Saturday, June 02, 2007

Two Pals Who Changed the World, and Particularly, My Life

1996 was the most important year in my life so far - That year I wrote my first program in Pascal and I read a book called "The Road Ahead". Before reading that book, I had no idea who Bill Gates was (He was 8000+ miles away and I was 15 anyway). I had trouble imagining what Internet was like because all I cared was downloading games from local BBS - but I was certain about one thing: I want to be working in the computer industry. Two years later, a friend of mine, Carpier, showed me a B-grade movie called "Pirates of Silicon Valley" and Wow. Now I know there's one more person in the computer industry and his name is Steve Jobs.

Yesterday, sitting in front of the computer alone at the heart of Silicon Valley, an old friend of mine sent me a link to the D5 conference and it was the happiest moment of my life in this year so far - It was amazing to see Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made another rare joint. And unlike the 1997 joint appearance, where they announced the reestablishment of partnership, this time they talk like nostalgic old pals:
The entire session was soft and to me, quite touching. Steve closed the interviewed by saying, "I just think about being able to get up every day and go in and hang around these great people and hopefully create something that other people will love as much as we do. And if we can do that, that’s great. People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s totally true. And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up. It’s really hard. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time."

I am really glad that I am in the same industry as these two great people. Being a software engineer is the greatest pleasure in my life.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is there a gadget that could have saved James Kim?

This week I am deeply saddened by the death of my favorite CNET editor, James Kim. If you have not heard about the news yet, you can click here to catch up a little bit. In short, James and his family stranded in a snowbank in Oregon when they were returning from a road trip. James decided to set out alone to seek help about a week later, leaving his wife and two daughters in the car. His wife and daughters were eventually airlifted and saved, but James was missing until today when searachers located his body at a point where he had sheer drops on both sides.

I don't remember when I first saw James on CNET but I am sure that he has seen and reviewed many gadgets. If he knew what would happen to him, the following list would probably be very helpful:

1) Cellphone Signal Amplifier
Apparently a cell phone "ping" signal was the key leading to the rescue of James' family. CNET has mentioned that it is possible to boost the signal by installing a special car kit. Some websites also suggested that a $300 device made by SignalReach is able to boost cell phone signal significantly. (Also noted that all sources confirm that the sticker type signal booster is a scam.)

2) Solar-powered / Hand-cranking Charger
No gadget works without power so it's important to be able to generate electricity in case of emergercy. Again CNET has reviewed a solar-powered cell phone charger and a hand-cranking charger earlier this year. The solar-powered one fared quite well indeed.

3) GPS-enabled Phone Mobile Tracking Service
It has been mentioned here that a GPS navigation system offers little help if you are stranded and others are trying to locate you. It also mentioned the possibly little known fact that even GM's OnStar system is not able to locate you if the system is not connected to a celluar tower. The article suggests that your whereabout can only be tracked if opt-in to service that allow tracking.

4) Satellite Phone
A satellite phone is a mobile phone that communicates directly with orbiting communications and a vendor like Iridium can provide complete coverage of the earth. Needless to say, the service comes with a cost - the typical cost for a satellite phone is around $1000, and the per minute rate is between $1-$2.

But afterall, life is unpreditable. I guess when James reviewed the "iPod Killer", Zune, last month, he did not realize that he doesn't need a killer, he just needs is a lifesaver. May you rest in peace, James.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Software Quality Control: A Japanese Perspective

I stumbled across an interesting book on software quality a couple days ago. The book's name is "The Hidden Realities of Computer Industry in Japan" ( and it was published in 1995 (in Japanese). Despite its name and publication date, it actually depicts a lot of problems in Silicon Valley and the software industry in general today.

The idea of the book is simple - "Good programmers write good programs, bad programmers write bad programs. Buggy programs propagate bugs to other programs". In one chapter, the authors talks about his experience with a third-party package that his program depends on. His program stalled because the new release of the package has a bug which is obvious. He went on to report the bug to the vendor and the vendor did respond to him after some investigations. What's interesting is that the vendor asked him to continue investigating the bug that he had found because the vendor did not have any tool to instrument the error. This sounds absurd but such cases do recur in a lot of software companies. The reason is simple: The test department performs functional / performance / load testing with an in-house solution which does not reflect the actual usage by customers. Often times, test cases are written by developers and testers who focus on the quality of individual component of a system. This is dangerous because the quality of a software is solely judged by customer satifaction. Therefore, it is important to develop test cases based on REAL customer usage. The best way I find so far is to involve the professional services department, ask them to give a few fairly-complex customer cases, and develop a holistic set of test cases on those.

The book was originally written in Japanese and it was translated to English by a friend of the author. It may not be the best translated work you have read, but the author's sarcastic way of looking at the computer industry will definitely keep you reading until your eyes can't open.

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

hello world

Throughout my 25-years of life, I think I have written no less than 200 "Hello World" statements whenever I tried something out. This one is no exception: hello world.