To Be or To Do? A Life Question.

This anecdote resonated with me. From a USAF Colonel, the core of this story and thinking is a timeless question: to be or to do?

Having been in the IT industry for 29 years – and have always wanted to write software. Cut code. Create things. Do real things.

For the last 20 years, my job has largely relied on being someone rather than doing. Now is the time to get into the doing. Creation. Making things.

Therefore, I am now a professional full-stack C#/JavaScript developer in the Microsoft ecosystem. The seven years of Microsoft armed me with many skills, technical contacts and experience that is too rich to throw away.

Long story short: after leaving Microsoft, taking 6 months off – the world of software development beckons.

My current CV is here.

A Geek’s 4.5 Days in Perth

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Whilst driving from Perth airport to the Hotel on Sunday, I determined that I haven’t been in Perth since late 2005. Nearly 2 years. Perth is greener now.

My first visit to Perth was in 1993. I think I’ve been here at least 27 times through my last 4 employers.

The Duxton Hotel’s high-speed internet access is wireless only, and keeps dropping VPN connections to work. As a video-blogger, I am constantly moving around multiple-hundred of Mb files around the world, and the lack of network stability is frustrating.

This danah boyd video is killing me. Note to self: choose a different hotel. And one that doesn’t think I am a Ms.

Duxton Perth gets Creepy...

I’ve already captured two videos: one with Gary Barber and one with Stephen Price.

Stephen is the cartoonist who created my new avatar, and Gary is the geek-father of Perth.

My discussions with Gary revolved around “why Perth?”. Is it the tyranny of distance that forces Perth people together; which is like Australia. Why then do humans seek like minded people out and see a need to get together in meatspace? There is no doubt that Perth people have this innate drive to help each other in a way that you do not see in other cities. Maybe Melbourne at little. Adelaide should learn from Perth.

By strange coincidence, I ran into Nick Randolph and Brian H Madsen (and a bunch of .Net dudes) at the centre of Perth Silicon area, Tiger Tiger. Thankfully, they didn’t ask me some obscure .Net technical question. If they had, I’d probably called Joel Pobar.

On the return walk to the hotel, Stephen lead me astray into the Hay Street Border’s Bookstore. Yes, my book collection +1. And friendly staff. The geek-girl behind the counter loved my “geek” t-shirt. rscpt.

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Tomorrow is more than another Wednesday for Perth: its WebJam day. Lachlan Hardy and Lisa Herrod land to get the Perth experience. I hope that WebJam is a two-way experience for all conference people in Australia, especially in the online space.

New York Times Reader Trumps Adobe Reader

The recently released New York Times Reader ( is what the Adobe PDF Reader should be today. Small, data-driven, dynamic, interactive and skinable.

Scott Hanselman states this is a precursor to WPF based RSS readers. I am going to go one further and state this is the future of dynamic publishing for large, paper-based publishers. A territory traditionally marked by Adobe as their home soil.

Adobe, the old leader in this space with PDF, has missed the ferry to New York and may be stuck on the island for a while. Even Macromedia (now married to Adobe) has missed this boat.


Times Reader will requires .Net Framework 3.0. Today this is a hassle. In the future, with Vista and wider deployments the base Framework, the comparative size of the downloads will become very noticeable.

The installer is less than 1Mb, installing an application that is 2.5Mb.

The Adobe Reader is larger (21.5Mb).


Rather than the content being bound up with the presentation, something that IT professionals constantly consider bad architecture, with the Times Reader these are kept separate.

The display resizes correctly, but within the bounds of the New York Times look-and-feel. Designing for this style of layout is not simple today: it requires the smarts of a developer to generate. I believe there is a market to wire backend services to custom publisher-centricinterfaces in a mechanism non-experienced programming designers can grok.

Maintaining the ownership of the content, even in a creative-commons mantra world, is critical. There is a significant investment in infrastructure to run a publisher, and this must be paid for. Adding value is the only way a large publisher can charge for their premium content. Whilst the Adobe Reader has mechanisms for, cough, DRM, inbuilt – it is another barren wasteland in daily publishing worlds.


The central dogma/mantra of the Adobe Reader is to retain the original designer’s intent (including fonts) Acrobat does have limited reflow and resizing ability; mainly tacked onto the Reader to permit accessibility. There is an under utilised feature of Acrobat called the Article Tool. Ever used it? It has been in there since the very early versions.

The Times Reader permits resizing of the application and correctly reflows the text; in a composition mechanism that Adobe has living in InDesign, InCopy – even PageMaker. Why can’t these be bolted into an Adobe Reader? InDesign could be turned into the frontend design tool; Coldfusion is at the backend. Maybe this is too old ground for Adobe?


Searching in the Times Reader is a pleasure, and surprises you. With dynamic searching; that is the relevant articles appear under the search box as you type is way excellent. The Topic Explorer is worth the price of entry, alone. It reminds me of Apple’s MCF/Hotsauce/Project X.

Topic Explorer


New York Times owns the interface, lock-stock-and-barrel. The experience is theirs. Being a newspaper of record, this is critical. To change the interface to match their corporate standard is something that the Adobe Reader should permit.

As Scott Hanselman states, the Times Reader is the current poster child for Microsoft’s WPF technologies. The only arrow I can aim at its heart is the Windows XP/Vista only nature of the Reader. Come on Microsoft, release a MacOS version! Having .Net on the Mac platform is probably the friendliest Unix you guys are going to get since Xenix.

It also happens to trump the old king of type and presentation: Adobe. Will Apollo save Adobe’s reputation? Let’s hope its Apollo 11, not Apollo 13.