Could Skype be the one communications client to rule them all?

June 23, 2014

Google has Google Voice (soon to be part of Hangouts, expanding their footprint for the ailing – or morphing – Google+ by forcing users to switch), Facebook has their Messenger client, there’s Viber and Line in the Voice space and WhatsApp and SnapChat delivering text and image messaging. The iPhone has Visual Voicemail and iMessage. Where is Microsoft fit in all of this? Read the rest of this entry »

Why can’t I have one number, but two SIMs?

June 10, 2014

In this age of smartphones with big delicate pieces of glass and a non-swappable battery that dies in the middle of the afternoon I often need to carry a second phone. For active folks with a 5″ phablet with glass front and rear they might want a beater phone to take when they run or hit the trails.

The simple solution used to be just swap your SIM. But in these days of regular, Micro, Nano who knows what else sized SIM that’s not always practical, even with the variety of trays available to help convert. Read the rest of this entry »

Indicate. Help me keep rule #2

June 4, 2014

The first rule of riding a motorcycle is simple – don’t fall off. The second is it’s always your fault. Some people put them the other way around but I like to think that if you’ve managed to follow #1 then #2 should take care of itself.

There was gravel; they turned into me; he wasn’t looking; the light was green. They don’t cut much ice when the rubber meets the road. I’m in my 40s now, and that means I’ve had a bike license for over half my life and that hasn’t changed in all those years.

What has changed is how crowded the roads are and that leads to more moving pieces to keep track of. The road surfaces seem to be worse (maybe I am getting old), everyone is in much more of a hurry and drivers (and riders) are more easily distracted by an ever broader range of technology to fiddle with at 60 miles per hour. Read the rest of this entry »

Will work for Internet Points!

February 3, 2014

For a year and a half I’ve been helping solve problems, write samples and clarifying questions to make them easier to answer. It’s not my day job and it doesn’t even pay peanuts. It pays me in something even less tangible … internet points! Read the rest of this entry »

Why I uninstalled Facebook – and your app might be next

January 14, 2014

For all it’s pretentious narcissism Facebook provides a level of utility. It also needs to build a business to pay for those servers, engineers and lavish parties. But there comes a point when building an empire that is minting billionaires on the back of a business model that’s predicated on crossing the line into creepy just becomes wrong.

If I use the web experience it gets what I explicitly chose to tell it – what I add to my profile, and post to my wall or message my friends. And I’m comfortable with that. It’s a trade-off – I give them some information, they serve me some ads and I get some value.

On my phone though it’s a different story: Read the rest of this entry »

Browser Profiles – an excuse to play with Chrome Extensions

December 27, 2013

Like many people I use a laptop that I carry from home to work and back again. That coupled with browser preferences syncing to my other machines means all my bookmarks and extensions travel everywhere with me.

At work (or on our VPN) there are certain intranet sites I can access that are not public, so I’d prefer not to see them if i can’t click on them. There are also some browser extensions that I don’t want to run at work because they are not on our IT departments approved list. This means that either I have to stop syncing settings, or use a different browser for work… or come up with a smarter solution. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mysterious MRI

December 24, 2013

As a nerd who gets all excited about the whole idea of Quantified Self with my FitBit and 23andMe and HealthVault profiles I was somewhat thrilled to discover I needed an MRI – after all using powerful electromagnets to peer into places I’d never want to see normally (expect perhaps from the inside of a miniaturized spaceship) is pretty cool.

As I was curious about how they worked I read some articles, and checked some videos to find out about the process, and to see people messing about with one so at least I’d know what to expect (no, they don’t attach you to a stain gauge and lower you in on an office chair!) Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping a-head in the clouds

November 19, 2013

One of the great things about developing on today’s cloud platforms is elastic computing. You never know what the peaks are going to look like, but you don’t want to pay for hardware you’ll only use once in a blue moon. So you opt for a dynamically adaptive scalable solution.

If you’re read any of my posts about jsErrLog (or “jsErrLog posts” if it’s still down) you’ll know that’s what I did for that service. As I’m offering it for free to anyone with a reasonable load I needed something as cost effective as possible (ie free!). When I built it I looked at Windows Azure, Amazon’s EC2, a few smaller options, Virtual Private Servers and finally settled on Google AppEngine – in common with the others it offered a number of options for programming languages and data storage but the big bonus was a no-nonsense the free tier.

Sometimes however things don’t go quite as planned…

Read the rest of this entry »

Where did America’s enemies come from?

July 15, 2013

America is surrounded by enemies. Overseas there are Insurgents, Freedom Fighters, Rebels, an Axis of Evil and a dozen other threats to American interests. Closer to their white picket fences and apple pie are Home Grown and Self Radicalized Terrorists.

These demonized nebulous threats are being used to strip away years of progress – from rights and protections granted by the Constitution through to the simple expectation of being able to travel without running the gauntlet of mall cop security theater. They are being use to justify wholesale spying on the American people and politicians and citizens of other sovereign – in some cases “friendly” – nations.

The question people should be stepping back and asking is how this happened. They need to do what they can to stop it, but it helps to understand why America has all these threats leveled against it.

Externally the threats have come from American interference – CIA training rebels and freedom fighters who promised to help further America’s interests in a region (who then resented American interference and use the same techniques against their former allies) or outright agression in the name of “bringing democracy” or a blustering self justified search for weapons of mass destruction. In many cases those seemingly altruistic actions have been driven by commercial interests or to secure resources. Why doesn’t America bring the same effort to bear in mineral poor parts of Africa as it does “liberating” oil rich Middle Eastern territories.

Then we have the home grown terrorists. Some of those are simply disturbed individuals, but many are driven to the point of desperation in a country which simply doesn’t care. They feel deserted, betrayed or abandoned by a system which should have supported them – again, the race for the almighty dollar is dismantling the education system, making healthcare less accessible than in some third world countries and reminding us all that the origin of the world privilege was “private law” where money talks and big corporations and the rich very rarely pay for their actions.

Of course with the current climate of fear and the media slavering over every opportunity to monetize the collective paranoia anyone can be labelled a terrorist – a protester in the Texas legislature who just wants to be heard; a whistleblower who exposes criminal abuses of power or negligence; a person who just wants some fair recompense from a bank that illegally foreclosed on them with no restitution required.

The upshot of this is a that America is isolating itself. Companies and countries are thinking twice about doing business or associating with America. Americans are not welcome. And this seems to fit in with the other policies which are coming to the fore in a country determined to deliver on the blueprints laid out in the Handmaiden’s Tale and Idiocracy.

Change the conversation – don’t play the numbers game.

July 12, 2013

For new entrants to the phone or tablet market the conversation always turns to how many apps there are. At launch, a year later, how fast the numbers are growing. The conversation is driven by the incumbents and echoed by the press and makes it very hard for a newcomer to be taken seriously.

What would happen though if a new entrant to the space, such as Mozilla with the Firefox Phone, decides not to obsess about the numbers game, but own the narrative and re-write the rules…

If you play the numbers game means you are spread thin, chasing a huge catalog and will constantly be behind the ball playing “me too” and catch up at the mercy of the big fish who probably don’t see you worth the effort until you have an established presence.

Defining your rules allows you to identify a small selection, maybe a dozen, of apps that users want, need or actually use as a base line and expend significant effort working with those partners to create the best version of their experience on your platform.

You help with engineering, dollars and resources, providing money, talent and demonstrating true partnership. Engage deeply with your partners and share the risk – you both need to comfortable enough to experiment with new features on your new platform, to iterate and fail fast but within that small group drive their success while establishing your new platform and demonstrating what is possible.

For most of the incumbents this isn’t the way they play the game. Apple dictate to partners secure in their position, Google, with Android, rely on OEMs and the scale of their store to drive developers. Microsoft have a huge field Evangelism organization who can wield marketing dollars but are chasing numbers and have quarterly goals to meet and don’t seem to have the patience for long term engagements any more. BlackBerry are desperately copying any playbook that seems to make work but are finding resurrecting their brand hard going.

For a new player it’s a losing proposition to try and get into their race. Even if you launch with 50 thousand apps there will be the issue of quality and questions around the presence of the “must haves” who won’t have taken the risk, and every omission will hurt. If you make the headlines read “Twitter launches their next generation client on Firefox OS“, “Evernote delivers game changing update first for Firefox OS” you can control the conversation.

By controlling the conversation you become a platform that is aspirational and seen as innovative.

That is where technology evangelism has to return too, not being driven by the same old marketing and PR story that is seen as safe conventional widsom