Monthly Archives: February 2005

Airtime Machiavelli

My colleague and fellow case teaching enthusiast Mark Kriger dug into his files a few days ago and showed me Robert Ronstadt’s The Art of Case Analysis, a self-published how-to for prospective students in a case teaching environment. This thing is fantastic – it has strategies for how to look smart in front of the teacher (see exhibit), where to sit in the classroom, and roles to play in the classroom. Also has pointers to preparation and case ethics, as well as some basic analysis. My, what a cheat sheet for students…..
Here are three alternative strategies for how to let the teacher form a good impression:

And here is where to sit in the classroom:

Architecture and buildings

JohnJim McGee (with whom I briefly overlapped at Harvard) has written an excellent essay on architecture of buildings and systems based on Stewart Brand’s book How Buildings Learn.
I first encountered this perspective back in the mid-90s, when I worked at CSC and Richard Pawson pursued the same ideas, thinking about how systems architecture could learn from the adaptive architecture ideas of Brand and Christopher Alexander (who wrote A Pattern Language, a collection of architectural “ideas that work”, much read in the circles that practice extreme programming).
McGee adds a thoroughness to the analysis that I haven’t seen before, and nicely points out the contradiction in Brands conclusion: That building work if they are either adaptable or non-changeable (the latter, I suspect, being more an artifact of the stability of the activity taking place in the building than the building itself.)
I have recommended Stewart Brand’s book for years (and have given away at least 3 copies so far, the last time when we were designing the new building for the Norwegian School of Management). It really is an amazing book and an enjoyable read whether you are an architect, a systems engineer, or just someone who happens to take an interest in your surroundings.
Highly recommended (both the essay and the book).

From Mozilla to Firefox/Thunderbird

This blog seems to be degenerating into the usual “this vs. that” technology, so here goes: I recently went from Mozilla 1.7.1 to Firefox/Thunderbird (Mozilla’s new browser/email client). Verdict so far: Mixed. I have gained a better email interface (faster and less errors, and the great ability to save searches as folder). Firefox is also a marginally better browser than Mozilla 1.7.1, with better bookmark handling, RSS inclusion (though I use Bloglines, so it shouldn’t matter much – or perhaps that was Thunderbird?) and more robustness.
However, I have lost the easy integration between email client and browswer, and the (admittedly not wonderful) HTML editor is gone. I cannot click on a link in an email and choose “open in new tab” or even “open it new window” – instead, it will open in the top window of Firefox, pushing aside whatever I had there. I can do ctrl-m to compose a new email message when in Firefox.
A good thing with F/T is that if one app crashes (and face it, it happens), then I don’t have to shut down the whole suite. But the integration I am referring to should be easy to accomplish. And how do I easily link in an editor under Firefox – I would very much like to be able to hit ctrl-e and go right ahead editing.
As it is looking now, I will probably keep Thunderbird but go back to Mozilla 1.7.1 for browsing and editing.

MacCharlie resurrection

Via Gizmodo comes this mocked up Mac Mini back-pack docking station. Let me be the first to point out that this looks uncanningly like one of the weirdest computer products ever to see the light of day: The MacCharlie, a wrap-around PC-compatible computer that turned a Macintosh into an IBM clone back in 1985.
Those were the days…..