nemesis's Journal

Top Gear Australia: Not again!

Monday 23rd August, 2010

Back in 2008, the SBS had the deranged idea that they could take the Top Gear (UK) formula, throw terrible Australian presenters at it, and be flush with an instant hit. How wrong they were.

Both expectations and ratings started out high, and plummeted rapidly. The show even had a segment called "What were they thinking?". Inevitably, the SBS metaphorically placed a "Top Gear Australia" card onto their "What were they thinking?" board, by canning the show and selling it to Channel Nine.

Well, it's back. Yes, Channel Nine commences filming the studio audience on 25 August. And yes, Steve Pizzati is back, along with "that toilet guy", Kenny.

What were they thinking?

Managing Expectations

Wednesday 12th May, 2010

Top Gear Australia: Not again!
If there's one piece of advice I could give to every company that has customers, it would be "under-promise, and over-deliver".

It's expectation management 101.

I have a vendor whom we regularly have to deal with. This particular vendor will regularly promise that a release will be delivered to us, with certain features, and "by X date". Every release, that date slips by around 14 days, and is missing a number of promised features.

It's okay to make a promise a customer, but if you make that promise, be damn sure that you're going to meet it. When promising a date, always allow yourself a margin! A customer is always happy to have a product delivered early, and very rarely happy for you to deliver your product late.

When your product does not meet the expectations you have set, it undermines your customer's faith in both you as a vendor, and in your product. On the other hand, when your produce exceeds expectations, you generate goodwill.

I recently organised for shipping for a server. The company advertised "overnight delivery!" - but the delivery actually took two days to arrive. If the company had advertised "48-hour delivery" now, that would have been fine. Even better if they'd advertised "48-hour delivery", but actually delivered overnight!

Managing expectations is easy. Under-promise, and over-deliver.

IPv6: Still "beta" quality

Thursday 29th April, 2010

Over the last month or so, I've been playing with Internode's IPv6 offering. My platform of choice is my Linux-based gateway.

I'm fast coming to the conclusion that IPv6 just isn't ready for prime-time yet. Support in some of the key components is unstable, and feels rushed.

PPPD, the daemon used to facilitate an ADSL connection for example, doesn't set a default IPv6 route when the "defaultroute" option is specified. Of course, it works for IPv4. To get a default route when the connection is brought up, you need to employ scripting that should really be unnecessary.

But it gets worse. There's currently three DHCPv6 clients you can use to pick up your IPv6 prefix from your ISP: KAME's DHCPv6, Wide-DHCPv6-Client, and Dibbler-Client. KAME's client appears unmaintained (and isn't even packaged in Debian). The Wide client works, but is terribly unstable, requires regular restarts, and doesn't support DNS updates (a.k.a. "FQDNv6"). And the Dibbler client can't split your prefix up.

If you were planning to hand out addresses using DHCP (as opposed to using the auto-generated ones from RA), Wide's DHCPv6 server is about as stable as their client. The logging facilities are terrible -- you either get nothing, or everything spewed out into your syslog.

If your DHCPv6 server or client bombs out on your gateway, the result is generally, your access to the IPv6-Internet drops.

IPv6 has a long way to go if we ever hope to get mainstream use.

Windows 7 on an ancient laptop

Tuesday 6th April, 2010

Not wanting to buy a new laptop, I thought I'd give Windows 7 a whirl on my 6-year-old one. Windows XP just wasn't cutting the mustard anymore. It had become sluggish, and the wireless drivers had started playing up.

Here's the specs on my 2004-vintage beast. It's a Sony Vaio VGN-T16SP:

  • Pentium M 1.1 Ghz
  • 512MB RAM
  • Onboard Intel 855GME graphics
  • 40GB 4200rpm hard disk

Not much to work with, huh. Two things were the most worrying: The miniscule amount of RAM, and the archaic graphics card.

Windows 7 works surprisingly well under 512MB of RAM. Sometimes it doesn't feel as snappy as Windows XP -- and that's mostly due to the asthmatic hard disk. With 512MB of RAM, Windows can't use any of that RAM for disk cache to reduce hard disk access. Other things, such as Wireless, are an absolute pleasure.

Surprisingly, a lot of the existing hardware worked out of the box. Networking, wireless, etc. The biggest challenge was getting that graphics card working. Intel doesn't provide up-to-date drivers for "end of life" chipsets, including the 855GME. I gave the Vista drivers a whirl under Win7, but they just wouldn't play ball. Hunting around forums, I eventually found that the -- surprise, surprise -- Windows 2000 drivers for some reason DO work under Win7. Insane.

The other challenge was getting the hotkeys for changing the display brightness and volume working. After much hunting, it turned out that the software required was sitting on the original Support disk that came with the laptop. Good thing I kept it, because the Sony Support site is a nightmare to navigate.

Windows 7 appears to have given this laptop a new lease of life. It feels almost new again! I've ordered another 512MB of RAM (the wretched Sony BIOS limits RAM at 1GB -- even though the chipset supports 2GB...), and a 2GB Extreme III MemoryStick to see how ReadyBoost impacts performance.