Friday, February 25, 2005

A Letter from Hong Kong

Dear Gabri, It's cloudy again here. The weather has been very gloomy but the city is brightly lit by neon signs everywhere. One of these days you'll have to watch the movie Bladerunner with me. The city scenes in that movie are like Hong Kong only Hong Kong is cleaner and a lot less dangerous. I have a great desk here overlooking Hong Kong harbor. I can see across the waterway to Kowloon which is connected to the Chinese mainland. That's pretty far way though. The first big city in mainland China is Shenzen. The famous Star Ferry fleet crisscrosses the harbor and brings people back and forth between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The Star Ferry boats are green and white passenger ferries. They look like little model steamships from up here. There are all sorts of boats plying the waters around Hong Kong. Everything from large luxury liners to small wooden boats that look like motorized junks from a chinese painting. The city is nestled in between the harbor and the mountains that make up the central part of the island. There wasn't much planning involved in creating the city so the roads aren't very straight and they don't always connect the way the streets do like at home. There are a ton of little pedestrian walkways that connect to building lobbies, shopping areas, the subway and other walkways. I think you can get to every building in the city without stepping outside. You just walk between the building via these walkways and tunnels. There are three things that stand out as very important to Hong Kong life. First is business. Second would be food. I'm not sure if the first two are in the right order, but the third would be shopping. I think you and mom would have a field day here. Imagine every building in New York, every skyscraper, with a mall built into the first five to ten floors. That's what Hong Kong is like. There are all kinds of shops everywhere selling everything imaginable. The weekend is coming up and I'll be on my own for the next couple of days. There are many things to see and I'll probably take a trip into the New Territories an area of Hong Kong that is directly adjacent to mainland China. There is a large Buddhist Temple there and a cultural museum. I'll probably also visit Mongkok which is a part of Kowloon where there is a lot of outdoor markets. Working in Hong Kong is fun and very exciting but I wish you and the rest of the family could be here with me. I miss you, Luca, Katia, and Mom very much. Give everyone a big kiss for me. Love, Dad

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Buzz Aldrin on My Desktop I'm a big fan of space exploration. Nothing inspires my imagination more than the thought of reaching out into the solar system to the moon, Mars, and beyond to the stars. There is so much to learn out there. Manned space flight has been so limited these days. It's frustrating to think that we're settling for low earth orbit in the ISS when we've been to the moon. I can't think of a single frontier in human history we have left unexplored and unexploited. So, what's an aging rocket-boy to do? Well, panoramas.dk has some stunning Quicktime VR panoramas stitched together from the Apollo moon missions. They are simply awe inspiring. Someday we'll be back.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Migrating Hosting Environments

I'm moving my blog host over to a new, speedier, server. Hopefully this move will be smooth.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I have no idea either....

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The web app business would be great if it weren't for the clients. Linux World is reporting that the current IBM move to Linux desktops is now being hampered by internal web applications coded explicitly for Internet Explorer. The guys over at WebStandards.org are having fun wagging their fingers at Big Blue. I know how this happened. The same thing happens with customers when it gets down to talking about UI features during a project. Time and time again I hear, "This application just has to work in IE. We don't need cross browser compatibility.". Then I have to launch into a long protracted discussion about why web standards and why browser compatibility are important. The smart clients eventually get it. The others pay me later when they need to port the app to work on multiple browsers because their boss tried to bring up the app at their vacation house using an old version of AOL and the UI broke. Once I was working with a third party helping them integrate into a demonstration portal for a large UNIX system vendor. They were puzzled why we dropped them from the demo when we found out their app only worked on IE. Hello! The customer can't run IE. They can't even install it on their systems! This kind of cluelessness pops up when clients want us to get too fancy with the web UI. They want to use complicated client-side technologies and they don't understand the implications. Of course we try to educate them but they always forget. Flash, Java Applets, client-side XML parsing are all great technologies but downright difficult to do cross platform. Especially with low budgets and very tight deadlines. That's why I prefer the open web standards approach. It's not hard to build compelling, dynamic UIs with clean compatible code. Now what I'm curious to find out is if IBM will make another critical mistake. Let's see if they port their web apps to work under Mozilla.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

iLife

I'm having a ton of fun working with all of the new Apple iLife applications, especially iPhoto. The new book themes and album options have me spending dollars creating permanent records of our family vacations and categorizing all my photos. iLife is just great software. I also came across a blog post about making a large photo collage poster using iPhoto. The results are stunning.