June 13, 2008: Back on Wall

Oreo was very unhappy when Dominica put his harness onto him and dragged him out of the apartment this morning to take him to daycare. He was very tired and probably had some concerns that we were going to leave him there for another long weekend. He seems to be pretty in-tune with what day of the week it is most of the time so he gets suspicious.

I worked from home for a little bit this morning. There is often a rash of work left over from the overnight that I can knock out right away and then go to the office just afterwards. It works out well. Makes the productive day longer and breaks it up a little as well.

It was very hot on the way in but I didn’t feel bad at all. Am I the only person who seems to take the heat better when it is hotter? It’s weird but a few weeks ago going into the office when the temperature was in the eighties was devastating and I would be covered in sweat and feeling awful and sick by the time that I got to the office and once I was there I could barely function. But now that it is really hot and not just playing at being hot I barely sweat at all, feel fine outside and almost enjoy it and get to the office and don’t notice a thing. It’s bizarre but it has always seemed to be like this. Once summer really sets in I just seem to adjust and get along fine. (I only sweat from my head, by the way, not like I am all nasty and sweaty – just somewhat.)

It was a pretty busy Friday with one of those mid-morning HR/Payroll something has gone terribly wrong firedrills that gave Dominica and I a couple hours thinking that I was losing a week’s pay which was really awful timing after having to pay our second round of taxes this weekend. But it ended up being a false alarm and everything is okay and we are figuring out what is going on on Monday. Pheww.

Life is a rollercoaster. A wooden one and sometimes the kid next to you gets sick.

I did lunch with a group of the developers from the office. I love my new digs on Wall Street. My last two Wall Street locations were extremely isolated which was great for productivity. It was easy to get tons done. Now I sit with all of the developers and managers that I support and it is really just a big party. It’s harder to work but a lot easier to hang out. There are business reasons why it makes sense for people who work together to hang out more and to sit close but I cannot imagine that they outweight the work lost by having social hour over dedicated work time. I requested to stay at the old location for the sake of my productivity, though, so I don’t have to feel bad if the company thinks that this location is better for me. Not like I secretly plotted to get moved down here so that work would be less stressful. Good for me. Not like I get paid per package that I install.

Lunch was at Taste of Tokyo in the financial district. Very good Japanese food. I did Udon noodles with tofu and veggies tempura. It was way more than I could eat. Tasty though and healthy. Very healthy.

I almost managed to finish “Dreaming in Code” this morning before leaving for the office. I am down to just the epilogue left to read. “Dreaming in Code” is the telling of the trainwreck of the Chandler project. I remember Chandler from years ago.

For years I heard about Chandler as this undefined and almost mythical project to make email, calendaring and PIM being made that would redefine everything that we thought about personal information. I was never very intrigued since Thunderbird did such a great job with email and Sunbird was a working calendar. One thing that the Chandler project never managed to do for me was to explain what they were doing that would be of any interest beyond just being a nice email application. I even took the time to investigate it and see what the hype was about but quickly discovered it to be just hype as the product was demonstrating no added value over any other email app and was largely vaporware.

That was around 2003 and the project had been going for a few years at that point. “Dreaming in Code” came out in 2007 and at that point the project sure seemed hopeless from how the book sounded. The project seemed to flounder for most of its life just getting farther and farther from its intended vision as they cut features hoping to deliver just a working application and falling drastically short of that. It was strange to read this book about this project that actually had a large number of full time developers working on it. To those of us outside the project it looked exactly like an abandoned college student project where someone had had some vision, cared and then given up when it was harder than they thought.

Somehow, against all odds, the Chandler project seems to be marginally still in existance today. From their web site you still kind of get that feeling of cobwebs of a forgotten project fallen by the wayside. They have a lot of bloggers on their team but no one seems to be doing it regularly which is a bad sign.

The strangest thing is that the web site proclaims that you can download the current release, Chandler 0.7.6, but that Chandler 1.0 is set to release “sometime” during the second quarter of 2008. Uh huh. Second quarter huh? It’s mid-June now. That leaves two weeks. The current version is 0.7.6. A normally numbered project would go to at least 0.9 and hopefully from there to alpha to beta to release candidate to 1.0 official release. So either they plan to jump from a release number normally researved for “rough work in progress” to “finished” without so much as a test user or feature freeze or they are so completely vaporware that they haven’t updated the site in years and the project has even been forgotten about by the people on the payroll. From what I have seen over the past seven years I would guess the latter.

I did download Chandler 0.7.6 from the website just to see what this project was that the book was talking about. I have to admit that the project has come a long way. It now has a really nice looking and working interface. It definitely looks nice. And it installs without any problem. I couldn’t really test it at work as it requires a lot of network connections that I can’t get here. It’s not a web application, you see, it’s a desktop application for web based information (calendar, email, address book, to-do list, etc.) so it is a bit of a vestige in this day and age. If it was web based I could have tested it (and then, perhaps, used it) at work if I liked it since my email is available to me over a nice web interface but since Chandler needs connections often blocked by firewalls – it’s useless to a very large market segment.

Beyond my personal complaints as to Chandler’s chosen architecture (which you should take with a grain of salt as there remain many legacy desktop app people using Outlook, Thunderbird and the like for email – but they are generally the antithesis of power users and, supposedly, the opposite market segment sought by the Chandler project) there is one huge issue. One question that remains to be answered. That is, “How am I supposed to use this thing?”

Chandler’s interface is complex and bulky full of great graphics and wizbang looking widgets but when I fire it up I can’t figure out what I am looking at. If I hadn’t just read an entire book on the application I wouldn’t even have the faintest idea. I can’t imagine the average target “rich desktop” user is going to be willing to put in that much effort. This thing is complex and difficult to use. It isn’t simple like my Zimbra mail and calendar which is much more straightforward (and accessible to me at work, home, my BlackBerry, etc.)  I’m sure that it is loaded with neat, innovative features, but I doubt that anyone will ever figure out what they are if the software even releases.  At its current pace this would be projected somewhere around 2015 or later.

I worked in the office until seven thirty then caught the train back to Newark.  Dominica was already mostly packed and ready to go.  We did the final packing and were on the road around a quarter after nine.

It ended up taking us almost an hour just to leave Newark.  We tried to get onto the McCarter Highway (NJ 21) but found a flailing policeman in a darkened street acting like he was having a seizure (it’s a new form of failing to direct traffic, I discovered.)  He was really just waiting to be run over as he was out of the light and not doing anything involving telling traffic where to go – mostly because he was invisible and partially because he would just stand there doing nothing when you needed to know where to go and then when you would be going against the red light he would just flap his arms like he was on fire.  Newark’s constant reliance on police who create traffic disasters when perfectly good lights are already in place amazes me to no end.  It must be some union thing.

The traffic cop ended up directing us, once Dominica yelled out the window to find out if he was just standing in the road or directing us somewhere – yes she actually had to do that even though we were the only car on the road and he could see me staring straight at him waiting for him to stop standing motionless in the middle of the unlit street – directly into the traffic jam and closed road that I expect the city was employing him to keep from happening.  The city, in its infinite disdain for its residents and commerce in general or just the happiness of the universe, decides to celebrate its local minor leagure baseball team (or is it the high school team, no one seems to know for sure) by shutting down the main thoroughfare through the city to set off fireworks.  They do this every few days I guess as I constantly see fireworks from the living room and can’t fathom what they could be there to celebrate.

As Newark enjoy traffic jams they did nothing to tell the entire highway pouring in to the fireworks zone that they had arbitrarily closed the highway at the last second with no available detour until the ad hoc fireworks display was over.  They just stopped the city so that they could celebrate a team that no one knows that they have winning a game that no one knew they were playing.  Hundreds of cars were stuck, for no reason, on NJ 21 with no where to go.

So it took us an hour to escape the horror that is Newark, New Jersey.  Once we were on the road and into wonderful New York State the drive went pretty well.  We hit some overnight construction delays up on the NY Thruway but New Yorkers drive so much better than people do who travel through Scranton on i81 that it wasn’t a big deal at all.

We ate dinner at the Sloatesburg rest stop.  Just Sbarro as it was the last place with any real food for the night.  We made it just in time before they shut everything down for the night.  We pretty much got the last pizza in the place.

We arrived in Frankfort at two in the morning.  I am getting really tired of these overnight drives.  I have to be up before eight in the morning as I am working for the office, as I often do, on Saturday mornings.  So no rest for me.

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