A key lesson in political fund-raising

President Clinton

President Clinton is Really Smart. Mountain View, California, 1995.

During his reelection campaign, President Bill Clinton attended a fundraiser thrown by the top CEOs of Silicon Valley. L. John Doerr (center) helped organize the visit at the home of Regis McKenna. During dinner, the CEOs peppered Clinton with questions related to complex technology, trade, and economic issues. Listening patiently, the president smoothly delivered a point-by-point response to each guest, revealing a jaw-dropping breadth of knowledge about all the issues, even obscure aspects of encryption technology. Everyone pulled out his checkbook and donated generously to the campaign.

Photo © Doug Menuez/Contour by Getty Images

From Interview: Rare Photos Documenting Life in Silicon Valley during the Digital Revolution By Jenny Zhang August 28, 2015.

Mapping to the centimetre

Updating the map of Britain

If you think about maps, you probably think about Google Maps and Street View or sat nav hardware and software from TomTom, Garmin and many others.

Maps like these – all digital and available on almost any mobile device you choose – are light years on from paper maps and how map makers envisioned the role of maps and how people would use them. It’s hard to imagine trying to go anywhere these days using only a printed paper map.

The Ordnance Survey – founded in 1791, a government-owned company whose very existence began with military mapping – isn’t a name that springs to the front of my mind when I think about digital maps and modern map publishers. The OS is all about printed maps, isn’t it?

Far from it as even a cursory glance online will show.

A report in the FT yesterday day sets the modern Ordnance Survey in better context, saying that the global market for digital mapping is expected to grow from £99 billion in 2014 to £170 billion in 2020 as location-based services on smartphones and tablets transform everything from urban planning to emergency rescue services, transport and welfare.

And the FT includes this eye opener:

[…] the epicentre of the agency’s business remains the Mastermap: a record of every building, pavement, garden, statue, and fence in the nation tracked to 40cm accuracy. This provides raw data for Google and Microsoft maps, A-to-Z city maps, routes for rubbish trucks and the emergency services, bus companies, the AA breakdown service, and most in-car GPS systems – not to mention systems used by Domino’s Pizza to deliver hot food within 30 minutes.

Using two aircraft and 300 surveyors, the data are updated 10,000 times a day as buildings are knocked down and street lights and park benches added. The data are used by government agencies and local authorities and sold to private sector businesses, accounting for the bulk of OS’s income. Information such as ownership, sale values, power supply, schools or crime reports can be added.

The market for such information is developing – drones for delivery companies may need it; driverless cars may depend on it. Mobile phone company Nokia recently sold its mapping software to carmakers BMW, Audi and Daimler for £2bn.

I’ll think about the OS now in a wholly contemporary light, with Big Data at its heart as part of the foundational infrastructure that makes up the Internet of Things.

(Picture at top via OS on Flickr, used under CC license.)

Is Crowd Mics the answer to making events truly engaging?

Question

Such a familiar situation when you go to a conference:

Ever been part of an audience and wanted to participate in a live event?

Your options were limited: either raise your hand and project as far as your voice allows; or patiently await a wireless microphone to relay its way through the crowd.

Yep, that’s the picture I recall from every conference I’ve spoken at or attended in recent years.

So a BBC news item today got my attention with its report on a pretty neat-looking method of enabling real participation that I think would galvanize conferences and speaker engagement with those attending, aka the audience.

Imagine if there were a simple method of enabling anyone to ask a question or join in a conversation with an event speaker, a panel, etc, using their smartphone as a microphone. No special microphones, just an app on your own familiar phone that lets you speak.

Not only that, but also enable text messaging between participants and speaker. Easy instant polls as well.

A US-based company called Crowd Mics has done just that.

It’s simple to use:

  • Download Crowd Mics on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch
  • Plug that device into the sound system with the headphone port
  • Attendees download the free app for iOS or Android
  • Everyone connects to the same WiFi network
  • Watch audience interaction get real!

Take a look:

Conferences  just got more engaging. I’ve yet to see an event in the UK so enabled, but it’s just a matter of time, I bet.

(Photo at top by Cvent via Flickr CC-NC-ND-SA.)

Windows 10 is just around the corner

In just a few days, on July 29, Microsoft will begin the public rollout of Windows 10 in 190 countries. If you want to upgrade your desktop or laptop computer, it’s a free upgrade in specific circumstances. Lifehacker has a simple flowchart that makes it quite easy to see if you qualify.

Windows 10 upgrade flowchart

The only difference to this chart is that Windows 8 won’t get you the free upgrade but Windows 8.1 will. According to Microsoft:

The only requirements are that a) your device is compatible, and b) you’re running genuine Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) or Windows 8.1 (Update).

Windows 10 is designed to run on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs. That means your device is likely compatible and will run Windows 10.

See the full specifications here.

You don’t have to get the upgrade immediately if you don’t want to – you’ll have a year from July 29 to get it for free. Otherwise you’ll have to buy a license just as you have had to do with previous versions of Windows. What’s different this time is the free upgrade offer.

Once you have upgraded your computer to Windows 10, you’ll be able to create an install disk on a flash drive that will let you do a fresh install from scratch if you wish to. Microsoft says such an install disk is yours to keep for free as well.

Starting a few months ago, you may have seen a popup window on your desktop saying that you could reserve a free copy of Windows 10 upgrade that would be available to you from July 29. If you accepted that, you’ll have a little Windows icon in your system tray.

You’ll also have that confirmed in the Windows Update section of Control Panel in Windows 7 or 8.1.

Windows 10 upgrade reserved

And what about editions? What ‘version’ of Windows 10 will you get?

Microsoft explains it:

Windows 10 upgrade editions

Note the small print – the free upgrade offer does not apply to enterprise-edition customers (that’s typically large companies) who will have different offers.

So what can you expect with the Windows 10 upgrade? How easy will it be to install? What issues might arise?

If you think about it, this is quite an exercise. Imagine the thousands if not millions of different configurations of computers around the world, a fair number of which will have some issue or another. Some won’t have up-to-date video drivers perhaps. Or maybe a niggling problem in Windows 7 the user never got around to fixing. It will be amazing if everyone’s upgrades go 100 percent smoothly.

Yet I think you can expect a pretty good experience if you’re prepared. Being so isn’t difficult:

  1. Make sure your current qualifying Windows version is legal and as up-to-date as it can be via Windows Update. Best thing is to ensure it’s configured for automatic updates and let it do its work for a few days.
  2. When you do get a notification that Windows 10 is ready to install, close every single program you might have running so that your PC can devote all its resources to the Windows 10 upgrade process from the start of it.
  3. Keep all the peripherals you use – printer, mouse, webcam, multiple monitors, etc – connected so that Windows can see all those devices and migrate settings as required. And of course, ensure your PC is connected to the internet.

As a member of Microsoft’s Windows Insider programme, I’ve been running beta versions of Windows 10 for the past eight months or so. The latest beta build 10240 released to Insiders about ten days ago is as flawless an upgrade as it got for a beta. It suggests quite clearly that you should expect a flawless upgrade experience, all else being equal.

Indeed, some industry journals are saying that 10240 is the RTM version of Windows 10. Maybe it is; my thought was that it definitely has the look and feel of finished software, as I noted in a post to the Insider community forum on July 16 (if you’re an Insider, you can read it in full):

[…] 10166 was a really good update in terms of overall polish, reliability of operation, looking like a final. Hard to add more to that but 10240 looks even better. It has a definite look of final, release-version software. For the first time, a terms of use text appears along with a screen explaining some of the features in Windows 10, eg, Edge browser.

Either way, Windows 10 is almost upon us so be sure you’re ready. I think Windows 10 is the best Windows yet, even better than 7.

See also:

  • Sean Hollister writes about his upgrade experiences in Gizmodo, a post a day (here’s Day 1 and Day 2). Very much worth reading.
  • When should businesses upgrade to Windows 10? ZDNet has insights from industry experts.

Is it time for a post-capitalism post-communism mashup?

The Guardian | An Age of Sharing

Books on politics and political issues rarely capture my attention or my imagination.

During the past decade, I have read just three books about politics, all biographies – Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Probably great fodder for Freudians who’d like to pop me in a pigeon-hole. Good luck with that!

My own self-analysis of why these works did attract me tells me that each addresses times and experiences of significant change and, indeed, upheavals in society, in political landscapes and more. Each author, either directly and/or via a ghost, weaves a compelling narrative that resonates strongly with my understanding and sense of contemporary society and the changes I might wish to see happen as well as those I’d rather not.

The politics in each – in terms of labels like left, centre and right – get largely ignored.

This morning, during my usual early-Saturday online news consumption and sharing time, I came across an article in The Guardian by journalist Paul Mason that did very much capture my attention and my imagination.

In the article, published on July 17, Mason lays out a deep rationale and the canvas for his forthcoming book that discusses a topic that is most interesting if you take the politics out of it – the successor to capitalism.

Titled simply PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, Mason’s book is described by publisher Penguin as “a guide to our era of seismic economic change, and how we can build a more equal society.” Clearly politics – and by that word, I mean class politics – will be very much a part of this no matter how I wish it weren’t.

After reading Mason’s piece in The Guardian, I thought about how would I sum up what the book’s about in a tweetable-length text? I came up with this:

Mason’s article is peppered with thought-provoking opinions to support his clear view that we are en route to a post-capitalist world that will capture your imagination, whether you agree or not.

To start with:

Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian.

Well, that got my attention. Thank God he didn’t say “It’s time to be dystopian” that you might expect from a journalist who, in his own words, “was a Leftie activist.”

Then this:

Almost unnoticed, in the niches and hollows of the market system, whole swaths of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm. Parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed spaces have proliferated, barely noticed by the economics profession, and often as a direct result of the shattering of the old structures in the post-2008 crisis.

New forms of ownership, new forms of lending, new legal contracts: a whole business subculture has emerged over the past 10 years, which the media has dubbed the “sharing economy”. Buzzwords such as the “commons” and “peer-production” are thrown around, but few have bothered to ask what this development means for capitalism itself.

And a paragraph that especially grabbed my attention:

There is, alongside the world of monopolised information and surveillance created by corporations and governments, a different dynamic growing up around information: information as a social good, free at the point of use, incapable of being owned or exploited or priced. I’ve surveyed the attempts by economists and business gurus to build a framework to understand the dynamics of an economy based on abundant, socially-held information. But it was actually imagined by one 19th-century economist in the era of the telegraph and the steam engine. His name? Karl Marx.

Karl Marx, as you will know, was a co-author of the Communist Party Manifesto, a publication I read in the 1970s and have always believed presents a Utopian view of a world that has never (can never?) been fulfilled as the failed dystopian Soviet project over a 70-year period clearly illustrated.

What Mason argues is for change within the current economic (and, I would argue, political) system rather than the “man the barricades” treatments you typically hear from ‘Leftie activists’ and those who talk about “we are the 99 percent,” etc. And, arguably, that’s what you see and hear today in much of the polarising rhetoric from the mainstream political Left.

So I like how Paul Mason makes his arguments for change with reality statements like this:

The modern day external shocks are clear: energy depletion, climate change, ageing populations and migration. They are altering the dynamics of capitalism and making it unworkable in the long term. They have not yet had the same impact as the Black Death – but as we saw in New Orleans in 2005 [hurricane Katrina], it does not take the bubonic plague to destroy social order and functional infrastructure in a financially complex and impoverished society.

And finally:

Most 20th-century leftists believed that they did not have the luxury of a managed transition: it was an article of faith for them that nothing of the coming system could exist within the old one – though the working class always attempted to create an alternative life within and “despite” capitalism. As a result, once the possibility of a Soviet-style transition disappeared, the modern left became preoccupied simply with opposing things: the privatisation of healthcare, anti-union laws, fracking – the list goes on.

And so I have pre-ordered the Kindle edition of Mason’s book which will be published in the UK on July 30. Can’t wait to read it.

[Image at top via The Guardian.]

Windows 10 shows the scale of Microsoft’s ambition

Windows 10 login

On July 29 – in just over two weeks’ time – Microsoft will begin the formal roll-out of Windows 10, the new edition of the Windows operating system for PCs and tablets (and Windows phones). It’s been the subject of a comprehensive beta-testing programme by around five million people since the programme was launched at the end of September 2014.

I’ve been part of this programme as a Windows Insider since last October, running the incremental builds of ‘Windows 10 Insider Preview’ as they become available on a couple of different computers, and providing feedback. It’s been a stimulating and most interesting experience so far; a few comments on that in a minute.

So starting on July 29, if your PC currently runs Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 you will be able to get Windows 10 at no cost by taking advantage of Microsoft’s free upgrade offer. If you’ve recently purchased a new PC running Windows 8.1, the Windows 10 upgrade should also be available to you at no cost and many retail stores may upgrade your new device for you.

Windows 10 is a huge deployment – Microsoft is rolling it out in 190 countries and in 111 languages. According to Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s man in charge of Windows 10, the launch will happen in waves starting with the Windows Insiders:

Starting on July 29, we will start rolling out Windows 10 to our Windows Insiders. From there, we will start notifying reserved systems in waves, slowly scaling up after July 29th. Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users. Soon, we will give a build of Windows 10 to our OEM partners so they can start imaging new devices with Windows 10. Soon after, we will distribute a build of Windows 10 to retailers all over the world, so they can assist their customers with upgrades of newly purchased devices that were originally imaged with Windows 8.1.

Now, here’s where things differ from every release of Windows that’s happened before.

In a presentation at the 2015 Microsoft Build developers conference in April, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke a bit about Windows 10, including these comments that provide some clear indicators on this version of Windows, its development, its release and its support that are quite different to what has gone before:

Windows 10 is not just another release of Windows, it’s a new generation of Windows. It is a very different Windows in terms of how we deliver it. It’s a service.

WaaS – Windows as a service. Not an attractive-sounding moniker but maybe something to get used to when you look at the global roll-out starting in a few weeks.

At the same event, Myserson said:

Our goal is that within two to three years of Windows 10’s release there will be 1 billion devices running Windows 10.

Those devices are not only the usual suspects (PCs, tablets, Windows phones) but also Xbox One, Surface Hub, HoloLens, bank ATMs, medical devices, and more.

With ambition at such scale, there’s no way you could sustain the physical manufacturing and distribution models of the past century. And something else to think about – how to persuade everyone on Windows 7 to move up to Windows 10.

Windows 7 domination

Free will help. But it will need a lot more than just that. I think word of mouth will help. Think of five million Windows Insiders and their opinions.

Looking at how previous versions of Windows have been produced and distributed, at end-user pricing that produced significant revenue over the years, Microsoft has been a discrete manufacturer where the product (mass-produced DVDs containing software, plus the packaging, etc) is manufactured and distributed through a supply chain to points of consumer sale – physical retailers, online shops, etc.

Now it’s about giving the software away at zero financial cost to consumers, wholly digital distribution, online support, online updating… these are the foundations for a new Windows ecosystem that will also offer developers an environment that’s eminently attractive, plus outlets in the shape of Windows Stores that will offer software created by those developers that work on any device Windows 10 runs on, making it easy for consumers to find (and pay) for the Windows 10 apps they want.

A familiar set-up if you think of how Apple and Google operate in their respective iOS and Android spaces.

In fact, that’s the landscape now – always-on devices, always connected online, able to automatically receive updates and new software on demand from online stores via a network connection typically wifi or cellular no matter where you are in the world.

Circling back to Windows 10 and my experiences with pre-release builds as a Windows Insider, my overall impression with the latest build I’m running (10166) is of a product that is exceedingly polished for a beta as I’d expect in a close-to-release version. I have it installed on a separate drive in a long-in-the-tooth Dell XPS desktop machine running Windows 7 SP1  with a 28-inch non-touch monitor; and as an upgrade to Windows 8.1 in a Fujitsu Stylistic Q704, one of the latest examples of an ultrabook with not only a touch screen but also the transformational aspect of separating the screen from a dock or keyboard to become a tablet.

In both cases, Windows 10 works out of the digital box, as it were – while early builds were understandably flaky at times (occasional system crashes, some native Windows 10 programs not working properly or at all), the last four builds in recent months have been almost flawless.

The Fujitsu machine in particular works exceptionally well, as if Windows 10 were designed precisely for a device like this (er…). It beats Windows 8.1 hands down in usability, intuitiveness, confidence and reliability. (I see Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 as you’d see Windows Vista to Windows 7.) And the venerable Dell works equally well running Windows 10.

None of my software that works on Windows 7 and upwards – and I have a lot of software – crashed or didn’t run on either device running Windows 10. Updating the operating system is transparent, behind the scenes and works.

In my book, all that makes Windows 10 an easy decision.