chris.millr.org

The Watch

The modern smart watch category that began with Android Wear started out as slightly modified phone interfaces shrunk to watch-like sizes. It’s disappointing that Apple Watch doesn’t seem to be much better.

What Apple has always excelled at is taking an existing category and re-inventing the hell out of it. Mp3 players, phones, tablets, and even PCs were all markets that existed before Apple decided to join them. When they did, each category was changed forever. What Apple announced on Tuesday was a $350 accessory to a $200* device. A smartphone shrunk down to watch proportions. As Ben Thompson points out, Tim Cook never made the case why the Apple Watch exists.

What this market needs is something different. It needs a weeks worth of battery life, not a day.** We need less inputs on the face. Part of what made the iPod so magical is that the UI was more simple because it wasn’t trying to do everything; even though its core functions could stand on their own. The Apple Watch appears to be the opposite. It requires an iPhone, yet lets you pan around a maps app like it’s a phone.

I think there is a market for a smart watch. But everyone is missing the point of what that should be.

If I’m wearing my watch, how about I don’t get notifications on every single device that I have a meeting in 15 minutes? If I’m wearing a watch and I’m running, how about the running app just starts. If I send directions to my phone, how about you just start navigation? Why do we have a home screen? Our home screen should be the watch face and nothing more. Managing apps should not be happening on a device that is roughly an inch and a half big. I should not be sending text messages or dick pics with my watch. It’s the equivalent of those Casio calculator watches in the 90s.

Maybe I just don’t get it, but I think Apple Watch misses the mark. A device should be better than what we currently have. In the case of the Apple Watch, what they gave us was a faster horse.


*The iPhone subsidized price is what most humans think the iPhone costs
**Apple hasn’t really given an official battery life estimate, just a casual mention of ‘a days worth’.

Waiting for Mom

Alternate Title: RC Willey Outtakes

This was all shot today on the Dropcam. Hugo just can’t seem to escape Rosie.

Security through obscurity

I’m becoming more and more fascinated by internet security. With the whole celebrity photo scandal, most (including myself) thought it was a recently discovered exploit using Find My iPhone and iCloud. Turns out it wasn’t, at least, officially. While it may not be iCloud’s (the brand) fault, its single sign on system is definitely to blame.

“…accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet.”

It’s disappointing they don’t go into specifics. But that’s their explanation. Someone targeted user names, passwords, security questions and POOF, celeb photos? I think as Apple users, we deserve more. Worse, it’s ‘common’ on the Internet? We’ve heard of this stuff before, but I certainly wouldn’t call it common.

Also, were these people not notified? Typical forgotten password flows do not expose passwords, they should only allow you to reset it. So, my next question would be if these people received communication from Apple regarding any suspicious activity.

Another piece from Apple’s statement is also troubling:

“None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems…”

Oh really? Someone got iCloud photos that didn’t belong to them. Whether by social engineering or any other means, that is a fucking breach of epic proportions. As a service provider it is your responsibility to help your users keep their data secure. If that is forcing two-factor authentication, making users passwords ridiculous, or demanding private RSA keys; it’s your job. You are the security expert, not the user.

In the end, there’s three parties responsible for this attack. The attackers, Apple, and the targets. Apple may provide their own two-factor authentication, but it’s considered weak. They should also not pass the buck by saying, “this has become common.” I’m making a huge assumption, but the targets most likely used very weak password schemes. Lastly, the assholes that targeted these people to begin with. A willful invasion of someone’s privacy is totally unacceptable.

Authentication on the internet and our devices is so royally broken, it’s overwhelming. I hope something positive comes out of this experience, but I just don’t know what that is. Obscure passwords and broken two-factor schemes are not the way forward.

Lumia Icon meets San Francisco

Due to a nice little drop in the middle of the street, my Lumia 920 died recently. I was nearly ready for a phone upgrade, but Sarah and I wanted to switch to Verizon so we could have better coverage in rural areas. We went in to a Verizon store and I reluctantly bought a Lumia Icon.

In a lot of ways, the Icon is a step back from the 920. The speaker phone is worse (in the back and easily muffled). The camera aperture is worse (2.4 vs 2.0). Lastly, the screen is worse (OLED vs IPS).

Other than build quality, the Icon has one noticeable advantage over the 920; RAW photography. Forget about the 20 megapixels, they mean nothing. I’ve compared countless images between my broken 920 (8MP) and the Icon (20MP) and picture detail is not significantly improved with the Icon. At phone size, we’re running into sensor size and lens quality limitations, so 20MP doesn’t really give you much in real world performance.

The RAW output of the Icon is a true game changer. You get so much more latitude in color correction and noise / sharpening algorithms. If you want a real in-depth analysis of how RAW affects smartphone photography, head over to Connect’s (dpreview) article on shooting RAW with the Lumia 1020.

What I offer below is some real world samples of the Icon in action during a trip to San Francisco. You will see that the camera performs much better with close up objects versus landscape-style photos. This works well for me because I don’t take a ton of landscape photos. Compared to my trusty 920, the Icon falls down a bit in low light. This is due to aperture and sensor size differences. The Icon is simply trying to do more with less (aperture) and more with the same (sensor size). If you want to see all the EXIF data, head over to the Flickr album.

You can click the images below to view them full size. They’ve been imported into Lightroom 5.5 and lightly color corrected for accuracy. I left the default noise settings enabled, so that’s the noise you see.

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Identity

I just spent a week in the Bay Area. For those not keeping score at home; the company I worked for, Fusion-io, was purchased by SanDisk. Overall, this is a good thing. It comes at a cost of projects being flushed down the drain, but it also represents a huge opportunity.

Coming home from the trip has been more difficult than I thought it would be. While I love being surrounded by Sarah, the baby, and the pugs, something seems missing.

I don’t know if it’s just my pre-disposition to crave change, but I just don’t feel like Utah is home. I once tried Boulder only to scurry back to the love of my life here in Utah. What does it mean to our family if we act on this nagging feeling that California continues to call us?

If it was just me, I would pack my bags and leave. But it’s not. Hell, it’s not even just our daughter, Sarah, and the pugs any more. It’s our extended family, too. Can I really pull my parents first grand child away from them for my own selfish reasons? Can I do that to her family? Or is this all just that normal itch that I always get when there’s just not enough change in my life?

I truly believe our daughter is better off being raised in California. But I can’t say that about everyone involved. It will be harder on everyone if we leave, and for the first time in my life, that includes me.

Tapped 1.1

I released a new version of Tapped last night. I wouldn’t normally post something about this except it’s a fairly major release. There are no longer any known bugs in Tapped. I’m sure that will change in about 2.2 seconds, but it’s a big deal. On top of that, I added the ability to add beers and breweries to the service. This was a fairly substantial undertaking to do something un-documented; more difficult than adding photo uploads.

For those following along at home, you’ll know that Tapped was released again last month after being removed for about 7 months. I’ve had a lot of questions about why I decided to re-release it, so here they are:

  1. Untappd’s Windows Phone app does not follow their own API rules. It uses HTTP protocols rather than the more secure HTTPS protocol. This means all of your data is sent over an insecure connection. Tapped uses end to end HTTPS. No one should know how many beers you consume.
  2. I was maintaining the app for my own uses. It didn’t make sense to continue to do so while others had to use the official app.
  3. I got bored.

Magic

There have only been a few times in my life where I thought a device was truly magical. That distinction means something I’m holding in my hands doesn’t feel real. It feels like it came from another world. It does something in a way that nothing has ever done before. The first device on that list was the original iPhone. The second is the Surface Pro 3.

The iPhone transcended what we thought a phone could do. There were smartphones of course, but the iPhone was built in a way that made it a pleasure to use. Doing something was as easy as pressing a giant button on a grid of buttons. And it was insanely fast.

I’m five days into owning my Surface Pro 3. I’ve used it in the broadest range of settings imaginable. I signed a W9 form with it. I gave it to my sister-in-law to play Sudoku on a drive up to Idaho. I used it to charge my phone in a tent while camping. I used it to watch Netflix. I’ve used it to take notes in meetings. I’ve connected it to my big ass 30″ monitor at work and compile the latest version of Tapped. It feels as though it has no limits. That’s what is truly magical about it. If I want to use touch, mouse, keyboard, or pen; I can. Nothing stops me from using the right tool for the right task. It feels like an extension of me just the way the iPhone did in 2007.

To me, the Surface Pro 3 is what tablets should have always been.

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Get RestSharp working on Windows Phone 8.1 and Universal Apps

The Fluff

For developers, the biggest change with Windows Phone 8.1 is how the entire framework has essentially moved to the Windows RT runtime. This is huge because it means the investment you make in Windows Phone pays off when / if you decide to write apps for desktops and tablets. The reverse is also true.

The downside is how significant things have changed. Not only are XAML controls different, but methods and classes have also changed. Remember IsolatedStorageSettings? Gone. Remember LongListSelector? Gone. You get the idea. If you don’t want to change anything for your existing app, Microsoft provides what they call, “Windows Phone 8.1 Silverlight” which allows you to continue to build using the classes and methods you’re used to.

I’m beginning work on a new app and naturally wanted to leverage the new framework. The first order of business was to pull RestSharp into my app via NuGet…

The process

With Universal Apps, Nuget needs to specifically target a project. When I pull up the NuGet console, I am required to choose a default project… Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1

When choosing WP8.1, NuGet tells me there are problems installing RestSharp…

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I went down the path of looking for alternatives that were compatible with Windows Phone 8.1 and came into additional (but different) roadblocks. A shoutout to the project PortableRest which looks extremely promising and well maintained.

Anyway, I decided to download RestSharp from GitHub and build from source.

After a bunch of warnings, I was presented with a buildable version of RestSharp for WP8.0. I needed to re-target for WP8.1…

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After the Retarget, we have a project called “RestSharp.WindowsPhone (Windows Phone Silverlight 8.1)”…

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Once I built the project, I was presented with my DLL that I could import (without issue) to my WP8.1 project…

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As you can see, even though the library is technically an “8.1 Silverlight” DLL, we can use it in our Universal App. This gives us a bridge to use older libraries inside our newer projects.

Building Blocks

These are Emporio Armani EA4001 sunglasses.

These are the best sunglasses I’ve ever owned. They eclipse my Guccis and my Ray Bans. The only downside is the lack of polarization. I have never owned a pair of sunglasses with such solid construction. You know how you have to tighten bolts after a bit of use? These don’t have that problem. They’re molded in a way to combine plastic and rubber that gives them the perfect amount of rigidity and give in all the right ways.

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Nadella

So, Microsoft selected Satya Nadella as their CEO. It isn’t just a safe choice, it’s the best choice. The only disappointment I have with the decision is that I wish they would have selected someone a bit more design and user focused, but that person just doesn’t exist. Satya is perfect given where Microsoft is at and where they want to go.

Wading through all the announcements filled me with a sense of hope. In short, Satya has been the one responsible for Azure, the cloud initiative at Microsoft. Of note, Azure is one of the areas in Microsoft’s stable of applications that is growing.

What makes Azure so great is that any platform can utilize it. iOS, Android, OS X, Windows; it doesn’t matter. Maybe iOS and Android grow and Windows goes away in five years, the servers that they end up connecting to are Azure servers. That’s a huge win for Microsoft.

Some may wish that Satya was design-centric. He’s not. I don’t know if he’ll ever get there, but it probably doesn’t matter. The things that came out of Redmond today were concise and on pitch. Cloud and mobile first. Innovation above legacy. Cut away the obstacles that prevent people from doing great work. I think the One Microsoft initiative started this and Satya seems to be totally on board, but with his own signature.

In the consumer space I’m still cautiously optimistic. I’m still so disappointed that Microsoft bought Nokia, but I also doubt they had another alternative. The chance of Nokia going Android was far too high. They’ve essentially put all their chips in with making hardware, which may not be a bad thing given how many companies are dropping out of the game… Dell, Sony, IBM.

So that’s where this all gets so interesting. People comment about Google getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at cloud services. I think Microsoft is somewhere between both. They’ve had hints of great product design (Windows Phone) but have struggled modernizing the pile of garbage that is desktop Windows. They have an insanely good track record at cloud services and they continue to get better at selling them to consumers (office 365). I won’t even mention Xbox successes. So here’s my what if…

What if Microsoft got its shit together with desktop Windows? They can kill Chromebooks with a decent $300* laptop. They can kill it in the low-end phone market with Lumia 520s. They can support iOS and Android with Office and tie it all together with OneDrive and Azure services. They even have a shot at the living room with Xbox One. And just maybe, maybe they can figure out this hybrid thing before Apple and Google do. Where do you think they’d be then?


*This is where I go off the rails and say “Lumia” should mean ARM. Microsoft releases a $300 ARM laptop with stellar battery life with office and goes head to head against a Chromebook. By this time Metro apps are now capable of running on the desktop and we’ve got a full fledged secure desktop platform for the future. Throw in a little, “I can play Xbox on this laptop for $300? Where do I sign?” and you’ve got an in-road to future generations on the client side.