Archive for June, 2006

Bill Gates Retires as Microsoft Chief Software Architect

Posted in Bill Gates, Microsoft, personal, technology, Windows with tags , , , on June 22, 2006 by Paxton

I’m long overdue for a technology article. This item affected me more than I thought, so I had to write about it. I know this article looks long, but if you stick with me, I have some fun videos and stuff linked at the end.

Last week Bill Gates announced his retirement from day-to-day duties at Microsoft. He’s stepping down as Chief Software Architect, but remaining as the company’s Chairman. This will end Bill’s day-to-day running of Microsoft and keep him in the upper executive role. Cutting back on his daily work will allow him to pursue more philanthropic ventures with the charitable foundation he started with his wife.

I would have written this article earlier but I had to sit on it for a week to decide how I feel about it. Overall, for Microsoft, I think it might be a good thing that he steps down from overseeing Microsoft’s day-to-day activity as it might open up other creative outlets for the company. With that in mind, I’ll be sad to see him go.

I had early exposure to Microsoft and their products. My dad procured a laptop from work in the mid ’80s when it was still rare for anyone to have a personal computer, much less a laptop computer. We had a couple laptops before we even got a desktop computer. I took over playing on the laptop as my dad thought it was cool, but he really just got it for me to play on. Windows was not in full release at this time so the laptop’s operating system was MS-DOS. It did have an early version of Microsoft Works (word processor, spreadsheet and relational database). I was writing school papers on Microsoft Works’ word processor, printing them and turning in typed copies when most students were still hand writing them. Pretty soon, Dad had Windows 3.0 installed on the laptop and it took up so much memory that you couldn’t open anything else. He had several other business laptops after that. I used one with Windows 95 on it until, in my last year of college, he got me my own desktop. At Auburn I majored in Mangement Information Systems and it just made everything easier to have my own computer. I learned so much on that computer. When I was finally interviewing during my last Winter at Auburn, I admit, I put in for an interview with Microsoft. I was not initially accepted, but I could have scheduled one anyway during one of their open slots. I decided not to. I really wanted to go for it, but I also was a little nervous about working for them and moving to Redmond, Washington for the job.

I’ve always loved learning new technologies and that led me to IT consulting and application development after graduation. A lot of that desire and love of technology came from playing on those old laptops and my first desktop. And because of that early exposure I’ve always had a soft spot for Microsoft. They weren’t always the world crushing superpower they are now. They were once the plucky upstart. No one thought Windows would work. When Windows 3.1 for Workgroups was released, things started happening and that was the beginning of their ascension. And that ascension was spear-headed by Bill Gates.

I am by no means a Microsoft apologizer, nor do I believe that they are evil incarnate. Neither am I an “Apple is God” Mac Addict. I recognize the wonderful technologies both companies have brought to the electronic marketplace, but I also am aware of many missteps by both companies. I grew up on Microsoft Windows and that is why I prefer it. Microsoft revolutionized the PC with it’s operating system. It’s on easily 95% of the computers made today. Windows, overall, is a great operating system. Like I said, I’ve used it since Windows 3.0 back in the ’80s. Microsoft did make some bad decisions with the OS including Microsoft Bob in 98-99 and Windows ME in 2000. Windows has steadily improved since Windows 95, and Windows XP Service Pack 2 is the best Windows ever. I applaud Gates’ achievements and wish him the best of luck. He, undeniably, was the technical vision and focus behind Microsoft’s achievements and that has been what has led them to the forfront of technology. He is a man with an incredible forward thinking mindset and someone who may be misunderstood on the whole. If you get a chance, read his book, The Road Ahead (pictured to the right). I read it in college and his ideas and philosophies on technology and how we will use it in the future are fascinating.

I know there are many Mac enthusiasts who bemoan Gates saying he “stole” Apple’s operating system and used it for Microsoft Windows. The operating systems are similar, and Apple may have released theirs first, but Apple did not invent the graphical user interface (GUI). Apple itself took the initial idea of a clickable GUI from the labs at Xerox-PARC. Back in the ’70s Xerox had an R&D lab filled with fringe computer scientists cooking up all these crazy ideas. The clickable GUI was one of them, among numerous other advances that led to the personal computer and Internet as we know it today. Apple took what Xerox-PARC pioneered and modified it to suit their computer systems. Apple does have a spectacular interface that may work smoother and better than Windows, but Windows has to interface with thousands of completely different peripherals and software. Macs can’t work with any software, and because Apple’s system is so locked down, everything works on it smoothly and without incident. Apple definately has a great product, but I stand firmly entrenched in the PC/Microsoft world and look forward to the company’s progress now that “King Bill” has moved on.

Some fun stuff on Bill Gates:

1. One of my favorite mass emails about the on-going war between Jocks and Nerds

2. Funny pics of Bill Gates at 30 right before Windows 1.0 was released

3. Picture of 11 of Microsoft’s first employees (they look like hippies) right before they moved to Seattle from New Mexico

4. Bill Gates getting a pie to the face while leaving a building

5. Bill Gates and Napoleon Dynamite in college – This video was done for a Microsoft Conference. It is HILARIOUS.

Technorati Tags –

‘Ask A Ninja’ Podcasts are Killers!

Posted in Ask a Ninja, humor, internet, ninjas with tags , , , on June 20, 2006 by Paxton

I discovered a podcast on YouTube last week that has me on the floor it is so damn funny. It’s called Ask A Ninja. It’s this guy dressed up in a ninja outfit supposedly answering questions from people about ninjas. It is hilarious. You can go to the podcast’s website here to download/watch all the videos or just watch them all on YouTube here.

The Ninja covers topics such as Love, Excuses, The Matrix, Pickup Lines, Ninja Conventions (KillaCon), etc. The guy is so funny and the theme song is addicting. I’ve had it in my head for a week.

Check some of them out, I hope they bring you as much enjoyment as they have me.

Technorati Tags –

My Trip to Houston, TX: Part II

Posted in Houston, NASA, personal, roadtrip, Texas with tags , , , on June 15, 2006 by Paxton

Check out Part 1 of my trip to Houston right here

So, after the trip to NASA Space Center in Houston, Steve & Jackie took me to a really cool area called Kemah Boardwalk.

We put our names in at a cool restaurant called Aquarium (more on that in a second) and Jackie practically sprinted next door to Stingray Reef. “The Reef”, as I like to call it, had a large, shallow tank containing dozens of different sized stingrays. You could buy “food” (i.e. dead fish) that you feed the stingrays with. If you get there before feeding time, the stingrays are practically jumping out of the tank trying to get the fishy goodness. At first, it’s startling to see these wide, flat creatures sliding up the sides of the tanks and jumping out of the water. Once you get used to it, it’s pretty cool. They are very soft and slimy to the touch and very playful. It was very fun.

Sooner than expected we were called by the restaurant to be seated. The name of the restaurant was Aquarium. It is owned by the same people that own Landry’s and Joe’s Crab Shack. Actually, the entire boardwalk seems to be owned by these people. The restaurant is surrounded by giant aquariums with real fish swimming around inside. I saw grouper, nurse sharks, leopard sharks, angel fish, eels and many other cool to look at species just swimming around in circles. Naturally, I had to get a seafood dish, but was disappointed that I didn’t get to point at a fish in the aquarium and say, “I’ll take that one, he amuses me” like some over-indulged king preparing for a feast in his honor. Nevertheless, the food was delicious and the environment was very cool and the company (as usual) was wonderful.

By the time dinner was over the boardwalk was, for the most part, shut down. I got to walk past “The Beast”, which is a high powered rainbow-colored boat used to take people on tours of the bay. Hopefully when my wife and I return to Houston to visit the Dupuys, we’ll get a longer look at the boardwalk because it was really cool. After returning home we stayed up late into the night talking and watching Jason Collier’s DVD journal of his adventures as Access Hollywood’s Ultimate Star Wars Fan.

The next afternoon, we had a Houston Astros game to go to. We got a little lost on the way down, but finally made it to Minute Maid Park. That park is AMAZING. So nice, so clean. There’s a retractable roof that they mercifully shut because it was over 90 degrees outside. With the roof closed, it was very pleasant inside. We had pretty good seats looking down on the field. The game started out as a blowout with the Braves running up the score but the ‘Stros made a late run only to lose at the very end. This was easily one of my favorite, if not THE favorite, baseball game I’ve been to. As for the Park’s concessions, they were better than expected, but ridiculously expensive. I had a burger, a bucket of popcorn and 2 sodas and I probably spent 30 bucks. Like I said, a LITTLE pricey.

After a good day at the park, Steve & Jackie wanted to take me for dessert at a Sno-Ball hut. For those that don’t know, Sno-Balls are cups of shaved ice drowning in one of a hundred or so flavors. They have everything from Cherry to Wedding Cake.

We went to this place right by their house called The Chill Spot. They had tons of flavors and I had trouble choosing. Jackie got the aforementioned Wedding Cake. It rocked as hard as you think it does, tasting exactly like, surprise-surprise, a wedding cake. Steve changed it up a bit and got a flavor called Popeye. It was one of the greenest things I have ever seen in my life and I asked him if it tasted like spinach. It, apparently, does not. I went old school and got sugar-free Cherry. It was the classic choice (some would say boring….but I say, nay, it’s genius in it’s simplicity) and it was AWESOME. So good. I’m glad I got a medium because I might have eaten myself sick on a large or Xtra Large.

After the Chill Spot, we headed back to the crib to rest before planning the evening’s activities. What happened was, we all were pretty wiped from the long day at the game and we decided to get Mexican take-out, lots of beer and liquor and drink ourselves silly at the house while we watched their wedding video. It was a blast being able to catch up with my boy, Steve, and his lovely wife Jackie. We had so much fun that I hated to get up on Sunday and leave.

Visiting Houston was awesome and I can’t wait to go back with my wife for another visit and hang out with the Dupuys.

Technorati Tags –

Visiting LBJ Space Center in Houston, TXpe

Posted in Houston, NASA, personal, roadtrip, Texas with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2006 by Paxton

I arrived in Houston, TX on Friday afternoon around 12:50pm. FYI…That was about 30min earlier than our scheduled arrival (thank you Southwest). I ate lunch with Steve and his wife, Jackie, at a really good cajun place called Floyd’s. In case you were wondering….or care at all….I got the half crawfish etoufee/half fried crawfish tails plate. Like that old cajun Justin Wilson used to say, “It’s Wondermous!”

Anyway, Steve and I decided to visit the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center (JSC). Steve and I grew up in Birmingham, AL. We were only 45 minutes away from the Huntsville Space & Rocket Center which is home to NASA’s SpaceCamp (popularized in the 1986 movie of the same name). Steve and I have both taken school and family trips to see the Huntsville Space & Rocket Center and I’ve always thought it was cool. Because of this, I really liked the idea of seeing the main headquarters of NASA located in Houston. JSC is historic in that Mission Control for NASA shuttle launches was held here from 1965 all the way up until 1996. I love NASA and the whole nostalgia/patriotism that comes with dreamy recollections of space travel in the ’50s and ’60s (as portrayed in movies, because I don’t personally remember the ’50s and ’60s despite what my brother says about my age).

So we get there and immediately walk into a movie about building and living on the International Space Station. It was a very cool movie that went into the logistics of building the space station and what the astronoauts living and working on it have to endure. It was created by the discovery channel so I believe you might be able to catch it on cable. If not, click on the image to the left and it’ll take you to the Amazon page where you can buy it. It’s fascinating what goes into the designing and then training of the astronauts for such a large endeavor (16 countries are cooperating to build the Space Station).

Next, we decided to hit the money shot for the Space Center, its Tram Tour. This is where you tour the grounds and enter a few of the buildings that house NASA facilities, past and present. The tram was like any other you’d see at Universal Studios or Disney. The driver, though, must have been from New York because she took a few of the turns on two wheels. The place was kinda dead because it was after 5pm but she was driving like we were being chased by the cops. While clinging to whatever we could get our hands on with a death grip, the tram speakers played scratchy audio from astronauts and other people about NASA. The grounds are pretty unassuming. The buildings are labeled with a giant number and everything looks like some small college campus in the Midwest. Personally, I think that adds to the charm. Our first building stop was #30 – Historic Mission Control.

From 1965 to 1996 this was the heart of NASA. All the shuttle launches were monitored from this location, including the first moon landing (Apollo 11) along with the events depicted in the movie Apollo 13. They even showed us the booth where Jim Lovell’s wife talked to him over a comm link before they thought he could make it back. Pretty powerful stuff. I was amazed at how small the whole room is. We sat in an observation room looking down on Mission Control and it just seemed tiny. Another fascinating aspect is the technology in the room. There are rotary dial telephones on the consoles. Since this was before widespread email, they used pneumatic tubes (like The Shadow!) to send messages to other buildings. I didn’t know this, but there is also a sister room to this Mission Control and it’s located on the floor below it. It’s just amazing the history you can feel walking around this building.

After our too short time at Mission Control we headed over to the Space Station Training and Mockup Facility. It is in this building that astronauts train on hardware used in an actual shuttle launch. There is a full scale model of the space shuttle (without wings) for astronauts to train with. They also have mockups of different shuttle sections for specific training exercises. Also in this facility is a full scale mockup of completed sections of the International Space Station. Astronauts train extensively in the tight quarters becoming familiar with hardware and the station’s orientation. Very, very cool. Check out this link to see pictures from the training facility. It was a big as two football fields.

We were told about, but, unfortunately, not shown, the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL). Click here to see a pic of it. It’s a large water tank used for submersing astronauts to train them in a near-weightless environment. This lab was featured prominently during a scene in the movie Armageddon. This, along with several other buildings, are toured on a special VIP tour called the Level 9 tour. When I come back to Houston with my wife we are going back and doing the Level 9 tour. It’s a little pricey, but I’ve read it’s completely worth it.

After this the tour was pretty much over. The Space Center was closing in a bout 20 minutes so I mosied around the gift shop and got a cool shirt (image is at the start of this article) with the NASA logo. I also found a Space Pen. Behold the magnificent glory of the Space Pen.


As soon as I saw the Fisher Space Pen, I knew I had to buy it. If you’ve ever seen the episode of Seinfeld where Jack Klumpus gives Jerry his space pen, then you know whut I’m talkin’ Bout.

All in all, this was a kick ass activity. I’m glad we did it. Like I said earlier, when I come back to visit Steve & Jackie with my wife, we are going on the Level 9 tour. Period. You hear me, Steph? I HAVE SPOKEN. Anywho, if you ever make it to H-Town, check out the Houston Space Center. It’s awesome.

I’ll put up some more stuff we are doing in the next few days. We went to a cool area called the Kemah Boardwalk that is just kick ass so look for that. I’ll be at a Houston Astros game on Saturday and then Saturday night we will do something, I’m not sure yet. Keep your eyes peeled.

Click here for Part 2 of my trip to Houston, TX

Technorati Tags –

Goin’ to H-Town!

Posted in Houston, personal, roadtrip, Texas with tags , , , on June 8, 2006 by Paxton

Houston, TX

 

Well, Friday morning I leave for my trip to Houston, Texas to visit my best friend since 1st grade, Stephen Dupuy. I’m sure I’ll have a few stories for you when I get back…maybe even some good pics.If, by the end, I haven’t been arrested or thrown out of Houston and asked never to return, then the trip just wasn’t worth it. See you on the other side.

Peace!!!