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GDC 2012

It’s GDC time again. You know, Game Developer Conference, the biggest event for computer game professionals in the west. I’ve been coming to San Francisco for the conference for quite a few years in the row now and given around 10 talks in the conference. This year is a bit different – I’m primarily here to meet VCs as one of the founders of MakieLab.

I’m amazingly well adjusted to the 10 hour time difference this time, which is probably due to two things I did. Firstly, I fasted for about 16 hours after landing, timing it so that the first thing I ate after landing being the first breakfast. Second, I went to Walgreens and popped a melatonin pill before going to bed. It’ll be interesting to see how the sleeping goes for the rest of the trip, but I got a good uninterrupted eight hours of sleep last night timed correctly to the clock here, so I’m hoping the week isn’t going to be a massive jetlag bomb.

The conference week will be incredibly hectic with meetings, but fortunately I have tomorrow free. We’re planning to go to Muir Wood for a visit. It’s the woods where Endor scenes were filmed, and I have a Makie with me dressed in a Jedi robe, which will be a fun little photographic experiment. I’ll post some photos immediately when I can. :)

Samsung Not Worried About Apple’s TV

Techcrunch posted a piece a few days ago about a Samsung product manager saying “TVs are ultimately about picture quality”, so he’s not worried about Apple’s rumoured TV efforts. They point out correctly that it’s a dumb thing to say, but don’t discuss a few specifics related to that.

I have an Apple TV box hooked to a Sony HDTV. My dad has a pretty new Samsung “SMART” HDTV. Of these three devices, Apple’s is the only one that’s easy to use and blazingly fast. The Sony and the Samsung have annoying reboot time. The menus stop to think too often. The Samsung’s smart capabilities seem like a value add-on that wasn’t allowed to cost anything, judging by how poor the software is and how slow the UI is. The first time I set it up (because it was too obscure to use for my dad), it took about 15 minutes to download and install software updates, and the first boot of the YouTube app took something like a minute. After going through some apps, I figured the user experience is simply so poor that I’d rather go do the laundry than frustrate myself more with the confusing, slow menus.

So, based on that experience, if Apple releases a TV with iOS capabilities in the tune of the Apple TV box, I assume I’d be very tempted. What they have now is a TV add-on that’s lightyears ahead of the competition in the few things that it does. And if the iPhone taught us something, a simple but super well executed solution is better than type of a diluted crap experience the Samsung is.

Recovering from phototherapeutic keratectomy

I had a pretty significant operation done to my right eye the last week and though I’d write down about it, partially so I’ll remember how it was myself.

Little background – I noticed about three years ago that my left eye’s vision degraded quite significantly over about six months. I didn’t think it was a biggie at the time – I’d had glasses since I was a kid, and I’d figured it’s a matter of time before the eyes would turn for the worse. I got new glasses and the problem mostly went away. Then about a year ago, I noticed the right eye was getting worse, too, and that happened faster.

I went to the doctor to get a referral to a specialist, which took a couple months to arrange. In the meantime I started developing easily tiring eye which made it harder to work the way I’d used to – on days I was really tired (partially from having a baby in the house) my vision was getting way too blurred in the afternoons to be able to write fast.

When it came to seeing the specialist, he noted a couple things – the vision measurement done using one of these fancy machines opticians use, and him checking the strength of glasses I should wear using the traditional method of making me swap between lenses and looking at a Snellen chart didn’t correlate. Also, he found a fairly large range of lenses produced the same amount of correction, where nothing would make me see as well as I’d used to. He didn’t tell me what to expect really, but gave me a referral to the Haartman eye clinic, which is apparently the best Finland has to offer for corrective eye surgery.

This being public medicare, which in Finland is usually cheap but on the slow side, it took about six months for me to get the appointment. The eyes actually felt better for most of the time of the wait, so I had no idea what to expect when getting to the place. When I finally got there, two fancy laser-based machines were used to measure my eyes, after which the doctors gave the verdict – I had a form of epithelial erosion syndrome, meaning the outermost layer of the eye was uneven and hence refracting light as if I was wearing dented eyeglasses.

The good news was, the epithelium is the only part of the eye that renews itself, so the problem would be fixable with little chance of permanent effects. Bad news? It’d be massively painful. The nurse took me to the side and said some patients compare the post-operation feeling in the eye to labor pains. “You’ll be given three days of sick leave which you’ll spend in bed with crippling pain”, she said. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I felt. We’ll send you a letter when you can come in for the operation, I was told.

I finally got the letter three weeks ago, telling me the operation would be done in a couple week’s time. I notified my awesome business partners of the thing happening and my dear wife started to prepare mentally for nurturing me.

Once I showed up at the clinic the day of the operation, I was rescanned and met with the doctors. “It’s got a bit worse. Do you really want to do this? We don’t have to, yet”, asked the doctor. “I need to see really precisely to work” I replied and off we went. A couple pills to relax a bit and then off to the operating table.

The operation itself was amazingly quick. A few drops of effective local anestesiacs were applied to the eye, after which I had to stare at a freakishly bright light without moving the eye at all. The doctor performing the operation removed the entirety of the front epithelium with the eye using manual surgical equipment which was freakishly weird. Feeling someone cutting away parts of your eye is not what I exactly what I had in mind waking up the morning, and seeing the vision blur as the layer was lifted off was just odd. “Yup, this was in pretty bad shape allright,” the doctor said as he surveyed the piece.

Some shaving of the eye with lasers and that was it. I got prescriptions for antibiotics, two types of eye drops, tranquilizers and painkillers and a bit too generic instructions on how to take care of the eye for feeling really reassured I’d do fine. Riikka picked me up, we went to the drug store to pick up the prescribed meds and off I went to spend the next three days in bed. The last thing I did before the anestesiac started to fade was to get the Steve Jobs biography as an audio book, so I’d have a few hours of entertainment.

The pain that hit the evening was deeply uncomfortable but not quite as bad as the nurse’s description. This could be due to myself having done contact sports in the past – the SCA training sessions used to leave be with nice bruises all over the body, so I’d learned to deal with pain as something I register as happening, but which doesn’t overwhelm me. Same happened here – with the help of the strong painkillers, at worst the eye felt like something between the one time when I’d put chili into my eye accidentally and the feeling of dropping salt into an open wound. This was pretty bad, but was containable and slowly focusing the pain away worked.

In the next two days I could feel the cutting wound get better and the constant feeling of having something gone to the eye started to go away. I had the post-operation check two days after the surgery and everything was healing as planned. The two subsequent days both felt like great improvements and I indeed had a bit of an epiphany moment today morning when the eye felt almost as good as prior to the operation, despite the doctors warning it could take up to two weeks. A couple more months of eye drops and I should be sorted. But now I’ll have to hit the bed, the eye can’t take all this writing anymore. I’ll let you know how it’s worked out in a couple weeks.

Update: It’s now been 12 days from the operation and it feels the eye is fully recovered both in the sense of the optics working as expected, but also the focus having adjusted and the brain now being able to grasp the additional information flowing in. Yesterday was the first day the eye didn’t get tired, and today I feel I’m seeing things even crisper and perceiving things faster. Feels awesome, can’t wait for the the other eye to be fixed.

Interestingly, now that the right eye is ok, I’m starting to notice the little itching and occasional tiny pain in the left unoperated eye, which is apparently caused by the disease. I didn’t really notice it when both the eyes were poorly, but I can definitely notice the differences between the two now. One more reason to get operated, I guess.

Flickr SOPA blocking is genius

Flickr (among many other sites like Wikipedia) implemented a blackout today to battle SOPA. Their implementation is different though – each user on the site can block up to 10 photos, but those photos can be from anyone, not just the user’s own photos. Browsing through Explore, all photos that aren’t opted out are already blacked. Raises awareness of the issue on whole another level than if the blocking was just of one’s own photos. Well done, Flickr duderinos!

Adobe kills Flash browser plugin for mobile

Headline at ZDNet: Adobe ceases development on mobile browser Flash, refocuses efforts on HTML5

I guess this kills the discussion on whether Apple should support Flash on the iPhone, or not. Also I think Gruber is right in saying this is a victory for everyone. HTML5 just seems to work better on the mobile.

The reasons that I can see behind the move are:

  1. They just couldn’t get it to work very well, and realised that getting things working was more or less a lost cause. It took years to get Flash play nice on the desktop, and it still doesn’t actually work all that well on actual computers, which have significantly more resources to spare than mobile devices. The blame for this is not entirely on Adobe, though – in my experience a large portion of Flash-based content on the web has been implemented poorly and hence tax even computers to the extreme to run. This type of Flash apps are just impossible to get running on the mobile. Additionally, content providers didn’t seem to care jack squat about optimising content for the mobile, and providing a good user experience on a site that runs poorly encoded 1080P video through Flash is just impossible on the current generation of devices (and probably the next couple gens as well), leading to embarrassing video demos of the Flash player sucking at video playback.
  2. Web-based mobile app discovery doesn’t work very well. People expect to get their apps from the App Store or the Android Market. Despite a lot of effort being put onto smooth web app installation on mobile, it just doesn’t work the same as native apps. As a result, the demand for Flash browser plugin on mobile was significantly less than the demand for good tools for creating apps distributable though the channels supported by Apple and Google.
So, someone Adobe just did the math and decided to drop developing an effort that didn’t have much actual demand from Adobe’s customers (you know, the developers) and which was going nowhere.