4-years recap

I was doing some cleaning up and tidying up and an item that has been sitting on my todo list for a long time was to move my personal blog from a private hosting to a cloud service. I have had a private hosting (virtual server) for many years, but the reality is that I haven’t used it for 4 maybe even 5 years. I was just too lazy to transition to something else.

As I completed the transition to wordpress.com I also realized I have not written a blog post in more than 4 years. My last post was about starting at Samsung and the first few months. It’s been a great ride, I did many different things and learnt a lot. Samsung is in the past, though.

During those four years I worked on some amazing projects, maybe it’s because it was the first one, but Simband still holds a very dear place in my heart. If you haven’t seen it, it was a power-house of sensors to push innovation in digital health. The watch (admittedly pretty bulky) had multiple PPG sensors, GSR, could read ECG signals and more. All with raw signals available to developers either in the embedded processor or in the cloud. Pretty innovative for 2014! Here are a couple of my favorite pictures (all Samsung copyright!):

After Simband I transitioned to ARTIK, helping the cloud team first and eventually building a catalog of software, services and hardware components that could be used with ARTIK. While ARTIK was meant to be the central module controlling all IoT, it needed a lot more to actually build an IoT product. As of today it looks like most ARTIK properties are down and only a few areas are still visible. It’s not even worth linking. One of my favorite outcomes has been the Kitra GTI, an IoT gateway with everything you can dream of:

So here we are, at the end of 2018 and ready for a new adventure. In October 2018 I joined Kin to continue innovating, but this time with Blockchain.

More articles to come, I promise.

Off to a good start with the new blog

Yesterday I switched the blog server from Blogger to WordPress. Everything still seems already. Yesterday, just a few hours after the switch I had already received 4 or 5 spam-comments. Not a great start from that perspective, but luckily moderation is turned on and I quickly marked them as spam. I might consider adding some CAPTCHA or similar, let’s see how the trend goes.
Continue reading “Off to a good start with the new blog”

From Blogger to WordPress, finally!

Welcome to my new, old blog.

After using Blogger for more than 5 years and after developing WordPress plugins and sites for others, I thought it was time for me to jump on board. A lot of people are leaving WordPress, focusing on Twitter, or using new tools like Posterous and Tumblr. I like to be old school sometimes, and I like this blog and the history it holds.

So welcome to the same old thing. 🙂

2009 (controversial) predictions

I think the first predictions for 2009 I’ve seen, at least related to the mobile space, were from Carlo Longino. After his predictions no other predictions I’ve seen so far are very interesting or are adding much value. Kudos to Carlo to be the first, sorry for the others who I think have wasted their time.

Of course, if you want to get your predictions right you have to stick to something very likely to happen and that will probably not appear SO interesting or will not surprising TOO many people. Challenged a bit by James Whatley (a.k.a. whatleydude) here I am wasting a bit of my time and trying to bring some more controversial and probably less likely to be accurate predictions. If I can get 1 right, I think I’ll be proud.

1. mobile/not-mobile becomes irrelevant
The line that separates a mobile phone from a PC is becoming thinner and thinner. We have mobile phones, smart phone, EEE PCs, laptops, notebooks and probably more I can’t think of and you can basically get ANY display size between 2″ to 19″ and put that piece of electronics in your pocket or your bag and also be connected at any time. The distinction between “desktop” and “mobile” is about to disappear.

2. Garmin for car-navigation becomes irrelevant
Garmin has been the leader in car-navigation for many years, their products were the best by far both from the perspective of accuracy and software bundled. Nevertheless Tom Tom in many countries like Italy is the synonym of “car-navigation”. Garmin for some reason could not make it (was it just marketing?) and now Nokia is seriously in the game and all other vendors are releasing at least some device with GPS (did anyone say Google Maps?), so any user who wants navigation, will have it in his mobile device. I am really sorry to say that Garmin has no hope (and Tom Tom will follow quickly or be acquired).

3. Microsoft gives up on licensing their mobile OS
I am not sure if Microsoft will start selling their own “Zune-phone”, even though I personally think it would be a failure, but I believe their OS itself has no hope and no reason to continue to exist, what Microsoft really needs is focus on licensing Active Sync and maybe a Mobile Office (If Google can’t get a proper mobile version of their online docs first). They will continue making money on what they are really good at and keep the dominance of the e-mail and contacts. Anyone who wants to compete with RIM will have to integrate that and pay the fee.

4. Motorola mobile devices division is acquired
Carlo bets on EITHER Motorola or Palm, so I’m aligning behind him, but with a clear bet on one.

5. eBay online auctions are either acquired or become irrelevant
I personally think eBay is really a poor site and it seems like they could not make any improvement in the last 10 years. They have been ignoring mobile so far and honestly I think they are making a huge mistake. More and more when I search for something all I see are ads. Paypal is a GREAT idea and Skype has killed any other VoIP service, but ebay… well…

New UI for search engines popping up

Just a couple of days I was searching on Yahoo! and noticed some special results for linkedin. See a search for my name:

Note the little icons on the right to get an explanation, send the link to a friend or stop getting this type of result.

And that made me think of some recent changes in Google search results when the page comes from a forum or a group. Here’s an example:

Note how you can see some details about the forum post, number of replies, etc.

This morning James pointed out how in Google a new interface has appeared and lets you add, edit or remove results. Here is how the interface looks for one result:

Depending on the position and result, the icons appear and disappear (you can’t promote to a higher position a result that is already at the top, of course) and also another icon to remove the result appears. At the bottom of the page a few interesting links appear showing you your previous actions and giving you the opportunity to revert your changes or update there. There’s also a link to learn more about SearchWiki. It would be interesting, and maybe it is already coming, to be able to mash up with results from people I know and trust. We’ll see.

After many years of minor tweaks to the Google UI that was replicated by most if not all search engines, we now see some innovation. It’ll be fun!

Can anyone catch up on Amazon’s cloud?

Cloud computing is the second buzz-word after social network these days. It’s all about storing or running your stuff “in the cloud”, remotely. If we all really used the cloud, a lot of storage and a lot of CPU power would be needed. Google has certainly created it’s own elastic cloud of computers and search and e-mail and other services proved how fast and reliable it is. But what about “the rest of us”? Amazon has been running storage (S3) and CPU (EC2) in the cloud for a long time now and even it is not known to the masses they are in fact providing the horse power to many start-ups. In their own words, “After two years in beta, Amazon EC2 has entered General Availability (GA)”.

I’ve had a chance to use S3 quite a bit and also EC2, a little bit. Both services are mostly for programmers, they are not really for the masses, but the solidity and the wide range of options is incredible. It was a surprise to see how well it works and how many things you can do very easily. Amazon provides a number of tools and the the community has also done its part and in fact there are some very interesting tools such as the Firefox plug-in elasticfox that make it super-easy to manage your servers.

From the beginning Amazon has been running Linux servers providing images that you could start with a click. Earlier this year they announced an agreement with Redhat that lets developers run Enterprise versions of Redhat linux.

A few days ago I was listening to the great podcast by the Guardian, Tech Weekly, it was the recording of Oct 28th. They spoke about the recently announced Microsoft Windows Azure and how this is a reply to Google’s and Amazon’s cloud computing solutions. Last week Amazon officially announced not only of being out of beta, but that Windows servers will now be available. It costs a slight bit more than running Linux, but of course you get the full Windows environment, including C# and you even have an option for Authentication services and SQL Server. This is AMAZING, you can get a Windows server up and running in seconds, do your development or tests and shut it down (very good if you need to test a specific version of Windows or combination of OS, Service Packs, etc). All this will cost less than a dollar.

Amazon EC2 is great both if you need to test something temporarily (start a server, test, shutdown) or if you want to run a service full time, in fact, EC2 you might easily run a limited number of servers normally, but when you have a peak start as many extra servers as you need.

Google has App Engine and while it is another approach to elastic computing it is quite different. Yes, it has some advantages such as that you just upload your code and it runs, but of course it does not give you the power and flexibility or a complete server at your fingertip.

I think it will be very hard for the other players to catch up and surely it will not be enough to throw in some money because Amazon already has a very good and most likely profitable business in place and they are not lacking the money themselves. It will be very interesting to see how this evolves and it will certainly be a a great opportunity to save on costs for small companies and start-ups.

EDIT: Did I mention that Amazon now guarantees 99.95% uptime? Can you think of any small to medium company that can seriously commit to such uptime?

UPDATE: Amazon has announced CloudFront a new file distribution system that reminds me a lot of Akamai.

Attacking Google where the money is

Google is undisputed leader of search. It’s useless for me to describe how Google changed the world about it, but let’s talk about everything else Google is doing such as documents, e-mail and mobile OS’s, of course. All this is funded by ads, while they have some other incomes such as former-Postini customers and other Google applications customers, ads are what fund anything Google do.

A few other companies tried to beat them starting from scratch such as cuil, but I would say that so far none of them has been able to be a serious competitor. Now what if the money on the ads was taken away from Google? If Google had to focus on ads more, would they be able to continue spinning off new applications and services? Would they still be able to create great apps and give them away as open-source just to kill the competition (think of Google docs and Android)? (OT: doesn’t this remind you of Microsoft and Netscape and other products they gave away embedded for free to kill the competition?)

It seems to me like recently the competition and innovation in ads have grown a lot. In mobile, Google is a follower and while they do have HUGE power and have been able to sign great contracts with operators and big players, the leader in mobile seems to be AdMob (even though I don’t have exact numbers handy). Now, also in web ads there is more and more competition. I was watching a video today about Dapper that is bringing some innovation with a product called Mashup ads. I am not a publisher, so I can hardly tell if this is a killer for Google, but surely it is something new and interesting.

Unexpected questions

My English has improved a lot in the last two years and in most cases I can manage a normal conversation. Speaking to people with slightly different accents can be a problem sometimes, but it seems like after a few minutes I get used to it, and handle it OK.

There is something funny that is still happening to me, from time to time. The other day I went to my bank for a money transfer. I was thinking about the amount of money, the recipient full name and so on. The cashier, who has now seen me a few times in the last month or so, started the conversation with something like “Hello Andrea, how has it been in Ireland so far?”. This was not exactly the type of question I expected. Not the type of conversation you normally have in a bank with a cashier. Well, even if the question was quite simple and was very nice of her to ask me, she caught me by surprised with an unexpected question about an unrelated topic. I was baffled and for a moment had to “rewind the tape”, think and then prepare a reply.

Nothing bad happened and a few other times I simply asked to repeat the question, still it’s funny that if a topic that is not normally discussed in a certain context it appears that I can be caught by surprise and not understand it, even if the vocabulary is simple enough for me to understand every single word of the sentence.

Anyway, life in Ireland has been OK so far, everyone I met have always been very nice and helpful. +1 to the Irish.

Blog layout update

I have not been able to change the layout of my blogger site for quite a long time. All I could do was download the template, manually edit, re-upload. All the nice AJAXy interface did not work at all.

Today I had a few spare minutes, I went in edit mode and when clicking on preview blogger told me it could not show me the new page because of a (blogger) widget in the head portion of the page. I cut it and magically everything is working! I can now edit the layout again!! woohoo!

I’m glad they added this new error message.

I now replaced the old widget with a cleaner code so that I can get the page titles as I like them. Slightly changed the widgets on the right-hand side of the page (if you are not reading from RSS, of course). Minor link updates.

Now on to work on a couple of posts I’ve been thinking about in the last few days.