Wednesday, 30th of July, 2008
Finance 101 makes it easy for us to add up the costs of a project, but a common complaint when asked to quantify return is "it's an intangible benefit". As an economist that's an argument I never buy at face value. Increase in customer satisfaction can be measured by calculating the business you can expect to gain by going forward with this project. Lost customer satisfaction can be measured the other way - how much business you will lose. On that note, I would also remind you to not only find out the financial cost of the project, but account for the opportunity cost too. This could have drastic effects on your ROI - because with many IT projects (and even things in other parts of life), doing nothing is the most costly option! People who have not tried to quantify nebulous things like customer satisfaction will find this exercise a bit difficult at first, but as an economist I would love to see people do things this way and get good at it.
Though this is my usual spiel (because I have yet to come across a company that calculates ROI consistently without too much handwaving), a paper I came across by Forrester Research today takes all this to a more rigorous level! The Applied Information Economics (AIE) methodology treats an IT project like an investment portfolio. It demands quantification of "intangibles" as I like to, but adds important risk metrics into the picture. Our estimates of Return are just that, estimates, just like the expected performance of a mutual fund. But a wise investor also looks at the risks and volatility of a fund, and makes a decision based on both the expected return and the risk. Obviously, the higher the return for a project, the more a CIO would be willing to accept high risks associated with embarking on the project.
Monday, 28th of July, 2008
Friday, 25th of July, 2008
Carry on My Wayward Son - Kansas - 4 tracks on the electric violin
I started recording some Telemann, but for some reason the audio and vidio were a few seconds out of sync. A reboot seems to fix that, but I had to re-record: Telemann Concerto in C Major for 4 Violins - Allegro
Youtube is great for consuming too. Someone on the Cadillac Forums found an old 1993 Motorweek video review of the new Cadillac Fleetwood. I feel like I've experienced time warp - I had no idea the show even existed back then, and the host today doesn't look a day older than he did in 1993! Even cooler is that the car they used is almost exactly the same as mine, though it does appear to have different wheels and seats. Actually, those clues gave away their bluff - though they say they're testing the Brougham trim level, that car seems to be a regular Fleetwood with Brougham-ish options.
Thursday, 17th of July, 2008
Wednesday, 16th of July, 2008
With the conclusion of the Xcelsius 4.5 course that I presented today, it's time to start gearing up for Xcelsius 2008. The differences are significant, and they have fixed many things that were not completely logical and required extra explaining to my students. The first, most obvious change is the user interface. Not only do the windows play better with what you're trying to do on the canvas, but you get to look at the Excel file at the same time too. Some other changes I notice already:
- Single value component increment has moved to the behavior tab, and is no longer together with the scale, even though those two fields are often changed together.
- Image components now accept png, gif, and bmp in addition to jpg and swf.
- New components:
Other minor enhancements seem to abound - such as built-in gradient/color schemes if you have many thresholds for your alerts.
The best news is that, unlike Crystal Reports 2008, which is not backwards compatible with the XI R2 platform, you probably don't have to wait for your organization to go to XI 3.0 to start using Xcelsius 2008, especially if you aren't using Xcelsius with data connectivity yet. All you have to have is Windows XP+, Office XP+, Acrobat, and Flash player to get started with all this. I will have to experiment to see if there is anything that prevents the XI R2 Infoview from playing an Xcelsius 2008 swf file - that would be even cooler if you could still distribute the dashboard on XI R2.
Sunday, 13th of July, 2008
There's surprisingly little else to mention about this $127,000 car. The handling was sporty as I'd expect. The cold-vented seats were nice, and now all passengers get to play with iDrive, as there was one for the rear passenger DVD and entertainment. BMW continues to do a good job of making the driving experience exclusive. Yes that turn signal continues to lack positional feedback, and gosh I never remembered there being a cruise control stalk over there either. Took me a couple turns to figure out I was hitting cruise control instead of the turn signal. I like the iDrive - I was able to get in, set the temperature, find the Classical station on the Sirius radio and I was ready to go. Haley spent the entire drive figuring out how to change the radio channel, and we didn't even see any of the other iDrive features. I like how Navigation displays the next turn in the tachometer - that should definitely be something they should bring down to other cars!
It seems to me of all the sedans for sale in the $100-120k price range, this is the car to get if you want to blend in. The BMW plate doesn't shout the same way a Maserati Quattroporte does, AMG badges tell you something special, and it seems like even the Lexus LS600h and Audi S8 come with some exclusivity that the 760iL doesn't get. Perhaps what the Alpina B7 is for.
The 650i, on the other hand, is a car that comes with quite a bit of exclusivity. The car from the outside declares luxury grand tourer to me. But perhaps that is only to a car nut, because even the people working the event were having a hard time identifying a 6-series from a 3-series coupe/convertible. Once you take into account that the rear seat is no more useful in this vehicle than in a 3-series coupe, one does find fewer and fewer reasons to pay the huge premium for a 6-series. The brushed aluminum on the one I drove only made things worse. Perhaps that is why I rarely see them on the road - and they have been around since 2004.
The truth is, the 6-series cannot be appreciated on paper, or even in photographs. I had to go through 4 pages of Google image results to find one that even came close to the way I perceive the car. It's the subtle things on this car that make it the best BMW experience I've had. The seats felt great, it came with a very functional heads-up display, and the 360 hp 4.8L V8 came with a nice fat powerband. The apogee would be when I had it was passing slow traffic under a large overpass - sunroof cracked and at full throttle - that car produces an exotic sound that you don't experience unless you're watching BBC Top Gear.
The manual-shift mode on the gearbox also did exactly what you told it to do - the car just begs to be taken to a track. And really, that's the only place you'll need it in manual mode. I soon discovered "Sport" mode in Drive, and it shifts so quickly based on your throttle input that it almost made me not ever want to drive stick again. Sport mode also utilizes engine braking when slowing down, and the shifting is distinct, predictable, and logical.
By the time the drive was over, I thought I had mastered the BMW controls, and I reached up for the top-right stalk to put the car in reverse, which is where the gear selection lever is on the 7-series. This wound up turning the wipers on instead. More random pushing on that level sent a blast of washer fluid everywhere. Finally I gave up and backed the car into the parking spot with the wipers on full speed while Haley flipped some more switches on the stalk that control the intermittent interval. In the end I discovered that the wiper stalk, just like the turn signal stalk, has no positional feedback. I hope nobody hops in the 7-series after owning a 6-series and shifts the car into reverse on the highway trying to shut off the wipers. Finally I spotted a familiar control - at least the 650i has a mechanical hand brake. A satisfying yank on that before shutting off the engine made everything better again.
Thursday, 10th of July, 2008
At a quick glance, Crystal Reports 2008 now has a few features that can cause you not to have to think about using a different tool anymore:
Saturday, 5th of July, 2008
Carry On My Wayward Son - Kansas (2.9MB MP3) - 4 tracks of 5-string violin plus drums. I don't know the song well enough to play the Kansas guitar solos, so I improvised all the solos. This can be a bit more fun than Guitar Hero. I'll just open up the file on the MRS-8 if I ever decide to play the song again - mute or record a new take of one of the tracks. If you play a real instrument too, we can even play two-player - the MRS-8 has two inputs!
Friday, 4th of July, 2008
One of my favourite songs on Guitar Hero II is Carry On My Wayward Son, by Kansas. It's relatively easy to play on a toy guitar controller , so I figure it's time to see how hard it is to play the song on real instruments. I came up with the first 2 minutes today - the first guitar solo is a bit complicated so I just improvised something on the fly.
I recorded it with the MRS-8 on the 5-string violin of course. I kept the effects off for the vocal tracks, used distortion patch 24 crunch to simulate electric guitar, and bass simulator patch 6. I replicated some acoustic guitar work by playing staccato on a 5th track, and it turned into a bit of a viola part as I kept going. Looking forward to getting the rest of it recorded now, since I have the song mapped out and there are more exciting riffs later.
I know very little about rock music so I looked up Kansas to see if by chance they were still together. Up to this point all I knew about Kansas was this one song from Guitar Hero, and what they looked like in 1976 from the Youtube video I found. I discover that not only are they still touring, but also that Robby Steinhardt (who seems to only play the tambourine in the video) is a violinst and the violin/viola sound has been a big part of the band's sound since it started.
Tuesday, 1st of July, 2008