Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Of Peanut Butter and Animated Pictures

Could you end a debate that has raged on for 25 years with five words? Steve Wilhite did. In 1987, while working for Compuserve (you do remember Compuserve, right?), Wilhite developed a graphics format that enables us to create short animations, i.e. movies if you will - without the need for streaming servers or special browser video plug-ins.

His short little graphic files all had a filename extension of .gif. Pronounced GIF. Wait, what? Is that a hard 'G' as in Graphics Interchange Format? Or is the 'G' a softer phonic like the letter 'J'?


And the debate raged on for 25 years. Here is a picture of a recent intellectual exchange on the topic.

Fortunately, Mr. Wilhite, the inventor of gif, upon accepting the 2013 Webby award for his work; an award where the acceptance speech is limited to five words; upon accepting the award said, "It's pronounced JIF, not GIF".

To those who might be challenged to care; or may think this is no big deal, keep in mind that in 2012 the word GIF (soft g) received the distinction of becoming Oxford American Dictionary's official Word of the Year. Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.

So now that the single most important question of the day has been settled, I'll leave you with two tangential tidbits.

Tidbit #1: You can convert any YouTube video to an animated GIF by simply prefixing the URL with 'Gif'. I can't show you on our interal website, but let's say the YouTube URL was:


Just make it:


Tidbit #2: There is a whole subcategory of animated gifs called Cinemagraphs. They appear to be static images save for one minor detail which is animated. Here are a couple of examples.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pluto has become my favorite non-planet

Since the age of 9 when I looked through my grandfather's telescope and saw the rings of Saturn, I have been an astronomy geek. It makes perfect sense that I would become an architect.

Our solar system is resilient, having been around for several billions years, it is innovative and agile, having spontaneously deployed life within the past few million years, and it is of course predictable - i.e. the Sun *will* come up tomorrow. Take that to the bank.

It is also full of wonder and excitement. Here we are in 2015, and we are about to get our very first glimpse of the planet Pluto. Oops, I mean the "dwarf" planet Pluto. If you've not been following the news (you do read Scientific American, right?) you might have missed the news of Pluto's demotion.

Pluto lost its full planet status when smart people considered that unlike other objects that circle the sun (Earth, Mars, Neptune), Pluto's orbit is not very round, it's not on the same plane (level) as the others, and it is merely one of thousands of objects among a collection of others in an area called the Kuiper ("kiper") belt.

Nine years ago the indigenous life on the third rocky planet from the system's central star expelled a small metallic object that circled past the system's largest planet (Jupiter) to pick up speed and then traversed the 3 BILLION miles to the outer reaches of the system to the small non-planet called Pluto.

While Pluto is not that interesting as a planet, it is utterly fascinating as a celestial body. How about this... Pluto has at least five moons. The largest of them, Charon, is so large and is so close to Pluto that the two actually orbit around each other.

On July 14 (Earth date/time) - the New Horizons spacecraft will fly so close to Pluto as to be able to see objects the size of a Quidditch Pitch, or football field for the Potter-challenged. I for one am not expecting to actually see such constructs, but still the close up view of the Plutonian terrain will be fascinating.

I am taking the week of the 14th off for vacation, partly to enjoy the constant stream of news coverage from the outer reaches of our solar system, and of course to learn of the sporting life of the local inhabitants of the orb formerly defined as a planet. In the meantime, I'll try to focus on duplicating the resiliency, agility, innovation, and predictability of our celestial architecture.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Enterprise Architecture is Like a Good Beer

I love beer commercials. A couple of years ago, Miller Light created an ad campaign (later regarded as one of the ten best campaigns ever) in which consumers of the frothy brew disagreed over their motivations for choosing Miller Light. "Tastes Great", one faction would yell, "Less Filling" says the others. Between 1973 and 1978, Miller sales exploded from just under 7 million barrels to over 31 million barrels; the most dramatic period of expansion in the history of beer.

We could torture this analogy to the limits by comparing the golden liquid in a mug of beer to the on-going costs of maintaining existing systems, and the frothy head as representative of the available discretionary spend - but I'm likely to lose you in search of a cold one.

Today's CIO's are often challenged by opposing factions in the daily course of the business cycle. The "Tastes Great" crowd wants more taste, i.e. more business capability, more functions, more features, more customers. At the same time, the CIOs are equally pulled by the "Less Filling" voices to reduce costs, inefficiencies, and lower times to market.

The problem is that focusing too much on growth ("Tastes Great") can lead to unrewarding complexity with overlapping systems, slow times to market, and limited innovation.

Listening to the "Less Filling" voices to cut costs can lead to reactive efficiency, in which the organization can only get really good at doing what they've done in the past.

Enterprise Architecture is a discipline that seeks to understand the goals of the corporation in its entirety and balance forces to arrive at both growth and efficiency. Gartner's Applying Enterprise Architecture, states "Properly used, EA is a valuable asset that can drive significant benefits. Until recently, EA’s value has been primarily within IS, to reduce cost and complexity. Of greater value is applying EA more broadly to improve business effectiveness. This requires CIOs to use EA to align IT with the business strategy, communicate IT’s vision and value, guide IT investment and design decisions, and change business and IS behaviors."

The mature use of an Enterprise Architecture function allows and causes an organization's Information Technology to deliver both growth and efficiencies to the enterprise.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Yes, yes, but what do you do?

I’ve tried explaining my job as an Enterprise Architect to a number of people, including my parents, and after I’m done I get that “sure, whatever you say” kind of a look.

I’ll not delve into my job description here, except to say that a significant element of any architect’s job is communication, and as a result I know far too much about Office products such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Don’t get me started on Visio. Ever.

This week, I’d thought I’d tap into an Internet meme to provide a tongue in cheek representation of how I and others see my job. If you haven’t seen these before - here are some samples. Be warned, I have no control over which ones The Google decides to list.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Harry Potter Meets Die Hard Meets Troux (or When implementing an architecture tool, take it slow)

More than a few years ago, my son and I were watching one of the Harry Potter movies when Professor Snape came on the screen. My son said, "Oh I've seen that actor before, what's he been in?" I replied, "That's Hans Gruber from Die Hard, played by Alan Rickman."

My son looked at me with the awe that a father dreams of, and said, "How did you pull that out?" I'm sure this was his nice way of complimenting me on having spectacular cognitive functions at an "advanced age." Not wanting my endorphins to dissipate too quickly, I asked, "So, what's it like to live around me all the time?"

Without missing a beat, he replied, "Surprisingly unimpressive."

My company recently implemented an Enterprise Architecture Management Suite - a process that has been in the works for over two years. We chose Troux (pronounced True) as it will enable us to build complex relationships and answer tough questions like:

  • What percent of our applications portfolios are supporting our strategic objectives?
  • Next year, how many of our applications will still be using obsolete technologies?
  • For any given capability, do we have a roadmap beyond this year?

This will truly be impressive, and while it is a small sampling, it demonstrates how we will understand our technology portfolios in ways we never could before.

But ... that didn't happen on day #1.

On day #1, we provided the ability to lookup our current set of standards in Infrastructure and Middleware. One could say that given the tremendous capability in Troux, our initial implementation was surprisingly unimpressive.

This small set of data, however, is foundational to all of the capabilities which will follow. Next; our application teams will begin using Troux to document their readiness to transition into a new data center with stronger standards, predictable environments, and a rigid exception process.

Out of the gate we will start with what is simple and effective. Impressive comes later.

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