Filed under Opinion

Get a Job!

It took me about three or four years to get the job I’m in now. Part of that was during the recession, which forced me to sit back and wait for the market to improve. But even then, I kept browsing job listings to see what opportunities were available.

It’s not fun. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who thinks it is. Now, don’t get me wrong: sometimes a job posting will come along that gets you excited. It’s exactly what you’re looking for! It sounds like a unique opportunity! Or the company is solving a fun, interesting problem! But then reality sets in. How do you apply? How do you get noticed? You look at your dry resume and generic cover letter and, for a moment, you wish that you could pick up the phone and talk directly to the recruiter. Instead of getting lost in a pile of paper (virtual or otherwise), you yearn to speak to an actual human about why the job makes you excited.

When I decided to truly get serious about my job hunt, I knew I needed a different strategy. So I did some research. Ultimately, the answer I found was something I should have known all along.

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Six Months in Austin

Arrive in any large airport in the United States, and you’ll immediately be greeted by all the stereotypical tourism clichés that the surrounding area has to offer. Baltimore? Have some crab cakes. Boston? Lobster and Sam Adams. Dallas? Barbecue.

Land in Austin’s airport and you’re greeted with music and pleas to “keep Austin weird”. But what does that mean exactly? I’ve always heard that Austin was unique to Texas; a haven for food, music and technology. But finding the truth in that was proving to be elusive.

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Microsoft Surface

I just watched Microsoft’s first commercial for their Surface tablet. It sucks. I get it: you’re so very proud of that “perfect click” sound you engineered – but that’s not what you center a commercial around.

This is the Microsoft Surface commercial that I would make.

Opening shot shows an iPad on its home screen. “This is an iPad,” starts the voiceover. “All your apps are laid out, ready to launch.” The camera zooms in on one of the icons, “You tap here to see your appointments for today.” Switch to another icon. “Tap here to get updates from your friends.” Switch to another icon. “And you can tap here to see the weather – because it’s not actually 73 degrees and sunny.”

Camera switches to another tablet. This time it’s Surface. “This is the new Microsoft Surface,” says the voiceover. “All your apps are laid out, ready to launch.” The camera zooms in, showing all the information right on screen that would have required tapping and hunting on the iPad.

“But you don’t need to. Looks like I’ll need an umbrella for the football game today.”


Sure, Apple’s new iPod commercial is just as useless as the Surface commercial. But they can get away with that because everyone knows how an iPod works. The Surface is still an unknown to most people. I hope Microsoft gets more serious about their marketing as time goes on.

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Windows 8: First Impressions

Windows 8

I’m still playing with the Windows 8 beta – er, sorry, “Consumer Preview” — and exploring its details. However, first impressions are important, and I think I have a few key observations to make.

Last year, I downloaded the developer preview when it became available. I didn’t spend too much time with it, because it was obvious how early of a build it was. Still, the Metro interface was promising, and the few apps that were available showed great promise.

One big complaint about the developer preview, though, was how much it relied on touch. You could use a mouse and a keyboard, sure, but they were second-class citizens. On the one hand, this was good: Microsoft desperately needed a good touch interface, and there was nothing better than Metro. But on the other hand, it was awkward to use on a traditional computer. Considering that this was the next version of Windows, that was a major problem.

Since then, Microsoft has attempted to soothe everyone’s fears with a consistent message – a message that was reiterated by Steven Sinofsky at the Consumer Preview launch event:

Sinofsky’s concern, however, is ensuring developers are on the same page, designing Metro apps that work just as well on touchscreens as they do with a mouse.

"The goal should be that the operating system scales with you," added Sinofsky.

"That’s what we mean by a no-compromise experience."

For the Consumer Preview, they took many steps to help make the Metro interface more intuitive for the keyboard and mouse, so that there were no compromises. But were they successful?

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La Vita Loco

From The Verge:

According to a Sony representative speaking to Wired, "if a second person is using your Vita, it’s not just a case of switching out memory cards, it’s clearing out all of your saved data on the Vita itself when you do the factory reset."

Because letting a friend quickly borrow a Vita to play with, customize and experience wouldn’t be good advertising at all. No way.

Just Kevin Butler. Butler all the way. He knows how to make new hardware crazy popular.


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The Dismantling of Azeroth

When Blizzard announced their list of perks for committing to a year of World of Warcraft (exclusive mount, beta testing for the next expansion, free copy of Diablo 3), I really wanted to get back into the game. After all, I’ve always liked World of Warcraft. These perks seemed to make a deal that couldn’t be refused.

I’ve been away from World of Warcraft for a while, though. I played briefly after the last expansion pack was released, but I didn’t get very far – mostly due to other games and projects. So, before committing to a full year of the game, I wanted to see if it was something that I could once again play on a regular basis.

As I started playing, there were a lot of things I immediately enjoyed. The classic look and feel of the game was still intact, for example. While the graphics haven’t been updated in any significant way since its first release, it’s a very comforting environment. Sometimes a hyper-realistic environment can feel intimidating. Plus, for veterans of the game, the familiar feel is like slipping into your favorite pair of fuzzy slippers.

I had never completely played through the start of a Worgen character, so that was my test bed in my latest play session. I have to say that, overall, Blizzard did a truly fantastic job with the introductory environments and quest lines for Worgen. Up until about halfway through, I was certain that I would be continuing to play.

But then I started to notice big holes in my favorite slippers.

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On Minecraft and Lego

A big deal has been made about the growing initiative to convince the Lego Group to start creating a new product line based on Minecraft. Mojang has also stated that they are in their own talks with the company.

But why? Minecraft is essentially already Lego. Digital Lego. I’ll admit that a set of instructions for recreating a scene from Minecraft in Lego could be useful, and an interesting project to undertake. But to release an official series of sets? It seems a little excessive. It’s like using Lego to… recreate something that already exists as Lego.

Perhaps Mojang needs to add Lego bricks to Minecraft. Maybe then I’ll understand the appeal.

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Burger King Delivery: Review

About a month ago, we (me and @ndoto) passed a Burger King that had a large banner out front: Now Hiring Delivery Drivers. Delivery drivers? Local restaurants have had a type of local delivery before, using a service called “Waiter on the Way” – but delivery direct from Burger King? This was new, and something I had never heard about previously. Then, last week we received the following postcard in the mail:

Photo Nov 13, 7 45 10 PM

Needless to say, we were curious. So, we decided to give it a try Saturday night.

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The Trouble With Hubs

A few days ago, I posted my own thoughts and experiences with iOS 5. At the end of the article, I conclude that Windows Phone 7 would probably appeal to me, because it gets rid of the endless sea of icons and apps, and replaces them with dedicated “hubs”.

Well, way before that post – last year, in fact – I wrote an article about hubs, and the problems such a system has.

Well, here’s the part that worries me. While this concept is incredibly cool, it puts the responsibility on Microsoft to keep things up to date and fresh.  What the App concept buys you is that when new social networking services crop up (for example), people can write Apps on top of its APIs right away, and before you know it you’re linked in to the service.

With Microsoft’s hubs, how long will you have to wait for Microsoft to integrate a new social networking service?

Now, today, I see that Paul Thurrott has posted an article on what Windows Phone 7 still lacks, even with this year’s Mango update.

The first is a topic I’ve been meaning to address for some time now, which is a serious issue with a facet of Windows Phone that Microsoft has trumpeted, correctly, as its primary advantage over iOS and Android: The integrated experiences that, in many ways, obviate the user’s need to find, download, and then use a myriad of different apps to accomplish common tasks. When the Windows Phone–integrated experiences work, they work well. You can very easily share a photo to Facebook or Twitter, without having first installed and configured a dedicated app for either service, for example.

But in many cases, these integrated experiences don’t offer as much functionality as do the dedicated apps. So depending on your needs, the existence of an integrated experience might simply be obviated by the fact that it doesn’t do what you want.

Paul goes on from here to describe a scenario, using Facebook, that can’t be accomplished properly because Windows Phone’s implementation of the Facebook API is limited. And it isn’t the only example.

There are holes like this in all of Windows Phone’s integrated experiences, from the Twitter integration that doesn’t understand hash tags to the photo integration that doesn’t understand Flickr and is unable to upload full-sized versions of your photos, automatically, to the service of your choice.

Go read the article – it’s essential if you’re considering a switch to a different mobile platform, like I am.

But this point is of particular note, because it is the core of what makes Windows Phone different, and worth considering. I noted in my original article last year that if Microsoft opens up hubs to third party developers, that it will help keep things current and fresh. So far that hasn’t happened, and my guess is that when Microsoft does finally do this, it’s going to be limiting.

There’s no final answer here. But if Microsoft wants to stay in this game – and wants to tout the benefits of hubs – it needs to keep this stuff updated. Ignore this, and you can watch your platform die in a sea of obsolescence.

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Me and a Brick

I woke up this morning to an email from Lego talking about their Lego MBA (“Master Builder Academy”) Program. As tends to be the case on the Internet, that one thing led me on a path of Lego that I had difficulty escaping from.

The first thing I came across was a new set being released early next year. It’s an exclusive for VIP members, and it is essentially a miniature version of a larger series of sets!

Firehouse Modulars

Here is the original firehouse set (left), and the smaller mini version (right)

The mini modulars, as well as the full-size sets that are still available, can be found on the Lego site here. There is also a video where they talk about their inspiration for the miniature series, and what it’s like to build them:

I found the video above on a site that apparently does a lot of reviews of Lego sets. While poking around to see if they had any other information about the mini modulars, or any other upcoming sets, I found a review for the Ninjago Fire Temple set that I made a month or two ago.

Curious what someone else might think about this amazing set, I decided to watch the video. Oh, how very, very painful.

All right, so I guess I should start off by saying that everyone has different reasons for enjoying Lego. And far be it from me to judge anyone’s reasons to like or not like a particular set. Ultimately, I’m probably not the target audience for this “review”.

But wow. The reviewer talks at one point about personally building the set, but I have my doubts as to how much building he actually did. There’s no talk about some of the fun building techniques that are used in putting this set together. There’s no talk about some of the intricate details on both the temple and the finished dragon. But hey, it comes in a big box and costs just over ten cents a piece – that’s pretty important right? Also, there’s apparently about 200 pieces per minifig in the set. I have no idea what bearing that has on anything, but okay.


The real injustice comes at the end of the video, where the reviewer pans the set for being $120. Despite his seemingly favorable opinion about the set up to that point, he decries the price and the lack of “spinners”. The “spinners” are part of a game that is based on the Ninjago universe, and as far as I can tell adds nothing to the building of the set, or its final look. But apparently the lack of them makes its price unreasonable.

So, here’s the thing. I get the impression that the reviewer is looking at the set from the point of view of enjoying the final set as a play set. Which is fine. But you can buy pre-built play sets anywhere these days. The appeal of Lego – to me, at least – is the process of building it. Playing with the final set is, of course, a fun and expected reward for finishing it. But you’re not just paying for the completed set – you’re paying for the experience of building it. The building techniques, the thought and consideration that went into each step, those amazing “aha” moments when several seemingly innocuous steps come together to create something brilliant and expressive.

Everyone likes different aspects of Lego. Some like the pre-made sets, like me. Some like to take a random assortment of bricks and let their imagination be their guide. Some like to play with the final product. But when there’s a guy like this – a guy who doesn’t seem to know what to talk about until the very end, when he suddenly talks passionately about how expensive the set is, and how it’s lacking a component that doesn’t have anything to do with the core Lego building experience – I feel there is something genuinely wrong. For any Lego fan.

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