“Robber barons and silicon sultans”

Robber barons and silicon sultans: Today’s tech billionaires have a lot in common with a previous generation of capitalist titans—perhaps too much for their own good:

For all the dramatic changes between the railway age and the silicon age, America still has the right formula for producing entrepreneurs.

Posted in development, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Miss Manners on women’s pages

I adore Miss Manners, and so it’s no surprise that I find her article looking back on the women’s pages of the 60s and 70s quite interesting.

The women’s section reported the feminist revolution of the ’60s and ’70s when other parts of the paper mentioned it rarely and then only as a joke. The Women’s Strike for Peace was ridiculed as being a bunch of housewives who should have stayed home, but we took them seriously long before their actions grew into the wider youth movement protesting the war in Vietnam.

Her anecdote about asking President Kennedy a question is an excellent one, too.

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iPhone announcement anniversary

Eight years ago today, the iPhone was officially unveiled.  Since I was working for Microsoft on Office:Mac at the time, I was at the Moscone Center.  We also officially announced Office:Mac 2008 (whose previous codename was Magnesium) that week, an announcement which got overshadowed by the iPhone announcement.

I remember that announcement.  Since we were going to announce Office:Mac 2008, several of us got to sit in the VIP section for the Stevenote.  Behind me in the VIP queue was the guitarist of Cheap Trick, which meant that I knew who the super-secret band was for the Macworld Blast party that night.  During the Stevenote, I sat next to my then-manager.  Just before it began, he told several of us that he was sick of seeing John Mayer at these things, and he swore he was going to storm the stage in protest if Mayer showed up again.  He didn’t, but we had a lot of fun coming up with what the headlines in the tech press would’ve been.

I also remember the announcement because that’s the time that I got blind-quoted by Cult of Mac.  I remember the calls that night to let the PR team know that it was me.  They told me that no-one else would notice this thing because nothing was going to get column inches if it wasn’t iPhone-related.  I was still freaked out.  They were, of course, right.  (It does mean that when I got approached a few months ago by the self-same writer of that story to do an interview, I laughed and laughed and laughed.)

Looking back at my blog post that considered what little we knew about the UX of the iPhone, it’s fun to see what I got right and what I didn’t.  I guess it’s a toss-up about whether I was right about scrolling behavior, since the iPhone and Mac scrolling behavior was divergent for awhile, but now has converged to the iPhone model, and scrollbars have mostly disappeared, too.  I was right about the apps that I can’t delete.  I still have a stock ticker that I never use, and there are even more apps that I can’t get rid of.  Tips?  Really, Apple?  Tips is like Clippy but even less useful.

My iPhone immediately replaced my iPod, and I effectively haven’t used one since.  Once my iPhone got Exchange support, and thus I could stop trying to use Exchange Web Access 2007 on my iPhone1, my iPhone became something that I didn’t let out of my sight.  And, ever since I got that launch-day no-subsidy iPhone, I don’t think I’ve let an iPhone out of my sight.  I’ve got an iPad to keep my iPhone company, too.  The iPhone replaced my flip phone, my Palm, and my iPod.  My iPad hasn’t replaced anything, although it has reduced my laptop usage some.  Perhaps when the iPad hits its eighth anniversary, it will have replaced more.

  1. Now that was a website not optimized for mobile!
Posted in iPhone, MacBU, MWSF | Leave a comment

“what happened when … ” the Yahoo! board made yet another bad decision

The recent New York Times article titled “What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs” is frustrating.  It’s frustrating to watch Yahoo! continue to flounder (and oh, flounder it has).  It’s frustrating to see a new CEO come in with the goal of righting the ship, but insufficient experience to do so.  It’s frustrating to see the Times resort to a clickbait headline involving Steve Jobs.  And it’s frustrating that the Times puts the blame solely on the shoulders of the CEO, only noting that Yahoo!’s board of directors had “hesitations”: “One of the Yahoo board’s hesitations upon hiring Mayer was her relative lack of experience as a manager.”

So let me get this straight.  The board makes the decision to hire a CEO who doesn’t have sufficient experience leading an organization, and who is well-known to be extremely (one might say excessively) hands-on in an organization.  Somehow, though, her failure is solely hers.  The board gets no blame for making a poor decision.

Welcome to the glass cliff.  I’m relieved that New York Magazine also noticed that the Times story should have been more appropriately titled “Marissa Mayer and the Glass Cliff”.  The board of Yahoo! did not set up Marissa Mayer to succeed, and apparently didn’t give her the right resources where she could succeed.  And they get to blame her, instead of themselves, if Yahoo! does fail.  Nevermind all of their bad decisions long before she came on board (passing up the Microsoft offer is but one of them).  No, if Yahoo! fails, the blame will fall solely on her, and she will be pushed off of the glass cliff.

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Susan Kare on design

“What Every Young Designer Should Know, From Legendary Apple Designer Susan Kare”:

“People say graphic design is so different now, because you have so many more pixels and colors to work with,” Kare says. “But when you study art history, you see there’s just nothing new under the sun. Mosaics and needlework, it’s all analogous to pixel and bitmap art. And with it all, good design’s not about what medium you’re working in, it’s about thinking hard about what you want to do and what you have to work with before you start.”

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you say goodbye, I say hello

In saying goodbye to VMware, I decided to say hello to a new adventure.  As of last Monday, I started a new role at Genentech.

In some respects, Genentech and VMware have a lot in common.  Unless you directly work with one of the two companies, you might not have heard of them, but they’re doing important work behind the scenes.  VMware is the foundation of the datacenters and the clouds of many Fortune 500 companies.  Genentech scientists research treatments for diseases.  If you have been prescribed one of the treatments that we make, just like you might not know what software forms the cloud for your company or what is in your bank’s datacenter, you might not look up the name of the company that makes a medical treatment.

At Genentech, I’m working on Access Solutions, which offers coverage and reimbursement support services for patients and health care professionals.  I’m here to understand and improve the user experience of Access Solutions.  I’m a week and two days in to this new role, and I’m only beginning to understand the complexity of what I’ve undertaken.

Why am I here?  The answer is twofold.  First, this role scares me.  It’s very different in every way possible from working on software.  Taking a role like this that scares me is an excellent way to get out of my comfort zone, apply my skills in a new area, and stretch my abilities.  Second, as someone with degrees in computer science and math who has spent 15 years working on software, it’s not often that you get this kind of opportunity to make a material impact on the lives of people when they need all the support that they can get.  I couldn’t turn this chance down.  And so, here I am, sitting in Genentech’s US headquarters in South San Francisco.

I don’t know where this role will take me.  I can’t wait to find out.

Posted in Genentech, Nadyne, user experience | 2 Comments

four years at VMware

I joined VMware in November 2010.  The past four years have been a fantastic ride.  Since joining VMware, I have brought new research methods to the company, introduced an annual UX conference and monthly UX tech talk series, and spoken at many conferences.

Looking over my mail archives, I’ve touched many VMware products.  Some of them are probably always going to be VMware applications, like vSphere.  Some are no longer part of VMware but continue on, like Zimbra.  And some products don’t exist any longer, such as vCloud Director.  Looking at my UX projects documented on our internal wiki, I’ve worked on more than 20 VMware products in the past 4 years.  It’s been awesome to have the opportunity to work on such a broad range of products across VMware’s portfolio.

After four years, it’s time to try my hand at something new.  Thank you, VMware, for everything.

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installing ESXi 5.5 U2 patch 3 on a Mac Pro

As ever, my colleague William Lam is on top of things.  On Friday, he posted step-by-step instructions for installing ESXi 5.5 U2 patch 3 on a Mac Pro.  If you aren’t quite feeling up to doing it yourself, he’s even got an ISO for you to download.

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43 GB of mysterious “other” on my iPhone

This afternoon, I ran into a problem with iTunes 8 and iOS 8 on my iPhone 5.  When I connected my iPhone, iTunes said that I had 43 GB of “other” data on my phone.  I had no idea what it was.

After much wrangling, I finally came up with a solution that did work.

On the iPhone, I erased it (Settings -> General -> Reset -> Erase All Content and Settings).  Then, after the iPhone finished erasing, I reconnected it to iTunes, and let it restore from backup.  At first, I thought it didn’t work because the iTunes screen still showed the big yellow bar of “other” data.  A couple of minutes later, it refreshed, and suddenly I had <1GB of “other”.  I did have to reboot my phone and my Mac a couple of times each during this process to get it to work, and I had to sync twice to get all onto the phone.

Whew!

(Edited to add in some reboots.)

Posted in iPhone, Mac | 2 Comments

ESXi 5.5 Patch03 officially supports Mac Pro 6,1

I got some excellent news from our hardware compatibility team this week.  ESXi 5.5 Patch 03 now officially supports the Mac Pro 6,1.

As ever, William Lam at Virtually Ghetto has full details.

Posted in Apple, vSphere | Leave a comment