Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blu Ray Vs. HD-DVD

Yesterday at work we were discussing the next generation of dvds. None of us really new the difference between Blu Ray and HD-DVD. All we really new was Sony was pushing Blu Ray and Toshiba seemed to be pushing HD-DVD. Microsoft jumped in the HD-DVD bandwagon with the XBox360 to compete with the Playstation 3 and it'd Blu Ray drive.

So what are the advantages of these technologies over regular DVDs?
Well mainly storage capacity. By using blue lasers in stead of red lasers, the disks are able to contain more rows. More rows means more data. I guess it has something to do with wavelengths properties of the laser beam. It is really technical and honestly I think I slept through that physics class.

So what are the difference between HD-DVD and Blu Ray?
Well the main difference is that Blu Ray disks can actually store more data, something like 50gb compared to HD-DVDs 30gb. So that has a lot of people excited, however the real advantage of HD-DVD is that it more closely mimics current DVD technology so the cost to manufacture is lower thus causing the technology to be cheaper.

So who will win?
Well I don't know. The fact that the Playstation 3 comes with Blu Ray drives, the fact that Sony owns licenses for something like 40% of all movies, and the extra storage capacity put a strong plus on Blu Ray's side, however considering the cost of HD-DVD to be way less and throw in the weight of Microsoft and their will to dominate the console market it is hard to pick a winner.

I think in the end, Sony and Blu Ray will win. The extra storage capacity is really hard to pass up on. I think in a year or even the next generation XBox you will see them offering a Blu Ray solution instead of HD-DVD.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

James Bond Review

Warning, there may be some spoilers below.

So last night my Dad, Brother-in-law and I went to see Casino Royale, the new James Bond Movie. The movie was around two and a half hours long. I actually found the time fly by. I thought this next installment was very good. I gave it an 8.5 out of 10.

So the movie opens with a flashback. The flashback explains how someone becomes a double O and show us how Bond became one. This is important because the movie is trying to tell one of Bond's earliest missions. This is confusing since the movie is set to today's time and terrorism is the theme.

As the movie progresses, we get to see a Bond that has never been seen before. One that is a little rough and well brutish. Examples of this is not knowing if his martini should be shaken or stirred. Showing off his driving skills as he crashes his car and rolls several times. Being caught on camera as he does his spy duties. All the early mistakes are what Bond learns from to become the great agent he is.

By the end of the movie, Bong got the girl catches the crook and earns the trust of M. Like I said all in all it was a good movie, and I think Craig will become one of the best Bonds.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Microsoft Team Server

At the company I work at, we currently use SVN, Jira, and Confluence. These tools serve as our source repository, item tracker, and project collaboration. One thing to note our company does both Java, and .Net development. These tools work pretty well for both of these practices. There are plenty of tools to help integrate these tools into VS2005.

Well one task I have taken on is to look into the Microsoft Team Server. The first task was to install it on our network. I asked our network guy to create a new partition. I also download Team Server for Workgroups from my MSDN subscription. I decided to do the single server install since this was to be more of a fact finding/demo of what team server can do, and the workgroup version can only accommodate five users.

The install is a little more complex that I thought it would be. The install document although lengthy was very accurate. Here is a quick wrap up of what I did.

The first thing I did is I had out network guy create three new domain accounts. One was the install account, one was the service account and the other was the reporting account. I had to have them as domain since it was the workgroup install, however if you do the regular version I guess the users can just be local accounts.

The first thing that needs to be installed is SqlServer 2005. there are some setting you need to change form the install wizard. They are well documented in the install manual. After it installs, there are two updates the need to be run. the updates are found on the team server dvd. Next is to install SharePoint services 2.0. Again you must choose the server farm setting. Once installed don't worry about trying to configure SharePoint, since the team server install will do this. The last thing to do is to install Team Server. Again walk through the wizard and let it install.

Once everything was installed, I had to use the command line tool to add users to roles on the server.

Finally I installed the client tool on my local machine and away we went.

As I use the tool more I will blog about my experience with it. For now though I haven't had a lot of time to use it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Football fun

First I would like to send my regards to the Bo Schembechler family. He was a brilliant coach. Even though he owned my Badgers, I have always respected him.

Next, on to this weekend. My UW Badgers won and finished the regular season 11-1. The game Saturday was a bit sloppy but as Lou Holtz says "You only need to be the best team in the stadium." It looks like the UW Badgers will be invited to play in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando Florida. Again this assumes that Ohio State, and Michigan will be selected to BCS games.

Also, this weekend was perhaps the game of the year. Second ranked Michigan played at first ranked Ohio State. I wasn't really sure who I wanted to win, but I was cheering of Michigan. I wanted to see the team Bo built win one for him. I thought the game would be close, and it was Ohio State won by three points. What surprised me was the number of points scored. Ohio State and Michigan had two of the best defenses in college football, yet they scored a combined 81 points and over 900 yards of total offense. the game was very exciting and you could tell these truly are the best two teams in the nation.

Well that is my quick wrap up of my weekend. As you can see I really didn't do to much.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cool Website

Hi all,

So I was bored the other day and looking for neat things on the web. I came across this website. It is a shrine to the original Nintendo. I think the website is very original. The name is one of the greatest cheat codes ever.

I remember playing Contra and other popular games and typing that code in over and over again. It would provide you free lives or allow you to skip to different levels or even to max out your weapons.

I also remember playing Nintendo so much that I would get Nintendo thumb. this is a severe case of your left thumb getting disfigured from the navigation cross. Another sign of this was the fact your thumb would be raw red.

I hope the owner of the website will add more content to help me really re-live my youth.

Have a good weekend!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Firefox extensions

Favorite Firefox Extensions
I have been a Firefox user now for about one year. I really like they way the browser works, and I am not in a big hurry to try IE 7.

That said I just recently started trying extensions for Firefox. The two extensions I like most are FoxyTunes, that lets you control you media player right from your browser, and PacMan.

Why is controlling music from your browser important, well it really isn't, except I do read a lot on line. Working in software development there is always learning that needs to be done. I read a lot online and while doing so I listen to music. It is very convenient to be able to control volume and song selection without ever leaving the web browser. I never lose my place anymore and re-read the same paragraph multiple times.

I like the PacMan extension because well I like PacMan. It is nice to take a quick break and just play a fun 80's video game.

Some of the other extensions I use are ...
DOM Inspector

As you can see I do not have that many, which brings me to a question. What extensions are you using and why should I want to use them?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Vegas Part 3

Technology of Sin City

As a software developer I always keep an eye out for way computers impact life. Las Vegas has seen multiple changes due to the cpu. I have only been going to Vegas for nine years so these observations are based on that time frame.

Slot Machines
One of the most obvious place computers have impacted Vegas is with slot machines. Gone are the days of the reeled machines with a single pay line. Thanks to the increased speed of the cpu now you have video slot machines that have up to 100 pay lines. Each line requires a separate bet and thus making the slot machine the number one money maker for Vegas casinos.

High speed networks have allowed slot machines to be linked across many different casinos and thus allowing larger progressive jackpots. The way the jackpots work is simple for every coin in a linked machine a percentage gets added to the progressive. When you have many of these machines linked together that jackpot increase rather quickly.

Table Games
Table games are always changing. Casinos are always adding new games to the floor to go along with the basic games of blackjack, craps, and roulette. For the game play there is very little technology, in fact casinos will not let you sit at a table while using a cell phone, mp3 player or any other portable electronic device (Poker room is an exception). Behind the table games however is a plethora of technology including some of the highest level security and player tracking computer systems.

Lets start with the player tracking system. how it works is simple. You give the pit boss you players card, and they go over to a computer and pull up your history. They can learn everything about you as a player. Things like your average bet, the times and games you like to play, if you are an advantage player, what you drink, and most importantly your importance to the casino as a player. As you play, the bosses continue to add data to the system. Over time the casino has a very clear picture of there players and thus who deserves free room comp, and who deserves the buffet comp.

Casino security is the most high tech security you will find. There are very few places you can go without the eye in the sky not being able to track you. Also, rarely can you get to places in a casino you do not belong. Every casino has hundreds of video devices and linked with that is software that can scan a persons face and pull up possible matches. The computers are smart enough to analyze video of game play and come to a determination if there are any shenanigans going on and can alert security personal to watch and notify pit bosses. The security is so good that after 911 airports went to the casinos to learn about security.

Technology you don't see
Other ways computers have helped casinos become even more successful is by tracking how money is made. If you walk around a casino you see that the table games are arranged in a pit and slot machines are arranged in banks. Casinos have software that track how well individual table games, pits, and groups do. They also track the same for slot machines. By tracking the dollars the casino knows games customers want to play and what games are flops. With this knowledge a casino can maximize it's earning potential.

Well this brings me to the end of my Vegas posts. I am letting Harrahs off the hook since I was going to devote a whole post to a rant about how the Harrahs chain has really started to fall in quality and service. I decided that it was not worth my time.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Vegas Part 2

Texas Hold em

While in Vegas I played in a Hold em tournament and I also played a little 1-2 no limit. I consider myself a little better than average at playing poker. I know how to calculate pot odds, and card odds. I have multiple styles of play and have no problems changing up during table play.

So I bought into an $80.00 tournament. There were 30 players who bought in. You started with 2500 in chips. Blinds started at 25 - 50 and raised up every 15 minutes.

I was seated in the 8th seat at the table. My table was mixed with young and old guys. Some talkers and some non-talkers. It was a good mix. I decided I was going to be very tight early on so I could watch a lot of the play. I was only going to play what I call a top ten hand. So after the first 15 minutes I thought I had a god feel for the table. I felt 5 players were poor players and very loose. I felt the 3 players were solid, and the rest I did not know.

I decided it was time to change my game and just play tight. I would play top 20 hands. the first hand I got involved in I was pocket 9's in dealers position. I decided to raise the un-opened pot and put pressure on the blinds. I got called by the small blind and the big blind folded. The flop came with A, K, 10. The small blind raised more than the pot. I thought this was an odd bet, but this was one of the players I just did not have a read on yet. I decided to lay down the hand since there were 3 over cards on the flop.

After that hand Every hand I played at that table I won. Either I had the cards, or my tight image bullied other players. One lesson I learned is the power of betting. If you make bets at the right times, you can really scare some people.

After about 2 hours the thirty people are down to 9 and one final table. At the table I was about 6th or 7th in chips, not great. I had enough chips, that I could last awhile so I didn't have to make any drastic moves. However, the third hand I was dealt pocket cowboys. I decide to push all in. Basically if I no one called and I stole the blinds I would raise my stack by about 50%. I actually got a caller, and oddly enough I had him out chipped so he was really all in. When he turned up is pocket 10's I new I was in good position. The flop came 5,3,j. I am now thinking I am about 91% to win. That is until the turn came up a 10. I ended up losing the hand and having about 1500 in chips left not enough really. Basically I was all in on the next hand since I was the big blind, and ended up losing.

The next day I played 1-2 no limit and it was fun. I again played tight early, but got real loose after watching. I got some good cards, bet them hard and usually one. I was up big until a guy when all in and I had pocket aces. He had Q, 10. he paired his queen and then ended up pairing his 10 in the river. Other than that hand and paying someone else I new had a straight but could not believe he would bet so much chasing it, I did pretty well.

So those are my poker stories. Stay tuned form my Harrah's rant, and other Vegas goodies.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vegas Part 1

Hi all,

I am back from Vegas. The next few blogs will be about my trip. Today's blog is on my gambling experience.

While in Vegas I tried many different games. I would say the break down is 70% blackjack, 15% poker, 8% Pia Gow Poke, 4% craps, and 3% slots and other.

What can I say about this game. I like to play two deck, with a 3 to 2 bj payout. Well it seams the casino I stay at decided to rid itself of true double deck. They had a couple tables with single deck with a 6 to 5 bj payout. If you are familiar with the game you know that 6 to 5 increase the house percentage in the game, like the house already didn't have enough of an advantage. I ended up mostly playing an 8 deck shoe with a 3 to 2 bj payout. The house percentage is actually less on this game than a single deck with a 6 to 5 bj payout. The troubles I ran across while playing are the same as normal usual, the double down. For some reason when ever I have an opportunity to double down, I usually end up losing. My last night there the dealer help me keep track and I was 2 for 12 on my double downs.

See the next post

Pia Gow Poker
Pia Gow is one of my favorite games. You are dealt seven cards and you make two poker hands out of them. If your two hands beats the dealers two hands you win. If the dealers two hands beat yours you lose. Anything else is a push. For the most part I did pretty well at the game. It is one of those games you can really play for a long time. You don't win or lose a lot.

I love to play craps, I just don't have the bankroll needed to play it often. The game is fast paced and the house odds are low. In fact the best bet in all of Vegas is found on the craps table. I enjoy the action. For the most part I played for a couple hours. I was up and down, craps is a roller coaster. I think when I walked away, I was up a little.

I do enjoy playing some slots. I know that slots are usually the worst bet in Vegas, but they can be fun. I like the themes, and the chance to hit a big jackpot. Plus my brother-in-law likes to play them and we have fun complaining about how lucky each other is.

Sports Book
I did make a few parlay bets. I lost them all. It was a pretty tough weekend with football. A lot of good teams all lost. So I ended up down.

Hope all is good. Stay tuned for the next update.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mobile Software Development

Hi all,

So at work, I have been working on a couple mobile computing applications. I am doing one PDA application for one client and a Tablet PC application for another client.

The two applications have very similar challenges. They both need to be able to function disconnected. Both applications need to be able to sync support data and upload gathered data in a timely matter. I think we are going to develop a group of secure web services that will handle the needed syncing functionality.

The PDA also face many more challenges. First are the limiting resources of memory and processor speed. The limited screen size also is a challenge for displaying and gathering information.

Well that is my quick update,

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


At SpiderLogic, we have Spider Tuesday meetings were we all get together and one of us leads a discussion on a topic. Last night a co-worker lead us in a discussion on SCRUM.

Scrum is an Iterative and Incremental Development (IID) methodology that emphasizes a set of project management values and practices, rather than those in requirements, implementation, and so on. As such, it is easily combined with or complimentary to other methods.

This is how it works.

First there is a backlog of project work items. During the project you are allowed to add and remove work items. work items are also prioritized regularly.

Then, during a sprint/iteration the scrum team will decide what work items they will complete. Theses work items are removed from the backlog and broken down into 8 - 16 hour tasks. Scrum members then will take task as they need. During a sprint, that normally lasts 30 days, work items can never be added, however they can be removed. If a work item does not get completed at the end of a sprint it is added back to the backlog list.

During the sprint there is a daily meeting or scrum, where the scrum members all answer three questions:
1) What have you done since the last meeting.
2) What are you going to do before the next meeting.
3) Are there any road blocks to completing your tasks.

The scrum master runs these meetings. The master is in charge of removing road block in a timely matter, and also making sure the scrum meeting is not to long.

Scrum enables the creation of self-organizing teams by encouraging verbal communication across all team members and across all disciplines that are involved in the project.

A key principle of Scrum is its recognition that fundamentally empirical challenges cannot be addressed successfully in a traditional "process control" manner. As such, Scrum adopts an empirical approach - accepting that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined, focusing instead on maximizing the team's ability to respond in an agile manner to emerging challenges.

Some key practices include:

  • Self-directed and self-organizing teams
  • No external addition of work to an iteration, once committed
  • Daily stand-up meeting with special questions
  • Usually 30-calendar day iterations
  • Demo to external stakeholders at end of each iteration
  • Each iteration, client-driven adaptive planning
So that is what I learned Yesterday. As you can see there are some similarities to Agile, and XP. Were it differs most though is agile and xp will delve more into the implementation of the product as well.

Hope you all have a great day.