The Star Wars Generation

I typically despise reddit, it exemplifies the scum that is pervasive on the Internet. Even so, the following was written by a Reddit user “Zurlap”. It is not my original thoughts, but it does have some truth to it. This is via @joelhousman.

We’re “Star Wars Generation”. Born between 1977 and 1983, neither the cynical GenX nor the narcissist Millennials, we’re a unique generation that grew up learning all the old-world skills like writing letters and mailing cheques, but never had a chance to actually use those skills in the real world as the internet exploded while we were in high school and college. Out of the generations, we’re the most comfortable with technology because we grew up along side the archaic forms and learned how they actually worked. We used DOS and played with DIP switches on our motherboards and found IRQ ports for our soundcards. GenX doesn’t know what the hell a sound card is, and Millennials grew up with plug&play. We remember life before cell phones, movies before CGI, music before autotune. We went to school before it became a paranoid prison after Columbine, and the change shocked us as we experienced in happening before our very eyes.

We got jobs during that quiet period of prosperity between the dot com bust and the housing crash, and consider ourselves lucky that we’re not stuck like Millennials are. Millennials hate us because we sucked up the good jobs right before the economy crashed for good. We remember Han being the only one who shot. We’re the ones who look back at the 90’s fondly and wish things could go back to being so simple. 9/11 was the barrier between our adolescence and adulthood. We don’t understand why the world turned so ridiculous just as we crossed that threshold, and are lost in uncertainty, because we remember something better, but never got to experience it.

We’re the last generation that are proud to own our cars, and will take a while to accept self-driving cars. We’re the last ones living the suburban home ownership dream, and the last generation that moved out of our parents houses when we were still in school and could afford it. We use our smartphones all the time and love them to death, but it still creeps us out when we see little kids using them; we think “Kids shouldn’t have cellphones in school!”. We will never understand the point of watching a video on youtube of someone playing a video game; we’d rather play it ourselves. We’re the last ones who will join social clubs organized outside of Facebook. We’re the last generation that can get away with saying “Oh I don’t have Facebook, I don’t need it”. Jurassic Park gave us nightmares but we still went to see it in the theatres 10 times because it was literally the most awesome thing to ever happen to us as kids. We pretend we were into grunge music before it exploded, but we weren’t. It was already dying when we discovered it. We wish we could have seen Nirvana in concert, and will probably tell our grandkids that we did. Good music stopped being made when The Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden broke up and Nickelback exploded on the scene. We played our parents LP collections. We recorded our favorite songs off the radio. We owned the first discmen. MP3 players represent the pinnacle of evolution in music technology, and we don’t like streaming. We like being able to pick what songs we listen to next instead of having a computer do it for us.

The transition from VHS to DVD literally changed our lives, but couldn’t care less about Bluray. To us, the transition from DVD to BR just isn’t anywhere near as groundbreaking as it was from VHS to DVD. Michael Bay ruined action movies forever. We don’t know what the hell a pokeyman is, and don’t care.

Princess Leia Organa will forever define the epitome of sexy to us, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo the greatest of heroes. The Ewoks aren’t that bad. Wickett? We love the little guy. Darth Vader and Boba Fett are BAD. ASS. We are the Star Wars generation.

Reflecting On Change

If you have been following the blog for a while, you may notice that I do not post many things about myself. When I originally setup the blog, I was posting about myself quite a bit. Some of these things were short posts. The type of items posted would be much better suited for a site like Twitter, which is where I post some of those things these days. Even with this being the norm, I do post things about myself on occasion. This is one of those posts. One of the types of posts that have become common is one where people quit their day job and go out on their own. Unfortunately, if you tuned in to see another person going independent, this is not one of those posts.

The Change

On March 30th, I handed in my resignation at my job. One might think “isn’t that a normal every day occurrence all across the country?” Well yes it is, but there is a reason why this is particularly noteworthy. If you know me at all, you may already know that I have only had one employer since entering the workforce, almost seventeen years ago. If this was the 1970’s or even the 1980’s, this length of time would not be too surprising. However, this is not the 1980, it is 2016.

Being a “millennial” having the same employer for more than a few years, let alone the same job for that long, is rather atypical. It is very typical for people to move between jobs every few years. Needlessly to say, I am not your typical millennial. Even as a non-millennial having worked at the same place for seventeen years is not something you see as often as you might have forty years ago.

Despite only having had only employer, I have held four different positions. The length of each position is as follows: 1 year and six months, 3 years and four months, 3 years and eight months, and 8 years and six months. The last two positions were within the department, meaning that my tenure in that department was 12 years and two months.

The History

My previous job was in Library IT. I started out as a shelver who put back books. This transformed to computer assistant, who helped the public and staff with their Internet and Microsoft Office issues. This gave way to not doing this at just one building, but at all four of the buildings that we had. That’s when I started in the IT department.

During this time, I also head to deal with server updates, network changes, and began doing some web-site updates. The last position I held was as an IT manager. This position had me handling all aspects of the network; which includes, but is not limited to, telephone management, server management, a Hyper-V failover cluster, and a Gigabit Passive Optical Network. A complete list of everything can be seen in my resume.

In 2011 I began noticing that I did not enjoy doing some of the IT functions as much as I had in the past. Part of this was due to being able to off-load some of the more basic tasks to others to handle. Tasks such as help desk and PC repair. When possible, I began focusing more on our website, including a huge re-deployment, and adding new features to our custom-programmed staff intranet (I was the one who created the intranet). Along side this, in 2014 I also began writing custom reports for our library automation system. For the last few years I have been indicating to my superiors that I needed something different to do. I knew I had become burned out on doing the job, and honestly I have been burned out for a while.

I have been looking for a new job for the last few years but have not been able to find anything, that is, until now. I have filled out hundreds of applications, thankfully all online. I have had a few interviews, and even one job offer. Unfortunately, none of them felt right, all for various reasons. Whether it was because I would have to uproot myself, just a gut feeling, or the pay wasn’t right, none of them felt like the right move.

Determining Where To Go

As mentioned, over the past few years I determined that I needed a change. Having done so many different things, within the library, it has been hard to narrow down what I want to do. The one thing that I knew was that I did not want to do IT administration work anymore. Could I do it, sure, but to be honest, I have become burned out on it. This lead me to determine what I want to do. The one thing I knew was that it would deal with computers.

Having grown up during the 1990’s one of the things that I have been exposed to is computers, not to mention some great music, TV shows, and movies. Any who, way back in 1996 I began playing with how to create webpages. I was using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, AOLpress to be exact. It was the ’90’s after all. My interest in webpages stems from having grown up on DOS. Being a command-line only operating system, I became very interested in batch scripting. We had a 386 that had a bunch of games on it. We had a menu item to start each of the games. As we began adding more games to the computer I began editing the menu to add the new games on it.

This tinkering lead to me getting into other programming languages. Some of these included Pascal, Visual Basic, C++, ASP, PHP, HTML, CSS, JS, and Objective-C. Over the past few years I have been spending more of my off-work time creating web-based apps as well as iOS and OS X applications. I came to the realization that is where I wanted to focus.

Almost Missed Out

For my next adventure, I will be doing website work, still within the library world. The weird thing to the entire story is that it almost didn’t happen. I was looking at other library jobs and saw two for a library. After looking at them both I decided to apply for the one that was similar to what I was already doing; Despite being burned out on the job, the big reason I applied to it was mostly due the pay. I had filled out the application, but when I was about just about done I went back to the first page and added the second position that I had initially decided to not apply for. I decided to add this second job because I figured “why not”, even though it was paying a bit less. After a couple of months I got a call to setup an interview. To keep it short (This post is already over 1000 words, so it may be too late), I interviewed and got the job.

The hardest aspect to the whole thing was not the project I had to do nor was it the interview itself. It was sitting on the news for a week before being able to tell my current employer. I won’t lie, it was a surreal experience having to tell the staff in the department that I was leaving. I have spent just over half my life at the employer. That is a significant amount of time for anybody.

Reflections

In my almost seventeen years at my last employer I have seen many different changes. I have seen one building expand twice and a new building be built from the ground up. I have seen our network go from a segmented T-1 between buildings (18 channels for voice, 5 for data), to a gigabit fiber connection. I have seen our network infrastructure change, as well as implementing a number of new services for both staff and patrons, not to mention the countless hardware upgrades. I have also seen three library automation system changes, as well as the myriad of staff come and go. Including my boss retiring at the end of last year.

Over those years I have also had a lot of personal changes in life as well. I am not one who is adverse to change, but I do not like change just for change sake. There has to be a reason to make a change. Changing jobs absolutely qualifies as a big change.

The last month has been quite surreal to say the least. At first I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” to questioning “is this the right move?”, even after accepting the position and telling my employer that I was leaving, and finally deciding that it was the right move. The second reason is that the replacement for my boss has been hired and I only had four weeks to get them up to speed on everything we have and do.

Having never resigned from a job, I did not know what to expect. I have experienced something new, something that most people do not really indicate. That change is the transformation within your own mind that a change is coming and that you are leaving and starting something new. Words cannot accurately describe the feeling. Maybe it is one of relief (because you’re leaving) and yet trepidation (due to going into the unknown) all at the same time.

I know I will miss some aspects to the old job. Some of these include the hours and well as a majority of the staff being the top two items. There are some things that I will not miss, this includes having to manage servers.

Tomorrow I start at my new employer to begin a new adventure. I am glad that some aspects to the job will be the same (being in a library). And at the same time some aspects will be completely different (I will no longer be in management). As with any new adventure I do not know what to expect. Even so, it is a new adventure and everything that has happened so far is okay by me.

Apple’s WWDC Registration Now Open

It is rather coincidental that I posted wish lists for OS X and iOS just yesterday. Apple has opened registration for this year’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). Tickets will be $1599. You can register for a random lottery which will be announced on April 25th.

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The conference runs from June 13th through the 17th. It will be held on June 13th at 10:00 AM Pacific Time. The keynote will be in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Just as last year, the conference itself will be at Moscone West. As I have done for the last few years, I will attempt to watch the keynote live, but time will tell if I am able to do so or not.

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This year’s WWDC website is a good one. I will not go into any “Kremlinology” of what the site shows. However, I will say that the site is designed by and for developers. If you have done any Swift development, it will make you chuckle a bit.

Whomever had the idea for this year’s site should be applauded. They really should. Go and check out the site and see if you agree.

Wish List for WWDC: iOS

As I mentioned in my OS X wish list Apple has held their early 2016 event and the next event is likely to be Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). The most successful product in Apple’s history is the iPhone. The iPhone managed to come about at the right time to allow Apple to propel itself to become one of the most valued companies in the world. Besides the design of the hardware, the other crucial aspect of the package is the software, iOS. Let us look at some new features of iOS that some would like to see this year.

iOS

iOS has come a long way since the initial version, iPhone OS 1.0. The feature set within iOS has definitely grown over the years. One of the biggest changes that was introduced iOS 4 was multitasking. Multitasking allows users to have applications run in the background while they are performing other tasks with their iOS devices. While multitasking has made progress, the biggest change to multitasking came last year with iOS 9. That feature is the ability to have side-by-side applications. This recent feature has made tremendous progress in productivity gains for users. While at WWDC 2015, when Apple unveiled the ability has to do side-by-side applications, as well as slide over, no one could predict that Apple would unveil the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in a few short months.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the product that the side-by-side applications was designed for. While side-by-side also works on the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4, and 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the 12.9-inch iPad is the device that can demonstrate the utility of the feature the most. On the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, you are able to run two applications in portrait mode, and will only be missing a minimal number of pixels. This means that you effectively have two iPad Air 2’s side by side.

Many have indicated that the iPad has not had the best marketing message over its six short years. This includes the initial message that the iPad was for consumption. Over the past few years Apple has attempted to change the prejudice towards the iPad by providing features that make the iPad a productivity device. Regardless of the message and what one may choose the believe, there is one thing that people cannot deny; the word “Pro” in “iPad Pro” is meant to indicate the it is professional device. There are a few applications that could cement the iPad Pro as a truly professional device. The biggest one that come stop mine is absolutely a “Pro” application. That app is Xcode.

Xcode

The ability to run applications side-by-side, as well as the sheer horsepower that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro has under its hood, has lead many developers to wonder “Where is Xcode for iOS”. While there are many tricky areas that would need to be flushed out in order to make Xcode on iOS a reality, it is possible. One of the limitations of any development environment is memory. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has 4GB of memory, while the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has 2GB of memory. This would be enough to do some development directly on the device. This is one of the reasons why the iPad Pro would be the preferred platform. The iPad Air 2 also has 2GB of memory, but it may not be ideal given the reasons below.

One of the downsides of Xcode, as it stands right now, is that to be able to develop an iOS application you need a Mac. Imagine, if you will, the ability to build an application, its assets, and test an application all on iOS device. There are a couple of justifications for this. With Xcode 7, you are now able to run your own applications on your own iOS devices, without paying for an Apple Developer account. Now imagine being able to build an application that only you will use, and doing it all on your iOS device. Even better, doing so with Xcode and your application running side-by-side. Talk about live debugging.

One of the possible issues with Xcode on iOS is building interfaces. One of the best tools for this would be the Apple Pencil. Given the iPad Pro has the ability to use the Apple Pencil, the ability to create smaller touch-targets would make this easier to do. The ideal would be to require an Apple Pencil, so that the touch targets would be smaller. Even without an Apple Pencil, it would be possible to do some basic interface building. Being able to snap the interface to a grid, could be an option when not using an Apple Pencil.

The last possible reason for Xcode on iOS to exist only on the iPad Pro is to give the iPad Pro a truly professional-level application. One of the possible issues with this idea is that it would require the ability to be able to target specific devices, or limit installation and options based upon device capabilities. Apple could use some private APIs that would allow them to limit applications to specific devices, if they chose to do so.

Limit based upon device

Many developers have requested a feature that would allow them to target specific devices. This would be a significant benefit for game developers. It would allow developers to build assets tailored specifically for devices. This is already doable, to an extent, using asset slicing and on-demand resources.

To fully implement this, it would take some work not just within iOS but also on the iTunes Store. One of the requirements would be the ability to indicate on the store what devices the application is compatible with. Besides this, it would also require some work on the developer’s part to verify compatibility as well as indicating which devices are compatible. This last aspect would be the least of the concerns, since it would behove the developer to provide the best experience possible for their applications.

Apple knows all of the devices that a user has attached to their iTunes account, so Apple would be able to alert users that an application is not compatible with any of their devices and would allow them to confirm they want to purchase the application regardless of their inability to actually use the application.

One of the possible downsides to adding the limit would be that some developers would only allow the latest and greatest devices. Alternatively, Apple could allow developers to just set minimums for applications that they submit. It is not likely to be a feature that comes about, but one that could add some appeal for both users and developers.

A side benefit for this could be personalized application curation. A section on the iTunes store that would show users applications that would work best on their devices. Again, this would take some integration between the iTunes Store and iOS, but it could be feasible.

Final Thoughts

iOS has seen its share of new features in the last 9 years. Just as one might begin to think that the new features that will be added will begin to wane, Apple surprises users and developers and keeps adding new features. It will be exciting to see what Apple has in store for this year’s World Wide Developer Conference.

Wish List for WWDC: OS X

Apple has already held their “early” 2016 event, the next big event for Apple will likely be its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), which is typically held in June. While we do not know anything that Apple will unveil at the conference there are a few things that we could possible end up seeing.

OS X

Apple released Mac OS X 10.0 in March of 2001. In the intervening 15 years, Apple has gone from the name of Mac OS X to just OS X. On Episode 123 of The Talk Show with John Gruber Apple’s Vice President of Marketing, Phil Schiller, was asked about the casing of the various operating systems of Apple (iOS, tvOS, watchOS). Gruber asked why OS X was different. Schiller responded “give us time”. As Jason Snell of Six Colors has postulated “OS X will be renamed to macOS”. This is entirely possible and given the hints, it is likely to occur.

OS X 10.12’s Name

OS X 10.0 through OS X 10.8 all had codenames. These were based on “big cats”. After Apple unveiled OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, many questioned what the next name would be. Beginning with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Apple initiated a distinct naming convention. Leopard gave way to Snow Lepard. Lion gave way to Snow Leopard. 10.9 was skipped over. Following OS X 10.10 Yosemite came the current operating system, OS X 10.11 El Capitan. Each of these indicated that it was a refinement to the prior name.

When Apple unveiled the name of OS X 10.9, they indicate that they joked about going with “Sea Lion”. Instead they opted to set up naming for the next decade and those names would be based on places in California. Some have begun wondering what the next version of OS X will be called. Given the indication by Apple that they were setting themselves up for the next decade, it will likely still be a place in California.

During their September 9th, 2015 event, Apple announced a new feature for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, 3D Touch. During the demo Apple quietly announced the release date of OS X 10.11 El Capitan. This was done while showing off 3D Touch on an email. Also during that same demo Apple showed an email with three place names within it. These names are Manteca, Tehachapi, and Arroyo Grande. It is entirely possible that Apple was being facetious in revealing the names. It is also equally possible that one of these names is the name. This is purely speculation, but it is possible that it is true. We will see when WWDC happens what the actual name for OS X 10.12 will be.

Siri

Since Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Apple has been bringing parity between iOS and OS X, in terms of applications and features. One of the features that many users would love to see on the Mac is Siri. Siri has become a very useful tool on iOS. Bringing it to OS X could allow for an even more powerful Siri engine. With running Siri on OS X it could also bring additional functionality to Siri itself.

One possibility for additional functionality is the ability for Siri on OS X being capable of searching for a file. At first glance one might think that this is not possible, but if you look at Siri on the 4th Generation Apple TV, the voice transcription on tvOS is pretty accurate. Given the amount of power that an OS X machine has today, bringing this functionality to OS X one could easily imagine being able to use Siri to find a file. More over, it may even be able to be triggered with the same phrase, “Hey Siri”.

Accessibility is one of the areas where Apple focuses their attention. One method of being able to do this is to have Siri on OS X be able to do dictation. While OS X’s dictation has been decent, it seems as though Siri’s dictation and transcription is much better than the built-in dictation on OS X.

Along with Siri coming to OS X, it would also be nice to have developers be able to integrate with Siri. I am imagining that developers would be able to add their own custom actions. For instance in a podcast app, an iOS user could play a podcast directly from Siri. If not completely custom actions, Apple could ease into this by allowing certain actions. This would be similar to the way that Apple introduced multitasking in iOS.

The downside to this is that there are currently 33 languages supported by Siri. Enabling developers to access Siri would mean that Apple would have to add the names, words, and the like to Siri. Even so, if there were to be limited actions, Apple would be able to control the custom words that would be allowed.

UIKit

Some individuals have noticed that OS X has not received a significant amount of attention by developers. One of the ideas of attracting developers back to OS X is to bring UIKit to OS X. The rationale behind this is that doing so would allow iOS-only developers to feel more comfortable with programming on OS X.

In theory, this is a sound idea. There is a possible downside to this idea though. OS X has a different set of paradigms than iOS. Some of these includes, a browse-able filesystem, … and a mouse for pointing. This last one is the biggest hurdle to overcome. UIKit itself is designed for touch and not

iTunes

One of the things that you will hear from a cross-section of the population is just how bad iTunes is. It is not that it does not function like it should, it does. The issue is that it is just too bloated. iTunes has to perform many different functions and they are all contained within one application. I could easily go into breaking it up, but this site has already done the hard work. It would be really nice to see Apple re-think iTunes and break up the functions into individual applications. Doing this would allow individual applications to be updated on their own.

Final Thoughts

While this is only a few things that we could possibly see at this year’s WWDC, specifically for OS X. There are likely many things that we will not know about ahead of the date of the keynote. Even though I tell myself that I will wait to install the betas, I will most likely install them on day one. I know I will be very interested to see what new features and refinements that next version of OS X.

Dillian’s Voice

There are millions of people who use iOS devices on a daily basis. Many of us take for granted the fact that we can easily articulate and communicate what we are thinking. Yet, there are those that cannot do so, at least not as easily. While technology may allow us to do many things on the go that we could easily do elsewhere, it can assist others in opening up an entirely new world. This video, by Apple, epitomizes that and brings to light what technology can do for a subset of the population.