Generation C

gen_cThe 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):

digital-consumer-large

 

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.  Read more

Introducing QuickModules for ASP.NET MVC

Added to Code by on
INTERNET ALL THE THINGS!

Do what he says! He has a giant cotton bud in his hand!

Like you I often spend my weekends writing REST APIs for fun. And like you I am often frustrated by the amount of server-side code I need to write just to expose some data to JavaScript. Boilerplate, boilerplate, boilerplate. Ugh! So this weekend, in between bouts of erratic and unsatisfying jetlag-sleep, I decided to try and simplify the task of exposing an API to JavaScript. Introducing “QuickModules for ASP.NET MVC”, available now as a NuGet package!

QuickModules

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.

Consumer Experience

As a software developer, and a human (vaguely), I like an easy life, so I’m all about the consumer experience when publishing code or frameworks (see my JavaScript business-object CRUD framework at http://richstokoe.github.io).

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

quickmodules_1

 

Step 2: Choose an Empty, Basic, Internet, Intranet or SPA template (actually, any will do, but these make the most sense)

quickmodules_2

 

Step 3: Notice how barren your project is without QuickModules. 🙁 (I’ve chosen a Basic template here)

quickmodules_3

 

Step 4: Install QuickModules using NuGet: Right-click on the References node in your Solution Explorer tree and click on “Manage NuGet Packages”:

quickmodules_4

 

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).

quickmodules_5

 

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!).

You should see a list of food places from The Simpsons as a wonderful, unformatted, JSON object array, ready to be consumed by your JavaScript:

quickmodules_7

 

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:

quickmodules_8

 

And use the Filter argument to narrow the result set down:

quickmodules_9 Read more

One Man and his Hyperloop

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a man with a plan. (Which he will tell you later….)

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.

 

WTF is a Hyperloop?

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.

But Musk suggests that this hypothesis is only 50% right.  Read more

“The Format of the PE Module is Invalid” After VS2012 Update 2 Installed

Added to Software by on

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.”

 

Oh no! Not the PE module!

 

A bit of Google-fu confirms there’s a coincidence between installing Update 2 and getting this error.

So how do you resolve this?  Read more

Windows Blue

Added to Software by on

“Windows 8 is the best Windows ever”. And by “best ever” Project Manager, Steven Sinofsky, meant “so good I’m going to quit the company a month after its release”.

There has been much press 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?

 

The Start Menu

Today I had a bit of an epiphany when I saw a personalised Team Foundation Server (TFS) dashboard shown on the Windows 8 start menu. TFS is a system used by software developers to make backlogs, track bugs and keep track of code. I myself spend at least an hour, probably two or three, each day hunting through TFS for information. So this made me leap for joy:

TFS Dashboard in your Start Menu – Genius!

 

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.

 

Touch First

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.

And Microsoft will only have itself to blame.

 

 

Why I’m Leaving Orange

The future’s not bright. The future’s appalling customer service, possible insurance fraud and accidental double-charging without any kind of apology or acknowledgement of their incompetence. Bitter? And then some.

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.

 

Insurance Flawed

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.  Read more

Learn to Code (An Intermission): Code.org

The founders of Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, Twitter and many more top tech companies have provided their voices and recognisable fizzogs to this latest video from Code.org. Code.org promotes the principle that nobody is born with the ability to code, or play basketball, or drive a racing car: it is a learned skill. The biggest hurdle is that first step overcoming the apprehension of the unknown. That’s something that all of these people have done. From humble beginnings and all that jazz…

 

Sony to Unveil PlayStation 4 Tonight – Next Gen Console Season Begins

Added to Gaming by on

Probably not the PS4. Although retro is definitely in…

Acccording to various sources, Sony are set to announce the PlayStation 4, at an event in New York City, tonight!

With many analysts saying Microsoft’s answer, the supposedly-title XBox 720, set for release in the Autumn, the buzz has begun for the next generation of gaming consoles.

 

PlayStation 4 vs. XBox 720 vs. Project Shield

Each company will be vying to get their systems out first, but Christmas 2013 will be the deciding period to see who gets their foot in the market most successfully. And this time round, it isn’t a simple two horse race.

Graphics chipset maker, nVidia, have announced Project Shield, a hand-held Tegra4-based Android multimedia system with tons of interesting features.

 

 

But that’s not a console! I hear you shout.

But yes it is. That’s like saying a mobile phone it’s a phone because it’s not tied to the socket in your hallway. We’re living in a mobile world now. So why aren’t handheld games machine just the next evolution of consoles?  Read more

« Previous PageNext Page »