RFID

An article on RFID chips on the Register points to this article about a new, very small RFID chip by Hitachi. [Damn, that Hitachi chip is tiny].

The Hitachi article says: “The [128-bit unique] number is written to the chip during the silicon fabrication process and cannot be changed.”

Me: Wanna bet? If there’s money in modifing the ID that an RFID chip broadcasts, people are going to develop the cabability. Just because something is small and burned-in at the factory does not mean that it’s secure. So once these chips are everywhere, and perhaps mandated in legal documents as the Reg article predict [a kind of high-tech stamp tax], expect new forms of fraud to develop around the implicit trust of RFID chips.

Middle Ware

This User Friendly strip only slightly captures what it was like to work at a very early dotcom, struggling for direction.

One tip: If you ever start a company, make sure that it is pronounceable (“Xsyzyzfxx”) and that people can easily spell it (“PhileX”). And you will spend weeks agonizing over a logo, and it will suck…

Garfield

My wife writes about Garfield.

In 1984, when I was working for Atari, my office mate (Judy B) had the job of working on a “Garfield” video game cartridge. It was a side-scrolling, multi-level game in whicn you controlled Garfield and had to pick up piles of lasagna and other food, while avoiding mice and odie. Jon was in there somewhere (maybe you had to humiliate him). It was terribly cute, the mice were especially well done, Garfield got fatter, and Odie more mischievious. The more lasagne you stacked up, the more points you got, but the towers swayed (with great cartoon physics) and were more easily lost the higher they got.

Anyway, since Judy was working on the game design (as opposed to the engine guts, which I was just helping out on), she got to spend a little time with Jim Davis. (Nobody likes to see the darned hard-core engineers, oh well).

One thing I remember, she came back and said “They expect Garfield’s popularity to peak in two or three years, and they’ll probably stop drawing it in five or six.”

19 years later, and Garfield is apparently still going. (What happened to the game? Oh, later on that summer, Judy asked to be laid off when Jack Tramiel bought the company; she’d worked at Commodore, and really didn’t like the guy at all).

More money after bad

Sun’s going to spend half a billion bucks on a “Java Inside” marketing campaign. One goal is to boost its developer mindshare from 3 million or so to 10 million.

Just my opinion, but: Maybe they’d be better off spending that money on a decent development environment. Nothing that I’ve ever used for Java development worked very well, it all boiled down to printf-debugging when the project got too large or too complex for the wimpy IDE environments to handle. (Oh, the IDEs always had promise, but ultimately they always fell down at some point).

Yeah, I’d love to be surrounded by a hyped-up Java media blitz while I’m using 1960s debugging techniques…

I can’t let this announcement by Sun go unscathed, either. “Java technology is igniting an adrenaline rush in gaming — offering developers the promise of ultra-high performance, truly cross platform gaming with massive market opportunity, and offering end users access to the coolest new games on a tidal wave of new devices,” sez a boffin at Sun.

Ooooh, adjectives. He can use perty-soundin’ adjectives and “Java” in the same sentence. But – whoa – he also combined “Java” with an illegally augmented use of “performance,” which is a syntax error in english. Game over, baby; it’s back to the clue barn without any of your weapons or gold.

We’re not going to see Doom 3 written in Java any time soon. The offering from Sun looks to be a back-end server thing, which might be okay. Maybe a little scripting. Maybe checkers. I do know one fellow who’s been trying to hack games in Java. I’ve chosen not to repeat his remarks (abject misery is so unattractive).

Prediction: Developers are going to look at this Java runtime thing they need to bolt onto their app. They’re going to look at their C++ code. They’re going to look at the Java thing. And guess what’s going to happen? It’ll be game over for yet another crop of psuedo execs in the gaming biz. Big surprise.

Don’t bother to tell me I’m battle-scarred…

[If a “game technology group” is one of the pre-death spinning-out-of-control signs of a company considering drain-circling motions, then I’d pay good money to see PeopleSoft’s efforts in this direction…]

Tossing bad money after bad

Oracle is offering $16 a share for Peoplesoft, valuing the firm at at over five billion. Do they know what they’re buying? Realllly?

Then again, this would concentrate some of the worst code on the planet under one set of roofs; maybe we could get the gummint to precision-bomb ‘im under some WMD clause, or just “Oops” (which seems to work just as well).

[Apologies to anyone who may work there, though I doubt that any of the three people who read this page do. My guess is, if you do work there, you’re looking at the skies every day anyway, pleading silently for the sound of a bomber, or praying for an earthquake…]

Peepsoft

One startup I was at for three years was bought (after I left) by company A, which was in turn bought by PeopleSoft, rendering a portion of the stock I had exercised into 27 shares of PeopleSoft. (The other portion of stock had become worthless. My early dotcom bubble).

Later, at another start-up, I had a chance to work with PeopleSoft. We had a contractor come in (a hell of a competent and very nice guy, by the way) and spend a week installing Oracle and then PeopleSoft 8. Then he wiped the machine and we installed it together, which took three days of cursing, crossing out wrong sections in the manual, scribbling new instructions in the margins, and so on. It was pretty hellish . . . and that was only getting it installed.

During this time, I read some articles about how the San Francisco school district was also having a hell of a time with PeopleSoft, to the tune of six million bucks of consulting, and it wasn’t working yet. I believed it.

So when my 27 shares of PeopleSoft stock go down, I cheer. Perhaps PeopleSoft’s recent purchase of JDE will drag both ships down, and the world can move to other solutions.

[Remember: In the computing industry, a “solution” doesn’t necessarily solve anyone’s problem…]