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i'm currently at an internal company briefing conference and have been having a chance to reflect on some things.

in one of our keynote sessions, we had our COO talk about a family in hawaii with a unique situation.  (i'm not sure i'll get the recalled details correct, but you'll get the point.) 

the family is made up of a father who is blind, a son who is deaf, two daughters who are blind, and a mother who holds the family together.  look carefully...you'll see that there clearly is some complication for the family to even communicate with each other, thus where the mother comes into play.

we heard of the families learnings of how to cope with this and adjustments they made in their life.  well, technology to the rescue in some areas...

microsoft worked with technology and brought computers into this household.  the father could now speak into the voice-recognition software, which would translate the recognized speech into sign-language on a monitor that the deaf son could see.  it was a heartbeat skipping moment seeing the father tell his son *himself* for the first time 'i love you.'  wow...even writing this makes me swell.  amazing.

this family has some tough challenges and now has (hopefully) some better methods to help with those challenges.


this conference i'm at is generally a sales conference.  why am i here?  something similar like the above story -- one of how technology in sometimes the simplest forms can help.  you see, a relief organization uses a piece of software i wrote.  long-story-short: they wrote a very kind thanks to me stating how the software helps enable information without having to know technology and how it '...helps saves lives.'  wow.  i was floored when i read that.  you see, i'm actually quite embarrassed a bit about reading that.  the technology isn't brain surgery.  it doesn't have a SOA component to it, doesn't integrate disperate systems, doesn't do super-whiz-bang-make-my-company-more-money type of features.  it enables information.  period.

after hearing the story of the family above (by the way, they actually came on stage after their story was told -- to a 5 minute standing o), it made me reflect on this relief organization and their kind words. 

sometimes it isn't the most complex things in life that make a difference.  the smallest of things can create huge impact.

it's the little things...

(not to diminish the other efforts, two other co-workers who were behind the idea for are also being recognized for their efforts -- they did some great work!)

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korby just reminded me of a tool that is on .  well they released v1 of -- a simple add-in that has a dockable window of a command shell (cmd.exe or windows powershell) within your visual studio instance.

i constantly find myself needing a shell while working in vs and this will work out great.

hmm...now can it be modified to run by default in elevated mode for vista?

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my comrade woodyp led me on to the mobile client software factory.  looks pretty cool and stuffed chalk full of a bunch of patterns and goodness.

if you do mobile development, this is *definitely* something to check out


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a friend of mine who's a designer/developer type of fella turned me on to some interesting links today, and i thought i'd share.

first, Max Kiesler -- a 'strategic designer' -- he has a ton of posts on ajax designs, etc. -- interesting reads for web developers

second, is computerlove...a fun site, but as a golf fan, here's one of the links (in case it isn't on the home page when you visit) that i thought was awesome: a phantom5 digital camera (4000 shots per second) captures tiger woods' golf swing.  very cool.

and design 101 for programmers :-)

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Rule #1: DON'T DISREGARD this factor!

As many technology-driven people are in their families, we end up being the Nick Burns of the family.  We are often called on by our non-technical members of our families to explain, install, fix, debug, and generally be a shoulder to lean on for technology woes.

I'm no different. 

My mother-in-law, bless her heart, hates technology.  She views it as a necessary evil rather than a blessing.  Here's some things she's had wrong with technology (NOTE: had I not seen them for myself I wouldn't have believed it):

  • bad black printer cartridge - it printed only green
  • two defective hard drives -- to the clicking type of defect: one on an emachine, the other on a dell (after recommending a dell because they are more reputible than emachine)
  • docking station hardware failures to BSOD on her laptop
  • CD burners scratching backup data
  • failed USB keys
  • scratched scanner lense
  • defective wireless access point that would reset to manufacturer configuration every other day

As you can see, she has had some troubles...this makes her hate technology.

But she uses it.  But she doesn't use it well, in my opinon.  Here are a few anecdotes descriping the Mother-in-law Factor (MLF):

  • Bookmarks:  I was called into her office one day and she said 'you have to see this website I visited, let me find it.'  Perplexed, I waited.  She ruffled through stacks and stacks of stapled papers and produced the 'website' in paper form.  That's right, her bookmark system was printing out the websites she liked.  I tried to explain the concept of bookmarks, but she didn't trust them and to this day prints out her 'bookmarks.'
  • Saving in Word:  She couldn't find a file one day and I told her to look in My Documents.  She wondered why because 'I don't save them there, I save them in Word.'  She could not initially comprehend (and still doesn't a bit) the concept of an application versus documents and how they relate...to her, all her stuff was saved 'in Word.'
  • Email: let's not even go there...try explaining POP3 to your mom and why two different computers don't share the same email storage.
  • Wireless: she bought a laptop because it 'had wireless' and figured she could use it when meeting with clients (she's a real estate agent).  She didn't realize you needed someone to provide access to the Internet -- she thought that if she bought wireless it wouldn't be needed.
  • Database: how does she manage her client list.  In a database of course, unless you don't consider a 2-column Word document as a database.  Mail merges?  Oh she does that.  By hand.  Print out database, write on paper...that's her mail merge.  Every month she does this -- to about 100 people.  We finally bought her ACT...hasn't even been installed yet.
  • Plug-ins: she doesn't know what this is and if you mention it, she'll be looking for an outlet.

So as you can see, MLF is your least common denominator for technology.  Design to this personna.

Please don't disregard it, you'll be sorry.