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  • Blog Post: Insightful graph: The ship date predictor

    The best graphs are the ones that require no explanation. You are just told what the x - and y -axes represent, and the answer just jumps out at you. One of the greatest graphs I've seen at Microsoft is this one that a colleague of mine put together as Windows 95 was nearing completion. He took...
  • Blog Post: Please enjoy the new eco-friendly printers, now arguably less eco-friendly

    Some years ago, the IT department replaced the printers multifunction devices with new reportedly eco-friendly models. One feature of the new devices is that when you send a job to the printer, it doesn't print out immediately. Printing doesn't begin until you go to the device and swipe your badge...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: Stretch goal

    Recall that Microspeak is not merely for jargon exclusive to Microsoft, but also for jargon that you need to know. A project will set some goals, which are things it intends to accomplish. It may also set stretch goals , which are things it hopes to acomplish. If you fail to achieve a stretch goal...
  • Blog Post: Sorry for the interruption, but it doesn't happen often

    Many years ago, my feature manager and I were called into the project leader's office for some reason or other, I forget exactly what. We were about five minutes into the meeting when the project leader's mobile phone rang. This was back in the days when mobile phones were not commonplace, and having...
  • Blog Post: Random links on taking better pictures

    I'm always interested in finding simple things you can do to take better pictures. Here are some links I've collected. Take better pictures of friends and family: Turn off your flash . Ten tips for taking better photos . One thing I discovered as a tourist is that if you ask a random...
  • Blog Post: Bitter or acerbic? or does it make a difference?

    One of my colleagues told me that my name came up in conversation, and somebody said that they thought I had a reputation for being bitter. My colleague defended me. "Nah, Raymond isn't bitter. He's, I dunno, acerbic." "Acerbic? What does that mean?" My colleague looked it up . "It means...
  • Blog Post: When you inadvertently become a collector of something you really aren't all that into

    As I was heading home at the end of the day, I ran into one of my colleagues who was also going home, and he was carrying a Star Wars -themed metal lunchbox similar to this one . For those who didn't grow up in the United States, these metal lunchboxes are the type of things elementary school children...
  • Blog Post: That's not how you start a boat

    Tomorrow is Opening Day of the Seattle boating season. (Which, as I noted some time ago , is purely a social occasion with no legal significance.) One of my colleagues is not much of a boat person, but his wife is. (In fact, she's a commercial fisherman.) They were on board some fancy boat or other...
  • Blog Post: How to find the IP address of a hacker, according to CSI: Cyber

    The episode of the television documentary CSI: Cyber which aired on CBS last Wednesday demonstrated an elite trick to obtaining a hacker's IP address: Extract it from the email header. Here's a screen shot from time code 14:35 that demonstrates the technique. <meta id =" viewport ...
  • Blog Post: In the Seattle area, people treat you nicer once they learn your last name is Gates

    One of the team members during the days of Windows 95 happens to have the last name Gates , no relation. She says that it's surprising how nice salespeople are to you once they learn what your last name is. Go figure.
  • Blog Post: I want you to chase your sisters until they throw up

    A friend of mine grew up in a rural area. The family got their water from a well and had to fluoridate it manually with tablets. When my friend was a little girl, she was playing around the house with one of her friends (let's call her friend Alice). They got into the kitchen cabinet and found these...
  • Blog Post: A Venn diagram demonstrating the dining options in one of the new cafeterias

    Back in the early 2000s, a new building opened on the Microsoft main campus, and the food services department tried an experiment: Instead of creating a standard cafeteria, they decided to make the cafeteria in the new building a specialty cafeteria. This new cafeteria was more like a deli, specializing...
  • Blog Post: Travel tip: Don't forget your car on the ferry

    One of my colleagues lives on Bainbridge Island and has quite a long commute to work each day. From his house, he walks to the bus stop, then takes the bus to the Winslow ferry terminal, then takes the ferry to the Seattle ferry terminal, then takes the bus to Microsoft. And at the end of the day...
  • Blog Post: Nice job, you got an A minus from Bill

    Bill Gates does not praise lightly. Some time ago, a colleague of mine helped to prepared a keynote address for Bill Gates. Afterward, he was informed that Bill rated the presentation an " A minus ". My colleague thought, "Wow, an A minus. It would be great to get some feedback from Bill about...
  • Blog Post: The 2015/2016 Seattle Symphony subscription season at a glance

    For many years , I've put together a little pocket guide to the Seattle Symphony subscription season for my symphony friends to help them decide which ticket package they want. For the past several years now, we haven't ordered any tickets at all because we all have young children...
  • Blog Post: Staying cool is one of the skills of a corporate president

    Some time ago, there was a mechanical problem with the heating/cooling system in our part of the building, and one of the senior managers in our group took the opportunity to tell a story of a one-on-one skip-level meeting he had with Steve Sinofsky. I'm sitting there in my office with Steve...
  • Blog Post: Another way to make sure nobody sends you feedback

    I wanted to report an issue about a problem with our building, let's say that the widget frobnicators were not working. I went to the internal Widget Frobnicators Web site, and it was very pretty, with an FAQ about the current supplier of widget frobnicators, where to look up more information about how...
  • Blog Post: Got errands? Now is the time

    This upcoming Sunday is the Super Bowl, the championship game for a sport played only in the United States.¹ The entire country stops doing anything when the game is on. This makes it a perfect time to get out and run your errands, because the streets will be completely empty. Check out...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: landing (redux)

    In a meeting, my colleague Martyn Lovell said, "The plan is shifting and hasn't landed anywhere yet." This was generally understood to mean "The plan is shifting and the issue is not yet settled." I don't know if this is true Microspeak, or Martyn was just making up a little metaphor on the...
  • Blog Post: It's not too late (okay maybe it's too late) to get this gift for the physicist who has everything

    A LEGO set to measure Planck's constant .
  • Blog Post: When corporate policies meet precision scientific equipment

    One of my colleagues used to work as an IT consultant, and one of his clients was a tobacco company. Since they were a tobacco company, the company policy on smoking was "You can smoke anywhere, any time." "Anywhere" includes the labs. The labs with very expensive precision scientific equipment....
  • Blog Post: Distinguishing between normative and positive statements to help people answer your question

    Often, we get questions from a customer that use the word should in an ambiguous way: Our program creates a widget whose flux capacitor should have reverse polarity. Attached is a sample program that shows how we create the widget with Create­Widget . However, the resulting widget still...
  • Blog Post: A little cheat in my Tiger Beat photo homage

    One thing nobody has called out in my tribute to the Bill Gates Tiger Beat photo , either because it was too subtle or too obvious, is that the photo is actually a mirror image. The arrangement of furniture in the room was not correct: The big table was on the wrong side of the room. It was also...
  • Blog Post: Raymond, why did you stop studying Chinese? It has no grammar!

    One of my colleagues, a native Chinese speaker, asked me whether I was still learning Mandarin Chinese. I told him that I had given up. He was baffled by this. "But Chinese is such a simple language. It has no grammar !" Now of course, Mandarin has a grammar, because every language has a grammar...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: All-up

    Here are some citations. Let's see if we can figure out what it means. I think a presentation of these results would be a fun boost for the team. Is this something we should handle in a bunch of teams' weekly meetings, or should we do something all up ? In the first citation, all up appears to...
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