Monday, September 27, 2004

Programmers without borders

 Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/meshel/archive/2004/09/27/11764.aspx


I realize my company is a bit late for the trend, but we too have been, in the past year or so, moving some work to outsourcing companies abroad (awaking markets).

As a general policy we only send out projects that are not deemed to be our core technology focus, meaning that the company does not want to deal with learning and maintaining software that is not directly involved with what we do.

So for example, we have a client who wants to integrate our product into his enterprise environment, we would send him to one of our partner companies, or if we want to develop some component to plugin to our product (say an IVR) we contract some outside help, since there is no logic in hiring new programmers to do this, and the existing ones, are way to busy to start learning new platforms.

The savings are said to be big (I'm not involved with the numbers), but this process causes some other problems with which we have to deal.

Language Barriers - although everyone speaks english, and pretty well. still, different cultures, and different customs (Corporate as well as country) - are causing mis-conceptions, and different understanding of what is being said.

Interests -

1. obviously, both companies want to succeed, however, the budget pie is small, and no one wants to be the one to pay the unplanned expenses, so there is always a battle here.

2. The outsourcing company, may have other, bigger projects, which will use resources that they can not then allocate to your project - this is especially true after a project is finished and is in it's support phase. Who will support the client. Remember - even if by contract they are committed to support, the bad image is still reflected mainly on the vendor (us).

3. Testing/QA - every company has different standards, working in a tight timeline (time IS money) forces you sometimes to a corner, which could have been resolved internally.

However, there are a lot of benefits as well.

1. Money - as I said the bigwigs claim it really saves a lot

2. Allows company programmers to be more focused on their product, not constantly being pulled of work to do side jobs for clients.

3. You get to meet a lot of people, and also get to share Ideas which would never have been available. You learn to work in a specific thought process, and someone from outside can show you sometimes different (and better) ways of thinking.

 

So am I all for outsourcing? well, seeing that it could put me someday out of my job - my team being thought of as non-core technology.... Then no. not really.  Do I know the benefits? Yes. So what do I really think - It depends on the circumstances :-)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Books I just finished reading (Why not to start reading Dan Brown)

 Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/meshel/archive/2004/09/20/11410.aspx


Hi,

I'm back from the Jewish new year holiday, also known as Rosh-Hashana. During this long weekend (from wednesday until sunday) I did a lot of praying and eating, that what we do :-)

I also managed to read a few books in the meantime, more to the point, I read all four books by Dan Brown:
Angels And Demons
The Da-Vinci Code
Deception Point
Digital Fortress

Why? well my mother wanted me to buy the Da Vinci code, and I admittedly drawn by the hype, decided to buy them all, and now I regret it.

What can I say, Dan brown can write a fast paced novel, I think all four happen in the span of 24 hours (each) give or take a few hours. The books hold you, I had a lot of fun reading. However, Brown uses a lot of “facts“ in his books, and claims them to be non-fiction - this caused some issues for me.

Also the plot, after reading one book, is not surprising anymore - with the exception of Da Vinci, it is always quite clear who the villain is (I won't put spoilers here), and you know exactly when that fact will be revealed to the reader (about one chapter before the end, if not less)

Clearly Mr. Brown does not know his technology, he is wrong about many small and larger details, actually the book I enjoyed the most - Deception Point, seems to me like mostly pure fantasy, although Brown claims the technologies are real - I hope they are!

Digital Fortress is by far the worst book - just show me a single intelligence agency in the world that does not work 24/7 - it is just plain dumb.

In each novel a single man with great ambitions, manages to pull together an elaborate scam planned for months, and it is thwarted at the last minute by some hero/heroine by solving a puzzle - go figure.

Even while reading I caught some very problematic claims by Brown, He claims that he invested a lot in research, but it seems not be so (not to mention the ton of websites and books that attack almost every word he wrote as a lie). For example he uses Jehova (the name of GOD) to claim that it symbolises Yen-Yang (Jah for male, Hava for female), however, this is not the hebrew name at all, it is a translation into english, of a totally different name, which represents in hebrew the true name of GOD, and has nothing to do at all, with the meaning Brown is trying to give it. and by that trying to distort what the true belief of Judaism is, claiming it to be some paganic religion, that engages in sex rituals (where do I sign up :-).

I am not very fond of the Catholic Church, throughout history, it wasn't very nice to my people, and indeed was not nice to many others, also it is quite clear as with any organized religion - that the organization (i.e. the church) does many things on political grounds. But still Brown can't seem to decide if he wants to demonize or praise the church.

All in all, I guess these are fun books to read, if you make sure you don't take anything written there seriously, the problem is Brown does everything in his power to attempt to convince you that it is indeed real.

A pleasure for all you conspiracy lovers - I'm waiting to see what secret cult really planned and executed 9/11

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Anybody want's to buy me a birthday present???

 Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/meshel/archive/2004/09/12/11030.aspx


Back to geekiness :-)

Via Engadget

Logitech's Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headset

Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headset

Almost forgot to mention that Logitech rolled out a new Bluetooth cellphone headset yesterday. It’s usually hard to get all that jazzed up about yet another wireless headset, but the big deal about the Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headset is that it uses a little something called Adaptive Frequency Hopping (we’re not entirely sure how this is different from Bluetooth’s integrated frequency hopping spread-spectrum—FHSS) to reduce any possible interference you might experience from WiFi or anything else that might be causing intereference around the 2.4GHz part of the spectrum that Bluetooth uses. It’s also got something Logitech calls WindStop, which supposedly reduces noise from wind hitting the mic; it weighs just an ounce and you should be able to get about seven hours of talk time on this baby.

Red Sea Jazz Festival 2004 - Continued....

 Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/meshel/archive/2004/09/12/11028.aspx


Because of a comment on my blog, I decided to write a bit more on the Jazz festival I went to. I thought this would be a geek centric blog, but I find, that I don't have that much geekiness to blog about :) which I believe in a way is good!

So to the tale of the festival.

The Red Sea Jazz festival is an Israeli tradition going back 18 years now, it began small as all thing begin, and has grown over the years, to be a true international festival, although, naturally most visitors are Israeli.

It is divided nearly to two between Israeli and International artists, over the years it has come to also host some third world music, which some feel (including myself) that is not a good direction - even though the shows are good - still it is a bit confusing for the average listener to be switched between so many styles, in such a short time.

The festival this year, and also in previous year, like Israel, is very fast going. on the course of 4 days (nights actually) you get to see about 20 concerts (there are 2 playing simultaneously, so actually there are 40 concerts of which most are played twice). You get about 15 minutes between the different concerts which makes you run fast, if you don't want to miss - or if you want a better seat. This causes an epidemic of leaving concerts early (so people get out in the middle of a concert to get a better seat in the next one).

Over the past few years the amount of people coming in, has risen immensely, by thousands. it is amazing to see so many people being so calm and enjoying themselves - so in contrast to the usual way of behavior in our country. as Josh commented - people actually stand in line....

I have to say I too appreciate the organization, the efficiency with which the security measures are applied - a necessary thing in our time :( and even the customer oriented view of the people who do the selling (also very un-Israeli). I had the pleasure of having some administrative problem to do with money, and issue was so nicely solved that I am still in shock.

The festival itself, this year had a few big names, which as usually came out the worst as performance (this always happens here, and usually you can't really blame anyone). This years fiasco was John Scofield (guitar) and Charlie Hayden (bass). which are recognized around the world as masters. These two giants, came to give a Duo concert, and tell me, what can be more exciting to a Jazz enthusiast?

The concert had several problems:
1. The variety of shows - you can't switch fast enough between a display of fast, energetic band playing Latin Jazz (Obi-Oba) a very nice and fun concert, where you want to dance, to these two masters who put on such a deep and slow show - which as a show by itself would probably be a great thing to hear, And right back to the Hagay Merhavia quartet (again fast brazilian tempo). The short interval between the shows and the huge differences in style. This is very hard to overcome for the listener - obviously they come out un-satisfied.

2. The sound problems especially in their second performance, they had the pleasure of hearing the sound of the other show while playing. this wasn't easy not for the listeners and of course the artists, who complained.

Other than this it was a really great festival, lots of energies and fun, if you decide to come next year, be sure to come also to the Jam sessions held in the hotel pool - what goes on there is just amazing - the combinations and results of professional artists coming together on a completely unplanned way on the stage - is what I believe is what Jazz is all about...

A band to look for in your city, if you're looking for a great show - The Bad Plus! should be playing in New York City the end of this month (http://www.thebadplus.com) - They define themselves as a band or a power piano trio (of which I believe BAND is a better definition). You can't call them Jazz - in fact you can't really call them anything. Just great music! if it is their own compositions, or their *covers* for compositions by others (Smells Like Teen Spirit, Iron man - by Black Sabbath, Gloria - pixies, or even Ornette Coleman). I saw their show twice - there was a person nice enough to give me two tickets for free!!!!!!!! he said he had nothing to do with them (he had 4 tickets, and the two other people coming couldn't make it...).

There were many other great shows (Russel Gun, Eric Troufaz, Avi Leibouvits Orchestra, Percadu - amazing!!!, Isra-Dixie Band), and some bad ones (Sindy Blackman - which I didn't enjoy at all, a lot of hype over nothing really). But this post has grown way to long........ So I'll say goodbye for now.

Just for the finish, I met many nice people at the festival, one of the things that was the biggest shock to one of the people from the USA I met, was the amount of teenagers that came to hear the concerts. He told me that in the US, Jazz is considered "old people" music, In Israel many young people are very much into Jazz (of course some older people as well, but the young are the big crowd). This strikes me as peculiar. I am quite young (27), and I see Jazz as THE music to listen to. I enjoy good music from any genre, but I am most moved by Jazz.

Another nice point in the festival is their co-operation with a CD store that operates in Eilat, that during festival time, there is a huge discount on Jazz CD's (and a very big selection). I came back with 30 CD's. (I'm crazy I know, but I just can't ignore the prices)

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Grayson - The trailer

 Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/meshel/archive/2004/09/07/10771.aspx

Grayson Trailer - Via the Kevin Schofield Weblog

If you haven't seen this already - please run and do... Let's hope they make a full length motion picture out of this.

  

Grayson

I just found this, surfing the web this morning -- an independent filmmaker made a trailer for a movie that will never get made: "Grayson." (look uner "movies")

The heyday of superheroes has long since past. Dick Grayson has grown up, retired from the superhero sidekick gig, married Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) and is living the quiet family life.

Until Batman is killed, and the corrupt government of Gotham City (led by Chief O'Hara) is dragging its feet on the investigation of Batman's death. So our protagonist chooses to get back in the game.

The corruption runs deep, and Superman and Wonder Woman are implicated. Lots of familiar faces -- both heroes and vallians -- cross the screen, including a very well-cast Joker.

howstuffwork.scom has an article on the making of this trailer/film that makes for fun reading. It definitely has the feel of a low-budget ($16k) indy film, and a couple of the actors are a little over-the-top, but it's interesting to think about trailer-as-art-form in its own right and it's a highly entertaining 5-minute film.

One of my favorite things about it is the mood -- a quiet, seething Dick Grayson, ready to explode with the right provocation. In a sense, there are strong shades of Hamlet here -- death of his "father" under strange circumstances sends protagonist into a brooding search for truth and justice against corrupt power and authority.

Batman at its best -- in the original stories, in the graphic novels, in the first movie under Tim Burton's direction -- was never about special effects. It was about pure, raw emotion. It was about how intelligence and wealth can't paper over a seething rage. It's about madness -- in the villains where it's out of control, in the heroes who try to control it, and the very fine line between the two. It was about what drives a vigilante to take matters into his own hands. This movie/trailer captures that essence. It's amazing what you can do in a 5-minute low budget film. The filmmaker also did a "making of" piece -- about 5 times as long as the trailer itself -- which is equally entertaining and worth watching.


Sunday, September 5, 2004

Living in Israel is hard for a geek!

 Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/meshel/archive/2004/09/05/10686.aspx


What can I say, it is a hard life being a geek in Israel. Nothing is available, and even when it is - it is so expensive.

Yes you can consider this a rant, whine, whatever, just that when I look on the web and see all these wonderful gadgets that can be mine, or all those available TV channels, or even something as simple as doughnuts or bagels....

You know, you have no idea, you in the US of A, how good you have it.

One advantage though :( it helps me save my money (for what, who knows?!)

Back to the drawing board (actually back to MS Word)

 Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/meshel/archive/2004/09/05/10687.aspx


Well the last big project is mostly behind me, which means I delivered all I had to, and now waiting for the rejects, stuff that need to be fixed etc.

Actually I delivered it on thursday, but had to endure some questions and problems that our indian engineer friends encountered (imagine me, debugging their C++ code, me a simple VB coder, but amazingly I did it :) ).

So today, I back to my (almost) least favorite work, creating Technical Designs for new features, we are revamping the software API - my design was selected (YAY!!!). I think that I actually created quite a nice framework to do all of the APIs via a single generic interface (won't bother you with the details, but it's quite nice)

Anyway, the downside of this is, that once the framework is finished - someone also has to write the APIs themselves - and guess who that is???? Duh! you got it, me! (not all of them, but obviously, the most frustrating ones)...

Explaining about them won't tell you much, but needless to say, the system is quite complex, and navigating around it trying to implement such a basic feature as create event, is not a small thin, especially when we need to re-write the whole piece of crap. BANG!

So now I'm writing up a word document, explaining to all those who might want to know in the company, exactly what I wan to do, and try to find what areas (all) will be affected, include some Visio Drawings, and the rest of that boring stuff. Actually I like having a good technical design to work with, I find it easier to code, if I thought about everything first and set it all up logically on a piece of paper. but that doesn't have to mean I like doing it. :(

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Back from the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat

 Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/meshel/archive/2004/09/02/10563.aspx

Just returned from a company wide week long leave, which means that the company (or at least the Israeli branch) closed down for a whole week. Why? don't ask me, they decided that this will save costs, and it was good for me. since I usually don't know how to go on vacation (I have over 40 days to use :()

And back to work, into the middle of an urgent project, involving too many developers spread out on three continents (at least), and too many unknowns.

I'm right at the center of it, with deadlines to meet (today there is a nice delivery to make).

Geek experience of the week:

I don't know if this exists in the USA, but here in Israel it is a very happy first for me. There is this coffee shop (think starbucks) in Israel, called Aroma. Very good, and the coffee is a lot better than starbucks. It works in much the same way as starbucks, you get on the line, order whatever you want, pay, and then wait until your name is called, and retrieve your order. This can get quite annoying when the place is packed (and it usually is).

This time I came, and Lo and Behold, a Touch Screen Kiosk, at the front of the shop, lets you order anything you want (has the entire menu for selection, and lets you write comments.)- no need for explaining to the cashier or handling pressure, just swipe your credit card and ask for what you want. The order gets printed right away for the kitchen, and very fast - you get your food+drinks. It was so much fun, I ordered twice...