Show, don’t tell

I recently read an article about writing techniques that talked about “showing” the reader what was happening versus “telling” them.  An example of telling a story is: “it was bitterly cold outside.”  Or we could show the reader: “I braced myself as I headed outside.  Exiting the building I hear the rope on the flag slapping against the pole.  The straining flag appears to glow with the sun behind it.  My body reflexively shivers when the next wind gust hits.  I chose the wrong jacket.”   This same principle of show, don’t tell can be applied to business and IT. 

As an example, you could say we’re experience great growth year over year or you could show a simple graphic and let people draw their own conclusions.  In this graphic I also draw from the viewpoint of less is more.  There are no axis, scales or excess colors and labels as they don’t bring any value.  The graphic simply shows a value of 20 for 2013 and 40 for 2014.  My challenge to you is to think where you can apply show, don’t tell in your own writing, presentations and applications.

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Sony Flip 15 upgrade

I have a SONY Flip 15 convertible tablet (SVF15N17CXB) that I use primarily for contract work that requires a PC.  It is a very nice machine with an i7, 8G of RAM and switching discrete/integrated graphics adapter.  When I purchased it in early 2014 the two things it was lacking were an SSD and an active stylus.  I quickly remedied the lack of stylus.  It did come with a 1 TB hybrid fusion drive which I reasoned I would evaluate while SSDs continue to evolve.  I used this configuration for the better part of a year.  I noticed that most often observed slowness came back to I/O bound processes – the hard drive light was flickering a lot and the performance tab in task manager confirmed it.  So, with the last minute renewal of tax credits on business asset purchases I decided to upgrade the machine.

I had originally picked out a Samsung 840 EVO at 512G.  Since then the 850 line up was introduced.  Based on my observed hard drive usage I decided to go with the faster, but slimmer (in capacity) 850 PRO in 256G.

I figured if I am going to go through the work of opening the machine up, I would upgrade the RAM at the same time.  I went with 16GB of Crucial Ballistix that is also faster than the stock RAM.  Since, the hard drive I’m pulling out is a 1TB drive I picked up a USB 3.0 enclosure with UASP support so I can use it as an external drive.

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Upgrading the Flip 15 is not for the faint of heart.  It is ultrabookish in form factor.  What that means is no easy access panels.  You get lots of screws with some of them hidden under rubber feet and a cover you have to pry off.  I found the tear down in this video very useful.  My tip is to start prying the cover off by the power connector.  Continue loosening the cover all the way around.  Slide the cover off by moving it away from the head phones connector.

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In the picture above you can see the new memory in place in the lower middle of the picture.  The SSD is under the silver and gold colored ribbons in the lower right of the picture.  I did not utilize some of the existing foil/plastic shielding that was on the original case.  It appeared that it was primarily there as an insulator between exposed components on the HDD circuit board and the rest of the machine.  The SSD has no exposed parts.  It an all plastic case.  I did reuse the adhesive wrapper/shield on the bottom portion of the drive as it is also used to secure the drive cable connector.

Since installation of the new parts, the machines performance is much snappier.  Windows 8.1 Pro launches in ~4 seconds from a cold boot.  Development environments start up much faster.  Overall, much less time is spent waiting on the machine.

Today’s digital notebook experience

Let me start at the beginning.  I usually like to start in the middle or at the end, much to the chagrin of friends and family.

We have tried to replicate the notebook digitally—mostly successfully.  Let’s consider a few aspects of the digital notebook experience:

  • The physical manifestation of work.  The lack of the concrete.  The feeling of impermanence.  This can be overcome by making a hard copy.  But that just doesn’t make sense.
  • Instant access.  Today’s technology with instant on tablets and software like OneNote are addressing this.  And now with the cloud we can often access the same notebook from multiple platforms.
  • Search.  In a physical journal we can quickly and intuitively find content.  This seems to be a more difficult task with the digital notebook.  However, with a digital notebook you can use search against handwriting and simulate flipping through pages.
  • Poor vendor marketing of the active stylus.  In my experience, you must have an active digitizer to do good note taking or drawing.  With the exception of Microsoft Surface Pro and Samsung, even when a device has the capability the vendors are failing to identify the feature.  For instance the Sony split and HP Split X2s offers an active stylus option but you don’t really see that marketed well.  On top of that, many people don’t understand the difference between a $40 active stylus and a $5 capacitive stylus from the check out line.
  • Pressure sensitivity.  With the active stylus this has greatly improved.
  • Palm rejection.  This used to be a horrible issue on the dual technology capacitive touch and active stylus systems.  However, this has been mostly resolved.  I’ve used tablets from HP and Sony that this isn’t an issue.
  • The experience of the feeling of the pen or pencil moving across the paper is gone.  There is something magical about the feeling of a pen or pencil on paper.  Today’s active stylus typically has a very slick feel during use.  A long time ago, Cross made a stylus insert for their pens.  This was in the day of Palm Pilots.  It had a really nice feel to it.  It came very close to the feel of pen on paper.  I have seen no modern equivalent.

The digital notebook experience has come a long way.  With the wide spread adoption of tablet computing I really hope we continue to see advancement in the active digitizer field.  I would hate to see the technology lose to the far inferior capacitive touch only stylus.