General

Found: Data At Rest

28 Mar , 2007  

With all the interest in data leakage prevention, data encryption, data in motion and data at rest, I thought I should do some investigation into the topic myself.

Thanks to Google’s new “data mining” tools, I’ve located data at rest or DAR. DAR is alive and well, living is seclusion on a small private island in US Virgin Islands. See photo below for more details.

General

Now, here’s a guitar player

24 Mar , 2007  

I couldn’t resist posting this youtube video of Jeff Beck playing Nadia at the ’06 North Sea Jazz festival. There are guitar virtuosos and there’s Jeff Beck. A few, very few, brave soles try to play a few of his songs but none even come close. Jeff is so unique not just in his writing, but his sound, intonation, and most importantly, his innovation. Only he plays like he plays. The only person I’ve seen come close is my very good friend Michael Reese (LA guitar player of the year in ’96) and Michael doesn’t imitate but lets his long history of enjoying Jeff’s music influence his own playing.

Here’s the video. if you are new to Jeff Beck, then you are in for a major treat – like the first time trying ice cream, or chocolate.. If you are a fan, just sit back and enjoy hearing this great song played live.

Here’s Jeff Beck with Nadia…

General

Its 10pm, know where your game account is?

22 Mar , 2007  

Microsoft is dealing with reports that Xbox game accounts are being stolen and then used to either buy movies/music or steal personal and credit card information.

It’s nothing new in the online gaming world. Scammers, and even predators can be found in online games and while it’s not going to replace phishing or email stock scams anytime soon, Microsoft is just having to deal with this like everyone else.

A few friends of mine got me to try MMORPGs and they are fun and addictive. Mostly I just play with my son Phil these days. The other night he said; “Hey dad, my girlfriend and I are going to jump online and kill that epic. Will you help us?” Sure. Dad to the rescue, this time in a virtual world. I don’t know why but the virtual world mimics the real world sometimes and it’s kind of freaky. For some reason, my characters always seem to have more virtual money that Phill’s so guess who’s giving out money. 🙂

I actually think there is a lot to this is whole virtual world thing. It’s why I try to keep a pulse on what’s happening with it. More than just because WoW, EQ2 and others are so popular. People (adults and kids, probably more adults in my experience) spend thousands of hours on these things, developing characters and also building friendships with others online and in RL (that’s real life). There are entire financial ecosystems that have cropped up from online games. Farmers, gold sellers, level up your toon, or buy one with all the trimmings all ready to take on the upper level tasks.

The future of all this is we’re going to have virtual personas and toons who are not only online when we are but more. They will travel with us onto our PDAs, laptops, watches, etc. They’ll be active when we aren’t online too. Dogie daycare in the real world? Send your virtual pet to the park with some of his v-dog buddies and keep an eye on them in the corner of your laptop screen. Train your UFC toon and sit back during the evening fights to watch how he does in the tournaments.

What happens if they go missing? Is that just part of something that happens in the virtual reality world or did someone really steal him/her? File a missing toon report. Go through the grieving process hoping the v-cops find your toon and not too bad of shape.

I actually think this is where all the online virtual world stuff is heading. Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for breakfast. 🙂

General

What fuels the Amazing Race

12 Mar , 2007  

Last week was just one of those weeks. Not in a bad way, but in an extremely good way. It started with two new team members joining my team, Joel and Joe, with a few others in the works too. Both are rock stars with their own unique talents, most important of which is their ability to quickly become major contributors to the team. I believe it was JFK that said “a rising tide lifts all boats” and in this case great people lift up other great people.

And the week kept getting better. We are ahead of plan on some project work, because a number of things are working very well. QA has done an awesome job with automation and tracking metrics. Development produced some really quality work. The design is proving itself as a great base to build from. And some mobile work we are doing looks very exciting. It’s a site to see how jazzed the development lead gets when he can create a new code drop ahead of schedule because both QA and dev are cranking out quality stuff.

High performance teams (HPTs) are interesting phenomenon to be part of. I’ve blogged about it before. If you just pay attention, and usually it’s pretty obvious, you can sense the energy, enthusiasm, commitment and passion the individuals generate and share among each other. It is a powerful thing when it happens and it always makes me think twice about “what factors are making it happening in this situation?”, “how do we make sure to foster and nurture this?”, and “what ever you do, Mitchell, don’t screw it up!” That last point is the most important one for me, lol.

I think high performance teams are first and foremost about the employees and the people you hire to bring onto a team. It can be existing employees, new hires, contractors… many combinations, but a big part of it is definitely about hiring very talented people. Talent only goes so far though. During my career I’ve seen some very talented people who just didn’t work out in a particular situation. It’s also about the intangibles each individual brings. I’ve already mentioned them; passion, commitment, positive energy, enthusiasm and the will to apply those things towards shared goals.

HPTs are about other things too. Culture and environment are big factors. There’s no single company or team culture that will create HPTs but without the right cultural fit, you’ll never get there. Culture is about having a shared set of beliefs about how people work together, treat and respect each other, and demonstrate the value individuals place in each other. I’m sure a lot of other things go into it, but one I know is that the culture and the individuals must be a good fit. If someone doesn’t fit the culture or visa versa, that doesn’t mean something’s wrong with the person, it just means it will be much more difficult for that that environment to bring the best out of the person.

I mentioned passion earlier. One thing I’ve learned is that not everyone on the team need be passionate about the same things. Actually, there a real power in having the right blend of passion on any number of dimensions. But one thing seems true for me; passion makes the right difference when it’s about doing what you’re there to do better than it’s been done before. We’ve all built products before, written software, designed products, tested them, written documentation, etc., but those are the tasks. Passion is also about building on the ideas of others, taking what might be a small or basic idea, that ends up become a really big or important idea.

You might have been wondering, “what’s that red guitar doing over there in this blog post?” That’s a 57 Fiesta Red Stratocaster (Vintage Reissue), created by Leo Fender. (One of my Strats is an aged Daphne 57 Classic Custom Shop Strat – see it in my bio.) One of the things I’m passionate about is Stratocasters and many believe the 57 Strat is when all the right elements came together to create the Strat. 62 and 69 were also very good years for Strats.

Leo Fender is one of my heroes. He had an idea how to make a very different and a much better guitar. In its day, the Strat was a revolution in guitar making, looks and guitar sounds. There was nothing like it and for my taste in music it still is the standard all others are judged by. But Leo didn’t do it all by himself. Master craftsmen at the Fender Custom Shop interview the people still around that made the early Strat guitars in an effort to duplicate the materials and methods used for creating those early guitars. Leo created a high performance team around the ideas that became Fender and that passion lives on today, in their company, products and customers.

Okay, so there I’ve done it. I stared talking about one of my passions, the team I work with, and I ended up writing about Strats, clearly another passion of mine. I guess it just couldn’t be helped.

General

300 thumbs up

12 Mar , 2007  

My son and I went to see the new movie 300 this weekend. What a great film. We were glued to the screen for the whole time. The visual design of the move was stunning. The visual effects made the movie seem like a cross between Troy and The Matrix but without going over the top. If you like movies about great warriors fighting for freedom, in the vein of films like Rob Roy and Braveheart, you’ll enjoy this one too.

But I think 300 separates itself from other films as well. The visual impact and visual imagery were amazing. The sound engineering was awesome. I happened to see the original Frank Miller drawings for the 300 graphic novel in Barnes and Noble on Sunday and they were so close. The film director followed the storyboard and images almost exactly in the translation to film; one of the best I’ve seen done.

So if you go I’m sure you’ll enjoy 300. It will also be a good one for the DVD library.

Oh, and despite all the mayhem going on throughout the world due to the USA change in daylight savings time, the movie started on time.

General

life of music, music of life

3 Mar , 2007  

I opened a Guitar Center email this morning advertising a new guitar and it stopped me in my tracks. The picture in it blew me away, just thinking what an influential band Led Zeppelin was and the amazing genius of guitar player Jimmy Page. (You can truly say he is a one of a kind and no one else sounds like him.) I suddenly had a flashback (no, not drug induced, lol) to a conversation with my soundman about a week ago.

During a break he asked me who I listened to when I was growing up. I had to answer his question with a question. ”Which era; junior high, high school, or college?” I think he was trying to identify the influences in my guitar playing style. We mostly talked about high school era music which is when I was in my jazz phase. Maynard Ferguson, Chicago, Spyro Gyra, Woody Herman, Stanley Clarke, and Chuck Mangione were some of the jazz artists I listened to along with my all time favorite Pink Floyd. Other great groups I listened to were Queen, Boston, Steve Miller, Bob Seger, Foreigner, Joe Walsh, ELO and many other rock bands. What a time to grow up in because so much of that music we still hear today.

In college things changed. I had a brief 1 1/2 year phase of heavy rock with groups like Van Halen, AC DC, Ronny Montrose, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Journey, Tom Petty, Angel, and others. But most of my college career (I say career because I paid my way through school playing music) was in a middle of the road band playing everything from swing, country, pop, and blues to rock. Playing three nights a week, every week, really built up my chops, both playing and my musical ear. The Eagles were a big influence along with The Alan Parsons Project (who was sound engineer for Pink Floyd including Dark Side of the Moon.) But I expanded my listening to a lot of other artists during that college phase; Ronnie Milsap, Don Williams, Huey Lewis, The Blues Brothers band, The Little River Band, to name a few along with all my rock favorites.

With a few exceptions like The Police, The Pretenders, Peter Gabriel, and Elvis Costello, the rest of the 80’s aren’t worth mentioning. On the radio I heard the droning malaise of music coming out of Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls and all those other distrubed bands that quickly faded into music nothing-ness. I mostly listened to the latest “good” records and CDs (keeping up with Steely Dan, Alan Parsons, Sting, Van Halen, Journey, Pink Floyd and others) on the hi-fi stereo I purchased in high school (along with some Bose 901s I picked up in college).

Today, I’m in my guitar hero phase. That’s probably because I switched to guitar about seven years ago. I went back and rediscovered all the Clapton, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jeff Beck and Mark Knofler stuff I listened to earlier but now appreciate in a different way. I picked up on guitar greats Eric Johnson, Robben Ford and Gary Moore (to name a few) that were new to me. Of course I never stopped listening to David Gilmore. I also spend a good deal of time listening to very good Christian artists’ music that I play in my church band each week. Lincoln Brewster, Third Day, and Nicole Nordman to name just a few.

For me it is a great thing when I get to add both an album and an artist to my all time list of favorites. I blogged about it when he won the Grammy this year. The album, Continuum, and the artist is John Mayer (starting with this album.) I’m not partial to his earlier stuff but Continuum sets a new bar for his artistry and his tastefulness in playing. I first thought Mayer would fade away after a few albums like Hootie did but thanks to this album that’s not going to happen. For me this album will stay as one the greats for a long, long time.

They say when you experience a life threatening situation that your life flashes before your eyes. I believe if you experience a musical connection your musical journey flashes before you.

Music is the language of the soul.

General

Best album, period – Continuum by John Mayer

12 Feb , 2007  

Many of you know I’m a guitar player and long time musician. I watched the Grammy Awards tonight and there were three highlights during the evening for me.

John Mayer's album ContinuumContinuum – Best pop album. This is an excellent CD and has become one of my top 5 favorites. John Mayer is carrying on the tradition established by Clapton, SRV and Jimmy. Steve Jordon, an unbelievable drummer, produced the album which is very reminiscent of Clapton’s Pilgrim album. It should have won album of the year but the Grammy’s chose to make the political choice of the Dixie Chicks.

More Police, we want more Police Though it was short and sweet, it was fantastic to see the Police back together playing Roxanne. Please, do a reunion tour and stick around. You guys are awesome, and you looked like you were having a good time.

John Mayer performed his song Gravity. I find that I’m using some of his licks in my guitar playing myself. He’s developed a very nice voice in his soloing. I actually didn’t like Mayer’s first two albums but he’s become a very gifted artist with his Continuum album.

They say music is the language of the soul and I’m in agreement. Say more, say more. 🙂