Josh Peck

My work and various curiosities...

Why I'm Nuts About Alexa (Amazon Echo)

Why I'm Nuts About Alexa (Amazon Echo)

So, the Amazon Echo (or as I call her, Alexa) has changed my world in ways that nothing has since the iPhone.

I actually wasn’t all that excited about the device when I bought it. I thought, neat another bluetooth speaker with a virtual personal assistant, that’s pretty cool — preorder. But once I received it, it became immediately clear that this device was a little more interesting.

I plugged it in, played some music, got used to the voice controls. Fine, it does everything you expect and does it pretty well. But it stuck me that there’s about 99.9% of the stuff that I want her to do she doesn’t do yet (and yes, I’ve completely anthropomorphized her). So, being an industrious sort of person, I cracked open the API and got to work.

Like many people, there are a series of...

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RIP Pete Seger

A rememberance of Pete Seger

A lovely banjo picker passed away today.

Pete Seger - Live in Chicago

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Learning Programming and Logo

Learning Programming and Logo

I recently caught a thread on Reddit. The general question posed was, "Why has this got so much harder to do? Why kids don't program any more." You can read the discussion and see the original post on the site with the aforementioned link.

He really asks two questions:

  1. why are simple (fun) things hard to do with today's computers
  2. why aren't kids excited about programming

The way the question is asked exposes the bias of the author, who obviously thinks that the complexity of today's software is to fault for the lack of enthusiasm. Summarizing, he believes that because technology has become more complicated and inter-dependent, children are less able to do interesting and fun things with computers. That may be so, but I think there is a much simpler answer:

  1. computers aren't new anymore
  2. computers are fun without knowing...

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Technology as a Means to an End

Technology as a Means to an End

I admit I find technology a little less exciting than I used to. I reminisce about the good old days; staying up all night hacking in the latest programming languages and IDEs, trying the latest versions of all the cool operating systems, and applying all of this knowledge to my daily projects.

Maybe I'm burnt out on the rapid changes in all technical arenas. Maybe I'm disgusted with the specialization that HR and recruiters seem to require. Maybe I'm just becoming a better technologist...

There seems to be a natural progressions for nerdfolk out there:

  1. Learn a lot about technology
  2. Reach critical mass of tech knowledge
  3. Relax and realize it's just a tool
  4. Reject technology and become a yeoman farmer

Earlier in my career I was both more excited and less learned. I see this combination in almost all technology professionals...

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Stupid Software Patents

It all started innocuously enough. I was talking to a colleague recently and through no fault of our own, the conversation turned to intellectual property.

He boldly stated:

"What you really need to do is to apply for a patent for your [software] technology"

Grrrr...

For me, patents have always been a tradition of a bygone era, almost like a land-line telephone or dial-up internet. Patents addressed a problem that doesn't exist in software and most of modern technology. Sure everyone wants to patent their invention because it seems like the thing to do, but is it really?

Three things happen when you apply for a patent and two of them are bad.

  • Someone reads you patent documents, makes a trivial modification to it and uses it in a way that's virtually impossible to prove. (50% probability)
  • Your legal fees eat all your profits for the next 5 years....

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Why Nerds Think They Know Everything

Why Nerds Think They Know Everything

I work with technology. I love technology. Making some infernal contraption do my bidding is a puzzle that never gets boring for me. I expect a lot of other technical folks out there can identify with this feeling.

One thing that I couldn't figure out for a long time was the derision technical people faced in the workplace. But I think I have a little bit of an answer. For a long time I've wondered why there is such a gap between corporate IT and the people it serves. Both sides of the fence think the other side is full of egotistical idiots. But why?

I often hear complaints from my non-technical friends about their IT staff "thinking they know everything." I thought about this a little and realized, yes, technical people do think they know everything. But then why do technical people think...

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The MySpace Spamularity

The MySpace Spamularity

It's finally happened. MySpace has reached a point where it now defies all laws of physics and creates matter (SPAM actually). Recently, for reasons that are beyond explanation, I logged into my MySpace account. This would normally be a non-event, since I have only a few links in my MySpace profile, but this time I noticed a strange occurrence.

During the time that I was logged in on my MySpace site, I receive about 10 SPAM messages from MySpace users advertising various websites (mostly porn). So I logged in the next day to delete the SPAM and while I was logged in, I received another 20 messages that were porn-SPAM.

When users are punished for using your software, but they still use it, that's great Web 2.0.

Ok, this is hilarious. The amount of MySpace SPAM I receive is directly correlated with the amount of...

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On Driving and Management

On Driving and Management

Against my best instincts, I recently began using Facebook. While on the site, I managed to stumble into a message board where there was some discussion of where the best hamburger in Kansas City could be obtained. My interest was piqued immediately since I do love a tasty burger. I prepared my saliva ducts and began reading the comments, foolishly expecting that the discussion would center on the finer attributes of culinary delight that can be received when the Chef du jour is an acne-ridden 16 year old.

However, within 5 comments, the thread had completely devolved into a discussion of the cultural heritage of the commenter. When reading this, it became clear that there was a major rift between the people who live in Kansas City, Kansas versus those who live in Kansas City, Missouri. By the time the thread reached about 20 comments,...

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Naive Goals

NAIVE Goals

So, it's that time of year again. I'm beginning to start to put together personal and professional goals for the next year. I tend to do this process every fall so I don't get lost over the winter and watch too much television.

Everyone keeps telling me that I need to have SMART[1] goals, but I don't believe it. Anything really great that I have ever undertaken has started with a goal that was COMPLETELY INSANE at the time. There was no possible way to measure it and that was because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Clearly, I was naive when I attempted these feats, but I'll let you in on a little secret...

I didn't fail at all of them!

Perhaps by trying to relate future challenges to things I already know, I prevent myself from pursuing possibilities that I can't imagine yet?...

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Getting Things Done with Emacs

Getting Things Done with Emacs

Once again, it is spring and I find myself with more on my plate than I can keep track of, so I'm renewing my efforts to adhere to the Getting Things Done philosophy. I fell off the bandwagon while I was out of school, but anytime you are working on starting a company, finishing a masters degree, and working a full-time job, you need all the help you can get!

For those who have not heard of it, GTD is a philosophy (methodology?) to help busy people accomplish more with their time while reducing their stress. This is roughly how I implement it:

If you haven't read the book or have not heard of it, pick up a copy at Amazon. It's a bargain at $9.00...

Getting Things Done

  • I have created a system of "buckets"...

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  • Document, Automate, Delegate

    Document, Automate, Delegate

    Everyone I know who works in IT is overworked. Really overworked! Overworked like nothing I have seen before in any other field (excluding hedge fund managers). Is IT the only profession where there is a never-ending supply of urgent work? Has the youthfulness of the IT industry blinded it to traditional work-flow management techniques? Are a few evil-minded overlords afraid they will not be valuable if they do not keep all the secrets hidden?

    Why are highly skilled (paid?) IT staff performing repetitious work? Does IT just attract egos who refuse to believe something that was "that hard" to figure out could be done by someone without a degree and without 10 years of experience in the technology field?

    Could it be even more simple? If we think about what challenges IT workers, maybe we'll gain some insight into what they like to do. When asked, most...

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