29 September 2006

Apple Keynote Bloopers

This is super funny mix of many of the Apple keynote bloopers. I'm sure it's been around a long time, but I just discovered it. I've helped with behind the scenes for demos and presentations at MacWorld for Microsoft. When you are doing the demo or working to setup things behind stage, it's amazing how challenging it is to get everything right. The most important tips for doing this kind of thing are:

  1. Practice, practice and practice.
  2. Have multiple backups: hardware, software, everything!

via João Bordalo

27 September 2006


Note: This is a re-post of my 1st post on our Official MacBU Blog, Mac Mojo. If you haven't added Mac Mojo to your blogs to read, I'd recommend it. I'll be posting over there along with about 10 or so other folk in MacBU. Check it out, I think you'll enjoy it. --- Hello! My name is David Weiss and I'm the Automation Test Lead in MacBU, which means that I build stuff to help us test our code better. It's a great job. I could give you a detailed introduction, but I've kinda already done that. I could talk about automation practices or our sweet beowulf cluster, uh, I mean automation setup, but today, I'm not going to talk about work, at least directly. Today, it's all about the food! Since the MacBU was organized in 1997, we've moved from building 17 to building 44 and then to building 115. Change is one of those constants here at Microsoft and physical location is not excluded. Building 17 was the long time abode of Office, Win and Mac. When we moved to 44 it was the first time we were physically separated from the Win Office team which allowed us to develop some of our own unique identity, but the best part of building 44 was the conference rooms, or the food associated with, the conference rooms. I don't know how it is at other corporations, but often there would be a morning or afternoon conference room meeting and catering would be provided. It didn't take us long to notice that after the attendees had finished eating and returned to their meeting, there was a small window of time where the food was available before catering would clean up the food and toss it out. Being the ecologically sound individuals we are, and dissatisfied with waste of any kind, we setup an email alert system. One of the team, we'll call him Matt, setup an email rule on his machine so that any email sent to him with a subject that contained the text "[Food]" was duplicated and forwarded to other super secret food recon agents. In this way, we remained successfully "below the radar" of counter intelligence units. Until, of course, Matt turned his computer off. When that happened, we were all downgraded to free-pop-only status. After about 2 days we realized that we had totally missed one of the key aspects to an Official Microsoft operation, and that is, of course, a whole bunch of letters stuck together in a crazy acronym and the FAQ explaining it. What did we name our operation?

MBUSWAT: The MacBU Sustenance Watch and Acquisition Team!
Our Mission Statement: To seek out and share information pertaining to free food available at work.
Generally the standard encryption technology used to prevent unauthorized eaters from viewing our confidential communiqués was white colored text. This worked until we found that conspiring developers had added a feature to expose our secret messages to prying eyes: Auto Preview. We increased our encryption standard to include about 3 lines of non-encrypted babble prior to the encrypted message. This method has been found effective to this day, even with modern email clients! Well, anyone familiar with food services and catering knows this one truth:
  1. Food quality degrades as the time increases in which the food sits idle, sad and unconsumed.
To combat this reality and better meet the cross group communication needs we developed a clear rating system (with easy to understand color coordination): Code Red: Food is available, but guarded by food service personal. Be wary of a status change. Code Yellow: Food is being consumed by conference room attendees. Soon we'll be able to move in. Code Green: Food is all clear. Act quickly, or you'll regret it. Code Brown: Food is still available, but due to prolonged exposure, it may taste like, well, not so good. Code Puke Green: Food is still there, but eat at your own risk, it looks or tastes nasty. With this plan in place, communication improved significantly, but alas, we continued to be plagued with the dependency on Matt's computer being fully operational. Since Matt, being the good tester that he is, often found ways to crash his computer (in the days of Mac OS 9) and hang or crash his email client, we needed to permanently sever "the Matt dependency". We did this by creating a distribution list on the mail server. The end result is that anyone who sent email to "food" would have that email sent to all who participated in the super-secret-group-mission of free food recon, disclosure and consumption. However, this efficiency gain significantly increased our exposure to being "outed" by the catering overlords, so while we stealthily kept the short name of food, we changed the friendly name of the alias to, "Mac Crossteam Discussion" which has kept us safe ever since. All of this lead to a namespace collision with the .NET team here at Microsoft. It all started with this fairly benign email:
From: Snax.Net To: Mac Crossteam Discussion Subject: New snacks reported at Snack.NET! A new snack in the Candy category has been reported in your building. Here is a description: So much peanut brittle you'll be sick for days. Log on to Snack.NET for further details! This email has been generated automatically. Do not reply to this email. If you would like to be removed from this list, please visit the Snack.NET website and unsubscribe. This has been a recording.
Of course, this kind of tempting notification led to simultaneous surprise, fear and hunger. Our covert ops team immediately got to work. Soon we discovered that Matt Stoecker was the author of a "test application" named "Snax.NET" which allowed for companywide snack notification. As he was testing the mail notification system, he used our alias. After Mr. Stoecker clarified and apologized, Agent Snook followed up with the salient question, "Can we still get the peanut brittle?" Agent B expanding on that theme continued, "I think Agent Snook makes a good point here. One cannot simply suggest the presence of peanut brittle and then not provide some easy way to access said tasty treat. I, for one, feel heinously bamboozled. And, I fear, this feeling of bamboozlement will only abate with copious quantities of peanut brittle..." Not long after this email exchange two guys from the Snax.NET team showed up with 2 buckets of peanut brittle! Complete office delivery is way better than having to go out searching for leftover catering! Today, the Snax.NET server has gone to that great big bit bucket in the sky, but here at MacBU, we are still on constant alert for what goodies might befall us. And now you know, the rest of the story. ;-)

25 September 2006

Making Good on a Mistake

I just read the following email for Apple:

From: iTunes Store Support

Sent: Saturday, September 23, 2006 2:41 AM

To: David Weiss

Subject: iTunes: Your recent TV show downloads

Dear David,

Due to a system error, you were recently charged for downloads that were meant to be free. You were incorrectly charged $11.94 plus tax for your recent download of the three ABC season finales on the iTunes Store. We will reverse the incorrect charges and you should see the credit within 7 days, depending on how quickly your credit card company processes the reversal.

Our customers are very important to us and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

Please accept these three video codes good for any $1.99 TV show or music video from the iTunes Store as part of our apology. You can redeem your codes by just clicking the links below.







If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our customer service team by replying to this email.



iTunes Store Team


Here are some things that make me feel like I actually matter to them, amidst the gazillion other folks that purchase stuff from them:

1. It's signed by "Kate", not "Some Random iTunes Drone" or worse yet "iTunes Store Team". It's really signed by someone's name! Kate, I thank you.

2. It was their fault and they are aware of it, before I even figured out there was a problem. Isn't that how it's supposed to be?

3. They are fixing the problem (refunding my credit card) but also giving me $$ for the hassle. Folks it's 12 bucks!

4. The email is text only, short and to the point.

5. I can actually REPLY to the email like a normal person! None of this "do_not_reply@company.com"

It's these little things that count. I'm biased already, but stuff like this just makes a customer for life! I've talked about customer support before, but I will happily pay more for support like this. It makes my day and amidst the many things that don't work right every day, it's nice to get an email that reminds me that there are some things working correctly even if "the system" is not. Thanks Apple. Thanks Kate.

21 September 2006

Inventory and Shipping Costs

The entrepreneur in me just beams with excitement reading this announcement from Amazon:

Fulfillment by Amazon beta An Amazon Fulfillment Services Group Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a new program that makes delivering your Pro Merchant Program and WebStore orders a snap. You send your new and used products to us, and we'll store them. As orders are placed, we'll pick, pack and ship them to your customers from our network of fulfillment centers. Simple fulfillment. Better customer service. Inventory Storage — You still own your inventory, but we warehouse it. Pick, Pack and Ship — When a customer places an order we pick, pack and ship it. Powerful Promotions — Your items can be combined with other Amazon-fulfilled items in one shipment, so customers save on shipping costs. With Fulfillment by Amazon, you can offer your customers Amazon Prime, free Super Saver Shipping on qualifying sales through Amazon.com. Customer Service — We manage post-order customer service, including the return and refund process, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How it works
  1. You send us your inventory - Label, pack and ship your items to Amazon.
  2. We store your inventory - When we receive your items, we'll store them until an order is placed.
  3. We fulfill your order - When an order is placed, we'll pick, pack and ship the item, and may combine it with other items in the same order.
  4. We manage all post-order customer service - We'll manage post-order customer service and handle returns as needed.
Wow and double wow. So what about the pricing? Seems reasonable to me. Maybe Amazon does personal storage next? ;-)

20 September 2006

You can do it!

My Dad just sent me this inspiring quote by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
For me, at least, this is true and reading it reminded me of a great post by Seth Godin on ways to defend the status quo:
Top ways to defend the status quo
  1. "That will never work."
  2. "... That said, the labor laws make it difficult for us to do a lot of the suggestions [you] put out. And we do live in a lawsuit oriented society.""
  3. "Can you show me some research that demonstrates that this will work?"
  4. "Well, if you had some real-world experience, then you would understand."
  5. "I don't think our customers will go for that, and without them we'd never be able to afford to try this."
  6. "It's fantastic, but the salesforce won't like it."
  7. "The salesforce is willing to give it a try, but [major retailer] won't stock it."
  8. "There are government regulations and this won't be permitted."
  9. "Well, this might work for other people, but I think we'll stick with what we've got."
  10. "We'll let someone else prove it works... it won't take long to catch up."
  11. "Our team doesn't have the technical chops to do this."
  12. "Maybe in the next budget cycle."
  13. "We need to finish this initiative first."
  14. "It's been done before."
  15. "It's never been done before."
  16. "We'll get back to you on this."
  17. "We're already doing it."
Let these phrases be warning signs for your mind. There is greatness to be had, don't let it slip through your fingers!

19 September 2006

MSNBC Video Supporting the Mac

Starting today, all video on MSNBC will now be available on the Mac without the need for Windows Media Player or Flip4Mac installed. Here's how it works:

  • If you hit the site with Win Internet Explorer 6 or 7 you get Windows Media video
  • If you hit the site with Mac FireFox you get flash based video It doesn't look like it supports Flash in Safari, but that could be just because I haven't got the newest version of the Flash player. Slowly but surely other groups at Microsoft are "getting it" when it comes to supporting the Mac.

  • 13 September 2006

    Joel on His MacBook

    Joel Spolsky talks about his Mac at home experience:

    I have a few complaints though: OS X antialiasing, especially, it seems, with the monospaced fonts, just isn't as good as Windows ClearType. Apple has some room to improve in this area; the fonts were blurry on the edges. Also, I don't understand all these people who say that Macs never crash. I probably had to reboot the MacBook Pro (hard reboot -- hold down the power button for five seconds) about every two hours. It was always the same problem: the Wifi network would go down for a second, something which happens to everyone, but on Windows, it just comes back, while on the Mac, I get a spinning colored ball and everything is frozen. Everything. Forever. If I try to wait it out the beachball will still be spinning the next morning. If anybody is aware of this problem and knows of a specific fix I'd love to hear of it. It was like a Windows 3.1 deja vu all over again thing.
    I've only recently been getting the same behavior. I agree with Joel that it has something to do with the wireless, but I see this happen most often when I VPN into work. This didn't happen before 10.4.7, so I think this is a new bug introduced recently. Also, while Apple's sub-pixel text rendering has improved markedly, ClearType on Windows still is just a bit better, but some fonts seem to work much better than others. My basic understanding of how sub-pixel smoothing works leads me to think there are only so many ways to do it, so it's amazing to me that you can notice a difference.

    08 September 2006

    Mixing Carbon and Cocoa

    Oh now this is so, SO refreshing and from a "Cocoa" developer no less! I don't know how many times I've heard the comment that we've got to re-write all of Office in Cocoa as if that were some magic pill that turns all Mac applications into "pure" Mac applications.

    Wake up people! It’s 2006. It doesn’t matter what you program in, it’s how you get the job done. Arguing about whether to use Carbon or Cocoa is like arguing about whether to use a net or a hook to catch a fish. You use whatever the circumstances call for. If you don’t, you die. (This, from the vegetarian, city-dwelling Mac programmer).
    Once again, it's all about execution. Now I love Cocoa (We use it internally to build all our GUI based tools) I love the design patterns and consistency, and I love CoreData and bindings, but very often if you want to do something cool, you almost always have to drop down to the C API and well, more often than not, you're using Carbon. Remember what Steve Job's said when introducing Carbon? "We named the API Carbon, because that's what all intelligent life forms are made of!" I'm personally looking forward to the end of the whole Cocoa vs. Carbon debate. Sometime in the future, applications will be judged by what they enable you to do rather than the API under the hood. If you want to get that concerned about the nuts and bolts, consider this the next time you fly: Every part that makes up every plane, came from the lowest bid supplier. Life's too short, find the right tool for your job and enjoy the ride!

    Microsoft Cafeteria Tour 2006

    You may not know it, but the Microsoft Redmond campus has like 100 different buildings. Okay, maybe not exactly 100, but there are a bunch, and for every 3 or so buildings, there is a different Microsoft cafeteria. Some buddies and I decided we'd try to visit each and every one, in Redmond at least, and document the journey. Everyone's always talking about Google's swanky eats, so consider this your Microsoft guided tour of our swanky eats. ;-) You'll notice us following in great MS tradition by naming our project something as approachable and easy to remember and understand as "MSCT2k6". Of course, we couldn't do this without some kind of memorabilia, so you guessed it, shirts, mugs, bags and yes, the MSCT Rectangle Magnet. As our tour leader says, "Consume! It'll make you feel better, honest."

    07 September 2006

    On Knowing Stuff

    I just heard a funny story about a little boy in Columbus, Ohio and it goes like this: A traveler came along one day and said to the little boy, "My boy, where's the road to Cleveland?" The little boy says, "I don't know." "Well, where's the road to Cincinnati?" "I don't know that either." "Well, could you tell me how to get to Toledo?" "No", says the little boy, "I don't know that either." Then the man looks at him rather disgustedly and says "Well you are an ignorant little boy aren't you?" To which the boy replies, "I may be ignorant, but I'm not lost!" One of the great things about children is their willingness to communicate and try stuff out. They are not afraid to say, "I don't know" and yet they seem to have such a clear view of things. It's refreshing, frankly. They seem to be born with this right from the start. In so many ways they are superior to us older folk in their ability to candidly interact with the world around them. I've been watching the TED presentations that, little by little, are being put online and one of the best talks I've seen so far is the presentation on education by Sir Ken Robinson. It's only 20 minutes long, so take a lunch break and "give it a go." If learning is important to you, I think you'll really enjoy it.

    05 September 2006

    Work and Play

    From David Heinemeier

    You don’t have to work hard to work well. You don’t need sinister eyebrows or only 4-hour sleeps or a booked calendar to be serious. But somehow that image sticks so bad that we tend to view fun as the opposite of Serious Business Stuff(TM). It’s a false choice, not a real fight. And you accept its premise at your own peril. Fun is all about creativity, innovation, play, experimentation, progress, and seeing real things come to life. If you make fun an enemy of business, you’re judging all these desirable concepts by association.
    I just had lunch today with one of our Excel testers and while we were discussing some testing ideas, she just blurted out, "I'm so in love with pivot tables! I just love them!" I laughed, but I loved to see the enthusiasm about of all things, pivot tables! Work can be play indeed!