Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

20 March 2008

Hitler Speaks - Documentary about Hitler's Private Videos

It is a rare thing when two of my most significant interests come together with such a sense of wonder. One of the postings on digg today was a documentary about software developed to improve the quality of lip reading even when the individual turns away as much as 100 degrees. The software was amazing and listening to the resulting audio was equally astounding. The video is just over forty-five minutes, so curl up on the couch and watch it:

Many of Hitler's private videos have no audio. For the first time, lip recognition software can find what he said in them. [From Hitler Speaks - Documentary about Hitler's Private Videos]

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03 October 2007

Cognitive Advantages of AccuRev

I was having a discussion about AccuRev and branching today at the office. We are still transitioning some projects over to it, so there is some development using SourceSafe and some using AccuRev. The effort required to maintain even a minimal isolation with two branches is hugely largely than the same task in AccuRev. In the midst of this discussion a thread about complex branch management and traditional SCM systems was brought to my attention. Just look at the images on the Microsoft Branching and Merging Primer. The graphs themselves become steadily more difficult to understand as you move from simple branches down to code-promotion and component branching.

Meanwhile, a project I am managing right now, in AccuRev, is actively using both code-promotion and component (sub-project branching). We have the classic Product_Rel->Product_QA->Product_Int streams which allow us to ensure development is stable before moving issues to QA. The QA department can verify the changes function before moving them to Rel. The release build is then an aggregation of all of the features which really work together.

Additionally, we have three streams below Product_Int for sub-projects. First, is a stream for merges from a product developmed in VSS. We promote changes from it in cohesive groups, but only as time permits. If this stream gets out of sync with its parent, we take note of overlaps and resolve them in the merge source stream without destabilizing the Product_Int stream. This permitted us to merge little bits at a time over a period of four weeks. We also have a stream devoted to refactoring a specific subsystem. It too is able to take advantage of overlap notification to stay in sync with its parent. Finally, we have a time-locked stream which we use to service an internally released tool. This structure, though technically more complex than those depicted above, is far simpler for us to maintain and use; even for people who do not eat, sleep and breathe SCM. Why?

After some thought this is what I wrote to the person who pointed out the primer:
The thing I have been noticing is that people with AccuRev perceive "branches" differently, more as a natural feature of a source tree. I sincerely believe that is a result of the visualization provided by the stream and versions browsers. They arm people with a clear cognitive model, whereas the old folder and file approach can only effectively visualize branches as folders, just like everything else. The result is that AccuRev users can both depict and describe a complex branching structure much more easily, and users of traditional systems generate crazy graphs which do more to obscure the branches than illuminate them.

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04 April 2007

Dell Inspiron 6400

My sweet new Dell has finally arrived, complete with Core2 Duo power (woohoo!). I did notice a weird problem when closing the lid, even temporarily. The windows would resize and reposition as if the screen size was changed to 800x600. I searched and searched and came up with this answer:

Fix: Close lid on laptop changes screen resolution
Annoying problem when close lid action set to "do nothing"

All is well now!


02 March 2007

Crazy Cell Phone

In general, I am pretty cheap where cell phones are concerned. We all have the pay-as-you-go service from Virgin Mobile USA which costs as little as $15 per quarter (Tandy and our oldest). I use my phone a bit more than that, nonetheless my rates are quite low. When I am out of time; I am out of time. No huge bill at the end of the month.

Anyhow, the girls bought me the Slice by UTstarcom (Phone Scoop) for Christmas. When I first received the phone it was great. My old slider, which I had for two years, was wearing out terribly and it was time for an upgrade. The phone is, however, possessed by gremlins! I lock the phone every time I put the darn thing in my pocket, but nonetheless as I pull it out some button calls 911!! You can imagine my horror the first time it occurred. It happens so often now, that I've gotten accustomed to the experience and just push the terminate call button. I struggled to love the phone, heck it has a great Texas Hold'em Poker game, until...

On Thursday I was sitting in my office working when I heard two people talking quietly. I looked toward the door and found it closed. There was no one standing outside my office. Suddenly, I realized the people are in my pocket! I fished the darn phone out and there was an active call with two people chatting about something. I was so upset I stabbed the terminate call button and was ready to throw the thing in the trash can. Just sitting at my desk and bumping into my chapstick or pocket knife was enough for it to engage. I pressed the call history button to see what the number was and the phone responded, "Phone is locked, press * to unlock." Whatever...

I am going to buy another cell phone before I wind up charged with littering for throwing this one out of a window. I took today off since we were pretty sure it would be a snow day and it would let me spend time with the girls before heading to GITA 2007. While Circuit City ineptly prepared Tandy's new iMac, they sent it home without its power cable, we sought refuge in the Maine Mall drinking iced chai, steamed milk and looking at the cell phones. The Mall was a ghost town, so the young bucks in the cell phone kiosks were hungry and aggressive. After so long with Virgin Mobile USA, who have been great for us, I just could not bring myself to sign a contract. It seemed so...binding and restrictive...so final! On the other hand, Motorola KRZR was incredibly sexy to a gadget freak like myself. I must have touched every cell phone in the entire Maine Mall, which is really saying something, In the end, I went home still bearing my stupid old possessed-by-gremlins cell phone.

I took a closer look at what Virgin Mobile USA could offer me to replace this evil Slice. While I had Bluetooth on my required list this morning, I've since realized that the minimum $100 bump in pricing is probably not worth the convenience. Actually, I am totally sure. I am thinking about taking the easy way out and going with the Slider Sonic, a natural upgrade to the Slider which served me well for two years.

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