Sighseeing in Boston

<DIV class=Section1>

Damnath (my co-worker in Boston) took Lasantha and me out sightseeing in Boston today. We went out to Cambridge and checked out Harvard and MIT, with its old Victorian style buildings Harvard looked familiar to the buildings over in Sri Lanka. Over at MIT we went through the “Infinite Corridor”, we took a detour though and were able to get out of infinitum!

We then went over to the Museum of Fine Arts, I was enthralled by the number of authentic pieces of art from all over the world. I have never seen so much art in my whole lifetime. The pieces ranged from art from the Ancient World (Babylon, Greek, Indian) to European (The Renaissance) to recent art from the Americas.

I wish we had planned earlier and had spent a whole day, so that we could have covered more of the museum. Maybe next time.

The only downside to the day was Damnath getting not one, but two parking tickets.

</DIV>

Backlog cleared…

<DIV class=Section1>

I just finished clearing up my backlog on going through my feeds. My current count of feeds is 143 and I just brought down the unread post count from 1400 to 0. Man! That feels good. I’ve flagged 20 posts for follow up and I’ll be blogging on the ones that turn out to be really interesting.

</DIV>

Writing is like prostitution…

<DIV class=Section1>

“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few other close friends, and then for money.” — Moliere. 

I guess I’m in the second phase now.

</DIV>

Firefox Pomposity

<DIV class=Section1>

 Now this I can totally relate to.

“Today we secretly replaced the hive-mind of Slashdot with Folger’s Crystals – let’s see if anybody notices…”

As always, I’ve been watching Slashdot lately. To recap for those of you who may have missed what’s going on, here are a few recent post titles:

– “Firefox use up .00032%”

– “Firefox use up .0078% in Tennessee”

– “Microsoft employee admits to using Firefox”

– Etc.

Outside Slashdot, something else happens that I find interesting: Often, when someone learns that I work for Microsoft, one of the first things I’m told is, “I use Firefox,” and it’s accompanied by a defiant look, as though I’m supposed lose control over my bowels and ruin a perfectly good pair of shorts upon hearing the news that Morton B. Pumpernickel isn’t using my company’s browser anymore.

I’m not sure what it is that drives people to want to tell me that, but I wanted to state, for anyone of this mindset who might be reading, that I don’t care.

I understand the implications of Firefox as a threat to Microsoft. With XUL, and with a host of applications that run inside the browser, Firefox isn’t just a web browser, but a platform as well. As users grow accustomed to running applications inside of Firefox, they will eventually begin to pay little attention to the platform on which Firefox itself is running. In most cases, right now, I think we can safely assume that this platform is Windows. As long as these users are comfortable with Firefox, they’ll pay more attention to whether or not a particular platform has Firefox rather than what the platform actually is, and some might just go for the cheapest platform, which will often not be Windows.

And still, I don’t care.

Not “I don’t care about the threat,” but more “I don’t care that you run Firefox.”

There’s something that has always irritated me about rebellion without any purpose, and something tells me that a lot of people who switch to Firefox aren’t aware of why they’re switching to Firefox. Beyond the usual “I have a friend who told me that IE sux0rz, so I switched,” there are probably few people who have a real grasp of what the change implies (in other words, I’m not criticizing Firefox, or saying that it’s a bad product – I’m talking smack about the slack-jawed ape-people who switch to it just to be “cool”).

It reminds me quite a bit of the move to Linux a few years ago. I could hear the implied high-five slap whenever two nerds agreed that “Wind0ze sux0rz and Linux r0x0rz.” Was there any technical justification for the pride? Not usually. I knew some very intelligent people who were very into Linux, and who could do a good job of explaining why Linux worked for them in certain situations, but I also knew a lot of non geek types who switched just because it was cool to trash Microsoft.

I’ve been fascinated for most of my life with the human tendency to rebel en masse. When I was in high school, everybody decided one day that the music on the radio sucked, and so they rebelled by becoming followers of what has since become known as “alternative rock.” They complained that commercial music had no individuality, and that it had no soul. They all put on the same clothing to demonstrate their solidarity, the movement became very widespread, and within a year, every radio station on the planet was playing “alternative rock,” every fifteen year-old was wearing a plaid flannel shirt, Pearl Jam was giving concerts beneath Budweiser banners, and little preppy bastards like me became the minority. My entire generation was one solid voice, screaming, in unison and in uniform, “I’M DIFFERENT!”

Isn’t that funny? I think that’s funny. Rebellion can be such a sheepy activity.

Now people tell me with the same angsty indignation that they’re no longer using IE and that they’ve switched to the next most popular browser.

I wonder how they type out URLs with their hooves…

<P class=MsoNormal>
[Neopoleon.com] </P>

</DIV>

The Infinite Cat Project

Check out the Infinite Cat Project, that only a geek would think of. It's a picture of a cat watching a cat watching a cat watching a cat... and you can even add your own cat to the project. Start off somewhere from the 25th cat and work your way to the first cat, it's really cool!

Now, is there an infinite dog project somewhere?

My Boss reads my blog!

I found out last week that my boss, Thusith Mahanama, the CEO of my company reads my blog!

Wow, gotta be careful ;)  But seriously how many CEOs are techy enough to be reading blogs, he didn't know about news readers though.

Just as a refresher to all you folks who are new to RSS and read my blog on a browser, you can instead install an RSS reader on your machine (try Omea it's free) and subscribe to RSS feeds, which is any site which shows an RSS icon like this <IMG alt="" hspace=0 src="http://www.merill.net/images/rssButton.gif" align=baseline border=0>. Then wait and see the news come to you without you needing to go to the news.

The Wall Street Journal has a good introduction to RSS including links to their own RSS feeds. Check it out here.

Microsoft Virtual Labs

Over at our company we're evaluating various Microsoft technologies to figure out if we can leverage them when building our next generation development platform. One of our consultants, Kevin Hegg, pointed me out to the Microsoft Virtual Labs.

This is one of the most awesome things I've worked on. Using Remote Desktop (Terminal Services), Microsoft lets you log into their demo servers. So if you've want to try out BizTalk server, just print out the pdf that has the steps for the lab that your going to take. Then terminal service into the server and walk through the steps. You don't need to go through the pain of downloading, installing and configuring BizTalk. Imagine that it just takes 2 minutes to sign up and login to a prebuilt server with BizTalk compare that to 10+ hours and the hear tearing that goes into setting it up on your local network.

Developers login to https://msdn.demoservers.com/ and try out the labs on Visual Studio .NET 2003, Soup to Nuts (Windows Forms/Smart Clients), Data Access and Storage, ASP.NET, Fritz Onion's Intro to ASP.NET, Security, BizTalk

IT Professionals can login to https://microsoft.demoservers.com/ and try the walkthroughs on Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005, Desktop Deployment, Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA), Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005, Security, Microsoft Systems Management Server Manager (SMS) 2003, Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Identity Integration Server (MIIS) 2003, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server 2000

Do yourself a favor and check out atleast one of the labs. You've got to see it to believe it!

Technology Workers

In his latest column, Tom Yager from Infoworld starts off with: 

Technology workers who don’t see themselves as passionate, creative professionals, and who lack commitment to their work, will inevitably occupy the lower strata of the future job market.

This is so true, I’ve seen it first hand at all my previous workplaces and at the various companies that I’ve conducted training for.