Friday, August 10, 2018

Blockchain

Blockchain is, at best, ahead of its time. It's not yet practical, much like Boolean algebra and asymmetrical (RSA) encryption when they were introduced.

At present, I think an ideal application of blockchain could be used in reducing spam e-mail.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Talking about Apple on KUSI News

It seemed highly likely, this past Thursday morning, that Apple's market capitalization was going to break through $1 trillion. When I saw that milestone quickly approaching, I sent an e-mail to a local news station which opened with the following:
I am a retired Apple employee (1998 – 2007) here in San Diego and I’d like to make myself available to KUSI for an interview about Apple since that company reached, and surpassed, a $1 trillion market valuation, this morning.

Nine minutes later, I received a response, "Thank you for your email. Would you be available to appear on our 5pm newscast tonight?"

Wow! That was quick. Of course I accepted their offer.




A few people asked me if I was paid for my appearance. News organizations do not pay or compensate guests for information to avoid any conflicts of interest – that's basic journalism ethics. However, many news organizations will pay for photos or videos. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

 One Thousand Billion Dollars 



In June 1997, a pray request was sent out for a company that was within 90 days of bankruptcy.

It seems that enough people prayed.

#1,000,000,000,000.00 #OneThousandBillion AKA #OneTrillion

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Unhealthy Mental Health

A silver-painted woman with mental health issues

The Past

Over the past few years, I watched a friend's mental health deteriorate to the point he could no longer live with his wife and kids. He ended up living on the streets, trying to get by. This is the second time, in a decade where this has happened to him. Both times, his paranoid schizophrenia improved, significantly, after he was arrested and institutionalized at a mental health facility for months of treatment.

After his most recent recovery, I bumped into him in Cupertino where we spoke for about ten minutes. He's never acknowledged any hint of his mental health issues – in other words, denial.


The Present

One key symptom that seems to make mental health worse, for the individual, is denial – a failure to even acknowledge there's an issue. A person's private life should remain as private as the individual wants it to be. However, relationships imply responsibilities. If a person is unable to maintain a friendship, then the friendship will fade away.

The part that frustrates me is I have to guess why people, with unacknowledged mental health issues, act the way that they do. From my point of view, it begins when they can't speak on the phone, even though they used to. Although texting helps, it can be hours or days until even a simple text message is answered.

I count myself as very fortunate that I don't "stress out." Knock on wood, but I have yet to experience depression, anxiety, a panic attack, etc. Many years ago, I would have attributed this to my Marine Corps experiences where I had to learn to handle many different situations that my civilian peer age group did not. Today, I realize that I'm simply very lucky.

How could Robin Williams succumb to depression? Replace the word 'depression' with 'cancer' and no one would even ask. But, mental health issues have so much stigma that individuals don't want to acknowledge it, let alone discuss it with others.

When I was faced with a life threating illness, I told as many of my friends and relatives that I could. My thinking was, "If I was a friend or relative, I would want to know that Joe's sick."


The Future

I currently have several very close relatives and friends, that I've know my entire adult life, who have some type of debilitating mental health issue which is completely unacknowledged. In two cases, it's worsened by alcoholism, which is another disease that is too frequently ignored. I now recognize the pattern. They lose touch, usually completely, and can't communicate. It seems to begin with a social anxiety. Very frequently, plans – even plans they've initiated – get abruptly cancelled with no explanation.

Now, I try to figure out what to do to help and my conclusion is that I can do very little, especially when they refuse to engage in any type of even light social conversation. For those I know who have admitted their mental health issues to me, it's much easier for me to lend a sympathetic ear. For the others, it's easy for me to mistakenly think that their condition is their fault and it's hard for me to sit back and watch the downward spiral.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Apple Design. Apple Marketing. Apple Talk.

Apple Park

1. Apple Design
2. Apple Marketing
3. Apple Talk


1. Apple Design
A good base metric for usability is both how long it takes to accomplish a task and how many actions it takes (clicks, taps, etc). Although good UX, involving human-machine interactions, typically involves familiarity, it doesn’t necessarily have to be familiar to be intuitive. (Think about the first time you saw the rubber band effect on the iPhone as a user scrolled to the top or bottom of a list – that was unfamiliar, yet intuitive.)

Fitts’s Law, named after USAF Lt. Col. Paul Fitts, puts a finer point on usability and ergonomics using simple formulas that relate the distance to a target with the size of the target. Fitts’s formulas date back to the mid-1950s and they apply nicely to computers and cockpits.

Fitts’s formulas:

Index of Difficulty = log₂ (2 x distance to target / target width)

Throughput = (Index of difficulty) / (Average time to complete the movement)

Throughput is important with computers because you don’t want a user to hit the wrong button and then have to backtrack to fix their mistake. While a computer can be very forgiving, in an aircraft, you don’t want to put the ejection button next the landing light switch so as to not accidentally hit the wrong one. 

Thanks to Fitts’s Law, this is why, on macOS, the menu bar for the active window is along the top of the screen, whereas, on Windows, the menu bar is attached to the top of each window. Having the menu bar on the top of the Mac’s desktop screen gives the target (File, Edit, View, etc) an infinite height because a user can’t move their mouse pointer beyond the edge of the screen, no matter how much they try. This is why macOS’s four corners of the screen make great hot spots. It is extremely easy to move a mouse pointer to any of the four corners to, say, lock the computer (requiring a password to unlock it). This, effectively gives the pixel, in each of the corners of the desktop, an infinite width and height, off the screen.

And while Fitts’s Law is great, design does have a bit of an artistic aspect to it. Good UX is designed with people in mind.

2. Apple Marketing
The goal of marketing is to match customers with products to generate revenue. A novice mistake new entrepreneurs make is to focus inward on what they think is important, instead of focusing on the customer experience. For example, many entrepreneurs will spend a lot of time and money designing their logo. Customers don’t do business with companies based on what their logo looks like. In other words, “No One Cares About Your Company Logo.” However, how you use your logo is very important; it’s critical to stay on brand in order to prevent brand dilation.

There’s a lot of noise out there, so a company’s marketing communications have to be clear and concise. This starts by leading with a product’s benefits before its features.

What’s the difference between a benefit or feature? The key features of a product (or service) enable the benefit for the customer. In other words, use a product’s key features to summarize its key benefit.

One of the best examples of leading with the benefits before the features was the introduction of the first iPod in October 2001. I believe, if any other company had created the iPod, such as HP, Dell, or Microsoft, they would have marketed it as “a 6.5 ounce MP3 player with a 5 GB hard drive, measuring 4” x 2.5” x 3/4”.” Even as a software engineer, I would have to breakout a calculator to figure out how many songs a 5 GB hard drive could hold.

Instead of touting the features, the slogan for the first iPod was, “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Elegant.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.


Lead with the benefits, before the features.


3. Apple Talk
So, what is it I do? I've detailed that here:
http://blog.joemoreno.com/2018/06/the-apple-way.html

More info on my talk, The Apple Way of Design and Marketing, here:
http://bio.joemoreno.com/talk 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Practice, Practice, Practice

Wireless networks and crowds do not mix well.

One thing I learned to appreciate at The Basic School was the importance of rehearsals. In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is. So there's no better sample or simulation than actually "doing it."

I give several Keynote presentations each month. Even when I'm giving my presentation at a tried and true venue, I still like to be set up and ready to go at least 30 – 45 minutes before the audience arrives. Instead of using a Bluetooth remote, to advance my slides, I use the Keynote app, on my iPhone. The Keynote app not only controls my slides, but it also displays the current slide that's being presented. Additionally, the Keynote app controls my Keynote presentation using WiFi, instead of Bluetooth (or infrared), which gives it a much longer reach since WiFi can be relayed.

Last month, when I presented at San Diego Startup Week (SDSW), I setup my laptop more than an hour early since I would be presenting on the morning of the first day of the conference. When I arrived, the A/V was still being set up and tweaked. But it all quickly came together as I ran through my presentation testing the audio and room lighting. I was confident and ready to go when the masses arrived.

Whenever large groups of people gather, get ready for something unexpected to happen. And that's exactly what happened. I probably should have realized that, when you get hundreds or thousands or people on the same network, it slows to a crawl. In my case, the problem was the WiFi LAN (not the Internet connection) that was overloaded. The WiFi was provided by a wireless router in my presentation room and it was overloaded. So much so that the signal couldn't travel from my iPhone's Keynote app, 20 feet to the WiFi router, and then to my laptop. In foresight, that was unexpected, yet completely expected in hindsight, if I had given it some thought. While I was able to successfully give my presentation with my Keynote app, it was touchy. I never saw any of my slides displayed on my iPhone and it would take a couple taps, followed by a long delay, to advance my slides. Clearly, that's not a distraction I want when presenting.

Last night, I brought up this issue at our SDSW postmortem. The best solution I heard was the recommendation to have a private WiFi network for staff and presenters. I'm sure we'll push for that, next year, if there are enough WiFi channels available to support it.

Event best-laid plans of mice and men can go awry.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Story of an Artist


Pure art is nothing more than an expression of human consciousness for others to experience.
– Me

Apple announced upgraded MacBook Pros, this morning. That lead me to noticing their new commercial that's part of their "Behind The Mac" marketing campaign. Apple commercials sometimes have sticky songs such as in "The City," featuring "Sing to Me." (Both videos tell a story about a deep, curious, and budding love.)

What's unusual about this most recent "Behind The Mac" ad, embedded below, is the naive, lo-fi recording that accompanies the commercial; the song is "The Story Of An Artist," by the musician Daniel Johnston.

Johnston suffers from debilitating mental health issues. At one point, in his late 20s, when he was flying in a small plane piloted by his father, he removed the key from the ignition and threw it out the window. Amazingly, they escaped from their crash landing, in a forest, with only minor injuries.

For those of us who are older, it's the subtle, yet authentic, quality of Johnston's cassette tape recordings that bring a wave of something more than nostalgia; it brings saudade. We remember making the same recordings on our cassette players in our bedrooms and basements. Press play and record at the same time --- and don't forget to break off the tab if you don't want to mistakenly record over it.

Johnston's songs have a hauntingly raw simplicity underneath a sad kindness, as they are performed by a man whose sufferings are difficult to understand, let alone imagine. His lyrics aren't his words, instead, they're his unfiltered thoughts, feelings, and experiences ---  candid and exposed --- yet endearingly palatable in their message. 


How to Inventory Prime Now

More and more often, I find myself using Amazon Prime Now for two hour food and restaurant deliveries. As a former supply officer in the Marines, I quickly learned the importance of receipting for materiel as soon as it's received, before signing off on the delivery.


Pre-inventory
Receipting for a Prime Now delivery should also be done as soon as it arrives. To avoid any confusion or mistakes I simply unload everything in one spot, typcially on my kitchen counter (see my pre-inventory photo). Be sure to thoroughly check for any small items, especially in the bags with the cold packs.


Post-inventory
You can print out your order if it's a big delivery, but that shouldn't be necessary. I simply open my Prime Now app on my phone and start at the top of the list. As I scroll down, through each item, I pick it up and move it from my pre-inventory location to another counter (see my post-inventory photo). I've seen people simply take a quick look in their delivery bags and then put everything away, causing problems later when they're unsure if they received an item they ordered. Also, be sure to double check the quantities. 

Once you've gone through the entire list, you'll know within a two minutes if everything was delivered. If something's missing, I'll go through all the bags to triple check before calling customer service. 

If you have extra items, simply keep them. I've contacted Amazon when I was delivered a few extra items I didn't order and their response was "I'm truly sorry that you have received an extra bag of goodies. You are welcome to keep, dispose of or donate the items in that extra bag." Their loss is your gain. Not a bad deal.

If you're missing anything – or, if you've received the wrong order – then contact Amazon. They will probably give you a refund and/or a credit and then, if time allows, send out the replacement items.

In my experience, all of the drivers for Prime Now have been Amazon Flex Drivers which is like Uber/Lyft, but instead of moving people, the driver is moving goods. However, the Flex Drivers do not pick and pack the items in the warehouse; that's done by well-trained Amazon employees and highly obedient robots.

To speed up my delivery, I will use the app or website to track the Flex Driver on the way to my place and meet them between my front door and the street. Your deliverer will appreciate that, especially if you live in a gated complex. 

Like Uber/Lyft, no money is exchanged on the spot. It's all done ahead of time, through the app; even the tip.

Yes, Amazon's taking over the planet (and beyond). It's the second most valuable company in the world, if my calculations correct:

High Tech Market Capitalization
  • Apple:     $939B
  • Amazon:    $872B
  • Google:    $824B
  • Microsoft: $801B
  • Facebook:  $599B
  • Netflix:   $180B


PS – No, you don't have to queue up your food to inventory it. I don't. I only did it for these photos.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2018

    iPhone X Deals?

    A buddy contacted me asking about iPhone X deals. This was my response...

        It's not easy to find a real deal with Apple's iPhones because Apple doesn't run sales/discounts. It depends more on a person's budget if they can pay upfront the full $999/iPhone X or a subsidized plan through a carrier with a contract.

        About five years ago, I started buying the new iPhones outright, without a contract. That made it easy for me to switch from my $100+/month plan, with AT&T, to Cricket Wireless for $35/month (no contract and no other fees with unlimited texting and voice calls):
    http://blog.joemoreno.com/2017/06/hail-cricket-farewell-at.html

        Here's an article talking about how to save some money when purchasing the iPhone X:
    https://bgr.com/2018/04/25/iphone-x-deals-verizon-vs-att-best-buy


    Q: Why is the time, on the iPhone, nearly always 9:41 AM in Apple's marketing photos?

    A: Because that's the time when Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone on January 9, 2007 at Macworld 2007 Conference. 

    Thursday, June 21, 2018

    How to Turn Anxiety Into Excitement

    I'm coaching some speakers for next week's San Diego Startup Week 2018. It's not practical to think you can move from anxiety to calmness, no matter what you tell yourself. 




    But, this video discusses a realistic solution that simply involves saying, aloud, "I am excited," which redirects your anxiety.  Give it a try, it can't hurt. 

    Why Are They Called Cookies?

    Why are they called cookies?

    Good question... no one really knows.

    A cookie was originally designed to store small amounts of information in your web browser which was sent back to a server to provide information such as your username or login ID; this helped to make things more convenient. Think of a cookie as a token or ticket. 

    But, how did cookies get that name? The answer isn't exactly known other than it might be related to what was organically called a "magic cookie." Some believe that a cookie goes back to the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale where the siblings used cookie crumbs to mark their trail through the forest. However, if that's the case, then I would have expected them to be called crumbs, not cookies.

    My personal theory of choice is that cookie is short for "fortune cookie," in that it contains a small message similar to a fortune cookie. 

    Wednesday, June 6, 2018

    The Apple Way

    I woke up to my alarm at 1:15 AM, yesterday morning, and I was on the road, from San Diego to San Jose, about an hour later. There's something very relaxing about driving through Los Angeles at 4 AM, without any traffic. The sunrise's subtle changes in lighting, in California's San Joaquin Central Valley, is unseen, yet clearly noticed.

    Lately, I've been flying myself from San Diego to San Jose which takes about three hours compared to the typical one hour commercial flight. But, I had a late night event on Monday evening so I figured that driving was the safer option. The private terminal at San Jose Airport (FBO) has a quiet room and shower in the pilot's lounge, so I was able to sleep a bit and then get cleaned up before speaking at 1:30 PM. (Is that confusing because I drove, but used a pilot's lounge? Well, I used my pilot knowledge and skills to pilot my car there.)

    Three years ago, my buddy Kedar introduced me to his MBA classmate, Minnie, who’s originally from China. Minnie lives in NYC and she organizes tours where business delegations come over from China to tour Silicon Valley. These business people want to understand what makes Silicon Valley, Silicon Vally. They do this through presentations given to them by companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, IBM, Stanford, etc., etc. Of course, they want to learn about Apple, but Apple’s a very secretive company and they don’t offer business tours and presentations to the public.

    Cupertino is the only place Apple sells apparel. 
    That’s where I come in. Since I used to work for Apple, I give the business delegations a presentation about what makes Apple different, when it comes to design and marketing. Plus, I can do something Apple employees can’t do, which is speculate about future Apple products. After my presentation, we take a trip to the Apple Visitor Center and get a tour from an Apple employee. 

    1 Infinite Loop: Steve Jobs' office is still in this building.
    Sometimes, we'll also visit the Infinite Loop campus (both campuses are about two miles apart). The nice thing about visiting the Infinite Loop Apple Store is that it's in the same building where Steve Jobs' office is, left untouched since the day he died with his name still on the door. Plus, the group gets to say they visited the “Mothership.” 

    Voila!

    Monday, June 4, 2018

    Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Fun

    Yesterday, I had a little fun at the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon with this video trick I saw a few years ago. This technique simply required someone to follow me as I walked backward while others walked and ran by me. A quick import into iMovie on my desktop, followed by choosing the rewind effect, produced the following video.



    Saturday, June 2, 2018

    The Daily Duty, Part II

    In April, I wrote about a cheeky new art installation in my bathroom. Here's Part II, where it gets personal.



    Wednesday, May 30, 2018

    Siri Loves the Sopranos

    When I was watching “The Sopranos,” S1 E9, “Boca,” beginning around 34:21, the dialogue trigged “Hey Siri” on my HomePod. It’s the scene where Artie tells Tony to lay off the soccer coach, and they tell Artie the soccer coach’s dirty secret. It happens every time.


    Friday, May 25, 2018

    Advice to USNA Class of 2018: Be Decisive

    Today's USNA '18 Graduation: Those covers (hats) fly high.

    Advice to USNA Class of 2015
    Advice to USNA Class of 2016
    Advice to USNA Class of 2017

    The Basic School (TBS), in Quantico, VA, is where second lieutenant Marines are trained to be "Officers of Marines." The key principles I was taught there were leadership and decisiveness. Leadership in the military is, in many ways, similar to leadership in the corporate world in that your authority comes from your job position. Obviously, rank, in the military, also reinforces a person's standing.

    Decisiveness is the ability to make timely choices and take action. The challenge with decisiveness, especially in the military, is learning how to make decisions with incomplete information. At TBS, we were taught that a good decision, made now, is better than waiting for ideal information, that may never come, in order to make a perfect decision, later. This tenet taught me how to prioritize tasks by repeatedly focusing on my choices before and after, it until it became second nature.


    When to make a decision?

    I believe it's important to make a decision as late as you can, if the delay has no penalties. It's OK to decide not to make a choice, now, if a decision isn't necessary. Sometimes, I would explicitly state why I was putting off a decision. As an oversimplified example, "Tonight, I don't need to decide what I'm going to have for lunch, tomorrow, because we won't order lunch for another 15 hours."

    But, in the military... especially in combat... we were taught to make the best possible decision, right now. All too frequently, when we were faced with an important tactical decision, our senior officers (captains), who were training us, would yell at the leader, who was taking too long, "Make a decision, lieutenant. Right now. Make a decision."

    When I was the lieutenant in charge and I heard this, it put a tremendous amount of pressure one me as I was forced to make an immediate decision in front of those I was leading. My solution to avoid this in the future was by staying one step ahead of the situationat hand. (An important skill that was reinforced when I was training to become a pilot.) More and more training that's as realistic as possible (rehearsals) helps, tremendously. But that's not always possible. My backup was to instantly recognize what choice I could make, now, that would further our mission while maintaining a responsibility to the long term.

    A colonel once told me he kept his decision skills sharp by always planning for many possible scenarios. For example, he said that, when he's driving, he always made sure he had a way out. Specifically, the colonel told me that would not pull up too close to the car in front of him, at a traffic light. If the car in front of him stalled at the traffic light, he still had enough room to turn out of his lane while continuing to move forward. (Why retreat when that's not the direction you want to go?)

    Getting into a good habit is called self-discipline. Discipline is to the Marines what innovation is to Apple, except, in the Marines, discipline will literally save your life, both in combat and training.

    When to change a decision, without being indecisive?

    Indecisiveness is a pet peeve of mine. Indecisiveness is changing one's mind when no new information has presented itself.

    Simple decisions can be made and reversed if there's no cost or penalty, "I know that I wanted to have a tuna salad sandwich for lunch, earlier, but I've decided to place my order for the chicken club." There's nothing wrong with that since I hadn't yet placed my order. But, I wouldn't call back, after ordering my lunch, to change my decision once I've finalized it. That would be indecisive. I would rather live with my decision to eat something I didn't fully enjoy rather than flip-flop. That's how I live with my decisions.

    Putting off a decision, as long as possible, keeps your options open. But, in a life and death situation, that delay to consider your options might only be seconds.


    Decision-Making Principles

    My key principles in figuring out when to change a decision are:

    1. Has new information come to light that wasn't available, before; and, if I don't change my decision, will my mission fail or will my earlier decision violate a key principle, policy, or law?
    To maintain integrity, I take this one step further. New information doesn't mean information that was available six months ago, but I was too lazy to research; new information means there's no way I could have/should have known about it before making my decision. A person's judgement is only as good as the information it's based on.

    2. Will changing my decision significantly simplify the task at hand, while still accomplishing my mission; and can the change be promulgated to all parties in a very timely manner?

    Good decisions, based on principles, make for strong leaders.

    Monday, May 14, 2018

    Apple Talk Mystery Photo [u]

    Here's a minor mystery that has me stumped.

    The group selfie photo I snapped.
    Last week, I gave my Apple Talk in the Bay Area to a business delegation from China. I began the talk with a group selfie. As I snapped a few pictures, the group got up from their seats and huddled in the center of the room so they would be in my photo.

    The group selfie photo that an audience member posted.
    A little after midnight, a woman who attended my talk posted some photos from my presentation (she's in the front row, next to my left ear). At first, I didn't think anything of it when I saw she posted one of my selfie pics. Then, when I looked closer, I noticed that the selfie pic she posted wasn't one of mine. After comparing all of my group selfie pics to her photo, I noticed that it was from a slightly different vantage point. This had me (and still has me) puzzled. When I snapped my photo, I was standing in front of the room, up against the whiteboard, and there was a desk between me and the audience. In other words, no one was in front of me or near me.

    So, how or where did she get a similar group selfie photo? 
    After looking closely at her photo, I noticed a black line, in the upper left of her photo, which I've concluded is the edge of my phone. It seems that the picture she posted was a photo taken of my phone's screen as I positioned my phone and preparing to take the group selfie. Clever.

    This theory of mine seems to make sense, except I can't figure out where the camera was located in the audience (lots of audience members snapped photos throughout my presentation). If you take a selfie photo of someone when they're taking a photo of your phone's screen then you'd expect to see them in the selfie picture.

    My best guess, without claiming any "my phone was hacked" conspiracy theories is that the camera, which took the photo of my phone's screen, was out of frame or blocked from view by another person, despite the fact that her photo looks to have been taken head-on. And that theory seems to make sense because the same woman, later at Apple Park, showed me some photos she took of my presentation and she made the point that her phone's camera software (not an iPhone) had the ability to remove the keystone effect when a photo is not taken perpendicular to the subject. Basically, her phone's software has the ability to remove distortion from photos taken at sharp angles.

    I still want to know where the camera was located in the audience that snapped the photo of my phone screen. Hmm.

    Update 24 May 2018: Hear ye, hear ye. It took a couple weeks, but the mystery has been solved. It turns out that the inexplicable selfie photo was taken by my translator. She was standing next to me, in the front of the room, as we began and she took a selfie at the same moment I did, except she was out-of-frame in her photo. 

    Sunday, May 13, 2018

    Truffle

    Yesterday, I went to a truffle party. In my mind, a truffle is a type of chocolate. I knew that this event would have meat, and not chocolate, but in my mind, a truffle is chocolate.




    Black Truffle
    Today, I learned that a truffle is actually the fruiting body of a fungus that grows underground. Lovely sounding, eh? Chocolate truffles were named because of their resemblance to the subterranean fungus.

    #LST: Learning Simple Things

    Friday, May 11, 2018

    Foreigners

    Last night, I was at a party in Mission Hills that was 90% French. I could count on one hand how many people didn't speak French. Lucky for me, everyone spoke English.

    One thing that stood out was that the younger people where discussing their strategies for staying in America. Some were software engineers, EE, interior designers, Realtors, etc, as they compared notes for visas, timeframes, and costs for lawyers and applications fees. I take it for granted that, as an American, I can live here and do nothing. Even the people from the South of France were loving Southern California. I have a feeling that I'll be seeing these people around in the foreseeable future. 

    Thursday, April 26, 2018

    Apple's Language Holy War

    In the late 1990s, we used to joke about language holy wars at Apple. Apple had purchased NeXT, in December 1996, for WebObjects and the NeXTSTEP operating system (which became Mac OS X and was recently rebranded as macOS). Since NeXTSTEP's release, in the late 1980s, the OS was built on Objective-C (a superset of ANSI C that was object oriented [OO]). In the mid-1990s, Java came along, from Sun Microsystem, and it quickly became the first, mainstream, OO language leading to a holy war between Objective–C and Java.

    WebObjects was originally written in Objective-C, but, by WebObjects version 3.5, in 1997, it was fully bridged with Java using the cheekily named JOBS (Java to Objective-C Bridging Specification). A WebObjects developer could write code in Java and most every Java object had a corresponding Objective-C object wrapped and running in the background.


    Java vs. Objective-C

    Around WWDC 2000 or 2001, Apple settled the holy war by stating that Objective-C would be used on the client (Cocoa desktop development) and Java would be used on the server (WebObjects server development). But we'd still argue about the pros and cons of the two languages.

    The strength of Java was that it was a strongly typed language. The strength of Objective-C was that it was a weakly typed language. So, the pros and cons were subjective. It really depended on your needs. Objective-C would let a developer "touch the metal" meaning a developer could write code to interact with a computer's low level memory. This is very powerful, but it requires a lot of responsibility on the software developer's part since they'd have to manually manage their program's memory usage by using pointer arithmetic. Pointer arithmetic allows a developer to directly touch values in the memory of a computer. If the developer makes a miscalculation, such as terminating a string incorrectly, it could cause the program to crash.

    The selling point of Java, which was very similar to Objective-C, is that it didn't use memory pointers. Instead, Java code ran inside a virtual machine that acted like a sandbox between the executable code and the operating system. Since Java couldn't directly touch computer memory, it used references instead of pointers. The big joke in Java was, if you tried to call a method on an instance variable that was null, you'd throw a NullPointerException, which was a poor choice for an exception class name since Java didn't have pointers. That message class should have been NullReferenceException. An excellent solution for avoiding these bugs, called optionals (option types), has been implemented in Apple's Swift programming language, three years ago. But I digress.

    Since Java ran inside a virtual machine, it was a little more complicated to talk directly to the OS. For example, if you needed to access the computer's file system then you probably shouldn't hard code something like "c:/ProgramFiles/tmp" since that wouldn't work if your Java code ran on a Mac (c:/ is the path to the main hard drive on a Windows computer, whereas macOS doesn't care about the physically drive, but, rather, the medium being accessed with a path like "/Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/jmoreno/tmp."

    Since the path to a file or folder (directory) on each OS was different, it required the software developer to use global variables that the Java virtual machine populated when it started up (on Windows, it's "c:/" and on macOS it's "/Volumes/Macintosh HD."

    Not hard coding OS paths requires a bit of discipline, but it keeps the software developer honest and prepared if their code needs to run on a different OS than was originally intended. This type of discipline was key, in 2005, when Apple switched the Macintosh CPU from IBM's PowerPC chip to Intel's CPU. Without the public realizing it, Steve Jobs announced that Apple had been secretly developing Mac OS X for both CPUs and the time had come for Apple to switch to the same CPU that Windows ran on. This had the side effect of allowing Windows to run natively on a Mac using Apple's Boot Camp utility software.


    Code Reviews

    I have written a lot of sloppy code, in my time, and I discovered that group code reviews, weekly or biweekly, were a great help. This was the place where we could show off our code to the rest of our team; and the rest of the team could question anyone on the code they wrote. Most teams usually don't go out of their way to review someone else's code if it works as expected. Typically, it's not until a particular software developer has left a team when someone else has to read and review the departed team member's code. This can raise a lot of questions as to what the original purpose of the code was.

    Good coding practices and discipline will pay dividends years down the road, so take the time to do it right. If not now, then when?

    Wednesday, April 18, 2018

    Reverse Planning

    Reverse planning, also known as backward planning, is a simple concept that took me a long time to learn.

    I was raised in a very "casual" family where 90 minutes late, to family gatherings, was considered on time. Sometimes, we'd arrive at Mass after the Gospel (very late into the liturgy). The Marine Corps was less tolerant of tardiness; 15 minutes early was considered on time. In the military, being late is referred to as UA/AWOL – a punishable offense.

    I had two key experiences in the Marines that got me focused on time management. Reverse planning is a cinch once you learn it since it requires minimal attention. Simply start with a place you need to be, by a certain time, and work backward.

    12:30 PM: Airline flight departs.
    12:00 PM: Airplane begins boarding (unless it's Alaska Airlines, they begin boarding 45 mins early).
    11:30 AM: Allow 30 minutes to get through security.
    11:15 AM: Allow 15 minutes to get your boarding pass and check-in your baggage.
    10:55 AM: Give yourself 20 minutes to park and walk into the terminal.
    09:10 AM: Drive to the airport. Give yourself an extra 50% for traveling. So, if it typically take 30 minutes to drive to the airport, then give yourself 45 minutes.
    09:00 AM: Allow ten minutes to gather your stuff and load it into the car.
    8:00 AM: Reveille, reveille! Wake up at 8 AM if it typically takes you 45 – 60 minutes to shower and get dressed. Add an hour or so if you need to pack.

    There's nothing difficult about reverse planning other than having the discipline to do it and being honest on your time allowances. I frequently do it, even for trivial events, to keep my skills sharp.


    Wednesday, April 4, 2018

    New Art Installation: 'The Daily Duty'

    I have pictures of people pooping in my potty.


    The Daily Duty art collection installation in my bathroom

    Ok, I know that sounds weird, but it's true. I got the idea from Buona Forchetta, which has the most authentic Italian wood oven pizza in San Diego. Buona Forchetta (good fork) has large pictures of celebrities and heads of state on the throne in their public restrooms. You can't not notice it (apologizes to my English teachers). The first time I walked into the restaurant's bathroom, I immediately asked myself if this was tasteless. But, the artwork is so well done --- with fine creative taste --- that it inspires as it pushes the boundaries of art. Even my mother got a big kick out of artwork. After all, "art is what you can get away with."


    Cristina Guggeri, AKA Krydy, Born In 1973


    The Artist and Her Art

    Cristina Guggeri, AKA Kyrdy, is the Sardinian-born artist who's created hundreds of photo-realistic pictures of celebrities on the throne. The collection, The Daily Duty, includes pictures ranging from the Pope to the Queen and Albert Einstein to Freddie Mercury. Rather than purchasing the prints, which you can do, she encourages fans to purchase the digital images to be printed, locally; and that's exactly what I did. The JPEGs each cost €22 – €27 (about $30) which I had printed on poster board. I installed this art collection in my bathroom with simple binder clips, thread, and thumbtacks. The poster board might warp a little from the humidity. If it does, then I'll velcro the bottom, which has worked very well for me in the past.




    Cheeky or Tasteless?

    Even though my socially conservative mother enjoyed this art collection, I still questioned its tastefulness. Would I want someone to display photo-realistic pictures of me, or my mother, on the toilet? The short answer is, "It depends." Like all art, its value is based on the artist who created it. While I wouldn't want random photos sold of my mother or me on the throne, I wouldn't mind at all if Guggeri created it.

    Monday, March 26, 2018

    Kitchen Upgrade

    I heard someone complaining about their real estate estimates after a $25,000 kitchen upgrade. It seems the homeowner didn't understand pricing.

    Let's say that, today, a home is worth exactly $500,000. After tearing out the old kitchen and installing the new one worth $25,000, the home's value does not increase by $25,000. Hence, the home may end up selling for only $515,000, after the upgrade. The reason for this discrepancy is "overlooked" math. After tearing out the old kitchen, the value of the home may have dropped from $500,000 to, say, $490,000. So, in fact, the $25,000 upgrade was added to a $490,000 home since the previous kitchen, that was demolished, still had a value of $10,000. That's how real values are calculated.

    Thursday, March 15, 2018

    My Oldest Friend

    Wynne Matheson Trenholme
    13 August 1914 – 15 March 2018
    A lifelong friend of mine and second father, Wynne Trenholme, passed away this morning at 103 years old.
    What a run!

    Although it had been several years since I last saw him, we still spoke, from time to time, especially since he turned 100.

    He was still sharp as a tack. One of his oldest memories was sitting atop of his father's shoulders while watching a WW I parade.


    Stories

    I first met Wynne when I was five years old. As a kid, and throughout high school, Wynne taught me about electronics, ham radio, the steam cycle on ships, and firearm & motorcycle safety, to name a few things. He always had great stories from the South Pacific during his time in the Merchant Marines in WW II. 


    Apollo LEM

    Wynne's career highlight, while employed by Grumman, was the work he did on the Apollo Lunar Module program. (The Lunar Module is the spacecraft that landed on the moon, best know for becoming a life raft for the Apollo 13 crew.) 

    Wynne gave me several astronaut training manuals which I still have. Here's one that I scanned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing: https://goo.gl/9v8VNo

    Wynne Matheson Trenholme
    13 August 1914 - 15 March 2018
    An amazing man who lead a very long and full life.
    He was my oldest friend. 

    Carpe Diem. 


    Wynne Trenholme from Joe Moreno on Vimeo.

    Wednesday, March 7, 2018

    Augmented Reality in the Bedroom


    I need new end tables, next to my bed. The space is small and I don't mind having something cheap. The challenge was getting end tables that were as big as possible, yet still fit in the limited space.


    While shopping with the Amazon app, I found some simple end tables. But, would they fit and how would they look? I've used augmented reality apps, over the past ten years, but this was the first time I used it for such a practical purpose.


    I almost overlooked the augmented reality feature in the Amazon app since it was benign text, "See how this product fits in your room." But, as soon as I saw that, I knew how it would work. It turns out it worked much better than I expected. Instead of a gimmicky hack, I could move and rotate the end table, in real-time, via my iPhone's camera and the Amazon app to see how it would look and fit next to my bed. It was intuitively obvious and simple. 




    Update: Here's the actual end table which fits exactly as expected.




    Wednesday, February 21, 2018

    The Entrepreneur's Challenge

    What makes an entrepreneur different than an hourly or salary employee is their willingness to face challenges.

    It is extremely difficult for a single person to create and grow a company since they need to oversee every aspect of their business's operations. Nearly all entrepreneurs have an Achilles' heel. If the entrepreneur comes from a maker background (meaning they are career individual contributors like engineers, writers, designers, etc.) then they may have challenges dealing with people such as employees, customers, investors, etc. On the other hand, if they're a "people person" with a background in management, then technical decisions might be their weak point.

    The good entrepreneurs are the ones who recognize their shortcomings and work to improve themselves. But, regardless of an entrepreneur's background, it seems that marketing is always a challenge when venturing into new areas. No matter how good the idea, if you can't market it, it probably won't be successful. 

    Monday, February 19, 2018

    HomePod Shortcoming

    The HomePod fits very nicely into my lifestyle. It certainly sounds great for its size and it fills up a room with music you can feel – something we lost when we started using tiny earbuds. Unfortunately, the biggest shortcoming of HomePod isn't its sound or Siri (Siri on HomePod is so much better than on the iPhone.) The HomePod's biggest shortcoming is Apple Music. Apple Music doesn't measure up when playing tunes of a specific genre or artist. Instead, I use Pandora to play music on my HomePod via Airplay.

    I've been a subscriber of Pandora for years, specifically due to Apple Music's limitations and it's served me well. Since the beginning of Apple Music's streaming service, it's had a problem playing relevant tracks. Very frequently, Apple Music will start off playing relevant music and then, perhaps ten songs later, it gets off track. My most recent experience is when I asked HomePod to play music by Cole Porter from Apple Music. About 30 minutes later, Apple Music started playing Country Music covers of Cole Porter songs which is an entirely different genre. I've experienced the same thing with Apple Music songs from Philip Glass and Billy Joel. If I ask Apple Music to play songs by Billy Joel, it should not play classical music from his most recent album. That's not what anyone means when they ask to hear Billy Joel.

    That got me wondering about the difference between how Apple Music and Pandora choose tunes. Perhaps I'll do a little digging.

    Friday, February 16, 2018

    LimeBike Dockless Bike Sharing in San Diego

    LimeBikes ready to roll
    Yesterday, LimeBike.com launched their new dockless bike sharing program in San Diego. Today, I took it for a spin. I couldn't resist when I saw the bikes spread throughout my neighborhood.


    My first ride was free. I haven't yet taken a second ride, but it seems that the bike rentals are $1 for 30 minutes for a regular bike and, for electric-assist bikes, it's $1 for 10 minutes plus a $1 unlock fee. This is much better than the local competitor DecoBike, which requires docking and cost $5 for 30 minutes.


    Docked-up DecoBike
    To get rolling, I downloaded the LimeBike app (available for iOS and Android), opened it, and simply pointed my phone's camera at the QR code on the back fender of the bicycle. Within a few seconds, the bike played a tone as it unlocked the rear wheel and I was ready to go. Like a DecoBike, the bike has multiple speeds, a headlight, and basket.

    When I was done, the rear wheel locked and I was prompted to enter my credit card info for future rides. The app gave me an option to save a map of the route that I rode, along with time, distance, calories burned, and grams of carbon emissions I saved. I will definitely be using LimeBike, again.


    Conveniently located nearby
    Trip report


    Thursday, February 15, 2018

    Dealing With Terrorism and Mass Shooting News

    Many of us continually watch terrible news like incidents of terrorist attacks or mass shootings. What we really should do, instead, is stop watching cable TV news and, perhaps, watch This is Your Brain on Terrorism.

    On the surface, watching cable TV news (left or right) makes sense because we want to be informed and safe. But, this type of news ends up having the opposite effect, especially if we're not involved in the incident. We know that TV news is important, but we forget that, by definition, news is something that almost never happens. Because shocking news brings an audience, it ends up being broadcast nonstop which tricks us into thinking that it's a common problem.

    Just to be clear, no one wants mass shootings – even the NRA doesn't want mass shootings. But, the reaction of people who immerse themselves in this news, and feel helpless at the senseless violence, end up doing nothing effective to make things better. Their typical reaction is anger, talk, and posts to social media where they express their fury without doing anything to fix the problem or its side-effects that spread the fear.

    My point of this post is to show you that continually watching cable TV news coverage does very little to help the situation and actually causes more unnecessary anxiety.

    If you're scared and you continue to watch scary news then your fear will increase. Ask yourself what would happen if you didn't watch cable TV news. Instead of watching, read a couple news articles, ideally from different sources, and then go about your day while being thankful for how fortunate you are.


    Do Something

    Feeling helpless? Then find a cause where you can make a difference. Want to right a wrong in the world? Do a YouTube search for "puppy torture" or "puppy abuse," etc., and then foster a pet or do volunteer work. Want to join a big team to right the wrongs on a global scale? Then run for office, enlist in the military or join an NGO. Make the world a better place. At what point does emotional protesting become useless complaining? It seems that the people who complain the most tend to do the least. Stop complaining and start doing.