Which Walter Smith am I?
There’s a wide variety of people named Walter Smith. This is sometimes of concern to customs officials at the airport. Fortunately, I have a few distinguishing features, like the following employment history.
I’m co-founder and CTO of CareZone. We recently launched the first version of our product that helps people organize and coordinate care for the people in their lives. We’ve received funding from NEA and Catamount, and we’re hiring!.
Jackson Fish Market
I co-founded a company called Jackson Fish Market. You can read our blog to see what we’re doing in detail, but our latest product is all about reading children’s books online. We’re also a user experience design consultancy. I’m the engineering department (with help from some excellent contractors).
Many of our products are Ruby/Rails-based websites, but we have one (Carbon Grove) based on Windows and Silverlight. We’ve made quite a few iPhone apps, as well. The children’s books site was particularly fun, as it involves a Rails website, a Java streaming video server, and a Flash book reader (with 3D rendering via PaperVision3D), along with a cloudy back end (S3 storage, Heroku hosting). Because, you know, if I don’t have to learn at least one crazy new technology per project, I get bored.
During the first couple of years, I worked mostly with Steve Capps in cooperation with the Internet Explorer and Windows Shell teams. This mostly consisted of suggestions, discussions, and internal UI prototypes, some of which made it recognizably into a product (e.g., the history, favorites, and search bars in IE).
After that, I was the start-up architect for the “PC Health” team in Windows. We analyzed Windows support calls and created various features (such as System Restore and System File Protection) to address the underlying causes. The timing was such that we shipped these features in Windows ME, but they eventually found their way into XP and Vista as well.
Then I joined the newly-created MSN Explorer team and helped to ship three versions of that product. As part of that project I initiated a technology known as SQM or CEIP, which is now used throughout Microsoft’s products to gather (anonymous!) real-world usage data. (I love real-world data.) I received a Microsoft Engineering Excellence Award in 2005 for this work.
Next, I went back to Windows, where I worked on new communications and Explorer features for Longhorn. That made my team one of the primary clients of WinFS, so I spent a lot of time trying to explain databases to UI developers, and vice versa. Most of this work didn’t make it into Vista after the “Longhorn reset”.
We took some of those ideas and started the Microsoft Max team, where we continued to work on new ways to organize, visualize, and share data. We shipped several incremental releases of Max that showed the power of peer-to-peer file sharing and WPF UI, but were only beginning to reflect our full intentions.
The next reorg eventually stopped work on Max the product, but left the team and general vision more or less intact, this time in Windows Live. I left Microsoft a few months after that. You can see some of the team’s work shipping now, including SkyDrive.
From 1988 to 1996, I worked for Apple Computer on Newton, a platform for little personal computers (also known as Personal Digital Assistants). The Newton technology was cancelled in 1998, a casualty of Apple’s refocusing after the Second Coming of Jobs, but it still has a small yet dedicated community of users, and even a few developers. Who knows, maybe Apple will open-source the stuff someday…it would be a nice gesture.
All the official Newton web sites at Apple have vanished, but there is still a lot of information available on the web. Try your favorite search engine to find the various archives.
My main technical contributions to Newton were:
- The unified data model that ties the Newton software together
- The compiler, interpreter, and runtime library for NewtonScript, the language used to write Newton applications
- The Newton object store, where all the persistent data in a Newton resides
In addition, I helped with other Newton stuff, like the OS kernel abstractions and the interaction between the view system, object model, and language (all of which are pretty cool, so you should read our papers).
I also spent some time on the company-wide software architecture review board.