Innovative headshot

August 31, 2009 at 11:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My company does a lot of headshot work and most of the headshots I receive are pretty boring. Here’s an innovative one from one of my customers. It is from the Los Angeles indie rock bandMalbec“. Pretty cool, huh? Reminds me of a Beatle’s Hard Day’s Night:


Aptana Studio 3.2 on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

August 20, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I lost my last computer to a hardware failure. I thus got a cheap, used 1 year old Dell computer for $150 and installed a nice, shiny clean version of Ubuntu. Anyway, as always, I had trouble installing Aptana on the version of Eclipse that comes with the system. Specifically, it would hang on “checking online status” and then display this message:

Aptana requires Sun JRE 1.5 or greater to work properly.
Some functionality may be disabled or work not properly under current JRE

I finally found the solution. I’m posting it here because it wasn’t entirely clear on the forums what to do. This is what I did:
– sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin xulrunner
– sudo update-alternatives –config java . I then selected “/usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun/jre/bin/java” as my java platform
– /usr/bin/eclipse -vm /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun/bin/java

It was able to load after that without the error and it also got past the checking online status thingee. You might want to put the last eclipse line in your icon’s command setting so the icon will work.

I am posting this online so other people can easily search for this problem.,

Edward De Bono – good quotes

August 16, 2009 at 11:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the future, instead of striving to be right at a high cost, it will be more appropriate to be flexible and plural at a lower cost. If you cannot accurately predict the future then you must flexibly be prepared to deal with various possible futures.

To be successful you have to be lucky, or a little mad, or very talented, or find yourself in a rapid growth field.

Sometimes the situation is only a problem because it is looked at in a certain way. Looked at in another way, the right course of action may be so obvious that the problem no longer exists.

The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas.

One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.

Removing the faults in a stage-coach may produce a perfect stage-coach, but it is unlikely to produce the first motor car.

Most executives, many scientists, and almost all business school graduates believe that if you analyze data, this will give you new ideas. Unfortunately, this belief is totally wrong. The mind can only see what it is prepared to see.

Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.

The purpose of science is not to analyze or describe but to make useful models of the world. A model is useful if it allows us to get use out of it.

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.

An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgments simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.

If you wait for opportunities to occur, you will be one of the crowd.

Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way the car is driven.

Alan Kay on presentations

August 12, 2009 at 12:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I have always been an admirer of Alan Kay. In case you don’t know who he is, he’s one of the fathers of object oriented programming. He was also heavily involved in the creation of the graphical user interface back in the 1970’s. Anyway, I wrote to the receptionist of his company asking a question about his presentations and, shock of all shocks, he actually wrote back!

This is what he had to say:

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your kind words. I didn’t use any books to learn how to give presentations (but I most certainly did have to learn!). I was inspired by Seymour Papert who, when I asked him how he was able to be such a great presenter, told me that he had spent two years learning to “write and present to teachers”. This got me going trying to find my own solutions.

I forget what is in that reading list, but there could be a few books about the nature of theater. “The Magic Mirror” by Robert Nathan is a good one. Theater (like most arts, especially the visual ones) is all about trying to answer the question “What do we have to show the audience to get them to ‘remember’ deep things about the subject matter?” It is not about conveying information (and, the pace and short time duration are wrong for trying to teach anything but the most incremental notions).

What we are trying to help them do is get a glimpse of ways of looking at things that have not occured to them, and would be powerful if they were willing to put further effort into doing real learning.

I think the other key (which people do not like to hear) is the amount of prep it actually takes. For a 1 hour talk I never spend less than about 4 hours preparing, and often spend many 10s of hours preparing.

Part of the reason is that I need to do what it takes to reengage me in what the talk is about — what is really important, what is really cool about all this — so when I do the talk what you are hearing is just exactly how excited I feel about the ideas and the ways of looking at them. I never try to fake this.

This reengagement is the key to performing for an audience, and it is something that is familiar to every actor and musician, etc. Otherwise what one is doing is repeating rather than recreating, and it’s the recreation that produces the shared excitement.

Another thing I do which most people don’t is to give my talks in our own dynamic media. Using something like powerpoint is silly when the subject is computing (even those rare occasions when someone actually understands how to use something like powerpoint).

Bottom line: quite a bit of success in giving a talk is directly related to just how much the speaker cares about the audience and how they are trying to help the audience. From this, the learning and prep that the speaker actually needs to do follows pretty straightforwardly.


Lateral Thinking

August 7, 2009 at 7:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The single biggest problem facing engineering is a lack of perspective. Here’s a good quote from DeBono (from his classic book “Lateral Thinking”) that helps explain this:

Sometimes the situation is only a problem because it is looked at in a certain way. Looked at in another way, the right course of action may be so obvious that the problem no longer exists.

For example, let’s say you are given the task of “children get lost in large crowds”. There are different ways to look at this:
– preventing children from being lost
– finding a way of very easily finding children once they get lost
– make it unnecessary for parents to have to enter large crowds. That way, children don’t get lost.
– make parents less careless about their kids so the kids don’t get lost.

You see? Sometimes looking at the problem from a different angle can automatically suggest answers. The key is defining the problem specifically. The less general you define the problem, the more likely it is to suggest answers. The problem with people, even smart ones, is that they have this sort of “tunnel vision” in their approach to solving problems. The key to breakthroughs is to look at things that no one else really bothered to look at.

Google Wave

August 6, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I just got a new Google Wave developer account! It won’t be released in beta form until October, so I consider myself lucky. I’ll write more when I get more experience with it.

In case you don’t know what Google Wave is, it’s basically a combination of email, instant messenger, wiki, and social networking. It’s just a new way to collaborate with your co-workers. But describing it in that way kind of misses the point. It’s best to watch this video, it’s pretty revolutionary:

Good Alan Kay quotes

August 4, 2009 at 9:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

If you don’t fail at least 90 percent of the time, you’re not aiming high enough.

Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

Most creativity is a transition from one context into another where things are more surprising. There’s an element of surprise, and especially in science, there is often laughter that goes along with the “Aha.” Art also has this element. Our job is to remind us that there are more contexts than the one that we’re in—the one that we think is reality.

Perspective is worth 80 IQ points.

Quite a few people have to believe something is normal before it becomes normal – a sort of ‘voting’ situation. But once the threshold is reached, then everyone demands to do whatever it is.

Some people worry that artificial intelligence will make us feel inferior, but then, anybody in his right mind should have an inferiority complex every time he looks at a flower.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

By the time I got to school, I had already read a couple hundred books. I knew in the first grade that they were lying to me because I had already been exposed to other points of view. School is basically about one point of view — the one the teacher has or the textbooks have. They don’t like the idea of having different points of view, so it was a battle. Of course I would pipe up with my five-year-old voice.

Simple things should be simple. Complex things should be possible.

Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.

OOP to me means only messaging, local retention and protection and hiding of state-process, and extreme late-binding of all things. It can be done in Smalltalk and in LISP. There are possibly other systems in which this is possible, but I’m not aware of them.

I finally understood that the half page of code on the bottom of page 13 of the Lisp 1.5 manual was Lisp in itself. These were “Maxwell’s Equations of Software!”

… greatest single programming language ever designed. (About Lisp programming language)

The future is not laid out on a track. It is something that we can decide, and to the extent that we do not violate any known laws of the universe, we can probably make it work the way that we want to.

Actually I made up the term “object-oriented”, and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind.

Computing spread out much, much faster than educating unsophisticated people can happen. In the last 25 years or so, we actually got something like a pop culture, similar to what happened when television came on the scene and some of its inventors thought it would be a way of getting Shakespeare to the masses. But they forgot that you have to be more sophisticated and have more perspective to understand Shakespeare. What television was able to do was to capture people as they were. So I think the lack of a real computer science today, and the lack of real software engineering today, is partly due to this pop culture.

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