Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft XBox One and the New Age of Hacking

The first half of 2013 has seen some significant announcements from some of the biggest tech players out there; Sony revealed (sort of) their plans for the PS4, Adobe announced that their Creative Suite products are going in the cloud (aka Creative Cloud) and finally Microsoft revealed their competitor to the PS4, the XBox One.

The interesting thing about the last two is that there’s the need to connect to an internet based authentication system on a frequent basis to validate the software/configuration (to be completely validated by Microsoft, but this appears to be likely).

Adobe’s Move to Cloud – Competitors Start to Gain Share?

In the case of Adobe, their Create Suite product is still installed on the local machine but they now have the ability to push smaller updates to their products, whereas before it tended to be “big bang” approach. Adobe are charging consumers $50 per month to access this service which gives them all the Adobe Creative Cloud products (Photoshop, Muse, etc.) – thus removing their multi-tier, one-time upfront payment product matrix approach (Design, Design Premium, Production Premium, Master Collection versions). Once subscribed, the user has some great features available to them – some of which were available to them previously but in a more fragmented, less integrated fashion.

However, $50 for the casual user may be a price barrier for Adobe; Over 2 years, one user would pay $2400 for the service (a little more than owning Creative Suite Master Collection); however, unlike the old pricing model, the costs continue (but so arguably do the updates, product features, etc.). More casual users of the toolset would then argue that they could have paid $600 for access to (say) Photoshop and now their costs are exponentially higher for a service they only want 15-25% use of. This would then create a market opportunity for others (e.g. Corel Painter) to step in and provide a migration path including an ability to take existing PS Plugins and continue to use them. In this scenario, Adobe would significantly lose share of the consumer market and possibly gain additional business users who are enticed by (a) not having to pay for something they possibly use personally as well as professionally (b) costs are spread over a continuing cycle which could be easier to justify/expense.

XBox One’s Kill the Hacker Approach

For Microsoft, it is claimed the XBox One will expect to connect every 24 hours – possibly for the same update push reason as Adobe, but also because Microsoft are probably trying to combat the hacked systems out there that allow people to play pirated games (Both XBox and XBox 360 can be hacked relatively easily and there’s no shortage of pirated games). It also means they can control the use of used and borrowed games – effectively removing the used games market for all but the big players and stopping friends sharing their legally bought games, as each game is tied to a user ID. It will also be interesting to see how this affects services such as GameFly and Redbox – both whom allow the renting of games.

All it needs is one Service

There’s an old saying that goes to the effect of “the more you try to grip a grain of sand, the more it slips away” – and this is true for technology. Think of all the product launched with security and protection built into them and think how many have been hacked, cracked and/or broken. The answer is most, if not all of them to some degree – and this is exactly what will happen here.

Simply put, if a product needs to connect to the internet to validate, it’s going to send communications out. These communications can be intercepted and re-routed to another service pretending to be the authentication service which sends back a “All is OK” signal. Now this may cripple some of the features of the product (e.g. updates, access to other services by the vendor), but people are already accepting that (XBox 360 hacked consoles can’t connect to Microsoft services otherwise they get banned [but there are ways to fix them]). Additionally, if the costs of owning a legal copy are such that owning a crippled copy that is workable for free or a significantly reduced charge is acceptable then folks will use that service. All it takes is one provider to offer an authentication service priced for volume subscriptions….

What’s the Solution?

Companies looking to create more adoption and disuade piracy should look at Valve’s Steam platform. This service has continually shown how consumers will happily adopt a system that is priced fairly and yet still offers an extensive service. Yes, there are still cracked versions of software that bypass it, but it also has a pricing model that increasingly negates the hassle of using cracked software – I’ve even seen others posting on forums as such.

Adobe should consider a tiered approach to their Cloud offering (I suspect they are, but are waiting to catch the early adopters and business users with the premier pricing) and Microsoft need to consider that they are not the only player in the market, so should take a pragmatic approach – e.g. You can install games for a period of 24 hours (for example), after which it either has to be licensed to your ID or deleted.

Or they can try to grip the market and let consumers slip away.


Challenge to be Challenged – Guaranteed way to get group participation

I try to publish a summary of interesting links once in a while; this week I came across an article that talked about someone invoking their “McDonalds Moment” (see here). In short, the author says “When we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s. An interesting thing happens. Everyone unanimously agrees that we can’t possibly go to McDonald’s, and better lunch suggestions emerge.

I also have a similar technique that I use to create discussion or opinion; typically when facilitating a meeting or being involved in group discussion I will come to the table with an idea or suggestion that tries to solve the problem – it might not be the perfect one, but it causes others to react and give their thoughts.

Recently I used it when participating in a new product discussion where the problem statement had been laid out and the room was quiet when the (to-be) product owner asked “So what should we do?” Taking the silence as a cue that the group wasn’t sure how to navigate forward, I made a statement about how we could use some existing solutions in a different way so as to bend them in a way they almost fit – I knew it wasn’t the best solution, but it was a starting point. Consequently someone else used my suggestion with one of their own, but with a different twist. What followed was everyone participating in a group-driven solution.  Result!

Now there are some caveats with this approach as it’s not always going to be so effective:

  • You’re initial suggestion shouldn’t so outlandish that people discount you and devalue your participation – it should be reasonable and show a connection to the problem statement
  • You will get more traction from people that know you – if you do this to a room that you are new to, you may be seen as a know-it-all, aggressively challenging, or enforcing your idea on a group that doesn’t know you and therefore hasn’t got a grasp of your subject matter expertise.
  • For a group that doesn’t know you, remove yourself from the suggestion – rather than saying “I think we should do x”, try “You know, I have seen a group solve this problem by doing x” – that way you’re not being the opinionated outsider

So the next time you think the group you’re working with is going to greet you with silence, you have a new weapon to your arsenal.

Notes of Interest – May 1, 2013

How To Prototype In Xcode Using Storyboard

The purpose of prototyping in Xcode is to be able to create a super high fidelity flow using the exact same software that builds iOS Apps… Storyboard, a powerful tool in Xcode that allows you to build an App without a single line of code. You will be able to create a functional prototype in a matter of hours.

Trello Business Class

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process. Business Class extra features like Google Apps integration, extra administrative controls for boards and members, one-click bulk data export, and a new, view-only observer role.

How to overcome stage fright

As humans, we’re hardwired to worry about our reputation above almost all things. There are primitive parts of your brain that control your reaction to threats on your reputation, making these reactions extremely difficult to control.

Touch interfaces are over-rated

Gesture based interactions without touch are the next innovation hot topic

Learn coding by video – CodePlayer

HTML5, Javascript, CSS3, etc.

Intro to Data Science

Commerce and research is being transformed by data-driven discovery and prediction. Skills required for data analytics at massive levels – scalable data management on and off the cloud, parallel algorithms, statistical modeling, and proficiency with a complex ecosystem of tools and platforms – span a variety of disciplines and are not easy to obtain through conventional curricula. Tour the basic techniques of data science, including both SQL and NoSQL solutions for massive data management (e.g., MapReduce and contemporaries), algorithms for data mining (e.g., clustering and association rule mining), and basic statistical modeling (e.g., linear and non-linear regression).

Why Node and Scala will dry up and Go will take the slack

Node and Scala are quickly becoming languages of choice for building scalable, asynchronous web services and applications. However, Go, the language designed and in use at Google, presents a compelling alternative with few of the warts of Node and Scala. While Node and Scala are specifically targeting developers as the tools of choice for server side architecture, Go is actually a better tool for the job and will prove to be the ultimate winner.

Notes of Interest – April 24 2013

Curated links of interest – April 24 2013

SailFish OS

Open Source Mobile OS based on Linux core and the QT Framework – SDK avaialble for Linux, Windows, OSX
While Mozilla is offering its’ own OS, this could be a outlier that creates a movement for budget devices

Why Excel has been the bane and core of my business life

28 Year old Econ Grad publishes paper “Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff,” that took aim at a massively influential study by two Harvard professors named Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. Herndon found some hidden errors in Reinhart and Rogoff’s data set, then calmly took the entire study out back and slaughtered it.


Don’t Send Me a Message

One of my pet peeves too – Don’t send me a message to say I have a message!!!


Pony – ORM for Python

Pony is a Python ORM that lets you query a database using Python generators. These generators are then translated into effective SQL.


How Hyphens can hurt your SEO

Experiments in SEO and why hyphens can impact you


Javascript demos

Pushing the boundaries of traditional javascript, these demos show how far we have come – and the potential of where we can go

 JQuery 2 released

Drops IE 6-8 Support. Performance improvements.


Which Javascript Frameworks are getting more interest?

What people are searching on (sourced from Google)


HTML5 apps are still the red headed step-child

HTML5 is great, or would be if it had tools to support it (and why native mobile apps still win)
Link Link

Please don’t deploy your app on a Friday

As someone whose life was Friday night app deploy focused, I can relate


O’Reilly Free Books

Free books from the famed tech publisher


App Developers Leaving Facebook

Why Developers are leaving Facebook – sometimes its’ own success can be its’ ultimate downfall


Don’t be fooled – The Race for Mobile Dominance

When the US elections were taking place, there were a number of topics which caused the US public to either get really annoyed, or behind in support, however some of these topics were perceived as smokescreens to get people to invest their time in one matter, whilst the offending party was forging ahead with their real agenda.

Much the same can be said about the state of today’s mobile phone market. The announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is anticipated mid-March 2013 and there is debate about the next iPhone (iPhone 5S). In either case, much conversation has focused in on the hardware specs and screen size.

What’s really important

Whilst having a processor that’s capable of handling function, storage memory sufficient to accommodate photos, videos, apps and music and form that allows the phone to be both of a quality build, handled comfortably and screen size appropriate to needs there are a couple of really important things to consider:

The Operating System

Given that we as consumers appreciate and are more critical of the User Experience (and User Interface), having an operating system that looks and feels intuitive and can be adaptable to your own use of the device is essential. Neither Android nor IOS are yet there, with IOS being somewhat now overdue a UI/UX refresh and Android being plagued by layers of OEM fluff (e.g. MotoBlur, HTC Touch) to confuse the user experience.

Another example of this shortcoming is being able to share to your preferred social network should just be an option, regardless of network. Typically being able to share content from an IOS device to Google+ is more difficult than Facebook – but why is that? I as a user prefer to be able to define my social networks, not be constrained.

[UPDATE: Andy Parry brings the Ubuntu mobile OS to my attention – see this – this is exactly what i’m talking about how the UX should be more like]

The Phone

I’ve mentioned this before; the mobile phone needs to be revamped totally in the experience; not only a good sensor, but also the ability to create more useful metadata such as learning different faces so that it would be possible to then retrieve all the photos of Uncle Dave (person metadata), taken in Chicago (GPS metadata) last Autumn (time/date metadata), near Sears Tower (GPS metadata).

Also the actual holding and storage of a phone needs to be considered; I like the iPhone 4/4S for its compact size, yet it still manages to deliver a solid feel and also very view able screen.

The battery life

It’s all well and good having a powerful phone with an amazing screen, but it’s totally negated if you don’t have the battery life. I feel almost certain that the maximum brightness on phones, whilst very appealing, is hardly used by many due to the battery consumption – effectively rendering it a sales medium. When we start to have efficient batteries and components that consume them, then we have a truly adoptable phone.


Of course, this is skimming the surface, but the point is, don’t be fooled by the processor power etc. Think about the application of the phone to you. Would having a Galaxy S3 vs. S4 make a difference  Maybe, if you’re an avid photograper. However if you’re just browsing facebook, youtube, etc. it may not be of discernible difference (depending on the battery life)… case in point I have an iPhone 4 – initially a temporary phone until the iPhone 5 came out, but after due consideration, cost and features were not quite enough to upgrade for upgrades sake, based off my use.

Playstation 4 (PS4) Announced; What Does It Mean For You?

Sony has marketed the hell out of the fact they were going to announce the PS4 details today (20 Feb). In reality what they released was vapourware – mainly because they never showed any unit, other than the controller and a bunch of carefully created videos and in-game sequences – nor did they announce the price. However here’s what seems to be clear and what it means for you.


Basically it’s a powerful PC system on a single board; unless regular PCs where graphics cards and such are interchangeable, putting all the silicon on one board means that everything can communicate more optimally and therefore the “supercharged PC” claim. Just like any other console but unlike any other PC, that means no upgrades.

What this means for you: With a PC like specifications it means game ports between the two systems are easier and game developers can more easily push the system (the PS3 was notorious for being hard to program for). This is nothing new to the XBox, so this is more of a catch-up, albeit on steroids (AMRITE Lance Amstrong?)

System Features

There’s not been much shown so far to wow on the dashboard, but there was the ability to integrate social capability (facebook was mentioned). Not only that, but also the ability to stream your games with your friends through UStream, or let them take over your game to help you out of a tough level, or upload a short video of your gaming heroics.

The system apparently will also learn what games you prefer and be a TIVO-like device that downloads games based on your preferences. That could be annoying and pleasing a the same time!

Support for the Move (the magic wand Sony released for the PS3) continues.

What this means for you: Showboating game play is a bit of a gimmick for many gamers; It’s more of a feature than a benefit for many but there’s sure to be a niche use for it. For the casual gamer, it’s probably not something to be bothered with. Sony has decided to stick with physical objects to help with user detection – not sure this is the best option and Microsoft’s Kinect will probably continue to have the edge.


Stream games to the PSP Vita, Sony’s replacement for the PSP so you can keep on playing if the TV is being used – this is similar to the Wii U.

Additionally, Sony claims that the system will also integrate with tablets and phones. GIven they have their own range of said technology out there, you can expect this to be pushed (crossed promotion).

What this means for you: Integrating other devices has potential, but I think those devices will be a limited list. This could either be a unique selling point, or just another piece of show-off.


The games shown looked great (except Krank, which had great intro graphics but the actual gameplay looked like today’s consoles). The hardware looks to have potential to push things, but the PC won’t be far behind.

There are some exclusive titles coming along – many of which impress; check them out here.

There’s also the ability to download games – playing them before they finish downloading. Interesting to see how this pans out, given some games are many gigabytes.

What this means for you: Games are the core reason for consoles being around; having some A-Class titles and game studios onboard means that it will be one of the leading consoles – so long as games continue to be pushed out with quality.

Retro Gaming

Though not yet fully developed, Sony associates talked about being able to stream (not play natively), PS1, PS2 and PS3 games on multiple devices including the PS4.

What this means for you: If you loved an older game, this could be an amazingly handy feature – One game I want to replay is the PS2 “Getaway”

Media Centre

A casual mention of the usual integrations – Netflix, Hulu, etc. plus a Bluray drive, but no significant details.

What this means for you: Unsure – any modern console needs to be a media console too; While XBox can’t play Bluray and it’s UI is clunky for Media play, it’s still capable. PS3 systems are a little more boxed in, but the way to access media is good. To go beyond a games console and to penetrate the home, any modern day console has to be strong in this space.

Price and Release Date

Prices were undisclosed, but rumours put it between US$429 and US$529, which is very competitive. Release date is Christmas 2013.

Should I buy this console?

If you’re the person that has to have the latest iPhone regardless to say you have the latest iPhone then nothing I say here will change your mind.

However for the rest of us I think it’s worth holding out for Microsoft’s offering before deciding. Rumour of new XBox features include a tighter home media console effort, streaming games, inability to play second hand games (stupid move) and built-in and enhanced Kinect. It’s likely to match the PS4 tech specs.

My opinion is that the winner will be that console that has the better user experience, integration with other devices, is accessible for all ages, media savvy, supports the new types of displays (3D and 4K TVs) and of course has quality of games.

Visualization – The US Working Hour

Having worked with visualization of data for some time, I’m always looking at new ways to express data into a meaningful representation, either by restating it through visualizations, aggregations, abstraction, or introducing new data sets to complement it.

Whilst I can’t discuss much of my work due to the confidential nature of the data, there is public data out there which is readily available and very insightful. In the visualizations below I used data from the US Dept. of Labor (Labour) whose census recorded the hours worked across different industries

Hours Worked Heat Map

What stands out most clearly is Healthcare, Protect Services (Security, etc), Food services and Transportation industry workers cover more of the day (and night) than most other industries. Of course this might not come as a shock to many of you (especially if you’ve worked in those industries), but interestingly it also shows that “blip” of the lunch hour of noon – and farm/fishery workers are some of the most prolific “non-workers” during that time.

Yet another Visualisation of the same Data

For added measure I also included another “map” visualisation – whilst not as detailed as the previous heat map, it demonstrates how we can look at data in a number of ways. In effect, depending on the question we’re looking to answer we might want to aggregate information and pick out top/bottom 20% (for example). In the case of this visualisation, we’ve come to the same conclusion but possibly avoided the need for people to see lots of % numbers per “cell” (as in the first visualisation), which can be distracting. This particular visualisation could be a great “opener” and then invite users to click through to the most interesting data points, rather than cause more decision from the user if they were to see the first (e.g. they start to evaluate what their threshold is – 20%? 25%?, etc.).

For added visualisation “fun”, here’s some more public data correlation – Illinois unemployment with retail gas prices and crude oil prices –

MacBook running hot after installing OSX Lion – Fix here

After installing OSX Mountain Lion I noticed that my Mac Book Pro was getting extremely hot and battery life was poor at best. Seems I was not alone.

After googling (if that’s a verb), I discovered one of several solutions:

  1. You’ve got a Citrix type client installed which is running in the background (see this thread)
  2. You have Office 2008 or 2011 and Spotlight is having an issue with indexing (see this thread)
  3. You need to reset your SMC (see this Apple KB item) – this is not as likely as the others.

I have gone through all three and so far it seems to have cooled the laptop. I’ve also noticed that Flash/Shockwave sometimes hangs with high CPU – with the new changes I need to evaluate if that’s still a problem, but figured in the meantime I’d share how to potentially fix your Lion woes.

Update 1: After performing steps 1-3 I noticed improvement in battery life – until I started to use Chrome with a site using Flash and suddenly Shockwave was going crazy with CPU and memory usage. Again, it’s not just me. If anyone has ideas please comment below.

The business world is about to change

It’s a bold and aggressive statement and got your attention. It’s also (IMHO) true and here’s why.

GE Life is Over

I worked for a large corporate entity which was ticking over just OK and then came the private equity / GE management people and their Jack Welch “you’re with us or out (and even if you’re with us, you might be out)” approach. It was needed to a point but it was also flawed because it was littered with personal agendas and backhanders. It stripped the very essence of the business which had a fantastic innovation core and reduced everything to a dollar sign.

During an economic recession this makes sense as a business needs to remain profitable to move forward and develop itself; it also needs its’ people to reinvent themselves to adapt to the challenging environment.

During that time I witnessed initiatives reduced layer after layer until our clients were screaming blue murder and threatening to leave, at which point the business would inject a ton of cash. Trouble is, they’d pissed off many of their experts who had left to other companies. Said company had also off-shored many jobs as those offshore resources were not equipped to deal with the magnitude of the task at hand (not to mention at a geographic disadvantage).

Don’t get me wrong here, I think off-shoring works really, really well for certain circumstance and I’ve made some fantastic friends in the those companies – but they don’t work for *my* company – they’re on contract and like any contractor, they’re only as loyal and passionate as long as they get the job done and are paid for it (generalisation).

The Tide is Changing

I left said company and moved into another industry; I miss the old company and its’ people but it was time for me to go. I have also witnessed the significant shoots of growth in both industries and also a shift in approaches by management teams and employees.

This regained resurgence has prompted employees to look for new employment and thus employers are starting to make more attractive offers. Unlike the old wave of enticement though, candidates are more savvy about what they want and what to look for. No longer are there the stories being told in the interview which, when the employee starts, realises that these were an extension of the truth… instead they’re using sites like et al to feel out the businesses that are really interested in innovation and investment in the future.

Case in point, a healthcare company was repeatedly trying to get me to interview and I repeatedly refused. Why? Because they had a dreadful overall review on GlassDoor which told a story about a company that was rife with internal political battles and powerplays mixed with low investment in innovation. If I was going into a company like that it would be at CIO level to make the changes that otherwise would be stifled.

And So It Came To Pass

In the next few years employees will drive the value in companies through their job changes. People with real experience and value will gravitate towards those companies that offer true value through innovation, investment and opportunity whilst removing the old school ways of being.

No longer can we sustain this “you must be here by 8am and leave by 7pm” – You must put in the hours you need to do your job. You must feel passionate and be the ambassador for the company you work for. You must respect your colleagues and develop them as they should you. Your employer should treat you like an adult (as you should act like one) and respect that you may have a family and life that needs you as much (if not more at times) than your job.

Those companies that don’t promote that will be also-rans and failures. Those employees who don’t try also tempt the same fate.

Technology is great until it fails! How to back up your pictures and other files

In this age where almost everyone has some form of capturing the moment digitally; whether you have a full-on Digital SLR camera, point and click, iPod, iPhone, Android, etc. at some point you’re going to amass lots of pictures and videos.

So what would happen if the device they were on right now failed? Would you lose all your treasured files? What options do you have to backup?

Backing up your PC / Mac

There are so many options here to consider; here’s a brief run-down of the main ones:

Data Transfer Speed Cost to Implement Typically Stored Risk of Failure Comments
Optical Media (CD/DVD) Slow $ On Site Low Long term storage option; Size limitations per Disc (e.g. Single Layer DVD is 4.7GB)
Attached Portable Disk Fast $ On Site Moderate Good for quick archival; risk of disk failure
(in unit) RAID array (non-NAS) Fast $$ On Site Low Provides protection, but risk to data if the entire unit is affected
Single NAS drive Medium * $ On Site Moderate Central location for everyone on a home network to backup to; risk of single disk failure
RAID NAS Drive Medium * $$ On Site Low Central location for everyone on a home network to backup to; risk should the location catch fire, etc.
Free Cloud Offerings Medium * Cloud Low Space is typically limited; very little options in syncing files
Paid Cloud Offerings Medium * $$$ Cloud Low Best compromise  of accessibility, speed, risk and flexibility; Most expensive option long term

Some terminology while we’re here:

NAS = Network Attached Storage; think of it like a portable hard drive that you can put in your home network and anyone on your network can see it

RAID = Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks; most home PCs have one hard drive. if that fails then it’s game over. Some PCs are configured to allow other hard drives to be added which mirror the main hard drive. This doesn’t increase your hard drive space – instead, if the main hard drive fails, you have at least one disk with a backup of your data which you can run from. To read more about RAID, check this wiki article out.

Backing up isn’t just once and done

Backups typically are one of three types. When you are looking to backup your files, you might want to think about using backup software to help automate it, and so you’ll need to consider the following

  • Full – A complete backup of all files is taken each time
  • Incremental – A full backup is taken and then only changes are backed up after that point, resulting in multiple incremental sets of backups
  • Differential – A full backup is taken and then only changes are taken; each time a backup occurs it overwrites the last differential backup and takes all files updated since the full backup. This results in only two backup files being present at any one time.

Many backup services offer a variety of these. To me, differential seems the one I’d pick because in the event of a disk failure, I’m only having to work with two files, otherwise I’m maintaining many files with incremental (unless I’m on the ball with when I do a full backup).

The Need for Speed

When you’re backing up gigabytes of files you want it to happen fairly quickly – if you’re using something like a DVD or slow internet connection it’s going to take a while. That could be a PITA.

What’s the best option for me?

Generally using Cloud for backups is the best compromise – if all you’re doing is backing up and don’t want others to have access to the files. Otherwise, a NAS RAID drive might suit better. Both have pros and cons – think about speed, access, cost and finally – if you’re house were to catch on fire, would you save your RAID NAS drive?

Here’s a comparison of Cloud services to consider. Carbonite, Mozy and Backblaze are typically the most popular premium services, so also check out this.

What about my cell / mobile phone backups?

iPhones have iCloud and iTunes to help with that. You can sync your files to either / both and take care of it.

Android has a slightly different set of options; You can sync your contacts and pictures with Google directly (including Google Picassa) or you can buy some of the apps out there for it. TechHive has a great article on this very topic.


We all need to consider our backup strategy – and have one in place. It also goes hand in hand with being able to organise your files so that if you need to refer back to them, you can. How many times have you seen the folder “DCIM” with image names such as “IMAGE0012.JPG”? Technology still has to solve the ability to catalogue digital images effectively!

So, what do you use for backups?