Apple, please stop talking utter BOLL&*KS

Anyone following the Apple announcement yesterday, should have been dismayed by Apple’s on-going, incredibly stupid  use of percentages to drive home how good they are.

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When comparing Lion’s adoption rate, they threw up this slide.

Seriously?

How can anyone fall for this shite? A simple search on Bing will reveal figures that put this comparison into context. Sure the percentages may be correct, but that means nothing! Large percentage changes on small numbers are not impressive.

Let’s consider the figures to date: 6 million copies of Lion have been downloaded. That’s an impressive figure, no doubt about that. But Microsoft have sold over 400 million copies of Windows 7. That sort of leaves Lion in the dirt. Flipping the headline, it would read.

Microsoft ship 6000% more copies of Lion that Apple.

Or, to put it another way, assuming a linear adoption of both Lion and Windows 7,

Microsoft sell 6 times more Windows 7 licenses per week than Lion.

Apple don’t sound as impressive now. So my advice to Apple. Cut the bullshit. You’re not fooling anyone! Your OS is doing well (better than Linux I imagine) and you’re making buckets of money,

What I’d like to see from the iPhone 5

This evening, UK time, Apple is expected to unveil its latest addition to the iPhone family, the iPhone 5. I’ve been an Apple iPhone user since 2008, when they released the iPhone 3G. I’ve owned the 3GS too and am currently using the iPhone 4. Whilst I’m not planning to purchase an iPhone 5, there are a few things that Apple could add that might make me change my mind.

More storage

Like most people, I probably have an average collection of digital music, made up of iTunes downloads, CD rips and “other” sources. It’s currently just over twenty gigabytes. I’m not sure that’s average. On my 32GB iPhone I have about 29GB of actual space, so my music accounts for about 70% of that space.  Combine that with my Audible audio books, photos, videos and the various apps I use and I’m in trouble. In fact, I recently found myself at a wedding having to delete photos and videos from my phone just so I could take pictures of the bride and groom. 64 GB of storage would alleviate that problem.

Better battery life

Almost everyone that owns an iPhone will complain of poor battery life. I’m no exception. I use my phone as an iPod and listen to it for several hours a day, be it music whilst programming or my audio books whilst walking. I am in the habit of charging at least once a day, sometimes twice a day. This isn’t the end of the world I suppose, but there are times where I’ve been caught short by a failing battery. If it could just go for two days without charging, it would be more than capable of handing *very* heavy usage over one day whilst still leaving 25% or 30% of the battery.

NFC (Near Field Communication)

I would very much like to see Apple adding NFC support to their devices. This would help spur on the adoption of NFC for payments and help power other stuff like London’s Oyster network. Apple would provide a top-notch UI for it and developers could do some very interesting things with it, offering alternatives to Bump for data transfer etc..

Changes to Personal Hotspot

When you turn on the Personal Hotspot feature of iOS, it turns on both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, even if you want to only connect via Wi-Fi. When you subsequently turn off Personal Hotspot, it leaves both the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled. This is just stupid. It should just return the settings to their original states i.e. if they were off, turn them back off. The extra five or six clicks required to disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi aren’t too difficult, but goodness, they are annoying!

Location aware Wi-Fi

This is just a pipe-dream I know, but something that bugs me about Wi-Fi is that I’m in a horrible habit of leaving it turned on all the time. This isn’t good for the battery. A nice solution to this would be a feature that deactivated Wi-Fi once you left a set area. When you get home, the phone would reactivate Wi-Fi and connect to the home network, syncing to iTunes etc. Once you leave a pre-set area (like iOS 5 Reminders) it could automatically power off the Wi-Fi. There are obviously issues if you want to turn it back on, but perhaps it could turn-off after losing connection with a network, thus conserving battery life?

What’s actually expected?

There are a few things expected from the iPhone 5, the biggest being the addition of the full voice control, which would allow the dictation of emails, texts etc. I’m not too bothered by such a feature. Might be useful for those who drive a lot, but not something I see as appealing to me.

App rentals are something else I’d be pleased to see. This would allow you to rent an app from the App Store, rather than buying it. Useful if you needed the TomTom app over a weekend, but didn’t want to spend £60.

A new body shape is also expected. I’m a bit “meh“ about that. I find the iPhone 4 to be very pretty. An upgraded camera is also a given, which is nice, but not that impressive really.

So what would you like to see from the iPhone 5?

With Microsoft, you can only live in one place. Ever!

Last Thursday, my latest purchase arrived via courier from Expansys: A Samsung Omnia 7 Windows Phone 7! I was quite excited to get my hands on this as it would be the second Windows Phone I’ve seen. I quickly set it up and played around with it for a few minutes. Overall I was very impressed. The UI is very fluid and nice to use. Aside from an annoying hiccup with the setup of my Windows Live Mail, everything worked beautifully. [Microsoft: Ask for WiFi accounts before trying to do anything network related. I had a PAYG SIM with no credit so trying to access my Windows Live account was never going to work before I’d connected to WiFi!]

I then plugged the phone into my PC and fired up Microsoft Zune. It too a little while to find the phone, which I found strange, but it was soon detected and it even did a quick update (not to Mango thought…). I then dragged on some music and setup WiFi syncing. So far so good. However, my next action was the point where it all started to go wrong….

I tried to sign in with my Windows Live account…

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Let me put this into context. I’m Irish and moved to the UK four years ago, but more importantly, after I first created a Zune account. I hit the forums on and off for a few days and played around with the various settings of my Windows Live accounts. I quickly discovered that my Zune account was registered to my previous address in Ireland and whilst I could change street and town settings, my country could not be change. Not at all.

Turns out that this is a problem for a lot people, especially Europeans who do move from country to country.

I sent out tweets and contacted Zune support and unfortunately just got this fact confirmed. With Zune, you CANNOT change your country. This is really infuriating! I suspect there is good reason be it legal or whatever, but it doesn’t change the fact I perceive this as a massive pain in my arse.

I was ready to sign up for a Windows Phone 7 developer account with Microsoft and I’ve *very* glad I didn’t do using my existing Windows Live account before plugging in my phone etc.

So what’s the solution? I could, I suppose, change the regional settings on my PC to Ireland. but that would still require me to use an Irish credit card. Not a big issue. The other drawback is that any money I make from selling apps would be in Euro and I could potentially lose out due to changes in the exchange rate.

So my alternative plan is this: I have created  a new Windows Live ID just for accessing the AppHub. I’ll register that account with Microsoft as a Windows Live ID and signup to the developer program. When I sign into Zune, it should create a new Zune account for the UK and associate it with my AppHub Live ID. Should I move country again, I can just create new accounts like AppHubIE or AppHubUS. They’ll be regionally correct at least and by linking all these Windows Live IDs together, switching around between them should be painless.

This will work for selling Windows Phone 7 Apps, but doesn’t help with the purchase of Zune music.

What is your solution to this issue with Zune? If you have something, I’d love to hear about it so please email me or leave a comment! Thanks.

Bye, bye finance. Hello telecoms!

As any of my twitter followers could tell you, I’m in my last week of employment at Barclays Capital, here in London. I’ve been working as a developer in the Market Risk IT department for over four years, a personal record for me.

It’s not a bad job, the pay is excellent along with good benefits. I have a short commute and I don’t have to work particularly hard since I know the ropes very well. When I tell people this, my intention to leave is usually greeted with puzzled expressions and questions like “why the f&*k are you giving that up?”

I’m now going to attempt to answer this question.

I’ve been a developer for almost eleven years. I started my first job on the 1st of August, 2000. Since being made redundant in 2003, I’ve worked for various different companies, mainly as a contractor, on and off for 7 years, before joining Barclays Capital and moving to London. Looking back on my move to London, the reason I went into Finance is one that I don’t fully understand. A good friend of mine at the time was working for a hedge fund in Amsterdam and told me I should get into Finance as the money was good.

I contacted a recruitment agent in the UK, got an interview, fly over to London to do the interview and got offered the job. It actually didn’t take very long, about five weeks in total. I then just packed my bags and showed up for work on a bright, sunny Monday morning in June, 2007. My first project was an ASP.Net web application. I was using VS 2005 on a Windows 2000 machine. Aside from the pre-historic OS, that wasn’t too bad.

However, I soon discovered that the development setup in a bank was always lagging behind. VS 2008 was launched, but wasn’t “approved” for use within the bank. There was always a delay as new IDEs and Frameworks had to undergo rigorous testing to ensure complete compatibility. Perfectly understandable given the industry, but very frustrating none-the-less.

Roll on several years and I got to do plenty of WPF development and got some very interesting C#. I was really blessed to have been assigned to a greenfield project in that regard. We started using VS2008 and WCF. This was interesting and new, which is always nice to get when you’re a developer.

As the project matured, the appetite for change retarded. Suddenly any attempts to introduce change to our UI application or back end was resisted for fear it may impact stability. I wrote several applications using ASP.Net MVC 2, only to have them knocked back as they were “on a different technology”. This was really the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I came to realise that IT is just a service to enable other functions of a business. In an investment bank, the selling of products and the management of the bank’s assets and risk is paramount. This is essentially the problem space. My problem, in a sense, is that I find finance very boring. I’m not interested in the problems that Risk Managers face or how the bank has to manage its VaR number. I find it dull and uninteresting.

And that, in a nutshell, is probably the main motivator for leaving investment banking. I’m off to work for a small telecoms outfit that do rather nifty stuff with inbound calls using VoIP and other such cool things. Telecoms is where I started out eleven years ago and its where I’m returning to now. I think telecoms is more of an pure IT business. The problem space relates to IT and is driven by infrastructure, handsets, protocols, cables, specifications, RFCs and the like. At least that’s what I remember from my days in CMG.

Yes there are customers to keep happy, products to develop, bugs to fix, but the work is solving problems that I find interesting. Sure, I’ll end up working longer hours and getting paid less, but at the end of the day, I’ll hope to be doing what I find interesting and that’s the dream, isn’t it? Maybe I’m on a fools errand and will always end up somewhat unhappy with whatever job I’m doing.

Some of you wiser readers are probably nodding at this now, saying it can’t be done. Maybe you’re right. I know that as we move through life, our priorities change. When I eventually have children, I may end up back in the finance sector purely for the money as I’ll have university fees and such to be thinking about. But those days aren’t here yet!

When my children (eventually) ask, I want to tell them that money and benefits weren’t what motivated me, rather I chased the dream for as long as I could.

Windows 8 and the deathly XAML

In Microsoft’s history, there have been few announcements that have caused more questions to be raised than Microsoft’s recent news that their new Windows 8 UI would only run application written with HTML 5 and JavaScript!

The confusion in the development community was almost palpable. Almost immediately, the gossip started to spread. Has Microsoft ditched .Net? What about Silverlight? I’ve been learning this stuff for years and you’re telling me it’s all gone? That sort of stuff. Real knee-jerk fear reactions.

When I first viewed the video of the Windows 8, I was thrilled to see the new UI. With elements from Windows Phone 7 and some very nifty gestures, I thought to myself “yes! Microsoft are finally doing something interesting in this space!”. On hearing that HTML 5 and JavaScript would form the basis of the UI, I must admit my first reaction was also “Cool. Something new to learn”. I thought I was the norm in this regards. Most developers are thrilled by new platforms and technologies. It seems that perhaps I’m in the minority.

After the dust settled on this announcement, I knew that there was no way Microsoft would just abandon their other development platforms. Sure, WPF is probably on its way out, by Silverlight is going from strength to strength and Microsoft had also just announced Silverlight 5, so this platform was going nowhere. It made sense to me that Microsoft would continue to use these platforms, whilst also introducing a new one.

Another sticking point is that HTML 5 is still unfinished, so Microsoft wouldn’t really be too wise in throwing away established technologies in favour of something that won’t in all likelihood be fully specified for at least another eighteen months. HTML 5 may be the future, but in the same fashion as Google’s Chrome OS, a move to using only HTML 5 would be ahead of it’s time.

So when the Build conference comes around in September, I think we’ll see a few announcements. Firstly, I think Silverlight 5 will play a big part in the Windows 8 development vision. This makes sense as this platform is replacing WPF. Secondly, I think Microsoft will release a new API that’s based on a new HTML 5 platform. This might be limited to the new Start UI to begin with, but it’s something Microsoft will probably evolve over time.

I, for one, welcome our new HTML 5 overlords.

Lousy performance score for my new Lenovo

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Not a very impressive score for my brand new Lenovo Thinkpad T520 – The processor is a quad core i7 and it gets a lousy 4.7 in the performance rating…

I need to play around with the power settings I think…

UPDATE:

Switching on the right settings and driving up the performance gives me the expected score. Phew…

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This just indicates I need to eventually get an SSD installed!

Adding support for SVG to IIS Express

I’m currently building a HTML 5 website, using Microsoft’s www.beautyoftheweb.com as inspiration.

Taking inspiration sometimes means “borrowing” some of the graphics and styles on a site you like and incorporating them into your own work. For the purposes of education, this isn’t always a bad thing.

One of the things I borrowed was a rather nice SVG background image, that sort of looks like glass. I just downloaded that image and added into my MVC project. The thing was, that no matter what CSS I tried, I couldn’t get the image to actually display. Some investigation into the issue revealed that IIS Express is configured not to actually server SVG files. It returns HTTP 403 status code.

In order to add support for SVG, the MIME type must be added to the IIS Express configuration. Thankfully, this is easy.

  • Open a console application with administrator privilages.
  • Navigation to the IIS Express directory. This lives under Program Files or Program Files (x86)
  • Run the command appcmd set config /section:staticContent /+[fileExtension=’svg’,mimeType=’image/svg+xml’]

This will add the necessary MIME extension to IIS so it will serve SVG files without issue.

A Backup! A Backup! My kingdom for a backup! Service, that is.

With my discovery yesterday that my Carbonite backup did actually include any video, I rushed to include all my video in the backup. Carbonite the calculated I had an additional 240GB of data to backup! This was in addition to the 94GB that I have already backed up to Carbonite over the past eighteen months. I have a lot of data. Well, okay, maybe not that much. I’m sure there are people out there with terabytes of data. Bully for you. For me, I have just over 300GB of data.

Anyway, let me not dwell on size 😉

Faced with 240GB of data to backup, I quickly realised that Carbonite might not be the solution for me. Why, you ask? It’s because the backup speed I get with Carbonite is low. Really low. In an eight hour period, it will backup about 1GB of data. As a Plusnet customer, I have a data cap so I like to upload during the hours of midnight and eight A.M. This way, any data transferred doesn’t count against my cap. It’s considered off-peak hours. To this end, I have Carbonite scheduled to run between those hours and I just leave my PC running overnight.

Given the volume of data and the upload speed, you can see where I’m heading with this post. At the current speed, it would take roughly 9 months to upload my current data. Assuming I never downloaded another song or movie. Not good. I did some research on the internet and found a lot of people confirming the poor upload speed. Carbonite do throttle the upload speed based on the amount of data you have already uploaded, but I was seeing people getting as little 35KBps. People were talking about their backup times in years. This seemed to confirm my poor upload experience.

Some quick “Binging” (I know it’s not a real verb yet) provided me with some alternatives, Mozy being the most frequently mentioned one. The only bad thing I could find was that Mozy was useless in an OS Reinstallation situation. I spend some hours this morning checking out some of alternatives to Carbonite.

Provider Storage Upload Speed Cost Comments
Mozy Home Unlimited (2GB free) 8.4 mbps £4.99 a month Awesome upload speeds. Nice UI. Doesn’t support reinstallation or migration.
BackBlaze Unlimited 100 kbps $5 a month The UI to choose what to backup is rubbish as it assumes you want to backup everything!
CrashPlan Unlimited 600kbps £4.99 a month Beautiful UI and supports migrations. Slow upload from UK, but I’ve read people getting excellent speeds in the US.

All of the four solutions (including Carbonite) have their pros and cons. I think the biggest issue is that I’m in the UK. London to be precise and as a result, I’m trying to backup files to US data centres. Mozy has a UK data centre and that is reflected in the upload speed. In the time it took me to shower this morning, I had backed up 2GB of data. Mozy offer 2GB of storage absolutely free, whereas the others offer a time based trial.

Given I have about 300GB of data to upload, Mozy is the obvious choice. I reckon I can do about 25-30GB a night, so should be backed up in about two weeks as opposed to 9 months with Carbonite. If I every have to restore my machine, Mozy requires some tom-foolery to get the backup working again, but with the speeds they provide, this shouldn’t be a major inconvenience.

I’m going to sign up to Mozy on a monthly basis and see what the situation is again in a months time. I’m interested to hear from anyone with experience doing online backups here in the UK. Please leave me a comment describing your backup solution!