As a kid, I read a lot about Bill Gates. To this day, I can still recite a lot of details about his story and the story of Microsoft. I hadn't reallyAs a kid, I read a lot about Bill Gates. To this day, I can still recite a lot of details about his story and the story of Microsoft. I hadn't really bothered to learn much about the Apple story since I've been a PC user since the early 90's by happenstance and then later by choice.
However, my first programming experience happened to be on an Apple IIe in our town's library. It was that experience as an 8 year old kid that started me down the path of being a professional programmer that I am today.
And yet, I didn't really know the history that led to that machine or what really happened after that time.
This book filled in a lot of those details.
Steve was obviously different than Bill. Bill grew up in a prominent lawyer's upper class family, Steve was adopted into a middle class family of modest means. Both of them were smart, but their styles were quite different. Both had their good points and both had notable flaws.
Throughout the book, you learn that Steve was a guy of the "counterculture" who credited dropping acid as one of the best experiences of his life and thought others (like Bill) would have been much better off had they done the same.
I was struck by the words "petulant" and "mercurial" describing Steve Jobs while reading this book. To be transparent, I didn't know the definitions of these words before this book but now I won't forget them because I think they fit Jobs quite well.
I was continually dismayed by stories of how Jobs treated people. I think there is a line between motivating people with tough love to do their best work and being brash and attacking people personally. I think Jobs crossed that line at times and it was sad to repeatedly hear about these events in the book.
Jobs was also very independent and went out of his way to not play by other people's rules nor care about opinions if he thought he was right. Sometimes this lead to great products like the Apple II and iPhone, but at other times led to him to do things like not have a license plate on his car.
Again, there is a line between being a hero by not playing by silly rules and just having an outright "petulant" disregard for others. I think he crossed this line too at times. For example, he refused to shower regularly or wear deodorant because he thought his strict vegan diet consisting of mostly fruit made him immune from any smells. Everyone interviewed in the book seemed to indicate this was a genuine problem, but Jobs seemed to blatantly refuse to believe it. It was so bad that he had to work the night shift at Atari because others couldn't stand his BO during the day.
Isaacson also painted a picture of Jobs that seemed a bit bipolar when it came to relationships. The book portrayed several relationships when Jobs was mesmerized by people one moment and then angry with them in another. Many of these outbursts seemed overly harsh, even by Jobs' standard.
A big focus of this book was the history of Apple itself. It became quite clear that the core of Apple reflects Jobs' vision.
Jobs very much was product focused and he obsessed over end-to-end experiences. This leads to some great integrations and experiences if you're willing to completely buy into the whole ecosystem (i.e. Mac, iTunes, iPhone, iCloud, etc) but some not pleasant experiences if you're not willing to cede everything to a single company. The book provided the back story of why iTunes on Windows has historically been a difficult product to deal with. It clearly was something Jobs didn't want to do early on but was only a concession to sell more iPods.
Jobs chided companies like Microsoft for not offering end-to-end experiences like Apple. The book detailed his reasons on this, but I also see the reasons why Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have for wanting to be more "open" in allowing outsiders to use their platform even if they can't control all aspects about its use. Before this book, I was a stronger supporter of the Microsoft way, but I'm a bit less intense on that now. However, I still favor the "open" way because it allows more choice and less fears about lock-in to a potentially inferior product.
The book shed a lot of light on other important early Apple events such as development of the Apple II, the failure of the Apple III, the failure of the Lisa, the development of the Macintosh, the infatuation and subsequent falling-out with Sculley that led to Jobs' resignation in the mid-80's.
I think Isaacson gave the clearest explanation I've read about how Jobs' getting let go from Apple changed him and ultimately led to things like Pixar's success. It also led to the resurgence of Apple in the late 90's when Apple bought his NeXT company and its associated NextStep OS which became the basis for OS X and whose fingerprint is still seen in all OS X and iOS APIs that begin with "NS".
The book also covered the background of the more recent Apple products and their motivation. For example, Steve hated tablets that used a stylus. This led to him pushing a team to create a great tablet (the iPad) that didn't need a stylus. He pushed for this first (before the iPhone). However, due to timing of things, he directed the technology to first go into the iPhone even though it was risky at the time (their initial plan was to have a phone using the wheel like the iPod). Isaacson also spotlighted how these products couldn't have come to be without other important people such as Jonathan Ive, Apple's top designer.
There are things that I respect about Jobs: he wasn't really motivated by money but rather sincerely motivated to create great products, he wanted to give his best to things he cared about, and lets not forget that he gave great presentations.
Isaacson's biography of Jobs also described what it took for him to deliver the products that millions of people enjoy: fractured relationships with friends and sometimes being quite distant from family. His intensity seemed at times too high of a cost to pay which left me feeling sad. ...more
According to this book, there are a lot of posers out there and that's one of the main reasons we got slammed by the housing crisis and (as a nation)According to this book, there are a lot of posers out there and that's one of the main reasons we got slammed by the housing crisis and (as a nation) are overcome with debt.
Most millionaire's out there don't have extravagant houses, cars, watches, shoes, suits, wine, liquor, etc. that we tend to associate with that level of wealth. Most of those high end things are really only consumed by the "glittering rich" such as high-end celebrities. The author contends that real millionaires are quite frugal (though not stingy).
The book covers details findings from his survey that was sent to real millionaires and offered some interesting findings:
1. One of the best things you can do for your perceived happiness (and to accumulate wealth) is to live in a house that is well below what you can afford. For example, 1-2x your annual income. The author implied that you should live in a neighborhood where you're in the top 25% income/wealth category compared to your neighbors but still live like them or even more frugally. The reason is that a lot of people buy houses based on if they can pay for the mortgage, insurance, and utilities. However, they don't consider the social pressure involved with living there to do things like have their kids go to a private school, go on expensive vacations, eat out more often, buy a certain type of car, etc. The author mentioned that mining engineers tend to have a disproportional amount of millionaires simply because they're paid a decent wage but tend to live a typical house in mining towns and have no desire to live much differently than those around them.
2. A lot of marketers of luxury/high-end items market to people that are acting rich ("big hat, no cattle") instead of real rich people so that they can impress other friends who are also acting rich. Stanley gave an extensive example of the rise of Grey Goose vodka's popularity among "aspirationals" (those wanting to be rich) in lieu of the actual rich people out there who tend to be more frugal and buy based on value rather than marketing tricks.
3. According to the author, more popular "low-end" car models are subsidized by people acting rich and especially those who are obese (and tend to need larger cars). Thus, car makers make a very low margin on their lower end models even though they're typically just as good in terms of quality. Car makers hope that as you get older (and "larger"), you'll want a more expensive/bigger vehicle and will pay a premium for this... and when you do, you'll get that brand. The take away is that real rich people tend to take advantage of this by not going for the high end models and getting more value from the lower-end ones that tend to have higher quality. Thus, the most popular brands among real rich people are Toyota and Ford rather than European makes like BMW or Mercedes. The sad fact is that the aspirationals tend to go after the later category and never end up actually being rich but rather mired in debt whereas rich people tend to pay cash for their cars. The author also related a similar story about shotguns, saying that Sam Walton (of Walmart fame) preferred the Remington 870 shotgun because it was the best out there even though it's around $400 even though aspirationals pick gilded ones that cost a lot more.
4. The author defines "affluent" if your net worth of liquid assets is greater than 10% of your age multiplied by your annual household income.
5. Most real rich people tend to give around 10% their annual income to charitable causes that are significant to them rather than the less than 2% average among aspirationals.
There wasn't anything earth-shattering in the book. It was pretty much a bunch of common sense "live below your means", "be frugal", "seek value", "value people, not things", etc. ...more
A decent book by a longtime sleep researcher. There was a lot of content about sleep in general, maybe a bit too much, which made me skim some of it aA decent book by a longtime sleep researcher. There was a lot of content about sleep in general, maybe a bit too much, which made me skim some of it and wish I had picked up the abridged version. I had a few takeaways:
* If your eyes ever feel heavy or you seem fatigued while driving, pull over immediately and rest... you're possibly minutes or seconds away from killing yourself from falling asleep. Do not drive if you don't feel quite alert.
* You can "sleep" for seconds at a time, even with your eyes open.
* Your brain doesn't "relax" during sleep, but rather is extremely active in processing the day among many other things. The most important is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, that typically takes 15 minutes to get to.
* It is extremely obvious to tell if you're sleeping using an EEG monitor (sort of like an EKG for your brain waves) and there are very characteristic stages of sleep (about 4)
* The author chided the practice of "sleep snob"-ery where people brag about how little sleep they get. In his opinion, these people are doing damage to their body and robbing themselves of quality of life, alertness, creativity, and even duration of life.
* You need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Being fully rested on less than 7 is quite rare. Most people who say that do really are just piling up sleep debt.
* Each person is carrying around a "sleep debt" that is very real and usually takes awhile to pay down. If you fall asleep easily in less than 10 minutes in a dark, quiet room, you probably have a high sleep debt. You don't want to "pay off" the debt per-se, because that would mean it'd take over 20 minutes to fall asleep. However, it's a good idea to reduce it. It's not uncommon to have well over 25-50 hours of debt in normal people that aren't aware of their debt. The last chapter shows a 3 week plan to assess your debt and pay down the debt.
* Naps are a good thing.
* Our bodies have biological-clock type alerting mechanisms that help us wake up at a certain time. It's sort of like an adrenaline rush. It dies down after a few hours. This is the typical reason why you feel tired after lunch (you're feeling your real sleep debt minus extra alerting you had in the morning).
* Insomnia is very often a byproduct of something else rather than the thing itself.
* "Restless Leg Syndrome" is a very debilitating, but treatable condition where you get a sensation of "creepy-crawly" feelings in your legs.
* If you're constantly tired, even after getting a full night's sleep, you could have sleep apnea that is causing you to go without oxygen for brief intervals and constantly waking you up even though you don't remember it.
* Sleep affects the moving of short-term memories to long-term. This is often the reason why you can't remember actually falling asleep.
If nothing else, the book made me quite aware of the value of sleep and to not at all feel ashamed for striving to get at least 8 hours a night....more
I listened to this in audiobook format in a little over a week.
The book challenged my view of the Secret Service. For each account of brave heroism liI listened to this in audiobook format in a little over a week.
The book challenged my view of the Secret Service. For each account of brave heroism like stopping the assassination attempt on Reagan, the author (Kessler) painted sad stories like the Washington police agent who went out to get a drink while Lincoln watched his last play to modern stories of orders to turning off magnetometer screening after buckling to pressure to let more people into a Bush 43 event.
In the early part of the book, the author was a bit heavy on alleged moral failures of "protectees" like Kennedy and Johnson that brazenly used Secret Service agents to help them keep things, well, secret. If true, it's especially sad.
One key theme was the author's portrayal of the agency's leadership as people who mismanage, are over-demanding of agents, underfund, keep a "good old boys" network, and are out of touch. For example, the author put a lot of emphasis on the agency's unwillingness to upgrade from the 1960's MP5 pistol-like sub-machine gun to the more modern M4 Carbine assault rifle. Other points included still using a DOS program to keep track of transfer requests as an indicator of how little the agency's management allegedly cares about it.
Throughout the book, the author appears to always side with agents as the protagonist/good guys. Protectees who were good to agents (like President Reagan, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama) were given lavish praise while those who didn't were picked on as stingy and cruel.
Overall, the book was ok, albeit definitely one that challenged any previous notion of a rose-colored glasses view of the agency. ...more
This is a classic book that shows that software development is primarily about people. If you have felt that your job is being shown in a Dilbert cartThis is a classic book that shows that software development is primarily about people. If you have felt that your job is being shown in a Dilbert cartoon, read this and see that there is a better way....more
This book shows that the .net Framework has a clear design to it that is pretty decent and useful to follow Microsoft's lead. I recomend it to anyoneThis book shows that the .net Framework has a clear design to it that is pretty decent and useful to follow Microsoft's lead. I recomend it to anyone working with .net....more
The book was written in 1948 (get it? 48->84) and portrays the life of Winston Smith (Winston because of Churchill and Smith because it is common). Winston is living in 1984 in the midst of "IngSoc" (English Socialism) that abhors everything about the capitalistic government that it overthrew in the 60's. There is a caste system where 2% of the people belong to the "Inner Party", around 13% belong to the "Outer Party" (like Winston) and then 85% are the "proles" which are effectively the unwashed masses in the book (e.g. they read rubbish, obsessed about the lottery even though no one actually wins, etc.)
The Party is on a mission of absolute power. Its head figure is "Big Brother" whose goal is to get in your head to prevent you from ever thinking about overthrowing The Party. They achieve this by dumbing down the culture and removing all traces of human emotion (except hate). They have a serious effort in creating a new language (Newspeak) that removes all unnecessary words (e.g. why gave "better" and "excellent" if you can say "plusgood" and "doubleplusgood"?) and any words that would allow you to think of going against the party (no words for overthrow, martyr, etc.. those are all "thoughtcrime"). If you try to go against The Party, you'll be caught by the Thought Police (who come at night... they always come at night).
The mind control and "double think" can be clearly seen in The Party's ministries:
Ministry of Peace (Minipax in Newspeak) - Concerned with war (there's always been a war.. there will always be one. It keeps people busy doing stuff for the benefit of the Inner Party, even though the Outer Party and proles always have severe rations) Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) - Concerned with falsifying the past Ministry of Love (Miniluv) - Concerned with absolute torture Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty) - Concerned with lying about actual production
Winston works for Minitrue and spends his working life rewriting the past to agree with what The Party is currently saying. The Party can totally change its position in an instant which keeps Winston and Minitrue busy (e.g. who the country is fighting with.. and thus, making it appear that they've always been fighting with it). Minitrue has entire departments devoted to reprinting old newspapers with "corrected" information. There is no past as we know it.
The book outlines Winston's inner struggle about knowing that the culture is awful compared to his upbringing before IngSoc, but then Winston faces a struggle of what to do about it.
The end is predictable, although a little scary.
I'd recommend the book, especially since several terms from the book (e.g. Big Brother, Doublethink, Thought Police, "Room 101", etc) have entered into popular culture. It's insight into what can happen if you take some ideas of power way, way, way too far....more