Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ship Date!

The two main areas my waking consciousness lingers on are the latest technology and building race cars.

Sadly, my thankfully steady but drab day job testing software somehow long ago ceased to follow the exclamation-point filled headlines on the forefront of technology, but having been in this industry for a few years and marking the changes through the fabulous tech coverage of sites like Engadget and Gizmodo, the perspective of our progress in the past few years is truly dizzying. 16 Gigs on your fingernail? Amazing. Translate words real-time through the camera on your off the shelf handheld? Stupendous. Maybe even a good synchronized mobile Gmail client. Unbelievable.

The lovely online real-time media facilitates us hanging on the words and terrific evil plans for world domination of our tech overlords…they promise amazing gadgets, and often deliver them, sometimes even when they say they will. It’s a tough balance - my favorite mobile devices are announced, and have to survive a bevy challenges -- the company’s own ability to execute on time, carrier approval, and finally other competitive company’s friction just to make it into my hands. Not an easy job.

To date, I’ve participated in the dis-assembly of a number of reasonably nice street BMWs and other cars, all for the express purpose of making them better for racing against other people on the track. Every one of them had a plan behind them, a shipping schedule as it were, of when the dis-assembly, fab work, reassembly, upgrades, and testing needed to be complete, and when I’d unleash them on the unsuspecting racing public, with better or worse results.

It’s a simplified comparison to be sure, but there’s an interesting point about racing that’s not as prevalent with the tech industry...the hard ship date.

Sure, plenty of companies shoot for a device to be ready for the Christmas selling season, or for a magazine reviewer to have a piece of software to review it in time for a publication date, but there’s always an alternate plan or schedule slop to work with. But when I strap into the race car I’ve built, the grid marshal blows three blasts on his whistle, and I’ve got just about 5 minutes ‘til my ship date has arrived. Checklists should show tire pressures have been set, suspension aligned and tuned using any recent test data, wheel nuts torqued, gas and ballast set correctly. Yes, it’s easier to get a race car certified for competition, and to pre-flight it. But while dropping a call using an Infineon chipset can be frustrating, dropping a wheel off the side of your car at 110mph in turn 10 at Infineon Raceway invokes a whole new perspective on one’s problems.

So, hopefully in the weeks to come, I’ll find a few more things to say about racing, and about tech...all I need now is a hard ship date to get my attention away from other shiny things and tickle the keys on my laptop on a regular basis.


Infineon photo by Head On Photos. True to form, the BTM Motorwerks Spece30 pictured leading through Turn 10 was DQ'd from 2nd place on its first race for being a few pounds too light, then soundly won its second race, in abysmal February weather with the author behind the wheel.