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Windows 10 Creators Update will take forever to download, install, and update

Prepare to wait. And wait. Many Windows 10 users are getting ready for the Creators Update, due April 11. We know lots of things about it: There will be new tools for 3D designing, playing 4K-resolution games, improvements to the Edge browser, and claimed improvements to security and privacy protections.

We also know that it will take forever to install. Not literally forever. Still, a long time.

This came to mind when my friend Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols shared this amusing image:

Who could be surprised, when the installation estimation times for software are always ludicrously inaccurate? That’s especially true with Windows, which routinely requires multiple waves of download – update – reboot– download – update – reboot– download – update – reboot – rinse and repeat. That’s especially true if you haven’t updated for a while. It goes on and on and on.

This came to the fore about three weeks ago, when I decided to wipe a Windows 10 laptop in preparation for donating it to a nonprofit. It’s a beautiful machine — a Dell Inspiron 17 — which we purchased for a specific client project. The machine was not needed afterwards, and well, it was time to move it along. (My personal Windows 10 machine is a Microsoft Surface Pro.)

The first task was to restore the laptop to its factory installation. This was accomplished using the disk image stored on a hidden partition, which was pretty easy; Dell has good tools. It didn’t take long for Windows 10 to boot up, nice and pristine.

That’s when the fun began: Installing Windows updates. Download – update – reboot– download – update – rinse – repeat. For two days. TWO DAYS. And that’s for a bare machine without any applications or other software.

Thus, my belief in two things: First, Windows saying 256% done is entirely plausible. Second, it’s going to take forever to install Windows 10 Creators Update on my Surface Pro.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes for you.

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Happy encouragement from my smartwatch

“You walked 713 steps today. Good news is the sky’s the limit!”

Thank you, Pebble, for that encouragement yesterday.

The problem with fitness apps in smartwatches is that you have to wear the watch for them to work. When I am at home, I never wear a watch. Since I work from home, that means that I usually don’t have a watch on my wrist. And when I go out, sometimes I wear the Pebble, sometimes something else. For a recent three-day weekend trip away with my wife, for example, I carried the pocket watch she bought me for our 15th anniversary. So, it’s hard for the Pebble app to get an accurate read on my activity.

Yesterday, I only wore this watch for a brief period of time. The day before, not at all. That’s why Pebble thought that 713 steps was a great accomplishment.

(Too bad Pebble is out of business. I like this watch.)

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Hello, Hibiscus! One of our favorite flowers

This plant in our garden keeps blooming and blooming. What’s funny is that sometimes the flowers are yellow, and sometimes they are orange, like this one.

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We need a new browser security default: Privacy mode for external, untrusted or email links

firefox-privateBe paranoid! When you visit a website for the first time, it can learn a lot about you. If you have cookies on your computer from one of the site’s partners, it can see what else you have been doing. And it can place cookies onto your computer so it can track your future activities.

Many (or most?) browsers have some variation of “private” browsing mode. In that mode, websites shouldn’t be able to read cookies stored on your computer, and they shouldn’t be able to place permanent cookies onto your computer. (They think they can place cookies, but those cookies are deleted at the end of the session.)

Those settings aren’t good enough, because they are either all or nothing, and offer a poor balance between ease-of-use and security/privacy. The industry can and must do better. See why in my essay on NetworkWorld, “We need a better Private Browsing Mode.

 

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Hackathons are great for learning — and great for the industry too

zebra-tc8000Are you a coder? Architect? Database guru? Network engineer? Mobile developer? User-experience expert? If you have hands-on tech skills, get those hands dirty at a Hackathon.

Full disclosure: Years ago, I thought Hackathons were, well, silly. If you’ve got the skills and extra energy, put them to work for coding your own mobile apps. Do a startup! Make some dough! Contribute to an open-source project! Do something productive instead of taking part in coding contests!

Since then, I’ve seen the light, because it’s clear that Hackathons are a win-win-win.

  • They are a win for techies, because they get to hone their abilities, meet people, and learn stuff.
  • They are a win for Hackathon sponsors, because they often give the latest tools, platforms and APIs a real workout.
  • They are a win for the industry, because they help advance the creation and popularization of emerging standards.

One upcoming Hackathon that I’d like to call attention to: The MEF LSO Hackathon will be at the upcoming MEF16 Global Networking Conference, in Baltimore, Nov. 7-10. The work will support Third Network service projects that are built upon key OpenLSO scenarios and OpenCS use cases for constructing Layer 2 and Layer 3 services. You can read about a previous MEF LSO Hackathon here.

Build your skills! Advance the industry! Meet interesting people! Sign up for a Hackathon!

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Ten-and-a-half years of my Steelcase Think office chair and I still love it

chairAfter more than a decade of near daily use, I still love my Steelcase Think chair.

Today is cleaning day at CAHQ (Camden Associates Headquarters). That means dusting/cleaning the furniture, as well as moving piles of papers from one part of the office to another. As part of the gyrations, we flipped my trusty Steelcase Think upside down, and saw that its date of manufacture was Feb. 15, 2005. Wow. The chair is in excellent condition. The only wear is that one of the rubber armrest pads cracked and was starting to peel apart. We superglued it back together; it’s super ugly but should last for another decade.

Looking at the Steelcase site, the Think chair has changed only a little bit since mine was purchased. My chair has a black mesh back (they call it “3D knit”), black cushion seat, black frame, and black wheel base. You can still buy that combination. However, there are now new options, like different types of wheels for carpet or hard floors, a tall bar-stool-height base and even an integrated coat hanger. There are also lots more colors and materials. Oh, and the price has gone up: My particular chair configuration would cost $829 now.

What I particularly like is that there are very few settings or switches. It’s so simple, and I don’t need to keep fiddling with it.

I blogged about my chair in 2007. I recommended it then, and I still recommend it today without hesitation. Here’s what I wrote back nine years ago:

I am consistently amazed at how comfortable my Steelcase Think office chair is.

For years, my back had been sore and stiff if I sat in front of my computer for more than an hour or so. In early 2005, I mentioned that to a friend, and he said, duh, buy a better chair. I guess it was time to replace the task chair picked up second-hand 15 years earlier.

My search was exhaustive: I was willing to spend serious money to get something good. After visiting several “real” office furniture stores – places like Office Depot, Staples and Office Max have a lousy selection, imho – I fell in love with the Think.

What I like is that it’s essentially a self-adjusting chair. The Think has extremely few adjustments, and the back is made of springy steel rods. Plus the mesh fabric means that my back doesn’t get all hot and sweaty on a warm day. (You can read about the ergonomics at the Steelcase site.)

Some even pricier chairs I tested, like the Steelcase Leap and the Herman Miller Aeron, were much more complicated, and much less comfortable. With an Aeron, I literally can’t find settings that work. With the Think, it only took a minute to find the right settings, and I haven’t changed them in the past 2 ½ years.

While I can’t claim that the Think is the best premium office chair, I believe that this is the best investment that I’ve ever made in my work environment. I paid about $700 for it in 2005 at an office furniture store in San Francisco.

There are a few different versions available. Mine is the original model with mesh back, cloth seat and adjustable arms. Today, Steelcase also offers leather or vinyl coverings, fixed arms or armless, and optional headrests and lumbar supports. That makes it complicated again! When I got mine, the only option was fabric color. I chose black.

So, if you sit at your desk/computer for hours at a time, and if you’re using a cheap task chair, consider an upgrade. Try the Think — maybe it’ll work for you, maybe it won’t. (My wife tried mine out, but didn’t care for it.) The important thing is that you get a good chair that fits you well, and is comfortable. If you’re sore and stiff, duh, buy a better chair.

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Photo and artwork guidelines for people, products, logos and screen shots

old-cameraIf you are asked to submit a photograph, screen shot or a logo to a publication or website, there’s the right way and the less-right way. Here are some suggestions that I wrote several years ago for BZ Media for use in lots of situations — in SD Times, for conferences, and so-on.

While they were written for the days of print publications, these are still good guidelines for websites, blog and other digital publishing media.

General Suggestions

  • Photos need to be high resolution. Bitmaps that would look great on a Web page will look dreadful in print. The recommended minimum size for a bitmap file should be two inches across by three inches high, at a resolution of 300 dpi — that is, 600×900 pixels, at the least. A smaller photograph may be usable, but frankly, it will probably not be.
  • Photos need to be in a high-color format. The best formats are high-resolution JPEG files (.jpg) and TIFF (.tif) files. Or camera RAW if you can. Avoid GIF files (.gif) because they are only 256 colors. However, in case of doubt, send the file in and hope for the best.
  • Photos should be in color. A color photograph will look better than a black-and-white photograph — but if all you have is B&W, send it in. As far as electronic files go, a 256-color image doesn’t reproduce well in print, so please use 24-bit or higher color depth. If the website wants B&W, they can convert a color image easily.
  • Don’t edit or alter the photograph. Please don’t crop it, modify it using Photoshop or anything, unless otherwise requested to do so. Just send the original image, and let the art director or photo editor handle the cropping and other post-processing.
  • Do not paste the image into a Word or PowerPoint document. Send the image as a separate file.

Logos

  • Send logos as vector-based EPS files (such as an Adobe Illustrator file with fonts converted to outlines) if possible. If a vector-based EPS file is not available, send a 300 dpi TIFF, JPEG or Photoshop EPS files (i.e., one that’s at least two inches long). Web-resolution logos are hard to resize, and often aren’t usable.

Screen Shots

  • Screen shots should be the native bitmap file or a lossless format. A native bitmapped screen capture from Windows will be a huge .BMP file. This may be converted to a compressed TIFF file, or compressed to a .ZIP file for emailing. PNG is also a good lossless format and is quite acceptable.
  • Do not convert a screen capture to JPEG or GIF.  JPEGs in particular make terrible screen shots due to the compression algorithms; solid color areas may become splotchy, and text can become fuzzy. Screen captures on other platforms should also be lossless files, typically in TIFF or PNG.

Hints for better-looking portraits

  • Strive for a professional appearance. The biggest element is a clean, uncluttered background. You may also wish to have the subject wear business casual or formal clothing, such as a shirt with a collar instead of a T-shirt. If you don’t have a photo like that, send what you have.
  • Side or front natural light is the best and most flattering. Taking pictures outdoors with overcast skies is best; a picture outdoors on a sunny day is also good, but direct overhead sunlight (near noon) is too harsh. If possible, keep away from indoor lighting, especially ceiling or fluorescent lights. Avoid unpleasant backlighting by making sure the subject isn’t standing between the camera and a window or lamp.
  • If you must use electronic flash… Reduce red-eye by asking the subject to look at the photographer, not at the camera. (Off-camera flash is better than on-camera flash.) Eliminate harsh and unpleasant shadows by ensuring that the subject isn’t standing or sitting within three feet of a wall, bookcase or other background objects. Another problem is white-out: If the camera is too close to the subject, the picture will be too bright and have too much contrast.
  • Maintain at least six feet separation between the camera and the subject, and three feet (or more) from the background. If the subject is closer than six feet to the camera, his/her facial features will be distorted, and the results will be unattractive. For best results, hold the camera more than six feet from the subject. It’s better to be farther away and use the camera’s optical zoom, rather than to shoot a close-up from a few feet away.
  • Focus on his/her eyes. If the eyes are sharp, the photo is probably okay. If the eyes aren’t sharp (but let’s say the nose or ears are), the photo looks terrible. That’s because people look at the eyes first.
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Special Mac option key symbols – your handy reference

I am often looking for these symbols and can’t find them. So here they are for English language Mac keyboards, in a handy blog format. They all use the Option key.

Note: The Option key is not the Command key, which is marked with ⌘ (looped square) symbol. Rather, the Option key is between Control and Command on many (most?) Mac keyboard. These key combinations won’t work a numerical keypad; you have to be using the main part of the keyboard.

The case of the letter/key pressed with the Option key matters. For example, Option+v is the root √ and Option+V (in other words, Option+Shift+v) is the diamond ◊. Another example: Option+7 is the paragraph ¶ and Option+& (that is, Option+Shift+7) is the double dagger ‡. You may simply copy/paste the symbols, if that’s more convenient.

These key combinations should work in most modern Mac applications, and be visible in most typefaces. No guarantees. Your mileage may vary.

SYMBOLS

¡ Option+1 (inverted exclamation)
¿ Option+? (inverted question)
« Option+\ (open double angle quote)
» Option+| (close double angle quote)
© Option+g (copyright)
® Option+r (registered copyright)
™ Option+2 (trademark)
¶ Option+7 (paragraph)
§ Option+6 (section)
• Option+8 (dot)
· Option+( (small dot)
◊ Option+V (diamond)
– Option+- (en-dash)
— Option+_ (em-dash)
† Option+t (dagger)
‡ Option+& (double dagger)
¢ Option+4 (cent)
£ Option+3 (pound)
¥ Option+y (yen)
€ Option+@ (euro)

ACCENTS AND SPECIAL LETTERS

ó Ó Option+e then letter (acute)
ô Ô Option+i then letter (circumflex)
ò Ò Option+` then letter (grave)
õ Õ Option+n then letter (tilde)
ö Ö Option+u then letter (umlaut)
å Å Option+a or Option+A (a-ring)
ø Ø Option+o or Option+O (o-slash)
æ Æ Option+’ or Option+” (ae ligature)
œ Œ Option+q or Option+Q (oe ligature)
fi Option+% (fi ligature)
fl Option+^ (fl ligature)
ç Ç Option+c or Option+C (circumflex)
ß Option+s (double-s)

MATH AND ENGINEERING

÷ Option+/ (division)
± Option++ (plus/minus)
° Option+* (degrees)
¬ Option+l (logical not)
≠ Option+= (not equal)
≥ Option+> (greater or equal)
≤ Option+< (less or equal)
√ Option+v (root)
∞ Option+5 (infinity)
≈ Option+x (tilde)
∆ Option+j (delta)
Σ Option+w (sigma)
Ω Option+z (ohm)
π Option+p (pi)
µ Option+m (micro)
∂ Option+d (derivative)
∫ Option+b (integral)

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Too slow, didn’t wait: The five modern causes of slow website loads

Let’s explore the causes of slow website loads. There are obviously some delays that are beyond our control — like the user being on a very slow mobile connection. However, for the most part, our website’s load time is entirely up to us.

For the most part, our website’s load time is entirely up to us as developers and administrators. We need to do everything possible to accelerate the experience, and in fact I would argue that load time may be the single most important aspect of your site. That’s especially true of your home page, but also of other pages, especially if there are deep links to them from search engines, other Internet sites, or your own marketing emails and tweets.

We used to say that the biggest cause of slow websites was large images, especially too-large images that are downloaded to the browser and dynamically resized. Those are real issues, even today, and you should optimize your site to push out small graphics, instead of very large images. Images are no longer the main culprit, however.

Read my recent article in the GoDaddy Garage, “Are slow website load times costing you money and pageviews?” to see the five main causes of slow website loads, and get some advice about what to do about them.

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Attack of the six-rotor quadracopter photo drones

quadracopter-droneDrones are everywhere. Literally. My friend Steve, a wedding photographer, always includes drone shots. Drones are used by the military, of course, as well as spy agencies. They are used by public service agencies, like fire departments. By real estate photographers who want something better than Google Earth. By farmers checking on their fences. By security companies to augment foot patrols. And by Hollywood filmmakers, who recently won permission from the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to operate drones on a movie sets.

Drones can also be used for mischief, as reported by Nick Wingfield in the New York Times. His story, “Now, Anyone Can Buy a Drone. Heaven Help Us” described how pranksters fly drones onto sports fields to disrupt games and infuriate fans, as well as animal-welfare activists using drones to harass hunters and scare away their prey.

Drones are everywhere. My son and I were shopping at Fry’s Electronics, a popular Silicon Valley gadget superstore. Seemingly every aisle featured drones ranging in price from under US$100 to thousands of dollars.

A popular nickname for consumer-quality drones is a “quadcopter,” because many of the models feature four separate rotors. We got a laugh from one line of inexpensive drones, which was promoting quadcopters with three, four and six rotors, such as this “Microgear 2.4 GHz. Radio Controlled RC QX-839 4 Chan 6 Axis Gyro Quadcopter Drones EC10424.” I guess they never thought about labeling it a hexcopter—or would it be a sextcopter?

As drones scale up from toys to business tools, they need to be smart and connected. Higher-end drones have cameras and embedded microprocessors. Platforms like Android (think Arduino or Raspberry Pi) get the job done without much weight and without consuming too much battery power. And in fact there are products and kits available that use those platforms for drone control.

Connectivity. Today, some drones are autonomous and disconnected, but that’s not practical for many applications. Drones flying indoors could use WiFi, but in the great outdoors, real-time connectivity needs a longer reach. Small military and spy drones use dedicated radios, and in some cases, satellite links. Business drones might go that path, but could also rely upon cellular data. Strap a smartphone to a drone, and you have sensors, connectivity, microprocessor, memory and local storage, all in one handy package. And indeed, that’s being done today too. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Samsung Galaxy S4!

Programming drones is going to be an exciting challenge, leveraging the skills needed for building conventional mobile apps to building real mobile apps. When a typical iPhone or Android app crashes, no big deal. When a drone app crashes, the best-case scenario is a broken fan blade. Worst case? Imagine the lawsuits if the drone hits somebody, causes an automobile accident, or even damages an aircraft.

Drones are evolving quickly. While they may seem like trivial toys, hobbyist gadgets or military hardware, they are likely to impact many aspects of our society and, perhaps, your business. Intrigued? Let me share two resources:

InterDrone News: A just-launched newsletter from BZ Media, publisher of SD Times. It provides a unique and timely perspective for builders, buyers and fliers of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles. Sign up for free.

InterDrone Conference & Expo: Mark your calendar for the International Drone Conference and Exposition, Oct. 13-15, 2015, in Las Vegas. If you use drones or see them in your future, that’s where you’ll want to be.

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Once upon a midnight dreary, while I struggled with jQuery

hemingwaySEYTON
The tests, my lord, have failed.

MACBETH
I should have used a promise;
There would have been an object ready made.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Loops o’er this petty code in endless mire,
To the last iteration of recorded time;
And all our tests have long since found
Their way to dusty death. Shout, shout, brief handle!
Thine’s but a ghoulish shadow, an empty layer
That waits in vain to play upon this stage;
And then is lost, ignored. Yours is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of orphaned logic
Signifying nothing.

Those are a few words from a delightful new book, “If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript,” by Angus Croll. For example, the nugget above is “Macbeth’s Last Callback, after a soliloquy from Macbeth from William Shakespeare.”

Literary gems and nifty algorithms abide in this code-dripping 200-page tome from No Starch Press. Croll, a member of the UI framework team at Twitter, has been writing about famous authors writing JavaScript since 2012, and now has collected and expanded the entries into a book that will be amusing to read or gift this holiday season. (He also has a serious technical blog about JavaScript, but where’s the fun in that?)

Read and wonder as you see how Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” would code a Fibonacci sequence generator. How Jack Kerouac would calculate factorials. How J.D. Salinger and Tupac Shakur would determine if numbers are happy or inconsolable. How Dylan Thomas would muse on refactoring. How Douglas Adams of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame would generate prime numbers. How Walt Whitman would perform acceptance tests. How J.K. Rowling would program a routine called mumbleMore. How Edgar Allen Poe would describe a commonplace programming task:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I struggled with JQuery,
Sighing softly, weak and weary, troubled by my daunting chore,
While I grappled with weak mapping, suddenly a function wrapping
Formed a closure, gently trapping objects that had gone before.

Twenty-five famous authors, lots of JavaScript, lots of prose and poetry. What’s not to like? Put “If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript” on your shopping list.

Let’s move from JavaScript to C, or specifically the 7th Underhanded C Contest. If you are a brilliantly bad C programmer, you might win a US$200 gift certificate to popular online store ThinkGeek. The organizer, Prof. Scott Craver of Binghamton University in New York, explains:

The goal of the contest is to write code that is as readable, clear, innocent and straightforward as possible, and yet it must fail to perform at its apparent function. To be more specific, it should do something subtly evil. Every year, we will propose a challenge to coders to solve a simple data processing problem, but with covert malicious behavior. Examples include miscounting votes, shaving money from financial transactions, or leaking information to an eavesdropper. The main goal, however, is to write source code that easily passes visual inspection by other programmers.

The specific challenge for 2014 is to write a surveillance subroutine that looks proper but leaks data. The deadline is Jan. 1, 2015, more or less. See the Underhanded C website; be sure to read the FAQ!

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Under Satya Nadella, Microsoft is getting stuff done

satya-nadellaI like this new Microsoft. Satya Nadella’s Microsoft. Yes, the CEO needs to improve his public speaking skills, at least when talking to women’s conferences. Yet when you look at the company’s recent activities, what appears are lots of significant moves toward openness, a very positive focus on personal productivity, and even inventiveness.

That’s not to say that Microsoft is firing on all cylinders. There is too much focus on Windows as the universal platform, when not every problem needs Windows as a solution. There is too much of a focus on having its own mobile platform, where Windows Phone is spinning its wheels and can’t get traction against platforms that are, quite frankly, better. Innovation is lacking in many of Microsoft’s older enterprise products, from Windows Server to Exchange to Dynamics. And Microsoft isn’t doing itself any favors by pushing Surface Pro and competing against its loyal OEM partners—thereby undermining the foundations of its success.

That said, I like some of Microsoft’s most recent initiatives. While it’s possible that some of them were conceived under former CEO Steve Ballmer, they are helping demonstrate that Microsoft is back in the game.

Some examples of success so far:

  • Microsoft Band. Nobody saw this low-cost, high-functionality fitness band coming, and it took the wind out of the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear. The Band is attractive, functional, and most importantly, cross-platform. Of course, it works best at present with Windows Phone, but it does work with Android and iOS. That’s unexpected, and given the positive reviews of Band, I’m very impressed. It makes me think: If Zune had been equally open, would it have had a chance? (Umm. Probably not.)
  • Office Mobile. The company dropped the price of its Office suite for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and iPad to the best possible price: free. Unlike in the past, the mobile apps aren’t crippled unless you tie them to an Office 365 license for your Windows desktop. You can view, edit and print Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents; use OneNote; and even use the Lync communications platform. Whether Microsoft realized that mobile users are a different breed, or whether it saw the opportunity to use mobile as a loss leader, it’s hard to say. This change is welcome, however, and has added to Microsoft’s karma credit.
  • Microsoft Sway. Another “didn’t see it coming” launch, Sway is a new presentation program that will be part of the Office suite. It’s not PowerPoint; it’s geared toward online presentations, not slide shows. The company writes: “Sway’s built-in design engine takes the hassle out of formatting your content by putting all of it into a cohesive layout as you create. This means that from the first word, image, Tweet, or graphic you add, your Sway is already being formed for you. This is thanks to a lot of Microsoft Research technology we’ve brought together in the background. As you add more of your content, Sway continues to analyze and arrange it based on the algorithms and design styles we’ve incorporated.” That’s not PowerPoint—and it’s perfect for today’s Web and mobility viewing.
  • .NET Core is open source. Nadella said that Microsoft was committed, and the release of the .NET Core to GitHub is a big deal. Why did the company do this? Two reasons according to Immo Landwerth: “Lay the foundation for a cross-platform .NET. Build and leverage a stronger ecosystem.” Cross-platform .NET? That would indeed by welcome news, because after all, there should be nothing Windows-specific about the .NET sandbox. Well, nothing technical. Marketing-wise, it was all about customer lock-in to Windows.
  • Microsoft is removing the lock-in—or at least, some of the lock-in. That’s good for customers, of course, but could be scary for Microsoft—unless it ensures that if customers have a true choice of platforms, they intentionally choose Windows. For that to be the case, the company will have to step up its game. That is, no more Windows 8-style fiascos.

Microsoft is truly on the right track, after quite a few years of virtual stagnation and playing catch-up. It’s good that they’re back in the game and getting stuff done.

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You’ve got 30 seconds. Make the most of it

Graeme WarringThirty seconds. That’s about how long a mobile user will spend with your game before deciding if he or she will continue using it. Thirty seconds. Maybe a minute. If you haven’t engaged the customer by then, forget it.

That’s according to Graeme Warring, COO of 2XL Games LLC, a game startup based in Phoenix. Speaking at an investor conference here today sponsored by AZ TechBeat, Warring explained that while mobile games are exploding, it’s getting harder and harder to make money at it.

One culprit that’s especially true with mobile games is that the new business model is free-to-play. That is, gamers can download the mobile app at no cost. They have, therefore, little or no emotional investment. They might try the game. They might not try it. They might play for 30 seconds or a minute. There’s no sense of guilt to drive them to engage with the software for hours or days, and then be inspired to use in-app payments to improve the gaming experience.

By contrast, consider a console game, such as for Sony’s PlayStation 4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One. A typical game might cost US$60. The gamer has done his/her research before making that purchase. Thanks to the emotional and financial investment, he/she is going to make a serious effort to play that game.

“It’s problem transference,” explained Warring. Who owns the problem of ensuring that the player gives the game a serious try? For an expensive console game, it’s the player’s problem. For a free-to-play mobile game, it’s your problem as the game developer.

Getting the player to engage requires an outstanding initial experience. Don’t require a steep learning curve; the era of preliminary in-game tutorials is long gone. Get the player involved instantly, and make it a fun and rewarding experience. Later, and only later, should you try to monetize through in-app purchases. Whether it’s a new weapon for a shoot-em-up, or grippier tires for a racing game, or more lives and candy and prizes, those become appealing only after the player is hooked and engaged.

Warring and other speakers at the AZ TechBeat conference made the point that the best-selling, top-revenue-producing games come from a small number of firms. They insist, however, that there are tremendous opportunities to make a smaller game, perhaps one that costs less than $5 million to create and market, and to make a profit from the investment.

Marketing is key. Expect to spend as much on marketing as on development, “and be prepared to burn through that budget,” the speakers insisted. That may mean social media; it may mean licensing arrangements. To that end, they suggest that instead of creating your own new brand and attracting a new audience, you may do better licensing an existing brand and a proven audience. Making a motorcycle racing game? License and tie it in with an existing motorcycle event, if you can. Such a tie in might be expensive, but it might bootstrap downloads and maybe even help attract investors.

That, in turn, will buy you 30 seconds. Make the most of it.

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Three first impressions of Apple Watch, Pay-to-Yelp and something old

apple_watchFirst Impressions of the Apple Watch: Surprised that it’s not called the iWatch. The user interface looks surprisingly cool. Distressed that the Apple Watch needs to be charged every day, but if the docking station is sufficiently easy to use, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

The watches look like real watches, beautiful as well as functional. The pricing of US$349 and up doesn’t scare me. The long delay for the release—not until early 2015—gives competitors like Motorola and Samsung a great opportunity to respond and seize the initiative. I hope that by the release date, Apple Watch will work with Android phones (and maybe Windows Phone), not only iPhones.

First Impressions of Pay-to-Yelp: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Yelp did not extort businesses by changing how business reviews appeared on its site based on their advertising status. For example, because Yelp never had any agreement to be impartial in its dealings with Dr. Tracy Chan (a dentist who never bought ads from the company), the judge said:

We begin with Chan, who alleges that Yelp extorted her by removing positive reviews from her Yelp page. Chan asserts that she was deprived of the benefit of the positive reviews Yelp users posted to Yelp’s website, and that, had she received the benefits of the positive reviews, they would have counteracted the negative reviews other users posted. But Chan had no pre-existing right to have positive reviews appear on Yelp’s website. She alleges no contractual right pursuant to which Yelp must publish positive reviews, nor does any law require Yelp to publish them. By withholding the benefit of these positive reviews, Yelp is withholding a benefit that Yelp makes possible and maintains. It has no obligation to do so, however.

This sets a scary precedent that could affect all for-profit businesses that both provide a forum for user feedback and which benefit in some way from that feedback. For example, an electronics reseller will undoubtedly sell more products if the reviews of those products are positive. There is nothing to stop such a reseller from removing negative reviews of products that it wants to sell (such as those that have profit margins or where the manufacturer offers incentives), or removing positive reviews from other products. While I never had much faith in online reviews, whether of books, hotels or big-screen TVs, I will have even less faith in them now.

First Impressions of COBOL: Well, okay, it’s not a first impression, but let us revisit last week’s column, where I talked about job opportunities for young COBOL developers. Kevin Nitert, a 26-year-old developer from the Netherlands, responded, “While it’s very true [COBOL] is easy to learn, the problem is that most companies work directly on the mainframe or ISPF. So learning COBOL is only one part; you have to know about the mainframe environment as well and learn things about JCL and REXX.”

I totally agree and should have talked about the environment. It is easy to learn COBOL on your own or with online training. Picking up the mainframe and environment is much harder. It’s been my experience that employers bringing in employees to work on legacy systems expect to do such training themselves, especially if those employees are young and were hired for their aptitude, not for their specific legacy skills with the platform.

To be honest, it wouldn’t take long to bring newbies up to speed on REXX (Restructured Extended Executor, a sophisticated scripting and job-control language) and ISPF (Interactive System Productivity Facility, a development tool chain for IBM’s z-series mainframes).

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Developer programs are a good investment in your employees

OTN-Tour-2014-370x395If your developers aren’t enrolled in developer relations programs, they will grow old and stale. They will become moldy. They will pine for the Good Old Days and opine endlessly about the irrelevance of new tools, new platforms, new paradigms and new ideas. No matter their brilliance today, they will become obsolescent.

You can’t let that happen!

Developer relations programs are all over the map, literally. Some are focused on operating systems – see those from Apple and Microsoft. Some are about back-end platforms, like programs from IBM or Oracle. Some are tied to very specific products.

It’s hard to know where your developers will get the best value. Let’s take a very simplistic case. If you have a bright programmer who is working to integrate back-end Oracle databases with Windows servers, should she be a member of the Oracle Technology Networkor MSDN? Likely both; it doesn’t hurt to sign up. But where should she spend her time?

It’s tricky to make that call, and it largely depends on both the developers’ self-starter motivation and your own corporate culture. Some developer programs are free, but others aren’t, with prices ranging from a hundred dollars per year to thousands of dollars. Do you offer to cover the costs of belonging to the developer program for each architect, designer, coder or tester who wants to sign up – or do they have to go through hoops that send out the message that the programs aren’t important (or that the employee isn’t worth the investment)?

Let’s say that you are running a Windows shop, and being a Windows Server guru is seen as essential for career growth. Clearly, your bright programmer should grow and enhance her skills as a Windows expert. While deep Oracle expertise is essential, it might be a secondary investment for her time.

Of course, if your team is seen as an Oracle shop, and the Microsoft aspect is seen as secondary, she should invest her time in Oracle technologies.

The scenario above is too simple. There’s no reason that the bright programmer can’t participate in two developer programs. However, what’s a reasonable ceiling. Two? Three? Five? Ten? If developers spread themselves out too thin, it’s hard to gain deep expertise. To my mind, a developer should engage with 3-5 development programs; probably no more. Depending on the situation, though, perhaps only one or two would be appropriate. If you have a developer who doesn’t see any benefit in belonging to a developer relations program, look at where he or she is spending time. There may be local user groups that provide the same level of engagement. But if you have someone who doesn’t want to engage at all in the larger world beyond his or her team — who doesn’t see the value of building deep expertise in products or platforms — you should be concerned.

Early in 2014, the market research firm Evans Data Corp. conducted a study on developer relations programs. They asked developers, “What most motivates you to seek solutions from developer programs?” The answers should not surprise anyone:

  • 35.5%: Need to upgrade from existing, outdated technology
  • 24.3%: Present skillset is insufficient
  • 21.7%: Present toolsets are insufficient
  • 8.5%: Anticipating future problems
  • 6.3%: Need to match or beat competition
  • 3.8%: Other

I’d keep an eye on those who answered “present skillset is insufficient.” Those employees are investing in themselves — and they are going places!

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With Surface Pro 3 Microsoft withdraws from the Tablet Wars

Surface-Pro-3With the May 20 introduction of the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has unofficially withdrawn from the tablet market. If you’re looking for a tablet computer, your two main platform choices are now Android and iOS.

The Surface Pro 3 isn not an Apple iPad competitor. It doesn’t go up against the Google Nexus family, or the broad Samsung Galaxy product range. Nope.

With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has quietly redefined the Surface product line as consisting of ultralight Windows notebooks with touch-screens and removable keyboards. That’s a “tablet” in the sense of the circa-2005 Windows tablets that ran Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. I still have a Fujitsu Lifebook T4010 from that generation, and it was an excellent notebook, with flip-around screen and stylus. Better than a conventional notebook, yes. A device like an iPad or Nexus or Galaxy? Nope.

Yet the Surface Pro family is not inexpensive. It’s priced like high-powered, lightweight notebooks like Apple’s MacBook Air. In some configurations, it’s even pricier. As Microsoft writes in its specifications: “Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch ClearType Full HD display, fourth-generation Intel Core processor, and up to 8GB of RAM. With up to nine hours of Web-browsing battery life, Surface Pro 3 has all the power, performance and mobility of a laptop in an incredibly lightweight, versatile form.”

Doesn’t sounds like a Galaxy, Nexus or iPad killer. Of course, the Surface can be a tablet sometimes, and that’s Microsoft’s thinking: Most of the time, you want a notebook. Sometimes you want a tablet. Why have two machines?

The complexity of Windows 8.0 (shipped with the original Surface Pro) and the newer Windows 8.1 made the Surface a questionable replacement for a standard tablet. For a short period of time, yes, you can unclick the keyboard and have a walk-around tablet for surfing the Web, watching a movie, reading a book, playing a game or filling in forms.

No comparison to what most of us call tablets: “Surface Pro 3 is a tablet and a laptop: multiple processors, RAM and storage options intersect with a sleek design that, with a simple snap or click, transform the device from a perfectly balanced tablet to a full-functioning laptop and back again— all in a beautiful package that is 30 percent thinner than an 1-inch MacBook Air,” says Microsoft.

The Surface Pro 3 is like an upgraded Fujitsu Lifebook from 2005. Another quote from Microsoft’s announcement:

“So many people carry both a laptop and a tablet but really want just one device that serves all purposes,” said Panos Panay, corporate vice president for Microsoft Surface. “Surface Pro 3 is the tablet that can replace your laptop—packing all the performance of a fully powered laptop into a thin, light and beautifully designed device. You’ll love being able to carry a single device for your next class, workday or weekend getaway knowing you have all the power you need.”

Also, the bevy of configurations—see Microsoft’s pricing sheet—makes this more like a notebook purchase than a tablet. Four storage configurations from 64GB to 512GB. Intel i3, i5 and i7 processors. 4GB or 8GB RAM. USB ports, microSD card reader, Mini DisplayPort, for external monitor: It’s a notebook. Except, of course, that you have to buy the keyboard separately. Bad move, Microsoft.

I am a genuine fan of the Surface Pro. I own the original 2013 model and use it as my main Windows portable. Yeah, it’s a bit slow, and the battery life is terrible, but it’s an excellent notebook. The new Surface Pro 3 is superior. Were I shopping for a new Windows machine, I’d run down to the Microsoft store and buy one.

But it’s not a tablet. There’s no small form-factor version of the Surface Pro 3. There is no upgrade of the truly tablet-class non-pro Surface running Windows RT, which you can pick up for US$299.

Bottom line: Microsoft makes great hardware, and has pulled out of the tablet market.

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Smart glasses you have to see to believe

LAS VEGAS — If you are a geek, there are few events geekier than the huge Consumer Electronics Show, held here each January. Here is where you’ll find the latest toys, toys, toys, toys, toys and toys. Such as smart glasses, smart cars, shape-recognizing SDKs, robots with intelligent programmable faces, and so much more.

Most of the 150,000+ people who attended CES were mesmerized by the show-stopping curved UHD (ultra high definition) televisions that are at either 4K (2160p) or 8K (4320p) resolution. The 105-inch model from LG blows my home 60-inch Samsung 1080p television out of the water, and yes, I’ll buy one in a few years.

Samsung UHD TVs
Curved ultra high definition televisions, like these 4K models from Samsung, stole the show at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show.

Beyond TVs, there are lots of 3D printers from startups likeMakerBot, feature-packed cameras from giants like Canon, self-driving cars from BMW, wearables like the LG Lifeband, and phone cases. Hundreds of booths with phone cases. It’s amazing how many phone case manufacturers and distributors are here in Las Vegas.

(Who the heck needs all those phone cases? The mind boggles.)

One thing I learned at CES—though I’m sure it’s common knowledge in the robotics community—is that it’s easier to build a robot that has a large LCD screen with an animated face instead of constructing a real humanoid robotic face. The cartoon face is more expressive and less intimidating than a realistic simulacrum. Plus, software is a lot less expensive to create and update than animatronic bones, skin, motors and servos.

Beyond TVs, cameras and phone cases, here are two introductions from smaller companies that caught my eye at CES as being very interesting for software developers:
#!• The new M100 smart glasses from Vuzix are similar to Google Glass, only you can buy it today, it’s less expensive than Google Glass (US$999), it’s a full Android implementation, and you don’t have to jump through Google’s restrictive hoops to build apps. If you are willing to forego the snob value of genuine Google Glass, and don’t need quite the high-end hardware, you can have an Ice Cream Sandwich head-mount display with 24-bit color, a 400×240 display, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of storage, a MicroSD slot, a speaker, a noise-cancelling microphone, a 5MP camera, 1080p video, a six-hour battery, WiFi and Bluetooth. Most recently, Vuzix announced that a software update will add voice recognition based on Nuance speech technology. Yes, you won’t get Google Glass’ 640×360 display, but did I mention the M100 is available now?

Vuzix M100 smart glasses
It’s here now, it’s less expensive than Google Glass, and its Android stack is wide open to developers: the M100 Smart Glasses from Vuzix. The kit includes the glasses, and you can wear it on either the left or right side.

The Asus Transformer Book Duet is a head-scratcher. It’s an Intel-based laptop that looks like an Apple MacBook Air, but runs both Windows 8.1 and Android 4.2.2. The review from Ars Technica says it best: It’s clunky. Let’s assume that it gets less clunky. What would you (or your customers or employees) do with a single device that combines the best of Windows and the best of Android? I’m not sure, but if Intel’s “Dual OS” concept catches on, there could be interesting developer opportunities.

By the way, my favorite tech event that’s even geekier than CES is ACM SIGGRAPH. Catch it in Vancouver this August. Gosh, I hope there aren’t any phone cases there.

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Saying farewell to the mouse-man, Douglas Engelbart

Dr. Douglas Engelbart, who passed away on July 2, was best known as the inventor of the computer mouse. While Dr. Engelbart was the brains behind many revolutionary ideas, his demonstration of a word processor using a mouse in 1968 paved the way for the graphical user interfaces in Xerox’s Alto (1973), Apple’s Lisa (1979) and Macintosh (1984), Microsoft’s Windows (1985) and IBM’s OS/2 Presentation Manager (1988).

Future generations may regard the mouse as a transitional technology. Certainly the touch interface, popularized in the iPad, Android tablets and Windows 8, are making a dent in the need for the mouse — though my Microsoft Surface Pro is far easier to use with a mouse, in addition to the touch screen.

Voice recognition is also making powerful strides. When voice is combined with a touch screen, it’s possible to envision the post-WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointing Devices) mobile-style user experience surpassing mouse-driven systems.

Dr. Engelbart, who was recently fêted in Silicon Valley, was 88. Here are some links to help us gain more insight into his vision:

Obituary in the New York Times, by John Markoff.

“The Mother of All Demos” on 1968. Specifically, see clips 3 and 12 where Dr. Engelbart edits documents with a mouse.

A thoughtful essay about Dr. Engelbart’s career, by Tom Foremski.

I never had the honor of meeting Dr. Engelbart. There was a special event commemorating his accomplishments at Stanford Research Institute in 2008, but unfortunately I was traveling.

It’s remarkable for one person to change the world in such a significant way – and so fast. Dr. Engelbart and his team invented not only the mouse, but also personal computing as we know it today. It is striking how that 1968 demo resembles desktop and notebook computing circa 2013. Not bad. Not bad at all. May his memory be a blessing.

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Four common mobile development mistakes

Web sites developed for desktop browsers look, quite frankly, terrible on a mobile device. The look and feel is often wrong, very wrong. Text is the wrong size. Gratuitous clip art on the home page chews up bandwidth. Features like animations won’t behave as expected. Don’t get me started on menus — or on the use-cases for how a mobile user would want to use and navigate the site.

Too often, some higher-up says, “Golly, we must make our website more friendly,” and what that results in is a half-thought-out patch job. Not good. Not the right information, not the right workflow, not the right anything.

One organization, UserTesting.com, says that there are four big pitfalls that developers (and designers) encounter when creating mobile versions of their websites. The company, which focuses on usability testing, says that the biggest issues are:

Trap #1 – Clinging to Legacy: ‘Porting’ a Computer App or Website to Mobile
Trap #2 – Creating Fear: Feeding Mobile Anxiety
Trap #3 – Creating Confusion: Cryptic Interfaces and Crooked Success Paths
Trap #4 – Creating Boredom: Failure to Quickly Engage the User

Makes sense, right? UserTesting.com offers a quite detailed report, “The Four Mobile Traps,” that goes into more detail.

The report says,

Companies creating mobile apps and websites often underestimate how different the mobile world is. They assume incorrectly that they can create for mobile using the same design and business practices they learned in the computing world. As a result, they frequently struggle to succeed in mobile.

These companies can waste large amounts of time and money as they try to understand why their mobile apps and websites don’t meet expectations. What’s worse, their awkward transition to mobile leaves them vulnerable to upstart competitors who design first for mobile and don’t have the same computing baggage holding them back. From giants like Facebook to the smallest web startup, companies are learning that the transition to mobile isn’t just difficult, it’s also risky.

Look at your website. Is it mobile friendly? I mean, truly designed for the needs, devices, software and connectivity of your mobile users?

If not — do something about it.

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Bug Invaders! Angry Code! World of Compilecraft!

Everything, it seems, is a game. When I use the Waze navigation app on my smartphone, I earn status for reporting red-light cameras. What’s next: If I check in code early to version-control system, do I win a prize? Get points? Become a Code Warrior Level IV?

Turning software development into a game is certainly not entirely new. Some people live for “winning,” and like getting points – or status – by committing code to open-source projects or by reporting bugs as a beta tester. For the most part, however, that was minor. The main reason to commit the code or document the defect was to make the product better. Gaining status should be a secondary consideration – a reward, if you will, not a motivator.

For some enterprise workers, however, gamification of the job can be more than a perk or added bonus. It may be the primary motivator for a generation reared on computer games. Yes, you’ll get paid if you get your job done (and fired if you don’t). But you’ll work harder if you are encouraged to compete against other colleagues, against other teams, against your own previous high score.

Would gamification work with, say, me? I don’t think so. But from what I gather, it’s truly a generational divide. I’m a Baby Boomer; when I was a programmer, Back in the Day, I put in my hours for a paycheck and promotions. What I cared about most: What my boss thought about my work.

For Generation Y / Millennials (in the U.S, generally considered to be those born between 1982 and 2000), it’s a different game.

Here are some resources that I’ve found about gamification in the software development profession. What do you think about them? Do you use gamification techniques in your organization to motivate your workers?

Gamification in Software Development and Agile

Gamifying Software Engineering and Maintenance

Gamifying software still in its infancy, but useful for some

Some Thoughts on Gamification and Software

TED Talk: Gaming can make a better world 

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When Big Data becomes Bad Data

The subject line in today’s email from United Airlines was friendly. “Alan, it’s been a while since your last trip from Austin.”

Friendly, yes. Effective? Not at all close.

Alan, you see, lives in northern California, not in central Texas. Alan rarely goes to Austin. Alan has never originated a round trip from Austin.

My most recent trip to Austin was from SFO to AUS on Feb. 13, 2011, returning on Feb. 15, 2011. The trip before that? In 2007.

Technically United is correct. It indeed has been a while since my last trip from Austin. Who cares? Why in the world would United News & Deals — the “from” name on that marketing email— think that I would be looking for discounted round-trip flights from Austin?

It is Big Data gone bad.

We see example of this all the time. A friend loves to post snarky screen shots of totally off-base Facebook ads, like the one that offered him ways to “meet big and beautiful women now,” or non-stop ads for luxury vehicles. For some reason, Lexus finds his demographic irresistible. However: My friend and his wife live in Manhattan. They don’t own or want a car.

Behavioral ad targeting relies upon Big Data techniques. Clearly, those techniques are not always effective, as the dating, car-sales and air travel messages demonstrate. There is both art and science to Big Data – gathering the vast quantities of data, processing it quickly and intelligently, and of course, using the information effectively to drive a business purpose like behavioral marketing.

Sometimes it works. Oops, sometimes it doesn’t. Being accurate isn’t the same as being useful.

Where to learn that art and science? Let me suggest Big Data TechCon. Three days, dozens of practical how-to classes that will teach you and your team how to get Big Data right. No, it’s not in Austin— it’s near Boston, from April 8-10, 2013. Hope to see you there— especially if you work for United Airlines or Lexus.

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The API as an overloaded operator

Once upon a time, application programming interfaces were hooks that applications used to tap into operating system services. Want to open a port? Call an API. Need to find a printer? Call an API. Open a winder? Call an API. Write to a file? Call an API.

Developers still use classic APIs of course. They are necessary for both native and managed code. Windows, iOS, Android, Unix, Linux, all are stuffed to the brim with hundreds and thousands of APIs. In fact, one of the most useful features of an integrated development environment like Visual Studio, Eclipse and Xcode is to provide an handy reference to APIs, check their syntax and arguments, and help fill them out with autocomplete.

Classic APIs are fundamental. Cloud-based APIs, which provide loosely coupled function calls to services over the Internet, are more sexy and more dangerous.

The December issue of SD Times contains a feature by Alexa Weber Morales, “Connecting the World with APIs.” She explains that the variety of cloud-based APIs far exceeds the biggest, most visible examples, such as those from Amazon and Google. APIs are everywhere, from social media players like Facebook and Twitter, to business services like MailChimp and Salesforce.com.

Like electricity from the wall socket, or water from the kitchen faucet, it is easy to take cloud-based APIs for granted. Too easy. We outsource core functionality of our applications to cloud-based services, some free, some paid for by subscription. We expect them to work consistently. We expect them to be monolithic and unchanging. We expect them to be fast. We expect them to be secure.

We must not make any of those assumptions. Our software must be able to detect if a cloud-based API is offline or is running slowly, and should be able to handle such a situation gracefully. (I.e., not hang or crash.) We should never assume that APIs are secure and will keep our data safe or our customers’ data safe. We should not expect the API vendor to proactively notify us if they change some of the functionality within the APIs. It’s our job to be on top of any changes.

The availability of cloud-based APIs – unlike operating system APIs – is out of our hands. Our decision to upgrade a server’s OS is on our schedule, and we have time to read the documentation. When a mobile platform maker, like Apple, Google or Microsoft, releases a new operating system, we get plenty of notice and have plenty of time to understand about the newest APIs, the changed APIs and the deprecated APIs.

Not true with cloud-based APIs. While the three-letter acronym may be the same, our applications’ calls to a RESTful cloud-based APIs are not at all the same as our applications’ calls to native operating system services. While convenient, cloud-based APIs are ephemeral, distant and fundamentally unreliable. Never forget it.

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Echoing the echosystem

echoEchosystem. What a marvelous typo! An email from an analyst firm referred several times to a particular software development ecosystem, but in one of the instances, she misspelled “ecosystem” as “echosystem.” As a technology writer and analyst myself, that misspelling immediately set my mind racing. Echosystem. I love it.

An echosystem would be a type of meme. Not the silly graphics that show up on Twitter and Facebook, but more the type of meme envisioned by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene, where an idea or concept takes on a life of its own. In this case, the echosystem is where a meme is simply echoed, and is believed to be true simply because it is repeated so often. In particular, the echosystem would apply to ideas that are repeated around by analysts, technology writers and journalists, influential bloggers, and so-on.

In another time and place, what I’m now calling the echosystem would be called the bandwagon. I like the idea of a mashup between the bandwagon and the echo chamber being the echosystem.

We have lots of memes in the software development echosystem. For example, that the RIM BlackBerry is toast. Is the platform doomed? Maybe. But it’s become so casual, so matter-of-fact, for writers and analysts to refer to the BlackBerry as toast that repetition is creating its own truthiness (as Stephen Colbert would say).

Another is echosystem chatter that skeuomorphs are bad, and that Apple is behind the times (and falling behind Android and Windows 8) because its applications have fake leather textures and fake wooden bookshelves. Heck, I only learned about the term recently but repeating the chatter, wrote my own column about it last month, “Fake leather textures on your mobile apps: Good or bad?” True analysis? Maybe. Echoing the echosystem? Definitely

The echosystem anoints technologies or approaches, and then tears them down again. 

HTML5? The echosystem decided that this draft protocol was the ultimate portable platform, but then pounced when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg dissed his company’s efforts.

SOAP? The echosystem loved, loved, loved, loved, loved Simple Object Access Protocol and the WS* methods of implementing Web services, until the new narrative became that RESTful Web services were better. The SOAP bubble popped almost instantly when the meme “WS* is too complicated” spread everywhere.

Echoes in the echosystem pronounced judgment on Windows 8 long before it came out. Echoes weighed in on the future of Java before Oracle’s acquisition of Sun even closed and have chosen JavaScript as the ultimate programming language.

There is a lot of intelligence in the echosystem. Smart people hear what’s being said and repeat it and amplify it and repeat it some more. Sometimes pundits put a lot of thought into their echoes of popular. Sometimes pundits are merely hopping onto the bandwagon. The trick is to tell the differences.

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Skeuomorph: Fake leather textures on your mobile apps – good or bad?

Skeuomorph. I learned this word a few weeks ago, after a flurry of stories broke on various mass-media websites about an apparent kerfuffle within Apple about user interface design.

A skeuomorph is a design element that looks functional, but is actually purely ornamental. The automotive world is rife with skeuomorphs. Fake hood scoops on sports cars, plastic tire covers that imitate wire wheels, plastic that’s textured and painted to look like wood.

Check out the Wikipedia page and you’ll see several examples, including the program that sparked a number of articles. That’s Apple’s iCal calendaring application on the company’s iPhone and iPad devices, or Calendar on a Mac.

Look at the calener on an iPad. See how the app is designed to resemble an old printed calendar, and the top of the app looks like embossed leather, complete with stitching? See how there’s even a little graphic detail that make it look like pages have been torn out.

Some find that kitschy or distracting. Some find it cute. Some people, like me, never particularly noticed those elements. Some people, apparently like the late Steve Job, believe that faux-reality designs like the leather calendar, or like the wooden bookshelves in iBooks, enhance the experience. Some people, apparently, are infuriated by the notion of foisting an outdated analog user-interface model on a digital device.

A number of those infuriated people are quoted in a story in Fast Company, “Will Apple’s Tacky Software-Design Philosophy Cause a Revolt?”

Some of these designs may be nostalgic to older customers, but may be increasingly meaningless to most consumers of digital products. I’ve seen phone-dialer apps that look like the old rotary telephone dial – and they’re stupid, in my humble opinion. So are address-book apps that look like an old Rolodex, or calendar programs that resemble the Pocket Day-Timer I carried around in the 1980s and 1990s.

If you (or your young coworkers) never used a rotary phone, or owned a Rolodex, or carried a Day-Timer, those user interface metaphors make little sense. They don’t enhance productivity, they detract from it.

Worse, the strictures of the old UI metaphors may constrain the creativity of both developers and end users. If you want to innovate and reinvent productivity tools or business applications, you may not want to force your visual design or workflow to conform to old analog models. Microsoft’s Windows 8, in fact, is being held up as the new paradigm – simple colorful squares, no drop shadows or eye candy, and no skeuomorph. See another article from Fast Company, “Windows 8: The Boldest, Biggest Redesign in Microsoft’s History.”

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The new Microsoft logo

The temptation to write about Microsoft’s brand-new logo is almost unbearable. I’ve been trying to resist but… okay. I can’t resist any longer.

Microsoft has a new logo. It has color squares reminiscent of the four color blocks in Office, SharePoint, Visual Studio, and so-on, with the word “Microsoft” spelled out in type. The Pac-Man-like bite out of the letter “o” is gone.

You can see the new logo in this blog post from Jeff Hansen, General Manager, Brand Strategy, Microsoft. Hansen writes

The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day. The ways people experience our products are our most important “brand impressions”. That’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.

Ahhh. When I see companies redrawing their logos, I’m reminded of ship stewards rearranging the deck chairs. Don’t they have something better to spend their time on, their money on, than redrawing a well-recognized, 25-year-old logo? Think about the signs that must be remade, documents that must be reprinted, business cards, brand identity handbooks, and so-on. The ROI for this is what?

The same was true, by the way, for the last several movies based on the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew. Why was the Federation constantly redesigning its Star Fleet uniforms? But I digress.

Let’s not forget the 2010 logo redesign for the Gap, a chain of clothing stores. The social-media outrage about this logo change was so swift that the Gap reversed itself a week later. Amazing. You can read the whole sordid story here in Vanity Fair.

The new Microsoft logo isn’t terrible. But it’s not wonderful either. Yes, the colors tie the corporate logo to flagship product identities, but other tech companies like Google use similar colors with Chrome and other product lines. The new Microsoft logo seems utterly unnecessary – and the timing isn’t great.

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Quisque ligula ipsum, euismod aturesit vulputate a, ultricies et elit. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Nulla nunc dui, tristique in semper vel, congue sed ligula. Nam dolor ligula, faucibus id sodales in, auctor fringilla libero. Pellentesque pellentesque tempor tellus eget hendrerit. Morbi id aliquam ligula. Aliquam id dui sem. Proin rhoncus consequat nisl, eu ornare mauris tincidunt vitae.

Vestibulum sodales ante a purus volutpat euismod. Proin sodales quam nec ante sollicitudin lacinia. Ut egestas bibendum tempor. Morbi non nibh sit amet ligula blandit ullamcorper in nec risus. Pellentesque fringilla diam faucibus tortor bibendum vulputate. Etiam turpis urna, rhoncus et mattis ut, dapibus eu nunc. Nunc sed aliquet nisi. Nullam ut magna non lacus adipiscing volutpat. Aenean odio mauris, consectetur quis consequat quis, blandit a nunc. Sed orci erat, placerat ac interdum ut, suscipit eu augue. Nunc vitae mi tortor. Ut vel justo quis lectus elementum ullamcorper volutpat vel libero.

Donec volutpat nibh sit amet libero ornare non laoreet arcu luctus. Donec id arcu quis mauris euismod placerat sit amet ut metus. Sed imperdiet fringilla sem eget euismod. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Pellentesque adipiscing, neque ut pulvinar tincidunt, est sem euismod odio, eu ullamcorper turpis nisl sit amet velit. Nullam vitae nibh odio, non scelerisque nibh. Vestibulum ut est augue, in varius purus.

Proin dictum lobortis justo at pretium. Nunc malesuada ante sit amet purus ornare pulvinar. Donec suscipit dignissim ipsum at euismod. Curabitur malesuada lorem sed metus adipiscing in vehicula quam commodo. Sed porttitor elementum elementum. Proin eu ligula eget leo consectetur sodales et non mauris. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Nunc tincidunt, elit non cursus euismod, lacus augue ornare metus, egestas imperdiet nulla nisl quis mauris. Suspendisse a pharetra urna. Morbi dui lectus, pharetra nec elementum eget, vulputate ut nisi. Aliquam accumsan, nulla sed feugiat vehicula, lacus justo semper libero, quis porttitor turpis odio sit amet ligula. Duis dapibus fermentum orci, nec malesuada libero vehicula ut. Integer sodales, urna eget interdum eleifend, nulla nibh laoreet nisl, quis dignissim mauris dolor eget mi. Donec at mauris enim. Duis nisi tellus, adipiscing a convallis quis, tristique vitae risus. Nullam molestie gravida lobortis. Proin ut nibh quis felis auctor ornare. Cras ultricies, nibh at mollis faucibus, justo eros porttitor mi, quis auctor lectus arcu sit amet nunc. Vivamus gravida vehicula arcu, vitae vulputate augue lacinia faucibus.

Ut porttitor euismod cursus. Mauris suscipit, turpis ut dapibus rhoncus, odio erat egestas orci, in sollicitudin enim erat id est. Sed auctor gravida arcu, nec fringilla orci aliquet ut. Nullam eu pretium purus. Maecenas fermentum posuere sem vel posuere. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi ornare convallis lectus a faucibus. Praesent et urna turpis. Fusce tincidunt augue in velit tincidunt sed tempor felis porta. Nunc sodales, metus ut vestibulum ornare, est magna laoreet lectus, ut adipiscing massa odio sed turpis. In nec lorem porttitor urna consequat sagittis. Nullam eget elit ante. Pellentesque justo urna, semper nec faucibus sit amet, aliquam at mi. Maecenas eget diam nec mi dignissim pharetra.

,

Nunc Tincidunt Elit Cursus

Quisque ligula ipsum, euismod a vulputate a, ultricies et elit. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Nulla nunc dui, tristique in semper vel, congue sed ligula. Nam dolor ligula, faucibus id sodales in, auctor fringilla libero. Pellentesque pellentesque tempor tellus eget hendrerit. Morbi id aliquam ligula. Aliquam id dui sem. Proin rhoncus consequat nisl, eu ornare mauris tincidunt vitae.

Vestibulum sodales ante a purus volutpat euismod. Proin sodales quam nec ante sollicitudin lacinia. Ut egestas bibendum tempor. Morbi non nibh sit amet ligula blandit ullamcorper in nec risus. Pellentesque fringilla diam faucibus tortor bibendum vulputate. Etiam turpis urna, rhoncus et mattis ut, dapibus eu nunc. Nunc sed aliquet nisi. Nullam ut magna non lacus adipiscing volutpat. Aenean odio mauris, consectetur quis consequat quis, blandit a nunc. Sed orci erat, placerat ac interdum ut, suscipit eu augue. Nunc vitae mi tortor. Ut vel justo quis lectus elementum ullamcorper volutpat vel libero.

Donec volutpat nibh sit amet libero ornare non laoreet arcu luctus. Donec id arcu quis mauris euismod placerat sit amet ut metus. Sed imperdiet fringilla sem eget euismod. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Pellentesque adipiscing, neque ut pulvinar tincidunt, est sem euismod odio, eu ullamcorper turpis nisl sit amet velit. Nullam vitae nibh odio, non scelerisque nibh. Vestibulum ut est augue, in varius purus.

Proin dictum lobortis justo at pretium. Nunc malesuada ante sit amet purus ornare pulvinar. Donec suscipit dignissim ipsum at euismod. Curabitur malesuada lorem sed metus adipiscing in vehicula quam commodo. Sed porttitor elementum elementum. Proin eu ligula eget leo consectetur sodales et non mauris. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Nunc tincidunt, elit non cursus euismod, lacus augue ornare metus, egestas imperdiet nulla nisl quis mauris. Suspendisse a pharetra urna. Morbi dui lectus, pharetra nec elementum eget, vulputate ut nisi. Aliquam accumsan, nulla sed feugiat vehicula, lacus justo semper libero, quis porttitor turpis odio sit amet ligula. Duis dapibus fermentum orci, nec malesuada libero vehicula ut. Integer sodales, urna eget interdum eleifend, nulla nibh laoreet nisl, quis dignissim mauris dolor eget mi. Donec at mauris enim. Duis nisi tellus, adipiscing a convallis quis, tristique vitae risus. Nullam molestie gravida lobortis. Proin ut nibh quis felis auctor ornare. Cras ultricies, nibh at mollis faucibus, justo eros porttitor mi, quis auctor lectus arcu sit amet nunc. Vivamus gravida vehicula arcu, vitae vulputate augue lacinia faucibus.

Ut porttitor euismod cursus. Mauris suscipit, turpis ut dapibus rhoncus, odio erat egestas orci, in sollicitudin enim erat id est. Sed auctor gravida arcu, nec fringilla orci aliquet ut. Nullam eu pretium purus. Maecenas fermentum posuere sem vel posuere. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi ornare convallis lectus a faucibus. Praesent et urna turpis. Fusce tincidunt augue in velit tincidunt sed tempor felis porta. Nunc sodales, metus ut vestibulum ornare, est magna laoreet lectus, ut adipiscing massa odio sed turpis. In nec lorem porttitor urna consequat sagittis. Nullam eget elit ante. Pellentesque justo urna, semper nec faucibus sit amet, aliquam at mi. Maecenas eget diam nec mi dignissim pharetra.

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Class Aptent Taciti Soci Ad Litora

Quisque ligula ipsum, euismod a vulputate a, ultricies et elit. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Nulla nunc dui, tristique in semper vel, congue sed ligula. Nam dolor ligula, faucibus id sodales in, auctor fringilla libero. Pellentesque pellentesque tempor tellus eget hendrerit. Morbi id aliquam ligula. Aliquam id dui sem. Proin rhoncus consequat nisl, eu ornare mauris tincidunt vitae.

Vestibulum sodales ante a purus volutpat euismod. Proin sodales quam nec ante sollicitudin lacinia. Ut egestas bibendum tempor. Morbi non nibh sit amet ligula blandit ullamcorper in nec risus. Pellentesque fringilla diam faucibus tortor bibendum vulputate. Etiam turpis urna, rhoncus et mattis ut, dapibus eu nunc. Nunc sed aliquet nisi. Nullam ut magna non lacus adipiscing volutpat. Aenean odio mauris, consectetur quis consequat quis, blandit a nunc. Sed orci erat, placerat ac interdum ut, suscipit eu augue. Nunc vitae mi tortor. Ut vel justo quis lectus elementum ullamcorper volutpat vel libero.

Donec volutpat nibh sit amet libero ornare non laoreet arcu luctus. Donec id arcu quis mauris euismod placerat sit amet ut metus. Sed imperdiet fringilla sem eget euismod. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Pellentesque adipiscing, neque ut pulvinar tincidunt, est sem euismod odio, eu ullamcorper turpis nisl sit amet velit. Nullam vitae nibh odio, non scelerisque nibh. Vestibulum ut est augue, in varius purus.

Proin dictum lobortis justo at pretium. Nunc malesuada ante sit amet purus ornare pulvinar. Donec suscipit dignissim ipsum at euismod. Curabitur malesuada lorem sed metus adipiscing in vehicula quam commodo. Sed porttitor elementum elementum. Proin eu ligula eget leo consectetur sodales et non mauris. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Nunc tincidunt, elit non cursus euismod, lacus augue ornare metus, egestas imperdiet nulla nisl quis mauris. Suspendisse a pharetra urna. Morbi dui lectus, pharetra nec elementum eget, vulputate ut nisi. Aliquam accumsan, nulla sed feugiat vehicula, lacus justo semper libero, quis porttitor turpis odio sit amet ligula. Duis dapibus fermentum orci, nec malesuada libero vehicula ut. Integer sodales, urna eget interdum eleifend, nulla nibh laoreet nisl, quis dignissim mauris dolor eget mi. Donec at mauris enim. Duis nisi tellus, adipiscing a convallis quis, tristique vitae risus. Nullam molestie gravida lobortis. Proin ut nibh quis felis auctor ornare. Cras ultricies, nibh at mollis faucibus, justo eros porttitor mi, quis auctor lectus arcu sit amet nunc. Vivamus gravida vehicula arcu, vitae vulputate augue lacinia faucibus.

Ut porttitor euismod cursus. Mauris suscipit, turpis ut dapibus rhoncus, odio erat egestas orci, in sollicitudin enim erat id est. Sed auctor gravida arcu, nec fringilla orci aliquet ut. Nullam eu pretium purus. Maecenas fermentum posuere sem vel posuere. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi ornare convallis lectus a faucibus. Praesent et urna turpis. Fusce tincidunt augue in velit tincidunt sed tempor felis porta. Nunc sodales, metus ut vestibulum ornare, est magna laoreet lectus, ut adipiscing massa odio sed turpis. In nec lorem porttitor urna consequat sagittis. Nullam eget elit ante. Pellentesque justo urna, semper nec faucibus sit amet, aliquam at mi. Maecenas eget diam nec mi dignissim pharetra.

,

Maecenas Euis Vehicula

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec ac ipsum purus. Proin varius urna eget massa feugiat vel imperdiet nibh dictum. Donec ut felis id enim tristique hendrerit id nec ante. Curabitur a nulla risus. Quisque quam nibh, egestas vitae vestibulum nec, auctor non mauris. Mauris condimentum, metus id ultrices placerat, dui elit rhoncus felis, vitae facilisis sem massa eu ipsum doloeres ipsums sadips.

In lacinia volutpat nibh id rutrum. Vestibulum nec velit purus, rhoncus pellentesque metus. Praesent lacinia mollis erat, ut mattis augue lacinia id. Pellentesque tellus lorem, gravida eu semper non, euismod sit amet diam. Sed lobortis eros laoreet metus dignissim sed convallis enim semper. Maecenas euismod gravida vehicula. Sed pellentesque, elit ut tristique commodo, risus enim blandit est, ut fringilla nibh neque eget sem. Nullam mollis enim id metus sodales molestie.

Aenean ullamcorper interdum neque non auctor. Nam tellus sapien, accumsan sit amet consectetur sit amet, varius sit amet felis. Nulla sit amet tellus orci. Duis pretium eleifend augue, in pulvinar tortor consectetur a. Pellentesque metus tellus, auctor suscipit iaculis non, blandit vitae justo. Aenean blandit nulla sit amet ipsum iaculis blandit. Nam auctor ultricies tellus, sed feugiat lacus tempus vel. Suspendisse pretium, ante in ornare dapibus, est arcu tristique orci, a auctor est orci et leo. Aenean fringilla hendrerit ante, nec tempor justo facilisis sed. In lacinia lacus molestie odio accumsan in pretium est molestie. Donec lobortis, ante eget consequat placerat, risus dui imperdiet enim, at rhoncus nisi augue sit amet justo. Nullam in odio non felis eleifend volutpat. Nunc non velit orci, ac pretium urna. Sed nisl lacus, tincidunt vitae auctor sed, varius ut est. Sed non nisl vitae enim consectetur volutpat a at dolor. Donec tincidunt lacus ut risus luctus sollicitudin.

Voluptas sadips ipsums sit dolores

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec nec eros eget nisl fringilla commodo. Maecenas ornare, augue ut ultricies tristique, enim lectus pretium quam, quis bibendum metus tellus sed magna. Donec eu dolor lacus. Mauris sit amet augue in odio venenatis interdum. Cras auctor hendrerit velit, non feugiat dolor semper non. Proin quis felis gravida justo vehicula congue. Etiam pellentesque faucibus justo, vitae ornare magna elementum nec. Vestibulum sed magna lorem. Etiam non felis magna. Cras tristique viverra lorem, ac congue odio pharetra sollicitudin. Integer elementum mollis nisl, ac placerat ante consequat congue. Fusce scelerisque adipiscing euismod. Donec pharetra pellentesque ligula, id elementum mi aliquet nec. Vivamus arcu mauris, condimentum sed rutrum vitae, tincidunt viverra risus. Duis augue magna, semper convallis lobortis vel, euismod non nibh.

Duis nec vehicula quam. Sed ut nisl diam, ut consequat justo. Nulla tellus augue, suscipit a consectetur vel, imperdiet quis urna. Sed non viverra elit. Aliquam condimentum mi dolor, at aliquam velit. Maecenas et arcu orci. Donec viverra feugiat urna quis tristique. Fusce neque augue, congue quis congue id, molestie malesuada risus. Donec at felis velit, interdum tempor mi. In massa dui, auctor eu feugiat a, ultricies quis purus. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae;

Vivamus congue, est id aliquam feugiat, ipsum est molestie sapien, at malesuada dolor risus sit amet enim. Quisque fringilla tincidunt convallis. Proin libero est, fringilla id fringilla sed, condimentum non justo. Fusce sed lectus id orci lobortis mollis sed eu sapien. Fusce interdum porttitor dolor nec lobortis. Pellentesque eleifend, ipsum ac blandit pretium, arcu justo aliquet ante, non pulvinar urna erat sit amet tellus. Nunc id nulla tellus, quis tempor ante. Nulla eu purus condimentum odio commodo cursus. Sed eu purus dui.

Mauris dui erat, accumsan vel cursus vel, cursus vel sem. Pellentesque tempor dignissim libero, sed imperdiet mi feugiat nec. Nulla augue dui, sodales eget accumsan ac, molestie ac erat. Proin ut sodales metus. Phasellus a turpis odio. Nulla dapibus, mi ornare bibendum ullamcorper, lectus turpis rhoncus nisl, eu suscipit eros erat ac lacus. Quisque cursus tempor felis ut sodales.