Microsofts Vision videos are frustrating because, frankly, there’s no technology there. Everything that we know about User Experience is sacrificed in terms of providing glitzy graphics. There’s no information on what runs on the back end or on the client (though obviously it’s Windows).

The team who created that video live in a sparsely populated world of serene docility. Everything is clean, there are no homeless people and everyone (not that there are many people) is involved as a vague knowledge-worker, having meetings, travelling and performing Powerpoint presentations. The carefully selected good-looking people mimic carefully practised activities on implausibly thin devices with needless transitions and meaningless transparency.

The video is, frankly, bereft of merit.

We have to assume that a great cataclysm has taken place and robot labour now provides for the small enclave of humanity which remains. They have all of this technology but when this message was actually transcribed it was correct. The software broke it.

My problem with this video is that this doesn’t show any leadership or ability or vision. The user interfaces might be learnable but there’s no intuition or discoverability built in. Why are there business card devices that seem transparent but need to be flipped over? Where’s the data privacy when your meeting locations are displayed on car screens? Why is there still a bellhop (and I’m going to ignore the race issue there).

It’s technological nerdgasm. And it’s not good enough.

University of Ulster Telecommunications Survey

It is kinda important that you add your tuppence to this survey.

The biggest issue I see is this constant fascination with DOWNLOAD speeds.

“23% of consumers in Northern Ireland are on average receiving less than 2Mbits/sec over their broadband connections. This percentage is higher than anywhere else in the UK.”

“The Ofcom report also states that the average maximum speed available around Belfast is 8.9Mbits/sec compared to 5.7Mbits/sec in Coleraine, 4.3 Mbits/sec in Fermanagh, and 5.4 Mbits/sec in Down district.”

“Mobile coverage in Northern Ireland remains lower than the rest of the UK. 87% of the population of Northern Ireland live in a postcode district with at least 90% 2G coverage; however the figure for 3G coverage is much lower at 54%. This is well below the UK average of 95%.”

I honestly can’t remember the last time I used a hotel phone or their on-demand services.

Clayton Morris said:

It’s easier to unpack your bags, climb into bed, access your Netflix que on your personal device than it is to waste the time fishing through some crappy hotel video menu.

in response to this from the NYTimes:

Largely because of the broad use of iPads and other mobile tablets, which are heavy users of video streaming, the guest room Wi-Fi networks that most hotels thought they had brought up to standard just a few years ago are now often groaning under user demands.
According to iBAHN, iPads consume four times more Wi-Fi data per month than the average smartphone.

(I’m not even going to comment on the stupidity of the comparison with smartphones which, for the most part, have their own 3G antenna and data services.)

If you add up how much hotels are paying for their “in house” entertainment systems, I reckon they could afford to bolster their WiFi systems at the cost of their nickel-and-dime video delivery systems. One of the hotels I was in last summer, the first thing I did was whip out the aerials and fire in the jacks which allowed me to mirror my iPad onto the TV screen to allow the kids to watch Ben 10 rather than French situational comedies.

And it’s not as if this is a surprise. Surely the hoteliers must have seen this coming as the rise of the mobile phone left their in-room phone systems idle (other than for room service and complaining about the lack of hot water). Surely they must run some sort of analytics on the on-demand services their rooms provide? Surely they have known for the last five years that all-you-can-eat data services are the norm and their pay per view services are redundant?

I honestly can’t remember the last time I used a hotel phone or their on-demand services. It’s certainly more than 10 years.

Find my Friends isn’t quite there yet. Unlikely to be.

While Apple can do no wrong in software and hardware (other than be TOO POPULAR), they often fail in one area and that’s social. Find my friends is the third social attempt by Apple. They’ve failed to set the industry on fire with Ping (their music sharing social network) and Game Center (their game matching service) and now we have real world location with Find my friends.

Find My Friends is “better” for some values of “better” than the other attempts but it still highlights a lack of vision, a lack of “what could this do, where could this go”.

For instance: I’ve added a couple of people on Find My Friends.

Setting Status
Finding friends is one part of the equation but being found is another. Where is the option to set a status update so that people can see this. Even something as simple as “Busy” or “Available” will let people know if they should message you. This is even more important than selecting the “temporary” setting to be found.

Where is the alert that tells me my friends have entered within a mile of my location? Having a travelling GeoFence is an obvious feature for Find My Friends enabled smartphone users. And yes, it could be great for the untrustworthy or unfaithful but giving people an iota of credit, if there’s a ‘situation’ where location becomes an issue, the stupid will get caught.

Finding Friends Again. And again.
I have connections established by Ping and Game Center but Find My Friends wants to rifle through my address book to find people I can connect to? Really? In 2011, this is a solution? Why not give me a list of my Ping and Game Center connections and just ask me if I want to add them to my FMF list?

Time Alerts
Why can’t I set my non-existent status alert by the time of day or by the entries in my calendar? This stuff is all interconnected. Why doesn’t it just work? For that matter, why does my phone still ring when I’m plainly in a meeting! I don’t think Siri will help with that!

Group Messaging
Where’s the option to message all of my friends? Where’s the option to ping them with a “Anyone free for lunch” or to set a status change “Free for lunch”. Where does this actually work for friends? In the video, they say it’s good for when the family (obviously all toting iPhones) are at Disneyworld but seriously do we have to message each one individually?

The daft thing is that group messaging is excellently supported in Messages (via iMessage) but not in Find My Friends. Dumb.

So, in my opinion, Find My Friends, just like Ping and Game Center, is a pretty half-assed solution. Apple can still tie this all together and make it just work and maybe they will – maybe this is all part of the plan. Maybe the NEXT MAJOR RELEASE will tie all of these loose ends together? But I doubt it.

Getting Kids Coding

I’m in a bit of limbo at the moment as I’m not sure where things are going to end up. As I mentioned earlier, I signed on as a STEMnet ambassador and I’ve got a few wee projects keeping me busy. In the interim, I’m kinda interested in this stuff:

It’s a lot closer to what I originally envisioned code4pizza to be about. An after school/work club for people of all ages, from 16 up, coming to write code for the public good, in return for pizza.

I intend to intro these links to Izaak and Meggan this weekend.

Cultural Tourism – new apps competition!

A new Cultural Tourism app competition for Northern Irish mobile companies.

The DCAL initiative aims to harness the innovation and entrepreneurial potential of culture, arts and leisure by encouraging local digital companies to use these sectors as a source of inspiration and content for mobile Apps. Digital technologies are transforming how people access information and how business sectors, such as tourism, communicate with consumers. Billions of Apps are downloaded globally each year and this competition offers opportunities to grow the creative industries and tourism sector in the north of Ireland.

The competition is being managed by Momentum / Digital Circle, which promotes the ICT and digital content sector in the north of Ireland. Local digital companies are invited to put forward creative and innovative ideas for two apps showcasing Irish and Ulster-Scots culture respectively. The winning applications will be funded to develop the apps in time for the 2012 tourism season.

The tender documents are located:

Steam – draconian DRM that makes Apple look open

(Thanks to @vipersgratitude for sending on this link)

WTIA TechNW report by Brier Dudley

So, Fries asked panelists, best of times or worst?

Gabe Newell, owner and president of Bellevue game giant Valve, said, “It’s a very interesting time.”

“Our business is growing very rapidly both on the content side and on the service platform side so in that sense, business has never been better,” Newell said. “The challenges we see looking forward are very rapidly evolving model for how value is created for customers.”

After broad pursuit massively multiplayer online games, the free-to-play model is emerging as “a really interesting opportunity,” he said.

But there are dark clouds forming, Newell continued, raising concerns about the closed-garden approach of platforms such as Apple’s iOS.

“On the platform side, it’s sort of ominous that the world seems to be moving away from open platforms,” he said.

Platform providers that used to use their role to enable developers “instead view themselves as more rent guys who are essentially driving their partner margins to zero,” he said.

“They build a shiny sparkling thing that attracts users and then they control people’s access to those things,” he said.

Considering that the Digital Restrictions Management system that Valve uses (as part of their Steam system) is much more restrictive than, for instance, Apple and their FairPlay system, I consider this to be at best hypocrisy and at worst, outright lies.

For instance: I can buy a single copy of a game from the Apple App Store and put it onto both my iPhone and my sons iPod touch. We can then challenge each other and play the game or, as with Dungeon Hunter II, play co-operatively and defeat all of the monsters. The cost to me, after devices, was £4.99.

On the other hand, if I try to do the same with Steam and say, play Call of Duty 2 (an OLD game so it should be cheaper, right?) I have to buy a copy for me and also for my son. The cost to me is £29.98. What’s worse – is that if I want to let him play my copy of PORTAL 2 while I play Left 4 Dead 2, I can’t. Because Steam only allows one login at one machine at a time. And god forbid you try to circumvent this and get your account banned for suspicious activity. So again, even for games I own but are not currently playing, I can’t use them while I’m playing something else.

Is Newell concerned because Steam isn’t and couldn’t be on iPad? Is this a defensive hyperbole designed to distract us from the reality that “PC Gaming is dying”

I’d considered Steam DRM to be restrictive and annoying. I didn’t realise that they were quite so concerned about their future revenue model. Investors take note.


Greg Maguire tweeted:

STEM + A = STEAM what this economy will run out of without creative thinking.

I recently signed on as a STEMnet ambassador. W5 is the local delivery agent for STEMnet in Northern Ireland and it’s a good home for a worthy project. If you have an interest in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (including design, programming, the web), then you really should register.

During my first piece of work for them, I had the opportunity to provide some guidance for students and made the point that Science and Technology and Engineering and Mathematics are great – but there is a part of science and mathematics that is imagination, part of technology and engineering that is design.

In many ways it was easier in the “olden” days when I was at school. School seemed less about preparing a student for the workplace and more about educating and testing the student to see what they were capable of. While they didn’t get everything right, I’m also certain they didn’t get everything wrong.