Five Things You Likely Don't Know About Me

I've been "tagged" by fellow Technical Evangelist, Brian Keller, in his recent post. And if I decide to play along, I'm supposed to reveal five deep, dark secrets that nobody knows about me. I try to be pretty open with people, and I've already blogged about a number of things that might qualify for a topic like this:

  • Wallpaper Images - If you've followed my blog, you know that I really like to take macro photos, and I've added many of them to this collection. For an interesting bit of trivia, the creatively named Leaf 02 image is one of the wallpaper images that ships with Windows Vista. As a matter of fact, it's the second wallpaper choice during a fresh installation. For even more arcane trivia, the photo was taken in front of Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West, Florida. Betcha didn't know that. :-)
  • Embarrassing Music - I don't create "music" like this anymore...and you can thank me later.
  • My Candy Cigarette Addiction - I haven't had any of these in a couple years, but my mouth waters just thinking about them.
  • How Much Is One Million? - A journey to discover what one million really means.
  • MCROSFT/Linux License Plate - When I lived in Michigan, my license plate was: MCROSFT. It was a constant reminder to be courteous to the cars around me. influenced my driving (insert mandatory "driving under the influence" joke here). For more trivia, Eric Maino (mentioned in the post) is now a full-time Microsoft employee.
  • Interviewing at Microsoft - One of my most popular blog posts, even though it didn't get me the job.
  • Nostalgia - Among the other items I mention, I wrote the first uninstall application for Windows. I thank Bill Macrhone and PC Magazine for the deluge of orders I received.
  • Make Your Own Mini-Galaga and the related Mini Pac-Man with Sound - Does this just scream "geek!?" Yeah...I thought so. But if you ever visit my office in building 18, you can see both of these on my bookshelf.

But, I don't want to be labeled a cop out. So, I'll try to come up with five new, revealing, and heretofore unchronicled items.

  • Now Showing (a.k.a. - I created and ran the first nationwide movie showtime site on the internet. At its peak, it contained listings for nearly 12,000 theaters. I hosted trailers and photos, had discussion forums for each movie, and allowed registered users to grade each one. It was Web 2.0 before the term had ever been invented. The most popular feature of the site allowed a user to pick their favorite theaters, and the system would automatically e-mail them updated showtimes whenever they changed (typically Friday mornings and around holidays). You expect these features today, but they've been around for a long time. Here's a 1996 version (thanks, Internet Archive). The Cinemark theaters in the midwest were one of the first chains to provide me with showtimes, but of course now, they have Fandango.
  • Library Version 7 for the Commodore 64 - Although I've written literally hundreds of programs in my 27+ years of computing history, I'll pick this one, because if you owned a Commodore 64 computer, and you used bulletin board systems to download software, it's highly likely that you used Library v7. It ended up becoming the version that everyone used to pack multiple files into a single "library" file. You can think of it as a precursor to something like PKZIP, but none of the Library utilities ever did any compression. Besides being nearly 100% bug free, it used a short assembly language routine to "unfold" the screen in some gratuitous visual glitz. That short routine was lifted and re-used by many later programs. Eventually, the Library technology was supplanted by Lynx which used a much smarter algorithm (it padded each file with enough data to fill out a disk sector, so breaking apart the Lynx file was a matter of simply updating the file table on the diskette without rewriting any of the individual files). Brilliant.
  • Roger Ebert - Speaking of the Commodore 64 and movies, I wrote the program that Roger Ebert used to submit his movie reviews to the Chicago Sun Times. Roger lived near us in Michigan, and I worked for a local computer store at the time. I remember that the protocol was non-standard, or at least something that I wasn't familiar with (and I knew protocols quite well, since I had also written a multi-user bulletin board system with XMODEM, YMODEM, and ZMODEM support).
  • 5.0 Review Score - Frankly, I hesitated to even include this on on the list, but since it was a couple years ago, and since we no longer use a numeric review system at Microsoft, I figure I can now spill the beans. I have been encouraged by many of the people who do know about this to share it with others, because it was commonly considered an impossible score to achieve. Without going into a lot of detail, our old annual review process ended up giving each employee a review score between 2.5 to 5.0, and it was commonly referred to as "The Curve." I was fortunate to work on a lot of impactful projects that year, but easily the most challenging and satisfying was NxOpinion (click on the Technology case video in the upper-right corner to see me sweating down in the Dominican Republic). Trivia: Fellow Evangelist Jennifer Ritzinger was responsible for putting together the case study, and she was just off-camera in most of the interview footage. I just noticed that Jennifer doesn't have a blog that I can find! Guess I'll have to talk to her about that...
  • Good at Math - In grade school, I ended up going to the annual State of Michigan math competition and placed 12th overall. It doesn't sound that impressive to me now, but it was quite an experience at the time. Those same math scores triggered the local school district to pair me up with someone from a nearby community college to learn about computers. I hadn't even heard the term computer. But, because my principal, Tony Belski, asked if I was interested in learning about them, I said yes. I said yes to anything the principal asked of me. :-) Thank you for my interest and career in computers, Mr. Belski!

Now, according to the rules of the game, I'm supposed to tag a few more people, so here goes: Brian Benincasa, Steve Marx, and Carter Maslan. You're all it!