What I’d like to see in Glass XE14

It appears Google did decide to skip the 13th floor. What could we be waiting for?

A scenario-friendly Bluetooth proximity API. It seems that with freedom of motion Glass’ APIs could offer direction to nearest beacon by combining signal strength with accelerometer/compass. But in lieu of that, Android 4.4′s support for BLE proximity would be great for a project I’m working on.

Less picky head-on. I’ve resorted to turning off head detection every time I have people try scenarios because Glass simply won’t turn on for them. And if I forget to turn it back on, I accumulate a fabulous collection of upside down pictures & videos of my desk. There should be a middle ground.

Hands-based voice-free. Google’s recent “don’t be a glasshole” PR work reminds us they designed Glass to use with voice. But there are times when barking a command just doesn’t work (like when I wanted to live-tweet at Hackfort), and of course as of XE12 not everything can be done by voice anyhow.

I’d like Glass to ship with a small pocket keypad, like a screenless Blackberry, for touch-typing into the timeline. 

That’s a good segue to my final point:

Preparing for the alternative hardware story. I believe wearables’ future is in software and services, not this early hardware that has poor battery life, is uncomfortable for all day use, can’t  be used with your own sunglasses, kills facial symmetry, and has  been legitimately made fun of on SNL.

But the software is visionary, and, like Android proper, could work on  devices that target particular industries, situations, fashions, and needs, starting yesterday. I think we’ll start to see this affect the software (i.e.. builds of the OS that run on a spec/VM instead of XE hardware specifically) sooner than later.

Using Google Glass with Windows Phone

Here’s how you get the most bang for your buck with Google Glass if you use Windows Phone.

Windows Phone works with Glass for “explorer” & developer scenarios certainly — you can use Glass to understand the UX & opportunity without anything but a Windows Phone, and while the Glass disables directions & SMS in this combination, you can try directions with a temporary no-commitment Android device.

I tested Glass XE11 with a Lumia 920, Windows Phone 8 Update 3 on AT&T. My data plan allows use of Internet Sharing — this is required.

Setup

You set up Glass at the MyGlass site on the web.

Glass supports “any Bluetooth-capable phone”… what’s that mean?

Google says Glass is compatible with “Any Bluetooth-capable phone”.  Glass can pair to Windows Phone by Bluetooth, so yes, I suppose it’s compatible, but all you get is a fancy voice earpiece out of the deal. Caveat emptor.

But there’s a  way to enable more than the voice headset features.

Internet anywhere using Internet Sharing

Glass works quite well with Windows Phone’s Internet Sharing.

You have to toggle Internet Sharing on/off manually* on the phone. But once on, Glass has internet connectivity wherever you go, instead of only at Wi-Fi access points. (To configure a Wi-Fi access point, including the Internet Sharing access point, go to the MyGlass site.)

Internet Sharing stays on permanently in this configuration, which is good (less hand-in-pocket) and bad (it burns my phone battery down 10%-15%/hour even with light use, vs. typical 5%.) So keep an eye on battery, and thank goodness for wireless charging** of phones.

Directions and SMS messaging

Glass doesn’t do GPS and SMS without a device in the picture — “Get Directions” and “Send a Message” are disabled by default. Unfortunately as of XE11 that device has to be an Android device running the MyGlass app.

But the device doesn’t have to be a phone, or replace your Windows Phone. If you have a no-commitment Android device that does GPS (low-end SKU Nexus 7 tablet is what I tried), you can get directions whenever the device is “in your bag” by:

  1. Bluetooth pairing the tablet to Glass
  2. Installing & configuring the MyGlass app on the tablet
  3. (Configure the tablet  to connect to your phone’s Internet Sharing while you’re at it.)

SMS  is also enabled in this configuration for some reason — I think it’s a bug , as Glass let me send several texts, then told me one of the texts failed delivery… but all failed. Anyone know what’s going on here?

Conclusion

Yes, you can get the best of the HUD and phone worlds!

Still, I’m looking forward to a MyGlass app for Windows Phone*** that enables direction & SMS capability, as my time with the Nexus is coming to an end.

*Has Microsoft shared the protocol used to kick Wi-Fi Internet Sharing on through Bluetooth in Windows Phone 8 Update 3? If so, I’d think Android/Glass could include it, and this would address battery problems on the phone somewhat.

** Glass  hardware needs wireless charging. It has a micro USB connector that’s almost certainly going to get broken. I’d forgotten how janky those pins are!

*** @googleglass let me know on Twitter they don’t have anything specific to announce with respect to MyGlass on Windows Phone. Given the state of Bluetooth connectivity & background apps on Windows Phone, it seems unlikely it could happen until Windows Phone 8.1+, never mind Google’s agenda.

Adding line numbers to printouts/PDFs

At WhiteCloud we like to use paper printouts in meetings. It helps us focus on listening, and people just review & write feedback/notes on the papers. Way better than fiddly projection & fiddly iPads/laptops.

Line numbering printouts helps in discussion and reference.  This can be fiddly too, at least for the person making the printouts! The wiki we use, Confluence, doesn’t have line numbering, and as far as I can tell there’s no line-number-this HTML technology. (Where is that? That’d be cool!)

So here’s how I get line numbers on printouts:

  1. Export/print to PDF, favoring export if the website has it
  2. Open the PDF in Word 2013 (Word can open & edit PDFs, and has really good line numbering options)
  3. Under Page Layout choose Line Numbers, ContinuouslinenumbersPrint!
  4. Print!

What doesn’t work well: Confluence’s unordered lists (bullets) seem to cause some trouble for PDF-to-Word conversion if you’ve edited the bulleted lists many times.

Bite my shiny metal browser

Here’s a Bender icon for Google Chrome:Futurama Bender icon for Google ChromeTo use on OS X,

  1. In Chrome, right-click the image above. Choose “Copy Image”,
  2. In Finder, select /Applications/Google Chrome.app. Press Command-I.
  3. In the resulting Info pane click the  old Chrome icon in the upper left corner. Press Command-V. (This is one of my favorite old Mac OS tricks. You can do this to any app/file, with any copied image.)
  4. Quit Chrome and restart.

If you’d like to use on Windows, please share steps in the comments. I can’t recall if there’s an easy way on Windows using any old image.

2001: Apple removed a long-standing “Start” menu from Mac OS. Existing customers were really angry about the menu being gone. There were hacks to bring the menu back.

2013: The menu is still not back, and everyone has forgotten about the menu. They love OS X for what it is/is-not, not what it was/was-not.

I’d say that even by 2004 the menu was forgotten. The good stuff being added to OS X blotted out the removal. Will we see the same timespans in Windows’ history?

Android From a Neutral Planet

Android’s become so popular I figured I’d better use it, lest good UX ideas used in Android go unnoticed. So I’ve used a Nexus 7 — a small tablet touched up by Google to be the best possible experience — for a few months. It’s awesome hardware, but I was really trying to get a handle on Android, which — spoiler warning — is not awesome.

Google Now is a weather/stocks/sports app unless you’re deeply invested — please tell me you consider that perhaps other things  don’t suck – in Google’s ad-funded Gmail. So while I love how Android, through slow merging with Google Now, seems to have the best handle on how to merge search, notification center, and the classic grid-’o’-icons, it’s got some serious handcuffs on if it can’t just work with the email service(s) a person happens to use.

Android devices have a back button, just like a web browser. It’s one of the 3 buttons that’s always on the face of the device. It’s clearly important. Yet it’s often dead. You press it, and nothing happens. Don’t make me think. It’s quite reasonable for this button to go back to the previous thing you saw. Instead, we have to think “well am I in a situation where I can go back?” And we have to think that every time we use the back button. That’s a broken experience. Windows Phone, in comparison, has a back button right on the face of the device that works every time.

While mainstream apps on the Play Store work well, every other thing I tried crashed, was poorly thought out, or had sketchy permission requests. “Live wallpaper” apps, a unique feature of Android, require trips to several wretched hives of scum and villainy.

These flaws aside, I think The Neutral President sums up my opinion of Android:

Android has very few strong opinions. It’s a beige version of iOS. It doesn’t dive after useful scenarios like Windows Phone (with the exception of gimped Google Now.)

I can’t recommend Android over iOS & Windows Phone unless cost is the major concern. (And the Nexus 7 is a steal at $229, for now.)

Nexus 7 on Amazon: Google Nexus 7 Tablet (7-Inch, 16GB, Black) by ASUS (2013)

Trackpad-tuning MacBook Air for Windows 8 + 8.1

You’ve installed Windows 8 on a MacBook Air using Boot Camp, but the trackpad just doesn’t work like it did in OS X! No problem. There are a number of things I’ve found* that make it better, and they’re all free. I’m quite happy with the trackpad after following these steps:

Install Apple’s trackpad driver: It’s required for everything that follows.

To see if you have the driver installed, check in Windows’ Device Manager: under “Human Interface Devices” you should see “Apple Multitouch” and “Apple Multitouch Mouse.” You can get to Device Manager, and a couple of the other things you’ll use in this article, by pressing Command/Windows-X.

If you don’t see these you can download the latest version of Apple’s Boot Camp drivers at http://www.apple.com/support/bootcamp/downloads/. Just unzip the package & run setup.exe. Reboot for good measure afterwards.

Change “Tap to Click” (and other preferences) using Apple’s Boot Camp Control Panel:

  1. Open the Boot Camp control panel (it’s hiding under the old Windows 7-ish Control Panel, and as an icon in the Desktop notification area)
  2. Answer “Yes” to the question about whether you want to let this app do dastardly things to your computer
  3. In the resulting “Boot Camp Control Panel” switch to the “Trackpad” tab

My favorite preference is “Tap to Click.” I find the MacBook Air’s trackpad too stiff for click-to-click. After you turn this on, you may notice tap-to-click often doesn’t work on the lock screen, and doesn’t work for perhaps 20 seconds after you unlock — I think the driver takes a while to load — but otherwise it works as it did in OS X.

Reverse the vertical and horizontal scroll directions:

Some of us like Apple’s “natural scrolling”, where the trackpad matches direct manipulation instead of mouse motion. You can get the same behavior on any Windows computer by manually editing preferences:

  1. Hit Windows, type “Regedit” and press Enter/Return
  2. Answer “Yes”, I Know If I Torque Preferences By Hand I Could Break My Computer
  3. Expand the tree on the left side of Regedit through HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, SYSTEM, CurrentControlSet, Enum, HID.
  4. You should see a number of items under HID that start with VID. Expand each of these until you can see each’s Device Parameters… some will have Device Parameters, some will not.
  5. Click each Device Parameters.  If on the right side FlipFlopWheel is shown, double-click FlipFlopWheel, type “1″ (without the quotes) in place of “0″ and click OK. This fixes vertical panning. Do the same for FlipFlopHScroll if you want horizontal panning au naturel. (I think you’ll like it.)
  6. Restart the computer (Windows + I, Power, Restart.)

Update: In the comments Glauco mentioned an app that does this process for you. Check it out!

Make scrolling & panning less touchy

You can make scrolling & panning less touchy with a standard Windows preference:

  1. Hit Windows + W to search in settings (er, Command + W), and type “scrolling.”
  2. From the search results click “Change mouse wheel settings”
  3. Change the number of lines and number of characters settings to 1. (Mine were at 3.)

Please let me know if any of these helped, or if you run into trouble.

 * The MacBook model I tried this with is a 13″ late-2011 MacBook Air running Mountain Lion.

** I tried Trackpad++, an alternative to the Apple driver, a few months ago. Although it provided some additional options, which you may need if the steps above don’t do it for you, it was more downside than upside. Whereas what I do now, the steps above, are all upside.

Windows 8, a family technologist viewpoint

Windows 8 Pro is a great upgrade, and I highly recommend it to anyone for family-use PCs. For a professional-use or power-user PCs, I also recommend it; I’ll cover some of that later.

First, what our kids are getting out of it:

  • Games and educational apps from Store: These are much easier to find than on the web, and at the moment, less dogged by advertising. The number of education & book apps has really picked up.
  • Having their own “place”: A simple PIN yields a different colors, tile arrangements, web frequent sites, apps, and avatar. Although we set up user accounts for them on Windows 7 too, there just wasn’t that much to it aside from the sandbox aspect, and it was really hard to set up.
  • Less (windows) is more: The kids are more adept on our 23″ desktop with 8 than Windows 7. With 7 I observed them struggling dealing with obscured windows and too-small user interface… adults have struggled with this too, but we’ve built up the mental model around dealing with windowing problems so it feels OK, and even right. Should it? In Windows 8 there are a lot more things you can do w/ just the Windows key and the mouse generally in the center of the screen or pulled to its edges. While Nielsen is spot on about many issues that come with being familiar with desktop window management and websites, the fundamental change from “Microsoft Windows” to “Microsoft Window1 will grow with kids and anyone who’s spent more time with an iPad than an old PC.

Here’s what I like, as both a dad and a pro user:

  • Internet Explorer 10′s full-screen app is really elegant, with less chrome than Chrome, and the same synchronization of recent & pinned sites, passwords, etc. The frequently used site tiles are also really useful; for some reason these just click for me while what browsers have previously done in menus from the address bar for this have not. Could it be that they’re above the address bar? What is it?
  • Family Safety help me keep an eye on which apps the kids are using (or things they might have questions about, as with my son’s recent search for “trolling motors”.)
  • The new OneNote is wonderful for sharing checklists & other ad-hoc information between my wife and I.
  • Integrated PDF viewer, ISO mounting, and virtualization, finally!
  • The opportunity for developers of “surface” apps. Although Google will make strong moves in agent platforms (as in apps for Google Glass) I think Microsoft has the best platform for screens & flat surfaces right now. If as a developer you need inspiration, watch Microsoft’s productivity future vision and consider how many of these experiences are now not so far off… it’s a matter of hardware  (a table as a screen, a plastic card as a screen) than having an application model’s too inflexible to extend to such hardware (the style of apps that work on Windows 8 would be quite elegant on these devices too.)

Here’s what I don’t like:

  • When apps launch from the desktop view into the full-screen view, it can be really disorienting. When coming from desktop, I’d like an easier way to get back there. When I’m already in a full-screen app and transition to another, I don’t mind it.

I’m looking forward to:

  • Xbox Music service improvements. I’d like to see a web app for when I’m using a Mac; Microsoft has mentioned they’re doing this. (Update: they did it, it’s http://music.xbox.com)
  • Internet Explorer 10 services extended to Windows Phone and Xbox. It’s odd that pinned/recent sites and usernames/passwords don’t sync across to these devices.

1 Perhaps Nielsen’s group is making a point about discoverability by calling it “Microsoft Window”, but you can dock the full-screen apps side-by-side for tasks that cross between them… this is a 2 window system with easy switching of either window.

Installing Windows 8 on HP TouchSmart 600-1005xt: The final word

I bought the retail DVD version of Windows 8 Pro and installed it clean (the “keep nothing” option) on our TouchSmart 600-1005xt PC.

I ran into an issue during installation where it got hung up as close to forever as I care to measure at this Windows logo screen:

As of November 15 2012, a workaround I discovered during Windows “beta” appears to still be necessary on the 600-1005xt: in the BIOS menu* change the SATA Controller Mode to IDE, and install again. 

Once you get Windows 8 installed don’t change it back to AHCI; ACHI is a nonsense option on this hardware anyhow, and I’m not sure why it was set that way in the first place (perhaps I did it?)

Other workarounds I had to do during “beta” (installing a pre-release NVIDIA GT 230 video driver to gain performance, changing “disabledynamictick” to avoid freezing) seem no longer necessary either.  The PC was stable after install, then I ran Windows Update  and new drivers were pulled down for some of the hardware, including the GT 230, and it’s working great with these. The audio driver does not get installed correctly (volume controls, but no sound), so in Device Manager I found the audio device and chose “Update Driver”, and Windows Update then did the right thing. (It might’ve done this itself if I’d been patient.)

Great job Microsoft, NVIDIA, and HP getting things wrapped up for consumer availability of Windows 8.

* To get into the BIOS menu on this device, after turning the PC on, press F10 at the HP screen. The SATA Controller Mode setting is under Advanced, SATA1 Controller.

Using Valley Ride Stored Value and 31-Day Local passes to get around Boise

I’m going to explain how to use some of the passes, instead of cash, on Valley Ride, Boise’s bus system. Even if you only try commuting for a week or so, these save you around 20%. You can get them at WinCo, Boise City Hall, or a few other locations.

The Stored Value Pass ($10 or $20, the 20%-off option)

These passes are discounted fare. They’re $10 for a $12 equivalent to bills/change at the fare box. They don’t expire as far as I can tell. I had one in my wallet for years before I used it for the first time. (I’m glad I finally did!)

When the driver’s in the bus, board and insert the pass, stylish-arrow-end down, into the slot on the fare box. Tell the driver you want 1-way ($1.) The card pops back out with the remaining balance printed on the back. There are increments other than $1 (that perhaps commenters can explain) but $1 will take you anywhere the route you’re on goes.

Ready for a bigger investment?

The 31-Day Local Pass ($36, the probably cheaper than any monthly parking, never mind gas and insurance, option)

This pass looks just like the stored value pass:

A universal 31 day pass for Valley Ride

The first time you use this you insert it through the top slot, just like the stored value pass. This sets its expiration date to 31 days in the future and prints a reminder on the back of the card:

Back of 31 day pass showing expiration

From now on it can be swiped through the diagonal slot on the back of the fare box any time you board. You don’t have to wait around for the driver on this one. Get on or off the Boise routes as you like; this one’s unlimited local!