“So You’re The One!”

The software industry works best with a large number of buyers. Customer feedback and bug reports are a critical source of product improvement. But what happens when no customers call or write?

Long before I joined the software industry, someone had to design the software system that would keep us all employed for a number of decades. On an IBM mainframe, we ran COBOL, a legacy business programming language with roots in the 1960’s. Buying mainframe time was always hideously expensive.

That’s why Dave, our chief programmer and system architect, bought a COBOL emulator program on floppy disk that could be loaded onto an early Macintosh personal computer.

Using just his Mac, Dave was able to design and test large parts of our software system. It was as complicated as the New York City transit system. He’d then load that prototype code onto the IBM mainframe for rigorous system-level testing, which is what I did there.

Dave had a problem with his Macintosh COBOL program, so he called up the company that created it. “One moment,” they told him. They transferred him to Customer Service, where Dave told them what he needed to know. “One moment,” they said again, and he was put hold for about five minutes.

Finally, someone came onto the line, where Dave again explained the problem, and asked if they had a fix for it.

“So you’re the one!” the guy said. “What do you mean, ‘I’m the one?'” Dave asked.

“We only sold one copy of that program. We always wondered who bought it!”

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Notes From All Over

BIO – No, I’m posting no new autobiographical snippets today, just my status report. Some time ago I read a comment posted by my friend Richard Wanderman on his own blog, to the effect that writing a blog post isn’t the same as going down to the corner local pub to hoot and holler with like-minded, fist-pounding patrons. To that I might add: writing a book isn’t the same as writing a blog post.

For one thing, I had no idea how big my draft was becoming. I’ve never written a book. When I finally created representative draft content for my whole six-decades-plus  autobiographical life span, I started doing what I hoped were some standard metrics to figure out my page count. I’d read many citations that authors don’ t want to exceed 200-250 pages if they’re anticipating the e-book publishing route. I found that paperbacks weigh in at around 325 words per page, hardbacks around 350, and publishers use a standard 250 word page length to allow for white space and, presumably, for photos and illustrations. Was I surprised to find my draft weighing in around the low 500 page range – horrors!

Secondly, blog entries like this one are generally written and posted in under an hour, or a few hours at most. From post to post, readers invariably encounter variations in style, relevance, interest level and raw writing skill. That’s even less acceptable when reading a book! Within one or two boring or badly written paragraphs in a book, most of us bail. I’m re-writing and chopping my book draft, paragraph by paragraph. I’ll confess, it’s tough. My book, “Afraid of Changing”, is up to its seventh major rewrite and 68th serial update.

My editing formula is simple. If my own single sentence or paragraph begins to bore me after ten re-readings, I need to either delete it, or figure out why it’s relevant and find a fresh approach that shows you why it’s relevant and interesting too.

MUSIC STREAMING – In January I wrote about the sad demise of our Bay Area’s last classical radio station, KDFC. They went to an NPR format and a low-power transmitter that doesn’t even reach the South Bay. KDFC does stream ad-free music over your broadband connection. If you’re tired of commercial broadcasting advertisements insulting your intelligence and eardrums with obnoxious ads, you can find your own kind of music streamed to your Mac or PC whether it’s hip-hop, classical rock, classical classical, jazz, or traditional and big-band jazz.

Unfortunately for KDFC, they went from being a big frog in a Bay-sized pond to a little frog in a huge digital pond. I prefer classical station KBAQ out of Phoenix (either streamed or on FM), but I’ve also bookmarked WFMT (Chicago) and KUAT (Tucson). There’s a great classical jazz station in Paris, France … but right now I’m listening to “Classical Jazz – JAZZRADIO.com” for early Dixieland and 40’s style tunes … Who’s Sorry Now?

Assuming you do love music and do have broadband, I’d suggest you download Apple iTunes to your Mac or PC today if you didn’t already do that years ago. Even if you never load a single favorite CD into your iTunes – and how could you NOT do that? –  the Radio icon in the menu bar gives you far better access to American and international radio than your table radio or even that $900 FM tuner.



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Great Whites Breaching

The following is a draft excerpt from a chapter in my forthcoming personal biography. The passage introduces my Childhood Years.

Modern marine research crews have high-speed cameras that can capture the breaching Great White shark at 1,000 frames per second. Actual Great White breaches takes about one second, but the cameras can extend that slow motion execution of a young seal pup out to a minute’s duration. About one percent of the seal pup population ends up as meals for the Great White, but, as the season wears on, the pups learn by observation, and become more wary in open water. So, in those stunning freeze-motion shots where the seal pup has been flipped in the air, inches from the white teeth in those horrible jaws, he is probably thinking, “OK, I think I get it now. You’re eating me.”

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