Sunday, December 27, 2009

Duke Nuke'm - cashing it in after 12 years

Wow. I liked Duke Nuke'm, but wouldn't call myself rabid by any means. However I was looking forward to their next release. For years.

I'm not that surprised a project could go 12 years without a release... well, 12 years is a heck of a long time, so yes I was!!

Several companies I've worked for have doubled their original estimates or more. 14 months got another 14-18 months tacked on as the project developed. Often it was feature creep. In some cases, it was just that management didn't believe it was going to take that long and set shorter targets than anyone believed.

I spent almost 3 weeks in 1-3 hour daily meetings on one project while mgmt tried to reconcile the team's 3 month estimate into the 1 month target. Yes, meeting, not working.

Some of the engineers I worked with on that project were some of the best estimators I've ever worked with. Even in my role, I couldn't get any traction with leadership. After that kind of ongoing pressure, the engineers finally caved and rolled with the 1 month estimate. The project took 3 months. Many engineers worked hard on that project, putting in a lot of hours. The project team was generally somber, as you can imagine.

StickyMind's Better Software, Sept 2008 issue has an article on estimating which included some interesting statistics. They compare software to construction, and software does not compare well. They claimed that only 29% of all software projects are successful.

Wow. Less than 1/3 of all software projects are "successful" - whatever that means. I don't like metrics like this since they're very grey. I've been on a few projects which were discontinued. In many cases I was wondering why the project even got off the ground, and had raised my concerns early on. I would call the discontinuation of such projects a "deferred success".

This is in contrast to the UK's plan to rename "failure" to "deferred success":

So, 12 years in, Duke Nuke'm calls it a stop. And then, only because they ran out of funding. I have a feeling we'll see something get released since they can't be that far from being able to release something. Or can they? :)

More Vista woes

So Vista has somehow decided that the Administrator (hidden account) password is no longer the one I set and disabled the account. I know this because it's the same one I use for all my systems, and it's in my password keeper, AND it's the one I set in the backup software I use, which is required to do scheduled backups.

I found this to help, for future use since that's not the top problem I'm chasing now.

Microsoft Vista continues to be the worst OS ever

Last night, SWMBO's laptop started acting up. Unfortunately, it had been a while since it had been backed up. I backed it up immediately, unfortunately well aware of where this was heading.

Sure enough, on the next reboot, it started doing the same thing my last Vista machine did - Failed to start, wanted to run the Restore service. And once you do that, it'll start to boot for several seconds, then crash. If you pull the battery and hold the power switch for a few seconds, then try again, it'll actually bring a screen up before crashing.

F5 - Safe mode - crash.
F8 - pick anything - crash

I know exactly what HP will tell me - reinstall the image that came with it (and then SP1, and then every patch known to mankind, and every app I've installed and then configured... Ergg!!!).

Time to look on the other USB drives and find the latest image, and reinforce the backup message throughout the family since it's my free time that gets eaten when these things crash.

Good grief, do I ever hate Vista.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Today, I am a man

Today I hit 40.

I spent 90 minutes typing up some stuff. I reread it and no way it's getting put on a blog. LOL

Here are some excerpts, I hope you enjoy them.
  • incredible joys in life. And I have a wife who loves me dearly. Who's wrinkles and silvering hair I revel in (and she hates).
  • I am incredibly fortunate to have beautiful children, both inside and out. Kids who are incredibly independant and will get what they want from the world by virtue of their pluck, their intelligence, and their unvarnished determination. I'll be there to help, to support, to cajole, to push, to hold, hug, and unconditionally love in every way I can. But, be assured, this doesn't mean I want things to be easy for them. The metal has to be tempered, but lovingly, shielded from the high heat that destroys a fine blade, but exposed to some pressure and some heat, pushed, bent, twisted. Shaped. Hardened to survive the blows but flexible to survive the shocks.
  • When I was young, adults used to tell me that trials and tribulations made the man, tempered the steel. Now that I'm not as young, I see it differently. Like a piece of fine high carbon steel, some heat and pressure is needed to form, shape, and strengthen the metal - to increase one's mettle as it were. I like that turn of phrase. No, it's not intended as a pun.

    But add too much heat, and the metal becomes fragile. The analogy of metal doesn't work once you get to this point. I imagine a big snowball, packed tightly with fresh snow. Trials come in the form of a heat lamp - the sun is too benign -  melting and eroding away the soft, suppleness that makes that snowball resilient. Over time, some of the soft snow which doesn't melt away becomes brittle, hard. Soon all that's left is brittle ice, which crumbles when you push on it, unable to take any pressure.
  • I also learned about Social Proof before I knew what it was called. You become what people expect of you, regardless of your internal bent.

Reading DVD movies... that was short-lived!

So it worked until I rebooted, then it went back to its original behaviour. The registry was still the same and no values had reverted. Some driver somewhere is unhappy.

Further searching has turned up a couple of leads of the same behaviour, but no real solutions (reinstall? Err, no thanks!) I'll keep digging, and may restore the PX file and see if that helps.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My laptop wouldn't recognize movie DVDs anymore

My laptop has progressively gotten worse and worse about recognizing movies. It would recognize some some of the time, and others not at all, frequently acting like there was no DVD in the drive.

These are original movie DVDs, and the ones that it struggled with are copy protected. As everyone knows, DRM is starting to become commonplace.

My resolution was to download this file:

And run "cdgone.reg" from it.

The "EditReg.reg" file changes Windows so when you double-click a *.reg file, it opens in Notepad rather than automatically merging (kinda scary "feature", there, Microsoft).

I also renamed c:\windows\system32\drivers\PXHelp20.sys to PXHelp20.sys.old since it seems that many sites referencing this file feel it's buggy.

Wa-Bam!, I can read movie DVDs again - no reboot even required!!

The copy-protected DVDs take a while to load (the drive grinds on 'em), but then they come up.

I had tried several other solutions, include removing UpperFilter and LowerFilter from this registry entry, but it didn't work.

I also tried Apple's solution of removing LowFilter and using their GEARs.... driver in the HighFilter, no joy.

I may have to reinstall some of my software if it won't read the drives any more, but the couple I've tried seem unaffected so far. It's early yet.

cdgone.reg (for reference in case it stops being hosted)





Saturday, December 12, 2009

SW 13.2 makes the bike rock! But MPG dropped for some reason...

In science, they tell you never to change two variables at the same time so you can verify cause and effect.
During my 18K service on the K1200S, North County BMW updated my software to 13.1 to address a hesitation issue I'd been seeing when the bike was cold. Right after the service, my mpg dropped by a consistean 3mpg (almost 10%) or more. It's been consistently low since. Like, in the same range any other sport bike delivers (the K1300S has impressed magazines with it's high mpg considering the performance). Yuck!

So... was it something that was part of the 18K service (valves were checked but did not need adjusting I'm told), or was it the software load?

I got upgraded to 13.2, and wow is that nice. Power delivery is better, and it sure seems to run harder when asked.

With the reduced MPG, I've asked myself more than a few times if the new powerband just isn't begging to get used more, and it's me that's the problem. Over the last week, I've ruled that out since my work commute is pretty consistent what with all the traffic. I saw 34mpg on the way home yesterday from work, shockingly low considering I was going with the flow of traffic. Then I realized I had been in 5th since resetting the MPG. LOL

Before the 18K service, 39 was my low commuting, and 36 was my all-time low. And I had to work really hard to get down to 36. Enjoyably hard, actually.

The new mpg gives me an effective range of 140 miles between fillups (vs 170+), which is just too low. With the previous SW version, I had to work the bike hard to get down to 140 miles/tank. I'm filling up every 2 days now, instead of twice a week.

On the upside, the new software seems to have woken up the bike. I can't put my finger on it, but "better" is the best I can describe it - just not how. Just better!

The K1300S they loaned me for the day (2500 miles on it) would hit a certain speed from a rolling launch between 2 markers, and that was using the shift-assist WOT shifting feature (cool!).

With 13.2 loaded, my K1200S actually ran about 3-4mph faster (so, close enough to the same). Considering the new bike has "more power" than mine (8hp, 10 ft/lbs), that's impressive.

So, overall, I'm happy with the upgrade in most ways, but the lost 3mpg rankles. Guess I'll take 'er back in and see what they say. Bummer for them, I feel bad using their time chasing a tough problem like this.

Metzeler Z6 vs Pirelli Diablo Supersport

I'm a Metzeler Z6 kind guy. They give good mileage, have good traction, handle well, and recover from slides very predictably. A great, balanced tire.
However, Cycle Gear was selling Pirelli Diablo SuperSports for $199 for BOTH. A rear Z6 alone costs me that much, so I couldn't pass it up. Since Pirelli makes both tires, why not?!

NOTE: I am comparing worn Z6 behaviour to new SuperSport behaviour.

I've put about 1000-1200 miles on the Pirellis since mounting them.

The Supersport is more predictable when tracking in dry corners than the Z6. Also, the bike leans over a bit more predictably. I'm expecting to see about 3500 miles out of the rear, vs about 5000 miles from the Z6. I'd say confidence is higher in the SuperSport. To be expected, it's a sport tire vs a sport-touring tire.

In the wet, however, we see different behaviour. Note that I lived in Portland, Oregon for nearly 10 years and I'm a year-round rider. I rode in the wet a lot in Portland (months and months and months out of the year).

The SuperSports aren't as at-home in the wet as the Z6.

On the way home in the rain 2 nights ago, I broke the rear loose while accelerating from a stoplight. And I mean loose - the revs spun right up at about 40mph in 2nd at part throttle. Granted, something could have been on the roadway exacerbating it.

However, on the way home yesterday evening, I managed to break the rear end loose again, this time in an uphill sweeper at about 60mph. The bike demonstrated a wobble as it came back/broke loose/came back/broke loose again/came back, as I reined it in and under control. Not the smoothest return I've experienced, especially in the wet.

However, it's the first time I've slid on this bike, and it just broke through 21K miles today, so I can't say whether it's the tire or the bike. But, it does add a strong mark in favor of the Z6 in the wet, given that I've had three on the rear and plenty of wet-weather riding with 'em and have not slid before.

The Z6 is the clear winner in the wet.

So, I'll ride more gingerly in the wet on the SuperSports, since saving $140 is a poor substitute for throwing your bike down the road, but at $199 for the pair, I say buy a couple sets!

I'll post mileage on them when I wear them out.


Friday, December 11, 2009

And I didn't beat him silly...

On the way to work yesterday, on the bike of course, I was behind a silver SUV at the stoplight getting off the highway. They toodled along under the overpass to the Stop sign, obviously not in a hurry.

From there, I passed them between the Stop sign and where the lanes become one, pulling well ahead of them as I went over the hill, losing them from view.

Apparently this somehow had upset them greatly, because the next time I saw them, they just about hit me coming into the work parking lot, tires screeching as they braked and made the corner, then proceeded to tailgate *very* closely, and swung out twice in what I perceived to be an attempt to pass me between the entry and the garage (maybe 500 feet, tops - even on the bike I'd never think to pass someone there).

Now that's an angry person. And on camera where they worked too.  Clearly someone wasn't thinking very clearly.

I had performed a clean pass, I didn't cut them off, and they had to work their SUV very hard to catch up to me.

I swung into my parking spot, with the SUV still tightly attached to the tail of my bike, where they decided to go straight. As I did my 270 degree loop to park and watched them drive by then accelerate to well over the speed limit in the parking garage, I decided I needed to find out who this idiot was who had endangered my life, so I followed them into the parking garage at a more than reasonable distance, slowly since all those cars make me nervous on the bike.

When they parked near a corner of the garage, I passed by, and went to near the top of the ramp, turned around and stopped at least 10 parking spots away to ensure there was no altercation and waited. If they were coming out and at me, I'd drive away. I hate getting into fights anyways, and no way someone could sucker me into one at work.

The person studiously looked away as they got out of their car, hiding their face from me, shoulders hunched in what I took to be embarrassment. Apparently they were through their road-rage moment and reality was settling in as they realized the absolute stupidity of their actions. He got his bag out of the back seat, and started to walk towards the stairs/elevator, keeping his face away from me the whole time.

At that point, I clicked it into gear, causing them to look up. As I drove by slowly, I made sure to get a very good look at his face. Tall, trim, not quite lanky, bearded. Never seen him before at work.

If this hadn't been at work, this would have been a very, very different interaction (but still not physical).

In all my years of riding (I've racked up about 110K motorcycle miles in the last 7 years alone), this was an absolute first.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rain, wind, more rain, and Christmas trees

Big rains in SoCal. My motorcycle was the only one in the parking garage, looking wet and lonely (but not bedraggled!).

People pulling up next to me at a light would look at me with various expressions on their faces. Concern or incredulity, accompanied with a subconscious shaking of the head, seem to be two common reactions.

Not that long ago, if you wanted to go somewhere, you walked or rode a horse. Being warm and dry was not generally an option.

I really enjoy riding my motorcycle. It allows me to experience the elements. On an Autumn evening, some areas are warm, but you ride into the dips and it gets crips, only to warm up again as the road rises.

My BMW has a temperature monitor and I'm amazed in the Spring that I can leave my house in 60 degree weather and see temperatures from 40 to 80 degrees on a 36 mile ride. It's awesome.

I revel in the weather changes, and how you experience them on a motorcycle.

So when it rains, I ride to enjoy the weather as much as to get where I'm going - sometimes more. Traction changes, visibility changes, all sorts of new challenges rise up. Some of them come in the form of drivers who can't drive in the wet as well, of course.

When I lived in Portland, Oregon I found that I was a much, much better dry-weather rider because of all the wet-weather riding I had done. Smoother in transitions, smoother on the throttle, braking.

The wind poses its own challenges, and can also be enjoyable to ride in, even when it's blowing sideways at 40mph with gusts up to 60-70mph. Keeping the rubber underneath you can become a challenge, as does staying in your lane.

Riding a motorcycle can be an adventure. But it sure is fun.