Delay in App Update and Thoughts on Drones/Robots

Well, it seems that if you upgrade your development mac to a Beta version of OS X, the App Store won’t let you submit an update to your app. While I understand the limitations in the past, that if you used a beta version of the compiler the app could not be submitted, this one is a bit of a surprise.  I am not sure what Xcode is doing from a build perspective where the OS version would impact it.  Oh well, I guess I will wait until the GA of the latest OS X beta.

While I was contemplating the impact of the OS on the build process, I read an article about an IndieGoGo campaign for a Fire Fighting drone.  The article was more a cautionary tale about crowd funding, but my brain (as it is want to do sometimes) wondered to a totally different thought.  As we get more automation and innovation in the world, we look at those jobs that are dangerous or low skilled as easy pickings for new robotic solutions.  This removes the low end of the job market for many people.  We justify this by saying, this will bring new opportunity for high skilled and higher paying jobs.  While at one level, this logic makes sense, I find that we don’t address the other half of the problem.  That is, as we take away low skilled, low paying jobs, we reduce the ability for people to enter the job market at all.  Especially if we are driven by quarterly P & L statements, which reduce the incentive to take the profit and invest it into job training and education projects for displaced, low skill labor.

Drones that fight fires, would reduce loss of life and address the safety concerns of fight fires…but would we program a device to rescue a dog, in a high rise fire, if that would result in a 25% likelihood of losing the drone?  How about 50%?  75%?  What about a “priceless” piece of art?  What about an elderly relative who is on life support, and likely to die tomorrow?  What calculation would be made?

While a robot might perform skilled manufacturing for a complex piece of new technology, would the person who just got displaced by the robot be able to afford the new tech?  Do I need to continue to fund a pension plan for workers displaced by the robot?  

While robots may be a critical technology for those countries with negative population growth, they just don’t have enough workers to support their parents and grandparents … Enabling this technology (which I truly find to be cool and exciting) doesn’t mean that it will only be used in those countries where workers are hard to find.  Companies are global not local, and they will leverage the technology to improve their quarterly results globally.

Technology consistently moves faster than legislation and at times faster then morality… I believe we need to foster both at the same level.  We need to ensure that as we enable the next level of technology, we don’t leave behind our parents and grandparents or our kids and grandkids, and that we continue to innovate at the society level… Science fiction stories have two tropes, one where we no longer have to work and spend our time in leisure served by happy robots, and one where we are the servants of the robots.  I hope we find our path to the first and not the latter.  In order to find that path, we need to make sure that we don’t just focus on the P&L statement of corporations, but we focus on society as a whole.

Five days with Google Glass

With Glass

With Glass

As I mentioned in my last post, my Google glass arrived on Monday and I ran into a few problems to start with. I don’t want to color the experience with those day one battery problems, so I decided to wait until today to provide a more detailed description of my experience so far.

I’ve been playing with Glass for 5 days now, and I can see the potential.  The first question that people ask me when they see me wearing glass is, “Is it worth $1,500?”  I can honestly say that for the average consumer the answer is a big no.  But that’s not the point in having it now.  The point in having it now is to explore the possibilities of a beta product.    And in that regard I think the price is fair.  One thing that you have is the option to swap it out once as a developer.  This makes a lot of sense as Google should be quickly advancing the tech, so that when it does become a consumer product you are not stuck with having to buy it again.  This is an amazing deal, and I wish that more product development teams would consider this as a way of saying thank you to the earliest adopters.

A day after I got Glass, a software update was introduced.  This has actually made it somewhat less reliable and it is consuming more battery now.  (Ah, the wonders of beta testing).  There’s been a lot of help offered by the community in trying to address some of these issues.  If you want to get a view into those discussions I highly recommending joining the explorer community over on Google+.  The team of there is helpful and truly engaged.

As I mentioned on my other podcast – GamesAtWork.biz – the biggest issue I have right now is that I am using AT&T and am grandfathered in on the unlimited data plan.  To get all of the advantages of Glass, you need to tether it to your cell phone.  In order to enable tethering on my data plan, I will lose my unlimited plan and I use WAY TOO MUCH data to give it up. So all my experience is based on either connecting to a local wifi hot spot, or using the Bluetooth to access some set of capabilities.

The basic capabilities that come with glass are – take a picture, take a video, get email notifications, social interactions with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and youtube, You get access to your calendar, etc.  One thing that I can’t test is the head up version of a GPS.  Having directions tied nicely to my calendar is a cool service that is enabled via other apps on my cell phone, but seeing it as a drive would be helpful.

One of the big jokes on SNL a year or so ago what the head nod that was used to enable Glass to react.  This is not required, you can touch the side to get it to wake up, instead of the head nod.  The head nod is great for a complete hands free option, however, a simple glance up activates Glass. In a public setting, and with some of the recent stories of people getting upset with glass, I’d rather not have Glass come on unless I want it on.

The interface of Glass, i.e. the Google Now cards, works really well.  It provides you with the data you want at a glance.  It’s clean and clear, and decided to show relevant info at a glance.  You can find the Developer reference here.

I’ve take a ton more pictures this week thanks to Glass, and even posted a few on Google+.  This is funny, because traditionally Google+ has been a location of last resort to me given that their interface tends to be a bit one off from all there other services.  Glass should make Google much more popular for social sharing.

As with all betas things are not working great all around.  I still can’t connect to the WiFi at my favorite Durham Coffee shop – BeanTraders.  While I know I have the network configured correctly (it works with my laptop, my iPad, my iPhone and my Android Tablet), Glass fails to connect.  I also noticed that there are no settings to allow me to connect to my corporate wifi, as it doesn’t appear to support the LEAP protocol.  Given that I can’t tether, this means that the utility of Glass is immediately reduced when I leave the house.

I’ve been working on connecting Glass to my glasses, since having the Glass frame and my glasses frame cause problems with placement and view.  To that end, I am working with the instructions from the AdaFruit site.  Will let you know how this works out.

I am sure as I explore more I will post more… I am excited by the possibilities yet to be realized.

What version of Android should you support?

During today’s flight to MacWorld/iWorld the Boeing 757 I was on, had to reboot their in flight entertainment system multiple times. These planes have been in service for some time. But the seats look to have been updated within the last 5 or so. I wasn’t surprised to see the Linux penguin during the boot sequence. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine has been leading the development team for one plane which recently rolled out to their customers, and they are using Android for their inflight entertainment system. The part that is surprising is that they are using Android 2.2 for their operating system. It seems that in some of these embedded systems they are not as current as the latest mobile phone.

This all got me thinking, for android apps, do you go for the largest potential customers, knowing that you will be 2-3 years out of date on operating system features? Or do you go for the new and cool features, knowing that you will have the potential for longer life for your app?

Catching up on some blogging

Sometimes I forget how fast time can move when you are busy. I’ve been meaning to blog since going to the escapist expo a few weeks ago, and I just keep running out of time, so this morning while I drink a cup of my favorite coffee, I decided to start this blog entry.

So where do I begin?

The Escapist Expo happened the same weekend as Durham’s Centerfest celebration. I had found out about the Escapist Expo on friday while listening to The State of Things – and decided I had to go. How could I not? Gaming, Games, and Geek Culture!! It was a triple threat. I went and got to hear a session from Chris Hazard – founder of Hazardous Games. I’ve talked with Chris many times, including on both of my podcasts – (Dogearnation – now defunct, and GamesAtWork.Biz – the current podcast). He has an amazing mind and thinks a lot of how to use time travel in simulation games. I then spent time on the show floor, testing out new games, picking up some game inspired music, and watching all the really great cosplay people. Amazing time, hate that I forgot to take pictures. Oh, and I did take part of a team based geek trivia panel, there were 9 teams and we came in 4th. Given that there was a bunch on console gaming (and I don’t do console gaming), I felt proud to place 4th!

Since I didn’t take pictures.. I am linking to another attendee’s blog who took some great pics.

More to come .. soon.. I promise

Apps are a live and well

The local Meetup scene continues to amaze me. Last night I went to a Meetup called The Mobile App Success Group. Xan, the founder of this Meetup Group, has been successful in developing Websites for some time, and brings ideas around marketing your App, getting development and design resources, and other tips and tricks for starting your business. The goal of the meeting last night was to show a couple of of new Apps that are being worked on.

Both Xan and John (the other presenter) showed off the designs of two up and coming games and asked the participants for feedback. I really liked this approach. Given that the design of games developed by one or two people on their own, they can sometimes get blinders on potential problems in that design. So the attendees at the meetup got to provide feedback and talk about experiences from:

    What Ad network to use, if you are doing an ad supported app?
    How to find a good graphics designer?
    Managing the economy of your game, when you allow rewards to be used for in app purchases.

I hope to have links to both of these games and the websites for Xan and John as soon as they get closer to launch. Xan’s app should be coming out in early Sept.

Both of these apps are guessing games, like DrawSomething, but very much with exciting twists. Can’t wait to play and show off the games as they get ready to launch.

BYOD impact on app development

I saw a study a few weeks back that stated 60% of independent app developers are enterprise developers in the day and app developers by night and weekend. While this sounds right from a pure numbers perspective, it got me thinking about how the BYOD (bring your own device) trend in the enterprise may be impacting the types of apps independent developers may be writing. (Stay with me on this one).

in my day job, as I mentioned before, I work for IBM and we have a very strong BYOD program, to the point that many develops are not only bringing in their own mobile devices, but their own laptops so they can be as productive as possible. Years ago it used to be that your best computer was at work, they could afford the expensive ones. At home you got a good enough computer. Now computers are much cheaper, and finance is always looking to extend the accounting life of corporate assets that it may be 4 or more years before you can upgrade your machine at work. So the best deal is buy your own, get what you need, and customize it so you are as comfortable and productive as possible. This same trend has happened with smart phones and will happen for tablets.

So if your development environment is becoming more and more personal, and since many of us write our first mobile app, as something useful we want that doesn’t exist, are we finding more and more mobile apps that bridge the personal and enterprise workspace? I suggest that this is exactly what is happening. And this is of some concern for corporate types, since as you start sharing apps between your day job and your personal life, you have the possibility of sharing data between them too. And with more and more features of mobile device and apps being enabled via shared cloud storage – this is where companies like IBM get concerned about data ending up on servers that can be seen by other companies.

So, the challenge is, how do you create apps in this environment that provide you and your users with as many useful features as possible, without getting banned from an enterprise environment? Do you create two versions of your app? One that uses cloud services, and the other that can use an on premise server for those enterprises willing to buy it? Or do you just shy away from apps that could have a valid enterprise use? Or do you offering some kind of in app encryption so that cloud based data can only be accessed by your app?

I believe this challenge is only going to get more difficult before it is resolved. What are your thoughts?

Games on rails

The popularity of the unreal engine on iOS can be seen by the success of games like Infinity Blade and Batman Arkham City. These games are bringing the excitement of combat games to that little device in your pocket; however these games are primarily another example of games on rails. Guiding your players thru a series of battles where your are blocking, hitting and doing combos. Players learn to do patterns to beat the hordes of baddies, in order to gain experience and loot which can be sold for upgrading your skills.

You can’t fight the popularity of the engine, but are these games really showcasing the power of the unreal engine? The beauty of the engine can’t be denied! The shading leads to some stunning vistas, while keeping the game play from completely degrading.

Is the reason that the popular unreal games are all on rails that iOS devices are not really created for good game input? Or is that we, as developers, are struggling with new game play mechanics that can leverage the beauty of this engine?