Category Archives: Opinion

Why I left Windows behind.

Ever since my youth I was Windows fanboy and a Mac hater. I swore to never ever become like those “Mac fanboys“, I scoffed even at the idea…

Alas – My newly found pains with Windows:

1. Background services are priority over focused application

I have a theory that Windows prioritizes Services over the focused application. It is very rare that I see an app on my Mac ‘hang’ or get slow. Hanging apps just sometimes happen on Windows and you sit and wait. This may be why clicking things sometimes feels slightly slow.

2. Slow to open an Application

If I were to race my Mac and Windows opening identical applications, my money would be on my Mac. Can’t say why, but clicking things just happen faster on the mac.

2. Latency between click and response

On a Mac clicking something seems to happen ‘now’ as oppose to in a moment on Windows. The time difference is probably only a handful of milliseconds. Perhaps Windows just likes to animate transitions bit more, but snappiness certainly feels better.

3. Heavy OS

Windows seems to like to make itself visible via animations, sounds, alerts, task bar notifications. Sometimes I just want to focus, but Windows has something it thinks is important for me now. I can’t help but feel that Windows has many moving parts that aren’t per-se coordinated.

5. Stability over time

With age, a Windows machine get’s bogged down by … something. Clutter of background services, taskbar apps, updaters, or something. But even cleaning these up and defragging only seems to go so far. Wiping the and reloading seems to be the only surefire way to make a Windows machine truly fast again. On my Mac, I swear I just have to reboot it (because it’s probably been  month).

6. Frequent reboots required

Speaking of reboots. I’ve had my Mac hit 100+ days of uptime with hardly any issues. This is completely unheard of in the Windows universe. Having an uptime of 7 days, is pretty good for a Windows machine (I have managed 60 +days, but it’s pretty rough by then). With a Windows machine the default it to ‘shut it down’. They just weren’t built for longevity. You constantly must reboot.

7. Long boot time and resume time

When you do reboot, it time for a coffee break. Reboot a Mac, and you might have time to stand up, stretch your arms. When in the workplace, the reboot sound on a Mac is a mark of ‘shame’. Everyone looks around for who was the one that had to reboot their Mac, *gasp*.

8. Sounds, sounds everywhere

Speaking of sounds. Why must every-little-thing make sounds on a Windows machine. Am I right angry little elephant Windows sound? Turning off Windows sounds is the first thing I do on a new install of Windows. Every once in a while they turn themselves back on when you accidentally set a theme instead of a new wallpaper.

9. Lack of SSH

Not to say you can’t install SSH, but the lack of it is a bit of a bummer I can’t SSH from just any Windows machine. Though I hear this has recently changed maybe.

Well thems my thoughts. With all that said… Ironically I still love and use my Windows machines. I didn’t really leave it behind.

Learning: Podcasts for the Curious Mind

Here are some of my favorite podcasts.

I’ve been on quite a podcast kick recently, just striving to absorb information. I am subscribing to more podcasts every week with little hope to keep up, much less listen to past episodes. The best began to quickly surface for me.

The Podcasts

Podcast Name
( 15min average length, 1.5x playback speed, Genre or Topics)
A sentence or two of description which includes a narrative of my opinion in places.

  • Radiotopia: 99% Invisible
    (15 – 30min, 1x, Design, Story Telling, Investigative Journalism)
    Stories about the other 99% of things designed that go un-notice and exploring their back-story.
  • NPR: Radiolab
    (20min – 60min, 1x, Story Telling, Investigative Journalism, Learning)
    Topic exploration with applications that are deep and unique. Encourages internal reflection and deeper understanding.
  • APM: Marketplace
    (30min, 1.5x, Market Impact, Investigative Journalism)
    A quality podcast about how markets are effecting different industries, life, and other economies – investigating how it all plays together.
  • NPR: Planet Money
    (20min, 1.5x, Market Impact, Investigative Journalism)
    A quality podcast about the strange and interesting places money finds itself. How money impacts our daily life in ways you might not expect.
  • a16z
    (20min, 1.5x, Interviews, Technology Trends)
    Interviews with impactful entrepreneurs and critical discussions around the current trends in the technology space.
  • HBR IdeaCast
    (20min, 1.5x, Business Management & Growth)
    Topics from the Harvard Business Review publication. Topics range for HR, Investors, Effectiveness in the Workplace, to Talent and Recruiting.
  • NPR: Stuff You Should Know (No longer recommended)
    (30min – 60min, 2x, Learning)
    They talk very slow and information density is low I certainly recommend speeding them up. Topics tend to very from simple to things you’ve never stop to think about. Good for passive listening.

UX: Flat Design

I’ve grown to become quite opinionated about the recent Flat Design trend. Ironically at this time of writing my blog is using a rather flat design, however it still uses borders, dividers, and background colors which as you will see many flat designs ignore or drop.

Gripe with Flat Design

Microsoft chose grey on light grey on white with their new flat design in MS Office 2013. This is very hard on the eyes and makes finding sections / ideas in the UI take a bit of studying to understand. I won’t even go into Windows 8 start screen or new desktop UI which both have other issues. Apple in iOS7 appears to be choosing border-less white divs with section breaks just being a larger padding between items. There is little to no affordance.

If these are the leaders, I’m concerned.

Some are using Flat Design well

However, in my opinion some companies are pulling off flat design well. For instance AVG 2013, they chose very intuitive layout that makes the UI simple and understandable, I don’t use the product, but I would trust my grandma to run it. Other fine examples are the games OLO, Letterpress – check them out.

Some companies are going for a Almost Flat Design, which I can agree is a good compromise, making things a bit more intuitive and have substance. Examples include LinkedIn app, Google products, Facebook. And now with Google announcing Material Design that becomes even more clear.

What I’m saying?

It’s not about emulating the ‘real world’ as it is giving items a sense of sections, and layers. First sections, A menu bar or sidebar ought to look separate from the content. More specifically, static vs. dynamic content ought to be separate. Second layers, if a menu has a drop down that is going to cover content, there ought to be (even a subtle) hint/shadow that is is currently above the content and has a border to visually show its identity. Users will intuitively know there is content under it and not mistake it being part of the content. And not to say ‘Real world’ is what I’m suggesting, if I were then I would want SPST Push Button or NTE 54-533 Switch Rocker.

Where are we heading?

I could dig in further with some closer examples, but I feel User Experience seems unfortunately been placed on the side in many flat design cases. It seems we are in a UI counter-culture mood swing from our overdose on 3D buttons, and huge drop shadows. I get it. We just have to be careful to consider usability, intuitiveness, learnability, human errors, and other UX items. Maybe it is just poor flat design that I’m not a fan of or haven’t given it a full chance, but I’m concerned.

Thankfully with Google talking about Material Design, perhaps we can start to head in a smarter direction.

Opinion: Zero-Rate Content a Threat?

I got thinking about ‘zero-rate content’ from internet providers.  That is, websites and content that are free to you simply because you are their customer.

It already exists

It is really just a different way to phrase the net-neutrality issue issues. It’s really just a nuance of the ‘fast-lane’ concept that different packets are treated differently by speed, price, count allowed.

I recently experienced this when I traveled abroad, thus I know it exists. I was talking with AT&T before I left setting up my abroad minutes and data. The representative was very proud to inform me I could use the AT&T Information and AT&T wifi locator apps with no data fees, that is, they would pro-rate any data usage that I used within those apps. I could help my self but laugh at loud at them, and ask if he was serious… then I made a statement about net-neutrality.

I found it rather curious that they could detect the packet difference. I suppose it only makes sense, all you have to do is read the packets header to see its intended destination, check it against a white-list of “We’ll pay for that one, its on us”. According to the representative, they do something very similar to that, though he wasn’t familiar with what I meant by packet inspecting.

All the same, it is sort of a nice gesture by AT&T saying we’ll pay / help you out whenever you’re checking status on your account. You don’t have to worry if you are over your data cap ever when checking information about your account. I kinda dig that.

Data isn’t free

You’ll note that I said pro-rate the cost of the packet. Data isn’t free, cheep, but not free. In the international case it is a bit more expensive to get it from where I was to their servers, AT&T paid for that. Similarly when back home, even through AT&T towers the packets will have small cost, even if it is their packet. It’s just a matter of splitting the costs between the user and the provider.
In the case of video sharing sites..

Here is my theory: It won’t be sustainable for a provider like Verizon or AT&T to maintain a site with media, though they may be trying.

I think there are barriers they will run into

  • I find it hard to believe that any telco will produce a good enough app/site that wins the world over like a youtube or netflix.
  • They will be restricted to their shows they produce or partners produce, and maybe pull it from places like netflix. However that would hurt them greatly since adoption of a new platform would be low. Comcast is doing pretty good on this I suppose.
  • Cost of a video servicing infrastructure (server farms throughout the country/world)
  • Reliability of a video servicing infrastructure (remember old old youtube and netflix problems?)
  • Community (hard to get get viewers to jump to a place with lesser content)
  • Fragmentation (only customers of said telcom gain benefits aka smaller subset of world population. Presumably other providers would have their own deals)
  • Profitability (If this is done, it would be for money, where is the the money? Ads? Probably not. New customers? Will it really entice enough new clients to join the telco?)
  • Abuse, give away something for free, people will abuse it, then you need to cap it. Enter irony.
  • Why not partner with an existing provider, say Netflix or Hulu?

To widen the scope again to zero-rate content (cost paid by telco). It will exist, probably not for video streaming, but for other sites and partners.

Is zero-rate data a threat?

I’m not sure I see zero-rate content as a huge threat, (though a threat all the same) mainly since each provider would have a different selection of partnerships.

Opinion: Graph Search

I am a big fan of the flexibility of graph search. Graph search has been around since before March 2013 when I wrote a few notes about my favorite searches. I figured it was time to share a few.

I have met people that I remember a list of facts about and have been able to find them via the Graph Search. It is simply fantastic.

Here are some fun uses of Graph Search on Facebook:

  • “My friends who live in New York”
  • “Places in Chicago my Friends have been to”
  • “Friends of Joe in Backbone.js Developers Group”
  • “Friends of My Friends who like Swing Dancing”
  • “My friends who are Females who are Single”
  • “Events my friends are going to”
  • “People named Christopher who live in Seattle, WA who like Passion Pit”
  • “Friends of Beth named Tim”
  • “Mutual friends of Beth and Jake named Tim”

Opinion: The Modular Smartphone

I’ve had a number of friends show me this nifty concept video on a modular phone. I see the frustration it addresses in regards to repairs and upgrades. I find the idea appealing, but I have my doubts about the long term feasibility and acceptance in the market place.

Connectors – The modular gotcha

A concern becomes those connectors, they will be more complex than just 4 generic pins as shown in the video, they will have to be.

Let’s say a standard connector is established for the camera for example. And that is good, however when innovation occurs that old connector standard may no longer be suffice and a new standard will need to be established. So you end up with two types of camera modules. Camera C1 and Camera C2. That main board in the phone will only support one or the other. A main board with a C1 is outdated. If you want to use a C2 camera, you need to upgrade to a board with C2 connector. Now look at the broader perspective. Now we have upgraded our board, and the new one only supports Processor CPU3 connection and our old board was a CPU1 – this module too will need to upgrade. His example of regular screen to HD screen is perfect example, the connections are probably going to be different.

These upgrades because of dependencies and limitations are a real thing we saw with desktop computers and their motherboards:

In general public doesn’t want try to manage or understand these component dependencies. Thus why most purchased pre-fabricated desktop PCs. In practice, most purchased a new computer instead of swapping out older components. They didn’t want to deal with the hassle of understanding the modular structure.

Moving away from fully modular

When we moved from desktop computer to laptops we abandon modular computers. Each laptop is unique on the interior and are only partially modular .  harddrive, cdrom drive, RAM, wifi, and bluetooth, but that’s about it). This move away from modular is partially because of the space constraints. It is a really small living space for all the components, and generally not very accessible. In a smartphone this issue only becomes even greater, the connectors are compact and delicate.

Smartphone should adopt a similar mentality as laptops, with key components being swap-able. Many smartphones are already partially modular. Many androids have SD chip for increasing storage, Batteries can be replaced with ease. There are a few other components that should be focused on such as the screen. Repairing a phone any busted part in a Android or iPhones that can already be swapped, hardest bit is locating the right one for your phone. Upgrading components is unlikly because of the compact space and uique shaped parts.

 We are moving fast

And that is OK. We are demanding more and more from these portable devices. Rapid innovation is happening now. A fully modular phone won’t be able to keep up and might even slow us down. The time for this may be in 5 years from now when we start to slow down.

Will a modular phone happen?

It’s possible someone may create one, but I have my hunches it won’t stick in the mainstream other than it being an idealistic hope. People prefer simple and reliable over effort and maintenance.

Do you disagree? Think there is a chance it will catch? These non-issues?