Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Not So Wee Wii Review...whee!

Having the Nintendo Wii for almost two weeks, I think I am safely in the "cooling off" period, and can write a even handed review of the system. Almost all of the reviews I've seen were immediate impression, glowing reviews. I agree with some, and disagree with others.

I was lucky enough to be able to pre-order a Nintendo Wii, one of the benefits of working in the ghetto (there were still pre-orders available by the end of that day!).

The Brilliant

I knew I wanted a Wii when all the original details came out. The price was low, it came with a game, and it was about game play not graphics. This I had to respect. At $250, you really can't get a better deal on a system. And this is the first time in a long time that in box came everything one needed to get started, built in memory, a controller and a game! I also got Zelda, but more on that in a little bit. It was even backwards compatible so I could still use all my GameCube games and controllers. Backwards compatibility means little to me on PS or Xbox, because those games are about graphics... who wants to play Madden 05 when you have Madden 07? But the GameCube games I own were always just about having fun, so I think they hold on to their playing appeal even years later.

The Wiimote is another "Why hasn't anyone thought of this sooner?" invention. It's just like using a mouse on your TV. For things like using an on screen keyboard, and perusing menus, this feels so natural and quick. Although used incorrectly, the sniper-like aim you need can be frustrating.

The Good

Games are not just about graphics on this system, they are about having fun. One of my favorite games for GameCube was Wario Ware. It featured a minigame that involves four people just jumping rope on a 2-bit display of stick figures jumping rope. I tell you that simple game has caused more joy at house parties then anything Halo2 has ever done. The Wii continues this tradition. With Wii Sports, when you box in the ring, you actually box. You stand up and roll the ball in bowling. When you are warming up with a baseball bat, the bat follows all your movements. Unfortunately, Wii Sports is more of a demo then anything real. For example in baseball, you don't actually run the bases, you either just bat, or pitch. So the games are fun, but really I'm excited to see a "full" version of any of these mini games to really enjoy it.

The online store that allows you to buy classic games is also awesome. You can download and play N64, NES, SNES and even Sega Genesis and TurboGraphix 16 games! The selection is paltry now, but there are more then enough classics to get you started. The prices seem fair to me, $5 for NES games, and $8+ for others. As soon as Dr. Mario comes out, they will make their first sale to me.

The Bad

Ok, so I said I don't care about graphics. That's true. But the Wii looks pretty horrendous on an HDTV. I'm not asking for mind blowing PS3 graphics, but at least support HDTV out of the box! Supposedly with separate component cables you can get up to 480p, but I don't think that will fix many of the fundamental graphical challenges the system has. Wii Sports looks ok, as I think most cartoony ones will. But the "realistic" look that Zelda has looks frankly terrible on my HDTV. Its still a great game, but I do notice the graphics, unlike WindWaker which looked beautiful like playing a cartoon.

The Ugly

The worst part of the Wii by far is the online experience. First, it doesn't come with half the things originally promised at launch, no weather until late December, no news until January, and the Opera web browser is MIA for an unknown amount of time.

While getting it on the Internet was painless (wireless connection built in), using the Internet was so-so. It got on right away to download patches and things, yet it couldn't access the online store because of some unknown error (provided some big error code). After hours of searching the Internet and messing with settings, it turns out the problem was one of my DNS servers was a little slow, and once that was fixed I could get to the store.

Unlike on Xbox Live, where you have a simple gamer tag to provide a friend (mine is ry0ohki btw), the Wii has a not so easy to remember 16 digit number! (email me for mine) I have another friend with a Wii, and we've tried adding each other... first he added me... then I added him... we still aren't connected, but if we do get connected it should be cool. Supposedly you can have the little "Mii" avatars travel from one Wii to the other, even when the system is off (it maintains a low power mode where it stays online, and can download stuff and talk to Nintendo... cool but scary too).


Overall I'm pretty happy with it. It will be interesting to see the games that come out to make use of the technology. I have to give Nintendo credit for truely creating an "entertainment system" instead of just another pimped out console with bad ass graphics. I don't think it's fair to even compare it to 360 or PS3 anymore, as this is such a deviation, its doubtful we will see many cross platform games that reach Wii too, due to media and hardware limitations. I think a lot of the online accounts of non gamers gravitating to the system are a little over hyped. My wife (who isn't a gamer), enjoys the system, but I still havn't seen her turn it on when I'm not there. On the whole I'd give the Wii a 8/10.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Craig needs some cash?

Did I miss something? When did craigslist start having sponsored links in emails?

** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home
** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping
** More Info: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams.html

My brother want to buy your vehicle,kindly contact me immediately with more pic's and final price for onward transaction.Thanks

Sponsored Link

Mortgage rates near 39yr lows. $420,000 Mortgage for $1,399/mo - Calculate new house payment

this message was remailed to you via: sale-236097977@craigslist.org

Not that anyone blames him for trying to monetize it... but he could get billions of dollars for the site, why mess around with penny-ante inline ads?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Program for yourself, not others

This has been said many times before, but I think it really sunk in for me today. The best software business you can start is one that solves YOUR problem. Just today, someone came to me with a "great idea" and the first thing I asked is:

"Well, would you use something like that?"
"Um...no, but I think a lot of people would really.."

That's the problem. If you can't convince yourself to buy whatever your selling, it's going to be hard to create something to sell to fictional future customers. "But I asked my mom and my brother what they thought, and they said it's a million dollar idea". Here's the thing. Agreeing to purchase fictional software is easy. Actually doing it is another thing. That's why market research can be so difficult. People lie. Maybe they want to impress you, maybe they just don't want to be disagreeable, but it's almost impossible to gauge actual future sales simply from asking people if they want whatever you plan to build.

If you look at the successful ISV's out there, almost all of them sell MeWare, as Eric Sink calls it. It's a no lose situation. If you solve your own problem, even with no sales you have something you can use. But there is a good chance other people have that same problem but are lazier or not as creative as you.

When I created my budget program or my used car site, I knew exactly what I wanted, exactly what would work well, and as a result these are both fairly popular. ChimSoft on the other hand is something I designed for others. It was a lot harder to sell version 1.0 because I had one person's idea of what they wanted, and then a few others ideas, but since I personally wouldn't truly use the software, I had to make tough decisions as to what the people actually wanted.

If you don't use your backup solution, or you don't use your handy dandy band-tracking RSS feed, it will be unlikely to work in a way that is useful to others. Marketing can make up for this in some respects, but most likely it will take a couple of versions with real users feedback to get a quality product.

How does this all relate to me? I've decided to try and release the Bug/Feature/CRM/Mailer tracking thing I discussed in a previous post, because this is something that solved all my problems. I know how it needs to work, and even if no one uses it, it's still good for me. And if anyone can think of an ISV that is sucessful without creating me-ware let me know, I'm really racking my brain.

Friday, November 10, 2006

How I Do Bug Tracking....and Maybe a New Product?

A recent post by Joel talked about how a customer of FogBugz went through a great deal of effort to get FogBugz working as a Help Desk tool. This thread revealed others are doing essentially the same thing.

As someone who started his IT career out by working at Help Desks, I am baffled how or why people are doing this (mixing bugs in with Help Desk tickets) without going nuts. But I am kind of an organizational freak. It seems like most users of FogBugz are also using it for Project Management, mixing feature requests in with bugs too, which makes OCD Phil weep.

That's part of the reason I have not purchased FogBugz (in addition to a couple of other issues I have with it). I just need different organization. And also, I kind of have my own home built bug tracking system I created a few years ago, which over time has morphed into a combination of FogBugz, SalesForce, Microsoft's beta testing system, and Campaign Monitor.

When I was learning ASP.NET for the first time, I needed some kind of non-important application to learn in. So I decided to create a bug tracker, since the popular systems at the time were not very usable in my opinion (BugZilla being the big one). It's always my sandbox for new technologies. When AJAX, or .NET 2.0 came out, this is where I would learn it, test it, etc...

What's so different about my Bug Tracker? Well, for one thing, it completely separates feature requests from bugs. Feature requests have their own world of properties, such as release dates, versions, files touched, etc.. Bugs need to be more interactive. There is usually lots of back and forth about a Bug, and it needs to disappear off my radar quickly. A Feature basically just sits there until I decide if I will implement it or not. The metrics for features and bugs also need to be completely different. In addition, not all the requests you get are actually bugs. Sometimes people just have a question, and sometimes there is more of a task ("Convert Bob's customer file"), so my bug tracker separates all those categories as well.

When I started SearTech, customer contacts became a lot more important. So I created a basic CRM, that also links in with the bug and feature trackers, so you can see from a customer's record how many bugs and which features they are reporting. When I started beta testing, I needed a way to gather feedback from people. I don't want customers seeing my internal bug tracker and feature tracker, so I created a way to make some of these public facing, and allow people to vote for their requests. This helps me prioritize them. I then needed a way to send out mass emails from contacts in my internal CRM, so I then created a system that personalizes emails to people, and tracks that activity.

When I created the first version of the bug tracker, I stuck it up on my website to see if anyone was interested, of course I knew little about software marketing back then, so just a few random people who visited my website signed up. But now I am wondering if maybe other developers who think like me would be interested in the system I use internally? It's not really related in any way to my other products, but hey it's 90% developed for general use already. But I imagine the last thing the world needs is another bug tracker or CRM.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote Tomorrow

If are are in the United States, be sure to get out and vote tomorrow.

I encourage you not to blindly vote along party lines. Get informed about the candidates in your area. The League of Women Voters has a very good guide. Local elections are more important in many ways then Presidential elections. These are the people that have a real effect on your crime, taxes, education systems, and infrastructure.

If you hate all the candidates, abstain, write-in or vote Rat, but at least participate in the system!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New Site Design

A few months ago I mentioned that I was planning a major redesign of Used Cars On-Line. Well over the past month or so I've been converting most of the code to .NET, adding a few improvements in terms of image viewing, and spam prevention. Over this weekend, I made the biggest switch, to a completely new look.



I told my friend who I had do the design that I wanted something "Web 2.0", and I didn't want to give any input at all, because artistic design and I go together like oil and water. I figured the further I stayed away from it, the better it would look to most people. I'm pretty happy with the end result. It also completely validates to W3C standards, is 508 compliant, yet still keeps the general functionality the same.

Let me know what you think (I am still putting some finishing touches on it).

And to reminisce, here are some designs from the ancient past (they look extra bad since Archive.org doesn't always keep all the old images):




Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Job Boards Gone Wild!

Ok, it was cute and cool when 37Signals came out with their job board. Hey, jobs focused to people who appreciate 37Signals way of thinking... that makes sense! But then others realized, wait a sec, they are making money hand over fist for doing almost nothing at all! I can do that too! And so Joel came up with a job board, TechCrunch came up with a job board, DailyWTF, and now even Slashdot. I'm sure it's only a matter of time for Gizmodo, Engaget, digg, and any other tech blog/site out there to add it's own job board.

The problem is that these job boards no longer provide any value at all. You see the same jobs cross-posted already, and as they gain attention, this will only happen more. Tech people arn't really finding jobs that are posted by employers that think like Joel, or think like 37signals. Employers arn't really targeting any one audience apparently, since they post on multiple sources. And presumably the end user here is a job seeker... how has this made his/her life easier? Instead of just hitting Monster.com or Dice.com, there are now 5+ boards to visit.

Not only that, but there are so few postings for individual cities, that if I were looking for a job in say, Chicago, IL there are barely any at all. So what seems like a lot of jobs is an illusion, because most people are not open to moving anywhere in the world for a job. The quality of postings is no better then Monster.com, and in fact the text is usually just copy/pasted from some other listing. At least Joel added the Joel Test, although this is optional which is unfortunate.

As an employer, I would also be let down by the recent numbers Joel posted. ~300 people looking for jobs in DC? I don't know how that compares to Monster's audience, but it seems kind of low to me. The odds of getting more then 5-10 applicants seems very slim. Of course presumably you'll get a higher quality applicant, but then again, the people who apply are the type of people who read forums during work and look for other jobs in the process.

What's my point? Just that it seems like the only people benefiting from these boards is the blog owners. There's nothing wrong with that, but it would be nice if they tried to add as much value to the job postings as they add to their blog postings.

*Free mISV Idea*
Hopefully someone will come up with an aggregator soon, and maybe a way to rate employers and jobs. It would be interesting to see people's results from various job postings, and maybe who previously worked for the company.