You can ride your bike in anything - no special clothes are required - but having a few bike conveniences is awesome. Bern agrees, and has built those conveniences into a new line of casual commuter wear.
30/70 cotton/poly blend
Zippered rear jersey pocket
Snap closures from collar to chest
Button and band to hold rolled cuff securely in place
Breast pocket with snap
Snaps instead of buttons close the shirt from the collar to mid-chest so you can easily let in a breeze one handed while riding. There's also a zippered jersey pocket for a wallet or phone, and a mid-sleeve button to keep a rolled cuff in place, no matter how bumpy your ride.
Available in a red or gray chain link print and solid olive green.
You can ride your bike in anything - no special clothes required - but having a few bike conveniences is awesome. Bern agrees, and has built those conveniences into a new line of casual commuter wear, available in San Francisco exclusively at Mission Bicycle.
This men's collared shirt in red and gray closes with snaps up top instead of buttons, so you can easily let in a breeze with one hand while riding. There's also a zippered jersey pocket, and a Swiss tab on the long sleeve cut to keep a rolled cuff in place. Available short sleeve and long sleeve.
There's more: We've got jeans and shorts in the shop now, and jackets are on their way. This line won’t be officially launched until next year, so If you're around SF stop by to check it out now.
As usual the only beneficiary from changes to Android is Google.
Google has launched a new app. on iOS that will allow devices that run Android wear to synchronise and integrate with the iPhone.
Many of the core Google Digital Life services that run on iOS will now be available through a paired Android Wear device along with the usual data and fitness functions.
Older Android Wear devices will not be supported but LG, Motorola and Huawei devices are already up and running and all future devices will have this capability.
From Google’s perspective, this makes complete sense as Google still generates around 50% of its mobile advertising revenues from iOS devices.
Hence it is in its interest to ensure that on iOS, its services work seamlessly and offer users as much functionality as possible.
However, from a hardware maker’s perspective this added functionality offers very little, if any benefit.
One of the only areas left to an Android hardware maker to differentiate is through a cross-device strategy.
The idea here is to ensure that all of its devices work as seamlessly as possible with the other device types that it makes.
The hope here is that this will encourage a user of one device to have a preference in another device category for the same manufacturer.
If user preference can be created then there is scope to increase prices somewhat and make more than a commodity margin.
This is one of Samsung’s strategies to keep its margins high after ceding the entirety of the ecosystem to Google (see here).
However, by making Android Wear work well with iOS, Google is undermining that strategy and making it even harder for the long suffering device makers to be anything other than commodities.
Hence, I think the current outlook of 2-4% EBIT margins for Android devices remains intact and may even come under further pressure as the smartphone market continues to slow down.
Samsung is the one exception but I think that its margins (10% – 12%) are driven almost entirely by scale as it outsells its nearest competitor by more than 2 to 1.
The net result is that the only real beneficiary from Android remains Google and I fully expect it to continue operating in its own best interests to the detriment of its hardware partners who have nowhere else to go.
Google still has huge problems to solve with Android (see here) but even without fixing these issues, Android remains a huge revenue and profit generator for Google.
Google has dropped back below what I consider to be fair value but at $618, there is very little upside for shareholders.
I would consider Microsoft as a much better place to look.
As I watched this movie the first thing that came into my mind was
Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not choice. It is man’s pretence that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity. – J.Krishnamurti
The biggest threat1 mass spying is that it influences the way citizen think and behave in public. In a way it alters the public discourse and future of the country. It creates second grade citizenry.
Globalshapers – Bangalore screened the documentary Citizenfour. I was very happy with the gathering. More people turned up than I expected. After the movie there was an interesting question and answer session. Most were interested in C&D that I received. That led to a discussion on how anyone can keep their private affairs private. Well there is no easy answer to that.
You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk. If they want to get you, over time they will. – Edward Snowden, NSA files source: ‘If they want to get you, in time they will’, The Guardian, 10 June 2013.
That said cryptography does help one to keep most of one’s affairs private. Sometime back I wrote a how-to on online privacy. That article still holds good. But that said take it with a pinch of salt.
Karthik shared the ideas behind SaveTheInternet campaign and NetNeutrailty in India. Overall it was a great gathering. Kudos to Global-Shapers Bangalore team.
Great story: the most obsolete infrastructure money could buy. If you know the meaning of words/acronyms like RCS, VAX, VMS, Xenix, Kermit and many others and have been waiting anxiously for a chance to see them use in actual sentences once more, here’s your chance. Choice quotes:
[…] on my first day I found that X was running what was supposedly largest VAXcluster remaining in the world, for doing their production builds. Yes, dozens of VAXen running VMS, working as a cross-compile farm, producing x86 code. You might wonder a bit about the viability of the VAX as computing platform in the year 2005. Especially for something as cpu-bound as compiling. But don’t worry, one of my new coworkers had as their current task evaluating whether this should be migrated to VMS/Alpha or to VMS/VAX running under a VAX emulator on x86-64
After a couple of months of twiddling my thumbs and mostly reading up on all this mysterious infrastructure, a huge package arrived addressed to this compiler project. […]
Why it’s the server that we’ll use for compiling one of the compiler suites once we get the source code! A Intel System/86 with a genuine 80286 CPU, running Intel Xenix 286 3.5. The best way to interface with all this computing power is over a 9600 bps serial port. Luckily the previous owners were kind enough to pre-install Kermit on the spacious 40MB hard drive of the machine, and I didn’t need to track down a floppy drive or a Xenix 286 Kermit or rz/sz binary. God, what primitive pieces of crap that machine and OS were.
Go read it, and try to avoid laughing, crying, shuddering, or shaking your head (possibly all at the same time).
Four years ago we wrote two posts about our dog Billy learning to ride in the basket. Take a look here if you’ve forgotten how cute and brave he was! And of course, below is our video of Billy’s first time in a pet basket on a bike. It still makes me chuckle every time […]
I’ll ease myself back into social networks over the next few days and weeks, but I just wanted to share some of my reflections on my changing attitude to Twitter in particular. I’m now over eight and a half years into using this particular social network; I can remember when people used to liken it to a café where you could overhear (and drop into) conversations with like-minded people. I think that’s still the case to some degree. However, to extend the metaphor, it’s now less like your favourite hipster coffee hangout and more like a gaudy tourist trap. The signal to noise ratio is all wrong.
This reminds me of what Warren Ellis, someone I’ve only recently started following, posted recently:
My internet generation has a ton of (aching, bruised) muscle memory for communicating and reading in several windows and apps across a couple of devices simultaneously. The new silence has my muscles twitching, yelling that we’re being lazy, but it’s just because nothing’s happening and nobody is talking. I read a thing the other day saying that the drop-off in new Twitter users is down to the fact that it’s now so loud that it’s lonely.
Waiting for my muscles to learn peace. My Twitter is DM-only now — I took my mentions/replies pane off, and only read my information lists. Think of it like rubbing painkillers into the internet.
Using Twitter solely for direct messaging is extremely tempting, especially now they’ve removed the 140-character limit. But, for now, I’ll simply fire up Tweetdeck on my Mac while resisting the urge to re-install the Twitter app on my smartphone. After all, during the past few weeks I’ve managed to learn again, as I always do during these self-imposed strictures, how to be alone in public without looking at a screen.
I have to say that I prefer the #BelshawBlackOps version of me. I think others do, too. I’m slightly more conservative when removed from the (admittedly self-created) vortex of left-leaning sentiment. I’m also more certain during these times of what I do and don’t like, and I’m more likely to show an interest in people rather than trying to show off to them.
During August I endeavored to meet for coffee with a good number of people while I was down in London. One blogger and author shared their concern that what we’re doing these days is simply an advanced version of content marketing. Brands are attempting to become more like people, and people more like brands. It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Now’s not the time to make any big promises or for grandstanding. But what I am going to commit to is providing more value to those following me. What I mean by that is to focus on the upper level of Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy — connecting together people and ideas to create something new. I think that’s much more useful than being the 15th person in your Twitter feed today to share the same link.
If you’re already a subscriber, then you don’t need to do anything. If you’re not, I hope you’ll take this as an invitation to sign up.
Finally, my sincere thanks go to you for reading this blog, or indeed any of my work. I think sometimes we forget (or at least I do) just how much of a privilege it is to be able to publish immediately, without censorship, to a worldwide audience of people.
Update: further to the Warren Ellis quotation above, I hadn’t caught up with one of his most recent post, in which he’s even more eloquent on the changing nature of social networking
Nice graphic and article depicting what 'teachers want' in professional development. I'm not sure how representative it is, but no matter. What's interesting to me is the gulf between what 'teachers want' in their own development, and what they provide in the classroom. Would they really allow students a "voice and choice" in the subject matter? Would they really provide learning "conducted by professionals with (field) expeerience"? Would they really provide learning experiences that allow them to "collaborate and speak honestly"? I don't know.
With threats like Stagefright making headlines in recent weeks, companies across the breadth of the smartphone industry are taking measures to prevent another large scale security issue from affecting the...
Canadian PayPal users now have an easier way to send and receive money thanks to PayPal.Me, the company’s newly announced peer-to-peer money transfer service. Announced today, the service allows users to...
“Say you have this guy pursuing you and he’s in love with you, but he’s just admiring you from afar. You’re dating this big macho guy who gets all the ladies, but he doesn’t treat you right. And you finally decide to give the other guy a chance, and that’s when you realize it’s a match made in heaven. And you ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t I go out with this person 10 years ago?’”
- Sarah Harbaugh, on why her husband, Jim Harbaugh, decided to coach the Michigan Wolverines rather than stay in the NFL.
Yesterday I ran across a Time Magazine piece from August 28th, titled Here’s How Startups Actually Start Up. As I read, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with much of what they had to say. And then I reached part 3, which reads (in part)
3. Shoring up intellectual property
Padlocking your product or service with an array of patents, trademarks, or copyrights can sound terribly dull, but the truth is it’s one of the most important steps to ensuring a budding company’s success. Without these protections, a competitor can swoop in and copy an idea without having to pay a dime for all the hard work done until this point.
“Issued patents may be used to stop competitors from entering the field and to recover damages for any infringement that occurred,” writes attorney Michael Kasdan in this excellent intellectual property explainer for startups. In addition, he writes, patents can protect a startup from getting sued for patent infringement by someone else.
Wrong. Let me be clear – patents are worthless to a startup. Companies that focus on patenting technology early in the game focus on the wrong thing.
Expensive and time-consuming to file, and maintain. That makes them a huge distraction from building the business.
Not guaranteed to grant. Examiners may have questions for months or years, and decide that there is prior art, or nothing defensible. Meanwhile, their queries are a huge distraction from building the business.
Often invalidated, or trumped by someone else’s patents.
Most are worth very little on the open market from a licensing perspective. And what business are you in really? Licensing your IP is just another distraction.
No startup actually has the wherewithal to prosecute a violator. And, of course, that would distracting from the main focus of the business.
Moreover, in some cases a business pivot has rendered the patent irrelevant to the new business direction.
Lest you think this an ill-informed point of view, check my LinkedIn profile – I have three patents to my name. They took years to grant, and these are the only three that granted of the 12 applications filed. Cost was over $200k. Worst of all, the company isn’t in the business anymore that these patents protected.
Some will argue that they can be used defensively at some undefined future point, should you find yourself in someone else’s gun sights. Congratulations. You weren’t distracted from building your business. You’re now big enough to matter, because you maintained focus on your business. Now it’s time to negotiate a license.
Patents are a big boy game, and nothing that a nimble, focused, fast-moving startup should ever consider.
It’s already a problem with seniors in the suburbs, and it’s going to explode in coming years.
The oldest boomers are now just 68. But there are 78 million of them, and as they get older, the impact on suburbia will be profound. More and more of municipalities’ taxes will be going to support them instead of schools and parks — Why? Because they vote a lot — while property values, and the tax base will decline as whole neighborhoods turn into senior citizens districts, with old Saturns rusting in the driveway like at my mother-in-law’s house. Transit costs will go through the roof as seniors demand services in low-density areas that cannot support it.
The fact is, there is a major urban planning disaster staring us all in the face, which is going to seriously hit everyone young and old in about 10 years when the oldest boomers are 78. We have to prepare for it now.
Durning: “Too bad this couldn’t have been pointed out more vigorously before the recent plebiscite.”
And an example of adaptive change seen in front of a 1950s building in the West End at Barclay and Chilco:
There are many reasons why you may need to change your website’s domain name, whether it’s because you’re rebranding or switching to something entirely new. This can be an exciting time for your personal or professional site, but it can also be one of the scariest. After all, you’ve spent a lot of time and effort sending people to one location, only to compromise all that hard work by sending them somewhere else.
As crazy of an idea as this might sometimes feel, here’s the good news: it can be done. Many popular websites have gone through this exact same situation and not only survived, but come back even stronger. SEOmoz.com became Moz.com, BufferApp.com became Buffer.com, and Twttr.com became Twitter.com, just to name a few.
Though it certainly is possible, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some work involved; in fact, changing your domain name incorrectly can have disastrous results for your website. But not to worry — it’s not as difficult as you might expect! Here are 10 important steps to make sure you change your domain the right way and transfer all of the credibility that your old domain earned to your new one.
1. Buy your new domain early.
This one is fairly obvious because how would you change your domain name without having a new one to change it to? Besides this necessary reason, there is another reason why you will want to get your new domain well in advance: SEO.
The longer you have your new domain up and running, the more of a chance you will be giving search engines to crawl your new site. Once you’ve acquired your new domain, give it a ‘coming soon’ page telling search engines (and people) that a new site will be there shortly. This will give search engines something more substantial to crawl, and will also tell them that it is not a parked domain so they should pay closer attention to it.
2. Tell people you’re changing your domain.
Don’t treat changing your domain like a surprise party. A new domain should be something that your audience is expecting or, if done right, looking forward to. Some ways you can do this include:
Tell people a new name is coming soon on your homepage.
Post about the new name on your social media profiles.
If you have an email newsletter, mention it there.
Reach out to influencers in your field — you might even get some press because of it!
3. Create a sitemap of your old site.
Unless you have a single-serving site, chances are that your website has a lot of pages. A sitemap will provide a list of all of the pages that are on your website, which you will need in order to complete some of the next steps in this guide.
4. Do a content audit.
Now that you have your sitemap, go to every page on your website and find any mentions of your old domain. Make sure that your site’s text and hyperlinks are updated on the new site. This includes mentions within your site’s copy as well as links in navigational elements like your header and footer.
5. Set up 301 redirects.
If there’s one thing that search engines are sticklers for, it’s duplicate content. Google won’t automatically know that the new site belongs to the same person that owns the old one, so you need to give them a heads up. This is done through 301 redirects, which tell search engines that a link has permanently moved to another location. Your sitemap will be especially important here, which you will use to inform search engines what the new URL is for each and every page on your old site.
301 redirects are important for your visitors as well. People might click links from external sites, old emails or their bookmarks, which will not be updated to your new site. When someone heads over to one of these old links, a 301 redirect will forward them along to the page they were looking for under your new domain.
6. Update Google Webmaster.
Once you have set up your new site and your 301 redirects, the most important thing to do for SEO is to tell Google that you have changed your domain. This can be done using the Change of Address tool in Google Webmaster, whichwill allow Google to better index your new site while minimizing the impact that your old site’s rankings will have in search results. This will also help Google transfer all of the rankings from your old links to your new one, so you can keep all of the hard-earned credibility you’ve built for your website.
7. Update Google Analytics.
If you’re porting over your old Google Analytics code to your new site, you will still be tracking all of your site’s data; however, you will want to update your GA account so you know which insights are coming from the new domain as opposed to the old one. Things you will need to update include your domain URL, profile names and account name.Here’s a more detailed guide of where these can be found.
8. Keep the old site live for a little while.
Don’t use the day your old domain name expires as the launch day of your new one. You will need to allow for a transition period where people trying to access the old site will be able to discover your new one. Once your 301 redirects have been set up, there isn’t much harm in keeping the old one around. At the very least keep your old domain until it expires, but it might even be worthwhile to renew it for another year, especially if it won’t cost too much.
9. Create a new 404 error page for your old site.
A broken link might not sound too exciting, but there are a lot of ways to use a 404 error page creatively. In this scenario, you can make a new 404 page for your old site that tells people you’ve moved to a new location. This will teach lost visitors about your new domain quicker, because otherwise they would likely try to go to your old domain’s homepage in order to find what they are looking for.
10. Change your email addresses.
Once you start using your new domain name, you’ll probably want your email addresses to match that domain. More importantly, if you let your old domain name expire, then your email addresses that use that domain will stop working. If you use your domain for your email addresses, be sure to map them over to your new domain as well. During the transition period, you’ll also want to either forward emails to your new address or set up an autoreply informing people of your new inbox.
Know any more essential tips when changing your site’s domain? Please share in the comments below!
It's not easy to build an Open Source software company.
Canonical recently has made a change to its intellectual property policy. The new policy prevents developers from distributing altered binary versions of Ubuntu. Users are still allowed to distribute unaltered Ubuntu freely, but if they make changes to Ubuntu, Canonical wants developers to either go through a review process or remove all references to Canonical trademarks, Canonical logos, and proprietary software and recompile the Ubuntu archive without any of those.
This change has caused friction with the Open Source community; many are not happy with these restrictions as it goes against the culture of Open Source sharing and collaboration. After all, Ubuntu itself is built on top of the work of hundreds of thousands of Open Source developers, and now Ubuntu is making it difficult for others to do the same.
Canonical's stated intention is to protect its trademarks and reputation; they don't want anyone to call something "Ubuntu" when it's not actually "Ubuntu". I understand that. That aside, many understand that the unstated goal is to make money from licensing deals. The changes affect organizations that base their custom distributions on Ubuntu; it's easier to buy a license from Canonical than to figure how to remove all the trademarks, proprietary software, logos, etc.
My thoughts? I understand Canonical has to find ways to make money. Most companies are downright greedy, but not Canonical or Mark Shuttleworth. I find the Open Source community "penny wise and pound foolish" about the situation.
I can relate because Canonical, like Acquia, is among a small group of Open Source companies that try to do good and do well at scale. We invest millions of dollars each year contributing to Open Source: from engineering, to marketing, to sponsoring community events and initiatives. It is not easy to build a software company on Open Source, and we all struggle to find the right balance between giving back and making money. This is further complicated when competitors choose to give back less or don't give back at all. Companies like Canonical and Acquia are good for Open Source, and helping them find that balance is key. Don't forget to support those that give back.
After speaking with people at various Portland drinking establishments it appears their version of wealthy Chinese money flowing into real estate comes in the form of Californians cashing out and heading North for the Portlandia dream driving housing out of reach for locals.
Fitting then to come across this art installation across the river on East Burnside.
With the official debut of the next-generation Apple TV less than two weeks away, sources have provided additional details on Apple’s pricing, availability, and product lineup plans for its set-top devices. According to sources, the fourth-generation Apple TV will be priced below $200, and is on track to become available in October. Apple executives are apparently still finalizing the price of the revamped living room device, but the latest options call for a starting price point of either $149 or $199, both higher than the third-generation Apple TV…
Cue the “price is too damn high” complaints. But if this thing is as robust as rumored, I think it will be a steal.
As a streaming puck with access to all the services the other $30-$99 pucks/sticks out there have, $199 is expensive. As a streaming puck *plus* a real living room gaming system, $199 is cheap.
Xbox One is $349. Playstation 4 is $399. Even the Wii U is $299. And with that, cue the “THIS IS NOWHERE NEAR AS POWERFUL AS A XBONE!!!!” trolling. We’ll see.
Yes, some of the others pucks offer gaming as well. But not like this, is my bet.
It’s a definitive characteristic of the people I work with that they sign up for too much. They’re optimists. They believe they can do anything. They’re eternally growing. That’s the poetry, here’s the reality.
There are two paths for these eager optimists. The first path is the individual who is capable of both signing up for everything and also completing everything. These unicorns exist and I am fascinated by them because I am so completely on the second path. It’s on this path where I sign up for too much, which I invariably learn three weeks later when my eyes pop open for my 4am Panic.
The 4am Panic is achieved when the work I need to complete exceeds my mental capacity to consider it. Something annoyingly biologically chemical is triggered at 4am where apparently I must uselessly consider all of my current work on my plate for no productive reason at all. Just stare at the ceiling and fret until I fall back to sleep.
You might not have the 4am panic, but you know the state because you’ve probably been there. It’s the state of constant reaction. It’s when you start blocking time off on your calendar just to keep up. You reinvent your productivity system, you write list after list after list, and you sleep poorly.
It’s worth taking some time to think about how you got here, but that’s not the point of this piece. I have simple advice and, well, it involves two more lists.
The First List
We’re going to write two lists and my request is that you don’t read about the second list until you’ve completed the first. I suspect if you understand the full exercise right now that your first list will be skewed and biased, so when I say “go”, stop reading, grab your favorite pen, and write the first list.
This is a list of the impossible things on your plate right now. Now, they aren’t actually impossible, but they’re big rocks. They’re sitting in your inbox or in your favorite productivity tool and each time you see them, you’re brain freezes and thinks, “That’s big – skip it for now.”
Now, you can skip it a few times, but at some point you start to take some type of small credibility hit because forward progress isn’t being made. When you take that hit and multiply it by the fact there are four other impossible tasks on your list, you’ve got a date with the ceiling at 4am.
Make a list of the impossible tasks. The big rocks. Everything that is weighing on you. Don’t worry, this is just for you.
The Second List
I’m really curious about the size of your impossible list. Three? Twenty? Any cathartic moments as you wrote? Revelations? It’s not the point of this piece, but one of the reasons to make a simple list is to get it out of your unstructured and emotional head and onto structured and readable paper.
Ok, turn that piece of paper over. We’re going to make a second list and, as much as possible, I want you to forget about the first list. List the people who merit your belief in their reliability, truth, ability, or strength. We’re talking about work here so I’m assuming these are co-workers, but don’t limit yourself to your immediate team or leads. Who is everyone in the company that you fully trust?
Next, for each person on your list. I want you write why you trust this person. “Bruce. I trust Bruce to consider a problem from every angle. Hannah. I trust Hannah to always provide realistic dates. Marty. I trust Marty to always put his team before himself.”
How to Sleep Well
This second list is the reason you’re reading this piece. Earlier this year, I woke up at 4am for some ceiling time. The impossible was swirling and as I settled into my fretting, I realized I was deeply tired of the unstructured worry, so I rolled out of bed and I wrote the second list. 22 people that I completely trusted in one way or another. I was struck both by some of the names on the list and how I trusted them. If you’ve blown through both exercises and are just reading this piece, you can still have a rewarding moment of understanding that you are surrounded by a diverse set of trustworthy people.
I stared at the list for a few moments and realized I had a stunning amount of unrealized capacity around me. It was this moment which was behind the quote I recently gave to TechCrunch:
“My job is to my get myself out of a job. I’m aggressively pushing things I think I could be really good at and should actually maybe own to someone else who’s gonna get a B at it, but they’re gonna get the opportunity to go do that … [I’m always asking] does this legit need to be on my list. Should I be doing this, or is this something I can give to someone else and they should be actually going and doing it? That’s one of my principles, to get myself out-of-the-way. Ideally there’s some morning where I get up and have my coffee and there’s absolutely nothing to do, everything else has been delegated.”
This is your task. Take your first list and see who on the second list can help out. There’s a reason you signed up for all these impossible tasks and big rocks. You were coming from an enthusiastic and optimistic place, but if you’re a leader of humans, the right answer might be to ask for help. The right answer might be to give the task to someone else who might not do as good a job, but who will learn more than you.
You might think that this is a long way to say “Delegation Matters!”, but there are other lessons. Your brain protects you in strange ways. Enthusiasm might not be strategic. You’re underestimating the people you trust.
I didn’t write or match to my first list until the next day. All I did at 4am was consider the list of the people I trusted and what I trusted them to do. After a few minutes, I went back to bed and slept all night.
The most exciting moments in tech come along when some genius takes a look at the sorry, complicated state of a particular technology — and vows to remake it with beauty and simplicity.
Steve Jobs had a knack for that; computers, Wi-Fi, and music stores were among the industries he made over with class and simplicity. Google’s original product — Web search — was like that, too; its purity and effectiveness blew away the Lycoses and AltaVistas of its day.
Now Google is back with the same ambitions. This time, the technology it wants to remake is the Wi-Fi router — the base station that powers your home’s wireless network. Google’s $200 OnHub router is designed to blow away its rivals in three categories: beauty, effectiveness, and setup simplicity.
The company could not have chosen a better target. We all rely on our home Wi-Fi more and more every year. Phones, tablets, and computers need it, sure, but so do TV boxes, home security systems, thermostats, coffeemakers, and home-automation products of every stripe.
Yet even after decades of competition, the routers sold by the Big Boys — Netgear, Linksys, Belkin, D-Link, and so on — are ugly, lousy, hostile beasts. I mean, look at these things. Would you want one on your bedside table?
Now, I’ve been writing tech reviews for 25 years. If you tell me I have to review a router, you’ll see my eyes start to twitch and splotchy red patches break out on my skin. Every single time, the experience turns into a nightmare that sucks away a weekend. Oh, how I’d love somebody to invent a router that truly “just works”! To say that I was rooting for Google to succeed this time is putting it mildly.
All hail the cylinder
First of all, the OnHub is not ugly. I’m not sure it’s the masterpiece of minimalist design that Google thinks it is, but at least you don’t feel like throwing a blanket over it:
Apparently, 2015 is the Year of the Cylinder. You’ve got your OnHub, you’ve got your Amazon Echo… Pretty soon, all our homes will look like this:
The OnHub weighs 2 pounds, and it’s 7.5 inches tall, 4.6 inches across. To get at the jacks, you have to remove a sleeve (now available in blue or black). Unfortunately, the explanation of how to do that is found on some buried Help screens in the OnHub’s accompanying app. (The trick: You have to turn it like a pill-bottle cap before it comes off.)
A glowing ring on the top of the OnHub acts as a status indicator. Unfortunately, you’ll have to refer to the instructions again to figure out what the various colors of that ring mean.
This physical design is not just about electrical engineering; it’s also about social engineering. Google knows that to produce the best Wi-Fi coverage for your home, a router should be placed centrally — not in a closet, not in the basement, not on the floor, but out in plain view. Google hopes that by making its router nice-looking, people will be more likely to leave it out and so get results they’ll be happy with.
There are two really awkward parts of the OnHub’s design. First, it has only one spare Ethernet jack for plugging something else in. Normal routers have four or eight of these things, for connecting devices that have to be wired.
You could always get those extra Ethernet connections by plugging in a switch (basically a splitter with more jacks). But clearly, Google was thinking that, if it wants people to put the OnHub out in plain view, nobody’s going to want a bunch of extra cables sticking out of it. So you’re kind of stuck there.
The other awkward part is related: A router has to be plugged into your cable modem or DSL box! So unless you want to hire an electrician to run some wires, you will in fact be limited in where you can place the OnHub; it has to be within wire’s reach of whatever box connects you to the Internet.
Coverage all over the house
That said, once you’ve got it set up, you should be happy with the results: This thing blasts Wi-Fi through your home like a fire hose on an anthill.
My house is pretty rambling. We live on three floors; I have an attic office. For years, we’ve had an Apple Time Capsule base station on the ground floor, which gives us four bars on the first floor, two bars on the second, and nothing at the far ends of the house. So we’ve had to supplement that with a range extender, one of these things that plugs into an outlet and tries to amplify the fading signal from the main router.
The OnHub laughs at all that. I put it on the second floor, and we now get four bars — full strength — in every room on all three floors! It’s glorious, and it’s fast. The bottleneck will be your Internet service, not the connection from your gadgets to the OnHub.
That kind of coverage is great — for $200, it had better be — but it’s not noticeably better than other routers in this price range.
Snappy, musical setup (sometimes)
So the OnHub looks better than other routers and works as well as the best of them. What about the Big One: setup?
Clearly, setup and administration is meant to be the OnHub’s biggest breakthrough. Most routers you have to set up and administer in a Web browser. You type an ugly Web address (such as 192.168.86.1/api/v2/status) to open up a cheerful, friendly dashboard like this:
The OnHub is different. You download a free app (iPhone or Android), and then use thatfor all your setup and administration. It’s a lovely app and an ingenious idea.
If you have an Android phone, the setup is absolutely magical. The OnHub communicates with a little musical sound — it sounds like a ringtone — to do the setup. Very, very cool, and just what you’d expect from a “breakthrough” router. The setup takes two steps and about four minutes.
Unfortunately, life isn’t as sweet if you have an iPhone. I spent an hour trying to get the stupid thing to work without success; the app kept freezing on the second screen, with no Next button. My eye started twitching. I was thinking, Oh, no, no, no: Network hell again!!
Turns out Google’s iPhone app isn’t yet compatible with iOS 9, which my phone was running. (Dear Google: iOS 9 comes out in a week. You might want to look into that.)
So I borrowed an iOS 8 phone. Even then, the setup process involves ducking out of the setup app, opening your Settings app, navigating to the Wi-Fi section, and then choosing the OnHub’s own, temporary Wi-Fi network. Then you have to type in a long, nonsensical password that appears on a sticker on the bottom of the OnHub.
Really? A $200, state-of-the-art router — and we’re copying sequences of characters off a sticker?
I know Google could do better than that. I could do better than that. At the very least, how about a password made of words (fleshy-anthill), so we could remember it in one glance?
Anyway. Once you’ve entered the password, you go back to the OnHub setup app and finish. (Unless you have iOS 9, in which case you stare at the screen and feel the red splotches spreading on your skin.)
Once the OnHub is set up, you can return to the app to monitor and control the way it’s being used. More specifically, you can use the app to:
See how many gadgets are connected to it at any given moment.
Prioritize those connections. For example, if your kids’ gaming is degrading the signal so much that you’re getting freezes watching Netflix on your TV, you can prioritize the TV’s connection to get rid of those glitches.
Run speed tests. The app can show you the speed from your device to the hub and also from the hub to the Internet. So if you’re not happy with the speed you’re getting, you can figure out which part of the chain is the problem.
Show the password to a visitor on your phone.
Beware, though: Google really wants this to be “the router for the rest of us” and not “the router for power users.” So Google didn’t include a lot of software features that rival routers offer, such as parental control, the ability to set up a guest network (with access to the Internet but not to your computers), and Web filtering.
Despite that populist interface, Google says that the OnHub is actually beyond state-of-the-art. For example, it’s got 13 antennas inside: six each on the 2.4 and 5 gigahertz bands, and one that monitors the hotspot and constantly adjusts to give you the best range and speed. It’s a full-blown 802.11a/b/g/n/ac router, with a theoretical maximum of 1,900 megabits per second. (In the real world, you won’t get anything close to that. Router makers apparently do their “maximum” measurements on the moon.)
The OnHub is also well positioned for the future. It’s got all kinds of stuff inside that hasn’t even been turned on yet, like Bluetooth and Zigbee (a common home-automation standard). There’s a USB jack that doesn’t do anything yet, too. Google says it will constantly upgrade your router remotely.
Google also swears up, down, and sideways that it won’t use the OnHub to monitor your Internet activities. That may be hard for some people to believe. (After all, the company’s entire business model is based on tracking what you search for or write emails about and then showing you ads that match your activity. Can it really resist knowing exactly what you’re doing online?)
Speaking of futures: Google says that the OnHub is only the first in a line of products, to be manufactured by various Asian companies. This one is from TP Link, and an Asus model is on the way. Maybe those other products will offer more Ethernet jacks, and maybe they’ll cost less than $200.
And more speaking of futures: There’s something Google’s not telling us about this device. Why does it need a 3-watt (that is, loud) speaker? Why does it have 4 gigabytes of memory, and specs like a laptop? Why all those unused circuits and jacks? Why does it say “Built for Google ON” on the bottom?
I join other reviewers who suspect that Google might have much bigger plans for this router than just giving you a good Wi-Fi signal. It looks and feels a lot like it could be the cornerstone of Google’s future home-automation archipelago.
A strong signal
Somebody has finally recognized what an absurd gulf there is between the importance of today’s Wi-Fi routers and their quality. That is a tremendous realization.
The OnHub costs $200. That’s twice the price of some routers that do an equally good job at filling your home with signal, like this one. So if you don’t care about the ugliness of the router and the ugliness of its setup, you can save a lot of money.
But you can also think about it like this: There aren’t many consumer goods you use more often, more hours a day, than your Wi-Fi router. As with other consumer goods that you use multiple times every day — your car, your home, your phone — this one is worth spending on, if you can afford it.
Google didn’t go far enough in simplifying the setup, the single Ethernet jack is a limiting factor, and the OnHub is missing some advanced features like the Guest network. In other words, Google swung for the fences but just missed the home run.
Still, for nontechnical people, this is the router to buy if you’ve got the bucks. Not every router can bring you joy instead of red splotches. This one can.
David Pogue is the founder of Yahoo Tech. On the Web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s email@example.com. He welcomes nontoxic comments in the Comments below.
I agree with Timothy Burke that the evolution of university
administration is shaped in part by the unintended consequences
of faculty behavior:
I think some of my colleagues across the country are potentially
contributing to the creation of the distanced, professionalized,
managerial administrations that they say that they despise, and
they're doing it in part through half-voiced expectations about
what an ideal administrator might be like.
This passage comes from
Performing the Role,
in which Burke discusses some of the fall-out from a botched
faculty hiring at the University of Illinois last year. Even if
you don't know much about the Salaita case, you may find Burke's
piece worth reading. It captures pretty well how universities
seem to be shifting toward a professionalized administrative
class and the ways in which this shift clashes -- and meshes --
with faculty expectations and behavior.
This line, in particular, sums up a surprising amount of my
experience as a department head for the last decade:
I think we somehow expect that administrative leaders should be
unfailingly polite, deferential, patient, and solicitous when
we're the ones talking with them and bold, confrontational, and
aggressive when they're talking to anyone else.
The next one has affected me less directly, but I see it in the
expectations across campus all the time:
We seem to expect administrative leaders to escape structural
traps that we cannot imagine a way to escape from.
Burke ends the paragraph containing those sentences with a summary
that many administrators can appreciate: "There's a lot of
Catch-22 going on here."
Burke is always thoughtful, and thought-provoking, on matters of
academia and culture. If those topics interest, his blog is often
As some of you may already be aware, Mozilla has experienced a lot of change over the years. Most teams and projects within Mozilla have felt this change in some way, either directly or indirectly. The QA Team is no exception.
As a microcosm of the Mozilla Project, people involved in many disparate projects, QA has changed course many times. To many of you, these changes may have passed by unnoticed. Perhaps you noticed something was different about QA but were not able to understand how or why things had changed. Perhaps it was a feeling, that some of us seemed more distant, or that it just felt different.
This may come as a surprise to some, but there is no longer a single, unified QA team at Mozilla. After going through a few re-organizations, we are spread across the organization, embedded with — and reporting to — various product teams.
Those teams have benefited by having a dedicated QA person on staff full time. However, with so few of us to go around, many teams find themselves without any QA. In this state, we’ve lost the distinguished central QA organization that once was and in doing so we’ve lost a central QA voice.
As a result of these changes and a sense of perpetual reorganization we have reached a tipping point. We’ve lost some very talented and passionate people. Change within itself isn’t a bad thing. The loss of cohesion is. It is time to break this pattern, regain our cohesion and regain our focus on the community.
The core group of QA community members, paid and volunteer, will soon be getting together to formulate a mission statement. We’ll do this with a series of one-on-one conversations between core individuals who are interested in architecting a new QA community. This will serve as the guiding light of our journey toward a more optimistic future together.
In recognition of those who might feel excluded from this process, we want to assure you that there will be opportunity to contribute very early on. Conducting these one on ones is just the first step in a very long journey. We plan to bring everyone along who wants to be here, but this process requires great care and it will take time. If you’d like to help us build the future please get in touch with us.