Welcome 2017!

As 2017 starts, it's time to set goals for the upcoming year.

2017 Goals

Write at a minimum twice a week - I want to write regularly. What regularly entails is a bit vague at the moment but I'm convince at a minimum that means writing more than twice a week. I would love to ultimately start the planning stages of writing a novel and participate in NaNoWriMo in November 2017.

Read at least a book a month - Reading is knowledge. This is again a minimum goal but one that I hope I easily achieve. I hope to read/listen to a minimum of 12 books this year. I hope to improve my speed of reading in a effort to consume more knowledge and broaden my perspective as much as possible.

Take pictures once a week - Photography has become a main hobby of mine over the year. My pictures have really improved over but I feel like I'm only scratching the surface. I want to recommit to the goal of taking my camera out once a week as I have done most of 2016. With Baby Jack here in a couple days and Lillian enjoying her 3rd year on the planet, I want to capture them as much as possible. My motive here is both selfish because I want to remember these years for the rest of my life but also for my children so they can see what they will not be able to remember.

Not do things out of guilt - I have allowed myself for most of my life to do things out of guilt or a feeling of obligation when maybe it has not been justified. Not only does this lead to resentment later on but it also cheapens the motives of my actions at the time. While a part of me on the inside feels the opposite action is to go down a very selfish path of living one's life, I know there is an in-between here that I can find.

What are your goals for 2017?

What I'd Love to See at WWDC or Later.

This is definitely more of a wish list than a prediction. As much as I love discussing rumors like the next person, I can honestly just wait until the Keynote to find out the deets. And honestly, none of us know the demands of getting things through Apple's pipeline, whether it be supply chain issues, demand (even if we think since we want it everyone really wants it), or strategic positioning for the future. So without further adieu, here's my list of what I'd love to see at WWDC 2016 or even later, let's say a year into the future.

  • 4k or 5k external display with similar technology that the iPad Pro display has.
  • An upgrade to the rMBP with a much more powerful GPU card and the option of the same keyboard that the MacBook has now.
  • A new iPhone even if it just has a better camera on it. I think I use my iPhone the most out of any Apple product and even when I was in the middle of nowhere Canada without cell reception, I still used it as my goto camera for quick snaps.
  • An Apple Watch with better battery life and much more extensive healthcare features such as sleep tracking, blood pressure monitoring, improving the health monitoring for catestrophic events such as a heart attack or stroke, etc.
  • A new interface to Apple Music, specifically making finding & sharing playlists easier (it's currently like a 3 or 4 step process to get to a playlist and more times then not the playlist is not there when I come back to the app the next day). Would also love to see the predictive suggestions of music algorithm improve.
  • Redesign of the Activity App with extended features and similar social aspects as other fitness tracking apps.
  • More ResearchKit and CareKit. I really think even if I don't utilize these as much as others that health and education will greatly benefit from such kits and thus society in general will benefit.
  • A TV service similar to Netflix with English Premier League & Champions League coverage so that I can cut the cord finally :-).
  • A revolutionary product announcement such as Apple working on an electric car. I know this is most likely folly since they typically do not announce products, they present them but still. I'm not even sure it is considered a rumor or secret with Elon Musk stating they are working on it in his 2016 Code Conference interview.

Civilization 6: How Much Has Changed Since Civ 5?

Mike Mahardy of Gamespot interviewing Ed Beach lead designer of Civ 6:

By and large, Civ VI is a much more active game than any of its predecessors. That is, you won’t spend most of your turns just waiting for projects to complete—you’ll actively build your city districts, complete civic side quests, and plan a military strategy for cutting off key industrial points in your enemy’s territory. You’ll encounter choice after choice, dilemma after tense dilemma, in your effort to explore, expand, and improve your own empire.

I can't wait for the latest release in the Civilization series to come out. I have many memories of my Dad up at 3 AM still hacking away on the original Civ I trying to take over the world. I really enjoyed Civ 5 once they put out the Gods & Kings expansion as I think it really balanced out some of the Civs and made for a more enriching game. If you've played from the original series though, you know the strategy is always finding out what pattern gives you the best results from build order, to city production, to the tech tree, etc. I really think some of these changes they are talking about incorporating into Civ 6 will make an already addicting game better. I'm especially excited to hear about the implementation of city districts.

It's not just a question of when to build a campus in your city, but more importantly: where. The scientists in this district receive bonuses from nearby mountains, all the better to study constellations and weather patterns from. So although that tile nestled in the mountain range may look like a prime spot to dig a mine and increase building production, its long term scientific potential far outweighs anything else. Civilization VI necessitates foresight in your geographical considerations. 
"What seems like a good choice at the moment, what seems like might be the best place for your next building, might not be the best place in the long run," Beach says. "Once you start to learn the game, you know how different districts will affect things down the road. It's about weighing your options as you learn more in the process."

This will definitely lead to ton of variety in each game and only increase replayability. I can only hope they don't need 6 months to a year for an expansion to come out to get things right as they've needed for Civ 4 and Civ 5. Fingers crossed, this seems like it could be an awesome release. October 21st cannot come soon enough.

New Crowdfunding Rules Go into Force Today: Guess it's Time for Reality Shark Tank

Stacy Cowley writes for the NYTimes

If you’ve always dreamed of being Mr. Wonderful from “Shark Tank,” now is your chance.
Starting Monday, new rules will permit anyone, not just the moneyed, to risk $2,000 a year or more investing in small companies in exchange for a stake in the business. Companies can raise up to $1 million a year this way.
This change, years in the making, represents an enormous shift, one that essentially permits anyone to become a venture capitalist — with all the attendant risks of losing one’s shirt on a company that fails. Until now, only accredited investors, meaning those with an annual income of at least $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million, have been permitted to take equity stakes in most private companies. The wealthy “sharks” of the ABC reality television series got to risk their money, while the rest of us watched the action from the couch.
It is also an opportunity for start-ups and other small businesses, which can raise money with fairly few regulatory burdens. For instance, small companies seeking less than $500,000 and most first-time issuers will not need to provide audited financial statements, just unaudited ones.

So today is the day. The change could really help remove the regulatory hurdles of some small businesses that have been trying to get fresh funding from friends and family that aren't in the top 5% income earners. My fear though is in perpetuating the notion that venture capitalism is some easy/risk free investment reserved for the elite. There's a reason venture firms have money in multiple hundred investments of which the majority fail to ever return a penny of the money invested. My worry is the average Joe or Jane will pick a couple companies they think are wins and put money there before investing in a safer bets like their 401k, diversified mutual funds or index funds.

$2,000 USD doesn't seem like a ton of money at first but over a 30 year career it can be a ton of money. Just see this calculator on bankrate.com here - $2,000 USD invested in the S&P index fund in 1980 would be worth $52,976.08 in 2010. Chew on that next time you go to give your friend money for their latest and greatest idea.

Top 25 Cities Ranked for Readiness to Capitalize on Digital Economy

US Chamber of Commerce report ranking top 25 Cities readiness to capitalize on digital economy.

Innovation That Matters

We are at the dawn of an extraordinary technological revolution and it is transforming every part of the U.S. economy. Innovation That Matters examines and ranks 25 cities’ readiness to capitalize on the inevitable shift to a digital economy.

Pretty cool to see my home city Raleigh/Durham rank #4. The startup scene has definitely improved in downtown Raleigh over the past 3 years with places like HQ Raleigh and the downtown Durham scene has been going strong for awhile now. Check out if your city made the list.

Forbes - Apple Most Valuable Brand but Google #2 and Facebook #5?

To no one's surprise - Apple was named by Forbes as the most valuable brand in their powerful brand list.

The bigger surprise is that Google as a brand is #2 and Facebook #5. It states that the Google brand is worth 82.5 Billion and Facebook 52.6 Billion. Do people really go, oh it's made by Google or done by Facebook, I can trust it, it's quality? I find this list to be a bit off, with Sony languishing in #76 coming in 24 spots below....wait for it...eBay at #52. Strange list. 

Apple Partners with SAP and Inevitably Weighs in on the Enterprise Market

At the end of last week, Apple announced a new partnership with SAP to revolutionize work on iPhone and iPad. After their somewhat unexpected partnership with IBM and the success of the MobileFirst apps this partnership almost seems par for the course. In fact, according to reports, IBM welcomed the partnership as they are close to both companies.

Heather Clancy of Fortune Magazine writes:

IBM isn’t explicitly mentioned as part of the pact disclosed Thursday, but its presence looms large and the company’s global services chief Bridget van Kralingen is almost gleeful about the potential for getting in on the action.

After all, IBM is tight with both companies. SAP is one of its closest allies for cloud services, and the two renewed their vows in early April. The two years since IBM and Apple teamed up to co-create a series of business mobile apps have also been fruitful: as of December, there were more than 100 of them in the ever-expanding catalog across a broad range of industries. Not coincidentally, van Kralingen was intimately involved negotiating the prenuptial details of both deals, if you will, in her role as senior vice president of IBM Global Services.

“You’ve got this confluence of skills—interactive experience and design, combined with strong analytics, all within the context of a specific industry,” she told Fortune.

Now that Apple has teamed up with SAP too, IBM’s consulting teams can work on an even broader range of mobile apps that link more closely to SAP’s widely used array of back-office systems, van Kralingen said.

Apple moving into the enterprise market has been inevitable ever since the rise of Mac sales that came with the introduction of the iPhone. As soon as users enjoyed using Macs, iPhones and iPads at their homes it was only time they would prefer to use them at work. With a pretty clear vision coming out of Apple now that the iPad is the device of the future that will essentially replace the laptop, it makes perfect sense they want to sell them to enterprises. Apple provides the hardware, SAP and IBM the cloud platforms, consultants and business apps.

From the beginning, Apple has seem to be focused on hardware, apart from maybe the Education & Health areas. Apple has referred out most enterprise app consulting. Is partnering with IBM really any different in their minds then referring similar business out to consulting shops? With the IBM partnership they have just lubed the rails for enterprises that have been legacy customers of Big Blue to start buying iOS devices. With SAP's cloud platform receiving the Apple stamp of approval and ensuring the SDK and apps are being built in Swift, Apple is helping SAP in the competitive cloud market and welcoming legacy SAP customers to buy iOS devices. Now add in the fact IBM has a partnership with SAP to consult on their platform and we call that a win/win/win for all three companies involved. 

It was inevitable that Apple would enter the enterprise market in some manner. Previously, it was probably much more a passive effect but paired with two of the largest legacy companies in business software, Apple is now definitely weighing in. 


Apple Music 2.0

John Gruber on Apple Music and Coherent Product Design and Marketing

 Coherence in product design leads to coherence in product marketing. And vice versa: incoherence in product design leads to incoherence in product marketing.

John's pretty spot on here. I switched to Apple Music from Spotify because of the size of the library selection and ease of setting it up for my wife and father in law with family sharing. I was hopeful that the algorithm of suggesting music through me loving songs would be on par with most Apple products. But instead have the feeling like Apple Music has been all a bit like throwing paint on the wall and calling it art. Apple Music has been trying to do and be everything all at once with suggested music, connect/follow artists, radio, editor playlists, curator playlists, and on and on. In theory, it's like the best of Pandora and a Spotify on steroids, if only it was delivered in Apple's trademark simple intuitive way. Similar to my feelings on the upcoming rumored Apple Watch 2, I'm super hopeful to see what Apple does with their latest iteration on Apple Music. It seems like all the content is there, it's just not accessible enough yet.

How Photography Seduced Me.

I bought my first "serious" camera, the Nikon D5100, for my wife as a christmas present a little over 4 years ago. After a couple months of use the honeymoon period ended and it found its way to a closet snuggled up in the Nikon camera bag I bought with it. I honestly had personally released the shutter 50 times at a maximum. I had my iPhone and really had been content with it for my photography needs. With the birth of my daughter a little over a year and half ago this all changed and the Nikon found its way into my hands. I loved shooting my daughter with the Nikon. I liked looking into a viewfinder to frame the shot and enjoyed trying to get creative with the depth of field. Looking back, I really had no idea the blackhole I was approaching. Photography was seducing me and I was falling head over heels.

Wifey on honeymoon waiting on sunrise at Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii
Nikon D5100 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Auto Focus-S Nikkor Zoom Lens

For as long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by the night sky. Soon after discovering my new passion, I began searching for other targets and naturally gravitated to nightscape and astrophotography. I really enjoyed and continue to read Ian Norman's site on shooting the night sky called Lonely Spec. Once I realized it was possible to capture the Milky Way without some sort of tracking mount I was hooked. However, having just upgraded my knowledge from "knowing absolutely nothing" about photography to "beginning to realize just how much you don't know" about photography, I had come to the quick conclusion that I needed a fast prime lens. I read Ian's article on the Best Nikon Lens for Shooting the Milky Way and boom purchased a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC ($599 on Amazon). I love this lens and have shot some of my best Milky Way shots with this lens.

Andromeda & Milky Way at Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap, North Carolina
Nikon D5100, Rokinon 24mm, 20s, f2.5, ISO 1600

There was only one problem: it's a manual focus lens. For astrophotography and nightscape shots this is perfect as you are on a tripod and trying to find infinity focus. For fast moving capture the moment shots with a toddler, this was horrible. I'm sure there are photographers that can do this, but at my current skill level, yeah no, impossible. So this lead me to pursuing another lens purchase and the realization, I was traveling down a path with each purchase. Every time I spent money I was investing in a brand system and making it more difficult to turn back. So I came to the decision with a recommendation from my brother Rob Rhyne to purchase the inexpensive but incredibly sharp and fast Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ($197 on Amazon). This lens is perfect for working with a prime lens, learning to "zoom with your feet," and experimenting with depth of field. Also, at right under $200 it was not a significant investment into the Nikon DX system. It was the perfect way to dip my toe into the water and work on my craft.

Lillian Ready for a Ride in the Radio Flyer.
Nikon D5100, 35mm, 1/1000s, f/2.0, ISO 400

What I've learned from all of this is that photography is an amazing art form. There's tons to learn around multiple facets of the topic, whether framing, light, post processing, gear, and on and on. It's also a highly rewarding art form. Whether it's capturing memories or telling a story by stopping a fraction of a second in time, a photograph can convey the meaning and beauty of life. It's has me in its grips and I pray I don't let go for a long time. On to the next shot.