Benchmade Volli vs Kershaw Blur

Benchmade Volli on top, Kershaw Blur on bottom.

I just got my hands on a Benchmade Volli, and thought I’d do a quick comparison to the EDC knife that it’s replacing, the Kershaw Blur (black non-serrated blade). Here are my observations so far:

  • The Volli is clipped so that it sits tip-up in the pocket. The Blur is tip-down, so that’s taking some getting used to.
  • The handle on the Volli is noticeably thicker/fatter than the handle on the Blur. Since the clip also has a higher profile, the entire package is quite a bit bulkier in a pocket
  • The AXIS lock on the Volli is really nice, and the locking mechanism along the spine is a nice touch — you can double-lock the blade open for heavier work.
  • The Blur has a faster spring-assist, and a more satisfying “clunk” when coming open. I think the sound/clunk comes partially from the aluminum frame (vs the Volli’s “G10” handle, which is some kind of plastic/fiber stuff).
  • The Volli has zero blade-play, which the Blur has a bit.
  • The thumb-stud on the Blur is “one-sided”, and has a bit sharper of an edge on it, which can be good or bad.
  • Because of the slightly wider handle (and thus wider arc to get around it), I find the Volli harder to close one-handed.
  • The straight edge on the Volli’s blade is a big plus for me. The slightly curving blade on the Blur really annoyed me when sharpening it.
  • Handle length is (almost?) identical. Blade is a little longer on the Blur.
  • The Blur is a little heavier .
  • I really like the blade grind on the Volli.
  • The Volli’s blade is a little thinner than the Blur, and is also ground down along the spine to make it appear even thinner still.
  • Since the handle on the Volli is plastic, I guess I won’t be able to use it as reliably as a bottle opener (note the scratched out surface on the Blur, where the blade meets the handle 🙂 ).

Overall, I’m happy with the Volli, and will definitely keep is as my EDC (at least for now). I do think that if you could take the Volli blade and put it on something resembling the Blur handle, but keep the AXIS lock, you might really have a winner.

The Year Without Pants

Today is kind of exciting, although it’s been a long time coming so it’s not much of a surprise for me 🙂 Today Scott Berkun, the author of books such as The Myths of Innovation, and Confessions of a Public Speaker, releases his latest book, The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work.

The book gives an inside look at what it’s like to work at Automattic, and to work on something like WordPress.com. Scott was my direct team lead (of the team that I now lead) while he was at Automattic, so the book contains a lot of personal interaction with yours truly. It also happens to be a fun read with a bunch of interesting insights into distributed teams, management, and the open-source-based culture we have at Automattic, and which may well be the future of many more companies.

I’ve read versions all the way back to some of the first drafts, and am right now reading the “final” version which I received in hard copy. You should go get it and read it as well.

Technology Startups As Military Special Forces

Anyone who works in a remotely corporate environment has no doubt heard a bunch of (often ridiculous) military metaphors describing business-as-usual. We’re divided into “squads” and talk about “strategic thinking” and “tactical mistakes”. We develop “mission statements” (more about that later) and managers demand that we “go in for the kill”, all the while referring to their top executives as their “Generals” and modeling the hierarchy of their companies around the command structures seen in the military. While a lot of this is just the strange glorification of business (and war), it turns out that some of it makes a lot of sense (on a very metaphorical level), and might just be evolving right along with military tactics. John Robb has done some amazing work analyzing the application of open source concepts to warfare, I’m going to do something like the opposite and look at applying special forces operating concepts to technology startups.

I recently finished reading Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice, by (Vice Admiral) William H. McRaven, who credited as organizing and executing the mission that brought down Osama bin Laden. He is now the Commander of US Special Operations Command, so he’s somewhat of an authority on the subject. While reading the book (which is a really interesting read in its own right, I highly recommend it), I couldn’t help but notice a lot of corollaries between what I was reading and the structure and function of tech startups (and perhaps smaller units within larger technology companies). Let’s look at how Special Operations Warfare compares to working at a startup.

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Ready Player One — Ernest Cline (Book Review)

NOTE: I am fully aware that at times in the review below, I sound like a ridiculous book-critic or something. I do not care. Also, links to Amazon contain my affiliate id.

Ready Player One

A few weeks ago I attended the New York TimesTimesOpen Open Source Science Fair on behalf of Automattic/WordPress.com. As part of my “thank you” bag, I got a copy of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. I left it on my bedside table in a stack of other books which I’d thus far neglected to start, let alone finish (not to mention all the unopened titles on my Kindle).

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Hunting for Headphones: ZAGG Smartbuds

Since I’m mostly using them on an iPhone and a MacBook Pro, I have 2 extra requirements on my earphones (in addition to sound quality etc).

  1. Full remote (Play/Pause, fast forward etc)
  2. Inline microphone for hands free use on the phone (and for Voice Control)

Recently, my Klipsch earbuds suffered the wrath of the TSA when they were munched in the rollers of an x-ray machine. Time for new headphones. I ended up ordering a set of ZAGG Smartbuds. At literally half the price of my Klipsch, I didn’t know what to expect, but have been so far pleasantly surprised: (more…)

Waking up with Wakemate

The age of the quantified self is coming, whether you like it not. I’ve recently started experimenting with a few aspects of this idea, with sleep being one of the first that I was interested to look at, since I’ve had a quite a lot of trouble with getting good sleep over the years.

My theory has always been that after I had glandular fever about 12 years ago, sleep has never left me feeling rested or fully revived. That’s been very difficult to quantify or keep track of though, other than saying “I feel crappy in the morning.”

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Balsamiq Mockups: Wireframes Made Easy (and Fun!)

I used to use OmniGraffle Pro for all of my diagramming needs, including for wireframes. When I needed to do some wireframing for a client, I decided it was about time I found some better stencils (pre-built shapes) for OmniGraffle so that I could get these things done more easily and consistently. That turned into a wild goose chase, which ended with OmniGraffle no longer loading properly and an approaching deadline to have my diagrams done. But then I found Balsamiq Mockups, and all was well. (more…)

Nokia E71 NAM Real World Usage Review

Now that I’ve been using the Nokia E71 NAM for a few weeks, I wanted to post a follow-up review covering some of the more “day-to-day reality” aspects of the phone. I’m going to bullet-point my observations/comments for brevity’s sake, and as with my initial review, any comparisons made here are as compared to my Nokia E61:
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Nokia E71 NAM First Impressions

A few weeks ago, I got an email that I almost discarded as spam, asking me if I would like to try out a Nokia phone for a few weeks. As it turns out, the email was completely legitimate, and the offer was genuine. The good folks over at WOMWorld Nokia wanted to send me a Nokia E71 NAM (the NAM is for North AMerica, since there’s a slightly different European version) so that I could try it out and see if  I liked it. Either way, I was welcome (encouraged) to write about it, talk about it, and generally let people know what I thought of it. This is the first of 2 posts that I will be making about the phone and the experience I had with it. I wanted to do one as a “first impressions” post, and then one at the end of the test period (unfortunately, I have to send it back 🙁 ) with more detail on my experiences.

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That Feeling of Loss

City of Golden Shadow River of Blue Fire Mountain of Black Glass Sea of Silver Light

Am I the only one that has that feeling of loss or loneliness when I finish a good book? (or in this case, four good books?)

I’ve been reading the “Otherland” series, by Tad Williams for about 3 years now (4?), progressively acquiring each of the books in the series, then re-reading the ones before it so that I get the whole story. In doing this, I have obviously “spent a lot of time” with Renie, !Xabbu, Sellars, Sorensen, Ramsey, Orlando, Fredericks and all the other characters in the books. Now that I’ve finished them all – it’s over. I feel like I’ve lost a whole group of friends.

It’s strange how you can develop such an attachment to characters of a book which are completely ficticious. Personally, I think this comes partially from my history on the Internet. I have spent so much time online that the characters in a book are often more realistic, more “detailled” in their background, descriptions and actions than other people who I have spent hours discussing things with, worked on entire projects and laughed over common jokes.

With the detailed writing of professionals like Tad Williams, I often actually know more about the personality, physical appearance and mental processes of the characters in the books that I read, than I do about the people I meet on the ‘net.

The only up-side of finishing the Otherland series is that now I can finally read “Google Hacks”, the book that I wrote a small section of. I’ve had my complimentary copy of the book (from O’Reilly) for a few months now, but haven’t had a chance to read it because I was too busy trapped in Otherland and the Grail Network (read the book if you have no idea what I’m talking about here :).

I will strongly recommend Otherland (yes, all 4,000-ish pages of it) to anyone who likes science fiction, and especially if you can deal with the idea of fully-immersive virtual reality – it really is a treat.