HTC One on Android 4.3

An important update from last week!

I’m finally on Jelly Bean now! Last thursday HTC pushed out the refreshing, yet hefty 500 MB+ Android 4.3 which also comes with Sense 5.5.

From what I read, there’s improved low-light camera performance and new lock screen widgets. I had already noticed the battery charging percentage indicator and the quick settings panel in the notification bar, which is really useful.

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Amongst others, also:

  • New Zoe themes
  • The ability to pull in your own music without going to a separate editor
  • You can disable the BlinkFeed in case you don’t like it
  • A new “automatic” setting now under Mobile Data

And of course a whole bunch of bug fixes! It’s good.

My little library collection

I now have my own library. Which is to say: it took a while, but I scanned/registered all the 153 books/novels/encyclopedia’s I own, excluding comic books. They are up on my profile.

I’m a bit of a book collector, I must admit. And I still prefer to read my books in paper format, tied and bound together. It feels good to have paper physically in your hands, you know. I love the different covers, formats and shapes and the subtle differences that make a book: ink, weight, thickness, height, length, materials and various illustrations/artwork.

Anyway, LibraryThing is amazing. My whole collection is up there. I’m proud of it. More importantly, LibraryThing is full of other surprises too. There’s a recommendation engine based on your profile. It will show you read-alikes and it gets updated regularly. You can read reviews by others.

The best of all: library statistics. It even goes as far as the number of characters, different places, languages and so on. Most of my books are in English and only 20 are in Dutch, my mother tongue. Just go and have a look, it’s mind-blowing.

Then if you go to your books, you can sort the books as you wish. All kinds of views. Really interesting! This made me discover all kinds of things about my collection. For instance, the most LibraryThing’s community members own the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book by Douglas Adams. Le Petit Prince is on number 2, followed by The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.

Number four is Dicken’s Oliver Twist. I picked that book up on a Parisian street. It’s in French. I still have to read it.

Google Glass is not trivial

I’m pretty much fascinated with Google Glass.

As Dave Winer explains, Google Glass is not just a trivial product.

Here are 7 examples of his:

  1. A teacher giving a lecture while drawing a diagram on whiteboard.
  2. As a teleprompter for a person giving a speech.
  3. A doctor reviewing test results while examining a patient.
  4. An architect looking at designs on a site visit.
  5. Watching your heart rate while riding a bike.
  6. Sign-language interpreter for a real-time meeting.
  7. In general, as a heads-up display for jobs that require use of your hands and access to information, at the same time.

And a few more I came across:

  1. Helping an elder Alzheimer patient by recognizing and projecting the name of people on the display
  2. People with Parkinson often suffer from movement-related issues, including shaking, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. Using sounds and images, they can improve their steadiness and balance. Google Glass could be used to provide these image and sound instructions to the carrier.
  3. The newly granted US patent allows you to for example make a heart shape and you’ll “like” what’s front of you or frame something with your fingers and you’ll select it.

Are there any other mind-blowing applications?

Running stats for September 2013

I got much more serious about running lately. I started last year in November or so. Then I participated in the Antwerp 10 miles in April, followed by the Brussels 20KM shortly after in May.

Now we are October 2013, and I’m still running like a fool. I think it’s good to look back on how you progress.

I’m tracking my progress through an Android app called My Tracks. My Tracks records your path, speed, distance, and elevation while you walk, run, bike, or do anything else outdoors. I merely use it while running.

My Tracks is good at what it does, but it’s not really feature rich. It offers just the basics. There are many good alternatives out there, like RunKeeper and Endomondo for instance, which offer things like a community and stats that go much deeper.

But the good thing with My Tracks is that it allows you to export your recorded tracks to Google Drive. And as some of you might know, I like to tinker. So once you synch your data with Google Drive, it becomes alvailable in tools such as Google Spreadsheets. This then allows me to create all kinds of charts from the archived and aggregated data over time. You can then publish these charts, just like I did below. I created a separate HTML5 page here to display the interactive chart as I could not get it working on my WordPress blog pages.

Over September I started to record all my running. If you look at the below chart, I tried to plot the average moving speed, total distance and total number of runs. And I aggregated the data on a weekly basis.

So far I think I have been quite successful. Week 36 was a milestone with 2 runs, an average moving speed of almost 11km/h and 29.19 KM over 2 runs.

Let’s see how far it goes.

Rush review

Once in a while you stumble upon a great movie. I had heard from many sources that Ron Howard’s film Rush is worth watching. And it definitely lived up to the expectations! Warning: be prepared for the “spoilers” :-).

Rush brings to life the historic Grand Prix rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The story was well told. Chris Hemsworth, known from plays such as Thor, stars as the charismatic Englishman James Hunt. He’s flamboyant, vigorous and lives in the moment, is all for passion and love. This in stark contrast to the brilliant and legendary Niki Lauda, played by the German Daniel Brühl, who is much more about the numbers and doesn’t really give himself the time to enjoy our earthly pleasures. A particular quote of his: hapiness is the enemy. It makes you weak and you see all there is to lose.

But there’s one thing they have in common. Both of them are disowned by their families and both have a heart for racing F3000. As the story goes, Nike Lauda gets a loan and buys himself into Formula 1. He quickly gets sponsorship from Ferrari. James Hunt enters without sponsorship, but has to go with the Mclaren team eventually.

It’s the international racetrack’s golden and decadent age in the middle 70s. The new season kicks off and Niki Lauda rises. James Hunt loses from his rival. You get to see how Hunt gets disqualified because Lauda signals that Hunt’s tires are 1,5 cm too wide. That’s Niki Lauda: he follows the rules. Playboy Hunt is madly furious, drinks more and more and his relationship with his wife also comes to an end. Then the next season, during one reason the weather is dreadful and Niki Lauda calls a meeting and advices to stop the reason. He thinks it’s too dangerous out there on the race track. But his Grand Prix colleagues are not accepting, James Hunt atop,  “it’s tactics”. So Niki Lauda has no other choice: the race must go on. This becomes a nightmare. Niki Lauda ends up in an accident that is near to fatal. For over a minute, he’s in a coffin that is over 800 degrees. His lungs almost get burnt up and his face is severly damaged. While recovering, Lauda watches Hunt get stronger and make his way up to the pole position. Ironically, it is this that gives the Austrian back his strenght. Lauda, shockingly gets back in no time. The story ends with the astonishing and determining 1976 race in Japan, in which both drivers are willing to risk everything to become world champion in a sport with no margin for error: if you make a mistake, you die. But Lauda surrenders. The rainy Fuji-track is too risky he decides. James Hunt has to be third to become the world champion. And miraculously, he does it. The Niki Lauda looks back on his life and recognizes that James Hunt was the only one he tragically envied. Hunt dies young due to his “rushed” lifestyle. It’s a sad end in a way.

Besides the snoring cars and spectacular races, this movie is not really about Formula 1. It documents the different personal styles on and off the trackof Niki Lauda and James Hunt. The movie is well paced and has some spectacular Grand Prix footage, including crashes. Add some glamorous women like Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara, and well, you are all set!

Dynamic forms using Content Types

Anything labeled out of the box conjures up the characteristics of being inflexible, overly simple, irrelevant and difficult to use. However, sometimes you just need to be pragmatic and creative in order to get things done and build on what is already available. In this post I discuss how content types can become this foundation for creativity with respect to dynamic fields.

In Microsoft InfoPath, it is quite easy to show/hide fields using Rules. But customers do not always have InfoPath as part of their configuration or application setup (it’s not about the cost, but a design choice). Then JavaScript is also an option, but I would not consider that a “safe” approach. It would also be a nightmare for the business to maintain JavaScript driven solutions, even possibly your average application support engineer as it becomes overly complex. The ease of use is there, but the maintainability is very poor. Moreover, in the latter case you would need to get the Content Query Web part of the SharePoint Server Publishing Feature activated on your site. Site owners can activate features, but if the feature is not enable on the farm level, very little can be done. Finally, best practices typically are to use third-party solutions like Nintex Form or K2 for instance. Third-party tools usually provide you with solutions for re-occuring issues that are not available out-of-box in SharePoint. Unfortunately, we don’t always have these options at our fingertips.

So recently I ran in such a situation where we needed some sort of dynamic forms. And content types turned out to be the solution. Now normally you wouldn’t exptect that. After all, Content Types are used for something completely else I would say. But Content types in SharePoint are really an important concept. At a basic level, they are a way to package pieces of metadata and make metadata collections reusable. For instance, let’s say you wanted three columns on every list or library in your site collection. Rather than go to each list and add each column manually, you can create a content type that has thos three columns and then add the content type to the list or libraries. This can be a significant time saver an provide substantial reuse benefits when you need to make changes to the content type.

Content Types however, can also add value in another way if you let your users really use them. For instance, when you upload a document to a library where you have multiple Content Types enabled, the user is always asked to pick a content type. They will get a different form based on the type of article, request or whatever they want to create. The challenge you then come across, is that when users click on “new item”, they get the default content type and are not allowed to select which one they need. However, if users go to edit the item after creating it then they can change the content type from a drop down menu. As such, when you click on the New button, more options appear in the dropdown allowing you to select a content type and this then sort of gets you dynamic forms and allows you to help navigate users.

The good thing is there’s also a way to activate the Content Type drop down as soon as they click “new item”. What I discovered is that. The simplest and most common way to handle this would be to hide the Add New Item link altogether on the List View by setting the toolbar type to “None”. This would force users to use the ribbon.You would of course need to educate the users and let them know about the dropdown options. But it’s a quick win and pragmatic and creative solution that can be achieved exploiting standard functionality.

Internet governance talk

Here’s another interesting talk debate at  re:publica 2013 about what is the right economic model for our global Internet infrastructure.

It’s basically about giving the highest available bandwidth at the lowest cost for the people.

But the talk is not only about what ISPs do. There’s another important player on the Internet.  That is the world of the IXPs. And the establishment of those IXPs can impact national Networks big time. Only when internet exchanges are neutral, they become a success factor both economically as well as in securing the free, open exchange of information worldwide.

But in order to create a neutral, non monopolistic and non-government controlled IXP in a given political environment, the right conditions need to be in place.

Securing the future of the Internet is a very complex matter. Initially it seems a technical matter, but it’s not. Five percent towards creating neutral exchanges is about technical stuff. Almost 95% is political. It’s about regulation that touches real people’s lives. And you have to work with the government to make it work: to provide Internet to the people at the right cost, stable bandwidth, with no room for censorship and net neutrality. It’s about giving consumer options and allowing people to talk with their money and vote with their feet, as Jillian York explains. It’s what the folks over at Electronic Frontier Foundation are fighting for. Also the Internet roots have to be open for competition. These are the IXPs. It’s cooperation between IXPs and competition between ISPs.

Later on in the talk, they discuss maturity models for Internet exchanges. It begins with an IXP as a government-owned entity. But as the Internet grows bigger and the entity touches millions of lives, the government cannot do things fast anymore. A next step would be onwards to a federation of ISPs, both public and private, who all have a vested interest to work under laws and regulations and should have government representative as data rentention regulations and security laws change.
But then of course it all depends on the given political context. In Tunesia, the IP transit service providers worked under the umbrella of a cosortium. They moved to different shareholders when the market got opened up. As a result, capital got restructured too.  And in this case, maybe a government representative would not keep things as neutral as one would like. Internet is still very expensive there and the quality of service is not at the same level as for instance in Europe. The conditions are simply different. Again, it’s a complex matter. In overall, really successful ISPs, as Klaus Landefeld explains, are typically run by not-for-profit company. Maybe that model indeed is economically viable.
Finally transparency is a topic. Perhaps the Internet and also its governing authorities should be like an open innovation lab. I see some analogy here in the different way Apple and Google do innovation. Google says wisdom of the crowd is unbeatable. Nothing beats millions of people complaining. Google releases products when they are still not finished. It’s all very transparent. Apple on the other hand does everything behind closed doors. It’s a much more controlled environment. They only release products when they are ready for consumption.
Worth watching as it is about your future too.

Not every delusion is harmless

I’m rediscovering Cory Doctorow. At re:publica 2013 he talks about that the Internet is the nervous system of the 21st Century.

Everything we do in our world involves computers today. And that means that every problem we have in our world also involves computers today, and that means that increasingly our policymakers, our regulators, our politicians and our police are going to look to regulating computers and controlling computers as a way to solving social problems

He warns that freedom will die if we don’t stop the trend toward depraved indifference in Internet law.

Users don’t want general-purpose computers. They only want appliances but you can make an appliance that isn’t built with spyware out of the box. A computer that’s designed only to do one thing,  like your cable box. But if that business model depends on that device having a rootkit on it, so that the users can’t decide to use it for something else or add a feature to it, there something wrong. People do want appliances of course, but they don’t want their connect spying on them.

As always, Cory’s thoughts are very provoking.

Coca-Cola visit

Last weekend I was over at Coca-Cola’s production plant in Wilrijk.

Why? As part of the Open Bedrijvendag, Coca-Cola provided a glimpse behind the scenes to the general public. They hadn’t done that over the last 10 years. So we thought to go out there and see what makes Coca-Cola thick.

Coca-Cola we all know; it is the flagship product of the The Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola was invented by pharmacist John Stith Pemberton in Columbus who thought cough syrup actually tastes good. Coca-Cola is vast and was recently still the most valuable brand in the world, until it got replaced by Apple.

What I noticed is that Coca-Cola Enterprises is a really marketing driven company. When we arrived at the site, there was a queue for 1,5 hours and we were bombarded with all their juicy commercials.
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You could go around and do a tour throughout the factory and see how Coca-Cola gets produced. The end-to-end process: from bottling to packaging to the palletizer and finally off transported to the retailers. Unfortunately, there were no speakers nor did we get any headsets.

There were some interesting banners though with some impressing numbers.

For instance, the throughput rates are amazing. If I can recall correctly, no less than 21000 bottles go off every hour and 265 loaded trucks an hour. On the other hand, only about 350 operators and technicians man the factory we were told.

Still surprised of the extent such processes are automated.