Archive for category Software

It’s been a while

So yeah it’s been a while since the last post. I got sucked into “real” life and it’s minutia … and I’ve also ended up stuck at this soul crushing childhood-dreams-destroying job but that’s another story all together. It always amazes me when upper management proves itself incompetent and absolutely oblivious to the importance of management tasks. Basically little by little I start living in an “Office Space” world [look it up if you’re not sure what that is, well worth your time plus Jennifer Aniston is smoking].

Other than that, well I gave in an got Virgin Media service. At the end of the day I mostly care about having a blazing internet connection and about having an alright TV service. Which is exactly what Virgin offered. I’ve also realized how bad reception actually is on iPhone 3GS and can’t wait until my contract is over and Apple releases the new and improved iPhone (please let it be in 3 month). I’ve gotten convinced that NFC payment are a pipe dream and while they might be all sparkly and glittery to the MNOs and SIM manufacturers, they are actually a complete joke. In today’s world £20 is way to little for it to be useful and banks are not going to increase the limits any time soon. I mean come on, if I take my other half out for a meal, 9 out of 10 times it actually costs me more than what contactless can pay for. Yeah thanks but we are not paying separately even if my bank account would love that. I guarantee you that certain other bits will not!

You get the point, contactless payments are alright cause you can pay a little bit quicker but at the end of the day there isn’t much that you can pay for with them so really no go at the moment. It might be great for corner shops and street vendors however, they hate paying for transactions and banks are not going to wave transaction fees. So yeah your £2.50 hot dog will still be cash only and no it will not cost you £2.60 just because!

There hasn’t been much on the Mac front either. It is a bit like silence before a storm. The Mac Apple Store is doing very very well and I’ve been using it quite a bit. Hey it made me actually buy a couple of apps that I’ve been delaying purchasing for a while (most noteworthy of which is Autograph). However, it’s got a big flaw, if you are going to allow developers to sell out of the app store you have to also allow them to import existing licences or essentially you setting them up for a bag of hurt. It’s shit having to repurchase software that you already own but at least with iOS software is cheap (mostly). Not the case with the Mac version at all. But hey maybe Apple is working on that.
Anyway Lion will be awesome and finally fixes some really really really old flaws of the OS ( like open application management and window management). Oh and on top of that, a lot of developers are not building application for 10.6 and above which is absolutely great. Not like the older ones didn’t work (this is not at all the Windows case) but hey I’d take the optimized version any day. Technically it saves you money cause less CPU usage = less power = less money out of your pocket (even if it’s a negligible difference).

Oh and Mac Desktop Update is still well worth it’s money even if some applications would only update through the App Store (no other version available for devel). I played with Mobile Me too and while it’s a great tool I find it hard justifying spending £60 for a year of service. Yes Virgin gives me an inferior service from a user perspective, but provided that you get the really fast internet, you also get unlimited online storage and pretty much everything that MobileMe offers … well a cheaper knock off of it at least. So yeah eventually I will go back to Mobile Me but for now I’d rather use my money for something else, like … well I’d rather not say actually 🙂

So yeah I’m back on my way to salvaging my digital life and will write a bit more in the very near future. Oh and in the mean time if anyone wants to get rid of an iPad 2 … I’m here and waiting. Those things are very impressive. Yes it’s missing about a laundry list of features that I’d like it to have but considering what it can do the way it is, it is fantastic. And yes I have played with the Android contenders and have seen the “not so final” version of BB and HP’s contenders. If that’s all you guys can do … BRING IT ON, and kiss your behinds good bye too 🙂

me out, peace!

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Mac Gems – Part 4

(continues)

 

I recommended Rudix at one point as the easy to use unix tools package for OS X. While it is that, I found Homebrew. Yes it is not new (well not that new) and I am a bit late to the game but here is the thing that I really love about Homebrew. It installs everything from source (much like Gentoo did) and it is dead simple to use if you know anything about Unix/Linux. The configuration files are done in Ruby and Homebrew covers quite a few applications making it absolutely great. Oh yeah and it also minimizes storage space by reusing libraries. OFC that makes it unable to play with other package managers and very much OS X unlike. But I absolutely love it. I had quite a few other managers installed (MacPorts and Fink) and had installed stuff by hand. Well I went and deleted everything from /usr/local (in fact the whole /usr/local) and am now a happy Homebrew user. I actually ended up removing htop and reinstalling it through Homebrew. Took virtually no time since I was writing the first could of sentences of this post while doing it. Keep in mind that some packages are missing and this is not quite as good as gentoo or ubunty but hey this is the best that I have seem. No offence to MacPorts and Fink but if you ever run into a problem with an installation you will know why I dislike both. Plus I suppose I have a bit of sentimental feelings for gentoo like installers.

 

Anyway, if you need console utilities/Unix programmes give Homebrew a shot.

https://github.com/robolson/homebrew

 

Oh yeah use the script installer if you don’t have git installed as the gui one installs everything with sudo. This effectively goes agains the idea that you don’t use sudo with Homebrew and could compromise your security.

the command is

ruby homebrew-install.rb (just in case you were wondering). And yes OS X does come with Ruby installed by default. (10.5 and up)

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The data analytics age

I remember years ago when people were telling me how the information age is over and everyone was trying to come up with a name for what was to follow. Well guess what, the information age is not over. We are finally getting to the point where the Internet dream of having access to all sorts of data from anywhere is being realized. Increasingly companies and individuals are tracking their every day lives and creating digital records of their activities. Life hasn’t really changed much (well sort of) but what has changed is the fact that now you have a digital trace of most of your activities which makes data analysis of your life possible. If you are under 25 (or so) you can actually create a digital footprint of most of your life (well the bits that actually do matter) and if your are under 15 then your whole life has a digital footprint. You can analyse things like the amount of money that you spend, the types of activities that you like, your friends, the social groups that you belong to, and the list goes on. It is actually possible to analyse your own decisions and sometimes even predict your next one. And things are only starting in that aspect. Advertisers love it and so do marketing people. We are only experiencing issues related to ownership of digital content but what I thing is more important is that we have actually entered the age of data analytics. 10 years ago, history was only used as record of past events. You record events and maybe one they it is being passed down to the next generation as an account of what happened. It was a bit of an identity building tool. Today however, the history of your life is being recorded as it happens and we are getting closer and closer to actually being able to obtain real time analysis of those events. History is actually used more and more as a decision making tool and it even seems like you are having a communication with other people through their historic records. You read tweets, blogs, facebook messages and you comment on them. Within seconds the words knows what you think and you feel important and in control.
Fair enough, it doesn’t work the same for everyone and you still have a lot of people who’s voice is never heard just because they are poor but hey you get to hear the opinion of a lot more people than you use to even 5 years ago and that is another step towards freedom. Of course you realize very fast that you don’t really want to listen to 95% of the people out there because they don’t really have anything of value to say but hey freedom has it’s price. Anyway back to the analytics question. Like I said we are in the age of analytics and it is scary though that your life is simply being turned into a digital record of it and that whoever controls that digital record de facto owns your life. This is where governments need to step in and they really need to catchup fast. Now more than ever is true freedom at stake. Forget the constitution and all those innate freedoms listed in it. I think both Hobbs and Locke would find it very hard to explain who the enemy is today. Does Google really control the world or does the world control Google? What right does and advertiser have to know then was the list time you purchased toilet paper and what brand it was? Do you really want your car to know what music you prefer and does your car send out that information to someone else? Questions like this would become more and more important as we slowly move to cloud computing and as collected data becomes too large to be stored locally. I’m not saying that there are no solutions, but designing services should by law be made a lot more responsible job and there should be some universal data storage and sharing laws that ensure that you don’t become a victim of your virtual presence.

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Recap of MWC 2011

I’ve been away for a week or so. I went to Mobile World Congress and I just needed a long weekend after that. There have been a lot of in the press about the event however, it seems like quite a few things got missed.

Nokia adopting Windows Phone 7 pretty much overshadowed everything else. I had the chance to attend the Nokia analyst event on Monday morning so here is what was not covered in the press. Nokia is adopting WP7 because they desperately need to reduce OPEX. Effectively what this means is that Nokia is content with the idea that they are never going to be as big as they were. The gold days are over and now they have to scavenge whatever is left from the wrecked ship. There are no talks about expanding market share. It is all about stopping the decline and maybe retaining the existing market share. Windows is being adopted because it reduces OPEX and because as it is, turning Symbian in to a smart phone OS would take too much money. I personally doubt very much that that is the case but that’s just me. For me, Nokia is chopping off their nose to spice up their face but hey we’ll see how it works out for them.
A lot of people are upset that Nokia did not pick Android but here are the facts about Android. Motorola aside, Android is the OS of the Far East. East Asian OEMs are the ones selling Android phones and Nokia cannot compete with any of them when it gets to OPEX. They desperately had to get out of that market and despite what WSJ says Android was actually never close to adoption. A statement like that seems uneducated and overly enthusiastic.

Here is the ugly side of the deal. Nokia is giving up Ovi maps. Yes Ovi Maps never brought the company any direct sales but it was one of the selling points for Nokia phones for years. Nokia has agreed to give the Ovi maps content to the Bing so now certain, or all Bing content will be powered by Ovi maps. It is not clear at the moment, but the difference might be that Ovi maps run from the phone on Nokia and off the web with other phones, but essentially they are the same maps. However, given the tone of the analyst briefing, Nokia Windows phones will be very very similar to any other WP7 phone and more likely than not, they all will have the same version of Bing Maps. It was not discussed why Nokia chose to give up so much, but there were talks about supposed revenue sharing with MS.

Symbian is not going anywhere. It will stay on smartphones (low end ones) until Nokia and MS figure out a way to put WP7 on them. Symbian will also power all the feature phones for as long as they exist.

RIM was a complete disappointment. No new phones and nothing to show so they rented out their own booth to software providers. Oh and the tablet is an utter disappointment. It has a small screen and apparently the whole interface was written in Flash. Really Flash! It runs OK and they were showing off some games, but the device is strictly consumer oriented. I don’t care what the press says, this is not a corporate device unlike iPad. I was amazed to see so many people at WMC using iPads actually. Looking back, it is a bit like when mobile phones hit the streets. Almost everyone had one and it was the same with iPads.

HP had a very nice demonstration of devices. WebOS is truly great but I am not sure if it can make it. There are simply too many competitors. Oh and HP has skipped NFC … what were you thinking. The touchstone does not use NFC but rather a proprietary standard, as if we needed another.
But to be fare the devices are nice and I hope HP gets to release them soon.

All the new Android devices are absolutely pitiful. The interface is slow and when you consider that they are running crazy fast chips compared to my iPhone 3GS it makes them look even slower. Also the new LG phones kept locking up constantly and there is no way in hell that I am buying a device like that. 3D displays are mostly a gimmick unless you have one of the Sharp phones that Docomo sells. Those actually work well.

Overall there was a bit of a confusion over NFC and we got a lot of conflicting statements. It seems like operators and suppliers of NFC chips cannot make up their mind whether embedded NFC is a good or a bad thing. But this will sort itself out by next year.

What was really amazing is to see small software developers being represented at MWC. You have 5 man outfits churning huge profits and being able to afford the entrance fee and this is simply unheard of in an industry that is basically pinching pennies. That said, Huawai was spending money like it was the end of days. By the looks of it. it was the company with the biggest show budget and this is hardly an exaggeration. But then again when you pay hardly anything to most of your workers and expect then to work well over 12 hours a day you can afford to splurge every once in a while.

Oh yeah Qualcomm had a little show and tell about Mirasol … unfortunately the portable light was dead but that was hardly the only problem. The demo was basically a video running in a loop and was exactly the same as the last one we saw. Yes the device is light and thin but Mirasol displays are like the display on my sister’s truly ancient GBA. Only when Nintendo released GBA, expectations were a lot lower and we both didn’t care that an addon light was needed to play it in the dark. No offence to Qualcomm but the market for a Mirasol display is shrinking very fast. But you never know. Maybe Amazon can make it a success despite the small size.

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Audio tools for Mac/iTunes users

if you have never heard of iTunes FS there is a lot that you are missing. First of all, if you are a Windows user … sorry but this is never coming your way. The effort that is required to port something like this to Windows is huge and if I were you I’d just save up for a Mac.

If you are already a Mac user, good for you and here is what you need to know. You know how you can mount drives and images and such? Well iTunes FS basically creates a virtual drive that has all of your iTunes music sorted in virtual folders in a way that resembles the iTunes organization. On top of that, you can actually use Spotlight to search iTunes FS and since everything looks and feels like folders on an external drive, comping files from your iTunes library to anywhere is a breeze. You can just let iTunes do it’s organizational magic and the fact that it creates a bit of a mess would never bother you again.

There is a small catch though. iTunes FS is kind of a stand alone application so it is not always on. You can set it up to start with the computer ( through System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items ) but you have to manually add a new item. Anyway the application shows up in your Apps so even if you eject the drive it’s easy to start up again. One thing that I have noticed is that iTunes FS does not update the database info always (or maybe ever). So if some information looks wrong you might have to eject the drive and start it up again. But for a free application I can’t really complain. Oh, I almost forgot. iTunes FS is essentially a MacFUSE “plugin” (not the technical term) so you should install MacFUSE first. At the time of the writing, MacFUSE still does not come with a 64 bit preference panel application. You would probably never need to use it, but if you do and it annoys you, then using google you can find one of the unofficial 64 bit builds. Not sure what the address is cause they change from time to time but I can vouch for the fact that one does exist and it does work.

Anyway, once you have MacFUSE installed, you can get iTunes FS from

http://www.mulle-kybernetik.com/znek/public/en/default/software/iTunesFS/index.html

Copy it to Applications, start it up and you are ready to go. I must confess this little tool was the biggest boost of productivity that I have ever gotten from an iTunes plugin. Have been using it for months not and things like moving playlists to an external drive, batch editing tags in Tagr, etc. are simple again.

Oh yeah Tagr is the best ID3 tag editor for Mac that I have found so far. Some of the functionality is a bit hidden, and it seems like it’s a poor substitute for Mp3Tag (windows only) but that is only a first impression. For the last 2 years I have completely switched to Tagr and it does everything I need it to. Oh yeah it’s also free.

http://www.entwicklungsfreu.de/

And last but not least, there is XLD which is by far the best audio converter on any platform. I use it to convert FLAC files to ACC which with XDL is a one step solution. The tool has no graphical interface when you start it up but you can drag the file over to the Dock icon to start the conversion. It comes with support for quite a few encoders, such as the latest version of Lame and you can configure everything through the preference menu (Cmd + , ).
You can get it from

http://tmkk.pv.land.to/xld/index_e.html

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Why Android’s team still doesn’t get it

Ok bare with me here. Android’s market share is growing very fast and yes I know it is quite popular but it is heading for a very rough reality check. The main reason why the market share is growing so fast has nothing to do with superior technology or great ideas. It has only to do with Android being better than the Symbian and Windows phones that it replaced and with the large number of East Asian manufacturers that are involved. For those it is indeed an improvement however, Google seems to believe that they are actually competing with Apple and they most definitely are not. They have never taken any significant number of iPhone users and there is a very good reason why as it stands they can never compete with Apple.

Yes, Android has a great promise and it is a good OS however, they have a huge problem and it comes in the face of Google Checkout. No offence to the Checkout team but it is the stupidest payment system ever. It has no recognition for the fact that you are selling to a global market and you have to use different currencies. If you have to use your bank to pay in a different currency then you will get hit by some massive charges and you cannot sell cheap goods like that. And if Google will be nothing than an advertising agency then why do they take 30% off your profits? Quite frankly Apple gives you a lot more for your money and it is no surprise that developers make more money there. You can release an application and sell it to everyone in their currency and you do not penalise them for living in a different country. Effectively there is no artificial barrier for the customer making the sale very easy.
And while Google might focus on technological improvements, at the end of the day they still make money from something else and since Google is not willing to pick up the slack you can bet that others will. There is an Amazon Market place which most definitely does currency conversion in the countries that Amazon exists and there are other coming out. Google is in fact in danger of being pushed out of their own operating system and that is just sad. I actually amazes me how business inapt the Android team is and how the crazy corporate policy that Google has is eating into their profits. I get it Google never uses services that compete directly with their own but when yours are clearly lacking you have to do something about it. Google needs to recognize that Android is no longer a pet project and is actually the future for Google. If you can’t fix Google Checkout please do everyone a favour and hire some financial gurus and please DO LISTEN to what they say. Otherwise Android is going to hit the glass ceiling a lot sooner. At the current rate I personally think that Android adoption rate will peak in 2012 and I don’t even think that it’ll be a flat line from there on.They will have to deal with disappointed customers and disillusioned developers and that does not equal a flat line.

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In search of the perfect project management system (continues)

Ok here is my position of project management software.
Maybe this does not apply to your business but it certainly does to mine so take it with a grain of salt.

GANTT is the biggest piece of crap I have ever seen. No offence to the creator supporters and users alike but you must be insane to use GANTT for small to medium projects. It has not concept of ease of use and minimalistic maintenance. Sorry, but my time costs money and it’s much better spent managing tasks and people than maintaining an insane system of resources, cost for those resources, time lines etc. etc. etc. Yes you need to know how much a certain projects costs and you do that in the feasibility study. Which by the way should never take you more than 1 days for mid size project. You should know how much the whole projects costs you and you should be able to analyse costs and efficiency after the project or a set of actions is completed but doing so should take you very little time. Also tasks have 5 states; planned, in progress, completed, delayed, and cancelled. I couldn’t care less what percentage has been completed and if you’d like to argue I dare you to tell me the difference between a 40% completed task and a 50% completed one.

Anyway so I hate GANTT with a passion. For my daily activities I need a system that is simple to maintain. Is based around talks and not milestones. Allows for changes in the plan, i.e. is flexible. Does not concern me with crap like resource distribution and most of all, does not waste my time. Well I have looked high and low and there is no such system. Yes there are semi academic management techniques that do all that and a bit more but I need a usable software. Well I found one that just might fit the bill. See I don’t need file storage/sharing because that is done on an internal Sharepoint because of security concerns. So all I need to be able to do it to share links. If you don’t have access to the network then the link means nothing to you even if it does get leaked.

Cohuman seems to do everything that I need in a very polished web interface. It’s not perfect and it is not exactly like my idea but it is pretty close. It look intriguing enough so that I would like to give it a shot and that is exactly what I am doing. So stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes. The first thing however, is that unlike Basecamp this thing has unlimited projects and only has a limit on storage for the accounts. It is still a new product by this start up that just got some more VC funding.

Oh and if you want to know more about my project management pet peeves, take a look at my older post.

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