Is Facebook Making Us Miserable

Long, long ago, when I was a young lad. Researchers put in a lot of time and effort studying the affect of television on young minds. Fast forward to the 21st century and researchers have been trying to quantify how social media affects users. A new study out of the University of Copenhagen answer’s the central question, “does Facebook cause us to feel miserable?”

It is.

It is.

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding, YES.

Why I’m Pissed After Seeing Hidden Figures

EDIT: I removed some of the colorful language after shooting a few arrows.

My wife and I took our daughters, 6 and 9, to see the movie, Hidden Figures, this weekend.

hidden-figures

Hidden Figures tells the widely unknown story of how three black NASA employees helped NASA’s space race to the moon against the Soviet Union. The movie is based on true events and portrays how Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and the inimitable Katherine Johnson assisted in the successful launch and landing of John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth and controlled descent back. This bit of history is significant because Russia’s launches, even Yuri Gagarin’s trip were up and down affairs. NASA’s objective was to determine the point of re-entry back to Earth. A much bigger feat in the pursuit of man’s destiny.

theSync: 3 Back to School Tech Products for the Busy Parent

It’s that time of year again!

BACK-TO-SCHOOL!

Believe you me. If you have have little ones, Christmas and the First Day of School are two of the best times of the year. Unfortunately, today’s modern elementary schooler has a lot going on, and we parents have to nature, nurture, and chauffeur our kids everywhere. This week on theSync, 3 technology products the harried parent can have to help them hustle their kids.

1. Google Calendar

It seems obvious, but you’d never appreciate how many parents don’t utilize the free tool. With gymnastics, field hockey, and science fair projects on the agenda, the average school ager has a schedule chock a block full of activities. Keeping up with play dates, projects, and parties can be daunting. Create a G-Calendar specifically for your kids’ activities and share it with your husband and grandparents. You’ll be able to sync events to all of your family as well as your phone so you’re not having to papier-mâché a volcano at the last minute.

2. Trello

My oldest is entering first grade this year, which means parent potlucks, fundraisers, and group projects are in full swing. You can use Trello can setup projects and events, and task other parents with salads or supplies using an easy to understand and simple interface.

3. Tile

I don’t know about you, but my kid is always losing shoes, backpacks, and lunch boxes. More often than not, these items end up in the lost and found. You can attach Tile’s not out yet, but coming soon, little ID tags on your kids’ stuff and the next time something goes missing, fire up Tile’s iPhone app to seek and ye shall receive.

These are my picks for fast, easy, and cheap tech for parents of modern elementary schoolers to use. Please share the tech you think helps today’s busy parent in the comments.

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theSync: The Top 5 Technology Products of 2013

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

It’s the end of the year and so it’s list time. Before you head out tomorrow and get tipsy let’s take a moment to reflect on the top 5 tech products of 2013 this week on theSync.

How did I come up with this list?

Lots of products are announced in any given year. Most products are revisions and evolutions of previous releases. Very few products are revolutionary, but there are some evolutionary products that refine ideas so well glimpses of the future are easily apparent. These 5 products, one announced in 2012; but solidified in 2013, are either data public or commercially available and show us what man is capable of and what our future holds in store. Some products are dirt cheap implementations that just a few years ago would be out of reach of the average Joe. One product is a data public construct, another just plainly inexpensive future tech which was science fiction just 10 years ago.

These are my product selections. One dreamer’s set of future aspiration.

Uncovering Earth’s Mysteries

Lucas-Higgs-CE0047H-nice2

Leading off this year is the Higgs Boson. Discovered last year, we’re only starting to skim the surface of the mysteries that the Higgs Boson can uncover. Our ability to detect and then build upon these discoveries will expand our understanding of our world. The Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Englert and Higgs for their work this year.

A Real Electric Car

The best looking electric vehicle out.

The best looking electric vehicle out.

The Tesla Model S. Elon Musk is crazy, but most visionaries are. All cars should be made like the Tesla Model S. A flatbed on batteries with very few moving parts. Musk’s vision is that cars will be as cheap and upgradable as computers and the Tesla Model S proves this is possible.

You can see me burning up the Beltway in this ride.  Until my charge runs out.

You can see me burning up the Beltway in this ride. Until my charge runs out.

Robotic Flight

xl_Parrot_AR_Drone2_hands_on1

The AR Drone 2 is a seriously fun glimpse at the future. AR Drones may look like toys but they are really sophisticated machines that can be turned into robots. Praised and panned at the same time, Jeff Bezos, demonstrated an automated delivery system Amazon is proving with drones. Drones typically get a bad rep because of military strikes, but demonstrating that robots can take over human tasks is a giant leap forward.

The Invisible Hand

BLED112_CMYK-April-2012

Bluegiga’s BLED112 is the invisible enabler that will subtly automated your world. These Bluetooth Low Energy devices are cheap, powerful, and small. Easily communicable using phones and PCs and able to link any device, Bluegiga’s cheap modules get us closer to realizing our dream of the Internet of things.

Star Trek Tech, Today

MI Replicator 2 at the Microsoft Store in Tyson's Corner.  This train had weight and felt solid.  It was printed by this awesome machine.

MI Replicator 2 at the Microsoft Store in Tyson’s Corner. This train had weight and felt solid. It was printed by this awesome machine.

The Makerbot Replicator 2. 3D printing has been hyped up, but this year Makerbot Industry’s Replicator 2 proves that 3D printing is not a pipe dream. About the cost of a laserjet in 1995, the Replicator 2 is quick, accurate, and inexpensive to operate.

I think these products are the best of the best tech we’ve seen this year. Let me know what products you think you should be on this list on my site at innovationisin.me.

I’m Will Mapp, thanks for listening, and reading.

Happyyyyy Neewwww Year!

theSync: 5 Tips for Helping Your Mom (or Dad) Get Safely Up and Running with Their New Smartphone

I took the kids home to visit their grandparents this weekend. After getting out the car, I was stunned into disbelief because my featurephone-using-mother had acquired a brand new 1-cent iPhone. Needless to say, going over Apple ID credentials, setting Twitter, and explaining Google Maps was a painful experience. This week on theSync, I’m giving you a quick lessons-learned segment for helping your parent get setup and running safely with their new smartphone.

1. Take 3 Deep Breaths

Trying to explain App Store IDs, demonstrating Google Maps, and setting up Facebook can be a pain. Don’t get upset, remember she is your mother. Take 3 deep breaths between explaining each feature. Especially when you’re explaining the difference between an Apple ID and the other IDs your parent will need to stalk you online.

2. Don’t Keep Passwords Safe

It takes time for feature phone users to make the leap to smartphones. For many, creating secure and memorable passwords can be challenging. When you create your mom’s password, tape a paper copy to the refridgerator and make a document in notes with her Apple ID. Yeah, I know. It won’t pass muster at your local, shuddered, Federal agency, but you have to start somewhere and pray she doesn’t lose her phone.

3. Install All Apps at Once

And then log out of the App Store. You know she doesn’t know what she’s doing so logging out of her App Store account will keep her safe from running up a huge Candy Crush bill. Also, installing a bunch of crap now will hold her over until Christmas. The key here is to put enough crap on the device that she can go around struttin’ with her new iDevice and show the world that she’s not just making calls and texting. Which lead us to…

4. Explain the Concept of Group Text Messaging

Back in featurephone land tt took more steps to get a group text conversation going. You had to hit three buttons to get back to the contacts screen and then tripe tap to search, and yadda yadda. On an iPhone you just start typing names one after the other in the address bar. You don’t want your mother copying you an a message about the many personal uses of Lysol with all of your family members in the conversation. Have the group text conversation now to prevent embarrassment later.

5. Friend Then Block Her from Your Facebook Stream

Moms love telling people how proud they are of you and will post embarrassing photos of your proud 5 year old self, standing naked, holding a broom. Set her up in Facebook, turn on the privacy settings, Friend her for proof, then block her from your stream. It’ll take her some time to figure out what’s going on and she’ll ask how come she can’t post to your stream. On the phone deny and flat out lie that you don’t know what’s going on. Maybe it’s a problem on Facebook’s end.

I’d love to know how your mom is embarrassing you on Facebook or Twitter, please let me know in the comments.

I love you mom!

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5 Things a Smart Technology Contractor Can Do During the Government Shutdown

The government has shutdown. This shit just got real.

Now don’t act surprised. You had a gut feeling that TEA Party Republicans were for real this time and you’ve spoken with your Prime and your agency counterpart thinking the same thing, “…Damn! This might actually happen.”

I’m writing you today to encourage you to get your ass off the sofa, turn off The Colbert Report, and make this time useful. You might love your government customers, but you and I both know they’re responsible for 90% of your sleepless nights.

120912obama_boehner_dngnk

If you’re a business owner or self-employed technology contractor, here are 5 things you can do to be productive while and O and Co. duel against Boehner’s Boners.

(Notice Boehner’s House website is still operational while WhiteHouse.gov is down)

1. Come Up with 10 Things

After running a small business that had 2 or 3 LARGE customers at a time, I’ve become a practitioner and advocate for having multiple streams of income. You wouldn’t be thinking about how to budge your December if you had other revenue streams. Right now, grab a waiter pad, or a sheet of paper and jot down 10 ideas for generating other streams of revenue. Don’t over think it and don’t try to map out a business model. Just let your mind free play and come up with ideas. It could be an idea for creating a better toilet plunger or an e-commerce site helping people find penguin feed. The key here is to open to things that can come to you.

2. Call Your Govvies and Empathize

be-empatheticSure enough, some of your government colleagues are happy to have the day off, but for some of them it really does suck to not be at work. If they’re liberal, call them up and complain about how the Tea Party sucks. If they’re conservative, call them up and talk about how much we’re really providing value about our project and how the rest of government projects are just waste and I like to drink black tea for breakfast. The people you work for are people.

3. Appify

Yeah, I know. I own a mobile development company, but here’s some real talk. In 2013, 57% of Internet ios7-control-centerusage will be coming from mobile devices and it hasn’t taken very long. Our world is increasingly mobile and you need to figure out how you can get your products and services used and access while on the go. Hell, make sure your website is responsive, take the time to see what it looks like on your phone at least.

4. Write an E-Book

You and I both know that you’re doing more writing than real work. Why don’t you put those ideas you’ve been sharing into an easily digestable and DOWNLOADABLE format. An e-book doesn’t have to be 100 pages. I’ve downloaded e-books that are 10 pages but filled with a key nuggets of information. Think about this; when you go back and meet with your Director debriefing the shutdown fallout, you could be like, “…that shutdown sucked, but I’m glad to be back. You know we have a downloadable e-book that details the most effective ways of deploying quadruple-ply toilet paper in bathroom stalls. It’s short, but presents solutions others haven’t thought about.”

5. Spec Out a New Feature or Extra for the Project You’re Working On

360px-Specification_and_Levels_of_DevelopmentDuring the project, you’re focused on requirements, making sure you implement all of them, and doing it on time. Now that you have a little time, think about how you can make your deliverable that much cooler, or that much more effective. And do this with the knowledge you might not be able to bill for it. I was raised that you have to do a 151% better than the next guy to get ahead and I make sure our companies do this on all of our projects whether it’s Snapperific, DRIS, or our other government projects. Plus, think about this, you might be working on a government contract, but your customer is still a person. That person has a Director to report to and they want to look good. Giving that extra sumthin’, sumthin’ may have an upfront cost, but will pay dividends later on.

I don’t about you, but I’m fully dressed and being productive this morning. You may not be able to bill today, but doing these quick things could help your long term billability.

Or you could always punt and keep the TV on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Bonus – You could always use this time to recharge. Take a walk, play your guitar, or have lunch with your wife. Being a technology contractor ain’t easy.

If you’re a contractor or business owner that does government work and you’re not billing, I’d love to know what you’re doing today. Please let me know in the comments.

theSync: Rollin’ with the NDK (and Everybody Say!)

I know it seems like it’s all Android every day around here, but don’t fret will be back on Apple’s Johnson in time enough for their September 10th announcement. One of our projects involves porting a large chunk of useful legacy code from Windows to Android. Lord knows the toolset for Android is primitive enough, but debugging is like taking a walk in the Paleolithic era.

If you have the guts to boldly go where No Man has Gone Before follow these simple steps to make your NDK experience worthwhile.

This week on theSync, the critical steps to get you rollin with the NDK.

1. Stick to an NDK Build

Decide on an SDK version and stay there. Once you get the ADT installed it’s hard to keep your toolsets intact if you’re constantly updating. On our project, we’re using a bespoke build of the Crystax NDK. If you need wide character (wchar) support you’re not going to find it in the factory available build of the Android NDK. If wchar_t support isn’t a deal breaker for you, don’t go aftermarket and stick with the build available from Android’s site. There’s isn’t enough extra in Crystax to justify using it beyond wide char support. That is unless you’re using something like Boost, another custom library that we built for Android.

2. Get Cygwin

Download and install Cygwin if you’re on Windows. You’re going to need it to generate the GDB server and device description that’s used to link the Android Debugger with the compiled processor-dependent code. If you’re on Mac or Linux, you already have everything you need. Our brothers on Windows are the only ones suffering this slight.

Once you have Cygwin installed, add to your system’s PATH environment variable the fully qualified path to your NDK build’s SDK folder. When Cygwin starts, this path will be exported. Next, add your NDK build’s toolchain subdirectory to your system path. We will need this path added to run the ndk-debug command.

3. Only Debug on a Real Device

Plug in your device, you should only debug android apps if you have a device. DO NOT EVEN ATTEMPT TO USE THE EMULATOR. The emulator is notoriously slow and you will suffer through the debugging experience. Android devices are cheap; so, if you are venturing into Android development do yourself and get a device. Once you have the device we need to setup.

  • Open up a shell and change directories to your project path
  • Next, execute the ndk-debug tool, this will drop the device description and ABI
  • Now you’re really ready to debug

4. Debug a Native Android Application

Back-in-the-day, a year ago, you would need to create a custom debug configuration that would spool off the ndk-debug task, load the server file, and magically hook into Eclipse. Enough game devs lobbied Google to add native debugging to Eclipse. Go ahead and set a breakpoint. Because Eclipse sucks, right-click your project, cross your fingers, and select Debug As >> Native Android Application. In the so called modern era, Eclipse will create a new Debug Configuration for your project automatically, the internals will traverse your project tree and find the debug description and ABI configuration. It takes a moment, but when the server kicks in and your break point is triggered, Eclipse will automatically throw you into the Debug perspective.

5. Email Google and Cuss Them Out

I’ve kept my feelings to myself for a long time, but I can’t stand it anymore. I’ve been writing software professionally since 1994. I’ve written software for satellite, telecom, data processing, and mobile systems. I’ve used a number of platforms, written software for a number of targets, and used numerous IDEs from Visual C++ 1.52 to Visual Age to JBuilder to XCode to Studio and now Eclipse. And I have to say, the Eclipse development experience is the worst experience I’ve had since Borland Pascal. It’s hard for me to bestow the same level of respect to Android as other platforms I’ve worked on because the software writing experience is so poor. I have the ADT installed on Mac OS X and Windows machines for development, and I’ve had Eclipse zero out files, I still don’t understand why I can’t terminate applications from the debugger, watches are slow as molasses, and it’s generally unstable. I’ve had marathon coding sessions in Eclipse only to find out that logcat no longer works or copy/paste operations happen in the wrong files. Our project is comprised of C++ and Java and there are times when the NDK build is successful, but the C++ Indexer detects include errors preventing a debug session to start. Seriously Google, with all of your billions and talent, you can’t put together a scratch team and build an IDE worthy of the platform? Yeah, I get it, an IntelliJ IDE is coming out soon, but I can’t help but think that you may drop this platform like a hot potato if you won’t dedicate resources to creating a solid experience for your developers. I’ll say it here, the best development experience is Visual Studio, and yeah, no one uses Windows Phone, but at least Microsoft cares enough about their developers to give them the tools to succeed.

Email Google and tell them that if they really believe in the Android OS to support their developers with a properly architected and modern toolset respective of their company’s status.

Enough ranting.

I’d like to hear about your experiences working with the Android NDK. Please add in tips and tricks in the comments.

Thanks for listening, and reading. You’ve been synced.

theSync: The Art of Digital Storytelling

We’re in the second decade of the 21st century and we’ve witnessed a ton of changes regarding our business relationships with customers. Years ago, it was about setting up a website and making it easy for people to reach you by phone first, then email. Today we need to do more.

You need:
o Not a website, but a blog with functionality
o An e-book
o A podcast
o A YouTube channel

So, if you’ve noticed the big guys are moving in the direction of using the web as more of a media delivery mechanism that showcases the product vs. just communicating the product. It’s not enough to offer your products online, but you need interaction involving video, graphics, and music.

1. Use Tools to Produce Your Own Magazine

Tools like Periodical and Creativist can be used to distribute an online magazine to the web and tablets like the Kindle and iPad. Both tools allow you to publish to the web at no cost, and from 29 to 39 a year you can publish to Kindle and iOS devices. Periodical is simple so that you can create your magazine on their site and link to it from anywhere, and Creativist can be used to push great looking content everywhere.

2. Find an Audience for Your Blog

Discovery is the most challenging aspect to content creation. With more blogs, bloggers, and content being added to the Internet every hour, finding the best content can be tough. And for you the creator, finding an audience is just as tough. Glipho is a publishing network that helps you promote your work socially. Glipho is more than a tool; it’s a publishing system that helps you hook into a network of readers that can share your content. You will get SEO tools out-of-the-box to help your audience find you online. The founders of WordPress, though the blogging system was getting too big for its britches; therefore, they created a super simplified approach to blogging in Ghost. Ghost is built for the mobile web and is responsive first, and desktop second.

3. E-Books Are Easy to Distribute and Provide Value

The experts are promoting their services and brands using e-books. I personally read a lot of e-books. Well written e-books are specific, short, and provide real nuggets of value information. The guys that successfully use e-books to promote their products make sure they give enough information to prospects to make them dangerous but encourage them to come back for more. Usually, a user has to exchange their e-mail address for an e-book. This in effect helps the business build their prospect lists. New e-books aren’t just static text. Using tools like iBooks Author gives you the opportunity to ship e-books embedded with rich text, audio, and even video. iBooks Author is available at no cost for your Mac computer. If you decide to use iBooks Author make sure you take it all the way and publish your works in the iBookStore even if they are free. Right now, I bunch of y’all are howling, Will I don’t have a Mac. Don’t fret you can still get all of this e-book hotness. For $200, you can create interactive PDFs that have audio and video using Adobe Acrobat XI. I’ve seen some really slick resumes as well as e-books in PDF format. Acrobat Pro isn’t cheap, but it isn’t expensive either. If you want to stand out you should take a look at this product.

4. Appify Your Presentations

I know y’all love talking apps. Apps are great communications tools but I don’t think we should appify everything. Keep in mind, that Apple exercises the option to not allow apps in the App Store and we’ve worked with companies in which Apple has said their app would be better served as a web application.

But, if you can offer your customers a unique experience, building a custom app in which you can deliver more interactivity and deals is a great way to go. And keeping it simple will cost you less money.

Here’s what you need to pass the Appization test:
• Offer something the web can’t
• Provide a great experience
• Allow people to communicate with your business
• Lead generator

A local company, Fifth Tribe, has developed a tool that does all of this. Fifth Tribe is developing a tool that will convert your PowerPoint presentation into a fully operational iPad app. Modern PowerPoint gives you the capability to embed video, audio, and HTML, and Fifth Tribe as built a tool that brings all of your content over. Fifth Tribe is currently in beta and you can check them out at fifthtribe.com.

I’d love to know how you’re communicating your businesses capabilities, please leave a word in the comments.

Thanks for listening, and reading. You are synced.

Voltron Syndrome and What You Can Do About It

More often than not, I receive my best ideas and most Eureka moments while I’m driving.  On this Good Friday, this morning was no different.  On the way back from dropping my Thing 1 off at school, for some reason I began contemplating why human beings suffer from Voltron Syndrome.  For those older than 15, Voltron was an anime cartoon featuring a bunch of robotic ships piloted by humans.  These ships could be formed into a larger robot, piloted by committee, called Voltron.  Voltron was the ‘Defender of the Universe’.   There were two kinds of Voltron the shortly lived, albeit better, vehicle Voltron, in which smaller robotic crafts could be formed with land, sea, and air capabilities; and, the more fantastical Lion Voltron which was piloted by 5 dudes that veered off course.

How Long Did It Take the Photog to Pose This Picture?

How Long Did It Take the Photog to Pose This Picture?

 

This Voltron is All Razzle Dazzle

This Voltron is All Razzle Dazzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Voltrons were captained by pilots from the Galaxy Alliance, commanded by a dude named Keith, with the exception being Princess Allura taking the helm of the Blue Lion when Sven bites it.  The Lions fought King Zarkan and Prince Lotor’s army of Robeasts conjured up by the Royal AI and Robotics Sorceress, Hagar.  The Vehicles fought, I can’t remember who the vehicles fought, but they fought many foes.

There were (are?) more Voltrons, but the only two that count are the Vehicle and Lion Voltrons from the original series.  These new episodes plainly suck.

Voltron Syndrome is the mesmerizing affliction suffered during the heat of battle when an opposing foe conjures up a last ditch, hail mary, roll-the-dice, deus ex machina power that will help them save the day.  I’ve coined it Voltron Syndrome because the first instance I remember is watching Voltron.  This video shows Voltron Syndrome in full effect:


And for thoroughness, the vehicles.


Yeah, I know, it’s a cheap way to fill a TV episode, because you’ll see this sequence at least once, and possibly twice if Lotor is especially dastardly. Immediately after this sequence, we’ll see a token skirmish between the robeast and Voltron, ending with Keith holding down Ctrl+Alt-S, to create Voltron’s Blazing Sword. Voltron makes quick work of his foe, two swipes, and Voltron smites the robeast to its ruin.

No Armor Can Defend Against It

No Armor Can Defend Against It

What I fail to comprehend is why do the robeasts just sit there and watch. You’ve seen the footage. The Lions take just over a minute to activate the interlock, fly to the heavens, link to each other, and strike a pose with the rays of the Gods falling upon them. The Vehicles may take only 37 seconds, but I’m sure a robeast, propelled by rocket engines, could make a quick exit or God forbid attack Voltron while they are vulnerable. Look. I’m sure that watching Voltron assembly is a-site-to-be-hold, but the transformation process has to be processor and energy intensive. A well aimed rocket or laser could blow them out the sky. And the Vehicles are just flying around.

But…

This phenomena doesn’t end with Voltron. If you played any fighting game such as Tekken or Soul Caliber, you know that most characters have an unstoppable move. The game gives visual and audible cues to let you know this move is about to be executed. Soul Caliber darkens the screen and the character is surrounded by pretty. Yet, if your opponent is human, they’ll more often do one of two things. 1. Duck or 2. Block. Years ago when I still heavily played video games, we’d play for hours and when one of these moves come up, the opponent would just sit there holding down ‘X’ or the down arrow instead of getting out of range or Hell, attacking.

I Can Understand Why You Wouldn't Want to Block Her Moves

I Can Understand Why You Wouldn’t Want to Block Her Moves

This also happens in any old school martial arts movie or even karate kid. Johnny swipe kicked Daniel Sans already battered leg. Daniel San is hurt up and bruised. Johnny can obviously win, but Daniel stands on one leg in the crane, and kicks Johnny to victory.

Why does this happen? Are our brains mesmerized by bright colors and we’re just awed into submission? Do we forget that we only need one point to win and not to run into the crane kick? In the case of Voltron, are the robeasts just as awed by the dazzling light show and pretty display? Did Hagar forget to code up the whole ‘forming Voltron’ recognition function? Are we still humming Joe Esposito’s music from the just passed montage?



So what can we do about Voltron Syndrome. We could use the same techniques many psychiatrists teach to their patients. Always be aware of what’s going on in the heat of battle. If you start seeing your foe back away or pause, be wary. Try to remain aware of what’s going on. If you see your surroundings darken and flashing lights recognize what’s happening and back off. Your instinct may tell you to block, but keep your wits and follow your brains urging for flight.

Do you have any tips to reduce the affects of Voltron Syndrome? Let me know.

Will