Google are doing a lot of “10X innovation” right now. That is innovation that isn’t just incrementally better than the competition (like a 10% improvement) but a moon-shot, 10-times improvement. One of these initiatives is called Project Loon:
You can sometimes see these balloons being tested off the coast of Christchurch, New Zealand, on FlightRadar, which means these craft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) systems:
There are good reasons for this: it’s not overly difficult to work out timezone differences, there are more intuitive alternatives such as using Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), and ultimately nobody is betting the farm on an esoteric way of telling the time.
God loves a trier
As the first in a series of utilities to incorporate Swatch Internet Time as a first-class timing component, my gift to you at this celebratory time of year, dear reader, is a Swatch Internet Time clock for your desktop.
The new leaders of the free world are Generation C. They aren’t an age group, people born between certain arbitrary years such as Generation X or Y, instead it is a mind-set and an attitude. But the really interesting thing is that they don’t know they’re in charge.
The C Word
The “C” in Generation C stands for many things: curation, community-oriented, connected, creation, computerised, communication and the most important one: content.
Even Google acknowledges that this group exists, synonymously calling them “The YouTube Generation“. They attribute this glossy, if somewhat somewhat proprietary, title to people with a focus on production rather than consumption because they are “YouTube’s core audience”. Elsewhere, Generation C is being acknowledged as a powerful force that can decide the success or failure of commercial and political initiatives. Generation C has replaced the celebrity-endorsement deal.
Did you know there are more voters in the USA born 1980-1995 than all other voters combined? Imagine if they realised what collective political power they had over the systems currently in place which is punishing them for the failures of their forefathers.
The first generation of digital natives
Generation C almost encompasses an age group known as the Millennials – those born between 1984 and 2000 who have no understanding of the world without the Internet, Google, Amazon, smartphones, real-time chat, etc. Forrester estimate that 80% of Millennials embody the attitude of Generation C, but are keen to stress that it really is a mindset not an age group.
Once you start to quantify the attributes of Generation C you begin to see why they are important and realise there is some astonishing human behaviour emerging within this group. Behaviour that is flipping tradition and accepted wisdom on their heads.
Their importance can be seen in the statistics published by Nielsen in 2012 (Nielsen choose to categorise Generation C as 18-34 year olds):
The prevalence of 18-34 year olds using tablets, smartphones, social media, etc. puts them in a position of data-wealth and amazing connectivity. They are opinionated and can share their black-or-white opinions instantly with the rest of the world. They have the same reach as hundred-million-dollar marketing programmes had in the 1990s and many are turning their digital soapboxes into well-cultivated media microbrands. Promoters really promote – they become champions of companies or products – while detractors can be extremely hostile. Continue Reading “Generation C”→
QuickModules provides you with a basic, modular framework for hanging API endpoints from. Internally using the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) to load modules, QuickModules gives you the ability to build encapsulated CRUD services without needing to write, or understand, the usual plumbing.
In order to ease any concerns you may have I will run through all the steps required (there are very few) to get QuickModules into your MVC application.
Step 0: Open Visual Studio (Duh!)
Step 1: Create a new MVC project
Step 2: Choose an Empty, Basic, Internet, Intranet or SPA template (actually, any will do, but these make the most sense)
Step 3: Notice how barren your project is without QuickModules. 🙁 (I’ve chosen a Basic template here)
Step 4: Install QuickModules using NuGet: Right-click on the References node in your Solution Explorer tree and click on “Manage NuGet Packages”:
Step 5: Search for “QuickModules” and choose “Install”. (Don’t worry if the details and version numbers look a little different on your PC, this is a screenshot of an early work-in-progress package).
That’s it!Hit F5 to run your application. If you’ve chosen an Empty or Basic template you’ll probably get a 404 Not Found error. Try navigating to the sample “Nearby Restaurants” module by adding /QM/Get?ActivityType=NearbyRestaurants to your URL (QM being shorthand for QuickModules of course!).
But Wait There’s More!
Built into the framework (and optionally supported by your modules) is paging, and filtering. All for the low, low price of $9.95. (Just kidding, it’s free). Use the LINQ-style Skip and Take arguments to control paging:
And use the Filter argument to narrow the result set down:
OK. You’ve got billions in the bank, a head for phenomenally-successful disruptive engineering, a great business record and a clean sheet of paper. How would you revolutionise transportation? Elon Musk is that man and, tonight, he tweeted that all will be revealed by 12th August. His idea? The Hyperloop.
Will publish Hyperloop alpha design by Aug 12. Critical feedback for improvements would be much appreciated.
That’s kind of the point of Musk’s tweet. It’s top secret. But also kind of a big deal… Elon is not very good at keeping secrets but he always manages to shut up just in time to not reveal everything. He let slip about Hyperloop at the D11 conference, calling it “a cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”. “If they had a threeway and had a baby,” he said, before understandably trailing off…
Musk says Hyperloop would reduce travel time from San Francisco to LA down to 30 minutes. The general consensus has been that high-speed mass transit like this would involve tubes containing small pressurised “pods”, the tubes would have all the air sucked out of them so they’re almost like a vacuum, and then the pods would be fired through them, with little air resistance, at high speed. Probably powered by magnets, like the maglev (magnetic levitation) trains in Europe and Japan.
If you’re a Windows stack developer and you’ve just installed the VS2012 Update 2, which came out last week, you may have suddenly started to see this beautifully impenetrable error message whenever you try to debug a web project: “Unable to launch the configured Visual Studio Development Web server. Unable to start debugging. The format of the PE module is invalid.”
A bit of Google-fu confirms there’s a coincidence between installing Update 2 and getting this error.
There hasbeenmuchpress this week about Microsoft’s new annual-update programme for its Windows operating system, purported to be called “Windows Blue”. This has been mostly driven by the leak of an early copy of Blue onto file sharing websites.
WinSuperSite’s Paul Thurrott gives the best overview. As well as several new “Modern UI” (previously ‘Metro’) apps such as Alarms, Calculator, Sound Recorder and Movie Moments, a significant amount of the traditional Windows Desktop is being moved into the Modern UI too. For example, choosing which application to open certain file types with. This, as Paul suggests, could be an indication of Microsoft’s intention to eventually move everything into the Modern UI and get rid of “the Desktop”, as we all know it, completely. Perhaps in Windows 9?
Of course! That’s the paradigm shift! I have been wondering exactly how we’re supposed to use this Start Menu, and learn to embrace it rather than hate it, and now I get it! The Start Menu is your launchpad. You receive some information on the live tiles, you click on them to launch the full-screen Modern UI app, do your thing (send an email, reply to a Tweet, etc.) and then Whoosh! you’re back to the Start Menu for your next task.
That’s all it’s supposed to be, that’s why new Modern UI apps take up all the screen. It is Microsoft’s way of helping you focus in the modern world where everything is vying for your attention. That’s why, at most, you can have two apps side by side. But that’s all.
I announced my breakthrough to my development team at work. And it was quickly rebuked.
“I’m trying to use it as a dashboard but I keep getting distracted by the benign animations on things like the ‘Photos’ tile,” said Lloyd, my Team Leader.
And he’s right.
If it was clean, and live tiles were used properly – to catch your attention when it was necessary – it would work very well.
But the Start Menu is awash with noise. It’s a very busy, awkward interface. It has promise, but Microsoft has already confused its own message by creating live tiles with no real purpose. They’re just there to show off the technology – but in reality they’re hurting it. Badly.
Windows 8 has largely been slated by users and the technology press because it has clearly been designed to work on touch-screens first – and non-touch-screens (with traditional keyboard and mouse setups) second. I’ve covered this before. If you move your mouse to any corner of a screen you find invisible menus springing forth and covering up what you were trying to do. This is a massive hack to support the features you get on touch-screens (by swiping in from the sides, top and bottom) but with a mouse.
As a multi-monitor user I frequently snap a window to be full screen on one screen (so my mouse cursor is at the top of the screen) and then move the mouse cursor to another window to snap another app full-screen there. But because the corners now have special, and apparently I push forward slightly as I move my mouse cursor, the little pointer ends up getting “stuck” in between the monitors. This is a very jarring, fist-clenchingly frustrating experience. It’s such a minor thing but when it happens it feels like the computer has taken over your mouse and is actively preventing you from doing what you want to do.
And you know what? I move my cursor from screen to screen a hell of a lot more often than I want to use charms! And don’t even bother showing me the “Share” charm when I’m in the desktop because you’re only going to show the “Can’t share anything from the desktop” message. That’s a major breach of basic User Experience (UX) guidelines, right there.
I’ve also always been fond of double-clicking the top-left of a window to close it. While I still can do this if I’m careful in Windows 8, I usually end up triggering the preview of the last Modern UI app I had open, which hides the part of the application I was actually trying to use.
For years and years I’ve been able to use Word without things popping up reminding me that before Word, I opened up Minesweeper. It is a ridiculous feature that needs removing as soon as possible (Windows Blue maybe, Microsoft?). Except…. it is there for a purpose: to let you switch between the traditional desktop and Modern UI apps. There is no other way to do that (Except clicking on the app tile again in the Start Menu, but this feels like a “re-launch” behaviour).
The lack of a “taskbar” in the Modern UI world is also a huge failing. Taskbars provide context and allow for far faster task-switching than swiping. While also preventing the awkwardness of having to reclick a tile just to get back to an already-open Modern UI app.
Windows Blue: Modern UI and Traditional Desktop (For Now…)
Microsoft seems to think that the two worlds are split by technology: Modern UI (running on the Windows Runtime – or WinRT – technology stack) and the traditional desktop (running on Win32 APIs and various abstraction technologies) and to some degree they’re right but that’s the wrong delineation. That is very much the thinking of a software engineer and in no way represents the thinking of the typical user.
Modern UI is good for focussed tasks and the desktop is good for having lots of windows open and quick task switching. The desktop is the perfect environment for researching while writing a dissertation. For copy and pasting. For dragging images off websites. For comparing photographs while painting in Photoshop.
And thus the two worlds are suddenly very clearly separated and defined.
Modern UI is the perfect platform for consumption. The traditional desktop is the perfect platform for creation. That is the proper delineation between the two worlds.
So when Microsoft starts moving more and more things towards the Modern UI they think they are making a technology choice: “we’re just consolidating our technology stacks into one: WinRT!”, but, because they think like engineers not like real people, they’re about the shoot themselves in the foot.
Because if this focus on Modern UI means that the end of the traditional desktop is nigh, then that really means that Microsoft is killing off the ability to create.
And that is very sad. And very mad.
Some people need to create. That’s why books get written, art gets painted, sculptures get carved, faces of Presidents get cut into hillsides, bridges get built, etc. And if the desktop really is about to die, then those people will move somewhere else.
If that place offers a good consumption experience too, then by nothing more than word of mouth advertising between friends at light-speed on social networks, Microsoft Windows will fade into nothing.
I’ve been with them since my very first phone in 1998, a Bosch 509e. Yep, Bosch used to make phones! In 2005 I spent three months working for them at their North Tyneside call centre while I was in between jobs. But now, after a spate of serious customer service failures, here’s why I’m leaving Orange.
When I joined Orange as an employee I learned about their insurance plan on phones. It was very comprehensive. I got to know about the loopholes and ins and outs and, you know what? It was a really good deal. The value the customer got for £5/month was incredible, especially as, in 2005, smartphones were emerging and the actual price paid for handsets was shooting up. The cost to replace some phones was upwards of £400.
So, I added it to my personal contract.
Over the next few years I got my use out of the insurance plan as various phones broke or got damaged. I certainly got my £60 per year back!
Fast forward to August 2012. Just a couple of days before flying off to Greece for a summer holiday my phone stopped reading the SIM card. I called Orange and expected to be immediately told that I’d get a replacement the following morning. Job done, right? Nope. I was told that the insurance had been removed from my account. Continue Reading “Why I’m Leaving Orange”→