chris.millr.org

The next wave

Everyone is chasing the next big thing. It’s the world of technology, after all. Unfortunately, the entrenched players all seem to be making their plays with their existing strengths. It’s the classic, ‘law of the instrument’ adage; “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Google is saying search and AI is the future.

Apple is saying round rectangles and iOS are the future.

Microsoft is saying the future is services and phones that act like desktops.

Facebook believes the future of technology is communication and connectedness.

Amazon believes the future of technology is in commerce and services.


I’m not saying any one company is wrong or right, but I do find it interesting that of all the players above, only two can do all of the above competently.

Facebook can do search, but it cannot do hardware (yet).

Apple might be able to do 1:1 communication (iMessage, FaceTime), but it absolutely fails at search and social media.

Amazon has a rock-solid reputation in services, but a shaky record in hardware.

With the exception of social media, Google and Microsoft are the only two companies that seem positioned to satisfy the next wave of computing. AI? Cortana and Google Now are leading the pack. Hardware? Both have largely good track records and continue to get better (Nexus 6p & Surface Book). Both have media services to satisfy the consumer and both are executing on the next wave of office-related software for the enterprise. Both are taking steps to solidify their place in the VR/AR world, but taking very different approaches. Both have OSes that serve at least hundreds of millions of customers.

They are the two companies that have diversified their portfolio enough to be ready for the next wave of computing. Whether we want to believe it or not, the future will likely be a combination of all of the above, and aluminum trinkets with walled gardens won’t cut it any more.

How I train today

I figure it would be good to get a picture of where my training regime and tools are today. There’s a bunch of things I want to fix, but it’s always worth recording where I started and where I want to go.

Frequency

I’ve been trying to do longer rides on the weekends and anything I can get during the week. So far, this has been OK. One to two rides Monday through Friday at around 10 miles, and then 20-40 mile rides somewhere between Friday and Sunday.

I’d love to push this to three times during the week with 15 miles each. I’d also like to push my weekend rides to 40-60 miles. I’d also really like to throw in some jogging or rowing at the gym on my lunch break… this is probably going to help me more than anything else.

Tools

Right now, I’m using three tools during my rides.

  1. Apple Watch
  2. Strava iPhone App
  3. Garmin Edge

After dicking around trying to use the Strava app on the watch, I’ve settled on using the 1st party activity app instead. The 3rd party app situation is just too unreliable. This gives me relatively accurate heart rate recording without wearing some chest strap.

The Strava app on the iPhone is essentially my gospel when it comes to evaluating my workout. It intelligently pauses based on movement, gives me social encouragement, and is far more accurate and easy to use than anything else.

The Garmin Edge serves to give me real-time feedback on how I’m doing. Because the app ecosystem around the Garmin is sub-standard, most of the data is thrown away. Having the Garmin means I can keep my phone in my back pocket.

Ideally, I’d like to consolidate this all down a bit. The Gramin should be able to transfer my activities to Strava, but I have to carry my phone anyway, so it’s not like I’m cutting down weight or gadgets.

Can I get a…?

Me: Can I get a PS4?
Sarah: No.
Me: Can I get a BMW i3?
Sarah: No.
Me: Can I get a road bike?
Sarah: Probably.

Sarah and I have always run major-ish purchases by each other. The bike was no exception.

Ever since Pearl Izumi, I’ve wanted a road bike. Seeing co-workers go for rides at lunch while my humble little hybrid sat in the bike lot was never fun. I never stopped lusting for a real road bike after the experiences I had at Pearl.

Fast forward four years, I finally got what I’ve always dreamed about. A slick little carbon fiber Felt F4. It doesn’t break the bank, but has the essentials I need to get rolling. I couldn’t be more excited for this summer.

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So long SanDisk

Today is my last day at SanDisk. {insert giant exhale here}

When Fusion-io was acquired, I had the pleasure of building out SanDisk’s AEM implementation from scratch. What we accomplished in the last year and a half has been astonishing.

  • We re-platformed, re-architected and re-designed over 25 sites in a year. Corporate site, customer portal, DAM, and much more.
  • Localized all public facing sites.
  • Implemented an SSO system for all sites requiring authentication.
  • Built out tight integration between various systems… AEM, .NET, CRM, and SAP.

I will miss the friends and colleagues I met along the way. I’m excited to take everything I’ve learned and apply those lessons to a new company and a new adventure.

winter – a study in convenience

I  used to make mix tapes in high school. My friend Justin and I would meticulously create perfect mixes using pause buttons, dvd sound bites, and CDs.

In college, the first mix CD I made was using my school’s only CD burner. A year later and CD burners were fifty bucks at Fry’s. Armed with enough Mp3s and lover’s depression, this was a golden age of mix CD making.

By the time the mid-2000’s rolled around, mixes had to be delivered electronically in addition to CDs. I’d wrap up a zip file, create iTunes metadata, and call things a wrap. From a pure editing standpoint, this was the best period to be making mixes. Tightly cut crossfades using CD Architect Pro and a delivery scheme that made delivering much more immediate.

Fast forward to 2014/2015 and I delivered my first Mp3 + Spotify mix. Almost everyone I know has no idea how to use iTunes, but I couldn’t let go of the tightly controlled mix.

Today marks the day that convenience trumps everything. I put together a new mix exclusively on Spotify. I’m still into meticulously curated songs, but I can’t ignore the fact that kids these days use Spotify.


Anyway, I hope you enjoy. We’ve lost something with mixtapes these last few years, but we’ve gained a ton of accessibility.

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2015 in review

I have an informal review each year of my life. I think it’s good to reflect on the successes and challenges my family and I have faced throughout the year. Without question, 2015 was the most difficult and challenging year we’ve had as a family.

  1. We had a truly heartbreaking loss in our family. This was, by far, the most significant thing that impacted our lives this year. Jeff will forever be missed.
  2. Franny finally got out of her colic stage.
  3. I released my first site with SanDisk and AEM. This was a theme throughout the year. 24 sites in 52 weeks. New platform, new architecture, new team, everything.
  4. Sarah went back to work from maternity leave. We ended up taking Franny out to Tooele while we waited for her primary daycare to kick in. It worked out really really well.
  5. I finally got to meet my India counterparts in person when we attended Adobe Summit.
  6. I built a blogging engine using bleeding edge open source Java frameworks.
  7. Oh yeah, I learned Java in an appreciable way.
  8. I asked my (amazing) tenants to vacate Layton Ave. so we could put it on the market.
  9. I took many trips to California for work. I did very little there beside work.
  10. Franny attended day care and genuinely enjoyed it. She had amazing teachers that we still keep in touch with.
  11. I spent the majority of my free time getting both houses ready to sell.
  12. The day we got an offer on Layton Ave was the exact same day Sarah found the house we live in now.
  13. I gave a three hour talk on modern AEM development practices at the SLC AEM Meetup.
  14. The next morning (4AM!) I flew to San Jose to give a localization talk at Adobe.
  15. Sarah reduced her work hours to spend more time with Franny and to work on her freelance business.
  16. Franny’s first birthday was a success. We had many friends and family over for a vegan Curious George (of course) cake. She did not appreciate the cake as much as she should have.
  17. After some turbulence, we finally bought a new house. We all love it so much.
  18. Five days after moving into the new house, we flew to Mexico to spend a week with Sarah’s brother, sister-in-law, and my parents. Franny absolutely loved the trip and did better than expected on the plane!
  19. A month after moving into the house, we had a flood. We’ve been living in the upstairs ever since. The damage should be repaired in January.
  20. We sold Sarah’s house in less than two days. It will be bitter sweet to let it go, but we’re grateful it will be in good hands.
  21. In December Sarah and I learned that our entire family loves snowshoeing, not just us.
  22. 2015 will go down as the year Franny became obsessed with Christmas.

A house and a Hugo

I spent last night at Layton Ave cleaning and packing up the remaining tools. Tomorrow I’ll be closing the sale to a new owner and closing an eight year chapter of my life. I’ve been trying to find a narrative for what to say about the impact Layton Ave had on my life.

In November of 2007, I did a complete reset of my life and bought Layton Ave. In the next four years, I had many friends, many laughs, and many memories formed there. It was used as a safe haven for many friends. It was a brewery, a dance club, a green house, and many other things during this time.

Four years later, in mid-November of 2011, I decided to do another reset. I left nearly everything I had and moved to Colorado and left the house in very capable hands. When I moved back, a short 9 months later, I didn’t own much besides the house and Hugo. Even while I owned the house, the tenants took such good care, I never spent any appreciable time in the years that followed. We moved in with Sarah and Rosie and didn’t look back.

It’s been another four years and November is just around the corner. I’ve got the girl, the daughter, the job, and the dogs I always wanted. We’re looking to start our next chapter in a house that is finally ours. Not mine, not Sarah’s, but ours. What’s most amazing is that the time, effort, and energy that I put into Layton Ave is making this next chapter possible. And while I couldn’t be more excited, there’s a big piece of me that will miss it.

I can only hope the new owner loves it as much as I did.

Ads and content

The web has had a luxury since its existence: free content. As a society, we gave up on the $4 per magazine model in favor of free content where we were the product being sold. It’s neither good, nor bad. It’s the way it is. I read an article that I didn’t pay anything for. This goes beyond walking into a Barnes and Noble and skimming articles for free. This happens billions of times a day. I read an article, and I’m tracked for the next day, month, year.

It’s a chicken or egg problem. Did I expect free content without caveats before publishing companies were willing to give their content away? Whether we want to admit it or not, we all created this environment. Publishers, Advertisers, Consumers.

It wasn’t too long ago where pop-up ads were the norm. What is now a default feature of every web browser in existence, was once the same battle we are fighting today; advertising annoyances. And thus, here we are again. The users are starting to fight back. Except, it’s not just pop-up ads this time. It’s javascript and valuable tracking data. The internet will no longer know I sent my wife a link to some manties.

Picture a world where you walk into a store to look at a product, you walk out and carry on your way. What you don’t realize until later is that an employee of that store has followed you around while grocery shopping to tell you go back and buy that product. This is the world we’re living in.

What’s frustrating for me (and a lot of people) is that there is no solution yet. I love certain sites, but I don’t get the choice to opt-out of having my internet history tracked. Would I pay top dollar for the sites I love? Probably, but that’s not an option right now. That’s just the way it is. I don’t have the luxury of saying, “Here’s my $4 a month, please stop following me.” Even paywall sites like WSJ and New York Time still track you after subscription fees. Users are starting to fight back (again) and it will be interesting to see what happens next. Maybe we’re asking for even worse ads that are even more poorly implemented, but we all have to do something. The current model is broken.

Apple Watch Thoughts : Week 2

If you don’t want to exercise, don’t buy an Apple Watch.

From a pure utility stand point, there’s very little the watch can do that your phone can’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you think about it, everything your phone can do, a laptop can do as well. That doesn’t make either of those gadgets less important.

It’s amazing how conscious I’ve become over my sedentary lifestyle. Sarah made a joke the other day, “Do you need to take your watch for a walk?” In a lot of ways, that’s an accurate portrayal of how the watch has changed my behaviors. I now go for much longer walks and try to elevate my heart rate as much as possible. Running to my car in the parking lot. A jog around the block. They are all just the tiniest attempts at completing my three activity rings. Thus far, the watch’s gamification has worked in ways my original fitbit never really did. 10,000 steps is a very linear, and somewhat arbitrary, goal. Elevate your heart rate for 30 minutes, walk a bunch, and stand up once every hour at least twelve times a day. That’s the watch’s goal for me… and I’m trying to stick to it.

If you’re looking for another place to have apps, keep looking. The Apple Watch isn’t a compelling app platform. I would argue that it doesn’t need to be. The Apple Watch isn’t a smaller iPhone in the way that the iPad is a bigger iPhone. It’s much different. It’s a secondary device. Secondary in that it’s not essential in almost every regard. Is paying for groceries with your watch more useful than pulling out your phone? Marginally so. When I read about people struggling with the watch, it almost seems it’s because they view it as another place to play with apps. I think that is so incredibly short sighted. The watch sucks at apps, and I almost never use the app screen.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, there are novel ideas within the watch. Using it as a boarding pass for my most recent trip to California was one. Where my phone is usually right inside my pocket, I could put it in a bag and completely forget about it. That kind of liberation is oddly refreshing. I get a buzz, move my wrist up, glance, and put it back down. I’m not fumbling with getting my phone out of my pocket while carrying my luggage through the terminal. There are other little ideas that are perfectly executed and suited for the watch. World clocks and timers are two other great examples. It’s the other concepts that seem, well, stupid. Maps on a watch? Viewing Instagram? None of those ideas seem remotely appealing to me.

I think that’s why I like the Apple Watch so much. It does what I need and nothing more. It’s the most elegant activity tracker that doubles as a watch and notification screen for my phone. As a person who absolutely loathes notifications on an iPhone, that’s a huge accomplishment. I never swipe down on my phone because all of that information, everything from the weather to sports scores, is all on my wrist.

Time will only tell if these newly found habits stick, but I’m optimistic they will. It’s been fun and enlightening having something keep me a little more honest about how lazy I am. Everything else has been a bonus.

Day One

Despite my initial reservations, I got an Apple Watch. The majority of those reservations have largely been addressed. I almost never use the home screen. I don’t get deluged with notifications on all my devices when the watch is on my wrist. I don’t use maps because they just seems stupid on a watch. Ok, I got the dick pic thing wrong. It turns out that’s super fun… for the first time you do it.

When I stepped back and looked at the watch as a cool watch that can help me be more fit, its use case slowly started to fit into my life. You throw in a balanced amount of notifications and you start to have a really compelling story. That’s what the watch is to me. A really nice watch with fitbit capabilities that go WAY beyond what my fitbit could ever do. All the other stuff seems… tertiary.

Today was my first day with it. I didn’t need the watch to tell me I exercised more than usual, but it did help motivate me. Which was kind of scary because I know today’s exercise was on the low end, and it’s way more than I’ve done in months. For some reason, I felt like something was keeping me honest with more than just, “steps.”

I desperately want this to turn into a trend. A quiet little thing on my wrist that helps me be more fit, on time, and looking at my iPhone less. Whether or not this little device helps me keep those goals; time will only tell.

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