Last Build Date: Tue, 10 Nov 2015 23:33:03 GMT
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 23:32:42 GMTThis morning I went for a normal check up with a healthcare provider I hadn't visited in a few years. The receptionist handed me a clipboard with paper forms to fill out to "catch up" -- nothing pre-filled out. Luckily, I was given a very sharp pen -- the fields were often way too small (when you live in "Newton Highlands" you need a lot of room for "City"). When I got to the section on "Pharmacy" I remembered that that office had sent a prescription a previous time to the wrong location (same street and company, wrong city and address). To make sure this time, I needed the address and phone number. I took out my cell phone to look it up. One bar. Very slow and dropped connectivity. I found the address but gave up on the phone number. I saw across the room a little sign with "WiFi" written on it. I guess I could have gotten up and followed the info to connect to their wireless router, if I trusted it, but I was too lazy. I left the field blank. This was a reminder of what I call "The Frankston Challenge". As Bob Frankston has written repeatedly over the years, we need to have ambient connectivity that works everywhere without a prior relationship or human intervention to get past sign-in screens. (For example, see: Understanding Ambient Connectivity.) Yes, there was Internet connectivity where I was (in a normal office building in a major suburb on a busy street right near I-95/Rt 128), but it wasn't good enough or easy enough to answer a simple question quickly. For the laptops that the doctors and nurses used it was no problem -- they had already keyed in the special codes. For a new mobile device walking into the office, it was trouble like waiting for an old dialup modem to connect or nothing. In the world of the Internet of Mobile Things (IoMT) you want to be able to just connect. Mobile Things include smartphones, tablets, wearables, automobiles, and so many coming things. They move with (or on) you, or on their own. The connectivity environment around them changes. The Frankston Challenge is very real for them today. For example, you can't, as Bob points out, require a pacemaker or wearable reporting info to doctors and other systems to be pre-authorized with wireless carriers and WiFi access points everywhere the person might go. You don't want to have to pull out a keyboard (and maybe a credit card) to authorize connectivity when you feel tightness in your chest. This problem won't be solved overnight. Bob has been working constantly to bring this to people's attention. For me, though, I'm in the world of making systems for business people to build apps that run on tablets and phones that move around with the users. We can't wait. This means that we won't have reliable connectivity everywhere, even where you would expect it. We have to build our systems to tolerate loss of connectivity. A consultant may be visiting a client's retail site or factory, or a repair person out in the field fixing a pump or transformer. The apps they run that replace the paper clipboard with something better and more tied into the flow of their tasks must be able to run offline. We at Alpha Software have been working steadily to make disconnection-capable apps easier to build so that can be the default configuration. This is especially true for data capture applications. Not necessarily ignoring connectivity when available, but not becoming useless when it isn't. A final irony. The office building where my doctor worked was the same one were my old company, Software Arts, had rented some space back in the early 1980s. It was across a parking lot from our main building. We used a centralized computer for timesharing to run our whole business. We had a very early Ethernet system installed to give "high-speed" connectivity to the terminals on everyone's desk. There was coax cable everywhere. (This was very early in the history of Ethernet and the IBM XT was just coming out.) To connect the "remote" office hundreds of feet away, we had a trench dug under the parking lot (and then paved over) to run cable to that other building[...]
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 23:30:54 GMTIt's been a long time since I posted here on my blog. I've written a couple of essays that appeared on the main Bricklin.com web site, and I've tweeted a lot (as @DanB), and even did some podcasting as part of the Adventures in Alpha Land podcast series, but not much here. My day job at Alpha Software has continued to keep me very busy with other things.
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:22:56 GMTWe're spending a lot of time at Alpha Software working on making it easier to create mobile business apps that support sometimes- or frequently-disconnected operation. As part of that work, I've learned a lot about how this issue is an impediment to widespread mobile app deployment in business and also about many of the areas that must be addressed in order to do it well. I've just posted an essay that covers a lot of what I've learned.
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 18:24:21 GMTTwo days ago, on Wednesday, I watched the Google I/O Keynote live stream. Early on in the two and a half hour mega-presentation they introduced their new "visual language" for UI design: Material Design. It has "materials" inspired by paper with shadows, bold colorful graphics, and "meaningful" motion/animation.
Tue, 20 May 2014 16:29:54 GMTFor various reasons I decided that I needed an app tuned to reading reference material. I've released a new app that demonstrates addressing this need to the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store: AlphaRef King James Version of the Bible. This is the text of the Bible presented in a new reading environment that I created along with my daughter Adina, a UX and graphics designer. It is implemented using Alpha Anywhere and delivered as an HTML5 app in a PhoneGap wrapper.
Sun, 26 Jan 2014 20:55:46 GMTThe January 30, 1984, video of the introduction of the Macintosh to the public at a Boston Computer Society General Meeting is now available online. Harry McCracken, an editor at large at TIME for personal technology, posted an exclusive look at the video early this morning, right after excerpts where shown at the Mac 30th event in California (an "official" event marking the 30th anniversary of the original Mac announcement at the same place where it occurred). The Computer History Museum will be posting material on its web site tomorrow, and will update the video when additional processing of it finishes. See "Exclusive: Watch Steve Jobs’ First Demonstration of the Mac for the Public, Unseen Since 1984" on TIME.com. Harry explains how there were other videos of prior deliveries of Steve Job's talk introducing the Mac, but that this one is special for several reasons, some of which I have touched upon in my blog post Friday about it, such as the Q&A with a general tech audience. He also explains a bit about how the release of the video came about. Let me fill in a bit more. These were not fully "lost" videos. I have had my copy of the January 1984 VHS tape for years and let others know I had it, showing excepts sometimes when I gave talks. Given the use of Apple material, and the special nature of the video, I did not feel it was time to release it yet to the public as I was slowly doing with other videos I have (not BCS ones). I was in contact with the videographer, Glenn Koenig, who shot most of the BCS meetings on Software Arts' behalf over the years. He let me know that he had masters of many of them, though he hadn't cataloged them (and didn't search out the Jobs one until Harry asked, which yielded better versions of parts of the presentation). I let him know of the material that I had made sure made it to the Computer History Museum. I encouraged him to continue to maintain his tapes in good condition, which is what he has been doing all these years. We always intended to complete the edits of this material, but there is a lot of it, and digitizing it properly and editing it takes a lot of time and money. We didn't have the funds to do that and it was unclear if others would chip in and how to bring that about. Doing the work prematurely with the wrong equipment could compromise the tapes. (Of course, waiting too long could cause them to deteriorate too much.) When Harry, a BCS member going back to the VisiCalc days, contacted BCS founder Jonathan Rotenberg in the fall of 2012 to ask about video from BCS meetings, Jonathan got him in contact with Glenn. Glenn, Jonathan, and I brainstormed about ways to finally make the restoration and release happen. I contacted Ray Ozzie, who I knew was interested in historic videos and had worked with us at Software Arts in the early 1980's. He, like Harry, suggested the Computer History Museum as a means for funding instead of something like Kickstarter. I have been a long-time supporter of the Museum, and have been inducted as one of their "fellows" for my work on VisiCalc, and knew this was the right way to go. Eventually, Jonathan, Glenn, and I started working with people at the Museum, cataloging which material we had between us, and worked up a budget and a plan for fundraising. Glenn pointed out the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Mac as a good "news hook" and that a hoped-for article by TIME could help publicize the entire set (thank-you, Harry, for coming through with a great one!). We met periodically on the phone (we all had other jobs to keep us very busy) and eventually crafted a "request" letter and a list of potential donors. Glenn produced a short trailer of excerpts from a few of the tapes using some refurbished equipment to show those people. In September of last year we had the material ready for fundraising and I hand-signed (and in some cases added a little note to) a few dozen letters and mailed them out. Wit[...]
Fri, 24 Jan 2014 19:44:48 GMTToday is 30 years since the Apple Macintosh was announced. That event occurred at a shareholders meeting in California. The following Monday, Steve Jobs and a crew of people from Apple traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, to redo that event for the public. It was at the Boston Computer Society General Meeting on January 30, 1984, at the John Hancock Hall in Boston. In addition to Steve's speech and demonstration, he also brought many of the developers of the Mac software and hardware with him. After his presentation, they all sat on stage and answered questions from the audience and did further demos. For the over 1,000 people who attended, it was an amazing event. At the shareholders meeting there was the worry of how it would be received and if the demos would work. At the BCS meeting there was much less pressure and Steve was relaxed and confident and engaged the audience. The attendees were knowledgeable and savvy. There is something else about the Boston event: My old company, Software Arts, at my suggestion as I recall, was paying to have video tapes made of many of the BCS General Meetings. (I was a board member of the BCS at various points). For this event, Apple provided additional cameras and made sure the lighting was good (it was not good in California, apparently). We at Software Arts ended up with an edited VHS copy of the event that I have kept for these 30 years and sometimes show excerpts from when I talk to students to show them what it was like in the "old" days. I also would show it to my daughters to let them see how a real pro delivered a speech. At this point I know Steve's intonation on every syllable of the start of his presentation. (It's different than when he gave it in California.) What happened last year is something wonderful: It turns out that many of the original BCS meeting tapes still exist. Some were donated to the Computer History Museum with my help. Many of the master tapes were still with the videographer, Glenn Koenig, including 3/4" tapes that are higher quality than the VHS copies. Together with Glenn and Jonathan Rotenberg (the founder and initial head of the BCS), we finally started a project with the Computer History Museum to restore the tapes and make the videos available to the public. This involves careful work on refurbished old equipment and careful editing remembering the events themselves to get the best possible video and sound. It will also include transcripts and other related museum-type treatments. We have raised money to pay for this (there are over 20 meetings to process) and have started digitizing and editing the tapes. The Mac Introduction will be the first, but there are others of great interest with the leaders of many leading personal computing companies, from Microsoft to Radio Shack to Digital Research to Lotus and IBM. A thank you to Brad Feld, who remembers the impact the BCS had on his interest in both technology and entrepreneurship from his days at MIT, and all of the others who came through with the money we needed! The Mac video will be released soon (I'll post here when it's available) and others will follow over time. [Photo of Steve Jobs about to insert disk into Mac in January 1984, from my VHS copy appears here in the original blog post on Dan Bricklin's Log] For those of you who have only seen the young Steve Jobs portrayed by actors, seeing him and his team as they actually were should be a real treat. I get chills down my spine watching it. It is such a joy to realize that a decision we made over 30 years ago at my old company, when the personal computing industry was a young oddity, will bring those days to life for a new generation and for generations to come and that they will care and appreciate it. (This isn't the first time I've felt that way. Another recording we did, an internal one of a staff meeting as the IBM PC was being announced, ended up a key scene in t[...]
Fri, 08 Nov 2013 20:04:01 GMTJust as it has for the three years before, this fall the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council ran its "Innovation unConference". They have a web site, www.masstlcuncon.org, that explains it all, and I posted lots of photos to Flickr as I have in the past.
Thu, 17 Oct 2013 16:13:18 GMTI've been writing a lot here about using HTML5 for business web apps, especially mobile apps. A benefit of HTML5 is that apps that run on multiple platforms are usually easier and less expensive to write than writing in native code for each platform. A challenge is having that one codebase adjust to the screen size and orientation differences of the different devices it runs on. This is more extensive than that usually needed by informational web sites traditionally targeted for Responsive Web Design. Developers need to take into account not just screen width but also screen height, as well as on- and off-screen controls.
Tue, 20 Aug 2013 01:56:47 GMTIn the last month, two major metropolitan newspapers were purchased by new owners: The Boston Globe by John Henry and the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos. Both new owners are individuals, not some investment entity looking for a purely financial return. You have to assume that they both view this as more than just a financial investment and that they realize that they are now in a different part of the news business than they were when they were just the subject of reporting. There has been a lot of speculation about what each of them intends to do. What direction will they take the "papers"? How will they react when confronted with situations like those that have involved their predecessors? (For example, the Post had to decide what to do during the Watergate investigation and the Globe had to decide how much to invest in the early Boston.com web site.) How will they guide their acquisitions as technology evolves? (Jeff brought us Amazon.com and John put Moneyball into practice.) They are both new to the news business. I have a suggestion for them both: As part of your "homework" as you enter this field, please read Christopher Daly's history of journalism in the USA, "Covering America" (Here are Amazon links to the Kindle version and the Hardcover version). I'm sure the $21.99 price of the Kindle version won't be a problem (Jeff probably gets a discount). The hardcover version is a little heavy to carry around (I just weighed my copy: a little over 2 1/2 pounds), but if either of them wants a physical copy signed by the author, let me know and I'll buy them one and get Chris to inscribe it for them. Why this book? It's not just because Chris is my next door neighbor, or that he's a professor of journalism at Boston University, or that he used to be the New England correspondent for the Washington Post, or that the book is being used as a textbook by journalism students around the country. It's because the book covers the constant evolution of the world they are now joining and shows them what they, personally, are now a part. "Covering America" is a book about the people that developed the many business models we now take for granted (or think of as quaint now that their time has come and gone). It is a book about the practitioners of the craft as it evolved, from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine to Joseph Pulitzer, Nellie Bly, and William Randolph Hearst to Bill Paley and Ed Murrow to Ted Turner and Josh Marshall. The book brings dozens and dozens of people to life -- lives that will help Jeff and John chart their place in this ongoing sequence of very special individuals. It will give them background to inspire them to use their own special gifts (not just financial, but industry-changing) to help evolve a calling that is important enough to be in the Bill of Rights. "Covering America" shows how journalism evolved, both in its practice and as a business. The changes we are seeing now are no more drastic than those brought about by the telegraph, the powered rotary press, or radio. The book is not a boring recitation of facts. Chris spent time as a feature writer, and this book is written as an interesting narrative, weaving lively biographies with the historical context. You can see Chris interviewed by the dean at the Columbia School of Journalism the spring of last year on CSPAN: "Book Discussion on Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation's Journalism" (about an hour long -- note that the book is a lot more fun to read than watching an interview like this on stage at a university). Starting at about 28:00 there is discussion about who will be owning newspapers in today's world. (The hardcover came out in early 2012, but the Kindle version didn't come out until this year.) Chris blogs at www.journalismprofessor.com and tweets as @ProfDaly.[...]