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22 Jul 00:15

Barcelona 4 – Glòries Transformation (3)

by pricetags

As a junction for traffic and rail, the Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes was a major interchange in the city – but not a great place for people.  Eventually the railways went underground, the roads were elevated, and a park was placed in the centre of a giant roundabout - the view still shown in Google Maps, from above:


Glories 5


And on Streetview:

Glories elevated


It could have been worse:

Glories future


And it almost was:

Glories past


Before they came up with this:

Glories roundabout


And now, as of July 2014, that’s almost gone – another part of the transformation of Glòries.



Add it to the list of Freeways without a Future – at least in its elevated form, taking up too much public space and deterring the development of too much real estate.  So the city is in the last stage of drilling it apart and pulling it down:





 Already it’s apparent how much space is now available, unencumbered by concrete:



What’s to come?  It’s hard to be sure, given the financial constraints and changing plans of the city, but I’ll go with this rendering of 2012:



Very close to the Cerda vision for the new centre of Barcelona, c. 1860 – a century and a half later.

Centro Comercial Glòries
Centro Comercial Glòries

21 Jul 21:50

prx: (via PRX » Piece » We’re hiring a Software...


(via PRX » Piece » We’re hiring a Software Engineer)

Listen up!

What does the photo say about who should apply?

22 Jul 01:22

Rogers cuts several hundred jobs, will ‘become a more nimble, agile organization’

by Ian Hardy

Guy Laurence and his Rogers 3.0 vision is coming together.

According to a report in the Toronto Star, Rogers has shed several hundred middle management positions and approximately 15% of its employees at the VP and above level.

Rogers spokesperson Patricia Trott stated that the company is currently overhauling its customer service experience and “as part of the restructuring we have reduced the number of vice president and above positions by 15 per cent and several hundred middle management positions have also been eliminated across the company… These decisions are never easy… The goal is to become a more nimble, agile organization with much clearer accountabilities. Savings will be reinvested in areas like training and systems to better serve our customers.”

While this is no surprise, it is still unfortunate. Back in May, when Rogers announced its new vision to act as “One Rogers,” CEO Guy Laurence said “there will be job losses at the management level” and the plan is to invest in customer service and front-line staff.

As a refresher, here are the seven strategic priorities that Rogers is planning to implement “become a more nimble, agile organization.”

Rogers 3.0: Accelerating Growth and Overhauling the Customer Experience:
1. Be a strong Canadian growth company
2. Overhaul the Customer Experience
3. Drive meaningful growth in the business market
4. Invest in and develop our people
5. Deliver compelling content anywhere
6. Focus on innovation and network leadership
7. Go to market as One Rogers

Laurence also declared at the time that “we will be utilizing things we already have… We will double down on innovation” and “will focus on fewer, more impactful initiatives and execute with more precision to deliver on our game plan.”

Rogers currently has over 10,000 employees across Canada.

22 Jul 02:53

X-Ray Pacman Graffiti

by Ronny
mkalus shared this story from Das Kraftfuttermischwerk | Das Kraftfuttermischwerk.

Der Maler Shok-1 hat irgendwo in Hamburg dieses X-Ray Pacman Graffiti auf die Wand gebracht. Keine Ahnung, ob das im Dunkel dann auch tatsächlich noch leuchtet, aber selbst wenn nicht, schönes Ding.

(via r0byn)

22 Jul 01:43

"There are, of course, lots of ways to resist progress. People take up knitting or quilting or..."

“There are, of course, lots of ways to resist progress. People take up knitting or quilting or calligraphy. They bake their own bread or brew their own beer or sew their own clothes using felt they have fashioned out of wet wool and dish soap. But, both in the scale of its ambition and in the scope of its anachronism, paleo eating takes things to a whole new level. Our Stone Age ancestors left behind no menus or cookbooks. To figure out what they ate, we have to dig up their bones and study the wear patterns on their teeth. Or comb through their refuse and analyze their prehistoric poop. And paleo eating is just the tip of the spear, so to speak. There are passionate advocates for paleo fitness, which starts with tossing out your sneakers. There’s a paleo sleep contingent, which recommends blackout curtains, amber-tinted glasses, and getting rid of your mattress; and there are champions of primal parenting, which may or may not include eating your baby’s placenta. There are even signs of a paleo hygiene movement: coat yourself with bacteria and say goodbye to soap and shampoo.”


Elizabeth Kolbert, How the Paleolithic Diet Got Trendy  

22 Jul 02:59

Galaxy Tab S deformed back cover a manufacturing defect, says Samsung

by Rajesh Pandey
Last week, a Russian website reported that the back of the Galaxy Tab S 8.5 were deforming due to overheating issues. Today, Samsung has released an official statement on this matter saying that the deformation is being caused due to a defective back cover and has nothing to do with the device overheating.  Continue reading →
21 Jul 22:29

Community Building Stories

by davidwboswell

One of Mozilla’s goals for 2014 is to grow the number of active contributors by 10x. For the first half of the year, the Community Building team has been supporting other teams as they connect more new contributors to their projects.

Everyone on the team recently blogged about their experience supporting projects. The stories below show different stages in the lifecycle of communities and show how we’re helping projects progress through the phases of starting, learning, scaling and then sustaining communities.

We’ve learned a lot from these experiences that will help us complete the goal in the second half of the year. For example, the Geolocation pilot event in Bangalore will be a template for more events that will connect more people to the Location Services project.

Photo courtesy of  Galaxy Kadiyala

Photo courtesy of Galaxy Kadiyala

These are just a few of the stories of community building though. There are many other blog posts to check out and even a video Dia made about how contributors made the Web We Want video available in 29 different languages.


I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing to connect with more contributors and to hear about what you’ve learned. Feel free to leave links to your stories in the comments below.

21 Jul 23:18

Preparing for a Road Trip Across North America

by Duane Storey

As I pointed out previously, I’m in the process of moving to Hamilton to spend a year working out of BraveNewCode’s new offices. I flew out and spent some time out there in April and May, mainly just to find a place to live. But now that I have an apartment lined up, I’m back in British Columbia getting ready to do a road trip across North America with my girlfriend.

My Car, a Mazda 3 Sport

My Car, a Mazda 3 Sport

Most people really have no appreciation for how large of a country both Canada and the United States are. I once had a friend fly into Toronto and email me to see if I could drive out to see him from Vancouver – people are often surprised to learn that it takes five or six days to do that drive, and usually at least five hours in an airplane.

Canada or the United States?

The majority of Canadians live within 100 kms of the United States/Canada border. As such, when driving across North America most Canadians can choose either route – driving through Canada or the United States.

Both Canada and the US routes are very picturesque, so I don’t think a person could go wrong either way if the goal was primarily to see some amazing scenery. As for me though, I only have a limited amount of time to do the drive from British Columbia to Ontario, and won’t have much time for sightseeing.

By driving through the United States I’ll be able to shave a full day of driving off the entire trip on my route, which is what I’ve decided to do.

Preparing My Vehicle

Before going on any long road trip, it’s always a good idea to have your vehicle inspected by a reliable mechanic. I recently took mine down to the shop and they told me that my engine mount had a slight crack in it and I had a bent control arm for my front suspension. I probably could have made it to Ontario without dealing with either of those issues, but I thought it was worth it to have it done beforehand to minimize the chances of anything going wrong on the road.

A few other items you may want to consider having done as well are:

  • Have an oil change done if you’re getting close. If you’re not sure, have it done anyways.
  • Have your air filter replaced, especially if you live in a dusty area.
  • Check your tire pressure and fill any tires that are low. Many places such as Kal Tire will even do this for free for you. Make sure you check your spare tire as well.
  • Have all your fluids (such as windshield wiper fluid) topped up before the trip.

Choosing The Route

My goal is to do the drive from Chilliwack, British Columbia to Hamilton, Ontario in five days. Google says it’s 40 hours of driving when traffic is good, which means that my girlfriend and I have to drive an average of eight hours a day. Thankfully she can drive as well, which means both of us can take a break from time to time to make it easier on the other person.

Since we’ll be fresh at the start of the trip though, we’ve decided to do a few hard days so we can have a few easier ones at the end. Both my girlfriend and I would like to stop in Chicago for a few hours as well, so we’ll push hard at first to try and make that happen.

The route we’ll be taking is as follows:

Our Route to Hamilton, ON

Our Route to Hamilton, ON

Here’s a rough guess of where we’ll likely stop each night, and how long we’ll be driving each day:

  • Day 1: Chilliwack, BC to Butte, MT – 11 hours, 1,150 kms
  • Day 2: Butte, MT to Fargo, ND – 12 hours, 1,300 kms
  • Day 3: Fargo, ND to Rockford, IL – 8 hours, 917 kms
  • Day 4: Rockford, IL to Battle Creek, MI (stopping in Chicago for 4 hours) – 4 hours, 418 kms
  • Day 5: Battle Creek, MI to Hamilton, On – 5 hours, 505 kms

Taking My Belongings

The only real catch with driving through the United States is having a full carload worth of electronics with me. One of my concerns originally when planning was that Canada customs might give me some grief when I cross back into Canada if they think I purchased some items in the United States. I called Canada Customs the other day and they suggested that I stop at their facility on the border before crossing into the United States and present an inventory of all my items, along with each device’s serial number (for the electronics). Presumably they will stamp this document so I can show it to the custom’s agent near Sarnia when we cross back into Canada.

The Final Countdown!

We’ll be leaving Chilliwack, BC, hopefully around 8am or so this upcoming Sunday and pressing hard towards Montana. I’m really looking forward to the drive, and ultimately ending up in Hamilton for Dale’s stag, Dale and Roz’s wedding, and then a one week all-inclusive trip to the Mayan Riviera. As such, I don’t mind pressing hard for five days knowing that in just a few weeks we’ll be sipping cervezas by the pool in Mexico.

The post Preparing for a Road Trip Across North America appeared first on The Migratory Nerd.

21 Jul 14:04

Observations on hg and git

Having recently moved to using Git from Mercurial here are my observations:

Git just works

No matter what I try to do, there's a short and simple git command that does it. Need to copy a single file from one branch to my current branch, need to roll back the last two commits and place their changes into the index, need to push or pull from a local branch to a remote and differently named branch, there are all ways to do those things. More importantly, Git does them natively, I don't have to turn on plugins to get a particular piece of functionality.

Turning on plugins is a hurdle

The fact that what I consider to be core functionality is hidden away in plugins and need to be turned on manually is an issue. For example, look at this section of the docs for the Google API Python Client:

A big thing that trips up contributors is that "--rebase" is in a plugin (and I keep forgetting to update the docs to explain that).

Git is fast

So Git is fast, not just "ooh that was fast", but fast as in, "there must have been a problem because there's no way it could have worked that fast". That's a feature.


Git branches are much smoother and integrated than MQ. Maybe this is just because I got stuck on MQ and never learned another way to use hg, but the branch and merge workflow is a lot better than MQ.


In Git ssh: URIs just work for me. Maybe I just got lucky, or was previously unlucky, but I never seemed to be able to pull or push to a remote repository via ssh with hg, and it just worked as advertised with Git.


Git is helpful. Git is filled with helpful messages, many of the form "it looks like you are trying to do blah, here's the exact command line for that", or "you seem to be in 'weird state foo', here's a couple different command lines you might use to rectify the situation". Obviously those are paraphrasing, but the general idea of providing long, helpful messages with actual commands in them is done well throughout Git.


I'm not writing this to cast aspersions on the Mercurial developers, and I've already passed this information along to developers that work on Mercurial. I am hoping that if you're building command line tools that you can incorporate some of the items here, such as helpful error messages, speed, and robust out-of-the-box capabilities.

21 Jul 14:17

"Corrupt personalization is the process by which your attention is drawn to interests that are not..."

“Corrupt personalization is the process by which your attention is drawn to interests that are not your own.”


Christian Sandvig, Corrupt Personalization

21 Jul 15:15

Mono Monday: Reflections of you

by Kay Kremerskothen

This Mono Monday, we’re looking at ourselves, in mirrors and other reflective surfaces. The photos below capture these slightly staged yet authentic moments of consciousness.

Please feel free to share your best monochrome photos by tweeting your Flickr images with #MonoMonday or add a comment to our Facebook and Google+ pages. Thanks to everyone who participated last week.

Next week’s theme is “Strangers in the night,” interpreted however you like. The only rule is mono.

Berlin Fernsehturm
ollewolfBerlin Fernsehturm
Tamer Animals
Kristin Van den EedeTamer Animals
Crack in the Mirror
CoolMcFlashCrack in the Mirror
Me and the others
Spyros PapaspyropoulosMe and the others

21 Jul 16:01

News Clip: Stranded Assets

by pricetags

SFU prof Anthony Perl has an op-ed in The Sun: Managing the risks of investing in coal exports

The future looks bleak for coal and we shouldn’t invest in it

The proposal to build coal shipment facilities at Fraser Surrey Docks (map here) and Texada Island for U.S.-mined thermal coal is at risk of becoming B.C.’s version of Mirabel Airport in Quebec — underused infrastructure built for a future which never arrived. …

Exporting U.S. coal may seem like a good deal for speculators looking for a quick buck, but B.C. taxpayers need to be protected from the risks of a quick collapse of coal exports in future. The best protection is to avoid expanding coal export infrastructure before the carbon bubble bursts.

So far, no response from Port Metro Vancouver.

21 Jul 15:33

Understand and implement laziness with examples in Scala, JavaScript, Swift and Racket

At first glance, laziness seems to be about efficiency.

In computing, laziness means delaying the computation of a value until the value is necessary.

(And, if the value is never necessary, it is never computed.)

In reality, laziness is more about expressiveness: laziness allows the expression of programs that would otherwise not terminate.

In some languages (like Scala, Swift and Perl), laziness also makes it possible to add new constructs to a language without using macros.

Since most languages do not provide support for laziness, this article explores how to implement laziness in languages that support closures.

We’ll look at manual transformations from languages that have native support for laziness (Scala) into (1) languages that do not support laziness (JavaScript) and (2) languages that have partial support (Swift).

We’ll also use macro-generating macros in Racket to implement native and transparent support for multiple kinds of laziness in a strict language.

Click here to read the rest of the article

21 Jul 15:35

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship,..."

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”


Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Terrible book, but a great quote.

21 Jul 15:47

Like A Peloton, Not A Machine

Organizational metaphors can be helpful to think about what’s going on in work culture. Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organizationis a great compendium of metaphors: organization as a machine, organism, brain, culture, political systems, etc. I also find Joanne Martin’s analysis of contending perspectives in management thinking a compelling technique (see Metaphors matter: Talking about how we talk about organizations).

Dan Pontefract has an interesting metaphor to share

Maybe if we were to act like a peloton in our organizations, we might see higher levels of employee engagement.


What’s a peloton?

In cycling speak, it’s what a pack of cyclists are called when they ride together. Check out the photo to the right for an example.

A peloton is a massive group of riders who ultimately work together — as a team — to move from one distance to another. Take away competitive cycling competitions for a moment (eg. Giro d’Italia or Tour de France) and think about amateur cyclists going out for weekend rides or events like the GranFondo between Vancouver and Whistler.

These women and men ride together as a team but what happens along the journey?

  • Sharing the load
    • Cyclists take turns at the front of the pack (ie. the peloton) to both set the pace and to protect others behind them from the wind. (A process known as drafting)
    • Those in front exert extra effort so others in the back can save some of their energy for their turn at the front at another interval in the ride
  • Proactive Communication
    • Often in a peloton, cyclists are proactively communicating with each other
    • If there is debris on the road, hand signals from whomever is in front alerts cyclists in the back to be careful
    • “On your right” or “stopping” are simple examples that cyclists shout out in the peloton to inform others of their intentions
    • “My turn to share the front” or “anyone need food or water” are other proactive examples of communication happening inside the peloton
  • Encouragement and Recognition
    • Whenever there are difficult impediments like tough gradients, sideways wind, pellets of rain, or even the successful maneuvering around unforeseen wildlife, cyclists from within the peloton are quick to recognize the effort or encourage the effort to continue
    • It really is a culture of encouragement inside the peloton

I like the peloton metaphor for the way that riders take turns as leader, and then fall back after making that contribution. This aligns with the notion of leanership very well.

21 Jul 16:34

A Very Green Place

by pricetags

You have to get away from Vancouver to appreciate how really green it is. I’m talking about the lavishness of things with leaves.

Here’s last Thursday’s City Conversations, held in the little park at the foot of Hornby Street, on the topic of public art.  We take the green stuff pretty much as a given: Nature’s public art.



21 Jul 15:43

Marked Released On Mac App Store, Discounted, and Updated

by Federico Viticci

Marked, developed by Brett Terpstra, is my must-have utility to convert MultiMarkdown to HTML on my Mac. Whenever I need to publish an article from OS X rather than my iPad (usually because I need to record and include GIFs or screencasts), I rely on Marked to handle conversion to valid HTML with a keyboard shortcut. And yet, as we've shown before, there is so much that Marked can do, such as printing to a variety of formats, keyword and readability analysis, and more.

Today, Brett released version 2.3 of Marked and made it available on the Mac App Store as well. Both versions of the app share the same features and they are both sandboxed to comply with Apple's App Store rules. However, in spite of the restrictions, Marked hasn't lost its functionality – instead, Brett managed to add new options such as full GitHub Flavored Markdown support, improved PDF export stability, a document reading progress bar (I love this), and a mini map for navigation with fast scrolling.

What I still find most impressive about Marked isn't its feature set per se, but rather how the app can be used as a simple tool for short posts or an advanced solution for writers who are working on a book or long documents. Marked is incredibly powerful and flexible and, at $9.99 on the Mac App Store as a limited time sale, I highly recommend it.

(Check out Brett's blog post and our previous coverage of Marked.)

∞ Read this on MacStories

21 Jul 17:10

YVR versus a SkyTrain station: Which has the most traffic?

by pricetags

TransLink’s representative for the redesign of the Broadway-Commercial station, Bryan Shaw of AECOM, told the City of Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel, as quoted in NRU:

… the site is quite constricted and yet it must handle more passengers annually than Vancouver International Airport does, or about 115,000 per day

The panel has not been overly enthusiastic about the new design, narrowly supporting it by a 4-3 vote, recognizing that without context, because of unknown zoning in the ongoing Grandview-Woodland plan, it is difficult to design a major station.  More work, say panel members, is needed.  And some wondered if the pedestrian passerelle across Broadway, proposed to be expanded, is still too narrow.

Note the difference in approach to rapid transit versus our commitment of resources to airports, bridges and roads.

21 Jul 16:50

Moto E arrives at Staples Canada for $179 unlocked

by Ian Hardy

We first saw the Moto E way back in May, when Motorola told us that its newest budget smartphone would be available in Canada sometime this summer. Well, sometime is today, because Motorola’s budget Android smartphone has finally arrived. Big box retailer Staples has released the unlocked Moto E and it’s ready to sell for the ripe price of $180 ($179.62 to be exact).

The Moto E sports a 4.3-inch display (resolution of 960 x 540) and runs on a dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, as well as 1 GB of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage (with support for expansion up to 32 GB via MicroSD), a 5-MP camera, a built-in FM radio and a 1980 mAh battery. The whole show is running on Android 4.4 with minimal customizations.

The Moto E’s target demographic is those that have yet to make the move from dumbphone to smartphone, or the people that don’t want ‘entry-level’ to mean a two year old phone running an ancient version of Android with no hope of an update.

Read more: Moto E review


21 Jul 00:00

Stephen Downes on the Personal Learning Environment at the LSE

Mark Johnson, Improvisation Blog, Jul 22, 2014

There's enough in this post to catch my eye for its different perspective (and yes, a perspective I don't agree with):

  • first, the proposition that it is "ironic" that I would speak at the London School of Economics about shifting the locus of control from institutions "at one of the great institutions of the social sciences (from whom control might be wrested)," to which I respond in a comment
  • the suggestion that PLEs failed because PLEX failed, even though ti was similar to things like the app stores
  • paper framing the questions he would ask me about the personal learning environment, since he and I are both still working on it
  • the "technological reifications" of "idealised learning" are becoming "quite common, and becoming increasingly common in education: we should be worried about this"
  • the assertion that "Downes is stuck because he's obsessed with learning. Yet, all around him he's confronted by evidence that his learning theories cannot be right (MOOCs)."

All good stuff. Well worth reading.

[Link] [Comment]
21 Jul 00:00

Beyond institutions: Stephen Downes at NetworkEDGE


Sonja Grussendorf, CLT @ LSE, Jul 22, 2014

This is a response to my talk at the London School of Economics. "Here’ s a dedicated anti-establishment guy, who despairs at the capitalist ideology at the core of education; who dislikes that learning is now an industry... of course Downes is no Nietzsche, but there is a certain Nietzschean sentiment in his ideas." Yes there is - what Nietzsche and I share is the Taoist idea that many of the structures and principles we think of as eternal and unchanging are in fact human creations and can be transcended and/or replaced. Of course, I'm no Lao Tzu either. :)

[Link] [Comment]
21 Jul 18:07

Keeping a Journal

My memory is horseshit.

My friend has a staggeringly impressive memory, effortlessly explaining in great detail about the first conversation we had together. I pat myself on the back if I'm able to remember which country it happened in.

But one of the best things I did last year was start writing a personal journal again.

Journals are the Google of the mind

Remember when you had to remember things? Well, probably not. But if you did remember, you'd recall not being able to simply Google facts from the dinner table.

Keeping a personal journal is like that. It's how I realize that my memory isn't completely faulty, it's just slow to make connections from time to time. It's startling how many entirely-forgotten events will vividly come back to me if I just have a starting point. Reading an old entry will transport me pretty close to that initial frame of mind.

What to write about

I started a journal in high school, but mostly stopped in college. It kills me that I didn't write during the first few years in the working world. It almost feels like I didn't even live those years.

I mean, what I wrote in high school was not Pulitzer Prize quality material:

June 16, 2004:
The movie "The Day After Tomorrow" somewhat frightens me. What would I do if there were an apocalyptic event? I feel like I should layer up. Maybe wear heavier coats.

Most of my entries were banal commentary on girls, depression, school and music, and were oddly passionate about things like how to correctly serve popcorn while volunteering at a local community event. The fierce passion about these events has greatly tapered off now — save for my continued interest in popcorn — but reading them today is interesting. It brings me back.

It's not just about writing "important" entries, either. Reading how I coped with my friend dying, the first few dates I went on, living through the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion... those are really fascinating to me to read now. The entries where I write in detail about an utterly boring, normal day are also fascinating. I think in some sense you're as defined by your mindless thoughts on a three hour car trip as much as you are by the trip you take halfway across the world.

How to journal

Journaling is different than writing for the public. Favor quantity over quality. Pick whatever gets you writing as much as possible. If that's a notebook every night by your bed, do that. If it's an app, use that.

For writing, I take a combination of approaches, depending on context. Most of my day-to-day goes into Day One. It's beautiful, and works on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. For other contexts, I've found a plaintext file in a directory works great.


Writing doesn't tickle your fancy? Take photos. I geotag every photo I take, and I try to take photos for me: little visual reminders of situations I've been in. Not everything needs a special filter so you get Maximum Instagram Likes™. Unremarkable photos of a brick wall might later remind me of the interesting conversation I had while leaning on it, for example.

Write for you

Like most things, if you do something regularly you're eventually going to become better at it. Writing's no different. What's more, the act of writing is kind of like defragging your mind: if I had a rough day dealing with someone, I've found that sitting down and writing about it helps organize my thoughts and emotions about what happened. I end up understanding the situation better and feel better prepared for dealing with it in the future.

Just remember that, above all, this is about you. You're the one living your life. If you don't keep track of it, what's the point?

This guy Socrates said: "the life which is unexamined is not worth living". I don't remember what he means by that, but I'll think about it later.

21 Jul 16:23

It’s Time to Split Up Microsoft

by Ben Thompson

To understand why so many serious Microsoft observers were encouraged by Satya Nadella’s week-ago memo Bold Ambition and Our Core,1 it’s useful to go back 10 years and read Steve Ballmer’s 2004 memo Our Path Forward. It was around this time that cracks were first starting to appear in the Microsoft machine: the stock had been stagnant for going on four years, Windows XP was besieged by a security crisis, and Microsoft was about to announce the reboot of Windows Vista née Longhorn. Meanwhile, the iPod was exploding, and Google’s stock price had quadrupled since its IPO earlier that year on the back of its 85% share of search.

In response, Ballmer said that Microsoft needed to innovate:

The key to our growth is innovation. Microsoft was built on innovation, has thrived on innovation, and its future depends on innovation. We are filing for over 2,000 patents a year for new technologies, and we see that number increasing. We lead in innovation in most areas where we compete, and where we do lag – like search and online music distribution – rest assured that the race to innovate has just begun and we will pull ahead. Our innovation pipeline is strong, and these innovations will lead to revenue growth from market expansion, share growth, new scenarios, value-add through services (alone and in partnership with network operators), and using software to open up new areas. Our focus areas are:

Ballmer then listed 10 different areas of “focus”, the vast majority of which were themselves so broad as to be meaningless. More disturbing than Ballmer’s abuse of the word focus, though was the fact that mobile barely figured in those ten areas. Here is the one mention:

Non-PC Consumer Electronics: The opportunity is virtually unlimited to integrate the richness and intelligence of the PC world with everyday devices such as mobile phones, handheld devices, home entertainment and TV. At the center of our efforts are products such as Pocket PC and Smartphone, Portable Media Center, MSTV, MSN TV, Windows Automotive, the Windows Media Center Extender, and other electronic devices built on Windows CE and Windows XP Embedded.

Even here, mobile phones are only useful insomuch as they “integrate the richness and intelligence of the PC world.” Ballmer and Microsoft simply could not break free of their Windows-first mindset, and while it would be another 3 years before the iPhone arrived, it was this memo and what it represented that marked the beginning of Microsoft’s decline.

The Power of Monopoly

It’s easy to dump on Microsoft now, but even easier to forget just how impressive and seemingly impregnable their core business once was.2 I have written multiple times that tech companies ought to be either vertically/platform focused, with software and services that differentiate hardware (like Apple), or horizontally/service focused, with the goal of offering superior software and services on all devices (like Google and Facebook). To try and do both, as Ballmer explicitly did with his “Devices and Services” strategy, is to do neither well: differentiating your devices by definition means offering an inferior service on other platforms; offering superior services everywhere means commoditizing your own devices. “Devices and Services” was nonsense.

Still, it’s understandable why Ballmer thought differently: Microsoft in the 90s managed to do exactly what I just said was impossible. Because Windows was a monopoly, making their software and services work everywhere meant making them work on Windows. There was no choice between horizontal and vertical, and the company profited fabulously. Over time Microsoft added a server component to this virtuous cycle: people depended on Office, which ran on Windows, and was enhanced by services like Exchange Server, Sharepoint Server, SQL Server, etc. It didn’t matter that Office for Mac kind of stunk; that product mostly existed because of a (failed) attempt to fend off antitrust watchdogs, and it made a ton of money to boot.

This cycle is why breaking up Microsoft, as Thomas Penfield Jackson originally ruled in 2000, would have been truly destructive to shareholder value. The company was strong because its products built on each other, and at the root of that strength was the Windows monopoly.

Microsoft’s Opportunity

Fast forward to last Monday, and the opening of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference. COO Kevin Turner put up this slide:

Kevin Turner's slide at WPC. Curiously, and in contrast to the rest of WPC, Microsoft has not made Turner's keynote available publicly.

Kevin Turner’s slide at WPC. Curiously, and in contrast to the rest of WPC, Microsoft has not made Turner’s keynote available publicly.

A monopoly that is not.

My first reaction to this slide was quite positive, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think the slide represents Microsoft’s biggest issue moving forward. It’s not that their devices share is at 14% – that’s just a fact, and I applaud the honesty; rather, I’m bothered by the phrase “We have a big opportunity.” For Turner, the opportunity is in growing that 14%. As quoted by Gregg Keizer:

We want to go from 14% to 18%, from 18% to 25%, from 25% to 30%. That’s the beauty of this model … [the opportunity] is much bigger than anything we’ve had in the past.

Turner is still talking about devices, and it’s really too bad, because the real opportunity is in the 86%. Microsoft already has software and services like Skype, Bing, and OneDrive that work right now on 100% of that pie; it’s only a matter of time until the same can be said for Office. That is the opportunity; to even think about the share of devices, particularly at the executive level, is to handicap Microsoft’s greatest chance for growth before it even truly gets started. It’s not just that Windows is no longer Office’s only market that matters; it’s that Windows and Microsoft’s devices focus is actively damaging Office’s prospects.

Nadella’s Memo

And so we are back to Nadella’s memo. In contrast to Ballmer’s anything-but-“focus,” Nadella was quite specific:

More recently, we have described ourselves as a “devices and services” company. While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy.

At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.

Nadella was clear that focusing on “every person” meant focusing on every device as well:

[Microsoft’s productivity apps] will be built for other ecosystems so as people move from device to device, so will their content and the richness of their services – it’s one way we keep people, not devices, at the center.

This is exactly right. Nadella is making a choice here: productivity as a single unifying principle, and by extension, services based on people, not differentiation based on devices. Moreover, it’s a far more difficult and brave choice – obvious though it may be – than outside observers could likely understand. It was only a little over a year ago that Ballmer declared, “Nothing is more important at Microsoft than Windows.”

Last week, Nadella said “No.”

The Power of Culture

The problem, though, was elucidated by Nadella himself in an interview with The Verge:

At the end of the day, look, any strategy gets eaten for lunch if you don’t have a culture that’s also changing.

Nadella is referencing the famous Peter Drucker3 quote “Culture eats strategy over breakfast”; unfortunately, as we have already seen with Kevin Turner’s presentation, that is almost certainly what will happen at Microsoft. For all the talk of moving beyond Windows (and Windows Phone), I am deeply skeptical that Microsoft can truly pursue its potential as a software and services company as long as Windows is around. Culture is developed over years, and for decades everything at Microsoft was about Windows. Read again Ballmer’s statement:

Nothing is more important at Microsoft than Windows

The problem for Nadella and Microsoft is that ultimately this wasn’t a declaration of strategy; it was a declaration of fact, and facts don’t change by fiat.

Understanding Nokia

This is how one can really understand why Ballmer – over the objection of Nadella, among others – made the disastrously stupid decision to buy Nokia. We now know for a fact that my speculation at the time that Nokia was about to introduce Android phones was spot-on, and the terms of the deal suggest that Nokia was having financial difficulties as well; if Microsoft would have lost Nokia, they would have lost Windows Phone, and Ballmer saw that as a mortal threat. Never mind that Windows Phone is for all-intents-and-purposes already dead; the thing about culture is that it not only eats strategy, it washes it down with a potent mixture of selective facts and undue optimism.

In so doing, though, Ballmer dramatically compounded his 2004 error. When Nadella took over earlier this year Microsoft had not only missed the mobile boat, he was now saddled with a $7.2 billion dollar anchor and 34,000 new employees. That’s the thing about last week’s layoffs: even after shedding 18,000 employees Microsoft will still be about 16% bigger than they were before the acquisition, and still tightly bound to a devices group that is working at diametrically opposed goals from the software and services businesses that are Microsoft’s future.

The Solution

It was just about year ago that I wrote in Services, Not Devices:

The truth is that Microsoft is wrapping itself around an axle of it’s own creation. The solution to the secular collapse of the PC market is not to seek to prop up Windows and force an integrated solution that no one is asking for; rather, the goal should be the exact opposite. Maximum effort should be focused on making Office, Server, and all the other products less subservient to Windows and more in line with consumer needs and the reality of computing in 2013…

As for Windows, let it focus on solidifying Microsoft’s hold on the enterprise (it’s here the need to fight the iPad is most acute), with a nice spillover into Home PCs and gaming, and accept the fact Windows was only ever relevant in the consumer market because nobody got fired for buying IBM.

In other words, keep Windows as a cash cow, but be explicit that the future was in cross-platform services. Unfortunately, this was before the Nokia deal. The effects of that deal – and understanding why it was made – have convinced me that Microsoft cannot truly reach its potential as a services company as long as Windows and the entire devices business is in tow.

In short, it’s time to break Microsoft up.

In 2000, Windows, Office, and Server were a virtuous cycle. Today, Windows and the entire devices business is nothing but a tax. Microsoft is a company that is meant to serve the entire market, and the way to do that is through services on every device. It’s all fine and well to say that you will treat devices equally, but given Microsoft’s history – and the power of culture – I just don’t believe it’s possible.

I would create two companies: the devices side, which includes Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox, and let them do the best they can to grow that 14%. Heck, make Kevin Turner the CEO. Windows profits will keep the company going for quite a while, and who knows, maybe they’ll nail what is next.4

The other company, the interesting company, is the services side – the productivity side, to use Nadella’s descriptor. This company would be built around Office, Azure, and Microsoft’s consumer web services including Bing5, Skype and OneDrive.6 These products don’t need Windows; they need permission to be the best regardless of device.

Of course, the Windows company does need Office, and Azure, and all the other Microsoft growth engines, and this cleavage would likely hasten Windows’ decline. But that’s exactly why a split needs to happen: anything Office or Azure or Microsoft’s other services do to prop up Windows – that focuses on that 14% – by definition limits Microsoft’s opportunity to address the far bigger part of the pie that ought to be the future.

  1. I’m very puzzled by the URL here: It is “”, which means this email is the de facto home page for Satya Nadella. I presume that won’t be the case forever, but how then will you find this note?
  2. To be clear, from a revenue and profit perspective, the business still is incredibly impressive. Microsoft still makes more revenue and profits than Google. Revenue in particular, though, is trending in the wrong direction, and Microsoft’s decline in relevancy, particularly in the consumer market, is large
  3. Supposedly
  4. One more thing: this devices company would not have killed Nokia’s feature phone business. The “tax” works in both directions
  5. Don’t laugh; the thing with search is that when you reach the tipping point, it can become very profitable very quickly, and Bing is getting closer
  6. Probably the toughest division to split would be the on-premise server groups. On one hand, they make Office go; on the other hand, their incentives and sales patterns aren’t perfectly aligned with Azure and Office 365. I could see arguments on both sides, but would tend towards leaving them with the new Services Microsoft

The post It’s Time to Split Up Microsoft appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

21 Jul 17:18

Glassboard Changes

I’ve been watching with interest as Justin Williams works to turn Glassboard into a sustainable service. It’s not profitable or even break-even at this point — but he’s making changes to turn this around.

Those changes do mean that people using Glassboard for free will be more limited than they were. For example, boards created by non-paying users will be limited to five members — but people can buy a basic membership for $1/month and get up to 25 members.

That’s reasonable. If something isn’t worth $1/month to me, then it’s not worth my time at all.

A few people are complaining on Twitter, of course. And some of the complaints seem to be based on the same magical internet thinking that has led to so much doom and heartbreak — that if you make a whole bunch of people happy by giving them wonderful free things, you’ll be rolling in dough.

And when that thinking is contradicted by facts and logic, that magical thinking says: you should have given them more and even better wonderful free things, and it would have worked out.

I like how Justin is handling all this. He’s direct and clear. Some may take this as bluntness, and it’s true that Justin might never get accepted to the diplomatic corps. But it’s because he doesn’t care about being liked so much as providing a great service. And that’s what we should want him to care about.

I use Glassboard all day every day. Our internal Q Branch communication goes through Glassboard. We have a board for Vesper beta testers. Chris Parrish and I have a board where we work on The Record. Seattle Xcoders has a board. My family has several boards.

I like that it’s simple and private, that there are no ads, and that we’re not being tracked for nefarious reasons. It’s no Google or Facebook where the users are the product — it’s an honest service that is itself the product. As it should be.

I can imagine being in Justin’s shoes. As a fellow indie doing a hard job, he deserves our best wishes. And, if you find the service useful — as I most certainly do — it deserves your financial support. Because we developers all know that wonderful things are not free — or, if they are, they don’t last.

21 Jul 18:50

FirefoxOS v2.0 is possibly the easiest-to-use smartphone operating system I’ve experienced

by Doug Belshaw

My father’s always been a fairly early adopter of technology. He happily uses a device that wirelessly connects his golf club to his iPhone, for example. My mother? Not so much. Until this weekend she was still sporting an old Nokia feature phone. She kind of wanted a smartphone, but didn’t want the complexity, nor the expense.

FirefoxOS v2.0

Meanwhile, I’ve been using a Geeksphone Peak smartphone recently. It’s not the latest FirefoxOS device (that would be the Flame), but it’s a significant step up from last year’s Geeksphone Keon. I’ve been using the pre-release channel of v2.0 of FirefoxOS, which is a departure from previous versions. Whereas they were similar in look and feel to Android, FirefoxOS v2.0 is different.

Every weekend, we go over to my parents’ house for Sunday lunch. Yesterday, we got talking about technology and I showed my parents my FirefoxOS device. One thing led to another, and (because all of my stuff was backed up) I wiped the phone, transferred my mother’s contacts, and swapped SIM cards. My wife gave her some tips, and then we drove off into the sunset with her Nokia phone.

I don’t think I would have felt comfortable leaving her without her old phone to revert back to if I was giving her an Android device or iPhone. There’s something so simple yet so powerful about Firefox v2.0; I’m happy to use it myself and hand it over to other, more technophobic people. Yes, I understand that I’m a Mozilla employee fully invested in the mission, but those who know me understand I also don’t say positive things about specific technologies without good reason.

According to the roadmap, today’s the day that FirefoxOS v2.0 becomes feature complete. There’s some really nice features in there too, like WebRTC (imagine Skype/FaceTime, but just using web technologies), edge gestures (something I really missed from my old Nokia N9) and Sync. If you haven’t had a chance to try one out, I’d take a look at FirefoxOS device over the coming months. The operating system is currently being tested on tablets and TVs and means, of course, smart devices without the usual vendor lock-in.

Note: the screenshots are from this post as I forgot to take some before wiping the phone and lending it to my mother!

21 Jul 18:30

Apple products set to return to Costco after four years

by Jane McEntegart

Costco members haven’t been able to buy Apple products at their favourite warehouse since 2010, the days of the iPhone 4 and the original, first generation iPad. Even then, the chain only sold Apple products in its physical stores and not online. That’s all about to change, though.

Late last month, Costco USA started selling Apple electronics via its website. Now, Costco Canada is reportedly set to do the same. iPhone in Canada cites sources that say Apple will carry the iPod touch and iPod nano as well as the Retina and non-Retina versions of the iPad mini and the iPad Air.

The discounts won’t be huge compared to Apple’s Canadian prices. Right now, Apple is selling the 16 GB iPod nano for $150, while Costco will apparently offer the same device for $144. The 16 GB iPod touch will also be available for $5 off ($215 versus $220). The 32 GB model will be the same price through Apple or Costco. The biggest savings will be on iPads. Though the 16 GB first gen iPad mini is only $5 less than Apple’s pricing, the 16 GB 4th gen iPad is $10 off ($389 at Costco). The 16 GB and 32 GB Retina display iPad Mini, and the 32 GB and 64 GB iPad Air will all be available at a $20 discount.

The decision for Costco to stop selling Apple products way back in 2010 was a mutual one, but neither company has commented on the reasoning for this about face. Apple’s products have yet to show up on Costco’s Canadian site, but iPhone in Canada reports that the new Guelph location set to open on July 25 will be the first to stock iPads and iPods.

21 Jul 19:51

Samsung reminds everyone the iPhone has a small display, says to stop waiting

by Evan Selleck
Samsung’s tagline, “The Next Big Thing is Here,” has proven quite adaptable, as the company continues to use it for just about everything they launch when it comes to the mobile market. Obviously, it makes sense, considering the devices keep getting bigger. And now they want to remind everyone that the main competition has a smaller display. Continue reading →
21 Jul 20:45

Final Recon Jet design shown in latest preview, still on track for September ship date

by Daniel Bader

Vancouver’s Recon Instruments has been toiling away at designing the perfect Heads-up Display (HUD) for athletes since mid-2013, and had planned to release the $600 wearable in the spring.

But that period came and went, and on May 1st the co-founder, Dan Eisenhardt, performed the hard task of admitting the team was behind schedule, delaying final ship date until September 25th.

In a recent blog post, the company showed off the latest industrial design for the Jet, which features, similar to Google Glass, an eye-level screen, a camera for shooting video and stills, an optical trackpad for navigation, and connectivity with a number of smartphones and Bluetooth-enabled wearables.

The final hardware shows a smaller, more balanced design, with a “re-articulation of Jet’s computing engine, now raked upwards versus earlier designs.” This reportedly improves viewing angles and the camera orientation, as well as improving the overall fit of the product. The company has also ensured IP65 water protection, which makes the HUD capable of withstanding a rain storm but not submersion.

While it is aimed at athletes, the Recon Jet looks to be one of the first market-ready HUDs people will actually want to buy. Sports are scenarios where many athletes don’t have the benefits of a free hand, and being able to see relevant information like topography, speed and heart rate could mean the difference between a good showing and a great one.

21 Jul 14:24

Localized screencasts perform better – go figure

by Verdi

Planet Mozilla viewers – you can watch this video on YouTube.

I created this video about bookmarks for Firefox 29. It’s in English and has closed captions for a few languages, including German. But you can see from this audience retention data that German speakers don’t watch the video as much as English speakers.

So, with Kadir‘s help, I made a German version (above). You can see that this video performs much better in German speaking locales. Of course this is what we expected but it’s cool to see how plainly it shows up.

Note: Rewinding and re-watching can result in values higher than 100%.

21 Jul 17:15

How to Tell If You’re Just Dabbling with Digital

by Charlene Li

Digital transformation is hot — in a new Altimeter Report, “The State of Digital Transformation”, we found that 88% of organizations we surveyed said that they were undergoing a formal digital transformation effort, which Altimeter defines as “the re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital consumers at […]

The post How to Tell If You’re Just Dabbling with Digital appeared first on Charlene Li.