Software Is Hard

A great post from 2007 by Kyle Wilson explains [why “software is hard”]( Wilson was part of the team that tried to extend the Myst franchise into Myst Online and he is familiar with the folks who worked on the Chandler project. While he seems to believe that software is necessarily, and uniquely, complex, I would argue that many of his observations are applicable to all large projects, especially when they involve collaboration. (And peer-based collaboration seems to fall into some of these problems more than ones organized by hierarchy — shades of the cathedral and the bazaar, I know.)

The End of the World As We Know It

In the car this evening Lily asked, “Daddy, when does that show with Stephen Hawking come on?”

” I don’t know. We can check when we get home. Why do you ask?”

“There have been a lot of commercials about it. He says he knows how the world will end. I think I’d like to know how the world is going to end. Don’t you want to know?”


“I don’t think Mommy knows. She’ll probably want to know, too.”

“I’m sure she will.”

“I think it’s important.”

On the Way to School

On the way to school this morning, Lily glimpsed a mourning dove: “Daddy, I saw a mourning dove.” And with that one observation, the following narrative unfolded:

“I think it was Butter, Daddy.” (I had dubbed two mourning doves that frequented our back yard last year, Butter and Garlic. Later, B & G were joined by a half dozen friends, who were all taking advantage of us dumping piles of bird food on the patio. Within a week a hawk turned up on Lily’s play set and the doves were seen less frequently.)

“Do you think our friends are still around, honey?”
“Yes, and they have a new friend, too!”
“Who’s that?”
“Toast!” Peals of triumphant laughter.

As our drive continued, it turns out that Butter and Garlic and Toast occasionally played with a hummingbird, but eventually that friendship disbanded in favor of a fourth mourning dove called Berry Bush. While B & G were boy birds, T and BB were girl birds. The occasional fifth bird, Greckle — who was not a grackle, was also a boy bird. They liked to play games in a field on Mount Vernon, the street on which we travel on the way to Lily’s school, and therefore won’t be far from our new home.

Keynote for iPad Guidelines

Apple has released guidelines for creating Keynote presentations on a Mac that will be used on an iPad. The highlights include:

  • the resolution to use (1024 x 768)
  • themes to use (e.g., only the more bland Apple-provided ones)
  • fonts to use (anything else reverts to Helvetica)
  • a limited set of master slides
  • pre-scaled images, with PNG being the preferred format

I don’t own Keynote for iPad, so I can’t make any comments on this or the other restrictions involved. I do own Pages for iPad, and I largely don’t see it utility until Apple comes up with a better way to handle file transfer from the iPad to the Mac. Like the iPhone, users do not have direct access to directories, where files are saved on the iPad is obscured from the user while using the iPad as well as when you are syncing with iTunes. Worse, Apple offers no real way to sync things via their own syncing apparatus on MobileMe. (Others have written about this insanity stupidity. If anyone is interested, let me know and I can add the links to the story here.)

Agricultural Equivalents

In an episode of Modern Marvels on the History channel, the history of agricultural labor was delineated as follows:

* With a sickle, one man could harvest one acre of land a day. This remained the standard from the time of the Egyptians until the sixteenth century when the scythe was invented in what is now modern day Germany.
* With a scythe, one many could harvest three acres of wheat a day.
* With the McCormick reaper, a farmer could harvest twelve acres in a day.

iPad Second Impressions

I’m working on a fuller discussion of my use of GoodReader on the iPad that I will post soon, but as I continue to put the Apple tablet through its paces, I thought I would post notes as I go.

First, I should note that I am in fact composing this on the iPad and that typing on it, while in landscape mode, is far easier than I would have imagined. I can actually imagine doing some serious work like this. It’s a little difficult to get the iPad proposed just right in your lap, but once you’ve achieved some ergonomic compromise, you can type pretty well. (Note that I am not a touch typist and so I may be more open to alternative keyboards than better typists are. I know that my typing follows no best practice ever devised.)

Second, the iPad needs a case. Either the Apple case or something like the MarWare EcoFolio case. If you are using this thing around the house especially, it just doesn’t feel quite right to lay it down unprotected — this will make more sense to those readers with children and/or pets. The smooth aluminum back feels too “slidy” and the glass top just a hair too nice and fragile not to have something to flip over it when not in use. Something that stays attached is going to be better precisely because the iPad is so easy to use that you find yourself moving about with it, and chances are you’re going to put it down in a different place than where you started … And where did you leave that slip case.

I bought an inexpensive Kensington slip case to use while waiting for something better to come available — it was $5.99 on Amazon — but using a slip case on the iPad is not the same as using one on a laptop. The primary problem is that the controls of the iPad remain exposed while you are putting the slip case on, and while the unit is inside, and so you can too easily turn it on.

## Surfing Mobile Safari

Web browsing in mobile Safari on the iPad is as amazing an experience as many observers commented. There really is something quite … Er, magical? … to touching a link with your finger tip rather than clicking it with a mouse. And all the other features of the multi-touch user experience really come to life on this size screen/UI.

Given this, this lovely touch interface, it boggles the mind that *Show Top Sites* is not a built-in part of the Mobile Safari interface. There’s room in the toolbar.

The second question mark for Mobile Safari is the lack of *Find* functionality. Again, there’s room in the toolbar.

More observations as they come.

Movie Magic

The great thing about this particular parody is that by its very nature of offering up abstractions it successfully outlines the structure of American narrative film. I can easily see using this in a film studies course.

And, yes, it’s just plain funny.