Thursday, July 24, 2008

What the Inca’s taught me about Sustainable Pace.

I spent the last 2 weeks in Peru, during which I hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. 26 miles of very steep up and down hiking between 10,000 and 14,000 feet: where the air has much less oxygen. Many of you who know me, might have guessed that I’m not quite ready for such activity…

The 2nd day we went straight up 4,000 feet, and by mid-day I was exhausted and found it very hard to breath. I wanted to continue, of course, so slept though lunch, drank a lot of electrolytes (not Gatorade, this stuff tasted awful) , took carbo-gel, everything they recommended. Still when we took off for the afternoon, I could barely go 40 feet without having to sit-down. Finally, the porters tried to lift me, but even that was too much. I asked for oxygen, but was told that every time they gave it people did better, then got worse. Finally my girlfriend and I decided to have me evacuated out.

However, as we looked around to tell the guides, they were 50 feet ahead, in their own conversation. Christina, my girlfriend, then had this suggestion, “try taking 4 steps, then stopping and catching your breath.” I tried it, four (small) steps then two breaths. It came to about a meter at a time, but I didn’t have to sit-down. When we reached our guides, they had the oxygen out, but we refused it, saying “this is working, let’s try it out”. I continued, without sitting down, like this for about 3 miles. Later, as it got steeper steps, I reduced my rate to 2 steps, then 2 breaths. Then remainder of the trip I used this method as we continued up and down between the mountain passes. Constantly monitoring my breathing, and varying my steps from as little as 2 steps, to as many as 20. My metrics became clear, If I had enough breath to talk, I was going too slow. If I couldn’t breathe through my nose (in other words, if I needed to breathe through my mouth) I was going too fast.

And in the end of the 4 days, I arrived at Machu Picchu, and the end of the line, but with the whole group.

Now, hiking 26 miles, 4 steps at a time gives you a lot of time to think, and I got to wondering about sustainable pace and agile programming. We give some lip service to sustainable pace, but mainly we define it as a 40 hour work week. Normal development methods end up in such trouble that they don’t normally come close to sustainable pace.

Also, on the trail, I knew exactly how much progress I was making. I knew if I was going forward. I could say, “look, I’m 3 feet closer to Machu Picchu than I was 30 seconds ago.” But most projects don’t have sufficient tests to realize if they are moving forward, backwards or in circles.

So I wanted to start a discussion about refining sustainable pace for agile programming. There are (I think) 3 areas of this discussion

1) Metrics of sustainable pace for the team and for individuals

2) Techniques for going faster, yet staying sustainable (like my hiking sticks)

3) Metrics for judging progress and speed of the pace

For now, I’d like to focus only on the 1st question, what metrics do you use to tell if you are going too slow, or going too fast?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

How to rip audio books

So i listen to a lot of audio books, and here's how i create the mp3 of them.

we are going to create bite size files about 30 minutes each. then label them, and create the id tags. finally we'll attach a picture.

Make sure the book is UNABRIDGED

1) get a ipod - i prefer the nano.

2) download audiograbber & install.
3) download lame encoder & install.
4) set your encoding bitrate to 64k & stereo, this is a very high quality audio book.
5) select the last track and copy the end location, paste this into the end location for the 2nd track. To do this double click a track. select the Sectors>Last. copy.
6) select and copy the end location for a middle track (usually around 150,000)
7) paste the middle as the end of track 1 and beginning of track 2
8) rip
tips) i like setting the auto query of FreeDB, setting the disk to eject when finished, and not auto selecting all the tracks by default

Naming & Labeling.
the file should look like:
Keith Ferrazzi - Never eat alone [02x20] Don't Keep Score.mp3

usually i don't know the chapter names so they are blank.
9) The total number of tracks is #cds X 2 (so this book is 10 cd's)
10) The labeling schema looks like this - *author - *title [*trackx*totaltracks]*chapter.mp3
11) after the files are named, you need to set the idtags, so download jj mp3 renamer
12) add files
13) select files
14) first i convert from filename to ID3 Tag (both) using the format
*Artist - *Album [*Trackx*Comment].mp3
15) then i convert from filename to ID3 Tag again, but using the format
*Artist - *Title.mp3
16) Last, to add the photo add these files to itunes (drag and drop), select them, right click and pick info, then drag a photo from your web browser, i usually do a image lookup on google to find it.

And there you go...