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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Get your NEPA BlogCon 2017 Tickets

NEPA BlogCon 2017 tickets are available:

Attendees can expect presentations and roundtable discussions on branding, content development, podcasting, vlogging, and more.

I like the format changeup. (See also) Looks like some friends are presenting as well. Go grab your tickets.

Google I/O 2017 wish list

I figured that since I wrote my Build 2017 wish list and the reviewed that list after the event, and that I plan on doing the same for WWDC this year, it would only be prudent to write down my wishes for Google I/O as well. At first when I sat down to write this list I could only think of one item:

  • Improve Google Accounts

I’ve always had issues with Google Accounts, particularly when using Google Hangouts (or whatever they’re called this week), but I must say this issue has somewhat improved lately. Likely because I’m primarily using one Google Account regularly now rather than three but I also think Google has made adjustments for those of us with personal and business Google Accounts.

However, after thinking a little harder, here are some things I was able to come up with that I’d like to see from Google this week.

  • Android. I have no idea if this possible, but I’d like to see Google flex some muscle and demand less fragmentation in their Android-versions across carriers, devices, etc. This fragmentation has been a huge headache, if not the single biggest reason Android apps can’t be “great”. Some would argue this and that is fine. But Apple’s biggest advantage in this area is that they can be relatively certain what hardware the OS will run on and as a result software developers can be fairly certain the OS will be up-to-date.
  • OK, Google. I’d like to see Google’s assistant have a much larger footprint, particularly on iOS. Again, another thing that may not be possible. I simply cannot use this service because none of my devices will run it natively. But for this week I’ve installed the Google app again on my iPhone to see how good the assistant is these days.
  • Material Design update. They been releasing updates to Material since it launched but I’d like to see something similar to what Microsoft announced at Build with Fluent. A way to tie in a much larger range of devices and perspectives (like Mixed Reality) would be well served in a design language.
  • Photos on Mac to Google Photos bridge. The linchpin on iOS/macOS for me personally is iCloud Photo Library. I have over 340GB stored there and it shows no sign of slowing down. Google Photos, though, has shown itself to be far superior in terms of visual search than Photos. However, Google Photos doesn’t allow me to have a private, local library since it doesn’t have an app for Mac or Windows. So I think I need to use both Photos on Mac and Google Photos on mobile. I would like to see them release a bridge for this. It would also make it easier to switch away from Apple products if I ever wanted to.
  • Google MR. Google has dabbled with mixed reality on several fronts. But I don’t think strapping a phone to our heads is a longterm solution – regardless of the fancy materials you use to do it. Similar to my wishes with Microsoft and HoloLens I’d like to see Google make a considerable investment in furthering a stand-alone MR device focused on business use.
  • Open-source Autonomous Driving. If anyone is going to open source their Autonomous Driving technology it might be Google. Since they have employees giving the information to their competitors anyway, perhaps they’ll be willing to push that source up onto Github and let the self-driving revolution really get into full swing. The money in this is going to be in licensing and support in the long run anyway. Think of it as the self-driving operating system.
  • The Death of AMP! I wish they’d just shoot this in the head. But, it appears they aren’t. I can’t see why this is good for the web.

I re-watched Google I/O 2016’s Keynote a bit yesterday. Hard to believe Home has only been around for far less than a year. Also, Sundar is hitting his stride around that time too (also the Alphabet split) so I’m guessing the productivity at Google is through the roof. So I expect a lot of great things this year from Google.

My thoughts on Build 2017

I have a few thoughts on Build 2017.

First, how did Build 2017 measure up against my very short wishlist?

  • Windows Phone. Although a few presenters over the few days managed to get an applause from the crowd when referring to Windows Phone, we saw zero announcements from MSFT in this area. The complete opposite of what I was hoping for. For now, it seems they are embracing iOS and Android.
  • HoloLens. MSFT seems to be leaning away from a 1-brand approach and more towards providing all of the tools needed to do Mixed Reality. This approach, for a company like Microsoft, is likely better but I still wanted to see HoloLens (a standalone MR system) be invested in heavily. Maybe they’ll have announcements in the future.
  • Windows or Office being open source. This was a long shot. But, I’ll keep it on my list in perpetuity. Esp. Windows.
  • Band. I don’t think Microsoft mentioned wearables at all (besides the amazing Emma). Did they?

So I completely struck out. So it goes.

I’m not unhappy though. Microsoft had some amazing announcements and, overall, had an impressive amount of work accomplished since the last Build.

Sayta Nadella started the conference off by reaffirming their commitment to build hardware, software, and services responsibly and inclusively. It is obvious that Nadella’s Microsoft wants to build solutions for everyone (including even the smallest groups of individuals). I really enjoy seeing this from them and I hope it continues to be the driving force behind their decisions.

What Microsoft has been able to do with Azure (and its related services like Azure Stack), OneDrive, and other cloud-based services is really incredible. Between what Amazon and Microsoft currently offer developers – there is almost no excuse a start-up can make that they cannot bring software to the market at scale in an affordable way. And, even if you’re not worried about scale, the ease of development, testing, iteration, and deployment is much more simple. All developers know that these “one click demos” are never that in reality. But it is still very, very impressive to see what Microsoft has been able to create and is able to sell and support.

It was telling, too, that Microsoft swapped their Keynotes from last year. Day 1 was all Azure and day 2 was all Windows.

One more note about Azure; it seems to be a runaway hit in a similar way to Amazon’s S3. A few years ago S3 took over the entire cloud storage market backing so many services we use every day. When it has gone down (only a few times in recent memory) everything we use went down. I think the same could be said for Azure. Azure is the platform upon which an incredible amount of large scale services are built. I don’t know if this is still the case but Apple’s services were once built on top of Azure. If Azure goes down expect a similar blackout to S3 going down.

Windows 10 being on a twice-a-year release cycle is very refreshing. It makes Apple’s already aggressive once-per-year updates to macOS look snail-like. The pace of software updates for an OS are critical since software needs to be nimble to react to the market. Things like mobility, connectivity, speed, memory, device size and screen size, and wireless technologies seem to change weekly. The OSes need to keep up. Longer development cycles can no longer keep pace.

Microsoft also announced their own design framework called Fluent. I’m sure Windows developers will welcome this coherence across all of their devices but I do not think it will have the wide-reaching affects of both Apple’s flat iOS 7 design language (which is nameless?) and Google’s Material Design. I see iOS-inspired and Material-inspired design in every piece of software I use.

Overall, I continue to be super impressed with Microsoft under Satya Nadella. Seems I’m not alone.

I recommend watching the videos from Build 2017. There is a ton to glean and I’m sure we’ll start seeing some amazing things come of the announcements made. Well done yet again MSFT.

Windows Central on Build

Speaking of Build, Zac Bowden at Windows Central has a list of things to expect on Wednesday. Including this Windows Phone long shot:

I have in fact been hearing that internally Microsoft continues to develop CShell for Windows 10 Mobile in Redstone 3 builds. Whether that means we’ll see it at Build, or at all, is another question. But we’ll keep you posted.

I haven’t researched this too much but my basic understanding of CShell is that it is the shell that is run on each device to give basic interface elements access to the core OS. Like the Finder process on macOS that gives you the Dock, menubar, etc. CShell is developed in silos for each device so specifically continuing to support Windows 10 Mobile wouldn’t make sense if Microsoft didn’t plan to continue to have Windows 10 devices (third-party or otherwise).

Again, as I said in my wishlist, I’d like to see Microsoft make a large commitment to Windows Phone so I’ll join Zac in calling for this long shot.

 

My Build wishlist

Microsoft’s Build conference starts on Wednesday. I’ve been watching this conference closely for the last three years.* Each year Microsoft has shown that they are a completely different company since Satya Nadella has become CEO. They actually make the things they show.

Over these same years they’ve improved upon Windows so-much-so that I have a hard time defending my choice to use Mac. They’ve made Surface hardware that is so good that people are switching from the Mac. And their developer apps and cloud services are incredibly good.

So I thought just prior to this year’s Keynote that I’d jot down my wishlist for this year. It is very short because I don’t use a ton of Microsoft services day-to-day.

  • Windows Phone. I’d like Microsoft to make a large commitment to bringing Windows Phone back. They’ve already made investments in the developer toolchain to allow app developers to use their own languages and frameworks and create iOS and Android applications. Windows Phone was so good it could easily be the third horse in the mobile OS race. (Also, a Surface Phone would be cool to see)
  • HoloLens. I’d like to see HoloLens be available to consumers at an affordable cost (say $500.00). HoloLens is one of the only AR packages out there that I think has the platform, services, and is a standalone unit that could be valuable to anyone from games to the enterprise.
  • Windows and/or Office Open Source. This is a big one and is a much, much longer term goal I think. However, I don’t think it is impossible. Microsoft has been embracing open source more and more. Windows being open could actually eliminate some of their woes rather than compound them. Running Windows as an open project would take a huge team but I think would be worth it in the long run and actually allow Windows to mature even quicker than it is now (which is two releases per year).
  • Band. I’d like to see Band make a comeback. I thought it was a great wearable platform that had a future but they’ve killed it. So in some way, perhaps under a new name (Surface Band?), I’d like to see it come back.

I have no idea if I’ll ever be a full time Windows user or not. My lock-in on Mac may last another decade or two and by then who knows if I’ll even own a computer as we think of them today. But I always want to see honest competition between two giants because that inevitably leads to better products for everyone involved.

Let’s see what happens on Wednesday.

* And I’d like to attend some year.

 

Update: Here is what actually happened.

I’m looking forward to Microsoft’s Build conference today…

I’m looking forward to Microsoft’s Build conference today. Last year’s presentation left me with a completely different attitude toward the company. Let’s hope they keep up the momentum this year.

Photos from NEPA BlogCon 2015

To date I’ve been typing NEPA BlogCon as NEPABlogcon — the organizers of the event can please accept my deepest apologies. I’ve gone back and fixed my mistake.

This past weekend’s event was very well attended, executed, staffed, and organized. Kudos to all that volunteers to make the event go smoothly.

Here are a few photos I snapped. Sorry for the blur, I’ll do better next time. (Also, there are a few photos of The Gem & Keystone Brewpub)

 

 

At NEPA BlogCon on Saturday

As I said in early August, Kyle and I are going to NEPA BlogCon again this year. Both of our businesses; Coalwork and Plain, are sponsors and we each purchased a personal ticket.

I’ll be the guy with the GoPro camera clicking away. Will we see you there?

Microsoft’s Build Keynote

I just finished watching Microsoft’s Build Keynote from yesterday. If you haven’t seen it, and understand developer jargon, I recommend you watch it.

My takeaways:

  • Windows is about to get a lot more applications
  • Office is now as big a platform for MSFT as Windows is
  • Visual Studio Code is very good (I’ve been using it all day)
  • Azure is a beast

That first one is pretty important. Me, in August 2013 regarding Windows Phone:

Windows Phone is a much better competitor to iOS than Android currently is. It is clean, simple to use, vastly different than iOS (which is good since Android and iOS just bite off each other with each release), and really fun to play with. The problem? Official apps.

Yesterday Microsoft announced a slew of things that could change the only gripe I had with Windows Phone.

Salvador Dalí in Print

This weekend we at Coalwork sponsored a local blogging event called NEPA BlogCon. You can read more about that on the Coalwork blog.

While visiting Misericordia University I popped my head into the Salvador Dalí in Print exhibit, which they have on loan from Elizabeth Marrow.

Dalí was a trip. Nice exhibit. (Side note: Check out his full name. Wowza.)

 

Greenville Grok was different and better

This past week Kyle Ruane and I drove to Greenville, South Carolina for the Greenville Grok – a half-week long string of events and activities put together by the great folks at The Iron Yard.

Grok is unlike most conferences in a number of great ways. Most conferences focus on providing headline speakers to bring in a crowd. The crowd is usually separated from the presenters by a stage and dark lighting that doesn’t allow the presenter and the crowd to interact. The Grok doesn’t run this way.

There are times when there is a single speaker and everyone else is listening. But those talks and demonstrations were sprinkled into the schedule as a way to break up the core part of the event; talking to each other in small groups.

The main feature of the Grok are called 10/20s. All attendees are given a random number at the beginning of each day which denotes which group they are in. I pulled 10 twice and 9 once. Each group has 15-20 people in them. The groups go off into their own area of the spacious building in downtown Greenville to discuss whatever topics they would like.

A group may consist of a designer, an entrepreneur, an architect, the CEO of a relatively large successful corporation, and a freelancer trying to decide if she should learn HTML and leave Photoshop behind. No one person has the stage. Everyone’s attention is on the person who happens to be speaking. Topics can be provided by anyone willing to raise their hand and if the group would like to chat about that they will. If any one person thinks that the topic being raised is boring they only need to sit through it for 10 minutes before the alarm sounds and the next topic is suggested.

It is like group therapy. And it works really well. How else are you going to get a ton of feedback from so many people that have dealt with or will deal with the same pressures and circumstances as you have? It is a great mix and a great platform for people to grow.

The Grok was held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Each day has a very slightly different feel to it and a slightly different schedule. But each day seemed to be part of the same conversation; how can we all do better? Do better work. Be better people. Build better things.

I’ve left many conferences motivated to make more money or to capture a market or to squash the competition. But once that wears off I usually return to wanting to work on something fun with a team I really like and, hopefully, others will like what we build too. After leaving the Grok we felt motivated to improve at every level. Improve our industry in our area by donating our time and resources, improve our product and business and team, and improve ourselves, our skills, and how to interact with the people and world around us.

There are a lot of conferences that happen every year. If you’re looking to have a relaxing few days in a gorgeous city chatting with people that are smarter than you and want to leave wanting to simply do and be better… to go the Grok.

 

Related links: Matt McManus of P’unk Ave., photos of Day 1Day 2, and Day 3 by Jivan Davéthoughts from Allan Branch of Less Accounting, and some thoughts from Elyse Viotto.