A Treo odyssey

It’s been over three years, so it’s finally time to look for a new phone. I want browser, SMS, IM, and ssh client. After consultation with Mobile Monday gurus Russ Beattie and Mike Rowehl (thanks guys!) I decided that the Treo was the best option for me because I don’t need Windows compatibility.

So we go over to Fry’s last weekend, where the Treo is a very undiscounted $599. Then we decide to buy online instead, but the deal at SprintPCS.com is just too confusing and that puts us off ($599 – $150 instant rebate – $30 web special = $419). In the meantime, Rifkin gets a Treo at the Sprint store and he reports that he only paid $399 with a phone buyback.

So this weekend we went over to the Sprint Store, where the clerk himself tells us it’d be cheaper to buy the device online. Tim decides it’s not THAT much cheaper ($599 – $150 mail-in rebate – $25 buyback = $424), and just gets his Treo right away. But I’m cheaper and stubborner, and slightly ticked that they won’t buy back my phone (too old, they say), so I decide to get it online. I go over to Treocentral, which is advertising a $319 special ($569 – $150 instant rebate – $100 mail-in rebate = $319). I order, and I’m happy.

But suddenly it occurs to me: did I just sign up for a new phone number? Ruh roh.

TV shows about science

I was talking to a friend about my new favorite TV show, Numbers — which if you haven’t seen it yet is about a genius mathematician who helps his FBI Agent brother solve crimes. My friend, who was trained as a mathematician, commented that he wasn’t sure how he felt about the bastardization of science on fictive TV. I yelped back, “But where would we all be without the faux tech-speak in Star Trek!??!?”

About 10 years ago, Leon Lederman proposed that TV shows about science would be one of the best ways to make science sexy. He said, “There’s LA Law, why not LA Science?” Looks like his dream came true, considering the plethora of forensic science, medical, and math shows on the networks now — albeit shows in which the “scientists” wear extremely low-cut tops and very tight pants. People write essays about how hot William Petersen’s bow legs are! Science is the new black on TV! How can that be a bad thing?

The fall of Fiorina

I never bought the idea that Carly Fiorina was going to be in any way good for women in the business. She was so wildly underqualified for her job — and mergers never work out anyway — that it was clearly just a matter of time until she left a huge charred mark on Silicon Valley. Plus, her leadership style was so crass, tasteless, and lacking in unselfish purpose — I especially loved the year when she got a bonus equal to the value of the salaries of everyone she’d fired — that it was clear she’d be something to live down, not someone to look up to.

Carol J. Loomis had a great piece in Fortune lately containing the theory that women tend to come up from the non-operational areas of the business, and this tends to lead to their ultimate downfall. Hopefully as more women start rising through engineering, product management, and sales — as opposed to marketing, HR, and finance — this situation will stabilize. However, I feel bound to mention that the most powerful woman in Silicon Valley, Meg Whitman, is famously a marketeer and impatient at best with technology.

Speaking of which… I’ve been wondering lately whether there’s any value whatsoever in joining a women-only business networking group. A couple of people have suggested I might want to check out WITI or FWE. But… do I really need to spend 3 hours listening to a talk called “Pursuit of Passionate Purpose: Success Strategies for a Rewarding Personal and Business Life”? I get plenty of opportunities to talk to people I really look up to, which is to say engineers who built something great. Maybe this indicates the need for these women-only groups is declining?

Rel-attribute abuse

You know, I’m not sure how I feel about this rampant rel-attribute abuse. Half my friends seem to be inventing (dear god) “folksonomies”, and they all seem to use rel=”foo” as an essential part of the scheme. It’s clever the first time you see it, but after 12 or 15 different schemes — each one more metaphorical than the next in its use of the term “relative” — you start to wonder. For years we just used rel for like “next” and “previous”, you know? Am I becoming a grumpy old purist, or is rel becoming so overloaded with meaning that any attribute would collapse under the weight of being all things to all people?

No mo sosec

OK, I’ll be the first one to say it. To be perfectly honest, I don’t actually FEEL like paying more social security tax. Yes, it makes me a selfish pig. I feel bad. But not bad enough to, for instance, support raising the contribution limit from $90K to $140K. I’m afraid I must respectfully submit that the left-leaning pundits fuck that noise.

Hey, I didn’t break Social Security. Why should it be fixed on my back? If the current retirees were willing to take a somewhat more means-tested benefit… and the Boomers were willing to take a rather higher retirement age… then maybe I’d be willing to raise the contribution limit a little. But the other generations need to pony up first. Till then, I’m certainly not volunteering.

What is a webdev

I was disappointed a few weeks ago to hear two people I respect use the term “webdev” as a term of contempt, referring to the Frontpage-using HTML-monkey type. The odd thing is that both these guys are webdevs, albeit at the other end of the quality scale. Then more recently I went to talk to some other people I respect, who are basically like super high-end PMs. Same thing: to them, webdevs were the folks at the bottom end of the skill scale, someone you would sort of barely admit to having hired — certainly not a potential locus of innovation and big ideas. These experiences made me seriously wonder: is that what most people mean when they use the term?

I’ve had a lot of formal job titles, but in real life I’ve always referred to myself as a webdev. I’ve meant by that something like, “I make stuff that the end user accesses over HTTP”. I’ve always been awfully fond of good old RFC 2616, and never had the slightest interest in apps that don’t connect over the Internet. Over time less of my work as been strictly browser-bound — I’ve done plenty of systems that the user interacted with via Excel or IM or even the command line — but that didn’t change the essential nature of the job for me. Connecting people to knowledge is the entire point of programming as far as I’m concerned, and so far there’s been no better medium for that than the Internet. So in my own heart I’m a webdev.

Let me just make one request: fellow webdevs, please stop using the term to talk about the least skilled and least committed of our kind. If other people do it… well, there’s only one way to change their minds. But we should say it loud, and all that noise. If I hear it again, you will get the smackdown.