Monthly Archives: June 2010

Steam Slow Download Solution

I just bought Civ IV on Steam, because there’s some kind of sale. I started downloading it and it was giving me a measly ~200 KB/S download speed. This kind of sucked because I wanted to play pretty soon, and it would take a few hours at that rate.

I looked in the preferences for downloads, and noticed that I was connected to their Chicago datacenter. I tried switching it to Detroit and I still got some lame speeds. Then I switched to Phoenix, Arizona. And voila:

My hypothesis was that the datacenters were dying from the load of the Steam summer sale. So I tried picking a datacenter in a less sparsely populated area (Phoenix probably isn’t serving that much load compared to Chicago or New York), even though it was further away. I think my hypothesis stands. So if you’re experiencing slow downloads, try picking a datacenter that’s further away. Just wait until my download is finished first. ๐Ÿ™‚

Super Customer Service at the Apple Store

About two weeks ago, my GF got a refurbished iPod Touch from the Apple online store. The refurb was pretty cool, but it seemed to have a really low battery life. I made an appointment with the Apple Store App for the Genius Bar and the guy who helped us was really cool.

We explained that she just bought the refurb and it was pooping out after like 3-4 hours of use. The guy showed us some battery saving techniques (like lowering the screen brightness and turning off location services, etc). At this point I was like, “come on guy, I already know that!” Then he just gave us some paperwork to sign and a new iPod! YESSS.

The awesomeness here is that he didn’t question us like we were total idiots and assumed we were right. He didn’t make us do any stupid diagnostic tests to prove we were telling him the truth. This is what set the experience apart from others, like when I call the cable company and they make me turn my modem off and on, etc. Thanks, Apple! The only thing I would’ve changed is that I scheduled the appointment for like 7:30 and they didn’t get to me until around 8.

The new iPod is working a lot better, so I’m glad we went in to do the switch. In other news, I am thinking of getting an iPad, because (gasp) I was wrong. In the future I should probably forego the knee-jerk assumptions for new products before I actually try them out. I can probably just say I did it for the lulz again and go on to become the next John C Dvorak. The iPad is actually quite neat. Understanding the iPad HIG goes a long way toward appreciating it. I also wrote an iPad version of my other app, so I’d like to actually try it on a real device at some point.

Rework: Book Review

Rework, a book by 37signals (the guys who made Ruby on Rails), is a pretty simple book. It’s appropriately simple, because the book is almost entirely about simplifying things, and the positive effects of doing so.

I started reading the book in a protected PDF from the Microsoft library a while back. Unfortunately the license expired before I read the whole thing, so I grabbed a copy from the Ann Arbor library and finished it up. The book is incredibly easy to read and also incredibly short. It clocks in at a deceptive 273 pages. In reality, there is probably more illustration and whitespace than actual text. It feels like 37signals took general ideas from their blog and distilled them into super short nuggets of information.

I think that the ADD-like feel of the book both helps and hinders. It drives home the point that you don’t need a lot of words to explain something. You can just be simple, and it’ll work. Personally, I feel it’s too easy to blaze through the book and really forget most of what was read since it’s so fast paced. Good thing I basically read through it twice.

For the most part, I agree with most of the sentiments in Rework. The general message is that you don’t have to act like every other company out there. You don’t need to be obsessed with getting big, stalking the competition, hiring billions of people, etc, because being small is actually pretty nice. You can build something that just works, and from there, improve on it. The alternative is taking forever to build a monolithic beast and then finding out you didn’t need all those features.

One interesting thing that I read about in the book was in a section about having “less mass.” The book explains that:

From here on out, you’ll start accumulating more mass. And the more massive an object, the more energy required to change its direction. It’s as true in the business world as it is in the physical world.

What’s interesting is that my former manager who had something like 20-30 years of experience in the industry had used this analogy to explain why my former company was moving so damn slow. He’s a manager that I truly respected and it’s just kind of funny seeing how common a theme mass and inertia is.

Within the context of my most recent work experience, Rework actually points out a lot of what was wrong in the culture. I could go on about it, but that’s for another post. I would encourage you to read the sections: “Meetings Are Toxic,” “Strangers at a Cocktail Party,” “Illusions of Agreement,” and “Send People Home at Five.” As for what went right, Rework did touch on some of that, too (“Focus on What Won’t Change,” and “Say No by Default”).

More recently, I’ve been trying to take the ideas in Rework and apply them to whatever I’m currently doing. I released an iPhone app just a while ago that was barebones. I got a lot of good feedback and learned a bunch about how the App Store process works. A few days ago I submitted an iPad version of that app. It’s also pretty bare, but I know I have room to improve and possibly even start making money with it.

I think that Rework is especially relevant if you are a “starter” type of person, or would like to have that kind of culture at work but aren’t sure how to go about it. I would suggest this book to anyone who works, though. If nothing else, it’s a good way to keep an open mind on alternative perspectives regarding business and business culture.