Microsoft is doing it backward with iOS & Android apps

It seems like a pretty cool idea: take the app you wrote for iOS, make a few minor changes, rebuild and upload to the Windows Store. The problem though is that it keeps Windows on phones as a second class citizen. Why should I invest in developing applications that take advantage of the strengths of the Windows platform if all I have to do is recompile for the crappy iOS platform to get there?

Why not do it the other way? Why not provide tools that make it easy for me to write my applications on Windows first and then retarget to iOS and Android? Make XAML and the other parts of the .NET framework work on iOS and Android so the task of retargeting is easy?

I’ve not actually looked at the toolkit yet, but I also have a feeling that there is a lot more involved in retargeting an iOS application to Windows than just hitting F5 in Visual Studio. Guess I’ll have to go see for myself though. But I still think it is backward to Microsoft’s long term interests.

Perhaps you ought to reconsider those bad feeling you have toward those weird Libertarian folks.

From this:

Where Is Human Evolution Taking Us?

Not so much an article but some quick quotes on a favorite topic of mine.

My opinion, if it matters, is that humanity is either going to stop evolving or has already stopped evolving. We are going to start developing instead. Natural selection and mutation will give way to personal choice and economics.

Gene manipulation could allow you great choice in your physical appearance and conditioning. Want to be able to pack on muscle and burn fat like a hyperactive 5 year old? We have a gene for that. Want eyes that see near infrared? Nikon will make them for you.

How about eyes that also act as heads up displays. Software could provide you with facial recognition so as you walk up to that person whose name you keep forgetting your personal assistant (Cortana) reminds you that its “Bob” who works for RBH consulting you met him 5 weeks ago in San Diego and so on.

Hopefully the result of these advancements will be cures for most diseases. However, on the heels of those cures will be new problems. Integrating biological systems with digitals systems will deliver us the problem of who owns you, and how do we manage privacy? Apple lays claim to owning iOS, they also reserve the right to determine what applications you can and cannot run on your phone and if you jail break your phone you are cut off. What happens when that bit of technology has been integrated directly in to your mind? What happens when snapchat is performed just by thinking messages to a contact? That would mean the device could in some fashion read your mind. How do you feel about the NSA? Further, in order for the digital stuff to work it will need to be connected to a wireless network that would mean you could be physically tracked. Again, what are your feeling toward the government? In fact would it be unreasonable to expect a country like China to run a digital agent that monitors people’s feeling toward the government? Why stop there, why not help them feel better toward the government? Hell, why should Apple help you make the right buying decisions and feel good about them? Perhaps you ought to reconsider those bad feeling you have toward those weird Libertarian folks.

Tomorrow’s party: who is bringing the beer?

Regarding nearly everything going on in society: the hand wringing about gays getting married, trannies coping a squat in the wrong bathroom, hippies torching some bud, prom dresses showing too much. All of it misses everything that is actually going to change everything.

Technology has been advancing at a rate the economists don’t understand and its affects are barely understood. It’s not a matter of me printing off a barely functional gun in my house. Screw that noise. If I’m going to do something I’ll mix up something like Sarin nerve gas or a biological agent using stuff purchased from eBay at pennies on the dollar. Even that misses the changes.

More important is this: What happens as we automate all physical labor? We already have self-driving cars. The biggest hurdle left isn’t technological: it’s legal. What happens and who is responsible when your dumbass kid decides to run out in front of a self-driving car and is killed? However, that’s a mere quibble that can actually be solved technologically as well. What about all of the various drivers who will be unemployed with this technology? What about people who work in warehouses who will be replaced by robots who do the job better, faster, more cheaply and reliably? What about the kitchen staff we will do away with? Bartenders and Servers too? Construction workers will also be dispensed with (think huge 3D printers). Assembly lines are well down this road already. Hospital staffs can be greatly reduced. There isn’t an aspect of our economy whether legal or not that will not be affected by the rapid advancements already occurring.

Even aspects of high end intellectual work will be automated away. Most professionals no longer have secretaries or assistants. Attorneys no longer need staffs of paralegals to handle research, they use search engines that have everything needed already indexed. Accountants use ERP systems and other software to automate away the drudgery.

What will be left is the creative side. Software developers won’t be affected. Chefs, musicians, photographers, graphic artists, writers and other creatives will be in greater demand. Teachers, and tutors will continue. Sales people will be needed more than ever and so will entertainers (so much for killing off Hollywood).

In some cases ‘low end’ menial work will become super high end and exclusive. High end restaurants or other businesses that want to offer that high touch experience will keep human staffs but they will cater to a smaller client base. Some people will want that ‘authentic’ experience: the shirt sewn by an actual human (who uses a sewing machine BTW), or have the chef actually hand mix the ingredients rather than just programming the device (probably a 3d printer of some sort). These services will be available, but they won’t be cheap.

So what happens to everybody else? Soylent green? Some dystopian matrix style nirvana? Through innovation do we accidently realize Karl Marx’s dream of a ‘workers’ paradise? Robots doing all of the work while we humans sit around eating strawberries so big you can eat them like hand fruit?

The book Accelerando deals with some of these questions. Nearly all of William Gibson’s body of work searches for the questions and answers. Same with most Cyberpunk writing. The movie “The Matrix” paints a bleak picture of the outcome, but I personally don’t believe it has to go that way. I believe we can actually achieve something really cool.   How we get there is not entirely clear to me, but I don’t think socialist programs are the right way. I believe those will lead to a Matrix outcome.

Microsoft Band Impressions

When Microsoft initially announced the Band I thought it looked really cool and that I would want one. However, I don’t like dealing with rushes so I figured I’d wait a while until things settled down and then I’d get one. I failed. After two trips to the mall I decided to just buy one off EBay.

I hate buying stuff like this from eBay because the people who generally run out buy up all of a new product and then resell it on eBay are part of the problem. They’ll buy up all of the new iPhones at launch and then resell them at twice the price. However, people buy them and pay the markup. I got lucky, somebody had bought two but his wife didn’t want one so he was sell it pretty much at cost (band + sales tax + screen protector + shipping).

Anyway, I have one now and the Microsoft Stores are still pretty much out of stock. Although the online store briefly showed that they were in stock, but today it’s back out of stock again.

First some background: I have a FitBit and have been using it a lot for the past 6 months. I really like the FitBit and think that it’s a good product.

Now my impression of the Band: I like the hardware. It’s bigger than a FitBit but smaller than a watch. The display is touch sensitive and there are two buttons on the side. There is a power button and an action button. Then there are all of the sensors they crammed in to the Band: GPS, heart rate, motion, temperature, UV, clock and whatever else. It also has Bluetooth to communicate with your phone or other devices.

The basic hardware in the Band blows the FitBit out of the water. The FitBit just has a motion detector, clock and Bluetooth. So the only thing it will ever really do is detect is when you are moving and how much movement is going on. Which is actually really useful. The Band however could go so much further. Which brings me to the Band’s short coming: software.

The Band’s software at the moment feels quite limited. However, I’m still learning my way around. For instance, the steps taken goal out of the box is 5000 steps. I do 5000 steps in my sleep. The screen says you can change the goal but it is not immediately obvious how you do that. I looked at preferences and other areas and didn’t see anything. Then I went in to the Steps screen and finally noticed the small pencil icon on the right edge. That takes you to the screen that lets you set your steps. While it wasn’t immediately obvious to me, I had been on the screen and not noticed the pencil thing, given the direction I think they are going I can see the logic of not having all of the goal settings put in a preferences screen.

Because the band monitors your heart rate the steps screen can show you your heart rate while you were out running. Or in my case walking the dogs (peaked at 115, not exactly a workout). I think that’s pretty cool. Given the GPS data I’d love to know if there were elevation changes.

The Sleep screen is actually a lot more detailed than FitBits. Again: heart rate is tracked so you can see that information. That combined with the motion detector you can get a better idea of how restful your sleep really was. Overall really cool.

I’ve not used the Guided Workout yet. I’m going to try out the Couch to 5K workout. What I don’t like is that I do not see a way to create my own workout. I’m doing Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program, I can’t find anything like it in the existing work outs and I don’t see a way to add it or make it myself. Hopefully this will be rolled out in the next release. Given the capabilities of the Band it should be possible to enter what exercise you did, how much weight you are working with, and how many repetitions you did. Perhaps the other Guided Workouts are already doing this and maybe there is something for this already, but I’ve not found it yet.

The big pieces of the application I see missing are: diet/food tracking and weight tracking. Perhaps I’ve not found them yet, but I don’t see it. What I don’t want is to have to use another app that is not integrated with this…For instance: with the FitBit I could enter in what I’ve been eating and my weight and track my progress.   At the moment I can’t do this in the Microsoft Health application running on my phone.

I could get a different application to track that information but now I have to go to two places. Worse, I hate entering data in to my cell phone. On screen keyboards suck and voice input ain’t happening. What I really want is a set of applications that work on my phone, tablet and PC so I can do what I want to do where it makes the most sense to do it. Throw in the apps on the band too now I guess.

What I see in the Band and its software is a great start. It’s not a finished product though. From what I see and what I’ve read Microsoft is doing two things that are really smart. First: they are acting like a startup. They’ve released the Band as quickly as possible instead of waiting until they had a polished product. The Hardware is polished pretty well with only a few improvements needed (the glass scratches too easily is a common complaint I’ve read) which makes sense b/c it will be hard to get people to turn around and buy new hardware quickly. But the software is still beta in my opinion. It has some really cool features that I like but given the capabilities of the hardware they have barely scratched the surface.

The second thing they are doing is making it a platform. Based on Microsoft’s existing HealthVault platform and the messaging around Microsoft Health it seems that there will be ways to create applications that extend the Health application. Hopefully they will also make it possible to write applications that run directly on the Band as well.

At this point I’ve had the Band for less than 24 hours. I like it and I think as it stands it’s a kick ass product. However I also see a ton of room for growth.