Saturday, December 29, 2018

Java and JavaScript Objects

Dave Winer posted a lesson-learned tip about JavaScript. Although Java and JavaScript are unrelated languages, they have many similarities.

var d1 = new Date ("March 12, 1994");
var d2 = new Date ("March 12, 1994");
alert (d1 == d2); // false

It seems that JavaScript, like Java, is actually comparing the two Date objects, d1 and d2, to see if they're the same object in memory, not the same value. Since these instance variables are not referencing the same object the alert line of code returns false.

Although, at first blush, this seems unintuitive, it actually allows greater flexibility when making comparisons. If you don't want to compare the two objects, but rather the value of the two objects, then you can simply send the Date object the getTime() message which returns true.

var d1 = new Date ("March 12, 1994");
var d2 = new Date ("March 12, 1994");
alert (d1.getTime() == d2.getTime()); // true

And, finally, to prove my theory to myself...
var d1 = new Date ("March 12, 1994");
var d2 = d1;
alert (d1 == d2);  // true

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Apple’s Future

During the Q&A portion of my Apple Talk, I’m frequently asked about Steve Job’s greatest invention and the future of Apple.

Steve Jobs's greatest invention was Apple, the company. This invention, and more importantly the principles it’s based on (best possible customer experience, simplicity, etc), is what keeps it going strong. Apple's greatest competitor isn't another company, product, or organization. Apple biggest threat is complexity. When looking at long term risk, Apple doesn’t focus on a thing, product, or event that threatens. Instead, Apple focuses on the principles of that threat to their core offerings and they have the imagination to immediately recognize threats when they're still small. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Engineers Turned Entrepreneurs, Part 2

Imagine this...

A candidate for a software engineering position comes into your office to interview as your first hire to build your application. The candidate has virtually no experience at software engineering, design, development, or deployment, but they tell you how hard they're willing to work because they believe in your business vision. During the interview, they describe and quote numerous articles they've read about famous computer scientists and CTOs in the news and on Wikipedia. Plus they give you a high level overview of bubble sort, map and reduce, object oriented design, and big O notation, although they've never coded.

Do you hire them to be your first software engineer? Of course not. So why would an angel or VC invest in an unproven career engineer turned entrepreneur, no matter how good the business idea?

Engineers are smart people and they know they're smart. Where they're not so smart is in dealing with people, in general, be it customers, employees, or investors. They're not the best communicators and often focus on features, not benefits. Frequently, in the mind of an engineer, they believe that if someone doesn't understand their vision it's because their audience isn't as smart as they are. It might seem easy to market and sell your idea, but it's not. 

Part 1 in this series:

Part 3 in this series:

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Minor Bitcoin Epiphany


While in my hot tub, this afternoon, I had a minor Bitcoin epiphany: Since Bitcoin is based on supply and demand, the supply, once it's reached its pinnacle, will continue to decrease in perpetuity meaning its value will continue to increase, somewhat similar to gold but greatly accelerated. We may have reached, or are very close to, the zenith of Bitcoin in circulation because it's probably vanishing faster than it's being created.


I am not a fan of Bitcoin; not so much because of the technology, but because of how it's presented. The Bitcoin movement started as a fad with engineers, not economist or entrepreneurs. If you ask a technically-minded Bitcoin aficionado to described the benefits of Bitcoin, they won't tell you. Instead, they'll spout a list of features such as:

  • Laissez-faire: It's a currency that's not controlled by any country or central bank. Keep in mind that organized crime is also laissez-faire and Bitcoin has found a nice home there.
  • Anonymity: Transactions can be carried out without revealing the transacting parties. The same is true for cash and cash transactions typically have zero fees.

The truth of the matter is that Bitcoin comes with most of the same downsides as cash or gold. We don't keep cash under our mattresses because it's too dangerous. Bitcoin's personal security solution is the wallet, kept with a third party, which stores a Bitcoin transaction's credentials. So, now the Bitcoin community has effectively created banks without FDIC insurance. In other words, Bitcoin banks that are easily robbed without recourse or recovery.

Some people refer to Bitcoin as a currency and other's consider it an investment. The IRS considers Bitcoin to be property (like gold) which has helped it flourish since it's unconstitutional for any person, company, or state to print or coin money.

As an investment... and this is my key heartache with Bitcoin aficionados... there's no deep fundamental insight into Bitcoin. Rather, all speculation in the Bitcoin market is predominantly based on technical analysis (trading trends). This seems more like gambling at a blackjack table than crossing the British pound with Japanese yen, etc. Yes, people make money investing in Bitcoin, but so do lottery winners.


We've reached a point were it seems that Bitcoin is disappearing faster than it's being created and this trend will likely continue. The anonymous creator of Bitcoin, Nakamoto, has disappeared leaving an estimated one million Bitcoins in virtual limbo. Nakamoto Bitcoin accounts represent billions of dollars that haven't been touched since their creation. That is the equivalent of burning cash, never to be recovered.

So, if you own a Bitcoin, hold on to it as the supply dwindles.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Did We Invite in Big Brother?

Facebook Tracking My Movements With Breadcrumbs
Here's a fascinating podcast about how smartphone apps track your location (more than 14,000 times/day, in some cases) and how this anonymous data loses its anonymity.

The knowledge that you're being watched changes your behavior (the antithesis of privacy). It's the Heisenberg uncertainty principle at the macro level. This doesn't only apply to smartphones since even a basic cell phone needs to be tracked by cell phone towers, but not with the same level of granularity as a GPS enabled smartphone.

This screen shot, from a few years ago, shows how Facebook tracked me, unknowingly, as I went to visit a high school classmate at Club M at the Grand Del Mar resort.

You can always turn off location services for an app or smartphone. But the cell phone towers will still have a good idea of where you're at. Tracking isn't only limited to web browsers as the woman in this podcast mentions (visit to see the info Google keeps on you).

Note: This post is a follow up to the Facebook tracking privacy issues I first noticed about five years ago:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Internet Bottleneck

It's interesting that the Internet bottleneck of 2000 is now reversed. In 2000, less than 20 years ago, when I setup my first wireless router in my home, the bottleneck was the dial-up bandwidth connection to my house.

Today, the bottleneck is on the other end, at the server. High demand video websites now govern their outgoing bandwidth to our homes. In other words, they slow down how fast they serve you a movie because they have to pay for that bandwidth, and video requires a lot of it, so they use it wisely and efficiently. 

Today, the speed of your internal WiFi can be a limiting factor for even a small home as multiple family members are watching videos at the same time. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I'm Excited

Only twice has my Apple Watch warned me that my heart rate was elevated above 120 bpm while I was inactive. Now this may sound ridiculous, but both times it was caused by a personal "Apple" event.

The first time it happened I was standing still for awhile when I received a text message that my HomePod had been delivered to my doorstep on release day. I was initially concerned about my elevated heart rate, since this had never happened before. After some thought (and no chest pains or palpitations) I concluded it was the good news about the HomePod delivery that spiked my pulse.

The second time it happened I was halfway through a flight from San Jose to San Diego. I was reading several articles where Jony Ive was detailing the excitement he feels when tackling new problems as he explained his design process and philosophy. While reading his words, I could sense his excitement without realizing it and my Apple Watch alerted me to my spiked heart rate. I quickly reached the same conclusion as the previous time, plus, I tend to have a very high max heart rate that's over 200 bpm.

I guess I truly and deeply get excited over Apple. I'm sure there are others. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Beautiful iOS Keyboard Editing Feature

For years, I've wanted a simple feature for the iOS keyboard which let me reposition the cursor without lifting my finger off the keyboard. It turns out this exact feature has been in iOS, but I don't know for how long. Regardless, it's very handy. Simply press and hold on your iOS keyboard and it will turn your keyboard into a virtual trackpad. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Little Dog, Big Presence

Drafting this blog post with handwriting recognition software. 
Years ago, I was at a car dealership in Santa Cruz. The U-shaped waiting room was too tiny for the half a dozen of us to ignore each other, especilly the older lady with a chuahah which quickly became the center of conversation for all of us. The cuteness of her dog was a natural draw for people; doubly so for little kids due to its smallness.

The lady said that little kids could sometimes be a bit too rough with her dog and quickly overwhelm it. But, she pointed out that she came up with an ideal solution. She taught the dog to growl on the command “ferocious” and then she demonstrated.

"Excuse me, is your dog friendly? Can I pet him?" she said kids would ask her.

"Be careful, he is ferocious," she’d respond. As she told us this story, the dog showed his teeth and let out a growl fiercer than his size. We all roared with laughter. She then said, "Growl," a couple more times, and each time, the dog let out a highly convincing growl. Impressive and effective. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

iPhone XS Waterproofing

I forgot I placed my iPhone XS on the hot tub cover.
When I flipped the lid closed, into the hot tub my phone went.
The new iPhone XS is suppose to be waterproof; or at least water-resistant for up to 30 minutes when submerged in two meters of water. I have always been very careful with my iPhone. After more than a decade of iPhones, I've never dropped one in water or cracked a screen, etc. 

Last night, I decided to use my iPhone while soaking in the hot tub. I've only done this a couple times since getting the iPhone XS, last month. (I don't even have a case for it.) And, wouldn't you know it, I dropped it into the hot tub for about 30 seconds (That's how long it took me to find it.) I pulled it out of the water and, lo and behold, it hasn't skipped a beat. It's working perfectly.

I would have never brought it into the hot tub, had it not been water resistant, but, now it's nice to know that it works as advertised.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Leadership Delegation

Delegation is an important leadership action. However, it’s critical to fully understand what can and can’t be delegated. In order for a leader’s subordinates to be fully empowered, the leader must delegate their authority. This is the reason a military policeman, with a low rank of private, can detain, ticket, and even arrest a colonel on a military base. Specifically, the commanding general of the base has delegated their authority to the military police.

However — and this is crucial to understanding leadership theory — a leader can never delegate responsibility. If a leader could delegate responsibility then no leader would  be held accountable. If this wasn’t the case, and responsibility could be delegated, then if a leader ever found themselves in a pickle they could simply claim they had delegated responsibility to their subordinate.

Failed leaders who don't understand this are easy to spot since they are quick to blame and they frequently throw their direct reports under the bus, which creates zero loyalty. It doesn’t maintain a responsibility to the long term.

Monday, November 5, 2018


I rarely publish anything partisan since most people have already made up their mind– and this piece is no exception. It will take a huge paradigm shift for someone to change a political point of view or affiliation.

But, now is your time to make a difference and put your political thoughts, ideas, and beliefs into action by voting. My goal isn’t to tell you what to think, especially not via a one-sided, emotional story that's out of context; rather, my point is to encourage you how to think using logic and reason for a deeper understanding of the issues. There are a times when we simply want to be told what to think, instead of figuring it out, ourselves – this is not one of those times.

The more citizens who vote, the more representative our federal presidential constitutional republic will be.

Protesting Without Action is Complaining

Most all political talk from private citizens (social media, beer and bar philosophizing, etc) ranges from useless noise to parroting others' views without critical thought and deep understanding. Protest without identifiable, effective action is simply complaining. Sure, sometimes the sheer volume of the protest, in itself, is enough to effect change, but that’s rare --- especially when protesters' views are diametrically opposed those of their government. Protesting didn’t work effectively during the Vietnam War, the rise of fascism during WW II, Tiananmen Square, etc. It's great that we have the right to air our grievances but it's terrible how much work it takes to be effective in the face of government power. Giving blood for a failed cause isn't effective.

Politics, without objective truth, is partisanship and, frequently, chauvinism in its extreme forms. I can usually justify a position on either side of a political hot button issue simply by flipping the timeframe from short-term to long-term, or vice versa; what seems like a good idea, today, might be bad decision, tomorrow. As a random example, it’s very easy to oppose most any ballot initiatives involving construction/infrastructure development with a blanket claim “the biggest beneficiary of this initiative is the general contractor since they’ll be paid to do this work.”

While the Constitution may be nearly ideal, our government is made of imperfect people and politicians who decided that slavery was good business, women shouldn’t vote, Japanese-American citizens needed to be interned during WW II, etc. We make mistakes.

Democrats vs. Republicans

Democrats and Republicans both try to create a fair government, but they go about it from different angles.

By de facto definition, Democrats tend to be left-leaning liberals who believe there are inherent inequalities in society which need to be evened out. For example, simply because a person grew up in a broken home doesn’t mean they shouldn't be given the opportunity to reach their full potential if given a little boost (i.e. grant, scholarship, etc). This left-leaning philosophy does not fully describe my political leanings in all cases.

By de facto definition, Republicans tend to be right-leaning conservatives who feel that all inequalities in society can’t be evened out, believing that societal hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable. For example, some citizens will continue to make very poor decisions (declare bankruptcy, drive drunk, etc) and they shouldn’t be allowed to game the system and receive free handouts at tax payers' expense. This right-leaning philosophy does not fully describe my political leanings in all cases.

What we really want are humble leaders with a human side, not heroic leaders who we expect to be perfectly infallible. Leaders who thoughtfully look at the issues and make decisions based on a responsibility for the long term while focusing on the present.

California Pacific Airlines: Dead on Arrival

How brutal is this? After more than nine years, California Pacific Airlines "crashes" trying to get off the ground on its first day of operations. (Ok, it didn't really crash, but one of their planes did have an accident, days earlier.)

I thought I would be part of history when I booked my ticket for California Pacific Airlines's first flight, on their first day of operations, last Thursday, at Carlsbad's Palomar Airport. (This airport has a special place in my heart since it's where I learned to fly.) I had to be in San Jose by 2:30 PM, Thursday afternoon, for my speaking engagement. I booked CPA's 7 AM flight, wondering what I'd do with the extra few hours before my talk.

As I bellied up to the counter to check in, before 6 AM on Thursday, I was immediately told by one of the three ticket agents/flight attendants that my flight was cancelled due to a mechanical problem. (I now wonder if it was related to their previous week's plane accident.) Then they told me they'd be happy to book me on the evening flight about 12 hours later. I told them that wouldn't work since I was returning that evening, also with CPA. 

I spoke to the agents both at ticketing and on their reservations phone line, all of whom were very pleasant, but they simply offered a refund. Mechanical problems, like this one, have happened to me, in the past, when United Airlines used to fly out of Carlsbad. When it did happen, United booked all of the passengers on new flights and provided car service to San Diego Airport, downtown. No such luck with CPA. They could have offered this, especially since it was their first day of operations. They also could have offered vouchers, ticket endorsements to fly on another airline, etc.

To put a finer point on the matter, I am writing this, a week after the cancelled flight, with no sign of the refund processing on my credit card (this was supposed to be handled Thursday morning). Perhaps soon? I also sent a direct, yet professional and respectful e-mail to CPA customer service which has gone unacknowledged. 

CPA Leadership MIA

One thing that struck me as odd was how quiet the Carlsbad airport terminal was, when I arrived. (CPA is the only scheduled airline flying out Carlsbad.) I wondered, on the drive to the airport, if CPA would have any banners, balloons, bagels, or coffee to celebrate their first day of operations. Instead, the pleasant CPA line employees were offered as cannon fodder for disgruntled passengers. Where was CPA's senior management or the board of directors to celebrate such a historic day? Where was Paul Hook, Mickey Bowman, Ted Valles, John Barkley, etc? Not a single executive was visible to apologize for failing to get off the ground on their first day. (The Union Tribune also noted the lack of fanfare for their first flight.)

Holding the Bag

So, where did that leave me? It left me with a 1,000 mile round trip drive, through LA rush hour traffic, to get to Silicon Valley. I've driven cross country about half a dozen times --- sometimes alone when I was in the Marines --- but this was the first time I spent 16 hours, driving 1,000 miles in a day. A new record for me.

By the time I returned home, it had been a 22 hour day, for me. This is the lesson I teach to others, about Apple:
Best possible customer experience.
What more can a company do to make the experience better for their customers (especially due to a company's shortcomings)?

If only CPA put as much care into their customers as I did with mine, requiring me to spend an unplanned 16 hours driving so I wouldn't cancel my commitment.

You cannot build a reputation on what you're going to do. Nine years in the making and CPA's customers were left worse off than if they never tried to get off the ground on that first day. At least that's exactly what my experience was and I think we can see the writing on the wall. I fully expect CPA to be tripping over themselves to make things better for their customers.

Monday, October 22, 2018

HTML Injection for the Better Good?

This is surprising and it doesn't make me feel good.

HTML Injection in the bottom right.
This morning I received an e-mail from my ISP (Cox) stating that I'm getting close to my 1 TB monthly bandwidth limit. This is the first time I've received any type of warning from Cox. I clicked the link in the e-mail which gave me daily and monthly bandwidth usage stats for the previous two months. Everything quickly seemed to make sense. This month, I ran several upgrades for my laptop and iPhone plus I began storing my 100,000+ photos and videos in iCloud, so the extra bandwidth usage all seemed correct.

But then Cox went one step further.

HTML injections by Cox into a random website I was viewing.

Later in the day, as I was surfing the Web, I was surprised to see an HTML injection ("Cox Browser Alert") into an online article I was reading on a non-SSL/TLS news website. Again, Cox was reminding me that I was approaching my bandwidth limit. While this is clever, HTML injections feel a bit like a personal violation.


Having an ISP inject HTML into a webpage is analogous to the USPS opening a third party envelope that's addressed to me and placing a note, inside the envelope, that I have some business to conduct with the USPS (i.e. a registered letter to pick up, an unpaid USPS bill, etc). It's great that they went above and beyond to let me know. But, it's also a scary reminder that man-in-the-middle attacks... or at least interference... is very simple for ISPs to do; and this is much worse than when they highjack a 404 page.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Apple Logo History: Why a Bite? 

During my Apple talk about what makes Apple different in terms of design and marketing, I'm frequently asked why there's a bite in the Apple logo. Now, I incorporate the following answer into my talk.


It's been said that the bite in the Apple logo comes from the Bible story of Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden, Eve took a bite out of an apple and gained additional knowledge. Therefore, if you bought an Apple computer, you too could have additional knowledge. It's a colorful tale, but it's not true.

Apple II?

It's also been said that the Apple logo has a bite out of it since the first Apple II had an Apple logo with a lower case "a" slightly overlapping the logo, taking a bite out of it. This seems like a more practical story, but it's also not true.

The Real Reason

The real reason that the Apple logo has a bite out of is because the original graphic designer, Rob Janoff, needed to show scale. Without the bite, people could mistaken it for a cherry or tomato. Since no one would take a bite out of either of those two, it wouldn't be confused with any other type of fruit.

After Janoff came up with the Apple logo, it was immediately noticed that the bite was also a play on words with "byte" which reinforced its memorability. 

Are Logos Important?

While I don't attribute a business's success to its logo, it's always better to have a simple, memorable logo. And, even though what a logo looks like isn't critical, how a logo is used for branding and marketing-communications is of paramount importance. Today, at Apple, you'd never see what we saw with the Apple II; today we'd never see the Apple logo next to the word "Apple" because that's redundant (Apple = Apple Apple).

Why a Multi Colored Apple Logo?

The reason there are six different colors in the Apple logo is because, in 1977, when the first three modern personal computers were introduced, only the Apple II had a color display. The TRS-80 Model I had gray/white characters on a black screen and the Commodore PET has the traditional phosphorescent green characters, like an oscilloscope, on a black screen.

Out with "i" – in with 

We will probably see the Apple logo appearing in more product names since Apple can't trademark the letter "i." Apple TV is now branded as TV and iBooks was rebranded, this past June, as Books. This will avoid the branding confusion we saw with the iHome product line. The iHome was one for the first combination iPod docking speakers and alarm clock, all in one. Many consumers mistook the iHome for an Apple made product, especially since it was sold in Apple retail stores. Preventing brand dilution is key. 

PS: On macOS, you can generate the "" character simply by pressing option-shift-K at the same time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Rule of Law: Punish Everyone?

Judge Judy, chatting with my mother in Little Italy, NYC,
epitomizes the rule of law – with a big dose of common sense.
The rule of law states that every person (or legal entity) is subject to the law. But that doesn't mean every person must be punished for every crime.

Thanks to the Constitution and jurisprudence, a punishment can be reduced or suspended. We've frequently been the recipient of this benefit when pulled over for speeding and let off with a warning. This doesn't violate the rule of law since the warning is a form of punishment.

But, what about the case where most people aren't warned, sentenced, cited, arrested, or punished? Does it violate the rule of law when a police office sets up a speed trap and ignores all the drivers who are going over the speed limit by only a few miles per hour? The short answer is no, because even though these drivers aren't punished, they are still subject to the law. So, while they aren't punished, they could be. Rule of law is upheld.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fear, Free Press, and the First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
– First Amendment to the United States Constitution


We're at the point where entertainment has become more real than reality and we now suffer from information obesity.

Exercise: Fill in the blank:
"Houston, we__________ a problem."


TV news should make us better informed citizens; instead, it's making us unnecessarily more anxious. Here's why that is, and my personal solution for that problem.

Freedom of the Press

Why is a free press so important? Like the rest of the Constitution, its primary purpose is to give rights to individual citizens while limiting the power of the federal government. Freedom of the press is a key part of this right to prevent the government from interfering with the distribution of information and opinions.

Nowadays, it seems that the news has moved away from distributing information and, instead, it is predominantly supplying opinions disguised as news. Rather than telling citizens the facts, the media (especially cable TV news) seems to be telling people what to think, instead of how to think, which has the effect of dumbing us down.

The news media does this because we, as citizens, get lazy. Simply put, we now view TV news more as a form of entertainment than as a source of unbiased information. Journalists have, effectively, become agents of the news rather than reporters of it. Many so-called news reports on TV have been poisoned with opinions skewed to their audience's beliefs. This is clearly seen on both the left and right, liberal and conservative, Democratic and Republican slants on news articles causing more and more division among the population. Rather than a single pluralistic America, it's clear that there are commercial and political advantages to the businesses and organizations who participate in increasing this polarization. Their gains are our losses. While it might be easy to point a finger at one side, the reaction of the other side seems to do very little for d├ętente. Rather than trying to empathetically understand another's view point, we, all to frequently, shoot back with reasons they're wrong. This causes the other party to become defensive and dig their heals in. Many times, the reality of both sides --- why both sides think their opinion is the right one --- has a lot to do with context and their time horizon; short-term thinking vs. long-term thinking. But that's only one small point of a bigger problem.

No Longer Informing Citizens

As Americans, we've become over-entertained with news resulting in us not becoming informed citizens.

Here's a test for anyone, from a casual news citizen to a TV "news junkie" (typically, news junkies are people who seem well-informed, usually due to a fear of missing out):

1. What information do you miss out on by getting your news from reading (articles online, in a newspaper, or magazine) instead of watching TV? (In other words, reading the news typically delivers information with more logic and less emotion compared to watching it, regardless if it's CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, etc.)

2. Even more importantly, how well-informed are we when we pick up a voting ballot for the first time?

For me, the answer to #2 is that I feel very uninformed. I have no idea who most of my local, state, and federal politicians are when their names appear on my ballot. I'm hard pressed to name more than a few members of my city council or county supervisors except for when I have direct contact with them. We know very little about our local politics for many reasons, such as it's boring or there's less advertising revenue from local news compared to national or international sensational stories; frequently, the latter have virtually no impact on us.

The rescue of the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave in Thailand grabbed national attention. But why should I, as an American, living in San Diego, be more affected by a story in Thailand while ignoring the plight of the others in my own city? The answer to this question is important. In this article, NPR boiled the answer down to one word: Drama.

Drama is more entertaining than simple, important facts.

Reducing TV News Anxiety

How do we reduce the unnecessary anxiety we get from TV news? In order to do that, we have to consume less of it --- much less of it --- while focusing on more impactful news in our lives, which is the less entertaining local news.

The first step I took, many years ago, was to simply not subscribe to any TV services (I only have an Internet cable subscription). This Vox video explains how TV news sucks us in especially during terrorist attacks or mass shootings. We get spun up, full of emotions and fear, which typically causes us to think irrationally. Everyone, from the NRA to the Brady Campaign (formerly Handgun Control, Inc.) wants to reduce school mass shootings. While this is of paramount importance, we seem to overlook any significant effort to reduce the number of child deaths, each day, due to car accidents which far exceeds the number of mass shooting child deaths. Child car deaths only seems to come to a mind when we, as a parent, become concerned about our teenage kid and their fresh, new driver license.

Since I don't have live TV news, I simply read my news online. Lately, I've started to watch short clips on the Apple TV Twitter app (which behaves significantly different than Twitter on the web or the Twitter mobile app). However, I've noticed that even these short video news clips on Twitter raise my level of anxiety without providing any actionable news; and these clips certainly don't make it easier for me to pick candidates on my voting ballot.

Simply ask yourself why you're watching so much news? Are the key politicians that you constantly see in the national news helping to change your opinion; or is that news simply reaffirming your past voting decision which is something that you can't go back and undo?

Monday, August 27, 2018


Apple's Human Interface Guidelines simplify the Aqua UI.

You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.
de Saint-Exupery

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. But simplicity is like time. We understand it at a high level, but defining it isn't easy.

The challenge is that simplicity lies on the other side of complexity. Without embracing complexity, the simplicity you produce will be oversimplified; in other words, ineffective. But complexity doesn't have to produce complicated solutions when properly analyzed and presented. We see this all the time in computer applications since software development is about managing complexity.

To achieve simplicity, one needs high performance building blocks that are reliable, predictable, and repeatable. Atoms are a perfect example. But, our lives aren't that simple. In our lives, simplicity means minimizing the introduction of variables, especially random ones. That may sound boring, but when we're bored, it's not complexity we seek, rather, it's randomness.

The Simple Life

Generally speaking, simpler lives are healthier than complex ones (just ask Elon Musk). So, what does it take to live a simple life?

Simplicity is about living life with more enjoyment and less pain.
To be happy by making every day go as smoothly as possible.
We want to enjoy and consume life instead of working and transforming it.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Engineers Turned Entrepreneurs, Part 1

Lately, I've noticed a lot of ex-Qualcomm engineers wanting to become entrepreneurs and I see them struggling with the same challenges I faced when I made the transition: sales and marketing. I'm personally reminded how difficult these operations are since I've never, once, booked my talk about Apple; instead, every one of my Apple speaking engagements, over the past few years, has been arranged by my agent in NYC – she's the expert who handles my sales and marketing.

Ineffective Marketing

If there's one point I can't stress enough, it's that you can't workaround sales and marketing, or hope it simply happens because you believe your offerings are great. If you don't know, or understand, exactly how you will match customers to your product or service, then you will have problems. I've met and mentored too many engineers who think that marketing and selling their offerings is easy. Marketing is not easy. Think about it this way: Engineers can't suddenly become effective marketers any more than marketers can instantly become respectable software engineers. Even for the experts, both engineering and marketing is an iterative process of trial and error. As a matter of fact, it's easier to become a software engineer and deploy code into production than it is to effectively carry out sales and marketing operations since coding can be done without interacting with people. A software engineer can scour the Internet 24/7 to discover software libraries, error message meanings, best practices, etc. In order to carry out effective marketing and, ultimately sales, requires direct contact with people, which frightens many engineers.

Begin with the End in Mind

So, you're a career individual contributor who wants to become an entrepreneur. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur when you've had a great career as an individual contributor? Because it looks fun and exciting?

Many jump into entrepreneurship simply so can tell people that they're an entrepreneur. I've seen a lot of these types, and many of them fail because they've fallen in love with a particular technology, such as blockchain, cloud computing, machine learning, big data, IoT, etc. From there, they look for potential market opportunities for their favorite technology. In other words, they have a solution looking for a problem to solve. That's backwards. Steve Jobs said it best at WWDC in 1997:
You got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can't start with with the technology and try to figure out where you're going to try to sell it. And I've made this mistake probably more than anyone else in this room and I've got the scar tissue to prove it... What incredible benefits can we give to the customer?
Think about it like this: You have nearly zero sales and marketing experience and you think you've got what it takes to become an entrepreneur? You're about to pivot from a field you've excelled at to one where you have very little experience; please don't think it'll be easy. Don't believe that your brilliant engineering skills will translate in superior selling skills because you believe engineers are smarter than "flaky" salespeople who overpromise and underdeliver. Nearly every engineering project is delivered late and over budget. At some level, we all live in a glasshouse. Even if you think you can hire someone to help with marketing, you need to realize that marketing is experimental, much like coding. More importantly, keep in mind that a salesperson or marketer can't simply jump, from selling one product or service, into another industry and be successful, off the bat. It's an iterative process, much like software engineering. And, just like a server side software engineer can't jump into mobile app development without making mistakes, the same is true for salespeople and marketers entering a new field.

People Skills & Storytelling

Engineers, like all career individual contributors, work in quiet work environments where they are inwardly focused on their work product, regardless if it's code, prose, design, art, photography, etc. Sales and marketing require people skills. This begins with storytelling. Words like cloud, blockchain, crypto, JavaScript, patented, etc, are not very meaningful to customers because these are features of your product or service. Customers do not buy features, they buy benefits. When pitching a potential customer, entrepreneurs need to focus outward on people (customers, employees, investors, etc). This means leading with the benefits before the features. How can you deliver your message using as few words as possible? You need to hear what you're saying from your customer's perspective. After each claim you make, during your pitch, ask yourself why that's important. Imagine your customer asking, "So what? Why should I care about that?" Your pitch needs to fit into your customer's needs, so it has to be tailored each time to your audience.

Benefits for Your Customer

Selling an iPad to grandma or grandpa means they can be more social by texting and e-mailing you very easily. But this benefit could be a liability if you're selling iPads to a restaurant owner for their food servers to use. The restaurant owner doesn't want their employees using the iPads for social media; they want their employees to use the iPads for taking customers' orders and running the business. Know your audience, and understand which benefits are meaningful to them.

Engineers tend to focus on features, technology, and tools. There are similarities between software engineering and home building. For example, both fields have similar concepts such as architecture and design patterns. When buying a home, you care about what it looks like, both inside and out, and the quality (durability) of the work. What a homebuyer doesn't care about are the tools used to build their house. Telling a customer that your app was built with .NET, Swift, or Java in the cloud is the equivalent of a homebuilder telling you that construction workers built your home using power tools from Black and Decker, Hitachi, or DeWalt. You may care about the tools, but your customer doesn't, so don't even bring it up. That's what I mean by focusing outward on your customer's needs, instead of inward on what you consider important.

Focus outward on customers by leading with the benefits, not the features.

Part 2 in this series:

Part 3 in this series: 

Friday, August 10, 2018


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:

More info on my talk, The Apple Way of Design and Marketing, here: 

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

Update: Daniel Johnston passed away September 10, 2019.

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.

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.

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.