Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I, for one, welcome our Android overlords

Ok, sort of. The first Android based device has been released.

What makes Android great?
  • Well Google is backing it, that will help
  • The core of the operating system is based on Linux
  • The platform itself is open source, using an Apache 2 license
  • Any application can be extended, removed, or completely re-written
  • It is open, in stark contrast to the iPhone
In theory competition is always good, but, currently there are 3 major smartphone categories:
  • Apple's iPhone
  • Microsoft's Windows Mobile offerings
  • RIM's Blackberry
We should also count Nokia's Symbian class devices as well, but they are not much of a player in North America. Nokia has also taken Symbian open source, though one could argue that is a last gasp effort to stave off death.

Android will add a fourth (or fifth) credible smartphone class to the market, ISVs who create third party applications may yet another class of devices to support. This is expensive.

Also, what is the killer Android application? Other then the fact that Android is open source, and infinitly customizable, why should my mother care? What is the benefit to normal users? Sure, us techies are excited, but are we representative users? Not really. I cannot tell you which target user the Android is targeted to. This is a common issue when engineers get to run amok.

I am also not sure I trust Googles motive's here, first looks I would say it more suited to push Google's agenda then consumers or business users. The T-Mobile G1 (the first device) doesn't support Exchange, which is a real deal breaker for the business users. The email client itself looks to be a "rich HTML" client.

Based on what I have read to date I am not convinced this new smartphone is ready for primetime. Some of the major complaints I have read include:
  • Google accounts are tightly integrated with the phone, trying to change an account necessitates a factory reset (!)
  • There is no desktop syncing application, Google contacts and calendar are considered the masters
  • No video playback or recording
  • No multi-touch on the G1 (hardware issue)
  • No headphone jack
  • You must have an SD card for any kind of music or video (when it arrives) playback
  • Downloading music tracks from Amazon's store (not sure about others) can only be accomplished with Wi-Fi. No 3G!
  • Text entry only possible via the keyboard, their doesn't seem to be a SIP
The common solution to these concerns is that the developer community will take care of these missing features and applications. Yes, because that has worked so well for Linux on the desktop :)

Google seems to be relying on the developer community to fill in the gaps, this to me seems dangerous, it also indicates that Android was rushed a bit.

All in all the Android is cool, it is innovative, but is it ready for primetime? I think Android, like Chrome is more to push the existing smartphone makers (and browser makers) into the direction that Google needs to extend their empire to ever more devices.

What do you think?

Friday, September 19, 2008

It’s a small world after all

Sometimes it’s just amazing how interconnected we all are.

The other day I was talking about tools and methodologies with one of our new customers. This customer is using Scrum for their methodology, and as we were discussing how to integrate our team with their team the concept of how to virtualize the post-its and index cards that are so welcomed by the Agile community came up.

Luckily, the customer is already using Jira, and to add the index card virtualization they are using a tool called GreenHopper. To read more about GreenHopper click here, and here.

So I looked at the tool I could see a possible fit in our methodologies here at Macadamian, see its potential I talked to our Director of IT and Process Improvement about possibly trialing the software.

At this point I found out he met the company who makes the tool at a job fair in Sherbrooke earlier this week and talked about some of the Jira plug-in they make.

Its always amazing to see how interconnected everyone is.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

35% of Users Would Choose Blackberry over their Spouse - Today's Professionals Connected to Work 24/7 - Even in the Bedroom

Today's Professionals Connected to Work 24/7 - Even in the Bedroom
To coincide with Global Out of Office Day, Sheraton today announced the findings of a Work-Life study it commissioned to gauge the work habits of today's professionals. New technology continues to transform the way we live and work with 85% of U.S. professionals surveyed said that because of new technology, they feel compelled to be connected to work 24/7 and 81% say they work harder than they did five years ago. So just how addicted are we as a society to staying connected? Well, the vast majority of people (84%) say they check their PDA's just before going to bed and as soon as they wake up, 85% say they sneak a peak at their PDA in the middle of the night, and 80% say they check their e mail before morning coffee. A whopping 87% of professionals bring their PDA into the bedroom, and in what may or may not be a related finding, more than one-third of folks surveyed (35%) say if forced to choose, they'd pick their PDA over their spouse!

Video report here.

I do realize that the Blackberry is a sleek little number, but this is taking it to the extreme. People need to turn ignore their Blackberries when they are on their personal time.

Recently, the department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada has banned the use of Blackberries from 7pm to 7am to help combat this problem. The department will also be implementing a few other improvements to help improve the work life balance. They ask employees to ensure meetings end on time, and are not scheduled over the lunch hour.

Personally, I am not in favour of work meetings over the lunch hour. The lunch is hour is my personal time, and I will choose to do what I want in the hour. If it is to sit at my desk and work so I can head out early, or chill out and school some people in foozball it will be my choice.

It is important for everyone to have the ability to unwind and relax during the day, it will help them remain more productive, and better motivated.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Form Square! Let your values protect you

In historical context, an infantry square was formed to protect the infantry against the highly mobile, fast moving threat of Calvary. The defense against this was for the infantry to "form square".

When you think about it, the "threats", the work, and the competition for your attention in today's fast paced high-tech environment require an all around defense to protect you.

I have found that the best way to protect myself was to rely on the value system here at Macadamian.

You can counter any "threat" or emergency requiring your attention by living and breathing these values. All 5 of the values the comprise of T.R.A.C.C will help guide you in making the tough decisions that are required of today's leaders.

Friday, September 5, 2008

When the need for UX expertise is all too clear

When I saw this I felt a great disturbance in the UX Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly clawed out their eyeballs. With apologies to Star Wars.

I was using a new piece of software the other day for my other "job", and when I launched a particular feature this lovely pop-up above came up much to my amusement and eventual annoyance.

There are so many things wrong with this dialog to really discuss in depth, but suffice it to say this dialog is launched every single time this feature is launched. Every. Single. Time. And the the question never changes.

In the workflow this pop-up is followed by another pop-up that intones an important message.

It is so important that they always show it. Every. Single. Time. In fact it is so important they even truncate the message so that it doesn't all show on the message box. So you don't even get to read the entire message! That's just how important it is. After all, you can't handle the truth.

With thousands of people being mandated by regulations to use this application I guess you don't need a good user experience. I mean, who likes their users to enjoy working anyway? End sarcasm.

For those of you who are dying to ask what happens when you hit "5", I did. And this was the result.

I kid you not. Seriously, I am not making this up. I am not allowed to make this up. And the admin dialog you get after this message box is still in English. And that admin dialog is still the same admin dialog you get if you answer correctly.

I am not sure what this is supposed to imply. :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Google Chrome

The rumoured Google browser has finally arrived. To be honest I am not sure whether I should rejoice or cry. Their innovations are great in typical Google fashion, but I can't help but think this will seriously hurt Firefox. Oh, and yet another browser for web developers to support can't be fun either.

I can see the limitations list in my proposals growing :)