Confirmed: Zebra Tech Is Buying Motorola Solutions For $3.45B

The Changing Face of Apps

Over the last week I’ve been doing some serious hacking/coding in a variety of languages.  Some of it is necessary for a work project I’m doing, a couple of customized WordPress installs for a company in Seattle that’s required a bit more PHP hacking to get working properly.  Other parts of it are reading books in my (not available) spare time, and still trying to focus on ObjC and CS193P.

I continually amaze myself with the PHP stuff.  I never officially studied the language but I can understand the bulk of it and maybe most important: I can articulate what I need to do in a good Google query.  For me to become really proficient at it I think I’ll need to start using the shell accounts on some of my boxes to make sure this stuff happens the right way.  While flipping through an old C# book at Fry’s a few days ago I stumbled across the realization that I can grok the syntax of just about any modern language!  Most of these languages are all derivatives of C so it’s not a huge surprise, but I could definitely start to implement code that isn’t language specific which is a huge step for me.  Being able to write platform or (lightly) language independent code is what separates a programmer from a Computer Science major I think.  Each language obviously has its own subtleties and nuances and some will always be a mystery to me (like Perl) but I’m feeling more confident in my skills again.

I spent a few hours this weekend futzing around with Canvas, an HTML5 element that allows you to implement drawing and other animation routines in a div in HTML.  My goal was to finally come up with a logo for REV-DEV my other side-biz that definitely needs to start getting a leg off the ground.  Having checked out some cool HTML5 samples I thought this would’ve been easier, but it wasn’t to be.  I found some greatly bouncy balls, starfields, even a text particle generator.  What I was looking for was a text swell/shrink effect similar to what I’d seen in….well, Flash to be honest.  But I’m trying to be proactive and future-proof, and platform independent and all this….and the thing I want is in Flash.

Adobe has seen a bit of the writing on the wall lately, releasing a free preview of Edge ,their Flash exporter to HTML5 app.  It’s not quite available for real-world use yet, but if I could get the download link to complete I’d probably check it out.  I digress, I’m rambling here.

My point about this was that everyone is starting this slow shift to these frameworks and API’s that are smarter, cleaner and more platform agnostic.  Take the Windows8 Metro incarnation– Metro apps will do UI through HTML5 and JavaScript which has included AJAX for a while now.  That’s amazing!  There’s a movement on the iOS side to use the same structure to drive UI and let the native code take care of the back-end tying things together.  I’m not entirely sold on this for iOS5 for reasons I can’t divulge yet….

Finally, this morning Google announced the availability of Dart, a structured web language that provides optional typing and also compiles out to JavaScript.  It’s a language that will work on modern browsers, with the JavaScript intermediary coming out in browsers that won’t support it’s optional MIME type.  It appears to be light, offers easy to read syntax, and is open-source under a BSD license.  It appears to also support a mode for enterprise use that allows the execution of the code in a VM, but I’m kind of lost right now as to usable case for that one.  I’m going to try and get my hands dirty with it a bit today and see what develops…


Digital Wallet: NFC’s, Google, and Square

I’ve written about the coming of Near-Field Communication (NFC) devices a few times here. You can refer back to these posts for a bit of a primer. In the past few weeks though everything has really started to take off, and in an area that I really don’t plan to use that much.


First, meet Google Wallet.Google Wallet Logo Google’s new service allows you to essentially embed the same data that would be transmitted using prior NFC technology, notably MasterCard’s PayPass system except this time the data is phone accessible and put out by the phone’s internal NFC chip. Cool, eh? Instead of wiping my debit card over a PoS terminal, I could wave my Android-based phone. Aside from the geek factor, or perhaps more aptly put: the novelty factor I find myself wondering how this could be extremely useful. I’ve done the PayPass thing once at a 7-Eleven to pay for my slurpee– it was odd, the checker had no idea what I was doing, and still I had to do it twice for the thing to go through– he had to manipulate something on the terminal first. Couple things I learned that day– It was only useful for purchases under $10, and aside from using it someplace small (like 7-Eleven) where the hell are you only spending $10?

Of course, this is good for MasterCard and other CC companies– they charge upwards of 5-10% of each transaction that runs through that terminal. By making it easier I’m sure they’re gaining an impressive revenue streamer. If you’ve got a friend who owns a small business (like me) ask em what they lose on CC transaction fees. It’s quite ridiculous.

So your credit card company gets some good stuff out of it, but what about you? Google Wallet aims to make it easier to track fraudulent purchases or inspect some of the data about your purchase. Of course, Google has to get their’s too so somewhere that data can be anonymized to help make the Google system better. Do you want that? It’s up to you– I use Google Checkout and a host of other services provided by the big G, and while I am cavalier about it…somewhere you’ve gotta draw a line.

On the other end you have a (relatively) new kid on the block, Square. Square provides a cool headphone-based dongle that allows anyone, anywhere to record a transaction with a credit card and get money.Square in Action For the small biz owner, or the need to grab funds from an acquaintance or friend is quite useful. Square charges 2.75% of the total transaction, much less than owning a CC terminal with any of the “Big Three”. I myself own a dongle (partially because it was free to get), but have yet to use it in a biz transaction. It seems much easier to send off invoices and wait for folks to pay you.

A couple of weeks ago the Apple rumor mill went active with mutterings that Apple would start using the Square devices in-store to replace their handheld POS-CC readers that are packaged as “gloves” around the iPhones in store. Square did indeed launch something, but nowhere near as large as “teh interwebs” were making it out to be. A digital wallet sure, but in essence many virtual cards that were to be used at specific retailers. Personally I think that’s the wrong way to head, but I’m not an investor in Square. Anyway, I thought this would be a huge mistake because I feel that Apple will have to include NFC capability in the next iDevice they release. Google’s Nexus S already has the tech built in, and I think they’d be stupid not to include it in the next iteration.

Can I let slip what I really want this tech for? Identification. Screw payment stuff, it’s got higher-than-normal security issues, and someone else is making the cash. I looking to abolish things like Tradeshow badges, stickers that say “Hi, My Name Is”, and create some really cool uses for this extra bit of data. Think about it: It’s Bump without Bumping, it’s Bluetooth transfers finally, the way they were meant to be designed. It’s the old several connected devices. It’s your personal cloud, all the time. Sure it has some risks, but the first uses of this technology are going to be nifty.

Disclaimer: I own Apple and Google stock.

Day Before CES

The last place I should be is in front my MBP right now considering I need to be up at 4:30 and on-site at 5:45. However, I saw a lot of cool shit today and wanted to note some of it down before I experience complete sensory overload tomorrow and Friday with the masses at this show.

First off, everyone and their grandmother is afraid of the iPad. Any company that has a foothold in computing devices has some sort of new tablet device here, I kid you not. Vizio, a TV manufacturer is coming out with a Phone. Google announces yet another fork of the Android platform, called Honeycomb specifically designed for tablets. Sony demos a 4k resolution 3D LCD TV.

There’s just way too much shit to see here. In between some meetings that I’ve got set up, I have roughly 8 hours across two days to see what I’d like and given how large this show is, its just not possible. I’m hoping to binge a bit and then digest and spit out some useful data on the way home.

Kinda crazy to think that last year I was writing about what Intel was bringing to CES by consuming data on the web. This year I’m actually on the show floor and I can get some hands on time with the new Sandy Bridge family of processors.

Rambling. Should probably get some sleep now.

Buzz… Or Maybe, Howto Not Buzz.

Still not sure what to make of this whole Google Buzz thing.  On the one hand I see its usefulness– instantly linking and gathering your individual social networking services, contacts out of Gmail, add some visibility to your Google Profile are pretty nifty things.  On the opposite end it has a lot of problems, namely– instantly linking and gathering your individual social networking services, contacts out of Gmail, and adding visbility to your Google Profile.

I think the reason that different social networking circles have cropped up is because they each have their own unique audience–Twitter is great as an outlet for this site, GeekApproach.  I can communicate with some personal folks and post some random stuff that drives traffic back here.  Flickr is still somewhat legacy for me, but I enjoyed its simple interface and great respository of images it once supported, even though it seems Picasa has superceded it.  The main reason I don’t have a Facebook account or ( shudder) a MySpace page is that I just don’t want to interact with people I might’ve met.  I’d rather talk with those people in person, or really, want to talk to me enough to seek me out via other means.

I feel like I maintain rather visible avenues of communication: I freely publish my email address, you can instantly call me via Google Voice (in the right sidebar over there), this website is public, my twitter feed is public– I’m even on LinkedIn.

Sometimes I get the feeling that Google is turning a bit into Microsoft, and I’ll explain why.  When you’re at Microsoft and you use the combined Microsoft suite of things, it actually works out really well.  You start to see how all of these individual pieces of hardware and software, the social interaction of doing work…they all work very well together.  It’s crazy, but its true.  When you’re in your own environment and you’re only using a subset it becomes much more difficult to actually use their tools.  Maybe Google is suffering from the same sort of issue–Internally, I’m sure they thought all this integration was fantastic but externally?

At least they’re listening to the masses– I can’t fault them for having a fast turn-around time with changes.