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Training complete!

Today I completed the last run of the Zombies, Run! 5k Training app. Course. Thing. Whatever. 8 weeks, 24 sessions, and according to the distance tracking some 93 miles. Overall the app was very well done, as was the training regimen itself (witness the fact that the combination of the two got me all the way through).

I will admit to one minor complaint. Today’s session, the last, was nominally a 5k run to cap the 5k training. Obviously. I of course assumed that the session would be tracking distance, since, y’know, 5k, and that the 51 minutes time displayed for the session was an upper bound estimate. Nope. Turns out the session was just tracking time, so my final 5k run was more like a 7.5k run. But I can’t complain too much, since the training was good enough that I completed a 7.5k run without any problems. I will confess to wondering if the app was ever going to call an end to the “5k” around mile 4 (km 6.4ish), but it eventually did.

Now it’s on to the main Zombies, Run! app. The zombie hordes await!

I am a weather wimp

It was cold in Suwon this past week. In point of fact the weather was comparable to winter weather in New York, but sadly I have become a weather wimp. I blame California. After living in the Bay Area for 6+ years I’ve forgotten how good we have it. People in other locations can’t bike to work in December because there’s snow and ice on the ground. People in other locations have to check the weather to determine whether to bring an umbrella. People in other locations have to wear gloves, hats, and scarves as a matter of course in the winter, not just when they take a vacation in the mountains. I am glad I am not one of those people.

I realized one other winter-related tidbit on this trip. While I have in the past gently made fun of the popularity of incredibly fancy toilets in Asia, I must confess that heated toilet seats are sheer genius in cold weather.

Traveling with devices

I just got back from another visit to Samsung’s Digital City in Korea. I’ve noticed that as I acquire more and more devices (a side-effect of both enjoying gadgets and being specifically interested in how people use collections of devices) it becomes a more difficult decision which devices to bring with me when traveling.

Travel overseas is a particularly unusual case, since I don’t have an international data plan for either of my devices. That means whatever personal cellphone I have on me becomes much less useful once my travel starts, mainly being restricted to use on the hotel’s WiFi. Samsung supplies us with loaner phones that work in Korea so in theory I wouldn’t actually need to bring my personal phone, but in practice I’ve been leery to forgo bringing either my iPhone or my Galaxy S3. Although less useful without a cell connection, both store enough cached data that they’re still useful.

International travel is an interesting use case for two other reasons. First, the flights are extremely long. The flight from San Francisco to Incheon is around 13 hours, while the return flight is roughly 10 hours (gotta love tail winds). That means that most tablet batteries won’t be able to last the entire flight.

Second, content isn’t always available overseas. That means no Amazon Instant Video, for example. And I was surprised to note that the set of my installed apps I could see in Google Play was roughly 25% smaller overseas. The former has the most impact, however, since it means that my Kindle Fire is much less useful overseas (I’m an Amazon Prime member, so I get access to a lot of Instant Video content free.

This time I decided to bring the following devices with me:

  1. My work laptop. Necessary to get work done while traveling.
  2. My iPad. I went back and forth on whether to bring the iPad or the Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire is smaller and I prefer reading off of it, but the iPad has a better battery and is a better device for accessing my personal email, news feeds, etc. I tend to prefer the iPad for watching downloaded movies too, but since international flights tend to have a number of videos available that I haven’t seen I find I don’t watch movies off my iPad while flight internationally as I do while flying within the US. If I could have accessed Instant Video I might have gone the other way, but I can’t access it in Korea.
  3. My Kindle Paperwhite. I’m not a big fan of reading on the iPad (too big, too heavy, wrong weight distribution for one-handed reading), and since I decided to bring the iPad rather than the Kindle Fire I wanted something better suited to reading. I did briefly consider bringing the Kindle Fire and the iPad, but the Kindle Paperwhite battery blows the Kindle Fire’s battery away, so I wouldn’t need to worry about even bringing a charger for it (let alone worry about it running out of juice on the flight). And the Paperwhite’s battery did indeed come through. I read a lot on both flights, while waiting for the flights, and in the evening at the hotel, and the Paperwhite’s battery is still almost full.
  4. My Galaxy S3. I wanted to see what it was like bringing it instead of my iPhone, which I usually bring. A couple of times I did miss having more of my music collection with me (my S3 has a much smaller subset of my music), but I also appreciated having the larger screen a number of times.

I ended up using all of the devices I brought with me for different tasks at different times, but I must admit that I felt a little silly hauling them around. I’m tempted to try bringing just three devices on my next trip: my work laptop, the Paperwhite, and my S3. I need the work laptop, the Paperwhite suits the reading task admirably, and the S3 has a large enough screen that I might be able handle all of my personal computing tasks with it. Just as a long as I don’t to send any long email messages. That’ll leave me dependent on the airline for movie entertainment, but that worked fine on this past trip. Now if there was just a better RSS reader for Android; access to Reeder is a primary reason to bring an iOS device.

And they’re not even good bitpipes

When I worked at IBM Research they would periodically encourage us to find projects that we might collaborate on with the telecommunications companies (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.). The telcos were convinced that their customers were looking to them for innovations and they were fundamental to shaping the future of mobile computing.

My take was somewhat different. I think the telcos are deathly afraid of becoming bitpipes, and they were frantically trying to find some means to differentiate themselves for their customers. Because their customers aren’t expecting innovations. Heck, they’ve even largely given up expecting quality services from the telcos. When was the last time you met someone with a high opinion of their carrier? The telcos are afraid of becoming lowest cost providers of wireless internet service, but they’re not even particularly good at providing that service.

While some folks are starting to think that Apple is getting too big and too powerful, one thing I really appreciate about Apple is that the iPhone provides enough leverage that Apple can largely dictate terms to the carriers. That means no crapware carrier software, and it means that Apple dictates the availability of software updates.

For several years I took the latter for granted, but since I joined Samsung I’ve been splitting my time between a Galaxy S3 and my old iPhone 4. The latter still works awesome and is running the latest and greatest version of iOS. The former is still stuck on Ice Cream Sandwich because AT&T is apparently incompetent at providing updates to its customers.

Of course, it’s not terribly surprising that the carriers, in this case primarily US carriers, suck at providing timely software updates. Since they can’t really compete on customer service, their main way to retain customers is to lock them into contracts. And if you keep updating your customers’ devices to the most recent OS versions they might not need to buy phones as often, and then where would you be? You might actually have to compete on the quality of your service. And the telcos certainly don’t want to go there.

Six weeks into running from zombies

I just completed my sixth week of the eight week training course in Zombies, Run! 5K. And I completed the last run of week six in a drizzle because the weather looks rainy through Sunday, I really wanted to close out the week’s training, and the drizzle might be the best weather I got.

So needless to say (but I’m obviously going to say it anyway) I’m a big fan of the app. The story is interesting and the training course surprisingly good (the app creators apparently partnered with Up & Running to create the training program). The story keeps you coming back and I’ve found the training great at building up strength and endurance without overworking you. You know you’re hooked when you decide it’s worth running in the rain (ok, drizzle), something I will admit I have made fun of people for in the past (what kind of idiot runs in the rain when they could just wait for drier weather?).

I will sadly note that getting back into running has made me feel a bit old. When I started running in college I don’t remember as many aches and pains and sore muscles. I’ve occasionally felt more than a bit stiff the day after a session (although luckily running and biking work enough different muscles that I haven’t had trouble biking to work on following days), although by the second day I’m generally recovered and ready for another session. But it’s a small price for the extra exercise, and will presumably be less of an issue once I’m maintaining more than increasing my fitness.

I have learned one other thing from the training program: avoid eating just a salad for lunch on days when I run (I typically run after work). I have a noticeable harder time on 4+ mile courses on days when I haven’t had more protein for lunch. And I’ve observed that before, and yet somehow still managed to eat only salads on my two running days this work week. I am smooth.

Google’s modified Android SDK terms

Google added a new section to the Android SDK licensing terms this week (CNet’s coverage). The new section reads:

3.4 You agree that you will not take any actions that may cause or result in the fragmentation of Android, including but not limited to distributing, participating in the creation of, or promoting in any way a software development kit derived from the SDK.

I find this section interesting (and hypocritical, but that’s another post). What’s the problem Google is trying to solve? People still stuck using older versions of Android because of poor support by device manufacturers and carriers for older devices? When people lament Android fragmentation that’s often what they mean, but that’s not developers’ fault.

Are they trying to stop device manufacturers from modifying the stock version of Android? In theory you could read those terms to mean that developers are prohibited from using the SDK to build apps that work better on one device than another. Is it fragmenting Android if a device manufacturer extends Android in some way and a developer builds an app that uses that extension? But if that’s the problem Google is tackling why not either (a) change the terms it works out with device partners to prohibit changes or (b) just close the Android source moving forward?

The most likely conclusion seems to be that they’re worried about Amazon. Amazon is also making tablets (and may be making a phone) by taking and branching the Android source code, but they’re confining the changes so that Android applications run fine on their tablets. You could read these terms as a play by Google to stop developers from building apps for Amazon’s tablets, since that would be contributing to fragmentation. And it could also be an attempt to deter others from following Amazon’s path.

It’ll be very interesting to see whether and how Google tries to enforce these terms against developers. And whether they’ll still try to insist that Android is open while doing it.

Light rail ridership patterns

After half a year of riding my bike and taking light rail to work there are noticeable patterns on the northern part of the Mountain View-Winchester VTA line. First, there appear to be at least three clear clusters of riders. One group travels between Mountain View and Lockheed Martin or Yahoo! and tends to be somewhat older. A second group is much younger and travels between Fair Oaks (where there’s a concentration of condos and apartments) and Cisco (or at least the Tasman light rail stop; they may be transferring to an Alum Rock train). And the last group gets on/off at Tasman, and I have no idea where they go (presumably nearer to downtown than I get). I find it interesting that the groups are so distinguishable; I would’ve expected more blending across them.

The second pattern is around bike riders on light rail. I was expecting the number of bikers to drop noticeably when daylight savings time kicked in, but actually ridership has stayed relatively steady (despite the fact that some bikers do not appear to have lights on their bikes; those folks are nuts). I’m still waiting to see what happens when it gets significantly colder, but even some mornings in the 40s haven’t appeared to deter folks. I’m assuming ridership does decline drastically when it rains, but I can’t verify since I don’t bike when it rains either.

I have noticed two ways the changing weather has impacted riders, however. On days when it’s noticeably warmer (e.g., low 70s) this fall I’ve seen more riders, individuals that are noticeably separate from the usual folks that I see most days. Surprisingly (to me at least), I’ve also noticed that some colder mornings also draw riders apart from the usual crowd (and also different from the warm weather crowd). My working theory is that these folks prefer biking on colder mornings because they’re less likely to get sweaty biking into work, but I haven’t actually asked any of them yet.

Overall I’ve been pleasantly surprised how many bikers are sticking with it even after the time change. I’ll confess that I was a bit leery about biking home in the dark, but most roads are pretty well lit and drivers remain pretty polite to bicyclists. So I’m sticking with it too (although it remains to be seen if I wimp out when the temperature drops another 15-20 degrees).