Monday, July 24, 2006

More conspiracy... AMD & ATI...

OK... it's getting wacky, folks.  If AMD starts folding in the high-performance ATI GPU chips into either the CPU (interesting...), or into the chipsets (so last century), they could end up spanking Intel's currently integrated graphics solutions... which are marginal at best.  Of course, they'll probably use that nice low-performance shared memory :-(.  2006 is shaping up to be an interesting year on so many levels...

Now.. NVidia fan-boys start slamming ATI, and ATI fan-boys start slamming AMD and/or NVidia...  For me, I marginally prefer ATI over NVidia... however my current laptop (a Dell Inspiron Latitude D820) has an NVidia chipset, but my last few laptops all had ATI (Dell Inspiron D810, IBM Thinkpad A31p).

So does Intel snap-up NVidia as a defensive move or do they beef up the "V//V" (is that veev, or vive?)?  I expect something will happen.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fun, Funny and The Nod

Recently I've been trying to read the Creating Passionate Users blog more regularly since they seem to always have some valuable insight into topics that range from user behavior to group dynamics to making the mundane fun.  I really liked the posts about Usability through fun which says that it's OK for something that is not normally associated with "fun" to actually be fun.  To some folks, it may be unfathomable to think that some accountant spending all day twiddling with a spreadsheet would ever equate that with "fun."  Likewise, a developer spending hours on end trying to crack the mysteries of some webservice, a database schema, a UML model, or just trying to reduce a poorly written algorithm from order n2 to nLogn, may also refer to the experience as tedious and frustrating, but in the end rate the overall experience as "fun."  Developers are certainly an interesting crew.  The rest of society just looks as us as those poorly groomed geeks hunched over a keyboard in some dark room writing nothing but gibberish into the computer.

So why do so many of us consider this as "fun?"  We would most surely not think of it as "funny."  (Ok maybe the word picture of some tie-dyed, long haired bearded hippie may seem "funny."  O wait... I work with David I ;-).  I remember the first time I encountered a computer and computer programming.  There was a feeling of accomplishment and power after writing my first "Hello World" program.  And maybe that's also part of why we do what we do, we're a bunch of narcissistic control freaks ;-)?  Maybe it's just that we're also a highly creative group that are able to easily tap into both the left and right side of our brains?

This brings me to something I've been thinking about for a while.  How can we capture, identify, and otherwise articulate the notion that programming can be a  "fun" and pleasurable experience?  How can we, as this new Borland spin-out (currently referred to as "DevCo"), get the current and next generations interested in pursuing a career in software development?  What about providing low- to no-cost versions of Delphi, C++Builder, and C#Builder and blanketing the earth?  Clearly Microsoft has begun to go down this path with their no-cost Express editions of Visual Studio and the Coding 4 Fun site.  I applaud their efforts since the more you can grow the total number of developers the bigger the whole pie is and thus the larger "DevCo's" slice can become.  One thing that may hinder some of this effort from Microsoft is their sheer size.  They're a huge monolitic, faceless, unapproachable corporation.  Sure, they've been actively trying to present to the world their kinder gentler side through all the various bloggers and massive PR machine.  But how truly "genuine" is this effort?  I'd like "DevCo" to be the company that is approachable, honest, innovative, highly relevent and above all FUN!  Being associated with "DevCo," either as an employee or as a customer, should be regarded as being fun.  I think we can be a serious contender, and have fun at the same time.

Which leads to my next point; The Nod.  How many of you regard Delphi or C++Builder as your "secret weapon?"  It's your "edge," right?  It'd be cool to walk into a coffee shop and see someone with their laptop open with BDS up pounding out some code.  You'd be able to give them "The Nod."  That unverbalized communication that tells the other person that "you just know" and "you're both in with an elite bunch."  I've had this happen in many other apsects of life.  What about the time you just bought that new car and you know it was one of the first for that model year?  The first time you're driving around town and you see some stranger in the same model and year... You make eye contact and get "The Nod."  I remember when I had just gotten a brand new Ford Mustang SVT Cobra.  Since only about 3500 or so were built in that model year, it's a pretty exclusive group.  So when you drive around and see someone else in the same kind of car, you get "The Nod."  This still happens to this day.  I've gotten and have given "The Nod" many times over the last few years.  Remember the J.D. Hildebrand quote in the old Windows Tech Journal, "It's going to change our lives, you know."?  What is interesting for this discussion is the following quote, which was "He cocked his head for a moment and then grinned back at me, nodding. 'I know.'" (emphasis mine).

Is all of this just some crazed lunatic waxing poetically or just pining for the "good ole' days"?  Maybe ;-)... but try and reserve judgement for a few weeks and see if "DevCo" doesn't start taking steps toward fulfilling some of what I'm describing above.  The "DevCo" team has quite a few rounds left in the clip...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Nick pointed to this application, Foxit that is a light-weight PDF reader... Well I was digging around the site and found out that they have an SDK that allows you to embed a PDF reader into your application.  They even mention that it is fully usable from Delphi.  It's actually really easy if you look at the... ahem... PDF document on how to call into the DLL.  It's just a simple matter of passing in a DC.  So you could just create a TCustomControl descendant and override the Paint method, and pass the Canvas.Handle property to the FPDF_RenderPage() function.  I wonder if Nick realized that they support Delphi?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Conspiracy Theorists Unite!! Microsoft Acquires SysInternals...

I'm leaning toward this not really being a "good thing" in the near term... however it may end up being so in the long run.  I wonder if Mark will still use Delphi for his MMC plugins?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

While we're in a holding pattern regarding the final fate and disposition of the Developer Tools Group (aka. DevCo) at Borland, there continues to be more good news on the hiring front, or should I say re-hiring.  So today marked the return of another former Borland developer to the BDS team.  Some of you may or may not know him, but Lee Cantey has just rejoined the Developer Tools Group.  Lee had been with Borland for many, many years and came up through the tech support ranks.  He's also one of the key developers on the C++ compiler and tools team, which includes BCC, ILINK, TDUMP, etc...  Lee not only carries with him a huge amount of talent, but is brings back a wealth of institutional knowledge.  I'm sure there's going to be more than a few occasions where he's going to hear, "Hey Lee, do you remember where the source code is for <some internally developed tool>?"

It's great to have Lee back on board!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Aftermath...Revenue...Culture...Kool-Aid...Red-Pills...What's in a name?

The past two days were filled with marathon meetings.  Not just any meeting but, as I mentioned in this post, it was the first of many DevCo operations meetings where we got all the leading players together from all the regions where we operate (Americas, EMEA, APAC), to sort out everything from our Q3 revenue plans, to figuring out transition priorities, to figuring out what direction we want to drive the new company's culture.  Can't talk about the first item, the second is plain boring (what financial system are we going to use for invoicing, inventory tracking, etc...), but the third item was actually interesting.  While it wasn't about products, and not specifically about operations, it was about our most valuable assets, the customers and the employees.  We broke up into several smaller groups and had to write down as many words, phrases, concepts, etc... that we felt described an effective corporate culture.  It was great to see that without exception, everyone held to a common theme.  Everyone was committed and passionate about what kind of culture we want to have.

Now of course, you cannot dictate or form policy for a culture, but you can influence it.  There was a lot of talk about reviving some of the old Borland cultural mojo.  This is because the vast majority of those on the extended leadership team have been with Borland for a long time and remember "the old days."  We also were not a bunch of old geezers pining for the "glory days," but recognized that while there was a lot of good things about the old Borland culture, times have changed and a lot of what worked great back then don't work now.  So we're looking to look to the past culture as a foundation on which we'll be building a brand new and unique "DevCo culture."  From my point of view, and I know that Nick is on board with this, part of what should be part of this new endeavor (and will be if I have anything to do with it) is that everyone here needs to climb on board the Cluetrain, drink the Kool-Aid, and take the red-pill.

On another note, we've been getting lots and lots of DevCo company name submissions from the email addresses that Michael Swindell setup.  During our Ops meetings we had a chance to go through a lot of the submissions from the customers and employees.  There were a lot of... ummm let's just say "interesting" names.  Some of the names were down right hilarious.  Others just didn't translate too well to all languages and cultures.  Still more were just real "head scratchers."  There were a lot of submissions that were very similar or even identical. Some even identical to some names suggested internally.

The activity of the name submissions is another example of one of the major themes we constantly highlight.  Our customer community is vibrant, passionate, motivated, highly vocal and very active.  Talk about an asset!  As we discussed this business with "some people," that was something that was very apparent.  These folks took special note of this.  While you cannot easily put any kind of price tag on that (it is a nearly priceless asset, in my mind), it factor into the value of all the related bits you can quantify.

For now, we're all on the edge of our seats waiting for any kind of news and information regarding the spin-off.  I get questions from the team almost daily whether or not I've heard anything and what's going on.  I imagine that we are all feeling a little like the NASA engineers/managers during the Apollo missions in the 1960's and '70's when the first time they orbited the moon. As the module passed to the dark side of the moon all the communication stopped.  Folks were just listening to radio for any signal.  When it finally comes, we can all breathe a huge sign of relief.  So right now, the spin-off module is on the dark side of the moon...

Friday, July 7, 2006

It's a little quiet around here...NOT!

Just a quick little note about the DevCo spin-off.  Borland is still in a "quiet period" before any announcements regarding a buyer can be made.  However, in lieu of that, and since we just finished Q2 the business functioning and moving ahead.  The good thing is that as more time passes, the Developer Tools Group (aka. DevCo) is operating more and more as an independent entity.  Only not as independent as if we're a separate company since our revenue is on Borland's P&L statements.  We are still responsible to Borland.  For instance, we just held the first Developer Tools Group operations meeting with Tod Nielsen this morning.  This was a chance to have all the heads of the different regions (Americas, EMEA, APAC) present their recap of Q2 results and present their plan and forecasts for Q3 (NO, I can't tell you that information... The SEC really frowns on doing that kind of thing ;-).  I must say it was abundantly clear that all the region managers are excited and pumped up about the spin-off.  Some of you may know of or have met some of these folks, most notably Jason Vokes and Malcolm Groves.  I always look forward to them coming into town and hearing all the great stories about how things are out in the field.  This time was no exception.

Next week we'll be spending several days in intense on/off-site meetings among the whole extended DevCo leadership team.  This will be the first time we've all gotten together to really lay down our own plans and to map out our own destiny.  One key element that we're going to be covering is getting down to the finer details of executing a, get this, Marketing Plan!  Yes, folks there's some cool things surrounding some of the products that are coming.  The product road maps are published and we're proceeding full speed ahead and executing on them.

While we're being very quiet about the spin-off status, rest assured that we're making, and will be making, plenty of noise in other areas.