24 Nov 2016 – Driving and Maps

I don’t do a lot of driving. I think I only covered about 6,000Kms last year. I much prefer walking or public transport. However, it Australia, that isn’t; always practical and you just have to drive to get where you need to go. Today was a day where I had to do quite a lot of driving.

I am currently using Apple Maps for directions. I tend to alternate between Google Maps and Apple Maps depending on which one annoyed me the most recently. I know that map and directions is a hard problem, but it really should be better than it is. In one day, I managed to run into three example of Apple Maps stupidity.

First, I came across a bit of a traffic jam, in an area where it is pretty common. Because I know the area, I knew there this is a short backroads loop you can take to get around the jam. Apple Maps, for some reason, didn’t know this, and when I took the backroads route, stubbornly insisted that I u-turn back to the mess. Apple Maps was estimating 36 minutes to get through the jam, it took me 11 my way.

Second, Apple Maps did an intelligent re-reroute mid drive due to an accident, this involved doing a u-turn, which is fine. The call to change there route was the right one. This issue is the ridiculous number of turns it wanted me to take to execute this u-turn, when there was a u-turn bay right in front of me.

Finally, Apple Maps suggested another route change to save time, only it would not have saved me any time. Even the estimates that Apple Maps gave showed the current route as faster. No idea what went wrong there.

Google Maps isn’t any better and I get exactly the same kind of issues, and it feels to me like it should just be better than this by now.

23 Nov 2016 – Relief and Disapointment

This afternoon the recent heatwave finally broke and it was sweet relief. We have had a string of very hot and very humid day and it really starts to sap your energy and get you down after a while. So it was amazing this afternoon to walk out of the office into some light drizzle that was nice and cool.

I really love Apple, but they seem to be making nothing but errors lately. There has been the long running debacle that is the Mac lineup, the horrible rollout of the iPhone 7 and AirPods, the ditching of their monitor business, and now, rumours that the wireless router business is also getting the chop.

This is a huge strategic error by Apple. What Apple users loved about the company was that they made wonderful products that focused on niceness. A lot of that niceness comes from the way that Apple products work together, and some of that is going to be lost now that we don’t have Apple monitors or routers.

The routers is especially strange, with the Echo and Google Home really doing quite well, it seems to me that Apple should be staking a place in the market for Siri, in the off chance that this category takes off. Since I can’t get an Siri alternative, I get an Echo, and then, once I am used to Alexa, its that much harder for Apple to claw me back to their ecosystem.

What all this highlights is a huge structural issue at the core of Apple. There are tons of great people at Apple, and more than enough resources to hire as many more teams as they want. But there is a roadblock somewhere in the system (which I think is at the Jony Ive/Tim Cook level) that means stuff just doesn’t get looked at.

There is no excuse for a company the size of Apple to be leaving products, some of which sell really well like the MacBook Pros to languish for years without updates while the industry moves on. Apple needs to make its teams more autonomous and let groups, like the router team, or the Mac Pro team, make regular small updates to their corner of the Apple world without constantly having to seek approval from top management.

22 Nov 2016 – Train

Back to WORK today, which means back on the train For the commute. I quite like trains, they are fast and fairly reliable and you can get quite a bit of work done while commuting, much better than driving where you spend all your time, well, driving. 

Public transport also exposes you to lots of people. You get to see a nice cross section of society, which in today’s filter bubble prone world, is healthy. With everything online, it’s incredibly easy to slip into a bubble of facebook friends, twitter follows and RSS feeds that feed you confirmation of your own biases. Things like catching public transport, which expose you to people outside your usual bubble, even in passing, are valuable. In the same vein, I think its important to make sure you follow a variety of viewpoints, not just the people and publications you agree with. Far to many people don’t.

21 Nov 2016 – Busyness

Today was a bit of a lost day. I had the day off work, so there was the chance that much would get done, but a poor night’s sleep coupled with some rather upset sinuses meant it was very slow going. Well that, and errands.

I often feel like errands are the true enemy of getting work done. All those little tasks that have to get done, but take and inordinate amount of time to tackle. Mostly it is travel time that eats your day. A few quick errand can quickly eat up half a day when you have to drive and park for each one, and this gets even worse when you are going somewhere that is popular. 

For example, a simple pick up from the airport should only really take an hour. Its a 30 minute drive each way and, ideally, the plane arrives on time and you can time things so you are there just as required. That never happens though. There are almost always traffic issues around the airport that mean travel takes longer than it should and then planes seem to eievtiably be late. So something simple, that should only take an hour or so, takes more than two. Add a few of these together and that is one day quickly gone. 

I try hard to eliminate as many errands as possible, mostly by outsourcing things as much as possible, but sometimes the only way things can get done is by you physically being at a particular place, at a particular time. 

20 Nov 2016 – I Dunno

Today was one of the Sundays. A Sunday where I was doing something the whole day, but nothing seemed to get done.

I have been working for the last few week son some new software to automate and streamline the business. We’ve been using a cobbled together collection of online services, all tied together by (the fantastic) Zapier. It worked, but there are a lot of compromises made that slowed things down and made things more difficult than they needed to be.

The only real solution was to take the time and build something for ourselves that perfectly fits our needs. So that is what we have done. It’s slowly getting there and (hopefully) we will have a first production version that we can move the company over to.

For the dogs, me sitting at the computer tapping away (and occasionally swearing at) the computer isn’t all the interesting, so they took the opportunity to sleep most of the day. I really don’t think they mind, apart from dinner time, the seem at their happiest when they get to just snooze all day, with the occasional belly-rub interruption.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo finally announced their next console, a mobile tablet with two detachable controllers and a dock for playing on the TV. 

Nintendo is on the right track going mobile, there is a clear gap in the market for a great mobile gaming experience. Phones and tablets are reasonable for gaming,  but with only touch screen controls, the game types that work well on them are really limited. While the 3DS, the major dedicated mobile gaming platform, is really showing its age, with limited power and low resolution screens. 
A decent sized tablet (the Switch looks about 6.5″) is big enough to sport a nice screen, a decent battery and a processor with enough power to make good looking games possible, while still being small enough to easily carry around. With real controls attached, I think the Switch is going to be very compelling for gaming on the go.

As a home console, I am less convinced. It’s going to have a huge power deficit on the Playstation and Xbox, both of which are in the process of upgrading their power to support 4k gaming. Sony also has the PSVR that adds a whole new (and awesome) dimension to home games. I just can’t see the Switch competing here, unless the dock has some sort of additional process built in, which doesn’t appear to be the case.

Thankfully we only have to wait till March next year to get our hands on one.