I Want My Computer to be as Easy to Use as My Rice Cooker

There is a (by now oldish) saying, attributed to Bjarne Stroustrup:

I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone.

I used to riff on this with the following variant:

For the sake of my parents, I want their computer to be as easy to use as my rice cooker.

My wish now has come true, as the WSJ reports about the new Mi rice cooker (local copy), which is controlled by a mobile app and needs resetting using a small pin.

The Looming Bubble in Lego Bricks

In 2014, for a course that teaches students teamwork, I bought 20 sets of basic lego bricks for a bridge building exercise. The cost per set was 20 Euro. This year the number of students in our project courses exceeded what could be done with this basic set of legos and so I looked to buy more.

Two years later, the cost of these sets has exploded to more than 100 Euros per set. Mostly that’s because (a) the actual set was retired and (b) there is no proper replacement, just new “classic sets” that come with lots of pieces that nobody wants. I sense a bubble in the Lego bricks market… divest yourself now! Send them my way!

Things Wrong with my Amazon Echo and Fire Tablet

A while back I gushed about how great the Amazon Echo is. True Star Trek feeling for those who remember. I even bought an Amazon Fire tablet to go with it.

With a couple of months more using the devices, I need to point out their weaknesses.

In a nutshell, if you don’t want to be confined to a closed Amazon software ecosystem, don’t bother buying.

The devices shines with an Amazon Prime subscription, but everything beyond that is just tiresome.

For one, I own a media streamer that is not a big brand one and that does not have a microphone and does not call home to some service. I can’t get Kore, the default remote for the Kodi media streamer I’m using, from the Amazon store. I can side-load it, but why do I have to?

Continue reading “Things Wrong with my Amazon Echo and Fire Tablet”

Amazon Echo and Skype

I’ve been using my Amazon Echo for a couple of months now and I’m still in awe. The speech recognition, without any training, is great. “Alexa, play KQED” is reacted to promptly and will actually play KQED. It is also intuitive. I did not need a manual to try “Alexa, set volume to 3.” It worked right away. Take this from someone who, according to one former boss, still has a strong German accent.

The Echo is still U.S. focused. When asked to play Deutschlandfunk (German public radio), Alexa asked back: “Do you want to play dog sled funk?” As much as I would like to unleash some dog sled funk in my living room, this is not what I what I was asking for. So I got an Amazon Fire tablet and the Alexa app and got DLF to play. Ever paranoid, I intend to eventually switch off voice recognition and/or ban the Echo to my kitchen, as I dislike the thought of having my voice print stored on U.S. American servers.

Continue reading “Amazon Echo and Skype”

Do What You Are Great at Rather Than Follow Your Passion?

Interesting commencement speech by Ben Horowitz. When I attended Stanford, I’d regularly listen to the VFTT (View from the Top) speeches of well-known entrepreneurs and executives. I quickly got bored, first, and then upset, second, when these speeches all seemed to be one long slog of follow-your-passion (and everything will work out) talks. “Give me some operational meat,” I’d think to myself. I wanted to hear about real problems and real solutions rather than yet another high-minded speech.

Since then, however, I’ve actually warmed up to the concept of following your passion, as I have seen my student startups struggle when they took something on, outside their tangible realm of experience, because the market opportunity was so luring. Horowitz argues that people should pick up, as business ideas, something they are great about, rather than following their passion. I think this can only work if there is fun in doing or operating things, so what you are great at is something you’ll eventually get passionate about.

Hello World!

Yep, I’m finally switching over to WordPress. First my personal blog, now the research blog. Stay tuned for lots of updates in these first weeks of 2008!