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Craig Pilcher

Craig Pilcher

Google Now just suggested a news story from Project Veritas, so... pass

Craig Pilcher

Craig Pilcher

Craig Pilcher

Craig Pilcher

Your self-driving car won't be built by Uber or Google

No surprise it is easier to build a module to attach to existing vehicles than the entire mechanical/electrical system (not to mention manufacturing, supply chain, etc)

Your self-driving car won't be built by Uber or Google

Craig Pilcher

Whether you vote for a former governor, a doctor, a former Secretary of State, or a disgraced game show host, you have to register first. https://www.google.com/search?q=register+to+vote&oq=register+to+vote

Craig Pilcher

Craig Pilcher

Open source cars

2 min read

(This was meant to be a brief reply to this post, but it ballooned into a post all its own.)

 

Open source automotive software makes sense on paper. I am all for it, even though it would obviate my employment as a test engineer for an automotive supplier. So let me tell you why it won’t happen.

  1. Automotive manufacturers do not understand open source. They only see the liability, not the potential. If anything happens in the field requiring a recall, they are on the hook anyway. So they assume they should control the whole process and develop everything themselves from scratch. I’m not entirely sure some of them understand software itself, as evidenced by John Deere presuming ownership over the software in their tractors.

  2. Who would test this open source software (besides the manufacturer)? With web software, you can spin up a remote server on a cheap laptop and you are off and running, in relatively little time, at low cost. With automotive software, the platform costs are at least 5 figures, not to mention the specialized tools to upgrade the software of the various components. It is a much larger barrier to entry for third-party testing.

Again, I agree in principle that it would be a good idea. But it will never happen unless lawmakers force it to, and they do not have a great sense of open source software either. Of course, it will be interesting to see if traditional software companies (Google and Apple) will bring this mentality whey they enter the space in a few years time.

Craig Pilcher

Reminders

I love the contextual reminders, Google Inbox, but they are getting pretty dark

Craig Pilcher

The Elusive Private Cloud

3 min read

It is the DMZ week between the two major developer conferences of the year, I/O and Appple's WWDC. Shots were fired by Google in the form of free and unlimited photo storage and an omnipresent search assistant for its upcoming OS update. fans have already begun reflexively asserting that "Google ain't no thing":

Everything has a price. With Apple, you typically pay them money, and they sell you premium products and services in return. That type of cost and relationship is easy to understand.
With Google, you typically pay them attention and data, and they give you free or cheap products and services in return. That cost and relationship is harder to understand.

First of all, no, it is not hard to understand. For decades if not longer, services have used advertising to mitigate cost to the user. Ever listened to a radio, or read a newspaper, or received junk mail?

Second (and more nitpicky), you would be hard pressed to find anyone else making the argument for Apple offering users more choice. I am running a custom launcher, a third-party SMS client, and readily switch between three different browsers depending on my use cases. Ever tried that on iOS? */android-troll*

Apple CEO Tim Cook even joined in:

“We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.”

The first takeaway from this is that the Apple camp is placing a priority on while at the same time knocking "so-called free services" down a peg. This implies that privacy is only available to those who can afford it. This sentiment is much larger moral hazard than allowing tailored advertising to subsidize service.

The most important takeaway, however, is that this sentiment could turn into Apple's Waterloo if they don't make some major improvements to their services. Google Photos has long been superior to iPhoto, only to be hamstrung by its dependence on Google's misunderstood social network. Google solved that problem this year by separating them. Apple needs to give people a reason to pay out the nose for their competing product besides "hey, we won't check out your pictures."

Google offers value in exchange for information, which is why they are seen as a pinnacle of innovation. Apple offers value in exchange for cold hard cash, which is why they are seen as a walled garden surrounding a mountain of cash. Hopefully Apple's private will open up and rain some new ideas on WWDC this year, instead of nude photos of celebrities. */terrible-apple-troll-pun*

Craig Pilcher

The MS Office Conundrum

3 min read

Microsoft Office makes people worse at .1

I work with engineers - people that know their way around power electronics and embedded software2. But somehow, no one seems to know how version control works. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Office.

In my first C programming class, we only received grades on work that we checked in using the version control software3. It was a revelation to me, at the time, that there existed a way to collaborate on software (or any other electronic documents). This is likely because I did most of my document editing in high school in - what else - Microsoft Word.

So why has this revelation failed to bubble up to the (too) many companies with Microsoft enterprise agreements? Sure, my first introduction was via the command line, but Dropbox and Google Docs have shown it can be done in a user-friendly GUI. I constantly see coworkers go to the not-so-great length of changing a date in the document title and think "Boom - new version." Or, even better - send out a document for several people to edit, who return their input as "Title - MM/DD/YY - Employee Initials". It seems crazy that 1.) no one has thought "we should think of a better engineered solution to this", and then 2.) "oh wait, IT ALREADY EXISTS."

Even though it is not built into directly, I know version control is available for it now. I have even used it! Microsoft's sort-of-cloud solution, Sharepoint, has version control and document check-out baked right in. It is buried in some context menu somewhere (proving my conspiracy theory that MS does not want you to use it), but it is there. Yet somehow we still create an Archive folder with all the previous, dated documents. It is a waste of storage space, a huge time suck, and can be extremely confusing.

I write this both as an admonishment for the workflows at my company, and as an acknowledgement that I am falling for it too. I have started to do this, mostly because my colleagues do, even though I know it is a terrible habit. The first step is admitting you have a problem. I look forward to apologizing to all the I have wronged in the past.

And don't get me started on the crazy things people put into Excel.4


  1. I have not decided if this thesis is worth a series of posts. It might be, but this is the only example I could come up with so far. 
  2. I know the software team uses it for their software, and yet they don't for any documents shared with other groups. How does that make sense to anyone? 
  3. It was a Unix system, and I can't even remember the commands for committing code now. But I remember the concept, which is more important. (Right?) 
  4. It is not for presentations. That is why they made Powerpoint. 

Craig Pilcher

The Indie Web

2 min read

I have been griping about leaving Facebook and owning my data for a while now, but I may have finally found a solution.

The indie web, its called. Made up of the people who got tired of talking about these concepts and decided to start doing something about them.

I first heard about them on one of my weekly must-hear podcasts, In Beta (episode 90). Then a guest on another webcast I enjoy regularly - This Week in Google #241 - brought it up near the end. (TWiG actually just dedicated most of an episode to it - #266.)

I always viewed blogging (at least my blog) as a spot for thoughts that skewed toward longform writing, that could not be fleshed out in a short snippet. The indie web, however, encourages tweet-length thoughts as well as longer posts, which can then be syndicated to whatever social network you choose. The point is to not keep those thoughts siloed somewhere that may eventually shut down or change their policies, but to control your online identity, on your own terms. You can build your own tools, or you can browse the IndieWeb site to find something pre-built to use on your site.

But how will people see these posts if they are on or ? Well, they thought of that too. POSSE stands for Post (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. By syndicating, your non-IndieWeb friends will still get to see what you are up to. And using the webmention protocol, comments and replies will be pulled back into your own site as well.

If you are feeling less brave, one of the higher-profile indie web tools just launched a beta. It is called Known, and it has been treating me well so far. I look forward to their hosted/beta service adding a Wordpress plugin. But if I did my work right, you should see my post about this article down below.

TL;DR: if you see anything oddly formatted posts on my site or one of my social profiles, it is probably an attempt at implementing one of the Indie Web projects. Maybe if you are getting wary of Facebook and you're looking for a technically-inclined side project, you should check it out too.

Craig Pilcher

HTC One (M8) Flash Review

2 min read

The phone du jour is the One M8, and I am a phone connoisseur. My JUMP-grade came up, and I had to pull the trigger. The Nexus 5 was a fantastic phone, but it was lacking in a few areas: battery life, camera, and tap to unlock. So I pulled the trigger and have been using this beast for a few weeks. Here are my thoughts so far.

  • HTC makes a really pretty device. The Nexus is very utilitarian, which comes from prioritizing price over build quality. Samsung and LG focus on adding mostly-useless crap and letting their phones look like a Band-aid and a child's toy, respectively [see update]. I would rather have brushed aluminum and front-facing speakers than a heart monitor and 4 different ways to unlock my device and take a screenshot simultaneously.
  • Speaking of speakers, the BoomSound speakers on the One are amazing. Before, I was living in a world where cell phone speakers were just supposed to be low-quality and tinny. Not anymore.
  • Blinkfeed is OK, I guess. If there were a way to add my own RSS feeds, it might be useful. Hopefully they will add this feature (or make it less complicated to find).
  • Motion Launcher needs to be on all phones, from now on. It makes so much more sense than the side buttons.
  • T-Mobile bloatware is dumber than Verizon bloatware. They offer you a 30 day trial for voicemail transcription, but only if you agree to pay $4 per month after that. All for something Google Voice does for free.
  • The camera is pretty solid. The low resolution freaks people out, but it is a , not a Nikon. Standard smartphone cameras don't take good pictures in low light, but this one does pretty well. The editing tools are great as well. The Duo Camera is just ok - it is not a necessity, but adds some editing options to close-up pictures: [caption id="attachment_1281" align="aligncenter" width="600"]greetings Charlie greets me[/caption]  

All in all, the HTC One M8 is a solid phone, and I would recommend it to anyone. It comes at a premium price, but it is the one phone available right now that has the looks, feel, and function of a premium device.

Update: LG announced the G3 while I was writing this, and it looks like a phone that an adult would use.

Craig Pilcher

The Bacon-Wrapped Economy

1 min read

Last July, Google threw an office party. But this being Google — the third largest company in the world as of January — it wasn't really a standard ice-cream-cake-and-canned-beer office party....

The Bacon-Wrapped Economy
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