Spring cleaning

While cleaning out the home office (E-Bay, here I come), I came across a souvenir from Hong Kong. It’s a shopping bag from Watsons, I have held on to it for nearly three years as a reminder of our trip. I don’t know why it holds sentimental value for me. Bags from the Food Lion we shop at on our trips to the Outer Banks mean nothing to me. I’m geneticly displosed to being a pack rat, that’s probably why I kept it. At any rate, out it goes. Don’t tell anyone about the two cans of Coke Light that I picked up in Guangzhou. They’re still in the fridge.

Tivo, one year later

It’s been a year since we started using Tivo and I wouldn’t want to watch TV without it. It’s more than the time-shifting of hour favorite shows (but that part is pretty good), it’s being able to keep a library of shows for the kids to watch when they want to. It’s having two Tivo’s and being able to transfer shows from one box to the other in real time. It’s being able to show music and pictures from our PC’s to the TVs. It’s being able to schedule a show to be recorded remotely. It means never having to touch a VHS tape ever again.

I do wonder what the long term affect will be on advertisers. Like it or not, commercials pay for most of the TV that we watch. And I skip right over 95% of them. If I see something that catches my eye, I’ll drop out of warp speed fast forwarding and watch the commercial. But that is the exception to the norm. The advertisers no longer have a captive audience for their commercials and that breaks the business model that has been place for last 50 years or so.

You can’t blame Tivo for this, I was ignoring 95% of the commercials long before Tivo popped out of it’s shell. Except now you can’t ignore the fact the commercials are not being watched. How is Proctor & Gamble going to get your attention now?

I think you are going to see more and more in-show product placement. “24” is good example of that. They use product placement to the point of parody. Last season featured various Cisco products as a guest stars. This season, it’s Jack Baurer’s PDA. It’s a phone that gets reception everywhere, a camera, it can display the locations of terrorists in real time, and can blow them up (in selected service areas only). I wonder how much Sprint and/or Palm paid for a device that gets more air time than most of the cast.

But there’s some big problems with product placements. Unless you go all skywalker over the video, those placements are permanent. When you syndicate a show, the stations that re-broadcast the show are provind free air time for the advertisers with the product placement. I don’t see that as a long term solution.

I think you are going to see some form of collaboration between the advertisers and the DVR vendors. Tivo already has hooks in some commercials provide an option for the user to download targetted advertising. With the Tivo hardware, there can be two-way communication between the content and the viewer. That’s where the future of TV will be heading.

Demoed FinalBuilder at TVUG

Last month I demoed FinalBuilder at TVUG. That was an interesting experience. I have managed to spend my entire career without having to do a public presentation. I was supposed to do one at the ’98 BorCon on QuickReport, but I got bumped by another presenter who wanted that glory. He did his presentation using a version of QuickReport that was not ready for prime time and he told me later (before he found out that I was the person that he bumped) that it was a very unpleasant experience.

But, as Earl says, “That’s Karma“. I strayed enough from the topic. I’ve been using FinalBuilder for a couple of months now and I love it. FinalBuilder is an automated build and process management tool that is easy to use and extremely powerful. I use to build our applications and to deploy them to our QA environments. What I used to do with limited batch files, I now have a full IDE for design and powerful error handling. Plus reports and email notifications.

Shawn Gwin of TVUG asked me to do a presentation on FinalBuilder. I created a basic FinalBuilder project that would run from a non-networked laptop. It did the following:

  • Retrieved the latest source from Visual Source Safe for the sample project. In real life, I use Vault, but for the purposes of this demo, VSS was safe enough to use.
  • Read version number and other resource information from a file. I store the version number parts in a .ini file and include in source control. This makes it easy to control the version number in a multiple user environment.
  • Built that project with Delphi. TVUG is a .NET group, but for this demo, the actual compiler used really didn’t matter.
  • Create an installer for the application using Wise for Windows.
  • Sent an email to myself that the build was successful.
  • Created text and HTML versions of the build log.

This project had full error handling and enough smarts to only compile when the files had changed. All of this is easy to do with FinalBuilder, no scripts were written.

Since this was a user group presentation, I was bound by law to use a PowerPoint presentation. You can make the argument that Powerpoint is used way too much, but since this was my first presentation ever, I needed all the support I could get. I ended up creating a basic PowerPoint deck to provide a frame of reference for the presentation. I’m not big on PowerPoint special effects, so I used no graphics and both colors (black and not black). As it ended up, I never used my presentation.

I emailed the FinalBuilder people and told them I was doing a presentation and asked if they had any tips. They promptly sent back a few suggestions and a nicely PowerPoint deck to use. I started off with their presentation and then went straight into my demo project and walked through each line for the group.

The group. This was not a well attended presentation. I believe that there may have been nearly 10 people total. Of that 10, maybe 5 people had any real interest or understanding of what they could use FinalBuilder for. That was kind of a letdown. I don’t know if that was just a bad month or if the people that usually come had no interest in a build tool.