Finally a Proper Home for my Phone in the Car

For someone who drives as much as I do, you’d figure I’d have bought a proper car mount for my phone years ago, but I always resisted or procrastinated – at least I did up until this past weekend when I found myself perusing Best Buy for nothing in particular.

I spotted this small orange box that contained something called the iBolt MiniPro. I did a quick search on my phone to look at Amazon reviews of it, and found they were quite positive, so I paid the $26.99 and walked out with it.

The Mount

Opening the box, it came with a suction cup post mount, a smaller adhesive ball mount, and the actual phone holder (which can attach to either the post mount or the adhesive mount). It also comes with a couple of alcohol wipes for surface prep purposes.

The photo below shows the post mount which I installed on a flat smooth portion on the top area of my centre console. The suction and stability of this post is very very good. However I’m not a big fan of having something up that high in my field of view so I also mounted the stubby adhesive ball mount directly to my dash.


The actual mount is a spring loaded affair with foam cushioned grips. It feels fairly robust. Nothing is creaking, overtly bendy or anything. It grips the device on two sides and extends wide enough supposedly for a Galaxy Note 3, so it fit my Nexus 5 (with Spigen case) no problem at all. The grip can be rotated on the ball mount in whatever direction or orientation you want. The mount slips onto the ball mount and then you use the threaded sleeve to tighten it up. It’s all plastic, but once hand tightened, the connection is quite strong.

I’ve noticed that with my phone (a Nexus 5) installed on the adhesive mount, it does have some “give”. Meaning that while it’s definitely not going anywhere, if I drive over bumpy roads, you can see the phone and mount slightly jiggling – which I think is a good thing. If this was a completely rigid connection, then the phone would see some pretty abrupt jolts and vibration on rough roads. This slight movement is from the short stub holding the ball, not movement or flex of the clamping portion itself. The adhesive connection to the dash seems quite good. Better than I expected. We’ll see how it holds up this winter when things get frigid.

Overall I’m very pleased with the mount. I won’t be using the suction cup post mount, but it’s in the glove box if I decide otherwise. As my daughter unsurprisingly pointed out, it could also be used to watch video (as long as it’s turned to face the passenger).

The App

So now that I had a decent mount installed, I took a look at what was available in terms of apps for the car. While ideally I would love to have the Motorola X’s Moto Assist features on my Nexus 5, that doesn’t seem possible. So instead, I found a good application that does almost everything I want. It’s called Car Dashdroid, and of the 3 or 4 I looked at on the Play Store, this is the only one that looked like something I’d want on display in my car. It has a Google Now-ish card looking interface. In the daytime it’s white cards with dark text and info, and there’s also a light on dark background night mode as well. Here’s a screenshot.

It’s a fairly simple affair just showing the time, current weather (and optionally a couple of other things like compass and current speed) on the display along with some nice big chunky shortcuts to apps and things. You can also swipe left to bring up another page of chunky shortcuts and swipe right to bring up a dialer. My setup is fairly simple. Shortcuts to the two or three main things I need and on the screen to the right, direct dial shortcuts to the 3 or 4 people I call most frequently, and that’s it.

The app is quite customizable. You can, for instance get it to show audio controls on the main screen, decide whether it will show the status bar of your homescreen or run in immersive mode, choose whether a tap of the back button will bring you to it’s main screen or your phone’s home screen, etc.

A couple of things I like: You can set it so it will pick up OK Google voice commands from its main screen too. So without touching the phone, I can navigate to an address, dictate and send a text, or just ask it something. Another great feature is that it starts up the app automatically when it connects to the bluetooth in my car, and then closes itself automatically when it disconnects. Nice.

Of course there are things that could be improved. For instance the switch from day to night mode is based on a hard time that you choose in the settings. It would be good if it used the ambient light sensor to do this automatically instead. Google’s Navigation app does this, and it works quite well. Also, based on very limited testing, I’m not sure the stock audio controls that it will show on the main screen control my podcast app properly. But that may be a problem with the podcast app and not Car Dashdroid. It does let you choose between several different types of media controls (builtin, Google Music, PowerAmp, and Generic). I tried Generic, and the pause button didn’t seem to work. But I should really test that more thoroughly and let them know.

So no more phone sliding around on the seat or getting jostled around in the centre console – should have got this thing a long time ago. :)


No Mincing Words

My mom passed away about a month ago on July 10th, 2013. I loved her so much. And now my attention turns to my Dad. It’s so difficult. Together for 50 years and then suddenly alone. You can’t cheat your way out of grief so I’m told. The only way out is through.

My daughter and I both wrote eulogies for the service. I guess for posterity, and because they say the things I’d want to say anyway, here they are:

From my 11 year old daughter:

My grandma and I had a very special bond.

She always put me first. And she spoiled me like a grandma should. No matter how much Nonno thought she shouldn’t.

But she also made sure I knew her thoughts on the important things. And she didn’t expect or require me to agree with them. She always told me that she thought I could be a hairdresser, but only after I had my engineering degree. My dad argued that becoming a lawyer would be better. She did not agree.

She also worried about me like a grandma should. Worried about how I was doing in school, about the friends I had, and whether they were good ones. While I may have complained about the worrying, I loved it too.

I miss my grandma and it hurts so much that she is gone. But I know that she is in a better place now.

Grandma, I need to tell you that while I may have complained sometimes, you taught me so much.

And I miss you so much, but I will help take care of Nonno too. I will try to boss him around as good as you did. And Grandma, I love you.


And from me:

My mom was a strong woman. As you may or may not know, she was ill for a long time. Her breathing capacity so limited. Waiting 20 or 30 minutes to catch her breath after only a few minutes of exertion. Not once during those many painful weeks did she complain to me. Her first question to me was always, and I mean *always* about Emily.

During one of the last times I sat with her, she couldn’t speak. I told her not to worry. I told her that I was wearing clean underwear and I had no holes in my socks. Her eyes, dazed and exhausted, suddenly darted and stared directly at me. Those things she said all those years; My eyes rolling; The “yes mom” responses I gave.; Not a single one of those exchanges went to waste.

Mom taught me so much. Whether it was how to do laundry at age 10, or letting me experiment with cooking an apple pie from scratch while she slept during shift work. She wanted us to experience so much. Sending my brother and I off to horseback riding camp, swimming lessons or watching us learn how to fall in Judo. While my brother complained alot stronger than I did, and was able to weasel out of certain unsavoury things, I know that he appreciates the value of those childhood trials as much as I do. Thanks mom for not always giving us a choice. For pushing us on to different and better things.

My mother and I did not always agree on everything. Her views were usually more conservative than mine. But she never dismissed my opinion. Even when we didn’t agree, she always made me feel valued and respected. She respected people who thought for themselves. It was okay to respectfully disagree. It never changed the fact that, as she put it, I was stuck with her. I love that I was.

If you asked anyone who knew my mom, they would tell you that she never minced words. Many times that got her into trouble. But many more times it served her well. She valued honesty and clarity. She didn’t understand why anyone would want to dance around an issue when they could just deal with it head on. I’m sure this came from her own life and career. In emerg, there is little time for frittering around. And that attitude didn’t disappear when she retired. When they wouldn’t let her nurse any longer, she decided to take up hairdressing. She took the requisite training, made great friends along the way, and landed a job at First Choice. She was proud of herself, and we were proud of her. But I chuckle at the stories of clients sharing their personal issues and complaints and expecting the usual commiseration and sympathy. She just wasn’t built for that. If she felt people were at fault for their own troubles, she had absolutely no problem telling them so. I respect that trait so much. But it doesn’t make for such a wonderful customer experience.

I was blessed with a wonderful mother. She let my brother and I know, without fail, that we were so important to her, and that we didn’t have a choice in that. That we could get angry and make mistakes (sometimes huge ones) and that she would always be there for us, no matter what. And she did it in the best way possible. Not by telling us. But by showing us. Over and over again, throughout our lives.

But I was also blessed with a wonderful father. A man I admire so much. A man who never disappointed me. A father who was a shining example of what a dad should be. And in honour of my mother, let’s not mince words here. Her strong personality required such patience at times. And he always had it. But even with all those shining examples he set, he still surprised me with the strength, compassion and love he showed in the last troubled years, and especially in the last few difficult weeks. If my mom ever showed great judgement, it was in her choice of husband and father.

And when her health problems worsened, her concern was about him. A couple of years ago, she somehow got him to get a laptop, and take a computer course. He got a smartphone and she insisted that I show him how to use it. She told me that she didn’t want him to be stuck after she was gone, she wanted him not to be left behind or left alone. I can promise you this mom. He won’t be.

While I am glad that her suffering is over, the strong influence she had makes me miss her that much more. I honestly feel angry that she had to suffer. And angry with myself that maybe I didn’t say enough or do enough to show her how great I thought she was. In my heart I hope that she knew that. I hope that she realized just exactly how so very much of what I am is because of her.

I love you mom.


Forgot That Feeling

Hmm. Maybe a pseudo brain dump is the best way to get myself back into writing here. Nothing terribly brave, but baby steps I say.

Sometimes it’s good to just stop for a moment and take stock. It’s been a long time since I’ve really written anything here, and some things have definitely changed. Perspective and situation both I guess.

Same job. That hasn’t changed. I’m tremendously busy on the work front, but happy.

Life-wise, to say it’s been a tumultuous year would be massive understatement. I’ve always been fairly tight-lipped about personal things. That’s not likely to change much yet. Not a bravery issue. Just an issue of prudence. Suffice it to say that I had to make changes. Difficult ones. But all for the better. The only way out is through right?

See, even that paragraph, as dripping as it was in vagueness, was a tough go. Sheesh, I gotta work on that. :)

So some easier thoughts whirling around at the moment?

Why is it that people are so up in arms about Google Glass? A product that hasn’t even shipped yet. Can’t I already take photos, shoot video and record audio without you really knowing? Sounds rather trollish and attention-seeking to me. Do I think the technology is cool? Definitely. Would I wear them?  Likely not. Could I afford them? No.  But progress can be scary. New things can be scary. But personally, I welcome these sorts of things. It’s fun to watch change, and all the challenges it brings.

At various times over the past few months I have been close to buying a Nexus7 tablet. But my conundrum is that I am really getting to the point of needing a new phone and not a tablet. And technically I can co-opt my daughter’s Nexus7 tablet some of the time so I’m leaning toward having a little more patience and waiting for what’s next after the Nexus4. Definitely aiming at a Nexus phone too – the new SGS is gonna have to be damn good for me to forego the Nexus route this time around.

I need to shoot more stuff on my DSLR. I blame the winter (which is now melting into spring around here), and a lack of free time, but we both know that’s BS.

I still love working on graphics, but I simply haven’t put the time in lately. Though I did redo my website and I have done a few little things here and there. Still, sometimes I want to find myself bleary-eyed at 2am getting lost in the middle of a design I just have to finish in Inkscape. I miss that.

Speaking of graphics, about four years ago I signed up with Zazzle to check it out and put up a little t-shirt design. I had forgotten all about it… until last week when someone actually bought one! LOL! Now that’s patience! But hey, it might be a good outlet for some personal creative work. Watch this space, but not too intently. In fact, let’s forget that. My track record for actually doing things is not good. If it happens I’ll post about it. If it doesn’t.. well, let’s you and I pretend I never mentioned it. Deal?

On more of a techie note.. I stepped off the Ubuntu train at 11.04 and I’m running Mint 14 on this trusty laptop now. It seems to work fine. I have no desire for an Ubuntu phone or an Ubuntu laptop either. They are purportedly aiming “mainstream” (aka  ’let’s design this for everyone’). And I think that’s a shame. Don’t get me wrong. I hope they’re successful, but I think the result you get when you do that is never as good as what you can get when you focus on an actual (realistic, specific, named) audience.

Oh yeah.. I also bought an Aeropress several months ago. It’s good. Not shockingly good. Not world-changing. But I’m happy with it. How’s that for a decisive and thrilling review. I don’t even have any esoteric brewing recipes to share. Shame on me.

So there are some baby steps. It feels good to write.

I forgot that feeling.





Ostriches and Reboots

Did you know that Ostrich Sans is quite a beautiful typeface? In fact, you could probably use it as a heading font for a website design and be quite pleased with it.

Well actually, that’s what I just did. Yes, after literally years of neglect, I finally updated my main website Please have a poke around if you have a few spare moments and let me know if you find anything ill-behaving. It’s pretty dead simple, so there shouldn’t be much there to go wrong.

I’m going to try to post here more as well since this blog has seemingly stagnated largely at the hands of Google+ it seems. Not like you haven’t heard *that* before. Sheesh.

Fat Cats with an Android App.

If you’re interested in having some silly fun (or maybe getting sent to the doghouse by your significant other) here’s an app for you.

FatBooth is an app that takes a head-on photo of a person’s face and adds.. oh.. maybe 200 pounds. It’s dead simple to use and generates surprisingly good results.


Using the app goes something like this:

Step 1: Start the app and press the button to bring up the camera.

Step 2: Line up the person’s shot (face-on photos only.. zoom with your feet to fill the outline overlaid on the camera) and snap the photo.

Step 3: It will do some facial feature detection, but then you have to simply tweak the eyes, mouth and chin locations. This is dead simple to do.

Step 4: Press the button and let it do it’s thang.


A few things to note:

1. Perhaps it’s more of a statement about how body-conscious our society is, but getting your wife or girlfriend to let you try this thing out may be very difficult.

2. Note that there is a delete button available once you view the results. Respect your photo subjects, offer to delete the photo if they want you to. Don’t be a dick.

3. You also have the opportunity to save the photo (either before and/or after photos) to your gallery. Once again, don’t be a dick.


Oh.. Since the Internet Forgets Nothing ™ I am not posting any before/after photos of myself.. however as if all this magic wasn’t enough, I can also confirm that IT WORKED ON MY CAT!



Sorry Midge. I had to post it.

Frostcast Interview

Episode 44 of Jonathan Nadeau’s Frostcast podcast series is up and features an interview with yours truly. I think it went fairly well with some discussion about free software, design and some other things. No doubt there will be some criticism about the quality of the guest. After all Jonathan’s been busy interviewing actually important people who run projects and communities. Hopefully I didn’t pull down his batting average too much.

The episode page can be found here:

Thanks Jonathan!


Building a Crappier Sports Car (or Minivan)

Let’s say you and I set out to design a vehicle. I think it would be wise for us to choose what sort of vehicle we were designing and who we were designing it for. Are we serving young fathers just getting into their parenting years? Or maybe 55 year old balding men knee-deep in their mid-life crises. Those two groups would likely not want the same vehicle.

Let’s say we come up with a killer soft top sports car tailored to the 55 year old. It handles well, it’s a little easier to get into and out of than a typical low-slung sports jobbie, and it has a windscreen specifically designed to protect that combover at highway speeds.

Now, how would you feel about the following:

1. Weld on a hardtop, making sure to add about 10″ more head room.
2. Soften the suspension.
3. Add another pair of rear doors.
4. Expand the rear to carry several unassembled items from Ikea along with a stroller and about 115pack of diapers – or two extra rows of removable seating.

How do you think that would affect our original design? Would the 55 year old be pleased with the result?

I’ve been hopeful that Ubuntu was heading down a design path where they were becoming more focused on who they wanted to design for. And make no mistake, I don’t think I’m in that group, but still I wanted them to stick to their guns, ignore the naysayers (even if I’m one of them) and plug on with their plan.

By the sounds of this post from Jono Bacon though, it sounds as though they’d like to hedge their bets. It sounds like:
Hey, we’re still designing the best dang product for group A, but hey all you guys in the entirely opposite Group B.. don’t go anywhere. We will add stuff for you guys too!

Now with Ubuntu I suppose the inverse of my initial analogy is more apt. They’re aiming to build the best damn vehicle for new fathers, but hey all you sports car drivers.. we’ll add alloy rims and a spoiler, stiffen the springs a bit and put in some oil pressure guages for you!

That results in a crappier minivan. And a crappier sports car.
I’m not sure how you could see it in any other way. But by all means, I’m completely open to enlightenment.


ps. I didn’t mention that it’s a significant conundrum when the Group B guys are supposed to be the guys actually building the product for Group A.

pps. I could be wrong about this whole idea:

OpenSchedule for Android

Back in mid-February, I was offered the opportunity to create some graphics for an Android application called OpenSchedule. It’s an application which lets you view and manage information on upcoming conferences and events registered with the OpenSchedule web app. This tied in nicely with the Linux conference stuff I’ve worked on (more on that in some upcoming posts), so I was glad to help out.

I had done a little bit of Android graphical work a while back for the ILF App which consisted of coming up with some background images and an icon. This was a little big more involved in that I needed to create the launcher icon, tab icons and promo images for the Android market.

As usual I learned a few things along the way:

  1. Eclipse can seem like a mystery inside an enigma wrapped in a straitjacket to the non-developer like me. I jumped through my fair share of hoops to get updated resources to show up properly in the emulator. This mobile development thing is not something you come at likely. Full respect to those who do it well.
  2. Guidelines for the creation of Android launcher icons can be found here.
  3. Guidelines for the creation of Android tab icons can be found here.
  4. Likewise, a good description of the promo image requirements (as well as other graphic requirements) is over here. And lastly,
  5. Daniel Frey (the creator of OpenSchedule) is one patient bastard. I peppered him with a stream of newbie questions related to point #1 and he didn’t flinch. – Thanks Dan!


So I ended up creating this launcher icon:

And for the Event, Schedule, and Venue Tabs, the following icons (selected and unselected versions as per guidelines):

And once that was all out of the way, Dan pointed out that there were some optional promo/feature graphics. These show up when you see the app’s market page on your phone and what you see on the web market page as well. Again, sticking to their requirements, I came up with the following two versions:

180px x 120px version:

and a 1024px x 500px version:

All in all a very enjoyable little project.  Thanks for the opportunity Dan.

If you want to try out the app, you can get it here, or hit the QR code below with your Android phone:


My Galaxy S Two Months On

I always wanted a Mongoose BMX bike. But Mongoose bikes were hard to come by – at least for a rural kid growing up in Southern Ontario. A Mongoose was relatively expensive. I couldn’t justify a Mongoose. Instead I rolled through my young life on CCMs and Supercycles (Sears store brand). Adequate and honest bikes to be sure, but Mongooses (Mongeese?) they were not. And by the time I grew old enough to actually have the money for a Mongoose, my mind had turned elsewhere (By then I was busy buying a Yamaha guitar instead of a Fender). Compromise has been a friend of mine for as long as I can remember. Buying the Nexus One phone was like finally buying my Mongoose bike.

But it was not meant to be. And so I lost my Mongoose and had to compromise once again. The day I lost it is the day I once again donned the chains and shackles, signed up with The Man, and walked out with the shiny black Samsung Galaxy S you see below.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve had the Samsung for about two months now. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. The phone is both enticing and aggravating. There are times I miss the N1, and yet I’m not sure which phone I’d use if it reappeared on my doorstep tomorrow. I don’t necessarily have a detailed laundry list of items, but there are good and bad things which have stuck out more than others:

Quality and Heft

The N1 felt substantial. That slightly grippy finish around the back and curved shape gave it a bit of that polished river rock feel. The Galaxy S, while very shiny, doesn’t have the same heft. The plastics gleam but looking at them you know it can’t last. And the phone is thin and light. Thin to the point of feeling slightly fragile. Being a featherweight doesn’t do anything to fight off that feeling either. After about two weeks I decided to get a faux carbon fibre snap on case that covers the back and sides. It doesn’t cover any of the screen, and makes it much easier to grip. A nice side benefit of this is the added weight. The phone now feels much more substantial fully clothed.


This is one area in which there is very little argument to be made. The Samsung display is significantly brighter, sharper and easier to read than the Nexus One. Nevermind the fact that it’s slightly larger too. And don’t get me wrong, I loved the N1 screen, but this Amoled thing is significantly better.


If there’s one thing that always nagged at me with the N1, it had to be the alotted storage for applications. There was never enough. I was constantly weighing options on what app “had to go” whenever I wanted to try something new. The Samsung came with 16GB of onboard storage as well as a slot for a microSD card (I have a little 4 GB card in there right now). I’m now the kid in the candy store when it comes to trying out apps.

Speed and Stability

The Samsung is noticeably faster than the Nexus One. But it’s also been significantly less stable. I probably restarted the Nexus One four or five times due to problems while I had it. I’ve pulled the battery out of the Samsung at least 4 times to cold boot it, force restarted it probably 10 times and it’s even restarted a couple of times on its own. Now I’m not sure if this is all due to using Launcher Pro as my launcher of choice (I used it on my Nexus One as well). But it’ll sure take more than the odd stability problem to force me into using Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. The video playback is great. I’ve seen no jitters or stutters and my daughter quite likes using it for watching videos in the car.

TouchWiz – aka Insta-hate

I probably gave the standard TouchWiz UI about 10 minutes before I downloaded and installed Launcher Pro. Maybe 10 is generous – probably more like 6 or 7. I found it horrible. Compared to Launcher Pro on the N1, this was like getting out of a Lotus Elise and into a Ford Tempo. And of course as I’ve previously speculated, maybe LPro is the cause of some of my stability issues. But I can’t bear to use the stock UI long enough to really tell. I’m willing to suffer on.


I’m a big Swype fan. I got in on the beta when I had the Nexus One and always preferred it to anything else including the stock keyboard. I did however go searching for alternatives at one point when they hadn’t put the microphone key on the board and Google had launched it’s Voice Actions. But shortly after the little mike appeared and all was good. Moving to the Samsung, I was happy knowing that Swype came pre-installed. However the microphone isn’t there. And I don’t think it will be in the near future. As some comfort, I keep the Google widget – which has the microphone button – close at hand.


This is a biggie. The N1′s bluetooth was solid. I got in my car, paired it once and enjoyed bliss thereafter. It played all my podcasts over the stereo without issue and handled calls flawlessly. I do a lot of driving (about 60-70,000 km a year). My commute is my solace. Having to wrestle with Bluetooth is something I don’t want to do. Initially, the Samsung paired without issue. But keeping it paired and playing podcasts and music via bluetooth was problematic. One thing that helped was changing my contacts display settings to only show “My Contacts”. For some reason the Samsung’s default setup included my entire Google contact list including anybody who had ever emailed me (including mailing list addresses etc.). This pared it down from roughly 1200 to about 200. I think this sped up the address book transfer and significantly smoothed things out. It’s still not perfect and every once in a while I have to restart the bluetooth on the phone. Not a deal breaker now, but a significant downgrade from the N1 for sure.


Well, it took me about a week before I gathered the gumption to upgrade the OS from 2.1 (which it came with) to 2.2. I had been spoiled with the N1, and expecting to get any sort of OTA upgrade from Samsung for this phone sounds like a pipe dream. So I wimped out and ran the upgrade on my Windows machine at work. It was not simple. It took several attempts to get the phone recognized by their software. A typical windows proprietary software mess. Not unexpected in hindsight but definitely a disappointment over the nice OTA upgrade to Froyo I had with the Nexus One. And let’s not forget that technically speaking the N1 *should* get further upgrades before many other phones. The Samsung Galaxy? Umm. Nope.


This Samsung is called the “Fascinate” by Telus. But apparently this is actually the “Captivate” on Verizon – or something like that. In any case, this phone does NOT have a flash. Now I’m not big on LED flashes, but there are times when it was useful for work peering into some relatively low light situation and reappearing with a usable photo. Not having the flash seems like a big tradeoff. I pondered it for about 10 minutes when buying the phone. In the end I figured that if I had taken any keepers with the N1, they were almost always naturally lit shots anyway. The Samsung camera app is more feature filled than the Nexus One app. It also has tap-to-focus which helps. Overall photo quality? I haven’t done any detailed comparisons, but I’d likely say the N1 camera shots are slightly nicer than the Galaxy S shots. There seems to be slightly less artifacting and they seem slightly sharper. But they’re camera phones. I have a Canon 7D if I want higher quality shots.


A small but not unimportant point. I was never a huge fan of the Nexus One trackball. I used it, but never found it to be a glorious experience. But Joni Mitchell was dead right. I miss that little round thing. The froyo upgrade (I think) brought the light blue editing cursor, but it’s fiddly. Sure the ball was fiddly too, but an order of magnitude less fiddly.
The Galaxy S also has a nice TV out feature. I had a cable that came with my Kodak Zi8 camera (1/8th plug to RGB) that I plugged into the headphone jack of the phone and into my TV. With the TV-Out display option checked I get a nice mirrored display right on the TV. We used this to watch movies on the hotel TV on more than one occasion. Definitely a nice little perk.

And There You Have It

No final scores, no rating. Just my thoughts. Would I take the Nexus One back if it magically reappeared? I’m not sure. Had I not got the bluetooth issues largely sorted, I’d say definitely yes. But after two months it’s significantly less annoying. Tallying up the speed and storage increase along with the improved display and I’d be hard pressed to choose the Nexus One.

So I’d actually take the CCM over the Mongoose. The compromise has been worth it I guess (aside from the 3 year lock-in with The Man). But then again, if I was offered a Kuwahara or a GT it might be a completely different story.

Note: My age grants me the luxury and license to quote or mis-quote BMX bike brands from the 80′s.


The GnomeShell and Unity Bike Shed

If there’s one thing I use a lot, it’s Google’s “define:” keyword. I’ve got a pretty good handle on this here English language, but often I’m looking up words I see somewhere and don’t quite understand. In fact I’ve had whole online conversations with smart people where I’ve spent a great deal of that time just looking up definitions of the things they’re telling me. I’d never tell them that though. I’ve got far too much pride. Clearly.

Bikeshedding is one of those words I just looked up. I’ve read it several times and have probably even used it. But for some reason, this morning I just had to look it up. Most people would have first heard of the term in a FreeBSD mailing list post from back in 1999. The post however centres around a circa 1957 argument from C. Northcote Parkinson dubbed the Law of Triviality. It’s his depiction of this concept that caught my attention (emphasis my own):

Parkinson dramatizes his Law of Triviality with a committee’s deliberations on a nuclear power plant, contrasting it to deliberation on a bicycle shed. A nuclear reactor is used because it is so vastly expensive and complicated that an average person cannot understand it, so they assume that those working on it understand it. Even those with strong opinions often withhold them for fear of being shown to be insufficiently informed. On the other hand, everyone understands a bicycle shed (or thinks he or she does), so building one can result in endless discussions because everyone involved wants to add his or her touch and show that they have contributed. While discussing the bikeshed, debate emerges over whether the best choice of roofing is aluminium, asbestos, or galvanized iron, rather than whether the shed is a good idea or not.


That last phrase is how I feel about both GnomeShell and Unity. We get so caught up in the gee-whiz and kewl-ness of it all that we forget to step back and ask:

  1. Why are we doing these things?
  2. What is the end goal?
  3. Is this really the best use of our time and attention?

I’d feel a lot better about the current state of Gnome and Ubuntu if I had seen clear answers to those, or had seen some evidence of those questions even being asked. I haven’t. Yet.