A new way to find something good on TV

I’ve generally had mixed feelings over my GoogleTV since I got it in the fall. It’s a promise unfulfilled, largely for 2 reasons. #1, every Big Media company with streaming video on their website specifically blocked the device during it’s first month out. So much for neutral net. #2, there is not yet an SDK, and this is a device all about enabling creation on your TV. That will be fixed soon, and I think after that I’ll be a lot happier. I have a lot of ideas for this platform.

But it has really shined on a few outings, and this week is one of them. The World Science Festival is going on in NYC this week, and they have been nice enough to livestream some of their events. Via the GoogleTV, it’s a not quite HD stream, but very good. I had the panel on about Dark Matter and Dark Energy last night, and tonight I’m watching the lecture on Sleep, going on right now.

A better voice for your phone

I really appreciated my Android phone when we were down at the shuttle launch, for many reasons, but the best of which was the built in Google Navigation system. It got us around perfectly, and helped us find some decent restaurants while we were there. The fact that your journey ends with streetview pictures of your location is just icing on the cake.

On the way back to the airport I was complaining that the stock voice is pretty horrid, and wished there were replacement voices. Apparently, I’m just an idiot, because there are. For $3 per, you can get a whole bunch of voices for different languages from SVOX. They’ve got an application that lets you hear a sample of all of them, and after poking with that for a few minutes I bought the Grace voice.

The voice engine is deeply integrated in the Google stack, so you basically just change the default voice engine in preferences, and from there on out everything that speaks to you, does so with the new voice. The only exception I found was Tasker, so I needed to specify which engine to use for it to read me incoming text messages when the headphones are plugged in (which is likely when I’m driving in the car.)

Agile Resistance

One of the things that’s most inspired me at IBM over the last couple of years has been a division wide initiative to adopt Agile development methodology among the teams. There remains a lot of resistance to such a change, but for those of us that really think this is a better way, it’s opened up a new freedom to demonstrate how much more effective we can be. We can actually point out that multitasking is bad, and completely wasteful, and not sound like lunatics any more, as it’s part of the standard training. We can plan with 1 to N priority lists, instead of time estimating tasks 18 months in advance, and have a leg to stand on. And for those of us that have really embraced Agile approaches, and surprised ourself on the effectiveness, it adds new focus and drive to the tasks at hand.

Yesterday, in a “scrum of scrums” (quotes because it’s really just a status meeting, as many of my peers aren’t really getting what Agile is) I shared with my peers some of the recent successes we had because we had stopped splitting up our 3 person team on various independent tasks, and instead got in the mindset that we, as a team, are tackling one thing at a time until it’s done. Every time we focus in this way, we get much more done. It does take vigilance to keep this focussed. Inevitably in the past we’ve backslid into slicing, and dicing, and multitasking our way into a spinning ball of busy that doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. I’m hoping this time the habit will finally stick.

I was just interested in sharing my experience at the end of our recent break through on a problem (which had happened only 10 minutes prior to the meeting). I got unsolicited comments from two of my peers effectively saying the old ways were just as good. It caused a good chuckle in a back channel.

Culture changes are hard, I know that. And with a ship as big as a division of IBM, turning it is something that’s going to take many years. But at least we’re starting.

(Disclaimer: my words are my own, represent my own perspective based on what I can see and who I interact with, and don’t represent the views of my employer.)