I hosted a group from Singapore Management University today, at the request of a former IBM colleague who’s now a professor there. He’s leading about 30 students on a tour of Silicon Valley; they spent yesterday at Apple, and today, they came up to the IBM Almaden Research Center.

I was able to put together what I hoped would be an interesting morning for them — they’d asked for a talk on IBM’s history in Silicon Valley, and that was fun to do. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do the research from scratch; instead, I was able to draw on the work of other IBMers and weave together a Research overview and selections from the Almaden Timeline — then I added my own take (including the Browser Wars). I was very happy to get questions from the students during the presentation — it made me feel that the effort was worthwhile.

The next talk was about Project Zero, which is attempting to provide a simpler development environment with an interesting mixture of open and closed source components. Again, the students were engaged and asked good questions (and this time, I didn’t have to answer them!).

Since it’s summer, Extreme Blue is in full swing, with six projects in the Almaden location alone. The MBA students gave brief talks about their projects and about their experiences — it’s an intense program, and I was lucky to be able to get all six of the MBAs away from their teams!

alphaWorks is another good IBM innovation program; its manager talked about its in-progress evolution from being a download site to including interesting and useful services, such as ManyEyes. And once more, I was impressed with the quality of the questions from the students.

I got to close the day with “Web 2.0: A Conversation”, which was just that, a conversation with no slides. I learned a lot from the conversation, too.

And then it was over…except for lunch, where the conversation continued (not just with me — several of the speakers joined us, and the students took advantage of their availability).

It was an intense morning, and I found it quite enjoyable. Who knows, perhaps I’ll get to do it again sometime!

NewsGator for iPhone — I like it!

This was one of the first things I saw when I got back to my office after lunch:

NewsGator Daily: “This morning we announced the release of NewsGator Mobile for iPhone, a free newsreader that takes advantage of the unique design and user interface of Apple’s wildly popular new device. The free service, which works with iPhones and other mobile devices is accessible at http://m.newsgator.com.” [via Brent]

So naturally, I had to try it. I like it…a lot! It won’t replace reading blogs on a real computer (especially those only available inside the firewall), but it’s sure convenient and makes it easy to zip through an accumulation of items in a few spare minutes. Very cool indeed!

The spell is broken

My copy of HP7 arrived while we were out and about yesterday, so I didn’t get to pick it up until about 4:30pm. I finished it just about 24 hours later — I did manage to eat, sleep, hit the JCC, watch a little TV, and run some more errands in the meantime.

I think JK Rowling did a very commendable job of answering the questions and there were only a couple of times that I had to really step around a big expository lump, and they only slowed the action a little.

I was amused by the inside jacket blurb: “We now present the seventh and final installment in the epic tale of Harry Potter.” I guess there wasn’t much need to explain more.

I was also amused when one character said to another that they were on a Quest. Y’think?

Further deponent sayeth not.

The wait is over!

I’ve been waiting a long time, and today was the day: I saw my first California license plate in the ‘6’ series.

I’m still waiting for the book to arrive….

Preserving vital information

One of the many ways I use this blog is as a dumping ground for information I might need again later. Sometimes, it’s helpful to other people; other times, it’s just for me.

So I was shocked to discover that I hadn’t blogged about the most important datum I acquired on my trip to Scotland back in July/August 2005: the name of the brand of sherbet lemons I’d been hunting for a decade.

The subject came up in conversation today with a friend who’s about to leave for two weeks in Scotland; since he lives in Massachusetts, it’s not really convenient for him to bring me a couple of pounds of candy, but it would be impossible without the name. I checked my blog, and couldn’t find it. Eventually, I dug it out of my Lotus Notes mail, but that was by sheer happenstance.

So I shall blog it here. I strongly recommend Tilley’s Sherbet Lemons, as found in Woolworth’s in Glasgow.


Beginning the week of Harry Potter

OK, now that I’ve had an iPhone for a week (and have even had my first full crash, requiring a home+power reset), it’s time to resume talking about other interests.

The IBM Club bought out a good bit of the AMC multiplex in Saratoga for a special showing of Harry Potter V — we went, of course, since it was the easiest (and cheapest: $3) way to see the movie without having to put up with the usual hassles of long lines and uncertain showtimes. The movie was pretty good, though rather dark, and well worth the investment of time and money.

I was amused to note at the end of the credits that Harry Potter is copyright by Warner Brothers, though J. K. Rowling does have publication rights.

Good thing, considering what’s happening a week from today; I just checked Amazon, and my copy is listed in “Shipping Soon” state, so it’s too late to cancel my order. I wonder how many copies will leak out before Saturday.

Mostly successful

I’ve just finished three days at Watson Research (two in Hawthorne, one in Yorktown), and I actually accomplished most of what I came out here to do. I even managed to pick up a geocache, did a lot of walking, and found a good ice cream place (Main Street Sweets in Tarrytown), which probably undoes the good of walking.

And of course, I played with my iPhone a lot. I hope someone comes out with a replacement earphone/microphone combo with smaller earbuds; I can’t keep these in my ears unless I hold them there, which is not terribly practical! Other than that, I’m still a happy camper, though I wish the iPhone had GPS. Yeah, I know…that’s how they’ll get me to buy iPhone 2.0.

The iPhone also makes it easy to take and share photos, whether they’re worth sharing or not. See my flickrstream for proof.

Tomorrow morning, it’s back to JFK for the flight home. I’m ready.

The joys of travel

The phone rang early this morning. It was American, telling me that my flight was delayed several hours so l wouldn’t be waiting too long at the airport. But they also said they could get me on an earlier flight if I could make it…so I zipped out of the house and to SFO. Carpool stickers are nice to have.

There was a long line at the gate, but it was for a different flight and now I’m on the plane waiting to be told to turn the iPhone off. Typing a posting on this is difficult, but it seems to be getting easier as I go.

iPhone thoughts, 2 days in

So now that I’ve owned an iPhone for nearly two full days, it’s time to give a full and considered review. Let’s start with the weak points:

  • no 3G wide-area connectivity
  • some headphones (including my noise-blocking phones) need an adapter, which I’ll really regret tomorrow on the plane, since I don’t have one
  • The Gmail support is via POP, which means I get to delete mail twice
  • The camera doesn’t have a flash

On the other hand, it’s a hell of a lot of fun!

I don’t yet really know how well it works as a phone (except through my car’s Bluetooth) or as an iPod — I’ll find out this week as I travel, I guess.

One other interesting note: the iPhone doesn’t have an IM client. But I found it possible to use meebo to do IM — their layout is not optimized for the small iPhone screen, so a lot of scrolling is necessary, but it can be done!

Help me pick a phone

On Saturday, I mentioned that the iPhone wasn’t what I was looking for. But I really do want to replace my phone before it dies completely, so I visited the AT&T store this afternoon to look at the alternatives.

All I really need is Bluetooth (to work with the car) and voice. Quad-band is a nice-to-have, but not completely vital. I don’t care if I get a camera or not, and I’m not a texter. Clearly, I’m also not in the target market for phones these days. Every phone I looked at had a camera, a keyboard, or both; most also did music, and all of them had a prominent Cingular (err, AT&T) media button, which, if you don’t have a data plan, costs at least five cents every time you hit it by accident.

The only phone, in fact, that really made much of an impression on me was the iPhone. And since it comes with a mandatory unlimited data plan, the danger is gone (and there’s no Cingular button anyway). But it would be nice if it ran on a faster network than EDGE….

Your advice is eagerly solicited.

Organization is a start, not an end

This week on 43 Folders, Merlin Mann is documenting his war on clutter, a topic near and dear to my heart. We’ve made considerable progress at home, but this bit in Merlin’s blog was very much on point to me:

I start seeing things that I hadn’t ever noticed. Like the phone cords and SCSI cables.

You see, yesterday I was moving our new computer into the space formerly occupied by the old computer; while the space was vacant, I took the opportunity to neaten up the wiring and reduce the number of plug strips necessary. During that neatening, I found an old parallel cable that hadn’t been connected to anything for years — and so I wrapped it up and put it in my Drawer of Cables, along with yet another RJ-11, making at least 6 in that drawer. I did think about getting rid of the parallel cable instead of stowing it, but….

Time for a rethink.