Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Please take my money

When Adobe Lightroom beta came out, I started using it immediately. The software just rocks and instantly transformed by workflow. The moment it came out of beta I went to www.adobe.com to buy it. Guess what, they refused to sell me and my beta expires in February.

Last December when I was in London I decided to give the iTunes gift cards a try: you see, iTunes has decided that Estonia is not worthy of their service. Amazingly enough it worked. Apparently it is illegal to buy music on-line from Estonia but it is perfectly legal for an Estonian to go and purchase the card from their most convenient Shaftsbury's and even redeem it later from Estonia.

Do you know which DVD region Estonia belongs to? No? It's in the same region as Russia, Mongolia, India and most of Africa. Makes sense, doesn't it. Of course most Estonians get their DVDs from Mongolia rather than Finland, UK or USA.

What is this, people? Why on earth has it be so darn complex to get proper legal content over here? Have you guys considered that you might actually make more money this way?

It's quite strange, that first the music industry makes it next to impossible to buy their stuff and then wonders when piracy levels go through the roof. I can now almost hear people go "but why don't you just go out and buy the CD instead". Consider the population of Estonia, consider the percentage of people who like a particular niche style (like old-school Heavy Metal or a little off-mainstream hip-hop) and you get down to approximately five people which means nobody is ever going to consider them a viable market. There is, of course, amazon.com, but the media industry execs should know their audience better than that. Very few people are willing to wait three weeks to get a CD they'd like to listen on their way home.

While we are at it, can anybody explain me why DRM is supposed to work? The delivery channel looks like this:

content provider ->device->consumer

Unless I am mistaken the last part between the device and consumer can not be easily protected (how do you wire my brain for DRM?). Anybody who knows anything about cryptography tells you that it does not make sense to protect just a part of the channel: it should be all or nothing. Hence, no DRM system is never going to do anything but make it more difficult for consumers to consume. Which does not really make sense, does it?

Back to the question of Lightroom: there is no legal way for me to participate in the pre-order campaign. Luckily enough I happen to know some people in UK who might be able to purchase a copy for me. It's either that or astalavista.box.sk.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How to become an arhcitect? Huh?

I was so outraged by an article referenced by TSS that I just could not help put create this post. Would you believe it, that somebody actually goes out and defines how to become an architect. What the heck is that? It's like trying to define how to become an artist or how to compose music or how to become a leader. Sure, there are technical skills to gather and you must read and have experience and all that but at the end of the day it comes down to sheer talent. Of having a vision and being able to execute on it. Anybody claiming they have guidelines on how to become one or in fact who an architect is and what it does clearly does not understand organizations and the software development process.

There, I said it. Luckily enough there is still hope as some comments on the page seem to reflect the same viewpoint.

Will go and try to calm down, promise.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Revelations

Was in Tartu last with Mari last week for several reasons, one of which was to go to see "Kits õnge ja viiuliga", which is part of the Artists trilogy by Mart Kivastik. Although some critics say the play is no good, I must object. I have never ever had such an deep-reaching experience before. Aleksander Eelmaa managed to play the role of Elmar Kits with such a clarity and sense that I thought I was looking into a mirror. It was all there. My fears, my feelings towards things unfinished, aging, friends, desires it was all there.

During the pause I wrote the following. I meant to post it separately but figured one would need some context:
I do not know how to deal with debt. I just keep on giving and giving and can never find a suitable time to ask for it payed back. There is not even a thought of that. Although I need it, badly. I need it.

I have never had many friends. The few there were have grown apart or have been forgotten. I don't want to forget, I still remember them but can't find a way to tell them. What would there be to say anyway?

But still I remember the friends and the times we had.

"Tardo liin, va pordumaja"

Huh, guess visiting Tartu makes me nostalgic.

To make it short: to learn most of things about me, go and watch that piece in Tartu or Vinnistu. And Mr.-s Eelmaa and Kivistik (also Tõnu Oja) are a bunch of geniuses.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rebellion in wonderland

Do you know the feeling that somebody asks you a question about a decision you have made and you can't remember why you made that decision? Even more, with every question your decisions seems more and more unwise. Well, I just had this experience.

I have designed (actually put down a design that a team has come up with) a system that involves separating front- and back-end systems with a layer of request-response queues to improve robustness. The system has been mostly built already and is due to go into the QA cycle when some people in operations started asking questions about why we needed these queues. Indeed, as there has been a while since I was deeply involved in the design details, I could not come up with a better answer than "This makes the system more robust" without believing it myself. We ended up giving the topic a good brainwhacking and ended up with a decision to proceed as planned.

I guess this is something every project faces: at the very end somebody questions a decision nobody actually remembers reasoning for and manages to convince enough people that a design change is necessary. The only wise thing to do at this point is to note the suggestion and proceed as planned, because the cost of (and risks associated with) change goes up exponentially as the time goes. Hence, even small changes can prove disastrous at the final phase of a project. Ah, but the temptation is big and the guy might actually be right and if you as a project manager have not noticed the rebellion early enough a lot of people might already be infected and support the change. Tough luck, this is what you get for becoming a project manager. Or an architect.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In London once again

Am in London again. That's not a big deal but I'd like to share two things with you. The first is the Danubius hotel I'm staying at. What a roach-hole! Never seen a TV that is so small and with such a bad picture, the shower has about third a inch of travel between bitterly cold and boiling hot, the reception is strange and unfriendly, at some point there was a loud bang in the corridor and minutes later the manager called to check up if I was OK and so on and so forth. Just crap. Stayed just one night and I actually need very little so no biggies.

The second thing is the experience of this morning. The hotel is located near Regent Park and there had been a inch or so snow during the night. That made for a wonderful walk, it was really beautiful. Got up real early so the city was still relatively quiet, the birds were singing and it was all nice, fresh and calm. Very exhilarating, indeed.

Can't understand the Brits, though. The morning news made the situation sound like a total catastrophe with phrases like "freezing cold" and "treacherous driving conditions". Jesus, I saw a couple of guys jogging in shorts and I barely had to zip my coat. Anyway, it was just beautiful!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Teaching is complicated

Am writing this while three groups of students break their heads (all female, by the way) over the project planning exercise I gave them. This is quite fun, actually: talk about something you know much more than them, answer questions and make up tasks that should be challenging to work on in groups.

Well, it is more complex than that. You actually take responsibility for
  1. not wasting their time, this is an evening course and staying in school beyond 9pm better be worth it
  2. not wasting their money, they need to be able to actually use the things they learn later
  3. not teaching them stuff that is plain wrong or does not apply to the subject
Making sure none of this happens is not easy. Even with something as easy as project management for beginners which is what I am teaching this semester.

Makes me wonder, if I should continue the old series of posts about project management principles.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Health issues

I went to see a doctor this Friday, a cardiologist.

She took the stethoscope and listened to my heart. Then rushed out of the door and came back to call me along to "try to do a quick test". The test turned out to be something that has to do with ultrasound (I won't even pretend I can tell it's name or precise function of the machine that did it) and after 10 minutes the doctor had a confirmation for her suspicion. The valve that sits in the heart in front of the aorta is supposed to have three blades, mine has only two. A fairly common condition people are born with, apparently. Additional tests will have to be taken, of course, but the doctor operating the diagnostics machine shared her opinion.

Approximately half a year ago my wife started to feel pain in her right knee. Up to the point where every step was accompanied with a slight cracking noise and caused her serious pain. She, of course, went to see a doctor who claimed that a non-prescription joint-strengthening drink every night and some spinning (!) would be all that was needed. She refused to believe, sought a second opinion, had a surgery (apparently, a piece of bone had come loose in the knee) and is already feeling better, thank you.

So why am I writing this in my blog? Well, for once I feel pretty strongly about not being to do a MTB race ever again. But above that, I have had _tw0_ thorough medical checkups within last 6 years, both of which gave me clean papers. Knowing admittedly very little about medicine, I refuse to believe that something a specialist could spot within minutes would have been impossible to find out during those checks. Both of these checkups were performed by the local Medicover branch. And the first doctor my wife talked to was also from Medicover.

Hadn't I had an arrhythmia and talked to a doctor, I could have collapsed on the first race in the spring. I don't want to think about what a loose piece of bone does to a knee under regular spinning exercises.

Sure, nobody got hurt, but this is yet another example of people not doing their job properly (have a post forming in my head about that).

Hope you guys are fine!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Photography: is there such thing like too much photography?

It is done. I just uploaded last of the images and took at the Lightroom beta (it rocks, by the way). The shoot contained no less than 924 images. That's quite a lot for two and a half days. It actually feels like I have had enough, it's too much. Funny, never thought such a thing was possible, but it is. One of the reasons might be that the other guys were, based on what I saw, taking much better pictures. Also, it is physically challenging to carry a camera around for 14 hours. The conditions were also very poor: mostly a darkish room with a very high ceiling so nowhere to bounce the flash off from. Had to use high ISO to get anything resembling of a portrait.

Anyway, I am tired as a dog and will leave sorting of the images for the weekend. And can you guys see them? No, it was a closed event and no images can be published, sorry.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Copyright issues

Some things need to get out: I think I just figured out (actually thanks to the post from yesterday) why I felt so hurt when a darn tabloid published one of my images they had snatched from flickr despite of clear copyright notices. This image is a piece of me: it is firstly a personal thing and only then something I choose to show others. It has history, it has emotions associated with it, it means so very much to me. The image itself is not very spectacular but same feelings apply for all of them.

The tabloid (published by Presshouse, god bless you, fellas!) chose to pay me around $20 for the image. From consulting some friends with a law degree I learned that I could hardly expect more. You see, even if I go to court, the judge will most probably only state that I am to paid the "usual" fee. Well, and it is something like $20 around here.

So there's a question: is it just that one could go and take my innermost feelings and thoughts and push it out in the cheapest and dirtiest way possible and get away with no consequences whatsoever?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

On photography

I discovered this cool thing called Blurb that allows you to turn your pictures into an actual physical book. Initially I just figured to give it a try and imported a couple of sets from my flickr account but that thing started to look positively nice so I went through some trouble by adding some poetry I found matching (thanks, google) and doing some editing on the pictures. The whole thing turned out to be something I really liked and so I showed it to my wife. Well, she found the whole thing artistically nice but fairly depressing. Which lead to a discussion on what messages do my images convey.

Well, screw that. Why do my messages have to convey any message? One could argue that even standing in a room facing the wall is a form a communication and thus a set of nicely printed images even more so. The truth is, I do not care. You can take a look my pictures any way you like. Whatever emotion you get is yours, not mine.

I like taking pictures, and I like the process of editing them. I also like to toy around with gadgets and I take huge joy in top-grade engineering that Canon pro lenses are a prime example of. I like wandering around in the nature and I like the silence and the knowledge that there is a hidden world I at least know to exist as opposed to most of other people. The camera is a protective device that distances me from situations I am not comfortable with (like parties and social events). The camera makes me different, allows me special treatment. This is why I take pictures. The picture itself is not primary and the emotion it conveys is even less important.

The question then remains, why do I post them on flickr or try to put them to a book? It comes down to my vanity. I like when people look at what I have done and find it beautiful. Pure vanity, a yearning for somebody to come and pat my back saying "good job" or "good eye you have there".

Of course there is no way to avoid one's feelings and emotions pouring into art they create. It is true that some of my best images are black and white, contain few people and tend to be on the dark on the mood scale. Well, I guess this is what I am. Slightly depressed (and depressing), a bit superficial and pretty ignorant of everything one supposedly has to know about Art like the names of famous photographers, the colour theory and the one of light and so on.

It has been a while

There has been a considerable silence here. Well, for a reason. It seems that being part of a bubbling boiling rocket-riding team of top engineers bound to change the world tends to take all of your time and most of your mental resources. As the rocket-ride trajectory is flattening and the company is getting more mature I have started to miss the possibility to express myself.

Also, Sten pointed out that after going through his feed list he noticed the date of my previous post. Well, it's time again.