media, music, auto comments edit

For my birthday, my lovely wife Jenn saved up and got me a new car stereo - an Alpine iDA-X001.  I’ve been wanting a stereo that has direct iPod integration for quite some time now so she took me to Car Toys and we picked this one out.

iDA-X001

It’s more of a controller than anything else, relying on external peripherals to supply the music source.  It’s got a USB connection that you can use to connect pretty much anything to (they have adapters) - iPod, USB memory stick, Zune.  It’s also got an iPod-specific connector that you have to use with older generation iPods (that’s what I have to use).  It doesn’t have a CD player on it, but that’s okay because I don’t really listen to CDs anymore - basically they’re only around long enough for me to put them on the iPod, then they get archived.

What I like is that you control it just like your iPod - you can browse your playlists, listen to your podcasts, the whole bit.  Love it.  The thing that sold me, though, is that this unit has this “MX” feature (“Media eXpander”) that takes the music and “rebuilds” it, making compressed sources (like MP3s and such) sound much closer to the original source.  It’s definitely noticeable, and it’s one of the features I was specifically looking for.  It’s very similar to the functionality of the DFX Audio Enhancer plugin for Windows Media Player.

It also has the ability to plug into a bajillion external devices and control them - Bluetooth, XM Radio, HD Radio… it seems like it can control just about anything.  Only downside is that each of the boxes that you have to get to enable these features run around the $200 - $250 range.  So, like, if I want to control my phone through Bluetooth, I have to buy a $220 box.  If I want to listen to HD Radio, that’s another $250.  You get the idea.  They really get you coming and going on that stuff, but I can’t really complain - the modularity of the thing makes it such that you only really have to buy the bits you want and ignore the stuff you don’t.  I’d consider getting the Bluetooth box, for example, but probably will pass on the XM Radio.

While I was there, I also got an amplifier and a 10” subwoofer with a custom box for the trunk.  I had the stock Bose stereo that came with my car, and it was decent and all, but the bass… sounded great when you were sitting still but disappeared as soon as you’d start driving down the road.  The new amp/sub combo has me back in action.  Thanks, Jenn!

GeekSpeak comments edit

When you’re working on a software project, there are times you’re faced with decisions:  Do I implement this functionality or not?  Do I add this feature or not?  How far do I take the feature I’m working on?

Since you’re trying to ship product, sometimes you have to take shortcuts in the name of pragmatism.  What will get me to a shipping state faster?  Decisions get made on the YAGNI (You Ain’t Gonna Need It) principle:  If the functionality doesn’t get me to the goal, I won’t implement it.  In an agile environment, this can sometimes mean “If this doesn’t get us to the goal of the end-of-sprint-demo, add it to the backlog.”

This is generally not a bad thing.  After all, you want to be successful, and success is meeting your goals and shipping.  That said, you have to use this as a general guideline, not a hard and fast rule.  You have to adapt your view of what pragmatism means in light of current circumstances.

For example:  While it isn’t something that can be demonstrated at the end of a sprint to a business user, setting up your source code repository structure and other infrastructure items (build server, etc.) is not generally something you can put off until later just because it’s not demonstrable.

Another example:  If a change to the codebase has half the team in a non-functioning state, it’s probably not OK to push forward on development until the whole team is productive again, even if it’s only a week until your demo and even if it means you might not make the goal.

In some cases, you may have to adjust your sprint goals.  That’s what it means to be agile - to be able to adjust and accommodate change, not use the principles as a crutch.  If you’re demonstrating the UI of the application and you don’t have a solid deployment mechanism, that’s probably OK.  On the other hand, if it’s only building on your local development machine and the rest of the team can’t get it to work, that’s a little less OK.

Don’t use pragmatism as an excuse to avoid work.  Let common sense prevail.

media, movies comments edit

We went out last night to see Transformers for my birthday.  I had heard from some friends that they liked it, so I went in sort of interested and came out feeling like this was the coolest thing ever.

The idea is that the Transformers are robots from another planet that have come to Earth in search of an energy cube called the All Spark that gives them life.  If the evil Decepticons get ahold of it before the friendly Autobots do, the world’s in serious trouble.

Yeah, it sounds sort of lame.  But it really wasn’t.  For people even mildly interested in sci fi robot movies, I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  There was all of the robot battling and transforming you would expect to see - it was an effects extravaganza.  Lots of action, as expected from Michael Bay, and at no time did I feel like I was bored or losing interest.

For fans of the cartoons it’s even better.  They got Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, to do the voice in the movie and it’s definitely something you notice.  When he whips out the “Autobots! Roll out!” you get the shivers of positive childhood memories.  They throw in a couple of references to “More Than Meets The Eye,” too, which is cool.  (When they say it, listen to the theater crowd.  The people who snicker are the kids who grew up in the 80’s.)  And if you paid close attention to the names, you’ll even notice that the original show had characters with the last name “Witwicky” (the main character in this movie was “Sam Witwicky,” played by Shia LaBeouf).

The human actors (funny that I have to qualify that…) are also pretty good.  Shia LaBeouf is a great high school nerd character and Megan Fox plays a popular high school girl character.  Both are very entertaining to watch.  Josh Duhamel plays an Air Force captain and does a great job, too (I’ve only ever really seen him on Las Vegas).  You have to imagine Duhamel saw the script and didn’t even read it before accepting - no child of the 80’s could pass up the chance to be in a freaking Transformers movie.  No way I could.

At the end we clapped, because, you know, the actors can hear you clapping in the theater.  I think that’s actually how you know you liked the movie - you feel like clapping at the end.  Jenn claims to have been slightly disappointed because they didn’t play the original theme from the TV show at any point, but besides that, they gave us everything we wanted.

I definitely got my money’s worth and I’m hoping this hits HD DVD sooner rather than later.  Good times.

personal, tv comments edit

We celebrated my 31st birthday this weekend.

On Saturday, a small group of folks got together with me and we went to Ultrazone to play laser tag.  It was quite a bit of fun, and a slightly different setup than other places I’ve played laser tag, so it was a neat change.  I’ll definitely have to go back there again.  After that, about half the folks came back and we had a barbecue at my place.  Jenn got me a tasty mint chocolate chip ice cream cake from Cold Stone.  I don’t think I’d ever had an ice cream cake before, and it was great.

Sunday my parents came over and took us out for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and then to see Live Free or Die Hard.  Lunch was great, and the movie was actually a lot better than I expected.

The idea behind Live Free or Die Hard is, basically, that a hacker is trying to take down the entire country by shutting down anything run by computers.  Basically.  Now, I won’t lie and tell you that you can go in and not have to work to suspend your disbelief - you’re going to have to take some stuff on faith.  At times, you will find yourself laughing at how ridiculous some of the situations are.  That said, it’s a lot of fun, and I never once felt like I needed to look at my watch and see how much longer it was.  It’s a fluff piece, a great thrill ride, and if you go in understanding that, you’ll have a blast just like I did.  Plus, they give some little rewards to the Die Hard fans out there, what with the daughter, Lucy, showing up.  (Remember her on the first movie?)  Anyway, see it and have fun.

My dad also made me a really cool Lost Room gift box.  If you haven’t seen The Lost Room yet, definitely do - it was fantastic.  Anyway, he went to the trouble of cutting out all of this perfectly fitting foam to package up a copy of the DVD, prop replicas of the bus ticket and the pen, and an actual room key he got from a collector on eBay (so, no, it’s not a prop replica, nitpickers; it’s from a real hotel room, not the Lost Room).  It’s super cool - check it out:

Lost Room gift box: DVD, bus ticket, pen, and
key

I’m stoked - it was awfully thoughtful and a lot of effort went into it.  Very cool.

So I’m 31 now, and… well, it’s not much different from 30.  A bit more experience under my belt (along with, probably, a few more pounds).  A lot of life change since 30.  I sense more change on the horizon, but I guess as a friend once told me, “life is change.”  We’ll see what the future holds.