What MeetMe is reading this month…

featured:

jobsSteve Jobs

by Walter Isaacson (available on Audible)

“Steve Jobs is an incredible genius, more influential than I’d imagined any technologist could be. The author was specifically commissioned by Jobs to do this biography, but pulls no punches. Sure, Jobs was an enigmatic, arrogant, billionaire hippy jerk visionary, but his biography is also a lesson in what you, as a human, can actually do. I like watching video game speed runs, because, over the years, people master the routine parts and find glitches that they exploit to shave off time. Steve’s life is a speed run in human achievement. He’s able to spot holes in industries, vulnerabilities in personalities, the core aspects of design and desire, and shortcuts in shaping technology and building teams. The story also has an amazing supporting cast of Bill Gates, Bono, Larry Ellison, and John Lasseter, to name of few of Steve’s friends, and the main character has enough quirks to feel fictional. I didn’t expect to get many takeaways from this biography, but there are a lot of lessons about building quality products and meaningful coworker relationships.”


Brian Herbert

 


 

dockerThe Docker Book: Containerization is the new virtualization [Kindle Edition]


“Deep dive into Docker and how to configure it. Gives great examples on how to get started as well as techniques and suggestions for best practices.”


Jeremy Stinson

 

startwithwhyStart With Why

by Simon Sinek (available on Audible)


“Start With Why is about the importance of focusing your vision, and connecting with your customers, on a much deeper level than just what your final product does.  The book suggests that the “why” of your business: why you do what you do and why your customers should care, are much more important than just providing your customers with a laundry list of features.

Most businesses start with what they do and how it sets them apart, then some go further to explain how they do what they do, and finally some go further to the why of it all.  Simon Sinek suggests that this is backward, and the most successful companies start with the latter.  Using Apple as an example (very, very frequently throughout the book), Sinek posits that they are successful because they have a clearly defined mission of “challenging the status quo” and that all of their decisions originate from that mission.  Because Apple has relentlessly and successfully upheld this vision their customers (who also desire to challenge the status quo) feel a strong loyalty to Apple and its products.

Overall, I like the theory set forth by the book, but it tends to get repetitive after a while.  Sinek’s TED talk is a better place to start before jumping into the book: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action


Matt Kemmerer

 

All Tomorrow’s Partiestomorrow

by William Gibson (available on Audible)

“The final book in the Bridge trilogy (including Virtual Light and Idoru), ATP wraps up Gibson’s series about the commoditization of counterculture and exploration of interstitial communities.  While the Bridge trilogy isn’t quite as famous or beloved as his other works, ATP is considered the best out of the trilogy as Gibson wraps up the plotlines and ideas presented in the previous two books.  Though written in 1999, the world is more of an alternate future rather than a possible future since the way Big Data, emergent AI, and 3D printing are presented makes it sound like it could be something that would happen if our recent past had proceeded differently.”

John Spivak

onesummerOne Summer: America, 1927

by Bill Bryson (available on Audible)

“When I read Bill Bryson, I feel like all my history classes were broken. He’s able to zoom in on these interesting vignettes, giving the real people their real foibles and eccentricities, then zoom out on the broad landscape of history and show where you just were as a patchwork in a complex quilt of events. I always disliked history books, with their lists of names and numbers, one dimensional characters, episodes with little context, and, above all, the ability to make even the craziest wars incredibly boring affairs. One Summer focuses somewhat on Charles Lindbergh, but also seamlessly weaves in the stories of Al Capone, Babe Ruth, the emergence of “talkies”, the foundations of the stock market crash, Herbert Hoover’s ruthless work ethic, and a hundred other relevant bits of history, rendered with entertaining context, full of hilarity and interesting facts that force you to go find someone and read the passage to them. It gets a tad long-winded, particularly when discussing the New York Yankees, but read this, even if you don’t like historical books. Especially if you don’t like historical books.”


Brian Herbert

Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion

by Sam Harris (available on Audible)


“I found it to be an interesting book. A point brought up early is what does spirituality really mean? It’s something people say but there doesn’t seem to be a clear definition for it. Harris’ position falls in line with more Eastern philosophies that the goal in spirituality is to dispel the illusion that the self is separate from everything else. Another question is “who are you?” The argument in the book is that you are not the sum of your thoughts; thoughts and feelings are something you have rather than something that defines you. You can watch your thoughts passively and not be ruled by them. To do this in a deliberate way is meditation. In a meditative state where your mind is still, you become more aware and have the opportunity for direct spiritual insights. Whatever it is that is “behind” the thoughts, the person that is observing the thoughts, that’s the “real you”.

Most people move through life chasing pleasure and avoiding pain, but the teachings embraced in this book are that nothing is permanent and any pleasure will end and no pain can be avoided forever. Therefore real happiness is achieved by embracing the present moment, for its goods and its bads, and changing your perception rather than constantly changing the external forces around you and pinning your happiness to that.”


Bobby Fiorentino

 

trending:

 

 

 

by Dale Carnegie (available on Audible)


This is a classic for a reason. Really changes the way you perceive daily interactions with others. I think no one wants to admit to loving hearing their name spoken or enjoying the sound of their own voice, but it is a fundamental part of human nature. Basically, everyone wants to feel important. If you can genuinely make someone feel that way, you will have lots of friends.”


Diana Shkolnikov

What MeetMe is reading this month…

The lost post for September…

 

golem

The Golem and the Jinni (Google eBook)

by Helene Wecker

“This is a beautifully-written debut novel by Helene Wecker set in New York City of 1899.  It features a great mix of richly-developed characters, a vividly rendered turn-of-the-century setting, a plot that is both well-imagined and well-executed, with just the right amount of mysticism, action, and humor mixed in.  This is one of those rare books that is welcome in literary circles that was also nominated for a Nebula Award (from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America).”

Drew DeNardo


by Christian Rudder (available on Audible)
“This was the first book I ever pre-ordered. Working in a social media company, Christian Rudder’s okCupid blog posts (all 3 of them) are relevant, surprising, and interesting to read, so I was eager to get more. I tried really hard to love the book, but ended up barely liking it. The author just cannot decide if he wants to be an academic data analyst, a social scientist full of entertaining trivium for dinner parties, or that professor who is profane and mocking just so students think he’s cool. From the blog posts, Christian manages to come across as a colorful scientist informed by rigorous study; in the book, he jumps between interesting demographic stats (what common phrases white guys tweet, men think 21 is the ideal age for a woman, aesthetically), then spends twice as much time explaining that he’s not racist or sexist or ageist or a mathematical hack. And on the Kindle, the book ends at 57%. A whopping 43% of the book is notes and references! Christian tries to be clinical with his whimsical observations, then occasionally tries to point them in the direction of social statements (why are black men less desirable to black women than they should be on okCupid), but in the same breath takes jabs at low IQ demographics. He makes a mess for himself by creating charts that could be presented neutrally, but he also wants to be a witty and cutting guy, so now the charts look like flamebait. So he has to explain his motives at every step, and then he explains himself again for the last half of the book. If you’re in the social media business, or if you want fuel for conversations that are incredibly dicey and questionably helpful, slog through it. As a side note, Christian writes with exactly the same style and obtuseness as Tycho (Jerry Holkins) from Penny-Arcade.”
Brian Herbert

history

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

by Tom Standage  (available on Audible)

“A History of the World in 6 Glasses takes a reader through the history of 6 of the world’s favorite beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca Cola.  This makes for both an interesting history lesson in the drinks themselves, and also an interesting dive into the lives of people of the times.  The story of each drink not only details the history of the drink, but also its importance and influence on people of the times — such as beer being used as a form of payment in BC times.  Even if you have no strong interest in the drinks’ histories, you may still find the book compelling for the larger insights into past civilizations and their stories.”
Matt Kemmerer

maze_runner

The Maze Runner: Maze Runner, Book 1

by James Dashner (available on Audible)

“It’s young adult fiction, akin to the Hunger Games.  Since the movie is coming out, I figured I’d give the series a shot.  It’s an enjoyable book.  It is young adult, and you can tell but the phrasing and points of view, but it’s also an easy listen.  If you are looking for something a bit different, and are on a “young adult dystopian future” kick, check it out.”
Jason Lotito

whatif

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

by Randall Munroe  (available on Audible)

“If you already read XKCD, or Randall’s “What If” posts, then this book contains exactly what you would expect. For those who do not, the subtitle gives it away. This collection of questions and answers explores some imaginative ideas, while attempting to stay grounded in what we know from science. Each is short and fun enough to enjoy sharing with your children, though the reality of some may be a bit gruesome, so it may be best to read ahead first.”
Bryan Emmanuel

fivedisfunctions

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

by Patrick Lencioni  (available on Audible)

“I wish this book had a different name, since reading it is like an indictment on my workplace. This is a short lesson on teamwork best-practices delivered in a story. At first I thought it was kind of silly to author a play rather than just lay out the dysfunctions, but late in the book, the author switches from a narrative to a lecture, and it was way harder for me to pay attention. So the first thing I got out of this book was that the power of story telling applies to me, at least with an audiobook. The rest of it felt like common sense, but a couple good lessons that stuck out were the need to have open, productive debates and the importance of identifying and leveraging strengths and weaknesses on a team. I’m just not sure how to go about making debates more mainstream without endangering my job. A lot of the practical advice, and even the story, is targeted at top leaders.”
Brian Herbert

trending:

bookAmazon

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

by Brad Stone (Audible)

“I listened to this book after Brian gave it a favorable review last month.  As an Amazon junkie, I found the book incredibly interesting and insightful.  It’s amazing to consider the breadth of Amazon’s endeavors and the often cut-throat approaches it takes to help achieve its vision.  The audiobook weighs in at 13 hours, which is probably a few hours longer than the average book I listen to, but the story remained fresh and engaging throughout.”
Matt Kemmerer

happiness

“The Amazon story gave a teaser into Zappos’ origins, so I took the bait. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, narrates the book and shows his brilliance even in leveraging the audio format. There are several sections of the book that defer to the experience of other employees, and many quoted emails. For those sections, the actual author or authority on the subject reads the passage. It creates a very sincere, engaging effect. Like many stories about the rise of a company, this one contains some great nuggets of advice on being humble, focusing on the customer, etc., but the overpowering lesson on Zappos’ success is that Tony Hsieh is a superfreak genius with the additional powers of extreme emotional intelligence and business daring. His ACM (programming competition) team at Harvard took 1st place in the world in ’93, a fact that he doesn’t even plainly state. I was inspired by the incredible focus on company culture and disregard for industry status quo, but the real first step to fast-tracking a billion dollar startup is to be Tony. There were some great stories on the ups and downs of Zappos and Tony’s earlier business adventures, and pep talks on reaching for the stars. There’s also a strong spiritual theme. By the final chapters, there were so many new agey references and discussions of oneness and ultimate happiness that I couldn’t help but think of Siddhartha, and that comparison was brought home when the book ended with a quote from Buddha. In all, it was a very fun read, and provided a ton of practical advice for businesses. I just think Tony’s attempt to stay humble and personable detracts from role his anomalous intellect plays in Zappos’ business success.”
Brian Herbert

What MeetMe is reading this month…

featured:

Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers

by Gabriel Weinberg and Justine Mares

“Real actionable advice on how to get the one thing every product needs: traction.  It’s filled with lots of good information, succinctly put by people who have done it.  It presents you with repeatable examples and real world advice.  It’s by Gabriel Weinberg and Justine Mares, both people who are in the startup game.  Gabriel Weinberg is actually a the guy behind the search engine DuckDuckGo.”

Jason Lotito

bookCreateAMindHow To Create A Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

by Ray Kurzweil (Audible)

“This book provides interesting insight into the current theories as to how the brain works, and does a fairly good job of describing the current state and methods of AI.  It does this without resorting to overly complex technical jargon or needing to dive into technical algorithms.  If you’re looking for a more algorithmic description of AI, you’d be better off looking for neural network implementations across the internet.  But if you’re looking for a history, and description, delivered in a more approachable prose, then this may be what you’re looking for.  In some of the more in-depth sections, it was easy to lose focus on the audiobook, but despite that, it’s still a worthwhile read.”

bookSuperMarioSuper Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America

by Jeff Ryan (Audible)

“In this book, Jeff Ryan details Nintendo’s story from its origins as a trading card company, through its mega-successes in the early arcades and with NES, through more current times.  At times it seemed like some of the information might not be 100% accurate.  There was a time or two where it seemed to contradict itself, or where I found conflicting information on Wikipedia.  However, the book offers much in the way of nostalgia for anyone growing up with the early Nintendo systems.”

Matt Kemmerer

 

bookAmazon

 The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

by Brad Stone (Audible)

“The story of Bezos and Amazon’s rise was way more captivating than I’d imagined, but I suspect that was due to my personal interests. I didn’t even realize how many digital book questions I had stored in the back of my mind until they were answered here, like, what was the deal with e-books price fixing, how did they manage a free data connection on the Kindle, whatever happened to the e-books formats I used on my old Palm Pilot, why did the built-in Kindle dictionary disappear for a while. And from a broader perspective, understanding Bezos really help connect Amazons strange dots between Amazons seemingly disparate ventures, and explains their constant attempts to break ground, like with the Fire Phone, set-top boxes, and AWS. Brad Stone has a long, if intermittent, history with Bezos, allowing him to turn an already brilliantly written biography into an emotionally engaging story with a detailed arc. The author even dares to encroach on his subject’s personal life by tracking down Bezos’ long-estranged father and revealing his son’s identity for the first time. But that doesn’t keep Stone from pulling any punches; he is as likely to dig up skeletons from Amazons closet as he is homilies, particularly where business practices are concerned. There are scores of entertaining anecdotes from current and former employees, all tied together with recent historical context and broadly-painted corporate politicking. Amazon’s corporate culture and business tactics sound, to me, repulsive, but its vision, persistence, consistency, and patience are enthralling.”

Brian Herbert


 

bonus:

bookHaltHalt and Catch Fire

” A show on AMC that is pretty darn good. Brief synopsis:  A small company enters the home PC race and takes on IBM in the process.  I turned [coworker] Joe Hansche on to this show.”

Justin Bruno

 

Some Time with Android Watches

Watching Android

In late June, Google announced Android Wear, a solution to the age-old problem of how to augment and interact with your smartphone via jewelry. Like all things Android, Wear presents us gadget-lovers with the impossible task of explaining what it is, what it does, and how an OS differs from hardware, without boring or confusing the listener. The inaccurate but socially-appropriate description is, “Android Wear is watches with screens that show you stuff from your phone and take simple voice commands.” To date, there are just two Wear devices on the market: The LG G Watch, and the Samsung Gear Live. Several of us at MeetMe, including our entire Android team, have adopted the timepieces into our lives for the last couple weeks. What follows are some of our individual thoughts, first on the LG model, then the Samsung (scroll down a bit).

LG G Watch

watchesLG

Bryan Emmanuel,  Android Developer

I like the watch so far, but it’s not quite what I thought it would be. I was expecting to be actively navigating around apps and content, but instead it’s more like remote notifications for my phone. That’s not a bad thing though, as it’s more convenient, and extends the battery life on my phone as I’m checking it less. I do occasionally respond to Hangouts from the watch, or ask “How far to home/work”, which is nice as well. Even when using navigation on the watch for over 2 hours of daily commuting, the battery on the watch easily exceeds 24hrs. As far as comfort goes, I’m still getting use to wearing a watch again after using a phone as my clock for the past 15 years. It’s light and not as bulky as I expected, so the transition has been easy enough.

John Spivak,  Mobile QA

Used the LG Watch for a few days.

Pros:

  • Weather Alerts, with all the recent thunderstorm activity, was great.  A good enhancement for either a weather app or just the builtin weather alert functionality would be working with municipalities to provide options for flood/tornado shelter nav directions.
  • Betterer notifications on the wrist.  Pebble has it, but it’s a much better experience on the Wear, making use of the notification icons and full text.  Wish it had more granular controls, though.  I’d like to get email notifications for Wear for my personal Gmail’s Primary category, but no notifications at all from my work Gmail, while still getting work Gmail notifications on my phone.
  • Search from wrist is handy, and will be getting better the more stuff Google adds to Google Now.

Cons:

  • No off/lock button on the LG watch to force it into “dim” mode or prevent accidental touches.  I know there’s an app for that, but it seems like something that should be part of the device.
  • Solid plastic/rubber straps don’t breathe very well in the summer, or at all.
  • Lots of apps don’t have any significant support for it, if anything at all.  I feel that most developers aren’t going to leverage it fully, since the goal here is to know when the user is going to need your app before the user does, and get out of the way otherwise.
  • It’s ugly as sin.  I bought the Pebble with knowledge that it would be dorky as hell, but the Wear watch is even worse.  This is basically the “Apple wins on design, every time” thing that a theoretical iWatch will beat everyone out of.  Hopefully the Moto 360 is better.
  • It’s very difficult to tell the time in the sun until the display automatically un-dims.  This is kind of a pain for something that should be immediate; those milliseconds add up.
Brian Herbert,  Android Developer

After a week of use, I still find the watch to be uncomfortable. The curved Samsung form-factor feels better than the flat LG unit, and the stock wristband isn’t arm-hair friendly. The charging dock is really nice, though, and I been averaging about 24 hours of battery life. I really want a reason to keep using it, but if it weren’t for the opportunity to write Wear software, I think I’d go back to bare wrists. The whole philosophy of Android Wear is passivity: it’ll tell you what it thinks is relevant when it wants to. For me, that’s annoying on two fronts. First, I can’t easily approach the device with an intent to DO something, and second, I don’t like to be randomly interrupted by notifications on my phone, let alone my wrist. When trying to demo the watch to my friends, I either have to dig awkwardly through the menus to find an interesting utility (or try to launch it with voice commands), or flip through my notification cards, which display the same thing as my phone, only with a fraction of the information. It’s occasionally nice when play controls show up after you launch Netflix, or you get a really short text message that you can read at a glance, but as far as convenience, I haven’t found any use that isn’t better and just as culturally acceptable to do on my phone. So if this were a closed-platform devices with no hardware options, I’d say it’s not for me.

But this is Android, in an era of customizable peripherals, so regardless of the implied uses for this watch, I still have a device on my wrist that can do a ton of cool stuff, given the right software. I installed an app launcher, accessible like a menu drawer, and now it feels like I control the watch, rather than the other way around. The play store also has a couple calculator watch apps, so you can go retro with your geekery. After a tiny bit of hacking, I was able to port one of my old games over. It ran smoothly at almost 60 fps, so decent gaming is possible. As a developer, I’m almost overwhelmed with grandiose ideas, and I think we’re gonna see a lot of cool apps soon enough. I wish there were a camera and speaker, but the screen, accelerometers, haptic feedback, and connectivity through the phone still allow for some great creativity.

In short, I think this is a device purely for hackers and early-adopters. It needs another generation or two before there are enough apps and use cases for Apple to sift out the marketable features.

 Kenny Campagna,  Android Developer

Pros:

  1. Google Now Integration. Easily one of the best features as I use this daily, whether it is weather/traffic updates, setting reminders/alarms or the dozens of other things it does.
  2. Notifications. I have a Nexus 5 and for some reason it has a very low vibration so I can never feel it when its in my pocket. The watch takes care of the need to have to feel that, or even look at it for a notification. It is also useful when I am at home. I can leave my phone plugged in charging and not go over and look at it whenever I get a notification.
  3. Battery Life. I’ve read reports of battery life not being spectacular, but in my experience the watch last 2+ days before needing a charge.

Cons:

  1. It’s A Watch. This really isn’t a knock against the functionality of the watch but I’m not a watch person. I’m still getting used to it so it sometimes is awkward.
  2. No Speaker. When I google something I got used to hearing it spoken back to me, I have been spoiled, I now have to Gasp Read!
David Weinstein,  Senior UI Designer

For nearly ten days I’ve been wearing my new LG G watch and unlike Glass it’s not even there. I will preface this by saying that I wear watches frequently and own about a dozen different ones for many occasions. When I saw the sub $250 price tag on the first two watches I was elated. I’ve spent more on a watch that does less. Throughout my childhood to present day I have always been enamored with the idea of a computer as a watch. From classic Dick Tracy, Penny on Inspector Gadget, to Zordon calling the Power Rangers, a watch that could act as a communication tool has always seemed very logical.

To my dismay when I strapped on the LG G I did not get the call from Zordon, but I did get the weather. Having Google Now feed me information to my watch is very useful. While I work, I generally keep my phone silenced with vibration off since its usually on my desk. Having an extension of my phone on my wrist is quite fantastic. Getting a Hangout or Hipchat notification directly on my watch have made missed text messages pretty infrequent. The ability to reply to a Hangout with quick replies or voice is also fantastic. So far I’ve found most of the quick replies to be sufficient enough at least to let the other person know I saw and understood their message without having to take out my phone.

I have found some physical detractors for the LG G though. It’s poor battery life is the most disappointing. If I forget to charge it at night I’m likely to run out of battery before I hit work. On the plus side since the battery is so small, it charges very quickly. The second annoying factor is terrible direct sun viewing. Add polarized sunglasses to the mix and it’s impossible to read making its usefulness during the summer lacking a bit depending on the shades I have on that day. One thing I had not considered was how distracting it would be in a dark movie theater. While you can dim the watch it still puts out significant light in a dark room. I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ so I made sure to slip the watch off during the film. An option to make the watch go completely dark via a gesture would be very useful.

On the software side of things, with most applications currently not supporting Android Wear the phone mostly acts as a notification center, which I already knew going in. This does make the current generation of watches more for early adopters than for the masses. The general public’s expectations of what a smart watch is capable of is tempered by science fiction and mass media. What it’s actually capable of is much less. For example my dreams of being Dick Tracy, answering a call on my wrist, is a mixed bag. While phone calls do forward to my wrist; answering them leaves me awkwardly reaching for my phone in my back pocket. The watch has no speaker therefore can not act as a headset, unless I am already paired with a bluetooth headset, which I am not. The call functionality is reserved more for dismissing a call or sending a quick response via text to the person ringing me. One feature that seems to be a horrible oversight is lack of call status on the watch. I have no ability to hang up or see who I am talking to on the watch.

Where science fiction does meet reality is with GPS navigation and Wear integrated apps. Walking directions are even better on my wrist than they were with Glass. With Glass I was constantly calling attention to myself and many people would ask me about it, making actually getting anywhere quite the challenge. With the LG G no one thinks twice about a man checking his watch making walking navigation a breeze. And while the list of integrated apps is currently slim, fitness apps shine showing off just how useful the watch can be. By providing me with minimalist controls for starting and stopping a workout it makes my progress tracking that much more accurate since I no longer have to fumble around with my arm band or zipped pocket where I awkwardly carry my phone during a run or workout.

Overall my experience has been a pleasant one. Android Wear does what Glass did not. It provides information at a glance without getting in the way or calling attention to itself. Making wearable computers innocuous is the crutch that is required for them to succeed. Having an obvious computer strapped somewhere on your body defeats the purpose of wearables and makes breaking into the mass market that much more difficult. When you make the item a fashion accessory you’ve succeeded. Wear is on the right track and now it’s in the hands of the developers to make it killer.

Samsung Gear Live

 watchesSamsung

Joe Hansche,  Android Architect

Pros:

  • It didn’t take as long as I was fearing to get used to wearing a watch again, after not having worn one for about 7 years.  The last watch I wore got lost at some point after I moved here, most likely due to the fact that I used to hate wearing it while working at a keyboard, so it would come off as soon as I sat down (which hasn’t been much of an issue with the Gear, thus far)
  • I like getting quick-glance previews of what is going on on my phone without having to look at the phone.  This is important especially when I’m at work, because my phone sits in its charging dock, so I don’t actually see or pay attention to notifications that come up on the phone.
  • I like the gentle buzz on an incoming notification;  something that my phone typically doesn’t do very well.  It’s enough to get my attention if I’m interested, but unintrusive enough to allow me to easily ignore it if I’m not.
  • Step count has been an interesting one, since I haven’t had a device that counts steps for me (and I walk to/from work every day).  An app on my phone to do that would be a no-go, since that requires the accelerometer sensor, and that would drain my battery.
  • Speaking of battery, the battery on the Gear has been great, usually getting down to somewhere between 50-70% after a full day of using itand then I take it off and put it on the charger before I go to bed.  After dealing with sub-par phone batteries that often can’t even last a full day, it’s nice to see that this gets a good 24+ hour charge.
    But that’s kinda sad if you think about it:  we are all infatuated with the idea that it can last over a day without being charged.  Our phones are such battery hogs, that we are ecstatic to see something that doesn’t yell at us at the end of the day because it’s on its last breath.
  • I like the fact that the wristbands are replaceable [1] [2], because while I am hesitantly in favor of the Samsung wristband as of now, I fear the day that the holes wear out from the band snapping on/off multiple times a day, and the pegs will no longer hold the band properly.  Or I’ve had visions of walking across the bridge and the band catches the inside of my pants pocket, ripping the band completely off my wrist as the gadget goes for a swim in the Delaware River ¬_¬
    Again, I do still prefer the Samsung band over the LG one, but I think a more traditional strap will be better in the long run.

Cons:

  • Speaking of chargers:  the Samsung Gear charger is absolutely terrible…  it’s a tiny, odd-shaped chunk of plastic that snaps onto the back of the watch (after about 2-3 attempts, anyway, if you’re lucky), and then forces you to leave the watch laying on its side with the charger cable sticking up.  I’m just waiting for the day that one of those tiny clips breaks off and then I’m totally screwed (since it won’t even lay flat in order to hold against the contacts while charging).  The LG G charger/cradle was a much better design, and I wish Samsung had taken a similarly simplistic route when designing their charger.
  • I seem to get multiple Now cards for daily agenda, each containing the same set of 2-3 events that I am not interested in (two separate weather forecasts for the day and a 10am meeting I don’t attend).  Weather forecast is great, but I don’t need to get the notification from my calendar (I use Google’s weather calendar, so it shows today’s temperature as an agenda item, and that’s not really where it belongs).  I do like having the weather forecast as its own card, including a weekly view.  I just don’t want to see it in my agenda.
  • The heart rate monitor doesn’t work well at all..  About 80% of the times I have tried it, it says “tighten band and try again.”  Sometimes it’ll work if I hold the watch face tightly against my wrist, but I feel like if you’re going to add something like that as a core selling point of the device, it should Just Work™.  I’ve also noticed it works much more often when I’m inside, as it virtually never works outside in the daylight:  probably because it uses a small green LED to detect the pulses, and the daylight entering from the side of the watch is just too bright for the sensor to detect the variance properly.  One time I did get it to work outside (on the 2nd attempt) while playing company softball, and it registered my heart rate at 63bpm, which is 100% incorrect (I had just hit a homerun!).  My heart rate had to be over 120bpm, and it just couldn’t seem to figure that out.
  • Speaking of the heart rate monitor:  I think it would also be a nicer feature (assuming it actually worked reliably!) if it took regular heart rate samples without me having to ask for it.  It counts my steps without me asking it to, so I should also be able to look at the history and see an hourly (or whatever) history of my heart rate throughout the day.
  • Sensitivity…  This is an issue on a couple different fronts.  As John mentioned, holding the watch in the “I’m looking at you, please turn on now” pose is not as reactive as I would like.  In fact, as I’m writing this, I can’t even get it to turn on at all without touching it.  That makes it difficult to see the time, because now I have to waste a couple seconds starting at a black screen before finally deciding to tap the screen to turn it on.
  • Related to why that previous item annoys me so much:  I disabled the screen-always-on feature, because at night, that small amount of ambient glow is actually super distracting.  I’d like to be able to keep the screen always on (dim) during the day, and have it automatically switch to turning off the screen entirely either based on time-of-day or ambient light (I don’t think it has an ambient light sensor, so that is probably not possible).
  • Also tying into the annoyance of turning the screen on is the touch sensitivity and/or lag issues…  Sometimes when I get impatient in my “I’m looking at you, please turn on now” pose, I’ll tap the screen preemptively to turn it onBUT if it’s one of those rare times that it actually recognized my pose, it might actually turn on just before I tap (or more likely, it happens after my tap, but the tap recognition is so lagged that it doesn’t register a touch event until after it’s on), and then it brings up the google voice search screen… not what I wanted.  So now I have to try to swipe it away.  I’m used to being able to do pretty sloppy touch gestures on the phone, but in using the watch, it seems to be far less forgiving of slop.  So now not only does it incorrectly think I want to search for something, it is also incorrectly ignoring my swipe gesture to get rid of the search screen (or incorrectly interprets it as a swipe-up to see the menu options)!  Sometimes when I tap to get the menu options, the lag issue makes it incorrectly think I’m long-pressing, and that causes the “choose a watch face” screen to appear, which makes me choose a sad face 🙁  Swipes are interpreted as taps, taps interpreted as long-press, etc…  All adds up to being mildly annoying.

In the end, I’m still wearing itfor now, at least.  I think part of that is I’m just anxious to start playing around with the development aspect of it, since I have unfortunately not had a chance yet to play with developing anything for it.

[1] http://www.androidcentral.com/changing-strap-your-android-wear-watch

[2] http://natostrapsco.com/collections/22mm-straps

 James O’Brien,  Android Developer

The Samsung Gear Live is the first watch I’ve worn in maybe 8 years, and I’m happy to report that it tells the time successfully. Personally this feels like what the next step in personal computing should have been, rather than Google Glass, as the smart watch is a pre-existing medium and is far from a distraction for those who wear it or those who the wearers interact with. At first I was disappointed with the lack of functionality, but over time I found that I liked that it isn’t a standalone device, rather an extension to your phone.

If I were to critic the Gear Live, my first port of call would be the strap. I do not feel comfortable with its fastening mechanism. I now take my watch off while riding my bike, which is unfortunate because riding is almost the perfect use case for the wear. While the watch has never unbuckled accidentally yet, there is something uncomforting about a $200 watch that could pop off at any moment.

Charging is the next issue I found with the Gear Live. The charger is a small block which clips to the back of the device and then connects via micro-usb. At first this was very stiff and difficult to click into place and then remove; I wasn’t surprised by the number of complaints from owners of this breaking. The strap also makes it impossible to charge the device face up because of the slight curvature where it is joined to the watch face. I was able to combat this by fastening my watch to a glasses case, or alternatively by forcefully bending the bottom strap inside.

The battery life has been very impressive. I turn the device off at night, and I have managed to easily have two days of constant use. The device doesn’t feel sluggish while navigating the cards and when the heart rate monitor works, its a nice novelty feature. Those around me will be happy to hear that I now leave my phone on silent, because the incoming buzz on my wrist means I no longer have to reach for my pocket.

Android Wear as a concept is a great. These two devices are not quite the finished product, but neither was my G1 and just like the G1, the more I use it the more I like it.

I think I’m going to get a Motorola 360.

 Bill Donahue,  Android Developer

Android Wear took one of the most annoying aspects of the Android OS, constant notifications of largely unwanted or irrelevant data, and made an entire experience around it. With a lot of work I think it has the potential to be useful, but as it stands today it feels like a product just for tech enthusiasts and hackers.

What MeetMe is reading this month…


featured:

CODE

 

 


Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

by Charles Petzold

“The book is really about communication. It bounces between history, mathematics, and the physical mechanics of the communication devices we’ve used throughout history leading up to the microcomputer. The author does more than explain how a basic telegraph works, by tracing the evolution and the faults in each version of the technology. Halfway through the book the focus abstracts out to logic gates, then it abstracts out again to performing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using only these gates, then to memory structure, then to microprocessors and their instruction sets, and finally to higher level programming languages. I think the very best thing about this book is that it touches on concepts we’re all very familiar with, but it connects them better than just about any other material I’ve ever read on the subject.”Michael Smalley


happiness-advantage

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

by Shawn Achor (available on Audible)

“Happiness is important.  Ask people about their short term or long term goals and they may vary widely from person to person, but at the core of each goal is the hope and desire that it will make that person happier.  This book explores ideas and methods for helping to increase overall happiness and have a better outlook on life.  Further, it challenges the common notion that first we become successful, and then happiness follows.  The book argues that the converse is actually true: if we’re happy to begin with, then we’re more likely to be successful across all aspects of life.”

Matt Kemmerer

elements

The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles

by Noam Nisan“It’s really a unique book in that with some time investment you can actually learn to build a working virtual machine called ‘Hack’.”

Michael Smalley

“This book was surprising. I originally picked it up as a guide to succeeding in business, however, the book offers that in a very ‘spiritual’ way.  The author focuses on the tremendous effect our thoughts have on our lives and describes how he has applied his recommended three steps throughout his personal and professional journey to achieve his goals. His life story is inspirational and the three steps he outlines are in fact simple, which makes it feel like anyone can do it.”Diana Shkolnikov

Book 3: The Republic of Thieves

“This series is all about thieves.  And boy, do we love our thieves.  It’s a mix of mystery who-done-it.  It’s the planning of capers, the plotting to escape, and the twists and turns along the way.  I love the series because the characters are unique and colorful, the crimes the commit are interesting and fun, and the relationships are dynamic and diverse. 
The most interesting thing I find is how they are able to get out of the corners they find themselves in.  They are inventive with their crimes, and it’s delightfully fun to see what happens next.”Jason Lotito

learning

The Art of Learning

by Josh Waitzkin (available on Audible)

“The Art of Learning is Josh Waitzkin’s story.  Josh is both a National Champion at chess and a World Champion at Tai Chi Chuan — two very diverse fields.  However, he says that his best skill is neither chess nor Tai Chi, but learning.  Josh details his mental process for learning, and shares insights to performing at a high level.  The audio version, which is read by Josh, remains engaging throughout and is both interesting and inspirational.”

Matt Kemmerer


trending:

 

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution
“I read Hackers based on David Slabonik’s featured recommendation. It was a screen-swiper to the end; I could not put this book down, but it probably appeals to a narrow demographic. As a developer, my theory of programmers as a class of people grows incrementally every day — there are subcategories of programmers based on motives, ideals and styles. Reading this book took my mental picture of hackers from a rough crayon drawing of a house to a satellite photograph. It was fascinating from a historical perspective, connecting my jumbled dots of computer knowledge on the origins of punchcards, games, digital music, and different programming languages. There are entertaining cameos from Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the founders of Sierra games, all written before the subjects grew to immense fame. The effects of politics, salaries, and education are smoothly interwoven. Even the origins of nerd culture are explored, from hygiene and bizarre sleep schedules to the penchant for sci-fi/fantasy and lack of female interaction. But what really gripped me was the array of personalities that has shaped software engineering. Certain vignettes of historical programmers spoke deeply to me, confirming that my mental wiring has precedent among engineers, and other biographies gave me insights into the dispositions of my fellow coders. It was like reading a Meyers-Briggs chart for the first time, finding myself, finding my friends, and then seeing how we complement each other and where points of contention lie. Not only did Hackers give me continual jolts of inspiration for the kind of coder I want to be, it gave me a more honest look at the technical tasks I’m not well suited to. Make sure to get the 25th Anniversary edition for the epilogue follow-ups with influential hackers.”Brian Herbert