Just keep walking…

I have some advice for the average citizen of the UAE. Just keep walking. Its OK. This advice comes after watching the escalator while eating my Subway BMT at BurJuman Mall in Dubai. I have actually done this before in other countries…well, not sure if I had done it with BMT in hand, but I definitely have watched people negotiating the escalator.

My mother and I noticed another wierd walking trend among a different group of people a few years ago. We were watching passengers getting off the cruise ship we were on heading to buy a load of crap at some hot green port and wondered why we were able to pick the old from the young from 5 stories up when we couldn’t see their faces. We both stared down the side of the boat and one after one, could identify their age just by the way they walked. It turned out the older they got, the more they waddled and wobbled. Imagine a stride when you walk. There is a point when you feet are as close as they ever get in that stride. That distance gets further and further apart as you get older…or at least it does when getting off a cruise ship.

Anyway, back to the escalator. I noticed that the average Emiratii (Dubai-en…whatever the right term is) stops for a half second to figure out whether the escalator is safe or not. I sometimes notice that in western countries but it typically only happens with women. In Dubai, even the men pause, waiting for a full step to show up. But everytime a westerner comes to the same point, they don’t break the rythym of the walk. They just keep going, trusting that the step they need will emerge from under their feet. It always does.

But I am not sure why this is. Its not a money thing. The locals here are all ranges of rich and I noticed some dirt poor construction workers having the same problem. I am wondering if it is more to do with how early in life you first experienced the moving staircase. For me, and for most Americans, the escalator experience was something we mastered at a very young age. And while Dubai is as modern as it gets today, I believe the massive malls are a relatively recent addition to the landscape. So just keep walking. That magical step will appear and the escalator is not something to fear.

License Types in Alchemy

When you purchase Alchemy, you can purchase several different license types. Administrator gives all knowing access to everything. Index can still add content. Search just searches. Administrator costs the most, and Search the least. So a company will typically get many Search licenses, a few  Index licenses, and minimal Administrators. But when building applications, some people aren’t aware that you can change the license type of your application. You should always pick the license type based on the type of activities your application will perform.

So to run an application with the features of Administrator, just load your app as you normally would. If you want to use an Index Station license you need to have the following line before you load any databases:

So typically this would show up right before:

But the important part of that command is when it loads the databases in the options file. You could replace it with this line to achieve the same result:

where blah.ald is the name of a database.

But I mentioned that there was a Search license you could consume instead. Achieving this it turns out is not easy…well, its easy to achieve, but learning how isn’t. I asked around internally and many people had no idea. It wasn’t until I got to the class this week and someone suggested this that I learned how to get this to work. What you need to do is to release the PutOptionsString line with this:

On one hand this kind of makes sense. But it is so completely different from the PutOptionsString line that its not that intuitive. By calling that line before either adding a database or loading the options file, you consume only a Search license and not the more expensive Administrator license.

A Simple Search Application for Alchemy

 One of my students this week asked about creating an extremely simple search client for Alchemy. Out of the box, Alchemy Search can be fairly easy to use, but there are still a lot of buttons that one could press. And if all you want is a simple search to show all the documents across all your repositories it may be a bit too much. So I created what has to be one of the simplest UIs possible:

As you type in the search box at the top left, results start showing up in the list below:

Then you just click on a document and you get a preview:

You can continue typing and your search is refined. No need to press enter. So how did I get here? Well, its just a simple Windows form application with a SplitContainer. On the right side I have the Alchemy Viewer, and on the left is a text box and a listbox. Whenever the text in the text box changes, it does the search again. One of the benefits of Alchemy is that the search is extremely quick, so this app is amazingly quick.

When I do the search I have to ensure that the text doesn’t end with and or or. If it does, then don’t pass it to the search because those are keywords we use. Then I clear the textbox and clear the query. The search itself is easy:

This also populates the listbox. Then when I click on an item, I tell the Viewer to ViewItem(). It took all of 20 minutes to write ugly code while exhausted. Give me another 30 minutes to clean it up and I might be willing to share it. Of course, this assumes you have Alchemy.

Why I hate flying alliance partners

The promise is great. Earn your miles on one airline and reap the rewards regardless of the carrier. So when I fly 50,000 or 100,000 miles on United, I should get the benefits on Lufthansa, and the other Star Alliance partners as well. But it doesn’t always work out that way. I flew today from Sydney to Los Angeles on United and got bumped up to Business. But the rest of the flight back to Amsterdam was on Lufthansa. I was told on the phone that I couldn’t reserve a Emergency Exit row until I got to the airport. United has this rule too, unless you are Premier Exec or better. But Lufthansa said it was for all passengers. When I got to the airport I was told those seats are given to Star Alliance Gold members (which I am) and have been gone for a while. So I was stuck in cattle class for 10 hours. Then in Frankfurt the Nazi Lounge guards denied me access to the Senator Lounge. I could prove that I was Premier Exec and that I was flying International on Lufthansa, but I was told that this was a Lufthansa Lounge and that I could try the United lounge several terminals away.

Yeah, I know, some of you are going to tell me that you don’t go to the lounges and its ok. But when you spend 30+ hours on a plane, spending a few in a lounge before your next flight makes things a bit more bearable. You get to unwind a bit, stretch out, let down your guard, charge the laptop, etc. It makes a big difference.

The next day I was on a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Dubai and I mentioned the incident to one of my seatmates. his reaction? Ugh….Lufthansa…very bad….no go….

Are they serious??? No booing in school games???

When traveling, I love to get a bit of news from home…whether that means general US news, or more specific to Seattle and other cities I have lived in. The New York Times Reader made this possible starting a few months ago. I can download the latest news when online, and then view it in a format similar to the original paper when I am on a plane or in a hotel. I was very excited to see the the Seattle PI and the London Daily Mail recently offer similar applications.

That said, I am amazed and perhaps a little disgusted by what makes the front page. In the Seattle PI, there is a story about booing at high school games. Apparently the school officials want to promote a more positive atmosphere at these games. And booing does not fit into the “positive” definition. Are they joking? I think these people are getting a little too politically correct. These are games. Someone wins and someone loses. The losers suck and the winners rock. One should do everything possible to ensure that the right team loses. If that means chanting satanic verses at the other team, so be it. Its a game!!! All of us have been to these things and we all booed, but most of us turned out ok. But it was one quote that really astonished me:

“I don’t know why people think it’s acceptable to boo in the first place,” Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Director Mike Colbrese said. “It’s a pretty novel concept to me.”

Uh, Mike? Did you really say that? Did you really mean to say that? Did you grow up home-schooled??? Is it right to have such a person in charge of a group that runs games between schools? He obviously had no experience attending these games as a youth.

As long as we are at it, how about we ban people from attending the games. In fact it may solve everything if the day after the game, everyone is sent to a YouTube url with a video of the game…..as long as they turn off the comments section for that video…