Semantic dissonance, how Facebook is confusing me more and more

Facebook is starting to confuse me now. Although the word friends doesn’t mean the same on social media as in real life, I can’t figure out how one would mix that with the concept of news in general. Friends are beings that one deem closer to oneself. But news would be exactly the opposite, they often feel distant. So I wonder if Facebook is trying to become more and more like Google, while at the same time actually, Google is trying to become more and more like Facebook.

I was using Facebook app on the iPhone today, trying to leave a message on a friend’s wall but I just had to stop and think for a while. I couldn’t complete this simple routine task because I couldn’t be sure I would be writing on my friend’s wall: the App was prompting me to post what was on my mind. Nothing  new there. But I had ended on that form while reading postings on my friend’s wall, and I just wanted to contribute to that one. But I was not sure anymore if the App was broken, or if whatever I would be writing would appear as a “news item”, instead of a posting on this particular friend’s wall. How did it come to this?

I think Facebook has hit a rock here: I don’t see a semantic match between what is commonly referred to as news, and catching up with news about friends. I do realise that words have elastic meanings on many social media sites these days, the word friend clearly has all sorts of meanings and actually means nothing anymore. But when news about friends get mixed up with general news, then I find it harder to make out what is going on.

I did hear about F8, and all the changes being introduced, and what not. I am used to such big changes on Facebook, actually they seldom move me except when it appears that privacy is being cut further more. This time, I think there’s something wrong with what they are calling things on Facebook. It’s semantically wrong to treat any friend update as a news item. Here are the reasons that I see a semantic dissonance here:

  • Facebook is hosting everything and anything: people, companies, charities, causes, shops, events, games, etc, the list is long. Any snippet of information about any one of these couldn’t be more different than the other.
  • Facebook is streaming all posting to whomever care to listen, read or watch. That’s ok, so long as you know the context the information is broadcast on.
  • Information about one’s friends tend to have more emotional appeal, you relate more strongly to those, you really do care – even if we’re talking about “elastic friendship” sometimes. It is more personal, that’s why you call them friends.
  • However, information about what is going on in the economy, world politics, some technology or scientific matter, have wildly different impact on us. Sometimes it’s infuriating yet you feel powerless about it. Sometimes it’s exhilarating, funny or witty, sometimes exciting, sometimes educational. Whatever feeling this category of news item may cause, it is often with a fair bit of distance and quite impersonal.
  • Here is the issue then: when you are about to post something personal, you don’t want it to be treated as if it were impersonal. That’s a blindspot that Facebook appears to have, it’d be worse if they intentionally did that. Imagine somebody saying: yeah, I am someone who really care, I care about anything and everything, everything is personal. I wonder how you would think about such a person.

I am not the biggest Facebook user out there, my visits to Facebook last on average 2 to 3 min. But when I come to the site I want to get something done quickly and move on – if you’re linked to me on Facebook then you probably know my son features on most of my postings there. For the first time I was hesitating because I couldn’t be sure what the site was trying to tell me.

News about friends is technically called news, but they are special and personal. News about other matters are also news, but they are impersonal, often distant, especially on the emotional side.

So I wonder if Facebook is trying to become more and more like Google, while at the same time actually, Google is trying to become more and more like Facebook. You read all sorts of articles matching those two up in a giant fight, but I think Facebook’s latest move is more confusing than Google’s.

Windows 8 will ship when it’s ready, not forced by a schedule!

In an unprecedented move, Microsoft said that Windows 8 will ship when it is ready, they are driven by quality and not by a schedule. The second surprise, to me at least, is that Windows 8 previews will not require activation keys.

I briefly caught up with the keynotes live stream of Microsoft’s Build Windows event today. I saw about 15min of it and these are my favourite take aways:

  • Microsoft’s Steve Sinofsky said that, I quote him, roughly “Windows 8 will ship when it’s ready, Microsoft is focusing on quality and they will not be driven by a schedule”. That’s exactly the kind of language you hear from popular Open Source project leaders, last time I read it was from a Ruby on Rails framework developer (talking at the time, about when  Rails 3.1 would be released)
  • Windows 8 preview releases will not require any activation key
  • And of course, the 8 second boot time (I may not have properly heard that one, but there was an 8 sec boot time demo’ed earlier)
Microsoft  announced that Windows 8 developer preview would be available for download at 3 AM GMT on 14 September. I’m already prepared for a title like “the most downloaded OS preview ever!” or something like that, being announced within a week perhaps. Let me risk a gamble, 2 Mio downloads within 5 days? 😉

Zachman framework presented as an Ontology, finally a more fitting name!

Zachman framework finally presented as an Enterprise Ontology, in my opinion this is the most fitting description that was ever given to this piece of work. I hope some folks would finally stop creating confusions around it.

It’ nice to see that John Zachman is now presenting his framework as an Ontology, this shows that the author didn’t want his work to be “sabotaged” by the misleading misreadings that folks through out daily about this and other Enterprise Architecture body of works.

There are lots of confusion around Enterprise Architecture, and that is an understatement. I’ve briefly participated in a discussion thread on LinkedIn about a quote of Zachman, I realised that I had to stop before I too would start getting confused.

I hope that this release finally settles the debates going on about what Zachman framework is, ought to be, and may be useful for or not. From the horses mouth, it’s an Ontology. And that’s exactly how I’ve always seen it to be, it’s not a cookbook like “How to make chicken tikka masala at home in 10 steps”. I’m not going to delve into defining what an ontology is or may be useful for, I don’t want to give a cheap recipe that someone would run with and may cause “brain damage” to others.

Pimping my MacBook Pro late 2008 – Part 3: setting up an SSD as second disk bootable

Putting an SSD as second disk on the MacBook Pro late 2008 is relatively easy. There are just two delicate moments to deal with, the wiring is fragile and requires steady hands, and the last step of the process consists of creating symbolic links (using the Terminal). I am satisfied with the results, 8 GB RAM and a 60 GB SSD as boot disk, OSX Lion: the boot time has more than doubled, and the sleep and wake times even more. The usually sluggish apps such as Mac Mail run faster now. I’ve not got time to benchmark everything, but my MacBook Pro definitely feels like new and it performs much better than it ever did. I think this budget upgrade is well worth it, if you haven’t got the big dosh to buy one of the new MacBook Airs. Keeping the user home folder on the original disk somehow impedes the performance because that path is still in daily uses. But I think that isn’t a huge compromise.

In Part 1 of this blog post, I show how to upgrade the RAM to 8GB. In Part 2 I show how I installed an SSD as a second disk on my MacBook Pro, replacing the DVD drive (SuperDrive if you like). Until now I didn’t have time to talk about the system setting changes that I had to make to get it all working. This post addresses that part. As I began writing this 3rd part, I realised that I didn’t take many screenshots while I was working on this, but luckily it’s still fresh in my memory and I can lookup resources to link in here.

Once I put the last screw in place, I plugged the power chord back on and turned the computer on. After the logon OSX Lion automatically detected the new SSD and launched the Disk Utility. I chose the suggested disk partition mode, which is journalled Mac OS extended. This went so fast that I doubted if I clicked the button or not. Nothing to it.

My MacBook Pro originally shipped with a 320 GB disk and it’s only got 30 GB free space left now, so I can’t clearly fit all my content on a 60 GB SSD. I chose a smaller SSD to keep the cost of this upgrade reasonable, so I have to compromise a little bit. Instead of copying everything over, I decided that I only wanted to copy the system files and the installed applications. That requires less space and I still get the speed boost (most of it, at least) I’m expecting.

A quick google and I downloaded Carbon Copy, a handy tool that iss apparently meant as a backup utility but it does a nice job. In the screenshot below I indicate the files that I’ve selected for copying, I left the rest unchecked. Actually this screenshot is made after I was done. Once the essential system files are selected, chose the destination to be the SSD that must be empty at this stage, then launch it.

Selective carbon copy of my HD to the SSD
Selective carbon copy of my HD to the SSD

This process took a very long time to complete, I think about 3 hrs (I just let it run and tended to other domestic chores and came to check it a short time before going to bed. After Carbon Copy completed I was ready to boot on my brand new SSD! But since I didn’t copy over the users folder, which actually contains all my settings and my personal files, I expected some trouble, so I got Plan B ready before continuing. My Plan B consisted of: 1) creating a second user with Admin rights, and 2) not immediately changing my default boot disk. Now I could reboot my Mac.

At boot,  I pressed and held the Option key (the one with a fork looking symbol) – must be done before you hear the chime and keep holding it till the Mac prompts for a boot disk. I selected my SSD disk and about 22 secs later I got the login screen. When I logged in with my normal account I was greeted with a lot of errors, Safari couldn’t find any of my settings, FireFox the same, I kind of expected this to happen and knew what I would do to fix it. What was happening is really simple, when I only had one disk I also only had one Volume which was my boot disk. So the Mac could find everything relative to the root folder of the boot Volume.

Two volumes on my Macbook Pro
Two volumes on my Macbook Pro

By booting on a second volume, the SSD, the path to my user settings was lost: the system is looking for my user folder on “/Volumes/Macintosh SSD”, but it should actually be looking on “/Volumes/Macintosh HD”. This kind of problem is easily solved by creating symbolic links. I created two symbolic links, one for my user home folder and another one for the /Users/Shared folder which I use to Parallels disk images. I logged out and logged back in, everything was now working fine. At this point I was confident that nothing would go wrong, so I changed my default Boot disk: / System Preferences / Startup Disk.

What did I gain now?

Since I still have both disks in place, comparing the performance was just a matter of booting up on one disk, timing that, and repeating the process for the second disk. With my original disk the booting time is 51 secs, with the new SSD my Mac booting time is now 22 secs. The Sleep and Wake times have also now been reduced to less than 5 secs on average, all my applications run much faster than they used to.

Conclusion?

I am satisfied with the results, the boot time has more than doubled, and the sleep and wake times even more. The usually sluggish apps such as Mac Mail, Adobe InDesign and DreamWeaver run faster now. One exception seems to be Omnigraffle Pro, it’s faster but still exhibits some long wait moments thaT I expected would be gone, this may have to do with my home folder still being on the slower hard disk. I did not take time to benchmark everything else, but my MacBook Pro definitely feels like new and it performs much better than it ever did. I think this budget upgrade is well worth it, if you haven’t got the big dosh to buy one of the new MacBook Airs. Keeping the user home folder on the original disk somehow impedes the performance because that path is still in daily uses. But I think that isn’t a huge compromise. I wish I chose a slightly larger disk though, because I’ve now only got 10 GB free space left on the SSD, but I’ve achieved my initial goal.

Pimping my MacBook Pro late 2008 – Part 2, installing a SSD as second disk and boot drive

This is the second last article in my two part posting on “pimping my MacBook Pro, late 2008”. In Part 1 I briefly explained how I upgrade the ram to 8 GB. Installing a second disk as a replacement of the DVD drive is fairly easy to do, if you are handy. Booting on an SSD drive, launching applications, putting the computer to sleep and restoring all became really fast. This is the best way to extend the life of an aging MacBook Pro.

This is the second part in my posting on “pimping my MacBook Pro, late 2008”. In Part 1 I briefly explained how I upgrade the ram to 8 GB.

I’ve finally found a couple of hours to write something up about this experience, it was fun (reminded me the old days when I liked this sort of tinkering with hardware). If you’re not afraid of taking apart your laptop, and that you can keep steady hands in the process, then you can install an SSD on your MacBook Pro and enjoy the gain in speed.

Before I go any further, I must warn you that this little operation can risk damaging your computer, there are lots of warnings about electrostatic hazards. There is also a risk of tearing the fragile wiring that link your DVD drive to the motherboard, because although fragile they are tightly clipped to their connectors. If you really want to give it a go, be sure that you are comfortable doing this. Otherwise I advise that you get an expert’s help. I hope to have warned you enough, DIY’s are always at your own risk.

If I didn’t scare you enough then read on.

I researched a bit more about SSD options, I’ve seen many reviews and all sorts of postings on the subject, in the end I covered the last miles myself and that is why  I thought it worth writing this down. I chose to buy a 60 GB disk as that was just at the sort of price point that I considered reasonable, it cost €76 at Mycom.nl. I thought if I were to buy a larger disk that would be much more expensive then there would be no point in keeping both disks. The first hurdle was to find the bracket for installing the disk in the bay reserved for the DVD drive – Apple call it the SuperDrive, in case you didn’t know that. I could buy it in the US for $79 dollars and pay the taxes here when it arrived. So I ordered again via Amazon US, they have it in their marketplace but the dealer is actually OWC themselves. The package was delivered 14 days later (the site originally suggested 8-10 days delivery from the US), and the Dutch customs charged me €22.57 (ouch!).

I thought the operation would be quick, but it wasn’t all that quick, the partial cloning of my hard disk took almost 3 hours to shift over 35 GB of files.

The first pictures of the SSD installation process.

[captiongroup columns=”3″]

Picture of OWC Data Doubler was delivery package
How the OWC Data Doubler was delivered to me
Pictures of the screwdrivers that shipped with the OWC
Screwdrivers that shipped with the OWC
Picture of the SSD taken out of the bulky package
The SSD taken out of the bulky package
The SSD and the OWC Data Doubler bracket ready to use
The SSD and the OWC Data Doubler bracket ready to use
The OWC Data Doubler installation manual
The OWC Data Doubler comes with a detailed installation manual
The SSD mounted on the bracket, ready to be installed on the Mac
The SSD mounted on the bracket, ready to be installed on the Mac

[/captiongroup]

When the preparation was done, it was time to replace the DVD drive with my new disk.

[captiongroup columns=”3″]

My MacBook Pro opened, battery removed cover still on
My MacBook Pro opened, battery removed cover still on
The two fragile cables that must be disconnected from the SuperDrive
The two fragile cables that must be disconnected from the SuperDrive

 

Performing a sensitive disconnection
Performing a sensitive disconnection

[/captiongroup]

If no mistakes was made so far, you really didn’t break those wires (I’m glad I didn’t), then you should end up with something like this.

[captiongroup columns=”3″]

SSD fully mounted
SSD fully mounted
The SuperDrive, no longer useful for me
The SuperDrive, no longer useful for me

[/captiongroup]

Putting back the lid of the MacBook Pro is straightforward. Time to boot up the machine.

I’ve run out of time today, I will post the last part of this experience next time, it will be a short one focused on the tuning I had to do to get things working properly.

A/B Split testing a major platform: Windows re-imagined

Windows 8, what’s not in the name is that the traditional desktop OS will not be loaded by default. In a Microsoft Windows world most features were “opt-out sometimes”, but with Windows 8 it seems that even the OS becomes “opt-in always”. Coming from Microsoft, this is the most significant sign that talks of post-PC aren’t exaggerated at all.

This is the most significant sign yet that the IT industry is admitting we are heading to a post-PC era, Microsoft’s last drop makes this quite clear. In this blog of Sinofsky (yes, it’s a Steve’s World), Microsoft is saying that Windows 8 may run without even loading Windows OS. The new OS is definitely positioned as a post-Windows OS, Windows+ perhaps? Once marketing settles on a name, I think it may not even include the word “Windows”.

This is Microsoft on the offensive, big time. Such a bold move must be aimed at taking the wind out of the sails of Google and Apple. HP’s stutterings indicates that they are no longer in this game, certainly not focused enough to be a contender in a post-PC market.

As I read it, Metro platform (and not just the UI) will be the default boot experience for Windows 8, this will surely not allow any traditional Windows applications to run. That should relegate the traditional Windows OS experience to a secondary role (if you really insist in having it, you can have it but we’re not pushing). It doesn’t take a pundit to imagine what that means: this is how Internet Explorer trounced Netscape, it was the default browser on the PC. Microsoft could not possibly be doing this lightly.

Where is the A/B split testing then? Well, it’s a two phase testing as I see it. By announcing the decision so early in a blog posting, Microsoft is asking the community to comment. If there is any significant outcry, then Microsoft would be vindicated that the masses badly wants to stick to the Windows experience. If not then the new OS may launch with Metro as its default experience, at that point a second split testing kicks in. If Metro UI is a runaway success, it’s game on in the new era. Microsoft stands to win whatever the outcome.

The only group that may have some hesitation here would be the partner ecosystem, folks who have invested their soul into the traditional Windows OS experience might be nervous. But I suppose there is not much choice here, the industry is no longer ruled by the laws that prevailed when vendors decided what users would be getting.