If I walk into a bookstore and buy a book, I will leave the store with the book, which will be mine forever. I can read it, lend it to other people, resell it, or give it as a gift.
It’s mine, forever.
I am a happy user of a Kindle Paperwhite. I love that device. I have purchased something like two thousand books over the years.
Well, non of those books is mine. I paid for them. Sometimes I pay less than for a physical book. Sometimes less. Nevertheless, I spent.
Use of Kindle Content. Upon your download or access of Kindle Content and payment of any applicable fees (including applicable taxes), the Content Provider grants you a non-exclusive right to view, use, and display such Kindle Content (for Subscription Content, only as long as you remain an active member of the underlying membership or subscription program), solely through Kindle Software or as otherwise permitted as part of the Service, solely on the number of Supported Devices specified in the Kindle Store, and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider. The Content Provider may include additional terms for use within its Kindle Content. Those terms will also apply, but this Agreement will govern in the event of a conflict. Some Kindle Content, such as interactive or highly formatted content, may not be available to you on all Kindle Software.
Limitations. Unless specifically indicated otherwise, you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense, or otherwise assign any rights to the Kindle Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove or modify any proprietary notices or labels on the Kindle Content. In addition, you may not attempt to bypass, modify, defeat, or otherwise circumvent any digital rights management system or other content protection or features used as part of the Service.
I don’t own the book. I own the right to read it, as far as I am an Amazon customer and a Kindle user.
There are bad days, and they usually start early in the morning. You wake up and head to the shower, jump into it, and suddenly realize that your shower gel is over. You start brewing your morning coffee and spill it on your immaculate newspaper. You know the feeling.
You already know your day will be a complete mess from that moment. You know there’s nothing you can do to recover. You only have to go through it and try to limit damages.
Your call with a client doesn’t go as expected. You move to the next task and realize you are missing critical data to complete it.
Over the years, I have developed my personal solution for these days.
I move to the room I like the most, my studio. I put on my preferred playlist and take a break from everything. I usually start doing something totally unrelated to the specific needs of the day.
I shut down every notification from every device in the room.
My idea is to create a safe environment for my mind to survive a messy day. It is a sort of escape from the reality I am living in at that specific moment. Focusing on something I like lets all the problems fly away and reconcile me with the universe surrounding me.
After half an hour, I am ready to return to my duties with a clear and positive mind.
And then the phone rings.
No way, it will be one of those days, no matter what you do.
John Carmack has left meta to focus on his AI startup.
You have missed something if you don’t know John Carmack and work in the software industry.
In an internal memo that leaked, John writes:
We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy.
This statement made me think. Isn’t this true for most organizations today?
Another interesting statement:
It has been a struggle for me. I have a voice at the highest levels here, so it feels like I should be able to move things, but I’m evidently not persuasive enough. A good fraction of the things I complain about eventually turn my way after a year or two passes and evidence piles up, but I have never been able to kill stupid things before they cause damage, or set a direction and have a team actually stick to it. I think my influence at the margins has been positive, but it has never been a prime mover.
I have been a massive fan of Twitter from the very beginning. I joined the platform on December 2006 after I failed to ink a deal with Jaiku (who remembers that?) a few weeks before Google acquired them. Huge loss on H3G. Those were times.
Over the years, my interest in Twitter started to fade. The signal/noise became too low for my taste. I have a look at the streams a couple of times every month.
Nevertheless, the Twitter saga is quite intriguing these days. Musk is buying it; Musk is not buying it; Musk is firing people; Musk is re-hiring people; Musk is selling Twitter furniture and other paraphernalia… You know the story.
Looking at what’s happening, I ended up thinking that we are assisting the birth of a dictatorship, and that’s quite amusing. A dictatorship that was not born from a coupe but from a massive amount of dollars. Fascinating.
Honest? I wouldn’t say I like Musk much. I am aware I am killing my option to work for him by saying that, but the point is that I would never want to work for someone like Musk.
In Twitter’s rising dictatorship, he is the dictator. I have never worked for a dictator, but it will not be fun. Every morning you will wonder what mood the dictator woke up in, and depending on the mood you cannot control, your future could take a positive or a negative turn. No, not fun.
Every Twitter employee is at Musk’s mercy, as are all his users. You can be an employee today; ten minutes later, you can’t. At the same time, you can write on the platform as a user, even a paying one, but three minutes later, you could be thrown out the door without knowing why.
Dictatorship and dictator are appropriate words to use in this case.
In the last few days, I have been experimenting with Home Assistant, NFC Tags, and the iPhone.
A few days ago, I wrote about how you can launch a Shortcuts automation without any user interaction apart from waking up your iPhone screen.
This is one of the most incredible things I can do on my iPhone. Having my house do something by just taking my phone close to an object is cool.
At the same time, the Shortcut app is mighty, even if you need to be a geek to get the most advanced features. I will talk about this in another post.
Today I thought you could also use this seamless NFC tag reading feature as a poor-guy security mechanism.
If you think you are in danger, you may tap on your iPhone screen and bring it close to an NFC tag near you, on your backpack, in your pocket, or on your jacket. In the Shortcut App, you may define what will happen. Send an SMS with your position to a list of emergency contacts, for example.
This will work with any NFC Tag, even AirTags. AirTag will cost you 39 Euros, while you can get an NFC Tag for 50 Euro cents.
Even if you don’t have a Home Automation system, this feature opens many possibilities you can take advantage of.
I hate my iPhone alarm clock. I wonder why this is one of the most neglected applications on every phone out there, even if it is one of the most used. I don’t like to be woken up abruptly. I need to wake up gently with a slow process. That makes my day better. I also don’t need to listen to any voice in the early morning. I need some soft music to drive me to the awake state. This is the reason why I designed my alarm clock on Home Assistant. Here are the features I implemented:
The alarm clock will trigger ten minutes before I set for wake up.
The alarm clock will have to simulate sunrise in ten minutes.
The alarm clock will have to play a playlist of gentle and instrumental songs.
The alarm clock will have a Snooze functionality.
The alarm clock must be controlled with Alex (still to be implemented, actually.) I found out that implementing those features with native Home Assistant was a little bit of a mess, at least for me. I decide to take the Node-RED path instead. I have always loved Node-RED, and it is responsive on my system.
I copied the idea I found on the DIY Futurism blog a couple of years ago. It was a great blog, but the author does not post anymore. I started from his Node-RED flow and modified it to suit my needs.
Ok, let’s dive into it.
The first thing you will have to do is to implement some helpers to expose on the Lovelace user interface.
I set those up in my YAML files, but you can easily do the same thing from the UI (Settings –> Devices & Services –> Helpers –> Create Helper)
You will also need a variable to control the status of the alarm clock. I have used the home-assistant-variables custom integration. (https://github.com/snarky-snark/home-assistant-variables/tree/v0.15.0)
Here’s my definition:
friendly_name: House State
The house_state variable will be “Sleeping” when the alarm is not active and will turn to “Waking Up” when the alarm Node-RED flow is running to wake me up.
You will now need to create a Lovelace card to control the alarm clock. This is mine:
The flow code has been “scrubbed” and you should be able to import to your instance without any issue with Servers and so on.
The flow is not one of the most simple, but it is readable in terms of functionality.
The flow will wait for the alarm time by checking the value of input_datetime.alarm_clock_time each minute. When the alarm triggers, it will start the media player with the media content you have defined and start the light procedure.
Here is what you may want to change to adapt the flow to your needs:
You have a node called “Set Flow Variables.” In this node, you can define which media player and light will be used for your alarm clock. I have Sonos speakers and Philips Hue lights all around my house, and this is what I use.
A node called “Play Spotify Playlist” will let you define what media the selected media player will play on wakeup. I am a Spotify user, and I use a Spotify playlist.
The “Increment Volume” will increase the media player volume one step at a time since you will have reached the value defined in the if condition of this node. Adjust the value to your needs.
Same thing for the “Increment Brightness” node.
I can snooze the alarm from the Companion App on my iPhone or by long pressing a button on the Philips Hue Switch that controls the light I have associated with the alarm. Any smart switch you have will do the trick. Important to note that I have used a Philips Hue palette to get notified of the press event. You can use whatever event you want to control the snooze.
When the alarm loop is done, some actions will be taken. You can see them on the right side of the node called “Is Loop Done?”. You can change these actions to whatever suits your needs. The only thing you must not remove is the “House State – Sleeping” node. This is used to control the alarm clock.
As I said before, two scripts on Home Assistant are used by the Lovelace card.
Here is the code for those scripts.
Turn on alarm clock snooze:
alias: Turn on Alarm Clock Snooze
- service: input_boolean.turn_on
This last script mimics the behavior of the Node_RED nodes after the “Is Loop Done?” node. Modify it to reflect the same thing you added there—no big deal.
This is it.
I don’t actually need to implement a Weekday/Weekend functionality in my alarm. My agenda is quite hectic and I prefer to set the alarm clock manually every single day. You may want to add this functionality if you want to. The Node-RED flow area where you need to add this check is the “TRIGGER ALARM CLOCK” area. To accomplish this you will also need to add some more helpers to do the trick.
One last thing. The behavior of the Philips Hue Light when turning them on and then changing the brightness value is silly. Before the new brightness has an effect, the light will turn on at the same brightness it was on the last time. This means that you may find yourself with full brightness when the alarm clock triggers. The light will dim to the value set in the Node-RED flow a few moments later. This is not good at all. I am still investigating this, but the only thing I found was to remember to dim the light before going to sleep. Not very good.
I have been using Home Assistant from the very beginning. I started the home automation journey with a Raspberry Pi 3 and later ran my instance on an Intel NUC. It is a never-ending journey, though. I continue to add new hardware when it comes in, update my automations, tweak the UI, and so on. I extensively use the Companion App on my iPhone and Apple Watch. It works great. I have a list of quick actions on the home page that helps me automate some things in my house. Activate the “movie lighting” in my living room, execute the “Goodnight” script, and so on. That’s quite efficient, even if not as seamless as I would like. This is where NFC comes to help. The Home Assistant companion help can write NFC Tags that are Home Assistant friendly. When you read an NFC tag, you can trigger an event on the backend and run the actions associated with the specified tags. The iOS security layer will ask you for a confirmation before sending the event to the Home Assistant backend. From a user experience point of view, this works with just a few clicks less than finding the equivalent quick action on the Companion App home page. I don’t like it. I found a way to read an NFC tag on my iPhone and run an action on Home Assistant without any confirmation on my side. The only caveat is that the iPhone must be active, even if only in the lock screen state. Here is what you need to make it work:
NFC Tags: there are so many options out there. You need an NFC tag that you can write at least once. I have purchased 25 Timeskey NFC tags for 16.00 Euros (0.68 Euros per tag).
You need an App on your iPhone to write the tag. No, you can’t use the Companion App to do this because you need to write something different from what the Companion App writes on the tag. I use NFC Tools, which is free for what I need. That’s it. Here are the steps you need to follow in order to make it work:
Write some text on the tag using the NFC Tools App. For example, let’s write the text “Studio_1” meaning that this is the NFC tag number 1 in my studio.
Launch the Shortcut App on your phone, select the Automations tab and tap on the “+” sign in the upper right corner in order to add an automation.
Select Create Personal Automation
Tap on the NFC option and scan the NFC Tag you just wrote.
Add an action to send Home Assistant an event. Be careful not to use any space in the name you will assign to the filed with default data “shortcut_event”. Select your Home Assistant server in the data section of the Action. I usually name that field with same data I wrote on the NFC Tag.
Go back to the previous screen and uncheck the “Ask before running” if it is toggled.
Go to your Home Assistant automations page and add a new automation.
Select ‘event’ as a trigger.
Add the name of the shortcut event you created in the Shortcut app on your phone
Leave the Event Data field empty.
Now add the conditions and actions you need for your automation.
Sketchin has been built and run with a clear purpose. We wanted it to be the best place where to practice design. If we were able to create such a place, we would be able to deliver great design to our clients, and money will come as a byproduct.
You may think we were gullible. It was not the case.
Giving freedom to our people, letting them take risks, influencing the company strategy from the ground up, and allowing them to participate in the company’s inner work was the best way to accomplish our goal. The original scope was much broader than this, but I wanted to give you an idea.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet, and we will never be. The transformation is a continuous process that will never stop. You must adapt every day to reach what I call “the dream.”
If from one side, the company is still committed to making a dream come true, on the other side, you need the same level of commitment.
It will never work if you don’t have the same level of commitment from both sides.
If we think about the Agile Manifesto, you may remember a couple of things:
– Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
– Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
Those two principles are essential to Sketchin, and we must NEVER forget those.
Sketchin is a good place where to work, but it is a very demanding one.
It is very demanding because you must endlessly contribute to the company’s evolution. You can’t just sit there, do your work and collect the paycheck at the end of the month. It will never work that way.
If you don’t contribute, you can’t complain.
I have to confess I have been guilty in recent times. I have been far away from the two fundamental principles I cited before. This has been a terrible mistake, and I am taking action. Today.
Keeping my personal computer in the best condition is a never-ending story. Since it is my primary work tool, I always want it in the best shape possible. Well, ok, I also have a fixation on this, but this is another story.
Updating software and operating system, upgrading packages, and, sometimes, rebooting the machine is a regular activity.
I am convinced that the very same approach applies to companies.
Sometimes you need to update or upgrade processes, responsibilities, and tools to improve them. Sometimes you need to reboot when some processes are stuck in deadlocks or eat up all the memory.
Sometimes it is mandatory to uninstall hardware and software that lock up the entire machine.
Sometimes, I get caught up in building myself a personal computer to devote to video games.
Immediately I look up at my Playstation, and the layer of dust covering it makes me desist.
Not only that.
It may be that I am getting old, but I suspect that building a PC nowadays has become more complex than it used to be, especially for a computer dedicated to gaming.
I tried watching a few videos and was impressed by the many options available today. Cases, motherboards, cooling systems, processors, memory, and graphics cards. A real mess in which I can’t find my way around.
The first discovery is that there is no price limit. To build a dedicated video game machine, you can spend whatever available money. There is no upper limit.
The second discovery is that, in the end, there is no game that I feel is worth playing. To me, multiplayer gaming is totally on my balls. For me, video games have always been a form of escapism. I get to play and immerse myself in a parallel mode where it’s just me and the game. I have no desire to compete except with myself. I don’t want to have social interactions with other players. I want to be on my own and have fun for some time.
This is another element that makes me desist from the temptation to embark on assembling a personal computer.
I tried watching a few videos on twitch of players streaming their games. I became anxious. Video games have reached such complexity that I doubt I could find them entertaining. I see these players scrolling through menus at a speed that I would not be able to sustain.
And that’s not even counting the muss that every community inevitably brings with it. Invitations, accusations of cheating, time to spend on something that should be escapism, and on and on.
I don’t know, I may have gotten too old, but the world of gaming in 2022 does not particularly appeal to me.
Ultimately, I always go back to my classics and rediscover the taste of a time that now seems lost to me forever.
I have great respect for books, whether they are in digital or paper format. They are a tool, for me, essential when I wish to escape from the everyday and take refuge in a parallel universe or, more simply, when I want to learn something new.
I have always considered books living objects that change their function over time. The exact text can have different influences depending on the condition of the moment in which we are leafing through it.
I live books. Intensely.
I underline them in pencil, write notes in the margins and fill in the blank pages with my insights and considerations. Any physical book I have at home contains all these things within it. Often there are newspaper clippings, scattered notes, and sometimes the receipt from the bookstore where I bought it.
Each book tells a story to parallel the one on its pages. Mine.
Some will turn up their noses, but there are also dog-eared. Often.
Over the years, I have become convinced that things are meant to be used—no sense in owning an item if you cannot extract every last drop of experience and knowledge.
While I respect the books I write on, I do my dog ears and take notes. I always do it in pencil. I do it in pencil not so much because I find it more respectful than biro pen but because I find the stroke of any pen too invasive compared to the characters and ink of the book. The same goes for highlighters.
I have no idea who will come into possession of my books once I no longer walk this earth, but I like the idea that someone might have them in their hands and read a little bit of me among those scattered notes.
Anyone in a job similar to mine is inundated with outward reporting requests.
When we were growing up, this was not a big problem. We could work perfectly well with two or three key reports that could easily be used to steer the company.
The story has changed significantly since we became big and part of a group. The number of reports we have to produce has increased disproportionately, and we suffer from it.
This is simply because our size is much smaller than the giant we are part of.
I am not questioning whether our reports can help delve into the company’s health. I ask that the time spent making these reports erodes time from the few available resources. The effect of this is that we produce reports, and the time to interpret them diminishes more and more.
I believe that a report should be able to provide several insights:
– Represent a snapshot of the state of things. Are we generating the revenues we anticipated? Is the level of expenses within the range we envisioned? Is the amount of qualified incoming leads sufficient to cover our needs? How much overtime are people doing?
– It needs to provide a vision of the future as far as possible. How many projects are coming in over the next few weeks? Do we have enough resources to cover the needs of the projects?
– It must be able to point out weak signals that need to be intercepted in time so that we can react quickly. How is our average rate trending over time, and what are the phenomena causing it to fluctuate?
Unfortunately, there is often no material time to be able to conduct this kind of analysis as thoroughly as possible. Deadline trumps interpretation of the data. This is, of course, bad.
We are not yet in the ideal situation, but we are adapting to reach it.
A series of actions will lead us to a much more helpful situation:
– Raise everyone’s awareness of the quality of the data they produce and put it into the constellation of systems that makes this shack work. This is one of the critical elements. Time wasted by people chasing after missing or erroneous data erodes even more of their time.
– Try to automate the report production process as much as possible. Some systems depend on each other and feed off each other. We are trying to make sure that everything can happen automatically. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. I have been fighting for years to ensure that all the systems we use internally and at the group level expose APIs that allow us automation. We have entirely succeeded at the internal systems level; at the external systems level, we are still working on it.
– Distribute the production of reports within functions so that the workload does not burden one entity.
– Make maximum use of the capacity of the systems themselves to provide qualitative analysis of the data. Salesforce’s Einstein is an example of this approach.
– Quality and not quantity. Depending on your role in the company, the granularity of the report must fit your function and need. In the same way, everyone does not efficiently use a data set. If you can distill the data ex-ante, people will not have to waste time filtering, to extract, and sorting the data according to their needs.
– Automate the dissemination of reports. We are still a little behind, but the idea is to avoid the classic mechanism: I generate the report, export it to my computer, and send it to stakeholders via e-mail.
Finally, one should always ask whether a report is necessary or not and ask why it needs to be produced—as always, answering yes regardless is a big mistake.
Unfortunately, all of my non-Italian speakers will not get the content of this post. Lucky them, they don’t have to deal with it.
I am, begrudgingly, a user of SPID. It makes my life easier in managing my relationship with institutions.
I use SPID to access the INPS portal and pay my domestic worker’s contributions, I use it to pay the fines I happen to get, and I use it to figure out what the Internal Revenue Service wants from me.
In other words, for me, SPID means that the state wants to get its hands in my wallet.
Yet when it was announced, I thought that all things considered, it could be an interesting tool to bring the citizen closer to the institutions.
I was happy to learn that that tool could be used to sign online petitions. It was a use case that moved the specter of payments to the public administration away from SPID.
Unfortunately, there has been a backtrack on the latter issue. Thanks to Colao, whom I respect as a manager, and Brunetta, whom I do not appreciate as a minister (always with a lowercase m), it is no longer possible.
I find this to be a very wrong move. If you want a technological tool to be adopted by the masses, you must make people perceive its value. In this, the importance of SPID lies solely and exclusively in public administration. The citizen will continue to perceive it as a tool through which they pay for something.
I slowly drove to our group corporate headquarters. I had not been there for the last two years or so. There was no reason for me to go there before today. I had to pick some documents that the never-evolved-enough bank sent me.
I entered the highway and made my way to Milan downtown. Our offices down there are close to Piazza Duomo, and getting there is a real challenge. I thought that many people were already enjoying their holidays and that it would have been an easy drive. I was mistaken.
It took me one hour and a half to drive those bloody kilometers. The traffic in Milan downtown was chaotic. People were going evil, and I had to pay attention to many scooters and bicycles. Plenty of angry people on the road. I avoided a collision a couple of times, and the drivers wrongly addressed me with something I could not repeat.
I felt confused.
I spent most of the two recent years in my house on the lake. A quiet environment that made the pandemic much more tolerable. I live in a small village that counts something like 900 residents. Apart from spring and summer weekends, there are no people around. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and it’s close to the water.
Driving through the streets of Milan made me confused. I didn’t like it. This is definitely a side effect of the pandemic. I can’t stand the traffic anymore.
I rushed to the 6th floor, grabbed my package, and went to the car to drive home.
I thought that in half an hour, I could reach the highway and be on my way back to my private paradise.
I saw the mountains getting closer and the traffic slowly getting better. I reached my exit, and I saw the lake. I have already started to feel better. A few more minutes and I will be able to start working in my garden in complete solitude.
I finally felt relaxed and in the right mood to do my stuff for today.
I can’t avoid noticing that the pandemic has affected me. I like being in our studios when needed, but I hate getting there. I visited our Lugano studio a few days ago. I moved from my house around 6am to avoid traffic jams and most other drivers.
I guess that I became what they call “laghee” around here. With this term, we identify those people who were born on the lake or that live on the lake. A proper ‘laghee’ usually hates those who are coming to visit the lake during weekends or holidays. They feel like it is an invasion of their space.
I have lived in Milan downtown in the past. I think I am not made for that. The place I live in now is perfect for me, and the pandemic has accentuated this trait.
I am writing these lines sitting in my garden. I can hear the waves from the lake, and there are no cars around. Buzz is lying down close to me, and we will go for a walk in a few minutes.