Welcome to Bob & Eileen's web site. Bob generally blogs here while Eileen blogs over at her site. You can see our photos from here or click the little camera in the upper right corner.

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March 27, 2009

I’m cool enough for a Mac!

Filed under: Commentary,Software — Bob @ 7:14 pm

After a miserable start Microsoft gave up on a silly advertising campaign (and supposedly also a very expensive campaign) to have Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld explain to me why Windows was wonderful. Their next attempt was the “I’m a PC” campaign that was somehow supposed to convince me that it was cool to use Windows. Their latest attempt now tries to convince me that purchase price, rather than coolness, is the primary factor I should use when deciding on a new laptop. Uh, what?

I appreciate value as much as anyone else, but seriously Microsoft is once again missing the boat. I’m sure the Apple execs are laughing (again) at this new attempt. I certainly am. In addition to laughing I’m also quite puzzled why Microsoft seems to be funding the advertising for Best Buy and HP. Whatever.

People like their iPods and iPhones because they feel nice to use. Ok maybe people get them because they look cool. Maybe coolness is why people buy, but that isn’t why people recommend to their friends. When you ask people who have a MacBook whether they’d recommend one, they aren’t going to tell you about price or about coolness. They tell you about the joy of using it and getting things done. They tell you about the joy of having a computer that “just works” for them.

Usability has always been a key thing for Apple and it really shows. I believe this is because Apple creates a cult-like passion amongst developers and users about it. I believe that Microsoft is interested in usability, but somehow they can’t seem to make it work. You can watch Steve Ballmer run around shouting “Developers! Developers! Developers!” but is he really trying to create the passion and commitment to design? Probably not. There is even a famous email from Bill Gates where he bitterly describes his frustration with Microsoft products.

Its almost like nobody there actually gets it, but that certainly isn’t true. There are “islands” at Microsoft where usability really shows (Visual Studio is my best example off the top of my head – it is exactly the right tool for me to write solid software) but the overall consistency is lacking across Windows as well as every other application. I gotta say I’ve never believed you can have real usability without end-to-end consistency, and Microsoft’s product portfolio seems to be a perfect example of that.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been introduced to real usability concepts, and when you understand the science behind that word you can appreciate why Apple seems drenched in it but Microsoft isn’t even in the same neighborhood.

March 4, 2009

Welcome Home, Cairo!

Filed under: Commentary — Bob @ 9:23 pm

dsc00382-1200Last weekend we were chosen by a small puppy to become his new parents!

Meet Cairo, a very nice little dog who thinks we are ready for sleepless nights and endless chasing around the house.

Cairo is about ten weeks old now, and is incredibly wonderful. He is a mix of Dachshund and Yorkshire terrier – not terribly large but incredibly cute and very rambunctious. He is keeping our other dog quite busy.

I’m hoping to get some sleep this weekend. I’d forgotten how much work it is to train a new puppy!

Eileen posted a different picture and some other fun stories.

March 1, 2009

Battlestar Galactica, the game

Filed under: Games,Work — Bob @ 2:03 pm

pic354500_tIts been a long time since I updated this site, so let’s start with what I did last night. A few friends I used to work with at Kodak were getting together to play Battlestar Galactica, The Board Game. The fellow organizing it was also the one who introduced me to a number of excellent board games such as Ticket to Ride and Modern Art. There were six of us in total, the game is much better with a large group.

The BSG game uses the storyline through Season 2 as its backdrop. The basic conflict pits the humans against the Cylons, but initially the identity of the Cylons is secret. Each player is one of the cast members although the “who is a Cylon and who is not” is still very much in play. For example, Boomer is already a known Cylon by this time in the storyline but in the game there is no guarantee. In a six person game at least one person is a secret Cylon from the beginning. Their job is to sabotage the work of the humans for as long as they can, and they can choose to reveal themselves as Cylon to gain new and different ways to play the game. Halfway through the game one of the humans is privately informed they are really a Cylon too, and their goals then switch to insure the destruction of the humans. This tension creates a lot of paranoid decision making, and if the humans are truly unlucky the Cylon can be a very powerful figure such as the President or the Admiral of the Fleet (or both, as happened in one of our games).

If you are a fan of the series and really enjoy moderately complex board games I’d recommend this one. It takes a bit of time to find the optimal move for each player on each turn, but the basic rules are pretty easy to learn and it moves along at a reasonable speed. The first game can be pretty long (ours was about four hours long) due to having to learn the rules. The second game went much quicker, once everyone was up to speed.

One word of caution: don’t play this game with people who are easily upset by duplicitous behavior. The whole point of the hidden Cylon agenda is to wreak the most havoc on the humans at the worst possible time. Get used to it, this is how the game works.

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