Summer trip 2015 is in the books!

VMWare – Why I don’t need Parallels any more

A few days back I was ranting on about Parallels.

I decided to move to their competitor. Not only is it roughly the same price, but at the same time they are coming out and advertising that the license is usable on multiple machines.

So there. That, my friend, is exactly why competition is a good thing. The market works in generally good ways for the most part.

All I had to do was import my existing images and like “poof,” I don’t need the old software any more. I have a few tweaks I have to do, like getting a static IP working on my dev Windows dirt, but that ought to be pretty easy.

Again, I have to stress that Parallels lost a long time (since around 2008 or so) customer. C’est la vie, eh?

Production Mode

There are different phases of delivering some software. You can be planning or writing the code. Eventually (I suppose if you’re lucky) you launch.

The process of getting things into production is very different from writing the code. It’s still work, but it’s different. At a place like Amazon where you have many other teams that you’re depending on this is a long process.

Then, after a long while of getting the product out the door is complete… you have to figure out how to code again.


It’s always nice to get back into code again. (Doubly so since the system I had been dealing with wasn’t even freaking code the way you normally think about it!)

Schematic Capture

This is a strange rant I’m queuing up.

This is about circuit design and the process both before and after it.

The general process of making a circuit board that’s all populated and ready to buy goes kind of like this:

  1. Come up with an idea
  2. Draft of circuit idea
  3. Schematic (sometimes on a napkin)
  4. Choose components
  5. Prototyping
  6. Enter schematic in a design tool
  7. Board layout
  8. Spin board and populate
  9. Testing
  10. If you need to go back to step 2

Eventually you’ll finish. (if you’re lucky)

The issue I have is that going from 4 to 7 many times you have not one, but a number of similar components to choose from. Even beyond that, sometimes the same component comes in different packages.

Of all the tools I’ve been dicking around with there seems to be a bit of an inversion. You need to pick a package before you drop the part on your schematic. This isn’t as much of an issue with a lot of ICs, but when you get to passives or jellybean ICs you have choices. Unless you have other design constraints, if you spec out a 1nF cap, you can get that in any number of different sizes.

Why do you have to artificially constrain that at schematic capture time?!



Seattle is not known for spectacular weather events. Sure, it has the reputation of rain, but it’s never portrayed as a violent rain, but rather a gloomy sedate form of wetness.

This isn’t really true, but it keeps people away. (In the summer it is locally known for spectacular weather)

Today was a weird one for sure though. In fact we even got a warning about it from the weather service. It was forecast for rain and wind. Wind for real this time.

Ok. So this isn’t midwest wind, or hurricane wind.

Seattle is soft.

We got a downed power line (well, power feed to a house) in the trees.

(Only 240V 2-phase… somewhat high energy, but not too dangerous)

The funny thing is that this passes for severe weather.  :-P

Some trees lost branches and parking lot trees (with shallow roots) tumbled. But that’s really the extent of the event.

So… windy.

Easter Eggs

This video dropped on Wednesday as we were launching Amazon Underground.

Within the first few seconds we got an Easter Egg.

I’m not going to say what exactly, but if you guess I’ll tell you if you got it right.  :-P

The Lull

Walking in this morning was kind of strange.

Bunches of people were up since 2AM yesterday. Maybe earlier.

Crash. Hard.

This morning there was almost no one.

Helium balloons barely stood upright having descended overnight.


Check service dashboards.

Check social media for mood of the product (good! :-) ).


Amazon Underground!

I’ve done a few minor little product launches at Amazon in the past. I’ve had big launches outside of Amazon before. It’s all good.

Today we had a real launch. Something I was a part of.

Amazon Underground.

This is actually a pretty cool thing for Android folks and their developers. Basically you pull developers out of the freemium type of game where you it feels you have to pay to have fun.

Up until this point a developer could have ads in their apps, have in-app-purchases (IAP) to make money, or simply charge money for the app itself. (There are some other ways too, but these are the common ones) Ads are annoying and paid apps have a lot of difficulty to gain traction.

This leaves the pay-to-play apps like Candy Crush and such. It’s either a stupid grind to get to the next level or you pay to get there quicker. Either option is annoying and not really fun. That said, this is the way to get the most money in many cases.

What we have made is a system where the user gets the app for for free (all of the app for free!) and the developer gets paid for the time the users use their app. Amazon foots the bill for it and we make up for it with occasional ads and getting more people into the Amazon ecosystem. This leaves developers free to make a game that is simply fun.

I do have to say my preferences don’t really lean towards Android, it’s just not my cup of tea. This isn’t enough to make me skip off to Android. But, other folks like Android, and for that it’s a pretty compelling thing for both users and developers.

Launching it. Watching the press and generally positive vibes. Getting a “Jeff Letter” on our own page that different, and dark and non Amazon-y. Being proud of what we did. Each of us did little parts of the whole. But Amazon is a big place with lots of systems all over the place. A big team. A big launch.

Yeah, you should check it out.  :-)

<disclaimer>I’m writing this as George, not as a representative of Amazon. My own opinions, not theirs.</disclaimer>  (yes, they asked people to say that… sigh)

Taking a risk. Feeling old.

We’re launching something tomorrow. I’ll hopefully write about what we’re launching tomorrow, but that’s not the point. Folks launch stuff at Amazon all the time.

Yesterday we were asked what we wanted for lunch on launch-day.

I weighed my options.

I figured that the phrase “hookers and blow” is such a clichéd term I’d be safe. Especially with the Toy Story reference reinforcing the “this is a joke” angle. (Yes, this is the first thing that came up in the Google image search for the term)

No worries. My boss had a witty come-back.

Then I got asked by one of the younger guys on the the team what I meant.

Unless you were around in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Watched Miami Vice. Learned about the Wall Street parties of the time… The idea of “hookers and blow” is completely context free.

Hell, what is “blow?”


(Cocaine in case you really have to ask. You snort it now blow it. But that’s the slang of the day. Don’t shoot the messenger.)

sigh another way to feel old.

Maybe I should have a cry at my desk.

Cardmember Services

Two words: fuck you.

This is the scam that has been going on for the past couple of years. The call saying they’re from “cardmember services” and that “there’s no problem,” offering to lower interest rates.

This is, I have to emphasize, a scam. They get you to give them money to save somewhere else. They take your money and run.

I got a call from them today. Oddly, they spoofed my number so it looked like I was calling myself. Fuckers.

Apparently the FTC lawsuit mentioned above didn’t work.

I pressed the appropriate number to talk to an agent.

“Please put me on your do not call list,” I told the rep on the other end.

He stayed on the line.

I repeated it a number of times.

He was just silent.

This happened at around 11:11 AM today. (Part of the reason for this post is contemporaneous documentation)

I asked to be put on the “do not call” list. This parts starts invoking laws.

Next time I think I might file something in small-claims court. I think I might be able to get a default judgement for a few hundred dollars.

These bastards deserve it.

How Parallels’ licensing scheme lost them a customer

The latest version of Parallels came out recently and I decided to upgrade to their latest one.

I had the option to get their subscription that had some extra features for the same price as a perpetual license. I figure that the run rate lately for their software is about once a year and I know I upgrade I opted for the subscription version.

I installed it on my laptop and went upstairs to install it on my desktop. I never use both at once (er, one set of eyes and hands) so I’m happy with how I’m licensing the software. I pay Parallels and they make software for me to use.

Then I got a licensing error. Someone changed policies and now I can only install it on one machine.

Call up support… … … (don’t have the ticket number, if someone from Parallels want to look it up, it’s in your system)

It turns out that not only can you install it on one machine now. Not only that there’s no way for you to transfer a license between computers without calling someone on the phone.

I dove deeper to see if the non-subscription version had the same limitation and the gentleman on the phone confirmed this was the case.

Oh, and their license transfer system is down anyway.

Seriously?! Now even if I was willing to put up with the bullshit of calling someone every time I wanted to use a different machine, I wouldn’t have been able to do it anyway.

TL;DR: Parallels shot themselves in the foot. I guess I have to look for options for my virtualization needs. I hear VMWare has something like that.

%d bloggers like this: