New computer and Windows 7

I have just received my new computer – an Asus notebook. Despite all the glamour for the netbooks, I opted for a 17.3″ full keyboard laptop. After all, I no longer use it for recycling commuting time. My daily use is more on the sofa after dining. Better have some muchoflops more than lilliputian keyboard and eye sight test screen.Also I got Windows 7. Since this OS has been launched during the past week in Italy, I guess I am an early adopter. Until now it doesn’t feel so bad. I haven’t been exposed to Vista, but used XP as it was intended (not in Windows 2000 look-and-feel mode).
On the first run Windows 7 asked for 26 update packages for about half a giga of download. Not bad for one week old OS.

Buon Halloween

Con Halloween non c’entra niente… però Mariana (sempre lei) ha detto: “Mamma, ma quando tu sarai nonna, a noi chi ci cura?”La prospettiva è inquietante, un po’ come l’innalzamento dell’età pensionabile…

Due spaventosi figuri… si, però, Juan, un po’ più convinto!
Mamma mia, che fifa! Dolcetto, scherzetto, tutto quello che vuoi!
Questo qui, non mi convince mica…

Slack

I hate wasting time. If you have time don’t wait for (more) time, that’s one of my favorite savings.When I started working I had a small commute by car and some time got wasted waiting for the traffic light to become green. So I started reading books in those waits.
With my MS-Windows becoming slower and slower at startup, I decided to spend the waiting time reading books. At work I started a copy of “Slack” by Tom De Marco. Being a book on efficiency I found fitting to read it in recycled time.
If you work in software development (or if you are a “white collar” at large) you ought know who Tom De Marco is. Or, at least, you should have heard about the book he wrote with Timothy Lister – Peopleware. This is one of the most referenced book, almost every book on project management written in recent years quotes Peopleware.
Back to Slack, this is a book intended to be read in a short time to convey good an bad practice about efficiency, innovation and risk taking in today’s organizations.
The author states about an hour and half as reading time, I guess it is somewhat more even if you read from page 1 to the end at the same time (and not scattered over a couple of month of PC boots), nonetheless the thought-provoking stuff is very dense. Chapter are short and almost everyone made me think.
It is possible I will write a resume of it in the future, but I strongly encourage you to read by yourself.
Tom hacks through myths trying to grasp what is needed by an organization to survive in times of change and crisis. First myth to fall is the one of total efficiency. Total efficiency means total rigidity. An organization that maximizes efficiency cannot withstand change because lacks of the buffer and the spaces to react to change and adapt.
Then he digs through the (wrong) assumptions about making the organization more productive – pressure, competition, fear and so on.
Eventually he bashes the Management By Objects and illustrates what really means to deal with risk.
For example planning should be an estimation and as a such should offer a range defined by: cannot complete before X and surely completed after Z, with a best estimation at Y, with X <= Y <= Z. Now that’s a planning, that’s quite different by setting a goal. From my experience, someone defines a planning, someone else carves it in stone and says that’s the goal. This way of operation ignores the risk, ignores that an estimation is just an estimation, not a commitment, and it is just a sure way to have a delay on the completion. In fact, even if the most likely date (Y in the example above) is taken, this is usually achievable only with a probability of 33%.
De Marco also marks “Management by Objectives” (MBO) as “don’t”. I already read about criticisms at MBO, but more about the bonus system rather than objectives by themselves. De Marco states that it is hard, if not impossible, that the defined objectives for employees lead the organization toward company objectives. Also in a time of changes it is hard to hit an objective even if the actions taken are excellent for the company.
I found this particular opinion a little forced on software development. I think that an objective and bonus scheme over the course of a project, if properly done, could be helpful. Maybe MBO is just crap if applied to vending or other areas.
I liked the book a lot and I think it is not just for managers (regardless of their level). The more widespread the ideas here contained the better the life of fellow programmers.

BSG-75

It is nearly a week I finished watching the last episode in Battlestar Galactica series. After reading the long interview to authors about the finale (thank you Jok), I decided to watch it again.As I wrote some time ago the show is damn good and I really enjoyed it from episode 1. A number of interesting topics and dilemmas are tackled during the 4 seasons of the show and the outcomes are never simple as black or white, or idealistic.
How does the finale work for me? (Spoiler warning, you may want to read below only after you seen season 4.5, finale included).
Well I am not sure, but it is mostly good, even if it didn’t fully convinced me. First there are basically two finales. The first is the rescue of Hera featuring the last battle of Galactica. This finale is epic, action-packed, 100% space opera. This finale explains the visions about the Opera House, provides the closure of the story of Gaius Baltar with a very satisfying full redemption and features the defeat of the evil Cylons (and the salvation of the good Cylons).
The second finale is the arrival on Earth and the decision of start anew, letting go technology, knowledge and science. This finale is poetic, romantic and aching. I have been nearly in emotional overload a couple of times.
There are two more closings, the first set today in NY featuring those I learned to be called Head Characters (i.e. Head Six and Head Baltar) chatting in N.Y. This finale is about hope, the head characters (angels or entities, no explanation is given) grow the confidence that this time the history won’t repeat because the loop has been broken.
Eventually there is a brief footage of nowadays robots. This is quite useless, and worse is completely dissonant with BSG, you can stand it only because it is preceded by the N.Y. scene.
Thinking on the finale I found that there are a number of quite evident “plot devices”, i.e. cheap ways for authors to solve complex situation. More precisely they employ the mystery. For example the Earth is found by Kara Thrace, setting as jump coordinates the notes of a melody her father taught her and the little Hera drew. Fine, but… the underlying explanation is totally missing from who/what is Kara Thrace (she just resurrect along with her Viper), what the melody is, who the Kara’s father was and so on. The best explanation is given by Gaius during his speech – there is an unknown Power at work. Head Characters are unexplained as well. Also the question why on this Earth there are humans compatible with those on Galactica, is left unanswered.
Also what I feel somewhat cheap was the total consensus about the decision of everyone to restart from blank. We are talking of about 40k people. A fleet that never agrees even about the most straightforward matters, now votes at unanimity to sink ships in the sun, to forget everything about science, medicine, technology, literature and, just to restart anew, to go toward suffering and die for something as stupid as a cold.
Not to talk about the choice of letting Kara Thrace just disappearing. Sounds like the authors: “Hum, what we have to do with Kara?” “Don’t know” “So let her just disappear!”
But don’t get me wrong, I really liked the finale, I found it quite balanced in the emotions that inspires and a good closing for the series. Being quite rational I would have liked some more explaining… (I have a question since episode 1 – how did Baltar survive to the nuclear blast? Just by hiding himself behind Six?)
Anyhow, authors promise some new revelations in the tv movie “The Plan” that I promptly pre-ordered 🙂