Wednesday, January 17, 2007

When Pigs Fly (and Geek Wednesday)

Click the graphic to hear Roger Waters on Trump and Storm Thorgerson on flying pigs

Before we get to Geek Wednesday and another contribution from Nearly Redmond Nick, here's another slice of Floyd memorabilia for our Animals 30th Anniversary observance. This is an excerpt from drummer Nick Mason's book, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd:

Much of the material for Animals already existed in the form of songs that Roger had previously written. "Dogs" had been performed even before the Wish You Were Here album, on the Autumn 1974 tour of the UK, as a song called Gotta Be Crazy, and elements of Sheep had appeared on the same tour as Raving and Drooling. The music had thus been in gestation for well over a year and had benefited from some toughening up in front of the audiences on the tour.

Towards the end of recording, Roger created two pieces called Pigs On The Wing to open and close the album, designed to give the overall shape of the album a better dynamic and enhance the animal aspect of it.

My memory of this period is that I enjoyed making this album more than Wish You Were Here. There was some return to a group commitment, possibly because we felt that Britannia Row was our responsibility, and so we were more involved in making the studio and the recording a success. Given that it belonged to us, we really could spend as long as we wanted in the studio, and there was no extra cost involved in unlimited frames of snooker or billiards.

Some critics felt that the music on Animals was harder and tougher than anything else we had done. There were various reasons why that might have been so. There was certainly a workmanlike mood in the studio. We had never encouraged a stream of visitors to our previous recording sessions, but at Britannia Row, the lack of space meant there was really only room for the crew in the cockpit.

Any harder edge might also have been a subconscious reaction to accusations of "dinosaur rock" that were being thrown at bands like Led Zeppelin, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and ourselves. We were all aware of the arrival of punk -- even anyone who didn't listen to the music could not have failed to notice the Sex Pistols explosion in the media spotlight. Just in case we had missed this, locked in our Britannia Row bunker, Johnny Rotten kindly sported a particularly fetching "I Hate Pink Floyd" t-shirt.


Geek Wednesday

Geek Quote of the Week: Think those suits at Microsoft have a firm grip on reality? Well, check out what this guy has to say:

"We're really recognizing the fact that homes now (have) four or five PCs, an Xbox, music player, a Zune," Microsoft entertainment unit president Robbie Bach said...

When you come back from your home planet, Robbie, maybe you should check out what's happening down here.

This, of course, comes from the company that slaps a new skin onto an old warhorse like Office or IE and then pronounces it a revolutionary new product. Believe me, folks, I turn on IE 7 just about every evening, with the popup blocker at full bore; and I still get multiple adware popups within seconds of starting the miserable thing.


...and when you lose control / you'll reap the harvest you have sown...


Now just so you don't think I'm some sort of Mac drone who has nothing critical to say of Apple, check out their home page now: there are no computers there anymore. There's a phone that won't be sold until June, a TV box that won't be sold until next month, movies, and more TV commercials. In fact, they took the word "computer" out of their official company name!


...and as the fear grows / the bad blood slows and turns to stone...


I also have this story from NR Nick: Apple intends to charge folks who purchased their new computers a fee for 802.11n access! All right, Steve will need the money to pay those fines to the SEC (and maybe he'll need some bail cash too). But shit, I've already spent $1300 for my MacBook and the 802.11n card inside it—how much more will it cost me, Steve?


...and it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around...


So there you have it: wealth makes you both delusional (MS) and arrogant (Apple). Now do you wonder why we're spending this week talking about a record from a psychedelic rock band that sings of the brutal realities of a world filled with pigs and dogs and sheep?

Now finally, for what we had meant to feature on Geek Wednesday this week, until other things distracted us. Here's Nick on the future of IT in the enterprise:

DailyrEvolution 2.0
As we begin the new year, I want to know what my job is going to bring me. It's not that I don't care about anything else, but I need to see if I'm wandering down the right path. Wishing one day to be a CTO or CIO, I need to put on my Future Vision goggles every once in a while and evaluate the up and coming technologies. Here's NC Nick's take on IT in the Enterprise.

As you pore over all the industry rags, you see this 2.0 and that 2.0 and hear all the usual buzzwords, like SOA, SaaS, Social Computing, etc. I think it's unfortunate when really cool buzzwords get lumped in with buzzwords that mean crap. This whole everything-2.0 drives me nuts. Especially when it hides the real importance of the original version 2 - Web 2.0. This whole AJAX thing has some legs. I know you're saying to yourself, "Sure, it's cool stuff, but it'll never fly in the enterprise".

Well, that's where you'd be wrong. Try to name an enterprise app that doesn't have a Web 2.0 product (and a damn good one in most cases). Just take a look at Dion Hinchcliffe's Web 2.0 blog for a ton of companies delivering wonderful apps, and for prices that make most vendors look like crooks.

"Hey Nick, I'm hearing a lot about SOA? Should I jump on board?" Well, unless you're working at Ginormous Megacorp, Inc. I say "no". "But Nick! All the trade magazines think it's the best thing since sliced bread!" And my answer to that is, "Of course they do!" Have you seen the companies advertising in those rags? Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, BEA, Sun. It reads like a who's who of the software world. Let's hypothetically say Microsoft was giving me a free laptop to write nice things about a certain delayed operating system. Most likely, I would play nice and hope that MS came knocking when they were about to release another piece of crap software package. Of course, that would never happen.

When you have a company that can gain efficiencies by reusing tons of their software, adopt an SOA. If you have an army of programmers and need a library of services for business users to consume, adopt an SOA. Otherwise, stay nimble and just write decent code. You'll get your products out the door faster because you won't be developing all the overhead. This also means less money spent on development. Plus, you won't need all the expensive applications offered by Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, BEA, Sun - have I completed the circle yet?

So this whole cost-savings/efficiencies thing brings me to SaaS - Software as a Service. We are definitely seeing a major shift towards this purchasing paradigm. No longer do we want to buy the next release of Office, with its 1.3GB footprint, and all its security holes, and its required $399 upgrades, and dependence on SharePoint Server in my infrastructure... I want to pay $9.99 a month and get just the functionality I want. And I want to stop paying when I stop using it. Oh, and it should fix itself so I don't have to do it. And I don't want to buy a server to host it on. And, umm, can it have a really cool interface? And is it OK if I never have to pay for an upgrade? OK, cool. It's pretty easy to see why everyone and their mother is looking at this pricing model as a viable alternative to traditional upfront purchase + maintenance fees as a way of life.

Take a look at They got it long before anyone else did, and it shows. It will continue to show, as they build out their infrastructure, and acquire more clients. Not to say things are perfect over there - they definitely need to tighten things on the security end, and work on their uptime - but they are the closest to an ideal SaaS company.

Lastly, lets not forget to mention the Time Magazine 2006 Person of the Year - you! Congratulations! All those defamatory posts to MySpace, uploads of blackmail videos to YouTube and submissions of bookmarks to (not to mention your personal blog) make you incredibly important! Yes, yes, I know - we need to focus on the Enterprise, and the last time you checked, your company wasn't too happy with you browsing MySpace at work.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum (the user forum, that is) - what used to be called Knowledge Management has slowly transformed into Collaborative Computing. And because of it, all these neat social applications have been given a shave and a haircut and sent off to work. Wikis are replacing corporate intranets. RSS feeds are replacing paid news feed services. Blogs disseminate information instead of company newsletters. User forums are replacing town hall meetings. All of a sudden, "you" are in charge of content development. You, you, and yes, even you. All of you!

So what does this all mean? It means things are getting smaller and faster. Overhead will not be tolerated. And neither will slow reaction times. Customers continue to demand faster updates to their software - as things are fixed, not when a huge release is ready. They want capacity when they need it - and only when they need it. They don't want to do things unnecessarily - just enough to get a working product out the door. Vendors that can move with their customers will survive. Others, will not. Join me next week for a vendor shakedown!

—Nearly Redmond Nick

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