Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A potential great loss for Seattle

Rumors are going around right now that there is a chance that Seattle Symphony's music directory, Gerard Schwartz, might be leaving at the end of his contract (i.e. end of 2007-2008 season):

Discord at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from the PI.

This is certainly sad. I'm not saying that the quality of the Seattle Symphony will certainly decrease if this turns out to be true, but any transition is always painful for any orchestra. You lose the ability to predict what the conductor will do until you get used to the new one and this always increases the level of stress, decreasing the quality of the music you can produce.

Anyway, I'll try to keep an eye on the development of this story.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The future of Microsoft

Just because there has been a lot of talk lately about how Microsoft will come out of this quicksand that some people say it has fallen, I've decided to write something about it myself. Yes, I know I'm far from being an expert analyst on Microsoft, or on anything at all. But I do read and have opinions of my own.

Will Microsoft buy eBay? It would be an interesting move by Microsoft, with a lot of money involved, but I don't think that MS management really thinks this way. They always have this idea that MS can do something much better with MS technology.

There are few counter-examples that actually prove the point, but I'll cite only one: Hotmail - one of the WORST free email systems out there because it seems that nobody even maintains it any more. You can't search your email, its spam detector is absolutely terrible, it tends to be slow and has some strange restrictions like if you don't pay for it and don't access it for some time, they clean all your messages! What is Microsoft's answer to it? Create their own Windows Live Mail from scratch.

Then you have Windows Live Shopping, still in Beta. The most AJAX-intensive shopping site out there (out of the real ones, and not small stores or front ends to other stores, as far as I know), and one of the ugliest in my opinion. Also, it doesn't accept a lot of browsers. Anyway, not a great site at all, but built with MS technology by MS people.

So, my conclusion: I don't think so... The proud Microsoft will continue working on their own projects and never get anywhere. What do I think they should do? I never liked eBay and I'm not that big of a fan of Microsoft, so go ahead!

Will Microsoft buy Yahoo!? That's actually a new idea that I've read yesterday... Yahoo? That's way a lot of money and a lot of people! Surely it will be great to get almost 40% of the search market in one move, but the management headache that it will be to merge the monster that Yahoo is with Microsoft will be something that I don't think the "great" MS management can do correctly. I would be very scared if they decide to go with this idea. Scared for the quality of the internet.

So what is the future of Microsoft? In my opinion is a much smaller and leaner company. Break it apart (not necessarily in completely independent companies on the outside, but certainly on the inside), restructure all its management for this new reality and focus on core technologies like its operating system, database, email system, office suite; and open it so that people can use your system in the backend and not try to create a competing system. It might dilute the Microsoft brand recognition, but it will keep it in the market and not as this hated example of who you should beat.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A concert report

In a day a fighting fires (quite literally, but without anybody or anything getting charred), I at least had a very pleasant experience that I wanted to convey here: a Seattle Symphony concert.

In the program there were two pieces: Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, "Unfinished"; and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 7 in E minor.

Schubert: a wonderful "short" symphony (short because it has only 2 movements), full of very great things, and this whole feeling that you are missing something. Brilliantly executed by the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz. A very energetic, precise and yet emotional interpretation.

But nothing compared to Mahler's 7th... Sure right now I'm being biased because I do prefer late Romantic period to Schubert's early Romanticism, but it was such a fenomenal (for my poor ears) interpretation that I'm still a little stunned. If you haven't heard Mahler's 7th, and I wouldn't blame you, as it seems to be something that is not that popular, you are in for an interesting surprise.

A very odd sounding 5-movement symphony, with strange instruments (for a symphony), like a guitar, a mandolin, a tenor horn and lots of different percussion varieties. A huge orchestration with 2 harps, 4 horns, 5 clarinets (1 bass and one Eb clarinet), 4 flutes, typical for Mahler. Quick variations between slow moving meditations and sudden quick and loud interludes. Or would it be quick and loud parts with sudden slow moving meditations?

If you ever come to Seattle, make sure to enjoy a Seattle Symphony concert. It will be worth it!

One interesting thing that happened in the concert is that when coming back from the intermission, there were a couple of people that were late arriving to their seats and Mr. Schwarz waited patiently on stage until all of them arrived to their seats to start the concert.

Another unexpected event was when the first violin simply lost one of his strings in the first movement of Mahler. We had a minute or so break to the second movement while he added a new string and set it all up.

Anyway, it was very exciting. When I came back home I was tired but I still had a lot of not-so-exciting things to do, but we have to pay the bills somehow. Pay for all the "yes"s that I've said in my life. But I did buy my tickets to go to San Diego and meet my sister. I just now need to book the hotel and a car rental.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A wedding later

Sunday's wedding was quite pleasant. A small event with about 45 people where two friends got married (oh, yes, people do get married in weddings). Now they are on their way to Hawaii for their 8 days of relaxing.

Sunday was also father's day here in the US. Not in Brazil, though, so I'm not worried about it. The strange thing that I've seen about father's day was on Seattle Times last Wednesday was this article. A Brazilian talking about doing food for father's day in memory of her father. So strange that it was done by a person from one of the few countries in the world that doesn't celebrate father's day on that weekend.

But this is not what I wanted to discuss here today. I wanted to talk about so many things that I ended up not really finishing this post. I've started it on Sunday and suddenly it's Thursday already! Where did the week go?

What is new? I bought a new computer (at least the parts to build a new computer) and it should arrive early next week. Now I should be able to play games on the computer again, an exciting thought!

Also I finished one more step on a project for my father. I'm actually getting a little bit more excited about this project, a little bit more accepting of PHP as a web development language. Maybe it was because I had less errors with no error message at all and that I had to remove line by line to figure out what was killing the PHP process. A lot of fun as you can see!

Finally, I've been tired. Trying not to snap on people as I tend to do when I'm tired, and also trying not to think that everybody is wrong. Most of the cases, I'm the one who is wrong! :)

Alright, time to get to work. I just wanted to finally finish this post.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Another long winter

And I'm back to write something and prove that I'm still alive... Somehow, at least.

I've been busy and tired lately. So tired that sometimes I even start fights with people without really realizing it. But everything has calmed down a little this weekend.

The problem of taking this long to post anything is that I have some intereting things to talk about, but those are going to take a lot of time, so I'll have to keep the post to the secondary subjects.

1) The gay parade in Sao Paulo just broke a record of the largest parade in the world with about 2.2 million people. But what makes this news interesting is not that, it is that they are sad because it didn't break the record set by another parade last thrusday: the March for Jesus that also happened in Sao Paulo in the same area. [source - in Portuguese]

2) I've been reading "The Wheel of Time" series, by Robert Jordan. It's a very famous series that I have always kind of ignored. I have never been a big fan of fantasy stories, to tell you the truth. But actually I'm happy with this series. Quite interesting setup of events and complications within complications. I'm just starting book 7 right now, A Crown of Swords. Some people claim that this is the beginning of the REALLY SLOW part of the series. I'll see...

One weird thing about it is that I have talked with my former roommate today and he is actually reading the same series! And is approximately at the same place I am right now! Quite a coincidence.

3) It's weird to read in the bottle of a mouthwash: "Do not use if cap seal is broken". How are you supposed to use it if you don't break the seal?

I guess that's the time I had. I'll maybe try to write some more in the next few days. Tomorrow I have a wedding to go. A wedding that will make me miss half of the Brazil World Cup game. I'm not a big fan of world cup as some of you might know, but it was the only weekend game until potentially the final and I wanted to organize a soccer watching party. Too bad...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Still no news

I know, I'm still not writing anything useful here. But I just don't have much to say. Life has been quite hectic and stressful. A lot of things not happening the way I wanted them to happen. Surely a couple of the things are better because of that, but it hurts my unselfish self.

Unfortunately I'm not here to talk about this, but to post yet another interesting article that I've read today:

Visual Tour: 20 Things You Won't Like About Windows Vista

Quite a good article trying to put in perspective what still isn't there on the Windows front. It's interesting how misguided Microsoft has been in the past years, lost in its goal of trying to build something that is just good for everybody. It's a little of the pattern that we in software engineering call "the curse of the do-it-all frameworks" - they might be more advanced than most overall, but what matters is what you want it to do. And on this area, they just can't win.

Make two classic comparisons: Mac OS X and Linux. The first one is aimed at user interface and stability and excels at that. It is painful, though, if you want to customize your system. A lot of the configurations are quite hidden, or simply not there at all! For example, I wanted to set my mouse scroller button to fan out the windows for selection (F9 in the keyboard), but because I don't have a certain brand of the mouse, I just don't get the option to do so.

Then comes Linux, the complete opposite. Linux (pretty much any of the hundreds of distributions) allows you to do whatever you want. You can set up initialization scripts, change colors, create new skins, even recompile the kernel if you want it to work with your new FireUSB port (no, there is no such thing)! But on the realm of ease of use, it's decades behind. User interface is clunky, options are non-intuitive and spread around the system, installing software can be a multi-day procedure if the software was not packaged specificly for your distribution, and so on.

So why Windows? The simple answer is: market share. Windows dominates the market share and with it it dominates the software and hardware development. Find me a product that does not work on Windows (alright, take away the ones made by Apple or open source things) and I'll show you things that won't really get anywhere.

What should you choose then? If your goal is to just use a computer for web and occasional document writing, I'd go for a Mac without any question (except money). If your goal is software development for yourself, Linux is your best bet. You have no idea the improved efficiency you get from not being tied to Visual Studio. Oh, but I did mention that it's good for "development for yourself", meaning that if you have to write things for .NET, well, you are out of luck there.

Finally, if your goal is to play games, buy new gadgets to connect to your computer, or use software from medium to small size companies, you can't escape Windows.

What about me? Well, I have two "working" computers at home: a PowerBook and a Linux box. Sometimes I do feel like I need a Windows box to invest on some "entertainment" but I just never found the time for it so why bother.

Alright, wrote too much already. Back to work here! Too many things to do, very short night ahead.