The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 28, 2010

An Apple MacGuffin

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 11:56 pm


NOTE: Not an iPhone prototype. Please don't send the cops.

In the dramatic arts, there is a common plot element that shows up in many books, movies and TV shows that is known as a MacGuffin.  Generally, Alfred Hitchcock is credited with the invention of the MacGuffin and was certainly a frequent user of the same in his various, although the concept is simple and common enough that it is highly unlikely that someone else didn’t use one first  (although Hitchcock was arguably the one who gave the MacGuffin its name.)  Basically, a MacGuffin is an object in a story that is designed to move the plot along, but otherwise serves no real purpose.  In most cases, this means that a MacGuffin acts as a sort of narrative football to be passed around and chased after by the various parties in the story  in an attempt to capture the object and thus gain victory.  Common examples of well-known MacGuffins include the Maltese Falcon from the movie of the same name, the various briefcases full of stolen intelligence and cash found throughout the spy genre, and even something like Captain Ahab’s white whale in Moby-Dick serves much the same purpose in that particular story.  In the latter example, the White Whale has very little direct involvement in the story (at least until the end,) it just mostly serves as an object for Captain Ahab to obsess over, chase around in an unwise fashion and eventually lose his sanity (among other things) over.  Ultimately Moby-Dick becomes a book about that is much more about some guy losing his mind than it is a book about a whale hunt.

Although MacGuffins are quite common in the literary and performing arts, we don’t usually think about these in terms of real-life scenarios.  And yet over the course of the past couple of weeks an interesting little drama has played itself out in the tech Blogs for which the description seems to fit quite well.  As most people who haven’t been living under a rock have probably heard by now (the whole incident has been covered in a fair bit of detail by mainstream media sources as well as Blogs,) a prototype of what is believed to be Apple’s next iPhone was lost by an Apple engineer in a bar near their Cupertino headquarters.  This was found by another patron in the bar, who after making what appears to have been a token effort to return it back to someone at Apple, was paid $5,000 for the iPhone by gadget blog Gizmodo.  Gizmodo then proceeded to do what any vaguely tabloidish gadget Blog would do, and posted a major exposé on the device, including a full disassembly.  They then followed this up with a series of stories explaining (or speculating, depending on who you ask) about how the device was lost, how it was found, how they got a hold of it, and ultimately how it was returned to Apple following an on-the-record request for it to be returned.  The original iPhone 4G story has now received over 9 million hits as of this writing, and within hours after it was posted the story also found its way onto quite a few mainstream media websites by way of the newswires.

Of course, given Apple’s longstanding reputation for being extremely secretive (and allegedly heavy-handed in its enforcement of that secrecy,) it is highly unlikely that the story was going to end there.  Sure enough, last Saturday a search warrant was executed against Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s house, and several computers  and other devices were seized by a computer crime task force.  From this point the details are sketchy, but about the only thing that’s certain at this point is that there’s a good chance this whole thing will get ugly before the dust settles.  I don’t intend to get into questions regarding the legality of the whole situation on either end of the debate, but for us gadget consumers out there who may or may not have an interest in purchasing this next iPhone when it does come out, the question is this:  What do we know about the new iPhone now that we wouldn’t have known otherwise?  The answer:  Very little.

When Gizmodo got hold of this iPhone prototype it had already been remote wiped by Apple, leaving it in an unusable state.  A few technical details were able to be gleaned from the disassembly and physical appearance of the device, but the vast majority of people who might be future users of one of these devices are unlikely to care much about what type of SIM card is being used or whose components are being used inside.  The phone’s operating system (iPhone OS 4.0) has already been formally introduced at an Apple press conference, and when this is combined with Apple’s history of launching new iPhones in June, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is a high likelihood of a new iPhone model coming out in a couple of months.  After the initial story ran on Gizmodo, a number of follow-up posts were made throughout the course of the next week, but as the two or three tidbits of interesting info to be gleaned from their $5,000 purchase seem to have been exhausted within the first three paragraphs of the first post, the vast majority of these posts amounted to little more than gloating.  For their part, Apple seems to be up to their old tricks, allegedly threatening criminal charges against both the person who found the lost iPhone and Jason Chen and calling in the police to cover for their security breach.  I’ll leave the legal arguments and the allegations to other Bloggers, but I’m sure this will either be settled as quietly as possible and swept under the proverbial rug, or it’ll drag on in a protracted and highly exposed legal battle.  Either way, I’m sure we’ll all thoroughly sick of this by the time it’s done.

But getting back to my original point, when everything is said and done here, what we have here is a classic real-life example of the usually fictional MacGuffin.  Gizmodo’s exposé coverage of the lost prototype iPhone ultimately boils down to a lot of “Look at us, we got a prototype iPhone!” blathering.  Apple seems to have gone off the deep end in their efforts to get their lost iPhone back and punish those who exploited the leak.  Yet in the end, for all the various drama that has gone on here, very little of substance has actually been learned by the general public about the new iPhone, and even less has been learned that someone couldn’t have already figured out on their own anyway.  So basically, a whole lot of commotion has been made over a non-functioning cell phone, and will continue to be made over a non-functioning cell phone for some time.  I guess someone’s got to find some way to keep things interesting around here, right?

(Note:  If Apple ever actually puts the name “MacGuffin” on one of their computers, we’ll know that they’ve run desperately short on ideas.)

April 25, 2010

Random Notes from the Great Not-So-White North

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:52 am

I’ve had my current US passport for roughly five years now, and to be honest, it hasn’t really seen much use in that time for anything more exciting than employment eligibility verification.  I initially got it when I was going on a Caribbean cruise about five years ago, and since that time I haven’t left the country once.  I haven’t even crossed the border into Canada during that time, in spite of being only about 110 miles away.  It’s not like Canada is some distant and exotic land or anything like that (every once in a while I’ll catch something on CBC Vancouver and most of the stuff seems pretty normal, aside from the occasional tendency to mispronounce common words.)  Mostly it’s just a matter of not having had a good reason to go until now. 

Today I followed a number of members of my former Singles ward at church up to the open house at a new LDS Temple in Langley BC, near Vancouver.  For those people ho may not be familiar with this, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (of which I am a member) normally limits entry into the temples to members who meet the church’s standards of morality and conduct, but when a new temple is built, the church holds an open house in which the general public is allowed to enter and tour the temple prior to its dedication, which will take place a week from today.  After touring the temple, me and several ladies from the ward then spent the rest of the day wandering around the Vancouver area, visiting a number of interesting sites and trying to avoid getting too hopelessly lost (not my fault this time, I was just a passenger for once.)  The remainder of this post consists of photos and some of the observations (sarcastic and otherwise) that were made along the way.

I offer this post up with preemptive apologies to any Canadians who might actually end up reading this.  The vast majority of these observations come from sarcastic offhand comments made by myself and the other occupants of the car.  To be fair, I should probably note that it might help for you guys to find some better cultural ambassadors to send across the border than Red Green and the Mackenzie Brothers.  That said, after the jump you will find a few of the  interesting facts and/or fabrications that I learned about Canada today.


April 23, 2010

Stuck Between a Baguette and a Hard Place

Filed under: Food — Brian Lutz @ 6:56 pm

For those of you who may be wondering, yes I am still around.  I know it’s kind of a cliché to claim that I happen to have about six different things going on at once right now and demanding my attention, but right now at work I’ve pretty much got six different things going on at once right now and demanding attention.  Seven if you count the one that I really should be working on but don’t really have time for.  It’s certainly keeping me from getting too bored, but it does take a pretty decent chunk out of my free time.  And if you were wondering, I do still have a comprehensive review of the iPad in the works (gotta’ strike while the iron is hot you know,) it’s just turning out to be a tad more epic than I had planned on, and is taking a while to finish.  I’ll try to have it done in the next couple of days.

To some extent, I’ve always been indecisive.  There are times when I just can’t make up my mind about something, and they happen a lot more frequently than I would like.  At times, I have even been known to make major life-altering decisions based on the flip of a coin (a method which, surprisingly, doesn’t result in disastrous consequences nearly as often as I would expect it to.)  Of course, even the little decisions can be trickier than they should be at times as well.  In particular, food is one of those things I’ve never been good at deciding on.  Even when I’m hungry, I find that frequently I just can’t decide on what it is that I actually want to eat.  I’ve been known to walk into the grocery store with a grumbling stomach and just end up browsing.  Eventually I’ll get hungry enough to just settle on something, but at that point, but at that point I’ll rarely enjoy what I’m eating too much.  I’m sure this type of thing happens to everyone on occasion, but lately for me it seems to be happening more and more often, and I haven’t quite been sure why this is happening.  At least I wasn’t sure until I came to a sudden realization while I was out wandering in my customary aimless fashion last Saturday:  Somehow, I’ve managed to get bored of eating.

Food seems to be one of those things that people just can’t live without, for better or for worse.  On a more or less daily basis, we’re required to eat.  Exactly what we eat is up to us (within limits, of course,) but with these choices do come some consequences.  Obviously trying to live off of nothing but junk food would ultimately be a bad thing, as would a steady diet of filet mignon and caviar (maybe not quite so bad from a dietary perspective, but you’d certainly feel it in the pocketbook.)  Ultimately, everyone is going to develop their own set of likes and dislikes, but in the end everyone is going to have to eat something.  Even though each of us has our own list of favorite foods, we also tend to crave variety at the same time.  Admittedly, there are plenty of people out there who can be perfectly content to have the same thing for lunch every single day, but I’m pretty sure I’m not one of them.  Which can get a little bit tricky when the nearby lunch options are limited.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great places within easy walking distance of my office.  One particular favorite I have picked up in Pioneer Square is Tat’s Deli (on Occidental for the time being, but planning to move to a place at roughly the corner of Second and Yesler soon.)  Philly Cheesesteaks are their specialty, but another favorite of mine is the Tat’strami, a tasty (yet quite messy) Pastrami version of a cheesesteak with coleslaw added right into the sandwich.  I have to keep myself from eating there too often because it’s a bit on the expensive side and because I’d probably gain about 50 pounds if I did.  Salumi is another popular spot for lunch in the neighborhood (a place owned by TV chef Mario Batali’s parents which is noted for its cured meats and a line out the door longer than some rides at Disneyland,) and there some other newer but interesting places and well-established standbys in the neighborhood as well, with a moderate scattering of unassuming cookie-cutter deli places and a few chains like Subway, Jimmy John’s, Quizno’s and a Taco Del Mar to fill in what few gaps remain between all the random art galleries.  Out near the stadiums there’s also the obligatory scattering of sports bars, but somehow I suspect that although some people wouldn’t mind a lunch of Jaegerbombs and mud wrestling, such things would most likely be frowned upon in a professional environment, so those ones are out.  So there’s no shortage of places to go, but there’s just one problem with all this:  When it comes down to it, everyone’s serving basically the same thing.

I’m sure that 4th Earl of Sandwich John Montagu meant well when he “invented” the Sandwich (in reality, I suspect that the idea is obvious enough that someone managed to come up with it before him, he was just fortunate enough to grab the naming rights,) but when just about every restaurant within half a mile of the office seems to be serving up sandwiches, it can get a little bit old.  It’s not really that simple of course (after all, aside from the presence of some breadlike substance, there really isn’t much in the way of rules on sandwich making,) but even with the large number of choices, for some reason I just can’t help but think I’m eating the same thing every single freakin’ day.  I suppose I could try packing my own lunch, but I’ve never been good at that type of thing.  It’s mostly the pesky habit I have of getting out of bed roughly fifteen minutes before I need to be out the door, then dilly-dallying for about eight of those minutes.  I suppose if I ever get married this is one of those pesky habits someone is going to have to work on, but in the meantime, I’ll just claim that I’ll figure it out someday and leave it at that.  Of course, that still leaves me bored of eating, which doesn’t seem like a particularly good position to be in.  Any ideas what you’re supposed to do about that one?

April 19, 2010

Cooties, and Other Flimsy Excuses for Remaining Single

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 12:04 am

First of all, a bit of a public service announcement, if you will.  For the record, I would like to state that in spite of any public comments I may have made recently, I am well aware of the tact that decades of scientific research have mostly disproven the whole Cooties theory, and suggest that casual contact between Kindergarteners of opposite genders is not nearly as dangerous as the rumors seem to indicate.  For that matter, it probably isn’t too dangerous among adults either, single or otherwise.  At the same time, I also wish to vehemently deny any rumors I may have started to this effect.  And no, in spite of appearances, I am not trying to buy anyone’s silence with this post either.  To be honest, I’m starting to wonder if the lack of silence in such matters might not actually even be a good thing.  After all, it has been said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, right?  Nonetheless, I do find it necessary at this point to concede that my first grade teacher may have actually been correct about this particular subject after all. 

On the other hand, Over the course of far more years than I had originally planned on of being single, I’ve begun to wonder if there might be something to this, at least from a psychological standpoint.  In various reading about dating and relationships (fascinating stuff, I really ought to try some of it sometime) there seems to be a fair bit said about what is known as the Touch Barrier.  Any relationship expected to go beyond the point of standard platonic friendship is going to be required to break this at some point, but even something as simple as occasional bit of casual or incidental touching or hand-holding can seem intimidating when the Touch Barrier is firmly in place.  Even under the best circumstances, if this subject  is approached incorrectly it can end up seeming awkward and forced, and in a worst case scenario it can even result in a faceful of pepper spray (although I’m pretty sure that most of the single ladies I know won’t resort to anything quite that drastic unless I really deserve it.  I’d like to think that doesn’t happen too often…)  It’s also difficult to know just how receptive any particular person is to even casual contact.  Some people just keep to themselves, making sure not to get anywhere near anyone, others that I have known will hug people freely.  Most fall somewhere in between, and I find that there are very few people out there who won’t tolerate at least a handshake (but generally that just doesn’t “count” for most people either.) 

Of course, there does need to be limits on what will and won’t be permitted in premarital relationships, but I suspect that most of the single adults I know (myself included) tend to worry just a bit too much about the possibility of getting too close to those limits, and as a result instead just stay as far away as we can.  Although I can understand the justification behind this type of thinking, I also suspect that for a lot of people this invisible Touch Barrier is having a bigger effect on us than we might think.  After all, even the friendliest of relationships at arm’s length is still just at arm’s length.

April 13, 2010

More Random Thoughts: Costco and the Single Guy, Bringing a Sleepy Neighborhood Back to Life

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:10 am

For those of you who might be wondering, I am, in fact, still working on my review of the iPad.  It’s just turning out to be a slightly more epic undertaking than I had originally planned on (and the fact that I blew the better part of last Saturday vegging out on video games probably isn’t doing a whole lot to get it done either.)  For those of you who are wondering, the short version is that it’s a really nice little device, but that’s not going to stop me from nitpicking the living daylights out of the whole thing.  Then again, these days it seems to be my job to nitpick about iPhone and iPad stuff, so it all goes with the territory.  In the meantime, here’s a couple more random thoughts from the last few days.

* * *

It is usually around this time of year that my Costco membership comes up for renewal, and every year around this time I find myself wondering if the whole thing is really worth it.  Sure, I do make it a point to go visit Costco every once in a while if for no other reason to wander around, grab a few samples and maybe pick up an item or two in the process, but as a single guy living alone, there’s an awful lot of items at Costco which just aren’t practical.  Take for example, the muffins being offered in the bakery.  Under different circumstances, there is a good chance I would buy these on a regular basis.  They’re rather tasty, and would make for convenient breakfasts, but in reality, there are a couple of problems with these:  First of all, each of the gargantuan muffins is pushing somewhere in the neighborhood of 600-700 calories apiece (and believe me, you don’t want to know what the rest of the nutrition info looks like on the things.)  While I could live with that (not for long, apparently,) the other big problem with these for me is that you have to buy them 12 at a time.  This being in spite of the fact that they have recently made changes so they’re now packed 6 in a box rather than the previous 12.  It would seem like a no-brainer to allow the individual 6-packs to be sold separately, but apparently you  still have to buy them two at a time.  The requirement to buy 12 at a time, combined with the relatively short expiration period in which I would need to consume all of those, make this one a big no-no.  I suppose I could freeze some of them if not for the fact that my freezer is already approaching the point of needing a crowbar to get stuff in and out, but in general, the whole Costco muffin thing starts to sound like a really, really, really bad idea. 

Along with the bulk sizes of Costco products come the bulk prices as well.  For some reason, I find it hard to get out of the place for much less $50 on a good day.  Every once in a while I’ll walk out of the store with some peanuts, canned tomatoes, breakfast cereal, a bag of tortilla chips, a 5-pound block of  cheese and an industrial-strength bottle of antacid, realize that I’ve spent nearly $50 on all that, but would still be hard-pressed to make an actual meal out of those ingredients.  OK, I suppose I could improvise something out of that if I was stranded by a flood or some other unfortunate circumstance, and I’m sure I’ll use all the stuff eventually over the course of my regular cooking, but it just seems like a whole lot of money being spent on a whole lot of nothing in particular.  My shopping trips at the regular grocery store rarely exceed half that amount, and most of the time the resulting quantity of food is enough to get 5 or 6 meals (plus leftovers) out of.  I’m sure that I’d manage to save money on this in the long run, but it’s just a little bit tough to see it that way in the short term.

But if I stopped renewing my Costco membership, would I really even miss it?  It would save me $100 a year in fees, and I’d still have a card that I could use to sneak into the warehouse (they only ever seem to look at the front, and I think my current card is at least five years old anyway) to wander around and grab samples with, but I wouldn’t be nearly as tempted to buy huge quantities of stuff I probably don’t need anyway, and I could still grab the occasional cheap hot dog on the way out (although they recently managed to ruin those by not only replacing the Coke machines with Pepsi, but somehow managing to offer only five choices of soda and two non-caffeinated ones out of sixteen spigots on the fountains, but that’s another rant entirely.) Nonetheless, I’d probably feel guilty if I actually tried that, so ultimately I end up renewing whether I need it or not.  Even so, it’s not as easy as it looks being a single-serve guy living in a bulk-pack world…

* * *

 The southern part of the Pioneer Square neighborhood in which Seattle’s two sports stadiums are located tends to be a surprisingly sleepy place when there isn’t some sporting event going on.  Since parking at the Qwest Field garage is only $5 on days when nobody is playing, I’ll occasionally find myself making the walk from Royal Brougham down Occidental to the office, and most days when I make this walk (which is, at nearly half a mile, a much longer walk than you might think just by looking at the maps) it is rare that I’ll see more than a handful of people along the way.  There might be a person or two on a ladder in front of the exhibition hall doing some non-specific task and maybe another walker or two along the way, but for the most part it’s pretty quiet.  This all changes when the Mariners get back into town.  The normally sleepy street gets quickly turned into a beehive of activity.

As I’ve noted in previous posts, my job these days has me working within easy walking distance of Safeco Field, and as the crowds made their way to the ballpark for today’s afternoon home opener, I decided to get away from my desk for a bit and take a walk down Occidental to check out the scene.  As is normally the case for Mariners home games, there is a surprisingly wide assortment of various street vendors selling ballpark food for (slightly) less than the prices inside the ballpark, souvenir sellers, random product samples, and the obligatory ticket scaplers.  To be honest, I have a hard time watching a ballgame at the ballpark (my somewhat less-than-terrific eyesight and usual nosebleed perspective  makes it hard to pay much attention to what’s on the field,) but there’s a certain ambiance that surrounds a live ballgame that you just don’t seem to find anywhere else.  To be honest, it can be just a little weird to walk down to the ballpark through the crowds, the noise and the scents of the various hotdogs cooking, then to have to turn around and head back in the other direction to finish the day at work.  I did manage to grab a bag of Kettle Korn on the way back though.  Fortunately, it looks like there’s a good chance I’ll have all summer to take it all in.  Now if we just had a decent baseball team to go along with all this…

April 7, 2010

Random Thoughts: The Trouble with New Toys

Filed under: Random Stuff, Technology — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:02 am

Now that I have had a few days to mess around with this new iThingy I somehow ended up with and get used to it a little more, I thought I might share a few of my initial impressions. Not so much of the device itself, mind you (I actually intend to do a comprehensive write-up of that in another upcoming post), but of the whole “new toy” experience that comes with the thing. If this post happens to be more typo-laden than usual, I will be using the standard excuse. Yes, you can type on the built-in soft keyboard on this thing to some extent, but it’s really the type of thing suited more to dashing off a quick e-mail or a Facebook status update than a thousand-word Blog post. I’ve certainly dealt with worse (back in some of my young and foolish days I used to actually think handwriting recognition as an input method was something besides an ill-advised curiosity) but I could also be doing this a whole lot quicker on a real keyboard. I am also still trying to figure out the iPad optimized WordPress app, which seems to allow something vaguely resembling Blogging, but mostly it just confuses me and crashes a lot.

If there’s one thing that this device does well (for the time being anyway,) it’s attracting more than its fair share of attention. Somehow I have managed to become the first person in the office to actually have an iPad, and of course everyone wants to see the thing and try it out. What makes this especially odd is the fact that we’ve already been actively developing iPad apps here for the better part of two months before it was released.  Apparently there is another one on the way for use in the office, but for now I have the only one.  I suppose I can justify the purchase though, since my job currently involves breaking said apps in as many ways as I can possibly think of. And believe me, there is no shortage of ways to break iPad apps once you get them on the physical device, Without the actual hardware to work with, we have had to rely on a Mac based iPad simulator to test on. This does allow most of the stuff to be tested, but it does also come with significant limitations, many of which show up within about five seconds of running on a real iPad. I don’t actually mind this much since it makes my job easier. The developers’ jobs, not so much.

For the time being, there’s also some degree of reluctance to use the iPad in public for some unknown reason. I’m sure that within a month or two the things will be everywhere, but I find myself just a little bit hesitant to be the first person on the bus to be seen using one. Maybe I just don’t really want the attention that it might bring (other people might actually relish such attention though) or I’m seeing bogeymen under the seats again (note to self: go find new shrink, current one not working out so great), but somehow I seem to find myself waiting for someone else to be using one on the bus before I use mine there.. Then again, I also have a relatively short bus ride these days since I started getting on the bus at Eastgate and skipping the 520 mess, so I would hardly have time anyway. Oh well. If only the rest of my dilemmas were this trivial…

April 4, 2010

Software Development Makes Strange Bedfellows

Filed under: Culture, Technology — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 11:39 pm

There are times in our lives where we find ourselves looking at where we are, where we have been, and how we got from there to here, and just have to wonder where it all went wrong. Fortunately for me, this isn’t one of those times , but as I look back and ponder some of the events that have transpired in my life since the beginning of the year, I do find myself scratching my head. Honestly, I think that if someone had told me on January first where I was going to be at the beginning of April, there is a good chance that I would not have believed them. Yet here I am, having had two or three good curveballs thrown at me by life, just pondering exactly how it is that I have gotten here. Fortunately, all of this has worked out to my advantage (a fact that I am grateful for) but certainly not in any way that I would have expected it to.

At the end of last year, I was working at Microsoft on one of about a dozen different contracts I have been on there over the past decade. Even as a contractor, Microsoft is a relatively nice environment to work in, and for the most part I have enjoyed it, but there are some teams that I have found to be better to work on than others. Unfortunately, the last team I was on was on that I turned out not to be a good fit for, and just before the end of the year, a rather abrupt decision was made to end my contract. Although I thought I got along reasonably well with the team and the job was paying the bills, the work I was doing was a rather significant step backward from what I had been doing on my previous contract, I really wasn’t learning any skills from this that were applicable to anything but the specific job I was working on, and I got the sense that the test development on this particular team really wasn’t heading in the right direction. Facing limited prospects for being able to return to another Microsoft contract due to short eligibility and a still relatively weak job market outside of Microsoft, I had no idea what was going to come next after this.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long to find out, as a friend of mine who happens to recruit for the local Harvey Nash office contacted me with a potential short-term contract for a small iPhone development studio in Downtown Seattle. Not having a whole lot else going on at the time, I decided to give it a shot in spite of my having spent all of about ten minutes actually using an iPhone before applying (although much of my prior experience in software testing has been on mobile apps, mostly on the Windows Mobile platform.) Upon learning a bit more about the company, I found out they had done a number of iPhone apps for MTV and other media clients, but couldn’t find out much else. I sent a resume over on a Thursday, and was awakened on Monday morning by a call asking if I could report the next day. Some paperwork an a day later I found myself in an old loft apartment in a 120-year old Pioneer square building, where I learned that I would be performing testing on the Beavis and Butt-Head iPhone application they were developing for MTV.

This came as just a bit of a shock, to be honest. Sure, I was familiar with Beavis and Butt-Head (having gone to high school in the mid Nineties, I’m pretty sure I knew of at least one Beavis among my classmates, if not more) but I had always assumed that they had just faded off into obscurity along with most of the rest of the Nineties. Sure they’d get back to the stuff eventually, but they’ve still got plenty of Eighties pop culture to recycle before they got back to that.) In fact, aside from some DVD releases a few years ago, Beavis and Butt-Head hadn’t been seen much of anywhere since they left the MTV airwaves. Oh, and did I mention that back when I was 12 or so I got grounded for watching the Simpsons? I’m pretty sure my mother would have killed me if I had ever been caught watching MTV, much less Beavis and Butt-Head. Nonetheless, the not-so-dynamic duo stared at me from a three-inch screen waiting with a few hundred bugs that needed to be found and fixed. When you’re working in software development, there’s a bit of a natural tendency to try to maintain professionalism by mentally disconnecting the work itself from the subject matter being dealt with, but to be honest, it’s impossible not to take notice of the sheer ridiculousness of the situation when you find yourself having to write a bug report that includes the word “Bunghole” in it, watching 40 minutes worth of video clips full of potty humor to make sure they’re encoded correctly, or spending an hour scouring the Internet in an effort to determine how to translate the word “Fartknocker” into Portuguese. I’m sure my mother must be really proud.

Even if that was all that was all I had going on these days, it would be unusual enough, but another curveball came in the form of the announcement of the Apple iPad, the greatest invention since whatever was the greatest thing before sliced bread  (at least that’s how Steve Jobs and half the Internet seemed to regard it.) As tends to usually be the case with Apple product announcements I met this one with a dose of healthy skepticism, but it seems that people were impressed by what they had seen.  Almost immediately it seems like just about everyone wanted their iPhone stuff to go to the iPad as well, including MTV with the Beavis and Butt-Head app we had been working on.  This meant redoing a lot of the animation inside of the app (and bringing back an artist that had helped out with this earlier in the process) and having to basically go retest everything on the iPad simulator that comes with the SDK (which comes with a fair number of limitations compared to the physical device, which almost nobody outside of Apple except for a few scattered late night talk show hosts had any access to prior to the official launch date)  In one final bit of irony, the iPad version of the app managed to make it into the app store before the iPhone version (which hasn’t actually made it yet as of this writing) in time to be available at the iPad launch. 

None of that quite explains how I managed to end up with an iPad sitting on the desk next to me, purchased with my own money (there will be more on that later, including a semi-thorough review) but with the way things have been going, I can’t say I’m too surprised.  Meanwhile, the short-term contract I started in January has turned out to be a lot less short-term than I expected, and nearly three months later I’m still in, and working on a number of other projects they currently have going.  In the meantime, if for some reason you’re looking for a quick hit of lowbrow 90s pop culture or some flimsy justification for the purchase of an iPad, you can find the app I’ve been working on here:

Beavis and Butt-Head for iPad (iTunes link)

Beavis and Butt-Head for iPhone (Coming Soon)

April 1, 2010

A Couple of Minor Changes

Filed under: Site Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 12:00 am

Update:  Yeah, it’s an April Fool’s Day post.

For nearly three years now I’ve been running this Blog, and although for the most part I am happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish here, there are still a few things that I am not quite satisfied with on this Blog.  Specifically, the fact that I have thus far been unable to cover the various expenses that are involved with running the Blog to be an ongoing sore spot for me.  While the expenses are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, there is still some out-of-pocket cost to me to keep this Blog up and running.  In an effort to rectify this situation, I will be making a few subtle

changes to this Blog over the course of the next few weeks.  For the most part, you should notice little difference from what you normally see here, but it is possible that you might see the occasional banner ad appearing on the site every so often.  To be honest, I’m not all that thrilled about having to resort to this approach, but I do have some expenses related to keeping this Blog up and running, and it does make sense to try to

find some way to offset those expenses.  The guy from the ad serving company I talked with assured me that they very carefully screen the advertising that they serve before it goes out, and that everything they advertise is 100% legal, moral and ethical.  This way, I should be able to keep the site going and the bills paid, and I will be able to continue serving up the finest in insomnia-addled drivel without having to worry about the costs associated with running this Blog.  If this approach seems a bit intrusive, I apologize in advance, but the realities of the Bloggng industry do mean that ultimately, such measures are going to become necessary for everyone if they wish to keep their Blogs up and running without incurring significant out-of-pocket expenses.

As usual, I thank you for your continued patronage and understanding, and I look forward to serving you in the future.


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