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    Friday
    Oct102014

    Having the Best doesn't necessarily work if you don't have the knowledge that supports it

    F1 Racing is the most technically advanced racing out there.  More money and more technology is thrown at winning that any other racing.  Back in the early 90s working at Microsoft there were a bunch of us who would get together at somebody’s house at 6a Sunday morning to watch the European F1 races.  One guy was so into F1, he quit Microsoft and joined the Ferrari race team to work on the computer systems in the cars.

    McLaren racing dumped Mercedes engines for Honda in the 2015 season, and part of the reason is McLaren wanted the source for the engine systems.

    "A modern grand prix engine at this moment in time is not just about sheer power; it's about how you harvest the energy, store the energy and effectively if you don't have control of that process - meaning access to source code - then you are not going to be able to stabilise your car in the entry to corners, for instance, and you lose lots of lap time. So even though you have the same brand of engine you do not have the ability to optimise the engine."

    I have been out of following F1, but 2015 might be when I start following again.  Here is a Honda video they released on their 2015 engine.  Honda has bet on one team McLaren to win.  Which means they’ll be sharing everything they can to get the most performance out of their engine.

    Thursday
    Oct092014

    If you rewire your brain, what happens if you miswire? For example, you join a cult

    The idea of rewiring your brain, neuroplasticity is popular.  One TedX video on changing your brain is this one by Barbara Arrowsmith Young.

    But how do you know you are rewiring the brain in a good way.  Are you miswiring the brain?  Like how.  Like if you choose to join a cult as described in this TED talk.

    Changing how your brain works is possible, but who do you trust to rewire your brain? 

    Thursday
    Oct092014

    Microsoft finally gets the need for New Business Models, Vanity Fair Interview provides details

    Vanity Fair has an article featuring Satya Nadella, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer.  The article is pretty long and has lots of details.  The one that got my attention is these two paragraphs explaining Microsoft’s need for new business models.  One of the things I figured out a couple of years after leaving Microsoft is if you focus on creating new business models, then fit the technology it is so much easier than creating innovative technologies to fit legacy business models.  If you go back in history what Bill Gates did licensing DOS to IBM and keeping the rights to license to others is a new business model.  When you paid $2k for a computer, paying $100 for an OS to make it work was acceptable.

    Part of why Microsoft failed with devices is that competitors upended its business model. Google doesn’t charge for the operating system. That’s because Google makes its money on search. Apple can charge high prices because of the beauty and elegance of its devices, where the software and hardware are integrated in one gorgeous package. Meanwhile, Microsoft continued to force outside manufacturers, whose products simply weren’t as compelling as Apple’s, to pay for a license for Windows. And it didn’t allow Office to be used on non-Windows phones and tablets. “The whole philosophy of the company was Windows first,” says Heather Bellini, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. Of course it was: that’s how Microsoft had always made its money.

    Nadella lived this dilemma because his job at Microsoft included figuring out the cloud-based future while maintaining the highly profitable Windows server business. And so he did a bunch of things that were totally un-Microsoft-like. He went to talk to start-ups to find out why they weren’t using Microsoft. He put massive research-and-development dollars behind Azure, a cloud-based platform that Microsoft had developed in Skunk Works fashion, which by definition took resources away from the highly profitable existing business. “Very gutsy” is how Marco Iansiti, a Harvard Business School professor who wrote case studies about Nadella, describes these moves.

    Microsoft’s big bet on an OS was Longhorn, aka Windows Vista where Ballmer admits he didn’t put resources on Mobile and Browser.  Windows XP was the last Microsoft OS I worked on.  When I saw Longhorn coming I knew this is not going to work.  You can’t tell everyone to be innovative because when you put it all together many things simply don’t work.

    What Ballmer calls his “biggest mistake,” though, is neither phones nor search. It was a software project called Longhorn, and it happened early in his tenure. Longhorn, which Microsoft began working on in 2000, was supposed to be the next generation of Windows. Gates, who served as Microsoft’s chief software architect from when he stepped down as C.E.O., in 2000, until 2006, led the project. “It was a foolishly ambitious project, more ambitious than could be built,” says a former Microsoft executive. Gates is a big-picture technologist, not a product person—and he couldn’t or wouldn’t listen to the engineers who were telling him that what he wanted couldn’t be done. Worse, Longhorn basically failed just as Apple released Tiger, which did what Longhorn aspired to do. Microsoft had to start over from scratch three years into it. Renamed “Vista,” the operating system was released late, lacked key features, and had many failings that enraged customers.

    “The worst work I did was from 2001 to 2004,” says Ballmer. “And the company paid a price for bad work. I put the A-team resources on Longhorn, not on phones or browsers. All our resources were tied up on the wrong thing.” Who shoulders the blame is a matter of debate, but the fact is neither Ballmer nor Gates stopped the failure from happening, even as almost everyone else saw it coming.

    In some ways Microsoft needed to get back to its past and write apps for other platforms.  Microsoft used to be the biggest app developer for the Mac with Word, Excel, Powerpoint.

    Microsoft’s historical reluctance to open Windows and Office is why it was such a big deal when in late March, less than two months after becoming C.E.O., Nadella announced that Microsoft would offer Office for Apple’s iPad. A team at the company had been working on it for about a year. Ballmer says he would have released it eventually, but Nadella did it immediately. Nadella also announced that Windows would be free for devices smaller than nine inches, meaning phones and small tablets. “Now that we have 30 million users on the iPad using it, that is 30 million people who never used Office before [on an iPad,]” he says. “And to me that’s what really drives us.” These are small moves in some ways, and yet they are also big. “It’s the first time I have listened to a senior Microsoft executive admit that they are behind,” says one institutional investor. “The fact that they are giving away Windows, their bread and butter for 25 years—it is quite a fundamental change.”

    VF closes with the perspective of there is a future story unfolding.

    Introducing Ballmer at Oxford, his friend Peter Tufano, the dean of the business school there, said, “When we write the history of business for the 20th century and the 21st century, there is going to be a whole chapter on Microsoft.” Of course that’s true. In the next few years, we’ll know if that chapter is celebratory—or a cautionary tale.

    Tuesday
    Oct072014

    State of the Art Font is more readable than the Rest - Microsoft's Sitka

    You won’t hear much about Microsoft’s Sitka font.  It is part of IE11 and in Windows 8.1.  Being an old font guy, I still get a kick out of studying fonts.  Long long ago I worked on typography at Apple and Microsoft.  What is Sitka?  I found the best explanation here on myfonts in an interview with the designer Matthew Carter.

    The most recent project where you collaborated with technicians and scientists is Sitka, a new serif family that comes with MS Windows 8.1. You worked in close collaboration with Microsoft’s Kevin Larson, famous for his legibility research, and with the designers at Tiro Typeworks. Did the process change your mind about science? Type designers are often very suspicious of legibility research.

    Yes, and I was too. I’ve always taken an interest in it, but I often found it was not useful for me as a designer. What I wanted was to find legibility research papers that told me things that I didn’t already somehow know by common sense. When we did Bell Centennial, we were obviously very concerned about legibility — it was for phone books, six-point type on bad paper. But we researched things in a very primitive way. I would put up two different versions of the figure ‘2’ on the wall for example and then we walked back until maybe one of them was indistinct… It was very seat-of-the-pants. 

    When it came to the academic study of legibility, I did not find anything that I could use in a practical way. But then when I met Kevin Larson and got involved in this, it became very interesting. He has very definite ideas about how we read but at the same time he’s not overly dogmatic. Also, there are now better tools that study eye movement, and better understanding of how the brain reads. Talking to Kevin and the rest of the group at Microsoft, I was very intrigued. 

    I would work on the design up to a certain point, then hand it over to Kevin, who would do whatever stage of testing was appropriate. He would generate results and tabulate them, and find very good graphic ways of expressing why this was better than that. Still, a lot of the results were ambiguous or even contradictory. There are still things about reading and the testing of legibility that we don’t understand. But I think we’ve sort of advanced the state of the art regarding this particular kind of typeface and what is useful about testing.

    Matthew and Kevin have presented before on this topic in 2013.

     

    Designing with Science

    When Fri 11 Oct 1020
    Where Krasnapolsky A
    What Perspective alteration
    Who Matthew Carter,Kevin Larson

    Reading psychologists have shown that we recognize words by first recognizing individual letters, then using the letters to build up a word. This implies that if we want to study how to make a word more readable that we should be studying how to make letters more recognizable. We have developed a type design process where we iteratively conduct scientific letter recognition tests and use the results from the tests to inform design decisions. Using the results of these tests will require careful consideration as a typeface is a beautiful collection of letters, not a collection of beautiful letters. We will talk about the kinds of results that letter recognition tests might uncover and how those results could be used in practice.

    Some of the research of typography and readability is in this research paper.

    Abstract

    In this paper we demonstrate a new methodology that can be used to measure aesthetic differences by examining the cognitive effects produced by elevated mood. Specifically in this paper we examine the benefits of good typography and find that good typography induces a good mood. When participants were asked to read text with either good or poor typography in two studies, the participants who received the good typography performed better on relative subjective duration and on certain cognitive tasks. 

    What’s Sitka look like.  I have Windows 8.1 on my Mac and moved the Sitka Fonts to my Mac OSX system.  If you want to see the results here is the Microsoft post.

    One of the advantages of the Sitka font comes from the optical scaling addressed by its different weights. Research has shown that different letter spacing, stroke sizes, and x-height can have a positive effect on the readability of different sizes of text. An optical family contains styles specifically optimized for each size and use case – rather than trying to be one-size-fits-all, like many of the typefaces common on the Web. Thus, you can get terrific legibility in text, and style in display sizes, all with the same family. Reading view for example uses Sitka Small, which is designed with thicker strokes, larger x-height, and looser letter spacing, for image captions, and Sitka Banner, designed with thinner strokes and tighter letter spacing, for the article titles.

    In this picture we show three of the optical weights of Sitka at the 2.0em size.

    In this picture we show three of the optical weights of Sitka at the 2.0em size. From this you can see how the tighter letter spacing and thinner widths employed in Sitka Heading are a better reading choice for text at this size.

    In this picture again we show the same three optical weights of Sitka this time at the 0.8em size.

    In this picture again we show the same three optical weights of Sitka this time at the 0.8em size. It is easy to see how the greater x-height, and looser letter spacing employed in Sitka Small is substantially better for reading the text at this size.

    Tuesday
    Oct072014

    California's Drought impacts Hydropower decreasing from 20% to 10% of energy mix

    US Energy Information Agency released data on the effect of the California drought on energy production.

    California drought leads to less hydropower, increased natural gas generation

    graph of California drought status, as explained in the article text

    Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought MonitorNational Drought Mitigation Center

    The drought in California continues to increase in severity since California's governor declared a state of drought emergency in January 2014. As of September 30, 58% of the state was classified as experiencing exceptional drought, the most intense drought category. These dry conditions limit hydropower generation, requiring generation from other sources to make up for the shortfall.

    Bad news is Hydropower has decreased due to the drought from 20% to 10%.

    California's drought, which began in 2011, has resulted in a significant decline in hydropower generation. On average, hydropower accounted for 20% of California's in-state generation during the first six months of each year from 2004 to 2013. During the first half of 2014, however, hydropower accounted for only 10% of California's total generation. Monthly hydropower generation in 2014 has fallen well below the 10-year range for each individual month.

    Good news is Wind and Solar grew to be bigger than hydropower.

    California's drought, which began in 2011, has resulted in a significant decline in hydropower generation. On average, hydropower accounted for 20% of California's in-state generation during the first six months of each year from 2004 to 2013. During the first half of 2014, however, hydropower accounted for only 10% of California's total generation. Monthly hydropower generation in 2014 has fallen well below the 10-year range for each individual month.

    In the below graph you can see the % of power coming from the various sources.

    NewImage

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