March 29, 2010

Pranks, apocryphal and otherwise

I’ve been posting a bit about pranks of various kinds, mainly geeky ones. But so far I’ve only covered real pranks, rather than the much funnier imaginary ones.

The classic of that genre, of course, is a certain database-oriented xkcd comic strip. (If you haven’t instantly guessed what I’m talking about, you must see that strip.) And in a similar vein, I further offer six examples of xkcd’sMy Hobbystrips. (The last two are not for the sexually squeamish, but the others are pretty G-rated.)

One thing I just learned about xkcd — if you mouse over the strip, you get another joke. Some are almost as funny as the main strip. So even if you have already seen the database-classic xkcd linked above, you might want to revisit it. ;)

In a very different vein is Dadhacker’s list of real or imaginary past shenanigans, (Edit: The original link is fried, but here’s a partial replacement) which starts:

I am not permitted to replace a coworker’s reference books (including his Knuth, Sedgewick, and C++ reference manuals) with several linear feet of steamy hardback romance novels.

I will not name my variables after nasty tropical diseases, or executives who are under indictment for fraud.

Elevators are not toys, nor should they ever be wired into the corporate net.

Funny and vaguely prankish (and not for the language-squeamish) is this non-xkcd comic about NoSQL. And finally (definitely also for the non-squeamish), see the first long comment in this Reddit thread, which seems to have successfully pranked a whole lot of readers.

November 23, 2009

Boston Big Data Summit keynote outline

Last month, Bob Zurek asked me to give a talk on “Big Data”, where “big” is anything from a few terabytes on up, then moderate a panel on cloud computing. We agreed that I could talk just from notes, without slides. So, since I have them typed up, I’m posting them below.

Read more

August 21, 2009

Bottleneck Whack-A-Mole

Developing a good software product is often a process of incremental improvement. Obviously, that can happen in the case of feature addition or bug-fixing. Less obviously, there’s also great scope for incremental improvement in how the product works at its core.

And it goes even further. For example, I was told by a guy who is now a senior researcher at Attivio: “How do you make a good speech recognition product? You start with a bad one and keep incrementally improving it.”

In particular, I’ve taken to calling the process of enhancing a product’s performance across multiple releases “Bottleneck Whack-A-Mole” (rhymes with guacamole). This is a reference to the Whack-A-Mole arcade game,* the core idea of which is:

Read more

July 24, 2009

Not-so-great moments in planning

xkcd nails it again.

July 2, 2009

Storage humor

A Microsoft Answers message board got the question:

I’ve noticed that as I copy data/install programs on my Laptop, the weight of the Laptop increases. I have a bad back and am medically limited on the amount of weight I can carry so I need to be very carefull not to inflict injury upon myself.

I have also noticed my XBox feels heavier as well (the more games I save or purchase from arcade). I generally don’t travel with my XBox so that is not an issue for me, but note the I am having the same results.

My ask, what is the weight/file ratio? So for example, how many GB’s = 6oz? I dread the day I need a dolly to commute to work with my Laptop.

Hilarity ensued.

June 30, 2009

Is Expressor Software accomplishing anything?

Expressor Software is putting out a ton of press releases to the effect that it has signed up another reseller/systems integration partner or, in some cases, sponsored a webinar.  Less clear is whether Expressor is selling much of anything, delivering product people care about, and so on.  The one time I visited, Expressor told me that user interface was its strength, then showed me something very primitive and explained — as the famed joke* would have it — how good it was going to be.

*That would be the Thrice-Married Virgin, although I’ve recently seen versions in which the poor unfortunate was married 12 times.  The last husband on the list is always a computer or software salesman, who keeps telling her how good it is going to be.  I first heard  the joke from Flip Filipowski. I decided it must not be too terribly sexist after hearing Sandy Kurtzig tell it to a group stock analysts.

Am I missing anything major?

Edit: I emailed the company on May 8, asking what Expressor had in the way of customers.  There has been no response.

June 14, 2009

MMO games are still screwed up in their database technology

Two years ago I wrote about the database technology of Guild Wars. Not coincidentally, Guild Wars was the MMO RPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) I then played. I had the chance to interview Guild Wars’ lead developers. While much else they had to say was impressive, Guild Wars’ database architecture was — er, it was rather mind-boggling.

Since then, Linda and I have taken to playing Lord of the Rings Online, commonly known as LOTRO, developed by Turbine, Inc.. I haven’t had the chance to interview any Turbine folks, despite repeated requests. But from afar, it would seem that Turbine’s technology choices leave quite a bit to be desired, in enterprise-like IT areas such as authentication, database management, and storage.

LOTRO and other Turbine games commonly are down, for scheduled maintenance or in some cases otherwise. There is scheduled multi-hour downtime to start many weeks. There are fairly frequent server restarts in addition to that. Lag and congestion are frequent. And so on and so forth. By way of contrast, Guild Wars very rarely goes down, and other technical difficulties are less common as well. Reliability is a key design goal for Guild Wars’ developers, and in my opinion they’ve achieved it.

Some of the reasons for Turbine’s difficulties seem related to the stresses of MMOs — e.g., they’re probably due to the problems caused by having many fictional characters moving through the same fictional space at once, with graphical detail much richer than Guild Wars’. But a couple of head-scratchers make me really wonder about how Turbine manages data. Read more

May 27, 2009

Song of the contract programming firm, and other filks

I heard a different version of the same idea at Boskone once, but here is a pretty good send-up of what might occur at a customer review session.  (Warning, however: Low production values.) Also, in case you missed them, considerably funnier are a couple of classic Star Trek filksongs, especially the first.

While I’m on the subject, a couple of more serious filksongs I really like are:

Other great serious filksongs are “Queen of Air and Darkness” (Poul Anderson lyrics) and Jordin Kare’s “When the Ship Lifts, All Debts Are Paid”, but I can’t find recordings of those now.

And finally, back to the humor: I just found a video to a song I posted previously.

May 12, 2009

Chuck Norris Java jokes

There’s a long list of Chuck Norris Java jokes.  Most are pretty lame, but I liked a few, including:

April 1, 2009

Donald Farmer knocks the April Fool 8-ball out of the park

Donald Farmer has an excellently-crafted April Fool post about a revolution in business intelligence. Look at the character names, for example.

I wonder whether Donald learned operations research from that textbook where two main decision-making characters were Mark Off and his father Pop, an example company was Edifice Wrecks, and an example CEO was Dawn Shirley Light …

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