Saturday, May 31, 2008

I am not an authority on anything...

Scott Hanselman posted Professionalism, Programming, and Punditry and Success as a Metric in response to Jeff Atwood's rebuttal of Alastair Rankine's post Blogging Horror.

I have been thinking about unsubscribing from Coding Horror for a long time now, and it manifested itself the other day when I joined Twitter because I decided not to follow Jeff, primarily for this reason from Alastair:

It seems quite apparent that Jeff Atwood has stepped outside his expertise recently, and that this is something he did comparatively rarely in the past.
I have no problem with any blogger "stepping outside his expertise" if they do it well by making sound arguments. The problem with Coding Horror lately is that Jeff has not been doing a good job when outside of his expertise. I am actually not sure what Jeff's expertise is, but the blog being "outside" of it has been more of a feeling than anything quantifiable. That is part of the point though of both Scott's post and Jeff's rebuttal to Alastair, with Scott summing it up the best:
I'm definitely not an authority figure on software development

I agree with both Jeff and Scott, and as I titled this post, I am not an authority on anything. I am not even in the same galaxy of RSS subscribers (as of this writing 128) or page-views (averaging slightly north of 100/day), as either of these guys so I am pretty sure I don't even have a loud voice if those are this measuring contest's metrics. The whole idea of a programming expertise though is something that I think deserves more inspection. Here is a definition of expertise:

expert skill or knowledge in a particular field
and expert:
a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area

Programming is a particularly hard discipline to reach expert in, if it's even possible, since you not only need experience shipping product for years, you have to keep renewing your knowledge on the latest versions of your entire platform. If you were only suppose to blog about the things you were expert in, the vast majority of us wouldn't be blogging.

I have also made the decision to almost entirely not write about the topic I have the most experience (10-11 years) on, shipping software that runs on Windows. Most of that is ASP.NET, followed by Windows Forms, then very distantly by MFC C++ and pure Win32 C. Since I am usually paid by someone to do that, and Windows is not my hobby anymore, I haven't been writing about it much. Instead, what I have been writing about and what I will most likely continue writing about is Apple, OS X, Xcode, Objective-C and iPhone development. I hope to ship an iPhone app as soon as the App Store is accepting submissions, so at least I will have some OS X development experience to base my credibility on. Too bad Apple's got such a restrictive NDA policy on the iPhone SDK developers or I would have written a ton of stuff on my experience on that. I do and I will continue to step outside my professional experience with movies and gaming, I don't make either professionally, but I do have strong opinions, weakly held as Jeff says.

Why do I write at all? Like Scott, I find teaching is the way I best learn something. When I either have to write it or talk about it, I learn it better. I also use my blog like Scott as a way to remember the things I want to remember. I also hope I help people learn something from time to time. So I am going to continue reading Coding Horror, but I hope Jeff takes Alastair's post as the wake-up call it is and exercise better editorial control.

Friday, May 30, 2008

In Xcode, an orange breakpoint means GDB couldn't resolve your symbol

Xcode Orange BreakpointIf you see a breakpoint in Xcode that is orange, or I actually think of it as semi-filled orange, that turns out to mean GDB could not resolve your symbol, and that breakpoint will not be hit. This condition seems to mysteriously appear, but it could turn out to be a bug in Xcode or something I mangled in my project file (I had a bad target rename experience, *shudder*). The only thing that seems to solve the problem concretely is to disable Load Symbols Lazily in Xcode Preferences Debugging tab. When I turn it off, I don't notice a performance hit, but I don't have a lot of source files or a large application, but your mileage may vary.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Joined Wakoopa, See What Applications I Use

After reading this Paul Thurrott article on Firefox 3 vs. Vista, I decided to signup for and install Wakoopa, a service that catalogs what apps you are running. You can see my usage stats here:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Follow me on Twitter

I finally joined Twitter, and it stayed up long enough for me to get through registration and follow some people. If you want to follow me, here you go:

Just as I was posting this, Twitter went down, which is what I hear most of the time, Twitter is down, but I had to join when I heard that Deric Horn, Apple Evangelist was on it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The good stuff they're not telling you about Apple's 'same day as DVD' deal

Paul Thurrott's SuperSite Blog posted What they're not telling you about Apple's 'same day as DVD' deal

Read the full post, but here are the four points Paul makes about what you aren't being told about the iTunes 'same day as DVD' deal:

  1. Apple's movies are too expensive
  2. It's for purchases only, not rentals
  3. It's not exclusive, and Apple wasn't even first to market
  4. Apple's losing money on the deal
I am only going to talk about the top two points, since I don't think the bottom two make any difference from a consumer perspective, and then add a few of my own.

Apple's movies are too expensive
Once you look at what you can actually buy movies for at just a couple places, I think the price is on the cusp of being too expensive. Put another way, this is probably the maximum price consumers will pay for a digitally downloaded movie. Look at Cloverfield (iTS link) (Juno is now rentable since Paul's post, so I picked another movie). On iTunes, it is $14.99 to buy, plus tax depending on your state, mine (NJ) taxes digital downloads. On Amazon, Cloverfield DVD is listed at $15.99 + tax and potentially shipping, just as Juno is. I walked into Best Buy yesterday, and the same Cloverfield DVD was listed at $19.99. Even at Wal*Mart, Cloverfield DVD is listed at $15.87 + tax (also potential shipping, if you buy retail or not). Actually, the fact that Apple is paying about $16 dollars (Paul's point 4) wholesale makes a whole lot more sense now, it would appear to be the wholesale price for DVDs. What do you get for your $14.99 from iTunes? Just the movie in more ways than one because iTunes movies don't include "DVD-style features" as Paul says, aka extras, but they also don't include other annoying time wasters:

  • Previews (ads) for movies you don't want to see
  • Unskippable FBI warnings or movie studio logos
  • Time wasting DVD animated menus
  • The most nefarious, unskippable previews
I am sure there are other annoying DVD practices, but Apple has distilled watching movies down to just the essence, the movie itself, good and bad missing stuff. Even the bad missing stuff, commentaries and documentaries, most people don't watch. There are those, myself included, that do use the good extras if they like the product enough and find the time. Perhaps having these "bundled" with the movie itself will become a relic of the DVD era, with that same material released online before the movie is out, or even after. Or Apple could certainly add another purchased movie tier, one with the extras, including the extra download time that entails.

So are the movies overpriced? Based on the above, it's close. But the fact that iTunes movies aren't shareable with friends and can't be resold means these movies are overpriced, way overpriced. Either the restrictions need to be lifted, meaning I can buy a "used" iTunes movie, or I can't send the rights to my copy of the movie to a friend until they give them back or I revoke them.

It's for purchases only, not rentals
It is totally inexcusable and truly makes no sense. Well it makes sense to the studios to try to artificially inflate sales, if you can't rent you have to buy. But it just delays their revenue, I am never going to buy Cloverfield, sight unseen! What's worse, is that there are movies all over iTunes that are now to only be purchased, but not rented, like Shooter (iTS link). That movie has been released on iTunes so long, it's dropped to the $9.99 price, but still not rentable. This is really very simple, movies have to come out on iTunes so they can be rented and bought the same day as a physical DVD before consuming movies this way will or can take off. I can't have to go to my dad and explain all these crazy restrictions. The uniformity of rules and prices are a huge reason why the iTunes Music Store took off. Also, notice how there are no actual release dates on the movies on iTunes. Why is that? So you can't figure out when the price is going to drop, or become rentable? Seems likely.

On Subscriptions...
Way back in 2005, I wrote this article about renewing my Xbox Live, and here is what I thought about subscriptions in general:

...I am really done with the whole subscription model. I feel this need to try and use whatever I am subscribing to as much as possible so that I feel like if I run the breakeven analysis, I am paying a fair price..., but if I don't use it that month, I get nothing for something, and that doesn't sit well with me. A subscription is always constantly on the mental To-Do list somewhere, and I just don't need anymore of those.
And that is still largely how I feel today. I have continued to pay for Xbox Live, but for instance I have maybe used the online gameplay features I have paid for once this year. You can read most of the stuff I have ever written on subscriptions here. That said, if the price was low, maybe $9.99 or $14.99 for all you could watch that month, that is in the range where I think I could sign on, because I am pretty likely to get my moneys worth out of it. Truly though, I don't think the real solution is subscriptions, just lower prices on all digital media. When you "buy" something, you are purchasing the rights to use something as many times as you want, whenever you want, loan it to a friend giving up the second right, and that you can resell it if you don't want those rights anymore. Either the model for digital media has to accomplish everything physical did, or something entirely different has to be invented. Maybe it is subscriptions, but the subscriptions models used so far have themselves been too expensive, but you never know, maybe Apple can put something together. Like $29.99 a month for everything on the iTunes Store. Then we might really be talking...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Aerosmith locked into Guitar Hero exclusivity, no Rock Band DLC, and these music games need to rethink their lock-in

Joystiq posted Aerosmith locked into Guitar Hero exclusivity, no Rock Band DLC

As an Aerosmith fan, this completely sucks. I understand the prisoner's dilemma both Harmonix and Activision face, but as a consumer, and out of pure practicality, I am upset. How many toy plastic guitars can I have around the living room before my wife, as geeky as she is and as eager to drum in Rock Band as she is, says thats enough? You can't hang any more guitars on the wall, hide two drum kits on the porch, and manage two collections of track packs from different versions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. I mean, I am saying this to myself. Both companies need to think this through. I don't believe in the Prisoner's Dilemma, that the size of the market for these kinds of songs is the same size if the both games can't play, within reason, the other's tracks. I say within reasons because there could be technical reasons why older tracks can't play with newer versions of either game, but I think you can work around that. We just went through this with HD DVD and Blu-Ray.

For anyone thinking along these lines, this is not the same as iTunes and the iPod. No matter what you buy in iTunes, even if its DRMed instead of DRM free, you can still get it out to CD and reimport to MP3 or AAC without FairPlay. With buying tracks in Rock Band or Guitar Hero, not only are the tracks locked to that game, they are locked to the console as well. I bought a bunch of stuff for Rock Band on Xbox 360, what if I want to move to PS3? My tracks are stuck, but there is no reason they should be, surely the game uses the exact same data between consoles.

Mainstream Media's Election Math Problem: Obama won NC by 14.81%, Clinton won IN by 1.46%

With 100% of North Carolina precincts reporting, here are the results (provided courtesy of CNN):
North Carolina Democratic Primary Results 08 100%

And CNN's updated, but still not complete, results from Indiana:
Indiana Democratic Primary Results 08

And the real math:
Doing the math
Here is my source worksheet in Microsoft Excel format.

So compound rounding for IN now looks ridiculous. If you round each % Won number individually, Clinton's margin of victory is still 2%, but in reality it's just 1.11%. This is just about the best case to prove how silly rounding these results are. The rounding in North Carolina now doesn't matter, rounding each % Won percent before subtracting now doesn't affect the accuracy of the reported 14% difference.

Original Post

I am no math wiz, I could have this totally wrong, but here goes. Here are the results for Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton in North Carolina (provided courtesy of CNN):
North Carolina Democratic Primary Results 08

And CNN's results from Indiana:
Indiana Democratic Primary Results 08

After Pennsylvania, when the Huffington Post pointed out that Clinton did not win by 10% like the MSM reported, but something under that, I wondered if they would commit the same crime again for North Carolina and Indiana, and it sure looks like they have:

Doing the math
Here is my source worksheet in Microsoft Excel format.

How are the MSM getting this wrong? They are rounding the % Won column before doing the subtraction, which results in a pretty significant misrepresentation of the results. Remember, according to math rounding rules, you round down any fractional amount of a number that begins with 1,2,3,4, and round up any fractional amount ending in 5,6,7,8,9. In IN, you can make the case through compound rounding that the margin was 2%, but interestingly neither Excel or Numbers will round up to 2% if you tell it to hide all decimal places. If compound rounding is used in NC, the margin is 15%. CNNs Vote % in NC doesn't make any sense, if Obama won 56.68%, you can't round him down to 56%, but round Clinton up to 42% from 41.87%. I don't know what to conclude, but here are the possibilities I see:

  • I am not correctly counting the NC No Preference percentage (I don't think this is the case)
  • A bug in their web site math
  • Intentional distorting of the math
Is it so much to ask that the MSM uses fractional percents? I mean if the american people are smart enough to handle dollars and cents (aka fractional dollars), surely in the 21st century we can manage fractional percents.