All articles, tagged with “the biz never sleeps”


A day like many:

Them: Oh no! We can’t implement [massively overfeatured upgrade] to [non-revenue-generating project] until the next version of [flaky open-source package] ships, and that won’t be for another two weeks! You must implement [astoundingly ugly hack] immediately!

Me: Er, don’t we have [program that performs 95% the same task as the ugly hack which has already passed QA testing] in production already? And hasn’t it been running there for months now without a problem?

Them: Oh, um, yeah, I guess.

Me: Did it suddenly start breaking?

Them: Uh, I guess not…

Me: So why are we trying to fix it?

Them: …

Me: Do we really need to perpetuate (and qualify and test) [atrocious hack] just to implement a feature that we’re going to have to re-test, re-qualify and re-deploy in two weeks when we upgrade to the new version of [flaky open-source package]?

Them: …

Stopping stupid ideas is one of this job’s underrated pleasures.

hickory dickory

Ever since WNYC replaced their 9am-11am “Morning Music” classical music program with an assortment of NPR political talk-radio shows, I’ve been thinking that I need to buy an alarm clock with a CD player. The need for this was hammered home on Monday morning: I had an hours-long, fitful, thrashing nightmare about being trapped in a seminar on modern Jewish identity with an unbearably unctuous host and a non-stop barrage of annoying questions from the audience…and finally woke up to find that (A) I’d actually been listening to the Brian Lehrer Show in my sleep, and (B) I was an hour late for work. This cannot be allowed to happen again.

So I’ve been poking through the listings at all the usual places, and it’s been an agonizing process.

Clock radios with CD players come in basically two varieties: $35-55 cheapies and $100 and up monsters. The cheapies worry me: I’m all too familiar with the lifespan of the CD player units in low-cost consumer kit (see: my last boombox. see also: my boombox before that), and not a one of them has a warranty longer than 90 days. I have cats. They push things off of desks. This is not gonna happen.

But if I’m going to consider for one instant spending $100 on a clock radio, I don’t feel unreasonable in holding out for perfection. This should, if at all possible, be The Last Clock Radio I Will Ever Buy, barring flood, fire or nuclear strike. It should not only do everything that I could imagine a clock radio needing to do, but it should also do it for two people, since hell if I’m buying another monstrosity when I move in with Miranda. It should have multiple alarms, weekend alarms, volume fade-in, adjustable LED brightness and battery backup. It should be smart enough to use the buzzer or radio instead of the CD if it’s on batter power. It should play CD-Rs as easily as pre-recorded CDs. It should have an interface for setting the alarms that is simple enough that random houseguests will not need instruction drills a la my metastatic stereo. Ideally, it would play MP3-CDs as well as audio-CDs. In a perfect world, it would sync itself to NOAA atomic time. And given all that, it must not be butt-ass ugly.

Needless to say, no such thing exists. For any price at all, including $500 look-ma-I’m-a-gold-plated-asshole models from Nakamichi et al.

One model comes tantalyzingly close: the Panasonic RC-CD600. This one gets it Right on so many levels that I want to tear my hair out when I read about its stupid mistakes. The big win: each of the two seperate speaker units has its own snooze/alarm-off button. And you can set each alarm to come out of both speakers…or only one. I could kiss whoever thought of that it’s so brilliant, except… except… it only has two alarms… of which only one can be the CD. This is just mystifying: obviously the physical design is completely perfect for a couple, but apparently you’re supposed to mud-wrestle your S.O. for the privilege of waking up to music? They couldn’t spend the extra $1.50 for another IC to hold more than 2 alarms? I’d almost be willing to forego the lack of volume fade-in and the less critical features and just get this now, but…screw spending that much money on something with such a boneheaded design flaw. God only knows what others are lurking inside.

I really, really need to make friends with someone in the design side of a consumer electronics company. Because otherwise this can only end with me buying a mini-itx board and building this damn thing on my own.

(The things you own end up owning you? Duvets? Hunter-gatherer? I have no idea what you’re talking about.)

Schadenfreude for fun and profit.

The news from last week that Benjamin Curtis, the actor who portrays “Steven, the Dell Dude” in the monstrously annoying series of youth-market commercials from Dell Computer, had been arrested in Manhattan on a drug bust was greeted with no small amount of cackling from the sorts of people you would expect to be amused by this kind of thing: Mac users, linux-heads, people who hate annoying catchphrases, people who hate clumsy pandering ad campaigns, and the like. (In short, me.)

As celebrity scandals went, this one had a half-life of microscopic proportions: a few giggles were heard from the usual suspects, Dell quickly pulled all mention of “Steven” from their websites, and then Iraq and the weather erased all trace of the story from the newswires.

There was, however, one completely unreported aspect of the story that I think deserves a little wider recognition, so I’m mentioning it here. If Mr. Curtis is, in fact, found guilty on the charge and sent to jail, he need not fear for his employment: He can continue to work for Dell in prison.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is irony at its finest.