Monday, November 14, 2011

Catchy Name

I've written a couple of posts observing the value of a catchy name in branding. Here are a couple more examples:

Ruby on Rails
This one is particularly good. It marries nice, moderate alliteration with an extremely compelling, easily-understood image: anything "on rails" is rock-solid, and won't go astray. As in "we've got the latest project on rails...if anything, we are going to be done several weeks early."

Camel-Bak
Whereas most catchy-name examples involve a significant element of style over substance, this one is pure...the name perfectly captures both the form and the function of the product.

Future of California

Long, fascinating article. I don't want to dance on California's sick-bed, but I still have to keep asking--when will the tech industry decide that California is not the only place to be? What an irony that the industry dedicated to making things virtual is itself seemingly obsessed by place.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What the Steve Jobs profitability paradox reminds me of

I wrote about the paradox of Apple's profitability, under Steve Jobs--maximizing profitability (or shareholder value) seemed to take a backseat to product excellence. Paradoxically, though, through the relentless, uncompromising, somewhat messianic pursuit of profit excellence, in about a decade, Apple grew from being a mid-cap company to vying for the largest market cap on the globe.

This makes me think of the "paradox of happiness". Those who dedicate their life to the pursuit of happiness usually achieve the opposite--a sad, unfulfilling life chasing empty pleasures. Those who dedicate their life to a higher calling--duty, faith, honor,  service--often find consistent, lasting happiness as a byproduct.

Android Fragmentation--Improving Slowly, but Could Be Much Better

Great article. The Android fragmentation issue is an utter disgrace. Google needs to get on the ball, especially now that the iPhone is so widely available. Making Galaxy Nexus available on all carriers simultaneously--instead of a Verizon exclusive--would have been a nice start. :(

This is almost enough to make me as anti-Android as I am anti-Apple. (I'm exaggerating)

Grid or Flow Layouts for Windows and Browser

I have this belief that computer users are not getting nearly the full benefit they could from the ever-increasing monitor space. What has bugged me for years is the difficulty of arranging windows. It is SO tedious to do it by hand.

I know recent versions of MS-Office have arrange-compare features. I haven't used them a lot. They seem ok. But a lot of the arranging I want to do it ad-hoc. I haven't thought deeply about it, so don't claim to have the answers, but I definitely feel an itch.

One idea I have is guidelines, like in PageMaker. So maybe I draw a vertical guidelne 2/3 of the way across my screen. Any app I drop to the left of it fills the left 2/3. Any app I drop to the right fills the right 1/3.  Further refinements, such as tagging one of the panes to be "always on top". Maybe others, like drilling through the panes, or each pane having tabs. Complexity, I know.

I have come across a few utilities that try to do some of this, but none that accomplished much for me. I know there are virtual desktops that might do some of this, too. I tried one years ago.

The other thing I would like to see implemented in certain apps is a form of a flow layout. For instance, we make heavy use of Office Communicator. I have my auxiliary laptop monitor devoted to OC sessions. I would like these to auto-arrange themselves, tiling sideways across the screen. (Actually, there is a lot more organizing OC should be doing for the user, with or without OS-level enhanced window arrangement--but that's another story).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

TV is better, yes, but it still has a fatal flaw

The linked Slate article discusses how HBO revolutionized the quality of television shows. As someone who pretty much quit watching TV in 1980, it took me a while to notice that TV was actually getting better. To that extent I agree with the article. Commercial TV c. 1980 was simply un-watchable. It has improved since then.

But, there is a point that all television Criticism seems to miss. There is a fatal flaw that is fundamental to the species. It's a small thing, but it always kills within a few years. The problem? The need to keep the viewer "hooked", and the unwillingness to "leave money on the table" (retire something before it starts to stink), distort any natural dramatic arc, and quickly render the vehicle unsatisfying.

Apple's Re-birth

Post-Steve Jobs death, there have of course been many articles that discuss Apple's comeback. They tend to date it to the introduction of the iMac or the first iPod. I think they are overlooking an important event.

The thing that is amazing to me is that in the last 10 years, the Mac went from being viewed as the sissy computer, to the darling of the geeks. I remember when that happened. It was an overnight phenomenon. It occurred when they introduced OS/X. OS/X was based on the venerable, and venerated, BSD Unix. It was a gigantic, amazing leap. It gave the Mac a terrific technical foundation on which to build all the cool stuff and eye candy. Getting all those thought leaders to embrace Mac was, in my opinion, an essential ingredient in the Apple comeback.

Ironically, even this part of the story does loop back to Steve Jobs. The transition to OS/X was by far the smoothest new OS rollout I can recall. The likely reason? OS/X was created from NextStep, the commercially unsuccessful, but widely praised, OS that had been created at NEXT Computing--where Steve Jobs went after he got booted out of Apple.

Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard) - NYTimes.co

I don't think science is intrinsically more challenging than any other curriculum. I suppose it is harder to fake proficiency. But ultimately it is all a question of degree of difficulty and standards. And that is where the liberal arts have shot themselves in the heart.

Liberal arts grading is much more generous, and the curriculum can be even more so. A savvy student can duck hard classes, since there is not much of a core curriculum any longer. So as a credential--and that's 90% of what a degree represents, a credential--a liberal arts degree is a much less reliable marker than a science/engineering degree.

Doesn't have to be that way, but it's how things have evolved.