torstai 9. helmikuuta 2012

Inevitable, heroic, and damn hellish!

Queues - the final frontier. Frustration is sometimes a powerful incentive to thinking about alternatives to everyday chores.

I'm 35. I'm just about to end my daily groceries routine - you know, going to the mall, guessing which shop carries the groceries that I need; avoiding cars in the parking lot, trying to remember where you left the car; breathing fume- and dust polluted air in the underground parks; followed by walking a mile on the aisles, searching for the correct products, avoiding certain artificial sweeteners etc. Getting groceries done is hell - it really is! We just have accustomed to it, and the conventional wisdom still seems to say we don't have any feasible alternatives.

Imagine having an alternative. You could look at a list of purchases easily; "oh what was that meat that we bought back in Christmas? It was delicious! Could we have that today as well?"
Imagine using powerful filters, to automate and narrow down your search list: "show only products without artificial sweetener X", "exclude products made in country P" and so on.

Did you know that a professional runner runs a half marathon in about the same time that we spend doing groceries, every day? The Finnish national average is around 52 minutes daily - and the half marathon official IAAF world record is 58:23. I think not many of us really think about the time waste - it just seems "inevitable", heroic, and well... necessary?

In 2008 me and a bunch of friends started thinking of alternatives to this boring daily "must". We came up with a project called Tuokko. While we had a lot of enthusiasm and discussion, it was pretty much shelved and stayed as a static web site, listing the vision and things we'd come up with.

I'd ever since been interested in operations research, logistics, and optimization problems. Computer science gives strong basis for modeling systems of delivery and what not. But one of the most refreshing things today is to see that in Finland, there's a lot of small services springing up, right in this personal logistics niche. I'm looking forward to trying them out and seeing how they differentiate from each other.

Our population is ageing, while the working class is getting more prosperous. There's a tough formula that has to do with balancing time use against the level of luxury; the mind comes up sometimes with more "wants" than the body can execute.

A quick glance of some of the brave new logistics contenders shows that they already have segmentation in service attributes.

The differences arise in pricing, scheduling, and the variety of selection. There's basically two main types of services: a "free selection" type, and a programmed course of meals. The programmed course offers food recipes and the ingredients for the next 4 or 5 days, delivered at your home door. I'm personally interested about the free selections ones a bit more. The idea with Tuokko was that it would be a constant, intelligent kitchen aid that would require a minimal amount of input to keep the user satisfied with a certain level of fridge filling: you'd always have things at home, and could order more either via the computer or a mobile phone.

I think we're going to see a year or two of basic logistical improvements, during which the services are tuned up. We'll probably then see new ideas, more fine-tuned user interfaces, perhaps completely novel ideas (new features), and of course price competition. Some companies will falter, others will gain more marketshare. It's going to be really interesting to see how the big food chains position themselves regarding these logistical companies! Traditionally there's been 

perjantai 27. tammikuuta 2012

Ufo docks - Sunlight in the horizon

Pristine shadow

The shadow. It's caused by the sun shining from outside. This is always a milestone for me, a summer-lover.

keskiviikko 25. tammikuuta 2012

Bluestripes meets Designer's corner

The designer's corner is being done here. I just got a funny idea about writing a little bit of thoughts about programming, and do it into a aesthetically pleasing form - thus combining a bit of design and text.

Topics to cover:
 -familiarizing a bit with the capabilities of Blogspot blogging platform
 -general IT talk, especially on software quality, design, and testing

I'd like to give a bit of background here, first. It might seem strange to talk about the history of computing in this context, but I think it does give some nice backdrop against which the actual content is served.

Google introduced us back to using text. Before the visual paradigm, and GUI, we had text terminals, as UNIX still has very visibly them. The most adept expert in the UNIX age was a person who could remember and comprehend how a variety of simple operators and operations were combined, or piped together to make something meaningful happen.

There was always the textual command processor (or shell, for short) present even in different Microsoft Windows versions, but it fell out of fashion for some time.

Depending on the version, you could always launch it by writing 'cmd', or 'command' in the Run box (invoked by Win+R key combination). So in the old days, people did things by writing commands and getting a reply from the computer. It was kind of conversational interaction.

The flow of commands and answers formed a logbook of interaction. Sometimes it was useful to save the interaction for further inspection. Well, and in fact, before the old days (in the Really Old Days), computers and people interact via punchcards and printed paper. The graphics era brought visualization, buttons, and generally: user interfaces.

Apple's machines, Microsoft's and also various flavors from UNIX all had their own user interface paradigms. UNIX was concentrating on getting things done accurately and in "industrial scale", while Apple and Microsoft were more concentrated on practical everyday use cases. Soon the limits would fade away, however. Innovations blended in a jolly way. When they did not, court rooms heated up.

There were also a lot of common ground in graphical user interfaces: the gestures like clicking, dragging, and in fact the whole object based metaphor was quite common to all of these. These were summed up in the desktop metaphor. As there were major changes in computing, namely ever-increasing speeds (capabilities) and larger memories, also the graphical user interface changed. The tiny 640x480 screens were soon changing into a typical 1024x768 resolutions. Video made its way into mainstream adoption. The network was still a major bottleneck. Video and everpresent cameras The web, from 1994 - browser wars Now in 2012 Microsoft has taken a stance on the mobility scene, teaming up with Nokia. It wants to be present in the mobile phones, too. Another challenge is the cloud: applications seem to thrive in the network, so that the traditional model of "owning" and installing a native application no longer plays dominant role.

torstai 19. tammikuuta 2012


Nive! 3d print makerbot

maanantai 9. tammikuuta 2012

sunnuntai 8. tammikuuta 2012

Books: Platform leadership

I haven't finished it yet. But a promising book. Tells the story of why big platforms like Intel, Microsoft and others have succeeded.