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Posts tagged ‘upgrade’

Finding a Battle Rhythm

There is probably no bigger issue I face as a blogger than finding a comfortable pace of writing – a “battle rhythm” for how often I post. It’s a challenge faced by anyone who writes on a schedule, of course, whether a mommy blogger or a daily newspaper columnist or a television commentator, and is key to building an audience.

If you’re new to the MarlinBlog, you may not realize that we’ve been in the blogging business for a long time – heck, we pre-date the term “blogging”. Back in ’98, we started a twice-weekly update on the offshore fishing conditions here in SoCal, combining the latest information with little snippets of gossip and snark and such to keep it interesting. But the Fishing News was seasonal, only publishing during the short offshore season, and that combined with a desire to check out true blogging software lead to the birth of the MarlinBlog in 2003. Ironically, the Fishing News – which was a blog long before there were blogs – is now a true blog, running on the same WordPress software as the MB.

In the beginning, I was cranking out MarlinBlog posts like a madman – sometimes several times a day. I guess I had a lot of angst and anger to work out, and nothing does the trick like a pithy blog entry. Over the time, the number of postings rose and fell like the tide, usually dictated by how busy and/or satisfied I was in my life. We’d cheat once in a while, using regular features like the Monday Sports Rant and Weekend Eye Candy as a filler, and focusing a lot of postings on the stupidity of life as captured in various online articles. Once in a while we’d find something meaty to rant about, but the truth is that there wasn’t a whole lot of meat on the bone.

Right about now, you’re probably wondering just what’s the point to this posting, and there actually is one. When people follow a blog, whether daily, weekly or monthly, they get used to the rhythm of the posts. Nothing will cause you to lose eyeballs faster than having someone visit your blog several times and find the same old content. I know this first hand, as it happened to us. Over the last year, as I became less disciplined in my posting schedule, we lost nearly half the regular readership of the MarlinBlog, and that’s kind of an issue – no one wants to rant in a vacuum.

So, here’s the point: I’m going to make a more conscious effort to stick to a regular battle rhythm with my postings. Expect to see at least three a week, more if I feel inspired. During the offshore season, they might get a little lightweight, as I’m still producing the Fishing News on Monday and Thursday (and which you are more than welcome to follow as well), and I do spend some time offshore tournament fishing and away from the keyboard. But the goal is clear – I’ll make sure that if you take the time to visit, I’ll take the time to make sure there’s a fresh tidbit for you to nibble on.

Perhaps Time For A Rethink

In the wake of yesterday’s tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World in Orlando, there will be a great deal of angst and hand-wringing.  Brancheau, 40, drowned after she was dragged underwater by one of the orcas she was responsible for handling, and there are already emotional calls for change.

Whenever a human is killed or injured by a captive animal, there is an outcry against the practice of keeping wild animals in captivity.  We saw it when a tiger escaped at the San Francisco Zoo, we saw it when Roy Horn was attacked by one of his white tigers, and we will see it again in the wake of this incident.  Once the emotion of the moment is allowed to fade, it makes sense to have a reasonable discussion on the future.

I have fond memories of my interactions with trained whales as I grew up.  Marineland of the Pacific, once located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was the home to orcas Corky and Orky, as well as a trained pilot whale named Bubbles.  All three served as “animal ambassadors,” introducing the wonders of the ocean and its creatures to countless people who might never otherwise have a chance to interact with it.  My own love of the sea is rooted in trips to Marineland and Sea World in San Diego.

But much as I enjoyed the shows, I was aware of the challenges and controversies.  In 1987, Marineland closed and the whales moved south to Sea World, where Orky died a year later and stirred a discussion much like the one that will ensue now.  Killer whales have a very long life span, and forcing them to spend it in what is in effect a large fishbowl is seen by many as cruel.

To me, there are really two issues.  As with any animal that would normally roam over a great area, killer whales face a very different life in captivity as they would in the wild.  Much like elephants and other large animals, it is difficult to replicate the orca’s natural environment.  They seem to do quite well in captivity – the orca involved in yesterday’s incident has lived in tanks for nearly 20 years – but there’s no way to replicate the social interaction that would normally occur in a wild pod.  At the same time, the captive orcas continue to serve in an educational role, and I have no doubt that wild orcas benefit from the protections given them by a society that was introduced to the species by their captive brethren, and their sacrifice on behalf of their species may be justified.

The real issue to me is the idea of continuing to train and perform with the orcas.  While entertaining, it is a throwback to a less-enlightened time, when elephants and bears were chained to a pole and made to dance.  The trainers are skilled and the orcas intelligent, and for many years the two have worked together to entertain many people.  But it is the interaction between the trainer – an inherently unnatural pairing – that led to this tragedy.

It is worth noting tht simply releasing the orcas back into the wild “Free Willy”-style is not practical.  While the money provided by filmmakers and others allowed researchers to determine and locate the pod from which Keiko, the film’s star, was originally taken – facilitating the successful release – most captive whales could never be so happily reunited with the familial pod.  Simply releasing them in the wild alone would be no better than what they face today.

I believe the best path forward is a compromise.  End the trained whale shows and minimize the interaction between humans and orcas, allowing the whales to swim as freely as they can within their confines and make their own choices as to what they want to do.  At the same time, convert the current pens (as much as practical) into viewing opportunities for the public to continue to enjoy – and learn from – the captive orcas.  If pens can be developed that better meet the needs of the orcas, the display practice can continue – if not, it dies out with the eventual death of the orcas.

This solution won’t please the park operators, and it certainly won’t please PETA, but it is the only solution that guarantees the long-term health of the orcas while allowing them to continue to educate the public.  It is a legacy worthy of someone who dedicated her life to the species.

And The Winner is … iPad!

Well, the worst-kept secret in recent memory is finally out of the bag, as Apple yesterday introduced their new tablet computer to the world. Not the “iSlate”, “iTab” or “iTampon” (as some wags dubbed it after hearing the real name), the new machine is called the “iPad” and it appears to be everything the spies claimed and then some.

Your Kindle just became a relic ...

In typical Apple style, the event was held in San Francisco with CEO Steve Jobs once again taking the stage to demo the new product (One aside: Jobs appeared lively but still critically gaunt. He’s looking more and more like a man whose body will fail him long before his mind …). The presentation mixed canned presentations of the device’s capabilities, followed by live demos that backed up the promise. From all accounts, the promise was met, as the iPad seems nimble, capable and quick.

There are those who will see the iPad as nothing more than a steroid-driven iPod Touch, and initially that’s not a bad comparison. The iPad can run all iPhone apps, both in the native iPhone resolution or full screen using pixel doubling. It syncs via iTunes and a connector identical to those found on iPhones and iPods, and most of the applications developed by Apple for the iPad release are simply rewrites of the iPhone apps with larger, more capable interfaces. However, part of the presentation was devoted to a series of presentations by app writers who showed how in just a few weeks they were able to improve their applications to take advantage of the real estate and capabilites of the iPad. As Jobs commented later, “imagine what they can do with a couple of months?”

The challenge now is to convince the user public that there is a role for the iPad. Jobs from the start pointed out that the last device considered the logical item to slot between smartphones and laptops – the “netbook” – failed miserably. As he put it, the new device needs to do things better than both laptops and smartphones to survive, and the netbook did neither. The iPad, however, he believes will.

Unlike any computer Apple has produced before it, the iPad is clearly a consumer device. Apple believes that it can be shared by members of a family, passed around the same way you might the TV remote, and be used to view television and movies, surf the web, check email, and read books and magazines. In fact, a key new element of the iPad is the iBooks app, which is a slick e-book reader. Unlike previous Apple media apps, this one uses a standar e-book format, and it includes integration with an iBook store where new books can be purchased and downloaded in seconds. Naturally, it has a classically Apple interface, resembling a bookshelf. Jobs said that five major publishing houses had already signed on to provide books, and negotations would begin immediately with the rest that afternoon.

Another target of the iPad will be newspaper and magazine readers. The print media has been worried at their shrinking market share, and some are following the lead of the New York Times and contemplating charging for content. The combination of the iPad platform and the iTunes/iBook stores should allow them to advance the concept and perhaps regain readership.

It was only briefly mentioned, but Apple also sees the iPad as a wonderful textbook reader. Apple has long been a favorite of the education community, and I can certainly see this as the future of the textbook.

One interesting thing I saw from the reporting of the event was a sense of … disappointment … that the iPad was less revolutionary than evolutionary. People forget that when the iPod was released, the general sentiment was, “Gee – another MP3 player … how nice” – it wasn’t until the iPod was mated to the iTunes store that the real power was felt and the paradigm changed. While I welcome the faith and enthusiasm the media has in Apple’s ability to force societal change, I suspect their faith will be rewarded in the long run as content becomes available and apps are written to take full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities.

The first of several models of iPad (differeing by memory capability and connectivity options) will cost $499 and ship in the next month or so. Time will tell if this is the game-changer the iPod and iPhone were, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

I guess in the end, the winner is … everyone!

Up And Away!

If you’ll excuse a small indulgence, I’m going to be a Boeing homer for a moment. One of the big stories that went down late in the year was the potential first flight of our new 787 Dreamliner, an oft-delayed event that some felt might never come. Welll, I’m happy to report that it came indeed – twice!

Off We Go!

Off We Go!

On December 15th, thousands of Boeing employees and family members braved chilly Seattle weather to watch as the first Dreamliner lifted off the ground at Payne Field in Everett, WA. Several hours later, it landed safely – in a rainstorm, no less – at Boeing Field in Seattle. I, unfortunately, was unable to be there, but was able to watch the historic moment via webcast – and even got a screenshot of the liftoff! A week later, on the 22nd, Dreamliner #2 made the same flight, the second of the six 787s destined to perform in the flight test program.

Most of the headlines recently about the 787 have been negative, so it’s good to have some positive news to report for a change. Now all we have to do is start rollin’ ’em out!

Don’t Look Now, But Here Come The Eighties …

Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system has hit the marketplace, so first let me take a moment to welcome all our Wintel friends to the era of modern computing. It’s been tough on you all these last few years, having to stick with your old operating system as you watched the Boys from Redmond blow their toes off one by one with Vista. But your salvation is at hand … or so they say.

I’m an unabashed, unapologetic Mac guy, but I develop software that is ultimately used on Windows-based boxes, and have a good knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. I customize user interfaces for a living, so I’m particularly sensitive to the experience a user has when working with computers, which has always made me wonder why people were willing to put up with the crap they were trying to sell Windows users. I appreciate all the criticisms of Macs and Apple in general – and am even willing to concede some of them – but the bottom line is that when you sit someone down in front of a Mac and ask them to do something, they just get it done. It’s intuitive – if you know nothing, but guess, chances are you’ll guess right. Try that with a Windows box – and tell the Help Desk I said “hi”.

From all accounts, Windows 7 is a fine product. It should be, considering the amount of time they’ve had to go through the consumer complaints about Vista and watch release after release of Mac OS X raise the bar. I’ve read the reviews, and I’m willing to accept that this is the version of Windows everyone has been waiting for – especially all of us still on XP.

A couple of things trouble me, though, perhaps more for the way they’ve been handled than for the actual issue. Vista was a significant upgrade from XP, both in terms of interface and the underlying way it functioned. It was the interface that failed; the underpinnings were solid, and have been used as the foundation for W7. But here’s the problem – most users out there, and practically all corporate users, are still using XP … and you can’t upgrade from XP to W7. You have to do what is called a “clean install” – basically, wipe the hard drive and start from scratch. That means finding all the files you want to keep, moving them to a safe place, installing the software and then re-educating it about everything it knew before – who you are, your email accounts, etc. Major pain in the ass for a tech-savvy pro … certainly not something you’d want to burden your garden variety computer user. That will not only prevent many users from making the upgrade, but it’ll all but assure that corporate users won’t move on. Just not smart.

Another thing I noticed was that programs written for XP don’t work in W7. Again, I totally understand why this is, and don’t even necessarily consider it a bad thing. When the Mac OS moves from 9 to X, a similar issue occurred, and the solution was similar to that used in W7 – a separate window that emulated the older system and allowed apps to be run. But when Apple did this, there was a huge cry from the tech press about leaving people behind and forcing them to use a substandard emulated environment. Where’s the tears now, PCWorld?

Anyway, congratulations, Microsoft, on your new operating system. All signs point to good things as you continue your transformation from software overlords to Apple clones – how’s that new Microsoft store coming along? If only you could clone the innovation of Apple as well as you copy the invention … :-)

Strangely Familiar …

So, you’ve got your morning coffee and you head over to the ol’ MarlinBlog to see what pearls of wisdom Stan’s gonna drop on you this morning. As the page loads, you see all the familiar landmarks, but … something’s not quite right.

I’ve been threatening to update the blogging software we use here at the MB for quite some time now, and I’m happy to say we finally did it.  No more worrying that the unsupported old software would go out of business – we’re on the good stuff now.  Following the example set elsewhere in the site, we’re only using the best from now on, and that means WordPress.  The software itself is pretty good, and as you can see we were able to beat on the design long enough to make it look pretty much the same as before.  All of the old postings are here as well, only now, we’re fully database-driven – no more 5,000 file backups for me!

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve worked out all the bugs yet, so expect some funny business over the next few days.  Pictures, in particular, are problematic, but I’ll find a way around that before the Weekend Eye Candy comes due on Friday!

Anyway, on we go.  You can expect the same old snark, and I expect the same old comments – maybe even more!  As always, if you have comments or questions, just let me know!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Upgrade …

I swear, I think there are days when the fates just decide to gang up on me.

As those of you who’ve been with us for a while know, these are lean times for SCMO. Several large, well-financed competitors have come along and taken the wind out of our sails, along with most of our traffic. Admittedly, we were slow to react to the threat and deserve the hell we find ourselves in, but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant.

This year, we’ve been diligently working on site upgrades that, while not designed to compete with those other sites, will at least allow us to remain relevant in the internet sportfishing world. We rolled out the first batch of changes in March, and since then have prepped for the big roll of our new forums and photo hosting, which was planned for this past weekend.

Or not.

I was ready about a month ago to make the roll, but kept testing and poking and prodding, trying to learn the in’s and out’s of the new software – after all, I can’t just drop a dime and get it fixed the way those other guys can. By early last week, I was ready and raring to go. And then the aforementioned fates rolled in.

Saturday, I uploaded the new software and started the process of deleting the test data out of the forum database in preparation of importing the contents of the current SCMO Forums. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the database for some reason, and didn’t understand why until I noticed a message in my inbox from my webhost. Now, I should point out that we get about 500 pieces of email every day here at the Home Office, and a lot of it goes unnoticed. In this case, the message was one of those friendly, automated ones letting me know how much my webhost appreciated my business, and was going to prove my value to them by upgrading my hosting – over the weekend. Hence the lock out.

So, instead of busily executing a very busy plan on Saturday and Sunday, all I could do was cool my heels and wait. I blasted the webhost a couple of times on their support line, but it isn’t their fault – other, perhaps, than the exceedingly short notice. Being an impatient bastard, I was checking the status on an hourly basis, and even turned the site back on when I thought they were through – incorrectly, it turned out, leading to losing a couple of forum postings and a pair of exceedingly dull blog entries. I really should know better.

Anyway, the upgrade is past, and now it’s my turn. Not sure if I’ll roll the new forums during the week or wait for the weekend, but you’ll be able to tell because the old ones will be down for maintenance during the conversion. Once the new forums are online, you’ll receive an email from me with information you need to access them.

Just another exciting day in the life of a webmaster …