Archive for the ‘Web/Tech’ Category

Awesome Support from The Next Generation!

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

Darrin Lythgoes goes the extra mile! As a new customer of his genealogy software, The Next Generation (TNG), I ran into a little bit of trouble importing images. The export file from The Family Tree Maker contains no image information (why ?), so I was faced with importing literally hundreds of images and relinking them to people. Darrin cooked up a quick script to import the images which will make the task of relinking much easier. I love great customer support and Darrin delivers! Thanks a ton Darrin!

Addition and Subtraction with Two Fingers

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

I noticed my second grader was counting on his fingers to solve simple arithmetic. Somehow memorizing the answer to 17-9 wasn’t worth it. He was perfectly happy employing 8 fingers in pursuit of a solution. Now most kids can add and subtract easy numbers ending in zero or five. So it occurred to me that if you are going to count on your fingers, you only need two fingers at most to change the problem into something easier. For example,

17
-9
—-
8

Can be transformed to an easy problem by adding one to both the minuend and subtrahend

18
-10

8

My Drive to Work

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Check out this cool website built with Ruby on Rails, Wayfaring.  There are 39 traffic lights on my way to work. Its just over 20 miles and takes about 40 minutes if I leave my house just after 6:00 a.m.   Anytime after that it is at least an hour drive due to the construction on Hwy 121.  I like what Wayfaring has done and hope they can keep improving it.

More on Commoditization

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006


DSCN5295, originally uploaded by trekr.

I should have said more in my last post about how a skill may become a commodity.

Standards, tools, and for that matter, any advance in the art that constrains the allowable solutions such that the output of different practitioners is undifferentiated, leads to commoditization. For example, a hand saw requires more skill to use than a circular saw. However, anyone with reasonable competence can cut wood more than good enough with a circular saw. For most cuts it doesn’t matter that the handsaw is more precise in the hands of an expert.

There are many great photographers now that we have digital cameras. The technical aspects of film type, shutter speed, focus, lighting, are hidden from the user. However likely it is that a skilled photographer can do more with film, even the pros have switched to digital cameras for most of their photography.

Java programmers don’t need to master memory management or even know what a pointer is. Fundamental algorithms are now in libraries. Most programmers will never need to implement a sorting routine. Does Java constrain the expressiveness of the programmer? Certainly, but not in ways their customers care about.

In some sense all tools abstract and hide details. That is the power of the tool. One need not master the details to successfully use the tool to solve a problem. In order to hide, you must constrain yourself to a hiding place. If your hiding place is big enough, it’s good enough.

The process of commoditization is a net benefit for most of us. It is difficult when your skill becomes a commodity and you need to make a transition. Hopefully, these incomplete thoughts will give you some insight into how to see when its about to happen to you.


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