Saturday, June 30, 2012

I plead guilty to holding this view and not having read him

: "Hunter had such a brilliantly flashy narrative style that a lot of people were fooled into thinking that’s all he was—a wacky, drug-addled literary party animal with a gift for memorable insults and profanity-laden one-liners. The people who understood him the least (and a lot of these sorry individuals came out of the woodwork, bleating their complaints on right-wing talk shows and websites, when Thompson died) had this idea that he was just the journalistic version of a rock star, an abject hedonist with a gift for the catchy tune who was popular with kids because he stood for Letting Loose and Getting Off without consequence."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Criticality of Macr Resurgence vs iPod

This point is overlooked a lot in discussions of Apple...I remember what a watershed it was when they moved, seemingly effortlessly, from traditional proprietary, Mac OS base to BSD Unix. It was like I woke up one day and all the geeks who were not interested in the Mac were suddenly in love with it.
And during that decade, almost every such developer I knew switched to the Mac if they weren’t already there, partly because it was better for developing web apps.That’s one of the biggest reasons there was so much pent-up developer interest in the iPhone before the App Store opened: these consumer-product developers were all using Macs already. As the dominant consumer platform shifted from the web to apps over the last four years, most talented consumer-product developers built products for their app platform of choice during that time: the Apple ecosystem.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Example of why Io mistrust Samsung

To add to the fun, Samsung have some strange ideas about my willingness to buy into their hardware ecosystem. Apple's products use the now-familiar dock connector instead of regular micro-USB. This is annoying, but (a) you can buy a tiny dock connector to micro-USB dongle for about £5 if it irritates you sufficiently, and (b) there are lots of cheap third-party cables. Lots of third party kit out there uses the dock connector, which has been stable for about 8 years: the evidence is in the shape of all those alarm clock radios and speaker docks. Samsung, in contrast, invented a wholly new and incompatible dock connector for the Galaxy S II tablet. One that is not compatible with earlier Galaxy tablets released as recently as late 2010. The cable sells separately for $20 (so if you lose the cable for your tablet you're stiffed paying nearly 10% of the total price for a replacement wire to the wall wart).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hate Facebook Apps that Insist on Posting on your Behalf

I DO NOT need apps to post on my behalf. The world simply does NOT need to know that I just played a turn in one of my half-dozen concurrent WWF games. I reject all apps that ask for this permission. Unfortunately, there appears to be no "line-item" veto on that, so I have to reject the whole app.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

IVRs have gotten a lot better

Both actual wait times, and the fact that the systems have gotten pretty good about telling you the average wait time. Bonus points for: 
  • Offering to call you back
  • Advice about best time to call
  • Friendly, on-shore CSRs

Black marks for
  • Making it very hard to break out to a rep

Focus-Stealing: Just one example of why people like new, mobile UIs

Focus-stealing is a very old problem, but Webex is a terrible offender. Worst part--it does it when the meeting is being closed! So, the use case:

1. Webex meeting occupies your attention
2. Meeting winds down
3. Jump over to whatever you urgently need to do
4. Webex grabs the scope

Solution...Windows should have some kind of notification bar/window, where an app can tell you if it is doing stuff and maybe you want to check it out.

In fact, the whole notification metaphor is a problem. A lot of people live and die by their Outlook calendar reminders. But if your reminder happens to activate while you are away from your desk, it is very easy to not see it. Contrast this with the Android notification bar, which is low-key but nicely persistent.

These are old, crufty problems. Perhaps they could be solved in legacy UIs, but there is so much resistance to doing so. Then a fresh, new UI paradigm comes along, simpler, cleaner and without these problems, and it feels so good.

(While we are on the subject of the Android Notification Bar, it is not gets way too cluttered with unimportant notifications. It seems like more and more apps want to put their icon into the notification bar. That is more analogous to the Windows system tray (status) than a true notification (something happened, pay attention).)

Employers: Qualified Workers Aren't In Jobs Pool

This is a pretty good report, discussing the fact that even though unemployment is high, employers have trouble filling certain jobs.
One thing we know is that if employers were willing to do a little more training, and maybe there was some way the government could give them an incentive to do that, they might be able to take people who are capable of doing jobs but don't have exactly the right skills. And the thing is, the software needs to be redone so it's not so picky and it flags, for consideration, by a human being - an applicant who doesn't quite fit the bill but could do the job
I do not believe HR is very data-driven. For instance, do they track data that tells them how good their screening is?

James Traficant, Worst Congressman in Recent Memory?

I stumbled across this interesting article about Jim Traficant and the Youngstown, OH area on Longform. I remember seeing an excerpt of a Traficant speech, years ago (when respect for Congresspeople was a bit higher) and being positively dumbfounded that the ill-groomed, blustering jackass I on the screen was, in fact, a U.S. Congressman. This article told the rest of the story--and it was even worse than I had imagined. #iHatePopulism #AndiHateCorruptionEvenMore

Why I returned my HTC One S

I just returned my HTC One S under buyer's remorse for a number of reasons. I am going to opt instead for the Samsung Galaxy S3. I am really a bit disappointed about this. We need strong competitors to Samsung--HTC is the most likely candidate. And I have been mis-treated by Samsung before (Galaxy S/Vibrant). So I really wanted HTC to have a winner here. Alas, it was not to be.

Severely Broken Multi-Tasking

As has been more publicized for the HTC One X, the memory management is so aggressive that you can barely multi-task at all. It's like the Generation 1 iPhone. Especially a killer, since one of my main uses cases is to listen to streaming NPR.

Signal Fluctuation Issues

I think the signal fluctuation issue was largely fixed by the recent update. Pre-update, sometimes I would spontaneously have no signal at all. Post-update, sometimes the signal drops precipitously for no reason at all, but hasn't gotten to the point of "X for no signal".

Bluetooth Spontaneously Disconnecting/Crashing

The bluetooth would spontaneously disconnect, pretty frequently--probably once every 2-3 hours of use. A couple of times I think it even caused the phone to re-boot. Again, since my #1 use case for my phone is voice calls for work (I know, who would have though, voice a primary usage for a smartphone! :) ), and my #2 is streaming NPR, this is a big problem.

Screen Size

I knew what I was getting, but I had really wanted a 4.6" widescreen (like GS2). I was willing to compromise on this, but it was a factor. Had I known T-Mobile would get the GS3 so promptly, I probably would have held out from Day 1.

App Association (Probably Intentional) Bug

In Android, you can set a default app association for various "Intents", such as Contacts, Messages, Home Button. The first time the Intent occurs, it will list all the available "Intent Receivers" (Apps), and let you choose if you want one to be the default. From then on, you don't have to choose, you get the default. In HTC ICS, it seems like this is broken--I set the default, but it is never remembered. This gets very, very annoying. Especially for a Launcher app that replaces the Home Screen.

Menu Button

For the many apps not updated to ICS, you lose quite a bit of space in portrait mode, due to the on-screen menu button. I know this isn't HTC's fault, they are following the Google spec, but it was a real bummer (and compounds the screen size compromise). I am thinking Samsung made a much better choice with the GS3 by going against Google's intent and including the menu button. Surprised this hasn't been discussed more, it is a real bummer.

Monday, June 11, 2012

eBay Scam Prevention Idea

I previously wrote about my first attempt to sell an expensive, extra cell phone on eBay, and attracting overseas scammers both times. After the second time I called eBay, and they promised to add "filters" to my account that would prevent it happening again. Well, all the filters accomplished was to raise the bar and attract a (slightly) more sophisticated scammer. (Hint: any buyer email with a plea and a gratuitous "God bless" thrown in is probably an overseas scammer ;) )

Stipulated that I am an eBay newb, but I can think of an approach that seems like it would fend off such scammers. Have an option--recommended for all newb sellers--to require the bidder to have a PayPal account with a $20 balance. Upon winning the bid, PayPal places a hold on that balance, until the full payment is received. If a scam, the $20 is forfeited, of course. Not likely that will happen, scammers won't leave a money trail with real money in the first place. The point is deterrence.

The money doesn't have to go to the seller, it can go to eBay. Don't want to create any incentive for sellers to invent scammers for their own profit.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

"Playback" does not prove that multi-taskers can absorb external information

With few exceptions, I don't believe that humans are generally effective at multi-tasking. It is totally a myth that the upcoming generations will be great multi-taskers[1]. Here is another myth to be aware of: I call it the "playback fallacy".

I will say something to my kids, notice they are absorbed with the screen, and ask them to pay attention. They will claim that they are paying attention, and will offer as evidence the ability to "play back", verbatim, what I have just said.

The problem is that they played back from "cache". Very analogous to the small amount of cache memory on a CPU. Information can be quickly stored and accessed there, but it is very volatile. It only becomes data when it is actively processed and stored to a less volatile location. So, if I hadn't said anything, the cache would have either been over-written by the next small stream of information, or decayed quickly within a few minutes, and the info would never have been absorbed.
[1] Multi-tasking means actively processing more than one activity, concurrently. It should not be confused with "context-switching", which means being able to juggle and switch between multiple activities. I think humans have fewer absolute biological limitations on the ability to context-switch, though it is still problematic. One, it imposes the overhead necessary to manage the contexts. Two, there is risk of contexts over-writing each other's memory. It seems possible, though not proven, that today's youth will be better context-switchers.