New Digital Camera: Canon SD400

Last week my parents bought me a new camera, the Canon SD400 to replace my old Canon S230. My S230 and I had a long relationship, starting on December 12 2002 and ending last week. It’s now in the hands of my mother, who’ll undoubtidly take about twice as many pictures as I ever did on it. I’m liking the SD400 so far, with its 5 megapixels of glory producing pictures two to three times larger than my old camera. The best new feature on it for sure it the enhanced video capture: it now adjusts the while balance when moving the as well as allowing zooming during capture. It makes it much more useful to use. This is the fourth Canon Elph in our family (the first being the original APS one!) and they keep getting better.

I Love Text Messaging

I started using text messages in Helsinki after I’d bought a Nokia cell phone and a prepaid mobile card on the second day of the trip. I went in to a mobile store, asked for the cheapest phone possible and was given what’s been to date my best phone yet. Ever since then I’ve been hooked. It seemed that after I returned from that trip to Europe, text messaging has made its way in to my communication landscape.

Sprint phones finally have text messaging integrated and messaging between different carriers finally works. I remember when I’d tried something liked two years ago to send a message from Sprint’s “short mail” service to somebody on Verizon, it came out as total garbage. Now I use it all the time to make plans with friends, check up on things and basically drop a more informal note on people. I’m in New Jersey right now, and it’s been a great way to keep in touch with people in different time zones. It’s pretty amazing since September of 2004 to now, how much the way I communicate has been changed by this decade old technology.

The Beta of the Mail Beta

Lots of people who’ve worked on the Mail Beta have been posting on their blogs, so I’m going to join in the fun. My work in Kahuna/Mail Beta is generally around two areas: first, the architecture and deployment of the Kahuna servers and second, the beta of the product. In this post, I’m going to talk about a bit about the latter.

To kick off the Kahuna beta, we invited a select group of previous beta users to join our beta to help kick the tires, get some feedback, and see how well (or not well!) our servers ran and the product felt. After people joined the beta, we’ve had all sorts of feedback on how we designed the product to ideas (ranging from great to crazy) for future features. What’s been fantastic about this beta is it’s such an early copy of the code, that our beta testers are helping us co-design the future of the product. From what I can tell, they’re loving to pick apart all of our decisions and give us valuable feedback.

So where does all that feedback go from a tester? There are two primary mechanism. First, there are the newsgroups. I and many members of the product team participate in newsgroups, talking directly with our beta testers, asking them questions and answering theirs. The newsgroup is quite active, with over 1400 posts in the last three weeks. We get to directly interact with our users, which is fulfilling for us since most people like the beta, and I imagine great for the beta testers since they can easily get in touch with people making decisions on the product.

Second, is the connect.microsoft.com site where beta testers enter bugs against the Mail Beta. The bugs that are filed on the Connect site directly go in to our product’s bug database (called Product Studio) where a dedicated group of beta team members scrub the bugs to eliminate duplicates or mark bugs that we’ve already had planned to fix. They also communicate the status of the bugs back to the beta testers. To give you an idea, about 700 bugs have been filed since we started and of that, roughly 250 have made it past our beta team’s scrubbing.

If a bug genuine and genuinely new, we then assign it to a PM on the product team to take a look at, who will do another round of “triaging” (i.e. bug scrubbing) before assigning to a developer to get fixed. It sounds a bit complex and perhaps high in process, but we do it so that we can keep our developers working on the most important features and bugs.

In another post later, I’ll hopefully explain a bit about the other half of what I’ve been doing here: the architecture and deployment of the beta.