is hard for internal staff to do.

But this part compelled me to circle it in red ink and annotate it with "AWESOME":

The [...] changes were very successful and it is worth reflecting on the reasons for this and to try to abstract them to help with other change projects. They fall into two sets:
  1. The prerequisites for change:
    1. The organisation is in pain;
    2. There is a solution available;
    3. Key people on the ground are able and willing to act as agents of change;
    4. Senior management support the change exercise.
  2. The execution of the change:
    1. A lot of careful planning and thought goes into the change;
    2. this is coupled with extensive communication at all levels;
    3. the engineering community is fully involved in the change;
    4. everyone affected by the change receives training and documentation.

And there's more. If you're into three letter acronyms like SCM, it offers some great advice. If you don't know your SCM from your Scrum, it still offers some great advice. A recommended read.

  Specialty office products

Think of your normal, vinyl covered 3-ring binder. How much would one of those set you back? $2? $3? Nothing, because finding spare 3-ring binders is like finding sand at the beach?

Now imagine a normal, vinyl covered 3-ring binder for pages in "landmark" orientation. That is - rotate the pages 90° and put the holes along the short side (the 8½" side, rather than the 11" side.) Printing in landmark orientation is great if you want to save paper: on each side of the paper, you can print 2 pages arranged side-by-side.

  I'm in ur binder, savin ur trees

⊗    And I'm page 2.

So how much do you think one of those will cost ya? Maybe twice as much? $4?

Try about 2,000% as much: $40. Of course, you can easily shell out $80 if you want a metal cover rather than vinyl. Insanity.

Edit 2015-03-01: Tweak wording. Fix image.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
  What I've been up to the past couple weeks

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I started a new property called StreetReviewer. The day that Google released Street View, I knew that there was an opportunity to attract some eyeballs by collecting interesting views. No great burst of insight there. Day 1 I decided there was no great rush, and went to watch friends sing karaoke. Day 2 I purchased a domain name, but worked on a property I had started a couple of days prior, Overheard In Sacramento, waiting for the DNS changes to propagate.

By day 3 I had lost first-mover advantage to several similar websites, including first-on-the-scene StreetViewr. And by "lost first-mover advantage" I mean "had my ass handed to me." Hell, I didn't even have a web 2.0-compatible domain name.

While StreetViewr was racking up tens of thousands of links/mentions on Google, I was alternating my time between adding content to my website and whoring it out via comments to blog postings that mentioned the rival. And all the links/mentions I earned on Google where those I created myself.

I clearly had the better feature set - thumbnails, comments enabled, search by category, browse by date, some hacked-together voting, even some educational content from Wikipedia. But even then the barrier to entry for a competing site would be low: the comments, categories, and browse-by-date are all "in the box" with Blogger, where the site is hosted. The thumbnails and educational content just required a few extra minutes per post, and though I hacked the voting feature together, it comes stock in some blogging software.

So I decided that I needed to transcend StreetViewr and all possible competition. That's what I've been working on the past two weeks, making little progress. I can't be explicit yet about what I'm up to.

But a couple of lessons I've learned (more later) That I hadn't known this before certainly reflects a certain naïveté - thankfully I'm a quick study.
Friday, June 08, 2007
  Fun Firefox hack: restore your last session

In older versions of Firefox, when you closed the browser window, open tabs would be lost. You could use plugins like Session Saver to restore them the next time you started Firefox. In Firefox 2.*, this became a built-in option.

Tools -> Options -> Main -> When Firefox starts -> "Show my windows and tabs from last time."

What I found annoying about Session Saver, and what I find annoying about the 2.* option, is that I rarely want to continue where I left off. Usually I just want to close the browser windows and be done with it. So the plugin/option makes me happy maybe 5% of the time. 95% of the time I have to hold down Ctrl+W until all the tabs are closed, and only then can I exit.

Also some time around Firefox 2.*, on launch it would detect if the browser shut down cleanly last time, and if not, give you the option to restore open windows and tabs. (Do you see where I'm going with this? ;)

So for the 5% of the time that I want to save the tabs I have open, I kill Firefox.

In Windows,

  1. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open the Task Manager
  2. Locate firefox.exe and click on it. Easiest way is to click the "Mem Usage" column - Firefox will usually end up at the very bottom.
  3. Right click, select "End process"
  4. Click "Yes"

The next time you start Firefox, it'll offer to open your windows and tabs.

Of course, killing Firefox manually using the Task Manager is kind of a pain. So create a shortcut on your QuickLaunch bar. Set the location to "taskkill /im firefox.exe". Now when you want to close Firefox and restore the tabs later, just click that icon.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
  Heard around the Open Source watercooler

I'm eager to get started, but I have many questions first. Most deal with parts of the manual that didn't have specific details. <snip>
Be brave! Just install [it] and play with it. Half of your questions will answer them self.
Me, about another project:
Are the handbooks considered the definitive documentation? I'm finding that they leave out many details. Can these details be found somewhere that I'm not looking? For example: <snip>... Looking on Amazon, the only book with decent reviews is Pro [Subject] Development, which I just purchased. It talks about the "guts" of [Subject] and how to extend them... What bridges the gap between the Handbooks and books such as this?
<snip> should read the code, and the code documentation... again, reading the actual code, and the comments ([Subject] code is commented nicely) in the code.
I don't believe there are any gaps between the information found in the handbooks and the Pro [Subject] Development book.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
  No rest for the wicked

I've been working around the clock on my new project (Cool pictures from Google Maps Street View.) I've recently hacked together some voting, so you can vote on the best pictures. It'll take a while for the votes to come in, but you can see a running leaderboard here. I invite you to take a look. Vote on some of the posts if you'd like. Let me know what you think.
Walter muses about running a website empire, technology, &c.

Editor of The Online Slang Dictionary, StreetReviewer, and Overheard in Sac.

Feed me XML.
E-mail me: waltergr,

People I know

/ I Wish I Were a Japanese Schoolgirl
/ If I wanted you to know...
/ Life is pretty neat
/ nawl
/ Paul Paradise
/ the robots

People I don't know

/ Don Box's Spoutlet
/ Joel on Software
/ The Old New Thing

Things I read

/ Worse Than Failure
/ Lambda the Ultimate
/ OSNews

Recent works

/ Burn Notice and House of Love
/ Cool Firefox feature
/ It's good to be handy
/ Changing SCM as a metaphor for organizational chan...
/ Specialty office products
/ What I've been up to the past couple weeks
/ Fun Firefox hack: restore your last session
/ Heard around the Open Source watercooler
/ No rest for the wicked
/ My newest project -

My corpus

α / February 2005 / March 2005 / November 2005 / June 2007 / July 2008 / ω