Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sidewalk Tickets in San Francisco

This is surprisingly not a rant about the DPT - although they are the harbingers of the evil "On Sidewalk" ticket that has been adorning my windshield wiper lately. It is actually a rant on some of the residents of San Francisco. I have lived at my place for about a year. I am not going to say where that is and you will soon learn why.

I am fortunate, or thought I was, to have enough space between the garage door and the adjacent buildings wall to park my car in front of my front door. A spot that does overhang the five concrete tiled sidewalk by about 40-50% depending on how close I park to my front door. Plenty of room for a wheelchair to go through. Glorious I thought - a free parking spot that is not in anyone's way (logically at least). For the most part things have been fine. To this date, during my twelfth month of living here I have received only three "On Sidewalk" tickets.

Each sidewalk violation clocks in at a whopping $100. One hundred dollars. Again, one hundred dollars. Some stats:

  • That is two and half times the price of a parking meter violation and street cleaning ticket
  • Second highest violation (bus stop violations are $250 - yikes!)

I didn't notice on the first two citations, but on my third it says "Complaint 60% in sidewalk". Regardless of the fact that I was only 50%, I found the part about the complaint very interesting. Someone, some other resident of the city, actually called the DPT complaint number and complained that my car was blocking the sidewalk.

As a happy San Francisco resident who has had his fair share of crap to deal with regarding street cleaning tickets, and parking meters, etc. I would only in extreme circumstances call out another resident, especially when there is five feet or more of room on the sidewalk to walk, bike, hop, skip, whatever. You could park a motorcycle behind my car!

If I am blocking the whole sidewalk, then go ahead, complain.

If I am blocking your driveway then tow my ass.

That's about it though - other than that just let it be. Or at least write a note on my car explaining what the problem is.

Another strange thing about this is that it happened at night. My ticket was written up at 10:12 pm. Thoroughly interested, I called the DPT tonight and spoke to two very friendly ladies about the issue.

The first told me the following interesting tidbit:

If one car on the block gets a complaint than every car that is in violation of the sidewalk law is written up on the block.

This is where the City of San Francisco becomes evil again when it comes to how they fill up their coffers. I also asked if I could have the name and number of the person complaining (not that I expected to get it) and was told that they don't take that down for sidewalk complaints since it is the law (a California one at that). That means I could drive by a street that is not even my own, see a car on the sidewalk (or partially as mine is) and have the whole block written up. That is messed.

Where is your compassion people? Next time you think about filing a complaint about something that is not too severe - like partially overlapping the sidewalk - think twice about how $100 would feel sucked out of your checking account.

Also, these tickets cannot be appealed - I mean they can- but both ladies told me you have a chance in hell at actually getting them dismissed. If anyone has done this successfully please let me know.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wow, I am generating some traffic

Well it seems as if more people actually read this blog now, at least two that I know of: Shaan Hurley, Between the Lines and Steve Johnson, Blog Nauseam.  As Steve mentions we do tend to agree on disagreeing and this time it is my Mojave Experiment post. But what I don't agree with is Steve's interpretation of my post. I said that the Mojave Experiment is "cool" and "great".  Whether a gimmick or not it is a fun experiment. I don't think this is serious marketing or will be able to make any big waves for Microsoft in ramping up Vista adoption. That said I think the experiment does show how brainwashed the everyday consumer is around Vista. I have friends and relatives when asked about Vista will reply, "Oh, I have heard its bad." From who - someone else who heard it was bad, the Apple commercials (because those aren't biased, right), etc.

The Mojave Experiment will at its best be a small viral addition to what will be their next large scale ad campaign.

Also, the mojaveexperiment site now uses Silverlight (definitely not because of my surprise) ...

Lastly, Steve, those early posts can get a little racy ... I now write all of that kind of stuff to friends only on Facebook :) ... Happy reading ...


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Photosynth

Here is my first photosynth creation. It is only 88% synthy because I don't have enough pictures but is still fun. Behold Akaka Falls.

Photosynth going public!

I have been waiting for this to be released to the masses since it was originally offered as a limited technology preview last year:


Edited ...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Internet News Ruins the Olympics

So I am watching the Olympics on NBC and enjoying what had been a fairly close game between China and the USA basketball team. At halftime I think USA was leading by ten or twelve. I then went into my room to check some email and browse the web and this greets me:

USA Beats China

Yes, I went to Google News so you could say its my own fault, but come on. Google should throw up a temporary option to delay Olympic news by a day.

Note: I almost posted this during the game but then I would have just been contributing to the problem for the 1 person who reads this blog. That's you Chaffee!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Teaser

I don't know when I became an uber-Harry Potter fan, but I took a month off work (3 weeks actually combined with our week of rest) after completing this and one of the things I did was read the Harry Potter series cover to cover in about a week and half. A week and half well spent. I don't enjoy the first two movies very much but like the last three quite a abit. I may go re-read Half-Blood before this November just to brush up. Enjoy:


Why doesn't the Mojave Experiment use Silverlight?

I don't get it. I just posted about how great I thought the Mojave Experiment is - and I still think it is great. But why doesn't the site:

use Silverlight for its interactive video wall. I am pretty certain Silverlight can do everything going in in the Flash app that is running instead.

The only viable reason I can think of is that the Silverlight market penetration is still too low and that Microsoft really wants people (en masse) to go to the Mojave Experiment site. If they have to install Silverlight and then see the experiment results it will be a barrier to entry.

Still though - makes you wonder.

Windows "Mojave" Experiment

I think this is really cool:

Microsoft basically disguised Vista as a new OS named "Mojave" and then showed it to users. Before the test users were asked to rate Vista and gave it low scores on a scale of 1-10. Then after being shown Mojave they were asked to evaluate the OS and the scores were much higher. The kicker is that Mojave is Vista.

I have been using Vista Ultimate on my ancient desktop and have been more than pleasantly surprised by mostly the numerous little features here and there in addition to the larger, more prominent features. For example, small changes like this to the volume control allowing for per program volume:



or the newly improved Calendar:




are just tiny of the level of change throughout the whole OS.

Other things I find valuable:

  • Start Menu Search is indispensable.
  • Sidebar: I use it daily to keep track of stocks and local weather without having to go into IE (lazy I know).
  • Speech Recognition: This still has a long way to go, but it is a huge leap in the right direction.
  • Windows Explorer "Breadcrumb" Navigation is much more versatile than the simple address bar.
  • Built in Windows Media Center (I mean come on, that is sweet)

Going back to XP makes me cringe. What is even better though is there are a bunch of Vista features I haven't even started to play with - like System Restore, the new wireless connection management (I am on a desktop at home), the Photo Gallery (I am still using Picasa, but this looks comparable now), Windows Remote Assistance (to help the parentals), etc.

Anyway, hopefully more people give it a chance and some good vibes about Vista will start forming.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

AutoCAD 2009 Cue Cards Online

One of the fun things our User Assistance group did for the AutoCAD 2009 release was a set of cue cards that shipped with the media. Now these Cue Cards are available online for everyone to enjoy. They are great way to get a quick overview of the new features introduced:

AutoCAD 2009 Cue Cards

By the beard of Zeus!!

Two words: Anchorman 2. With Step Brothers getting pretty good reviews compared to Ferrell's recent duds Semi-Pro and Blades of Glory, let's hope this continues the upward trend and Will returns to form.

Story at EW

"It's called Sex Panther ... 60% of the time it works every time"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Professional Introduction

I have been meaning to, for awhile, start writing about bits and pieces of what I do at work on a day to day basis. Trouble is, most of what I do at work cannot be revealed until we release our product.

I work at Autodesk, in Marin County, as a Senior Product Designer on the AutoCAD team. For a certain portion of the product I am in charge of designing the user experience - everything from UI layout to business logic.

My education entails a BS in Computer Science so my first passion, I guess you could say, would be coding. I graduated near the top of my class, and really did like coding, but the dot com bubble had just burst (2002) and jobs were harder to find.

I had already been an intern at Autodesk since high school and eventually a position in QA opened up. I took that and eventually moved to product design making the 'decision' (although nothing is ever definite) to forego a career coding away.

But I still loved tinkering with code and kept up on new technologies and even flirted with them for awhile making silly games and other applications (Snake and an Outlook Contact Status Bar utility come to mind).

Whereas some Product Designers on my team opt for mockups in Illustrator or Photoshop, I would always start in Visual Studio and add interactivity as I went along.

Then WPF and XAML came along. xamllogo Ah, what a wondrous piece of technology. Finally I was able to please the code tinkering with my designing side. Such a beautiful union. I am now one of the only designers in the company working on WPF related projects and actually contributing real, working XAML to the code stream. Last year, members of the development team and I pioneered a true designer~developer workflow for AutoCAD using XAML.

The experience has been amazing although there have been some frustrating days where I am sure I was experiencing what most developers experience when they are under the gun trying to fix bugs, get to code complete, and finish off their respective features.  When you are working with XAML, you *are* still working with code. Not to mention WPF is a huge, robust set of functionality with lots to learn.

Which brings me to why I started this post. Since I cannot talk much about what I am doing on a day to day basis with AutoCAD, I was going to post some interesting WPF tidbits I find through my work. Hopefully I can post some stuff about AutoCAD too, with respect to our last release, AutoCAD 2009. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Dark Knight

I have held off seeing any but the first trailer for this movie. This new poster that was just released is making the wait for July 18 that much harder... originally posted here.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

HD and Special Effects revisited

Okay, I am convinced that as I previously mentioned in this post: Does High-Def make great SFX look bad- there is something about watching a special effects laden movie in HD that is wrong. The green screening is too noticeable.

I just got back from a buddies house and where we watched half of Spiderman 3. We were flipping through OnDemand and saw it there and he was like, I have it on Blu-Ray, probably better than the HD delivered through Comcast (although technically it shouldn't be right??).

All of the scenes of Spidey swinging or that had extensive aerial maneuvering look too fake, especially the first battle between New Goblin and Peter. Don't get me wrong, it looks amazing and seeing the action in HD is great, but the composting is that much more noticeable.

I am thinking we are back in the early days of special effects where the blue screen was extremely noticeable - that got better and better. Now with the increased use of virtual sets and a higher resolution picture, we need to another technological leap to get the composition and lighting of the various elements of the digital scene and the real scene matched up better.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Testing out Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer is a fairly new tool for publishing to blogs from a desktop application versus the web. Probably nothing new and groundbreaking, but it seems to offer easier editing and insertion capabilities than Blogger where my blog is hosted.

You can insert maps:

Map image


Pictures easily:

MIX 08 Bag

With different effects:

Virgin America likes purple

and even tables:

Header 1 Header2
Live Writer Is Fun


Now to see if those images I entered automatically get upload when I click Publish.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Dance of Dragons has cover art!

This is so exciting - it has been around 3 or 4 years since A Feast for Crows came out and George R. R. Martin has been taking his precious time writing A Dance of Dragons. Check out the cover art for the American version that was just released and click through to the original story from George's blog below:

George R R Martins Blog

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Microsoft Surface: Paying a Bill Demo

This demo of the Surface resonates a lot with me and I hope a few of my friends (Sean and Frank) read this because they will probably get a kick out of it. I am convinced there are two kinds of people in the world: cash people and credit people. The cash people always have cash on them and almost always pay in cash. The credit people are always throwing their card down at dinner or at the bar.

I am a credit person. It's not because I don't have cash or the money, but because I like being able to track what I am spending - how much on gas, how much on dining, nights at the bars, etc. Not that I ever do anything with these statistics, but its nice to have a loose handle on the monthly budget. Anyhow for some reason I am one of the few credit types in my group and it a running joke now that I will put "The Difference on the Card". We even created an acronym for it - DOC. "Hey Matt, you going to DOC". Yeah its like that. Which is why the little demo below is so interesting to me because it makes paying a dinner or bill with your credit card really easy and even fun.

Check it out. Hey Frank and Sean - we are only going to go bars that have this setup in the future ;) ...

Microsot Surface: Wine Demo

While at the MIX Conference, there was an area called the Sandbox where you could go and tinker with a bunch of Microsoft technologies and see demo's of Windows Mobile 6 and the MIcrosoft Surface. I hung out around the Surface mostly and watched them go through most of the sample applications. This one is a Wine Demo showing how a wine list could eventually be browsed in the future.

Bad Design: Comcast's DVR

Comcasts DVR solution is a steaming pile. I have had a few of them in the past five years and each one, rather than getting better, is seemingly worse in some respect. I now just live with it. The usability of the on screen display is horrible - that I can somewhat understand (not that I am happy about it), because it was probably the next to last thing Comcast thought about - they just wanted get their product out the door so they could begin their market takeover.

The piece that disappoints the most though is the hardware itself. The remote and the actual DVR unit do not communicate well at all. I will hit the Menu button and 10 seconds later it will load up. But since I am impatient I hit the menu button four more times in that 10 seconds. These presses are queued up and the menu loads and closes four times. Channel surfing is just as bad. Sometimes it takes the input from the remote right away, other times there is a huge delay and as the button presses get queued up, you end up overshooting the channel you want.

The DVR fast forward and pause functionality is hurt because of this as well. How many times have I overshot the end of a commercial break by over two minutes because the damn remote won't accept the play input.

Comcast needs to put some serious effort in the quality of the hardware they are delivering as well as the embedded software solution that runs it. They should open this up to 3rd parties and let consumers choose what DVR software to use. I would pay for a 3rd party solution that works then use the current offering - that said I give Comcast so much money a month just so I can get HD, that their solution should be more than sufficient.

Anyway, rant over, going to go watch some TV now...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

MIX '08 - Steve Ballmer Keynote

So there are actually two keynotes at MIX. The second one just ended and it was a very candid, and eye-opening (for me) Q and A of Steve Ballmer by Guy Kawasaki. I personally didn't know who Guy was prior to the event, but after a few minutes of their quick banter back and forth your quickly learned that Guy worked out Apple at one point and Steve didn't hire him back in the mid 80s to work at Microsoft.

This was all delivered in some machine guy style, friendly barbs back and forth at each other which Guy continued in a humorous way throughout the hour long session.

Nothing was off limits as Guy asked "What is up with Vista", why Steve didn't have a MacBook Air (which he "fake" stomped and crushed Guys).

Steve Ballmer comes off as a very approachable, funny, self-deprecating individual. At one point during the attendee QA he got up and pumped his fist in the air with a wicked grin on his face yelling "Web developers, web developers, web developers". This sent everyone into a roar of applause.

Not much was learned, but it was very cool to see Microsoft's head honcho speaking candidly on a variety of topics from Silverlight, to the Yahoo takeover, Xbox, social networks and more. If some of his evasive answers are to be taken at face value, 2008 seems to have more suprises in store for the end user and developer. More tidbits about this keynote later (and I need to finish up my other keynote post).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

MIX '08: Conference Keynote - Part 1

I am currently at the MIX '08 Conference at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The Keynote just ended here it is in summary form. I am skipping over a lot of stuff that wasn't entirely interesting or related to why I am here but here are the tidbits:

Ray Ozzie (Chief Software Architect of Microsoft) came out and rambled on about a bunch of stuff for 30 minutes. He focused on Microsoft's long term vision of how software and services and computing "in the cloud" will all come together. He brought up his three "C's": Content, Commerce, and Community with extra emphasis on the latter with respect to how the other two have been shaped.

The three principles which Microsoft is reaching toward are the 1) Web as a hub, 2) Business and the power of choice to embrace the "cloud" and 3) Compentization across the cloud to services and other devices.

He stated that in five years, the code that developers (as he points out to a group of designers and developers) will be writing will be fundamentally transformed by the cloud.

Next were the 5 major groups which I am mostly going to skip over, but it came down to "Connected Services", "Connected Devices", "Connected Business", "Connected Entertainment", and "Connected Development". Notice a theme ;)...

He alluded to a preview of a new way to connect PCs that they have been working on that will be previewable soon. He seemed to imply a way to dynamically manage multiple PCs from the internet for the end consumer.

Connected Entertainment was about managing all of your entertainment from one place and viewing/playing it everywhere. Think movies on XBox Live and the Zune - same with games and music. Those examples aren't what he said specifically, but what I took away as possible in the future.

Finally, after more 30,000 foot level talk about where we are going, Scott Guthrie was introduced to talk about "Great User Experiences". This is where the keynote became much more interesting and there was still 2 hours to go!

The four facets of Scott's presentation were:

  • Web

  • Media

  • RIA (Rich Internet/Interactive Applications)

  • Mobile


New technologies for ASP.Net were announced for later in 2008: ASP.Net MVC (Model View Control, AJAX, and Dynamic Data). All to aid in making data driven, rich interactive websites easier to develop. Scott wasn't on long before he brought out Dean Hachamovitch (sp) to talk about Internet Explorer 8. Dean sported a shirt that said eight but the "e" was an internet explorer logo.

After some slightly humorous jokes about how developers cannot count passed three, Dean decided to focus in on eight areas of IE 8 - CSS 2.1 Support, CSS Certification, HTML 5, a few more I don't remember and the more exciting ones (for me since I don't really do web development) were the end user features of IE 8:

  • WebSlices

  • Activities

WebSlices enables Developers via an OpenSpecification format provided by Microsoft to allow the end user to track a "slice" of a website. The real example showed was an eBay auction. Dean, pulled an auction item - for a camera lens - into a web slice and placed this in the toolbar of IE 8. When interacting with the slice, the auction item information for the camera was displayed, in real-time, showing exactly what the eBay site would display.

Next was an example of Facebook used to track the status updates of your friends. Think of it as little pieces of Google Gadgets (or Live Gadgets) that can be added to the IE Application window, except now web developers can add this granular control to pieces of websites themselves. Pretty cool.

The next item was Activities which is sort of like the new contextual panel that shows up when you highlight text in Word. Highlight an address, click the activity button, and boom a map from live maps comes up. Highlight a product name, select the eBay activity and you are quickly looking at any auctions that match. Creating activities is simple for developers to do via another Open Specification that Microsoft has developed. The mapping one alone will save me countless clicks of highlighting an address, copying it, opening a new tab, accessing google maps, and pasting it in. Now the map opens in its own little window, in the context of the current selection - it demo'd quite well and hopefully the real deal is as good.

The last bit was an announcement that IE 8 Beta would be released to the development community.

With that, Scott came back on to show off some more stuff. Notably, Silverlight 2 Beta 1 is available today. Skipping over some info on Adaptive Streaming in Silverlight 2 and also an annoucnement to partner with MoveNetworks ...

... More coming soon. I am off to my first MIX Session! I have pictures and stuff I want to inline into these posts later but I forgot my camera download cable at home so that will have to wait.

Zune Card