Business Life Politics

Not a First Amendment Issue

Deadline: “They made an attempt to not only kill the app, but to actually destroy the entire company. And it’s not just these three companies. Every vendor from text message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day.”

Parler hitched its wagon to a vile President’s rhetoric and what they deem free speech. Which is their choice, as a company, to make.

On the flip side all the other companies they chose to depend on for their services are free to choose not to host their content.

If Parler wants to continue to exist they’re free to build their own data center, purchase their own server, and connect them to the web. Google, Apple, and Amazon cannot keep you off the web. It’s open.

But they don’t have to support the hate of your platform.

Oh, I almost forgot. The First Amendment to the Constitution only applies to the Government infringing on your right to free speech. It doesn’t apply to private companies.

Business Fresno Life

Downtown Fresno – Fulton Street

The Fresno Bee: “But there is so much promise. Nowhere else in Fresno contains such great architecture, buildings that give you a sense of place and history. And few California cities, if any, boast Fulton Street’s amazing collection of mid 20th-century sculptures and fountains, all beautifully conserved.”

It’s been a long time coming but Fulton Street in Downtown Fresno is finally, finally, ready to be used. They’ve done an amazing job and I’m pretty excited about seeing the changes in person.

Old downtown Fresno Architecture
Old downtown Fresno Architecture

If I were looking to build I’d look downtown first. There are many beautiful buildings downtown just sitting empty. The architecture is varied and beautiful. There is also a great opportunity to fix some of the mistakes of the past, like covering beautiful materials with ugly facades — watch the video with shots of old Downtown Fresno and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I hope building owners take this opportunity to improve their buildings and make the “less ghetto” as one of the folks in the article put it.

If you live in Fresno you owe it to yourself to spend a bit of time downtown with open eyes. Focus on the improvements. Check out Bitwise South Stadium and Hashtag Fresno in the old Hotel Virginia on Kern Street.

If you’ve ever lived in a vibrant city you’ll understand my desire to be a part of downtown. I continue to hope it can become a thriving place in the valley. It sounds like it has a chance. We have some true believers, we just need that extra little push to get over the hump.

Downtown Fresno streetcar.
Downtown Fresno streetcar.

Check out the video of years past. Fresno had a vibrant Downtown, complete with street cars! How cool is that?

Cities are fun when they work. I had the pleasure of working in Downtown Seattle for a number of years and it’s so nice to step outside the door of your business and be able to choose from hundreds of places to eat and shop without getting in your car and dealing with traffic.

Like I said above. If you have a business and are considering a move, or want to build your own place, you should consider Downtown Fresno. Become part of the solution, restore a building, or a floor in a building and help attract others downtown.

If I were a business owner you can bet I’d build downtown.

Apple Core Labs Business Indie iOS

Passion Project: Update One

I’ve made a couple runs at the freelance iOS developer life. The first time things went really well, but I was offered a gig by one of my clients and it too good to pass up. A couple years into that position — leading a team developing a Windows video decoding SDK — I got the itch to go back to iOS and the Mac. Around the same time our oldest daughter decided she wanted to move back to California. I took a week off to help move here, and think on this idea of going back out on my own. I decided to give it a go. This time around I failed, miserably.

My attempts to go indie have always been predicated by a desire to develop a product. I thought I could bootstrap my indie life doing freelance work. This was definitely a mistake. Once you start doing client work you’re on that hamster wheel of how do I get my next client? Drumming up work is difficult. I failed at that and I’m also a slow developer. I don’t crank out code quickly, which you need to be an effective freelancer. Get it done so you can move on to the next deal.

When I finally found a full time job I decided I’d work on passion projects and see how that worked out. I’ve had many starts and stops on various projects, but I keep coming back to RxCalc. It was my first iOS app. My brother, Jerry, and I worked on it together. Jerry is a clinical Pharmacist and wanted an iOS app to help him do Pharmacokinetics Calculations. He did all the math and designed the workflow and I turned both into Objective-C. We shipped in June 2009 and RxCalc went live in the store July 4, 2009 (nice bonus.)

I’ve been slowly working on a rewrite of RxCalc. My first iOS app was messy, but it has proven stable — I haven’t had a crash report since the 1.0 release in 2009 — but the code is cringeworthy. I’ve cleaned it a bit over the years as well as shipping a 1.2 release that included some new functionality. That release included much cleaner code, but I’ve wanted to add IAP to it for additional calculation models and port it to Android, and maybe even a Universal Windows App.

When Jerry and I originally started developing what was to become RxCalc it began life as a Palm app in C++ and the Pharmacokinetics math library was portable C++. It built on Palm, Windows, and iOS — it built first time on iOS with zero change. When I was learning Objective-C I decided it would be best to port PKMath from C++ to Objective-C. That was really easy. It didn’t take long at all.

Here we are in 2016 and I decided I’d better get started with my grand plan to make PKMath portable, again, and build for iOS, Android, and Windows. Why? Just because. Remember, this is a passion project. I don’t make any money on RxCalc, but I do have a plan to change that with this new version.

Will write C/C++ for foodThe new C++ PKMath library is written. I’ve built a small layer of Objective-C++ over the top of it so I can write the new UI in Swift. The old RxCalc was 100% Objective-C, the new one will be a mix of C++, Objective-C++, and Swift. That sounds kind of weird, but there is a means to an end.

Android is my next target. I’ve started working on JNI wrappers around the PKMath library. This has proven to be extremely difficult. It’s going to take some time to wrap my brain around how this all works. I’ve managed to write a simple sample that uses PKMath to calculate an Ideal Body Weight and display it in an Android view, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

As for Windows it’s the thing I’m most familiar with. I’ve spent most of my 25+ years as a developer building Windows applications. The downside is I’ve never built a Universal Windows App and I’m not sure how to properly build PKMath for it. I’ll figure that one out and I imagine it will be as easy as wrapping C++ in Objective-C++.

Progress is slow and I’m easily distracted. We’ll see how it goes. More updates to come.

P.S. — I find Swift to be the most enjoyable language I’ve ever used. Doing the new RxCalc UI has been a lot of fun.


Project Management

Signal v. Noise: “Once a six week cycle is over, we take one or two weeks off of scheduled projects so everyone can roam independently, fix stuff up, pick up some pet projects we’ve wanted to do, and generally wind down prior to starting the next six week cycle. Ample time for context switching. We also use this time to firm up ideas that we’ll be tackling next cycle.”

Get your tools!One of the benefits of having a successful product is not having to hustle work. I always loved this about my early days at Visio. We were on a one year cycle. We would release a version, spend the next few months going over what was next, working casually on fixes or new features, then we’d launch into building the next version. It felt perfect and as a company we were always on time.

I love what Basecamp is doing. They’re obviously a highly capable team that understands what they’re able to deliver in a six week cycle. A lot of us attempt to practice Scrum and fail miserably at it, so we never know how long something is going to take. This team is actually pulling it off with their own “methodology”, and that’s all that matters.

I would encourage you to read the entire article. It’s full of all kinds of little gems.

App Store Business Development

The Omni Group and The App Store

The Omni Group: “The app is now a free download. When you first run the app, you’re asked whether you’d like to start a trial or purchase a license. But before you purchase anything, we also explain that discounted pricing is available to existing Mac App Store customers. If you check for discounts, validating your previous install, we either offer you discounted upgrade pricing (50% off) or—for recent purchasers—a completely free upgrade to the new version.”

This is a significant breakthrough. The App Business is a tough nut to crack, especially with millions of competitors in the store. Couple that with the lack of trials and it’s very difficult to keep a business afloat. The Omni Group happens to be a longtime developer of Mac Apps so they know what’s at stake. They create beautifully designed and engineered software at a fair price for Mac and iOS. They’re one of the best in the business.

Until now only really big companies have been able to provide what could be seen as a trial. Microsoft and Adobe are so large they setup subscriptions for their software, think Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud. While Omni is definitely one of the big players in the Mac and iOS market they’re still a very small company. With this move it finally appears that Apple is relaxing their stance on trials a bit. For productivity software having the ability to use a trial that creates meaningful output and becomes a read-only viewer after a period of time is huge. This will give folks the time to create some drawings, kick the tires, and decide if they really want to purchase OmniGraffle. Brilliant!


Exeter: Internet Backwater

Watch out! It's a blog fly!The Sun Gazette: “The first time Frontier will be asked for an update on their progress will be the end of next month, when it is required to present the first of its semi-annual (twice per year) report to TURN and ORA. The first milestone won’t happen until Dec. 31, 2018 when Frontier is required to add 100,000 homes with service at speeds of 25/2-3 Mbps in households where fiber optic service is not currently available as part of an effort to bridge the digital divide in both urban and rural areas.”

I have Frontier‘s service and I actually feel lucky to have it. When we moved back to Exeter I hadn’t considered internet services. Heck, we had Comcast in Visalia and it was a decent 50Mbps unlimited, which was just fine. When we met our real estate agent to get the keys to our new place she asked “What are you going to do for internet service?” Silly me, I said we’d get Verizon DSL, like we had back in 2008. Turns out Verizon was at capacity. Whoops. We went with Dish Internet, which is not so good. It’s satellite which is good for the desperate, I guess I fit that description. Desperate. We bought it but it had restrictions on use; 15Mbps down, 2Mbps up, 50GB per month data limit. When we hit the 50GB limit mid month (every darned month) we were throttled to dial-up speeds. We got by but we couldn’t do any streaming or play games. It just wasn’t good enough for that once you bake in the delay from the ground to the satellite.

After struggling with Dish Internet for about a year we were relieved when Frontier took over Verizon’s network. I set a reminder to call them the day it became Frontier’s and signed up. Luckily we managed to get in. I’m now the proud user of a 2Mbps connection without data limits. We can now stream, which we do all the time, and overall I’m really pleased with their customer service. They’ve been really great. We’ve also had a couple visit from their tech’s and both have been outstanding. They actually know what they’re doing, YES!

Does that mean it’s perfect? No. It’s not. I’d love for our tiny hometown to get a few decent network options. We basically have one plus a bunch of scavengers that offer satellite or ground based radio systems that are expensive and not overly useful, except for the desperate. Which, as I’ve said, all of Exeter is desperate for decent internet.

I can’t imagine trying to run a business with this level of service. It’s been solid, but the numbers need to jump up.

If we can manage to get 25Mbps, or even 15Mbps, consistently? I’d be thrilled to death.

Business Weblogging

The Genius of Daring Fireball

Daring Fireball: “But I see the fact that Daring Fireball’s revenue streams should remain unaffected by Safari content-blocking as affirmation that my choices over the last decade have been correct: that I should put my readers’ interests first, and only publish the sort of ads and sponsorships that I myself would want to be served, even if that means leaving (significant) amounts of money on the table along the way.”

Great content isn’t the only experience Mr. Gruber provides. He created a super brilliant, non-invasive, ad model to support his company. He has ads via The Deck and takes one week RSS feed sponsorships. The sponsor provides promotional content at the beginning of the week, which appears in a blog post, and he thanks the sponsor at the end of the week with a blog post. Nifty.

It took Mr. Gruber a while to figure this stuff out. It didn’t happen over night. Others have adopted this model; Six Colors and The Loop come to mind. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a small indie publisher it can work quite well, if you have great content. That’s the key. Great content attracts people.

How well? Pretty darned well if you ask me. As of this writing Mr. Gruber’s Daring Fireball fetches $9,750.00 for a one week sponsorship (I believe it’s a progressive scale throughout the year.) That’s some serious cheddar.


Business Visio

Ted Johnson’s Visio Recollections

The original Visio, four shapes, logo and application icon.Ted Johnson’s Visio Corporation Info: “In just over two years, we had started a company, built a team, raised two rounds of venture funding, designed, built, tested, documented, and taken-to-market the last highly-successful commercial desktop application.”

Great backstory on the inspiration for, and the creation of, Visio 1.0. Two years is all it took to create the first release.

Definitely software’s golden age.


Rich Athletes

The Baltimore Sun: “Despite Smith’s stated desire to remain with the Ravens, the team is just $4.639 million under the salary cap and couldn’t match what he’ll make as a free agent. In addition to the 49ers, Smith has been linked to several teams, including the Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs.”

I don’t understand rich people. This probably explains why I’m not filthy rich. Here we have a mega wealthy athlete, making millions of dollars annually to play a game, and he’s balking at the idea of $4 million a year. Wow, that’s a crap ton of money. If he really wanted to stay in Baltimore he would renegotiate his contract and accept less money, right?

“I’d like to stay in Baltimore” is code for this team better find a way to pay me what I want, or I’m bouncing, he doesn’t really want to stay, or he would.


Crossy Road

Polygon: “Once you realize you don’t have to hunt whales, and you can make money in this way, then hopefully people will give it a shot, and we’ll get lots of cool stuff on the app store,” he says.”

These guys made $10 million in 90 days, and they did it without using the scummy formula used by a lot of popular games today. They made a fun to play game that included In-App Purchase, but you didn’t have to buy stuff to get ahead, you could buy characters because you wanted them. That’s it.

I hope we see more and more apps move toward this model.