2016 The year in Review

Wow, what a year 2016 has been! While politics and work have had their major ups and downs, I did get a ton of good reading in this year. I figured a great way to wrap up the year would be to go back thru the books and just think about them here. Enjoy.

January 5th – I finished reading “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” by Bill Nye. While Bill Nye is at times a pompous ass, this book was very thoughtful and entertaining. His ability to take complex issues and explain them for the average person is a trait he inherited from Carl Sagan. I had started this book in 2015, but finished it in 2016 so I am counting it this year. If you have a scientific mind – read this book.

January 26th – I finished reading “The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution” by Jonathan Hennessey. This is my first full book of 2016. Like a good Pilsner, this book is a light, tasteful read. Like a IPA, it can leave a great buzz in your brain – the buzz of knowledge. And like a nice Stout, you finish the book satisfied. If you’ve not gotten into reading “historical” comics, perhaps this is the one for you. Read it with your favorite beverage in your other hand.

February 4th – My friend Ian Hughes (AKA- ePredator) published his second book in the story of Rosin. “Cont3xt” by ePredator is that book. It is a worthy sequel to his first book – Reconfigure. The story of Rosin continues and immediately expands the universe in a logical manner. What I really like about ePredator’s books is it uses a lot of relevant and current references without naming names, this should allow future readers to enjoy this book too.

February 7th – One of many free ebooks I started reading this year from many lists – “The Wolves of Paris” by Michael Wallace. Cashing in on the werwolf phenom of late, this book is well written, but not really my style. If you like werwolf love stories… this one is for you.

February 15th – I finished Felicia Day’s “You’re Never Weird on the Internet“. I had the great pleasure of meeting Felicia Day at a conference for work many years ago. Her story reminds me of many parts of my own life, except for the home schooling, and the successful internet celebrity. What blew me away was all the trouble that was going on in her life when I met her, that didn’t show in her attitude and public appearances. Reminds me that we are all human. Go read this book!

February 24th – Time for some technical work reading – “The Practice of Network Security Monitoring: Understanding Incident Detection and Response” by Richard Bejtlich. I worked on this book for about a year, as I didn’t really have a need to read it, but had picked it up while I was at RSA in 2015. More of a manual with background than a book to read, but it certainly opened up my eyes on how a SOC must work.

February 27th – While work is hard, having a nice glass of wine is the reward. I read “Reading Between the Wines: With a New Preface” by Terry Theise while traveling overseas. I did a bit more traveling in 2016 than I wanted to, but at least it gave me some time to read. I tend to like red wines, this book got me thinking I should go back and try a few more German white wines.

April 16th – The second of my “free” ebooks for 2016. “Breakers” by Edward W. Robertson. A science fiction novel that took a while to get going, but really enjoyed it in the end. Once the story got past all the exposition, it seemed to kick into a higher gear. May have to check out the rest of the series, which is the reason for giving it away as a free ebook.

May 13th – Another book about wine! So far I’ve had beer and wine this year, and the second book on wine is also a winner. “A Hedonist in the Cellar” Adventures in Wine” by Jay McInerney is a series of essays by the author. While the book was 10 years old, it gave me ideas for new wines to try. Hope I can find a few of them.

May 13th – My second technical book of the year. I was trying to figure out why my OS X Server was not working as I expected, imaging my delight when I found “Take Control of OS X Server” by Charles Edge, JR. The take control series of books are great for getting thru some of the features of a Mac/iOS environment. Highly recommended.

May 30th – Science, I love science! The book “Cosmic Legacy: Space, Time and the Human Mind” by Greg F. Reinking, was a very tough read. I got this book a few years back and kept dipping in and out of it. This year, I promised myself I would read the whole thing thru. I did, and it was well worth it. While I have the hardback version, the link above takes you to it online, where it is now available for free.

June 8th – Back to some mindless fun reading. Another ebook I got this year, was the book “The Kennedy Secret” by Steve Richer. This thriller takes you into a fun conspiracy based on the Kennedy family. And no, it is not real, it’s a fiction.

June 28th – My first re-read of the year. During my travels this year I got to rewatch the movie based on the book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis. I had read this book when it first came out. Michael does a great job of explaining the complexity behind the financial meltdown of 2007-2008. If you watched the movie, go read this book!

August 1st – Those who know me, know I love Dragons. Another free ebook was “Rise of Dragons (Kings and Sorcerers, #1)” by Morgan Rice. I got this book and whole slew of other books from Morgan Rice by signing up for her new letter. I have no real memory of actually reading this book. But it is in my GoodReeds tracking. Maybe I will re-read it in 2017 and see if it was any good.

September 1st – I know many people who are huge fans of Neil Gaiman. To be honest, I should be, but I had not remember actually reading any of his prior work before I got this book from my wife as a gift. “The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction” by Neil Gaiman is a series of essays and speeches that Neil Gaiman has given in his life as a writer. Amazing! I now have a list of great books that he has written and that he recommends in these pages. I even picked up a copy of the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe on my iPad to go thru after this.

October 1st – Hmmmm. June to October where crazy busy at work and in life. I didn’t get much time to actually read so It seems that I was able to read another book. This technology / business book by Don Tapscott was “Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business, and the World“. Nope it’s not a pretensive title, I do believe that blockchain has the potential to change a ton of things. My biggest worry about Blockchain is that it will be hijacked by large financial institutions and many of the potential positives that Don and his son talk about in this book will fail to be realized.

October 16th – “Post-Human Series Books 1-4” by David Simpson. This book took me almost a full year to read. No, it wasn’t a bad book, it was a compendium of 4 books, and I really enjoyed it. It is not high art, but for a good pulp about AI and Science Fiction it was enjoyable.

November 12th – “Wild-born (Psionic Pentalogy, #1)” by Adrian Howell. This young adult fiction was a good palette cleanser. The book tells the story about a child who discovers he has telekinetic powers. This discover opened up a whole new world where some people have the power, some people don’t and every one wants to control Adrian.

December 4th – We are getting down to the end of the year and I am getting into some interesting stores. “Evensong (Merits Trilogy #1)” by Krista Walsh is one of those stories. The premise of this book is a typical sword and sorcery story, until the author get’s pulled into the world of their own creation. We now have to deal with the world that being manipulated by the author realizing who he is, and how his powers can be used to fit a few festering problems.

December 16th – I read this book as another free ebook, but it was out of sequence. I have since added all the rest of the series to my reading list. “The Last Firewall (Singularity Series Book 3)” by William Hertling was awesome. William works at HP during the day, and has spent time writing, what I consider, a great book on how Artificial intelligence (or as we call it now – Cognitive technologies) could end up changing humans. As ePredator helped kick off the year of fiction with AR/VR, William helps ended it on Cognitive technologies. Highly recommended.

December 26th – The last book I finished this year is “Black Panther #1” by Ta-Nehisi Coastes. This graphic novel helped me get re-aquinted with Marvel’s Black Panther comic. Incredible art work, and the with Ta-Nehisi writing the storyline, it is much more engaging than many comics lately. Seeing a positive technological perspective of Africa, even if it is a comic, I hope get’s people past their backwards views of other cultures.

As I said when I started this post, it’s been an interesting year. I hope that 2017 is a relaxing / boring year.

Evolving your Interface – A good thing?

While catching up on my reading the other day, I found this article over at Infoworld called – Mobile Apps Death Wish. You may call the title a little melodramatic, but it got me to think about my habit of like change and it’s impact on my users.

The author of the piece goes on a bit of rant on how newer UI techniques are actually making it harder to find information and the over abundance of graphics with text on top, is causing issues for people who have eyesight issues. I agree with the point of the light grey text on a dark grey background, especially since I tend to keep the brightness pretty low on my devices (I love extending my battery life). However, I believe that the appropriate use of graphics can really help an application get broader/nearly universal appeal without requiring much localization of text strings.

The other point the article makes is that both Android’s current auto update, and iOS7’s upcoming auto update feature are going to cause even more problems for people who do not want to change their apps. I hadn’t thought about this, since I like to learn new things and therefore (as mentioned above) actually embrace change. Yes, sometimes it is difficult or uncomfortable, but change will happen, so we may want to get use to it.

My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t like change to the programs she uses. And this is the point that the author should have made more strongly…if you are making a change, make it for a reason, not just for looks. Many applications add cosmetic changes without any regard for the impact to the function of an app. If you are going from a mostly test based interface to a completely graphical interface, make sure those who need to use screen readers can still use your app. Or give the user a choice. It is easy to just assume that everyone will like the new version, but if you work on giving both options, you – as the developer – will get to learn more! Yes, it is change for you, and that will help you expand your skills. Try and figure out how to add that new, cool graphical feature in such a way that a text only user can benefit too.

What do you think? Should we all just keep tweaking our apps, or should we figure out how to incorporate new features in such a way that it is useful for both old and new users? When should your new features necessitate a new version of the app, so users can choose between version 2 and version 3 (given the challenges of auto update?).