Archive of published articles on November, 2011

Back home

Do you remember what being happy feels like?


As I’m coming up on my 5-month mark at my new job, I was thinking about how happy I am here at CCP.  I’ve been waking up at 7:30 for weeks, braving the frigid Icelandic mornings, because I have been so excited to get into work.

My happiness caused me to reflect upon the utter boredom and frustration I felt at my previous job my last six months or so there.  But then I started remembering further back and wondering, when was the last time I felt like this?  Developing something I felt passionate about, something that people saw value in without me having to spend months convincing them, something I didn’t have to beg to get resources to work on.  In a place where people are overwhelmingly positive and non-hostile, with just enough aggression to make sure we can have lively discussions.

I know CCP has its problems and I’ve come in at, in many ways, a good time.  I know there are people unhappy where I am happy.  I know there are people who can work in the same type of environment I was unhappy in and love work every day.  Different strokes for different folks.

What I’m saying is, I spent a long time working, thinking I was happy, but it was because I forgot what happy was.  Or maybe I wasn’t thinking I was happy, maybe I just forgot to consider it entirely.  I forgot what a healthy work environment was, because I came so invested with the people, and stuff I had made, I lost perspective.  (Perhaps this was why I became so unhappy when I switched teams- I lost my already strained sense of ownership and commitment).

No rant or advice or recommendations or even new or good ideas.  Just wanted to share.



Autodesk, leading the back of the pack!


A recent discussion on G+ prompted this blog post (which I’ve edited to make more sense in this context and took out the rant target’s name).

His insistence on using MEL over python isn’t “sticking to his guns”, this is harmful conservatism. It would be one thing if a TA said, ‘I don’t want to code in python.’ I’d say, “Fine, that’s foolish, here’s why python is better, you’re going to have trouble finding a job, but whatever dude.” But he isn’t a regular TA, he is a Senior User Experience Designer at Autodesk. His actions, inactions, preferences, and opinions, ultimately impact me directly. When a middleware company releases new technology, I expect thorough tutorials, I expect support, and expertise. I expect technology companies to lead a path forward- I am presumably using their technology because they can do a better job creating it than I can and I should have faith in them to understand the space. When senior personnel who are supposed to be experts in user experience provide none of this, because they have avoided learning and embracing the necessary skills, that is, to me, no longer just kidding and becomes a cause for real concern. It’s yet another symptom of the instituional incompetence (or malevolence?) that has characterized Autodesk over the past several years.

Could things be worse? Yes, he could be yet another Autodesk manager that comes out only to post a link to some shitty tech we never asked for. Instead, he at least is part of the community. That, to me, is the most important thing. But it doesn’t obscure the serious issues with his exclusively MEL approach.


To Verizon and Motorola: Let me use my own goddamn property


My first cell phone was a Verizon phone, and when I moved out after college I stuck with Verizon.  The only reason I cancelled my Verizon plan was because Casady and I moved to Iceland, where our CDMA phones do not work.  (CDMA is a type of cell communications that is only really used in America so you can rarely use your American cell phones overseas).  We brought my Droid, and Casady’s Droid X, with us, planning to use them as Wifi-only computers.  This morning, I factory-reset Casady’s Droid X, since my Droid is feeling its age and Casady isn’t using her Droid X.  I powered the phone back on and was taken to an activation screen.

Except, wait, of course my phone can’t activate, because I am in a GSM country (like every sensible country) and the Droid X’s silly CDMA doesn’t work.  I can’t get past the first screen.  Ruh-roh.

So I spend a few hours figuring out how to root my phone.  Except, I can’t even get into the phone to enable USB debugging, so I can’t use it with the Android SDK.  And obviously I can’t download anything from the phone itself to do it.  After fighting for a few hours (did you know Windows Vista/7 Home doesn’t have Group Policy Editor?  WTF!), I called up Verizon Customer Support.

The nice woman I spoke to didn’t have any concrete advice to offer but gave me Motorola’s number.  I called Motorola and the guy I spoke to told me I needed to call Verizon for an unlock code.  Ah, I was trying to root when I needed to unlock.  I’m so dumb sometimes ;)  So I called Verizon Customer Service again and another nice woman gave me a number for Verizon Tech Support.  I called Tech Support, and the man I spoke to put me on hold to do a little research about my problem.  He then transferred me to Leon in Global Tech Support.  We argued for a little while because he said Verizon only activates active/programmed phones.

I cancelled my account with Verizon because I don’t live in the US anymore, so the phones are not active on my account.
My entire family (included Casady’s side) are all Verizon customers, but we’d need to bring in the phones to get them programmed.  Of course, the phones are in goddamn Iceland, so that is impossible.
He stopped short of telling me I just needed to find an unlock code but I took the hint and thanked him and hung up.

So it turns out you cannot get unlock codes for the Droid X.   I looked and looked but no one seems to offer them.  It is rare for CDMA phones at all and I have not seen a single one for a Droid X due to the enhanced security features.  I’m open to tinkering but have made literally zero progress despite trying everything I could find (on a positive note, my patience has definitely improved).

So, the next thing I’m going to do is call Motorola and talk to whoever I need to talk to until I’m satisfied.  And then, when they won’t do anything, I’ll talk to Verizon and do the same.  I paid I think $200 USD to buy the phone and then another $300 or so for early termination.  I own this phone but am locked out of it.

Any ideas or support is appreciated.  This sort of corporate shit really grinds my gears and I’m not going to take it lying down.

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My GDC 2012 TechArt Bootcamp Session


Recently edited it, I’m sure I’ll fix it up and change it some more:

The traditional role of Tech Art has been art support, integration, and tools. As the scope of pipelines have grown and matured, Tech Artists find themselves thrust into roles that require a large amount of programming and systems design- roles which their traditional skills have left them ill suited. To deal with today’s problems, every Tech Artist also must be able to “work like a programmer,” as it is the only way to build systems with the size and scope Tech Art now needs to.

We must first understand how Tech Art teams are generally composed and function. This is especially important because even though teams may perform at a fraction of their potential, they are perceived as productive. We will look at the real problems Tech Artists face and at models of solutions- namely, the composition and function of Programming teams.

Next we will explore how to apply those solutions to Tech Art teams. Strategies for controlling and formalizing support tasks, for introducing code guidelines and review, and continuous skills growth will be explained.

Finally, we will look at the pitfalls involved in taking this approach. We do not want to turn Tech Art teams into Programming teams, even if we model them after Programming teams. Just as importantly, and because each studio is different, we will explore how to preserve all of the good things about how a team works while reforming it so it can become more productive and take on vital tasks.

By the end of the session, attendees will have a roadmap to transform themselves and their teams into a cohesive programming unit that can successfully build the complex systems modern development requires.

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