Custom vs. iMac

In the near future I'll potentially have the ability to work from home for the most part, which means that a desktop-grade machine now makes sense to use. The question I'm considering now is whether I should buy an Apple iMac or go with a custom-built solution that can provide the best amount of digital processing for the buck. An iMac Pro is out of the question, and the data sets I'll be working with measure in the hundreds of gigabytes making cloud offerings both expensive and a data security concern. Something local is what's needed.

Pros of an iMac:

  • the stuff generally "just works"
  • already have all the software licenses required
  • already in the ecosystem
  • aesthetically pleasing
  • reduces the desire to upgrade given the complexities in doing so

Pros of a Custom-Built System:

  • able to expand on my own terms
  • can run macOS in a VM and still use key software
  • can use better-grade video and expansion cards
  • can really make use of the true speed of the hardware
  • better value proposition given ease of repair, upgrade, and operation

Portability will still matter when I'm out and about, but the current MacBook Pro will suffice when I'm away from home. What's needed is something with a good deal of processing power and memory to do the things notebooks generally cannot.

While I will likely not need to make any decision this year, given all the other expensive things that have been cutting into the savings as of late, this is certainly in the cards for 2019.

The Value of a Dollar

In addition to being "a Monday", the weather today is quite dreary. This combination often results in a headache that doesn't go away with medicine or rest, so coffee is in order. So after two cups of ineffectual office-supplied coffee, I made the trek across the street to Starbucks where I ordered a grande vanilla latte and was sticker-shocked when the person behind the counter asked for 496円 ... nearly 70円 more than I remember paying the last time I ordered one of these. Just about everything is becoming more expensive, but is the price worth the product or service? For a lot of things around this part of Japan, the answer is leaning ever more towards "no".


Halfway into my 3-month Spotify trial, I'm wondering if it makes sense to keep the subscription. A lot of the music I listen to is music from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s that I bought on CD or iTunes. Why would I want to pay for things I already own? Just the convenience of having stuff at my fingertips? Being able to listen to new albums from some artists before buying the whole item? It does not make logical or financial sense, but the alternatives have way too much friction involved ...

Bonus — Name These Tunes!

Here's a fun little bonus: name the three songs. Too easy? What year were they released? Find out next week!

Teachable Moments

On Monday I have a pretty important meeting with some colleagues in Europe to talk about the problems with "the Big CMS" that has been developed internally at the day job. While the conversation is important, language will need to be watched to ensure people are not too offended. The problem essentially boils down to this: due to early decisions, our multi-million dollar investments are costing more and more to maintain than to develop. A lot of very smart people have looked into the issue over the years and come away saying "That's just the way it is". That said, thanks to a little bit of investigative work, the problems needn't be permanent issues.

How does one go about saying "the money we've invested on resolving the performance issues has been a waste, primarily because the underlying software is poorly written" without being shown the door?

Data Sovereignty

As countries begin to enact data sovereignty laws, companies need to think about where information rests. Data Sovereignty is the idea that data are subject to the laws and governance structures within the nation it is collected. In addition to the concept of sovereignty, organisations should think about people's Right to be Forgotten and how to implement the expectations in their software.

In the first half of this episode, I talk about some of the ways data sovereignty is coming up at the day job, while in the second half I look at how this idea plus the Right to be Forgotten is implemented within 10Centuries.

Colour Blindness

People are often surprised to find out I cannot see every colour of the rainbow. My eyes do not like certain shades of red/green. This isn't something I think about very often, though, as I can operate in the world just fine. Is this because other designers take colour blindness into consideration, or is it because I've simply not experienced anything different?

True Colors

When design interfaces for applications and websites, I put a bunch of thought into how the site will look to people with differing visual acuities. This often results in people saying that my designs are "boring", as the primary goal is usability and readability rather than colourfulness. One area where these designs fall down, however, is with people who have very limited vision or are blind. This is something I have very little experience with and should spend more time learning about.

What Year Was That?

I've had an idea for a podcast in my head for well over two years. It hasn't been made primarily due to the fear of lawsuits and other unenjoyable consequences of using copywritten music, but what would the show sound like if it were made? Would there be an audience? While I can't easily answer the second question, I can play around with the first. This episode of DDM is a podcast within a podcast, where a very rough demo of a new show called "What Year Was That?" is presented for people to roll their eyes at.

Also in this show, the first known use of emoticons:

19-Sep-** 11:44    Scott E  Fahlman             :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers::-)Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use::-(

Being "That Guy"

Sometimes doing "the right thing" means that we need to make some enemies along the way. This was certainly the case this morning when I submitted a database server health check report to a number of middle and senior managers, showing that our investments are not being used to their potential. This isn't the fault of any one person, and the report never said anything negative about the people tasked with managing the corporate servers. Instead, I simply reported the findings, provided reasons for why certain items were a risk, and what actions could be taken to mitigate issues before they become problems.

Unfortunately, some people didn't like this one bit ...

(My apologies for the length and the noise. This episode was recorded while walking home from the local train station after returning from a day trip to HQ in Tokyo. Suffice it to say, I sound a bit tired.)


A lot of professionals say that "no one person can know everything about SQL Server", which sounds like a wonderful challenge to take up. While it may be a number of decades before I can claim to know "everything" about today's current version of Microsoft's powerful database engine, there are some things that I'd like to really understand. Temporal tables and in-memory OLTP are two items that I believe would be incredibly useful at the day job but, more importantly, I'd like to gain a deep understanding of how SQL Server uses the hardware its installed on. By looking at the specifications of the storage mediums and other system components, can a person mathematically calculate a server's actual limitations?

The answer, as with anything involving technology, will be "it depends", but with a solid foundation in the underlying subsystem, it should be possible to answer hard questions before throwing money at ill-understood problems.

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