January 2009

The “Star Trek” Plotline Flowchart

by Joey deVilla on January 31, 2009

If you watch the Star Trek original series, you’ve probably already internalized what’s in this flowchart created by Stephanie Fox for the sci-fi blog io9.com:

"Create Your Own Trek Adventure" flowchart
Click the chart to see it at full size.

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Global Game Jam (January 30th – February 1st)

by Joey deVilla on January 30, 2009

Header graphic for "Global Game Jam"

This article originally appeared in Canadian Developer Connection.

If you’re a developer who’s either into building games or has been meaning to try out game development, you’re in luck this weekend. From Friday, January 30th through Sunday, February 1st, the Global Game Jam will be held in various cities all over the world, giving people a chance to collaborate on the design, building and presentation of a videogame in a single weekend.

The participating Canadian cities and their Global Game Jam venues are:

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Leah’s Tattoo

by Joey deVilla on January 30, 2009

Leah Culver shows off the new tattoo on her arm

At CUSEC 2009, some of the attendees attempted to psychoanalyze the speakers out of concern for what seemed to be obsessions. The IRC backchannel during my presentation expressed concern for what they believed to be my fixation on butts, what with mentioning the movie Deliverance and showing the “Bottle Rocket in the Butt” video from my blog entry Assrockets and Opportunities.

Other speakers had their own obsessions. Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman’s twin obsessions were with the level of lighting in the room and his “Four Freedoms” ethics. Pownce lead developer/co-founder and now Six Apart developer Leah Culver (who was on the conference’s other end of the scruffy/slinky spectrum) was obsessed about getting a tattoo based on designs created by the enigmatic Rubyist known only as why the lucky stiff (or _why for short). Leah somehow managed to contact _why – who is notoriously J.D. Salinger-esque in his reclusiveness – to commission him to create some tattoo designs, which she showed me at the CUSEC speaker dinner last Thursday night.

A message on Twitter from _why has confirmed that she did indeed get the tattoo. Here’s a close-up:

A close-up of Leah Culver's tattoo

The blank word bubble above the cartoon character is there to let her fill it in with whatever she feels like having it say for the day.

Late binding for tattoos!” I said, regretting that uber-nerdy statement mere moments later.

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“Owns Home Computer”: A News Report from 1981

by Joey deVilla on January 29, 2009

TechCrunch points to a news report from San Francisco-based TV station KRON that dates all the way back to 1981, when home computers were 8-bit wonders like the era of the Apple ///, TRS-80 and Atari 400 and 800. The piece on how some people are reading their newspapers by logging into Compuserve, and how someday, we’ll all be reading our newspapers and magazines on our computers:

Back then, a computer in the home was very unusual, hence their underscoring of this interviewee’s name with “owns home computer”. It seems quaint now, but back then, that was pretty 1337:

Still from news report: "Richard Halloran: Owns home computer"

The TechCrunch article points out a couple of lines in the piece that stand out given our 2009 perspective. The first is from the San Francisco Examiner’s David Cole:

This is an experiment. We’re trying to figure out what it’s going to mean to us, as editors and reporters and what it means to the home user. And we’re not in it to make money, we’re probably not going to lose a lot but we aren’t going to make much either.

The other memorable line is from the reporter:

This is only the first step in newspapers by computers. Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer, but that’s a few years off.

This is Joey deVilla, signing off from one of those Dynabook-style computers.

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The Interview Question You Should Always Ask

by Joey deVilla on January 28, 2009

This article was originally posted in Canadian Developer Connection.

sullyFrom looking at Microsoft’s surveys of Canadian developers and plain old talking to people (something I love to do), it seems that many people who call themselves “developers” wear many hats, one of which is “manager”. If this is the case, I’ll bet that the title of this article has piqued your curiosity.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. According to the Harvard Business blog, the interview question you should always ask is:

“What do you do in your spare time?”

The example they cite is Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the celebrated and heroic captain who successfully landed an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River after both engines were knocked out by what pilots call “bird strikes”. What does he do in his spare time, when he’s not flying passengers around?

  • As a boy, he built model aircraft and aircraft carriers.
  • As a teen, he got a pilot’s license and flew gliders. Without its engines, the Airbus effectively became a big glider.
  • He was an accident investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association.
  • He’s worked with aviation officials to improve training and methods for evacuating aircraft in emergencies.
  • He runs a consultancy called Safety Reliability Methods, which helps companies improve their safety, performance and reliability.

In short, “Sully” is all about flying – and doing so safely. You might even say it’s an obsession of his.

Here’s what the Harvard Business blog article has to say about one’s obsessions:

Obsessions are one of the greatest telltale signs of success. Understand a person’s obsessions and you will understand her natural motivation. The thing for which she would walk to the end of the earth.

The article goes into more detail, but its general gist is that what a candidate does in his or her spare time might be a good indicator of his or her fit for the position. Looking for a star developer? It’s probably one who’s got a hobby programming project on the side. Seeking an ace IT pro? Someone who’s converted an old computer into a home entertainment unit might be a good pick.

You might want to go beyond the article’s focus on hiring others and turn it around: what do you do in your spare time? Do any of you extracurricular activities suggest that you’d be good at your job?

[The photo of Captain Chesley Sullenberger is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and was taken by Ingrid Taylar. It is under a Creative Commons “Attribution 2.0” licence.]

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Videocrab’s Awesome Gaming Console Setup

by Joey deVilla on January 27, 2009

I wouldn’t mind having a setup like Videocrab’s:

"Videocrab's" awesome gaming setup, which appears to include every game console from the past 25 years
Photo by Videocrab.
Click here to see its Flickr page.

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Credibility Gap

by Joey deVilla on January 27, 2009

I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this promotion doesn’t exactly inspire confidence:

Hand-painted sign on back of truck trailer: "NEED A WEBSITE 325-9417"

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