Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mobile First, Cloud First as Redefined in Build 2016

There were a number of very cool announcements made at Microsoft Build's 2016 kickoff today, Wednesday, March 30th.  On first brush, one might not notice the common theme across the announcements, however.
These things may seem disconnected, but if you look again, they're not... nor are the other less obviously connected major announcements such as:
Microsoft has been promising Mobile First, Cloud First for a long time. Until today, there's been a consensus that Mobile First meant Tablet and Phone...  as in those hardware form factors get updates and features before classic alternatives.  Today Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, addressed the developer crowd and clarified (or perhaps more accurately "redefined") what "Mobile First" really means.

Mobile First, Cloud First has morphed to mean something more like "Portable First, Cloud First", with portable referring directly to the Universal Windows Platform...  write your code once, and the user can take it to any device (desktop, laptop, phone, IoT) and use it as naturally as possible with the whatever human interface device is available (keyboard, mouse, touch, ink, voice, text, etc)...

And there is, indeed, how all the announcements fit together. 

All of the announcements made today talk about how Microsoft is diversifying the human interface, yet keeping the context of all your work and play available across all devices.  Your apps are there, and they work just as naturally with voice commands as they do with ink. 

Note that keyboard and mouse are relatively unnatural compromises in human interface paradigm, and their use will be diminished in the future. 

If pen and paper is the natural choice, Ink will replace it. 

If voice makes sense, it will be available.

If an intelligent actor might assist you, Cortana and your trusted "Network of Experts" (Apps and BotFX bots) are there. If a virtual or augmented reality makes sense, your apps will join you on Hololens. 

If an Xbox controller is the right choice, no problem. 

All of these things can be enhanced significantly with DirectX 12, even for non-games.

And the Cloud will interlink them naturally so that you can flip from tablet to Hololens without skipping a beat. (in some ways, live process migration is really becoming a reality;  when the apps are the same across every deployed device, the only thing that needs to transfer from device to device is user data, and that's happening via cloud.)

One segment that didn't see much love today:  the Web.  Or did it?  Bash for Windows 10 is a bit of a stretch to connect to the coming shift, but really, it is meant to make it easier for developers to deliver web-based, cloud-hosted solutions using Visual Studio to non-Windows hosts.  Indirectly this will aid in the creation of services that might support Bots made with the BotFX, for example.  All of this is based predominantly on JSON over REST / HTTP.

Some would point out that Windows 10 Mobile (formerly Windows Phone) didn't get any stage time, either, but the reality is that Microsoft no longer sees the smartphone edition of Windows to be a separate thing.   Windows 10 is converging on "The Best Windows Ever", Windows 10... smartphone or not. 






Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tribute to the TI 80-something Graphing Calculators

Rummaging thru a box of stuff in storage, I ran across my old Texas Instruments TI-85 calculator.  I had to stop and fiddle it for a moment. I grabbed some AAA batteries, only to discover that the CR1616 backup had given up... the calculator operates like new, as in factor reset... but sadly, that means a game program I wrote for it 20 years ago was finally gone forever.

Back in the early 90's, Exeter Area High School had an advanced math course that required a TI-81 calculator. I gladly used the course as an excuse to get my hands on this relatively expensive (near $100 in 1990 dollars) but amazing piece of hardware at the time.
In short order, I added its programming language to the list of languages I had already taught myself.  I loved using trigonometric functions to create pictures. I used to program it to do my trig and pre-calc homework for me. (In retrospect, my attempt at "cheating" was a hack that I learned more from than any lecture or textbook ever would teach me... you see, in order to program the calculator to do advanced math for me, I had to thoroughly understand it, myself.)

My own TI-85, which I upgraded to
for calculus at UNH. It's a bit dusty today.
It cost about $100 when I
purchased it in the early 90's.
The TI-8x calculators were my "gateway drug" to my love of mobile development.  I was already developing software for PCs, but I loved the challenges imposed by yet more limited footprints and hardware capabilities. 

I kept my TI with me to the point that my sister nicknamed it a "porta-geek"...  (There was even a girl who stole it from me, thinking to wound me for the fact that I wasn't interested in dating her. It had no effect; I obliviously assumed I'd misplaced it in my own absent-mindedness. The story came out several years later, after I'd purchased a replacement.)

The term "porta-geek" is a term I still whimsically apply on occasion to my current daily driver mobile device, my Lumia 950XL running Windows 10.  My sister's jibe didn't phase me, either.

By coincidence, I was also in Target's electronics department today. I was surprised to notice that they still had several 20+ year old TI-80-somethings...  but rather than the price being lower, the prices are actually higher.

A selection of same-generation TI calculators at Target today (3/20/2016).  Notice the TI-80-somethings still going for about $100+.


I can't really say why 20+ year old calculators should still cost more than they originally did...  clearly normal technology market forces are not in effect for them.  My spidey-sense for socialistic-driven monopoly tingles.  I'm not the only one to have noticed the... discrepancy... over the past couple decades.  ( https://www.quora.com/Why-does-a-TI-83+-calculator-cost-the-same-as-it-did-12-years-ago )

That said, they were, and are great devices.

I'd love to see a Windows 10 emulator app made out of them....  maybe some day I'll find enough spare time...  :)