Checking in after another long weekend ... (coding away over here :) ...
I had a good time today taking a few hours out to redesign this awesome iPhone 5 gear case... Made it thinner and lighter, and eliminated a seam. I really like Tinkercad, what a great tool. And how cool that it's free ... could see such a powerful tool costing $500, easily.
Remember I was wondering what happened to the desktop apps? Well here's an example of the strong trend in the other direction: Wolfram Mathematica now works in your browser. Will the UI be as good as Mathematica on the desktop? I doubt it. Will it be as fast, or as responsible? Almost seems like it can't be. And yet this the trend, everything has to be cloud-hosted and available in a browser. Pretty soon we'll all be running Chrome OS because that's all we need.
Seth Godin: What everyone reads. "Everyone used to read the morning paper because everyone did. Everyone used to read the selection of the book of the month club, because everyone did. And everyone used to watch the same TV shows too. It was part of being not only informed, but in sync... Today, of course, that's awfully unlikely." Well... everyone does read my blog :)
Dave Winer: the lost art of software testing. Not entirely lost, but certainly under-emphasized. Interestingly this trend we've been talking about with desktop applications moving to the web exacerbates the under emphasis; with cloud-hosted applications it's easier to fix bugs on the fly.
Grandmaster clash. "One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed." A great story about a great cast of characters. Chess is interesting if only for the personalities of the world's best players.
MG Siegler outlines The Plan to Save Radio Shack. "My plan to revive RadioShack would be to harken back to the old days with a twist of the way things currently are. I'd create an 'Apple Store for everything.'" Definitely worth a try... but curating "everything" to find great stuff is not easy.
To 6 or not to 6, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of new iPhone 6 fans, or to take arms against a sea of media, and by opposing stay with the more reasonably sized and perfectly capable iPhone 5S.
You are alive, so you have seen: millions of people are standing in long lines to buy a spiffy new iPhone 6. But as a contented iPhone 5S owner - who has safely upgraded to IOS 8 - what's in it for me to join them?
I have seen an iPhone 6 in person - one of our interns Carissa Kaufman spent nearly all day Friday in line, and emerged victorious with one, which I subsequently saw, held, and used - and I must tell you the size is not compelling. I've had an Amazon Fire phone for a couple of months now and it is exactly the same size, and while the larger screen is nice for reading, and the larger keyboard is nice for typing, the larger size overall is not nice for putting in my pocket and carrying around. Overall I'm happy with the 5S size. So what are the compelling features of the 6?
Well, the camera is better, everyone says so. And I believe them. And I use my phone's camera a lot. But the 5S has a great little camera, so I'm not sure the difference makes upgrading to the 6 worth it.
The 6 supports Apple Pay. That might do it for me, we'll see. It will depend a lot on which merchants adopt NFC readers; if they become ubiquitos, maybe using Apple Pay will be compelling. I am quite willing to abandon a pocket full of easily spoofed or stolen plastic cards.
The 6 has this little M8 motion processor, which means it can more accurately be used as a motion sensor than the 5S, which has an M7 processor. I use the Argus app all the time, which measures my motion, and it uses the M7 on the 5S. And it works pretty well. The possibility that it could work better is ... not that interesting.
The 6 supports WiFi calling. Well, that's nice. There are most definitely times when I'm in a building where I have WiFi but no cell signal. But I can always use Skype (it makes voice calls over WiFi), and frequently do. So I'm not sure that's compelling.
And the 6 supports VoLTE. This means, you can make a call and continue to use data over the same cell connection. AT&T customers have had this for years, but I'm a Verizon person, and its always difficult to balance making calls with using data. How often have I been on the phone in my car and wanted to use Google Maps? Still, I can always use Skype to get around this (it makes voice calls over the data connection). So I'm not sure that's compelling either.
Finally, there's the allure of having a 6. Can a techno-savvy leading-edge software engineer resist the urge to have the latest and greatest? So far, yes. Stay tuned.
So, last night I took the plunge. I had to do it, we all will. I installed IOS 8. I didn't like IOS 7, and IOS 8 is ... slightly better. There are little bug fixes and tweaks all over the place. Best of all, most things haven't changed. So be it.
Here are the most important new features of IOS 8. The camera and the keyboard are the two things you'll notice first. Much of the other stuff is hidden. If you want to know everything, here you go. Oh, and after you install IOS 8, here are three new keyboards to try. The ability of third parties to extend IOS with various extensions might end up being the biggest feature of IOS 8, but it will take time to find that out.
So far I rate this a non-event. Whew and yay. Now I can only hope that IOS 9 will restore some of IOS 6; I miss buttons that look like buttons and sliders that look like sliders. In the meantime I'm happy that nothing seems badly broken, a low bar.
This is a post about cycling, and an amazing athlete named Jens Voigt. Even if you don't like cycling, you'd like Jens. He's not the best cyclist ever, but he might be the most popular. He is the everyman of cycling, the hard worker who over achieves, the grown man who acts like a little boy and makes everything fun. He's best known for his trademark phrase, "shut up legs" :) He's also had an amazingly long career, which is now, finally coming to a close, at the age of 43. Think of him as the Cal Ripken of cycling.
SO Jens just recently "retired", but on his way out the door he decided maybe he'd try to break a forty-year old record, the furthest distance one man can ride in one hour. This record has a lot of history, it has been broken many times since Eddy Merckx set the "current" record in 1972, but by cyclists who were not using road-race-legal equipment. Recently the UCI have reset the record so that only attempts using road-race-legal equipment on the date of the attempt will be valid. Jens is going to attempt to break the record using a legal bike, and if he does - which is quite likely - he'll leave the sport on top, having broken its oldest record. For a lot more about Jens and the Hour record, see this article.
Jens is going to make his attempt tomorrow ... GOOD LUCK JENS! They're calling this the "shut up hour", and he's going to have to make a long sustained effort. But because he'll be using "current" road-race-legal equipment, he'll have a significant aerodynamic advantage over Eddy Merckx, and he could well do it. Just having solid disk wheels is a huge advantage. On the eve of his attempt Velonews have published everything you want to know about it, even including his planned playlist. Glad to see Metallica and AC/DC in there! And Europe's "Final Countdown" is perfect for ... the final countdown. Jens is going to be targeting an incredible 370 watts average, and if he can do it he'll most likely break the record. I for one will certainly be rooting for him... Trek have setup a special page where you can watch the attempt (11:00PT).
We all know, mobile app ecosystems are all the rage now. Everything has to have an Apple app and an Android app. In mobile there's a definite trend in favor of native user interfaces for speed and usability. Every website has to have mobile apps also, and any site with *only* a web interface is considered behind. Yet ... nobody feels this way about the desktop. Nothing has to have an OS X app and a Windows app. There's no trend on desktops in favor of native user interfaces, despite the fact that they have an even bigger advantage in speed and usability over web apps. No website is considered behind if they don't have a desktop interface. Weird.
Consider Facebook. On mobile platforms everyone uses their apps, not their website. But on the desktop everyone uses the web interface, they don't even have desktop apps. Same thing for Twitter. And Instagram. And LinkedIn. And Google search. And eBay. Amazon don't have a desktop app. Nor do Macy's, or Overstock, or Buy.com. Where are the mapping apps for the desktop? I challenge you to name one website which has a desktop app.
It isn't any harder to create desktop apps than mobile apps. They use the same technology, and have the same advantages in speed and usability. Late-model operating systems like OS X Snow Leopard and Win 8 have app stores for the desktop, just like iTunes and Google Play for mobile apps. But they're ghost towns. I don't get it.
I grant you that there are more mobile devices than desktops, and the mobile market is growing faster. But the Windows and Mac desktop user communities are by no means negligible. Furthermore people are more willing to invest in apps on desktops than they are on mobile. Compare the prices of Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite on the desktop against their mobile brethren. So in addition to user experience, websites are leaving money on the table.
When I look at the mobile apps I use most often, for each there is a corresponding website which I use on my desktop. And in each case a native app would improve the user experience. Facebook. LinkedIn. Yelp. Twitter. Strava. OpenTable. Etc etc etc. Yet none of these companies have or are working on desktop apps.
What's even stranger? Most of these websites have APIs, so third-party developers could jump in to fill the void by creating third-party desktop apps. But these are rare. TweetDeck is the only one that even comes to mind. Not only has the opportunity of creating desktop apps eluded websites, it has escaped independent developers also.
Hi everyone! Thought I'd poke my head out of my self-imposed isolarium to check in with the world. How's it going out there? In here it has been quite busy - lots of coding going on, and lots of other stuff also - and I see the blogosphere has been busy as well...
Wine is sunlight held together by water... Galileo
I for one like U2, and am happy that Apple have arranged for me to get their latest album Songs of Innocence free. Why this act of marketing should have made so many people angry I cannot imagine. If it were a band I didn't care for, so be it, I would simply delete the album. Sheesh.
File under no good deed goes unpunished.
One more comment: it's actually a good album. Says me. I'm listening to it right now ... :)
And yet: Apple's $100M gift to U2 was not cool. "For a company that makes products that are supposedly about personal creativity, they seem to focus on elite creativity a bit too much." Yep, good point.
Pretty cool: the Sweden Solar System. "The Sun is represented by the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, the largest hemispherical building in the world. The inner planets can also be found in Stockholm but the outer planets are situated northward in other cities along the Baltic Sea." I love that they've embraced the "outer planets" like Eris, Sedna and Quaor.
Interesting think piece from Josh Newman: To have or to hold. GenX-ers want to own stuff, while GenY-ers just want to be able to access it. Seems like a key tipping point which pivots around the availability of nearly everything as a service.
I wonder if this one could have made the list, too: Russian billionaire's $300M yacht. I actually saw this vessel anchored outside Marina Del Rey last Wednesday, must be too big to enter the harbor. Looked wildly cool.
Driving home last night I passed by Pepperdine University's awesome "Waves of Flags" 9/11 tribute. Beautiful and sobering in the misty night.
I was walking through the seemingly endless columns of American flags waving in the night breeze when suddenly I came upon a French flag. And it suddenly struck me that each flag represented an individual death.
I hope they never stop doing this, and I hope I never stop feeling chills when I see it.
Apple Day! Yay, we the consumers of the world get ... new iPhone 6s! Bigger and better (in fact, "bigger than bigger"). And we also get Apple Pay - wow, most interesting - and the much-rumored Apple Watch. Well in the latter case we don't get it yet; Apple decided to announce this device family six months ahead of its launch date, presumably to enable third-party developers to create applications ahead of its initial launch.
So, what do I think?
The new phones are very nice ... I will most likely get an iPhone 6, not an iPhone 6 Plus, because I'm not a big fan of big phones. Other than the size the other improvements seem rather incremental. The shape is maybe a little nicer (with rounded edges), and faster is always better. And better battery life! That is truly better.
The camera improvements seem nice; it's so interesting that the most important hardware in a new phone is the camera, isn't it? And having a barometer so the phone becomes a better motion tracker ... great.
I wish the new phones didn't have to come with IOS 8 ... still don't like the "new" look and feel of IOS 7 ... I was hoping Apple would backtrack a bit. But no.
Apple Pay seems like a most interesting service, and will perhaps end up being the most significant announcement of the day, long term.
Interestingly Apple are purely a wallet, they are not involved in executing or settling transactions at all. They make money by selling devices, and get a piece of the action on the back-end from banks, who should see savings from lowered fraud and repudiation risk due to Apple's TouchId.
The combination of Apple and Google should be enough to tip NFC as the mechanism of choice to replace credit cards and magnetic stripe readers. So be it.
And the Apple Watch, hmmm... not sure what to think, yet. Unlike others I'm not blown away by the appearance; it's attractive and I guess the square face is functional, but it is no competition at all for my Hublot or Cartier as wrist jewelry.
I'm intrigued by the fact that Apple have announced it six months before it's available, and also by the availability of three editions times three colors times six band colors times three band styles. Perhaps the customizability is good - maybe everyone doesn't want to wear the same watch - but perhaps it shows they don't know what everyone wants, and will let the market figure it out.
I guess I won't really know what to think until I get a chance to wear one. My Pebble Steel was an experiment, and while at first it seemed like a gimmick, I actually do like being able to read messages and alerts on my wrist without pulling out my phone. Two key selling points for the Pebble are simplicity and battery life, and it seems Apple have sacrificed both in order to invent a new platform. We'll see.
Finally, a comment about the "event". When Apple announces new products they always make waves, and they did a great job of preparation and polish, but ... well this event just didn't have much charm.
I watched the whole thing, and while it was tight and well scripted, it wasn't entertaining. So be it.
We get a spiffy new phone, a new payment mechanism, and a new wearable computer. Not bad for Apple Day :)
Yobi 3D is a search engine for 3D objects. Excellent, and much needed. I'll be back.
A message from the Amazon Books team. In which the transition to e-books is compared to the previous transition to paperbacks. Well-reasoned, and reasonable. Book publishers are most definitely not on the side of history.
Twitter's small chance to maim email. I rate the chances of Twitter denting email use as approaching zero from the left. Good direct messaging in Twitter might replace other kinds of messaging, but email is longer form and queued, giving it other properties.
Hmmm... this is interesting: Jello Labs launches Spring, a new shopping app. "On every other platform, users follower users. On Spring, shoppers follow brands." I predict this won't work, but it is an interesting experiment. And it could most certainly benefit from inclusion of visual search :)
Robert Scoble has thrown in the blogging towel: I've completely moved to social media. So be it. For myself, I'm still Facebooking, but blogging allows two things which Facebook does not: linkblogging (like this post), and long-form essays. Both of which I like to write.
What Facebook doesn't show you. "All I want is an unfiltered feed of what my friends post, as they post it." Amen, brother. That's all anyone I know wants, but somehow Facebook doesn't want to give it to us. Does anyone prefer "top stories" to "recent posts"? Yeah see, I knew it.
Dave Winer: Little Facebook Editor. Huh, this looks interesting... must check it out. "Little Facebook Editor can cross-post to both WordPress and Facebook simultaneously, and when a post changes, both sites are updated." Maybe a good solution for Robert Scoble :)
So, apparently democracies go through the following cycle:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.
Hmmm... doesn't seem inevitable, but it does seem like it happens a lot.
It's pretty hard to get good decision making from the masses, they generally vote in favor of their own self-interest and against the common good, until something cataclysmic comes along to reset the cycle.