Working Up

Working Up in Project Management, Systems Engineering, Technology, and Writing

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The Good Hackers

January 19th, 2017 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

The original hackers were the good guys. Some of today’s hackers still are.

Nintendo recently brought back a handful of old video games in a clever packages called the NES Classic Edition. They sold a boat-load of them. The trouble is, you can’t add any games to it.

Enter good-old hackers who add functions to computer hardware and software. Now we can add games to a supposedly closed box.

Yes, there are good guy hackers. They take open source code, or reverse engineer code that is not open source, and add to it. They augment the functions of computers. Almost everyone wins here. Game players will have more games to play on their clever little box. Nintendo, who should have made the box’s source code open, will sell more units. Someone out there will write a few new games to run on limited hardware and might make enough money to buy a lunch or two. A lot of younger people will learn something about video game systems and software.

I trust that no one will ruin all this by calling a lawyer.

I suppose there is a moral to this story and I’m supposed to provide it. Let’s try this one:

You have a good product. Let persons see the inside. You never know what they might do that will benefit a lot of others and you, too.

→ No CommentsTags: Customer · Fun · General Systems Thinking · Programming

Authentic

January 16th, 2017 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Is this real? Is this a fake?

Sometimes politicians and other childlike creatures show a firm grasp of the obvious. Mr. Trump did this recently with a comment about writing a note on paper and having it hand delivered. Aside from security, there is the attribute of authenticity.

authentic: adjective, of undisputed origin; genuine.

The recipient of the note can recognize my handwriting in every word and in my signature. Yes, these can be forged, but what is easier to forge, a page of handwriting or a page of typed and printed text? The answer shows a firm grasp of the obvious.

There are many objections to the “write a note and have it delivered” method of communication. Nevertheless, the simplicity and ability to recognize the  message as genuine are real.

Do not minimize authenticity. With fast, inexpensive, and plentiful digital communication, we have forgotten something about a message of undisputed origin.

→ No CommentsTags: Authentic · Communication

not Common Sense, Smart

January 12th, 2017 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Instead of describing smart things as “common sense,” try, “that’s smart.”

I grew up with the phrase, “common sense.” Common sense was superior to “book sense” or education. Common sense was what people who knew what they were doing and could “get things done” had.

Enough phrases from my childhood in qoutes. I recently—as an adult—watched a video series by Seth Godin. He repeatedly used the phrase “that’s smart.”

  • don’t try to shoe horses in Los Angeles
  • don’t try go manufacure goods cheaper than China
  • don’t try to do what everyone else does already

Those things weren’t “common sense.” Godin’s description was, “that’s smart.” Hmm, I like that. It sounds so much better to me than “that’s common sense.” I think it would sound better to the other person as well.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication

How would I Act if I were a…?

January 9th, 2017 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Want to be something? Ask a simple question and live the answer.

Twenty something years ago, Robin Williams was in the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire.” He impersonates a woman and gets a job as a nanny to his former wife so he can be near his children. He is the best, most fun, most wonderful person around kids since Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” combined.

He was a failed father. He became the best person to be near his kids. How? The movie doesn’t reveal it, but he asked the question, “If I was the best person to be with my kids, what would I do?” And then he did it.

Examples:

  • If I were a great people person, what would I do at this party?
  • If I were a great supervisor, what would I do at work?
  • If I were a great leader, what would I do?
  • If I were a diligent writer, what would I do?
  • If I were a great husband or wife, what would I do?
  • If I were a great parent, what would I do?
  • If I were a great news reporter, what clothes would I wear? How would I stand?

The list goes on and can include the one thing I want to be. I have yet to find an exception to this technique for better living.

Ask. Answer seriously. Begin living—better.

→ No CommentsTags: Change · Choose · Questions

The Fill-in-the-Blank Registry

January 5th, 2017 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

If elected leaders want it, of course someone will build the fill-in-the-blank registry (if it doesn’t already exist).

Big news lately about how large numbers of programmers have pledged not to build a fill-in-the-blank registry. (It is pretty easy to make such a pledge when you are employed and have enough work stacked up to keep you employed over the horizon, but that is another blog post.) If our elected representatives want a fill-in-the-blank registry, it will be created.

One of the missing items in all this registry talk is that the fill-in-the-blank registry probably already exists. The persons in the fill-in-the-blank group built it and use it everyday. That is how they keep track of their fill-in-the-blank members for things like mailings and greetings and such. Fill-in-the-blankers want to know other fill-in-the-blankers.

Then there are those anti-fill-in-the-blankers. They have registries of other anti-fill-in-the-blankers. If they don’t have the registries already, they are building them now.

Silly? Am I poking fun at something very serious? Probably. Do these registries already exist? Yes, they do. One recent “registry” case is a government agency “refusing” to give the President-elect a “list of names” (Oh boy, here we go!) of their scientists who attended climate change conferences. Government employees who attend conferences do so on taxpayers’ dollars. Those expenses are public knowledge. A FOIA request provides the details. Let’s see, the next President files a FOIA request and… Silly? Yes. Reality? Yes. Of course the government agency will provide the names if requested. That is the law.

Now, back to these fill-in-the-blank registries. The information is out there. Those fill-in-the-blankers provided it. Sometimes they were required by law, but most of the time they did so voluntarily. We all provide our names voluntarily everyday. That is our lives in this 21st century world.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Fear · Government

Fear of Writing?

January 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

I write all the time. I am not afraid to write. One reason is that no one ever told me that I should be afraid to write. Please don’t ever tell anyone they should be afraid.

I write. I write everyday. This is the third or fourth piece of writing I am completing this morning before 9AM.

I am not afraid to write. I have met many persons who are afraid to write, but that is not me. Perhaps someone who analyzes such things could analyze my life, background, parents, childhood, etc. and produce an analysis that explains my situation.

Basically, I never knew that I was supposed to be afraid to write.

Perhaps I am not smart enough to realize this.

My granddaughter appears to be like me in this respect. She is five years old and has been writing stories for several years. No one has yet told her that she should be afraid to do this. I pity the person who tries to convince her to be afraid. I shall have a discussion with that person.

→ No CommentsTags: Writing

Fire the Cashiers or Allow Them to Add Value

December 29th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

About to be replaced by a machine? We must add value. In some cases, employers must allow us to add value.

Amazon recently made news with a grocery store that has no cashiers. Wow. How convenient for the shoppers. Wow. There go a bunch of jobs as all the cashiers who weren’t hired won’t be paid.

Many more of us are and will be facing the same thing. Software and hardware will take our jobs—if we allow them to do so. We can beat the machine, if we try harder. We have to add value over what the machine can do.

Does the machine smile and call you by name and wish you a good evening? No, but a cashier who tries harder can do those things. A cashier can also ask about how your ill mother is doing and send her a Get Well card, if he tries harder. And the cashier can tell you about a product you didn’t buy and why it is better than what you did buy and where it is “hidden” on the shelf and how to get a discount on it, if he tries harder.

And then we come to the last point: many of us don’t add value over a machine because we are not allowed to do so.

  • The cashier doesn’t mention the new, better, less expensive product because the grocery store chain has a deal with the other product maker and doesn’t allow that.
  • The restaurant server can’t discount certain items on the menu or substitute this for that, because the restaurant manager doesn’t allow that.
  • The gas station won’t hire teens to wash your windshield while you pump your own gas, because the corporation doesn’t allow that.
  • The school teacher doesn’t hug a child who has made a breakthrough because the school board doesn’t allow that.

We could go on. If we try harder, we can provide value that a machine can’t and keep our jobs. First, however, the employer has to allow us to do so.

→ No CommentsTags: Employment · Work

The $80 Writing Computer

December 26th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A new edition of the cheapest computer in the store finds a small tablet and keyboard for $80. Slow, but sufficient.

Want to write a book? Can’t afford a MacBook Pro or Surface Pro or someone-else’s-pro? Here is a writing system for $80. It comprises an Amazon Fire 7″ $50 tablet and a $30 bluetooth keyboard and case.

The Fire tablet with Fintie keyboard

The Fire tablet with Fintie keyboard

I include a few photos here. Click on a photo to enlarge and see the correct orientation.

fintieapplekeyboards

The Fintie keyboard next to an Apple MacBook AIr full-sized keyboard

The display on the tablet is small and not the state-of-the-art. Nevertheless, it is functional. The $50 Fire connects the writer to the Internet. It will run Google Docs and Microsoft Word online version. I prefer to keep it simple and use the basic notepad app and email my writing to myself for use elsewhere.

This keyboard is small, but, again, functional. One of the photos shows how small and close the keys are together compared to a “full-size” keyboard on an Apple MacBook Air. Using the Air, I typed about 60 words per minute using an online testing site. After five minutes of practice, I types about 50 words per minute on the little tablet keyboard. That is sufficient. Also, I find that when I type slower I write better.

The entire writing package compared to a standard Moleskine notebook

The entire writing package compared to a standard Moleskine notebook

The entire package comes with a carrying case. The final photo shows that this package is about the same size of the basic Moleskine notebook.

Workable? Yes. Luxurious? No. You can carry this package with you and write when the mood hits you. I guess there is some luxury in that.

→ No CommentsTags: Technology · Writing

The Gift of Expectations

December 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

One of the best gifts to give another is that they expect you to be consistent. This holds for managers on the job as well as grandparents at home.

‘Tis the season to give. Consider giving someone the ability to expect you to be consistent.

Let’s start with Grandparents: When my (absolutely adorable) grandchildren come to my house, they expect—among other things:

  • greetings and hugs at the door
  • fun
  • a sit-down dinner with several of their favorite dishes

They expect these things because my wife and I provide them each time they visit. We are consistent.

Some definitions of consistent:

  • Acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate
  • Unchanging in nature, standard, or effect over time

Our grandchildren don’t suffer anxiety and uncertainty. They know what a visit to Grammy’s house brings. Feelings of doubt don’t exist. They are free to be joyous. They enjoy the gift of expectations.

Let’s move to Managers at Work: So much for a children’s story. Now to the nitty gritty and often ugly workplace.

Do the persons you lead and whose work you manage enjoy the gift of expectations? Are you consistent? Do you provide a consistent workplace? Do the persons about you suffer anxiety and uncertainty?

There are many things related to the workplace that I and my fellow managers cannot control, some examples are the economy at large, corporate tax rates, and changes in health care laws.

There are many things related to the workplace that I and my fellow managers can control. Foremost, we can control ourselves, how we act, and what we provide personally. We can be consistent. We can free our colleagues from much of the anxiety and uncertainty of the day. We can allow them the security to do their best work.

We can be consistent. We can give them expectations. Try it this giving season.

→ No CommentsTags: Authentic · Expectations · Family · Management · Work

Programming Without Programmers—the Holy Grail

December 19th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Those who don’t program still seek the Holy Grail of business: the ability to flush programmers from their lives.

Google recently launched its App Maker. Its a tool kit that allows persons who don’t know how to program to write programs. Well, sort of. I guess Google’s product, similar to other similar products, moves non-programmers closer to programming without programmers.

That is the Holy Grail of business and those persons who love to work in business without really working:

If we, the cool kids,  can just get rid of those nerds once and for all.

Whoa! Wait a dog gone minute here. This is all about technology and bringing the promise of technology to the masses and spreading wonderfulness to all and stuff like that. Why am I bring back the crass concept of the cool kids and the nerds in the high school cafeteria?

Well, sometimes we hate to admit what is happening. In computing, the cool kids—those with the grand ideas—have always been forced to talk at the nerds—those who know something about “ones and zeros.” Without the nerds, the cool kids never saw their ideas come to fruition, i.e., money.

The trouble with the nerds is that they are nerdy. You know, well, I won’t go into details about …

The big trouble with some of the nerds is that they realized their nerdiness really bothered the cool kids. And, what is worse, some of the nerds realized that the cool kids NEEDED them. Aha, power! We can nerdly rub our nerdiness in the face of the cool kids and they can’t run us away from the cool table in the cafeteria like they did in high school.

Hence, the cool kids constantly pay some nerds to invent a technology that removed the need of the nerds. The programming tool for non-programmers is always on the horizon. It has been for at least 35 years (my professional lifetime). Older persons have told me that this Holy Grail was almost invented the day after 20th-century programming was invented.

The search continues. Until it ends, some nerds will continue to torment some cool kids with glee.

→ No CommentsTags: Adults · Programming · Technology