February 2014

Bitcoin joke of the day

by Joey deVilla on February 28, 2014

sorry i only use bitcoin

From the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness, by Rob DenBleyker.
Click to see the source.

Thanks to Anne Mackenzie for the find!

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Happy birthday, Steve!: Steve Jobs holding up an iPhone with a candle on top.

Click the photo to see O’Reilly’s deals page.

Today is Steve Jobs’ birthday, and O’Reilly’s commemorating it with a 50% off sale on all Apple ebooks and videos. Just use the discount code DEAL when buying them from O’Reilly store before February 25, 2014 at 5:00 a.m. Pacific (GMT – 8), and you’ll be able to get them for half price.

Recommended

At half price, there are some particularly good deals, including:

ios 7 programming fundamentals

iOS 7 Programming Fundamentals, by Matt Neuberg. If you’re an experienced developer, but new to Objective-C (and haven’t touched C in a while) and iOS, this is a good introduction. The book is divided into three parts:

  1. Language: Starts with a chapter titled “Just enough C” to get you comfortable, then spends the rest of its time getting you up to speed on Objective-C’s way of using classes, objects, and messaging.
  2. IDE: Once you’re familiar with the language, this next section covers working with Xcode projects, building user interfaces with Xcode, the editor and debugging tools, and what you need to do to deploy apps to devices.
  3. Cocoa: This section covers those parts of the Cocoa framework that you’re most likely to use, as well as issues of memory management and communication between objects.

At half price, the book is US$15.99, which makes for a pretty sweet deal.

ios 7 programming cookbook

iOS 7 Programming Cookbook, by Vandad Nahavandipoor. Once you’ve dipped your toe into iOS programming, you’ll find this book useful, as it’s a “how do I do this?” reference for iOS developers. Yes, you’ll find a lot of this information scattered all over the place online, but it’s often nice to have it gathering up into a single package, which this book does pretty well.

At half price, this book goes for $21.99.

Not Recommended

head first iphone ipad development

If you look at the Head First series of books on Amazon, you’ll find that they generally get great reviews. Not Head First iPhone and iPad Development, which got a low number of stars and is a bit disappointing compared to other Head First programming books I’ve read (especially the various editions of Head First C#). The just-released third edition of Head First iPhone and iPad Development seems to have cut out material that appeared in the second, has some sloppy editing, and reads like as though it were put together by contractual obligation. At half price, it’s US$13.99.

If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly intro to iOS development, I’d much rather you got your paws on The iOS Apprentice from Ray Wenderlich’s site. It may not be as cheap as Head First iPhone and iPad Development, but you’ll get way more bang for your developer tutorial buck.

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mobile relationship cartoon

Comic by Manu Cornet.
Click to see the source.

Pretty accurate, if you ask me.

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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Geek vs. non-geek reactions to a flaky internet connection

by Joey deVilla on February 24, 2014

Line graph showing the difference between geek and non-geek responses to a flaky internet connection over time.

Chart by Bruno Oliveira.
Click the graph to see it at full size.

File this under “It’s funny because it’s true.”

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whatsapp icon

Perhaps you’ve heard of the recent deal in which Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion — that’s close to the estimated enterprise value of Sony — and are now asking the question “What’s WhatsApp?”. If you were imagining that it was some life- or paradigm-changing application, you may be surprised to find out that it’s an instant-messaging service that lets you send text, still pictures, video, and audio messages to your friends on a host of platforms. From a purely functional point of view, that’s all there is to it.

What sets WhatsApp apart, according to the Sequoia Capital blog, are four numbers:

  • 450 million active users, which is more than double Twitter’s active users. Nine months ago, that number was 200 million, which was already more active users than Twitter.
  • 72% of its users are active. Most apps are doing well if 20% of their users are active and only a handful can hit the 50% mark.
  • 32 engineers. That’s shockingly lean. Think about it: that’s one engineer for every 14 million active users of a service that’s been noted for its reliability and low latency.
  • 1 simple set of rules and $1 a year to use: Founder Jan Koum keeps these rules taped to his desk. It’s pictured below:

no ads - no games - no gimmicks

No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!: WhatApp’s mantra, taped to founder Jan Koum’s desk.
Photo from Sequoia Capital’s blog. Click to see the source.

Strategy consultant Benedict Evans, who just started a new gig at A16z — that’s the in-the-know shorthand, URL , and Twitter handle for the venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitzwrites that if you look closely at the deal, it explains a lot about where mobile social apps are headed:

  • Facebook is determined to be “the next Facebook” and retain its status in the world of social and mobile applications, a tricky thing when tech companies’ fortunes can change so completely in a mere ten years (see Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, BlackBerry, Nokia, Lenovo, and so on). They’re willing to make audacious, aggressive acquisitions like this one — remember, they just spent 10% of their net worth to buy WhatsApp —  to stay on top.
  • Social networking on mobile is different than social networking on the desktop, and that’s because:
    • Given your permission, mobile apps can access your device’s address book, reducing friction by not requiring you to manually build your “social graph” when you join a new social networking service.
    • It’s easier to upload photos on a mobile device, especially when mobile devices do double duty as people’s primary (or only) cameras these days.
    • Mobile devices can use active messaging in the form of push notifications or text messages, rather than relying on passive messaging (email, notifications on sites) that requires the user to actively check for messages.
    • Every mobile app gets an icon on the home screen (with mobile OS user interfaces as they currently are, anyway).
    • Unlike desktop apps, every mobile app can be available in a minimum of two taps: one to wake up the phone, and one to launch the app.
  • Mobile is the next computing platform, and it’s bigger than the desktop. Unlike desktops, mobile devices are seen as more personal, most people keep theirs within arm’s reach, they’re almost always online, and installing apps is a no-brainer. These qualities, along with the userbase and reach of mobile and the low cost of starting a tech startup let the very good and very lucky hit the big time in ways unseen before. “WhatsApp,” writes Evans, “is probably now sending more messages than the entire global SMS system.”
  • Mobile social apps aren’t about free SMS — they’re about being able to find people, content, and services effectively. Google was designed to find web pages, and doesn’t quite yet solve the findability problems that social mobile apps like WhatsApp are chipping away at. As Evans observes, “These apps have the opportunity to be a third channel in parallel to Google and Facebook.”

koum signing

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum signing the acquisition deal on the door of the office where he used to collect welfare checks.
Picture via Forbes; click to see the source.

And finally, there are some lessons to be gleaned from the story of WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum, although they could be summarized as “hustle and hard work”, combined with the right amount of luck. It’s covered quite well in this Forbes exclusive.

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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one size does not fit all

The thesis of the TechRepublic article Avoid using a one-size-fits-all BYOD security policy is that you shouldn’t use a single BYOD policy for everyone in your company. While a single policy is the simplest to implement, it fails in the way that a blunt tool used for every purpose does, and fails to balance the needs of information security with the people’s productivity needs.

  • Spell out your expectations for how corporate data should be handled on BYOD devices. Talk about the needs of corporate security and recognizing that BYOD devices help people be more productive, and how you plan to balance those needs. If you explain the “why” behind a BYOD policy, the sort of compliance you want to have, and the values you’re trying to promote, you’ll get more buy-in.
  • Set clear boundaries demarcating what’s corporate and what’s personal on BYOD devices. For certain types of apps and data, it’s easier to tell which is which: the company-sanctioned email client and company- and industry-specific apps are corporate, music and photos are personal. It’s tricker with apps that blur the line between the two worlds; for example, people use Dropbox for both business and personal uses. You’ll have to make those calls, and it will largely depend on the security needs and culture of your organization.
  • Set clear guidelines to promote good information hygiene habits. Like any successful society, BYOD works best when participants actively “police” themselves. Specify document-handling practices for BYOD users — the example in the article says that users who edit a company document on a BYOD device should delete it from the device once it’s been edited and sent. User who use cloud storage (Box, Dropbox, Evernote) should tag any work-related items as such so that they’re easily identified and accessible.
  • Calibrate your BYOD policies to users’ level of access. Some people are content to use their personal tablet as a “second screen” for reading and may simply want access to the company wifi. Others may want to use theirs for work-related email. I’ve seen a number who use them as email and note-taking devices at work. And finally, there are those who’ve decided to travel light and use their tablets as their primary work machines. These are different levels of access to corporate data and resources, and they call for different policies.

In InformationWeek, Paul Waterhouse compares BYOD to Botox. He points out these similarities:

  • Both are naturally occurring. BYOD naturally arose from people with clout demanding to use their favorite devices for work and people with tech-savvy sneaking in their favorite tools under IT’s nose.
  • Both have therapeutic value. BYOD can re-energize a tired IT department using old, out-of-date practices.
  • Both can be used cosmetically, to disastrous results. BYOD without much forethought or preparation  usually leads to half-baked implementations. Like Botox treatments done the same way, the result isn’t pretty.
  • Both have side effects if not supervised by someone who knows what they’re doing. Like Botox, BYOD has side effects — security and risk, additional telecom expenses, and “allergic reactions” from infrastructure that’s not ready to handle all those different personal devices.

Like Botox, BYOD is powerful and can be poisionous, so it has to be applied judiciously.

BYOD itself doesn’t fit all corporate scenarios. If your line of work:

  • in an a heavily-regulated industry where security concerns are paramount,
  • requires mission-critical tasks to be performed on a mobile device, or
  • is as an executive and you’ve got high service requirements,

….then you may be in a situation where BYOD may not be a suitable option, and corporate-owned devices might be more appropriate.

copeCOPE — short for Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled — is a term coined in 2012 by Philippe Winthrop of the Enterprise Mobility Forum. “COPE is the mirror opposite of BYOD,” said Winthrop in the TechTarget article BYOD alternatives emerge as tablets outship PCs. “It’s taking the benefits of the consumerization of IT … while retaining the flexibility for the employer.”

The COPE approach to mobile devices is modelled after the way many companies already provide laptops for their employees. COPE devices are provided by the employer, with the understanding that the device will be used not just for work, but also for personal use: web browsing, games, music, photos, video and so on. If the devices are seen as desirable, they’ll be considered perks. As company property, there’s usually less resistance to the installation of management tools and software.

Just as one approach to employee devices doesn’t fit all, one device isn’t likely to fit all needs. Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet comes close to covering the bases of both tablets and computers, but the tiled-UI apps don’t feel as polished as their Android and iOS equivalents, and the Windows experience on Surface still feels unsatisfyingly netbook-like. For the next little while, it looks as though different use cases will call for different devices.

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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Lee Dale’s servers-and-other-goodies sale!

by Joey deVilla on February 18, 2014

My friend Lee Dale’s company is moving office, and there’s some server and consumer gear that he doesn’t want to take with him and is willing to part with for incredibly low prices. If you’re in the Toronto area, you may want to get your paws on these! Among the items he’s selling are…

lee dale sale 1

Must be picked up near 401 and Warden, to be coordinated on Friday, Feb 28th.
Click the photo to see all the items Lee has for sale.

lee dale sale 2

Must be picked up, ideally we would coordinate pick up on Feb 28th.
Click the photo to see all the items Lee has for sale.

lee dale sale 3

Free if you pick it up.
Click the photo to see all the items Lee has for sale.

lee dale sale 4

Click the photo to see all the items Lee has for sale.

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